Part of a Solution, Or Part of the Problem?

Published July 28, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

I don’t know if you saw this article from the Herald Sun over the past few days.  It is a piece by the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, calling for men to both listen to women when they speak about domestic and gendered violence, and for men to speak up against all instances of violence towards women, not just the big horrifying stuff.  It asks men to take a look at their own attitudes and behaviour, and whether or not they are contributing to a culture that excuses violence towards women.

It’s an excellent piece and I am happy to see such an influential man standing up and calling out the dismissive attitudes that many men have towards domestic and gendered violence.

I of course, shared it on my Facebook and asked the men in my life, who I believe are good men, otherwise I wouldn’t have them in my life, to take some action themselves.  I saw the article shared by many, many women but had not once seen a man share it.  So I asked the men in my life to ask themselves if perhaps this was an indication that they were not listening to the women in their lives, and could take a little more action to speak up against violence against women.

Two awesome dudes in my life took the time to post the article themselves and openly condemn violence towards women, no matter how big or small.  I’m so proud to know those two guys are listening, and are not afraid to step up and say that violence towards women is unacceptable.  That’s the kind of man I want in my life.

But I’m not so pleased about is the responses to the article that I saw.  They were the same response in every place I looked regardless of the gender of the commenter, or their age, or whether they were commenting on it posted by a man or by a woman.  Now while the actual wording of the responses were different, they all said basically the same thing:

Men are violent towards women because of [television/pop music/the economy/culture/parents/insert other excuse here].

Over and over and over again, something was to blame for men being violent towards women.  The shit kiddies watch on telly today.  Those awful rappers.  The economy, men don’t feel respected when they can’t be breadwinners.  Young people today.  Because women are sometimes violent too.  Porn, porn makes men violent.  Religion, religion makes men violent.

All these excuses.

I’m sick of the excuses.  Can we not just stand up and say that when men are violent towards women, it’s because those men believe they have the right to be?  And by making excuses and pointing the blame at external factors all the time, we’re GIVING them an out.  We’re telling men that we “understand” that things “make” them violent towards women, instead of placing the blame exactly where it lies, with the men who are violent towards women.

The one that bugs me the most is the whole “young people today with their television and pop music” argument.  I’m 41 this year, so I’m in my 5th decade.  I’ve been around since the 70’s, and guess what, the past isn’t some rosy place where no woman was ever subjected to violence.  Popular culture is no  more to blame for men being violent towards women today as it was in the 70’s when my father was kicking the shit out of me.  I’ve survived violence from men through every decade of my life, be it overt or subtle, it has always been there.  From the domestic abuse of my childhood, the sexual abuse of my teens and twenties, through abusive partners in my 30’s and I still have men groping or grabbing me in public, spitting at me, calling me a cunt in the street or sending me death threats online.  Music and telly didn’t cause that at any point in my life, the cultural excuses for violence against women did.

The same goes for the economy/breadwinner argument.  If violence towards women were based on economy or employment, then no wealthy man would have ever murdered, raped or assaulted a woman in history, which we know is not true.  We would never have had violence towards women in boom times, like after the second world war or through the early 2000’s.  Men in jobs they love that provide them with excellent incomes are still violent towards women, this is not about whether or not a man is “respected” as a breadwinner.  It’s pretty disgusting that anyone would demand that men should be “shown respect” through the struggling economy when women can’t even be respected as human beings whether the economy is good or not.

When we constantly try to find something to blame for violence towards women, we are contributing to the problem.  We’re building the culture that tells men it’s not their fault that they are violent towards women, instead of telling them that violence towards women is inexcusable.  We have to tell the perpetrators of violence that they are responsible for their actions, not find something else to blame.  Until we do, this culture is never going to be broken.  And women are still going to be living their lives in fear of “triggering” violence from men.

If you’re making excuses as to why men are being violent towards women, I want you to listen to yourself.  Whatever your gender, I want you to ask why there has to be an excuse, why you have to find something to blame?  Ask yourself, is this part of the solution, or am I part of the problem?

*And before you start in on the “But what about violence against men?!” crap, read this, and then read this.

35 comments on “Part of a Solution, Or Part of the Problem?

