I’m still thinking about Chris Benoit and I’m thinking about how sad it is that, when a woman winds up dead, if you want to find her killer, by and large, you just start interviewing the people who claim to love her and the people she said she loved and looked for the one(s) who ever laid hands on her and that’s probably who did it.
Rachel has a post about a story from Maryville, about a judge who told a woman who was dropping assault charges against her now husband that she’d better not show back up in his courtroom “claiming the justice system failed to protect her, the next time she gets beaten.”
Don’t get me wrong; I think Rachel’s absolutely right to be disgusted with that judge.
But I can see his point, too.
Again, we tell this story about men–that they are monsters who just cannot help but stomp through the world hurting the people who are in their care. And so we put the onus on women to be the civilizing influence in men’s lives.
It’s like we, as a culture, believe that Beauty and the Beast is not just a fairytale, but a blueprint for how we ought to live. Men run around being monsters; women try to tame them. If the woman is good enough to earn the man’s love–if she keeps the house just so, if she raises the kids just right, if she sets aside her career plans and focuses on making him a success, if she gives enough of herself and in the right way–he will stop hurting her and come to love her.
Her good work will earn her a love that she deserves. And, if she doesn’t get that kind of love, she must not deserve it.
You can see how women get suckered into abusive relationships and why, in addition to fear, we stay. That idea of being good enough, of being special enough, of earning the changed behavior of a dangerous man, it’s seductive and I think it makes some women feel powerful (even in situations where, objectively, they have little power)–“I can handle a beast no other woman could.”
Chris Benoit’s wife had accused him of being abusive before, even gotten a restraining order against him, and yet she went back to him–Beauty devoted to transforming her Beast.
Here’s what’s haunting me, though: all of the people who thought that Chris Benoit was a good man. I’m not talking about folks like me, who just saw him on TV. I’m talking about the folks he worked with, the folks he was friends with. Did they really not see that side of him or is our definition of what constitutes a good man so far off the mark that it can include a man his wife was sometimes afraid for her life of?
I keep thinking of all the kids Daniel Benoit’s age, who, until last week, turned on wrestling and looked at Chris Benoit and saw a model for what a man might be. A man who would kill his own son.
I’m not a man, obviously, and so I can’t speak for what y’all need, but damn, it seems like we’re, as a society, not giving you something you need. Or, fuck it, is that more Beauty and the Beast crap? “Oh, men, tell us what we can do differently so that you’ll stop hurting us.”
I feel this idea forming that I don’t yet know how to put into words, because I think we want to look at family violence in all its forms as something gendered. But abusers can be male or female and their victims male or female. I do think gender roles have something to do with it.
But I think there’s something about weakness, too. I don’t quite know how to understand that–but it seems like, in some people, male or female, when faced with weakness, rather than protect the weaker person, they see weakness as an indication that they can do whatever they want to that weaker person. Or, even more insidious, that whatever happens to that weaker person is either inevitable or that weaker person’s fault in some way.
Again, I don’t want to second guess Benoit’s wife, but in 2003, she was so afraid for her life and the life of her son that it came to the attention of the police. And yet, she went back to him and, sadly, it turns out that she was right.
I would hope that, if most folks thought there was good reason to be afraid someone might kill their kid, they would do whatever they could to keep that kid separated from the potential killer.
But maybe not if you feel that you, yourself, are weak, that the kid is weak, and that whatever happens to weak people is somehow inevitable and somewhat their fault.
I don’t know.
And how do we combat that mindset? That weak people just have to take what’s coming to them, because they probably deserve it?