Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's a shame you brought that up...

On this morning's thread, JPJ2 mentioned that he was the only person brave enough to have left a mildly critical comment on Jenny Kemp's piece about male violence against women at Better Nation. Ms Kemp later responded to his comment directly, and it was a fairly extraordinary contribution -

"It’s a shame that you want to get into this ‘what about abused men’ argument. This was a post about men’s power, privilege, and misuse of those, and the onus on men with public platforms to condemn abuse of women and not perpetuate myths surrounding it."

The problem here is that JPJ2 was in no sense changing the subject. One of the premises on which Jenny's argument and conclusions hinged was that domestic violence is essentially something that men do to women, and not the other way round. JPJ2's comment challenged that premise, and therefore could hardly have been more relevant. Jenny must surely have realised that, so to react by telling him off for speaking out of turn, rather than addressing the legitimate objection he raised, is on the face of it thoroughly peculiar. But it fits into a wider pattern with radical feminism - namely, that certain articles of faith are not up for debate. They don't need to be tested or justified, they're just facts. If you don't find them convincing, it's not the philosophy that's wrong, it's a personal failing on your part. Or perhaps you just haven't been browbeaten hard enough yet. It's not uncommon to hear the phrase "we need to educate men" - not listen to, not engage with, simply educate. In most cases, that's code for stop thinking, and start accepting.

"Of course no-one should ever have to accept domestic abuse, and any men who experience it should be supported, but it’s a different issue."

I would suggest that the first and most important step towards "supporting" men who have been abused is precisely to admit that the issue is not "different". Does a punch to the face feel different if you're a man? Is being struck with a blunt instrument less stressful if you're male? Do men bleed differently to women? Of course not, but by peddling the idea that in some magical, unspecified way it's completely different for men (and by logical extension that men are lesser victims), Ms Kemp is perpetuating the very stigma that makes life so intolerable for many male victims. The radical feminist message in relation to domestic violence is "men are all-powerful, women are passive" (ironically, a profoundly conservative and sexist notion), so if a man admits to being abused it's a strike against his masculinity. Or he'll be told that it can't be as bad as all that, or that he's lying. Is that Ms. Kemp's idea of being supportive?

Another theme of the article was that because men generically are 'to blame' for violence against women, there is a responsibility on all men, whether they are perpetrators or not, to do something about it and "challenge" that violence. They are being negligent if they fail to do so. So if we are expected to believe that female-on-male domestic violence is of an entirely different character, does that mean women generically are 'to blame' for it? We can only assume not, because Jenny sees no irony in the fact that she has effectively been negligent by not actively challenging that type of violence herself - indeed in her article she did the opposite of challenge it, she wrote as if it didn't exist. So it seems we must conclude that male violence against women is "gender-based", but female violence against men is not.

But how can that possibly be? If female-on-male violence proves that human beings can occasionally be violent against their partners in a sporadic way that is not rooted in "patriarchy", "matriarchy" or any other type of "-archy", surely the same must sometimes apply to male-on-female violence? How can all male-on-female violence be "gender-based" (and thus something that the male gender is collectively responsible for), when no female-on-male violence need ever trouble the conscience of any other woman? It's just nonsense, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that the real problem with male victims, and this need to swat them away, and tell them "it's a shame" when they don't keep their noses out of all this, is less to do with protecting female victims of violence, and more to do with protecting a treasured belief-system that countless lifetimes of political activism would be rendered meaningless without. That was of course the point that JPJ2 was making - that this isn't a gender-exclusive issue, and that the most effective way to help all victims, including female victims, is to move beyond that warped and harmful paradigm. Is Ms. Kemp actually interested in discussing what might be effective, or do we have to sign up lock, stock and barrel to her ideology before our voices can be considered legitimate?

"Women experience a whole continuum of abuse from men (sexual harrassment, domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage, exploitation in prostitution, stalking, genital mutilation etc etc) in a way that men don’t."

OK, let's take those one at a time -

Men experience sexual harrassment. If anyone claims they don't, it's only for the same reason that men supposedly "can't be raped by women", ie. the act is either defined in law or in the interpretation of the law in ludicrously gendered terms. Men experience harrassment at the hands of both men and women, just as women do. So this is not an exclusively male-on-female problem.

Men experience domestic abuse, as Ms Kemp herself has conceded. They experience it at the hands of both women and men, just as women do. Again, not an exclusively male-on-female problem.

Men experience sexual violence, at the hands of both men and women. As noted above, the only reason they "can't be raped by a woman" is that the law defines rape in gendered terms.

Men experience forced marriage. Women experience it more frequently because of gender discrimination in the societies they live in or their societies of origin. However, the perpetrators of forced marriage are both male and female.

Men experience exploitation in prostitution. But it's hard not to suspect here that Ms Kemp probably takes the "Swedish model" view that all prostitution, however scrupulously consensual, constitutes violence against women, again relying on the sexist and discriminatory worldview that only men are responsible for their actions, and women don't know their own minds.

Men experience stalking, at the hands of both women and men.

The closest Ms Kemp gets to a genuinely gender-exclusive problem is genital mutilation, but even this is something that boys are routinely subjected to as well, albeit in a different form.

"And the root cause of this is women’s wider inequality, in a patriarchal society."

So for the "root cause" of an exclusively male-on-female phenomenon that demonstrably does not actually exist, we're offered an evidence-free affirmation of blind faith in the concept of "patriarchy"? Wow.

"The experience of male domestic abuse victims are really quite different and not something I want to get into here."

And how is it different? She'll tell us later. Maybe.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm convinced.


