I must have gone crazy for accepting to be the first man to write about such subject but I haven’t! The reason that I took this risk is because I believe it is time for men as well to speak about manhood and male violence. Besides, you can also count the impossibility of rejecting bianet and Nadire [Mater] as other reasons.
Fortunately, we’ve managed to come to a stage where men discuss male violence from the absurdity of “I am against all sorts of violence” stance. It has been only 5-10 years since we’ve come to this stage, however, considering that men killed around 2,000 women since 2010 in Turkey according to bianet male violence monitoring report, you can understand how heavy the price of it is. Fear of the women and misogyny cause each men and institutions to carry out inhumane practices against women. It’s still happening.
Of course I don’t defend that men engaging in gender teaching and discussions will solve the problem for good but I’ll try to present my humble contribution and confessions by this opportunity.
As much as I owe my faults, which I acquired as a privilege for being a man, to testosterone and taught manhood, I owe coming to a stage where I started to question myself to women. I owe this to women who took the risk to marry me or be my girlfriend, friend, colleague, and educated me with patience despite all my manly deficiencies. I must also mention the LGBTI+ contribution with respect to helping me understand that questioning manhood is a matter exceeding heterosexuality.
Reproducing the authority, which we stand against, in the form of hegemonic maleness must be the curse of us, the dissident men. Our dissident character mostly forgets to question the hegemony of patriarchy and heterosexism but we think we question it since we are dissidents.
I grew up in a political environment since my younger days. I was in socialist struggle since 17 years old. Neither woman question, nor institutional or social authority on who will love or make love with who have been on my agenda.
I truly met both of those at the Human Rights Association thanks to rising gay, lesbian and woman movement in the wake of 1980 military coup. Even there, I watched the women separately going to demonstrations in protest of hunger strikes in prisons in 1990 with a heavy heart. One of the most orthodox interpretations of democratic centralism in Turkey got me.
Being interested in political authority and ignoring patriarchy must be rooted in my maleness. I am indeed not intending to speak with authority, there are women who can do this much better than I do but in this regard, I owe my more comprehensive understanding of authority as well to women.
But male violence shouldn’t be a concern for women only. While women as the subjects who are subjected to this struggle against violence and its subjects that are us, dealing with masculinity must be a concern for men as well.
Be it a man or woman, there is no living being who doesn’t wince when seeing five men approaching as walking on the street alone.
Men have the privilege to get angry and resort to violence when they cannot control or rule. When they don’t have enough power, they have the habit of supporting men who have the power for the continuity of their power. It must be kept in mind that systematical rape is a war instrument.
Now let us come to the challenging part…The self-questioning
Because if this matter doesn’t involve self-questioning and confession, there is the risk that men may get arrogant trying to analyze and define the violence that women are subjected to. After all, this is the habit going back hundreds of years. For this reason, I find men speaking with each other rather than women important.
As far as I remember, I haven’t inflicted physical or sexual violence against my colleagues, wives and girlfriends. I am saying “as far as I remember” because some things that I took as my natural right, the psychological violence tactics could have easily led to physical violence. I hope I recall correctly and it hasn’t led to that because men inflict this violence mostly against the ones who are closest to them. Especially if this closeness is established within family, which is protected by authority’s institutions and social structure.
I’ve tried not to discriminate, dominate in my relations and workplaces and I’ve tried to look after the rights of workers. But there is ruling and control in the root of men privileges which we perceive as natural right.
It has taken a long time for me to control and question myself. I cannot say that I’ve totally resolved it. Even if not physical, I exercised the privilege of violence.
I’d like to take a look at some habits and privileges which I still try to deal with and see as a natural right.
Let us begin from a light one, “right to cut in”…
Men’s right to cut in: Even though I withdraw rapidly, I have always been a vigorous debater. With the fever of the discussion, speaking about my thoughts without caring whether someone else talks at that moment was a necessity for the sake of “power of truth of man”. Cutting in while speaking from an authoritarian position has a castrating side. Behaving like this has some censor effect on those who shy away from speaking and women who don't usually get the chance to take the floor. This is the most frequent thing done in history to dominate women and destroy their self-esteem. I do it too.
Solution: Don’t engage in discussions if you will not tolerate. Don’t cut in women, don’t cut in, don’t cut in, don’t cut in.
Men’s right to “I know best”: When one reaches a certain age, experience and knowledge relatively increase as well. Before I know it, I have an opinion about everything. These opinions turn into fixed ideas and judgements. I always have plenty of ideas in the meetings and debates. I want to voice them. It sometimes takes the shape of “this is the truth”. However, I know theoretically that each time I take the floor, I make life of younger people and woman who hardly get the chance to speak more difficult. Furthermore, I can start by accepting that I don’t know everything and some other people may know certain subjects better than me.
Solution: Keeping some of the things I know to myself, trying to speak less and caring for women and LGBTI+ individuals to speak more.
Men’s right to joke around: I’ve always preferred to work in working places where people joke around. However, there is an unnamed hierarchy in each workplace and people don’t feel equal. I sometimes don’t take this into consideration.
I frequently forget not to make jokes about women’s appearances, age and skills, which may make them feel bad. This is a tactic to dominate to make the other feel weak and deficient.
Solution: Read and think more about daily racism and sexism. Don’t cross the line between joking around and mocking. Don’t say things like “how tired you look today, couldn’t you sleep well last night…look how much weight you’ve gained” to women!
Men’s right to shout: Trying to silence others by shouting at is also a characteristic of man. The worst part of it is that I unintentionally do it. I only do it during a debate but still doing it. I use a very manly voice. I use it as a mean of hegemony.
Solution: Don’t raise your voice among your equals or less equals under no condition!
Men’s right to not like and criticize: Especially in the daily life at home, men can easily position themselves as critic. Me too! “This rice isn’t as delicious as it usually is”.
Solution: Right to not like and be in the position of criticizing is a form of violence in terms of for both making the other feel deficient and inadequate. It also means to fortify your advantageous status by not taking an active stance to find a solution. It is multiple reproduction of the patriarchy.
Right to dominance over domestic labor: This means that a man, including me thinks that it is the woman who should undertake the domestic work. “The child is crying”, “where is my blue shirt?”, “why is the home messy?”
Solution: Solution is remembering that all these are actually things that I have to do but I am not doing. I am trying to remind myself that if the food is not delicious enough, if the child is crying, if I cannot find my stuff, these are my problems. On the bright side, there is a person at home to remind me of it when I forget.
Men’s right to get angry: Another privilege of men is to get angry when something drives me crazy. Suppressing the other through rage and swearing..I do that as well.
Solution: The solution is to keep telling yourself that these are all a masculine show and swearing is not only hurtful but also sexist.
Men’s right to be offended or to punish: This is one of the best ways to punish and make the other feel lonely and insecure. One move ahead is punishing the other and make her feel it. I did that too. It’s a bad and an ugly habit.
Solution: Never try to maintain hegemony over the other through silence. It’s very insulting. Treating her like she doesn’t exist by being offended is more hurtful. Furthermore, it is a form of authority that men impose on everyone other than themselves.
I’ve mostly worked with women managers. As I said, I’ve learned a lot from them. They are mirroring me. But for the past six years, I have been working in a work place where workers are predominantly women. I am learning a lot from them all but especially my three women friends whom we serve as managers together. The primary lesson I learned is to listen. I am learning and they are still working with me. What else would I want! (MÇ/HK/TK)
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