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May 19 2014

Slap-happy columnists and the dangers of generalisation

I hate to say I told you so, but when I wrote last week that our culture has a problem conceptualising female violence, one or two of those commenting below seemed less than convinced. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself clearly, but with impeccable timing, up popped the Observer columnist Barbara Ellen to provide the perfect illustration.

In discussing the Jay-Z / Solange incident, she made several bizarre and troubling claims. It began with a now-familiar slice of victim-blaming,  pondering what Jay-Z must have done to ‘provoke’ Solange. It got worse when she elided group generalisations with the specifics of an individual incident: “The differences in physical size and/or strength between the sexes mean that most men are simply not physically scared of most women.” 

This is probably true, but has no bearing on whether any one man is physically scared (never mind physically hurt) by any one woman. Ellen’s entire column showed zero understanding of the real dynamics of interpersonal violence, and particularly the complexities of how men react to violence, and female violence in particular.  The real stunner, however, came in a paragraph that was so wrong as to verge on the downright wicked. I am utterly stunned that the editors allowed it through:

What’s more, women tend to be aware of this, if only subliminally. Some females might have periods in their life when they get “slap-happy”, primarily when socialising, maybe when attention seeking, usually when drunk (guilty!). When they stop this behaviour, it’s usually because they’re ashamed, embarrassed or have belatedly realised they’re disgusting dogs who can’t hold their drink. Whatever the reason, it’s unlikely to have anything to do with men being frightened of them. On the contrary, it’s wired into the female DNA that in the main they’re under threat rather than the threat. 

When I wrote about our difficulties in conceptualising female violence, this is precisely what I was talking about. Ellen cannot conceive of female on male assaults as violent crime, just as embarrassing drunkenness. What do these women do when they are going through their “slap-happy” phase?

Consider Coral Millerchip, perhaps, who last summer attacked Jovinder Singh, a frail, 80-year-old man, dying with Alzheimers, knocking him to the ground and then spitting on him. He was so traumatised that he lived out his remaining few months of life in fear, unable to venture outside alone.

Or maybe she is imagining the high-jinks of the Hackney woman who last week greeted the gardener on her housing block by pouring sulphuric acid drain cleaner over his head. Or the Devon nightclubber who assaulted two men, one of whom she leaned in to whisper in his ear then sank her teeth into his cheek. Apparently she is ashamed and embarrassed now, which sounds familiar. Another woman who is ashamed, embarrassed and forgetful this week is the Ipswich woman who removed her shoe and used it to beat three men around the head.

These are just a few snapshots of the 75,000 women arrested for violent crimes in this country each year, picked out from the first few pages of Google News.  Their crimes are not a joke, a rarity or an irrelevance.

Notwithstanding the usual debates about rates of intimate partner violence, It is certainly true that for every woman committing a violent act, there will be several men. Male violence, in both prevalence and severity, remains the most pressing criminological trend in our society. To acknowledge that does not require us to simply ignore or dismiss female violence, whether targeted at men, women or children.

In one respect Barbara Ellen is correct. Context does matter to this debate. It is not necessarily ‘the same’ when a man hits a woman as when a woman hits a man. It is not the same when a large, physically fit music superstar is being attacked with a burly bodyguard to protect him as when a frail, disabled man like Eddie Kidd is being battered behind closed doors by the woman he loves.  It is not the same when Charles Saatchi grabs Nigella Lawson around the throat in a public restaurant as when a couple of destitute street-drinkers brawl over their last swigs of lager. The truth is that no two violent relationships are the same, no two violent incidents are the same, no two victims are the same, no two  perpetrators are the same. It is impossible to say sure how dangerous a person is based on their identity or gender, how scary, or indeed how scared such a person might be when placed in a violent situation.

Generalising about how someone might react to being violently attacked, generalising about someone else’s capacity for violence is a fool’s errand. If we are serious about reducing violence in society, we will not get there by starting with a position that some types of violence are somehow more acceptable than others.

 

94 comments

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  1. 1
    redpesto

    Fogg:

    Male violence, in both prevalence and severity, remains the most pressing criminological trend in our society. To acknowledge that does not require us to simply ignore or dismiss female violence, whether targeted at men, women or children.

    Precisely. It’s the intellectual inconsistency that annoys me most about this. The fact that one might be more frequent than the other doesn’t mean we cannot understand, let alone condemn, both.

  2. 2
    Fripouille

    Hello Ally, from fripouille on CiF.

    Allen’s piece was a very poor one agreed and you do a good job of pointing out why. However, instead of getting mad about it like many people did (I didn’t even bother commenting), I am more interested in how The Guardian’s womens’ issue has changed over the last few years. With that in mind, I’d like to crosspost a comment I put up on the weekend about her writing and the paper’s editorial decisions.

    I wish you an excellent evening,

    Frip.

    “Concerning Barbara Ellen’s article, it inspired me to go back through the last 20 pages of her article history, and what I saw only confirmed what I thought, which is that her writing has changed radically over the years.

    Journalists’ article history pages each contain 15 articles and a quick flick through pages 1-5, back to March 2013, reveals that there are respectively (and approximately) 7, 4, 6, 2 and 2 pieces that are highly negative about men in one way or another. A sort of ‘militant feminism’ for want of a better term.

    From there and back to October 2011 (page 10) there are a couple of 2s, a 1 and the first 0. At this time she was still writing a lot of genuine ‘womens’ issues’ articles, but they didn’t adopt an anti-male/confrontational tone. Back futher still, to page 15 and May 2010, there are even less pieces that are overtly critical of men, and finally, page 20 and back to December 2008 hardly sees any at all.

    Barbara Ellen used to be one of my favourite Guardian/Observer columnists and I appreciated her relatively balanced approach that wasn’t pushy or agenda-driven, no matter what the subject. No concocting a story out of thin air and hanging it onto flimsy pretexts, she was a good read. So what happened?

    I really do wonder about this change because it has definitely followed a trend; that of The Guardian’s general content on feminist issues consisting of shriller and more aggressive anti-male articles as time as time has gone by to the point where they now make up pretty much the biggest single issue she writes about.

    So, a question. Does she really choose what she writes about and how, or is she just following a trend? I have a feeling that Guardian/Observer columnists don’t have as free a hand on the nature and content of their pieces as one may think, and that what she’s writing these days is contrary to her natural style. What she, and some others, writes today does doesn’t strike me as being authentic.

    And all this may be good for hits but it is most certainly not good for the integrity and quality of the paper’s CiF content.

  3. 3
    Darren Ball

    I’m really pleased you covered this Ally.

    Ellen seems to think that one’s culpability for violent behaviour varies in proportion to brawn; that if a violent brain resides on skinny shoulders it’s less dysfunctional than if it were to reside on broad ones. In her world, men are to be judged by a higher standard than women simply because they are (or are assumed to be) stronger.

    I would bet good money that Ellen has no idea how men feel about the prospect of fending off a violent woman. I would much rather fend off a man than a women because I’ve had 45 years of conditioning telling me that it’s NEVER okay for ANY boy/man to hit ANY girl/woman. What use is a man’s superior strength if he’s not prepared to use it?

    To defend oneself against a violent person, but without hurting them, takes training or a huge physical advantage. Obviously most men do not have this training and it’s doubtful that many will possess the necessary physical advantage either.

    I am seriously considering making a complaint to the Observer over this article – it was truly shocking.

  4. 4
    redpesto

    @Fripouille #2:

    I really do wonder about this change because it has definitely followed a trend; that of The Guardian’s general content on feminist issues consisting of shriller and more aggressive anti-male articles as time as time has gone by to the point where they now make up pretty much the biggest single issue she writes about.

