In the first in a series of posts examining perceptions and attitudes about the gendered nature of domestic violence, EYE consider Greenwich Council’s response to criticism about their negative stereotyping of fathers.
Stop making dad the villain. Children need their dad’s too. Alison, Preston
So recently I came across an article in the Daily Telegraph written by the founder of Fathers for Justice Matt O’Conner. It principally addressed the latest example of publicly funded gender stereotyping, this time by a London council going by the relatively grand title of the the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
In their wisdom the Council had signed off on a poster with the banner ‘Dads have the strength to change’ as part of a campaign aimed at highlighting the impact that domestic violence has on children. The accompanying visuals present the stark image of a crying toddler front and centre while their slightly blurry parents argue away in the background.
The message of fear is simple: dads are violent and a risk to women and children. Matt O’Conner, Fathers 4Justice
Fathers4Justice and many of their supporters complained, both directly to the council and the to Advertising Standards Authority. Meanwhile some dads took a more direct approach and promptly got arrested for their trouble.
The ASA fielded complaints directly to the Council who in turn were entirely unapologetic issuing a relatively dismissive statement clarifying that they ‘recognise that the overwhelming majority of men are good fathers’ but that ‘whilst women can also be the cause of domestic violence, the majority of incidents are committed by men’.
Which is nice.
I didn’t want to cut across anything any of the directly involved groups were doing, so initially only tweeted it to them but after they had all singled their support I got to work encouraging people to sign up.
I wasn’t especially optimistic that it would make any difference but figured it couldn’t do any harm to try and so over the weekend I tweeted my followers, I tweeted dads groups, I tweeted people on related hashtags and finally in a spirit of optimisim, I tweeted some high profile gender equality champions I’ve been blogging about over the past year.
Anywho, cheerfully everyone got behind it, with one unsurprising exception (who to an ‘Equality champion’ stuck resolutely to their default ettiqute of simply blanking or blocking me). The petition was retweeted over a hundred times, garnered as many signatures in the space of three days and generated some moving statements from women and men from up, down and across the UK.
As a man who suffered years of violence by a woman only to be ignored by the family courts i find this grossly insulting. Richard, London
Men, boys, fathers face a constant battle against a feminist driven ‘system’ that is seemingly intent on the denigration of a gender. A system that ignores male victims, ignores female perpetrators and is continually trying to use subtle methods to convince the masses that men and boys are nothing short of ‘demons’. Violence and abuse should be tackled effectively and the first step should be to acknowledge the reality of the situation and to adopt a balanced, unprejudiced approach. It is important that gender prejudiced campaigns such as these are challenged as they will be massively harmful if left to fester. Vincent,. Ammanford
Once a respectable number of people had voiced their disgust I brought it to the attention of the council. To be exact I brought it the attention of all fifty one elected officials as well as the Council’s Chief Executive.
Hilariously the only response I received from any of the elected officials was as follows:
I appreciate that politicians don’t get many votes for championing matters perceived to be primarily ‘men’s issues’ and I don’t doubt that all fifty one of Greenwich’s elected representatives are extremely busy and important people. That said, I couldn’t help feeling that maybe they decided to just ignore me for the simple reason that eyeisbloke.
Which is nice.
I am signing because I know men who have suffered domestic abuse. I have met one who had had knives in his back, several whose female partners had broken their bones and several whose female partners have driven at. We have to stop ALL domestic violence Helen, Cardiff
To resolve matters involving two parties it’s not a good idea to start by pointing a finger at one party. Also there is an epidemic of mothers abusing the civil justices system to prevent children contact with their fathers; using the same to get Non-molestation orders to get legal aid. It’s all wrong. Bhupendra, Birmingham
At least the Chief Executive’s Office had the decency to give a proper response even if it was largely a regurgitation of the Council’s earlier statement. Mr Comber, CEO reckons that the council have always sought to get across that this is a gender neutral issue and that the poster had to be seen within the context of a wider campaign supporting all victims and targeting all predators…
Ultimately, we simply want to stop domestic violence and if our campaign encourages just one more victim to come forward and seek support, or one more perpetrator to stop and think about how they can change their ways, then I am sure we would both agree that that is a positive outcome. John Comber, CEO – Greenwich Council
Not the most ambitious outcome target for a lot of Council time and money then.
I have to say that I was entirely unconvinced by Mr Comber’s reassurances and over the next couple of pages I’ll explain why. But before we unpick his interpretation of the available data, in my humble subjective opinion, I believe his preferred narrative is completely undermined by one very simple fact:
We did consult with a number of groups regarding the different designs of our latest poster campaign. This included the general public, domestic violence victim support organisations and directly with perpetrators participating in a Domestic Violence Intervention Programme.
We did not consult with any ‘men’s/fathers’ groups nor did we consult with Mankind Initiative. Part of our consultation was to ask perpetrators how they perceived the images and what it meant to them. Greenwich Council Community Safety and Environment Spokesperson
Which is nice.
Over the next few posts I’ll take a look at the extremely gendered approach to the delivery of support services and the discrimination and double standards this helps to nurture but let’s consider why I find Greenwich Council’s poster so problematic.