This post is in response to an article by Ellen Bravo in the Huffington Post @ http://tinyurl.com/plcbyvn called New Approach Needed to Combat Sexual Assault and Harassment. I will quote two sentences.
We need a cadre of men to pay the same kind of attention and then to intervene when they see someone talking or acting out of line. They need to say, “That’s not how we treat our sisters in this neighborhood or this town or this state or this nation.”
I have read much the same sentiment on Facebook and elsewhere. That is that men need to smack down other men leering, and generally making women feel uncomfortable. This is all very rude but I have problems with the concept that men should take other men to task about their verbiage putting their own personal safety at risk. There is an expectation of chivalry in contrast to the rhetoric of gender equality. As I posted in my first post on this blog feminists do not believe in equality. This chivalry has a “back to the future” weirdness about it. Can we expect white feathers to be assigned to nonconforming men?
My main problem is that whatever is protected is owned by the protector and invoking the deep biological protective instinct which lies either dormant or already active could well have unintended consequences beyond that envisioned by our maidens in distress. Islamic men are VERY protective of their women. Could this be the model for the running of a society so prized by feminists? Could this desire to protect our women segway into racism, vigilantism and lynching?
This is raw animal instinct. I believe this desire for chivalry, for a white knight to save the honour of a maiden in distress comes down to evolutionary psychology. The desire to protect is a deep biological instinct, inherited from primate ancestors and probably earlier. It has obvious evolutionary advantages if the benefit of protection outweighs the increased cost of that protection. The benefit being in the increased likelihood of reproducing. The protective instinct is the selfish gene. This instinct comes with a dark side. The example of lynching and racism has been mentioned in the above paragraph. The protective instinct has also been used by unscrupulous leaders to goad nations into war. Take for example the propaganda of WWI with a Hun boot squashing babies in animation form. Move forward and we have the disinformation in the first Gulf War of 1991 that the Iraqis had switched off humidicribs in Kuwaiti hospitals. In Matthew 2:16 Herod orders the slaughter of all babies. In the context of Matthew there was no war but Matthew knew how to manipulate the heart strings of his readers. The protective instinct has a dark side and demagogues fully know this.
The demand that all men turn into special constables whenever a woman is harassed or leered at comes down to “Let you and him fight” and “no fight, no nooky”. The strongest male earns the mating rights but sorry about the wounds. The instincts so invoked are all shrouded in a social construct and theoretical narratives but is underlined by biological reality. A biological take may be that women psychologically need to be protected as much as physically protected as was the case in our evolutionary past. The best protector wins the hand of the maiden. To this end we have “rutting” and competition between men. War is the same drama but on a larger stage and involving more players. The message from the white feather brigade was no war, no nooky. In the absence of real threats more minor threats will be melodramatically escalated into major ones.and others may be fabricated. Many of the threats women fear are real but women are actually safer from being victims of violent crimes than are men. There has probably never been a group so safe as white middle class in the class in the whole extent of history.
I believe the need for problems and threats extends beyond the women’s movement to other areas of like. The safer we are the more anxious we seem to become. I am thinking “stranger danger” and “helicopter parents”, the “war on drugs”, the “war on terror” and the “crime and punishment” hysteria. To this we can add the “rape culture” hysteria. What makes these panics more pernicious is the reality of a “grain of truth” which surely exists but which gives life to hysterias and lies. A fact well known by Joseph Goebbels.