Women Who Support Bad Men

The hardest thing being me is that I have never really had anyone tell me when I have done something wrong or how I should behave, or even support me to better myself or improve, my parents so consumed with their own affairs that their youngest child was all but neglected and left to the whims of my older siblings who took advantage of my rather profound naivety. I spent my childhood being constantly conditioned, I should perhaps say threatened, that my duty was to serve and indeed from my youth all the way through to early adulthood I looked after their children, cleaned their homes, cooked for them and tolerated their constant mocking. Rather than appreciate the good I have done for them, they’ve shrugged their shoulders and said I have done nothing because even they viewed it as my duty. I was subjugated and ultimately knew nothing of myself, indeed through their constant ridicule I had genuinely come to believe that my worth was only present if I served others and did what I was told.

Gaslighting, for instance, is a tactic used in any kind of relationship to encourage enough doubt that may ensure the complete subordination of the other, an annihilation of their sense of self or ego, by using gentle and even loving reinforcement by complimenting and praising only to subtly confuse with indirect threats and manipulation techniques, things like intentionally portraying themselves as the victim in order to make you think you have the problem. If gas-lighting is a technique educated to children to make them doubt themselves and believe that they must follow and do as they are told, so let us say that if men grow up in a paternalism that educates exclusivity between genders, then their identification with reality will always be subordinated to custom especially if effective economic and social systems reinforce and enable this. What happens to morality? What is that woman who falls in love with a murderer in prison? Is there some vicarious responsibility despite the psychological abuse, given that each of us are endowed with enough reason that prompts emotional responses – such as anxiety or depression – and speaks to us intuitively telling us ‘something is wrong‘?

Driving someone to insanity is the devil’s work.
 

The bible is one of the greatest moral educators of our time, over 100 million published every year and the scriptures have come to be the very source that enables one to mirror ethical and moral agency, whether directly through religious or institutional connections or indirectly through how we have socially come to understand ethics and moral behaviour, even law. However, most of the biblical references are dominated by masculine figures that leaves very little about women for women to explore and admire, that the symbol of what is a good woman appears to be counteracted by figures who are submissive and quiet, obedient and does what she is told, a motherly figure such as Mother Mary of Jesus or mothers Saint Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa of the three Hierarchs in orthodox Christianity? Why mother and not simply a woman? Jesus is the symbolic representative of what God would desire in man, to be loving and be righteous – he is not the literal son neither is he God, and there is no actual trinity – he is just a man who was mistreated and who remains a friend some of us never had by telling us when we have done something wrong and how to behave right. There are many other male symbols, but female?

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There is a dichotomy in the symbolism of biblical stories between the human and the unreal, that Abraham is both an honest man who is a real father but also the patriarch of monotheistic religions, that Isaac is symbolic of Israel and Ishmael the forefather of Mohammad and therefore of Islam. These narratives between the real and the imagined represent ancient methods of communication that depended largely on imagery to weave an understanding of the external world and there is a truth to both.  It was not a time where reason and science articulated reality as we have today and so when we read the bible, to understand the meaning behind many of the symbols requires more creativity and fluidity in our thinking to interpret the texts. Jung poignantly explained how cultural identity and the practices or customs we come to believe and understand as the very source of language to explain experience can implicitly or explicitly be expressed in our emotional responses and psychological narratives through dreams, that while the dreams themselves are imagined and unreal are nevertheless symbolic of truth or something very real. Interpreting the dream can explain this real problem.

I was recently asked for forgiveness, an apology coming from a woman who had done something terribly wrong to me and it is always in my interest to want to improve my relations with people, to find that forgiveness and move on as friends. Her state of mental health at the time was certainly not well due to her partner being very abusive towards her and she has claimed that was the basis of her decision to do this wrong. At the time, she was very supportive of him and it leads me to this very question of whether there is a moral obligation held against women who support bad men or is there an existing void of moral responsibility where psychological abuse has been inflicted? I can clearly sympathise as I too had once experienced bullying and not been consciously aware of my responses, but I can also state that I developed anxiety and depression as a response to an unconscious awareness that something was wrong. My intuition had reason prompting me – without words – that told me something I already understood but not at conscious level that I could articulate using language. I fought and resisted subjectively. She knew that he was bad as we each understand what bad behaviour is since every culture and society has a universal understanding of good and bad forms of behaviour; something else compelled her to submit.

Violence does not necessarily need to be physical; indeed, in the Serious Crime Act 2015, it is an offence to inflict “controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship,” and further still in § 1(d) that “(person) A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on (person) B.” Types of coercive behaviour include stalking (including cyber-stalking), intimidation and emotional abuse where the person feels unsafe and afraid due to the threat of abuse. Indirect threats and psychological games are just as violent as physical abuse; so if a woman is aware that her partner has a history of such behaviour and continues to support him, are they morally liable since they ought to know that his behaviour may have a serious effect on someone else?

