A Tale of Two Domestic Violence Ads

Our society’s double standard on domestic violence is like the Energizer Bunny; it just keeps going and going and going. For a couple of weeks or so, this ad for a Canadian hair salon raised hackles and cries of anguish around the world (The Nerve, 8/31/11).  Canadians, British, Australians and Americans all vied to see who could sound the most outraged.  The general plaint was that the ad glorifies domestic violence, which to my mind it doesn’t.
  If I can figure out the message at all, it seems to suggest that, even though your boyfriend has given you a black eye, you can still look good. Now to me, that’s a very strange message.  I know they were trying to be “edgy,” but the idea that that’s a way to sell haircuts, styles and coloring frankly escapes me.  What also escapes me is why the advertisers chose the Bride of Frankenstein to promote a hair salon, but what do I know? Then there’s the guy, presumably the boyfriend, standing behind her.  What’s that he’s holding in his hands?  We’re told it’s a diamond necklace, but in less focused photos, it could be a noose.  Whatever the case, the narrative of the piece is completely consistent with public discourse on the issue of DV, i.e. men do it and women don’t.  So on that level, I’m surprised at the outcry. But on another level it makes sense.  The photo dares to suggest that domestic violence can be something other than “battering,” and the DV establishment can’t have that, hence the cries of outrage.  Of course study after study shows that the vast majority of what’s called DV is either completely non-injurious or results in only trivial harm.  But the narrative of the DV establishment calls all DV (done by men) “battering.”  So any suggestion of the truth needs to be squelched. I find the ad in poor taste for many reasons and trivializing DV is one of them.  But of course trivializing DV is what’s done every day by the domestic violence establishment.  They’d prefer that half of the DV committed in the United States, every day, every year, be ignored entirely.  Indeed, the DV establishment for many years denied that women hit men at all.  Faced with the incontrovertible fact that women commit DV as often as do men, the DV establishment first denied it, then tried to excuse it and now simply hopes to ignore it. And that, as it turns out, works pretty well.  The police seem happy to arrest almost exclusively men in DV incidents, the press essentially never calls it ‘domestic violence’ when a woman kills or injures a man and Congress and the Vice President happily go along pretending that DV is strictly a male-on-female phenomenon. So it should come as no surprise that this ad, which is strikingly (pardon the pun) similar to the Canadian one, has received no outcry and indeed no mention by the mainstream media.  In it, a guy has (apparently) two black eyes courtesy of his fiancee who’s enraged because he didn’t buy “her ring” from the correct jewelry store, i.e. the one that’s advertised. The difference between the two ads is that the second is unambiguous.  There’s no doubt about what happened or why.  There’s also no doubt that the ad takes no editorial stand against violence against men.  She’s justified because he didn’t buy her the right ring.  End of story. And there’s not been a peep out of anyone in the DV establishment who, at the drop of a hat, will tell anyone who will listen how opposed they are to domestic violence.  That’s true only if DV is defined as something only men do to only women, as the DV establishment has done since the inception of the movement. Also, the DV establishment has always preferred its male victims to be invisible and voiceless.  After all, if we acknowledge their existence and (heaven forbid!) give them caring, concern or empathy, that could upset a couple of important apple carts. The first is the flood tide of money to DV shelters and other entities purporting to provide services to victims and perpetrators.  Since the vast majority of those offer no services to male victims or female perpetrators, federal and state funding would likely become contingent on changing those policies. Second is the radical shift that might occur in family courts.  As one recent study revealed, more than any other single factor, it’s claims of abuse that serve to deny fathers access to their children.  Now, a study of mediators showed that those who don’t characterize themselves as feminists, see anywhere from half to 80% of the claims as false.  Moreover, judges who were educated about the reality of DV instead of the fictional narrative written by the DV establishment, would surely begin to scrutinize claims more carefully and perhaps even demand hard evidence before cutting dads out of their children’s lives. So the DV Stakes are a high-dollar, high-import affair.  That means female victims can’t be seen as anything but “battered,” and male victims, if there are any, must be seen as acceptable.  That’s what we see in the contrasting responses to the two ads. Just to add support to the whole concept that male victims of DV are either invisible or acceptable, consider the recent Catherine Kieu Becker case in which she allegedly drugged her husband and cut off his penis.  Of the many, many articles about that case, not one has referred to it as “domestic violence.” More recently, there’s this short article about a man apparently stabbed by his wife (Fox 28, 9/8/11).  Again, no mention of domestic violence.  And so it goes. Thanks to Jose for the heads-up.

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