Thursday, 19 March 2009

Men's Oppression

OK, this is actually going to be about oppression by men, but I got your attention.
I’m not going to focus on the gory details of Josef Fritzl’s crimes against his family. We have all read how many times he raped his daughter, what the cellar smelled like, how he burned their dead child's body and hundreds of other gruesome facts.

Instead, I am going to focus on answering three questions. Why did he do it? How did he get away with it for so long? And why are we all so keen to move swiftly on?

This article from the Guardian gives the best response to the first question, why did he do it? ( He did it because he felt entitled to, because of patriarchy. Because of a belief system that makes ordinary men into Old Testament mini-Gods in their own homes, to a greater or lesser extent, obviously greater in his case. His daughter; his house; his rules.

He was perfectly sane. He managed to give a good impression of being a pillar of respectable society. Predators often do. He only behaved like a monster when it suited him to do so. It’s true he attacked other women and once he even got caught and was imprisoned for rape. But those were also calculated risks, where he reckoned that the potential benefits out-weighed the potential harm to himself. And no wonder he thought so. This woman ( claims Fritzl attempted to rape her. Yet when she contacted police they advised HER to be more careful in future! It’s highly irresponsible behaviour for a woman worker to engage in after all, travelling home from work after a shift and putting her own key in the lock of her own front door when a rapist might be waiting to pounce!

Which brings us to how he got away with it for so long. Again, the answer is patriarchy. We live in a world that has unconditional positive regard for white, middle-class men, whereas women are always regarded with suspicion. He told people Elisabeth was a bit flighty and irresponsible, had ran away and joined a cult and was forever abandoning her children on his doorstep like the invisible stork. And with no genuine evidence whatsoever to back this up, and plenty of evidence to suggest that he WAS a monster and a danger to women, including his previous rape conviction, people believed him. Or at least decided it wasn’t their place to question a man’s right to be an Old Testament mini-God in his own home.

In the Telegraph we see yet more evidence of the belief system that allowed Fritzl to prey on his family. Instead of seeing the terror of the woman who was after all imprisoned upstairs, the Telegraph attempts to shift the blame for Fritzl’s undetected crimes onto his wife, Rosemarie ( It doesn’t matter what a man does, it is always a woman’s fault that he got away with it. He does this himself - blames his own mother. (There is plenty of evidence that claims of a domineering mother by convicted predators are overwhelmingly false.) Predators do awful things because they can and because they feel entitled to control and use – not because a woman made them that way. Anyway, instead of using banner headlines to announce society’s failure to see the horrific domestic abuse and terror campaign that Rosemarie and the upstairs children were subjected to, the Telegraph chooses to blame her for society's collective failure to deal with a controlling man. The Telegraph ignores her Stockholm Syndrome, which brainwashed and imprisoned her in her own head, because the only way she could secure any measure of safety for herself and her children was by keeping her abuser happy. She was brainwashed into identifying with his needs first and foremost.

Anyway, with the blame laid securely at the feet of a woman, we can all move on, resume business as usual, the big business of entitled control of women, with lots of profit, mostly for men. No need to question the daily diet of objectification of their own bodies that women and girls are fed. No need to question soft porn music videos that depict girls stripping for the boys in their class and the middle-aged teacher. No need to worry about video games that dehumanise women, or hardcore porn downloaded to the laptop or mobile phone. No need to consider censorship of this dehumanising, anti-women propaganda, because that restricts men’s freedom and that is unacceptable. No need to question prostitution, in fact let’s legalise it completely. The girls involved choose to do it, after all, even if they were only 14 when they started and were groomed for it by a mini-Fritzl. And the fact that they had a worse start in life than a guy with cash in his pocket doesn’t make him any less entitled.

And we can resume our usual attitudes to morality, unfettered by Fritzl, because it was Rosemarie’s job to stop him. It was her responsibility and SHE failed.

Let’s start with eating. And don't get side-tracked into considering Fritzl's control of the food supply to the cellar. Yes, eating is a moral issue if you are a woman. Pity help the bitch who eats too much, or who gets fucked up in the head by it all and eats too little. Because society WILL call her to account for being the wrong size. And ageing. Ageing is also a moral issue for women. Yes, ideally she’s supposed to look like a pre-pubescent boy. Don’t even worry yourself about how fucked up that is, when considering incest. And if she gets beyond that pre-pubescent boy look, she’s beyond control. And we won’t worry that Fritzl’s entitlement was in essence, entitlement to control. Just pity help any bitch who lets herself go. But pity help her also, if she tries too hard and has plastic surgery that goes wrong.

