I put together a new playlist on the menaregood youtube channel. Many have asked me what videos were the best for men’s issues. I have made over a hundred vids so I handpicked 18 of what I considered the top menaregood videos. Here they are! You can also use this link to go to youtube and see all 18 in the right hand sidebar and click through them.
I have long held that compassion and choice are two issues that play a part in nearly every men’s issue. But why? What do compassion and choice have to do with male suicide or male victims of domestic violence or just about any other men’s issue? Quite a bit actually. Let’s take a look at why compassion and choice are limited for men and then see how compassion and choice are essential ingredients to the issues.
The origins of the lack of compassion and
choice for men is gynocentrism. When you start to understand gynocentrism you will start to better understand the plight of men and boys. Gynocentrism at its most basic, is the mandate that women and children be kept safe and provided for at the expense of men. In other words, men are designated to insure the safety and provisions for women and children on an individual level, the family level, community level and on a macro level. This is not a totally bad thing. It has been what has created and maintained many cultures for millennia. As Stefan Molyneux says, “Eggs are scarce and sperm is plentiful.” This means we have needed to sacrifice our sperm in order to insure the safety of our eggs. Without women the culture dies a quick death. Women must be protected. Gynocentrism protects those who carry the eggs and does this at the expense of its men. This has been a very important element to our cultural success but it does come at a price.
One consequence of protecting the women is that the men will need to at times face danger. The women need to be kept safe and the men will protect the boundary and sometimes die in that process. Our human history of gynocentrism is longer and deeper than most assume. We think of the hunter gatherers as serene and bucolic but that was sometimes far from the truth and gynocentrism predominated. Research shows that some South American hunter gatherer groups faced huge numbers of deaths of their men protecting the women and children1. One group averaged the death of nearly 60% of its males in protecting the women from inter tribal attacks that were among other things, designed to steal the other group’s women! (the average for the groups studied was near 30% male deaths as a result of raids, ambush or larger scale conflicts) He who had the most women wins and these groups made a huge sacrifice of their males to insure they kept their women and children safe.
In its most obvious we can see how gynocentrism plays out when we note that men automatically and without question are the ones facing danger in our culture. Our war dead are nearly 100% male. Our deaths in dangerous occupations are 93% men. Our trashmen and sewage workers are nearly all male. The dirtiest and most dangerous jobs are jobs for men. No one questions this. It just seems right. This is the hidden power of gynocentrism. No one questions and no one notices. Hell, if women actually got equality to the above it would be a huge step down for them.
But gynocentrism runs much deeper than simply being about protecting the borders and doing the dangerous work. It has its tendrils into just about everything, silently and without fanfare. What happens when a woman has a flat tire? How many people have seen the help she will usually garner from men? Now think about what happens if a man has a flat tire. Does he get a similar treatment? Probably not. This is gynocentrism. When there are problems we jump to help women but expect the men to handle it themselves even in today’s atmosphere of “equality”.
What happens when a woman is upset and falls into a sea of tears? Pretty much the same thing as the flat tire. People hover to offer support and see what might be wrong and what they can do. But what happens when men fall into a similar sea? People ignore him and avoid him. It is almost as if a woman’s pain is a call to action while a man’s pain is taboo. Compassion offered to men is a fraction of the compassion offered to women.
There are a number of youtube videos that employ actors to portray men beating women in public. The women are shown to get immediate support and help from male onlookers who see the violence. They quickly jump to her aid not knowing it is an arranged scene. These same videos then reverse the roles and show the women beating men in a similar manner and no one lifts a finger, in fact, they laugh. This is gynocentrism. We expect to help the women and expect the men to help themselves. Note also that we allow women to be dependent but do not allow the same for men.
On an even simpler level think of a man and a woman at work who need to move some boxes from one location to another. Some are heavy, some are light. Who will be moving the heavy ones? It is a foregone conclusion that the man will most often move the largest boxes and will protect her from having to do hard labor. This is gynocentrism.
And then there is the question of attractiveness. When a woman is attractive she gets special perks simply due to her appearance. No man can come close to having a similar response. This is gynocentrism. The eggs are protected and the attractive eggs get very special treatment.
Think of that attractive woman being tied to the railroad tracks. What does that do to the hearts and minds of most people? Most of us have an inborn reaction that says DO SOMETHING to help her. But what about a man tied to the tracks? Is your reaction the same or different? Yes, you likely want to see him helped but is it the same gut wrenching sensation? The plots of many movies and novels are fueled by this gynocentric scenario. We all want the woman tied to the tracks safely released even if it means the death of numerous men in the process. A woman’s needs are a call to action while a man’s needs are often just ignored. He needs to save her!
Just think for a minute what would happen to a man in the military who started complaining that we needed to have more female war deaths in order to make things equal for everyone. How would he be received? All hell would break loose at this questioning of the gynocentric norm and disregard for the safety of women. We see something similar when the opposite happens and men voice their desires for equal opportunities for services for men in things like domestic violence. Those who stand up for the needs of men in our gynocentric culture are seen as misogynistic, that is, they are routinely accused of hating women simply for pointing out the needs of men. Can you see how the fuel for this is gynocentrism?
Another example of extreme gynocentrism is boot camp in the army. What is done? The recruit is taught that he is nothing. He is now not an individual, he is a part of a fighting group. His personal identity is deleted and he is taught to fight for the group, for a cause. He no longer exists. There is no compassion for his personal feelings and needs. Those are a distant second. He also has zero choice. He does what he is told. That is the extreme gynocentric model that plays out to one degree or another in our everyday life.
Do we care about the feelings of the woman tied to the tracks? Oh yes. Do we care about the feelings of the hero who rescues her? No. We care about his actions. His emotions are not important unless his feelings are about HER. Do we care about the emotions of the boot camp recruit? Nope. We care about his actions and what he does. His feelings need to be kept to himself. In the same way, under the gynocentric default we tend to care about the emotions of women but will be averse to the emotions of men. Our interest moves more towards his actions. Think about the last time you saw a woman cry in public. What was your reaction? Most of us want to help, want to offer support. We are drawn to her neediness. Now think about a man crying under the same circumstances you saw the woman. Are you as open to his tears as the woman? Most of us say no, we are not. We are repulsed by his neediness. The man is not expected to be needy, he is expected to have agency. If he is seen as needy he is judged harshly. This is gynocentrism.
These sorts of advantages for women have been going on for many years. In the 19th century men would strive to do the best job of keeping women safe and provided for. Just read their diaries and the diaries of their wives. These men put women on a pedestal. They thought of them as angelic and would try their best to not have them sully themselves with the grime of daily life outside the home. They worked hard to have them stay away from “dirty”things like the workplace or money. They did this because they saw women as worthy of protection (gynocentrism) and were happy to take on the extra burden in order to keep her safe. Then along comes feminism which makes the incredibly noxious and inaccurate claim that women were not held in high esteem at all, they were being oppressed. They took the protections that women had benefited from for centuries and spun them into being oppression. In my opinion this is the biggest lie of the 20th century and it has left a wake of chaos and vitriol. Women now actually believe themselves to be victims and that they have been shortchanged and oppressed. These are the same women who didn’t have to go to war, didn’t have to do the dirty work of building or maintaining the culture, were held in high esteem and basically worshiped (as American as Mom and Apple Pie) now see this as oppression. Houdini could not have done a more impressive magic trick.
