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A Problem with Judgement

A ‘story’ by Matthew Mitchell.

Mary was with a group of friends. They went to the shops together. Mary’s friends all took some items of clothing and put them on in the change room before walking out of the store. Mary refused to do this, as she felt it was wrong. After leaving the store they did not get far before they were stopped by a security guard. The whole group was then taken before a judge, and all of them found guilty of shoplifting – even Mary. How would you feel if you were Mary? To make matters worse, the whole community now knew them as shoplifters (Mary included) and talked of them as such. One of Mary’s friends, Sally, also really felt bad about the shoplifting, and she never did it again. However, the community was not very forgiving and in the eyes of the community, Sally, – as part of that group – was a shoplifter and was always looked on as such.

This is a case of judging everyone in a group by the actions of a few. Certainly there is an element of truth in saying that the group shoplifts, but that is a generalisation, and it is judgement of Mary (and Sally) that is not true nor fair. It is even worse when Mary and Sally cannot possibly leave the group they are part of. Now you might ask how can they not possibly leave the group? Well of course in reality they could leave the group, but let me give another example of group judgement whereby the members cannot leave the group, and thus any judgments made of the group always also apply to them as individuals.

The other example group I am talking about is men. And the accusation leveled against this group is that its members have a problem with their attitude to women. The way this, and many other issues, are talked about is exactly like this – very often in the general case. Eg: we need to address male violence towards women. Such statements are a judgement against many innocent men, the same way Mary was judged guilty by association within her group. It connects violence with maleness, as though the two are inseparable. As a society we are just starting to understand the significance of words. Words are powerful. The way some men talk about women is hurtful and demeaning (and the way some people act is even worse). And it is equally hurtful to talk about men in general when what is meant is ‘some’ men – it is manifestly unfair. What is someone who is judged as such to do? They cannot possibly escape the judgement – maybe they are not like this, or maybe they once were but would like to change – no matter, such language still still judges them as though they are amongst the worst offenders. How do you think boys and men are to cope with this? Should they hate themselves? Or since they are to be judged with the group, perhaps they should just adopt those behaviours anyway? The One in Three foundation claims:

Regrettably, while well-intentioned, many past efforts to reduce family violence against women have inadvertently used incorrect or misleading statistics‚ which unfairly stigmatise men and boys as violent and abusive, while simultaneously denying or downplaying the existence of male victims of violence.

If boys cannot escape this stigma/judgement should they then try and turn it into a point of pride? In which case, the behaviours are only likely to become worse as each boy or man then tries to outdo the other in how ‘rebellious’ he can be? How worthy of the title ‘bad boy’? – since in the eyes of society they can never be good? I wonder how such judgements affect the behaviour of men? Perhaps it is evident in the ‘bad boy’ culture of black rappers? I say this because in America for black men the problem is even worse – many black men there are looked at as criminals – and harassed by authorities as such. Virtually all black men (other than presidents and such like) are viewed with suspicion and often treated as such, regardless of their innocence. Perhaps that fact lies behind the bad behaviour and language of some black American men (specifically evident in the music culture)? If you are to be unfailingly judged as a ‘bad ass’ then why not just be one? Why not make it a point of pride? The alternative is to forever hold your head in shame for something you cannot change, and even if you do personally, you will be judged with the group. The accusation perhaps makes the problem far worse?

In relation to judging behaviour there seems to be a long history of generalised judgements of men in feminism. Germaine Greer in her spiteful missive “The Female Eunuch” stated: “Some men hate women all of the time, but all men hate women some of the time”. This unscientific, unsupported, statement is presented as having some worth perhaps due to it being part of a PhD accepted by a major university. However, if made on a blog today, would no doubt be seen as a spiteful rant driven by someone’s own unresolved personal issues. There is one other problem I would like to raise in relation to claims of men’s attitudes towards women (I says men’s but of course, it is not all men, but only some). One of the most vocal advocates today for women not to be looked at as sexual beings comes from Jane Fonda. Now in her feminist views Jane Fonda says some very sensible things, and I would not want to hold her past against her – she also should not to be judged forever for what she did or thought in the past. But Jane Fonda is a woman who made her fame and fortune from doing exactly that – sexualising women. The roles she played in films were perhaps some of the most sexualised roles in the history of humanity – in one case involving an ‘orgasmatron’ in which a male operator uses a machine to pleasure young Jane Fonda (in her role in that film). Thus we have here an giant example of hypocrisy. How are men to react to that? How often are men confronted with this contradiction? Women insisting on being treated non-sexually yet being constantly confronted by images of women presenting themselves sexually?

