Monday, November 17, 2008

Exposing the white ribbon campaign

It's interesting what you can unearth when you take the time to check things out. Today the ABC ran a news item as follows:

[A] study into the impact of violence on young people has prompted calls for violence prevention programs in schools.

The report called An Assault on our Future was commissioned by the White Ribbon Foundation, a body that campaigns on the issue of violence against women.

The report's co-author, Dr Michael Flood, says among the most worrying findings was that one in three young people had witnessed their fathers being violent towards their mothers and one in every three boys believe it is not a "big deal to hit a girl".

The report is available online. Dr Flood draws his statistics from a 2001 study called Young Australians and Domestic Violence - also available online.

This study did find that 23% of young people had witnessed male to female domestic violence; it also found that 22% of young people had witnessed female to male violence.

These are relatively high figures, though they do include threats of violence and hitting in self-defence.

The main point to note about the 2001 study, though, is its explanation of what causes violence. The study points out that when children live with both parents the rate of violence drops to 14% compared to 41% for those living with a mother and her boyfriend.

Furthermore, if the father drinks a lot the rate of violence rises to 55%. Aboriginal children are also more exposed to violence (42%), as are those living in poverty (one and a half times more likely).

Children who are exposed to violence are also more likely to perpetrate violence as adults (i.e. there is a cycle of violence).

The 2001 report therefore reaches this conclusion:

The most important policy implication of this research is the reinforcement it provides for an approach to domestic violence prevention that recognises the differences that exist in the community.

Certain sectors of the Australian community experience levels of domestic violence that are much higher than other sectors ... (p.5)

The implication is that strategies to prevent domestic violence must have particular relevance to disadvantaged communities ... an integrated approach is needed ... to identify pockets in the community where risk factors exist ... (p.6)

Dr Flood does not draw the same conclusions as the report he relies on so heavily. He is much more interested in "traditional gender roles" as the source of domestic violence:

Males are more likely to accept violence against females if they have traditional gender role attitudes. (p.25)

He claims that domestic violence is a social norm amongst men:

Violence-supportive attitudes are grounded in wider social norms regarding gender and sexuality. In fact, in many ways, violence is part of ‘normal’ sexual, intimate, and family relations.

In the same vein:

The most well-documented determinants of violence against girls and women can be found in gender norms and gender relations.(p.24)

We are even told that:

Some men have rape-supporting social relationships ...(p.26)

Unsurprisingly, Dr Flood concludes:

Given the evidence that social norms, gender roles, and power relations underpin intimate partner violence, strategies that address these will be critical to successful prevention efforts. (p.31)

Why would Dr Flood have such a strong focus on gender roles and power relations? The answer is that he is committed ideologically to patriarchy theory. He believes that masculinity was constructed as an act of power and aggression to oppress women and homosexuals. Therefore, he sees it in negative terms as something to be either overthrown or radically reconstructed.

He is, in other words, anti-masculine.

In one of his articles, for instance, Dr Flood considers those domestic violence campaigns which focus on the idea that real men don't hit women. He isn't comfortable with such campaigns:

We should be wary of approaches which appeal to men's sense of 'real' manhood ... These may intensify men's investment in male identity, and this is part of what keeps patriarchy in place (Stoltenberg, 1990). Such appeals are especially problematic if they suggest that there are particular qualities which are essentially or exclusively male. This simply reinforces notions of biological essentialism ... (Engaging Men, p.3)

The book by John Stoltenberg cited by Dr Flood is titled Refusing to be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice. In this book, Stoltenberg claims that the "belief that there is a male sex" is a complete fiction, a "political and ethical construction" created by men for the sole purpose of oppressing women.

Stoltenberg tries to be consistent in his view that there is no such thing as a male sex. Instead of using the term "man" in his book, he frequently employs the alternative expression "human beings who happen to be penised".

Dr Flood is sympathetic to such ideas:

Nor should we take as given the categories "men" and "women". The binaries of male and female are socially produced ... (Between Men and Masculinity, p. 210)

So the situation is this. Dr Flood is a patriarchy theorist. He believes that masculinity is a mere construct, created for an aggressive, dominating oppression of women. He therefore associates traditional masculinity with dominance, aggression and violence.

Therefore, he explains domestic violence primarily in terms of an existing masculinity, and his solution is to launch a large-scale effort, involving all levels of government, to "profoundly" alter men's lives.

The White Ribbon campaign is being used as a battering ram to attack masculinity, when it should be focusing on practical and targeted ways to reduce the incidence of all forms of domestic violence.


  1. Actually, I think the Real Men Don't Hit Women approach is rather a good one. Flood's approach will never succeed because he is simply wrong about the genesis of masculinity. The joke is on Dr Flood.


  2. "the Real Men Don't Hit Women approach is rather a good one".

    Julian, agreed. It was a strongly held principle in the social classes I grew up in - and there was relatively little domestic violence in that milieu (none that I ever observed or heard about).

  3. He ignores the classic "dirty little secret of feminism." Some women are attracted to violent men. They want to be violated, they want to be shown who is the boss and the more aggressive the better.

    I'm not saying this is healthy or the norm but I'm sure we've all witnessed or read about examples of women going after dangerous men when perfectly decent ones are available. As long as their is a market for this behavior, it will continue. Ignoring the behavior and preference of some women will not make this problem go away no matter how much he tries to alter male behavior. If that is what it takes to get the girl, some men will figure that out no matter what they are taught!

    Of course he also ignores female violence against male partners...

