But there is a problem. The message being spruiked in the media is not a simple "show your opposition to violence". Instead, we get the following themes:
a) All men are responsible for domestic violence. In the Herald Sun for instance we get this:
Demons coach Neale Daniher has a message for all men - take a good hard look at yourselves.
Men's Referral Service counsellor Bruce Colcott said all men should stop and think about their relationships with women.
b) The rate of domestic violence is high. According to the Herald Sun: "more than one in two women will be physically or sexually assaulted".
c) Women are at risk from their own partners.
d) Male culture accepts violence against women. Andrew O'Keefe tells us: "Our aim is to change the culture of silence, inaction and acceptance that surrounds violence against women."
These ideas are repeated over and over in the media. It's a serious thing as a shocking picture is created in which the average woman can expect to be attacked physically or sexually by a man, especially by her partner, and that all men are implicated in a masculine culture which condones such behaviour.
Not a happy picture, is it? Not something to attract women to relationships with men. Not something for men to feel much masculine pride about.
But is it true? For evidence, let's take a quick look at a major, official research project carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Women's Safety Survey (1996).
This survey was commissioned by the Office for the Status of Women. Some of the staff at the ABS complained at the time that it was advocacy research designed to inflate the level of domestic violence.
Even so, the survey found that in a twelve month period about 2.6% of women experienced an incident of violence from a married or de facto partner. Of these 2.6% of women, about half experienced milder forms of violence such as threats or pushing or grabbing (and of the approximately 1.3% of more severe cases about 50% involved alcohol abuse).
What this means is that in a twelve month period 97.4% of men desisted from any conceivable form of violence against their partners, including threats.
When you consider the amount of alcoholism, drug use, mental illness and family breakdown in society, the figure of 97.4% of men not even committing a single instance of a threat is a creditable one to men.
Another interesting statistic from the survey is that women are physically safer when they are partnered - by a large factor of 250%. It is single women who are more vulnerable to violence. Women therefore should not go into a relationship assuming that they are at higher risk of assault - the very opposite is true.
Finally, the survey revealed that 25% of the physical assaults committed against women are perpetrated by women. Although this is a minority of assaults, it is a significant minority. So when discussing violence against women, it would be more reasonable to discuss both male and female perpetrators, rather than focusing on men alone.
And is it true that male culture condones violence against women? This hasn't been my experience. I've always felt there to be a strict taboo against such violence in the social circles I've moved in.
The research seems to confirm my own experience. A Vic Health survey from earlier this year found that over 97% of men rejected the idea that violence against women was ever justified.
So the picture built up by the media is false. Men overwhelmingly reject violence against women both in theory and practice. Women are safer having a partner than not having one. And when women are attacked the perpetrators are frequently other women.
Which raises the question of why the false picture is encouraged. The answer has much to do with politics.
The feminism of the 1970s was based to a considerable degree on patriarchy theory. According to this theory, gender is a construct designed to secure a systematic male dominance over women: a patriarchy. All the institutions of society are shaped to secure this male control over women. Marriage and the family are simply instruments of control in which the work of the patriarchy is carried out either through emotional manipulation or violence.
So patriarchy theorists won't accept the idea that men are generally protective toward women and that a masculine culture discourages violence against women. Instead, they'll emphasise that all men are implicated in the systemic subordination of women through violence, and that women will be most directly controlled within the family.
You can see such assumptions at work when feminist Gloria Steinem declared that,
Patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself ... The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.
The Australian feminist Kate Gilmore voiced a similar belief when (as head of a federal campaign against domestic violence) she claimed that:
You can see the tyrants, the invaders, the imperialists, in the fathers, the husbands, the stepfathers, the boyfriends, the grandfathers, and it’s that study of tyranny in the home ... that will take us to the point where we can secure change.
So if we accept the talk about all men being responsible for domestic violence, or masculine culture condoning domestic violence, or men alone being responsible for violence against women, or marriage placing women at greater risk of domestic violence, then we are lazily adopting the legacy of a radical feminist politics, one which assumes that gender is a social construct and that marriage and the family should be abolished as instruments of patriarchy.
Queer theorists also seem prominent in promoting the false picture of domestic violence. Queer theory is also based on the idea of gender being an oppressive social construct. The focus, though, is on the privileging of heterosexuality and a heterosexual masculinity. Queer theorists, therefore, have an interest in deconstructing a "hegemonic" masculinity, and so have a reason to blame an existing male culture and an existing pattern of heterosexual relationships for domestic violence.
In Australia Dr Michael Flood is a prominent figure in White Ribbon Day. He is someone who writes about "the academic destabilisation of dominant constructions of men and manhood" and who insists that we should not "take as given the categories of "men" and "women". The binaries of male and female are socially produced ..."
So we do need to be careful about the agenda behind the whole domestic violence issue. It is not politics free. There are political reasons why men in general and husbands in particular are targeted in these campaigns, and why the incidence of violence is exaggerated.
Yes, an opposition to domestic violence is a good cause. It is a cause, though, which urgently needs to separate itself from a bad politics.