ABUSE AS A FORM OF OPPRESSION
A home where a woman is abused is a small-scale model of much larger oppressive systems that work in remarkably similar ways. Many of the excuses an abusive man uses for verbally tearing his partner to shreds are the same ones that a power-mad boss uses for humiliating his or her employees. The abusive man’s ability to convince himself that his domination of you is for your own good is paralleled by the dictator who says, “People in this country are too primitive for democracy.” The divide-and-conquer strategies used by abusers are reminiscent of a corporate head who tries to break the labor union by giving certain groups of workers favored treatment. The making of an abuser is thus not necessarily restricted to the specific values his society teaches him about men’s relationships with women; without realizing it he may also apply attitudes and tactics from other forms of oppression that he has been exposed to as a boy or as a young adult and that he has learned to justify or even admire.
If you look at any oppressive organization or system, from a racist country club up to a military government, you will find most of the same behaviors and justifications by the powerful that I have described in this book. The tactics of control, the intimidation of victims who try to protest, the undermining of efforts at independence, the negative distortions about the victims in order to cast blame upon them, the careful cultivation of the public image of the oppressors—all are present, along with many other parallels. The people in power generally tell lies while simultaneously working hard to silence the voices of the people who are being dominated and to stop them from thinking, just as the abusive man strives to do. And the bottom line is the same: Oppressive systems stay in existence because the people in power enjoy the luxury of their position and become unwilling to give up the privileges they win through taking advantage of other people and keeping them down. In short, the abusive mentality is the mentality of oppression.