What Will Make the Change: Conquering Institutionalized Power

In our readings, we’ve come across the phrase, “institutionalized power” in relation to male privilege and patriarchal dominance. The readings by Andrea Dworkin (I Want a 24-hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape) and by Audre Lorde (The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House) express similar views in the continuance of a dominant power that men have over women. Both authors want those who possess this “power” to realize that this leaves room for no change in how society views women. Two quotes from these reading stood out to me. “Only within a patriarchal structure is maternity the only social power open to women” (Lorde) and “Power protected by the unacknowledged legislators of the world is what men have. The Men’s movement suggest that they don’t want that kind of power, but find reasons not to do something about changing the fact that they have that power” (Dworkin).  With these quotes in mind I began to question, how exactly do we handle this patriarchal structure that exist? What tactics are necessary to change this power that men have?

I was having a conversation with some of my friends about male dominance and the affect that it has on women. In the conversation, someone questioned what would you do if you found out that a male friend or someone you know sexually assaulted a female. The men in the group instantly deemed this action as a deal breaker, where they wouldn’t want to associate with the guy who committed the act because it isn’t something that they agree with or would ever condone. From that reaction so many questions arose for me like “Why not make him aware of the seriousness of his actions?”, “Why not report his actions to an authority?” or “How do we make sure that he doesn’t do this to someone else?”. To only disassociate yourself with someone who commits an act like that only leaves room for them to continually do it again and again and again. Although my male friends have never had to deal with a situation such as this, I believe that if you know someone who feels comfortable taking advantage of women, a morality check should take place. It is important to acknowledge the act that person has committed and make it known that what has happen isn’t right in any way, shape or form.

Although this is just one issue, there are so many other issues that arise from men using power over women. This topic gets tough to talk about because it seems that all men are being categorized in this group of “male supremacist” where they use male privilege and patriarchal dominance to oppress women. That isn’t the case, every man doesn’t but some men do and that is where the problem lies. I don’t think that I have a concrete answer to my initial questions, but what do you think needs to be done to make a change in the ways that men use their power or change the power that men have?

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18 thoughts on “What Will Make the Change: Conquering Institutionalized Power

  1. This is a damn good point. A lot of people’s knee-jerk reactions to questions like this is often “we are no longer friends or acquaintances” But really, that doesn’t help. That person’s just going to go out and keep doing what he’s been doing, now without somebody to deter him or convince him why what he’s doing is terrible. We need to try to change people first, because otherwise they won’t change themselves.

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    • But I think sometimes by wanting to change people, we are hurting ourselves more than we are helping sometimes. If you try to change a person that does not want to be changed, you are just making it more difficult and can sometimes just be a waste of energy. There is a fine line i think

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  2. To change the power that men have will require an understanding that silence is not always the most powerful tactic especially in a case of sexual assault. It isn’t enough to cut a friendship off if the wrongdoer hasn’t been informed that he has done wrong. Although, it may be hard to tell someone about themselves the truth is more effective coming from someone close to you than a random person.

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  3. I’m slightly torn. I firmly believe it is 100% ok, in fact I would encourage it, to not be friends with a rapist. They’re rapists, they don’t deserve friends. As for making sure that person doesn’t rape again, my initial reaction would be to report what you know to the authorities. This opinion gets a bit more complicated with the fact that I believe the only person who has a say in whether a rape gets reported is the victim.

    I have had personal experiences that have shaped this opinion, the tl;dr of which is that if my friend group had kicked out one of its members when a Title IX investigation of him started he wouldn’t have had easy access to other members of the friend group. Now no one in this group (myself regrettably included) was holding him accountable, but given the difficulty such a course of action could have I’m inclined to say ostracize a rapist to avoid affirming one.

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  4. I think your answer lies within how your male friends answered. The fact that they said they would simply step away from someone who is known to harm women. While stepping away from a toxic person can be a great step in getting away from a bad relationship sometimes it is not the best thing to do or even not enough. In this case I would say it falls under the not enough category. Just phasing out of this particular situation may seem inherently good because say in a regular friendship falling out situation it would be a good step to take, but in this case I feel like it just validates the rapist/ assaulter because it not active in response and inactivity can validate people like that because hey if no one is saying anything it must be okay right? Its not that im saying that the decision to step away is inherently bad. It is that it is just not doing enough in a situation that needs more assertive action. as your friends said “why not report it to authorities?” yeah why not? Why don’t they report it to authorities instead of leaving the burden on the victim? (maybe though talk to her about it first in case she dose not want it reported for whatever her reason is). But also men could do something like actively calling the person out rather than simply distancing themselves and to never speak about it. I think overall men just need to take more action than condoning something and not doing much when something actually happens.

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    • I feel like you’re right about the answer lying in the responses of her male friends. I feel like it has to do with men not wanting to intrude into each other’s space in order to tell them what’s right and wrong. Kind of like that unspoken fear of other men that Andrea Dworkin talked about in her speech. Even in general, people tend to feel uncomfortable pushing their moral beliefs on other people. But to be honest, that whole not holding the one perpretrator accountable for what they did, even if it is by cutting all ties with them, reminds me too much of the way frat brothers protect each other the pesky moral and ethical strings of society.

