Sep 01 2005

Why Chicks Love Patriarchy

Stockholmsyndrome_1While reading about these gangs of radical fundamentalist Kashmiri women who sport around raiding restaurants, ratting out teen "snuggling couples" to their parents, bitching at oenophiles, and calling for more stringent adherence to some psycho-puritanical version of Islam, the words Stockholm syndrome began dancing the limbo in my obstreperal lobe. A couple of perspicacious patriarchy-blamers recently alluded to the popular brainwashing phenomenon in some discussion or other, and ever since then I’ve been contemplating it in relation to the seemingly baffling paradox of women’s complicity in our own oppression.

I cannot lie; Stockholm syndrome is my all-time favorite syndrome. It’s from the 70’s, like I am, so it has no small nostalgic kitsch appeal. Plus, it’s complicated enough to explain why the aforementioned sorely oppressed women, in a move many would consider counterintuitive, would whiz through town crying "More oppression! More oppression!", yet is simple enough that even a spinster aunt can understand it.

Stockholm Syndrome Refresher Course: Captive fears captor because captor wields life-or-death power over captive. Captive sucks up to captor as survival mechanism. Captor responds to sucking up by slight loosening of metaphorical thumbscrews. Captive’s extreme duress morphs original sucking-up into true emotional bond. Thereafter captor kicks captive’s ass occasionally, as reminder of who’s wearing the pants. [see also Wikipedia]

We’ve seen the term applied to battered wives, yes, but generally such cases describe a psychological attatchment to a single abuser. The idea of Stockholm syndrome as the global explanation for women’s fervent and irrational attatchment, en masse, to the much more nebulous ideology of male dominance, makes so much sense to me that there’s probably something wrong with it. But how else to explain these squads of veiled vice patrols hot-rodding around Kashmir giving hell to swinging singles? Or, for that matter, how else to account for women who sing paeans of joy to their "empowering" boob jobs? Or even, as Jeffreys suggests, how to account for women who rag on their daughters to sit with their knees together?

Why, in other words, would women voluntarily sign themselves up for this crap, cling to it maniacally, insist that it is "right" or "natural" or even "fun," unless they had come to identify dysfunctionally with their oppressor?

Stockholm syndrome is, like, the definition of patriarchy.

Meanwhile, back in Kashmir, maybe the veiled morality vigilantes should mosey on over to the Line of Control in Mendhar, where male cops are feeling up women villagers whenever they leave the house, the fucktards.

[The photo is of the Norrmalmstorg robbery, which as everyone of a certain age knows,
turned into a great big lovepile of hostage-on-captor action
and gave Stockholm syndrome its name]


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  1. metamanda

    great post! Your first link is kinda broken.

    On that second article, it’s interesting that they didn’t quote any women complaining about being felt up, but rather a man complaining that male soldiers were frisking “our women”.

    I think women being complicit in their own oppression… there’s something going on in addition to Stockholm Syndrome perhaps? These burkha’d vigilantes seem similar in spirit (though harsher i think) to religious women’s movements in the US in the early 1900’s… like the temperance movement that led to prohibition, which I recall as being related to the whole cult of domesticity thing, which told women that they were naturally more moral than men. (That was a big switch from the rhetoric of earlier eras, which held that women were morally and mentally weaker.) Of course that makes them responsible for their husbands’ and sons’ immoral behavior, and for the raising of the children… but because it makes them responsible for something there’s this false sense of empowerment, and voila women police each other, saving the guys a lot of work.

    Or maybe that is a trait of Stockholm Syndrome… the kidnapper deliberately giving their hostage some responsibility? It’s conceptually distinguishable from a mere loosening of the thumbscrews, though.

  2. Twisty

    It’s sometimes difficult for the American reader to accurately divine the subtext of news articles written in English by Pakistanis, but I agree, it is likely that the provincial male Kashmiri views women with a possessive eye. I blame the patriarchy.

    However, I’m not sure I grasp how the group of marauding women trying to make the countryside safe for a misogynist sect is at odds with the Stockholm proposition. Religion consists of enforced subservience to a male god who favors men and who can potentially subject insubordinators to eternal torment, and as such is practically a textbook example in favor of my thesis. If there were a textbook. Maybe I’d better write one.

  3. Tony Patti

    “The idea of Stockholm syndrome as the global explanation for women’s fervent and irrational attatchment, en masse, to harmful systems of nebulous male dominance, makes so much sense to me that there’s probably something wrong with it.”

    It’s a compelling explanation, and when seen as a part of the whole pattern, probably quite true. There’s also the insidious dominance and submission cycle inherent in any heirarchical model, like society and religion, where those who consider themselves superior always delight in trampling their inferiors, if only because those beneath them, being vicitmized, act so appropriately victim-like, which enrages them to further acts of dominance. This happens when women attach themselves to models of belonging more evanescent and illusory than the fundamental reality of womanhood. Then women are likely to distract themselves with the alluring spectacle of those beneath them suffering their well-deserved debasement, even if they are also female.

    Many times I see all evil as a desire to control others, and it’s something men and women both do to varying degrees, with the men, of course, being more frantic and murderous about it in any possible instance.

    But, as someone who has found himself, despite all reason and intelligence, playing the victim role, I can see how easy it is to fall into this hole and never get out, since getting out requires the even deeper humiliation of admitting you were a victim in the first place.

