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Battered Men and the Power of Hegemony (Essay 2)

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Battered Men and the Power of Hegemony (Essay 2)

  1. 1. Borodaty 1 SOC 118: Paper 2 The Secret Case of Battered Men Domestic violence is seen more as a “socially invisible issue (Rothenberg)”. What needs to be considered is how something so grotesque can be given a blind eye. One has to look into the powers at play though, to see the invisible change of the mind that creates this blindness towards domestic violence. By invisible we mean that it’s not a seen change or an obvious change in thinking. Hegemonic power is an invisible force that changes the way that people view society and themselves in relation to the greater whole of society. As individuals of society we cannot see these powers shaping our way of thinking, but through a critical lens we can see how we enact out these ideologies that have become so integrated into our thinking. Society has been influenced by the dominant ideology of a patriarchal society and our hegemonic views of masculinity. This dominant ideology has created oppression on the social group of battered men. Karl Marx stated in his Communist manifesto, “The ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideologies of the day” (Marx). Through the critical analysis of hegemonic power as it has maintained and created the ideology of masculinity and patriarchal power, this examination of this political power is how this oppresses and negatively affects the social group of battered men in society. According to Gramsci, hegemony is “a certain way of life and thought [that] is dominant, and is diffused throughout society to inform morns, values and tastes, political practices, and social relations” (Katz). To further, this means that hegemony becomes the dominating ideology that dominates and shapes the mind of those in the social order. The most dangerous aspect of this hegemonic ideology is what the message is sending. In this particular case, masculinity is the dominating ideology in terms of structuring how men are to act. Clarifying what specific
  2. 2. Borodaty 2 dimensional ideology of masculinity is referred to, the definition from Joseph Pleck summarizes, “Masculinity ideology refers to the beliefs about the importance of men adhering to culturally defined standards to male behavior, and the construct is operationalized by measures of attitudes toward the male gender role” (Pleck, 12). Perpetuating this thinking creates the thinking of one specific way men should act in relation to women- they should be dominant. When looking at this in terms of domestic violence, men are commonly seen as the abusers. Kristen Anderson comments on this view of men as abusers in the Journal of Marriage and Family, “Drawing primarily on victimization research that demonstrates the severe and repetitive nature of male violence, feminist researchers contend that violence is part of a system of coercive controls through which men maintain societal dominance over women” (Anderson). Therefore this male ideology becomes dominant for all males, leaving those males who are abused by their spouses to fear breaking this hegemonic ideology of masculinity. This alienates this social group and subjects them to not leaving their abusive spouses because either they are not taken seriously by society or they live in fear of being rejected by society because of the power of this hegemonic thinking. Hegemonic ideology carries a large weight of power with it. With this power, come a great amount of negative consequences for the social group of battered men. Battered men do not fit into the societal ideology of masculinity, therefore alienating them and perpetuating that they are weak and deserving of their abuse because they are unable to stand up for themselves. Due to the fact that the American society was founded on the ideas of men, as was explicated stated in such documents like the Declaration of Independence, the dominating group didn’t have to work hard to permeate all of society with this ideology of masculinity. Connell remarks in their article,
  3. 3. Borodaty 3 “Hegemonic masculinity was not assumed to be normal in the statistical sense; only a minority of men might enact it. But it was certainly normative. It embodied the currently most honored way of being a man, it required all other men to position themselves in relation to it, and it ideologically legitimated the global subordination of women to men” (Connell, 832). Hegemonic ideologies have to be consciously accepted by the masses and the oppression of battered men is how this is seen in society. Battered men themselves internalize this hegemonic ideology of masculinity, but because they don’t adhere to the restrictions placed on them by this ideology, they remain alienated from their fellow males. This is the negativity that hegemony expresses throughout society- currently it has been keeping battered men in abusive relationships stripping them of what they believe to be their manhood. Because of this hegemonic ideology, men who come out about being abused are often laughed at or shamed into not reporting. This stigma that men who are abused are lacking in their “manhood” deter many from every reporting the abuse. This establishes and reinforces the thought that it would be better to take the abuse than to admit that you are any less of a man because you do not fit into the dominating ideology about masculinity. Noted on a website, “…battered husbands may speak out even less frequently due to the erroneous belief that it somehow denigrates their manhood” (HealthyPlace). But the question remains, is this erroneous that battered men internalize this ideology or more erroneous that this is the power that hegemony has exercised onto this social group? The power relationship between hegemony and the battered men displays how misconstrued ideologies can become so dominant over all other types of ideologies that they become internalized to the point that members of social groups are willingly accepting of their oppression and is reinforced by society. Another popular web page