    Trouble, the moment you describe such articles as ‘shrill’ or ‘anti-male’ you’re probably not going to get a hearing in a context where the former term is seen as a ‘sexism klaxon.’ My perception is that: (a) there are more badly written ‘clickbait’ articles and (b) the analysis of masculinity as a specific issue is pretty poor (Fogg’s stuff being an exception), but…well, see (a) for an explanation.

    Or perhaps Ellen thinks that in the same way women can’t hurt men physically, she can write any old nonsense about them and they can’t/won’t/shouldn’t get upset because they can never really be hurt or harmed in any way by women.

  5. 5
    Fripouille

    @redpesto # 4

    You’re arguably right about the possible result of using adjectives such as ‘shrill’, but then again whatever I said as a man to support my argument would most likely see me being accused in the same way.

    As to clickbait and the analysis of what masculinity, I couldn’t agree more. It dumbs down the debate, it seeks to elecit outrage, and as such it is of no value whatsoever if the idea is to move the debate forward. Shame about Allen though as I said. She rarely used to write this kind of provocative piece before.

  6. 6
    Darren Ball

    I suspect that newspapers are just like most businesses: they have their target customers and they provide what they think those people would like.

    All of my liberally minded friends are generally supportive of a set of socially concious ideas which they find in the Guardian/Observer, but they each have some surprising controversial views on at least something. This is what happens when intelligent people think.

    The Guardian/Observer never seems to publish anything that would be regarded as controversial amongst it’s core readership and in doing so, it loses any sort of nuanced debate and authenticity. No intelligent person, truly thinking about social issues, would be so consistently on-message. Once you’ve seen the headline you know exactly what’s coming

  7. 7
    whiskeyjack

    Fripouille:

    I would suggest that the longer and deeper a person delves into an issue, the less patience they have for counter-examples. When basically the same story is being told over and over again, you start to get a bit jaded and less willing to entertain the “but not alls” and “well what abouts”. You start to get more passionate about issues; you are less likely to ensure that you’re perfectly objective, in the sense of allowing for exceptions, about all things at all times. There comes a point where you want to say, “Yes, we’ve established that not all X are Y. But we’re talking about X’s that ARE Y’s here. Let’s move on and focus on the matter at hand”.

    I’m also curious as to what answer you’re looking for here. That’s not meant aggressively. Do you want to be told there’s a conspiracy to force an agenda? Do you want evidence that she’s losing her intellectual honesty, if not her marbles? Maybe she just has forced “objectivity” fatigue.

    Anyway.

    Ally, I was sad that I didn’t get to comment on your last article before it got shut down. I was actually inspired to break my long-term lurking to come out and say, as a self-identified and vehement feminist, that I agree with you 100%. There are few things more infantilizing and dismissive, in my opinion, in brushing off female violence as harmless temper-tantrums (PMS, amirite?). It undercuts legitimate (and non-violent) female anger, for a start. And I honestly don’t want to see anyone — including men — hurt or abused. That’s not to say that I don’t acknowledge the forces that get anyone to that state as being significant and legitimate; I’m not without sympathy, at least until someone starts throwing punches. It’s a complex issue, but I think the bones of your argument are solid — this is a problem, and we don’t have any vocabulary that isn’t dismissive or minimizing (in short, nothing that’s in any way accurate or useful to anyone) to discuss it.

  8. 8
    redpesto

    whikseyjack:

    When basically the same story is being told over and over again, you start to get a bit jaded and less willing to entertain the “but not alls” and “well what abouts”.

    Which would explain why I’ve started seeing ‘#notall[blank]‘ on some tweets recently. I don’t think it’s intended as nuance, and so I don’t think it’s going to help.

  9. 9
    Edwin Moore

    Great stuff Ally

  10. 10
    Danny Gibbs

    “The differences in physical size and/or strength between the sexes mean that most men are simply not physically scared of most women.”
    Who says that physicality is the only factor in someone being scared?

    What’s more, women tend to be aware of this, if only subliminally. Some females might have periods in their life when they get “slap-happy”, primarily when socialising, maybe when attention seeking, usually when drunk (guilty!). When they stop this behaviour, it’s usually because they’re ashamed, embarrassed or have belatedly realised they’re disgusting dogs who can’t hold their drink. Whatever the reason, it’s unlikely to have anything to do with men being frightened of them. On the contrary, it’s wired into the female DNA that in the main they’re under threat rather than the threat.
    You know what I thought of when I read that paragraph?

    Girls will be girls.

  11. 11
    Fripouille

    @whiskeyjack # 7

    I’m also curious as to what answer you’re looking for here. That’s not meant aggressively. Do you want to be told there’s a conspiracy to force an agenda? Do you want evidence that she’s losing her intellectual honesty, if not her marbles? Maybe she just has forced “objectivity” fatigue.

    Hello, and I didn’t think for an instant that your question was aggressive. On the contrary it’s a very good one. Towards the end of my original comment I wrote that “I do wonder” about what The Guardian is doing and ask a question about her writing. I genuinely meant that as I really am confused by it all. And the last thing I’d like to learn is that the change over the years is due to an agenda or conspiracy.

  12. 12
    Ally Fogg

    Oi Frip – you might want to log out and delete cookies or something, can’t follow you around changing your name all evening :-)

  13. 13
    whiskeyjack

    #11

    (You use two names and I don’t know which is preferred — I’d rather not “out” your pseudonym if it was an unintentional switch.)

    Fair enough. It’s likely that it’s a combination of factors, in my opinion, and probably a lot to do with sensationalizing/click-bait producing soundbite-friendly trends. For the rest, I just know from my own experience that a person can start off being determinedly fair-minded and open to polite acknowledgement of all sides of an issue, and over time (perhaps years) just lose all tolerance for giving the same caveats over and over. Sometimes I think it’s a bad thing — it’s good to reinforce your acknowledgement of the other side, surely — but sometimes it does just seem to get in the way. As redpesto wrote at #8, we can sometimes confuse pedantic box-checking for nuance, and forceful point-making for zealotry. Although it’s important to address things appropriately, I totally understand losing patience for window-dressing when you just want to get your point across already.

  14. 14
    whiskeyjack

    Oh, you’re back to being Fripouille! Simplification in action. :) This is what I’m talking about.

  15. 15
    Fripouille the total IT clutz

    Hi Ally # 12

    But it’s only been changed once and I’m seeing all my comments under ‘Fripouille’ now, simple. Or is it that as I’m a total IT clutz I’ve maybe (surely?) missed something.

    Oh and whiskeyjack, I see just what you mean. :)

  16. 16
    Ally Fogg

    that’s coz I keep changing your name after it appears! I can change it to anything I like…. watch

  17. 17
    whiskeyjack

    Okay, so THIS is awesome. :D

  18. 18
    Paul

    Male violence, in both prevalence and severity, remains the most pressing criminological trend in our society. To acknowledge that does not require us to simply ignore or dismiss female violence, whether targeted at men, women or children.

    Absolutely agree with your above quote Ally.

    Trying to debate this issue is like being stuck in the middle of a minefield,never knowing when or where the next mine’s going to explode.No one in their right mind should ever play down or ignore the extent to which some men can be violent and abusive.However once you start trying to address the role some women play as both perpetrators and instigators of violence and abuse you can rapidly find yourself coming under attack from all directions .

  19. 19
    Michael Cosgrove

    whiskeyjack # 11

    …I just know from my own experience that a person can start off being determinedly fair-minded and open to polite acknowledgement of all sides of an issue, and over time (perhaps years) just lose all tolerance for giving the same caveats over and over. Sometimes I think it’s a bad thing — it’s good to reinforce your acknowledgement of the other side, surely — but sometimes it does just seem to get in the way.

