Saturday, August 20, 2011

Riots & gender (by Suzie)

Large-scale violence rarely triggers a public discussion of gender, even though men and boys are the majority of perpetrators. Consider last week's mayhem in Britain: Although some women participated, “most of those involved have been young men from poor areas,” the Guardian reported.

The civil liberties of male suspects are being discussed, and for good reason -- some sentences sound absurd. But what about the rights of women who wanted to go about their business, without ending up in a mob of angry men? The threat of male violence restricts the lives of women, but people have become so accustomed to it that it often goes unquestioned.

Concepts of masculinity play a large role. A man may get respect through violence, or with the right consumer goods. After all, marketing tells us how men should look and what stuff they need. But it does the same for women, and we're not nearly as likely to break a store window to get what we want or to gain respect. Even if genes were solely responsible for the violence gap, society could look at ways that males could be taught to be less violent.

At least some of the poor neighborhoods damaged by the UK riots will get more money. It irritates me that men get attention by violence or the threat of it, while women's rights often get written off as less important.

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in Woolwich. But the Guardian
points out that it happened after the riots there, not during, as had been first reported. Now we are free to ignore it, just like most rapes, which get no political analysis.

Next time a girl or woman gets raped, why don't women take to the streets and smash any business that caters to men? Oh, never mind, men would strike back harder, just like British authorities are upping the sentences for the rioters.

Most conservatives consider those who stole and/or destroyed property as criminals. In response, Naomi Klein writes about the riots as political. When people in politics and business loot their own countries and others, Klein says, you can expect those hit hardest to hit back. She calls this physics, but it appears to be a physics of men, since the highest authorities are predominantly men. How do we change society so that men aren't hurting us from above and below?

After revolutions, women often end up little better or worse. How do we revolt while ensuring we aren't simply trading one master for another? What if the people in the street want to trade places with the people locked in their mansions? It makes me think of someone I know who called herself a communist and was bitter about the fine things owned by people with bigger salaries. I joked that she wanted to redistribute the wealth -- to herself.

Unlike gender, there has been much discussion of race and ethnicity in regard to the riots. The Guardian reported that people of all races and ethnicities participated, while some white conservatives are blaming blacks and/or Muslims. There needs to be an examination of culture as it intersects with gender. For example, will street crime lead to greater restrictions for some women?

Why is it so easy to see class, race and ethnicity but not gender?