Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Backbone of Domestic Violence

Imagine living in a culture where everyone deferred to women. When husbands wanted to purchase something, they would be required to tell salespeople, “I have to ask my wife.” We would have a history of perhaps 43 women presidents and congress would be primarily women, with only a smattering of men. Men would have gained the right to vote in 1920, but only after 70 years of debating, arguing, and persuading for that right. There would be an ancient law allowing wives to beat their husbands with a stick no bigger than their thumbs (perhaps in this case, the husband’s thumb would be used as a measurement.) Pastors and priests would have been only women for nearly two thousand years, with a few men becoming pastors perhaps in the last 20 years. Husbands would be taught both from the pulpit and from societal pressure and shaming devices that they are required to yield to their wives, to sacrifice their own desires and their sense of right and wrong and what is best for the opinion and preferences of their wives. The whole society would be based on laws and rules drafted by and decided by women. Men would have had very little control or choices concerning the details of their lives. Whoever “wore the dresses” would be in the power position and would control the purse strings of family and society. Men wouldn’t be allowed to go hunting, boating, or to a professional ball game without the permission of their wives. In fact, there may be no professional ball games, or the teams may be primarily played and owned by women. Females would have had the privilege all these years to determine the direction of society, if or when our country went to war (perhaps there wouldn’t be any war). Men would often be expected to serve their wives and children by fetching them a drink or food. In the bedroom, the wife’s desire—or lack thereof—and preferences would determine the details of intimacy, while a husband’s desires may or may not be addressed, depending upon the whims of his wife. “Women’s work” would have earned substantially higher wages than men’s work for years, with only recent efforts at equal pay for equal work, and male professions still valued as deserving less pay than female professions.

Or perhaps if women controlled our country, most of those inequalities listed above wouldn’t be here. Maybe instead of a society governed far too often by “might makes right,” the prevailing code would be “caring and sharing are daring.”

We get so used to the way things are, that we don’t realize about half of us are more privileged than the other half. It’s by looking at life with the genders flipped that we can see clearly how much our society is controlled by men and how privileged they are and expect to be. Some people think here in the USA there is equality between the genders. If that is so, why is there still so much husband and boyfriend violence against wives and girlfriends? Isn’t it because men expect to be in control of their wives and girlfriends? Why is it only in the last 20 years that law makers have begun to address domestic violence? Why do some church leaders (like Bruce Ware) still insist women cause men to abuse them because the women are not submitting? Why are the majority of women’s jobs paid far less than male professions? Who decides that childcare should have little pay? Wasn’t it started by husbands who would not allow their wives to have a paying job unless childcare cost substantially less than the wife brought in? Why wasn’t childcare based on the husband’s salary? And why are those in the childcare and elementary teaching professions still paid so little? Although our laws and culture have moved to being more egalitarian, many men still expect to have their way and the men who make the rules are slow to make laws to curb abuse, either because they do not see the necessity for it, or for fear of losing their privileged positions, or both.

Having said that, I am deeply grateful to the men who have picked up the gauntlet and chosen to battle domestic violence and male privilege alongside women. Some men even lead the charge. After all, since women are their wives, sisters and mothers, the pain women experience at the hands of men has a way of rippling out and impacting the men closest to them—often excruciating and for decades. Usually in less income for the family. Sometimes in stress diseases or mental illness that drain the family funds. Sometimes in a troubled sex life, or a grouchy wife to name a few. Indeed, when men take up the battle for women, they are also fighting for their own wellbeing and quality of life, as well as that of their families. These are the men who are truly “manly.”


  1. It's a shame things need to be either / or . We know that is the way abusers see things--whether the abuser is male or female. One or the other has to be in "control."

    Equality and respect are simply not a consideration.

    Thank you for presenting us with a flip-side view of the way things are.

    Even though political correctness dictates certain attitudes such as the deeply rooted attitude of male privilege (held by both males and females) no longer be expressed verbally (in most circles with the exception of evangelical Christians), many of the societal changes we have seen, though helpful, need to be taken to a deeper level. Certain laws and ordinances have changed--now hearts need to be changed.