During the course of managing this website I have had exchanges with a few prominent gender advocates that carry an ideological banner. Recently, we got a curious visit from Michael Flood, a sociologist and one of the more strident proponents of feminism in Australia. I say curious because his visit just happened to come on the same exact day that Dr. Greg Canning and myself were interviewed by Guy Mosel, a former men’s magazine (now defunct) editor. Yes, the kind with comely, big chested girls on the cover. He now writes freelance and is doing a piece on the men’s movement for the Weekend Magazine section of the Sydney Morning Herald. The article is due out the weekend of November 24.
I don’t know for sure, but this hardly seems like a coincidence. We will know for sure when the article comes out. My guess is Mosel will present Flood as an expert on the MRM or on masculinity, which he is neither, and us, of course, as regressive sexists, which of course we aren’t. If that happens, there will also be a great deal about Michael Flood of which Mosel will be loath to inform his readers.
That’s OK. We will.
Back to the matter at hand, Flood showed up here complaining that I did not have my facts straight in a 15 month old article I wrote involving some very harsh – read honest – critique of his work.
My sources on the piece were linked, but there is a possibility that one source had some inaccurate information, which would mean that Flood’s conduct, in that specific incident, would be a fraction less unethical than originally presented. You can read the exchange here.
As we are about to see, any ground he gained on that point is imaginary. And with just a couple of quick comments to the thread in question, he showed us why.
In one of those comments, he offered a defense of the White Ribbon Campaign (WRC), a roundly discredited campaign for which Flood is an ambassador. The reason WRC has received substantial scientific and academic condemnation (even as it enjoys political support) is because it presents a model of domestic violence that contradicts substantive research on the subject, and has largely rested its credibility on highly suspect, misrepresented and debunked data. In short, it is politically viable while factually unsupportable. And it appears that for Flood and his fellows that the political viability has overridden any concerns about its statistical validity.
I have elected to take Flood’s comment and present it to you here, with point by point refutations. His words will be displayed in italics, and mine in standard font.
[I]n response to the material about the mistaken “one in three boys” statistic…
The White Ribbon Foundation’s report An Assault on Our Future (2008) contained a small error regarding one aspect of young people’s attitudes towards violence. At one point, the report stated that 31% of young men agreed that ‘when a guy hits a girl it’s not really a big deal’, but here ‘guy’ and ‘girl’ had been transposed (National Crime Prevention 2001: 65). Unfortunately, this mistaken statistic was highlighted in a media release (not written by the reports’ authors) and thus compounded in media coverage. The error was corrected as soon as it was known and the report was re-released.
A small error? Flood’s own study concludes that nearly a third of young men do not see women assaulting them as a problem worth attention. Rather than that being a pivotal, wake up moment for his male targeted campaign, giving him a clear mandate to inform young men that violence against them is also wrong, he simply corrected the faulty numbers after the damage was done, and now calls it a minor mistake.
And let’s be honest here. Flood calling it a mistake, even a minor one, is less than genuine. There is no program information, plans of action or any other form of recognition by the WRC that recognizes what the “corrected” numbers directly imply. A large percentage of young men have no sense of awareness that violence against them by a woman is wrong. Rather than address this issue, Flood and the other ideologues at WRC instead went full steam ahead with an agenda to raise awareness of violence against women only, targeting the whole of men as perpetrators.
There is little point in correcting information if you have no intention of putting it into practice to begin with.
This minor error did not take away from the main message of the report: that young people are exposed to violence in their families and relationships at disturbingly high levels….
We need to stop mid-sentence here. There is no message or awareness advocacy from WRC that young “people” are exposed to violence, just young women. All of their literature, “research” information and awareness efforts completely dismiss male victims and female perpetrators. We see the transition of focus toward the gendered model as Flood completes his thought.
…that this violence has profound and long-lasting effects, that violence is sustained in part by some young people’s violence-supportive attitudes, that young males have more violence-supportive attitudes than young females, and that prevention efforts can stop this violence from occurring and continuing (Flood and Fergus 2008). The full report is available here:
Note the move. Twice in a row he referred to problems experience by young “people.” But then, he begins to ease readers toward the intended paradigm of victims and perpetrators that are designated by sex. His first step in this direction is pointing to “violence-supportive” attitudes being more prevalent in young men than young women. He offers a research link, supposedly to a study of his own authorship, but it returns a “Page no longer exists” message at the WRC website.
That’s fine for the moment. We can wait to see his his non-reviewed, self-conducted research, and at that point we may even ascertain why it is no longer present on the site. We can still address part of Flood’s gendered notions of violence-supportive attitudes.
First, it would stand to reason that we would infer that at least some portion of what Flood defines as “violence-supportive” attitudes in young men must be explained, in Flood’s own words, by the indifference to violence committed against them by women. Even according to the remainder of Flood’s position, that constitutes the lion’s share of any purported tolerance for violence. It is not, in this case, violence by men against women that is supported, but the reverse.
