Friday, November 9, 2012

Do we still tend to engender violence and abuse?

(click above links to view)


A bus driver is harassed by a passenger and then punches her in the face. He also throws her off the bus- she gets back on and he grabs her by the hair to get her off. As I am watching the argument between them escalate I cannot help but wonder why he did not just stop the bus and tell her to get off. Supposedly, the argument began over non-payment or delayed payment of her fair.  I would imagine that there is procedural ways of handling an irate / non-paying rider.  However, this was not the case.  The two exchanged words as the other passengers videoed, laughed, and commented on what they observed.  Finally another woman went to the front in an attempt to disengage the escalating circumstances; but to no avail she returned to her seat. As insults are hurled back and forth, the woman eventually places her hands on him in some capacity. He reacts by hitting her so hard she falls down.  

I have heard all the arguments for and against the male driver hitting a female passenger. But the angle I wish to take here is more about the fact that what socially constructed masculinity and femininity were at work here as the argument escalated?  You can hear derogatory comments from both parties.  You can hear laughter of the passengers as they passively watch (with the exception of the one woman who tries to intervene).  I wonder who the man in the orange work vest is that he would be standing right next to the driver.  Was he a bus aid? A friend of the driver? A passenger? 

In any case, the driver felt he needed to show power and authority when he chose to treat the woman as he would have treated another man (by his own admission). His choice in displaying his masculinity was still grounded in verbal and physical assault as much as he rationalizes his actions by claiming that if she wanted to act like a man she would be treated like a man. 

Was the passenger acting like a MAN though? 

She was arguing just as much as he was; calling him derogatory names just as much as he was her; and she sought to escalate the conflict with physical violence as he did.  The difference being is that perhaps she did not physically cause pain, but verbally and emotionally she did by taunting him instead of sitting down to ride the bus. 

I do not condone violence nor do I subscribe to the idea that 'she deserved it' (as I have seen and heard a lot of people- male and female- claim). Neither one of them deserved to be the recipient of violence.  But violence is not just physical- it is verbal, emotional, and spiritual at times. 

Was the driver coming from a place of masculinity that dictated he must keep control of his environment with whatever means necessary? Did he feel emasculated by her physical assault? Did he feel the other passengers were viewing him as less than a man because he could not verbally control a woman and her actions? Did he not follow any proper procedural means to remove her because he would have delayed his passengers and they would have complained and /or thought less of him as man and /or a driver?

Was the passenger coming from a place of femininity that dictated she must also control the situation to her benefit by any means necessary? Did she feel the need to prove herself as a woman in front of passengers that were laughing and passively condoning her and the drivers actions? Or did she feel she had to "act like a man" (stereo-typically) and fight with the driver in order to heard or seen?

Do they both have a personal history of dealing with anger and conflict with violence and abuse? People who choose to deal with conflict or anger with violence are not just men- they are women too.  I think that if either one acted out of socially constructed norms surrounding masculinity and femininity as they pertain to strength, control, and power- then they they'd likely rationalize that they did what they both saw fit in an attempt to control the other. I think what additionally speaks volumes is the other passengers apathy insomuch as many were willing to video, comment, and laugh about the violence and none were willing to call the police and report it. 

Further reading 
(which inspired me to look up the details of this conflict):

A website called has a piece in which Akiba Solomon talks about 
gendered violence and  about the "camera phone savagery" that turns "viral".


Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Nice post and analysis. I have no opinion on this particular altercation other than great uppercut! I did enjoy the dude's commentary at the end of the second video.