Will You End YOUR Violence Against Women?

According to Wikipedia, a loaded question is a question which contains a controversial assumption such as a presumption of guilt.

The famous example often used to illustrate this is the story of a defendant in court being asked to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following question: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” The question is loaded because whether the respondent answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’, he will end up admitting that he has beaten her at some time in the past (even if he has never been violent).

Last Friday 25th November, Brighton & Hove Council gave its backing The White Ribbon Campaign to End All Male Violence Against Women asking male residents to sign a pledge declaring that we will “never commit violence against women”.

I took part in the day, as a guest speaker at an event to celebrate the 21st birthday of The Survivors Network, Brighton and Hove’s specialist rape and sexual abuse centre for women.

It was an honour for me to be asked to be a local voice alongside 3 national speakers from Respect, AVA and the End Violence Against Women Campaign. And I can’t remember the last time I was so anxious about a speaking engagement, particularly as I had no intention to accept the loaded request to pledge “never to commit violence against women”.

(And for balance I should also add that equally, I wouldn’t pledge “never to commit violence against men” even though 6 out of 10 victims of violent crime in the city are men).

The event was timed to coincide with International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women and like every other right-minded human being I am 100% in favour of the elimination of violence towards women.

And despite my reservations, I chose to take part in the debate because I’m against violence and abuse, irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator or the gender of victim. And whilst I can see huge value in specializing and focusing on particular kinds of violence – gang violence, domestic violence, men raping men, mothers abusing their children, women abusing their partners, men being violent to women, domestic abuse in same sex relationships and all other forms of violence you can imagine – my question is how do we do this in a way that we make sure we address all abuse fairly and equally irrespective of gender?

As The Men’s Network itself seeks to improve public services for one gender – the question of how we do that without compromising the services that people of all genders and gender identities receive, is a vital question for us to explore if we are to develop our expertise at providing services for men and boys in a way that ultimately serves the whole community.

So for example, we are currently working with a local council/NHS service that reaches twice as many women as men, and our intention is to see if we can increase the number of men accessing this service without reducing the service that women receive (and maybe even helping to improve the service to women in the process).

And when I look at the campaign to end men’s violence against women, I don’t see a parallel commitment to tackle women’s violence against men and boys, men’s violence against men and boys, and women’s violence against women and girls.

As Erin Pizzey, the visionary founder of the first women’s refuge said:

“I believe that we should be eliminating violence against everyone and that includes men and children, but I am puzzled as to why this enormous empire of women with the huge self important titles manage to avoid any discussion of the effects of violence upon the family, fathers and children. To concentrate only on women as victims is to deny the fact that children are also abused by their mothers. We can no longer afford to cover up the huge scandal that has existed for the last forty years where only men have been held up as perpetrators of all violence.”

I too have been puzzled by this oversight – particularly when we’ve known for years that the majority of victims of violence are male and that significant numbers of women commit violence and abuse against children, abuse people in their care, perpetrate domestic violence and commit violent crime.

And in a city where the council estimates that 1 in 6 residents are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, it seems illogical to launch a campaign to end violence against women and then only focus on the heterosexual community and men as perpetrators – particularly when the British Crime Survey suggests that women in same sex relationships are nearly 3 times more likely to experience domestic abuse and therefore at greater risk.

And none of this is to deny that some men perpetrate violence and that some women are the victims of that violence.

And nor is this an argument to say we shouldn’t have specific campaigns targeting violence against women – just like we want to see campaigns targeting men’s health, boys’ literacy, male suicide – it’s just we have a responsibility to make sure that when we focus on the needs of specific individuals or communities in our city, we do so in way the serves our collective wellbeing.

So in responding to the debate’s central point, which was to consider how we can engage men in campaigns against violence against women, I hoped to deepen my understanding of how we can balance serving the needs of different communities in a way that serves the whole community.

And in this process three key themes emerged – Diversity, Equality and Leadership.

It’s always useful to understand who and what drives public and social agendas like the campaign to end violence against women. The campaign is a global, pro-feminist campaign that positions itself as a gender equality initiative. It is supported by a broad range of partners in the UK including the Government Equalities Office, The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), an impressive mix of national and local charities and public sector bodies at a local level.

What I noticed when I began to consider this alliance was just how lacking in diversity it is in two key ways: firstly it is dominated by women and secondly it is dominated by a singular philosophy – feminism.

And it struck me instantly that the whole gender equality sector from the EHRC to people teaching and enrolled in gender studies courses, to equality officers all over the land, to the many excellent charities working with women is not diverse but dominated by women – and more importantly by a feminist, women’s rights perspective of gender equality. Which is why the Government Equalities Office’s opening remark on its website is “we lead on issues relating to women” and not “we lead on issues relating to gender equality” or “we lead on issues relating to women and men”.

