Articles and Letters by Martin Lewis 1995 – 1997
Photo: Martin Lewis foreground, Robert Mann behind.
Powerless Men – 1995?
It is often said that men hold all the power in society. This must surely depend upon the definition of power. While there are many areas in which men do hold more power than women there appears to be a blind spot when it comes to identifying women’s power over men. This is largely in the emotional control, the conditioned desire of men to please women, to be effective protectors and providers for women and children.
Some confusion is engendered by the fact that the institutionalisation of the protector/provider role has sometimes imposed restrictions on women and has therefore been justly criticised and perceived to give men ‘power’. The confusion lies in the fact that such socialisation often does not serve men either and when this is addressed it is frequently seen as a denial of the imposition on the women. The imposed responsibility on men that comes with the ‘power’, and the imposed protection that it provides women, deny both sexes choice.
What seems to be happening however is that the ‘power’ is being removed and the responsibility reinforced in law, giving women more freedom and men less. Some men perceive this as a feminist ploy to control men, and perhaps there is some truth in that. I observe that women appear to be unconscious of the ‘other side of the picture’ and are therefore unaware of the cost to men, of privileges that women receive in society. Women are not necessarily conscious of receiving privilege as men have been unconscious of their privileges prior to the women’s movement.
It is therefore the Men’s Evolution movement’s role to take on the unpleasant task of highlighting, for men and women alike, the inequities in our society as viewed from the male perspective. To identify the areas of female power and male powerlessness. To identify the natural links between rights and responsibilities and where they have become distorted or corrupted by social strictures. Wherever rights and privileges are held there are corresponding responsibilities which need to be associated with them rather than be carried by another.
The exception here of course is that of rights bestowed on children too young to bear the responsibilities. Here parents must share those responsibilities. Other contractual agreements such as marriage may also separate rights and responsibilities but these must be clearly understood and chosen by both parties, not assumed or institutionalised. Nor should they be enforced beyond the termination of the contract, as in a failed marriage. In such cases the contract must be totally renegotiated to allow for childrens welfare.
Violence debate sparks local battle between the sexes
Letter to Editor Shore News – 20th November 1995
"It is unfortunate that Ms Coppersmith has chosen to misinterpret my statement about Domestic Violence" Men’s Centre North Shore Co-ordinator, Martin Lewis said today. "It is precisely the politicising of the issue that I am speaking out against. I find it very disturbing that the essence of my statements was omitted and at the same time the opposite implied."
He was referring to the Shore News article ‘Violence debate sparks local battle between the sexes’ (Wed 15th Nov 1995) in which his statements relating to Domestic Violence were taken into a wider context in which they do not hold true. Within the context of Domestic Violence women initiate physical violence as often as men. Men however are expected to ‘take it like a man’ and are treated with derision by families, friends and authorities if it is mentioned no matter how serious it may be.
Statistics on homicide bear little relevance to the subject being discussed and while the statistic on men being hospitalised as recipients of violence is one that does need serious attention, it again has nothing to do with this subject.
That New Zealand Police have a crime called ‘Assault on a female by a male’ but no means of recording assaults by females on males goes closer to the core issue. Our laws often reflect deep social programming on how men and women are valued differently. The treatment of offenders is also very different.
The media, internationally, through documentary, drama and comedy supports an image of men and women and what is considered acceptable behaviour between them that is not only heavily stereotyped but also now quite anti-male. The women’s movement has addressed these from the woman’s perspective, we need to address them from a man’s perspective. It is frequently depicted as laudable for a woman to emotionally, psychologically and physically abuse a man. In our view this is no more acceptable behaviour than the reverse.
We have difficulty in understanding why some women resist this. This issue is similar to corporal punishment in schools that was debated a few years ago. It was considered acceptable to beat a boy but not a girl. Society matured and said it is no longer acceptable to beat the boy. I do not see that this in any way disadvantaged the girls.
We acknowledge that the women’s movement has done good work in raising women’s awareness and having women speak out, and yes, Men’s Centre North Shore is working on getting men to do the same, however this involves being able to freely express ourselves without derision and hostility from women’s groups.