  4. metamanda

    Maybe I wasn’t clear… I don’t think it’s *at odds* with Stockholm Syndrome. I think it’s basically the same with an extra tweak, which is to explicitly give the brainwashed hostage responsibility, say over some other hostages.

    It’s not explicitly mentioned in the wikipedia discussion of Stockholm Syndrome, though I suppose if Patti Hearst was helping with bank robberies the SLA must have trusted her with some responsibilities.

  5. Kyria

    I’ve always thought Stockholm syndrome involved identification with the oppressor.

    But so too, perhaps, does revolution; it seems to me that demonizing the oppressor is the first step to becoming the “new boss.”

    That’s why patriarchy-blaming, though attractive and delightful, sometimes reminds me of those joke mugs from was it the nineties? that said,”Eliminate all negativity.”

    And I return to the equally futile but far less depressing contemplation of which of Bert’s paws, in the “cute-ray” photo, is in fact the cutest.

  6. Twisty

    it seems to me that demonizing the oppressor is the first step to becoming the “new boss.”

    A common misconception.

  7. Kyria

    Hope you’re right, because it’s really fun to do.

  8. Betsy

    Interesting and likely accurate idea that Stockholm Syndrome may apply at the macro-level to patriarchal domination of women. My question is, how can women best overcome such a syndrome? Is education enough? Seems unlikely. I’m glad that we’re analyzing and thinking about the problem but more importantly, I think we should talk about a potential solution!

    Any thoughts??

  9. Amanda

    Heh, when I first read this story, first words to my mind: Stockholm Syndrome.

  10. Twisty

    Hope you’re right, because it’s really fun to do.

    Well, as the Whatstheirnames say in my Rhino “Have A Nice Day” boxed set, “Do it. Do it. Do it till you’re satisfied (whatever it is).”

  11. Amy's Brain Today

    See the book “Loving to Survive” by Dee Graham et al for the theory of “societal Stockholm syndrome” as it applies to women & patriarchy.

  12. Wordlackey

    I second Amy’s Brain Today’s recommendation “Loving to Survive”. That book very thoroughly lays out the theory of “societal Stockholm Syndrome” with very interesting research. I read recently that another name has been suggested for the mindset but I don’t remember what it was. It wasn’t anywhere near as evocative as SSS thus unmemorable to me.

    I wrote a review of “Loving to Survive” a while ago if you’re interested. It’s here.

  13. Josef K

    This reminds me about what Michael Moore said about the Horatio Alger legend: “The system… holds the carrot so close to [people’s] faces that they can smell it. And, by promising that one day they will be able to eat the carrot, the system drafts an army of consumers and taxpayers who gladly, passionately fight for the rights of the rich.”

    When you’re given tiny incentives, little bits of success within a system, it’s hard to keep perspective. Even if your incentives are as small and vague as the smell of a carrot, it still becomes hard to keep a critical, outsider’s view of that system. Especially if you’ve been taught from birth how hard it is to get approval and success, and how important those things are.

  14. Mandos

    “”it seems to me that demonizing the oppressor is the first step to becoming the “new boss.”

    A common misconception.”

    Given history, why do you say this? Almost all revolutions degenerate quickly even given noble intent.

  15. Mandos

    As an aside I’m bothered by one of the assumptions of the “Stockholm syndrome” concept. I mean, what if it actually *is* the right thing to do to sympathize with your captor.

    Also I’d like to raise the possibility of subversive effects from women going around enforcing the rules: remember Temperance Leagues? Maybe I’ve got my history wrong though.

  16. Twisty

    Mandos, Mandos, Mandos. Always the parade-raining realist.

    The only cure for human misery is to eradicate the model of dominance/submission that all human cultures and all human relationships are based on. If women are forced to survive in a patriarchy–a system based on the aforementioned model–women will of course avail ourselves of the only tools the system provides. When we ascend to positions of power within this dysfunctional system, we will become assholes.

    Although, as my aside, I can’t think why that idea bothers everybody so much. It’s not like anything would change. Fans of the status quo seem to like it when assholes are in power.

    Meanwhile, of course it is the right thing to do, sympathizing with your captor. It’s the only way to survive. The point here is, there shouldn’t be any goddam captors.

  17. Mandos

    No, I meant morally: I mean, what if your captor has a point and you *should* be, in fact, joining your captor.

    I’m not convinced that dominance/submission are cultural and even *can* be eradicated—but mitigated. Slavery existed (exists almost universally even in the form of wage slavery) because there was something to enslave and some incentive to enslave it. Almost everything for which is no longer a form of slave has been automated.

    I agree, I’m also not totally bothered by the notion that women become as bad as men if allowed to dominate in the current system either. I mean, it may be disappointing but it’s only fair.

    And I’m sorry to rain on your parade. I’ll try to cut it out but it’s so tempting. Sometimes it’s a pretty colourful parade.

  18. Twisty

    Can a captor ever really inhabit the moral high ground?

  19. Mandos

    I think that it is theoretically possible for a captor to inhabit ground at least not much worse than the captor’s enemies. This is really a rehash of the “retail vs. state” terrorism debate. Political violence is not simple.

  20. Twisty

    The idea that political violence isn’t simple relies on acceptance of the idea that oppression is inevitable. This is the same idea put forth by the cunt Laura Bush in her post-hurricane reality-check the other day, when she essentially said “people are gonna die, and it’s gonna be the poor people, and that’s just the way it is.”

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