Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Men hating women

I was already thinking of posting a link to a recent piece on the BBC news website about people (mainly women) who are murdered by their male partners when recent unfortunate events in the United States of America set me thinking more on the subject of male violence, in particular male violence against women. The following three articles are I think worth looking at.

Domestic violence: One month's death toll (BBC)

In the UK, an average of seven women and two men are killed by their current or former partner each month. To look behind the bald figures, the BBC has examined the cases of the various people so killed in September 2011. The month was picked because the relevant judicial cases are mostly completed.

I am curious as to whether the average of two men killed each month by former or current partners are killed by men or women. I am also curious as to what the comparable figures for Ireland are.

5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women (Cracked)

Cracked has a strange history. My understanding is that its origins lie in the print magazine of that name, which was Marvel’s knock-off of Mad. As time went on it escaped from Stan Lee’s clutches and made it to the web, where it mutated into a website with interesting and sometimes humorous articles about stuff. This piece on how mass culture teaches men to hate women by giving them unrealistic expectations is written in the jocular Cracked house style, which some may find off-putting, but it raises interesting points.

Joining the dots: From fairy tales to Elliot Rodger (Glosswatch)

[edit: The Glosswatch blog has since been marked as private, so you'll have to take my word for what the linked-to post says about fairytales]

Glosswatch is the blog of VJD Smith, who also posts on Twitter as @Glosswitch. In this post, written just after the Isla Vista shootings, she talks about reading fairy tales to her son (the same fairy tales she read when she was small), but seeing now a disturbing subtext of rapey creepiness in the old tales. Her overall argument is persuasive, though I am not so convinced that the story of The Princess And The Pea is about virginity. With this one, class seems more significant. The story seeks to convince the common folk that the nobility are magically sensitive and so are naturally fitted to rule. However, Ms Smith is bang on the money with the Princess and the Frog. Because I like animals, I always sympathised with the frog (and indeed was disappointed when he turned into a handsome man; see also the ending to Beauty and the Beast), but when the story is read again with the eyes of an adult, the frog comes across as disturbingly similar to a persistent date-rapist, albeit a tiny amphibian one.

She also mentions Rumpelstiltskin, focussing on the crazy king locking up and threatening to kill the heroine if she does not deliver on her father's outlandish claim that she can spin straw into gold (with the king eventually marrying the girl, presented as a positive outcome for her). Some fairytales have more resonance than others. The Princess and the Pea always struck me as ridiculous, even when I was small, but Rumpelstiltskin has always struck a chord. I think what makes it a great story is how for all there are horrendous characters in it (the King and the heroine's idiot father) there are two with whom it is hard not to sympathise. Anyone who has ever been in a seemingly hopeless situation will sympathise with the heroine when she faces death if she cannot spin straw into gold.

And then there is Rumpelstiltskin himself, the initially nameless sprite who helps the girl but at the promise of her first-born child, a promise she can only escape if she guesses his true name. I have never heard a version of the story that makes clear what the sprite wants with the child - does he plan to eat it, or enslave it? Or does he intend to adopt it or make it his apprentice, teaching it his secrets? Given that the heroine is married to a psychopath, it is easy to think that being brought up by a magical imp would make for a better start in the world than life with the child's natural parents. But of course, Rumpelstiltskin's secret is revealed and he departs empty-handed, leaving the child in the palace. Yet throughout the story he is a fair dealer, honouring his bargains and never promising something he cannot deliver.

image source (a gallery of covers of Ladybird Well-Loved Tales, which reminds me of the dubious sexual politics of so many fairytales, but also of ones like the Little Red Hen, a hymn to female self-reliance).

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