A class I’m in recently assigned a research paper regarding gender and how it affects us in our society. Because I’m extremely indecisive and am a huge
fan of the topic nerd, I wrote two essays, each taking the side of a gender on either side of the gender binary.
Up first, Empowerment. Second, Stressed, Impressed, and Dressed to Depress.
Female empowerment and domestic abuse that victimizes women is beginning to become a hot topic – to the extent that a PSA urging individuals involved in domestic abuse cases to speak out about their experiences appeared amidst Super Bowl commercials in order to gain pledges for a campaign to end the violence (NoMoreProject). This illumination is helping to bring awareness to physical issues within households nationwide and is lending comfort to women who have fallen prey to partners’ fists, cigarettes, and other impacting miscellanea. Amidst this enlightened period, however, society has glossed over an equally important – and possibly more common – domestic issue. Around forty-eight percent of men (and possibly more, due to the stigma revolving around ‘weakness’) admit to being psychologically abused by a partner (Invisible). Skimming over this problem during a period of awareness in favor of the issues of the common woman is not a matter of feminism prevailing over the patriarchy, it is rather a misstep that seriously harms both feminist ideologies and the common man.
Throughout the history of humankind, there has been a stigma perpetuated cyclically within the masculine gender that the man must be “macho,” a “rugged individualist,” or “tough,” in the face of conflict, regardless of whether this conflict happens to be external or internal (Shea). External conflict such as physical or sexual abuse takes emotional strength of the victimized individual to report due to the assumptions and judgements surrounding they who file a report on their wife or partner stating that they beat them. In these cases, the physical proof of the abuse is apparent and may be documented by photographs and or with examinations conducted by a medical professional. Physical ailments serve as solid evidence toward proving an accusatory statement, and this physical, visual, medical proof is where emotional abuse allows the perpetrator to have a leg up on both the victim and the criminal justice system.
How does an individual accuse another of being emotionally abusive when faced with the law? “She hurt my feelings?” “She called me names?” These statements sound textbook pathetic within the context of current gender mores – they are juvenile at best. Regardless of these being the basis of responses to emotional abuse, they are extremely valid and should be investigated as thoroughly and seriously as any case regarding physical abuse. The effects of emotional abuse can range from mild; confusion, anxiety, questioning of oneself – to life threatening; depression, suicidal tendencies, post-traumatic stress disorder, and emotional dependence on the abuser, such as in the case of the development of Stockholm Syndrome (Tracy; 30).
It is understandably difficult to pin down an emotional abuser in a fair criminal justice system where the innocent are regarded as such until proven guilty. Verbal accusations with no physical evidence are weak proof, especially when the accuser’s state of mind, intentions, and their relationship to the accused are unknown to the authorities. Consequently, intense scrutiny and search is involved in proving the victim’s statement.
Unfortunately, most individuals who are repeat abusers do not have a police record for their bouts of withholding of affection, nor do they for denying the victim the validity of their emotions. The punishments for emotional abuse are… zero – and there are just as many ways to prove that the abuse even happened in the first place. It is all simply assumed to be truth by those within the victim’s intimate emotional circles, and is conversely assumed to be false or at the very least questionable by those outside those circles.
The perpetrator of this sort of abuse is aided by gender norms, stereotypes, and double standards that surround the actions of females in romantic relationships. As is perfectly demonstrated in the severe (but supposedly meant to be satirical) music video that accompanies Taylor Swift’s song Blank Space, the heroine’s response to her significant other’s apparent infidelity is as follows: throwing his phone into a fountain, slamming a golf club into his car, stabbing a cake with a steak knife – after which it bleeds, leading the viewer to believe it symbolizes a more human recipient, and shreds his clothes with scissors (Aboutabl; Fabello). While Swift exaggeratedly perpetuates the ‘crazy girlfriend’ label that has been attached to her since the beginning of her career, she also shows that – hey! – even abuse can be entertaining. Put a man in her place, however, and red flags would be flying over the internet, over telephone wires, and over tables on talk shows.
Is it the false but hopeful ideal that women are pure, are never to blame, that allows this abuse to continue unrealized and unreported? Is it the backlash of society against the victim’s masculinity? Is it the fear of being ostracized from their social circles, including their abuser? To be sure, it differs on a case-by-case basis regarding the majority of the cause, but the coagulation of these factors is what determines an individual’s decision to hold back on retelling their tale.
The spotlight on empowering females has come in due time, but in order to have true equality, we must raise the awareness of domestic abuse issues that affect all genders. Creating a society that can freely communicate on these topics will allow the stigma that oppresses men to release its iron grasp and be replaced by an infinite net of support made up not only of the individuals who share their pain, but also those that empathize with them just as if they were victims themselves.
Aboutabl, Nahla. “Is Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’ a Comeback or Abuse?” The Breeze. 16
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“Domestic Violence Main Page.” Domestic Violence Main Page. Clark Prosecutor. Web. 24 Mar.
Fabello, Melissa A. “5 Ways Taylor Swift Exemplifies White Feminism – And Why That’s a
Problem.” Everyday Feminism. 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
“Invisible Victims: Men In Abusive Relationships – Paging Dr. NerdLove.” Paging Dr
NerdLove. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
NoMoreProject. “Listen: 60 (NO MORE’s Official Super Bowl 49 Ad).” YouTube. YouTube,
- Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
Shea, Renée Hausmann., Lawrence Scanlon, Robin Dissin. Aufses, and Gretel Ehrlich. The
Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric. Boston, MA: Bedford / St. Martins, 2008. Print.
Tracy, Natasha. “Effects of Emotional Abuse on Adults – HealthyPlace.” HealthyPlace. 24 July Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
“30 Signs Of Emotional Abuse In A Relationship.” Live Bold and Bloom. 2014. Web. 24 Mar.