Earlier this week I tweeted this: “Anybody pushing a gender neutral approach to domestic – or sexual – violence is just a male violence enabler.” Imagine my surprise when (mostly) men didn’t seem to like it. The responses are nothing new and as yet never original, so, as a result, I’ve written this to save me the bother of repeating the same thing over and over again because I am not going to stop talking about men’s violence against women and I don’t suppose men are going to stop finding that objectionable. If I have sent you a link to this piece, it’s because
a) you have suggested that I don’t care about male victims
b) you refuse to accept than the extent of differences between men’s and women’s use of violence or the effects of that violence
c) you’re interpreting what I say as ‘all men are violent’
c) you have made some nonsense comment about feminism, or
d) some combination of the above.
I want to see an end to men’s violence against women. I’m campaigning to raise awareness of men’s fatal violence against women and for action to increase our understanding of the reasons behind the differences in men and women’s use of violence and their victimisation, so that we can reduce men’s violence against women.
Women who are murdered are most likely to have been murdered by a man. Men who are murdered are most likely to have been murdered by a man. Men are more likely to be violent than women. Not all men are murderers, not all men are violent. Some women are murderers, some women are violent.
Gender and gender differences – the ways that many of us behave in ways that are seen as being like a ‘typical man’ or a ‘typical woman’ – are socially constructed. They are not biological, they are not inevitable. Not all women and not all men conform or want to conform to these gender differences, many of us sometimes do and sometimes don’t. Because gender differences are socially constructed, it means we can change them. The stereotypical gender differences between women and men are a way of keeping women and men unequal. At the same time, different doesn’t have to mean unequal.
All men benefit from inequality between women and men. This doesn’t mean that some women are not in more advantageous positions than some men. It doesn’t mean all men are the same. It doesn’t mean that all women are the same. It doesn’t mean that sex is the only important basis for inequality. It doesn’t mean that everyone wants it to be that way.
Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. It doesn’t have to be that way. If enough of us decide to do things differently we can change the world. Men don’t have to be violent, towards women or other men. Men can end male violence if enough of them want to. The thing is, this won’t happen if too many men – and/or women – refuse to see that men’s violence is a problem. The changes that will reduce men’s violence against women will also reduce men’s violence against other men, they will probably also reduce women’s violence.
I want to see an end to men’s violence against women. What this means is “I want to see an end to men’s violence against women.” It doesn’t mean that I do not care about other forms of violence. It doesn’t mean that I do not feel any compassion towards male victims of violence. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I celebrate if men are killed – and that is true whether they’re killed by a woman, or, as is more likely, by another man.
A straw man argument is misrepresentation of someone else’s position to make it easier to attack or undermine that position. When men – and it usually is men, but not always – attack me for caring about women killed though men’s violence, by suggesting that this means I don’t care about men who are victims of violence (whether from women, or as more likely, other men), they’re using a straw man argument. They saying that because I care about men killing women, I can’t care about men who are killed, to attack the fact that I care about women who are killed. This may or may not be, as suggested by a friend of mine, Louise Pennington, because they do not care when men kill women. The thing is, whether they intend it or not, their attacks and their refusal to accept men’s violence as the problem means that it is less likely that we’ll be able to make the changes that will make us all safer. And even though men kill more men that they kill women, who benefits from things staying the same? Yep. Men. Even the nice ones.