    Yup, that’s exactly where I’m at right now. I would readily call myself a ‘male feminist’ a while back, despite the inadequacy of the term, but I rarely use it now because I have the impression that I don’t belong to the current of feminism that exists today.

    By ‘male feminist’ I ‘just’ meant an advocate of sexual equality and a stop to sexism. Seems that’s passé now though….

    (Yes, I’d prefer to be known as Fripouille, as you seem to have guessed.)

  20. 20
    Michael Cosgrove

    Ally #16

    I’d prefer that it weren’t visible to be honest. I mean, I’m not sure why it can’t just stay ‘Fripouille’ and what problem you’re experiencing. Why do you have to keep changing the name? Maybe I should just delete the account and start again then?

  21. 21
    Michael Cosgrove

    Ally 16

    Haha! “Fripouille the total IT clutz”. Excellent!! Leave it like that if you like. Well seen.

  22. 22
    thetalkingstove

    I don’t know if Ellen is symptomatic of any ‘anti-man’ policy at the Graun. I think she’s just a very shallow thinker who does a disservice to men, feminism and journalism.

  23. 23
    Ally Fogg

    thetalkingstove

    I don’t know if Ellen is symptomatic of any ‘anti-man’ policy at the Graun. I think she’s just a very shallow thinker who does a disservice to men, feminism and journalism.

    For what it is worth, that’s pretty much my assessment too.

  24. 24
    Fripouille

    If we are serious about reducing violence in society, we will not get there by starting with a position that some types of violence are somehow more acceptable than others.

    Yes, it’s as simple as that. Well, it would be if there weren’t clicks to be counted…

  25. 25
    Mark Brooks

    A brilliant article Ally and I have to say it was very disturbing that the Guardian thought such an article met their editorial standards especially in terms of equality. Perhaps Barbara should spend a few days on our helpline and then say ‘slap-happy’ is OK.

    Her article is a symptom of a recent trend to marginalise and diminish the voices of male victims of domestic abuse so they remain unheard and unrecognised.

  26. 26
    Gunlord

    Here’s something I’ve never really understood about writers like Ms. Ellen. Do these people think all men, everywhere, are Conan the Beefbarian? That there’s no such thing as a short or skinny guy? I’d take the whole the whole “Men are bigger than women, so female-on-male domestic violence is no big deal!” more seriously if these cats also condemned bigger, more muscular men beating up smaller guys, but I’ve never heard of any of these columnists doing so.

  27. 27
    bugmaster

    @redpesto #4:

    Or perhaps Ellen thinks that in the same way women can’t hurt men physically, she can write any old nonsense about them and they can’t/won’t/shouldn’t get upset because they can never really be hurt or harmed in any way by women.

    Isn’t this pretty much the official position of (at least one brand of) feminism ? As far as I understand, (at least one branch of) feminist theory states that men, by definition, cannot experience sexism, since sexism is prejudice + power, and men hold all the power. It would follow logically that men can’t be assaulted by women, either, for the same reason.

  28. 28
    Whothehell Cares

    I often wonder if the reason so many women down play the severity of attacks by women is because they don’t want women receiving the same sentences as men for their behavior, because, secretly, they are guilty of assault themselves.

  29. 29
    whiskeyjack

    @28

    I’m no professional, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s roughly the same proportion as men who hate promiscuous women because they’re secretly intimidated by them and scared of playing a passive role in mate selection. They don’t want to lose the benefits of that role, either.

    That gets us about as far in this discussion.

    If anything, women could have internalized the notion that they’re weak and little and no match for a man, and they’ve subsequently been given social permission to act out violently. Men, meanwhile, have internalized the same notions (in reverse) and lack social permission to be hurt by a mere girl. A big part of feminism — the consciousness-raising and empowerment, for instance — has always been about teaching women their own strength, literally and figuratively. The point and the problem is not that women are afraid of being “outed” as abusers; it’s that we fundamentally don’t recognize their potential to be so. Hence Ally’s post about even lacking a vocabulary to describe the phenomenon.

  30. 30
    Bitethehand

    “Notwithstanding the usual debates about rates of intimate partner violence, It is certainly true that for every woman committing a violent act, there will be several men. Male violence, in both prevalence and severity, remains the most pressing criminological trend in our society. To acknowledge that does not require us to simply ignore or dismiss female violence, whether targeted at men, women or children.”

    Both before and after this statement you provide us solely with examples of female violence against males and provide none for the vastly more serious problem of male violence against women and other men. Where in the world does female violence against men compare in any way to what Robert Fisk describes here:

    “Ms Jilani is a tough, brave lawyer with a harsh way of describing the “honour killing” – the murder – of young women. She has to be tough, given the death threats she’s received from Pakistan’s Islamists. She speaks with contempt for the families who murder their women – with even more contempt for the police and the judges who allow the killers to go free. Pakistan has the grotesque reputation of being one of the leading “honour-killing” countries in the world.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-relatives-with-blood-on-their-hands-2073142.html

    And on a global scale:

    “Yet this violence against women occurs in almost every country of the world and is increasing. In 2000, the United Nations estimated that 5,000 women were victims of honor killings each year. According to BBC, “Women’s advocacy groups, however, suspect that more than 20,000 women are killed worldwide each year.” Murder is not the only form of honor crime, other crimes such as acid attacks, abduction, mutilations, beatings occur; in 2010 the UK police recorded at least 2,823 such crimes. ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_killing

  31. 31
    Ally Fogg

    Where in the world does female violence against men compare in any way to what Robert Fisk describes here:

    Oh, goodness, you are so clever. Now you point it out, the answer would be ‘nowhere’

    It’s almost like it is a different discussion about a different issue.

    Now I really wish I hadn’t written that sentence saying “on a global scale, women’s violence against men is a much bigger problem than men’s violence against women.”

    Oh, but wait a minute.. . . Seems I didn’t.

    Back in yer box, Bitiey.

  32. 32
    Superficially Anonymous

    Indeed, that column was utterly baffling. It was surprising to see a woman and supposedly a feminist essentially saying that women were insignificant threats and were prone to acting out like children. It represents a serious attempt to try and have her cake and eat it, though the overwhelming response to the article was heartening.

    As an aside I think you made a bit of a mistake closing the last comment section if you don’t mind me saying. I read more than I post but it seemed to me you were letting repeatedly badly behaving people dictate which conversations were had by allowing them to scream over the conversation if they didn’t like it. I know you’re not ban happy but I think removing users would be a better solution than closing a conversation.

    Do you ever miss the times before moving to this site?

  33. 33
    carnation

    Ally is right to challenge Barbara Ellen about her article. Ellen’s article was deluded, stupid and offensive. The Observer is obviously happy to use her views as click-bait.

    I was thinking about something earlier today: is it possible to reduce only certain types of violence, or is it only possible to reduce violence in general?

    It seems to me that the overwhelming majority if violence is directed by males against males, is overwhelmingly under-reported to the police and generally not too physically harmful. This sort of violence starts in the playground and, again generally, isn’t much carried out once the teens end (though prisons are full of men for whom this doesn’t apply). Much of this violence is basically carried out in the public sphere: the school playground, the nightclub football tertrace or city centre and, again generally, is somewhat accepted – “boys will be boys” an odious statement and mindframe.

    It’s easy to blame testosterone, societal norms, toxic masculinities/patriarchal misandry and socialisation for male-on-male violence, but the existence of FOM and FOF violence throws a spanner in the works.

