Feminist Theory, Human Nature and the ‘Punch Seen Round the World’
It’s all so calculated.
She’s got a calculator.
She’s my soft touch typewriter
And I’m the great dictator.
Two little Hitlers
Will fight it out until
One little Hitler
Does the other one’s will.
– Elvis Costello, 1979
Watching the video in which Ray Rice knocked out his fiancée (now wife) Janay, the thought occurs: What was she so angry about?
Everybody has focused on the obvious horror of Rice’s punch — the brute force of a 200-pound professional athlete used against a woman — and nobody seems interested in what Janay did immediately before the punch. The couple were in a confined space, inside an elevator, when Janay “got in his face,” screaming and lunging toward Rice. Of course, Janay’s behavior does not justify Rice hitting her, but one wonders why she acted that way, just as one wonders whether the circumstance of being trapped in an elevator with this enraged woman in some way explains Rice’s reaction. That is to say, if her angry rage triggered Rice’s fight-or-flight instinct, he couldn’t flee from her while they were on the elevator, and his adrenalin surge produced an autonomic reflex: BOOM.
That’s one possible reading of the scene, at least, but I’m sure that any attempt to explain what Ray Rice did will be condemned as an attempt to defend or justify what Ray Rice did, so that political correctness erects a wall obstructing access to a knowledge of the motives involved.
There is exactly one acceptable interpretation, a feminist interpretation that construes Ray Rice as an agent of male supremacy and Janay Rice as a victim of oppression. This interpretation prohibits any effort to view Ray Rice and Janay Rice as individuals responsible for their own behavior. Having spent the past few months up to my eyeballs in radical feminist theory, including lesbian psychologist Dee Graham’s claim that female heterosexuality is a PTSD-type response to male “sexual terror,” I am aware that every woman who has ever taken a Women’s Studies class in college views the Ray Rice incident through a prism of theory. There are no individuals in feminist theory; everything is a social construction and everything must be interpreted in a context of male supremacy and female oppression:
The prosecutor offered Rice the ability to participate in New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program (PTI). Supposedly this decision was reached “after careful consideration of the information contained in Mr. Rice’s application in light of all of the facts gathered during the investigation.” What facts? What information? Is it the same sort of information that has anchored a culture that seemingly normalizes and accepts domestic violence? Is it more of “domestic violence is a private matter?” — which is very nineteenth century. Tell us what sort of facts, and while you are at, how might you clarify whether or not the NFL was given the tape. Because right now, it is hard not to see this case as yet another moment where the power structure goes to every length to protect and serve patriarchy.
In a nation where 24 people experience intimate partner violence every minute, most of them women, Ray Rice is a mere microcosm of a larger systemic injustice.
See? From the feminist perspective, this isn’t about one man hitting one woman. This is about a “culture.” This is about “the power structure” of “patriarchy.” Individual responsibility disappears and the conversation is about “a larger systemic injustice.”
The world is full of “systemic injustice,” if you want to look at it that way, and almost everyone can somehow claim victimhood.
Does anybody remember O.J. Simpson? I just re-read Tammy Bruce’s account (in The New Thought Police) of her experiences as president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) during the O.J. murder trial. Bruce organized protest marches and rallies focused on Simpson as a perpetrator of domestic violence against his slain wife Nicole. Astonishingly, NOW’s national leaders denounced Tammy Bruce by name, falsely accusing her of making “public statements that clearly violate NOW’s commitment to stopping racism.”
Nicole Brown Simpson could not be reached for comment.
Readers may be curious as to what “public statements” by Tammy Bruce led to this false accusation of racism. Here you go:
“What we need to teach our children,” Ms. Bruce said on ABC’s “Nightline” the day after the verdicts, is “not about racism,” but “about violence against women.” She added that her domestic violence message provided “a needed break from all that talk of racism.”
Exactly right. As everyone can now see, looking back with 20/20 hindsight, (a) O.J. was guilty as hell, and (b) O.J.’s defense attorneys cleverly manipulated the case to make it appear that O.J. was an innocent victim of white racism, with the result that (c) O.J. was acquitted and (d) public opinion was unnecessarily inflamed by what Tammy Bruce characterized as “all that talk about racism.”