I think this whole issue needs serious revision, and like many of the problems of today – which are wicked in their complexity – we need to move away from simplistic statements like ‘the need to address men’s attitudes’ (or behaviour) and start looking at this problem holistically and with a view to seriously fixing these problems (and violence in general; against children, the Indigenous and whole cultures), not just judging and blaming one half of humanity indiscriminately and responding with moronic slogans (like “real men don’t hit women“, as if the solution is simply to try and redefine stereotypes of men, and that the problem exists with men alone) and superficial approaches which are becoming too much a part of our modern political landscape.

This article was originally published on Matthew’s blog, The Invisible World.

 

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28 comments

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  1. Kaye Lee

    “we need to address male violence towards women. Such statements are a judgement against many innocent men…..It connects violence with maleness, as though the two are inseparable.”

    Not at all. They are an expression of statistics. We need to address all violence and I know women can be particularly good at emotional/psychological violence as well as occasionally physical violence. This isn’t a competition – it is about starting somewhere so you start with the most common problem.

    “They cannot possibly escape the judgement – maybe they are not like this, or maybe they once were but would like to change – no matter, such language still judges them as though they are amongst the worst offenders.”

    I disagree. Because the majority of physical violence comes from men in no way means all men are violent. I very much respect and love my male friends and most family members. You are not tarred with the same brush at all. All we are doing is asking for help. If that male friend of yours looks like punching someone make them stop. If that male relative of yours is scaring his family, make him stop. (same should be said for females)

    “If you are to be unfailingly judged as a ‘bad ass’ then why not just be one? Why not make it a point of pride?”

    This is a valid comment in a wrong context. Males are not all judged as bad ass at all but I agree with the destructive elements when children are made to feel this way. Most adults have more experience and self-assurance than to need the bad ass approval of others.

    “In relation to judging behaviour there seems to be a long history of generalised judgements of men in feminism. ”

    Do you wish to label all feminists by the words of a couple of individuals? Does this one statement not blow away the premise of your entire article?

  2. Terry2

    Sorry , Matthew, why was Mary convicted of shoplifting : guilt by association is not a part of our legal system and the same applies to violence and men.

    The fact is, as Kaye has noted, most violence comes from men and that is something we all have to acknowledge and address.

    Take care.

  3. Richard Kopf

    In all of this we never learn why the, inevitably, male chose to inflict violence on his partner. Was it drunkenness, continuous verbal abuse directed at him, unfaithfulness, denying the male partner access to the family after a break up? What starts the cycle of violent behaviour? We all should know that, so the spark can be controlled before the inferno begins.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Whilst I agree the triggers for someone losing control should be discussed with their counsellor or another appropriate support group, there is NO excuse for violence no matter how sad or angry or humiliated you are. It will never help.

  5. Clare De Mayo

    Unfortunately Matthew, you have failed to address the issues behind violence, which are inevitably about power and control. Until very recently many men did see their wives or partners as their possessions, in fact women were ‘given away’ by their fathers, to their future husbands, when they were married. As a possession, women were expected to ‘obey’. (many men still do think this way). Now many women didn’t like this situation, didn’t want to be subservient to their partners, and part of the feminist movement was about empowering women to see themselves as equal individuals, and to act in this way. Many men did not like this, and still do not like this.
    You bring up an interesting point about Fonda and her earlier roles. It is an unfortunate truth the while most of the power still rests with men in our culture, rewards are handed out to women who conform to behaviour preferred by these men. So Fonda became famous as a sex kitten under the directorship of her then husband Roger Vadim. She later moved on in her life, but it is true that it is very difficult for women to totally leave behind the expectations of our society related to appearance and behaviour. Look at the women who anchor the news on commercial TV, or one only has to remember how Julia Gillard was insulted and harrassed about her appearance and labelled ‘deliberately barren’ for her choice not to have children. If you don’t conform you will be labelled an ugly dyke or worse in very quick time.

  6. Alison White

    I’ve seen women repeatedly verballing and hitting their long suffering partner. The poor bloke sitting there and taking it. At one point I gave her a slap – I just couldn’t stand it any more. The issue is complex and it’s difficult to know why some people feel entitled to hurt others. It’s not just what gender you are. I prefer the non gender specific term domestic violence – seems to have a lot to do with familiarity breeding contempt. Some people have a vicious mouth on them coupled with tenacity that would put a bulldog to shame.

