On the phone, at a gas station, in our dreams
Subscribe and Save up to 55%
“One Nation, Indivisible” features excerpts from The Sun’s archives that speak to the current political moment.
Based on my work with domestic-abuse survivors and victims of political terror, . . . I began to ask: What happens when a person is exposed not to a single terrifying incident, but to prolonged, repeated trauma? I came to understand the similarities between, on the one hand, concentration camps and torture and, on the other, domestic violence, where the victim may be beaten or sexually abused for years on end. . . .
People in captivity are often isolated from other relationships; this is true in literal captivity and in domestic violence, as well, where perpetrators often demand that their victims cut all social ties. Being so isolated, the captives are forced to depend for basic survival on the very person who is abusing them. This not only creates a complicated, deeply conflicted bond between the two, but skews the victim’s perception of the nature of human relationships. . . .
Victims lose their faith in other people, and in themselves. They come to view all relationships as coercive, and to feel that the strong may do as they please. They see the world as divided into victims, perpetrators, bystanders, and rescuers, and come to believe that all human relations are contaminated and corrupt, and ruled by sadism.
“Out of the Ashes,” Judith Herman, interviewed by Richard Marten, May 1998
Most of the violence depicted on television is pretty sanitized. It has none of the tragedy, none of the gore. It’s what I call “happy violence” — cool, painless, and spectacular. It’s designed not to upset you but to entertain you. . . .
I don’t believe, however, that either the frequency or the explicitness of violence is the primary issue. Violence is a demonstration of power, and the real issue is who is doing what to whom. If time and again you hear and see stories of conflicts in which people like yourself prevail, you become more aggressive. If, on the other hand, you are a member of a group that is more likely to be victimized on TV, you grow up more insecure, more dependent, more afraid of getting into a conflict, because you feel your risk is higher. That’s the way we train women, who in reality are a numerical majority, to act like a minority. The instilled sense of potential victimization and vulnerability is the key.
For every woman in prime time who possesses the kind of power that white male characters have, there are two who are victimized. If you look at just women of color, the ratio is slightly higher.
“Telling Stories,” George Gerbner, interviewed by Derrick Jensen, August 1998
Stephanie Coontz: In the early days of the American republic, virtue . . . referred to people’s work ethic and “valor.” In the late 1800s [virtue] became about sex. Women were to be modest, quiet, weak, and in need of teaching. Men were to provide for them and teach them. Men learned to confuse showing off with love, and women learned to confuse intimidation with infatuation. . . .
The Sun: If women were to be protected, did [that] cut down on domestic violence?
Coontz: Given how high domestic-violence rates remained until the 1960s, I don’t think we can say there was a profound change in behavior. Domestic violence did become more shameful for men, but it still went on. In a landmark 1874 case in North Carolina, the right of a husband to beat his wife was rescinded, but the ruling also said, “If no permanent injury has been inflicted, nor malice, cruelty nor dangerous violence shown by the husband, it is better to draw the curtain, shut out the public gaze, and leave the parties to forget and forgive.” How do you think that worked out for women?
“To Have and to Hold,” Stephanie Coontz, interviewed by Mark Leviton, September 2016
The Sun: The logo [of the record label you started] — based on a photo of you in a bodybuilder pose with both arms cocked and your hands in fists — reminds me of Rosie the Riveter.
Ani DiFranco: . . . The pose was instinctual. It just felt right to me, like [roars]: Look out!
It’s funny you bring up the logo, because the other day Anna at the Righteous Babe office sent me a post from Facebook, an anecdote from the mother of a three-year-old girl: The mother had on a Righteous Babe sweatshirt, and her little girl pointed to the logo and asked, “Mommy, is that a girl?” She said yes, and her daughter asked, “Is she so, so, so strong?” And her mother answered, “Yes, she is so, so, so strong.” And her daughter said, “That makes me happy, Mommy!”
“Righteous Babe,” Ani DiFranco, interviewed by Mark Leviton, May 2016