Social Myths and Perspecticide: How they work together

Illustration by Tracy J. Lee.

In the September 2021 issue of National Geographic Magazine “Mysteries of the Solar System,” on page 7 you’ll find a section entitled PROOF, “Collars of Conviction.” It is a seven-page section dedicated to the collars of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Embroidered on one of the famous collars she wore is a quote from Ginsburg’s husband, “It’s not sacrifice, it’s family.” Symbolically sewn with four layers of nicely sewn fabric, it is imbued with personal meaning. Each layer represents a member of her immediate family (Natasha Daly; 2021).

One of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous collars.

Ginsburg became professionally involved in gender equality in 1970 and began defending women’s rights. Her identity reflects that of woman, wife, mother, Jewish daughter of immigrants, second woman on the high court, not only balancing out the perspectives of the Supreme Court but an icon for all women balancing out so many different roles women have become accustomed to struggling with.

Yet my brother-in-law seems to think Ruth Bader Ginsburg by riding out her career on the Supreme Court, in the face of unbeatable cancer, somehow “screwed us all.” In his opinion, she “screwed us” because she refused to step down in the face of an unbeatable obstacle and instead choose to continue her duties as Supreme Court justice thereby allowing Donald Trump the right to choose her next replacement. I guess she should of just “sulked away like the wounded gal she was and just have given up.” But Ruth Bader Ginsburg would have never given up her post so easily. Yet, my brother-in-law insists that by not withdrawing Ginsburg allowed Donald Trump, and thereby the Republican party, further leverage on the Supreme Court with his replacement of Amy Coney Barrett. In my opinion, my brother-in-law’s belief is what is known as a social myth. The core of this social myth places at the center a female object for which we are to blame for male patriarchy’s Senate Republican majority action.

I like to contrast the sexual difference against the backdrop of racial difference. On the page opposite the story of “Collars of Conviction” resides “The Story of Human Difference” which asks the question, “If race is a social construct, not a biological trait, why do so many people still doubt it?” To provide a little background example, during the mid 1800s, I would say around the 1850s, a doctor by the name of Dr. Marion Simms practiced gynecology and obstetrics. He has been called the father of modern gynecological/obstetric medicine. Dr. Simms research employed the use of black female slaves as test subjects. Dr. Marion Simms believed in the social myth, “Black people have a higher tolerance for pain.” It is for this reason, Dr. Marion Simms performed experimental surgery on black female slaves without the use of any anesthesia or pain medication (Perper & Cina, 2010).

A 2016 research study conducted by the University of Virginia found that half of 200 medical students, who were used in their study, held at least one belief about “biological difference between blacks and whites, many of which are false and fantastical in nature.” They included myths like black people have higher tolerances for pain and their skin is thicker than whites due to biological (genetic) differences (Samarrai, 2016; Saini, 2021). These beliefs, of course, are myths. Just like the myth “Ruth Bader Ginsburg screwed us all.”

The myth that “Ruth Bader Ginsburg screwed us” due to her refused to step down from the bench while Barrack Obama was in office, thereby “giving Obama a better chance at choosing a more suitable replaced” is a myth because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her full-right to decide not to step down, and furthermore, even if she did step down, that was no guarantee the Republican-controlled Senate would have allowed Obama to replace her when they placed a refusal on Merrick Garland. Her decision not to step down is a given right extended to all Supreme Court justices if they so choose to remain active and forgo retirement. In my opinion, my brother-in-law’s misguided belief represents unconscious wishes towards strong women who have been endowed with the privilege to make their own forthright decisions. His opinion is nothing more than a myth, not founded in Truth but rather eclipsing Truth by attempting to gather support from unsuspecting non-thinkers who might choose to agree with his unfounded beliefs without perusal of the facts.

In addition, our Republican leaders, at the time, dismissed Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s wish that a new justice not be appointed until a new president was installed. Instead, there was a mad rush to install a new justice, by the then existing presidential administration of Donald Trump. And in the face of the unprecedented refusal of the Senate majority to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland by then-president Barack Obama, a Democrat, for 293 days (the longest day by far) is a clear and present statement made by male Republican majority leaders. Barrack Obama’s nomination expired on January 3, 2017, at the end of the 114th Congress and eventually, then President Donald Trump, a Republican, nominated and appointed Neil Gorsuch. One of the most unjustified miscarriages of leadership ever witnessed thus far by those in Washington, D.C. This was clearly an attempt to keep the Supreme Court predominately ruled and powered by Republican political nominees. However, nominations and elections of the Supreme Court, district, circuit, D.C. circuit, and Supreme Court, just about balance out (Elving, 2018; Drum, 2020).

Myths Still Linger

No matter how hard we may try, social myths still linger and continue to pervade social thinking. Myths like, “If a woman walks into a bar alone, she deserves to be raped.” Or other myths like, “If people want to practice stupidity they deserved to get beaten.” Myths like, “Black people have high pain tolerances because they are genetically different than whites” and “certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to COVID-19 because of biological and genetic differences that make them more prone to the infection.” In one of the world’s leading medical journals, the Lancet, in May 2020, insisted that “genetic make-up could be a possible factor in varying COVID-19 outcomes seen among ethnic groups at the time.” This strain of thinking has endured across the centuries and, when in 1793 a yellow fever outbreak occurred in Philadelphia, it was believed by white physicians that black people were immune to the yellow fever infection (Saini, 2021).

