In ‘Women who run with wolves’ the author suggests that how we treat women mirrors how we treat the planet. Look back on the centuries of planet ravaging and the oppression of women, there’s definitely a parallel. Is there a causal link? I think so, and it has a lot to do with priorities.
I’m going to be brutally honest here and say that were it not for Tom, I would very likely have become the kind of radical feminist who is anti-male. There are days when hearing new stories about male violence towards women fills me with rage. But there is also Tom, who is brave, gentle, heroic, and reminds me of all the other good men I have met along the way. Statistically, about one in four men are abusers; that means three quarters aren’t. There are days when I have to remind myself of this.
However, when it comes to raping the earth mother, we’d be self-deluding if we tried to cast that as a gender issue. There are no shortage of men working for the good of the planet, and no shortage of women participating in the great commercial pillage. It would also be fair to say that gender politics are not a simple male/female conflict either. How many women were taught by their mothers to put a brave face on it and be stoical? How many women help coerce their daughters into unwanted marriages, throw out pregnant daughters, defend abusive men, and otherwise add to the problem? More than enough. The new girlfriend is often the person most willing to give that bitch of an ex-girlfriend a hard time. Knowing or not, we participate.
When I’m not raging over some specific injustice, I tend to feel that feminism is inadequate. It supports the ideas of polarisation, division and difference. It also gives the woman-haters out there something very easy to latch onto and attack. The sort of person who views every threat to total male supremacy as a feminist conspiracy to destroy all men. They most certainly exist – read the comments on the Telegraph online sometime. Getting angry and building up the barricades doesn’t help. Reinforcing the gender divide solves nothing.
A few months ago I sat in a room with a woman who was covered in bruises because her boyfriend had beaten her. She was in the process of trying to escape, and it was one of the most heart-breaking things I have ever seen. Of course women who are wounded by other means, driven to depression, to drink, self blame, self hatred, have no such wounds to show the world, but they are just as damaged by male aggression.
There’s a whole culture underpinning this kind of behaviour. It’s laden with beliefs about ownership and rights. How many men think about women, and women’s bodies not unlike how they think about the earth – as a resource to be used for their benefit and pleasure. We exploit, we use, we take, I come back to the idea of entitlement again. And sure, women do it to men as well, although in nothing like the same numbers. But the culture underpinning it, we build together. All of us. Regardless of gender. We do it in every advert that uses a scantily clad woman to sell a product, and every advert that shows woman as house elf and man as mighty leader. We do it in our stereotyping, our willingness to blame the victims, our collective reluctance to take the problem seriously. Sometimes we do it in our religions too, and our politics uphold it.
We won’t fix either earth abuse, or woman abuse, or any other kind of abuse, until we fix the mindsets that allow us to justify them. It’s all too easy to be accidentally complicit, or to be part of the problem just by ignoring it. What we do not speak against, others may assume we condone. Half the problem with abusers, no matter who or what their victim is, is that they believe they are just the same as everyone else. Everyone else is doing what they do, or would, if they were only powerful enough to pull it off. That idea is the real enemy.