- two aspects: non-recognition of physical assault; use of non-physical violence
If we're to succeed in getting men to face their own violence, we need help from women: and the most crucial part of that help is for women to be honest about their own involvement in the web of violence. Exactly as with men, women's violence is both physical and non-physical; but whilst men's violence is highly visible, or searched for until it can be exposed, women's violence is all but ignored.
In public imagery, there's a strange perception that physical violence by women doesn't exist: or if it does, it doesn't count, or doesn't matter. If a woman hits someone - especially an adult man - it doesn't count as violence: although the reverse most certainly does.
This confusion was illustrated clearly in one episode of 'Blue Heelers", a television programme about an Australian country police station. A policewoman from the city comes up to visit her boyfriend, a policeman at the station. They have an argument: in the midst of this, she gives him a full right-hander in the face. He does not respond in kind, no comment is made, and she calms down: he appears to accept this as normal. Later, out of uniform, they visit a farm about which the girl's family is in dispute. She demands to go onto the farm; a man there refuses her permission to do so. She ignores him, and climbs over the fence. The man angrily yells at her that she's trespassing; she ignores him and keeps on walking. He grabs hold of her shoulder; she punches him in the midriff, flooring him, and walks on. He recovers, runs after her; she again punches and floors him. Her boyfriend jumps over the fence, runs up to her, reminds her that she's the one who's trespassing, and leads her back over the fence. Yet back at the police station, she angrily accuses the farmer of attacking her, and demands that he be charged with assault - totally unaware of the violence of her own actions, or her own responsibility in the incident.
My own experience as a mediator has been much the same: most women I've dealt with have had enormous difficulty seeing their own physical violence at all - let alone the scale of it. For example, one of my neighbours knocked on my door late one night, saying that her housemate "had beaten her up again". She did indeed have bruises on her lower legs; the housemate was due to move out in a couple of weeks, but clearly they had to be able to live with each other for that time, so I agreed to mediate. But the story was not quite as clear-cut as she'd made it out to be...
Both told me their versions of the incident. Both agreed that the other's story was fair. Very roughly, there'd been long-standing rows about her music versus his television. He'd come home, tired; he wanted to watch the television news. She wanted to listen to music: "It's my favourite song". "Every song's your goddamn 'favourite song'", he said; "your music can wait, my news won't." And turning on the television, he switched off her stereo. "You'll break it, you'll break it", she screamed, as she ran out of the kitchen, and launched herself at him, flailing her fists at his back. He turned round, arms crossed to protect his face; she launched herself at him once more, and slipped sideways over a chair, bruising her legs. That was it: no other contact. He certainly didn't punch out at her, or make any move towards her. Yet despite herself describing the incident in exactly that way, she was convinced that he had attacked her. It took three separate repetitions of the story to get her to understand that the reality was entirely the other way round. Even then she was still unconvinced: "He was meant to be hurt, he deserved to be hurt; he stopped me doing it. That's attacking me, isn't it?" And interestingly, because she had bruises to show, he would indeed be the one charged with assault if she'd called the police...
This perhaps sounds extreme: it isn't. In fact, in my own experience as a mediator and elsewhere, it's been terrifyingly common: far more common than the other way round. And yet the latter is the only one we hear about.
- reprise on 'female gaze' as violence
- specific women's power, specific women's responsibility: power of complaint, sexual power (abuse of latter as weapon is the reason for 'patriarchal' defences/restrictions)
- inaccurate perception of scale ("it doesn't count") - example of illustration from Kissane article - continuation of image of relationship between small girl and undamageable, non-retaliating father
- "it's not OK to hit a girl" becomes "it's OK to hit a boy" and/or "it's OK to hit a boy in place of a girl" - examples
- non-physical violence - reprise/expansion from DVIRC list on lesbian violence
- Kate Gilmore in 'Deadly Hurt' debate - deeply violent ('passive-aggressive'), projected onto 'all men'
- 'non-violence' is often a synonym for non-physical assault - Sommers example ('defence guard' standing in a circle screaming at a professor - Brownshirt analogy)
- deniability - example from 30s schoolgirl, articles on bullying generally
- excess of male suicides might be understood as female murder (link to 'Mirror Man')