So what do you think happened? It could be easily predicted that gynocentrsim would insure that when women appear to be in danger or need that men will jump and meet those needs as best they can. That’s the way both men and women are programmed. And that is just what happened. The feminists claimed to be tied to the tracks and rode, and continue to ride the gynocentric wave of men keeping women safe. Their unfounded claims that women were oppressed and held back have been taken seriously by well meaning highly gynocentric males, including male legislators. These claims of women being tied to the tracks and needing government intervention were welcomed by our gynocentric legislators who wanted to bend over backwards to help women. Over the years women have been given more and more while simultaneously continuing to enjoy the same gynocentric advantages they have been getting for hundreds of years. Our legislators have backed themselves into a corner and are now afraid to say no. They know that they have been hijacked but don’t have the courage to say no to saving a damsel in distress. Saying no would insure a loss in the next election.
This was the beginning of what I like to call Gynocentrism 2.0. The cultural imperative of caring for women continues and is now amplified by false claims of women having been oppressed. Simultaneously Gynocentrism 2.0 showed not only increased focus on the needs and desires of women, it also made a dramatic switch. Men in gynocentrism 1.0 were held in high esteem when they followed through with their role. They were both respected and admired and this was fuel for the masculine. Both sexes were held in high esteem. Now that fuel for men has run out as the admiration and respect has been gaudily replaced with disdain and blame. Incredibly, now men are seen as the problem and held accountable for social problems as if they were the cause. It is all the men’s fault. Much is said about men not doing very well these days but very few people note this important shift. When you don’t put fuel in the engine it ain’t goin too far.
In Gynocentrism 2.0 entire bureaucracies are built to serve women and cater to their difficulties but there are rarely any such bureaucracies built for men. The women are left with a choice of whether to seek help at a government funded facility (payed for with mostly male tax dollars) built for them while the men are left with no choices.
One of the best examples of this is the issue of domestic violence where we have known for decades that men are a sizable portion (likely nearing 50%) of the victims of domestic violence but all of the laws and services are built for women. We spend nearly a billion dollars a year for the Violence Against WOMEN Act (VAWA) that marginalizes the 50% of male victims. Recent research exposed the sad fact that when men who are the victims of domestic violence go to these government funded services for help they are treated very poorly. Often when the men are victims of domestic violence and they turn to the government funded services they are told that they are not victims of domestic violence, they are accused of being the perpetrators! They then send him to treatment for perpetrators! Researchers are calling this “third party abuse”, when the government bureaucracy as a third party, participates in the continued abuse of a victim. This is gynocentrism 2.0 which leaves no compassion for men and far fewer choices in seeking help.
I was involved in lobbying for male victims of domestic violence during the reauthorization of the VAWA in both 2005 and 2012. Our group was well received by then Senator Biden. He and his staff listened to our data and stories about male victims in several meetings at his Senate office. He assured us we would be a part of the hearings. When the hearing came not one of our group was allowed to speak. I couldn’t believe it. Biden was totally aware of the problem of male victims and intentionally sabotaged our efforts to find support for men. It was then that I realized how deeply our system is biased and non-functional. Gynocentrism 2.0.
It’s important to point out that our government has been pushing a gynocentric agenda for some time. In the 1960’s President Johnson set in motion the “War on Poverty” which proceeded to demand the removal of black fathers from their families in order for mom to get welfare. Now our family courts are doing something similar as they remove fathers from the home through no fault on the fathers part. The woman’s needs come first, father’s a distant second.
My state of Maryland created a Commission for Men’s Health a number of years ago. I was fortunate to serve as the vice chair of that commission and wrote three of the four reports that were to be sent to the governor. The reports I wrote were what I call “male friendly.” That is, they voiced and considered the needs of men without bowing to the prevailing political correctness. The chairman of the commission wrote the other report which was a bit more what the Health Department, our host agency, was anticipating. All four reports were unanimously approved by the full commission. When the commission’s work was done and it came time to file the reports to the governor and a host of other Maryland politicians and get them into the Maryland State Library the Health Department only filed the report that was written by the Chairman. They were confronted with this and said, “ooops, we will file it now.” But they didn’t. It took a year to track down the files and finally get them into the Maryland system. The full story of this event will be told in a chapter in Janice Fiamengo’s upcoming book. It couldn’t be more clear that when the needs of men were given voice, the status quo balked. It seems that our mid level bureaucrcrats are filled with gynocentrism 2.0.
I think you can see now how women’s complaints and our legislators zealous rush to help them have turned things topsy turvy. Rape shield laws have been written to protect the rape victims and this is a good thing. But those same laws failed to protect the accused man. His name can be released to the media prior to any conviction. Her name is permanently protected while his name is plastered all over the media and he has his life ruined simply due to an accusation which may or may not be proven false . Gynocentrism 2.0.
Another example is the issue of suicide where males are 80% of all completed suicides. (Chart above: rates are per 100,000 population from CDC WISQARS system.) Incredibly this 80% fact is rarely mentioned in the media leaving most people unaware that the biggest risk factor in suicide is being male. It is not surprising that females get the majority of attention around suicide both clinically and in research. This even though men are the vast majority of those needing help. In 2009 the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) did some research on suicide. I was shocked to see it was a study on girls! I wrote to then NASW Director Elizabeth Clark and asked why the research focused on girls when it was men and boys who were the vast majority of suicides. She wrote me back and said that the funder for the research had specified to only study girls. Just imagine for a moment someone who funded research for Sickle Cell Disease but stipulated the research had to be on whites. Can you imagine the outrage? Blacks are 60-80% of those with Sickle Cell disease and to study only whites would be seen as totally racist but somehow studying only girls and suicide is okay. That is gynocentrism.
Our gynocentric legislators have outlawed any form of genital mutilation of females but have failed to do the same for our baby boys. Boys routinely undergo a surgical removal of part of their penis without anesthesia. Of course the baby boys scream during and after this mutilation. Some nurses say they have seen baby boys scream for days after. Many are thinking today that this trauma creates PTSD for those males who have been circumcised and presently about four out of every 5 males in the United States has suffered this mutilation. Research is showing that psychological impact of circumcision on boys is similar to the psychological impact for girls who have undergone genital mutilation. This procedure is damaging our boys while most people think it is a simple little snip. Wrong. We care about our little girls but fail in mustering enough compassion for boys to shelter them from such barbaric treatment and we give them no choice. Gynocentrism.
In healthcare we have seen our legislators create seven national commissions for women’s health but none for men. We have official government web sites for womenshealth.gov and girlshealth.gov but just look at what happens when you go to menshealth.gov or boyshealth.gov. Nothing. You find a 404 page not found error. It does not exist. Get the picture? focusWhen anyone starts looking critically at our world it becomes clear that gynocentrism is at its core. We constantly hear criticism of men not going to the doctor, etc, but look at the lack of concern for men’s health. Yes, we have seven commissions for women’s health, but none for men. The one bill to create a national men’s health commission has been languishing in congress for over 20 years, with too few sponsors and a general lack of interest. You see this same lack of interest in not even creating a web site for men or boys. Women in need get the help, and men just need to take care of themselves while simultaneously being blamed for their plight. And no one is even aware this is going on. Gynocentrism.
Warren Farrell put together a group of clinicians, academics, researchers, authors and other experts on men and boys who wrote a proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men. I was happy to be included as one of those who put the proposal together. President Obama had created a council for women and girls as soon as he got into office. Now he was being asked to do the same for boys and men. One of our group members, a man named Willie Isles was an executive with the Boy Scouts and had a meeting scheduled with the President. The plan was for Willie to have two Boy Scouts introduce the idea of the White House Council on Boys and Men to the President. Just before that meeting was to take place the discussion of a council for boys and men was struck from the agenda. It was forbidden to even be discussed. Gynocentrism anyone?
