Domestic Violence: The War Rages On!

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

I don’t know why, but I quite like the phrase ‘the war rages on’, it’s one of those turns of phrase that just conveys everything you want it to convey. It’s adaptable as well, really the only important part of it is ‘rages on’, you could pretty much prefix it with anything if you want to create an image of an ongoing conflict.

Truth is, I don’t see domestic violence as a ‘war’, I mentioned in a previous blog, I don’t see the gender differences as a ‘war’ at all, and hate the complete misuse of the word by feminists. By assigning the word ‘war’ to the petty differences that feminists do, it totally undermines the very real horrors of actual war. Soliders getting blown up in the desert is not comparable to somebody’s feelings being hurt because a nasty man said something mean. Boo hoo.

While I don’t believe there is a war, I do believe there are certain things that are extremely one sided. The fact that this is my third blog about domestic violence (fourth if you including my article on www.mhro.ca), or at least gender-violence in general, it should come as no surprise that I think domestic violence is one of them. When I was growing up I was constantly told ‘you never hit a woman’ over and over again, ad infinitum. I saw violence towards men every single day, on TV, in films, at school, etc, etc. Yet, the mantra was that women were never to be touched. Any time a man got punched on TV, well he probably deserved it. Anytime a woman got hit, well, all hell broke loose and everyone did what they could to support her. Violence against women in TV shows is taken seriously and treated as the sensitive subject it is. Violence against men is treated as something comic that we are expected to laugh at.

It’s one of those things that, due to the overbearing nature of our media, you’d think is pretty one sided. Whenever domestic violence is brought up in discussions, on tv, film or even among friends, there’s always a qualifier to justify why the conversation is skewed towards female victims – “There are male victims of domestic violence, however, the overwhelming majority of victims are women.” Well, that’s an outright lie. Countless, countless studies have shown that intimate partner violence occurs at similar levels when it’s reciprocal, and when it isn’t women instigate it more. The discrepancies occur when you take in to account the damage done. Women require hospitalisation more often than men, but women are more likely to use weapons. When all is said and done, it’s a horrible thing that affects both sexes on a fairly equal basis.

And yet, all the focus is on how we can stop violence towards women, with little to no consideration of men. Any time male victims are mentioned, they are soon dismissed and relegated to the backseat. Very rarely are the true stats mentioned, it’s still very much a one sided affair. A one sided affair that silences the thousands of male victims affected by this issue. What kind of shit storm would be created if stats showed women to be equal victims of a particular crime, yet they were always marginalised or cast aside to focus on men? Yeah, it’d be a pretty big one.

And yet, that is the exact situation we face with male victims. Constantly told they are not as important, constantly told their suffering doesn’t matter, constantly acknowledged then ignored, constantly brushed off as a minor irritant in the bigger picture, constantly downtrodden, laughed at, scorned, abused, ridiculed, accused of being weak. Is it any wonder men don’t speak out about domestic violence when no-one gives a shit?

In the last few weeks this one sided nature has become more and more apparent. It doesn’t matter what the campaign is, how well natured or well intended, how gender-neutral it tries to be, it always, always present women as the majority victims. I’ve got 3 different campaigns I want to draw attention to here, all of which mention men as victims, but relegate them an asterix, an anomaly that isn’t worth the focus.

The first is an Australian advertising campaign I became aware of on Facebook:

http://www.cfmeu.asn.au/news/real-men-dont-abuse-women-cfmeu-launches-anti-violence-campaign

Seems like a worthy campaign, real men don’t hit women. A construction union that targets the tough men in the construction industry. A worthwhile cause, don’t get me wrong. But I want to compare that another campaign and just show you that, no matter what, men can’t catch a break.

The Avon Foundation for women:

http://www.avonfoundation.org/causes/domestic-violence/seethesigns/#.UqoT19FFD5o

Another well meaning, well intentioned campaign that tries to highlight the signs before it gets too far.

The problem is, both of these campaigns present men as the aggressors. Admittedly the Avon campaign does have some gender-neutral pictures, but they are ambiguous and can be applied to both sexes, mostly it’s explicitly dealing with spotting the signs if a male is abusing a female. Very little consideration is given to highlighting male victims outright, only ambiguous pictures that could be interpreted either way.

All that aside, the one thing I do want to highlight that I think absolutely highlights the way we look at the whole issue of domestic violence is who exactly makes up the audience of those campaigns. The Australian campaign has this to say: “As a union with a large percentage of male members, we are in a unique position to communicate with men and we feel that we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out on this issue.” So basically, because a large percentage of the unions members are men, it’s about time we reached out to men and implored them to help stop domestic violence, it’s about time they took a stand and did everything they could to eradicate this terrible crime against women. With it being a union full of men, do you not think it would be an excellent chance to educate people al all forms of domestic violence? Even the type that victimises their fellow gender? What better way to educate people to the plight that men face than by appealing to a union full of men, what better way than to let a union full of men know that one of their colleagues may be suffering at the hands of a woman, what better way to finally break the stigma, stop demonising men as the only aggressors and highlight the real issue of female-perpetrated domestic violence! But no, predictably the campaign focuses on how men can stop violence against women, not eve na cursory look at male victims. In a profession as butch and macho as the construction industry this is a huge opportunity missed, and further sidelines male victims into the ‘we don’t give a fuck’ category.

