By Jennie Ruby
There seems to be a kind of statistical dyslexia that people get when
feminists start talking about male violence. The statement Most violent crimes are committed by men is often misheard as most men are violent, or even with a kind of gender dyslexia, as women are never violent. Thus radical feminists find themselves in conversations like this:
Most of the violence around the world is committed by men.
You cant say that! My friend Jim isnt violent!
Nevertheless, the Bureau of Justice statistics show that over 85%
of violent crimes in the U.S are committed by men.
Are you saying women are never violent? Because I read about this
one woman who...
I guess her crime would be one of the 15%
Some of us dont think men are that bad, you know.
The conversation usually stops there, stuck in rounds of denial and accusation,
while the defensive person accuses the radical feminist of man-hating,
male-bashing, and unfairness, and of wanting to alienate half of the population.
The conversation never goes on to examine what it is about men that causes
the violence, what we could do to help men stop their violence, or anything
This reluctance to talk about mens violence is widespread and seems
to amount almost to a taboo. The news media report that a woman
was raped, but never say a man raped a woman. Analyses
of school violence talk about kids killing kids, ignoring
the fact that it is almost exclusively boys committing the violence. Terms
like domestic violence mask the fact that most of this violence
is commtted by men.
Why do both men and women resist naming male violence? One reason is
that we are afraid to insult, alienate, or anger male family members and
loved onesand men are often angered by discussions of male violence.
Men are notoriously reluctant to accept responsibility or apologize for
anything they do on an individual level. When it comes to taking responsibility
on the society-wide level, we encounter this fragile male ego writ large.
Of course not all men are like this. But the unapologetic male is a pervasive
cultural theme that we are all aware of. And it is true enough, often
enough, that on a case-by-case, experiential level both women and men
know to avoid stirring up that male defensiveness. When feeling accused,
a man may lash out by raising counter-accusations, confuse the issue,
deny the wrong-doing, become sullen and withdrawn, or even, dare I say
it, become violent (see box on page 24 for some common defenses against
discussing male violence).
Another reason men resist naming male violence is that men tend to think
of the male as the default human. This means they cant see male
patterns as malethey just see them as human. So male researchers
and theorists often write about human aggression, humanitys
wars, and so forth. But can we stop human violence without
acknowledging and examining the fact that it is disproportionately committed
by men? I think not. For example, doing research on violence in both men
and women together, without looking at differences between the sexes,
would result in skewed results in which womens different reasons
for committing violence and womens decreased propensity for violence
would mask the male data, decreasing the chance that meaningful, usable
findings would result.
We need to stop debating whether men are more violent or quibbling about
whether women could be as violent as men if they had the chance, and take
accurate stock of the evidence: United Nations Economic Commission for
Europe data show that in the U.S. and Europe, 85%-100% of people convicted
of assault are men. And 90% of murders are committed by men. Men are by
far the principal perpetrators of rape, war, torture, incest, sexual abuse,
sexualized murder, and genocide. We need to investigate what it is about
men and masculinity that is so conducive of and associated with such a
wide range of violent behavior.
We need terminology that will break through the statistical dyslexia and the resistance surrounding the term male violence and allow us to focus on the problem. I think wed have more success with a phrase that could not be misinterpreted as all men always do it. For example, most people can understand that male-pattern baldness is a male problem and that when women do have thinning hair the pattern and etiology are usually different. What if we start calling male violence male-pattern violence as distinguished from female-pattern violence?
Male-pattern violence, then, is characterized most notably
by its far greater overall prevalence than female-pattern violence. A
far greater proportion of men commit male-pattern violence than women
commit either male-pattern or female-pattern violence. Male-pattern violence
also has a different etiology than female-pattern violence. Male-pattern
violence is often characterized by motivations of aggression, revenge,
competition for dominance, competition with other males (for example in
drug- or gang-related violence), or feelings of ownership or entitlement
toward women. Male-pattern violence includes sexual violence, including
sexual violence against their own children. Some common patterns of male-pattern
violence are assaulting/killing a woman who rejects them or tries to leave
a relationship with them, killing children, wife, and self out of a tendency
to see their wives and children as merely an extension of themselves,
killing other males who are in economic competition with them, killing
after being dishonored, killing for sexual gratification and killing in
a jealous rage. Male-pattern violence ranges in scope from these individual
crimes up to full-scale war and genocide.
Female-pattern violence is more often characterized by self-defense,
response to long-term abuse by a husband, killing children because she
cannot properly care for them, and involvement in male-initiated and male-led
violence ranging from crime to war (e.g., women in the military).
Some are already doing this work. The movie Tough Guise, produced by
Jackson Katz, shows that if we can get beyond the denial, we can explore
the aspects of masculinity as defined in families, in schools, and in
popular culture that encourage and condone male-pattern violence. The
book Mens Work by Paul Kivel and the book Refusing to be a Man by
John Stoltenberg also examine how masculinity is connected to violence.
But for social change to take place, we need more than just a few books.
We need a public information campaign. We all need to be talking about
solutions to the problem every day. We need to talk to our male family
members and colleagues in ways that point to the truth. We need to raise
sons who dont perpetuate the violence. We need our newspapers and
other media to help focus the attention on the causes of violence, rather
than the victims. These things are needed for social change, for men to
Without open discourse about the truth of male-pattern violence, we have
confusion. We see increases in womens violence. And we see male
violence continue and even escalate worldwide while societies seem to
just accept it as inevitable.
Until we can openly and honestly address the problem with those who are committing it, we are going to have male-pattern violence.
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