What we can also see with hindsight was that Patricia Ireland was fearfully envious of Tammy Bruce’s success. Ireland was the perfect stereotype of feminist leaders as rigid humorless ideologues (and/or mindless stooges for the Democrat Party), while Tammy Bruce was the feisty young host of a popular radio talk show.
Furthermore, while Ireland and national NOW leaders were throwing Nicole Simpson’s body under the bus of a cynical “alliance” with the NAACP and other black liberal groups, Tammy Bruce had the wisdom to see what was really happening in the O.J. case and the courage to call it what it actually was: A cruel perversion of “civil rights” that treated the murderer as a victim, and treated O.J.’s two victims (including Ron Goldman) as if they had no rights whatsoever.
Tammy Bruce was getting booked on Nightline, not Patricia Ireland. Tammy Bruce told the truth, and Patricia Ireland lied.
Darkness and lies always hate the light and truth.
What does this have to do with Ray Rice? Everything.
Collective Victimhood and Conspiracy Theories
Feminists were willing to defend the murderer O.J. Simpson because their “allies” (e.g., Jesse Jackson) insisted that the case was about racism: All white people (as a collective group) oppressing all black people (as a collective group). Viewed through the prism of collectivist thinking, what mattered about O.J. was not whether, as an individual, he had murdered his wife, as an individual. All that mattered was that O.J. was a member of an Official Victim Group whose support the Democrat Party needed. Nothing so proved the sold-out phoniness of national feminist leadership as their refusal to condemn O.J. Simpson as a perpetrator of domestic violence, after recordings of 911 calls and photos of Nicole’s battered face exposed the truth of the ex-football hero as a wife-beater. The reality of Democrat Party coalition politics required feminists to ignore this truth — and to denounce Tammy Bruce as “racist” because she had the courage to tell the truth.
Fast-forward two decades: The elevator surveillance camera images make it impossible to deny that Ray Rice punched Janay and, because both of them are black, it is also impossible to claim that Ray Rice is a victim of racist oppression. His guilt is clear, and there is no white cop like Mark Fuhrman to serve as the racist scapegoat in a conspiracy theory about how Ray Rice was framed.
Because progressives view humans in collective groups, the problems of Ray Rice and his wife Janay are not personal, but political. The fact that Janay’s husband has lost his lucrative employment, and that an African-American family has thus suffered economic harm — an outcome that seemingly contradicts progressive “social justice” goals — is ignored because, as the feminists say, these two people are “a mere microcosm of a larger systemic injustice.” Whereas the O.J. Simpson trial was viewed through the prism of race-based “injustice,” the case of Ray Rice is viewed through the feminist prism.
Whatever the context, this collectivist worldview lends itself easily to paranoid fears. Instead of viewing humans as individuals, capable of acting rationally in their own self-interest and harmonizing their actions in voluntary cooperation, progressives insist that human life is “socially constructed,” and that our behavior is influenced — if not actually controlled — by impersonal forces. That is to say, everything we do is viewed by progressives not as our individual action, but rather in terms of what our actions mean for our membership in collective groups. Are we male or female? Black, white, Hispanic, Asian? Native or immigrant? Rich or poor? The psychological effect of this worldview is to tell us that we lack personal agency, and are not in control of our own destiny. The collectivist worldview encourages us to externalize responsibility, to blame others for our failures and hardships, so as to exempt ourselves from criticism — “Don’t blame me! It’s not my fault! I’m a victim!”
Protecting the Blameless Self from responsibility becomes a full-time occupation for people who buy into this worldview, and the ironic result of collectivist thinking — which claims a deep concern for “society” — is to encourage extreme selfishness. If we succumb to the paranoid belief that the world is controlled by sinister forces of greed, racism, sexism and homophobia, so that the whole world is in one way or another plotting evil against us, then our pursuit of selfish goals is justified by our need to protect ourselves from these evils. In a Hobbesian war of “all against all,” we can disregard the harm we cause others as individuals if we can construe our actions in the context of “social justice.”
