Friday, August 13, 2010

A cruel and chilling message to victims

There has been an interesting discussion going on over at Lallands Peat Worrier about the causes of the 'gender gap' in the SNP's support, and what can be done about it. But the poster Am Firinn makes an interesting point about one thing the SNP categorically shouldn't do, even if there is a chance that it might help matters. He points to the Scottish Parliament debate on June 10 about domestic violence against men, and the way in which even "normally sensible" Labour MSPs like Malcolm Chisholm were prepared to dismiss the problem as trivial.

I must say, having had a quick look at the Official Report from that debate, I think Am Firinn has got a point. The most telling contribution comes from the SNP's Christine Grahame, in which she explains how the biggest problem that male victims face is that they simply have nowhere to turn, because of the popular perception that domestic violence is exclusively something that men do to women. And if you want to know where that popular perception comes from, you need look no further than the Labour contributions to the debate. To those MSPs, male victims are few in number, in many cases are really the perpetrators of the violence anyway, and even just acknowledging the existence of the problem is an unwelcome distraction from the message that domestic violence is all about 'gender inequality' - ie. an inequality that women are on the wrong end of.

What I found even more depressing is that it appears SNP members joined with Labour to vote through Johann Lamont's amendment, which made the gender inequality point, and also noted "that overwhelmingly victims are women and that eradicating domestic abuse will only succeed where that pattern is acknowledged". This ignores the fact that there is quite simply no credible evidence to support the assertion that the "overwhelming majority" of victims are female - if anything, there is rather a lot of evidence to suggest that a significant minority of victims are male. And if this is solely a 'gender inequality' issue, how do we explain the many victims of domestic abuse in same-sex relationships, including lesbian relationships? What might be the case is that there is a gender inequality in terms of the outcome of abuse, in that violence inflicted by women tends to take a different form, and men are perhaps better equipped to physically defend themselves. But there again, aren't many men culturally conditioned never to strike a woman, even in self-defence? There's certainly precious little cultural conditioning of that sort in the opposite direction. And isn't the fact that male victims of abuse are less likely to receive help - or even be believed in the first place - also a clear-cut case of gender inequality?

So it cuts both ways, and there's no mystery about what is perpetuating the latter problem. The message from Labour (and, to be fair, from many other quarters) that some victims of domestic violence are less equal than others is a cruel and chilling one.

1 comment:

  1. Clearly there are a lot of people who are not looking around them and seeing what is happening.

    Firstly men are even less likely than women to report domestic violence. The humiliation, which I accept is there for women too, that the person they used to (and may still) love, hits them is hard to bear... but for a man to tell the police that a woman has beaten them up.... well, that’s even more humiliating.

    Some of the women I see in the course of my work weigh double what their make partner weighs.

    Once upon a time it was (at least in working class households) the man who went to the pub and got off his face and came home and beat on his wife. Now women are equally likely to come home from the pub, equally drunk.

    Labour MSPs really need to get out more.