Journalist David Futrelle Criticizes, Misunderstands Our Campaign Protesting Anti-Father DV Ads

In a recent piece on the subject of men’s activism, journalist David Futrelle strongly criticizes our highly-publicized October 2008 Campaign Protesting Father-Bashing Domestic Violence Ads. The ads, which depicted a smiling little boy as a future wife-beater and stereotype black men as wife-killers, are pictured above. Futrelle writes:

Glenn Sacks…called on his supporters to besiege the biggest donors to one domestic-violence shelter serving mostly women–they had run an ad Sacks didn”t like–in an attempt to get them to stop donating to the shelter. That”s right: instead of trying to raise money to build domestic-violence shelters for men, Sacks” fans instead tried to take money away from a shelter for women.

There are numerous problems with Futrelle’s statement above:

1) During our campaign, which was done in concert with Fathers and Families, we never “called on supporters to besiege the biggest donors to one domestic-violence shelter serving mostly women.”

Our campaign, which generated 10,000 calls, letters, and faxes, had three phases or Action Alerts. The first one was a request to call officials of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) which ran the bus ads. The second asked our supporters to contact Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and the Dallas City Council. The third was targeted at the media. These are still on our DART Campaign page here, if Futrelle would like to see them.

At no time did we ask our general supporters to contact either The Family Place’s contributors or The Family Place itself.

2) We did orchestrate efforts by 25 specific activists to call over 50 of The Family Place’s financial contributors to express our concerns about the ads. All of these activists were women who found the ads offensive. We never asked DART’s supporters to withdraw any contributions–we asked them to contact the leader of The Family Place and let her know they were offended by the ads.

Most contributors said they sympathized with us, and many told us they thought the ads and the subsequent protest/controversy were an embarrassment to The Family Place. Many told us they had or would contact The Family Place Executive Director Paige Flink with their concerns.

Several of The Family Place’s financial contributors withdrew or reduced the financial gifts they planned for the end-of-the-year giving season. I don’t say this with pleasure–I would have preferred that The Family Place do the right thing from the beginning rather than lose the funding. Still, with a $9 million budget for 2008, I doubt our efforts had a significant financial impact on The Family Place, and that was never our intent.

3) The ads weren’t simply “an ad Sacks didn”t like” as Futrelle says, they were blatantly unfair and sexist and should be condemned by Futrelle and any other fair-minded person. During the campaign we compiled an impressive endorsers list, which included some of the world’s leading authorities on domestic violence, as well as many other experts, media figures, and prominent citizens. This list is here.

Among our campaign’s achievements were:

1) Widespread, positive media coverage which allowed us to educate the public on domestic violence and child abuse. Coverage included CNN, The Associated Press, FOX, CBS, hundreds of radio stations throughout the country, and many newspapers. This was particularly remarkable considering we launched the Campaign just seven days before the presidential election.

2) To its credit, The Family Place, the prominent Dallas-area domestic violence service provider which placed the controversial ads on DART buses, backed away from the gender exclusivity which was previously prominent in their public materials. They changed several areas of their website to specifically include male victims, and issued a statement that “We are not a male-bashing organization. Our services support all victims–male and female, children and adults.” We publicly commended them for this.

All blog posts and updates on the DART campaign can be seen here. To comment on Futrelle’s piece, please click here.

In Futrelle’s defense, there is some truth to one of the statements he makes, writing:

[Men’s activists] complain that there are virtually no domestic violence shelters specifically designed for male victims, but unlike the feminists and other activists who fought for years to get the woman-centered shelters we have today, MRAs seem content to gripe that feminists haven”t given them shelters, too.

This isn’t literally true–there are many activists who have worked very hard to get funding for programs for men, and it has been a long, uphill struggle for them, in part because men are far more likely to give money to help women than they are to help other men.

That being said, I do believe (and have previously stated) that men’s activists do not give proper respect and credit to the domestic violence activists’ hard and effective work in building up a wide network of services for female domestic violence victims. Contrary to what critics sometimes claim, much of this funding is not governmental, but instead corporate and from private contributors, many of whom, ironically, are men.

During our campaign there were people who criticized The Family Place Executive Director Paige Flink for her high ($170,000 range) salary. Actually, Flink, despite her unfortunate moral blind-spot when it comes to men, has been a hardworking and effective organization builder and fundraiser. As such, she probably deserves her salary.

Futrelle responded to my response and I to his, etc.–to read more, click here.

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