Two major online publications–Salon.com and Slate.com–recently did articles criticizing the men’s and fathers movement. Whenever the fatherhood movement and its opponents clash directly, there is an opportunity for all on both sides to listen and learn, so I’m writing several posts on these two articles.
My first two posts dealt largely with a misleading quote attributed to me in both pieces, and the two publications’ commendable agreement to clarify it. In Part III, Part IV, this post, and others, we’ll deal more with the arguments made by Kathryn Joyce of Double X/Slate.com and Judy Berman of Salon.com.
Both Joyce and Berman are feminist writers who consider themselves opponents of the fatherhood movement. Joyce writes:
MRA groups base their battered men arguments largely on the research of a small group of social scientists who claim that domestic violence between couples is equally divided, just unequally reported. Most notable are the studies conducted by sociologist Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire, who has written extensively on female violence…Straus” research is starting to move public opinion. A Los Angeles conference this July dedicated to discussing male victims of domestic violence, “From Ideology to Inclusion 2009: New Directions in Domestic Violence Research and Intervention,’ received positive mainstream press for its “inclusive’ efforts.
The conference, which took place in June, not July, wasn’t simply “inclusive”–it represented a lot of the best research and current researchers in the field of domestic violence. Joyce doesn’t mention that Straus was one of the pioneers in the field of domestic violence research, and that he was once hailed by the feminist movement for his efforts on behalf of battered women.
Jack Straton, a Portland State University professor and member of Oregon”s Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force, argues that Straus critically fails to distinguish between the intent and effect of violence, equating “a woman pushing a man in self-defense to a man pushing a woman down the stairs,’ or a single act of female violence with years of male abuse…
These are false and have been leveled for years. Straus distinguishes between serious and minor violence, between self-defense and unprovoked attack, between an aberrant act of domestic violence and a continued pattern of it. And in Straus’s work, even by women’s own self-reports, female violence against men is a significant problem.
All in all, advocates say that cherry-picked studies from researchers like Straus, touted by the MRAs, amount to what Edward Gondolf, director of research for the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute, calls “bad science.’ Statistics suggesting gender parity in abuse are taken out of necessary context, they say, ignoring distinctions between the equally divided “common couple violence’ and the sort of escalated, continuing violence known as battery–which is 85 percent male-perpetrated–as well as the disparate injuries inflicted by men and women.
They’re hardly cherry-picked–one could not find any randomized survey of domestic violence that did not find that women initiate DV at a significant rate. The only way to arrive at a figure like 85-15 (or the “3 or 4%” figure also used in the Joyce and Berman pieces) is to cite crime statistics or calls to domestic violence service providers. Men don’t call the police for a variety of reasons, including that they fear they will be arrested for their female partners’ violence. They don’t call DV service providers in part because they feel they won’t be helped.
Both of these issuers are borne out by research. In The violence we ignore (Baltimore Sun, 7/16/09), Dr. Holstein and I wrote:
Denise Hines of Clark University found that when an abused man calls the police, the police were more likely to arrest him than to arrest his abusive female partner. This is partly the result of primary aggressor laws. Primary aggressor laws encourage police to discount who initiated and committed the violence but instead look at other factors (such as size and strength) that make them more likely to arrest men.
When the men in Ms. Hines’ study tried calling domestic violence hot lines, 64 percent were told that they only helped women, and more than half were referred to programs for male DV perpetrators.
Commendably, Emily Toothman, a spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a major, mainstream domestic violence organization, recently called abused men a “relatively unidentified population” and told a reporter:
“Many male victims/survivors do not report or discuss the abuse against them. In light of this, these numbers should not be used as an extensive study of male domestic violence victims in our country.”
Two dozen states have primary aggressor type laws. Under the predominant aggressor doctrine, when police officers respond to a domestic disturbance call, they are instructed not to focus on who attacked whom and who inflicted the injuries, but instead consider different factors which will almost always weigh against men. These factors include: comparable size; comparable strength; the person allegedly least likely to be afraid; who has access to or control of family resources (i.e., who makes more money); and others. Given these factors, it is very difficult for officers to arrest female offenders. To learn more, see my co-authored column Maine”s Adoption of Predominant Aggressor Doctrine in DV Arrests Will Ensnare Innocent Men (Lewiston Sun Journal, 8/5/07).
MRA critics say the organizational recapitulation of abusive tactics should be no surprise, considering the wealth of movement leaders with records or accusations of violence, abuse, harassment, or failure to pay child support.
Really? Who? Please provide the names of the “wealth of movement leaders” who have been found by a court to be violent.
Some advocates call MRA groups “the abuser”s lobby,’ because of members like Jason Hutch, the Buckingham Palace fathers” rights “Batman,’ who has been estranged from three mothers of his children and was taken to court for threatening one of his ex-wives.
Another Joyce misspelt name–that’s “Hatch,” not “Hutch.” According to Hatch, there were no “threats,” but instead a long-running and emotional dispute over his access to his children, which he claimed his ex-wife refused to allow. I don’t know which one of them was telling the truth–ask Joyce, I’m sure she’ll tell you all about it.
Within the ranks of the men”s rights movement, vigilante “resisters’ are regularly nominated and lionized for acts of violence perceived to be in opposition to a feminist status quo
A handful of internet lunatics say something stupid–this is hardly the “ranks” of the men’s/fathers’ movement.
I’m writing several posts about the issues raised in the Slate.com and Salon.com articles–to read the others, click here. The two articles are Kathryn Joyce’s “Men’s Rights” Groups Have Become Frighteningly Effective (Slate.com, 11/5/09) and Judy Berman’s “Men’s rights” groups go mainstream–Once seen as a lunatic fringe, reactionary anti-women groups are courting respectability (Salon.com, 11/5/09).