Exclusive Focus on Female Victims of Violence Gives Feminism a Bad Name

Cape Times (South Africa), February 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Exclusive Focus on Female Victims of Violence Gives Feminism a Bad Name


Melanie Judge ("Attention to violence must challenge masculinity, not entrench it", Insight, February 14) would have us believe that concern for the thousands of innocent male victims of violence "undermines gender equality and entrenches masculinist thinking".

That sounds like double-think. How could it possibly be the case that extending the existing concern for female victims to include concern for male victims undermines rather than enhances gender equality?

The main story that Ms Judge tells in response to this question is that male violence against males reinforces masculine power. "Intra-male violence is part of a gender system that asserts and sustains male dominance," she says.

(Her use of the term "intra-male" rather than "inter-male" violence is very revealing, and suggests that males are an undifferentiated mass rather than a series of individuals, some of whom are perpetrators but others of whom are innocent victims.)

This is a familiar story that is repeated endlessly. Although there is some truth to it, the reality is much more complex.

However, even if we assumed that it were the whole truth, it would not provide us with a reason to be less concerned about innocent male victims. Indeed, one would have thought that those committed to gender equality and who believed that male victims of violence were victimised because of gender inequality, would be the first in line to support me. They would say that if male-on-male violence were a manifestation of gender inequality and further entrenched that inequality, we should call for its end.

If it is not only women but also many men who are the victims of those males who seek dominance, it is special pleading to be concerned about only some of the victims, namely the female ones.

Could Ms Judge be implying that we need not concern ourselves with male victims because males (allegedly) benefit overall from male violence? She seems to be implying this when she says that women "are disproportionately affected by violence, both individually and as a social group".

The claim that women, although not themselves the majority of victims of non-sexual violence, are nonetheless disproportionately greatly affected by violence, is a dubious one.

However, even if it were true, it would still be the case that more men than women are the victims of non-sexual violence, and those men surely deserve our concern. …

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