There was no blaming of women involved in my statements nor was there any political gain. We are pro-man not anti-woman. We are not attacking women by raising awareness of women’s violence in relationships. It is not an issue of one party being right because the other is wrong. We are saying that it is time to stop the political genderising of the issue.
It is a relationship problem involving emotional, psychological and physical violence. Attacking and repressing men in general is not the answer. Dealing with all the facts and awareness of the underlying causes is how we will find a solution.
The Masculist‘s Pitfall – November 1995
An age old adage states … "When you become obsessed by your enemy you become that enemy". Another is that "When you resort to your enemy’s methods you become as bad as your enemy" or "The ends do not justify the means" These statements are supported by Jung’s precept of the Persona and Shadow aspects of the Ego. What you deny most in yourself is what you most react against in others. These are the jewels of knowledge that the angry extremist gender feminists seem to have lost sight of.
In becoming extremely political and using deliberate methods of distorting statistics, falsifying research, pushing these as propaganda against all men these women become as bad as the worst of the men they object to. Since these men are a small minority of men the radical gender feminist becomes worse than the majority of the men they slander. They alienate some of the women they claim to represent but unfortunately the nature and power of propaganda is such that many women (and men) have become convinced that what they hear most often is the reality. Because this has happened to a degree that it has become institutionalised men must take positive action to counteract this propaganda; to identify the lies and expose them with accurate statistics and research.
In doing so men must avoid the temptation to use the same methods as their protagonists. We are going to be disbelieved as reactionaries; as a backlash against just feminist action. As such we must bend over backwards to be, and to be seen as, fair and balanced in our approach to rectifying the deceptions. If we were to fall into the trap of countering the damaging distortions with further distortions, if we become gender masculists then we will not be a solution but rather a continuation of the spiral toward gender war and justifiably be disbelieved and discredited.
We must guard against those amongst us who, hurt and angry, feel the need to strike back at the injustices perpetuated by those equally hurt and angry women. Instead we must be even handed and ally ourselves with the equity feminists who have the same objectives as ourselves. Ally but not submerge ourselves as evidence is accumulating that indicates that men must make their own journey to masculinity before any gender dialogue can take place effectively. Men must be as sure of their ground as women are of theirs before engaging in the negotiation of a new social order. Failure to do so, failure to be an equal partner in negotiation, will not serve either gender.
Our intention is to actively avoid this pitfall; to become equity masculists; to ultimately join with equity feminists in promoting a celebration of individual strengths and differences. Not to apologise for our masculinity but to define and choose it for ourselves and then to celebrate it. To celebrate it and femininity in the mutual support and company of women.
Domestic Violence Bill passes into Law – December 1995
The passing of the Domestic Violence Bill into law today instils an deep uneasy feeling in me.
The premise of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ which is the basis of our law is becoming severely eroded. How long before we are faced with consequences similar to the post French revolution fervour of j’accuse when a simple accusation cost a life. Or the McCarthy era in the USA where the consequences destroyed peoples ability to work. Those who know their history will recognise that the structures being built resemble those that preceded the fascist states of Europe.
As the burden of proof is shifted onto the accused with peremptory punishment; with no discretionary power that can be exerted by the authority on the spot, namely the Police, no investigation of why they are accused, no consideration of the accusers motivations or the causes of behaviours.
What really scares me is the fact that someone who thinks that they know what another is thinking can have this peremptory action taken based on that fear. If I fear that a gun owner might be considering doing me harm I can now obtain a protection order on that basis alone. An action that might prevent the gun owner from having access to their children. George Orwell was only eleven years early! The Thought Police are here and they are in civilian guise.
This new law, particularly where it relates to firearms and a persons access to their children, provides the Police with no new powers but rather removes the discretion of the Police by obliging them to act regardless of their experience and knowledge.
How did we get to this stage? When we allowed distortion to be considered research in the form of ‘The Hitting Home Report’ we created the foundation for this legislation. We are reminded again of the power of propaganda. By broadening the definition of Domestic Violence to point of meaninglessness and looking at one side of the issue only we have created the base for injustice. Now that we are faced with having to undo this unjust legislation how do we do it without disadvantaging the true victims of Domestic Violence?"
