The day that is celebrated by lovers everywhere is upon us again. For too many men, however, instead of hearts and flowers, this day will be scarred by the images of Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising movement, an initiative which to my mind, exemplifies the very worst of the poisonous rhetoric of the women’s rights lobby. Rather than celebrating the love between men and women on this special day, this movement attempts to whip up the gender war and steal away the joy. It’s nasty, it’s not telling us the truth and it’s probably arriving somewhere near you on February 14th.
For the uninitiated, One Billion Rising refers to a movement where people rise and dance against against violence against women and girls. A movement started by a woman who wrote the Vagina Monologues, a play in which the rape of a young girl by an older woman was referred to as a ‘good rape’. A movement which states that one in three women across the world will be raped and beaten in her lifetime. A movement which is outrageously promulgated upon half truths and stereotypes. This unpleasant and yet seductively powerful (for young women especially) narrative, revives the ‘all men are rapists’ stereotype and demands that our attention is given to the issues which, we are told, are fundamental to equality.
Far from being fundamental to equality however, the One Billion Rising mission is to reinforce the idea of women as victims and men as perpetrators which in the UK at least, completely ignores the 40% of victims of violence in the home who happen to be men (1). Goodness only knows how that feels, when all around are rising for justice for women and girls and not only does your experience not get heard but you are counted in with the perpetrators simply because you are a man. That’s not justice and its not equality either, it’s discrimination in action, but you won’t find many people talking about it.
Neither will you find many people being very concerned about it. The Violence Against Women and Girls movement is a singularly silent movement on the issue of violence against men and in fact, women’s violent behaviour in its entirety. According to many advocates, men cannot be victims simply because they are advantaged in a patriarchal society. This is the same patriarchal society, in which 40% of victims of violence in the home are men, some of it severe (2). Try speaking up about this in any forum concerned with family violence, however, and you will be shouted down, often aggressively. The VAWG movement doesn’t like what they call ‘gender symmetry’ presumably because if we really treated violence in the home from an equalities perspective, 40% of the funding would go to the 40% of victims of this who are men, instead of the mere 2% in some areas and in others even less.
I won’t be rising on Valentines Day, unless its to make my husband breakfast in bed (listen out for the sharp intake of breath from the billion rising advocates on reading that one!) You see I love my husband. I love him because he is a man. I love him because he is, like me, full of strengths and weaknesses and I love him because he survived the worst that the eighties could throw at him in terms of feminist dismissal of who he is a person, of his position in the world and of the assertion that he is basically, at heart, a rapist. This horrible assertion, which demonised, demolished and devastated too many young men in that decade, was the result of second wave feminism gone, in my view, completely out of control. I could say more. I won’t. I was one of those feminists, I am not now.
I am however, still completely and irrevocably committed to equality, to fairness and justice and to the safety of all men as well as all women. I just don’t happen to believe that all men are batterers and rapists. I take statistics bandied around by hysterical movements with a pinch of salt and I believe that when we stop basing policy and practice on half truths and stereotypes we will get closer, much much closer, to delivering the kind of society in which mutual respect between men and women is the foundation upon which we build the next generations.
So tomorrow, when the rising begins. To everyone in need of healing and holding and hope know this.
Not everyone believes the hype out there.
Towards dignity, equality and the love between us.
Happy Valentines Day 2014.
(1) In 2011/12, 4% of women (675,000) and 3% of men (491,000) experienced partner abuse: a split of 57%-43%. For every seven victims, four will be female, three will be male.
SOURCE: Office for National Statistics: Crime Survey (Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12 (Page 66 and table 4.03)
(2) 1.1% of men and 1.3% of women were victims of severe force at the hands of their partner during 2011/12.
SOURCE: Office for National Statistics: Crime Survey (Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12 (Table 4.01)