Last year, a small UK non-governmental outfit launched a particularly distasteful attack on half the human population. Their campaign took the form of a huge interactive billboard at Euston Station. It was called “Drag Him Away”, and here it is:
The billboard showed looped footage of a man hectoring a passive woman. Although no actual crime was depicted, passers-by were invited to interact with the billboard using their mobile phone in order to see the man “dragged away”. The organisation behind it, the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV), is headed by a barrister called Steve Conner.
As a teenager, I recall how I was filled with so much shame after learning about how “men rape and abuse women”, that I wrote into a women’s magazine to apologise on behalf of my entire gender. I believed myself to be the “one good man”, and felt an overwhelming obligation to stand up to these “other men”, thus letting the world know that I wasn’t one of them. While I watched the video of NCDV’s stunt, I was reminded of this as I contemplated how dehumanising it it must be for a young boy or teenager to look up and behold himself through this prism of shame and guilt. Like I once did, many will simply disassociate themselves from their gender, rather than to see “Drag Him Away” for what it is — an opportunistic attack on their human identity by a professional NGO keen to raise its profile in a misandric state culture.
A “Drag Her Away” campaign, one in which people are invited to dispense justice to a female abuser, would never fly of course. It would widely be perceived as an unacceptable attack on women in general and would come in for fierce criticism (no funding would ever be made available for such a campaign in any case). However, NCDV’s campaign was not targeted women, but at men — and this in today’s society makes it acceptable, normal, even virtuous. What could possibly be wrong with protecting women from abusive men, many would ask?
By the late 1930s, having for years been painted as devious money lenders who were unclean and sub-human, German society reached the stage that social hostility against Jewish people had become normalised. We like to delude ourselves that we have consigned such things to history and, today, a billboard featuring a “Drag the Jew Away” campaign, one in which an archetypal Jewish figure is shown hectoring a passive Aryan, would be seen exactly for what it is — disgusting propaganda belonging in a 1930s Nazi film reel, not 21st century Britain. The lesson we have utterly failed to learn, however, is that in the time of its happening, all prejudice is seen as acceptable, normal, even virtuous.
In the here and now of today’s “enlightened” society, after years of ideologically motivated campaigning, it is males who have been painted as perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence, and dominant oppressors.
In reality, long standing cultural reasons and the legitimate fear of being wrongly identified as an abuser have always inhibited men in reporting domestic violence against them. However, government crime surveys, such as the BCS in the UK, and its equivalent CDC Intimate Partner Violence Survey in the US, are now presenting a picture of approximate parity between the sexes. Additionally, research increasingly shows that the majority of inter-partner violence is mutual, i.e. the violence and verbal abuse goes both ways, and where it is unilateral, the initiators of such violence are overwhelmingly women. Within the government and non-governmental agencies of the west, however, domestic violence has been defined as “gender violence” or, increasingly, “violence against women and girls”. (See the 2011 UK government policy paper, A call to end violence against women and girls.)
This is the great delusion of our age, and to continue to define inter-partner violence as “gender based” is to propagate the myth that one gender is responsible for perpetrating violence against the other, while disregarding and rendering invisible the suffering of millions of boys and adult men. Whether it be physical, verbal or sexual, the origins of abuse lie in early childhood, not in any intrinsic deficiency in males.
Both men and women can be equally abusive in their relationships, and the environments they create for their children is the significant factor in understanding abusive behaviour — for behaviour learned in early childhood, when the child’s brain is in flux and the personality in formation, is carried forward into adult relationships. As an abused child grows up, early emotional damage goes to define his or her default emotional responses and thinking patterns in adulthood. It is a cycle stretching back generations, and the reality is so simple that it should be self-evident. Only now, however, are MRI scans being used for the first time to reveal the damage in the brains of abused children.
The problem is not gender-based — it is inter-generational. And the solution to it lies, not in curing some intrinsic male defect, but in our treatment of children. There is no reason why men and boys, therefore, should continue to wear society’s garland of shame.
Now, to be fair, NCDV’s stated aim is to provide a free legal service, both to the police and to individual “clients”, in order to obtain emergency injunctions against alleged perpetrators of abuse. I do not condemn NCDV in this, but recognise that in those cases where domestic violence is uni-directional, or largely so, such a facility would be invaluable. Nor is it lost me that the language used throughout the NCDV website is gender-neutral, and NCDV states that its service is open to “anyone”, not just women. Their use of visual communication on the other hand, as expressed by their website imagery and past campaign videos, is strongly stereotyped and hard-hitting. Previous NCDV campaign videos, which include this and this, exclusively depict men as abusers and women as victims.
It is with the sheer ugliness of “Drag Him Away”, however, that I take particular issue. I have to question the commitment to due process on display here, when NCDV’s own media campaign so clearly gives the message that any man can now be “dragged away” on the basis of a mobile phone text or mobile app. It represents more than NCDV’s contribution to the negative stereotyping of males — it takes the whole thing to the next level.
I solemnly predict that the day will come when the accumulative fallout of years of anti-male propaganda won’t stay confined to “other men”, but will be felt by your son, your brother and your father. Every mother of a son should realise that when he grows up, society will increasingly view him with suspicion and contempt, and in a culture where guilt is assumed by default, virtue of his gender, the only thing preventing any man from being “dragged away” is the absence of an allegation. Many men would have some legitimacy in claiming that we have reached such a point already. One day perhaps, even NCDV’s Steve Conner may realise that for himself when society fails to make sufficient distinction between him, or someone he cares about, and the “other man” in his interactive billboard.
Additional Information. NCDV ceased being a UK national charity in February 2012, and became a private limited company, “The Centre For Domestic Violence Ltd”, registered no. 07917926. At the time of writing, Companies House lists this company as active but with a “proposal to strike off”. The company’s annual return appears to be four months overdue.
1. For a related discussion, see Neil Lyndon, Big Sister’s Memorial: The Legacy of Germaine Greer
2. The British Crime Survey (BCS) for 2010/11 reported that 5% of men and 7% of women had experienced domestic abuse in the year prior to the survey. See: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/hosb0212/hosb0212?view=Binary
3. The American CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey for 2011 reported that 5.0% of men and 5.9% of women reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to taking the survey. See: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf
4. Graphic generated by SAVE was based on a US study by Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling. Rates of Bidirectional Versus Unidirectional Intimate Partner Violence Across Samples, Sexual Orientations, and Race/Ethnicities: A Comprehensive Review. Partner Abuse Vol. 3 No. 2, 2012.
5. Erin Pizzey, 1982. Prone to Violence. ISBN 978-0600205517
6. Eamon McCrory, 2011. See: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1112/111205-maltreated-children-fMRI-study