Ah well, not to matter, it was entirely predictable. Maybe the Avon campaign will be better, I mean, they at least give a cursory nod to male victims with some gender neutral posters. Well, you’d think that but, actually, if their Facebook page is anything to go by, that didn’t go down very well. Instead of drawing attention to domestic violence as a whole, people actually got very annoyed at Avon’s one sided campaign, and weren’t shy in letting their feelings be known:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=546976822055591&set=a.247356905350919.62973.216741958412414&type=1&theater

Honestly speaking, they have a point. It wouldn’t have taken a lot to change the pronoun ‘he’ to ‘they’. Yeah, it’s still gender neutral and can be taken to mean either sex, but at least it’s more of a neutral campaign that can easily be applied to both sexes. Instead of making explicit examples of female victims and only inferred examples of male victims it could have drawn attention to violence as an entire, gender sweeping problem, instead of the narrow focus it has.

You’d have thought that, being a big company like Avon, it would have taken the comments on board and perhaps edited their campaign to be little more reflective of the numerous studies available. But no, they didn’t, they came out with this crass statement instead:

http://i1276.photobucket.com/albums/y472/johnsalmonworld/avon_zps77aaed70.png

Interestingly, that reply was posted 8 days ago, and has only received 1 like. I take that as a good sign, that people are seeing through their bullshit, predictable, callous response to genuine anger and frustration at such a misguided campaign. The wording of the text is completely dismissive of every genuine emotion and feeling put in to those comments by followers of the page.

Basically, what it boils down to is this: most of that Facebook page is women, therefore we will appeal only to women, and as women make up the ‘overwhelming majority’ of domestic abuse victims we will only focus on them.

That’s how short-sighted it is. It peddles outright lies to justify it’s one sided crusade to portray women as the victims 100% of the time. Then, when it’s called out on its bullshit, it tries to pass it off by saying that it’s playing to the majority audience.

That’s what pisses me off, men can’t win. There’s absolutely no situation in which men get the focus of these campaigns. In Australia, we have a construction union made up mostly of male members. Instead of highlighting the issue male victims face, or even acknowledging that male victims exists, it decides to come from the angle of men being able to stop violence against women. When a company like Avon, with a predominantly female following, also takes the same tack in trying to get women to recognise the signs of abuse, with some ambiguous neutrality thrown in there as well it just shows how little male victims are thought of. Men are taught not to hit women, women are taught to see the signs of an abusive man. Where are women being taught not to hit men? Where are men being taught to see the signs of an abusive woman? It’s sickening.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I saw this advert on TV the other night:

http://s1276.photobucket.com/user/johnsalmonworld/media/IMG_27531_zps1d24ec4b.mp4.html

Every single little sound bite mentions ‘she’, which leads the MTV generation to believe that domestic violence is solely made up of female victims. Again, not even a consideration, a cursory mention of male victims. What are people supposed to believe when TV campaigns mention only female victims and completely miss the opportunity to address male victims? What world would accept a campaign that completely ignored female victims of a crime in which they suffered as equally as men? Not this one!

The website for the Call It Out campaign does a slightly better job of promoting domestic violence as a gender neutral issue, replacing all the ‘she’s with ‘your boyfriend or girlfriend’, but you only have to look at the contact numbers at the bottom for another glance at how male victims are treated.

The ‘National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline’ is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence. Yep, that’s right. The National helpline for domestic violence only caters for women. If you’re a men who’s suffering you have to call a different helpline, Respect. So, a helpline with the world National in it, which, any sane person would assume, is an official helpline for everyone in the nation is a women-only helpline for female victims. Men have a completely different phoneline, no mention of national in there literature.

So there you have it, if you’re a woman then you have an entire service dedicated to dealing with your needs, yours is the comfy room with all the mod cons, the comfy chair, big screen tv, cosy fireplace, the room that is deliberately created to look as appealing as possible, to show outsiders that everything is being done to make sure you feel comforted and safe from the abuse you’ve suffered. If you’re a man, your room is the old store cupboard, with no tv, a rickety old bed and a filled in fireplace, a way to hide you from the outside world like the embarrassment you are.

A war on women? Don’t make me laugh. What kind of ‘war’ caters to the enemy’s every demand? What kind of ‘war’ allows the enemy to wallow in comfort, while making its allies suffer out in the cold. There is no war on women, particularly in the case of domestic violence. It happens, I get it, I’m not denying it. But how on earth you can claim that women are oppressed or marginalised when there are 3 different ad campaigns that are presenting you as the victim, doing everything they can to stop abuse towards, setting up national helplines that cater only to you I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense.

Any time these campaigns appear, the well-intentioned but woefully misguided campaigns that promote female suffering over male suffering, they only succeed in driving men further and further away. If you were an abused man, how would you feel if every single domestic violence campaign you saw told you how women were the victims and men the oppressors, if every single campaign you saw told you how you could stop violence against women, without any consideration of the suffering you’ve been through, if every time someone raised a concern about how one-sided a campaign was they were shot down with some of the most appallingly blasé attitudes towards your suffering that they could come up with? Would it not simply create the idea that your suffering is not important? That your suffering is worthless? That your suffering, perhaps, isn’t even real? That your suffering is simply invented, made up, fabricated and that the violence you are encountering is just a woman fighting back against the oppression she has suffered her entire life?

So, the war rages on, with little sign of slowing down. Is there an end in sight? I can’t see it. There’s too much money to be made from keeping women scared. Too much money from keeping women scared of their husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, friends, etc. Too much money to be made from allowing women to believe they are always the victim, and allowing men to believe their suffering means nothing.

Yeah, let’s just pretend for a second there is a war on women, who exactly are the ones waging it? I know where I’m putting my money!

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