I have only once been hit by a man, and it came as a huge shock. Until that point, all the men I knew had been gentle. They dealt with their anger and frustrations either by separating themselves from the problem, physical work, or discussion. Sometimes, all three. So when I was smacked in the face and knocked onto the floor, I had to re-evaluate.
At the time I blamed myself; I had deserved it. It took many years, decades even, to realize that this is a common reaction of abuse victims and a means by which they are kept in submission. I didn’t know that, but I knew enough to get out of the relationship. Instinctively, I packed up and left, and moved to a different city. I didn’t want to be with a man who thought that our relationship was a power struggle.
When I was young people used to say, “Winning isn’t everything,” and I liked that. I was comforted by the idea that winning is transient, but the effort is lasting. Then the aphorism became “Winning isn’t everything–it’s the only thing!” and that is the opposite of comforting. It’s a lot of pressure. It is, however, how some people feel about work, relationships, and life in general.
I can understand why professional athletes take up this mantra; it’s their livelihood. So much depends on their success that it is measured in every way imaginable, and data is stored for commentators and fans to dredge up years later. But why do regular people, who have jobs and families and everyday errands, take up that same notion? I don’t get it.
Recently, there have been a few news stories which indicate that some people have difficulty in separating their professional winning from their personal relationships. One story was about a US football player who punched his fiancée while they were in an elevator; another story was about a South African runner who shot his girlfriend; and a third was about a Canadian television host who enjoys BDSM sex and (according to some reports) doesn’t always ensure that it is consensual.
Obviously, the urge for men to hit women is a proclivity that crosses national, racial, and cultural boundaries. I know that it is not a characteristic of most men, and I know that some women are also abusive, but I am still left wondering if the hitting and the winning are associated.
If you are convinced that you are somehow less of a person if you don’t win, then obviously you are going to try to do whatever you can to preserve your self-esteem. If your winning is dependent upon someone else losing, then logically you should do what you can to make them lose. That, it seems to me, is a different goal altogether. It’s the difference between doing your best and preventing someone else from doing their best. One action is affirmative, the other is negative.
When we are challenged, confronted, or threatened, the response that will immediately present itself is the one that we have been conditioned to apply. If you have been encouraged to engage in debate, you will argue. If you have been taught to contemplate, you will withdraw. If you have been coached to put up a front, you will stonewall. If you have been trained to win by any means necessary, you will fight.
People who fight and win because of their power to suppress others have only temporary victories. The lasting wins can only result when we develop our own skills. I have never regretted leaving the man who hit me. Even though he won the fight, ultimately it was his loss.