My dear Reader, this will be something of a rant.Having co-authored a book for women sexually abused by male partners, and running as I do a site for the same, I have been particularly galled over the years by accusations of “male-bashing” – apparently I imply that all men are rapists, and I blindly toe a feminist party-line that doesn’t admit of male victims and female perpetrators. It often occurs to me to ask why these people don’t spend this energy finding and making resources available for the population they believe I am discriminating against. And those accusing me of branding all men rapists might well get more sympathy if they were doing something about those men who arerapists. So much whining, so little action, eh?I have been assured ad nauseam that men are routinely raped by female partners and that women are just as abusive just as violently just as often as men. But if we want to get into who’s toeing party-lines, this one is a familiar one spruiked by angry and increasingly strident “men’s rights” groups. And it is, pardon my French, bullshit. Michael Flood explains why it’s bullshit so much more eloquently than I can; please see his article Claims about Husband Battering.
It is a fact that women are still overwhelmingly the victims of violence by men. Lundy Bancroft, author of the excellent book Why Does he Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, asks why it is “anti-male” to be against violence to women, and further asks if we are expected not to notice that most abusers are male 1. It certainly seems as if truth so evident has become impolite to state – even with more moderate groups and individuals who are afraid of offending men, or who don’t want to marginalize male abuse survivors. The angry men at large seem to become dyslexic when anybody – particularly women – opens their mouths about male violence: “Most rapists are men” is read as “Most men are rapists” – a statement patently absurd but with which they fuel their misogyny and paranoia about misandry. Actually, projection – or accusing somebody of thinking the way you do yourself, is worryingly close to the tactics of the spouse abuser, as are some of their other bully-boy tactics – check out another Flood article: Backlash: Angry Men’s Movements They also don’t tell us that men most often incur violence from other men.
That there are men abused by women is undeniable. I have seen men used, betrayed and hurt badly by some completely amoral, cruel women, and when it comes to assisting anybody who is abused, one does not stop to quibble about which gender is more abused more often; one hopefully gets on with being helpful and supportive in practical and emotional ways. With respect to the “Men’s Rights” groups, I am not sure how it helps battered men to pretend that they are abused on an equal par with women. Raising the issue of abused men is important for anybody interested in combatting violence, but it must not be at the expense of abused women.
Indeed, these groups seem to be concerned with taking away the gains made by battered women. One popular tactic is promoting the myth that women “frequently” lie about battery or sexual assault in order to win custody cases (please see this article: The myth of women’s false accusations of domestic violence and misuse of protection orders – Michael Flood). While these groups accuse women of lying, it appears that their own relationship with truth is a bit tenuous; as we’ve seen in the articles above, they are certainly fond of quoting – and misquoting – flawed research (Murray Straus is their God and they’ll offer up 100 more studies as “proof” of “gender symmetry” – please note: The studies rarely or never mention sexual assault). What other tarradiddles are they telling us? Remember that they assure us time and again that there are just as many abused men as women, and that we don’t see them because they’re too ashamed to tell. Apparently they run into their thousands or tens of thousands depending on whom you read. It strikes me as odd that these groups “know” that these silent legions of battered men exist! If the silence is so profound, how do they know?
At the time of writing Why does He Do that? Lundy Bancroft had accrued fifteen years’ experience of working with male abusers of every stripe. He points out that while there are abusive women and the impact on men can be profound, what we don’t see is the men being forced into sex with their partners, fleeing to refuges for their lives or having their careers or schooling scuppered by partner abuse. We don’t see them because they’re rare, not because there are millions of them cowering in shamed silence. Bancroft further writes: “I don’t question how embarrassing it would be for a man to come forward and admit that a woman is abusing him. But don’t underestimate how humiliated a woman feels when she reveals abuse; women crave dignity just as much as men do. If shame stopped people from coming forward, no-one would tell.” And: “Abusive men commonly like to play the role of victim, and most men who claim to be “battered men” are actually the perpetrators of violence, not the victims (italics mine).”2 Indeed, some of the of the men’s rights websites contain testimonies by “battered” men (who are certainly neither silent nor, it seems, particularly embarrassed), and at least some of these stories are notable for their resentful stridency around women and the battered women’s movement (Menweb, for starters). While I don’t like to cast doubt at any survivor, the rat here begins to smell most pungently.
