Male Rapists Are Victims Too!
Sexism Hurts Men Just As Much As It Hurts Women
I know what you’re thinking. How can a rapist ever be the victim? Well, although rapists have perpetrated a serious act of violence, we need to look at the underlying reasons why the rapist did what they did. In deconstructing motives of domination, feminism can understand that women are not the only victims of sexism and patriarchal violence. Men are equally prone to sexism and patriarchal violence. In fact, men have been socialized and normalized into being the oppressor. The rapist is socialized into raping in order to assert their dominance and sense of entitlement.
No one is safe from sexism and patriarchal violence. Anyone can be oppressed. A feminism that acknowledges men, not only oppressors, but as victims to the systems of power and advertises it, will then be able to include the other half of the population that doesn’t even know feminism is for them and can help them. How can we ever have equality when men don’t even know they can be oppressed and women don’t even know they can be privileged? Feminism that argues for separatism and is anti-male risks “replacing white male supremacist rule with white female supremacist rule”. Thinking that all men share the privileges of sexism equally is a misconception and often perpetuates the problem by placing males in a position of power and privilege. bell hooks explains that working class men are very much prone to the ploys of the ruling class, male power structure. She states:
“…poor or working class man has been socialized via sexist ideology…he is usually ‘hurt’, emotionally scarred because he does not have the privilege or power society has taught him ‘real men’ should possess” (hooks 73).
In other words, men are socialized to think that in order to be a “real man” they have to possess these privileges and power. Working class and poor men are not able to feel these privileges because they are economically exploited by rich, capitalist men. By not feeling these privileges that society has told them they have, they ultimately feel alienated and emasculated. This feeling of being powerless when you are framed as powerful creates the need to dominate by any means necessary. Therefore, “he may attack, abuse…beats or rapes women” and the tragic part about this is that he is not the one reaping the benefits of being an oppressor. White, rich men are the ones benefiting from the abuse of women by working class men and men of color. This profit works because these men are dominating women instead combating sexist thinking and capitalism which tells men they need to dominate. So, yes, in some cases, the rapists can be a victim of sexist thinking and patriarchal violence which leads him/her to assert their dominance over others through rape. Women need to stop viewing men as the universal enemy that oppresses women because he wants to. Men also need to stop thinking that sexist thinking and patriarchy is not harmful to them and that it is a “woman’s issue”.
The rigid gender roles that men must embody are just as impossible as the rigid gender roles women must embody. The pressure of being this macho manly man who is the breadwinner and can take care of his family without any help is ridiculous and impossible. When working class men are emasculated because they struggle to provide for their family or his wife also works, he may try to assert his masculinity through domination of women and sexist thinking. However, working class men and woman have become allies contrary to popular belief. bell hooks describes how working class women “…know the sufferings and hardships women face in their communities; they also know the suffering and hardships men face and they have compassion for them”. In other words, the only way we can combat sexism is to show compassion. Compassion for men. If we keep labeling men as the enemy then we are only intensifying sexism and isolating them.
I’m sure you have heard or done this in your life, but saying “boys don’t cry” or “man up” is essentially telling men to kill or dissociate the sensitive side of themselves. If we as a society prohibit men from being a decent human being with feelings then we are, in turn, helping them dominate over us. In order to create an equal society there must be a change in standards and gender roles for women AND men. How can we change all of this? One thing we shouldn’t do is exclude men from feminism. Feminism needs to include men. bell hooks explains “If feminist movement ignores his predicament, dismisses his hurt, or writes him off as just another male enemy, then we are passively condoning his actions”. In other words, if feminism does not offer men any solution, then we are perpetuating the problem. The first step of the solution is including him.