David Penberthy’s article “Puerile Trash Avoids Facts on Violence” (Sunday Herald Sun, 21/9/14) is the perfect example of what makes any call for an equal focus on male suffering in any form an almost futile task in today’s society.
Any time a person is brave enough to suggest that our gender-specific campaigning against domestic violence (DV) is in fact a wrong and bigoted approach to a social problem, that person is received with sarcasm, mockery, belittlement, and scorn. This is why it takes such courage to speak up on behalf of men. Even many men disregard or entirely ignore the suffering of their own gender. This is not surprising because contrary to what many feminists would have us believe, it is the natural instinct of the vast majority of men to be far more concerned about protecting or saving women and children from harm than to be concerned about the violence or abuse perpetrated upon men.
Penberthy has taken issue with Gary Johns, who wrote an article decrying aspects of the anti–domestic violence movement. Johns took the brave stance of suggesting that violence against men needs to be acknowledged and addressed and that our focus on women only is imbalanced and unjust. Penberthy begins his article with a reference to members of the men’s movement as “petals” and then says Johns is far too intelligent to belong to such a movement.
It says so much about the blinkered, biased lens through which Penberthy views any discussion of gender and the issues men in particular are facing when his opening words call men who wish for more attention to be given to male victims of domestic violence “petals” and unintelligent.
Like many others who deride any suggestion that women abuse men in a manner that is comparable to male abuse of women, Penberthy paints a stereotypical picture:
Those guys would have you believe there’s a whole army of browbeaten blokes out there, who despite being a good 30kg heavier and six inches taller than their better half, still live in fear of getting duffed up when she gets home from a hard night’s drinking with the girls.
This rather pathetic caricature is meant to make the average man or woman laugh at the very notion. Let me say a couple of things. It is a fact of life that many men who are far bigger than their wives are still physically and emotionally abused by their partner. Penberthy’s sneering attitude to this scenario is precisely why these men often endure this abuse in silence.
May I ask Penberthy what a man in this situation is to do? If he touches his abusive partner (even in defence), he will be facing jail time. This is something that has happened many times. Men who have been hit or attacked with a weapon have called the police and found themselves being handcuffed and taken away. There are no shelters for these men. Perhaps that is why the vast majority of our homeless are males.
The second issue I have with his statement is that there are many large, powerful women and small, passive men in our society. This idea that women are incapable of harming anyone with their petite fists is as mythical an idea as the “fact” that one in three women are bashed.
Every feminist, be they male or female, knows that when they say one in three women have been subjected to abuse, the true meaning of this statistic is so blurred by what constitutes abuse and the deliberate intent to inflate and confuse the public that it is totally meaningless.
We all know that, according to our government, you can be considered a victim of domestic violence if you have been grabbed, pushed, screamed at, had something thrown at you, had a door slammed in your face, had money withheld, or been slapped or been threatened by a partner. Yet Penberthy would have us believe this one in three is related to severe physical abuse.
A tiny proportion of DV is at this extreme end of the scale, but to say this would undermine the campaigns’ deceitful message, which is: a huge proportion of our women are in danger. Natasha Stott Despoja said, “Violence against women is a national emergency!” In fact, as terrible as the murders of 50 women each year may be, this constitutes approximately 0.00036% of our female population. One death is a tragedy, but to call it an epidemic or national emergency is to misuse the English language. Approximately 2,000 males kill themselves each year. I have never heard this terrible fact referred to as a national emergency or epidemic.
This is a very deliberate, oft-repeated lie. If the same survey questions were given to men, we would come to the horrifying realisation that all men have suffered abuse under the vast umbrella definition of domestic violence.
I have a question for Penberthy. I have only ever heard spokesmen and women representing the campaigns against domestic violence tell us repeatedly that the problem is getting worse every year and at epidemic proportions. So here we have the “experts” in this field, through their own admission, telling us that after 40 years of relentless blaming of men for all domestic violence and the belief that it is all about male power and patriarchy, the problem is, in fact, escalating. Surely that is a signal that the current approach is a miserable failure and needs to be reviewed? But no–all we hear is a demand for more money and more attacks on men. We hear the same song over and over again.
Who is held to account for this outrageous failure? Perhaps DV needs to become a dark secret again because shining a light on it has only exacerbated the problem if what the leading experts of domestic violence tell us is true.
Here’s another Penberthy comment that can only be classified as “absurd” bordering on insane. He refers to the deaths of a couple of children not being in vain because:
… they have at least sparked a mature and important discussion between blokes about the way they act, the way their mates act, the way complete strangers can act.
What in God’s name does this twaddle mean? I encounter men every day and have many mates and we have never once had a discussion about the way we act toward women or anyone else for that matter. We have expressed empathy and grief for the murder of these young kids. The only “discussions’ about male behaviour I have seen have been in the pages or on the screens of our newspapers and TV shows where gutless male panellists shake their heads and make pseudo-serious noises about the problem with men.