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  5. Like some people have mentioned above I believe many people’s first reaction is to disassociate themselves with the person. I think one view of this is that by doing this they feel they are helping the issue by showing they don’t support this. I could also see them just saying this without thinking because they feel they are in the spotlight and they are trying to deflect in the quickest way possible. While I agree this is not the best solution by far I can see how this happens. Changing the response to this is going to take a lot because many times we are raised to get ourselves out of a dangerous environment as quick as possible instead of trying to fix things. Thus I think like many things in feminism this issue goes back to how we are raised and that is going to take years of time to change.

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  6. This is such an intriguing lost because it really made me think. My instant reaction if I heard that someone sexually assaulted someone would be to cut them out of my life and avoid them at all costs. I never thought about how this would further alienate the person and maybe make them think that since they’re already conceived as “bad”, they might as well continue their pattern of behavior. As hard as it may be, I think it is important to educate these offenders.

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  7. Okay, I completely agree with this article. No, you aren’t required to be a teacher, but peers can have a huge influence on their friends. In a way, I find this similar to how after the election, many people posted on Facebook something along the lines of “If you voted for Trump, unfriend me.” ???? Uhhhh I’m sorry, but that makes NO sense. I may not agree with you, but I still want to hear what you have to say. This is an opportunity to have discourse. Moving along to the main point of the post, yeah, a rapist is a rapist is a rapist, but a rapist should never, ever be a rapist twice. You have a chance to prevent another cycle of abuse. Why would you ignore that?

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  8. If he admitted to it then I would take more of an action that just un-associating myself with him. If I wasn’t involved to the point of knowing for sure, but assumed it to be true I would just stop talking to them.

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  9. I agree with you completely on this subject of male superiority and the fact that we know it is an issue but don’t have a resolution for it. I honestly think it will take a process to decrease it but I don’t think everyone will be okay with trying to get rid of it completely. However, I do think making males the face of the solution is a start. If males are letting other males know their influence and the negative effects of their actions then that’s one step closer to their being a slow change in the culture of male superiority. I think this class is such a good way of letting males know about issues like these that they might be participating, only if more males took this class.

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  10. While I agree with many of the commenters above saying that cutting out a friend you’ve found to be a racist is not enough, contacting the authorities probably is not something I would immediately do. That is up to the victim, and doing so would be invading their freedoms. I think that people in general should always aim to educate about these issues. As I stated in another articles’ comment, I recently went to the workshop for survivors of sexual violence, and we discussed what actions would be appropriate to take in these situations- and it was basically that it is up to the victim.

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  11. This is such a great blog post! Great point about male privilege. I believe that being silent only hurts. I feel that if anyone has information on someone committing such an act then they should confront them and also inform the police. Just “no longer being friends” with them is not a big enough statement and as you said, it leaves room for them to do it over and over again. I believe in the article you referenced “24 hour Truce…” Dworkin says something along the lines that even though you are not committing these acts, you are still a man and other men are speaking on your behalf…they think such acts are okay. So speak up! Speak out! Tell these men to stop. It is not enough to be silent and avoid the situation. And again, great blog post!!

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  12. I think that men wanting to disassociate from the perpetrator is a step forward to realizing that sexual assault is unethical. However, I do agree with you on men needing to stand up against him and should be reporting his actions rather than turning their backs to him. Education is one of the most powerful tools that can be done to empower young men to prevent such demeaning acts and make a change.

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  13. This was a really interesting blog article that made me think, and is still picking at my brain. Part of me would want to drop all forms of communication with the perpetrator, but another part of me says that educating them about the levels of how unethical his actions were. Also, not reporting the crime is somewhat like taking the side of the perpetrator; the perpetrator would also have to learn that all actions have consequences.

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  14. I feel that you have an extremely good stance on this as far as disassociation is not enough for those who do such heinous things. However, I do think that its a start. So many people chalk it up to appreciation like, “just givin her a smack on the ass”. The problem is so much deeper down in our understanding of what is right and wrong with our actions. People try to rationalize serious situations into harmless ones and it needs to end.

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  15. I would argue that the act of dissociation is not necessarily evidence specifically in support of the idea of the upholding of male dominance. Rather, it stands to reason that a lot of friends would have the same reaction of dissociation after realizing that their friend performed a variety of different types of crimes and this reaction is not necessarily isolated to crimes involving abuse of women. To be clear though, I completely in support of reporting any types of criminal activity to the correct authorities once somebody possesses knowledge of it, but I would say that friends do not typically do this and prefer to just disassociate.

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  16. I completely agree with you that simply dissociating oneself from someone who promotes male dominance is not enough to fully address the problem at hand. I think that it’s a good start, but like you had pointed out, there needs to also be education on how it was harmful and to help men realize the ways in which they dominate over women. Once men can actively recognize the level of dominance they have over women, then we as a society can truly start to go about fixing this issue.

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