Society correctly condemns violence against women, but does it ignore, condone, or even encourage violence against men?
Own up! Hands up if you cheered, at least silently, when Hermione Granger punched Draco Malfoy in the nose in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! I know I did. Would the reaction have been the same if Pansy Parkinson insulted Harry and he punched her in the face? Probably not: I suspect that feminist groups would have been up in arms about the glorification of violence against women. What about when Ron returns in The Order of the Phoenix? Hermione attacks him (it is toned down in the film: the book is more graphic), but Ron “mans up” and takes it on the chin, and pretty much everywhere else too. What would the reaction have been if Ron had retaliated?
I know that this is a trivial example, but I use it to illustrate just how deeply rooted in our subconscious is the fact that it is ok for a woman to hit a man, and that violence against men is acceptable. A friend of mine, around 30 years old now, was punched in the face at school by his ex-girlfriend. When he complained to the Head of Year, she refused to do anything, saying “You just have to expect girls to lash out like that sometimes”. Had he retaliated in kind, he would probably have been thrown out of the school, or at least been in serious trouble.
This idea that it is acceptable for a woman to hit a man, in retaliation for a non-violent action on his part, is surprisingly common. Phrases along the lines of “If he said that to me, I’d slap him!” sum it up. There a rather public example of this on Youtube involving Jay-Z.
I don’t follow the lives of “celebrities” like this, so I don’t know the history of these two. Nevertheless, the scene in the lift and the subsequent comments by the host and the largely female audience of the American chat show, illustrate the point. Note the comment “He must have done something really foul” at around 8 minutes 30 seconds. She goes on to imply that, in her opinion, he had been less than completely faithful in his relationships! The suggestion being that a man making a comment or behaving in a way that a woman doesn’t like entitles her to react violently. This particular audience seemed to treat the whole thing with some hilarity: perhaps it would be uncharitable of me to suggest that, had he retaliated they would have been baying for his blood!
I was brought up to believe that “You (a boy, that is) shouldn’t hit girls or boys wearing glasses”. Boys with good eyesight were fair game! In common with the vast majority of men, I still think it is cowardly for a man to hit a woman, but I believe that it is equally cowardly for a woman to hit a man knowing that he can’t, or won’t, hit back. As I now wear glasses, I fully support the second part of the injunction above and rejoice in my new-found invulnerability. Although men have every right to defend themselves, the vast majority will not retaliate when hit by a woman: of course, everyone eventually has a breaking point, and it is inevitable that retaliation will occur on some occasions: we can speculate as to which of the pair would be most likely to end up in court.
It is not only the occasional bad-tempered slap that is ignored. Despite evidence to the contrary, the fact that for many years men have been the victims in over one-third of domestic violence cases is swept under the carpet by politicians afraid to raise their head over the parapet. “Clare’s Law” was announced by the Home Secretary on International Women’s Day in 2014, in words that implied it was solely for the benefit of women, whereas, in fact, men too are entitled to ask police about a new partner’s potential history of violence. At least one national newspaper was forced by the Press Complaints Commission to publish a correction to their gender-biased reporting of this “law”. If anything, male victims and potential victims require more encouragement to come forward than women, as they are more likely to feel they will be disbelieved at best, belittled or ignored at worst.
As is often the case, we can find more extreme examples in other parts of the world. I am sure most of us remember the atrocious kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria in 2014. Shortly before this kidnapping of around 270 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, with all of the accompanying media outrage and very laudable “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, 59 boys were burned alive by the same terrorist group. This merited about one column inch on an inside page! A short while ago around 40 boys and young men were kidnapped by Boko Haram to be forced, we assume, to be child soldiers: to kill or be killed. Again, about one column inch in an inside page. Where are the high-profile celebrities heading a “Bring Back Our Boys” campaign? I suppose there were only 40 of them and they had the misfortune of being only boys!
We should remember that, in the UK, men make up about 70% of the victims of violent crime. The majority of these men are just as innocent as any female victim, but they are completely ignored due to the preoccupation of feminists, politicians and society in general with “women’s issues”.
None of this is meant to justify, in any way, violence against women, and it is true,of course, that there are very many woman all over the world still facing real problems of discrimination and subjugation and they deserve support. However, recognising this should not prevent us from being even-handed and remembering that men too have a right to lead peaceful lives, free from discrimination and violence, whether in this country or abroad.
Women do not have any right, legal or moral, to hit men unless it is in self-defense. Until we stop seeing domestic violence as purely a women’s issue and look at it from both sides, we will never get to the root of the problem.