Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Kansas City Star Letters Page: Your Source for Misogyny, Misandry and Victim-Blaming

This past week the Star hit a twofer on the sexism front: first, they published this article by Kathleen Parker insisting that women are equally culpable for domestic violence and then, the next day, they ran this letter from a guy in Liberty, MO that's so densely packed with casual woman-hating I may have to go through it line by line.

The most important thing that I ever learned about relationships is that, given a problem, a man wants to do something about it and a woman wants to talk about it. If I had known this fact of life years ago, I probably would not be divorced.

Much violence could be avoided if women would follow the teachings of Dr. Laura Schlessinger in her book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. It shows women how they can have much more control over their lives and happiness.

Men are simple creatures who don’t understand the complex female, but respond well to a beer and some affection.

The thing I find most noteworthy here is that our letter writer (when talking about domestic violence, which, while there are male victims and female perpetrators, is overwhelmingly male-on-female) sees fit only to provide advice to women. Not "Hey, men, don't hit your wives or girlfriends," but "Hey, women, try not to annoy your husbands, or they might hit you."

There are several layers of "ick" at work in that sentiment, the foremost being that male violence is accepted as a fact of life (and, by extension, men's right to hit women is unquestioned). The second is that women are made the keepers of men's emotions: men don't have enough self-control to stop themselves from hitting women when they are angry, so it's up to women to police their own behavior so as not to make men angry. The third follows somewhat from the first two: women are assigned all the blame for the violent relationships from which they suffer, because they failed in their attempt to render every aspect of their behavior inoffensive to their husbands, who of course could not be expected to control their anger.

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