Are you comfortably numb?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Editorial 3 Issue 1295

Apparently I didn't post this when it was written, and only realised today. So here it is. Better late than never? I hope so...

Battered husbands

Domestic violence against women: one of the most sickening and emotive topics to disgrace our society, and now recognised as one of Britain’s worst social problems. This is evidenced by the high-profile media coverage it receives by events such as Comic Relief, often endorsed by celebrities like Davina McCall. The vocabulary of domestic violence has even saturated our language, often in a slightly perverse way. Stella Artois is referred to as ‘wife-beater’; one type of men’s clothing is called a ‘beater’; and the phrase ‘battered wives’ appears almost as frequently as Susan Kennedy’s scarves.

But has the emphasis on women eclipsed an equally important issue: that of domestic violence against men? Abuse perpetrated by women against their male partners is a more common occurrence than most of us would imagine. 1995 statistics showed that although women suffered an estimated 3.29 million incidents of domestic violence in that year alone, men suffered 3.25 million. 2004 Home Office figures show that 23% of 30-34-year-old men in Britain have experienced assault, threats or both.

It is true that women are more likely to suffer recurrent abuse that results in injury. Nevertheless, the great taboo that stifles a discussion on male victims must be broken. Many experts believe that men are less likely to report this crime because it is seen as an embarrassment. Martial arts instructor George Rolph spoke to the BBC about his experiences of domestic violence: “Men dismiss you if you say a woman is beating you up. For a start, they look at you with contempt a lot of the time.”

The exposure of this sinister should lead us to question a wider issue, though. As I’ve discussed before in Redbrick (Feminism: Friend or Foe? in Issue 1292), the “Men are Bastards!” wave of feminism has successfully managed to leave a whole generation of women (mine) with the belief that men deserve no respect because they are inherently abhorrent and superfluous to society. An advert a few years ago reflected this by showing a working woman returning home (by working woman, I mean a woman who has a job, not a prostitute; and of course she had to be working because you’re not a real woman unless you have a career) to pour a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise over her husband/partner/boyfriend/minion. I forget why she was annoyed with him, but the result was fairly messy. (I also forget what the advert was for; perhaps a revamped version of Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, but with less “mystique” and more “shrew”.) Imagine if that advert had been the other way round, and it had been the bloke who’d transformed his girlfriend into Pasta a la Trouser-suit. Well, you couldn’t imagine it, because it would never have happened, unless the CEO of the marketing agency was actually Norman Tebbit. If the sexes were reversed, it would be classed as domestic abuse.

Do women respect men? A large part of me believes that boys really are heartless, hedonistic he-men whose main goal in life is to be able to treat relationships like pic-n-mix shelves. But another part of me has seen a very distasteful side to women as well. Take flirting. Many girls will flirt outrageously with someone they know is interested in them, with absolutely no intention of taking it further than the Chill room in Risa. And yes, it’s fun, but how would we feel if a bloke did it to us? No doubt he would immediately get christened all number of unprintable names and slagged off to Ben & Jerry and Ernest and Julio for months to come.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg; I don’t have enough space to elaborate on this cold reality. But it is out there, and it needs to change. I’m not trying to ignore the fact that men abuse women. What I am doing is calling for us to stop ignoring the fact that women abuse men.



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