This is a pretty tricky question.

Returning back to biblical scripture, women in the Bible also represent a dichotomy between the evil ‘adulteress’ and the good ‘woman’ where no woman, save for perhaps Deborah and the Queen of Sheba, are both good but also empowered with righteousness and intelligence. A ‘good’ woman appears to be motherly, submissive and serves while a ‘bad’ woman enjoys compelling and controlling men or as said in Proverbs 5:3 “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil” and a warning, yet again, for men rather than for women. This rather patriarchal language explained different symbols of how a woman should be viewed rather than teaching women how they should behave, giving men the authority to dictate this socially and culturally over generations, and leaving women today without any real understanding of what a ‘good woman’ actually means. Indeed, right from the beginning with Adam and Eve or even when reading ancient texts like Lysistrata, women have a sexual power over men that men ought to be cautious of, that they have the prowess to control men’s behaviour and responses (when Adam points at Eve and blames her for the temptation, it only verifies a lack of moral accountability on his part).

However, to be honest, there are instances where even I myself have witnessed the submissive nature of men toward rather silly women, where men can follow and do what their partners tell them to do, probably best articulated with the power Jezebel had over the King. The warning, to some degree, seems fair. In apocolyptic literature, there exists a ‘bad woman’ or the whore of Babylon who appears to be like the character of Jezebel that paints a picture of a woman interfering in good and moral behaviour. She is drinking ‘the blood of the prophets’ or basically all the effort the prophets have made in the name of God to teach people what is right and appears to be riding this ‘beast’ or this bad man who is aligned with the devil or dragon (as beast tends to refer to “Kings” or governments, although given this is the whore of ‘Babylon’ the dragon and beasts could be symbolic of ancient Mesopotamian mythological creatures such as mušḫuššu).

Conversely,  there exists a ‘good’ woman who appears at the beginning of the coming end, from the Book of Revelations or even other texts such 2Esradas 10, who appears favourable as the bride of good behaviour and epitomises what a righteous woman should be doing, which is calling people to good but doing so with a sense of empowerment or as said in Micah 4, with “horns of iron” and that through her a man is born. A ‘motherly’ figure does not imply a literal mother, but rather, as Jesus is the son of God but not literally, a mother is symbolic and illustrative of the care for and love of God’s children; it describes or is indicative of a covenant, a promise to uphold unconditionally the principles of good behaviour that lead men toward trusting the right way to behave. A submissive and obedient woman is not reasonable neither it is safe for women to believe that being good is being quiet and doing what you are told, on the contrary this is a mindlessness that has perpetuated violence against women.

Unlike Adam and Eve, a woman is not born by the rib of man but rather ‘good men’ are only possible through ‘good women’. For instance, if this whore of Babylon is exercising power over the beast by riding him, is it her fault that he is the beast? Herodias remained loyal to immoral behavior by ordering her husband to kill John the Baptist to the joy of Herod, her uncle and husband at the time. She supported and even used his bad behaviour to play out her own and while she may not be directly involved since Herod wanted John the Baptist dead, she is certainly vicariously liable for his death. She acted in bad faith and she is seen as a bad woman. And she is.

When I think of power and psychological issues like Battered Woman Syndrome, it really depends on the circumstances to confirm moral culpability. If a woman is aware that her partner behaves badly such as lying or stealing, remaining by him and even supporting him is morally reprehensible. I would imagine that while their support may have underlying mental health concerns, if they believe in and agree to remain close to such men, they are no longer within a moral dimension and are themselves devoid of agency. It is not as severe as being directly accountable, but the defense of insanity just wont cut it either. I think that an empowered woman, someone who is independent and convinced of the importance of moral accountability and agency, who fights the good fight no matter the threat, that is what women should aspire to. Generations of women support men because they may have been taught to do so, threatened into subordination, but ultimately there exists reason and it will always stand supreme.

Are All Men Cowards?

