Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Ruth Krall's Risking the Collective on the Space We Make for Violence Against Women and Children, and the Metaphor Systems Legitimating It

Here's another illuminating passage from Ruth Krall's new monograph Risking the Collective, about which I blogged yesterday. Ruth argues (cogently) that, for sexual violence against women and children to be widespread and endemic in one society after another, there has to have been a prior society "making space" for such violence. As she observes, powerfully,

Inside our daily lives, we make space for coercion. We make space for spanking. We make space for slapping. We make space for social discrimination against others. We make space for authoritarianism. We make space for stalking. We make space for social abandonment and shunning. We make space for bullying and for cyber-bullying. We make space for interpersonal domination. We make space for intimidation. We make space for duplicitous seduction. We make space for verbal abuse. We make space for the pornographic eye. We make space for an imbalance of sexual powers. Increasingly we make space for murder by the use of lethal weaponry (p. 8).

Underlyoing this social space that we make for "acceptable" violence against women and children are metaphor systems that legitimate violence — and we will not shift the violence and the space people are willing to accord it until we address those underlying metaphor systems, Ruth thinks:

[F]or violence and sexual abuse to take place, there needs to be a world view that supports such abusive actions. If we use an architectural metaphor, individual acts of violence, multiplied by the thousands, require deep socio-cultural pilings. One essential aspect of cultural change is to examine the status quo as containing information about the underlying narrative or metaphor system that supports an individual in her or his violation of children, teens and/or adults. In short, we need to examine and understand the invisible, yet living, cultural and personal pilings that hold up and maintain the visible structures of oppression and violence. 
In addition, we need to examine cultural practices that support individual violence. How do institutions, for example, explain their negligence to themselves, to victims, and to the culture at large? These self-serving explanations usually include institutional code language which must be deciphered in order to make visible the underlying and pathological world view that is in operation. Once visible, these forms of self-justifying code language must be simultaneously identified, named accurately, and challenged in the commons. (p. 38)

Obviously, what Ruth is saying here has profound implications for those who hope to find some effective way to curb sexual abuse of women and children within the Catholic church — sexual abuse by ordained men. Space has long been made for that sexual violence. It has been far more acceptable to far more of us than we now care to admit.

It has been acceptable because of our support for theological/religious metaphor systems that undergird the violence. It will not be effectively addressed and weeded out until those underlying theological metaphor systems are addressed — and weeded out or shifted.

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