Saturday, May 23, 2009

An embarrassing stuff up by feminists

Late last year a feminist report into domestic violence made headlines across Australia. It was widely reported that 1 in 3 teenage Australian boys thought it OK to hit girls and that 1 in 3 Year 10 girls had experienced unwanted sex.

You can imagine what the feminist response was:

The statistics are appalling (there’s a surprise!), but it’s the attitudes that have me in despair, especially the attitudes of boys. The other beauty – 1 in 3 Australian boys think it’s okay to hit a girl.

These attitudes are strongest among 12 to 14 year old boys, which either suggests that older boys have grown up a little, and thought longer and harder about how to interact with girls, or that they have learned how to hide their attitudes, and come out with the socially acceptable platitudes.

I hope it’s the former, but given the incidence of rape and violence in our societies, I fear that it’s the latter. 1 in 3 year 10 girls (year 11 in NZ), that is, girls in their eleventh year of education, aged about 15 or 16, say that they have experienced unwanted sex. That would be rape, of course, but we daren’t use that word.

So one in three 15-year-old girls are being raped in Australia? Those who doubted such a claim were summarily dismissed:

Gringo: This is scary, although I thought it was interesting that the ABC article says that “these are attitudes that the youngest boys, boys from 12 to 14 show most strongly”. Does this suggest that attitudes change over time as the boys grow up begin to understand the world a bit more?

Deborah: I think it shows they learn to say the acceptable thing, given that the same survey shows that 1 in 3 year 10 girls say they have had ‘unwanted sex’.

Beppie: Ugh, how very depressing. I really don’t think I can bear to read the Sun Herald comment thread at the moment ... *sigh*

Rebekka: This makes me feel physically sick. Also, can I smack the idiots out there who claim we don’t need feminism any more?

Tigtog: Beppie, the comments are more about attacking the study as having an agenda against men and that the figures couldn’t possibly be really that high, there’s no defending of the idea that it’s ok to hit or force a woman to have sex.

Beppie: Ah, I see. I know from personal experience how hard many men find it to believe the stats pertaining to rape and other forms of violence against women.

But here's the fun bit. It turns out that the team headed by Dr Michael Flood made a very embarrassing mistake in their report on domestic violence. They misread the original research (National Crime Prevention study 2001). The research did not show 1 in 3 boys thinking it OK to hit girls, but 1 in 3 young people thinking it no big deal for girls to hit boys.

It was about boys being hit, not girls.

The ABC did at least issue a retraction:

On Monday November 17, 2008 ABC News carried stories reporting the findings of a study into the impact of violence on young people. The study was commissioned by the White Ribbon Foundation. It reported, in part, that “one in every three boys believe it is not a big deal to hit a girl".

The author of the report, Dr Michael Flood, has advised the ABC that this finding was in fact wrong. Dr Flood's team transposed information in compilation of that part of the report. The original report by the National Crime Prevention 2001 study upon which much of the White Ribbon report was is based made no reference to "boys hitting girls" In fact the report referred to "girls hitting boys".

And what of the other claim, that 1 in 3 fifteen year-old girls have had unwanted sex. This is a case of some of the feminist commenters misreading Dr Flood's report. The actual statistic is that 30% of Year 10 girls who have had intercourse have had unwanted sex. 24% of Year 10 girls have had intercourse. Therefore, it is around 7% of year 10 girls who have had unwanted sex, not 1 in 3.

Note too that the girls were not just asked if they had unwanted sex because their partners pressured them into it. They were asked as well if they had unwanted sex because they were drunk or high or because their female friends pressured them into it. According to these criteria 23% of Year 10 boys also reported that they had unwanted sex - pretty much the same figure as the girls.

So it seems that the Herald Sun readers were absolutely right to think "that the figures couldn't possibly be that high". Their scepticism was fully justified.

They were also right to think that there was an anti-male agenda behind the figures. I've written about Dr Michael Flood before. He is someone who believes in patriarchy theory: the idea that masculinity is a false social construct created to assert an oppressive power over women. His view of masculinity is therefore intensely negative.

Dr Flood thinks that male identity is a dangerous thing to be suppressed:

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)

He doesn't believe in the real existence of the categories of man and woman:

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)

And yet he is often cited as a leading expert on sexuality and gender. This is from the Melbourne Herald Sun just last week:

State schools will run courses on how to show respect for women ... The Education Department has commissioned a report from VicHealth on the best way to introduce the measures.