  4. Interestingly, this neo-Marxist theory, which also believed that Aborigines are an oppressed class, fails to explain the far higher rates of violence in Aboriginal communities.

    After-all, the implication is that Indigenous males are oppressors, but these leftists think of them as the oppressed.

    Finally, there is the great irony that Aboriginal men have been deprived of their traditional male roles through welfarism,which has resulted in unemployment, drinking and vio9lence.

  5. The attitudes that the 'patriarchal' theory support do lead to a sense of entitlement, over anybody and in real life that tends to get directed at women and children. It does exist, I've seen it, witnessed it and lived it, and it plays out in the fathers' sons in the way they live their life.

    And if there's any evidence needed that violence supportive attitudes exist, one need read no further than liesel libertarian's comment, which is based on victim blaming.

  6. Lynn, Liesel's exact comment was that "Some women are attracted to violent men". Unfortunately, this is true. A British study found that 25% of women who suffer domestic violence are "serial daters" of violent men. They go from one abusive relationship to another.

    25% is a minority of cases - but a significant minority. If we can't recognise this facet of human nature, then how can we try to counteract it?

  7. Lynn

    With all due respect, some victims are to blame.

    Many women who seek out violent men are are violent themselves. By casting them all as helpless victims you are infantalizing adult women who made decisions, however poor their choice ultimately was.

    No one will never end the problem of domestic violence without taking on the role of women in contributing to it. There are many cases of women taking on a violent boyfriend or spouse who abuses as sometimes murders children they had with a different man. These are adult women and they need to bu held accountable for making dangerous choices as much as the men are.

    These women are 100% to blame for getting into a relationship with a man known to be violent. Yes, women don't know until they are in deep. Usually, however, they know the character of the man they are exposing themselves and their children to but their infatuation rules the day.

  8. oops -I meant to say that sometimes women don't know until they are in deep.

  9. Hmmm.

    This is a difficult debate to contribute to. As a Traditionalist, I feel endeared and protective of women at the same time as I have utter contempt for feminists, their agenda and the industry that has been built around it.

    The comments of Leisl Libertarian contain truth, but can certainly be expressed better. It is true that grown women should be held accountable for their own decisions. After all, we no longer live in the era of arranged marriages. However, there is no excuse for a man to be violent against the person he has dedicated his life to protect and love.

    Feminism does tend to treat women as perennial children (i.e. the infantalisation of women as stated above), but a reaction to it should not place them in a position of total liability. Men have a responsibility too.

    I knew a girl once whose six (six!) consecutive boyfriends beat her. This is too much of a trend to suggest that she wasn't attracted to this type of behaviour. However, I am convinced that there are plenty of men out there who seem to be addicted to abusive women too: I see this mostly in the expectation women have to being given preference at the table, on the street, the road, and the being paid for/pampered.

    I know very few women who think that men are entitled to respect as men.

    I went to a co-educational school from years 1 to 6. I can tell you that the girls hit the boys there on a daily basis. I say that without a shred of exaggeration. The girls knew the boys wouldn't hit back, and when a boy did, he got the cane - hard. The girls exploited this very well indeed.

    I am curious about the outcome of a survey among teenage girls in Australia, where they are asked about their attitudes to boys and men. I suspect that the way men are objectified and taken advantage of by girls and women would be too shocking to Dr Flood to even spare a moment of thought on.

  10. Mark -

    "Social norms...underpin partner violence." ?

    I must have grown up under a mushroom.

    In an average, moderately disfunctional family up-bringing, never did I consider violence against the females in my family as normal, nor even witness it as occuring. Nor is this what I try to teach my daughters is acceptable behaviour.

    This is a brilliant drilling down of the post-modern attack on society. Now it is not just bad to be a designated oppressor group:-


    Now, even to exist within the 'social norm' is an oppressor group. Brilliant - let's do a Pol Pot and send everyone to the re-education camps in the name of social justice.

    I am beyond believing there will ever, ever be a meeting of the societal minds with folk so stridently antagonistic to 'social norms' - and at the end of the day it will only be who has the heart to win the battle.

  11. I would suppose that some influence on the rise of feminism was the sexual revolution of the 60s. That is, feminism as a bitter reaction against hedonistic men. After all, the sexual revolution and the rise of feminism were concurrent. And any decent man should see that the sexual revolution left women out on the open, in the howling winds.

  12. Women AND homosexuals? Must have a busy time of it. So many people to repress, so little time.

  13. Kevo wrote:

    "I am beyond believing there will ever, ever be a meeting of the societal minds with folk so stridently antagonistic to 'social norms' - and at the end of the day it will only be who has the heart to win the battle."

    I might phrase this a little differently but agree with the spirit of it. It takes more heart than head to win a battle and the likes of Dr Flood are all head. Sooner or later reductionist materialism may "reduce" us to fighting for what we know is right by using all our senses, including sense of history, and not any reliance on deranged Marxist theory. At such a juncture a great many people may be unable to intuit any sense of right lest they feel they are violating someone else's "rightness". They will be dependent on some central authority for that direction.

    It seems that after the 1960s social revolution men and women both came to rely more on their sexuality in defining their selves, to an exaggerated degree, in everyday interactions. It is not universal but seems pervasive enough. Might this tendency, if true, contribute to these bizarre notions that gender identification itself is the root of so many problems?

  14. Looks like some of this information is finding its way onto the Michael Flood Wikipedia entry. See

    He has tried to have the Wikipedia page removed, unsucessfully. See

    Seems he is quite worried about media he cant have full control over. Now why might that be?

  15. Anonymous,

    Thanks for alerting me to the wikipedia page. Very interesting.