I often remark on the necessity of moral consciousness, what I deem to be the correct representation of the ambiguous notion of ‘love’ where one is capable of rationally reflecting on moral judgements toward the principle aim of reaching the ideal [Platonic] Form of Good or God and what one can only achieve once they have transcended to posses a mental state of autonomy. That is, one who can transcend socially expected codes of conduct relative to their culture and what they are expected to conform to toward guiding themselves in a state of rational freedom, setting standards and responding with moral principles according to their own understanding of duty and good-will. This transcendence toward an authentic and independent way of thinking without the interference of our subjective fears and outside influences is determined by the courage to face the separateness of ourselves from others and to take responsibility for our decisions and actions; the greatest obstacle being the angst produced within us by the alienation from everything we had been taught to believe is our reality. It is to face our individuality. This angst is a type of subjective pain and we end up with a difficult choice in the attempt to end the pain; as mentioned, we either transcend and begin taking self-reflective responsibility through developing an independent moral consciousness, or we give up and conform to patterns of social behaviour. This conformity, however, can be religious or gang-related, it can be following your partner or friends and family to following neo-Nazi ideology, whatever is accessible that would enable the individual to avoid exercising independent and rational judgement. This decision is nihilistic since reasoning and acting consciously is the nature of our existence and failing this confirms a belief in a meaninglessness for ones own life. The ‘soul’ of the individual is in despair because the conscious conformism is against our very nature and to silence this blind submission, feelings of powerlessness and of weakness, his nihilism and hatred for himself projects outward to the world around him. He loses his humanity and what is left is nothing but a wretched person who has conformed to the rules of his environment that artificially protects him from exposing his state of mind, or lack thereof. This subjective cowardice to take that natural step toward transcending to an independent moral consciousness by abandoning self-reflective responsibility is an archetype of cowardice in all its forms, which is why it could render a man capable of violence and even murder of a woman behind closed doors, to those who are physically weaker, and who are dependent on them. Why would they take responsibility for others if they are incapable of doing so within themselves?

When I saw a poster written by activists following the brutal murder of 20 year old Özgecan Aslan in Turkey by a man who attempted to rape her, where it wrote “Biz kadın gibi yaşamak istiyoruz,” which translates to we want to live as women, I unequivocally understood what that meant. There is a trend that one will notice as you continue to read, that the most vulnerable in our society, those that require protection and support are turned away, ignored and ultimately become the victims of violence and exploitation. These perpetrators who seek out the vulnerable epitomise cowardice defined not as one who is afraid of the dark, but rather one who is afraid of his moral responsibility that in the process discards morality and becomes a ‘worm’ as Kierkegaard calls such men. “For a worm it might be regarded as a sin to harbor such thoughts, but not for a being made in the image of God.”[1] Power is a critical variable and often those who abuse their position of power or authority are the members of a household who make the decisions.

The global number of people trafficked per year for labour and sexual exploitation is staggering, with 75 per cent of the 20.9 million[2] exploited being women and children;[3] 4.6 million are victims of sexual slavery. In 2012, accounting 14 per cent of all homicides were deaths resulting from intimate partner or family member abuse,[4] with 50 per cent of all female homicide victims – a total of 43,600 women – killed from domestic violence. 95 per cent of perpetrators of all global homicide were male.[5] It is estimated that globally, 35% of women have experience violence either physically or sexually. Women with intellectual disabilities are regularly victims of physical and sexual abuse that forced sterlisations continue to be performed and the impact on children who witness or experience domestic violence includes “a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances. These can also be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life,”[6] as well as an increased risk in health issues.

The situation is not something one can dismiss and domestic violence by intimate partners and family members resulting in the overwhelming number of fatalities is clearly disproportionate between genders, just as much as sexual exploitation. Whilst it may be possible to quantify the number of deaths or reported crimes, it would be difficult to verify the actual number of women and children who have experienced violence and further still, it is even more complex ascertaining the causal roots of this tragedy. By taking into account the socio-political and cultural conditions, and even the psychological and behavioural perceptions of masculinity, we may shed light on ways to establish normative changes to current state practices on the prevention of interpersonal violence.

Disparaging views against women is not an uncommon phenomenon, in fact, it continues even academically where traditionally male-dominated disciplines such as the sciences and philosophy consistently disregard the canons of female representatives while subjecting them to hasty generalisations and mockery that prolong pre-existing gender bias without consideration to the historical and continued subjugation of women’ rights. Some stricter patriarchic societies have normalised violence against women in addition to the mental health effects caused by the glorification of abuse where violence is used as an instrument to engender notions of masculinity and power. This is clearly the case in Turkey, where the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policy revealed that almost 86% of a population of over 38 million women in the country has suffered from physical and psychological violence.[7] My home country, Australia, also has staggering results where it has become the leading cause of preventable death and illness of women aged between 15-44 following the establishment of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, however comparably it is not as pervasive. When such widespread violence becomes a cultural norm, it verifies why 64% of women in Turkey remain married to their abusive partner. The effects of domestic violence has a devastating impact on the mental health of victims as seen with patterns where clusters of Turkish women experience major depressive disorder, phobic and post-traumatic stress disorder[8] that can often be considered a normal female feature.

It is not normal.