    So what does cause violence? I don’t believe it’s a “loss of control”, or “provocation” – violent people can be rich or poor, well educated or not.

    Pathologising violence, through education, in my opinion, is the only way to reduce violence. To that end, Solange should be prosecuted, regardless of a complaint being made.

    Feminists are right to focus on female victims of domestic abuse, just as genuine advocates for male victims are within their rights to focus on their client base.

    But what about the thousands of men attacked by other men often to injury, and quite often unprovoked – and invariably with no sympathy and little understanding? A comprehensive strategy is needed to focus on that alone and I am convinved that it would have a knock-on effect on FOM, MOF and FOF violence.

    Name and shame the thought processes that lead to violent acts, and the type of personalities that adopt them.

  34. 34
    redpesto

    carantion #33:

    I was thinking about something earlier today: is it possible to reduce only certain types of violence, or is it only possible to reduce violence in general?

    You reduce the latter by specific measures on the former. Since an initiative on domestic violence cannot address football hooliganism – and vice versa – you need a tailored strategy in each instance.

  35. 35
    Ally Fogg

    carnation – I agree with you (and disagree with redpesto, I think)

    I’m convinced you can reduce all types of violence by reducing all types of violence. Or to be less tautologous, you reduce every type of violence by reducing all types of violence.

    It is clear that all types of interpersonal violence have reduced significantly in most developed countries over the past couple of decades. That alone shows it can be achieved. And if we’ve got as far as we have, I see no reason to believe we can’t reduce the rates much further.

    People’s predisposition to violence is (usually, though not always) closely linked to their exposure to violence first hand. Someone who grows up in an environment (household, society, school etc) where violence is not only accepted but actually encouraged as the appropriate response to challenge, frustration, insult etc will be vastly more likely to use violence on others in adulthood.

    As I hinted at in the last blog, neurologists can now explain the physical mechanisms whereby this would happen. Human brains (literally) grow into the shape that is appropriate to our social needs (neuroplasticity). When someone is exposed to high levels of violent threat, their brains will physically change so that the parts required for aggression, violence etc get bigger and more active. You then have a person who is more inclined to use violence in response to stress.

    This is one of the main reasons I think it is incredibly foolish to ignore female on male violence as being (supposedly) less harmful than other types. The bottom line is that violence of all types breeds violence of all types.

    So even if I were talking to a hardcore radical feminist who was only interested in reducing male violence against women, I would still argue that the best way to prevent violence against women is to offer zero tolerance of violence by anyone, against anyone.

  36. 36
    carnation

    @ Ally Fogg
    @ Red Pesto

    It’s easier for institutions, from charities to governmental departments, to target, and justify the targeting, of specific types of violence. Football hooliganism grabs headlines, but isn’t a statistically significant problem, at least not now-a-days. I suppose it’s micro vs maco, short-term vs long-term.

    “So even if I were talking to a hardcore radical feminist who was only interested in reducing male violence against women, I would still argue that the best way to prevent violence against women is to offer zero tolerance of violence by anyone, against anyone.”

    One of the most offensive, though mercifully rare, radfem trope is “all men benefit from some men’s violence against women” – this is so mindbogglingly offensive that its difficult to know where to start challenging it.

    At the risk of offending some,de and re-constructing masculinity (and alcohol use) is as good a place as any to start reducing violence. Not attacking maleness, de-constructing the performance of toxic-masculinity/patriarchal-misandry.

    One of the most interesting theories I’ve heard about violence concerned a report into a a teenage male who was part of a gang who threw a middle-sclass student off a bridge in London to his death. He apologised and was, it seems genuinely, wracked with guilt and remorse. A psychologist positited that when he hit other people, he was acting out violent self-loathing. I wonder if he learned that at school, rather than jail, how his life would have turned out.

  37. 37
    redpesto

    Fogg #35:

    It is clear that all types of interpersonal violence have reduced significantly in most developed countries over the past couple of decades.

    How? And why? It can’t have ‘just happened’? If one takes school as an example, the specific measure of ending corporal punishment in English schools may have had a longer-term impact on overall levels of violence.

  38. 38
    Paul

    So even if I were talking to a hardcore radical feminist who was only interested in reducing male violence against women, I would still argue that the best way to prevent violence against women is to offer zero tolerance of violence by anyone, against anyone.

    Exactly right Ally.The narrative needs to change so that all violence is seen as being unacceptable.There will of course still be disagreement as to the extent to which violence is gendered .However a more holistic approach to dealing with the problem is a definite step in the right direction.

  39. 39
    123454321

    Great article, Ally.

    Persistently violent people (regardless of the level/type of violence) – it’s all in their genes. Analysing what causes certain people to be violent is probably as difficult as trying to work out why spitters spit! Or why certain people eat with their mouths open. Or why some people are born liars. Or why some people have no sense of humour. Or why some people have no compassion for others and enjoy being verbally abusive etc.

    Surely we should just accept that some people are inherently violent, perhaps when provoked, and move on with the education part. There is a step-change required before we adjust the level of acceptability. We should concentrate on early-hit (pardon the pun) consistency of education with zero tolerance for differentiation i.e. don’t teach kids that it’s not ok to hit a woman without including the fact that it’s also not ok to hit a man.

    Following on from the education there should be consistency of punishment such that the consequences are similar for all with no ‘get out of jail free’ cards for certain groups of people who currently behave as if they’re above the law. A consistent approach is fundamental and I see no evidence of that at the moment from what I can tell.

    Barbara Ellen’s article blocks progression.

  40. 40
    redpesto

    123454321:

    Persistently violent people (regardless of the level/type of violence) – it’s all in their genes. Analysing what causes certain people to be violent is probably as difficult as trying to work out why spitters spit!

    Well, if it really is ‘in their genes’, we just need to identify the marker in their DNA. – or we could just count the bumps on their heads instead.

  41. 41
    carnation

    “Following on from the education there should be consistency of punishment such that the consequences are similar for all with no ‘get out of jail free’ cards for certain groups of people who currently behave as if they’re above the law. A consistent approach is fundamental and I see no evidence of that at the moment from what I can tell.”

    A sweeping statement that could have been lifted straight out of the Daily Mail/AVfM.

    Back in the real world, the reality is *not* that certain groups are “above the law” but that so much violence isn’t regarded as transgressive crime and reported as such.

  42. 42
    JT

    Well written piece Ally.

  43. 43
    Darren Ball

    @39 12345etc

    That’s a lot of assertion without any references or reasoning. To deny the influence of environment is pretty astonishing. I would suggest that people who manifest violent behaviour as adults are likely to have experienced violence or neglect during their formative years.

    It may be that some people are more sensitive to these environmental influences than others, so some people could be exposed to violence or neglect as a child and not grow up to be violent, where others would. But this is like asking what causes hay-fever: is it inherited or environment?

    One argument would be: All people breath in pollen and yet only some sneeze therefore it must be inherited rather than environment (some people are born that way).

    The counter argument is: People only sneeze when there’s pollen around, therefore hay-fever is caused by pollen and therefore the environment.

    The sensible answer is to say that hey-fever is a combination of environment and inheritance. Some people are to prone to hay-fever (or violence) under certain environmental conditions.

    References: Stephen Pinker The Blank Slate and Matt Didley Nature via Nurture.

  44. 44
    Ally Fogg

    redpesto (37)

    How? And why? It can’t have ‘just happened’? If one takes school as an example, the specific measure of ending corporal punishment in English schools may have had a longer-term impact on overall levels of violence.

    Yes, that’s the sixty thousand dollar question.