Report co-author Dr Michael Flood, a sexuality and gender expert from La Trobe University, said there were many options ...

Dr Flood doesn't even believe in the category of women and yet is writing a report on how to respect them.

When I was at uni there was a Michael Flood who was a socialist and a queer activist. I don't know if he's the same person as the Dr Michael Flood now being hired to lecture heterosexual men on their behaviour. Dr Flood did, it must be said, author the following research, celebrating the queering of straight men:

Bent straights: Diversity and flux among heterosexual men
Michael Flood
Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) La Trobe University

New formations of sexuality are emerging among heterosexual men, informed by constructions of ‘queer’ and ‘metrosexual’ masculinities and other alternatives.

Some straight men express alliance with gay men or question the binary of heterosexual and homosexual, or proclaim themselves to be ‘wusses’ and ‘sissies’, or take up egalitarian or even subordinant roles in their heterosexual sexual relations, or adopt a feminised preoccupation with personal grooming.

Such developments signal a weakening of longstanding constructions of heterosexual masculinity, and there is significant diversity in the contemporary sexual cultures of young heterosexual men. Yet at the same time, many heterosexual men’s social and sexual relations with women are organised both by gendered power relations centred on male privilege and by homophobic and homosocial policing.

This could just be Dr Flood faithfully following liberal autonomy theory, in which we are supposed to be liberated from any unchosen form of sexuality, instead choosing for ourselves from a fluid and diverse range of options.

Or it could be Dr Flood attacking a traditional heterosexual masculinity because it's something he personally doesn't share.

Either way, the Herald Sun readers were right to suspect that his research reflected an anti-male agenda.


  1. Dr Flood doesn't even believe in the category of women and yet is writing a report on how to respect them.logic is not his strong suit

  2. This is an excellent post. Well written.

    So, the facts don't fit the gender-feminist/sexual-assault industrial complex's victim metanarrative. What will they do about it? It is certain beyond even cavil that they won't bother to change their metanarrative to fit the facts.

  3. Louise, Dr Flood's position is so illogical it makes my head spin. How can you deny that there are real categories of man and woman, but then write a curriculum on how men should treat women. You would be writing about something that you don't believe has any real existence.

    Pierce, thanks. I agree that feminists will continue to come up with these "1 in 3" claims. It's likely too that the mass media will let them get away with it.

    Still, every time that we get someone reading the truth about these claims, the credibility of feminism in general takes a blow. And there's already a segment of the general public which isn't buying into the less credible claims made by feminists.

  4. Yes, another well researched and well presented post.

    I note that Dr Flood likes that heterosexual men "..adopt a feminised preoccupation with personal grooming." If a preoccupation with grooming is feminine then surely a non-preocupation with grooming is masculine. More contrary logic from the Dr.

  5. Yes, two of the (many) statistics in the report were in error. And these errors were compounded when they were picked up as the focus of media commentary. Of course, I was deeply embarrassed by this error. We acted quickly to correct the error, fixing the report and reissuing it.
    However, these two errors do not take away from the main message of the report: that young people are exposed to violence in their families and relationships at disturbingly high levels, that this violence has profound and long-lasting effects, that violence is sustained in part by some young people’s violence-supportive attitudes, and that prevention efforts can stop this violence from occurring and continuing. You can find the full report here:
    In relation to the ‘1 in 3 boys’ statistic, it remains true that a significant minority of boys and young men show violence-supportive attitudes. For example, nearly one in seven (14%) of boys believe that it is okay to make a girl have sex with you if she was flirting, and nearly one in three boys believe that most physical violence occurs because a partner provoked it. In fact, the study on which the report draws shows further gender gaps in young people’s attitudes which are concerning. For example, 15 per cent of males (but only four per cent of females) agree that “It is okay to put pressure on a girl to have sex but not to physically force her”. Over one third of young men (37 per cent) agree that “Men should take control in relationships and be head of the household”, compared to 12 per cent of young women.
    In any case, I hope that readers will read the full report and draw their own conclusion.


    michael flood

  6. Over one third of young men (37 per cent) agree that “Men should take control in relationships and be head of the household”, compared to 12 per cent of young women.So what in your opinion is the correct response Dr Flood and why?

