I (along with millions of others) read the headlines with horror: domestic violence calls surge as people are forced to stay at home due to the pandemic. And like millions of others, I ask myself: Isn’t it bad enough, already? What kind of people do that to other people?
People so stunted by gender socialization that they can’t even be fully human.
We need to stop pretending that women were the only ones held back by rigid cultural norms regarding gender socialization.
Men have been profoundly stunted by them as well.
Fully functioning (and truly content) humans are loving, compassionate, generous to others, and full of wonder and goodwill towards others. Yes, they strive and aspire to create, but they strive and aspire to leave positive, life affirming legacies for other humans.
Fully functioning (and truly content) humans are curious about life and good humored. They appreciate beauty, can be tender and attentive to others around them, and they respect life in general.
Does that sound like an abusive person?
Yet, the facts are that currently millions of men (millions of them) abuse people they claim to love on a regular basis.
People are formed by countless bits of cultural pressures around them. Just about everything around us has been created by humans- our chairs, the cups holding our coffee, our computers, our electoral systems, our economic realities.
We are socialized to respond in certain ways to these bits of culture. Gender is a primary mode by which people are funneled into being who they are.
But the norms we create and adhere to are simply not the essence of who we are as human beings. Instead they are constructions that fulfill some needs of the time and the place where they are formed. And just as some buildings are constructed better than others, some cultural norms are healthier than others. This is a fact of life.
Norms change. They need to change as our environments change. Just as buildings, and building standards and methods change. And in the Anthropocene, we must (quickly) learn how to intentionally change norms to better fit our complex and changing circumstances.
Because the old “might makes right” beliefs that underlie so many of the surviving Holocene era cultural norms are not working for us very well at all in the Anthropocene.
At this point, the norms about what it means to be “a man” are absolutely infected with unhelpful beliefs about “might makes right”. Domestic violence is a stark illustration of the kinds of “might makes right” dynamics still stunting millions of people who happen to be men, and harming millions of women in the process. And so we urgently need to change norms around “what it means to be a man”.
But it’s actually worse than that. “Might makes right” thinking infects many more arenas of life. Concepts around “might makes right” must change quickly in order for the species to survive. It’s really as simple as that.
Many of us know this already, intuitively. Many of us -the vast majority of us- are already wanting and working towards building families, communies, countries, and worlds that are not based upon “might makes right” mindsets. We just need a bit more clarity as to what our root problems have been- it’s not been patriarchy, although patriarchy has been an important symptom. It’s been an unconscious belief in “might makes right” and associated ways of trying to obsessively consolidate power over life.
And for the record, yes, I am aware that 15% of domestic violence cases are perpetrated against men, with some women being abusers. My main point is that it is the “might makes right” mindsets that are the main problem, and that currently -in terms of gender socialization- men are still most affected by these very dangerous beliefs.
The rest of this website is pretty much an analysis of how “might makes right” ideas -that helped us survive in earlier times, but are now so primitive and unhelpful in the Anthropocene- came to be so important to us as a species. Please feel free to explore the site!