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?