I see this saying written by Tony Caskins all the time making its rounds on Facebook:
“You teach people how to treat you
by what you allow, what you stop
and what you reinforce.”
At first glance, it looks like the truth, but whose truth is it and from what perspective?
Females don’t allow, refuse to stop or reinforce male oppression, rape and murder and yet male violence against females is epidemic. Male violence against females happens only because most men are physically stronger than women and because they choose to use their brute strength to control women and our patriarchal society condones this violent male behavior. Men use their strength against women because they want to, not because women teach them to do so. On a societal level, patriarchy and their male creators teach men to beat, rape and murder females because they allow, refuse to stop and reinforce this violent male behavior. If we look at this saying through male eyes only, which unfortunately, is the way all human beings including female human beings living in patriarchy have been taught to see, then this saying makes sense because men have taught women how to treat them. But this is not usually a two way street.
When men, with the threat of violence, only allow females to behave subserviently, by stopping females from behaving authentically and by reinforcing subservient and/or feminine behavior, men teach women how to be their slaves. With brute force men have enslaved females for thousands of years and the resulting female terror is real and felt by every female; therefore, how can we not recognize that this violence and victimization has a profound effect on female behavior? How can we deny that females behave this way because males have trained them to behave this way through violence? To say that we are treated the way we teach others to treat us, is to speak from a dominant point of view, dismissing the reality of females completely, not to mention the reality of all dominated races & classes.
Females have been conditioned by male coercion and violence to distrust themselves and other females and to revere the male/masculine identity. By doing this, men have created an environment for females to exist in that simultaneously denies their existence and is therefore systemically hostile. Females then live in a state of terror waiting for the male fist to drop–literally. This hostile environment is not conducive to female expression or even to female life; thereby, making half of the human population mute and unable to speak their own truth, let alone stand up for this truth. Consequently, men have full reign, without opposition, in their man made environment. Therefore, because men hand out violent consequences for female behaviors that are anything other than feminine /subservient, how can females be anything other than feminine /subservient? If one wants to survive, and one does, one must adapt accordingly. How can the subservient teach a dominant how to treat them when the subservient isn’t allowed to know or be themselves? How can they teach others to treat them good when they have been taught that they aren’t good and don’t deserve good treatment, especially when this detrimental idea is reinforced by our society?
This saying may be true when you are the dominant gender in a society that promotes unequal gender roles; however it falls short when you are female, the dominated gender that is victimized violently when she dares to behave authentically or asks for fair treatment. Further, this saying is what I like to call a patriarchal sleight of hand because within what appears to be an insightful idea, upon further investigation, you find that it dismisses the reality of the female, living within the confines of male domination and patriarchy, reinforcing the idea that men are omnipotent and at the same time inadvertently blaming females for male violence. If females are treated badly, it is because they allowed, did not stop or reinforced said treatment. In this patriarchal la la land of delusion, females are responsible for male violence.