There is an anti-male bias in mental health research. One study on teen relationship violence found that boys and girls are suffering from this problem at similar rate. But once the research is translated into news articles it only focuses on the hardships the girls face. Worse yet, once the study is translated by legislators into an action plan to help the teen violence problem the only ones offered assistance are the girls while the boys are blamed. Yes, boys are abused but they simply don’t get compassion. Gynocentrism
In one study about childhood rape the researchers found that boys were more often the victims of actual childhood rapes than the girls. Then in writing up their research failed to specifically include this information about boys as victims of rape. Furthermore, when they went to the media they also failed to mention the fact that they have found that boys were raped more often than girls. Gynocentrism.
Title IX — Has been a great help to girls and athletics but has dismantled over 1000 men’s college teams. We focus on helping women but ignore the pain of men.
We have all heard of the racial sentencing bias where blacks tend to get stiffer sentences than whites for the same crime. But the research is telling us that there is a bias that is six times as large as the racial bias that sentences men to longer sentences than women. Yet, we hear nothing of this in the media and no one seems to care. Clearly the judges have less compassion for men and offer them far less choice.
I have seen a number of men in therapy who came to me when their wives wanted an abortion and they (the men) wanted to keep the child. The men were powerless to do anything. Can you see how these men had no choice in the matter? His wife said, “My body, my choice” and he said “My child, your choice, I have none.” He had no choice and if he had said something I feel sure he would have heard some variation of big boys don’t cry. Know what I mean? Can you see how no one really cares or offers them compassion for their plight? Compassion and Choice.
Look at men’s clubs and men’s spaces that have been traditional places for men to gather. Gone. They have been opened to women and not replaced with anything that would give men a safe place to simply gather with other men. Men gathering became the enemy with the accusation of secret deals that would keep women out of business dealings. At the same time all women’s clubs have soared. Women only gyms, women only parking places, women only subway cars, women only everything….but no comparable opportunities for men. There are even groups that keep track of all of the groups for women. One is The National Association of Commissions for Women which keeps track of the literally hundreds of commissions for women. That is gynocentrism 2.0 on steroids.
Instead of thinking of choice for men, the majority of our gynocentric culture are thinking instead the word “should.” Men should do this, men should do that and if they don’t, they are not really men. Most men are caught in this drama that researchers are calling “precarious manhood” where men are forced to prove their worth repeatedly in order to be called men. Women do not face a similar situation.
Professions are not immune to Gynocentrism. The profession of social work is a prime example. This group is focused on women and ignores the needs and the hardships of men. Their educational system offers classes on just about every possible client to work with including women, gays, handicapped, children but fails to teach their charges even the first thing about men and boys. This even though men and boys make up a good portion of the clientele they will be working with.
Our focus thus far has been on gynocentrism on the macro level. It is very easy to see the gynocentric imbalance in so many spheres. The point here is not that the services that have been created were not a good thing, or were undeserved. Many of the services offered have been very helpful to women and girls. The point here is that it has been a very one sided ride with nearly all the services going to women and girls, and the men and boys basically ignored. Men and boys have simply not gotten compassion and choice. Gynocentrism 2.0.
But let’s take a quick look at the impact of gynocentrism on a micro level. We have seen so far that the public has very little interest in men’s emotions. While that is surely true on a macro level it is also the case on the micro. What is the tired and hackneyed message that the some women offer her man? Oh, they say “You are not dealing with your feelings.” I hope you can see now that this sort of shaming is really an excuse to NOT deal with his emotions. Much has been written by gynocentric types about men’s not emoting in public, or men not emoting like women, while maintaining the underlying assumption that there must be something wrong with them. But almost nothing has been written about the brick wall men face when they do emote. When men have emotions people disappear. No one wants to hear it.
What I have seen repeatedly is that men have very different ways to process emotions. Ways that are invisible to most. They have likely developed these different ways due to the prevalence of gynocentrism and are happy with their paths to work with their own emotions and gladly take care of things on their own without fanfare and “help.” The saddest part of this is that most women simply do not see his different ways and assume he is “doing it wrong” since it isn’t like what she does.
Gynocentrism creates a cultural default both on a micro and macro level where women’s distress is a call to action and a man’s distress is seen at best as a distraction and at worst a taboo. This leaves men being offered considerably less compassion and fewer choices. In the past 50 years the original gynocentric defaults have morphed into gynocentrism 2.0 which has seen a huge increase in both the lop-sided services favoring women and the disdain and blame focused on men.
Very few people are conscious of this habitual default, they simply assume it is just the way the world works.
Becoming more and more aware of gynocentrism makes it easier to see why men are 80% of the completed suicides but are basically ignored. It makes sense now that men are nearly 50% of the victims of domestic violence but are routinely disregarded. It makes sense now why boys genital mutilation is the fourth most popular surgical procedure in the U.S. even though it is unnecessary and highly damaging. The world is geared to have compassion for women’s needs but not as much for the needs of men. We could go on and on about each of the many men’s issues and see how the lack of compassion and choice plays a part in their dilemma.
The unconscious nature of gynocentrism may be its most ruinous aspect. People are simply unaware of the great differences in the way men and women are treated. It is in some ways reminiscent of the racism I remember in the mid 20th century. People were simply unaware of their treatment of blacks. There were surely outright bigots at the time but the majority of people were basically asleep to the impact of their attitudes and behaviors and went along with the status quo that treated blacks and whites in significantly different ways. The general public was duped by a media that portrayed blacks as inferior and an educational system and even academic research that did the same. With gynocentrism 2.0 we are seeing something very similar but instead of the blacks it is now our men. Today’s gynocentrism is made up primarily of people who are basically unaware of the impact of their behaviors and are simply going along with the gynocentric status quo.
It’s time to wake up.
Knowing these things and taking the red pill* makes it important for us to start offering men and boys greater compassion and choice.
And let’s not forget. Men Are Good!
*Having taken the “Red Pill” is the popular phrase used to denote someone who can see the gynocentrism clearly.
This is an introductory video that summarizes the main points of the five part series on bias against men and boys in mental health research that follow.
This is the introduction to a five-part series of articles about the bias against men and boys in psychological research. There is a short youtube that goes over the very tip of the iceberg of the contents of these articles. I will paste that in at the end of this post.
Most of us are familiar with the male bashing we see on television. Men are portrayed as buffoons and helpless ne’er do wells who consistently need others (women and sometimes children) to problem solve and do the right thing. Most people are tired of this ridiculous bias yet it continues unabated. What most don’t realize is that a very similar male bashing exists in mental health research. The past 40 years has brought us a powerful respect and admiration of women and girls. This is a good thing. The problem is that we seem unable to hold both men and women in the highest esteem. As we hold our women up we seem to tear our men down. It’s as if we can only see women as “good” and men as considerably less than good. This binary vision of the sexes gets played out in the male bashing we see on television but it also gets played out in numerous other venues including mental health research.
This collection of articles will offer you an inside glimpse into the workings of several studies and show how the anti-male bias plays out in the research. We have all grown to trust “research” and when we hear that a study shows that “X is correct“ we tend to automatically believe that “X” is correct. Research has taken on an almost divine ethos that carries the seal of approval of correctness. If science says it, it must be so. The problem of course is that science, especially social science, is less than concrete and is much more slippery than measuring a distance or the tensile strength of a bar of steel. Mental health research is much more vulnerable to values and ideologies of the researchers. If a scientist believes a certain thing it usually has little impact on his measurements of the tensile strength of the bar of steel. No matter what he believes the measurement will likely be the same. But what about issues in social sciences where researchers come to the table with a large amount of preconceived ideas, allegiances to ideologies that espouse strong opinions about those being studied or have traumatic life histories that bias them against certain groups? Can those sorts of things influence the “findings” of a social science study? You bet they can. Gone is the impartial judge weighing the evidence and sifting through the data to find the truth. In today’s world of social science research the opposite is happening: researchers are starting at their pre- conceived biases and then designing research to prove that bias. As bizarre as that sounds it is demonstrably true in some social science research. You will see some of that within this paper.