  • Unbelievable. The New Yorker had a good article a couple of weeks ago on new techniques to identify high risk victims and intervene before they get killed. One of the interesting things they said in the piece was that perpetrators are often believed over victims, right up to the point that they kill someone. The reason? Victims are harassed, traumatised and usually sleepless. Living in fear all the time messes you up. Really messes you up, so you come across as neurotic and unreliable. Whereas if you’re a violent bully, you’re the one sleeping well. You’re the one in control. So the very thing that makes them violent – no fear of reprisal – is the very same thing that gives them credibility. Then add in the cultural things you’re talking about – and you get a lot of women whose lives are in jeopardy.

    • Exactly bodycrimes. Part of the culture that has been created to excuse men of violence against women is the grooming of women to also believe they deserve the violence.

  • This is a really powerful post. Isn’t it sad that we automatically give excuses for this abhorrent behavior? Everyone deserves a world with less violence.

    • You wouldn’t believe the people clamouring to make even further excuses right here on this post about people making excuses for violence against women, susiekline. Yeesh!

  • I love your passion for this Kath. I’m currently working in DV services and the attitudes people hold about Domestic Violence (which now is legislated to include emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, technological abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse) astound me. So often the victims (which are 96% female) still blame themselves and the men so often get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist .

    Men need to start being held accountable for their own actions.

    The victim is never to blame.


    Or something to that effect because Andrew Smith didn’t take the fucking time to actually read what I said OR the two posts I linked to at the bottom that are for men who want to come along and say exactly what he said.

    • Seriously, if you arseholes aren’t going to actually read what I write, I’m going to paraphrase any comments you leave with what you are



      Instead of wasting my and others time trying to prove that you’re the “exception to the rule” why don’t you examine what the actual rule is and take a long hard look at yourself… which is exactly what I and the original article I linked to are telling you to do in the first place.


        *FLOUNCES OUT*]

        Again, paraphrased to showcase the crux of Andrew Smith’s argument.

  • A – fucking – men, sistah! It’s always possible to find an excuse for shitty behavior towards someone else, and it’s positively encouraged when that shitty behavior is directed at a woman. Every time you laugh at a rape joke, soft-pedal the act of hitting a woman by finding an excuse for it, snicker at a woman asking for respect, you are contributing to the rape culture.

    It took me over forty years to completely understand that my own brother is a horrible misogynist. I didn’t want to believe it, and he paid such good lip service to women’s rights. But over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that he’s a part of the problem. Sure, he’s fine with equal pay/access to services/sexual autonomy in theory. It’s just that pretty much every time it comes down to a specific case, well, there’s a reason *this* woman doesn’t meet the standard.

    He showed me a poem he wrote once, that he was sure I would find devastating when I recognized myself in it. It was just a string of all the ‘excuses’ women had used not to date him, the ‘nice guy.’ Apparently if a woman didn’t want to go out with him, anything she said from ‘I really don’t want to date anyone right now’ to ‘I’m just not attracted to you’ to ‘I’m moving to another state’ was just an excuse so that she would be free to find a man who would, of course, treat her like trash because that’s what she really wanted.

    You know what? I had said a few things on that list to guys who asked me out. I’d told them ‘gee, sorry, but I’m dating someone else’ and I’d said ‘I don’t want to mess up our friendship’ and I’d said ‘I’m still getting over a bad break up.’ So yes, I’d said things on that list. Funny thing, they weren’t ‘excuses’ to get out of dating someone nice. They were actual reasons I didn’t want to date that particular person at that particular time.

    I never needed an ‘excuse.’ I had – and have – autonomy to choose. You know, because I’m an actual person in my own right, not a convenience for any random man who thinks he gets to have me because he’s decided he’s attracted.

    Oh, and I’ve been married for over twenty years to the nicest man I’ve ever known. You know, one who heaved a sigh of relief the first time I listened to a song he’d written and said I didn’t like it because he knew that meant I was going to be completely honest with him. One who listens to my opinions and prizes my intelligence. One who encourages me to do the things that make me happy, whether or not they do him a blind bit of good.

    It’s almost like he thinks I’m an actual person! Who’d’a thunk it?

    • Ahh the old “nice guy” trope. The “I’m such a nice guy but all you women are bitches.” bullshit. It’s unbelievable how many dudes buy into that shit.

      Mr Twistie sounds like a total catch, he hasn’t got a brother like him has he?