And my first point is that if we are serious about ending violence against women then we need to work with as diverse a range of people as possible irrespective of their gender or philosophical outlook. And if people – and particularly men – want to approach the issue from a non-feminist viewpoint, then why not encourage and support that? (And important to note here that non-feminist isn’t the same as anti-feminist – it just means that it is not feminist – in the same way you can non-Christian – eg Buddhist  – without being anti-Christian. And as a survey to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day found 80% of young women aren’t feminist – then it would seem to make sense to engage more non-feminist men AND women in the sector if it is to be representative of the communities it serves).

The second connected issue that struck me was that the evidence shows that in countries where there is more gender equality, there is less violence against women and the countries that are the most gender equal are the countries that have taken some men’s equality issues – such as equal parenting rights – much more seriously than we have in the UK.

I highlighted the Fatherhood Institute’s Family Fairness Index which rated the UK in the bottom four of 21 industrialized nations when it comes to fairness and equality between mums and dads.

As the Government Equalities Office’s focus is on leading on issues relating to women (but not men), we still have a long way to go to make the seemingly obvious case that gender equality can only be achieved by tackling the inequality that men experience as well as the inequality that women experience – and it is vital that we as a sector working with men and boys take on the challenge of pushing men’s equality issues up the agenda if we are ever to make serious strides forward in tackling the gender equality issues that individual groups face (boys struggling at school, men at risk of suicide, women experiencing domestic abuse, female rape victims etc)  – in a way that serves us all – every man, every woman, every boy and every girl.

Which brings me to my final point on leadership. I have met many men’s rights and women’s rights campaigners over the years  – and many are great advocates and leaders for their specific area of interest. What I haven’t met is many people working in gender equality with a sophisticated understanding of what it takes to address the inequalities that both men and women face.

And the future I am committed to is a future where our city is a world leader in helping people to reach their full potential irrespective of their gender or gender identity by becoming exquisitely sophisticated and effective at tackling the different inequalities that all residents face – irrespective of gender.

And as I stared out into an audience of largely female, pro-feminist faces on Friday evening there were some reassuring signs that this future is possible for our city. From the female survivor of male abuse who spoke powerfully of the need to reconcile men and women, to the charity worker who acknowledged that her women and families service had excluded men and that she was committed to building a father inclusive service in future, to the woman who in one short question touched on the missing communities in the violence against women campaign by highlighting the need to address the LGBT dynamic of violence against women and more broadly the need to address issues that she sees men face, from her own experience of working with fathers in the black community.

I am proud to live in a city where I have the privilege of meeting so many people committed to making a difference and thankful to the Survivors Network for inviting me to speak.

The fact that The Men’s Network was born in Brighton & Hove is testimony to the pioneering nature of our city and the fact that our Community and Voluntary Sector Forum now has an elected representative for men and boys demonstrates that it is possible for both women’s and men’s issues to be equally represented in any drive for gender equality – and boy (or girl if you prefer) have we got a long way to go before we get there!

In the meantime, whilst I won’t be pledging never to commit violence against women or men I do commit to take actions that can help our city become much more effective at tackling all violence in our city irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator or victim.

Glen Poole, Strategic Director, The Men’s Network


Glen Poole is UK co-ordinator for International Men's Day, Director at the consultancy Helping Men and news editor of insideMAN magazine. Follow him on twitter @HelpingMen or find out more about his work at www.helpingmen.co.uk.

Posted in NEWS
8 comments on “Will You End YOUR Violence Against Women?
  1. David Eggins says:

    Very well said, Glen and nicely put. The “loaded question” is exactly right and I have started using the phrase that “radical feminists” – as opposed to “non-radical feminists” – have “trojanised” the agenda and they are working like trojans at succeeding.

    The statistics clearly point to men being the largely ignored victims of crime. Louise Dixon’s latest research paper illustrates nearly all of this in a regal flush!

    The trouble is that in our attempts to work more successfully with men, the “radical feminists” invite us into another loaded “male versus female” agenda, which largely because of stereotypes, men will lose.

    The focus really needs to be the safety of “our” children, because the other “smart” radical feminist move was to link the women’s victimhood with the child’s victimhood, despite the statistics indicating differently.
    “Women and children first” has been the chivalrous cry of our nation. That notion and that call runs very, very deep in virtually all of us.
    “Children first” is the most supportive position that we as men can adopt, so that every child counts. A child is 4 to 6 times more at risk from domestic abuse than is a woman A child is at risk from both men and women and more at risk of abuse from its mother than from its father!

    Let the RFs argue that one!