I recently spoke about a memory where my father was standing outside of a bedroom door when I was a child, wielding a large kitchen knife and screaming at my mother, who had locked herself in the room, telling her to get out so he can kill her. This is followed by another memory of him reading a poem he wrote for my mother about the love he had for her. Psychological abuse stands at the forefront of violence against women and children and is used as a tactic for several reasons; the first is to control the victim through feelings of guilt, confusion and fear and the second is to deflect blame and responsibility for their own actions. This includes tactics such as economic control and isolation from any support mechanisms including friends and family, making excuses such as exhaustion due to work obligations, criticising her appearances and intellect, and mind games such as gaslighting taken from the 1944 film Gaslight starring Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton who slowly convinces his wife Paula played by Ingrid Bergman that she is going insane. It is the gradual tactic that sows psychological doubts of ones own sanity. My father came from a Turkish/Arabic culture that glorified violence and where violence against a wife and other men were promoted as a symbol of his capacity to protect his family unit [his parents and siblings].

Whilst we have feminist studies, cultural ideals and notions of masculinity seemingly go under the radar. An environment that promotes notions of masculinity through defined attributes such as physical strength, breadwinners [domestic power] and professional prestige effect perceptions on how a man should appear and behave. When constructions of masculinity is defined as much as beauty is to the identity of the feminine, a dichotomy is by extension coupled with this definition whereby feelings of emasculation are formed when one fails to adequately adhere to the required qualities that define this image of a ‘man’. Masculinity and the concept of gender itself is a social construct.[9] He assumes failure and develops a sense of insignificance and a way to overcome the sense of subjective powerlessness is through acts of aggression since it is envisioned as a form of power. This is also the case with sexual violence and why 58% of trafficking cases globally account for sexual exploitation, not to mention the crime of sexual violence as a weapon of war. As with definitions of masculinity, notions of feminine purity often shift the blame to victims of sexual violence. 

article-sexworker-1109

A haunting glimpse into the reality of sex-workers as it almost exposes the monstrosity behind men who have lost the depth of their humanity by willingly engaging in sexual exploitation of women and their failure to adhere to the responsibility toward morality.

The effects of my experiences as a child witnessing the violence included feeling guilty for what was essentially the abuse against me, as well as being afraid of and distrustful of men that I never approached intimate relationships. Instead – in my isolation – I focused intently on understanding the conflicting challenges between what was moral and loving in principle to eliminate what was programmed by my environment and experiences. I saved my own life because of this. I changed my name and chose to lead my own life independent of all institutions and social requisites including my past experiences and developed a new life or ‘church’ under my own direction. Most continue being subject to or inflicting violence, careless of themselves and denying any problem with their circumstances, hence the prevalence and prevalent acceptance of violence against women. What needs to be understood is that any form of violence can never be justified unless it is in self-defense and even so there are strict rules as to what may be adequately considered thus. Any man who raises his arm against a woman or attacks, exploits or abuses someone vulnerable is exposing nothing more than his mental health and moral defects and utilising psychological games by blaming the victim to deflect responsibility or by using the cultural normalisation of violence as a justification cannot change that very fact.

Only a man who self-regulates his own behaviour and adheres to his own moral principles consciously along with his own independent view of selfhood would never feel emasculated even with a woman who may be professionally or academically more successful, because he becomes a man in his own right rather than what is socially constructed. I was forced to fend for myself, to fight through constant injustice and to surpress my feminine attributes to survive, hence why “Biz kadın gibi yaşamak istiyoruz” is saying that a woman wants to be a peace enough in her life to be herself. While patriarchic cultures may be to blame, it is the fact that violent men have serious mental health issues vis-à-vis their failure to take moral responsibility for their behaviour. It is to wholly accept the fact that violence equates to mental health problems, particularly in light of children who are exposed to violence and are likely to inherit the same behaviour later in life. It is not just that women and children are currently going through an invisible catastrophe, but on the whole people have turned their backs on morality and our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community.

The trend here is that people have turned their backs on love.

[1] Douglas J. Soccio, Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy, Cengage Learning (2015) 401. See Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life
[2] See United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2012
[3] Ibid.
[4] See United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), The Global Study on Homicide 2013
[5] Ibid.
[6] World Health Organisation, Violence Against Women: Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Against Women Fact sheet (November 2016) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/
[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarabrynn-hudgins/a-chronic-problem-violenc_b_13649898.html
[8] Simsek Z, Ak D, Altindag A, Günes M. “Prevalence and predictors of mental disorders among women in Sanliurfa, Southeastern Turkey,” J Public Health (Oxf). 2008 Dec 30(4): 487-93.
[9] See Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, Simon Watson, Carrie Mae Weems, Constructing Masculinity, Psychology Press (1995)