Is Penberthy actually insinuating that the average bloke in the street is likely to murder his child or someone else’s’ child and a good talk with his mates will alert him to the inappropriateness of such behaviour? Perhaps he thinks most blokes give the missus the occasional backhander when she puts one too many sugars in his tea? Surely such a man will be set straight on this misunderstanding if his mates let him know that Andrew O’Keefe and Penberthy say this is not the way to behave. I suppose women have the same conversations among themselves when they read about another baby being murdered by its mum. “Girls, don’t murder your babies … it’s not a good thing to do.”
Do any of the mental giants running these campaigns seriously believe if blokes have a good sit down and heart to heart with their mates the incidences of domestic violence will be greatly reduced? Is there any wonder why the campaigns have been such a disastrous failure? Surely, in order for a problem to be solved, we must understand what causes it in the first place?
Bill Burr nails this pertinent point in one of his routines:
This is the childishly obscene method that has been used by those who work in the domestic violence industry for decades. The inference is that men who kill their wives or children do it because they can, or they want to assert their male superiority rather than an incredibly complex issue involving drugs, reciprocal violence, alcohol, and mental illness. It’s just easier to say, “Men do it … because they are male and cannot control their violent and controlling tendencies.”
Another aspect of Penberthy’s approach that leaves me shaking my head is his use of statistics. Because more women are victims at the extreme end of the scale, this justifies the fact that men are entirely absent from any mention in any campaign about this “scourge,” as many call it. Let’s see how this logic would work if applied to other areas of concern in our society.
Clearly, any campaign on suicide would never mention women or girls. We would create entire campaigns about this horrific societal problem that focused entirely upon male victims of suicide. After all, men commit suicide at over three times the rate of women, and from the late teens to mid-twenties, it is six times the rate of female suicide.
Any campaign on workplace death and injury would exclude any mention of women. A whopping 93% of all workplace deaths are male, and one can only imagine the imbalance of victims when it comes to limb loss, paraplegia, broken bones, concussion, and other serious injuries leading to permanent or temporary disability.
Women would never be mentioned on Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Day or any other day that commemorates those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice.
Homelessness would only focus on men because the vast majority of those wandering our streets—true homelessness—are males.
And yet … women are given equal status as victims in every one of the above-mentioned categories. The imbalance in the number of victims in most of these areas is a chasm compared with the gap in victims of domestic violence, yet women are not invisible at all. Why?
Penberthy again makes light of any suggestion that young men should have a campus officer at universities to care for the welfare of male students. Johns’s column reminded him
… of the nonsense arguments that used to be spouted at university by poncy types from private boys’ schools about the fact that there was a campus officer to care for the welfare of female students.
Well none of the blokes I hung out with at uni was ever date raped or felt up while they slept in their bed at a residential college, never flashed at by a naked woman as they walked through unlit parks to their car at night. None of the blokes I know turned up to work with a shiner and explained that they had walked in to a door.
How does Penberthy know what any of his peers experienced? Given his complete dismissal of and disdain for male suffering, why would anyone confide in this self-confessed gender bigot?
Note that the “poncy private boys’ school” student didn’t say we should get rid of the woman’s officer for female students. He simply suggested we should have one for males. Cue the derision from Penberthy. It’s akin to the “you must have a tiny penis” argument that feminists might use to shut the mouth of a man who questions their victim status. He doesn’t argue—he mocks and belittles. His attitude goes to the very heart of the issues Johns was trying to address. Male suffering is a joke or simply unworthy of serious discussion as a relevant subject.
Young men face tremendous pressures in our universities, which have become more and more feminised in the past few decades. Some people would go so far as to label universities hostile toward males. The numbers of male graduates has been on a downwards spiral for years. If the reverse were true, I have no doubt Penberthy would be alerting us to this crisis. Most people are entirely unconcerned. The rate of suicide and depression alone would be grounds for young males to have a men’s officer who focused on their welfare. Young men clearly face different problems and issues to females. Why would Penberthy object to an officer for men?
Penberthy mentions date rape and flashers and says no bloke ever turned up with a shiner and explained that they had walked into a door. In all my years at a teacher’s college where the ratio of women to men was about 10 to 1, I never encountered one female with a shiner. I would suggest that Penberthy didn’t either—but it sounds good, doesn’t it? He again dismisses entirely the notion that males at unis may have been hit or abused by a female and kept it quiet.
And finally Penberthy dismissed Gary Johns’s concerns about equity by saying he had “decided to be contrarian just for the sake of it.”
Surely there could be no other reason as Penberthy knows that there is no money to be earned, no prestige to be accorded, no friends to be won by writing on behalf of men. Everyone knows this, so why would a man or woman be stupid enough to risk all of the derision and scorn, along with accusations of being a misogynist, by writing on behalf of men and questioning the feminist narrative that dominates our society? I think this quote from George Orwell says it all:
Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.