Thursday, March 24, 2005
Book: Loving to Survive
Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men's Violence, and Women's Lives by Dee L.R. Graham with Edna I. Rawlings and Roberta K. Rigsby. (New York: New York University Press, 1994) The basic premise draws on the 1973 hostage situation in Stockholm that gave its name to "Stockholm Syndrome." Stockholm Syndrome is when hostages and captors mutually bond to one another to the point where the hostage actually wants to protect the captor. The authors of Loving to Survive postulate something they call Societal Stockholm Syndrome which affects essentially all male-female relationships. Violence or the threat of violence leads to certain behaviors, certain coping patterns on the part of women. Lest you think they are referring just to physically violent or abusive relationships, they are not. The net cast by the thesis is much wider.
From the inner cover: "Dee Graham and her coauthors take this syndrome as their starting point to develop a new way of looking at male-female relationships. Loving to Survive considers men's violence against women as crucial to understanding women's current psychology. Men's violence creates ever present, and therefore often unrecognized, terror in women. This terror is often experienced as a fear--for any woman--of rape by any man or as a fear of making a man--any man--angry. They propose that women's current psychology is actually a psychology of women under conditions of captivity--that is, under condition of terror caused by male violence against women. Therefore, women's responses to men, and to male violence, resemble hostages' responses to captors."
To those unfamiliar with feminist theory this might seem like a wild overexaggeration. The authors are very thorough in laying out the details and supporting documentation. They start with a close examination of the actual hostage situation from 1973. It was well documented. From there, they draw on numerous studies to build the case for Societal Stockholm Syndrome.
One aspect in particular struck me: The precautions women take to prevent violence. If women were asked directly whether they were afraid of men in general, they usually said no. However when asked about specific situations they encountered in day to day life, the answers told a very different story. Particularly telling was comparing the women's answers about these situations with men's responses about the same situations. An included chart is difficult to quote directly because of the format but the results are clear: Women restrict their activities much more than men due to fear of violence.
I like the book and think it's well worth seeking out and reading.