Friday, November 25, 2011

Tough Questions: Why Can't Men Hit Women?

As a continuation of yesterday's topic, I figured while I was at it to bring up an old argument that I used to hear in high school (where I was typically called a "feminist" as an insult) all the time. If you really believe that women and men should be treated equally, and that you shouldn't make any judgement on someone based on their gender, then why is it not as acceptable for a man to hit a woman as it is to hit a man? You can't have it both ways.

OK so let's put aside the argument "It's not OK to hit anyone". It's a silly excuse to avoid the real issue: it is absolutely true that it is socially acceptable for a woman to slap a man if he seriously insults her, but if a man slaps a woman when she's mouthing off it is atrocious, even for the majority of women that advocate equality. Is that wrong? Why or why not?

I had to think about this long and hard, the reason being that I did in fact occasionally get into physical altercations with the opposite sex. It began in elementary school when I put the smack down on the class bully who was actively choking my friend at the time for telling him to piss off. Since then my elementary school years were often spent pulling a bully off my friends' younger siblings and giving them a little taste of their own medicine. The bullies in the school were either my age or older, so my teachers never reprimanded me nor did they ever inform my mother, seeing as I was doing what they all wished they could. By the time I went to middle school, however, they had stopped physically bullying and the only kind of harassment that was thrown around was verbal, so the fights stopped. In high school I was still very much considered one of the guys and it was obvious that I was not afraid to throw down if the need ever came up. I defended a couple of my friends from harassment (both sexual and physical) on the streets and I was still the go-to-girl for this kind of vigilante justice. I suppose the fact that I was considered "between genders" in my teenage years made me the ideal person to ask this question, and it really made me think.

As I thoght about it, I came to two important realizations. First of all I realized that the more I was growing up, the more this taboo of hitting girls(/women) was growing, even in my own mind. The second realization was that while I wouldn't have minded if one of the aforementioned boys tried to smack me, because I would have made them regret it for the rest of their lives, I would have been morally outraged if they did the same thing to one of my "girlier" friends, and I would have made them regret it for the rest of their lives. With this second one, the reason for this disparity clicked in my mind.

As I was growing up, the physical disparity between the sexes started becoming more apparent. While girls and boys aged 7-11 are reasonably equally matched physically, they begin to diverge after puberty. This seems like the most obvious statement in the world, but it's at the heart of the whole issue.

The moral outrage doesn't come (at least doesn't from me) from a person with a penis hitting a person with boobs. It's about hitting a person that is not physically matched to defend themselves. I would be just as outraged to see a fully grown man hitting a young scrawny boy. It is the intent behind that slap that makes it. When a woman slaps a man for being rude, she is saying "I will not tolerate you degrading me like this. You are completely out of line and I want to shock you so you remember it". When a man hits a woman (or by extention, a scrawny teenage boy) for the same reason, that slap says "Know your place. You forget I am stronger than you, I can dominate you if  and whenever I choose. I have this power over you, so don't you think of saying something to set me off". The power dynamic is completely different.

I am a woman who has no qualms defending herself with her fists if need be. If a man who is physically matched with me raises his hands with the same intent that he would raise them with another man, that moral outrage disappears for me. If, on the other hand, I see a man raising his hands against a woman who is significantly weaker than him, or one that has been conditioned by society to not defend herself physically, and therefore if the intent behind that slap is the second one I have described, I'll go fucking nuts.

So, can men hit women? The answer is yes only if the intent behind bringing the confrontation to violence is the same as it would be if she were a man, if she has a good chance of defending herself and if she has just as much intention of escalating to that same level. In other words, the same morally justifiable rules that apply for physically engaging another man.

Not such an unequal concept after all is it?

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting. Thank you.