I am responsible for writing the initial article on spousal rape for Wikipedia. It bears very little resemblance to what I initially posted and I am happy to say that, because what it has become is embarrassing. Most irritating, somebody keeps altering the research quotes to make it say that the research was conducted with men as well as women, and that percentages of spousal rapes found include, equally, male victims and female perpetrators. This idiot evidently believes that any research around women, rape, and male perpetrators, is the product of those horrible male-bashing feminists who would like to see every man strung up, every violent woman exonerated and every male victim silenced. He or she so badly wants to push the “men’s rights” malarkey that they think it’s okay to alter and misquote other people’s research findings. But why am I shocked? They have done far worse in their quest for what they call justice; read, for example, how they encourage more violence to women even as they want us to believe there is less: The politics of fathers’ rights activists : The hate speech and extremism of fathers’ rights groups by MC Dunn. Neither are male activists safe: Pro-feminist Walter De Keseredy and his colleagues have received threats from those groups who don’t want it to be known that that “gender symmetry” in domestic violence is agenda-driven – and deliberate – misinformation. 3
It is a fact that it is who women are overwhelmingly raped, beaten and murdered by their male partners or ex-partners – and the statistics on homicide against spouses are not hard to check (go here for American statistics alone) – than the other way around. It is also a fact that women live with fear of men’s violence to a far greater extent than vice-versa (see this article: A Woman’s Worst Nightmare: An essay exploring why women are afraid of men by Mary Dickson). It was said, I forget by whom, that men, at heart, are afraid women will laugh at them while women, at heart, are afraid men will kill them. So much for the Farrell-esque whining and mutual commiseration in these groups that it’s really women who have all the power. They can keep saying it but it won’t make it true.
I love men (I had three little ones) and have invested time in assisting abused men to healing. An abused man is as important as an abused woman; his pain and his right to be heard, as valid. I would hope not to have implied otherwise. I have also been on the receiving end of female violence – I left home to live in a refuge at 17 after a lifetime of abuse and beatings by my mother, so I know that women can be vicious, and I am aware that some feminists are uncomfortable with this. My everlasting respect belongs also to those men who are not afraid to align themselves with the cause of abused women, and with the courage to state that while most men do not rape or beat women, most men do control women one way or another; these are men prepared to give up the benefits of maintaining the status quo. Most important, the love of my husband of 22 years has aided my healing immeasurably.
None of this, however, woollies my mind to the fact that violence against women by men is still the most prevalent form of violence in the world.
While my axe to grind is not with men as men, it certainly is to grind with those men and their fawning female puppets (Sue Price, anyone?) in whose interest it is to ridicule women’s advocates with silly names like “feminazi” (it’s spelled “f-e-m-i-n-i-s-t”), to howl us down every time we point out the obvious, tie shelters (that women fought tooth and nail for) up in litigation, conduct smear and harassment campaigns against battered mothers, and call survivors liars. They can also thank themselves that custody has been awarded to some abusive fathers. They say they’re fed up with hearing “feminist diatribe” about male violence – as if the violence experienced by women is less offensive than polluting their ears about it. Or, to be more cynical, threatening their interests. I am fed up with being expected to be apologetic for tackling male violence against women, as if doing so is a pointless exercise in man-hating. Too many believe that man-hatred is what defines a feminist – or they prefer to believe this because it means they need not listen to what is being said.
Feminism has helped me become who I am. Feminism, through which I learned not about hating, but about having the right not to be treated like crap by men, who began sexually abusing me when I was four, up to twenty when I almost lost my life to a battering partner who did in fact become a convicted murderer.
Oh and did I mention that we are apparently supposed to be “post-feminist”? That those of us who bang on about rape and domestic violence against women are sad relics? When my sisters are no longer being raped, beaten and killed because they’ve hooked up with men who presume the right to control and own them because they’re women, then I will stop saying “Post-feminist my ass.”
Believing the lie that sexual and domestic violence are completely gender-neutral lulls us into thinking we don’t have to do anything to change the forces overwhelmingly mounted against women. What a victory for the Men’s Rights Activists.
So, no apology, no politically-correct dilution of the issues, and no shamefaced renunciation of feminism from this woman. Nope, I think I will continue doing just what I’m doing.
1. Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men, The Berkeley Publishing Group, New York, 2003, p. 289
2. Lundy Bancroft, 2003 p. 45-6
3. WALTER S. DeKESEREDY, “Tactics of the Antifeminist Backlash Against Canadian National Woman Abuse Surveys”, Violence Against Women, Nov 1999; 5: 1258 – 1276.