Talking about men’s violence (It seems like I’ve been here before)

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.

21 thoughts on “Talking about men’s violence (It seems like I’ve been here before)

  1. Nicely put. I, too, am sick of people extrapolating things that have not been said from one comment. To care about one thing is not to exclude all possibility of concern for any other issue, as you pointed out, and I think this will need to be pointed out again and again. Or linked back to, to save the bother, of course!

  2. Clear as a bell. After a morning of reading about police corruption and violence (Duggan, brothel clearances in Soho), judicial and parliamentary incompetence (Rennard) and the failings of the BBC over Saville there is a real need for the argument you are making to be heard and understood. Not all male violence leads to murder but much of it escapes true justice or even recognition. We need change for sure.

  3. As always, put so clearly. I am tired of the straw man argument too – it’s designed to distract from the thing that’s in front of us but what so many people refuse to acknowledge. Because doing so would question the everyday power relations that enable male violence against women.

  4. Reblogged this on the wrong bathroom and commented:
    I like Karen Ingala Smith. I like her anger, her activism and her writing. This post is great. I couldn’t agree more. Nothing will ever change it people keep defending the systematic violence against women and girls with saying there is also violence against men and that we should not judge all men the same. If men don’t take a stand against this violence, an active stand, they are guilty. Women who diminish men’s violence are just too sad for words and solid evidence that patriarchy works.

  5. Anybody opposing a gender neutral approach to domestic – or sexual – violence is just a female violence enabler.

  6. I’m particularly flabbergasted when I encounter women who take this view. One of my friends does. I’ve debated it with her strenuously and she won’t budge on it. Like you said, it shows that patriarchy works.

  7. “Anybody pushing a gender neutral approach to domestic – or sexual – violence is just a male violence enabler.”

    The problem with this belief of yours, is that it does not stand up to any rational scrutiny. At all. Your really sad attempt to defend it with the statement “Men who are murdered are most likely to have been murdered by a man” is at BEST, and equivocation. Please provide statistics on how many men are murdered by men in DOMESTIC or SEXUAL violence. I would bet this is nearly zero. However the number of men murdered by women is significant.

    But of course, I would also bet you would say that “they deserved it” because no women could possibly have nefarious or evil intents, ever, right?

    it is IMPOSSIBLE to reach equality by advocating for unequal treatment.

  8. rationaldefender says:
    January 21, 2014
    “Please provide statistics on how many men are murdered by men in DOMESTIC or SEXUAL violence”
    Men killed in domestic violence incidents are either killed by their male lovers or by a female partner defending her life.

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