“I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. . . . No one knows the pain that the media . . . has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing. . . . To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his a– off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.”
– Janay Rice
Feminists have spent the past four decades proclaiming that “the personal is political,” so nobody cares about the personal harm to Janay Rice of a political crusade to destroy her husband’s career.
Do we have any evidence that Ray Rice is a chronic menace to women? Is there an established record of Ray Rice as a habitual perpetrator of domestic violence? Was this horrific incident caught on video part of a long-term pattern? Who benefits, and who is harmed, by dropping him from the Ravens lineup and indefinitely suspending him from the NFL? Insofar as Ray Rice is suffering the legitimate consequences of his own wrongful behavior, I have no complaint. But it seems to me that Ray Rice — and Janay Rice, and everyone with a direct stake in Ray Rice’s NFL career — is being made to suffer an extraordinary penalty because (a) feminists have turned this into a political cause célèbre, and (b) the NFL is run by cowardly swine who care more about their image than they care about human beings.
Toward a Philosophy of Human Dignity
Each of us is responsible for our own actions, and the measure of human greatness is how we respond to hardship, struggle and crisis. Every man and woman must deal with problems which are not entirely their fault. Each of us is to some extent a victim of injustice, wrongs and injuries. We are all sinners, and all of us suffer because of our own sins and the sins of others. The challenge is not merely to survive these injuries, but to maintain our dignity while coping with injustice and hardship.
“Boys don’t hit girls” — my wife and I have insisted on that moral maxim in raising two daughters and four sons. This was what our parents taught us and, in transmitting this basic code of civilization to our children, we expect them to live up to it and pass it on to future generations.
Instilling this code into young people requires boys to understand that the male’s general superiority of physical strength should never be used to harm or threaten women, but rather to protect women from harm. And it requires teaching girls that under no circumstance should they tolerate male violence against them. No man will ever get a second chance to hit you, because the first time he lays a hand on you, it’s over — and he had better pray to God your brothers never find out. (The best scene in The Godfather is when Sonny Corleone beats up Carlo, who had beat Sonny’s sister Connie. The second-best scene is when Michael Corleone forces Carlo to admit his complicity in Sonny’s murder, and then consigns Carlo to death by strangulation.)
This stringent zero-tolerance policy — “Boys don’t hit girls” – sets up a problem: What happens if a woman loses her temper, behaves in an insulting manner, and even acts violently against a man? Some women are simply crazy, and some women have been spoiled rotten by over-indulgent parents who put up with tantrums. The “Daddy’s Precious Darling” Syndrome, as I call it, involves an entitlement mentality that makes it impossible for some women to admit wrongdoing or to accept criticism. If she can’t get what she wants, or if her bad behavior exposes her to criticism, Daddy’s Precious Darling can’t deal with it. She flies into a rage, and whoever she blames for thwarting her will — failing to kowtow to imperious demands or daring to criticize her selfish attitude — will become the target of unrestrained hatred. “Hell hath no fury,” et cetera.
The most famous example of “Daddy’s Precious Darling” Syndrome is the character of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Scarlett is the protagonist of the novel (and movie), but it’s hard to describe her as the heroine, because her attitude and behavior are far from heroic. She is vain, petulant and selfish, a rotten brat, and if the narrative arc of the story brings her toward maturity, highlighting her admirable qualities — determination and resourcefulness — this is small gain, compared to all the harm she cruelly inflicts on those around her as a consequence of her selfishness. She becomes romantically fixated on Ashley Wilkes, and this leads to a dramatic scene in the library at Twelve Oaks:
SCARLETT: Why don’t you say it, you coward? You’re afraid to marry me. You’d rather live with that silly little fool who can’t open her mouth except to say ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and raise a houseful of mealy-mouthed brats just like her!
ASHLEY: You mustn’t say things like that about Melanie.