    Short answer is nobody knows. Several theories, all of which may be partly true, so it might be that they all came together to create a kind of tipping point.

    Important thing to realise is that all the evidence is that society had been getting less and less violent for centuries (see Pinker, Better Angels…) and something happened shortly after WWII which put that into reverse for a few decades.

    Theories for the sudden turnaround include:

    - Environmental lead pollution
    - Improved crime prevention measures
    - Changes in attitude towards domestic violence
    - Changes in attitude towards corporal / physical punishment of children
    - Roe vs Wade / reproductive & abortion rights

    I have a personal theory which is that the babyboomers were the end product of 50 years of violent war, bereavement, trauma, terror and that society was basically emotionally scarred and damaged.

    But whatever happened, something did.

  45. 45
    carnation

    @ Ally Fogg

    A few things could be added to that list:

    • Prisons becoming comparatively more humane
    • As above for the care system
    • Less tolerance of all types of child abuse by adults (particularly in state institutions and the church)
    • MDMA

    And just to be controversial:

    • The “feminisation” of the education system
    • More social workers
    • The feminist discourse about gender roles

  46. 46
    Brony

    @ Ally
    Short answer is nobody knows. Several theories, all of which may be partly true, so it might be that they all came together to create a kind of tipping point.

    This might help. Epigenetic modification of genes controls their expression and this is a major system that nurture uses to control psychological predispositions (many predispositions including anxiety, depression, information about food availability of the environment…). Most of these epigenetic effects have been studied in the context of prenatal exposure to various hormones that can change levels with the mothers emotional state, or early life experiences. But there are also examples where the experiences/exposures (chemical exposures probably tend to muck with these systems more generally, see nicotine and ADHD) can also be transmitted transgenerationally and IMO it’s looking increasingly likely that grandparents and great grandparents can pass on emotional presets that effect grandchildren (Veterans and inheriting predispositions to PTSD is one example).

    I’m sure there are versions of genes out there that might increase one’s predisposition to violence, but in every case I have seen one’s culture can prevent or ameliorate that that. Even a greater predisposition is not a sure thing.

    Yes I realize that this article focuses on male violence. But I have seen enough work in model organisms involving violence and female animals that I am convinced that the same effect is present in women as well and we have cultural factors that predispose towards studying it in males.

    http://www.nature.com/news/behaviour-and-biology-the-accidental-epigeneticist-1.14441

    Yes the article focuses

  47. 47
    123454321

    #43/Darren,

    I agree that environment is a factor. But the genes argument is a potentially powerful overiding force, regardless of environment.

    Educating someone with a bad background is probably more likely to reap success than trying to educate someone with ‘built-in’ violent tendencies. Regardless, we need to move forward with better-informed, unbiased education.

    My main points are that we should have a consistent approach to education with no differentiation based on gender. A slap is a slap, a stabbing is a stabbing, a punch is a punch. All of which could have specifically different outcomes depending on the circumstances and could potentially hurt any person emotionally and physically regardless of their sex.

    We’re living through an era where a man who slaps a woman is viewed in a completely different light to a woman who slaps a man. He faces far harsher social consequences and many more risks despite the violence reaping an equal outcome. The same goes for punching, stabbing, even verbal abuse. Every time, it appears that the man is conveyed as the evil perpetrator and the woman as victim.

    You only have to watch half an hour of TV to witness countless examples of females slapping males because they didn’t like something they said, and furthermore suffering zero consequence. In actual fact, they are often commended and portrayed in a positive light following their choice to be violent. Where as men are always seen to suffer a consequence for hitting a woman (which is right imo).

    With years of TV/film/media influence, it’s no wonder that females expect to (and are) getting away with more than males.

  48. 48
    Darren Ball

    @47 1234etc.

    I don’t think the case has been made for this statement at all:

    “But the genes argument is a potentially powerful overiding force, regardless of environment.”

    I strongly believe that almost anybody can be brutalised and most violent adults would not be so it they had been raised better. In Nature via Nurture Matt Ridley describes a gene in which some people have a variant that makes them super-nice if properly raised but, because of their sensitivity, they are more adversely affected by maltreatment in childhood and therefore are more likely to be aggressive if abused during their formative years. Now, is that a good gene or a bad gene?

    Then I broadly agree with you for a while until:

    “You only have to watch half an hour of TV to witness countless examples of females slapping males…”

    Only if you’re watching some special interest channel – it’s nothing like that common. I do accept however that it is accepted whereas the other way about would not be.

  49. 49
    gjenganger

    @Carnation 36

    de and re-constructing masculinity [...] is as good a place as any to start reducing violence. Not attacking maleness, de-constructing the performance of toxic-masculinity/patriarchal-misandry.

    There is a difference?

  50. 50
    123454321

    “Now, is that a good gene or a bad gene?”

    I think that would be a bad gene as it hasn’t evolved to be adaptable enough. The funny thing is that I have known quite a few people in my time who are really, really nice but when they lose it….run for your life and take cover! Perhaps that’s your sensitivity gene at work.

    I still think that no amount of environmental manipulation or education could change some people who are inherently violent, just as you can’t magically inject some people with a sense of humour. Much of our behaviour is deep within and hard-wired with a superficial environmental topping there to disguise the real deal. I agree that environmental nurturing can make a massive difference, though. All I’m saying is that when the chips are down, the hard-wired coding will override all else.

    I don’t know what you watch on TV but there is a huge amount of double-standards going on out there, particularly where violence is concerned. I see it all the time and there is no shortage of examples. If you’ve got a few minutes then check this out as it sums the issue up far better than I could do using words.

  51. 51
    123454321

    Why won’t this site let you post to a specific video by copying and pasting the url from youtube while it is playing? I wanted to link to the “Misandry in the Media (Parts 1 and 2)” video. It’s put something else up.

  52. 52
    Thil

  53. 53
    Thil

    @123454321

    just started watching. the guy doesn’t seem to get that feminism as the name implies is not suppose to be addressing men’s issues

  54. 54
    123454321

    Thanks Thil.

  55. 55
    Thil

    @123454321

    everything that annoyed me about that video:

    1) the guy doesn’t seem to get that feminism as the name implies is not suppose to be addressing men’s issues

    2) the guy talks about feminism as if it’s united movement with one standpoint on everything

    3) he claims that despite sexist opinions not explicitly being expressed in many of them it’s ok for him to call these ads sexist on the reasoning that they are part of an obvious cultural trend, but balks at feminists for going the same thing

    4) he claims that the things women think are sexist actually aren’t if you can flip the genders and not have it seem sexist with a man in the same role, which totally ignores the fact that things only seem sexist because they are apparently informed by the prejudices a particular sex faces. A man being portrayed as a neat freak would not be sexist because there’s no prejudge that men should do all the house work

    5) he claims that feminists will criticize you for calling stuff misandrist then does a stupid impression of a straw feminist doing said instead of giving an actual example of a feminist doing said

    6) he calls his subjective experiences with women drivers “facts”

    7) depending on how he defines “sexism” it’s either hypocritical for him to criticize the insurance company for refusing men coverage and then have a go at women drivers, or presumptive for him to say there reason for refusing men is sexist unless he actually knows what it is

    8) his style is tediously repetitive

  56. 56
    123454321

    Thil, cutting past everything he said…..not one single commercial from any of his videos (there are dozens and dozens of examples) would be authorised for broadcast if the sexes were to be reversed.

    It is a persistent double-standard being led and perpetuated by some weird mysterious force?