We start off with a short summary of a very important paper by Murray Straus titled “Processes explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence.” Straus leads us through seven ways that feminist researchers hid or distorted the data of their studies in order to insure their results would reflect the pre-conceived ideology of females being the victims of domestic violence and men being the perpetrators. Straus’s explanations make very clear how an ideological bias can impact the results of social science research. He describes in detail exactly how they accomplished this. One technique he describes is simply ignoring your own data that contradicts your ideology. Another is to simply not ask questions that might risk obtaining answers that would contradict your thesis. After reading this piece you will have a better understanding of the ways this subterfuge has been accomplished.
The next section describes a 2009 study from Great Britain on teen violence. You will see how the researchers follow Straus’s descriptions by ignoring their own data. The original survey showed that boys were about 40% of the victims of violence but by the time the research was done and the recommendations made the ad campaign that followed was designed to help only girls and to teach the boys how to better treat the girls.
The following section features a study on “reproductive coercion.” It will show how the omission of the details about the sample of those surveyed had huge repercussions down stream. In a nutshell the study was done on impoverished African American and Hispanic females. This fact was not reported in the research article, nor reported in the press release, and never showed up in any of the national media articles that followed. It is well known that interpersonal violence is about three times as likely in an impoverished population. By omitting that little bit of data, that the sample was largely impoverished women of color, the ramifications of their study changed drastically from one that applied only to a poor population of women of color to a study that applied to the population at large. This shift resulted in millions of people reading about the study in the national media and being led to believe a message that simply wasn’t justified by the study itself.
The last section looks at the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI). This inventory claims to measure men’s degree of conforming to what it calls “masculine norms.” There are multiple problems with this inventory but the most obvious is its choice of very negative descriptions for what masculine norms are in this culture. The norms include such descriptors as “Violence” ”Disdain for homosexuality” ”power over women” and ”playboy.” Simply by choosing these words to describe men in this country is misandry. This is male bashing. There’s more.
It’s important to see the ways these studies try to influence the public and promote their own ideological biases. Each of these studies was done by researchers who appeared to have strong ideas about men and women and their research conveniently harmonized with their pre-conceived notions. With “science” holding so much power and ability to sway opinions it is critical that we watch carefully how the social sciences use their studies to proliferate their own ideological viewpoints.
The spreading of misinformation has a very negative effect on the population at large but there is no place in more danger of this than in the halls of congress. Our legislators are easily influenced by studies such as those described herein and the likelihood of laws being written based on one sided viewpoints becomes alarmingly high. To make matters even worse our legislators are largely unaware of their own unconscious chivalry and combine that with hysterical research that claims damsels in distress need funding and what you see is billions of taxpayers dollars being spent in a very questionable manner. Combine these studies with the media, and then the blogs and you get a system that is fed by erroneous data that accepts it as fact and acts on it. One needs to only notice the fact that great majority of people in the US are convinced that women are the sole victims of domestic violence to understand the power of the media and particularly the media in combination with “studies” that are used more for propaganda than for gaining an understanding of the truth.
There are millions of compassionate and loving people in the United States who have been given erroneous information about domestic violence. Over the years the media and academia have offered a steady stream of information that indicates that women are the only victims of domestic violence and men the only perpetrators. We have all been deceived. What most don’t know is that a part of that deception has been intentional and has come from the scientific community. As hard as it is to believe it is indisputable. Most of us had no idea of this deception until recently. More and more is now coming out about the symmetry of victimization in domestic violence between men and women.
One of the breakthroughs that have helped us identify this deception was the journal response of Murray Straus Ph.D. Straus has been an acclaimed researcher of family and interpersonal violence for many years. In his article he unveils the ways that this misinformation has been intentionally spread via “research.” He shows the seven ways that the truth has been distorted. It is a fascinating yet sobering article that shows how, without actually lying, the researchers were able to distort things and make it appear that it was something that is was not. We all know that once a research study is published the media will latch on and print the results as gospel truth so the media became the megaphone to spread the misinformation once it was inked in the scientific journal. I would highly recommend your reading the full report by Straus which can be found here:
Let’s go through the seven ways one by one.
1. Suppress evidence.
The first type of deceit that Straus describes is suppressing evidence. The researchers would ask questions about both men and women but only report on the answers from women. The half-story would leave readers with the impression that it was only women who were victims even though the researcher had the surveys of male victims on hand they simply didn’t report it. The data on male victims was simply buried while the data on female victims was reported. Straus discusses the Status on Women report from Kentucky in the late 1970’s that was the first to use this strategy. They collected data on both male and female victims but only the female victims were discussed in the publications. Scientific method is dependent upon creating a hypothesis and testing it. If you get data from your test that is contrary to your original hypothesis this is just as important as getting data that affirms the hypothesis and can be used to adjust your original hypothesis. To ignore ones own data that contradicts the hypothesis is the epitome of disregard to the foundations of scientific inquiry. It leaves the realms of research and enters the realms of propaganda and shaping the outcome to mislead.
2. Avoid Obtaining Data Inconsistent With the Patriarchal Dominance Theory.
The second method described by Straus was that of simply not asking the questions when you didn’t want to hear the answers. The surveys would ask the women about their victimhood and ask men about their perpetration but failed to inquire about women’s violence or men’s victimhood. If you ask questions that address only half the problem you are certain to conclude with only half the answers. Straus highlights a talk he gave in Canada where he evaluated 12 studies on domestic violence. Ten out of the twelve only asked questions about female victims and male perpetrators. If you don’t ask the questions you will never get the answers. Publishing half the truth is intentionally misleading.
3. Cite Only Studies That Show Male Perpetration
Straus reveals a number of situations where studies or official documents would cite only other studies that showed female victims and male perpetrators. He uses the Department of Justice press release as just one example where they only cite the “lifetime prevalence” data because it showed primarily male perpetration. They omitted referencing the “past-year” data even though it was more accurate since it showed females perpetrated 40% of the partner assaults. Straus shows journal articles and names organizations such as the United Nations, World Health Organization, the US Department of Justice and others who used this tactic to make it appear that women were the primary victims of domestic violence and men the primary perpetrators.
4. Conclude That Results Support Feminist Beliefs When They Do Not
Straus showed an example of a study by Kernsmith (2005) where the author claimed that women’s violence was more likely to be in self defense but data to support the claim didn’t exist. Apparently he had made the claim even without any supporting evidence. Straus shows that the self defense category was primarily about anger and
coercion and not about self-defense at all but this didn’t stop the researcher from claiming the erroneous results which of course could be quoted by later studies as proof that such data does indeed exist.
5. Create “Evidence” By Citation
The “woozle” effect is described by Straus as when “frequent citation of previous publications that lack evidence mislead us into thinking there is evidence.” He lists the Kernsmaith study and a report from the World Health Organization as examples. Both made claims (without evidence to back it up) that women’s violence was largely in self-defense. The claims were quoted repeatedly and people eventually started to believe that the claims were correct.
6. Obstruct Publication of Articles and Obstruct Funding Research that Might Contradict the Idea that Male Dominance is the Cause of Personal Violence
Straus mentions two incidents that illustrate this claim. One was a call for papers on the topic of partner violence in December of 2005 from the National Institute of Justice where it was stated that “proposals to investigate male victimization would not be eligible.” Another was an objection raised by a reviewer of one of his proposals due to its having said that “violence in relationships was a human problem.” He also stated that the “more frequent pattern is self-censorship by authors fearing that it will happen or that publication of such a study will undermine their reputation, and, in the case of graduate students, the ability to obtain a job.”
