In the fourth in a series of posts examining perceptions and attitudes about the gendered nature of domestic abuse EYE look at some of the obvious double standards currently at play.
When you find yourself being treated like second-class citizens whose needs are relegated, sometimes the only thing to do is to get organised, go out onto the streets and make yourself heard.
So fair play to the direct action dads who made their views known about Greenwich Council’s extremely clumsy poster portraying dads as the principal perpetrators of domestic abuse by following the time honoured example of many disenfranchised before them and taking their issue to the streets.
Terry Vooght and Bobby Smith stuck NewFathers4Justice stickers and banners over one poster at Woolwich Station and promptly got arrested for their trouble after (count them) five police cars attended the scene at the bequest of Transport for London.
Over the previous few posts I’ve reflected on Greenwich Council’s dismissal of criticism about their extremely clumsy poster and considered why their even clumsier response to criticism is symptomatic of the deep seated prejudices and difficulties faced by male victims of domestic abuse.
Father’s groups described the poster as a hate crime propagating the sort of stereotyping and denomization that would be front page news if a Public Authority had used tax payers money to direct such a message towards any other group protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.
In my previous post I’ve discussed why I think the Council’s action was a bare faced and blatant act of sex discrimination and I want to conclude this series by holding a mirror up to some of the double standards at play in this area, not least when it comes to the comparative actions of the boys and girls in blue.
At first glance you may consider that the above poster offers some sensible advice about keeping an eye out for your mates on a night out on the town. However earlier this year Sussex police decided to withdraw it after pressure from women’s groups who branded it ‘victim blaming’ and argued that the poster sent a message that women needed a constant chaperone.
We still live in a world where women get told that they can’t walk home on their own but men are absolutely fine to do so…we are told to think of ourselves as laptops, as unlocked doors, as open wallets, as property that anyone might take unless we’re locked safely away. Cecilia Wilson
A 16 year old school girl started a petition about it which generated over 700 signatures in three days. The posters were quickly withdrawn, the police issued an official apology and the school girl got nominated for a woman of the year award.
I understand the nuance of the argument at play here but I wasn’t convinced by the complaint and Sussex Police’s response certainly stands in marked contrast to the reaction following complaints about Greenwich’s much more overtly sexist public service announcement.
Greenwich CEO deflected criticism by suggesting that if their campaign helped to protect one victim then he was confident everyone would agree that this was a positive outcome. Funnily enough the Chief Inspector of Sussex Police didn’t try laying on such a patronising guilt trip when responding to criticism of their ‘sexist’ poster.
“This kind of messaging (while it can be well-meaning) can make victims feel unable to come forward for fear they will be blamed for what happened’. Laura Bates referring to a recent ‘sexist’ poster.
Whilst public services are undoubtably more ‘gynocentric’ than ‘patriarchal’ in their outlook and approach, in my humble subjective opinion, the main difference that made the difference between the two official responses came down one simple thing – the amount of national media coverage that one of them received.
In our society, men are scared of vaginas. This fear of vaginas has led to men obsessively controlling and hating women. Sometimes, I wish men would stop obsessing about my vagina. The key word here is ‘my’ — my vagina belongs to me, not to a man. Men hate women simply because we have vaginas instead of penises — that is a fact. I’m not a man-hating feminist, I’m simply stating the facts — men are so threatened by women that they are willing to go to extreme lengths to control us and hate us so the system of patriarchy thrives and continues. June Eric-Udorie – Red Woman of the Year Nominee
Given the way large sections of the media like to portray advocates of equal rights for men, I’m only half joking when I say those direct action dads were probably lucky that they weren’t taken out by a squad of the Met’s sharpest shooting anti terrorist units.
The Borough Commander for Greenwich may well argue that a fleet of five police vehicles was perfectly sufficient under the circumstances, given stretched resources and all. Personally, in my humble subjective opinion, I thought it was a bit of an overreaction given the way the wind’s been blowing recently when it comes to discriminatory adverts and direct activism.
Indeed after activists got their magic marker pens out in tube stations all over London to express their objection to Protien World’s beach body ready poster the mainstream media applauded and one of the London Mayoral candidates pledged to ban sexist adverts in return for your vote.
Tessa Jowel, the candidate in question, observed that ‘women should be free to travel around our city without being told that what really matters is their looks rather than their character.’ Despite her pledge, Tessa noticeably had frack all to say in support of the hardworking Dads of London when their character was so stereotypically smeared by a public body located just across the river from the cradle of democracy.
This is just one of the many double standards that become obvious when you stand back and connect some of the dots. From the disparity of service and demonization that men face from the very groups funded to support victims of domestic violence, to mainstream media outrage (or lack therefore), from the attitudes of Councils, Police and other Public Bodies to those of the elected representatives we trust to manage them in an equitable manner…
The engagement (or lack thereof) when it comes to the subject of gender equality is quite jawdropping when you really stand back, think about it and pay proper attention to what’s been said below the emotive headlines.