Hitting Home – hitting whom? – December 1995
The topic of domestic violence is a hot one in New Zealand and it is invariably men who are seen as the sole perpetrators. Yet this is far from the truth, claims the Men’s Centre North Shore.
Speaking after a recent Forum in Northcote organised by the Centre, Co-ordinator Martin Lewis said that reputable studies in the United States clearly and reliably showed that the prevalence of aggressive acts by men and women in heterosexual relationships was about equal. This was true across a wide range of violent behaviours and was generally the case whatever the length of the relationship. It also holds true in studies where women reported on their own violence.
By continuing to cast all women in the role of innocents in every domestic dispute and harassment situation, women and their advocates are doing themselves great harm by perpetuating the image that women are weak and helpless victims, the very thing that women have been working hard for 25 years to disprove. The recently released Government publication on domestic violence, ‘Hitting Home’, is a distorted and damaging document and will do nothing to improve the situation for men or women," said Mr Lewis.
He noted that research involving gay and lesbian relationships reported significant inter-partner violence. This draws into serious question the allegation that men hitting women can be explained simply as a matter of male domination and control of strong men over weak women.
When men are on the receiving end of female violence they are usually loath to report it for various reasons – they are conditioned by society to tough it out and "be a man" – they very often feel shame at reporting they have been hit, and hurt, by a woman – and if they do report it they are rarely believed, often facing derision.
He made it clear that the Men’s Centre was not denying that some men are violent to women, and that this is unacceptable. But blaming men for all the things that go wrong in relationships is a trap that binds women to victimhood and, as with any injustice, breeds anger and frustration in both men and women. This is clearly counterproductive. It is increasingly being recognised that the causes of violence within relationships are complex and deep seated. The recognition that emotional and psychological abuse, as well as physical violence by women, are factors in relationship violence will open the channels to working together on addressing the causes, instead of loud accusations and finger pointing. For some, domestic violence is a political issue to be exploited rather than an interpersonal and social problem to be solved.
"Punitive laws and legal procedures, which change the traditional onus of proof and assumptions of innocence and rules regarding evidence, are hysterical knee-jerk reactions and are setting dangerous precedents. Current and proposed laws and procedures are unfairly discriminating against and disadvantaging men in the areas of child custody and access, matrimonial property, firearms licensing, and sexual and physical abuse allegations" Mr Lewis said.
"By merely belonging to an identifiable group in society, a man is now targeted by certain laws simply because he was born male. This institutionalised discrimination against a class of people used to be called Apartheid in South Africa, and fascism in 1930’s Germany. Why are we tolerating it in New Zealand?" Mr Lewis asked. "The creation of legal structures which can be misused by authorities at a later date has historically been the basis of dictatorships and fascist states whatever the good intentions at the time of creating them" he said.
Media silence over feminist torture – December 1995
Where is the media’s outrage regarding the despicable behaviour of the self appointed "Feminazi SS Interrogation Division"?
The current deposition hearing involving several women who took it upon themselves to act as a vigilante gang to apprehend a suspect, beat and torture him with electrodes to the genitals over an extended period of time resulting in convulsions and injuries sufficient to require several days hospitalisation so that they could extract a confession of paedophilia. This certainly calls into question the impression that men are the only likely perpetrators of premeditated violence. These acts of barbarism prove definitively that a female Hitler is a distinct possibility and in fact may be on her way. The fact that this trial has been going for two days with virtually no public discussion from any media source with the exception of a brief item on TVNZ’s 6 pm news on Tuesday proves beyond doubt that only politically correct items of news are to be tolerated on our news services.
I ask you to reverse the situation, to lift the lid on the conspiracy of silence and censorship, about anything that is not pro-woman and anti-man. is becoming obvious on a daily basis. There is an obvious effort to present men as violent and part of this process is to deny any evidence of female violence that may be perceived to balance the picture.
Consider this picture. A group of men suspecting that a woman had molested a child (it happens more often than we are lead to believe) kidnap her and torture her by beating her and attaching electrodes to her genitals and subjecting her to 150 volt shocks over a sustained period. They eventually extract a confession (anything to stop the abuse!) She spends three days in hospital recovering. Would we hear about it in the media? I suspect that it would make the world news. AS THIS SHOULD!