7. Harrass, Threaten, and Penalize Researchers who Produce Evidence That Contradicts Feminist Beliefs
Straus provides details of a number of incidents where researchers who found evidence of gender symmetry in domestic violence were harassed or threatened. He described a number of instances such as bomb scares at personal events, being denied tenure and promotions, or “shouts and stomping” meant to drown out an oral presentation. He relates being called a “wife-beater” as a means to denigrate both himself and his previous research findings.
Straus concludes that a “climate of fear has inhibited research and publication on gender symmetry in personal violence.” His words help us to understand the reasons that our public is so convinced that women are the sole victims of domestic violence and men the only perpetrators. It has been years and years of researchers telling only half the story and when we get only half the story and consider it the whole truth we are likely to defend our limited version of the truth and ostracize those who may offer differing explanations. The matter is further complicated due to the media having acted as a megaphone for the half story that has emerged so the “common knowledge” that has emerged from the media for many years has been half the story and due to its not telling both sides of the story, it is basically misinformation.What this tells us is that we need to stay on our toes when it comes to social science research. Straus’s paper has helped us immensely in seeing how research can be set up to appear to tell the truth but fail miserably in doing so. While the researchers are not technically lying, the end product is similar since it produces only a partial image of the reality of domestic violence and leaves people without the details to fill in the reality of the situation. It is likely a good idea to have a look at the way each study gets its data, the exact nature of the people being used as subjects, and the conclusion drawn and if they are congruous with the data that was gathered. Next we will look at a study that uses Straus’s first example, ignoring ones own data.
The first project we will examine is a study on teen relationship violence from Great Britain. The study consisted of both a written survey and subjective interviews of selected teens. The survey portion of the study was fairly conclusive in finding that teen relationship violence was experienced by both boys and girls. An “ad campaign” was created as a result of this work. Surprisingly, the ad campaign is designed to help only girls who were victims of teen relationship violence while focusing on boys only as perpetrators. This stunning neglect of male victims and female perpetrators is in stark contrast to the numbers of the research survey of this study which showed males to be victims of teen relationship violence and girls to be perpetrators. Let’s start at the beginning of the story when this issue first caught my attention.
A friend emailed me a link a couple of months ago to an article from Great Britain about teen violence. The friend was worried that the article was biased against boys. Here’s how it started:
- Teenage boys were urged not to violently abuse their girlfriends in a new Government campaign launched today.
- TV, radio, internet and poster ads will target young males aged 13 to 18 in an attempt to show the consequences of abusive relationships. It is part of a wider effort by ministers to cut domestic violence against both women and younger girls.
- Research published last year by the NSPCC found a quarter of teenage girls said they had been physically abused by their boyfriends.
- One in six said they had been pressured into sex and one in three said they had gone further sexually than they had wanted to.
I was a bit taken back by the article considering the recent research on teen violence which has been finding that relationship violence in teens is fairly symmetrical with both boys and girls being perpetrators and victims. This article was offering a very different perspective from the studies I had been seeing. It was clearly assuming that the girls were the primary victims and the boys the primary perpetrators which reflects an archaic and outdated stereotype about domestic violence. It made me wonder exactly what was happening. I read several more articles online about the ad campaign mentioned in the first article and was shocked to see that the focus of the campaign was indeed solely to help girls and to “teach” boys about not abusing their girlfriends.
In each of the articles there was a reference to the research findings that drove the ad campaign. I decided to go back to the source and see what the original research had found.
The original study was sponsored by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) of Great Britain and was in two parts. The first part was the “full report” and was a detailed 209 page research report explaining methodology, results, implications and conclusions. The next was the Executive Summary which was a 10 page summation of the findings of the full report. It was a quick read meant to give people the essence of the larger document. I read through the “full report” and then the executive summary. It was striking to me that the data in the full report actually showed that boys were victims of teen violence. The original news article I had read had mentioned that the research had found that 25% of girls said they had been physically abused by their boyfriends. What the news article omitted saying was that the same research had also found that 18% of boys had said that they had been physically abused by their girlfriends. This meant that this research found that almost half of the victims of teen relationship violence were boys! Somehow this important fact had been omitted from the news report.
There were plenty of other headlines that could have been drawn from the data of the full report that showed the boys to have been victims and the girls perpetrators but they were nowhere to be seen in any of the news articles. Here are a couple of examples of headlines that could be written from the data of the full report:
- 25% of those reporting physically forcing their partners into having sexual intercourse were girls – Table 15 page 82 full report
- Nearly three times as many girls reported using SEVERE violence in relationships. table 11 – page 75 full report
- Over three times as many girls reported using partner violence in their relationships table 10 page 74 full report
- Over 1/3 of those reporting being pressured into kissing, touching or something else were boys. table 6 page 66 full report–
- Nearly half (42%) of the victims of teen relationship violence were boys Table 3 page 44 full report
- Nearly one third of the victims of severe violence were boys Table 4 page 45 full report
- Twice as many girls reported physically forcing their partners into “kissing, touching, or something else” more than a few times. Table 13 page 82 full report
This is just a sampling of the sorts of findings in the full report. It is obvious that their survey clearly indicated that teen relationship violence was not gender based and both the victims and the perpetrators were both boys and girls. However, what I found after reading both the full report and the executive summary was that the full report had data that showed boys to be victims and girls to be perpetrators but the executive summary seemed to have considerably less information about male victims and female perpetrators. In fact the executive summary seemed to focus more on female victims and male perpetrators.
I found myself wondering how this transition could take place. Boys were shown to be victims in the original study, often not in as great a number as the girls but victims all the same. Generally the boys comprised about 25-42% of the victims. Certainly not the majority but also not a small number that could be ignored. But ignore them they did!
The NSPCC introduced this research to the media via a press release. We can see the same tendency of moving away from focusing on boys when looking at the words in the press release. What started in the full report as an apparently egalitarian look into teen relationship violence progressively looked less so in the Executive Summary and now with the press release it looks to have moved one more step towards focusing solely on girls. Here’s the opening of the press release. Note the focus on “girls only” in both the headline and the first paragraphs:
Teen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC
01 September 2009
A third of teenage girls in a relationship suffer unwanted sexual acts and a quarter physical violence, reveals new research(1) launched today (01 September 2009) by the NSPCC(2) and the University of Bristol(3).
The survey of 13 to 17-year-olds found that nearly nine out of ten girls had been in an intimate relationship. Of these, one in six said they had been pressured into sexual intercourse and 1 in 16 said they had been raped. Others had been pressured or forced to kiss or sexually touch.
A quarter of girls had suffered physical violence such as being slapped, punched, or beaten by their boyfriends.
Girls are highlighted repeatedly in the press release. If one only read the press release you might assume that the boys were incidental and that the girls were clearly the identified victims of teen relationship violence. The boys actually did get mentioned in one paragraph (one out of 18 paragraphs, eleven of which were about girls). Here it is:
Nearly nine out of ten boys also said they had been in a relationship. A smaller number reported pressure or violence from girls. (Only one in seventeen boys in a relationship reported being pressured or forced into sexual activity and almost one in five suffered physical violence in a relationship).
Note how the boys victimization is minimized with words like “a smaller number” and “only one in seventeen.” Keep in mind that the “smaller number” referred to in the second sentence was 18% versus 25% which had been the figure for girls. While 18 is smaller than 25, it is not that much smaller. Another important difference is that the girls 25% stat was mentioned in the opening sentence of the document (and indirectly in the headline) while the boys 18% stat was mentioned as an afterthought in parentheses. Yes, the boys percentage was smaller but it seems very obvious that this press release is trying to marginalize the victimization of boys.
