Category Archives: Men’s Issues

Old Hate, New Victim

 

I have been reading a book titled “The Death of White Sociology” that focuses on the birth of the  black sociological viewpoint and also the death of what they term “white sociology.”  It describes a shift in worldview from the traditional Euro perspective to the black sociological point of view written about blacks by blacks.  It is a fascinating read.  Parts of the book examine the ways that our culture, media, and academia in the United States fostered the potent messages that blacks were inferior to whites.  It observes the period after slavery and maps out the different ways that the “common sense” lies of black’s inferiority were spread and maintained.

As I read through the book I became shocked to find that the very same tactics used to keep blacks “in their place” looked strikingly similar to the ones being used against men in today’s world. This is not meant to say that men are facing the same rampage of racism that blacks faced and continue to face to some degree.  It is however, very apparent that the mechanisms that maintained and spread the lies of blacks inferiority to whites are strikingly similar to those being directed towards men in today’s world.

The book describes three basic arenas where the ideas of black inferiority were spread. The first was “common knowledge” which was basically the general public mouthing the accepted stereotypes of the day. Most of the public simply “knew” that blacks were inferior.  it was accepted as fact.  The second was the media who amplified the “common knowledge” by portraying blacks in a negative and stereotypical fashion.  Third was academia who did studies that sought to prove the erroneous “common knowledge” of the day through biased and questionable research.  The three together packed a powerful punch.

The Three General Paths: Common Knowledge, the Media and Science.

We all are familiar with the ways that ideas and stereotypes get spread at the water fountain at work or over the backyard fence. This sort of negative stereotyping of blacks was prevalent with almost everyone assuming that blacks were inferior to whites up until the 1960’s when things started changing. The stereotyping was global and was applied to not some blacks or to just criminal blacks but to all blacks. The same sort of stereotyping is now true today for men.  Even paying casual attention at the beauty shop or shopping mall will show you that men are seen as the problem.  Not some men, not criminal men but all men.  The basic assumption is that there is something wrong with men.  This is very similar to the early 20th century where all blacks were the recipient of extreme prejudice based on race.  The similar assumption was that there was something wrong with blacks.   As people today blame men as being, pigs, violent, selfish, greedy or other negative attributes the implied message is that men are indeed inferior to women.  This same sort of prejudging could never happen now about blacks, women, Jews, gays or just about any other group.  Men are the last group to be held up as a scapegoat by our culture and it is not hard to see, unless you are the one doing the judging.

We are also likely familiar with the media and their ways of perpetuating stereotypes and prejudiced ideas.  Blacks were surely the recipient of these for many years.  Think of Steppinfetchit and the way the media used him as an example of slow and dullard blacks, and as a befuddled and shiftless fool. Then came Amos n Andy with the same stereotype: blacks were slow and dull and not making very good decisions.  Then after the 1960’s this started to shift until we ended up with the Bill Cosby Show, Will Smith and others who were being portrayed in a much different and highly positive light.  Contrast that with the path of men being shown in the 1950’s and early 1960’s TV shows such as Father Knows Best, Roy Rogers, Bonanza or Andy Griffith.  Now we don’t see those types of portrayals of men, what we see is more like Amos n Andy with men being routinely shown to be dull, insensitive, slow, and needing women to make decisions.  It is clearly no longer the blacks facing stereotypes.  Now it is men, especially white men, who are getting a similar sort of stereotyping and no one seems to notice or to care.

The most unlikely sources of proliferating stereotypes is our scientific community but sadly this book points out the various ways that our academics went out to prove that blacks were indeed inferior and in need of whites in order to be civil and successful.  The book describes the white sociology and social science research that was designed with the intent of proving that blacks were inferior and needed whites.  In today’s world we see something very similar in the research of social scientists that seems to try and prove that men are at the root of our problems and are consequently inferior to women.  We will go into that in more detail later.

For now let’s move on to examining the specific ways the book showed that blacks were proven to be inferior and how this is similar to what we see in men today.

The Specific Paths That Were Used

Probably the most potent and global of the memes that were spread to prove blacks inferiority was summed up by the book authors as:

Blacks are defined as the perpetrators and creators of social pathology and not as its victims.”  