SCARLETT: Who are you to tell me I mustn’t? You led me on, you made me believe you wanted to marry me!
ASHLEY: Now Scarlett, be fair. I never at any time…
SCARLETT: You did, it’s true, you did! I’ll hate you till I die! I can’t think of anything bad enough to call you.
Scarlett then slaps Ashley’s face and — in a gesture that ought to elicit more admiration and commentary than it generally has — Ashley responds in the only way a gentleman should. Having been falsely accused of cowardice and dishonorable deceit (“You led me on”), having heard his beloved fianceé insulted, and having finally been slapped in the face, what does Ashley say? What does he do?
He says nothing. He stiffens his shoulders, raises his chin and, after fixing Scarlett with a cold glance that mingles wounded pride with contemptuous pity, he silently turns and walks out.
One’s own dignity is at stake in such an encounter. Scarlett’s willfulness and immaturity led her to disgrace herself in a shameless display of emotion, a string of insults and slanders, culminating in a physical assault. Knowing very well that he has done nothing to deserve this humiliating mistreatment, Ashley refuses to lower himself to Scarlett’s level. She slaps him and . . . he walks away.
The film version of Gone With the Wind gives an impression of Ashley as a wimp, contrary to the authorial intent of Margaret Mitchell. She hated the casting of Leslie Howard in that role. In Mitchell’s novel, Ashley is entirely masculine; his character’s conflicts are rooted in the chivalrous code of behavior that prevents him from pursuing erotic satisfaction with Scarlett, as this would be not only sexual immorality, but also a betrayal of family loyalty. (The Wilkeses always marry their cousins the Hamiltons.) When war destroys the civilization to which Ashley belongs, he is lost and adrift in the post-war world, whereas Scarlett’s shrewdness (and her contempt for antebellum concepts of honor) make her a successful businesswoman in bustling Atlanta.
Rhett Butler Still Doesn’t Give a Damn
Gone With the Wind is nowadays condemned as racist (and if you think the movie is racist, you should read the book, which is much worse in that regard), but we ought to notice that Gone With the Wind – the most popular book ever written by a woman — is also profoundly sexist. Scarlett longs for “the elegant Mister Wilkes,” but yields to Rhett Butler’s animal magnetism. Indeed, one of the crucial scenes between Rhett and Scarlett is what feminists nowadays condemn as “marital rape.”
Scarlett has disgraced herself, caught in a compromising situation with Ashley. Forced to “face the music” — Rhett compels her to attend Ashley’s birthday party — she returns home to find Rhett drunk. Scarlett has humiliated him, and he is in no mood to endure further humiliation. He is not a man of words, but a man of action.
RHETT: Observe my hands, my dear. I could tear you to pieces with them. And I’d do it, if it’d take Ashley out of your mind forever. But it wouldn’t. So I’ll remove him from your mind forever this way. I’ll put my hands so,
one on each side of your head, and I’ll smash your skull between them like a walnut. That’ll block him out.
SCARLETT: Take your hands off me, you drunken fool.
RHETT: You know I’ve always admired your spirit, my dear, never more than now, when you’re cornered.
SCARLETT: I’m not cornered. You’ll never corner me, Rhett Butler, or frighten me! You’ve lived in dirt so long, you can’t understand anything else, and you’re jealous of something you can’t understand. Good night!
RHETT: Jealous, am I? Yes, I suppose I am, even though I know you’ve been faithful to me all along. How do I know? Because I know Ashley Wilkes and his honorable breed. They’re gentlemen, and that’s more than I can say for you or for me. We’re not gentlemen, and we have no honor, have we? (Scarlett walks out. Rhett pursues and grabs her.) It’s not that easy, Scarlett. You turned me out while you chased Ashley Wilkes, while you dreamed of Ashley Wilkes. This is one night you’re not turning me out.
Now, there are at least two ways of viewing Rhett’s action in that scene. At the point that Scarlett walks out and Rhett pursues her, we may believe, this is a sudden impulse — a spur-of-the-moment urge on his part. But this reading of the scene requires us to overlook the threat implied when Rhett tells Scarlett she is “cornered.”
