While I understand your argument — that these men are not, in fact, all that powerful outside of their relationships with women, they are still more powerful than women for several reasons.

1] If they can use economic advantage to threaten women, they are by that very fact more powerful than them.

2] Despite what might appear to these men, the legal stystem actually gives them more power, because it is devilishly hard to bring domestic violence charges and make them stick.

First, their physical and economic power, and threats about children, make them powerful enough to keep the women with them, fearful of what they might do, so they don’t report the violence.

Second, the police — overwhelmingly male [tho that is beginning to change] — and men in general in the legal system frequently don’t believe women’s version of events. The legal system grants men credibility over women generally. That is an inevitable remnant of patriarchy.

Third, the percentage of men who end up in programs like yours is miniscule compared to the men who commit DV and even the men who are arrested and charged with it.

If they don’t see themselves as powerful it’s because they are unaware of the power they do in fact have over women. It would seem to me that your first necessity would be to get them to understand that. Whether that’s possible, I doubt — because by the time men get into programs like yours they have been so repeatedly violent that they’ve managed to slip through the cracks of the barriers that protect most men. Even men of their own class.

A class analysis needs to be added to the picture. The percentage of DV in middle and upper class families is about the same as it is in lower class families. The men in those families are much more likely to get the benefit of that patriarchal legal system, both because it is dominated by middle and upper class men — i.e., men just like them — AND because aside from having greater credibility as men compared to women, they also have the credibility of their class — their money, their professions, their standing in the community. Which they nurture in spades. They have the money to hire better lawyers, and they have the money to purchase private therapy [which they often use to establish greater credibility so their wives/girlfriends are less credible].

THAT is what prevents their appearing in your group.

It seems to me that the approach — including yours — is wrong headed because it is based on deductions from abstract theory rather than induction from feelings.

I would suggest that perhaps the starting point be something like ‘what do you most want from your wife/girlfriend’ aside from getting her to obey you? Bottom line, isn’t it connection that they most want and have no idea how to get? They are terrified she will leave them, get ‘stolen’ by another man, etc. So they do the only thing they know how to do to keep her — scare her to death.

You’ve got to get them to talk about their feelings. Forget all this power stuff until it’s needed to make sense of their position in the world. They say they love their wives/girlfriends. How do they express that love? Do they think that scaring their loved ones to death is the best way to get and keep their love? Perhaps talk about the violence they experienced in childhood. Did that violence make them want to stay or to run? Did they love their parents [or other caregivers] more because they were beaten?

I am sure you have thought of these things yourself, but your model here doesn’t suggest that. I know it is extremely hard to get such men to talk about their feelings, so perhaps some films or other visual/drama based programs that deal with men finally breaking out of that prison.

The main thing is these men don’t know how to get and keep women to ‘love’ them without violence. They’ve had no models to teach them that. Shouldn’t the primary goal be to introduce them to various ways of expressing love?

Respect for women is not an abstract thing. True love engenders respect. Men who love women respect them. [And, of course, there are many ways to love women who aren’t one’s partner, but if they can’t respect the woman they love, then they don’t truly love them.]

Focusing on their positions of power [which they absolutely DO have relative to women of their own class] is too abstract. Working class people in general [though not all], cringe at abstractions. The world they live in is the world of present details, present feelings, present needs. I may be wrong, but I suspect you haven’t done much reading on working class culture. Somehow in the academic emphasis on ‘diverse cultures’ hasn’t gotten around to noticing that working class culture is different from middle and upper class culture — or at most they’ve given that short shrift.

This site [linked here] has a great bibliography both of websites and of books and academic articles.

Many people forget that patriarchy isn’t just about men having power over women, it’s about men having power over other men. Until that is worked into the analysis, you will be forever missing the reality — yes, these men have very little power compared to men in higher classes, but compared to the women in their own class, they have a terrifying range of powers to use.

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Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.

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Georgia NeSmith

Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.

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