“Violence against women” vs. “Men’s violence against women”

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Harrowing article out of the Guardian today, which challenges the “monster rapist” narrative in which only the most aberrational, violent, and outright psychotic men commit acts of sexual violence against women. Sometimes this is true, author Tom Meagher writes; sometimes men who do bad things to women are in fact psychotic. But much more frequently, they aren’t. Much more frequently, these men are average dudes, the problem being that average dudeness is often predicated on and actively normalizes violent sexism.

Some quotes, though you (particularly if you are male) should go read the whole thing immediately:

While the vast majority of men abhor violence against women, those dissenting male voices are rarely heard in our public discourse outside of the “monster-rapist” narrative. Indeed, the agency of male perpetrators disappears from the discussion, discouraging male involvement and even knowledge of the prevalence and diversity of male violence against women. Even the term “violence against women” sounds like a standalone force of nature, with no subject, whereas “men’s violence against women” is used far less frequently.

While not attempting to broad-brush or essentialise the all too abstracted notion of “masculinity”, male invisibility in our discourse can be compounded by masculine posturing, various “bro-codes” of silence, and a belief, through the monster myth, in the intrinsic otherness of violent men.

The idea of the lurking monster is no doubt a useful myth, one we can use to defuse any fear of the women we love being hurt, without the need to examine ourselves or our male-dominated society. It is also an excuse to implement a set of rules on women on “how not to get raped”, which is a strange cocktail of naiveté and cynicism. It is naive because it views rapists as a monolithic group of thigh-rubbing predators with a checklist rather than the bloke you just passed in the office, pub or gym, and cynical because these rules allow us to classify victims. If the victim was wearing X or drinking Y, well then of course the monster is going to attack – didn’t she read the rules?

It’s an upsetting read, but I could not recommend this article highly enough.

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