Systemic gendered violence?

Okay, so the other day, I came across a comment from a feminist that went something like this: “Men and women have different issues. Men have to solve fairness in child custody, family maintenance, and stuff like that. Women have the problem of systemic, gendered violence directed at them on a global scale.”

Um…okay, sounds serious. On the other hand, when I think of systemic gendered violence, and I look at the real world and what goes on in it, it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that systemic, gendered violence is not a female problem.

Let’s look at domestic violence, the quintessential example of gendered violence against women. Any well-informed MRA, and many an egalitarian, could tell you that intimate partner violence is perpetrated roughly equally between genders, and that the causal factors tend to be identical no matter the gender of the perpetrator. Men and women suffer that violence in roughly equal numbers, too.

In fact, the only gendered aspects of intimate partner violence seem to be in report rates and society’s response to it. Women are much more likely to report being abused than men are. Men are more likely to be arrested (even if they were not the physically violent partner). State-funded domestic violence victim services overwhelmingly serve female victims, and even our federal legislation explicitly excludes male victims from many of its protections and benefits. Hell, some domestic violence shelters will not shelter the children of battered women if those children are over 16 and male.

Huh. Seems to me as if women feel they should not have to put up with being physically abused by their partners, and society agrees with them. And it seems to me like men feel they have to put up with being abused by their partners, and society agrees with them, too. The social and political consensus appears to be that domestic violence against women is intolerable, while domestic violence against men is…well, who cares? And boys? Our society fails them, too.

One has only to look at the recent Verizon ad on domestic violence to see every single disgusting stereotype we hold as a society distilled into a single piece of distorted propaganda. The father is the monster (because only men are abusers, don’t you know). Mother and daughter are terrified victims. The son is not a victim, but a monster-in-the-making. We’re not supposed to care about the trauma he suffers, other than that it might lead him to be an abuser of women and girls in the future. He’s not a victim, he’s a potential future perpetrator. His suffering means nothing to us, other than the fact that his suffering might lead him to victimize others.

But what about sexual violence, you might ask? The common wisdom is that rape is “overwhelmingly perpetrated by men on women.” But one huge, cross-cultural study on sexual coercion in relationships found, again, roughly equal numbers of victims and perpetrators between genders within heterosexual relationships. Men were just as likely to be forced or verbally coerced into sexual intercourse by their female partners as women were by their male partners.

Moreover, the CDC’s most recent report on sexual victimization–if one goes to the bother of amalgamating all the categories into two pools of “non-consensual sexual intercourse” perpetrated on men and women… even this report shows parity in the numbers of male and female previous-year victims. Yet how aware are we, as a society, of sexual violence against men? Or boys, for that matter?

Sexual violence and exploitation of underage males by adult women is almost never characterized as rape in the media. The preferred language titillates rather than evoking outrage: “teacher seduces male student,” “forbidden love,” “teacher’s dirty little secret fling,” “hot for teacher.” It actually seems to me that the only way a boy will even be seen as a real victim within the public consciousness is if the perpetrator is an adult male, at which point pervasive and lingering homophobia overrides our view of the kinds of sexual violence against males that are acceptable in our culture.

While we’re justifiably appalled at the idea of a barely pubescent girl married off to an adult man in Afghanistan, how aware are we that adolescent and preadolescent boys are bought and sold there–often in order to support female family members–when the authorities in that country choose to look the other way?

When we look at some real numbers, we find that sexual victimization of children is not really a gendered problem. Victims are both male and female. Perpetrators are also male and female, with larger percentages of female perpetrators coming to light all the time, as we start asking less biased questions on surveys.

Yet, at the same time, one recent study done by a children’s charity showed that 80% of sexually abused children who disclosed victimization by a woman were not believed by the first person they told, even though the majority of them disclosed to people whose job it is to keep kids safe–police, crisis lines, counsellors, teachers. And adult men who report sexual victimization by women, even in informal settings? The first question asked is usually, “Well, was she hot?” Followed by something along the lines of, “wish I could get raped by some hot chick.”

It seems clear to me that interpersonal violence–sexual or otherwise–perpetrated against women and girls is strongly condemned by both society and the system, while that perpetrated against men and boys is largely minimized or ignored.

Now let’s look at other kinds of violence, such as stranger violence–muggings, stranger assaults, random homicides–and state violence. Here, the statistics clearly show that men are the overwhelming majority of victims of assault, homicide, war violence, and state violence against its citizens.