Social Myths in Action and How They Function

Myths attempt to downplay the actions taken by those guilty of prejudicial beliefs. Myths attempt to validate false beliefs that exonerate the guilty parties and vilify the innocent. Hence, “it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg that screwed us all” and not the Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Myths attempt to focus on aspects of the innocent. For example, the fact a girl was drinking, or the refusal of Ruth Bader Ginsberg to step down while terminally ill with cancer, or that blacks are resistant to or more susceptible to certain types of infection without any scientific proof. The social myth then vilifies the innocent by focusing on the one “bad action” taken by the victim. The victim walked alone. The victim was drinking alcohol and got drunk. The victim refused to step down. The victim was a black man walking in the shadows. The victim was a prostitute. These statements are all forms of attempts at perspecticide and awareness campaigns need to be created to ensure those who are guilty are not exonerated by false social myths surrounding prejudice. Hence, the statement said about a high school boy, guilty as a member of gang raping an unconscious girl, at a party, “He is a good boy. He could have never committed rape. The girl shouldn’t have been drinking so much” (Kosloski, Diamond-Welch, and Mann; 2018). We need to have conversations about social myths and the role they play in forms of percpecticides, that is the usurpation of free-thinking, and attempts at coercively controlling others by implanting false social beliefs. When this is done, perpetrators unwittingly usurp power away from the innocent and place that power in the hands of the guilty, thereby exonerating the perpetrators of any and all wrongdoing. “She’s “crazy,” and so, the line of logical thinking goes she deserves to be beaten, raped, murdered, or whatever the case may be.

Research has indicated the impact of social myths on victims and how perspecticide negatively effects free-thinking by implanting not only false beliefs about women, but different ethnic groups, and those with difference in sexual orientation, those marginalized by the higher social order, have implied that coercive control, like sexual coercion, can negatively effect performance and mental health (Stermac, Bance, Cripps, Horowits, 2018; Stark, 2007) and effect the discourse and action taken against those in possession of difference.

Sources are listed in order as they appear cited in the paper:

Natasha Daly. Mysteries of the Solar System. National Geographic Magazine. Vol. 240, №3, September 2021. PROOF “Collars of Conviction” (pg. 7–14).

Joshua A. Perper & Stephen J. Cina. (2010). When Doctors Kill: Who, Why, and How. New York. Copernicus Books.

Fariss Samarrai. Study Links Disparities in Pain Management to Racial Bias. UVA Today. Published online April 4, 2016. https://news.virginia.edu/content/study-links-disparities-pain-management-racial-bias

Angela Saini. Mysteries of the Solar System. National Geographic Magazine. Vol. 240, №3, September 2021. EXPLORE “The Story of Human Difference” (pg. 15–18).

Ron Elving. What Happened With Merrick Garland In 2016 and Why It Matters Now. NPR News. Published online June 29, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/06/29/624467256/what-happened-with-merrick-garland-in-2016-and-why-it-matters-now

Kevin Drum. Fact of the Day: Democrats and Republicans Have Appointed the Same Number of Judges. Mother Jones. Published September 23, 2020. Retrieved online August 28, 2021. https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2020/09/fact-of-the-day-democrats-and-republicans-have-appointed-the-same-number-of-judges/

Anna E. Kosloski, Bridget K. Diamond-Welch, and Olivia Mann. The Presence of Rape Myths in the Virtual World: A Qualitative Textual Analysis of the Steubenville Sexual Assault Case. Violence and Gender. Vol. 5, №3. Published online October 5, 2018.

Lana Stermac, Sheena Bance, Jenna Cripps, Sarah Horowits. Sexual Coercion and Women’s Education: A Pilot Study. Violence and Gender. Vol. 5, №2. Published online June 1, 2018.

Stark, Evan. (2007). Coercive Control: The entrapment of women in everyday life. New York. Oxford University Press.

Other sources to consider reading regarding feminism, domination, and sadism but not cited in the writing:

Benjamin, J. (1988). The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem with Domination. New York. Pantheon Books.

Butler, Judith. (2021). The Force of Non-Violence: An ethico-political bind. New York. Verso Publishing.

Brian Van Brunt, Amy Murphy, Lisa Pescara-Kovach, and Gina-Lyn Crance. Early Identification of Grooming and Targeting in Predatory Sexual Behavior on College Campuses. Violence and Gender. Vol. 6, №1. Published online March 11, 2019

Chodorow, Nancy J. (2012). Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice. Relational Books Perspective, Volume 53. New York. Routledge; Taylor & Francis Group.

Douglas, H., Harris, B.A., & Dragiewicz, .M. (2019). Technology-facilitated Domestic and Family Violence: Women’s Experiences. The British Journal of Criminology, 59(3).

Holmes, Lucy. (2013). Wrestling with Destiny: The Promise of Psychoanalysis. New York. Routledge.

Johnson, L., Plouffe, R., & Saklofske, D. (2019). Subclinical Sadism and the Dark Triad. Journal of Individual Differences, 40(3), 127–133.

Knafo, Danielle & Feiner Kenneth. (2006). Unconscious Fantasies and the Relational World. Relational Perspective Book Series, Volume 31. Hillside, NJ. The Analytic Press, Inc.

Krick, A., Tresp, S., Vatter, M., Ludwig, A., Wihlenda, M., & Rettenberger, M. (2016). The Relationships Between the Dark Triad, the Moral Judgment Level, and the Students’ Disciplinary Choice. Journal of Individual Differences, 37(1), 24–30.

Plaza, M. (2008). Ideology against women. Gender Issues, 4(1), 73–82.

Wieland, C. (1996). Matricide and Destructiveness: Infantile Anxieties and Technological Culture. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 12(3),

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