      • What’s even scarier about the ‘nice guy’ trope is how many women buy into it, too. My brother showed his ‘devastating’ poem to several other women who were utterly mortified to see words they had spoken in it. Me? Not so much. I know the difference between a reason and an excuse. I may have a reason for not wanting to go out with someone, but I need no excuse.

        Mr. Twistie is an only, so no, no brother. Also, we have not propagated. Then again, I firmly believe Mr. Twistie was born because the universe knew that household needed one sensible adult in it.

  • “Can we not just stand up and say that when men are violent towards women, it’s because those men believe they have the right to be?”

    So… culture then?

    Acknowledging that there is a culture and training that men go through that encourages them to believe that women are objects for them to use is not the same as assuming they are not ultimately responsible, it encourages coming up with ways to prevent these things from happening in the first place.

    I don’t believe your point is wrong–men do need to be taught that they are responsible for the actions they commit. But first, it’s a mistake to think that this isn’t a part of anti-violence activism already (see “tips to prevent rape” among others). Second, where do you think male violence comes from? Where do you think they’re getting the idea that they have the right to be? Because it isn’t something they’re born with, it’s something displayed to them from infancy onward. All of those factors need to be addressed, not just one or a few.

    • Look Jaz, if you’re not going to read what I write properly, don’t fucking comment OK? Now go back and read it again, and read the two pieces I linked to in the footnote. Or piss off. I don’t care.

  • IF male violence were actually caused by the media or whatever (which we all know it isn’t), then right-thinking men would be up in arms against the media, which they aren’t. I mean seriously, they are fucking making excuses when they say that, and I just want to slap them upside the head. Either head.

    I also HATE how some women are so gaslighted by society that they still believe things like the clothes some one wore caused a rape. Women in full burkas get raped. Little old ladies in their homes get raped. Children get raped.

    Anytime women speak up and try to change the system they are buried under threats of violence. This has been proven over and over. Thank goodness some men are finally speaking out about this bullshit. I hope the trend continues. In the meantime, I need to get over my own ingrained fears and do my own speaking out. I fully own my own training to be a good girl and keep my head down and go along with flow. Breaking out of it has not been easy for me, and may be a lifelong process. I don’t know why it is so hard, but every time I bring it up to myself, I start crying, like I am now. Hugs welcome.

    • Absolutely Linda… why is it that so many men are quick to launch at women who call out the excuses made for violence against women, yet won’t take on the media or general cultural attitudes or even other dudes that are actually the problem. If you’re so up in arms about being tainted as a bad dude by other bad dudes, how about taking it out on the BAD DUDES, not the women who are the victims of said bad dudes.

  • First of all – I smile every time I see your pic in the sidebar. It just makes me happy. You absolutely sparkle with your sassy self and I completely and totally adore that. Really! Keep being awesome!

    Second – I really tried to chew on the idea as to why men are violent to women. I found myself returning to the my own personal feeling that it really isn’t limited to men hurting women. This is a people going after other people problem – or even people being incredibly hateful to themselves problem. I’m not sure when being loving to others and ourselves lost popularity but I sure would like to see it return to fashion. Like you, I am seriously over the blame game. Take responsibility for your own crap people! Step up and own your choices. And after that, make better choices! I’m not asking for perfection (heaven knows I’m nowhere close) but let’s reel in the range of bad decisions we can make. And boys, keep your mits off the ladies – both physical and emotional. Set a better example and man up. And girls, if you are putting up with that, please try to get out of it. Life’s too important to give it away to someone else and their meanness.

    So that’s my thought. Once again, you are fab. Never ever stop being exactly who you are! 🙂 Joanna

    • This is only a hazy idea, but watching my friends’ kids grow up, I’ve learned that people have a varying range of how much they feel empathy. Some kids are naturals, and some have to be carefully taught.

      I suspect that people with less natural empathy, if they don’t get taught, have more trouble figuring out what is wrong with their behavior. If they are also immature or have problems, they will also freak out when someone tells them they are wrong, just like a toddler does. Only toddlers are generally less dangerous than adults.

      I’ve also noticed that kids do this thing where they try to control other people’s behavior. Maybe it’s some sort of survival mechanism – if I control this person, they won’t kill me and take my stuff. This also needs to be trained out of people and I don’t think everyone has a good handle on how to do this, or even realizes it is necessary.