  7. Florence nee Fedup

    Many of the side issues raised in this article can be corrected by men, coming out, unconditionally criticising the men who abuse.

    They would no longer be classified along with abusers.

  8. Florence nee Fedup

    Alison, so have I. Yes, needs to be addressed. Most of these men choose not to speak up for themselves

    That has little to do with the havoc being caused by men who see their wives, often kids as chattels that they have the right to treat anyway they like. it is about ownership and control.

    Partners have little power, even leaving is wrought with danger.

    It is about much more than a biff around the head,

  9. Kaye Lee

    Alison,

    I fail to see how slapping someone to show your displeasure about them slapping someone is supposed to work. It’s about anger management and respect, not giving them a taste of their own medicine. Teach people other ways of communicating and dealing with their emotions. Help them learn to feel better about themselves so they don’t respond out of feelings of frustration or inadequacy or jealousy. Hook them up to support services. Talk to them.

  10. Matters Not

    as she felt it was wrong

    But while she may have had that ‘feeling’ she, apparently, did not ‘act’. By failing to act, it could be argued that she was prepared to ‘walk by a standard’.

    This tendency to ‘ignore’ the ‘bad’ or the ‘wrong’ even when in possession of what you believe to be ‘evidence’ is quite common in our society. It applies to ‘child abuse’, ‘domestic violence’ and ‘corporate corruption’ to use but three examples chosen from a very long list.

    It’s probably the case that we have all behaved that way at various times. We don’t always report the ‘wrong’ because sometimes such a report will result in a ‘bad’. But that’s not always the case.

    I remember when my eldest son went to school with a black eye, and when questioned by his teacher, asserted that the black eye resulted from his mother hitting him with a spade. All true. I should hasten to add, that the mother under discussion, was gardening at the time and the contact was completely accidental. But the teacher had a dilemma, to report or not report. Way back then reporting was ‘optional’ – not so now apparently. If the teacher had reported it may have been the ‘right’ thing to do but as for the relationship between the teacher and us the outcome would have been ‘bad’.

    Life is always about moral dilemmas No easy answers.

  11. Bob

    However deplorable men’s violence against women is I do remember seeing advertising signs decades ago proclaiming “We will not tolerate men’s violence”. My gut reaction at the time was “But women’s violence is utterly admirable.” Considering that most infanticide is perpetrated by women I sometimes wonder if it is less to do with gender but more to do with stronger versus weaker. In any case violence within family needs to end and end soon.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Bob,

    No doubt there is a stronger vs weaker element but with infanticide there can be the compounding factor of post natal depression. No excuse but some explanation. A close family member suffered very badly – she was not the person I knew for a period there but luckily there are enough of us that we could rally around and help. I think lack of support is a contributing factor in many cases.

  13. Kyran

    “This is a case of judging everyone in a group by the actions of a few.”
    Isn’t that the way ‘modern’ society works? We have used the aberrant behaviour of a minority to vilify whole ‘groups’ for decades now. Whether it be our First People, Muslims, asylum seekers, environmentalists, ‘welfare’ recipients. The list is endless.
    I agree we need to move away from simplistic statements when dealing with complex issues that require cultural change. Seems to me, the community is ready for this discussion and willing to act as necessary. Our leaders, however, can’t see past the next opinion poll which will, inevitably, determine their resolution. Thank you Mr Mitchell, take care

  14. Florence nee Fedup

    Reaction to that man attacking a woman because she asked him to tone it down a bit in front of her kids was swift and appreciate.
    It didn’t amaze me to see one young woman defending the attacker, in her eyes, the woman should have back off because she could see the man was angry. Yes she blamed the woman.

    This culture that men are not responsible for their anger has to change.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Engels had an interesting view about patriarchal dominance that related to the emasculation of men at work. They had to kowtow to bosses and couldn’t risk their job by complaining about conditions because they were in debt providing for a family so they exhibited their frustrated dominance at home where they did have control. Violence often comes from feelings of inadequacy and a need to display dominance when unable to control other aspects of one’s life.

  16. Bob

    Seems to me that lack of support is a driver for a lot of aberrant behaviour in both men and women. It begins within family and there is where it must be brought to an end. That does not mean that I am not in favour of strong legal measures against those who perpetrate violence even though that is just a symptomatic treatment.