Flood does offer some “evidence” of the idea that young males have more violence-supportive attitudes than young females, though not nearly in the proportions shown above. For example:
One in three boys (33%) believe that ‘most physical violence occurs in dating because a partner provoked it’, compared to 25% of girls (NCP 2001: 65).
15 per cent of males (but only 4% of females) agree that ‘It is okay to put pressure on a girl to have sex but not to physically force her’ (NCP 2001: 65).
Over one in eight boys (12%) believe that ‘it is okay for a boy to make a girl have sex, if she’s flirted with him, or led him’, compared to only 3% of girls (NCP 2001: 65).
7% of males (but only 2% of females) agree that ‘it’s alright for a guy to hit his girlfriend if she makes him look stupid in front of his mates’ (NCP 2001: 65).
On the surface, these would appear to be some compelling numbers regarding male tolerance of violence toward females. There is, however, a significant caveat. There was no corresponding questions in the reverse of any of these questions, so there is no data here to determine the violence-supportive attitudes of girls. Thus there is absolutely no justification for saying that such attitudes are more prevalent in males.
And how do we know that the reverse questions were never asked? The entire paper, and all its glaring deficiencies were already dissected and debunked by Men’s Health Australia (MHA), a magazine which is considered to be a highly reputable source of information about social and psychological aspects of the lives of Australian men and boys.
Let’s take a look at an exchange between Flood and MHA regarding the statistics he posted to A Voice for Men just hours ago. In dissent of the findings:
MHA: Because these questions weren’t asked in the reverse (e.g. ‘do you believe that it is okay for a girl to make a boy have sex, if he’s ﬂirted with her, or led her’), we don’t know what young people’s tolerance is of speciﬁc types of female-to-male violence (only of violence in general – see below).
FLOOD: Indeed, in highlighting the mistaken statistic above, Men’s Health Australia do[sic] not acknowledge that there is in fact greater tolerance for females’ violence against young men than young women. Close to 1/3 (31%) of boys and young men agreed that ‘when a guy hits a girl it’s not really a big deal’ Compared to 19% of females (National Crime Prevention 2001: 65). This may reflect a more general tolerance for violence espoused by young males.
Of course, again, Flood is talking about violence against men, which has nothing to do with WRC, but the greater tell is in the beginning of his comment. He acknowledges that the highlighted statistic is in error; the same statistic he just posted to AVfM as qualified, credible research. In other words, Flood is here at AVfM attempting to pawn off research numbers that have not only been debunked, but which he has already publicly admitted have been debunked to a national magazine.
In fact, his comment here at AVfM appears to be a direct copy and paste from his statement to MHA, except that he omitted the part about the stats being invalid. As we see here, from his recent comment to AVfM:
In fact, there is greater tolerance for females’ violence against males among young men than young women. Close to one-third (31%) of boys and young men agreed that ‘when a girl hits a guy it’s not really a big deal’, compared to 19% of girls and young women (National Crime Prevention 2001: 65). This may reflect a more general tolerance for violence espoused by young males.
I strongly suggest that any reader interested in the academic integrity of Michael Flood read the critique of his research in the link below, with particular attention to his exchanges with MHA representatives. It is incredibly telling information.
Even the series of events that finally led Flood to respond to criticism of his work is informative. Per the MHA document, it went like this.
White Ribbon’s initial response to our concerns was ﬁve months of silence. Once we pursued the matter we were sent a response to our concerns written by Dr. Michael Flood – a White Ribbon Ambassador and Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Wollongong with a long involvement in community advocacy and education work focused on men’s violence against women. This response failed to address our core concern: that it isn’t necessary for White Ribbon to downplay, diminish or report incorrectly about male victims of violence in order to highlight female victims of violence.
In addition, Dr. Flood’s response:
- Failed to address a number of our speciﬁc concerns about statistical and factual errors;
- Contained more errors than the original document when responding to other speciﬁc concerns;
- Resorted to ad hominem attacks in an apparent attempt to discredit Men’s Health Australia;
- Failed to successfully challenge any of Men’s Health’s speciﬁc concerns.
On 4th November 2010 we wrote an open letter, co-signed by almost 20 professionals and organisations working in the ﬁeld of family and domestic violence, to the Chairman and Board of the White Ribbon Foundation about these errors and unreferenced claims but did not receive a response.
On 23rd November 2010 we sent another open letter, co-signed by more than 30 professionals and organisations working in the ﬁeld of family and domestic violence, to the Hon Kate Ellis MP, Minister for the Status of Women. This letter was CC’d to all Federal MPs. It strongly urged the Australian Government to reconsider whether the White Ribbon Foundation are an appropriate agency to be funded to undertake violence-prevention work in the Australian community, and requesting that she personally take steps to ensure that they do not mislead the public – either intentionally or unintentionally – with false or misleading information about violence while in receipt of public funding.