This series of crimes against society and an individual; the disregard for the laws of policing, and due process, and the use of force, deserve severe punishment.
There is no disputing that paedophilia is a digusting behaviour and a difficult crime to uncover. However once we take the law into our own hands, once we allow the ends to justify the means history shows us the results. Using the means of the enemy makes you as bad as the enemy. This sort of breach of society needs to be plugged with vigour. A clear signal must be sent that this arbitrary act of violence will not be tolerated.
Male Victim of Domestic Violence Refused Help
Letter to the Editor of the Listener, Ms Jenny Wheeler, February 28, 1996
A growing awareness of men’s issues is reflected in recent television programmes from both the UK and the USA. Two recent episodes of the popular BBC drama "The Bill" portrayed violent incidents where men were the victims of women and the question of equity of treatment of male and female victims by both society and bureaucracy was considered. Television 2 has a movie on March 8, on the subject of domestic violence against a man and I understand that there is a least one documentary on the subject in the works.
This subject is foremost in my mind at the moment as I have been seeking justice for a North Shore solo father who was such a victim recently.
The incident involved this man’s estranged wife (about 18 months) arriving at his home and physically attacking him and another man (in front of their children), after she learned that he had a new woman in his life.
The Police attended and, after talking to her, sent her home. The man’s enquiries later found that Police policy had not been adhered to in that the perpetrator of domestic violence was not arrested therefore there was no record of the incident for statistical purposes or for future reference if further incidents occurred. Nor was the man offered any of the victim support normally offered in these circumstances.
When assistance was sought for him we were faced with a wall of disbelief and indifference. Several publicly funded and promoted organisations which purport to be working either against domestic violence or in support of it’s victims were unable to help because he was a man. Responses varied from an indifferent shrug of the shoulders to an offer of an anger management course to outright hostility. How dare anyone suggest that women be anything but the victim and the man the perpetrator. The general impression was that he as a victim must have deserved it. A suggestion, that if made of a woman would be considered outrageous.
When the matter of female violence is addressed the usual response is that either he deserved it or it must have been self defence or there was one of a hundred other possible reasons such as stress, pmt, ppd, etc. While I do not discount these factors I ask why the response to any suggestion that there might have been some causal factor in a man’s act of violence, not an excuse mind you but an extenuating circumstance, there is instant outrage and suggestions that the act is being condoned. All we ask for is some equity of treatment for both men and women.
We are also frequently challenged to produce statistics of incidents of female on male violence, as though they never occur. These statistics are hard to compile because of the attitudes to such acts and the way legislation is written. There is a crime called "male assaults female" with heavy penalties but even major assaults by women on men are recorded as "common assault" which bears lesser penalties and no reference to gender. It is therefore both refreshing and reassuring to see some acknowledgement of the inequities that do exist.
Martin Lewis, Co-ordinator
Goose and Gander
Letter to the Editor of the Listener – Mr Geoff Chapple, April 2, 1996
I am grieved to see Mr Matthew’s response in the Listener of April 6th. Domestic Violence is a very real and serious problem and far from trivialising it Men’s Centre North Shore intends to address the hidden abuse of men in our society. This man’s attitude is one which we must overcome to bring the true scale of the problem to light. On the screening of the very well crafted and balanced (some abused men felt overly generous) movie "Men Don’t Tell" we received about 150 calls. I spent days on the telephone listening to tearful men expressing relief that they were no longer alone and unheard.
The discovery by one that he was not the only man in the world facing this abuse brought him back from the brink of suicide. Others told of being arrested, charged with assault, and incarcerated when trying to seek help from the Police, in one case despite his children providing witness that it was their mother who had attacked him (and them).
As if to substantiate the title of the movie many of the callers were mothers, fathers, sisters and neighbours of abused men who wanted us to know that they are aware of abuse occurring and the inability of the abused men to speak out and be heard. This phenomenon is one which the Women’s Movement recognised in female victims and have done good work in largely overcoming. Men need to do the same for abused males.