By linking blacks as being perpetrators and creators of social pathology the culture was able to devalue blacks and paint them as inferior to whites.  When blacks were shown to be victims of a hateful culture people turned a blind eye.  The predominant meme was that blacks were the creators and perpetrators of social pathology and anything varying from that was ignored. Even in research when blacks were seen as victims it was all too often hidden from view by the researchers.  This sort of devaluing took a huge toll on the collective esteem of blacks.  When you live in a place that paints you as the problem and only sees you in that light it makes it pretty tough to feel proud and good about yourself. Many will remember that one of the first things that Black activists did in the 1960’s was popularize the phrase “Black is Beautiful.” It was this sort of phrase that helped to begin in shifting the long standing disdain held by the culture towards blacks. Far too many blacks had surely internalized these hateful messages.  It is easy to see how this was damaging and how it took a great deal of effort to turn things around.  Prior to the 1960’s I think often the activists had to deal with blacks whose spirits were simply too broken to even care to defend themselves. They had been too damaged by the weight of the years of judgements placed upon them by the culture.  The 60’s started changing all of that pumping esteem back where it should be.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the issues of men in today’s world will immediately see the connection here.  At this point it is no longer blacks who are defined as the perpetrators and creators of social pathology, this has shifted and now it is men who are sitting in that seat.  It is far too common to hear the cultural meme of “Men cause wars” or “Men are jerks” or “Men are violent” or “Men have ruined the economy if only women ruled the world.”  Men are actively being blamed as the creators of social pathology both on a micro level and macro.  Have a look at any newspaper and see if you notice any articles on men as victims of social pathology?  It won’t take long to notice that men as a group are very rarely listed as victims, only the perpetrators while women are repeatedly seen as victims.  What at one time was a mechanism to keep blacks in their place has now been shifted.  This harness is firmly around the necks of the males in our culture.  As with the blacks before, this is now taking a toll on the esteem of our men and boys.  Since their sex is held as the root of our cultural problems they grow up thinking that they are inferior to women, that their sex is the cause of our difficulties, that growing up to be a man is something about which he should ashamed.

This sort of shaming was very rare in the 1950’s when men were held in relatively high esteem especially if they were providing and protecting.  Then from 1960 onward things started to change.  By the late 1960’s blacks were beginning to shed the onerous cultural burden that we are describing.  At the same time women were expanding their sex roles and getting good press as being model human beings. Areas where women and girls faced victimization became common topics in the public domain, the media, and our new laws which attempted to protect them.  The culture began to see women in a most positive light.  Sadly, even to the casual observer, our culture seems unable to hold both women and men in a positive light.  As it saw women as good and worthy of support it started its equal and opposite descent into seeing men as a problem.  This was likely intensified by the false blame heaped on men at the time for allegedly having been the oppressors who had intentionally held women back for centuries with the associated assumption that all men had to pay for this. Men cause wars.  Men’s greed ruins the economy.  Men were now getting the cultural shadow projections.  It was about this time in the 1960’s when young men started killing themselves nearly SIX TIMES as often as similarly aged young girls.  Could this dramatic shift be related to boys feeling the impact of the cultural negativity that was now being broadcast about their sex?  (see chart below)  But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let’s get back to the book.

The Bondage of Common Sense

The book points out that after slavery blacks were held in a different sort of bondage, one that was unwritten and basically invisible.  This bondage resulted from what most people know as “common sense” or common knowledge.  It is what most people believe automatically without thinking.  It is the accepted “norm” that lives just below the surface. What was this accepted normal, this common knowledge?  It was that blacks are inferior to whites. This was just a given.  These thoughts and memes were obviously culture-wide. The scholars from this book have mapped out just how this “common sense” functioned and how it resulted in putting blacks into a continued bondage.  This is an unsettling story of the power of mainstream thought as expressed by “most” people.  It’s a story of the power of the media to reflect that thinking and perpetuate it through news and entertainment.  And finally, it’s a story of the power of our academic institutions to then capture the essence of the erroneous assumptions and assume they are true and then go on to prove them through “science” thus adding mortar to the bricks and solidifying a solid wall.  When people hear that science validates their “common sense” those beliefs become entrenched and act like immovable objects.

So what were these memes that carried the cultural message of blacks inferiority?  Let’s go through a few of them as described in this book:

Blacks are better if they are around whites.

In the early and mid 20th century one of the tactics the researchers used in painting blacks as inferior was to do research on blacks, whites and mullatoes.  The conclusions were almost always the same.  The more white influence in your blood the better you were.  If you were light skinned you were automatically seen as better.  They took this a step farther and would write about blacks being more cultured when they had more time being around whites.  It was as if, the good manners and attitude of whites mentally rubbed off simply by contact. When blacks did poorly it was often assumed that they simply didn’t have the good influence of white people.  This meme disdained blacks and glorified whites as being the truly cultured ones.

