Ask a feminist what feminism is about, and the answer you’re most likely to get is a statement about fighting for equality. Look carefully at the combination of stances which mainstream, established feminist groups take on intimate partner violence, and “feminism is about fighting for equality” is quickly exposed as a bald-faced lie.
In response to discussion on reciprocal intimate partner violence, and men defending against assault by a female partner, the feminist position is that there is never any circumstance that justifies a man “hitting” a woman. For context, I should point out that in this type of discussion, any use of any kind of physical force or resistance by a man ends up getting described by feminists as “hitting,” regardless of the context of the action. If a woman throws a punch at a man, and he puts his arm up to take the punch with his forearm instead of his face or his chest, that’s him “hitting.” If she jabs at him with a sharp object, and he takes it from her, that’s him “hitting.” If he can’t flee from her assault without going past her, any touch she feels or imagines as he goes by is him “hitting.” If, to stop her attempt to hurt him, herself, or anyone else, he physically restrains her with a bear hug, that’s him “hitting.”
The sheer hypocrisy of the assertion that there could be any reason men should have no right to physically defend themselves from female abusers is evidenced by the use of “battered women’s syndrome” as a defense for women who kill their partners. Place the two assertions side by side, and reduce them to their most basic nature, and you have,”it’s acceptable to escalate domestic abuse to a more violent level, as long as the person escalating to greater violence is a female claiming self-defense.”
Adding to that hypocrisy is that part of the battered woman argument is based on treating the woman as if she’s trapped in the relationship. Feminists do not afford abused men the same consideration, even in light of the gender difference in ability to escape an abusive environment, where women arguably have it easier. Abused women (or even allegedly abused women) who decide to leave an intimate partnership have resources every step of the way, especially in the U.S. where domestic abuse law is based on the idea that abusers are men, and victims are women.
Even without alleging abuse, a woman has advantages in leaving a marriage or a partnership which has produced one or more children. In the legal arena, the default standard for her to get at least primary residential custody of the children, and there are many areas in which a divorcing man is expected to at least in part continue to financially support his ex-wife after she no longer lives with him even if there are no children (alimony).
Once abuse is alleged, she has additional support from police, criminal courts, and domestic violence victim’s advocacy organizations, who are all geared to think of the accuser as “the victim” from the moment she states her accusation. A woman with victim status is afforded leniency regarding her own behavior, and aggressively protected from conditions to which she might be averse. In the U.S., she is even provided an advocate paid for with federal funding, to see her through the process of prosecuting her alleged abuser.
The combined resources dedicated to abused women will provide her with legal protection, recourse within the criminal justice system, shelter, and financial assistance where needed. Many domestic abuse victim’s advocacy organizations will support an accuser in her effort to get custody of and financial support for her children. Her case will be addressed from the position that she is a victim recovering from trauma, with related needs and quirks that must be taken into account. She’ll be offered therapy to help her in her recovery. In other words, there is plenty of government-sponsored support for an abused woman to gain freedom from her abuser.
A man doesn’t get the same benefits. In addition to the bias against him in civil court which translates into a woman’s ability to punish him financially if he chooses to abandon a marriage, as a direct result of feminist activism in the area of domestic violence, despite existing evidence that intimate partner violence is not a gendered issue, systems intended to assist victims are designed to exclude those who are male. Policy at these organizations and agencies is built around a male aggressor/female victim model. Resources are dedicated to accommodating female victims, with little or nothing left for male victims. Instead of the consideration and compassion that gets offered to female victims, the male victim faces marginalization and false labeling. He has a strong chance of being told that victim’s advocacy organizations are funded and designed to serve only women, and being given a number for a hotline for men that leads to a system designed to handle abusers seeking psychological treatment, where he’ll be treated as such instead of offered assistance for his actual situation.
Organizations which do offer help to men do not offer them assistance that equals what they offer women. Men cannot stay in the same shelter because as men, they’re considered dangerous. If housing is offered, it’s usually a short stay in a hotel room, which doesn’t help men trying to escape abusive partners with their children in tow. Abused fathers who don’t want to leave their kids with abusive mothers are shit-outta-luck. They may receive some legal assistance if they’re poor enough to qualify, but they won’t receive the same level of support in establishing custody of and support for their children as is offered to abused mothers. If that lack of support leaves the abuser with custody of the children, then the burden of making child support payments will be added to the hurdles the abused man faces in his effort to leave the relationship.
Law enforcement is often no help to them, and can even present added danger. In the U.S., mandatory arrest and primary aggressor policies lead police to respond to female-perpetrated partner violence by arresting the victim. In many counties, mandatory prosecution policies guarantee that the injustice begun by arresting the victim will continue with dragging him into court, and putting him through a trial in which he will be accused of violence and face potential jail time.
It’s rare for a man abused by his female partner to find adequate assistance within either system, and the law enforcement and justice system may actually add to the abuse instead of helping him to escape from it.
Feminists support the battered women’s syndrome murder defense as if violence were the only option available for an abused woman to escape her abuser. The same group has fought to create an environment that punishes men for leaving a relationship with a female partner, and to deny assistance to male victims of female violence. After all of that, now they argue that an abused man genuinely trapped in his environment should not have the right to defend himself from his abuser, and they call any statement to the contrary “apologia” and “endorsement of violence against women.”
If the mere suggestion that a trapped male victim of female violence should be allowed to defend himself is endorsement of violence against women…how much more is the effort feminists have made to establish a woman’s “right” to abuse her male partner with impunity, with the power to make him stay and take it, an endorsement of violence against men?
But of course, feminism is about fighting for equality…as long as we all understand that some people are more equal than others.