    David Eggins, Temper Domestic Violence

  2. glenpoole says:

    Thanks David

    I agree that “women and children” are often linked together to the exclusion of men and I also agree there is a need for much more focus on children and how we protect from the violence that some men and women inflict on the,

    And for me the distinct focus on men – and at times men and boys – is also very important too if we are committed to End All Violence

    I’m not only considering domestic violence here – which it’s why it is important to focus on men as well as children

    My key point is that if you fall outside of the sexist and heterosexist paradigm of who is a victim (women) and who is a perpetrator (man) – that you find it much harder get access to help, support and justice

    So when a man’s a victim of violence – whether the perpetrator is male or female – he will find it harder to access help and support (particularly if he is a rape victim or a DV victim)

    The same is true of someone who is victim of a female perpetrator’s violence – be that a woman in a same sex relationship or a teenage boy sexually abused by his mother etc

    And it’s important here to remember that there are plenty of female victims of men’s violence and abuse who aren’t getting access to help, support and justice too – and that still needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis

    The challenge is to carry on doing this and at the same time making sure we do much, much better for male victims of men’s violence and abuse, male victims of women’s violence and abuse and female victims of women’s violence of abuse – and all of those different groups may need different interventions and expertise

    Then of course there is – as you say – children, who suffer at the hands of both men and women – and there are some differences in what women do to boys and what women do to girls and what men do to boys and what men do to girls

    And so again our challenge is how do we get better at prevention, better at prosecution and better at promoting healing or ALL victims of violence – irrespective of gender

    And my belief is that the best way to create such as system is to make sure we allow space for all areas of expertise to grow and develop

    Thanks for taking time to read and respond David, this is a vital conservation that we need lots of people with lots of different perspectives to get involved with



  3. Dan says:

    Just a very short note to say how impressed and encouraged I am by this blog entry. Thanks Glen.

  4. glenpoole says:

    Thanks Dan – we enjoyed your review of the conference:


    And we look forward to seeing much more of your intelligent writing on men’s issues in the not too distant future



  5. Anna says:

    I agree with the conception that “violence against woman” is a very narrow point of view on violence as such.
    Regarding “violence against woman” versus “violence against man”: I would like to emphasize two following aspects.
    1. When a woman is the mother of daughter, she will tell that “violence against woman” is a particular case of violence, in which a victim is weaker, and a perpetrator just consciously or unconsciously abuse this circumstance(similarly to elder abuse or child abuse). And this is true. But if a woman is the mother of son who is a victim of abuse (for example, from his wife), her point of view will, probably, became polar, and she would pay attention that abuse might be more refined and fastidious.
    2. I saw women who, just because of their secondary gains, successfully abused the entire social institution which defenses them from abuse.
    These two points – just to add to your topic.

    I only disagree with using this sentence as argument: “6 out of 10 victims of violent crime in the city are men.” Similar thought in David’s response: “The statistics clearly point to men being the largely ignored victims of crime”. Let’s go to the shelter for abused women and see the “statistics”: eight black women versus only two white. Does it mean that white women are less likely to undergo domestic violence? Or simply less likely to use this social institution, which supposed to defense them from violence? Who knows the real situation?
    My feeling is: we need to be careful with statistics, because it could be only a tip of iceberg and consists of biases.

    I appreciate your attention and apologize for my rustic style of narration.

    • glenpoole says:

      Thanks for taking time to respond Anna and yes statistics really can be use to prove anything – it depends which statistics you use and how you use them! What interests me is developing a culture where we are equally intolerant of all violence no matter who’s perpetrating it or who the victim is

  6. Barry says:

    Just caught the following account on an American men’s forum by a young University student :

    “Another example, Monday of this this week, over 400 male college students stood in high heel shoes and addressed an all-female audience over an outdoor sound system and made a pledge. I have a copy of the pledge. It contained, but was not limited to, the following:

    I pledge to end sexual violence…
    I know that the overwhelming number of perpetrators of sexual violence is men…
    I know that rape is all about power, control and violence….
    I am saddened to know that over 70% of rapes go unreported….

    and so on….

    Most of those men were literally required to participate, wear the high heels, and make that oath over that sound system by the leadership of their fraternities. Sororities participated by setting up dozens of information tables where they distributed feminist rape culture propaganda and false statistics.

    The Mayor wore heels with his suit and tie and made the oath. Our university vice president did the same.

    This “Pledge” was horrifying. It sounded like a cult had taken over this campus Monday.

    All of this took place while a high school field trip was going on. There were first-time visitors that day, many of whom being high school seniors who planned on applying here. What a first impression this must have made on a few hundred 18 year old young men…..”

    This is a perfect example of your “loaded question” above, and is enough to send a shiver down the spine of any concerned citizen.

  7. Barry says:

    The same young Uni student summarised the above situation as follows:

    “They are academically coercing hundreds of men to recite that intolerably self-loathing, dehumanizing pledge over a outdoor sound system, smack dab in the middle of campus, to hundreds of females, while in humiliating high heel shoes, at the same exact time that Outstanding Women Nominations are being held. This is clearly a polarized message with respect to what types of things are being said about women versus what types of things are being said about men.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: