THE BLOG

The Cause of All Abuse of Women

07/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Rabbi Alan Lurie Author, 'Five Minutes on Mondays: Finding Unexpected, Purpose, Peace and Fulfillment at Work'

This blog is the first in a series written to and about men, and is based on the premise that men and women are essentially different. For some, this premise may arouse anger, contempt, or dismissal. These reactions are understandable. For most of recorded history, and in most cultures, women have been relegated to inferior status by men, resulting in condescension, discrimination, and mental and physical abuse. And far too many women continue to live in these hideous circumstances (read "Half the Sky" by Kristof and Wudunn for a tour in this shocking reality).

Over the last century, science, psychology, and philosophy have tried to correct this imbalance by putting forward claims that men and women are essentially the same, and that all differences come from sexual stereotypes, the roles and expectations of cultures, and the relatively minor surface physical differences. The proponents of this theory seek to bring equality by eliminating any qualitative comparisons. This is an attractive theory, and with it we can feel good about ourselves that we do not buy in to the backward, dualistic, and unenlightened notion that men and women are different. The problem with this theory is that it's based on faulty assumptions, and simply does not align with experience.

First, it assumes that if two things are different, then one must be "better" than the other. But we can notice that things are different without the need to assign ranking. Non-dualism does not mean that everything is the same uniform grey, but that all things stand in their vibrant distinctions, as necessary emanations from the same Source. An apple is not better or worse than a bicycle, just as an electron is not better or worse than a proton. Each serves different and needed functions.

Second, males and females are, obviously, physically and chemically different. And the very nature of these differences results in different thoughts, desires, and actions. Anyone who has raised children knows that boys and girls come in to the world with divergent and relatively predictable preferences, inclinations, and perspectives. Though cultures do dramatically shape the way children are raised, basic differences are noted between most boys and girls in all societies. Objective studies support this observation.

Lastly, almost all spiritual traditions have observed that physicality is built on male and female energies. These energies are seen as opposites, like hot and cold, black and white, or full and empty, and all physicality contains the contrast and balance of these opposites. These energies serve essential functions, and both are equally needed. Although we all contain both energies, (hence the black dot in the white space and the white dot on the black shape of the yin gang) women embody female energies, and men embody male energies.

Female energy draws from the earth, and leans toward shared, intuitive, holistic experiences. It receives, nurtures, and yearns to participate in growth. In relationships, female energy manifests in a woman's urge to help her man grow, and to be part of a prosperous and equal partnership, The movie "As Good as it Gets" demonstrates this point very clearly, when the character played by Helen Hunt, after being insulted by her insensitive, clumsy date played by Jack Nicholson, demands that he immediately say something nice to her. He reaches deep in to his feelings, and says, "You make me want to be a better man." She melts at this, the only possible words he could have said to convince her that the relationship is worthwhile.

In contrast, male energy draws from the air, and leans toward independence, competition, rationality, and compartmentalization. It pushes out, penetrates, gives, and yearns to make a positive impact by its very presence. The deepest desire of masculinity is to be of service. In relationships this manifests in a man's urge to provide for and protect his woman, and to honor her by listening and caring. The movie "Titanic", demonstrates this, when Kate Winslet, as an old woman, looks back at her one true romance, and says, "He saved me in every way that a person can be saved". Any man would be deeply satisfied to know that he is thought of in this way.

A man's purpose is to freely give and to serve, yet his desire to have impact in the world and to succeed can lead to selfishness, insensitivity, and unrestrained conquest. History is filled with the horrible consequences from this dark side of masculinity. A man, then, must be balanced and guided so that his desires can lead to positive results. While a young man certainly needs an older man to help show the way, this too can lead him astray if the older man is unbalanced in this way. The only way that a man can truly grow straight is in a committed love relationship with a woman, who innately desires to nurture his growth, who can see where he is unaligned, and can balance his energy with hers (I do not mean to imply anything here about same gender relationships, but I simply do not have the insight to discuss these, and am limiting my comments to male/female relationships).

In order for this to work, the man must wholeheartedly trust the woman. And this, tragically, is the stopping point for far too many a man. Insecure about his own position, and afraid that he'll be taken advantage of - that he'll be manipulated, emasculated, and rolled over - he is on guard with her; suspicious, untrusting, always looking for signs that he's being used or manipulated. A man may also be afraid of, and intimidated by, female power. His nearly uncontrollable attraction toward her can make him worry that he will be found sexually inadequate; the suspicion that he would do anything to be close to her can lead him to worry that he will loose his individuality; the glimpse of her intuitive insight can make him feel naked and defenseless. So, rather than facing the fear of inadequacy, of being controlled, or of being seen clearly, he may respond by silencing her, and making her be subservient to him. He may force her to cover herself, and can even mutilate her, so that he will not have to face his own sexual conflicts. He may belittle her to diminish her ability to correct him. And he may break her will so that he can live without moral or physical constraints.

This is the seed of all abuse that men do to women. Abuse of women by men is ALWAYS based on a man's insecurity; his uncertainty about his own worth, his feelings of powerlessness, and his unwillingness to be balanced.

All natural systems seek balance, and any system in which male and female energies are not equal partners is an abusive system. It is only when men consciously and bravely set aside their fears and insecurities of women and listen to their corrective direction that we can ever hope to have a worthy future together.

The next blog will discuss specific acts that a man can take to create a transformative relationship with a woman.