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Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Rise of Female Masochism

“If this is how you treat someone you love, I’d hate to be someone you hate.”—Rudy Currence

“You’re Lying!” I said incredulously.

“No, I’m not. When I was in college I had several women clean my bathroom, wash my clothes, and cook my meals.” He said matter-of-factly.

I raised an eyebrow. “So you must have been providing these women with certain 'favors' then?” I replied, implying that there must have been a tacit sexual exchange going on.

“No, not at all. I’m telling you that I never did ANYTHING.”

My mind has an inability to comprehend nonsense—particularly nonsense this profound-- so I found myself restating his earlier comments. “So you mean to tell me that you were not providing sexual favors and that there was ABSOLUTELY no reciprocity involved and these women volunteered to provide this maid service for you?”

“Yeah. One girl even apologized for disturbing me while she cleaned,” He said without hesitation.

At this point the feminist inside of me was visibly angry, but I didn't know whether to be angry at this lothario-in-training who unabashedly used these women, or those women for allowing themselves to be used by this cad. The icing on the cake is that not only did these women become HIS personal flunkies, but that they catered to ALL of the men who lived in his dorm complex. Considering how dirty, unhygienic, gluttonous, and just plain triflin the male species tends to be, that must have been a heck of a lot of work for these women to balance with their other student responsibilities, like working, keeping their grades up, running student organizations, and participating in extracurricular activities. Not to mention, cooking and cleaning for themselves. You would think that at least this alleged “Christian” man would have wanted to do SOMETHING to show his appreciation. After all, even slave-masters during the brutal system of chattel slavery we had in this country occasionally awarded their slaves trifles and special privileges for a job well done. But not THIS male or his male cohorts! For most of their academic experience they continued to allow these tired women to act as their personal servants without even the slightest bit of gratitude.

Who’s to blame? In previous posts I discussed the despicable behavior of the black male. I come down hard on black males because I feel that given his treatment in American he should be the last person to want to inflict even more abuse, particularly on his hardworking black women counterpart. I also have a special interest in seeing the black community thrive. But many of the things that I’ve said about the black man are true for ALL MEN. Starting with last weeks rather sarcastic post “Burning with Love” my focus has shifted slightly from examining these behaviors under a racial lens to considering the universality of maltreatment of women by men. In the case of the above, these were nonblack men doing the using, and nonblack women supporting their own maltreatment. To be sure, I am of the ilk that believes that men who mistreat women should be (insert castrated, punished, tortured, sabotaged, lynched etc depending on the offense). Yet as implied in last weeks post, I am having difficulty “getting” why women complacently put up with this crap! What also concerns me is that everyday I witness some form of female masochism. I think many women around me see it too, but aren't fighting against it as vocally as I do.

Allow me to provide some everyday examples of this phenomenon. When I first started college I caught the bus (a grueling experience to say the least). One day on my way back to the other side of Baltimore a woman and a man got on the bus. The “conversation” they had was similar to this one. (I LOATH profanity, but I have to use it here to illustrate the intensity of the situation.)

“What the F*** is wrong with your lazy stupid ***! Yelled the man.

The women just put her head down like a defenseless animal.

“That’s why nobody wants your ***! Your stupid and ugly. I’m the only one who wants to deal with your ***!" He shouted vehemently all over the bus.

The women grimaced in pain, and trembled as if she was too afraid to respond.

“What the F*** is wrong with you? Why the **** are you upset?!! I should be the one upset!”

The woman whispers something inaudible.

“Just sit there and shut up! And don’t say anything ‘til we get off the bus! You’re an embarrassment to me!” he retorted angrily. And for the rest of the bus ride, until their stop the woman acquiesced. I couldn't help but feel that if he was that abusive to her in front of a busload of people, how did he treat the poor woman when no one was around? I also couldn't helped but wonder why she dealt with it. Clearly this was not a loving, caring situation. What positive thing did this woman get out of being verbally abused in public?

Now take my friend Julia* who has been in a three year relationship with a man I’ll call Paul. (In my defense I’m not going to type anything here that I haven’t said to Julia a million times before.) Juila is a gorgeous girl, I’m not just saying this because of our relationship. Julia has been offered several modeling gigs and even a modeling contract with a renowned agency. To top it all off Julia is intelligent, talented, and works hard to go to school full-time while parenting a young child by herself. Since the inception of their relationship, Julia has complained about Paul’s incessant cheating. According to her, Paul has been seeing countless women behind her back and Paul has an addiction to pornographic material. She frequently complains that Paul lies to her and ignores her in order to spend time with these other women—some of which include his ex-girlfriends. Now, I’m not sure if all of these things about Paul are true, but if I even suspected them I would have been long gone if I were Julia! They have broken up because of Paul’s behavior too many times to count, yet always manage to get back together. “I love him, we’ve been together for so long. I’ve invested so much time” are some of the reasons she gives for staying with a man that makes her unhappy. Now because much of the details of their relationship have been given to me in confidence, I cannot include them here, but let me say that their relationship has been tumultuous and that’s putting it mildly. Yet despite the mistreatment (or masochistically because of it?) Julia still goes back. Despite the fact that Julia is worth so much more, she continues to cheat herself by participating in a relationship that causes her pain and conflict. One that could be potentially detrimental to her health.

Mya**, a former associate of mine, was in a similar situation. Mya attended an Ivy League university and maintained excellent grades. She met a man named Thomas, who barely has a high school education, and the two of them began dating. Mya worked hard to balance her relationship with her academic responsibilities, but frequently found herself in arguments with Thomas. It seemed that Thomas had become jealous of her success. Many times I would call Mya long distance to check on her and she would be too exasperated to talk or when she wasn't tired she would spend the time relating a hurtful experience that she had gone through with Thomas. Even with all the fighting and mental strain Thomas and Mya are still together. And get this! Mya financially supports her underachieving partner! To my knowledge, Thomas doesn't even have a job!

Last week, I blogged about women being set on fire, battered, murdered and verbally abused. I could go on endlessly about the many examples of female mistreatment that I have seen firsthand. I’m sure many people reading this post could recount their own experiences with this phenomenon. It seems that Sigmund Freud may have had something when he made the sexist claim that all women are masochistic. I don’t think women realize the effect we have on men’s behavior. If women collectively refused to deal with damaged, lowlife men, then men would have no choice but to change their behavior. This isn't another blog full of woman-blame and contempt; this is the simple realization that men WON”T modify their behavior unless there is motivation to do so. It’s basic operant conditioning at it’s finest.*** Until then, it seems obvious to me that we will continue to see a startling rise in what I can only term female masochism coupled with its atrocious counterpart male sadism. And so the misogyny once again thrives, but this time it is given permission to rear its ugly head by the women who suffer its heinous blows.

About the above picture: That dog has two half-dressed women who volunteered to have dog collars placed around their necks attached to leashes. He boldly holds a leash in both hands.
*C’mon I’m not going to use this sister’s real name
**I had to change some of the details in the story because I like having friends more than I like having a blog.
***I go into detail about the role of operant conditioning on male/female relationships in my post “The Great Black Prince.” I think this applies to ALL Men.
****If you can stomach the graphic content I recommend reading Female Chauvinist Pigs by journalist Ariel Levy. She gives and excellent analysis of this phenomenon in her book.

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