Let’s talk about violence. More specifically, let’s talk about violence against men, which according to the anti-feminist movement, is one of the great injustices perpetrated by the Women’s Liberation movement.
This type of meme is extremely popular. In looking for memes to write about for this blog project, this theme was one of the most prevalent.Memes like these send a lot of messages simultaneously. First , they suggest that feminism is rooted in hypocrisy. They want us to assume that feminists not only support negative gender restrictions on men, but that they also encourage policy that will oppress men. A lot of these memes have phrases in them like, “according to feminists”, “feminists believe”, and, “feminist logic”. It’s not enough for these memes to suggest that men are oppressed more than women claim to be, the meme must also suggest that feminism causes and supports violence against men, with the aim of total male oppression.
notice the heading, “according to feminists”.
The most glaring message of these memes however is that society is ignoring the negative stereotypes about violence that are placed on men. This meme implores us to believe that men suffer domestic violence too, and that men probably suffer more, because they face an unfair stereotype about violence. As in, “Why is it ok for a girl to punch me, but I’m not allowed to hit her back?!”
This sort of meme is upsetting for a lot of pretty obvious reasons, the first of which being that it makes light of domestic violence perpetrated against women. It’s basically saying, “Oh yeah, women have it SOOOOO bad… NOT!” Violence against women is very real. It is a terrible thing that should not be dismissed and sneered at. As you can see from these stats about Domestic Violence,1 in 4 womenwill experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Out of all the women murdered every year, 1 in 3 is killed at the hands of her current or former partner. 4 out of 5 domestic violence victims are female. So apart from being offensive, the anti-feminist memes about domestic violence are just flat out wrong.
Another upsetting aspect of these memes is that they assume that feminism doesn’t care about the unfair double standard placed on men in regards to violence. We do care, men can be and are abused. But the fact that men are also victims doesn’t mean that concerns about violence against women are suddenly trivial. The perception that feminism seeks to encourage violence against men is false. Unfair violence stereotypes are the result of a patriarchal society, not feminism. Like many gender stereotypes, this affects both sexes in a negative way.
Much of our perception of violence is still guided by our loyalty to old gender stereotypes. Like the perception that men are always strong, and women are always delicate. Let me explain it this way: In a popular culture, a man hitting a woman is viewed as an act of sadism. He is terrorizing her, and she is the helpless victim. Pop culture portrays men who commit violence against women as bad guys. In movies, television, and books when men commit violence against women it is almost always portrayed as sinister, with no other cause than to be cruel. Meanwhile female violence is almost always portrayed in pop culture as revenge based. When a woman hits a man she is righting a wrong. We’re supposed to stand up and cheer, she is empowered and strong! It is unfair that men are viewed as incapable of being victimized, but society and culture have taught us to view men and women in a certain way. Men are strong, violent, and capable. Women are delicate and in need of protection. Therefore we are skeptical when a man claims he is a victim, and we support images of female violence because we assume it must be a reaction to some evil that was perpetrated.
Let’s imagine for a second that a male artist had released this song. Would it have been a sassy song of a woman getting the revenge she deserves? No, it would have been a cautionary tale of terror. Your boyfriend terrorizes you after you leave him for another man. There is definitely something unfair about that double standard, but feminism isn’t what caused it, it’s our society as a whole.
This positive attitude about female violence is actually negative for women, because it has less to do with pumping up a woman’s power, and more to do with how we expect women to respond to abuse. Songs like “Before he Cheats”, and revenge movies like “I Spit On Your Grave” send a terrible message to young women about how to respond to violence and ill-usage. Society encourages women that it’s their own job to prevent domestic abuse and assault from happening to them.
And let me be clear here, I’m not saying that when someone is under attack that they shouldn’t defend themselves, they definitely should. And we should definitely all exercise a certain level of caution in our lives. No matter how much social and legal reform our country goes through, there are always going to be bad people out there. But our society as it is now encourages women that strange men are out to get them, and that’s just the way it is. Rather than trying to change perceptions about gender in society as a whole, rather than addressing the problems our country still has with stereotypes, women are encouraged that it is up to them to protect themselves from an assault that is perceived as practically inevitable.
The positive spin that gets put on female violence is bad for both genders. Our society assumes that all men are violent, ready for their next victim, while at the same time incapable of being victimized themselves. The flipside to that is that women are viewed as incapable of sadistic violence.They are also encouraged to be careful, and if they aren’t careful the resulting violence against them is their own fault, and they need to take their own revenge.
The film “Enough” is a good example of terrible violence stereotypes at work. At one point during this trailer we hear a man saying, “The cops can’t help you.” Ummmmm, why? This woman is being stalked, threatened, and abused. The life of her child is arguably in danger, why can’t the police help? You’re telling me that our society is such that this woman has NO other options to escape her abusive husband other than going into hiding and becoming abusive herself? What does it say about our society that instead of cheering for legal reforms that would give this woman a way out of her abusive relationship, we cheer instead that she is able to be abusive back? Again, I want to make it clear that it is OK to defend yourself when being attacked. But the way pop culture portrays it, women are only violent when forced to be so,and that is great, and empowering. Meanwhile men in pop culture are violent just out of a naturally sadistic nature.
So, if stereotypes about men and violence bother you, if you get mad at the fact that people smile and giggle when women slap men out of sassy anger, then stop saying, “Yeah, you go girl!” when you see an example of female against male violence in the media. Ask yourself, “Who is this really empowering?” The enemy here is not men, and we absolutely shouldn’t be teaching that violence against men is ok. The enemy is the idea that it’s ok to hit men because that’s the only way for a woman to fight back. The enemy here are stereotypes that still teach us that men can never be victims, and the only time that women are capable of violence is when they are reacting to violence perpetrated against them.