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The Dynamics of POWER!

The Dynamics of POWER!

After I read a recent piece about the" war on women" , I considered the assertion that men have acted in ways to keep women in "their place" a place secondary to men; how some men are somehow threatened by women and behave defensively lest they be overwhelmed by them. It brought a lot of thoughts to mind.

Many years ago I was engaged in a conversation with a new supervisor. It was our first encounter. I had walked by his office, and seeing his office door open poked my head inside and introduced myself. He invited me in and offered me a seat. I expected a quiet conversation, one in which he might ask how I liked my job and the district, what schools I worked in, basic workplace conversation. Instead he quickly moved to remarks about how he had “heard about me” and was concerned about my “reputation.” I was surprised, and asked him what he had heard, and he was less than forthcoming. He seemed to like having me at a disadvantage, knowing things I did not. I was feeling very uncomfortable, regretting my decision to step in to just say hello. At one point I said, “I don’t mean to sound defensive…” I never got to finish my sentence. “Why, I’m not attacking you,” he finished.

He clearly was and wasn’t giving me any room to defend myself even. I said very little after that. He was clearly my superior, he was the supervisor, I was under his supervision, I was his subordinate, and any challenge to his position could have been considered “insubordination” and grounds for reprimand and even termination. Why did he have to perform this little dance at our first meeting. Did I somehow challenge him by mere mention of my reputation as a strong advocate for students?

I mention this because it goes to the dynamic of men in power positions who wield the power with a force beyond need. I was not a threat to him, although maybe what he had heard about me might have put him on notice that I might present such a threat, and he was going to take action now to prevent it.

This dynamic is often seen between men and women, in that the man in a power position historically behaves in such a way to keep women subordinate, keep them in “their place” so to speak. This is often a result of the discrepancy between most men and women in the physical realm. Most men outweighing and being more physically stronger than most women, can use this strength to force a woman to remain subservient at the risk of brute force; a push, a grab, a punch or even sexual assault. Most men exert sufficient self-control to avoid resorting to physicality to prevail. When angered, they use their words, their voice or simply walk away. Men weaker in mind and spirit fail to exercise self control and strike out.

A footnote to my description of the meeting between my supervisor and myself, he was promoted from his position as my supervisor to principal of the high school I was assigned to. He remained there only for a short tenure however. He was quickly removed from this post after a series of DUI’s and an assault on his wife in front of their home. Affirmation of my theory about weak-minded men.

What I think is missing from this discussion, though it struck me right way, is that same dynamic in play between white men, and black men and women. The weak spirited white men need to keep the “black man” in his “place”, and the dynamic of power plays to maintain this imbalance, one not based on an individual’s intelligence or talents but his or her skin color.

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