One of the first steps in overcoming the embarrassment and fear of a man admitting that he is a abused is to get men, women, society, the Police and other social services to recognise that the crime is serious and not a matter for mirth, derision or disbelief. Another is to let men know that they are not alone and where support is available.
Solid research in both the UK and USA indicates that spousal abuse of men occurs on a similar scale to spousal abuse of women. This is a significant problem which does warrant serious consideration. Unfortunately there are many cultural factors that conspire to conceal this fact; to prevent research into it, and prevent the collection of data. There is insufficient space here to expand on this but not least of these are the attitudes of men themselves who, like Mr Matthews, feel the need to sanctify women on one hand and lock them in victimhood on the other. Neither does women any justice. Both demonise men.
If the only option we leave open for these abused men is to take the law into their own hands those who can will. How does that serve men or women?
Martin Lewis, Co-ordinator
Men Don’t Tell movie: phone response – April 24, 1996
From the "Men Don’t Tell" movie I received 72 calls on the night and over the weekend. The movie was on at 8:30 pm Friday. Twelve calls were handled as they came in, 60 diverted to the ansaphone while the line was engaged. The ansaphone refused to receive more than 60 calls. I received a further about 30 calls on the Monday and Tuesday. I put out a press release stating that I had received about 100 calls. This was first published in the Dominion, (I think it was Thursday) and then a number of provincial papers over the following week. I received a further 50 or so calls over the period that these were being published. A total of approximately 150 calls. I took weeks to respond to them all.
The breakdown of the nature of the calls is as follows :
- 34% Calls from parents, siblings, friends, neighbours saying that they have clear evidence (including being assaulted themselves) that a man is being attacked and either is not speaking out or has spoken to a Doctor, a social agency or Police and not been believed.
- 32% Calls from men who had experience of that type of relationship (or worse) and who had eventually extracted themselves from it. They often expressed that there was a high cost physically, emotionally and materially in extracting themselves. There was a lot of grief around loss of children and home.
- 26% Calls from men who are currently in such a relationship. These calls were characterised by a fear of disclosure of contact information in case the wife or partner should intercept mail or telephone calls.
- 8% Calls from women who are in relationship with men who have been in such a relationship. Often they are suffering the consequences in that the woman from the previous marriage still acts out the behaviour toward both of them or he has a cringe factor towards her.
All expressed a large degree of emotional relief at being heard and acknowledged for the first time. Most calls exceeded 30 minutes while the caller told their story, often cried and generally discharged their grief. Most expressed the belief that they had felt that they were the only man in the world who had ever had the experience, that there was no one to turn to who would believe them or if they did believe would not ridicule and demean them. One man repeatedly told me that he was on the verge of suicide, that he had prepared to suicide that very weekend, and the movie had brought him back from that solution.
I was ill prepared for the response that was provoked by the voice-over. If I was to repeat the exercise I would enrol trained counsellors (probably from Mensline) and ensure that there was a standard form for recording the details of the call (This now exists) for better analysis. I would ensure that call receivers were themselves supported and worked in teams with time out and a means of discharging from the emotional impact of the experience.
Attention Deficit / Hyperativity Disorder – November 1996
In our quick fix society we sometimes create new problems without solving the old. We have many examples of this ranging from the rabbit plagues of Australia to the Thalidomide babies of the 50’s. Are we doing the same today?
Today we are faced with a new disorder which found is in 2%-6% of Australian children and is overwhelmingly diagnosed in boys. (This therefore probably equates to 3%-10% of boys) With the close parallels between Australian and New Zealand cultures and environments we can fairly safely assume the same is true in New Zealand.
This new disorder is known as ADHD or Attention Deficit / Hyperativity Disorder. Whether it has a physiological cause is as yet unknown. Some in fact doubt its very existence. What is known is that accurate diagnosis is difficult, some children being wrongly diagnosed with the condition; others being missed.
What is worrying is that a drug treatment, usually Ritalin which has been found to be effective in treating the symptoms appears to be being heavily prescribed as a panacea, to boys who show any sign of undesirably active behaviour. Furthermore in a third of cases it seems that the drug component of the treatment is being applied without the other supportive procedures such as counselling and family support which research has shown to produce the best results.
