Woman bites dog
The “Viewpoint” section of the November 2005 New Zealand Medical Journal has an article by Janice Giles: ‘Woman bites dog – making sense of media and research reports that claim women and men are equally violent’.
The title of this article makes clear that the writer considers abuse of men by women to be so rare and insignificant as to be considered humorous. She denies the reality that there are thousands of New Zealand men who find this attitude deeply offensive – for them female violence is no laughing matter!
Giles is concerned about the few rare occasions in recent times in the media has a dared to discuss the issue of violence by women – exposing the fact that medical workers, police, court personnel, and Woman’s Refuge workers are not seeing or addressing the needs of male victims. These reports, she claims, “may undermine policies designed to prevent and reduced male partner violence against woman”. She promises to explain “why study outcomes claiming equal violence must not be accepted at face value.”
“We hear and read about violent acts every day the media. Men are the perpetrators of the vast majority of these acts. That’s not news. Men’s violence is so commonplace as to be unremarkable.”
Except for “every day in the media”, in thousands of pseudo-academic papers like this one, and at hundreds of taxpayer-funded conferences like ‘Courageous Practice in Family Violence’ held recently at Waipuna Lodge where Giles was a presenter. Her presentation notes are scattered with quotations (presumably from her clients) like:
“I discovered heaps of things about myself that I didn’t know before.”
“Being myself is more important than the relationship.”
“I found my real self.”
“I’m a person. I’m not just this mum and this wife.”
“That experience… gave me the opportunity to find myself and be OK with me. Just with me.”
I’ve collected quite large proportion of NZ media articles about domestic violence over the last 10 years. As a result I have whole filing cabinets bulging with feminist articles about how all domestic violence and abuse is the fault of men, and the Patriarchy. I have just a few files of clippings which address the issue of violent woman – the ratio must be hundreds of male-blaming articles for every one that is gender neutral.
“Any suggestion of woman’s violence achieves media prominence, whenever it arises.”
The author cites just two examples: Mark Scott’s excellent documentary “Bad Girls” which screened on TV 3 on 11th Jul 2004, and a 2003 TV news report about a study which showed over 50 % of Pacific Island woman admitted to violent behaviour in the home, with nearly 20 percent saying they had attacked their partners by kicking, biting, strangling or using a weapon.
Increasing numbers of New Zealand women are beginning to demand that their sisters be held to the same standards of accountability regarding domestic violence as men. The time when feminists like Giles could claim to be speaking for all New Zealand woman is long past.
Giles’ problems with mainstream scientific studies boil down to:
- They measure ordinary couples — not biased populations such as refuge populations (which will produce a politically correct result)
- CTS is designed for the general population, not a special interest minority group (as social policy surely should be)
- “Reflect inadequate conceptualisations” (which I guess means that if you don’t agree with the author you are stupid)
- “Underestimate the potential for an accurate or biased reporting, particularly abusive relationships that may not yet been known as such.” (I agree with her in this regard — men notoriously under-report in the hostile environment this paper promotes).
- Finally, the studies seldom measure the outcomes of violence. (Again I accept this a fair criticism. It would be extremely constructive to monitor suicide rates following separation, as well as the rates at which parent-child relationships are destroyed, and the real consequences for children of growing up alienated from one parent.
Giles argues correctly that studies such as the CTS are not designed specifically for the small minority of families where domestic violence is extreme. Although I’ve never met one, I’m quite prepared to accept that there are some NZ men who believe they should be able to control their wives and who use violence to exert that power. I’m perfectly happy for them to be arrested, prosecuted and jailed if they are found guilty of committing a criminal assault.
However, to stereotype all men in this way, and to insist on basing social policy on the behaviour of a small, dysfunctional minority of the population, is abusive to the majority of men and and to woman who are prepared to take responsibility for their own abusiveness and who want to do something about it.
None of the current measures of domestic violence are perfect. Most of them focus on types of abuse which are more likely to be perpetrated by men, and generally fail to deal adequately with issues such as psychological, emotional, and verbal abuse, not to mention parental alienation, abuse-by-proxy (using organisations like the Family Court to do the dirty work), or the making of false accusations. Giles’ article fails to demonstrate any empathy or understanding of male experiences, in common with most feminist organisations claiming to be “against domestic violence”.
Some of the logic employed by Giles is hard to follow. In contrast to studies of random populations which count actual violent acts, and which usually show woman committing slightly higher rates and men, she says: “researchers who focus on violence against woman in a domestic context” find “men more likely to perpetrate violence than woman”. Any researcher who focused on violence against men in a domestic context would find exactly the opposite! Neither finding has any relevance to the incidence of violence in the general population.
All the old excuses and minimisations for female violence are rolled out: they are just defending themselves, they are just getting in a pre-emptive strike, women don’t hit as hard, men are less afraid, etc etc.
At the end of the paper Giles spells out her real concern about the implications of accepting that domestic violence is not gender issue. She says it may “influence public perceptions and subsequent responses towards woman who experienced violence and abuse from male partners” (or rather organisations such as Woman’s Refuge who raise millions of dollars each year, supposedly on behalf of such woman).
The author identifies herself only as a ‘Researcher’, from Auckland. Database searches failed to find any previous publications which might show what research she has done. Google, however, reveals that she is a long time feminist activist, employed at some time by almost every anti-male organisation in town: the Help Foundation, the NZ Drug Rape Trust and Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care.
She doesn’t mention her current employment, but her interest in promoting the radical feminist paradigm could possibly be related to the fact that the PO Box number she gives as her address is the same as The North Harbour Living Without Violent Collective, which receives government funding to provide stopping violence services to men on Auckland’s North Shore. At Men’s Centre we have met dozens of their clients, all of whom report feeling blamed and abused by the treatment they received.
The feminist paradigm that Giles promotes is outdated, and has become part of the problem rather than a contribution towards the solution.