      I hope that as we talk about bullying and bigotry and so forth we will learn to teach empathy better and stop trying to control other people.

      Or maybe we will all turn into Reavers one day.

      • That is definitely an interesting idea, hazy or not. One of my children has a lot of natural empathy, one has less. So I spend a lot of time talking to him about other people’s needs being important, about personal space, about taking turns, sharing, respecting other people’s needs, about how he shouldn’t do things to other people that he doesn’t like when other people do to him.

        I talk to him about not butting in and quickly reading over people’s shoulders when other kids are trying to read and are slower than he is, because they need to be given a chance to do their own thing and not be shamed for not being as fast as he is. (I also point out that that everyone has different skills and other kids are better at other things).
        I tell him that when he feels like hitting or kicking, he needs to get up and walk away and count to twenty slowly until he calms down, because lashing out with violence is not a good way of dealing with things.

        Basically I am trying to establish in his mind a conscious sense of other people’s autonomy and right to live their own lives in their own way. I hope that this sort of conscious consideration helps him to be a respectful and kind person as a teenager and an adult., and not contribute to the culture of violence and aggression, and DISMISSIVENESS against women.

        • Good for you! I hope your plan works out. One of my friends has a son with those tendencies too. He also has a high stress level for some reason and gets upset about all kinds of things. I hope he will eventually learn to calm himself and respect other people more.

      • Then there’s the ultimate excuse: “But not alllll men are like THAT!” But by the numbers, when there is an issue of domestic violence or sexual assault, it is OVERWHELMINGLY committed by (almost always cis and hetero) men and suffered by: trans* women, cis women, and FAAB genderqueer people. The cult of masculinity as well as rape culture and the devaluation of everyone who ISN’T a cis man will keep this crap coming. Power is never given up easily and unfortunately most (not all) cis men don’t want to lose their power even though this “power” ruins the lives of countless people who weren’t lucky enough to be born with cis male privilege.

        • Anybody with half a brain knows all men aren’t like that. I hate that excuse too. I also hate the fact that the ‘good guys’ don’t stand up enough and fight the culture too. Makes them part of the problem too.

          Maybe they really don’t want to change things. Maybe it’s a skill that needs to be taught. I don’t know.

          At least all of us who want to change things can keep in touch with each other and share support, advice and actions.

    • I get what you are saying about it not being limited to men hurting women, that’s true. However, the majority of it IS men going after women, the numbers back that up. Also, much of the violence men experience is at the hands of other men. So there is a problem in our culture of how we seemingly regard being masculine/manly with violence and aggression. I would recommend watching Jackson Katz’s video on violence against women, he gives some great information on the issue and ideas on how to solve the problem.

  • I have a question about this, if you would be willing to indulge my ignorance and share your insight with me. Is there a way to show support for abused women by encouraging them to stand up and take responsibility for their own safety? I am NOT talking about “blame” of any kind – in fact, I want to be the antithesis of that asshole who always says, “well, if she stays she must like it.”

    No, the blame belongs always to the abuser, as does the responsibility to stop being a Goddamn monster! However, I don’t like the notion that if the violent bullies of the world DON’T see the error of their ways, their victims are just shit out of luck. Women should be encouraged to fight back, retaliate, and stop thinking of themselves as weak, helpless, and somehow deserving of their fate.

    It’s a tricky sentiment, because this kind of support is often labeled as blame or worse, decried as “putting the victim in further danger.”

    • There is no easy answer Jenna. I’ve been the victim of violence, both short and long term, and it’s living hell. But women who stay with men who abuse them do so because of many complex reasons. Financial dependence, low self esteem, fear of the violence escalating, fear for children in the relationship, fear of being alone or simply because they have been groomed for so long by their abuser into believing that they DESERVE to be treated that way. Among other things.

      More than anything, because the culture we live in CONSTANTLY makes excuses for violence against women, women in these situations feel desperately, hopelessly alone. Be it a single act of violence or a prolongued abuse, women feel like they are going to be told that “Some women lie.” or “Why didn’t you leave?” or “What were you wearing/drinking/doing?” Women constantly hear the message that their side of the story is by default not to be trusted (because “some women lie about abuse” – as though some men never lie too – the number of comments I’ve smashed here show just how virulent that attitude is) and that they must have somehow earned their abuse.