What concerns us is that while this band-aid is being applied with little knowledge of the long term effects the true underlying causes are going unaddressed. This condition was unheard of a few years ago and there would appear to be a correlation between the reducing male influence in childrearing and education and this disorder.
Is it a perception in a female dominated environment that normal boy behaviour is now considered out of control or undesirable? Tom Sawyer would have been a prime candidate for this treatment! Is it that the lack of a father figure and male role models leads to erratic behaviour? There is extremely persuasive evidence available that boys raised in fatherless families are at much greater risk across a range of social and educational indicators.
Untreated causes are likely to increase the symptoms. Will we wonder why all boys are being drugged in a few years? Or will we have the sense to look deeper and address the causes.
Letter to the Editor, New Zealand Herald 8 January 1997
Your report on grandmothers (Herald 8 Jan) makes heartwarming reading. But it was also seriously unbalanced and misleading.
First, it almost totally ignored grandfathers, diminishing them to one sentence in a very large article. We know they die significantly earlier than grandmothers but your writer has effectively scripted them out of children’s lives.
Second, no mention whatever was made of the large and increasing number of grandparents, usually on the children’s father’s side, who are too often deprived of contact with grandchildren when parents break up. Family Court judges, in defining the best interests of children very narrowly indeed, have shown little interest in this aspect of family life. Alas, so also has your writer.
Third, in these days of concern over child abuse, grandfathers are all too often the fearful and silent victims of a society that looks sideways at any older man who puts a child upon his knee.
Fourth, the increasing number of never-married mothers means that in many cases children will grow up without ever knowing, enjoying the company of, and learning from half of their grandparents.
Backlash – October 1997
The creation of an environment where men are perceived to be villains simply because they are male leads to the victimisation of all of society, not only men. The distortions of men represented by television documentaries, dramas, comedy, etc… create a base of assumed reality. Goebells proved that a message no matter how outrageous and ridiculous if repeated often enough will be believed. The more outrageous the greater the effect. Even if based on the no smoke without fire philosophy only partly accepted.
The term feminazi coined to describe radical gender feminists at first caused me to react in support of women as this is a strongly negative image and not one which most feminists deserve however I have come to realise that this is a very accurate description of the actions being taken by that particular sector of feminism (if it can fairly bear that title) The authoritarian, fall in line with the political thinking or else approach of this sector is fascism. Whether it calls itself political correctness or whatever its structure is that of fascism. The danger is that the reasonable moderate average person who does not speak out as the laws and society is changed about them because each step seems to be well intentioned does not realise that the structure being created, for whatever altruistic reason, is one which can be taken by an autocratic government or pressure group and used against them. Perhaps MMP has arrived just in time. Assuming that the propaganda has not changed consciousness so much that the weight of opinion will carry us on into the deep.
The abuse of power occurs when feminazis justify the means by the ends – even when the ends cannot be justified. There is the money avaliable to women from ACC because they are generic victims. Using statutes and loopholes to get that money bears no relationship to individual justice. False accusations of rape and sexual abuse are used as weapons to control or gain payment. Innocent men are imprisoned because of the attitude that no man is innocent. All men should pay for the oppression of women.
These attitudes come from the gender feminist belief that men are guilty of being men. That only men are the cause of the hierarchical social structure they call patriarchy. Some reasonable, moderate men and women hear this sort of statement and assume that because these are not attitudes that they or their friends would entertain that they are the fetid imaginings of bitter men. Unfortunately this is not the case and while they are discounted as such the damage goes on. Do we have to reach the stage of violent reaction, to wake the silent majority. I hope not.
As a moderate and reasonable person myself I have been stimulated into making these statements in an endeavour to prevent just that. True, no issue is simple black and white. There are usually elements of truth underlying the problems. Rape does occur. Unfortunately the political have criminally distorted and exaggerated to the detriment of men and women alike. When there are lies in a claim then the truth associated with them gets discredited too. What man falsely accused will believe a woman making a genuine complaint?