A husband’s conjugal rights under common law were not to be taken lightly in America circa 1870. At least for the “honorable breed” of civilized men, it was considered wrong to impose sex on the wife by brute force, but at the same time a wife who consistently refused sex with her husband thereby gave him legitimate grounds for divorce. And in this context, Scarlett’s romantic pursuit of Ashley Wilkes had left her doubly exposed, because after the birth of their daughter Bonnie, Scarlett had excluded Rhett from the marital bed. However, after Melanie’s sister caught Scarlett and Ashley together — only hugging, but that was scandal enough — everyone in Atlanta’s respectable society knew the secret Rhett had known ever since that day in 1861 when he eavesdropped on the library scene where Scarlett slapped Ashley.
Thus, at the moment she returns home, Scarlett is truly “cornered” as a matter of custom and law, utterly at Rhett’s mercy and, although she claims to be unafraid of her “drunken fool” husband, he has apparently been thinking while he was drinking. The way this confrontation between them ends, I suggest, is pre-meditated.
Having tolerated his wife’s refusal of sex, for the sake of maintaining the respectable façade of their marriage, the public exposure of her betrayal has inspired in Rhett a merciless appetite for revenge. Whatever happens – whatever he says, whatever she says — Rhett knows exactly how the scene will end, before Scarlett ever walks in the door. He has made up his mind, and her consent is irrelevant.
He is not an honorable gentleman. Scarlett is indeed cornered: “This is one night you’re not turning me out.”
Rhett does this “with malice aforethought,” as the lawyers would say.
Women’s Studies majors must recoil in horror at the thought of how Rhett imposes his will upon Scarlett and how Margaret Mitchell scripted this “marital rape” scene as being not only what Scarlett deserved, but what she psychologically needed. (Shame on you for suspecting Women’s Studies majors need it, too.) This scene expresses the most primal understanding of male supremacy, and we must ask whether the enduring popularity of Gone With the Wind — including Rhett Butler’s iconic status — is because this understanding is a basically accurate view of human nature. The story resonates because what it tells us about ourselves as male and female is true.
Ah, but human nature is a “social construct,” as every Women’s Studies major knows, and Rhett’s sexual violation of Scarlett’s equal rights therefore is a hate crime. The personal is the political, and if there had been feminist “consciousness raising” groups in Atlanta in 1870, Scarlett would have recognized how Rhett had oppressed her.
Turning from feminist theory to rock-and-roll, we can understand the dynamic of Rhett and Scarlett through the lens of Elvis Costello’s 1979 song “Two Little Hitlers.” This is a clever take on happens when romantic relationships turn into power struggles by two people each equally determined to have their way. The must “fight it out until one little Hitler does the other one’s will.”
This power dynamic pre-supposes a selfish desire for dominance. People who are selfish are also usually merciless. There is a totalitarian quality to this kind of unmerciful selfishness, as “Little Hitlers” invest their egos in the struggle to gain the upper hand over their partner. Voluntary cooperation is impossible if, by cooperating, we feel that we are being humiliated by the surrender of power to our partner. This selfish attitude leads people to hate the people they’re supposed to love, resorting to deliberate cruelty in attempts to control those who are supposed to be partners, but who actually become their rivals for power.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
– I Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)
The Greek word agape that the New International Version of the Bible translates as “love” is translated in the King James Version as “charity,” and it behooves a Christian to think about what this means in the context of marriage. If Christian love “is not self-seeking,” if it is synonymous with charity, how does this affect our interpretation of the constant conflict between those two selfish characters, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara? Rhett says it best:
RHETT: You know, I’m sorry for you, Scarlett.
SCARLETT: Sorry for me?
RHETT: Yes, because you’re throwing away happiness with both hands and reaching out for something that’ll never make you happy.
He is not an honorable gentleman, but Rhett is honest enough to admit that his attempts to make Scarlett happy are futile, if she is intent on “throwing away happiness with both hands.” She is her own worst enemy, and Rhett cannot save her from herself.