Note that the press release mentions that one in 17 girls had been raped. This works out to about 5.8% of the females surveyed. What they don’t mention is that the same table in the full report that showed that 5.8% of girls were raped also showed that 3.3% of the boys were also raped. This stat never made it beyond the full report. The press release mentions the rape of girls but is completely silent on the shocking statistic that 3.3% of the boys were raped. The fact is that their data from the full report shows boys comprised over one third of the rape victims. Not a word about this.
It now seems easy to understand how the media articles focused so exclusively on girls and ignored the needs of boys. They likely only read the press release and maybe a part of the executive summary. The press release might very well have been the only document they read about the study and it clearly focused almost exclusively on girls while ignoring the needs of boys. How bad did it get in focusing on just girls? Here is a sampling of typical headlines from actual news articles on this research and ad campaign:
Many Girls’ Abused by Boyfriends http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8230844.stm
Third of teenage girls forced into sex, NSPCC survey finds http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/sep/01/teenage-sexual-abuse-nspcc-report
1 in 3 Teenage Girls Tell of Sexual Abuse by Their Boyfriends http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1210375/One-teenage-girls-physically-abused-boyfriend.html
Teen Girls Abused by Boyfriends Warns NSPCC http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2009/6524.html
Almost every headline I found focused on girls as victims. I never found one headline that focused on boys. The articles would occasionally mention that boys were vulnerable but the main thrust was surely the girls vulnerability and victimhood.
The ad campaign is the real world response to the findings of this research using TV, radio, internet and poster ads in attempts to change behaviours of teen relationship violence. It is where the theoretical ends and the actual support and tax dollars begin. Inexplicably, the focus of the ad campaign is entirely on girls as victims of relationship violence while boys are seen as the problem and are taught to not abuse their girlfriends. Somehow the original research had shown that both boys and girls were victims of relationship violence and by the time we made our way to the media articles and then to the ad campaign we find that the original data is all but forgotten.
How did this happen?
The Full Report and then boys disappear
The full report offers an abundance of data that shows that boys are victims of teen partner violence but somehow the recommendations of both the full report and the executive summary seem to focus primarily on girls. Here’s a quick summary extrapolated from the full report:
According to their survey:
72% girls reported experiencing emotional violence
51% of boys reported emotional violence
BOYS WERE 41% of the victims of emotional violence in teen relationships
25% of girls experienced physical partner violence
18% of the boys experienced physical partner violence
BOYS WERE 42% of the victims of physical partner violence in teen relationships
31% of girls experienced sexual partner violence
16% of boys experienced sexual partner violence
BOYS WERE 34% of the victims of sexual partner violence in teen relationships.
So the boys ranged between 34-42% of the victims as recorded in the survey, The full report states this loud and clear in the data but then with the recommendations of both the full report and the executive summary and then the press release the boys seems to simply disappear. Why could that be? The researchers fail to explain fully the reasons for this but if you read between the lines you can find that they offer two reasons. The first is that the survey responses indicate that girls are more “impacted” by relationship violence than the boys. There is a question on the survey that asks about emotional reactions to the violence and the girls were much more likely to check the boxes that indicated they were scared/upset/humiliated. The boys were more likely to check boxes that said they were angry/annoyed or the box that said there was no effect on them. The researchers seem to have taken this difference and decided that since the girls were more “impacted” from the experience of violence that they should be the ones to get the attention and services. There are a number of places in the full report where this is implied. Here is one:
This research has demonstrated that a fundamental divide exists in relation to how girls and boys are affected by partner violence, and this divide needs to be a central component in the development of professional responses to this issue.
Just what does “professional responses to this issue” mean? They don’t say but we can only assume that they are suggesting that girls receive more attention and services due to their being more impacted by the violence. Considering the recommendations focus on girls and ignore the needs of boys I think the above assumption is a good one. I would be happy to be corrected on this assumption if I am incorrect.
The researchers seem willing to basically ignore their own substantial evidence that boys are victims of violence simply because the girls have a greater emotional reaction. Here’s another quote:
These findings are further elaborated on in the interview data where girls consistently described the harmful impact that the violence had on their welfare, often long term, while boy victims routinely stated they were unaffected or, at the very worst, annoyed. These results provide the wider context in which teenage partner violence needs to be viewed.
Let’s keep in mind that the above quoted interview data, which we will examine later, included only 62 hand-selected girls and 29 similarly selected boys. Importantly, only one of the 29 boys was a victim of non-reciprocal violence so making generalizations based on the interview data is likely unreliable especially considering the survey data was collected from over 1300 teens. Note also that by saying “the wider context in which teenage partner violence needs to be viewed” we can only assume the researchers are again suggesting that girls be given preference in services and aid. What we do know is that the data on violence against boys is ignored in the recommendation sections and also in the ad campaign. The following quote gives us a bit more clarity regarding the views of the researchers:
Intervention programmes need to reflect this fundamental difference by ensuring that the significant impact of violence on girls’ wellbeing is recognised and responded to, while enabling boys to recognise the implications of partner violence for their partners and themselves.
This statement clearly shows that the researchers believe that the girls should be treated differently and intervention programs need to “reflect” the difference that girls are more impacted by the violence.
But are girls more impacted? I am not so sure. Let’s start by looking at the actual question on the survey:
3 How did it make you feel when force was used against you? scared/frightened angry/annoyed humiliated upset/unhappy loved/protected thought it was funny no effect
“If you don’t see it, it must not exist.”
The researchers stated that the answers to this question showed a big difference in boys and girls responses about the impact that the violence had on them. They don’t give the raw data about the responses and don’t offer the numbers each sex chose for each answer but they give us the summary saying that girls were much more “impacted.” There are very good reasons for that. This question is a set up since boys and girls will naturally answer it very differently. The creators of this question seem to fail to understand the hierarchical nature of boys and their strong natural reluctance to show any lack of independence. If the boys had checked “scared/frightened”, “humiliated” or “upset/unhappy” they would be admitting that they were less than independent. This is usually avoided while a choice such as “no effect” or “angry/annoyed” would be much more likely in order to maintain their image. As Warren Farrell would say “The weakness of men is the facade of strength: the strength of women is the facade of weakness.”
The men and boys are much more likely to choose a response that will portray them as strong. If this is correct it is easy to understand how boys’ responses might not accurately convey their degree of hurt or upset. It is very possible that the boys who checked the “no effect” box were just as impacted by the violence as their female counterparts. With these sorts of questions it leaves us simply not knowing. To suggest the direction of future services based on the responses to this question would be very risky and likely give very poor results.
I wonder if the researchers would think that a rape victim who claimed there there was no impact on her would not need support services? Would clinicians simply ignore her? No, I would bet they wouldn’t. If a group of domestic violence victims claimed that the violence had no impact on them would they quickly assume that group did not need support services? No. Then why would they dismiss the trauma of boys simply because they have marked a survey question differently and reported to be less upset? They would realize that people have very unique responses to trauma and that not having an immediate or verbal emotional reaction to a trauma does not in any way indicate that that person should be ignored. That is simply ridiculous.
Having worked with trauma victims for many years I know very well that some people will sometimes not even begin to feel the negative impact of a trauma for months and others for years. Restricting services for victims of trauma due to their response seeming to show less emotional impact is one of the zaniest ideas I have heard for some time. Denying services to a birth group for this reason seems to simply be bigoted.
Are the researchers biased against boys?
There are numerous indications, in addition to what has already been described, that the researchers have an anti-boy bias. There are the obvious dismissals of the survey data that shows boys to be victims of partner violence and the complete focus on girls as victims. But there are a number of more subtle clues in the study that seem to indicate a disdain for boys.
