Wednesday, January 11, 2006

There are also battered men - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune

This is one of those debates where I probably should establish my prior biases and convictions before I even start commenting on the issue. I will say that I am a Male right activist insofar as it is consistent with me being a Liberal Feminist. Liberal Feminist argue that Females are no different from Males and the only bar to their success is rules (law in the very narrow sense of the words) that discriminate against them. Thus the removal of such rules is an end in and of itself. From then on, it would be up to individual effort, skill and luck to make your mark on the world. The collolary to that is that such as women should not discriminated against, they should not be discrimated towards either. The basis of this, I think, is an empahsis on equal opportunity not equal achievement, something that I am very willing to support.

Of course time has shown that this might be somewhat naive and that difference between males and females, as well as institutional discrimination means that the Law (Legislation) must have cognition of the differences in order to craft laws that take into account such differences in order to create a true level playing field.

But nevertheless, I think on balance the Liberal Feminist viewpoint is one that I'm not only politically biased towards but also one which I feel on balance is more reasonable. Because by any other measure, the problem of identifying such differences and then attempting to craft legislation is not simply doomed to failure but also tends to be counter-productive.

Sometimes, it actually entrenches discrimination against males especially in areas of family law and at the same time entrenches the notion of women as victims. For example, to take a local context, we have the Women's Charter (not the person's charter mind you) which entrenches protection for women but not men on the presumption that women are the only vulnerable group and inevitably are always the victims and never the aggressors. Now, I think on balance women tend to suffer more than men in the household but that is not an adequate reason for seemingly ignoring the very real problem of battered men. Other problem areas include custody of the children, payment of alimony, rape (which can only be perpertrated by males on female) and nonsense laws such as insult to modesty, which only applies to women as well.

Back to the article. The author, Cathy Young, cites a 1996 National Violence against Women Survey, cosponsored by the Centres for Disease Control and the National Institute of Justice, found that 38% of the 2.3 million Americans who experience partner violence every year are men.

She also points put that men are often at a disadvantage at being taken seriously because of the mentality that they ought to be able to take care of themselves being on average bigger and stronger. Even worse is the mentality levered at men that they must have done something to deserve or provoke it, something that we would automatically find abhorent if levered against a female.

Locally, the statistics in terms of hospital cases seem to suggest that 10% of those experiencing partner violence are men. Depending on the variable, this number could either overestimate or underestimate the level of violence against men. I'm betting on underestimation partly because what constitutes violence is not confined to sufficient injury to warrant a hospital visit. Furthermore, considering our 'Asian culture', I find it likely than men are more likely to suffer in silence than women are now because of the prevailing attitutes.

The reason why I generally don't identify more strongly with Male Rights group is this very strong streak of misogyny that is found. CL suggests that there are very like the early feminist groups which tended to be anti-male but eventually became mainstream. One can only hope.

Anyway, to sum it up in a nutshell, I think society as a whole is better served by being inclusive rather than exclusive. Thus I feel that the earlier campaign against Violence in the Home should not be confined to simply women and children. There is a real problem of battered men and ignoring it is not going to let make it disappear.




At 7:46 PM, Anonymous rrrrrrrm said...

Hear hear. And about time too, especially for men who aren't exactly bigger or stronger than most women... aaack.

I think, however, that there is another dynamic beneath this state of affairs. Instead of the notion that women "always want sex" (the nymphomania presumption), which presumably prevailed before the feminist revolution, this prejudice is somehow replaced with the opposite notion, the satyromania presumption, where men "can think of nothing but sex".

It seems to me that because the nymphomania presumption forms part of discrimination against women, it was probably deemed necessary to counter this by deploying the opposing satyromania presumption. In some sense, perhaps people were reading too much Hegel, or the history of this affair being a good illustration of parts of Hegelian theory?

In any case, taken to its logical conclusion, the assumptions result in absurdity, as either the man or the woman is idealized to be some sort of savage "sex machine". We are now struggling, perhaps, towards the Hegelian synthesis. Hopefully, this means we may regain a saner balance with regards to this issue.


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