  57. 57
    Thil

    @123454321

    in a lot of cases the ads wouldn’t be sexist if you flipped the genders because the prejudices facing men and women are different ….that aside I generally agree. I’m saying that the guy is a moron and you can make a argument badly even if it’s true

  58. 58
    Thil

    “cutting past everything he said” don’t use him as example if he can’t actually make the argument well

  59. 59
    Ally Fogg

    guys, we seem to have drifted quite a long way off topic.

    I’ve been meaning to write something on ‘media misandry’ in advertising etc for a while, so we’ll come back to it, but for now can I ask you to keep the debate anchored to the topic?

    Thanks.

  60. 60
    JT

    @Ally #44

    Im not so sure that we are getting less violent. The reality is, our capability/propensity for mass violence is much greater than it has ever been. So, if we want to go back in time they may have cut, beat, stabbed, hundreds if not thousands but we can do that with one push of a button or flick of a switch. We in the west may have the illusion of it being less but I dont think that is a world wide view or reality.

  61. 61
    mildlymagnificent

    I still think that no amount of environmental manipulation or education could change some people who are inherently violent, just as you can’t magically inject some people with a sense of humour.

    You’re probably right that you can’t do a great deal with someone who’s already displaying violent behaviour by the time they’re in school or later. Though that should not lead to counsels of despair – because there are fairly intensive, fairly expensive therapies for some of these people. The biggest issue now is probably finding out how to identify and select the people who are most likely to benefit from interventions of various kinds and to put the effort and the money into the people and processes with better prospects of success for the largest possible number of people.

    But there’s a fair amount of evidence accumulating that good parenting/ healthy psychological environment in the early years does result in mostly well-balanced, non-violent people. These people usually never know their genetic propensity to violent behaviour or, fairly rarely, only find about it when researchers pick it up in a population survey of genetic markers. In value for money terms, the best possible way to reduce the numbers of overtly violent people in the community would be to support families of the youngest children and to provide early childhood education generally. This would mean that it would be easier to notice littlies who are at high risk of developing violent behaviour as they grow up and the families that are providing unhealthily violent role models.

    This stuff is all pretty recent and it’s all mixed up with things like brain plasticity and other biological/ psychological/ environmental influences on the growing brain/ personality. I wouldn’t give up just yet on the idea that we can significantly reduce the number of violent people in the population and that we can reduce the frequency and the severity of violent behaviours.

  62. 62
    carnation

    @ Gjganger

    “There is a difference?”

    A difference between what?

    @ 123454321

    “With years of TV/film/media influence, it’s no wonder that females expect to (and are) getting away with more than males.”

    Any sources or citations for such a sweeping generalization? To believe that, you have to ignore reality. Most violent crime is unreported and unpunished. It is perpetrated against men mainly by men. Sexual offences are underreported and very often unpunished. Boy and girls, men and women are victims. Mostly men, but some women, are the perpetrators.

    There is some evidence that women are treated more leniently when it comes to punishment. That’s it. There is a vast, vast gulf between that and what you are saying.

    Most crime is perpetrated by men. Most criminals are also victims. Women aren’t in some guilded, protected category.

    @ Thil #55

    Your critique could apply to virtually any MRA blog piece – I salute your patience in detailing it.

  63. 63
    gjenganger

    @Carnation 62
    Difference between “ attacking maleness” and “de-constructing the performance of toxic-masculinity/patriarchal-misandry“. Seeing that both involve ditching what is now masculinity and replacing it with a better model according to somebody’s ideology.

  64. 64
    Ally Fogg

    JT

    Im not so sure that we are getting less violent. The reality is, our capability/propensity for mass violence is much greater than it has ever been. So, if we want to go back in time they may have cut, beat, stabbed, hundreds if not thousands but we can do that with one push of a button or flick of a switch. We in the west may have the illusion of it being less but I dont think that is a world wide view or reality.

    Well, I was specifically talking about interpersonal violence rather than military, political or economic violence, which are rather more tricky concepts. I was also specifically talking about the developed world / liberal democracies / whatever.

    Even within that, it is debatable whether what you say is true. We’ve seen in countries like Rwanda & Congo relatively recently that the most unbelievably bloody genocide can happen with few weapons more asophisticated than a machete.

    The scale of deaths, as a proportion of populations in previous centuries was mindblowing. It is estimated that a third of the population of England died in the English Civil War.

    A large part of human history consists of marauding armies sweeping through countries and massacring everyone in their path.

    Yes, the 20th Century was pretty grim for world wars and genocide, but historians are very much undecided as to whether it was any worse than most previous centuries, if you allow for population growth.

  65. 65
    Adiabat

    gjenganger (63): I love how quickly people turn threads about female violence, and how people (don’t) deal with it, into a discussion about “fixing men”.

  66. 66
    carnation

    @ Gjganger

    “Difference between “ attacking maleness” and “de-constructing the performance of toxic-masculinity/patriarchal-misandry“. Seeing that both involve ditching what is now masculinity and replacing it with a better model according to somebody’s ideology.”

    Yours is a very, very common mistake made by people who are unable , unwilling (or who just haven’t yet) made the distinction between sex and gender. My sex is male, my masculinity (the performance of my gender role) has changed massively over the years.

    Saying “boys don’t cry” is patriarchal misandry/toxic masculinity. It is assuming that someone of the male sex should exhibit the hyper-masculine trait of emotionless and stoicism.

    Saying all males are inherently violent is attacking maleness. As a man, rejecting the assumption that “boys don’t cry” is de-constructing masculinity. Re-constructing masculinity is thinking “OK, I am human, I feel emotions, they are wrong. It’s natural that I cry.”

    Rejecting the role of “man the provider” is another way to de and re construct masculinity. After all, what good does it do the average man to burden himself in that way?

    This is a very basic example. I am somewhat surprised that you can’t see the rather obvious difference.

    Understanding the difference between sex and gender is absolutely essential to be able to have a sensible conversation about a wide range of topics.

    You descended into nonsense when you said “Seeing that both involve ditching what is now masculinity and replacing it with a better model according to somebody’s ideology.” – who mentioned ideology? I’m talking about removing a mindset that normalises violent behaviour and emotional repression.

    @ Adiabat

    You love that? You’re a surprising person…

  67. 67
    carnation

    When I said “Re-constructing masculinity is thinking “OK, I am human, I feel emotions, they are wrong. It’s natural that I cry.””

    “they are wrong” was referring to those that say “boys don’t cry”

  68. 68
    Adiabat

    carnation (66): I do love it, as it’s another example of the way certain people deal with female violence.

    “Giving lip service to it, then promptly refocusing the discussion on what’s wrong with men” is yet another response that we can now add to the type of response given in the OP. I love having more data points and examples to discuss.

  69. 69
    123454321

    Ally, a blog piece about misandry in the media is well overdue and would be a welcome addition to your portfolio.

    The video I should have posted from “The Ignored gender” was explicitly relating to the way men are portrayed on TV and in film when it comes to violence. “Violence Against Men” is the title of his video. I won’t post a link because for some reason some other video always appears. it’s worth looking at because it does reflect how many men must feel. Perhaps someone else could post a link.

    Carnation – it’s easy for you to say things like this:

    “Any sources or citations for such a sweeping generalization? To believe that, you have to ignore reality. Most violent crime is unreported and unpunished. It is perpetrated against men mainly by men. Sexual offences are underreported and very often unpunished. Boy and girls, men and women are victims. Mostly men, but some women, are the perpetrators. There is some evidence that women are treated more leniently when it comes to punishment. That’s it. There is a vast, vast gulf between that and what you are saying.”

    ….when current stats (which don’t necesarilly reflect the truth) support you. I can’t imagine how many people out there once preached that the Earth was flat.