  7. One of the amazing facts from page 2:

    "Violence against women can be fatal." Unlike violence against men which is never fatal.

    The Executive Summary alone is an exercise in the bleeding obvious but with a bias of bigoted proportions towards women.

    Many of the statements are merely that, statements, and what's more they can be equally applied to men thus negating any argument advanced on behalf of women. Yet the presumption from the outset is that only men force their will on to others and that women can only be victims in any relationship.

    No attempt is made (I haven't read the entire document but one can get the gist 5 pages in) to examine what role women might have in perpetuating violence.

    Is there any point in reading further especially given that, as Mark's post proves and Dr Flood agrees, this study is flawed with at least two instances where the statistics were in error?

    The only point that I can see is that this is obviously the next stage in the ongoing assault the left is making on the traditions of our society. Now it's time to assault the status of men as men. Further, no longer will the left engage in their perennial "education" programmes(and of course the bottomless pit of taxpayer funding) but now also "activism" (Page 5).

    And to think that this bigotry is actually funded by us via the government. It's basically a government sponsored cuckolding project. The left gets to play surrogate father to a generation of boys with none of the emotional and physical costs of the actual rearing of a single child. That cost is borne of course by the ever derided actual father.

  8. Michael Flood,

    I'll have a further look into the additional statistics you cite when I have some time.

    However, I'll point out now that even if it's true that 32% of boys believe that violence occurs because a partner provokes it so too do 24% of girls.

    The biggest complaint I have about your report is not even the statistics.

    Although your report is not entirely one-sided, it mostly follows patriarchy theory.

    Therefore, it has the usual distortions. Patriarchy theory holds that men as a class have acted to assert power over women as a class in order to maintain an unearned privilege.

    Domestic violence is therefore understood to be an act perpetrated by men against women; traditional masculinity is viewed negatively as a construct created to uphold such oppressive acts; and domestic violence is thought to reflect widespread social norms.

    That's why, to take just one example, you write in your report:

    "... domestic violence is perpetrated in the vast majority of cases by men against women (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006) and is a ‘gendered’ crime. It is supported by sexist and discriminatory attitudes towards women and serves to reinforce male power."

    One of the reports you draw on in your paper is a 2001 study called Young Australians and Domestic Violence. In this it is reported that although 23% of children had witnessed male to female violence (which includes threats), so too had 22% of children witnessed female to male violence.

    Futhermore, the rate of violence when the child lives with both parents drops to 14%, compared to 41% for a child living with a mother and her boyfriend, and 55% when heavy consumption of alcohol is involved.

    The authors of the report therefore conclude that,

    "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 ...

    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)"

    Your emphasis, in contrast, is on the idea of domestic violence being a received social norm:

    "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."

    I think your work is grounded far too much in patriarchy theory. Domestic violence is much better explained not as a social norm or as an expression of traditional masculinity or traditional gender relations, but as a breaking of social norms - which explains why rates of violence are much higher amongst those who abuse drugs and alcohol, who are unemployed and who have unstable forms of family life.

  9. "Domestic violence is much better explained not as a social norm or as an expression of traditional masculinity or traditional gender relations, but as a breaking of social norms"

    Yes Mark, but that wouldn't be politically correct now would it?

  10. ...breaking of social norms....

    Yes, exactly spot on.

    How ironic that liberals are blind to this yet seek to do their own *breaking of social norms* so they may reshape society in their vision. They are ultimately more focused on future reconstruction, while conservatives are trying to prevent the breakage in the first place.

  11. Actually, my work (and contemporary feminist scholarship on interpersonal violence in general) takes as given that this violence has multiple, intersecting causes, and that social disadvantage, alcohol and drug abuse, and a whole host of other factors shape violence. Gender roles and relations are highly influential, but they're not the only determinant e.g. of men's violence against women in relationships and families. There would be few, if any, feminist scholars and activists who see 'patriarchy' as the sole cause e.g. of domestic violence. In other words, your feminist is a straw-woman.

    To see this recognition spelt out in a policy document, check out VicHealth's 'Preventing Violence Before It Occurs: A framework and background paper to guide the primary prevention of violence against women in Victoria'. Go to


    michael flood.

  12. Dr Flood, you have not yet answered Mr. Richardson's challenge.

    Mark quoted the following assertion.
    "...violence is part of ‘normal’ relations."