  1. Thanks for following up on this, James.

    I will give Better Nation the benefit of the doubt for now and assume they just have not reviewed it, but my reply to Jenny Kemp remains in moderation there since 12.54pm (over 5.5 hours now as I write)

    My response, to her reply to me "It's a shame that you want to get into this 'what about abused men' argument"


    "Why is it a shame? Sorry, but we are talking about human beings here and the experience of men and women are equally important.
    If you believe that a man abusing a woman is necessarily something completely different from a woman abusing a man then I, for one, say you are completely and utterly wrong" end quote

    Unfortunately it looks as if the "Zero Tolerance" of Jenny Kemp is also extended to those whose sincere and rational opinions differ from hers. No good can come of that.

  2. I remember Jackie Baillie when she was a minister ststing that men are NEVER the victims of DV. That is stillthe official labour position afaik.
    There's no point bothering to try to debate the facts of violence with this kind of woman. They are beyond reason. Unfortunately they have had too much power. Remember the zero tolerance adverts stating that all men were rapists. Paid for by my taxes.

    We have a poster in the men's toilet at work warning about the consequences of DV. At the bottom it states the men can CAN be victims too. Not ARE victims. Still they got an award from the professional victims society for it. Makes everything OK.

  3. Anonymous-It certainly looks as if you are right about the pointlessness of trying to debate with Jenny Kemp.

    I sent a polite request this morning for my reply (as shown in my first e mail here) to be published, saying I assumed it was an oversight that it had not been.

    That request has now been deleted. Comments are declared closed. My unpublished reply remains in moderation. I still hope the non-publication is an oversight.

    I assume that Jenny Kemp rather than the usual team is controlling the moderation on her article and she has so far striven to prove you correct. That such anti-male prejudice should be on open display I find alarming-but I cannot pretend to be surprised.

    I just hope Jenny reads my comment of yesterday about how more women could be saved from serious violence but I fear that will not be acceptable to her apparently ossified views.

  4. Is it not the case that Kemp's only failing is one of emphasising the main problem to the exclusion of others? It would be interesting to see thet stats on relative frequency of female on male domestic violence and vice versa (acknowledging that men are probably less likely than women to come forward because of the fear of being ridiculed) so we have an idea of the size of the problem being excluded.

  5. Craig P No. Jenny Kemp is saying that women attacking men is not the same as men attacking women-she says so quite explicitly and in so doing is dangerously wrong. Both cases are one human being attacking another.

    As I said on the one comment that I was allowed (my reply to her dismissive reply to me has never been published except here (thanks James K), and has now been removed from Better Nation) so this lady is no seeker after debate or truth.

    As to the statistics I quoted my local RC charge who say that one woman in 4 and one man in 8 experiences domestic abuse. I googled and readily found much supporting evidence-try which essentially identifies the same significant female on male abuse levels as my local RC Church.

    I repeat, as I did on James Kelly's previous peace that more women could be saved from violence if feminists of Jenny Kemp's stripe engaged with the facts instead of suppressing reasoned comment like mine

  6. Craig : "Is it not the case that Kemp's only failing is one of emphasising the main problem to the exclusion of others?"

    No, I'd say it's much more fundamental than that, because Jenny wasn't simply misrepresenting the problem as being gender-exclusive - she was also reaching some far-reaching and dubious conclusions ("male protection racket") based on that false premise. If we buy into those conclusions, as so many politicians do, we end up going down a cul-de-sac in our efforts to tackle domestic violence - we throw big sticks at the largely imaginary (in these times) bogey-man of "patriarchy", rather than tackling the true root causes such as societal tolerance of low-grade violence and abusive behaviour, alcohol dependence, and anger issues in individuals of both genders.

    Of course there are still men who hold sexist attitudes, but in most cases male-on-female violence is happening because you have an angry and violent individual who happens to be (because he is heterosexual) in an intimate relationship with a woman. The same explanation holds true in reverse for female-on-male domestic violence.

    I gather there's a significant incidence of domestic violence among lesbian couples, so we can safely exclude "patriarchy" or gender inequality as the explanation there.

  7. Ms Kemp, an example of a cultic "thinker" of a specific stripe - a low-grade "theologian" of the message of the sect?

  8. If anyone read my attempts to stick up for Jeff Breslin when he made a recent post on Better Nation about Bill Walker, you'll see what happens when you try to point out the fallacies of many feminist arguments. You tell them they're not going to win any converts with an aggressive tone, and you're accused of being a "concern troll". You tell them that it's wrong to make sweeping statements that put the blame on all males, and you're accused of trying to derail the debate. Essentially, make any point that is even slightly at odds with what they say, and you're accused of being not only sexist, but a misogynist. Yes, you actually hate women.

    I've picked up feminists on the "what about violence against men?" point before on Twitter, and it just doesn't register. They just don't see that to focus completely on violence against women, they are merely compounding sexism. They seem to think that violent men are only violent towards women, so the way to diffuse the problem is to tell these men not to hit women. This completely ignores the fact that those who commit domestic violence generally commit it against every member of the household. So, we stop violent men from hitting their sons by telling them violence against women is wrong? No - we do it by telling them violence against anyone is wrong.

    Anyone reading Eric Joyce's recent article in the Daily Mail will see why the Labour party are wrong on this issue. He talks of how if two guys in the street have decided to settle their differences with a punch up, we should just leave them to it. Oh, okay, so I'm sure the loser of that fight won't go home and knock about his wife and kids. Think back to Ian Davidson threatening Eilidh Whitford with "a doing", but clarifying that he didn't mean sexually (so just a normal beating up, then). Mixed messages galore.

    But as I say, you try to explain any of this to a feminist, and you'll get your head bitten off (and the article retweeted to other feminists to get them to join in). Stuff them, we can reach equality in society without the help of people who, regardless of what they say, show clear signs of misandry.