I tried to correct her on the point she had brought up, but in doing so we seemed to move farther apart to polar opposites of the discussion. That puzzled me. What I wrote next to her made matters worse. A simple example I used to illustrate a general social bias against men got taken by her to be an ad-hominem attack against her as a woman. But that provided the clue that solved the puzzle. I sent back the following response to her.
How come I feel that I am being stereotyped? But I understand now what puzzled me before about your reaction. It's all a misunderstanding! I didn't make myself sufficiently clear.The journalist wrote back with an apology. Thereby the little bump in our road to understanding and communication vanished, and we are still friends.
What you thought was an ad-hominem attack, wasn't. It was criticism (very mild, too) of what you had said. That is a critical distinction. What you had said is far more typically said by men than by women. I would not have dreamed in my wildest dreams that a remark like, "Would you still say 'humph' if the sexes were reversed in such a case?" would trigger your ire.
Men are being looked upon as cads, on average unjustly, and again, far more often by men than by women. If anyone (woman or man) says something that is in line with the general sentiment of society, something that men are more likely to say than women do, and if I then ask if he would say the same thing if the victim in that case would have been a woman, how can that be construed as an ad-hominem attack on account of his sex? I addressed the same question close to a thousand times to specific individual men.
The issue was not whether you, as a woman, said the right thing or not. The issue is that most of society, and men far more often than women, see women as victims even if the perceived victims don't deserve victim status, and that men, even if they are truly victims, are being seen as people that deserved what they got. It is not only feminists that put women on pedestals. Most of non-feminist men and women do! That's the handicap that men are up against.
I remember that we once had a discussion about the code of western chivalry. The chivalry code is a very serious burden on men. There was never anything like it for women, other than that once upon a time women were held responsible to be feminine women, wives, mothers and willing objects of veneration, but the feminists successfully took that away from women, except for the aspect that if women still want to be feminine women, wives, mothers and objects of veneration, they still have the right to do so at the risk of being vilified, ostracized, castigated and discriminated against as "enemies of the race of women". (1)
Freedom of choice in such matters
exists only for women, not for men. Men are rigidly locked in the embrace by western chivalry.
That implies that men are still and always obligated to live by the chivalry code, because women's status demands that.
That obligation means that a real man pleases his woman, and if his woman turns on him because he failed in her eyes, he deserves it and had it coming. [That, already at an early age, puts boys and men between a rock and a hard place. The demands placed on boys to prepare them for a life of servitude are tough ones, and there is nothing comparable for girls.(2)]
Nobody holds men more strictly to living up to that obligation than men themselves. With respect to the chivalry code, women's liberation never happened, although some men are slowly waking up to the fact that there is no longer any need to be enslaved by the chivalry code and to venerate women, because women are just as human as men are in slightly different ways.
[Update 2008 06 06: That is not so for feminists. Given that the
dangers to men's lives have always been greater than the dangers to women's
lives, there have always been slightly more women than men, but there have
always been vastly more male than female feminists. G. K. Chesterton
wrote a century ago, "Feminism will always oppose chivalry, but chivalry is
rather in favor of feminism." (3)]
Women's liberation did nothing for men, other than to hold men to the duty of remaining the ready and willing servants of women, without men's former right to be compensated for their efforts in being so willingly indentured to women. However, men are even being vilified for their increasingly more prevalent refusal to be women's servants, for their refusal to engage in relationships that can be equated to playing Russian roulette with every second chamber loaded. Not all that long ago the odds of a marriage failing were one in seventeen. That was an acceptable risk, one out of every two is not.
However, although the institution whose maintenance is one of the goals of western chivalry has been largely destroyed, for most men the chivalry code is still very much in place.
Although striving in vain and valiantly against unacceptable odds, for many a man there is nothing more devastating than to have failed in living up to the demands of western chivalry to be the provider and protector of the wife that now is so exceedingly unhappy with his performance of his duty to make her happy that she begins to abuse him. And remember, his wife doesn't have to live under any constraints comparable to those that western chivalry places upon men. She is not obligated to treat him with respect; and even visible injuries, often fatal or potentially so, that are the evidence of her abusing him are being glossed over.
That is a double jeopardy. By their very nature of being women, women are held to be innocent according to the demands of western chivalry (we can't have a villain being a heroine now, can we?). Even if no other conclusion is possible but that the man is suffering at the hands of his abusive wife, we jump on him and say things like: he had it coming; he deserves what he gets; he is not a real man; all men are cads, and worse.
The one of all men that hold the victim responsible more than anyone else is the man that is the victim on account of his failure to be everything his wife ever wanted him to be for her, no matter how much and how often she changed the performance requirements she demanded he should live up to. I discussed that with a friend just last night. He is a man that proudly bears the scars of his sacrifices. He's got one going from his eyebrow well into his hairline ("See this? Seventeen stitches! Frying pan."), [and, pointing at a puckered scar half-way between his left collar bone and the left nipple on his chest,] "See this? Bullet hole! .306 rifle."). Yet, all he said when I reminded him of that last night was: "That's nothing!"
The man caught in such circumstances will not very likely and at best only reluctantly identify who his abuser is. To do so would smear the image of the object of his chivalry. Worse, by doing so he would advertise his failure as a man, all the more so if the man is a prestigious millionaire like Stephen Hawking.
That may be a partial answer to your question of why Stephen Hawking doesn't name his abuser. We will know better when or if Stephen Hawking speaks up. Things may be out of his hands now. It appears that the police are building a case against his possible abuser, and apparently more than enough witnesses to her abuse of him have come forth.
All the best,