When they did mention boys as victims the report tended to minimize their experience. Here is a quote:
Boys’ experiences of violence
Little evidence existed to support the possibility that boys, although they were negatively affected by their partner’s violence, felt unable either to voice or to recognise their vulnerability. Boys minimised their own use of violence as “messing around”. Boys also reported the violence as mutual, although they often used disproportionate force compared to their female partners.
Rather than comment on the experience of the boys to violence the researchers focus on whether they could “give voice” to the negative affects of their partners violence. This seems to be a weak attempt to show that boys could indeed voice their concerns about being victims of violence and since they were able to voice that response they must not be “held back” by traditional masculinity from being able to express their vulnerability. The unspoken assumption seems to be that since they can voice the pain they are not holding back due to traditional masculinity and simply aren’t impacted by the violence. It just doesn’t matter while for the girls it really does matter. These seem to be distractions from the reality that the boys have been victimized. Reading the above paragraph will give the reader a sense of how the boys were treated differently in this study. Their pain was minimized and rationalized by claiming the were really not so impacted. The thrust is to say that boys do experience violence from their female partners but they aren’t so negatively impacted! They are able to voice or recognize their vulnerability. It is well known that men and boys will try to minimize any sort of hurt or injury and try to maintain an independent stance. This by no means indicates they are not impacted, it just means that will try to not let you know it. It is for this very reason that we need to take a different approach with boys who may be victimized but this study seems to prefer to simply ignore the pain of boys and focus just on the girls.
The quote above states that “Boys minimised their own use of violence as “messing around.” The full report affirms that boys label their own violence as “messing around” 56% of the time. This is given later in the recommendations section as a reason that boys should be taught about being aware of their violence. (see below) But what about the girls? When you see that boys are singled out for this perception of “messing around” you would think that the girls would not explain their own violence in that manner. Not in the Alice in Wonderland environment of this study. Actually by the researchers own numbers the girls labelled their own violence as “messing around” 43% of the time. Just 13% points below the boys. You would think that both boys and girls would need to learn about their own violence but somehow the only ones that need to learn are the boys! That is an anti-boy bias.
Here is the quote:
“However, although intervention programmes should ensure that the needs of both girls and boys are recognised, it is important that the wider experiences of girls remain a focus. In addition, boys’ minimisation of their own use of violence – by dismissing it as “messing around” and justifications based on mutual aggression – needs to be challenged.”
Why would the boys need to be challenged about this and the girls not? The boys said their violence was “messing around” 56% of the time and the girls said their violence was a slightly lower “messing around” 43% of the time. Clearly a strong bias in favor of girls and anti-boys.
The researchers went a step farther than just recommending that girls victimisation should be the focus. The researchers made the claim that boys lower scores on the impact question actually made them more dangerous to their female partners. Here is a quote:
If boys view the impact of their victimisation as negligible, they may also apply this understanding to their own actions. Thus, they may believe that their partners are also unaffected by their use of violence.
The implication here is that the boys ignorance/insensitivity of the impact of violence against them shows that they would be less than sensitive to their own violence used against a partner. I don’t believe that for a second considering almost every boy has had it drilled into their brains that they are never to hit a girl. Let’s use the same sort of reasoning but apply it instead to girls. According to the survey the girls suffer a much greater emotional impact from being victims of violence. Yet by the girls report, they use violence three times MORE in relationships than boys even though they know it’s negative impact and is hurtful. This would lead us to believe that girls are aware of the power to hurt others with violence and choose to do so far more often than boys. This doesn’t put the girls in a particularly good light now does it?
Thus, from these findings it seems conclusive that partner sexual violence
represents a problem for girls, while boys report being unaffected.
That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
Boys are more violent! When the subjective trumps the objective
The survey was supposed to be the main source of data but in some ways the researchers seem to put much more stock in the subjective information they had obtained via the interviews. While the survey in the full report showed clearly that the girls were three times more likely to report using violence in relationship suddenly the researchers are exclaiming that there was a clear consensus from the girls that boys used physical violence in relationship more often than girls. Here’s the quote:
“There was a clear consensus within girls’ accounts that boys used physical violence in relationships more often than girls. This common understanding regarding the gendered nature of physical violence was reported by almost all girls, whether they themselves had experienced violence or not.”
This is from page 94 of the full report and shows the researchers evaluations of the girls interviews. The most glaring part of this is that the survey portion of the study showed clearly that girls were 3-6 times more likely to report being violent in relationships and yet the subjective data drawn from the interviews claims that there was a “common understanding regarding the gendered nature of physical violence” for “almost all girls” that “boys used physical violence in relationships more often than girls.” This is a huge discrepancy when one half of the study shows girls to report being much more inclined to be violent than the boys and the other half claiming that “boys used physical violence in relationship more often than girls.” This demands an explanation but there was little to be found. The closest the researchers come is to use the hackneyed claim that girls high rates of violence in relationships is due to their using violence as self defense. But if you look at the numbers this claim falls flat on its face. The facts are that 25% of the girls reported being violent in relationship compared to 8% of the boys. When you subtract the percentages of violence claimed to be in self defense from both boys (30%) and girls (44%) you find that 14% of girls were violent in relationship and 5.6% of the boys for reasons other than self defense. That’s nearly three times more girls than boys. (-30% of 8%= 5.6% and -44% of 25%= 14%) Not making this an important point in this research is very suspect. This difference is huge. Girls reported almost three times as often that they perpetrated violence in their relationships and yet there is a claim that almost all girls believed boys used “physical violence in relationship more often” and this leads us to the idea that girls are in need of services and boys in need of changing their behaviors? Baffling. Clearly misandry.
One partial explanation of this is shown in the following quote:
Only 6 per cent of boys, compared to a third of girls, claimed that they were negatively affected by the emotional violence they experienced. This gendered impact disparity upholds Stark’s (2007) contention that coercive control, which many of our components of emotional violence reflect, is made meaningful only when placed within a gendered power understanding of intimate violence. Thus, although girls had used emotional violence, without it being underpinned by other forms of inequality and power, their attempts were rendered largely ineffectual.
Incredibly, this section seems to be giving girls a pass for their emotional violence. The pattern continues: When girls are perpetrators they are given excuses, when boys are victims they are ignored and minimized.
When you look closely at the section about girls reporting more frequent perpetration of violence in relationship you notice something very odd. Look at the following paragraph and note the researchers choice of words. Note that girls “report” and boys “admit” (emphasis mine):
Page 74 More girls reported using physical violence against their partner than did boys; this represented a significant difference (x2 (1) = 60.804, p<.001). A quarter (n=148) of girls compared to 8 per cent (n=44) of boys stated that they had used some form of physical violence against their partner. Looking first at less severe physical violence (see table 10), the vast majority of girls (89 per cent) reporting the use of physical violence had used it once or a few times. Only a few (11 per cent) used it more frequently. Similarly, the small proportion of boys who admitted using physical violence also generally used it infrequently (83 per cent).
Perhaps the words “report” and “admit” have different meanings in Great Britain but here in the US they aren’t usually the same. Report generally means to make a statement or announcement. The word admit however has a different spin. Often it has more to do with conceding or confessing. One assumption from the wording the researchers have chosen would be to think that they simply didn’t believe what the boys reported. In other words they would only concede or admit to a certain amount of violence. Basically, implying that they are not telling the entire story. This is of course conjecture on my part but it simply seems like more anti-boy bias.
The Interview Section
As was previously explained the research had both a quantitative section and qualitative section. The qualitative section consisted of semi-structured interviews which included the utilization of five vignettes. The vignettes were stories that were told to the participant and then the stories relevance was discussed as a part of the interview. The stated goals of the researchers was to use the quantitative survey to gain data and use the interviews to enhance their understanding.
