Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Domestic Violence and the Politics of Gender

I have long suspected that the time has come to treat domestic violence as a gender neutral issue, . Although official statistics still show that women are more commonly the victims, this must surely have something to do with the fact that women have had years of being encouraged to talk about the issue. Men have had no such thing, and are probably less inclined to talk about it. It does not exactly look 'masculine' to admit to having been beaten by one's wife. Yet a sizable number of men are beginning to speak out, and the issue can no longer be dismissed or ignored. One in six men are on the receiving end of violence at home.

To face this would, however, involve questioning the prevailing feminist orthodoxy - that domestic violence is a gender issue, that women are almost always the victims, and that DV is a result of women's oppression, or subordinate position. It could well be that as women gain more power in society generally they may feel more inclined to exercise it in other ways, as men have always done. But an article first published in the Scotsman seems to dispute that things were ever so clear cut as this. So do some 'Violent Reflections', along with numerous other sources online. The right leaning libertarian site 'i feminists' is one place to look. I quite like them for their controversial stance and their slaughtering of certain holy cows that are overdue for the kill.

Sadly, though, it tends only to be the right who cover the matter. The left does not question this particular feminist shibboleth, any more than it tends to with abortion lest it incites the wrath of this constituency it holds a fragile alliance with. I may run the risk of being labelled a misogynist, anti feminist, reactionary etc for publishing this but I've gotten beyond caring about such smears from people whose critical faculties have been dulled by political dogma. In truth the feminist movement cannot handle dissent on what it deems articles of faith. To question long held beliefs is deemed to be 'feeding the backlash'. Any questioning of the prevailing wisdom (for instance - that women never seek out or are attracted to violent partners, never have their own role to play in the dynamics of abusive relationships, and denial of their sado masochistic content) is said to be 'blaming the victim'.

However we look at it - facilities should be promoted for male victims of female violence. Shelters should be available for those who need it - be they men, women or children. Neither should children have to put up with violence from either parent while in the shelter. The physical abuse of children by some mothers (amounting to a form of domestic violence in itself) has also been underplayed by the feminist movement. This may well be because women tend to spend more time alone with children, often lacking power over anyone else. Yet men who batter their spouses often lack power elsewhere too. You can't have it both ways, making excuses for it in women while casting male offenders to eternal damnation.

The fact that there are more female casualties of violence at home is probably due to men's greater physical strength. Yet what of the cases when women do kill their husbands? 'Battered woman syndrome' is often invoked by the defence pretty easily. Yet a man would probably be laughed out of court were he to invoke a similiar defence.

I have had it said to me that perhaps we need a different analysis of women's violence than men's against women. But this is working on the assumption that the feminist one was true to begin with, which I have cause to doubt.

In many countries of the world women still are in a subordinate position. In such cultures it may well be the case that violence is seen as a legitimate way to punish unruly women. In the West gender inequities still come into play due to the low financial status of caring work, done predominately by women, which will account for the pay gap. Working mothers come under a lot of pressure, and it is often no longer possible for families to survive on one pay cheque. But we no longer live in the same world we did in the 1970s, even if the premises of feminists (and the acceptance of them by the left) were true. This being that domestic violence was the sole province of men against women. To rad fems it is a patriarchal conspiracy, and 'violence against women' a grand conspiracy of a male cabal to keep women in their place. It was no grand conspiracy - if anything it was as the Marxists have always said - a result of women's economic subordination. Just as children's dependence on adults can make them targets for oppression and violence at the hands of adults who cannot always be trusted not to abuse their power. But in our society we have gotten past the stage where women are in the same position as children - so let's stop infantilising them so. Let's embrace a mature feminism that treats women as adults, and fight against the sub adolescent posturing that views women always as victims.

To claim that an expression of rage (rage often being associated with weakness rather than actual strength) is a part of some grand patriarchal conspiracy is puerile and dumb.

In cultures where women are subordinate a patriarchal ideology may provide a rationale for male violence, but the idea that women can never be violent, are somewhat inherently purer, has long been discredited.


Paddy Garcia said...

Well said Liz! These feminist holy cows are well overdue for the knackers yard!

kris said...

"Yet what of the cases when women do kill their husbands? 'Battered woman syndrome' is often invoked by the defence pretty easily. Yet a man would probably be laughed out of court were he to invoke a similiar defence".

No, men typically use the old "she nagged me until I snapped and had to stab her to death "provocation" defence.

As for BWS, remember it is for the defence to raise and prove Diminished Responsibility on balance of probabilities. A successful diminished resp defence reduces what would be a murder conviction to manslaughter.

Hardly a feminist off the hook easy ride. Sorry to blow your argument out of the water. May I suggest you read that learned legal tome, "Criminal Law Nutshells" for further information.

BTW, if a prisioner of war manages to grab a gun, wine bottle whatever, kill his torturer and escape- we all clap our hands and cheer. Why is it any different when the torturer is a husband?...

Liz said...

Hi Kris,

I do see your point, but I doubt that 'she nagged me until....' would count as a valid defence these days. I will read the book you recommend. I was not talking of cases when men have actually been torturing their wives (and sentencing should be reduced if somebody does snap like that, I wouldn't even recommend prison for such cases, not being a fan of prison full stop). I was thinking of cases where it may be falsely invoked for the defence (which is not unheard of, as you point out legally the defence will raise what they can to diminish responsibility). I was not meaning to belittle genuine ones. What I was getting at would be that it would appear less credible if a man was to use such a defence, and that the issue of domestic violence against men should be taken seriously. Hence making DV a gender neutral issue now, rather than a feminist one, should be the way to go.

kris said...

the nutshells reference was a sarky remark. Nutshells are typically used by clueless 1st year LL.B. students- most of whom have no business studying law...

You could always take an OU W201 course to learn more about criminal law...

I think you'll find that bullshit Diminished Responsibility cases are fairly few and far between. You see, the defence would have to trot out proper medical evidence that the defendant was suffering a abnormality of the mind.

Provocation on the other hand- and yes, the nagging wife defence continues to be used successfully- is a lesser test. Men tend to use that one.

If you would like to read up on the provocation v Diminished resp debate- sign up for a law course.

Liz said...

Ok - I concede I was being a bit flippant with the offending sentence! I'm sorry about that.

But the main thrust of the post (leaving that sentence aside) still stands, that both genders are capable of perpertrating violence or of being victims of it. It is often assumed that men are predominately the aggressors and women the victims, and that women are less inclined to be violent. This view is promoted by feminists, and DV is still treated as a gender issue. Judging from the number of men who can be victims too, and those who continue to speak out, I think it should be treated neutrally. The figures on the BBC report (among others I have seen) only mention those who speak about it. Some may be too ashamed, as it doesn't look too manly to admit that your wife gives you a beating! We should not tolerate violence full stop, from either sex. That basically sums up what I have been driving at.

kris said...

ok, so it doesn't matter that you used utter crap to support your argument. As Uncle Roy would say- it just isn't good enough...

Liz said...

Well, Kris, it seems you only focused on just one sentence that was a little flippant and for that you seem to think you have demolished my entire argument, no disrespect. You have not addressed any of the other points I have raised save for that quibble.
Btw false diminished responsibility pleas, although maybe rare, are not non existent.

What do you say about the main point of my post - that DV should be treated as a gender neutral issue? It is not 'utter crap' that one in six men will suffer from it in their lifetimes. You will need to do more than just focus on one offending sentence if demolishing my whole argument is what you wish to do.