An article caught my interest today with a headline about how a new Queensland, Australia government ad campaign is targeting male violence and enlisting women to help. So imagine my surprise when I find out that the campaign is about violence against other men.
The $800,000 One Punch Can Kill campaign, launched today on the recommendation of the government’s Youth Violence Task Force, aims to reach Generation Y through MySpace, Facebook, Yahoo, Hotmail and radio.
The slogan “I support blokes who don’t fight” will attempt to get young women to discourage men from responding to heated situations with violence.
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said many assaults resulted from a mix of alcohol and a “perceived insult”.
“Sometimes as well, that perceived insult relates to a girlfriend, so the theme of this advertising … is to encourage young women to help in those situations where violence is a potentiality,” Mr Atkinson told reporters in Brisbane today.
“It’s smart, it’s intelligent, it’s cool, it’s sensible and it’s not lacking masculinity in any sense to say, `I’m going to walk away from this and step back from it.”’
Premier Anna Bligh said the message was particularly important in the party season.
“Holding your temper, learning how to deal with arguments without resorting to violence is important,” Ms Bligh said.
“One punch cannot only seriously harm or kill somebody else, it can ruin your life forever.”
She said young men should understand the consequences of violence.
And I have to say that this annoyed me. You see, women are not only responsible for violence by men against themselves and other women, they’re also now apparently responsible for violence that men commit against other men.
Do men often physically fight over women? Yes. Do some women either implicitly or explicitly condone this behavior? Sure. Do most? Certainly not in my experience.
The thing is that this type of super-macho behavior is actually quite misogynistic. Though I can imagine situations where some kind of violence may arguably be warranted — say, if a guy sexually assaults me by groping me in a bar, and my husband punches him before I become composed enough to do it myself — most come down to petty insults, often directed at the guy at the expense of the woman. It’s guys getting mad because some other guy his hitting on his girlfriend, guys getting mad because some other guy said that he’d be better at fucking the first guy’s girlfriend, etc. And even if it is a situation where a guy calls a woman some kind of derogatory name, I’d say that violence is still not the answer.
It’s misogynistic because it’s paternalistic by saying that women need some kind of big, bad manly protector. It’s misogynistic because it’s basically a brawl over women as property, with the unspoken question being “who’s ‘man’ enough to have sex with her?” and the answer being “don’t know yet, but the woman sure isn’t the one who gets to decide.” It’s primarily promoted not by women, but by men as some kind of masculine duty. Don’t beat up a guy who talks shit about your girlfriend? You must be a pussy.
I haven’t seen the ads. I did some searches and couldn’t find anything, so I guess that they’re not up yet or that they’re coded under a different name. But to me, this sounds like the age old myth about how women are really in charge of men. You know, we have all the power because men just want to get into our pants, so we can tell them do whatever the hell we like, and slaves to sexual desire that men are, they’ll listen. As if men have these fights because they’re concerned about what women think. Yeah, I’m sure that’s the same reason that men exaggerate their sex lives to each other and use “gay” as an insult.
But I think that what gets under my skin the most is the suggestion that we’re supposed to care. Sounds harsh, I know. But don’t us women have enough male violence against us to worry about without fretting about men beating each other up? For those of you who need reminding, Queensland is the same damn state where the recent atrocious ruling in the case of gang rape against a ten-year-old girl took place. Clearly they must have been planning the campaign before that story blew up, but it’s pretty damn bad timing.
To be fair, I did my best to find any other campaigns that the Queensland government might be running against violence against women. Several different searches didn’t pull up much from the past couple of years (and if you personally know better, please let me know). In terms of general violence against women, nada. For sexual assault and rape, nothing since around the year 2000.
I did find a campaign on domestic abuse from this year. It’s called See the signs, Be the Solution and it’s aimed at men. I thought that this was a great thing, expecting men to take responsibility for their actions instead of pinning it all on women, but was pretty damn disappointed when I saw the actual campaign. You see, it’s told from the perspective of the abuser and talks about how painful domestic abuse is . . . for him. And the helpline is one for abusive men to call for help. There’s no mention of a line for abused women. Now, I have no delusions that abusive men are going to be swayed by altruism and compassion for the women they’re abusing, but Christ, what a message.
At first, I thought that maybe I was overreacting to this probably nobly-intended campaign. I’ve had quite the shitty week, and as a result I’m even crankier and more critical than usual. But the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off.
It’s not that I want hot-headed young men to keep getting into alcohol-fueled fights. It’s that I’m sick and fucking tired of absolutely everything being pinned on women, including things that we have nothing to do with. We insist that men speak out about violence against women because by and large, men are the ones committing it. Women have to speak out against sexual assault and physical abuse because women need a community of support. Tackling violence against women shouldn’t be our responsibility, but it has to be. Now we’re in charge of male against male violence, too?
And there’s another component: a lot of the time, these fights are mutually entered into by both parties. Quite the opposite of sexual assault and almost all domestic violence, don’t you think? Men “take it outside” and egg each other on with “you wanna make something of it?,” not always, but pretty damn often. And this is where money, resourcing and messaging is going? After all, I think it goes without saying that most female victims of violence are subjected to a lot more than “one punch.”
But you be the judge. What are your thoughts?