  4. 4. Borodaty 4 on men and domestic violence reports, “A “real man” is expected to be able to “control” his wife. Aside from the embarrassment over admitting abuse, abused men may feel that they are somehow less of a man for “allowing” themselves to be abused” (Domestic Violence). This website points out the other side of the ideology that can often be overlooked- that men in society are expected to control women, therefore when they become abused this is a direct reflection on their ability to be men by society’s standards. Therefore, these men do not feel like they belong to their social group because they are being battered by their spouses. Not following the dominant social force of being a strong male figurehead in the household leads them to feel ashamed and embarrassed. The power that hegemony exercises on this social group creates a complex issue between control and submission within the social group. From an ideological perspective, this all seems to be an abstract understanding of how the hegemonic ideology of masculinity is perpetuated throughout society. However, when reading the harrowing accounts of battered men, the ideology in action becomes a clearer image of how it acts in society and transforms the members of society and the social group. The accounts retell the distributing memories men have accumulated from their abusive partners, and in turn, highlights how integrated the hegemonic ideology has become in society. One man stated, “I believe if this got around, there would be a stigma…I don’t want my kids to hear these stories” (Hoff). This man perfectly illustrates hegemony because he is completely aware of the dominating ideology and is acutely aware of his oppression based from this ideology. Another survivor writes in, “I was warned that even taking a defensive position could be seen as an act of violence toward her” (Hoff). This chilling response from society only further exemplifies the disregard society carries towards this social group in that not only are they not taken seriously, but they will be convicted of criminal acts if they speak out about their abuse. Jan Dimmitt, who
  5. 5. Borodaty 5 runs an emergency support shelter for battered men, even states, “…men are the perpetrators, women are the victims” (Hoff). This ending statement is what all of society is living by from being consciously and willingly dominated by the construction created by the ideology of masculinity. The incredible power hegemony holds to shape the minds of those that participate in society have trapped abused men in their relationships with their abusers for fear of being publicly alienated from their male counterparts. It stands to reason that by accepting and internalizing these ideologies, these men compromise their safety in order not to be publicly shamed or laughed at by others. By instituting and maintaining this hegemonic ideology in society, the battered men in society become alienated and oppressed. Not only does the situation not be seen as anything of importance, but they are also unable to gain the support they need to leave their situation. This, in turn, brings them to realize their lack of agency because of the strong patriarchal society that exists today. The negative effects of hegemony on this social group hide the disturbing nature that domestic violence carries with it and allows domestic violence to continue, although publicly society condemns this violence. Traditionally seen as a woman’s issue the true alienation and terror lives inside the battered men who have no escape within the constraints of the hegemonic ideology that has been placed upon them by their acceptance of this ideology and of society’s acceptance of dominating thought.
  6. 6. Borodaty 6 Citations Anderson, K. (1997). Journal of Marriage and the Family (pp. 655-669). Drew University. Connell, R., & Messerschmidt, J. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender & Society, 19. Retrieved November 1, 2014, from Domestic Violence Main Page. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2014, from Hoff, B. (1998, January 1). MenWeb Battered Men: Men's Stories. Retrieved November 15, 2014, from Katz, Hagai. (Decemeber 2006). Gramsci, Hegemony, and Global Civil Society Networks. Voluntas: Internationl Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, Vol. 17, No. 4. Pp. 333-348. Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and E.J. Hobsbawm.. The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition. London: Verso, 1998. Print.
  7. 7. Borodaty 7 Pleck, J., Sonenstein, F., & Ku, L. (n.d.)(1993). Masculinity Ideology: Its Impact on Adolescent Males' Heterosexual Relationships. Journal of Social Issues,49(3), 11-29. Rothenberg, Bess. 2002. “movement Advocates as Battered Women’s Storytellers: From Varied Experiences, One Message.” Pp. 203-225 in Stories of Change: Narrative and Social Movements, edited by Joseph E. Davis. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press Tracy, N. (2012, July 27). HealthyPlace. Retrieved November, 2014, from Battered Men, Battered Husbands: It's No Joke! website: husbands-its-no-joke/