Saturday, 7 December 2013

Why I focus on male violence

As most feminists know, the most common response you get when you specifically point out male violence is hat women do it too. I know. I've been a victim of female violence. So why do I focus on male violence?

The quick answer, of course is that male violence is at the root of our oppression as women. It is the tool that maintains that oppression. As a feminist and a woman I'd quite like it to stop. Men, as a class, are the biggest threat to women. If male violence stops, the patriarchy will quickly dismantle. Female oppression and the supporting structures that criss-cross our society won't ever be eradicated without eradicating or at least severely reducing male violence. However there is more to it than that.

Why not focus on all violence?

By focusing on all violence we aren't addressing the gendered nature of violence. Most violence is perpetrated by men and women are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. This massive skew is significant and needs to be named before it can be addressed. If you can't name the problem you can't address it. But female violence gets discussed proportionally more given the relative incidents of female/male violence. Female behaviour in general gets analysed and criticised far more than male behaviour. Focusing on male behaviour redresses that balance and gets straight to the heart of the problem rather than tinkering around the edges.

But no violence should be ignored surely?

No violence should be ignored. Female violence is an issue, albeit on a much smaller scale than male violence. It can also affect women in different ways to male violence. Portia Smart illustrates this very well in her blog post We Need To Talk About Women. Women can be violent for different reasons to men and have been subjected to different experiences.

These differences could be one reason why it is so important to make a split according to sex. However, male violence is at the root of female violence. Violence exists because men perpetuate it. They perpetuate it in order to continue the hierarchy of violence in their favour. As such there is an underlying assumption and expectation that men have the potential to be violent. Authorities like to remind women at regular intervals that men can and will be violent towards them and it is used to restrict their actions. Male violence is so pervasive and linked to society it almost goes unnoticed. It is certainly unchecked. Just look at the recent examples of violence and threats through social media. No violence should be ignored. Yet here we are and such a quantity of male violence is accepted, unrecognised or disregarded.

Female violence is a reaction to male violence, not only because a significant amount of female perpetrators of violence will have been abused themselves but because they are acting within a framework of a society underpinned by male violence. Women see men being violent, experience it and know they get away with it. That threat is always there. It stands to reason that those without power (and I don't just mean physical power) will learn the tools of their oppressors are a way of gaining power. Add to that when what little power you have is even further removed by direct violence is it any wonder that you try to act in the same manner as your oppressors to get it back.

Ultimately it boils down to this: Women are scared of men. Men are scared of men. Men are not scared of women. If female violence were completely eradicated then male violence would still exist. It is just too prevalent to be any other way. However, if male violence were eradicated then female violence would be illogical and odd. There would be no need for it. It makes sense to target male violence.


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