The Liberal party's recent announcement about domestic violence funding was led by Malcolm Turnbull arguing strongly for respecting women. I couldn't help but feel that the arguments made were very traditionalist and gender role enforcing. On last week’s QandA we saw the worst of this opinion. Barnaby Joyce argued that we should return to days of old where men should open doors for women. I believe that this opinion ignores the causes of domestic violence and the history of domestic violence that extends far into the past.
The issue of domestic violence is not one of returning to traditional values and should not be treated in isolation. Violence at home is part of a person's wider psyche and their belief about the appropriateness of violence. The violence that men perpetrate and experience is part of wider gender discrimination between sexes, referred to by some as the patriarchy.
This gender discrimination tells men that they should just suck it up when they get roughed up. It's the same discrimination that encourages boys to participate in violent activities, and to revere hard tackles in football and bloody faces in boxing matches. It is also the traditional role that men are given as disposable bodies in wartime either as soldiers or as the last to receive aid in cases where they are fleeing violence. If you believe that this is unrelated take a look at the Liberal party's stance on refugees. Women and children first, not the Muslim men who are much, much more likely to end up facing genocide such as that in Bosnia.
Violence against women is partly a result of a general acceptance of violence toward males. We see this in people like Shaun McNeil, who was regularly involved in violence against women before finally killing Daniel Christie. His recorded history of assaulting of many females and his willingness to simply hurt random men on the street are part of the same belief system that sees violence as the answer.
Given the focus on violence against women in the media, it is import to remind ourselves that men are victims of male violence too. Men are 57% more likely to be victims of assault than women. It is hard to argue that this statistic is borne out through under-reporting of female violence, if we look at the murder rate of men which is also 78 percent higher. It should also be noted that a focus on "treating women with respect" in dealing with domestic violence ignores people in same sex partnerships who are also victims of domestic violence.
The same attitudes that men bring to ultimately violent relationships with women are the ones that they bring to relationships with men. By reducing the likelihood that men will use violence against everyone we will be more successful than if we focus on re-establishing gender roles. Malcolm Turnbull is right, we do need a culture change, but the culture change needs to treat men as equally as victims of violence. We need to make sure that all violence is condemned to change the first reaction of men in situations where they may choose to use violence, whether it be against another man or his partner.