I was asked by trp to respond to his post earlier today separately. I’ll start by re-quoting a comment from Anne:
I can vouch for the truth of that statement. That is not to degrade the ever present ‘intimate’ violence perpetrated by men against women and children. However women are just as capable of performing vicious and violent acts – often in a clandestine way – against other individuals. The victim or victims rarely get the justice and support they deserve because it doesn’t fall directly into the man rapes/sexually assaults woman category. In other words, their experiences are ‘minimised’ or in some cases not even believed. Yet the ramifications can be equally degrading and distressing.
It distresses me to see so much polarisation and ugliness in any thread of this nature. I believe that while men and women share a great deal of humanity in common, we also have complementary qualities that are important to us, not only in our intimate relationships, but to our functioning as an entire species, lending us a broader competitive advantage than any one gender might have on it’s own.
Exploiting these differences to drive a wedge between the two halves of humanity is sad, wrong and leads nowhere.
Certainly for men the gift of our greater physical strength comes the greater responsibility to use it safely. And in the world I grew up in that means never hitting a woman or child. The vast majority of men know this. And when a fellow man falls short of this ideal, I expect consequences, but I will reach out and lift him up again. I will not join in an ugly melee intent on kicking him when he’s down.
My view is that while gender clearly exacerbates and catalyses partner violence, it is not the root cause of it. Otherwise ALL perpetrators would be male. It is also prudent to avoid blame when trying to understand human behaviour; this always obscures causes. The fact that women have no monopoly on virtue; that violence is something both genders are guilty of, tells us that the root cause of this issue does not lie with men alone.
What we do know is that the need to dominate, whether physically, emotionally, sexually or economically highly predisposes an individual to violence. And when they are put into a situation where they feel out of control abuse is triggered … whether the violence takes physical, emotional, sexual or economic forms.
At this point the conversation usually narrows down to the ‘patriarchy’ and veers off into blaming men for the evils of the world. Yet the truth is that for the vast majority of men, the ‘patriarchy’ is of no advantage or privilege to them at all. Most will at some point look at their lives and find no trace of this’patriarchal dominance’ whatsoever. Most men feel nothing more than a life-long obligation to perform for the benefit of others.
[RL: Edit. I’ve realised there is a bad mistake here. I missed it when I was editing this post late last night.]
women females always chose for their partners them most physically, sexually or economically dominant male they can select at the moment. This is basic observable biology. And in all of nature males violently compete for female attention and mating rights. Humans are driven by this instinct too, yet to a remarkable degree we have evolved societies that moderate and control it. It is when we feel threatened, stressed and “out of control” the social constraints fail, the need to dominate degenerates into jealousy or humiliation and then expresses as violence. And each gender tends to reach for the weapon closest to hand, men to their economic and physical strength, women to their emotional and sexual power.
There are two factors at work here; the underlying need to dominate and the need to feel in control. The first is pervasive and systemic, the latter is a situational trigger. Understanding both is necessary. Also we need to be honest about the all too frequent role alcohol plays in giving people the space to ‘lose control’.
In one short post I’m not going to pretend to solve this. Far better minds than mine will continue to unravel it; but what I do offer as a plea to the left is this: that while the visible symptoms of intimate partner violence are largely gender specific, the root causes are not. They run much deeper. And that while the feminist framework has been vital in defining and making the issue visible, it will become a hindrance to resolving it if we remain stuck in gender confrontation and covert forms of abuse.
You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about Tony Veitch. I think we should let him speak for himself and allow the space for catharsis as Incognito so very elegantly expressed it. While his words will not placate every judgmental urge, personally I will accept them at face value and wait to see what comes next.