  17. Paul

    Every time a topic like this comes up I am deeply shaken.
    I am a victim of domestic violence and I am a man.
    I know that if the laws that are being talked about now were enacted then I would have been locked up, thats what she was aiming for, to have me jailed, or to have me kill myself.
    This went on for many years, no marks, no bruises.
    She worked the system for all it was worth, womens refuges, womens health centres, violence support groups, the police and courts. She collected all the horror stories and they were hers and she spread them everywhere, clubs, work, friends, relatives, child protection. 15 years later I am still shunned by many people in my community.
    Eventually it did escalate to physical violence, she would call the Police then storm in and start attacking me, when they arrived I would be attempting to stop her and I would be dragged out of my home.
    Doubts were being sown though, why was this woman who didn’t live in this house complaining about being attacked? Then one day I left for a meeting in another town with a workmate driving, She drove past saw my car in the drive and set herself up with the Police, punched herself in the face to make her nose bleed stormed screaming and crying into the house as the Police arrived and I was 200Km away.

    Please, this is a complex issue, yes some men are violent and women are hurt, this is wrong and it is shocking, but so are some woman, this is also wrong and shocking. We stopped the death penalty years ago because it sometimes killed the wrong person, please be careful about enacting a law that instantly sees all men as perpetrators, you may be hanging an innocent person.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Bob,

    I remember railing about a friend’s inability to leave her abusive partner until another of my very wise friends said to me, not everyone is as strong as you Kaye. The only reason I am so strong is because of the support I have received from family and friends. Blame and judgement are one thing, offering help is another. Not all families are in the position to help and not all parents should be parents. As a society we must rally around those who are not as lucky as me, those who don’t have the support of family and friends must be supported by the collective.

  19. Paul

    As Bob said lack of support is a driver, she walked into the court and immediately got an intervention order that kicked me out of my house. Living in the marital home and looking after her family seriously cramped her lifestyle though, so pretty soon she was gone and I moved back in so I could look after the kids. I tried 5 times to get an intervention order and every time she would turn up at court and cry and I would have to start the process again, about six weeks each time, my life was hell, she would arrive several times a day, start a fight and call the police. If I wasn’t there she would smash a window and break in, If I left the door unlocked and even open she would still break a window, walk in and trash the place, shit in my bed, piss in my food. I could do nothing about it, we were seperated but it was still partly her home so she could do what she liked.

  20. Kaye Lee

    One of the things they are offering abuse victims is CCTV cameras Paul.. That would have helped perhaps?

  21. Paul

    Yes, one thing that kept me out of trouble was one of my boys was experimenting with recording music mixes, looping bits and recording new bits. A couple of times he was recording when she burst in and started abusing us, amazing what a difference those recordings made to the inquisition I was experiencing at the child protection hearing. (She reported me as sexually abusing my sons) It probably saved the boys from being taken away from me.
    I have a video recording system installed, 15 years on and I am still looking over my shoulder.

    Life moves on though, she always sneered at me that I would be a sad lonely old man and she was going to be a party animal, But life for me is an absolute ball and she is a cat woman.

  22. Matthew Mitchell

    By the way Kay Lee, in relation to your statement:

    “Does this one statement not blow away the premise of your entire article?”

    Not at all. For starters I say nothing about feminists as people (other than to say Jane Fonda says some sensible things), certainly nothing general. The statement you mention refers to feminist literature as a body of work. This is quite different to a blanket statement about actual people.

    Matt

  23. Slinky Malinki

    Very out-dated thinking, Matthew. If it offends you to have to hear about the violence of your dudebros then think how offensive it must be to be a woman living in such a context. It is my experience that men who complain along the lines that you have are usually not so nice as they like to think themselves.

  24. Matthew Mitchell

    Dear Slinky,

    How very sympathtic of you! There is no-where in my article where I suggest I am offended about hearing people discuss this problem, on the contrary. However, I suggest the discussion is bit too narrow. In relation to your judgement of me, I suggest you have a look at the article I recommended to Kay Lee (see below), it is not only women who suffer domestic violence, but also children – who speaks for them? Rather it seems if they speak out on behalf of the next generation, they get judged by people like you perhaps?

    http://theinvisibleworld.weebly.com/blog/lets-talk-about-violence

    Since you felt quite free to share your assessment of me Slinky, perhaps you will not be offended if I suggest that there may be some hidden biases in your own psychology?

    Matt

  25. Florence nee Fedup

    Funny how Miranda and her ilk can ignore findings of the corners court.

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