Vicki Larson writes the truth about domestic violence and society’s propensity for male-bashing. Her article is here (Huffington Post, 7/12/11). It should be posted and re-posted. It should appear above the fold in every morning paper and as the cover story of every weekly magazine. It should be required reading for every holder of an elective office.
Her piece isn’t long and it’s not difficult. (It’s amazing how easy the truth can be when it doesn’t have to fight against ideological constructs.) It skims the surface of a number of topics related to DV, and so it doesn’t go deeply. But it says things that need saying. They’ve needed saying for a long time.
And the fact that Larson is saying them in a widely-read online publication means that her ideas are getting traction in the larger field of public discourse in the United States.
It’s high time. Up until recently, and for over three decades, the most outrageous claims have been made about men and domestic violence. Never mind that they were false; never mind that they were impossible; never mind that they contradicted good science and common sense. Those who chose to believe the lies and half-truths were pleased to ignore the facts and continue to promote claims they thought people should believe in lieu of the truth.
Do I have to remind readers of the claims that “all men are rapists?” What about the claim by the Women’s Educational Equity Act Publishing Center’s claim that 4 million women are beaten to death each year and that violence is the leading cause of death among women? Do I have to cite Joan Zorza’s assertion that between 25% and 35% of all women admitted to emergency rooms nationwide are there because of domestic violence? (The Centers for Disease Control, that tracks the data, says the figure is between 0.01% and 0.02%.)
I could go on indefinitely citing claims that range from the delusional to the made-up to the merely misleading. We’ve been collecting them for over 30 years, after all.
Of course what’s part and parcel of the false claims is that no consequences seem to attend them. As long as people know that they can say anything, regardless of how silly or libelous, and get away with it, it’s no surprise that the nonsense keeps pouring forth.
All of that is to say that Larson’s article should not only be reprinted prominently, it should appear and reappear daily for the next several decades in order to, in some small measure, balance all that has gone before.
Her point of departure is “whom do we believe?” when claims of abuse are hurled at men? The woman or the man? And if we believe her, why do we do so?
Her answers come from various people who’ve been asking the same or similar questions.
Men, of course, aren’t the only ones who can do damage; statistics show that women can be just as violent as men. But while the Violence Against Women Act provides millions of dollars for shelters for abused women, you don’t see too many shelters — any, actually — for abused men. “It’s often been taken for granted that women can’t really do that much damage, so it’s OK to maybe slap your boyfriend or do something of that nature,” says Kellie Palazzolo, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication who is overseeing research on how college students perceive female and male perpetrators.
About those slaps, how many movies dating back to the 30s have you seen in which a woman slaps a man? I can’t count, but it used to be common as dirt. More to the point, it never hurt and he always deserved it, having said or done something she didn’t like.
And the beat (so to speak) goes on in popular culture. Larson rightly points out that many women cheered when Elin Nordegren attacked Tiger Woods (if she did). He’d cheated and, according to them, that justified domestic violence. But only because it was a woman doing it to a man. Reverse the sexes and the same people would be calling for his scalp.
“Thelma and Louise,” one of the most popular “chick flicks” of all times, is virtually nonstop female violence against men. And they all deserve it, according to the film, because in a variety of ways, they treat the two protagonists wrongly.
Of course we don’t have to stop at popular culture when searching for a societal double standard on DV. Just listen to Vice President Biden give a lengthy interview to Glamour magazine on the subject and never mention the possibility that a woman might have ever struck a man. The complete absence of public funding for male victims or female perpetrators of DV speaks volumes.
Or read the newspapers. Almost without exception, when female perpetrated domestic violence is reported, it’s not called “domestic violence.” As but one example, I recently followed the trial of Rosa Hill in the San Francisco Bay area. Several area papers covered the case in which Hill carried out her carefully planned attack on her ex-husband and his grandmother. She killed the 91-year-old woman and tried to kill her ex. Out of at least four articles in each of three papers, not one included the words “domestic violence.”
So, as Larson notices, when it comes to DV, men are indeed silenced. Their voices are ignored, their injuries unreported, their very existence denied. Our national narrative repeats that it is men, not women, who hurt their intimate partners.
And so men walk around somewhat guilty until proven innocent. And sometimes, no one’s too interested in proving them innocent.
“As a society, we don’t typically think of men in the role of a victim. We can’t even recognize it when we’re confronted by physical evidence,” [Dr. Tara] Palmatier writes. “On the other hand, we’re inclined to believe accusations about men.”
All this began with the words and deeds of true misandrists who made little effort to hide the fact. But, like Frankenstein’s monster, it’s taken on a life of its own, blundering about the countryside damaging everything in its wake.
Not only is it unfair and dishonest, [Palmatier] says, but it’s “damaging to boys and young men, gender relations, relationships, families and ‘the best interests of the children.’ And it gives the women who are predators a free pass.”
That says a lot in a few words, and every one of them is true. Vice President Biden should read them again and again until he understands the deep and broad damage that he is doing. The lies and half-truths that have been repeated ad infinitum have had their toxic effect on people, laws and institutions. We are reaping what we allowed to be sowed – a harvest of bitterness, mistrust and the decline of the rule of law.
Automatically assuming the worst of men is a form of discrimination, [Palmatier], [Warren] Farrell and others say. And they’re right.
It’s what we’ve taught ourselves to do over the last 40 years. Someday, we’ll look back at those years, shake our heads and wonder “How could we?” We’ll also look back at Vicki Larson and know that she was one of the many who pointed us in the right direction – back toward sanity, reason and the truth.