    I understand that there are many root causes to violence, both gene-related and environmentally related, amongst other complex factors. But sometimes it is perfectly plausible to make sweeping generalisations by stepping back from the detail and looking at the big picture. Have you every considered that the way we, as a society, portray men as violent perpetrators, and at the same time being perfectly eligable to receive assault with no necessary ramifications or consequences (all for the fun of it), could have something to do with the reason why we are where we are?

    Please at least watch the end of the video I just referred you to and tell me what a 3 or 4 year old could be subliminally loading into their little grey, mushy databanks. I have watched a huge amount of kids animated films and the violence against men (often inflicted by females) is truly astonishing. This is where the indoctrination begins.

  70. 70
    Ally Fogg

    123454321

    Yes, I know, didn’t have a problem with the link and I let the discussion run for that very reason, but could sense it drifting quickly into yet another MRM vs Feminism squabble, so stepped in before mayhem ensued (for once!)

  71. 71
    carnation

    @ Adiabat

    The nature of discussion dictates that it will go off in many directions. The direction this took was how to reduce violence – Ally summarising “you reduce every type of violence by reducing all types of violence.”

    How do we reduce all types of violence? Challenge violent attitudes, many of which are rooted in notions of masculinity. Your persecuted mind frame informs your “love” of the direction that this discussion took.

    @ 123454321

    You seem less animated than usual and more open to engagement. Therefore I’ll respond in kind, albeit mindful that media misandry isn’t to be discussed – this is closing comments to yours.

    Whether or not I’d watch the video depends on a couple of things (I cannot see it as it’s blocked on the server I’m on) 1/ who made it 2/ how long is it.

    When I have watched videos (and read articles) about media misandry, I’m struck by how virtually all of them are similar to feminist critiques of the media circa 1988 (but with less justification/peer review/linguistic eloquency). I will not comment further on media misandry, paying attention to Ally’s comment.

  72. 72
    carnation

    @ 123454321

    “Have you every considered that the way we, as a society, portray men as violent perpetrators, and at the same time being perfectly eligable to receive assault with no necessary ramifications or consequences (all for the fun of it), could have something to do with the reason why we are where we are?”

    Society doesn’t portray *all* men as violent perpetrators, not are *all* men considered perfectily eligible to receive assault with no consequences. It is not, for example, socially acceptable for a male OAP to be assaulted, for example.

    The narrative is confused and conflicting. “Grown men fighting” is frowned upon, but so is “grown men crying” – it’s even rougher for teenage males, “boys will be boys” and fight each other, but they better not cry. Oh, and those grown men who aren’t meant to cry? They’re also meant to be financially successfully, physically strong and promiscuious. And, yes, it’s frowned upon to hit a woman. But it still happens, doesn’t it? Why does it happen? At least in part because of the bottling up of emotions and the wider acceptance of male violence in youth.

    It’s “unladylike” for a woman to be violent, but it still happens too.

  73. 73
    123454321

    Carnation – did you know that all of your daily experiences, lessons, consequences, judgements, mistakes, perceptions, emotions, family and social interactions, observations, knowledge etc. – basically everything you process – is tossed around in your sleep with a view to shoving some of it towards the back of your brain as medium and long-term memories, even going so far as to contribute towards instinct over many generations. That’s evolution and progression for you. Everything we chuck at our children is measured by them in terms of acceptability with a high potential that their thoughts and actions during their lifetime will make their way forward to the next generation and beyond.

    Ally’s last statement sums it all up:

    “If we are serious about reducing violence in society, we will not get there by starting with a position that some types of violence are somehow more acceptable than others.”

    So, Carnation, are you serious about wanting to stop violence? If so, you need to stop sweeping stuff under the carpet cuz it aint gonna go away.

    Our youngsters are persistently bombarded from every direction by in-you-face links between men and violence in every guise you could imagine, much of which is conveyed as acceptable. Don’t you think this could be something to do with the problem as a whole? Why do you think showing a man getting hit in the balls for a laugh should be acceptable? While these types of things remain acceptable, the deeper the shit will get for all. It’s just my opinion.

  74. 74
    123454321

    “… not are *all* men considered perfectily eligible to receive assault with no consequences. It is not, for example, socially acceptable for a male OAP to be assaulted, for example.”

    By writing that very sentence you infer that it iS acceptable to assault some groups of men.

    Which men, in your opinion, are eligible, and perceived as being socially acceptable to assault?

    White men? Asian men? Short men? Fit men? Ugly men?

    I’m restraining myself.

  75. 75
    Adiabat

    Carnation (71):

    The nature of discussion dictates that it will go off in many directions.

    For certain, and I’m a big fan of thread drift; sometimes the places it takes you are much more interesting than the article itself. Yet, the direction any given thread takes tells us something about the people commenting, and how they have responded to the article and each other.

    In an article about female violence, specifically about how people respond to female violence, we have 30-something posts generally on topic, until one post shifts the entire discussion away from violence committed by women to talking about ‘the problem with men’ and ‘fixing masculinity’. I find that significant, and another example of how some people conceptualise and respond to female violence.

    How does a thread specifically about how people ignore female violence end up being largely about male violence, and ‘fixing’ men? Are people so unable to conceptualise female violence to the point where they, on some level, feel an urge to move the discussion to a more ‘comfortable’ topic full of the same old “Patriarchal” platitudes and viewpoints expressed countless times before?

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but to me this thread “drift” (which was actually more of a “shove”) highlights one line in particular in the OP: “When I wrote about our difficulties in conceptualising female violence, this is precisely what I was talking about.”

  76. 76
    carnation

    @ 123454321

    Who mentioned “‘the problem with men’ and ‘fixing masculinity’”?

    I certainly didn’t.

    “By writing that very sentence you infer that it iS acceptable to assault some groups of men.”

    No, I don’t. It’s obvious that I don’t. Nothing that I wrote suggests that I do. You must surely know this.

    I won’t defend things that I didn’t say. If you truly believe that I have said what you accuse me of, I have nothing further to say to you. If you have made an honest mistake, acknowledge it and we can move on.

    You’re back into the troglodyte sphere that you usually inhabit. It’s a pity.

  77. 77
    gjenganger

    @Carnatoin 66

    I do understand the conceptual difference between sex and gender (I been to skool an evrything), but the two overlap so much in practice that it can get anywhere between controversial and arbitrary what characteristics you decide to put where.

    One good example is this old female joke: “There is only two things wrong with men: everything they say, and everything they do.” Technically that joke is attacking masculinity, not maleness, but a male that heard it would likely take little comfort from that fact.

    As another, consider Australian Aboriginals. One might with some justification claim that their culture was better adapted to the stone age than to the 21st century, and that the best thing all around would be for them to adopt 100% the culture of let us call it ‘white Australia’. As an Aboriginal you would however feel that as a devastating loss. And you would not be comforted if somebody told you that your descendants would be as aboriginal as you were, and that your culture was merely being ‘deconstructed and reconstructed’. Nor should you..[NB - Some other term, such as 'native Australian' might be more PC, but I stick with 'aboriginal', which is at least unambiguous. No offense intended.]

    who mentioned ideology? I’m talking about removing a mindset that normalises violent behaviour and emotional repression

    Well, it is in your ideology that the change you are proposing is rightly described in this way. Someone with a different ideology might describe it as “removing stoicism, self-reliance, and assertiveness’, or as ‘getting rid of men and making everybody into women’. You have a point that is worth discussing, but you are refusing to discuss it. What you say may seem a self-evident truth to you, but it is ideological for all that – you just cannot conceive of being wrong about it.

  78. 78
    carnation

    @ Gjganger (where does that handle come from?!)

