OPINION: Call out men's violence against women at Christmas

After a year of highlighting and implementing policies on domestic and family violence, more needs to be done at a grass roots level, particularly by men.
After a year of highlighting and implementing policies on domestic and family violence, more needs to be done at a grass roots level, particularly by men. Aleutie

AS THE festive season approaches our thoughts turn to gift-giving, lavish feasts, family gatherings, and domestic violence. Okay I hear ya, why'd I'd have to go and ruin everything by mentioning that ol' chestnut roasting by an open fire. We are sick of it.

Well DV (as it is endearingly known) escalates this time of year, as does suicide, but we rarely like to talk about it, hence the problem, but, hey who am I to go and ruin a perfectly perfect occasion by mentioning the social scourge before Christmas.

Well call me Ebenezer, but this year was a pretty good indication that whatever we are doing to try to highlight the epidemic of domestic violence is working, but not always in a good way.

For one, some men are getting angrier. Women being killed by their partner or ex-partner used to be a weekly occurrence. Now it's closer to twice a week. And while our homicide rates are generally falling, the percentage of 'domestic' deaths is rising.

One way of dealing with this insidious beast is by giving the act it its rightful name -Men's Violence Against Women.

A lot of men don't like that, violent or otherwise. It's too confrontational because it's calling them out as a group on the behaviour of a few.

But that's the point. Every man needs to own it. The fact you have never hit a woman, doesn't, for want of a better term, cut it any more.

Men now have to start calling their mates out, and strangers. Women can do that too but it's far more effective coming from a male because perpetrators don't normally respond well to females generally.

And it's not just the physical violence that needs to be addressed. Stepping into a war-like environment with its obvious carnage has its heroism but the really difficult part is calling it out at the grass roots level - the level most blokes think isn't really contributing to the problem.

But as the former Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Ken Lay so succinctly pointed out, that behaviour begins in the playground and at home. Young men grow up hearing the ol' classic 'boys will be boys', while girls are more likely to hear 'don't be so bossy'.

It progresses steadily from there.

What about the degrading joke where nearly every time it's a woman who is in the proverbial punchline. Or the casually uttered sexist remark without once considering the consequences it continues to have on your wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. Those attitudes continue to fuel the patriarchal society whose rule we all live under.

Harmless. Fun. Can't take a joke.

Tackling Men's Violence Against Women is the uncomfortable tipping point where, finally, an attempt at dismantling a patriarchal society begins. And the battle is already a bloody one in those 79 deaths this year (84 last year), the prolific and vexatious male commentary and men's groups that have sprouted up overnight in defiance as they cling and fight against losing what boils down to plain old fashioned power. Seems some men can be more incensed by the loss of their privileged existence in society than by the rising body count of women killed in their own homes.

Yes, we all know there are other forms of terrible violence. Women against men, women and men against children, men against men, but at the heart of this is the overwhelming problem of Men's Violence Against Women so it makes sense to deal with the giant elephant in the room before you can move on to its offspring.

A lot of men already understand this or are beginning to, and genuinely stand with women by acknowledging their own much more fortunate place in society and realise it is going to take some relinquishing of that privilege to get anywhere. But there are many more who still don't get it, or like it, and revert to nonsensical arguments like reverse sexism (bit like reverse racism - can't happen unless it's equal to begin with) and equating feminists with Nazis because they are challenging entrenched behaviours and basically acting like men.

You only have to look at the results of the recent Victoria Police report for a guide on how women are treated in their workforce, let alone the rest of the place.

But change has to, and is happening, so be reasonable guys. You've had a good run, eternity and all that. It might hurt a bit to start but surely not as much as seeing those battered faces and statistics on the television every night. Or listen to that haunting reality that the thing most men fear from women is being laughed at, while the thing most women fear from men is being killed (or raped).

So this Christmas why not give the gift of actually standing up and saying something next time you hear or see your fellow man doing or implying something threatening or degrading to the lady in his life, or any lady for that matter.

It's a start but it will be the gift that keeps on giving.

Topics:  christmas domestic violence

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