Here's an unpublished article I wrote for my independent university newspaper a few months back (I think the Views editor didn't print it either because it was too long or too in-depth, or because I used the "c-word" a little too causually in front of her on one occasion (some people are so touchy)) on domestic violence campaigns and the modern feminist/neo-feminist and so-called "mens' rights" movements in general.
Looking back on it now I think I endorsed Stephen Pinker's scientific-humanistic optimism a little too readily, but, other than that, I'm pretty happy with its general message, and it's a shame it didn't see the light of day until now.
Violence Against Whom? The Nature of the Language of Domestic Abuse
“Violence against women!” yelled some comparative literature major in the square behind her table. “Help stop violence against women!” I stopped, thought for a second, and then carried on. Violence against women? She obviously meant, but shortened for time, male violence against women, a phrase which had been on posters scattered around by the same group.
Admittedly a problem even in modern society: looking at the raw data a year ago, I worked out that some 75% of incidents of domestic abuse consisted of male-on-female situations. However, this still meant that some 25% of incidents involved a female-on-male situation (this goes without counting incidents amongst gay couples, for which I wholeheartedly apologise for a lack of clear data). Now, let me clarify: I am firmly and will be for the foreseeable a male feminist, but I am also a men’s liberationist. As far as I’m concerned, sexism can and does hurt men as much as it does women in society. This does not make me a “men’s rights activist” (MRA), a movement that largely exists as an outright anti-feminist (and often homophobic and racist) “masculinist” bloc (although there are a few good guys scattered amongst the ranks). Nor do I in anyway sympathise with the unabashedly misandristic neo-feminists who see nothing but evil and domination in the male sex. I am a realist, not a demagogue or an ideologue. Looking at the same data, I also noted that male-on-female incidents dropped 60% from 1995 to 2007, but only 40% for male-on-female. There is a clear discrepancy, but it also shows contrary to both neo-feminists and MRAs that there is no “epidemic” of domestic violence on either end, but rather it has been in sharp decline.
Stephen Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, goes into to detail about these declines, not just recently in domestic violence, but also in warfare, civil strife and violent attitudes, linking them together into an overall cultural-biological evolutionary trend towards a more harmonious humanity.
Some say many abused men are ashamed to report violence administered by a woman, which in turn accounts for the discrepancy, and that may be so. I don’t feel the problem is largely as the MRAs say that women dominate and control the domestic violence process, but rather that men beaten by women feel they lose part of their male identity if they report their feminine abuser, an obviously damaging notion that has more to do with how men see and respect (or disrespect) themselves and other men rather than with the supposed insulting “essence of innocence” of women. Indeed, tales abound of 16th Century English and French “battered” male spouses being led around on a donkey backwards or strapped to a cart through the townships. They were treated with extreme jest and scorn for they were not the expected dominators of their wives, but rather had become weaklings under the foot of that stupid chattel beast woman (as they were popularly considered in the “old school” patriarchal society). It is pretty safe to say that such expectations are still embedded in a substantial part of the modern male psyche. It could also be said that some men feel it is more “just” that a man beats his wife rather than the other way around (even if they themselves are disgusted by such an idea). However, this does not entail there is a corresponding “female violence against men” problem.
So, concluding my thoughts, there is violence committed against women by men, but that isn’t “male violence”. That suggests there to be some sort of essence of “maleness” about such violence, and such an idea I find absurd and have shown it incoherent in the face of evidence. The same can be said of the reverse proposition. None the less, notions of patriarchy are still around in modern Western society, but they hurt men as much as women, given that we men are forced by those same notions to suppress our emotions, go to war, be wounded and die, and take on unfair responsibilities automatically we otherwise would not―and by default demean women by tacitly admitting them weak, cowardly and irresponsible. We may, as Pinker says, be evolving away from such brutalities, but we still need to work towards the prophecy as a societal whole.