From this analysis of culture, then, we return to the case of Ray Rice, Janay Rice and the Punch Seen ‘Round the World.
It should go without saying that love — agape, which is patient and kind — cannot be expressed by punching your wife in the face. But what no feminist will allow us to ask is, what was Janay doing that preceded her husband’s illegal (and un-Christian) violence?
Feminism erects a wall that prevents us from examining this. To ask very simple questions — “Why were they arguing? Why did she ‘get in his face’ that way?” — is to risk the accusation that you are “blaming the victim” or seeking to justify Ray Rice’s violence. It is analogous to the way feminism forbids us to point out how alcohol is so often involved in “date rape” on college campuses.
Feminism is at war with human nature, so our common-sense understanding about such things is condemned as hateful misogyny.
Common sense tells us that when people get drunk, bad things happen. Common sense tells us that drunk college girls are prime targets for bad things that drunk college boys are prone to do. But to say this is impermissible in feminist discourse. Our common-sense understanding of human nature is anti-female bigotry, we are told.
Feminism’s hostility to human nature is equally evident in the context of the video where Ray Rice punches out Janay. Obviously, Ray Rice violated what we teach our sons: “Boys don’t hit girls.” We need no feminist lectures to understand this.
OK, what if Janay was not a girl?
What if, instead of going to the casino with a date, Ray Rice had gone to the casino with a male buddy who got drunk and caused a scene? What if, after Ray and his buddy got on the elevator, the buddy had started yelling angrily at him, “getting in his face?”
There’s your equality. How do you like it?
Of course, feminists don’t believe in this kind of equality, an equality which would make women and men equally vulnerable to the consequences of “getting in the face” of a 200-pound pro athlete. However, as a skinny man who doesn’t enjoy pain, I can absolutely guarantee you that I would never make the mistake of engaging in a face-to-face shouting match with a guy like Ray Rice.
Here’s some helpful advice: Just walk away.
This advice applies to anyone who is tempted to provoke a confrontation, and it also applies equally to anyone who finds themselves confronted with a helpless fool looking for trouble. It especially applies to any man whose girlfriend or wife loses her temper, goes into a rage and begins insulting or threatening him.
Just walk away.
She’s challenging your manhood. She’s calling you every insulting name she can think of, accusing you of every kind of evil.
Just walk away.
That was what was so glorious in the way Ashley Wilkes responded after Scarlett O’Hara slapped him. Just two minutes earlier, she had been gushing about how much she loved him, but when he insisted that he loved and intended to marry Melanie Hamilton, the evil in Scarlett’s heart came pouring out in a torrent of hateful insults. And when she slapped his face, the conversation was over.
Just walk away.
A good man doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. And a good man doesn’t have to hit a woman to prove his point.
Just walk away.
Alas! “We’re not gentlemen and we have no honor,” as Rhett told Scarlett, and no feminist has any respect for honorable gentlemen. Nor can feminists tolerate Christianity and its ideals of unselfish love. Feminist theory views all male/female relationships as a power struggle, wherein men oppress and subjugate women, so that there can be no possibility of voluntary cooperation between them.
No love. No courtesy. No kindness. No mercy.
None of this makes sense in the context of radical equality, where the selfish quest for power turns man and woman into rivals.
There’s your equality. How do you like it?
This essay is part of the “Sex Trouble” series about radical feminism’s war against human nature, a reader-supported project that began in July.
Among the entries in this series are “Feminists Worry That Disney Movies Are Making Girls Heterosexual” (July 26), “A Lesbian Feminist Horror Movie” (Aug. 19), “Reading Feminist Theory” (Aug. 23), “Kate Millett’s Tedious Madness” (Sept. 1) and “Is Rachel Maddow’s Haircut Waging War Against Heteronormative Patriarchy?” (Sept. 6).
To support continuing research for this project, which I plan to turn into an ebook, readers are encouraged to remember the Five Most Important Words in the English Language:
First published at TheOtherMcCain.com
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