Guest Post by Betty McLellan
I’ve been a feminist for a long time (since the 1970s) and I’m still waiting for politicians, community leaders and social commentators to ask the question: WHAT IS IT ABOUT MEN?
Even in the face of horrendous violence by men against women and children (Darcey Freeman; and Tania Simpson and daughter Kyla Rogers) along with allegations of high profile men raping and abusing women (Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Silvio Berlusconi); even with all the evidence we have that something’s not quite right with the male of the species, there is still impenetrable resistance to focusing on men’s behaviour and asking: what is it about men? It seems that the only people with the courage to ask that question are radical feminists.
The ability of mainstream, including mainstream feminists, to ignore the elephant in the room is mind-boggling.
The thing is that patriarchy depends for its very existence on the notion that men are our heroes, our protectors, our leaders and, because of that, it is imperative that men be portrayed in a positive light at all times. Any unacceptable behaviour didn’t actually happen, or is a false accusation, or wasn’t their fault, or is a cry for help, or should be seen as a mistake by ‘one bad apple’, or blah, blah, blah.
Freud was someone who couldn’t bring himself to admit the reality staring him in the face: that men rape children. He couldn’t help but know from all the stories he heard from his women clients that fathers sexually abuse their daughters. He knew it. The evidence was right there and very convincing. But he couldn’t bring himself to say it. “Men wouldn’t do that”.
More tragic than his ignorance was the fact that, in response, he developed his psychoanalytic theory of Oedipus, that is, children fall in love with and have sexual fantasies about the parent of the opposite sex. What amazing sleight of hand! Men don’t sexually abuse their daughters, daughters make it all up. The stories he was hearing from his women patients on a regular basis were just the result of sexual fantasies in their childhood. The girls are to blame. The women are to blame.
Freud has a lot to answer for because for more than a century his theory of Oedipus, built on a false premise, has allowed men to rape and abuse girls in their care with impunity. Men wouldn’t do that.
But men DO do that. Fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, priests and family ‘friends’. And still no one is asking the question: what is it about men?
Every thinking person knows that the first step in resolving a problem is asking the right question. If the right question is not asked, if it is avoided like the plague, then the problem will never be resolved. So we have to ask: When the common denominator in most of the hideous violence that occurs in families, in society and globally is MEN, how come the right question is never asked? How come no one ever asks: what is it about men?
The answer is clear. They simply don’t want to know.
Betty McLellan is a feminist ethicist, author, psychotherapist and activist of long standing. She successfully combines her work as a psychotherapist with a broader emphasis on feminist ethical analysis and activism. She is the author of four books: Overcoming Anxiety (1992), Beyond Psychoppression: A Feminist Alternative Therapy (1995) and Help! I’m Living with a (
Man) Boy (1999/2006) nowtranslated into 15 languages.
Her latest book, Unspeakable: a feminist ethic of speech (2010), is published by OtherWise Publications.
Betty lives and works in Townsville, Australia.