The researchers claimed that they had problems in getting participants for the interviews in the manner they had originally planned so they switched mid-stream to a different approach described below:
“We therefore moved to a system whereby researchers observed which young people seemed to be engaging with the survey. They then asked those young people if they would like to take part in the interview stage.”
So they hand picked the interview participants based on their own subjective impression of whether the young person was “engaging with the survey.” This sounds to me to be a direct invitation to a very biased sample. Then you find out that the choices they made of those who were “engaging in the survey” were 62 girls but only 29 boys. You also find that of the 29 boys only one had experienced being a victim of non reciprocal violence in relationship! Makes you wonder about their ideas of “engaging in the survey.” Needless to say the boys section describing the interviews was only 22 pages long while the section about the girls was over 60 pages. Even with such a short section for the boys most of the writing was about boys violence not their reaction to being victims of violence. Girls victimization was highlighted as was boys violence. Even in the section on boys as victims.
When I first started looking at the issue of this survey I emailed the folks at NSPCC and asked for a copy of the original questionnaire and copies of the vignettes. They were kind enough to email me both. I had suspected that the vignettes would be slanted towards the girls and so I was not surprised to see that the stories were mostly about boys possessiveness, shouting, name calling, violence, and sexual pressuring. Only one story of the five portrayed the female as the perpetrator and in that story the perpetrated act was very mild. The girl (and her cronies) stole the boys cell phone, made unkind comments the next day and then apologized. In the other vignettes we see boys being violent or pushing girls into sexual behaviors that they don’t want. In one we see the girls using violence, but in self defense. To the researchers credit the first three vignettes have questions following the story which ask if this sort of behavior might also exist in the opposite sex. Inexplicably they omit that important question on the final two vignettes which focus on sexual demands. This is highly suspect and leads one to guess that their ideological bias may have disallowed them to see boys as sexual victims and/or the girls as perpetrators. Interestingly their data from the full report shows that girls freely admit to sexually pressuring their male boyfriends so this again leaves us wondering why they would avoid the question in the interview section.
Would the researchers tolerate a set of vignettes that showed 80% of the perpetrators to be female and the only male perpetrator was portrayed as having stolen a cell phone and then apologized? I would bet we would hear loud rants about inclusiveness and marginalization and they would be correct! It seems to me that these vignettes seriously marginalized the boys in this survey and likely left them feeling misunderstood and left out since their situations were simply not portrayed, acknowledged or included.
I was thinking that an alternative to these five stories could have easily been to keep the five stories as is but for the girls tell the story with female victims and male perpetrators and for the boys use the same stories but do the opposite and tell it from the boys perspective. It would take a little bit of editing but I think it would have been much more effective and would have left both boys and girls with a sense that their side of the story was heard and understood to exist. Victims are much more likely to come forward when they see that their plight is acknowledged. Maybe a possibility would have been to use neutral names for all parties in the stories and therefore not even know the sex of the offender or victim! Another option might have been to have six stories with three being male perpetrators and three being female perpetrators. One story each for the three categories of violence. I think any of the above would have been an improvement over what they used.
The fact that girls were portrayed in four of five vignettes more as victims and boys more as perpetrators and that any suggestion about girls perpetration of sexual pressuring was absent seems to be more evidence that the project has been impacted by an ideology that prefers to see women/girls as victims and men/boys as perpetrators. If we allow this sort of bias to continue in our midst we are failing both our boys and our girls. If we allow it to continue in social science research literature then we are surely in trouble.
Here’s a brief look at the recommendations section of the executive summary. There is only one paragraph in the recommendation section that mentions boys. Here it is:
Impact of teenage partner violence – the gender divide
The impact of partner violence is indisputably differentiated by gender; girl victims report much higher levels of negative impact than do boys. This is not to imply that boys’ experiences of victimisation should be ignored. It may be that boys minimise the impact of the violence due to the need to portray a certain form of masculinity. However, although intervention programmes should ensure that the needs of both girls and boys are recognised, it is important that the wider experiences of girls remain a focus. In addition, boys’ minimisation of their own use of violence – by dismissing it as “messing around” and justifications based on mutual aggression – needs to be challenged.
This paragraph is baffling. Let’s break it down. Here is the first section:
The impact of partner violence is indisputably differentiated by gender; girl victims report much higher levels of negative impact than do boys. This is not to imply that boys’ experiences of victimisation should be ignored.
It first makes a claim that partner violence is differentiated by gender and that girls are experience more negative impact, implying that boys should be ignored. Then they deny that they mean to ignore boys.
It may be that boys minimise the impact of the violence due to the need to portray a certain form of masculinity.
They offer a possibility for an explanation.
However, although intervention programmes should ensure that the needs of both girls and boys are recognised, it is important that the wider experiences of girls remain a focus
Then they ignore their own explanation and aver that the “wider experiences of girls” (whatever that means) should take precedence.
In addition, boys’ minimisation of their own use of violence – by dismissing it as “messing around” and justifications based on mutual aggression – needs to be challenged.
Then they finalize things by saying that the emphasis on boys should be their violence and especially their minimization of their own violence as has been previously discussed.
I find this paragraph to be very vague and unclear. I am guessing this is intentional since what they really want to say is likely girls are worthy victims and boys are not is hard for them to put into words since it would clearly leave them looking bigoted. Being vague and obfuscating is a much safer strategy and it still gets the job done! One thing is clear after reading it: The reader is sure that for whatever reasons, girls need to get the lions share of services and help and boys need to shape up!
Is the ideology of the researchers driving their focus on girls?
If you look at this from purely a marketing standpoint these researchers have accomplished a remarkable feat. They have been able to create a document that has been labelled a “study” which has found objective data and then made conclusions and recommendations that ignore their own data. They took it a step farther and got the conclusions and recommendations printed in a vast number of media articles which established to millions of viewers, listeners and readers that their “half-stories” were actually facts. Truly amazing when you think about it.
One can only assume that the researchers are aging feminists who are addicted to the outdated and disproven idea that domestic violence is simply dominated by males who batter and women who are victims. We have seen from the Straus article how grossly inaccurate that ideology has been and the extent to which its adherents would go to propagate such mis-information.
I have always thought that science was designed to gather data and then use that data to adjust your theory and ideology based on the new discoveries and information. It seems to me in this case that rather than science being used to shift ones ideology it is the ideology that is governing science and determining which data should come forward and which not. This is very dangerous ground for humanitarians and those who want the best for all victims.
In the case of this study it seems likely that the researchers had a pre-conceived idea that girls were victims and boys the perpetrators. When their own data didn’t affirm such stereotypical assumptions they strained to find a way to convert their data into a message that was harmonious with their pre-conceived ideas about violence (girls are worthy victims and boys are perpetrators). This was done by making the repeated claims that girls are more impacted by the violence and because of this the girls needed to be the focus of attention and services. This claim is hollow and anemic. Most any thinking person can look at that idea and see that because one group gets more upset by a problem that in itself should not negate some victims from getting services and attention.
There were so many parts of this study that seemed misandrist to me that I literally could have written another twenty or thirty pages. I will spare the reader such a burden and leave it to others to have a detailed look and make their own comments. Leave it to say that this study is a shining example of the evils of letting an ideology steer research and the resulting public services and the manner in which the general public is brainwashed by hearing only half the story.
I think that this study also shows the dangers involved in allowing ideological zealots a platform to intentionally mold public opinion to their own version of what is real. We need to use caution when accepting studies as being “scientific” and have a much finer net to discover which studies may be biased due to the ideological underpinnings of its authors. Frankly, any high school science student should be able to read this study and and explain clearly how it is lacking. Our media and our governments are sorely failing to do just that.