      In an ideal world, yes it would be great if women were empowered to stand up to abusers, had the resources to flee and get help, had support from the community (when we fled my abusive father, we were shunned by our community), financial help, help for their children and just the physical and emotional strength to walk away, let alone fight back.

      But we don’t live in an ideal world. So what we can do is speak out about violence against women. Call out the culture of blaming or doubting the victims. Make it known that violence against women is NEVER acceptable and that if nothing else, you will listen. Participate in events like White Ribbon Day and spread the message publicly.

      On a personal level, you can: flag worrying behaviour (by talking to the victim) when you see it, but do so discreetly, carefully and with understanding that she may be in a situation that she cannot see a way out of. Help the victim find resources that will assist her in getting out. Offer support and help where you can – babysitting her kids while she gets legal advice/sees a doctor/counsellor, help her open a bank account that you can deposit her money into for her (it is often not safe for women to be caught saving money by their abuser, financial abuse is part of the problem), store a photocopy/pdf file of all her ID and paperwork safely for her, squirrel away some of her or her kids clothes so that if they have to leave quickly and can’t take anything, there’s something waiting for them. Think of practical ways you can help. If nothing else, keep a diary yourself of incidents and evidence so that if she needs it later, you’ve got it for her.

      But most of all make it known that you care about her and she is worthy of better than the abuse she is receiving. Tell her you love/like/respect her (depending on your relationship with her of course) and that she deserves to be safe and happy.


    Condensed and rephrased to demonstrate Nick’s actual attitude to violence against women.

    • I’ve made it clear before, if you come here making bullshit excuses to try to remove the responsibility of violence against women from the perpetrators, I will fucking edit your comment to show clearly what a douchebag you are.

  • Yuck, something similar happened here in Norway. It’s election year this year and one of the candidates from one of the more conservative parties went to visit a crisis center for women and he was interviewed about it. The title of the article was actually “I’m ashamed to be a man”, because that’s how he felt after the visit. The article included how one of his goals if he was elected was to use money to make the crisis centers bigger and better and then more general info on violence against women. I myself am not a survivor of any wild sort of violence (there has been some close calls, but I’ve been lucky so far) but as a feminist I am of course passionate about all kinds of injustice. To get to the point, the article has so far only gotten one comment and it was all about how very NOT helpful this gender-specific shame is because of course there are *gasp* men who are victims and the commenter (who by the name I assume to be a woman) herself has only seen women being violent to men and children. So of course she spoke up for the men and in the future, when we would have studies proving that women are equally as violent, we should feel ashamed too. It’s just bloody awful. I’m so tired of the anti-feminist mood in the comment section on every Norwegian mainstream newspaper article about issues like this. Of course, violence in the home is a bad thing no matter who is the abuser and the abused. It’s a given. Beating people up for no reason is a shitty thing to do. However, when a clear majority of the affected are women we must speak up about it because obviously it is an issue. Heck, we don’t have that many murders here in Norway per year, but most of the murders that has happened so far this year has been commited by the partner of the victim. All those murdered by their partner were women. I don’t think it’s okay to hijack a conversation about violence against women to make a point about these poor non-violent men and their possibly hurt feelings because of this generalisation. It steers the conversation away from the important topics and frankly dismisses the terror the women in the shelters has experienced because of some theoretically hurt feelings and “not all men are like that!!!”

    • Hanne it seems to be a sentiment popping up everywhere. In a lot of ways, I think we’ve gone backwards in society, women are more hated now than they have been in the past.

      So many men (and indoctrinated women) feel the need to assert that “Some women lie” as though no man has ever lied, as though women aren’t denounced as liars all the time when they are telling the truth, and that one woman lying would negate the millions of women raped, beaten and abused every single year. Why does this always have to be about defending the menfolk and not stopping the very real violence that is endemic in our society?

  • I just wanted to say that I love the fact that you edit the wanky comments. I know that a lot of places like to leave them up as a discussion point or whatever, but honestly they just bum me out. I much prefer your versions 😉

    • It’s my pleasure Sally. Quite literally. I spent four years of this blog trying to be “balanced” and “reason” with people like these and it got me fucking nowhere, so I’m done with their shit.

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