The vast majority of mugging victims, or victims of random violence and murder, are males. As are the vast majority of those unjustly incarcerated as political prisoners by totalitarian regimes; those who are beaten, killed and arrested during times of political upheaval, those who are forcibly conscripted as children in the Third World. Displaced people who don’t survive long enough to make it to refugee camps are almost always male, and on a global scale, even those whose genitals are mutilated due to cultural norms are overwhelmingly male.

At the same time, how many times have we all heard, on Remembrance or Memorial Days, of the “brave service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice”? WWI saw 10 million male soldiers killed on all sides, and no female soldiers killed. That there were some women killed during WWI is not something I’m going to debate–of course there were. But those women dying, them making the ultimate sacrifice, was not an expectation. They were not involved in the war effort as combat soldiers, whose role was to die for their country. The women who died during wartime were unintended casualties, while the men who died were filling their assigned role. Dying in war is a tragedy when it happens to women, and simply the way things are when it happens to men.

At a time when there are global efforts to end female genital mutilation, there is a huge program on the part of the world health organization to mutilate baby boys in Africa, for the betterment of African societies. This is a sacrifice not only expected of those boys, but demanded of them, a violence against infant boys that is par for the course, when equivalent violence toward females is abhorred.

And I think a lot of what I’m talking about is illustrated beautifully by a very recent shit-storm in the media: The Egyptian woman in the blue bra. For those unaware, the headlines went something like this: “Female protester stripped and beaten by Egyptian police”.

Um…watching the video, all I can see is a woman getting the typical beat-down any protester would get in that part of the world, whose garment came open as they were dragging her away. In fact, police moved to cover her back up after they’d pulled her out of the area.

This incident led to the UN expressing concerns that Egyptian police were “targeting” female protesters. Um….what? It was one woman. How does that equate to targeting women? Moreover, if they weren’t “targeting women” before this incident, then who were they targeting during the protests up until that point, during the countless beatings, killings and arrests that occurred in the months leading up to this incident? The incident also spurred unprecedented protests by Egyptian women, who marched the streets chanting slogans.

Let’s think about that for just one moment. While these protests are admirable in their way, because it’s always good to see women as well as men standing up and fighting against tyranny, how many Egyptian men had been beaten, killed and jailed by this point, while these women remained silent at home? And yet all it took was a single goddamn woman in a blue bra to spur them to action? Where were they when it was men suffering for the political freedom of all Egyptians?

But when I think about the words they chanted as they marched down the street, it is they themselves who answer this question, as honestly as can be: “Drag me, strip me. My brother’s blood will cover me.”

It’s right there, in the words they chanted: it’s men’s place to inflict violence and to absorb it, on behalf of society and of women. A single female victim of state violence will lead the women of Egypt to rise up and pledge their brothers’ lives–not their own–to avenging that wrong. And yet it is women who suffer systemic gendered violence across the globe?

This cognitive dissonance on the part of both feminists and larger society is…incomprehensible to me. “Systemic gendered violence” pertains to violence against a specific gender that is aided, enabled, endorsed, accepted, normalized or required by the sociopolitical system in which it occurs.

There is nothing gendered about interpersonal violence–even sexual violence–against women and girls, since men and boys suffer this type of violence in roughly equal numbers. Moreover, there is nothing systemic in that interpersonal violence against women, since all of society believes it is a serious social problem in need of solutions.

Violence against men, in any form? This is both gendered, in that many forms of violence affect men vastly disproportionately compared to the levels at which they affect women, and it is absolutely systemic, in that the system sees that absorption of violence by men as beneficial, no big deal, even a requirement, and enables and perpetuates it by minimizing, glorifying or ignoring it.

According to Hilary Clinton:

Strike a woman and you strike all of society.

And as I say:

Strike a man and it’s business as usual.

That is the very definition of systemic violence against a specific gender. When it’s business as usual.

The very fact that feminists can see systemic gendered violence as a problem women suffer–when they don’t–and a problem men don’t suffer–when they do…tells you a lot about their ideas of male and female roles, how equality works, and where the motivation for all their advocacy seems to lie. And it seems to lie right in line with patriarchy: Protect the women at all costs.

I’ve often said that feminists–male or female–are the very people who are the most at the mercy of their evolutionary instincts. And how could it be otherwise, when one looks at all the facts, and deny all of that objective reality in favor of what feels right: Protect the women, and who cares about the men?…

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