    But that's not what at least one of your sources indicates. Young Australians and Domestic Violence found that,
    "...the rate of violence when the child lives with both parents drops to 14%, compared to 41% for a child living with a mother and her boyfriend..."

    You imply that the traditionalness (your word "normal"-ness) of a family helps make it more violent. But, all other things being equal, only 14% of children in a traditional family witness violence, while 41% of children with a single mom witness violence. This finding implies that the tradtionalness of a family makes it more pacific.

    How do you explain the contradiction between your theory (tradtionalness, among other things, leads to violence) and the findings (tradtionalness reduces likelihood of violence)?

  13. Midwesterner, thanks for pointing out that the basic issue stands.

    If you read Michael Flood's report, it's true that poverty as a cause of domestic violence gets a cursory mention.

    However, as I've already written, the emphasis is on patriarchy theory.

    That's why Michael Flood believes that domestic violence is overwhelmingly a case of male violence against women; that's why he focuses on traditional gender norms as a cause of domestic violence; that's why he can write that "violence is a part of 'normal' sexual, intimate and family relations".

    I could have fun here lining up all the "straw woman feminists" who do emphasise patriarchy theory when writing about domestic violence. I'll limit myself to one, Kate Gilmore.

    Back in 1994 she was chosen to lead the national campaign against domestic violence. At the time she denied that "men that are violent are different from every other man in the country". Instead, it was your average family man who represented a violent, oppressive threat to women:

    "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."

    Nor has she changed her mind over the years. Last year she wrote that domestic violence was accepted in society as a social norm:

    "... an effective national plan will create long-term change through sustained education and programs to ... challenge and change those otherwise deeply entrenched attitudes that make violence against women somehow acceptable, or at least excusable ..

    ... In the long run, the best protection for the women of Australia will come from a fundamental shift in social attitudes. Of course, achieving such change is tough but it is possible .... [to achieve] a fundamental change in social norms and attitudes."

    To give some idea of the difference between a patriarchy theory approach and a non-patriarchy theory approach compare Kate Gilmore's explanation of domestic violence as being:

    "a product of the social construction of masculinity"

    with a recent Anglicare report which focused on the fact that

    "More than four out of five family violence cases also involve mental illness, financial hardship, alcohol abuse or housing difficulties."

  14. Dr. Flood: "there would be few, if any, feminist scholars and activists who see 'patriarchy' as the sole cause e.g. of domestic violence. In other words, your feminist is a straw-woman."

    Unbelievable. These people will just blatantly lie and obfuscate. They'll campaign 'X' and then say that the campaign isn't really about 'X'. If that wasn't all, they then claim that any issue taken with 'X' is setting up a straw-woman. Brilliant.

  15. Hi Mark,

    did you go to ANU? Because that's where Michael Flood got all his degrees:

  16. Leon, no I went to the University of Melbourne. So they can't be the same Michael Flood (a coincidence as they are about the same age with a similar politics).

    Thanks for the information.

  17. Very late to have discovered this enlightening discussion, but enjoyed finding that Michael Flood has progressed from claiming gender relations are no longer "central" to DV, but now merely "influential".
    In light of this progression in his thinking, perhaps he could gather some like minded feminist theorists to demand a change to the Australian policies, legislation and practices in DV that are still premised on outmoded gendered assumptions. For example, the Duluth model (patriarchal theory) is still the basis of programs for DV perpetrators in Australia today.
    Not to demand such changes would mean that ineffective approaches to DV are being condoned, and that the claimed acknowledgment of other major contributory factors by Michael (and those other feminists he refers to) is at best disingenuous.

    The Wikipedia entry about Floody had until recently had mention of his mistaken statistic villifying boys as violent.

    A few days ago -and in lead up to White Ribbon Day which his research supports- he went to Wikipedia and personally deleted reference to his misuse of statistics. Thats right he deeleted his embarassing blunder. When other editors reinstated the material he then declared he was seeking legal advice against Wikipedia for defaming him.

    Naturally this terrified Wikipedia management who immediately removed reference to Flood's 'mistake' from public view.

    Obviously Micheal is pulling all tricks, and one suspects he is doing this to restore the unsullied viginity of the WRD campaign.

    There is a debate presently going on here on the Wikipedia discussion page:

    For your entertainment.


    Makes for VERY interesting reading.