On 24 November 2010, we issued a media release titled Federal funding ‘misused’ by White Ribbon Campaign.
On 31 January 2011, an advisor to the Minister replied to us, completely ignoring the entire substance of our open letter.
On 4 February 2011 we contacted the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) requesting new data from the 2005 Personal Safety Survey to help us conﬁrm the concerns made in our original letters.
On 4 April 2011, we replied to the Minister, requesting a further response that addressed the substance of our original letter.
On 20 April the ABS provided our data request, however on 3 June they informed us that the request would have to be reissued because of errors in the original data sent to us. The reissued data was provided to us on 10 June, at which time we asked the ABS to conﬁrm the validity of a number of statistical charts and statements derived from the raw data. Most of these requests were conﬁrmed by the ABS by 18 October 2011 but one is still outstanding as of the date of writing this document due to a change in ABS staff.
On 30 May 2011, the Minister’s advisor wrote back, merely “noting the issue our organisation has raised.”
Having heard nothing from the White Ribbon Foundation, we telephoned their Sydney ofﬁce on 4 April 2011, and spoke with their National Marketing and Communications Manager, Kate Alexander. She forwarded us a copy of the document A response to criticisms of White Ribbon materials made by Men’s Health Australia, authored by Dr. Michael Flood.
Noting that the response document contained as many – if not more – statistical errors and omissions as the original What about the men? White Ribbon, men and violence document, we sought a meeting with the new CEO of the White Ribbon Foundation, Libby Davies, and Ms. Alexander. This meeting took place on 2nd May 2011.
Politically viable. Academically fraudulent. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that Michael Flood has knowingly used a significant quantity of erroneous statistics to promote White Ribbon Day. In short, he misled the public into participating in the project, and the government into funding it.
WRC justifies its existence by reducing the complicated, sometimes intractable problem of domestic violence to a simplistic model targeting men, and only men, as perpetrators, and women, and only women, as victims. This is despite the overwhelming amount of research that concludes men and women are equally prone to commit intimate partner violence, that men are particularly prone to under reporting and that men who are victims suffer a severe deficit in the availability to social services.
Aside from efforts to fund a a manufactured, gender based model of domestic violence, there is also ideological factors that appear to be driving Dr. Flood. While it is well known that he is an avid and active supporter of gender feminism, that is hardly remarkable in modern society, particularly in academe.
What is more concerning is that Flood has given clues that he subscribes to more virulent, radicalized forms of feminism, as opposed to the beliefs of many of his peers. Flood is quoted as saying:
The idea that radical feminism is essentialist has become a standard claim. However, this is more folklore than fact, and the actual writings of radical feminists show more hope for change and less biological determinism than such claims allow. [source]
This appears to be much more than rhetoric.
Flood is responsible for the establishment of a blogging community, XYOnline. Part of his efforts there are to recruit like-minded ideologues to supply content for the site. So far his chief acquisition is Julian Real, an avowed radical feminist who describes himself as “[A] white, class-privileged, Western academically and non-academically educated, intergender (and, much more importantly, anti-gender) male who is also gay, asexual, Jewish, and a survivor of childhood sexual assault and adult sexual exploitation.”
Flood announced his addition of Real to the roster on the site:
XY now has three bloggers lined up, with one (Julian Real) contributing regularly and the other two starting soon.
Real also manages a blog called Radical Profeminist, where the subject of extermination of 90% of the male population (for the sake of world peace) is openly discussed. While Real appears to have gone in after the fact and posted a disclaimer expressing opposition to genocide, that is contradicted by statements he made in an online exchange with a genocide advocate that was posting anonymously. The exchange went as follows:
Anonymous: Right now, men know how to shut up when I walk in the room. They are just as deadly as ever, but at least the jokes stop. Step one, shut them up, step two, teach the girls to fight back hard, step three execute all rapists, step four reduce the male worldwide population to say 10%. Maybe then we’d have peace in the world.
Julian Real: I’m all for it, as long as that 90% isn’t comprised of people who are facing genocide by whites, unless agreed upon by the women of that community, society, or nation.
Michael Flood, a man campaigning to reach across the entire Australian landscape and influence young men, has chosen to share a public stage with a man who when questioned about exterminating nearly half the population is “all for it,” as long as the victims are not going to be murdered by someone else first. Well, unless the women say they should be killed anyway.
I am seldom at a loss for words. But I seriously struggle with what to say to this. The depravity is too much, too sickening. Suddenly I am distracted from my concerns about white ribbons and false statistics and sleazing around for a grab at some government funding.
Do I think Michael Flood shares these views? I have no idea, and to tell you the truth I quit caring before I finished writing this article. This is not about domestic violence or even ideology. It is about some very, very sick people who are, regardless of the causes in which they drape themselves, no friend to the society in which they live, or to anyone else. The idea they have access to the minds of young people is frightening.