    Aboriginal (with a capital a) is perfectly acceptable in my opinion.

    “One good example is this old female joke: “There is only two things wrong with men: everything they say, and everything they do.” Technically that joke is attacking masculinity, not maleness”

    No, that’s quite obviously an attack on maleness, the totality of the male sex.

    A quick look online returns this definition of ideology: “A system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.”

    Unless you are referring to my own, personal, unique and as yet unnamed ideology, I can confirm that the points I have made have come from a variety of sources and I’m very open to discussion – as long as those I’m discussing with understand the basic essentials.

    With all due respect (sincerely), I’m still not sure that you do.

  79. 79
    JT

    @Ally #64

    I question even interpersonal violence being less. I guess you could say that male to female violence(in the west) has lessened in the last several decades but the question is, is it comparable with female to male violence. Considering it has been hidden mostly, how can we know if it has lessened? The truth is, because of the typical non reporting done by males it could have actually increased.

  80. 80
    JT

    Sometimes video is a good thing.

  81. 81
    gjenganger

    @Carnation 78
    A gjenganger is Norwegian for someone who comes back [from the dead]. I will not say why I adopted it, but consider that it happened on CiF, where the gjenganger is currently in long-term pre-moderation.

    Without getting into dictionary analysis, I still think that the distinction between an attack on maleness and a reconstruction of masculinity (in general), and defining your plans for social change as [merely] ‘ removing a mindset that normalises violent behaviour and emotional repression’ (in specific) reflects your own particular values and political opinions at least as much as any objective reality.

  82. 82
    123454321

    Carnation, you don’t have to write something explicitly; infering is often enough.

    If someone said: “I think it is wrong to hit women under the age of 18 or over the age of 60″, what would you infer from that?

    Anyway, I’ll let you off.

  83. 83
    123454321

    JT – A male teacher would probably be fired for that.

    And by the way – off topic, sorry – but why do female teachers and Mothers think they can freely walk into the boys toilets at school? Men NEVER walk into the girls toilets – it’s just not the decent thing to do. One of many double-standard, socially manipulated, skewed acceptability outcomes which contribute to the overall picture.

  84. 84
    carnation

    @ Gjganger

    Ah, Norway. Many happy memories. Skal!

    An attack on any person for simply being a man/woman is never acceptable.

    @ 123454321

    I didn’t infer anything that you are suggesting. Adiabat might support your claim, but nobody else would. Your example is useless. Concentrate on this bit to understand why: “I think it is”

    It isn’t difficult.

  85. 85
    Ally Fogg

    JT

    I question even interpersonal violence being less. I guess you could say that male to female violence(in the west) has lessened in the last several decades but the question is, is it comparable with female to male violence. Considering it has been hidden mostly, how can we know if it has lessened? The truth is, because of the typical non reporting done by males it could have actually increased.

    Well stats on reporting (to police) is all but useless in this context, for all sorts of reasons. The only meaningful guides we have are victimisation surveys like NCVS in the US and BCS/CSEW in the UK. They won’t give you absolute numbers but are a pretty reliable guide to trends.

    Both NCVS and BCS showed acts of violence with female perpetrators to be increasing since records begIt (since 1973 in the USA and 1981 in the UK) until the mid 90s, at which point they started declining rapidly, in an almost exact mirror of male violence.

    It is very hard to conceive an explanation for this except for the obvious one, that both women and men are becoming less violent.

  86. 86
    JT

    Interestingly enough Ally, my experience in the real world. As in, face to face, shows me women are much more aggressive than I saw when I was younger. Typically more aggression leads to more violence, so, I would definately question those stats in regards to women.

  87. 87
    Copyleft

    People do what they can get away with. Girls need to be instructed, just as boys are, that violent behavior is never justified, never ‘empowering,’ and never ‘harmless.’ It’s wrong and should be punished whenever and wherever it occurs. TV talk shows that cheer for female violence with chants of “You go, girl” are part of the problem, as are movies where women demonstrate their outrage with a hefty slap, and sitcoms where they threaten to abuse boyfriends and husbands, accompanied by a rollicking laugh track.

  88. 88
    123454321

    “People do what they can get away with.”

    You’re spot on with that one Copyleft.

  89. 89
    Char

    I find it truly sad with other women ignore the psychology of an abuse victim. I have a unique perspective because I’ve only had serious relationships with other girls, and my first love was frequently violent. I’m 5’10″ and athletic, yet in every single instance of physical violence; I was the victim. Yes, I am stronger than my ex, taller, more capable. However, I could never go to places she was willing to go when she was enraged. I had deep compassion for her, even when she would physically attack me in random outbursts, and I didn’t know what to do. I can easily imagine it is the same for some men, especially men who have been socialized to never harm a woman. Men who have been socialized to be patient and protective of women. I was never really taught to not be violent, and yet, when faced with violence from someone I loved; I was practically defenseless. It’s a psychological phenomenon that has little to do with physical strength.

  90. 90
    Darren Ball

    @89 Char,

    That’s very insightful – I got a lot from that.

    Thanks.

  91. 91
    Danny Gibbs

    I can easily imagine it is the same for some men, especially men who have been socialized to never harm a woman. Men who have been socialized to be patient and protective of women.
    Exactly.

    I think what has happened is in the rush to say that “men are controlling” and “men think they have a right to abuse women” it has been forgotten that a lot of men have been socialized to never harm a woman or even protect themselves from a woman. That shit gets in your head.

    The funny thing is when it comes to men abusing women all things are considered from the obvious physical differences to the culture influences and how they factor into why men abuse women. However on the rare occasion that female against male abuse is brought up all of a sudden all factors except physicality are tossed out the window (this happens when talking about rape as well).

    Being bigger and stronger don’t mean nothing if you have raised, socialized, and conditioned to believe that it is wrong to apply that superior size and strength when you need it. (Or to put it bluntly, why is it wrong to question why a woman who knows martial arts or owns weapons is attacked but its okay to question why a man who is bigger/stronger than the woman who attacked him was attacked anyway?)

  92. 92
    carnation

    @ Ally Fogg

    If I may be so bold as to ask you a few questions (and I will bear in mind that I am being rather rude in doing so, so a “oh feck aff, carnation” will not offend):

    1/ Will you note today?
    2/ If so, who will you vote for?
    3/ Will gender politics in any way influence your vote?

  93. 93
    carnation

    “1/ Will you note today?” should of course read “1/ Will you vote today”

  94. 94
    Kate

    Ally,

    I have been reading a variety of your articles over the last couple of days and I am certainly a fan. Since reading the book Siren Dance; My Marriage to a Borderline by Dan Barker I have been interested in the topic of female violence in relationships. I do believe it is a serious problem.
    I especially liked the article you referenced at the beginning of this piece, on our difficulty conceptualizing a violent woman. I think that is very true, as Barbara Ellen’s piece shows all too vividly.
    Like yourself, I find her victim blaming particularly troubling, because it is as ubiquitous as it is offensive. I see very little difference in content or motivation between what she said in her article and those people who still blame women for the abuse they suffer.
    If anything, we find it easier to blame the victim in the case of women attacking men, because of the traditional and highly patriarchal view of women as reactive creatures. The same fairy tale myth that any man can get any woman to fall in love with him by doing the “right things” has a dark flip side, ie. that if a woman does something bad to a man, he must have done something to warrant it. Because heaven forfend the idea that women are capable of independent thought and action and therefore morally culpable for the bad things we might choose to do, including getting “slap-happy.”
    In her piece you referenced, Barbara Ellen is being very unwittingly patriarchal herself.
    Thank you again for what you have written.

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