The Other Side Of Gender Equality

As a follow-up to Jody’s blog, I want to address more specifically the sort of gender-trending aggression implicit in the rhetoric used by Duke University researcher Tanya Chartrand, and to show that this is a real, but largely ignored, form of abusive behavior. Recent popular articles1 have begun to publicize the phenomenon of female bullying, and specifically how it differs from the more well-publicized male patterns of aggression:

Many people assume that boys are more aggressive than girls. In fact, girls are equally as aggressive. They simply use different methods to express it. Boys generally act out their aggression physically – typically by hitting, shoving, or kicking. Girls tend to utilize subtler expressions [that] researchers call … ‘relational aggression,’ which includes any behavior that intentionally harms another person’s self-esteem, friendships, or social status.

Relational aggression is employed to get contraindicated behavior from the target. In other words, to get the targets to do things that they don’t want to do or to do things which are not in the target’s best interest, i.e., to overcome “counterproductive reactant tendencies” as Chartrand would phrase it.

The example used in the footnoted article was of a school girl threatening her girlfriend with social isolation if she gave in to her need to go to the bathroom, which sabotaged the little girl’s classroom concentration and, consequently, an assignment she was working on.

Significantly, the target was the one who got in trouble, not the bully. Just as Chartrand’s husband is made to look like the problem, rather than Chartrand.

Even though much of the recent public discussion about female bullying has focused on children and, specifically, girl-on-girl abuse, these abusive patterns (which some researchers believe are set in the child’s personality by age five) will carry over into adulthood and certainly affect female-male relationships as well as female-female ones, including the systemic female-male relationship driven by feminism.

However, despite mountains of policy-spawning research into the emblematic male abuser (and the stereotype-spawning media sensationalism triggered by such research) there is scant attention among either academics or politicians into the effects of female psycho-social abuse in education, in the workplace, in domestic situations and family law matters, and even as a contributing cause of male-on-male violence.

After all, relational aggression is about coercing behavior from others; it is a valid question to ask how much destructive behavior, by both males and females, is due to the pressures of relational aggression. As the example of the two school girls demonstrates, the covert instigator of problems is not always the one who ends up exposed and in trouble. It is unreasonable to believe that this dynamic vanishes in adulthood.

It was Macbeth’s bloody hands, but his Lady’s bloody plans, that killed King Duncan of Scotland. To punish the physical executors of violence while absolving the psycho-social directors of it is ineffective and irrational social policy. Further, when this neglect of psycho-social coercion is based on a pervasive preference for indicting male patterns of aggression over female patterns, it indicates systemic sexual discrimination that undermines real justice.

However, such discrimination is not merely a matter of focusing on the physical aggression of males over the psycho-social aggression of females, but also about focusing on the male only as victimizer, and on victims only as females. Male-on-male aggression, which constitutes the vast majority of physical aggression, is relatively neglected as society highlights the minority of male aggression that is directed at females.

Similarly, when discussing the psycho-social aggression of females (as in the footnoted article) we tend to focus on female victims, often not even mentioning the certainty that males are also targets for this form of abuse.

Treating women as moral and social equals to men is an unquestionable virtue that only the most retrogressive of political troglodytes would dismiss. However, equality means more than merely granting women access to traditionally male sectors of the social landscape and compensating their talents with the same rewards. It also means holding women to the same professional standards of loyalty and seniority as men, investigating and punishing their offenses with the same severity that we do men’s offenses, and esteeming the rights, dignity and suffering of men equal to that of women.

David

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1 Articles like “Bullies in Disguise: Girls as young as 3 use social aggression to hurt others. Find out how to short-circuit this behavior early

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