Rosemarie should have stopped him. So we don’t need to let any thought of Fritzl the granddaddy-daddy deter us from controlling women’s fertility. We can continue to force our views on women, that they can’t be trusted to know whether it is a good idea for them to have a baby or not.

We can discount all the rape statistics because a few women lie. And we can discount the domestic abuse statistics because a man is entitled to have an “argument” with his partner. And you can’t be sure she is telling the truth unless she ends up in intensive care. And even then she probably drove him to it. And if the kids got hurt she’s an irresponsible, unfit mother who should have stopped him. In essence, every woman is Rosemarie. Or Rosemarie is every woman.

We don’t need to consider incest, because only one in three girls is sexually abused. And the British Fritzl wasn’t named ( so we don’t need to bother about him. And most of those girls made it up. Or if we are being charitable, some twisted professional who is part of the massive anti-good-fathers industry put a false memory in her head. And if it definitely did happen, it was her mother’s fault because she should have stopped him.

Entitlement. Control and Entitlement. Patriarchy allows men to control their partners and children and to believe it is entirely just for them to do so. Patriarchy allows them to get away with this, most of the time. Patriarchy enables society to turn a blind eye. And patriarchy ultimately blames women for men’s crimes.

And it’s got to stop. We have to deal with patriarchy. Men, we are not going to allow you to blame Rosemarie Fritzl for the crimes of the man who abused her for even longer than he abused his daughter. So all you Old-Testament mini-Gods can stick your patriarchal entitlement and control up your “oppressed” men’s Batman Capes!


  1. 'He was perfectly sane. He managed to give a good impression of being a pillar of respectable society. Predators often do. He only behaved like a monster when it suited him to do so.'

    You have many good, valid points in this post but I think the section above contradicts itself completely. The actions of this man not only in the way he callously abused his family for years but also managed to behave 'normally' in other places and situations are not those of a sane person.

  2. As a conscientious man, I have a part of me that is acutely aware of my privelaged gender position, an awareness that carries with it a feeling of tremendous shame, especially when I walk down the street, or read a newspaper on turn on the TV or watch a film or read a book and I don't just encounter patriarchy, but I encounter forty thousand years of objectification and subsequent patriarchal subjugation, all neatly wrapped up in some hideous distortion of the female body, to infect our male minds with an image and force our subjugated sisters to comply with that image.

    It's interesting that you should choose to invoke the image of Fathers4justice, (the "rights" group that done the batman protests) because the actions of Fathers4Justice and the media reaction, was a fascinating example of our patriarchal duplicty and mendacity, at least in the media, where an image of fatherhood was constructed - father as victim, father as champion, father as hero, father as righteous.

    It was an absurd position, yet the only thing to be challenged in the media was the group's method of protest.

    I thought that this epitomised the problem of patriarchy from a male perspective, because how exactly does a man extricate himself from the oppression that he himself has helped create and sustain? How does he de-objectify? how can you be an un-patriarch?

    It's an uncomfortable thought, but I don't think it is possible. I think the only thing that men like me can do is be aware, build consciousness and act, decent responses but not a form of absolution.

    Jimmy Kerr
    SSP Renfrewshire

  3. Thanks for your comments, Mark & Jimmy. It was such an angry post that I am pleasantly surprised and encouraged, that men bothered to engage with me.

    I chose that particularly disgusting image of Batman to emphasise how Fathers4Justice are conforming to a horrifically oppressive (for themselves and women and children) stereotype of what a man should be.

    I don't mean to make conscientous men feel ashamed.

    Broadly speaking (and obviously there is some overlap) I think it is the job of women to raise the consciousness of other women.

    I think it is men's job to challenge other men who are abusing their privilege, but I wouldn't expect you to put your personal safety at risk and obviously you can only do what you can.

    I understand the feelings of guilt about your own privilege. I have this also, as a Westerner and a white person. You cannot completely extricate yourself from your privilege, but if you recongise it, speak out against it and do what you can, that is all you can reasonably be expected to do.

  4. You’re invited to view my latest video “Sex Slavery & Murder.”