Compare the reaction (or lack thereof) to an entirely peaceful protest conducted by two middle aged dads with the more restrained police response to the activities of sisters uncut, not to mention the fawning coverage they’ve garnered from sections of the liberal media.
The statistics are chastening if you think equality has been achieved. Over a million British women face domestic violence a year; But there is a thriving new wave of feminism. Groups like Sisters Uncut are taking to the streets to demand equality Owen Jones – The Guardian
For the uninitiated Sisters Uncut formed in November 2014, and describe themselves as “a feminist group taking direct action for domestic violence services.” Many of them work for the very services that are under threat due to the Government’s current programme of austerity.
They have shut down London Streets, occupied council buildings and burnt copies of the Daily Mail outside their offices. The fire service may have been needed to douse their burning newspapers but to date, not one arrest has been reported.
“We were horrified that domestic violence services were being decimated by austerity, and felt it was a result of the fact that women are generally treated as second-class citizens whose needs are relegated. So we decided the only thing to do was to organise ourselves and go out onto the streets and make ourselves heard.” Sisters Uncut
In my experience it’s extremely difficult, nay impossible to discuss equality from a man’s perspective without being derailed, dismissed as a misogamist or simply bounced out of the conversation entirely by someone muttering some sort of orwellian doublespeak about safespaces, privilege, punching up or micro-aggressions.
If you are called out as having behaved oppressively towards another sister/s, please listen carefully to what they are saying. You may not be able to take away what has happened, but reacting well when called out is often a massive step towards healing and remedying what you have done to hurt someone. Even if you think they may be wrong in this instance, understanding why someone is hurt is more important than absolving yourself of having been oppressive. Sisters Uncut Guidelines
I’m well aware that the sisters don’t need my affirmation to do what they do but for what it’s worth I actually have a lot of admiration for their commitment to their cause, it’s just the blind and blatant bigotry at the heart of their message that troubles me and, frankly, undermines their stated purpose.
For me the biggest double standard comes from domestic abuse professionals who will publicly acknowledge that men can be victims of domestic violence or state oppression too, feign sympathy for them even, but who’s every action seems to suggest the complete opposite.
Almost all of the available evidence shows that women are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured by a current or ex partner.
Domestic Abuse Professionals will tell you that victims categorised as high risk are only the tip of the iceberg (aprox 5%) and that it is estimated that over 2 million people experience domestic violence in England and Wales every year.
In my previous post I highlighted the remarkably ghettoised service that 1 in 3 of those 2 million estimated victims can expect. The harsh reality is that many of the services funded to protect victims have helped to create an infrastructure that actively justifies demonising a significant proportion of the human beings that they purport to protect.
The problem is that if you dare ask about ‘teh menz’ some of the more politically minded professionals working in an almost exclusively female workforce will retreat back to that very tragic sharp end and employ passive aggressive language implying that you are actually part of the problem.
Take Women’s Aid CEO’s recent behaviour when it came to interpreting exactly the same set of statistics as a remarkably obvious example of this remarkably mainstream man hating phenomenon.
In preparation for this post EYE reached out to some of the sisters and to ask what purpose the ‘good night mens rights’ message on the sticker served. Predictably they either blanked me or blocked me so I’ll have to guess. Ironically, and with a strange sense of symmetry, it turns out that one of the sisters is an aspiring actress who’s biggest role to date is playing a Police Officer on Coronation Street tasked with investigating who gave Andy his black eye (clue: it was his girlfriend).
In the absence of an official explanation and given that ‘understanding why someone is hurt is more important than absolving yourself of having been oppressive‘, I’m going to take a wild leap and assume that it is a more subtle version of a similar message promoted by some of the stateside sisterhood.
Movements born in hate will only ever create hatred Erin Prizzy
Laura Bates, the poster girl of fourth wave feminism, dismisses mens rights activists as conspiracy theorists who think that all feminists hate men.
I know that most feminists don’t hate men but inevitably some on the more radical end of a very broad coalition obviously do. I also know that a conspiracy theory is nothing more than an explanatory hypothesis accusing two or more persons of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an event or situation which is typically taken to be illegal or harmful.
Erin Prizzey a pioneer of the women’s refuge movement is convinced that some of the leaders who followed her are more interested in promoting and protecting a powerbase for feminist ideology than they are about delivering the best possible service to victims of abuse.
John Hamel, Editor of Partner Abuse believes that domestic abuse services are unhelpfully politicised to the detriment of victims, many of whom are men.
Murray A Straus an expert in the field of domestic abuse has identified a range of ways that feminists corrupt, ignore or falsify domestic violence research for the purpose of promoting the dominance of their patriarchal dominance theory.
I guess that makes them all conspiracy theorists but ironically the other thing they have in common is they’ve all been physically threatened or attacked by feminists seeking to enforce their view that women are far less violent than men.
There is no such thing as men’s rights issues, there are only human rights issues. There is no such thing as women’s problems, there are only human problems to be overcome with and by humanity.