It’s easy to see how this transposes in today’s culture.  Now it is men who are deemed “better” if only they would act more like women.  Men who are not around women are seen as suspect.  Men who don’t emote like women are thought to be in need of learning to be more like women which is assumed to be the default. This meme now glorifies the female way as being the default and shames men for not living up to this.  This meme now glorifies women and disdains men.

Research showing blacks were superior to whites was hidden from public view.

When the early researchers would do studies where data was obtained that showed blacks to be better than whites in some way the researchers would consistently hide the findings.  It simply wouldn’t see the light of day.  In this way whites continued to be seen as always superior.

In today’s climate  we see something very similar.  When studies show that men and boys are victimized in some way the data is hidden and not published.  Other times when men do better than women it is seen not as a strength of men but as discrimination against women.  The man’s strength is ignored while the woman’s disadvantage is seen as a call to action with people scrambling to institute change. When men are shown to be victims in research, such as the domestic violence studies, the data is hidden and not published.  These sorts of things solidify the cultural attitudes of the superiority of women and men as inferior.  Even our president voices this message when he said in a speech “Girls can do anything boys can do, and do it better, and do it in heels”.  Girls/women are seen as superior.  Boys and men are seen as lagging behind.

Aversion of whites toward blacks proves their inferiority

The book points out that the aversion of the whites towards blacks was used as proof that blacks were inferior in the 20th century.  The assumption was “why else would whites look down on them?”

Women’s aversion and disdain of men is now used as proof that men are inferior.  Just think of some of the catch phrases we have heard in our culture.  All men are rapists. Man hating is honorable.  Men are Pigs. Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.  It has gotten so bad that the media responds to a man having his penis cut off by his wife with laughter and jokes.  Can you imagine any other group that might garner such a response without censure?  I can’t.

The psychological research of the day in the early to mid 20th century  was not geared to help blacks but to blame them and chronicle how they need to change.

Articles that were written and placed their focus on blacks tended to feature issues that showed blacks to be at fault for problems and stayed intent on how they needed to change.  This of course ignored the needs of blacks.

We see the same pattern in today’s research on men.  It is not geared to be of help to men it is geared to expose and blame them for social problems. Over the past fifty years we have seen a profound shift in researcher’s attitudes and assumptions towards men.  In the mid 20th century researchers were analyzing male roles and naming them as “confident” “risk taking” “level-headed” “independent” “aggressive” and other descriptors that seemed fairly accurate and not excessively value based.  But since then we have seen a remarkable shift so that in today’s world we have psychological research that is labeling male norms not as the reasonable above descriptions but as “violent”, seeking “power over women”, having “disdain for homosexuality” and being “playboys”. Have a look at the chart below to see the shift in norms. It is eye popping.) We have gone from describing men as strong, aggressive and risk takers to seeing male roles as pathological and the source of our problems.  The similarly to what blacks faced is striking.  What you don’t see, just as you didn’t see it for blacks, is any mention of where men are facing hardship or discrimination.

The same sort of bias can be seen in the American Psychological Association’s section on the study of men and masculinity.  What you see is a group of psychologists who openly blame men for the world’s problems and support the sexist sorts of attitudes described in the previous paragraph.  The focus is on what is wrong with men and what is omitted is the places men face hardship and discrimination.  Even the programs supported by this division focus on helping men to change the violent ways of other men in order to make the world a safe place.  While this is a noble goal it speaks volumes to the worldview of this division.  There are no programs to help men who are facing hardship or discrimination.  In fact those men are never mentioned and bringing up this sort of topic will bring on shaming and fuming.

Blacks are just animals –  without the influence of whites it was assumed that blacks were simply animalistic/primitive and constantly focused on sex.  The fear was of black men raping white women.  Black men murdering and stealing etc.   Now this is focused on men.  They even call men by the name of an animal “Men are PIGS”.  All men are rapists!  Men are violent! Same message, different recipient.  Men cause wars, men are insensitive etc.  Picture an exasperated woman shaking her head and saying out loud, “men.”

Blacks are Violent and criminals –  The source of crimes are blacks.  They were perennially linked to crime and in so doing linked to being the problem themselves.  People who are the problem are not deserving. In today’s world men are linked to crime and to violence.  Not just the one or two percent of men who commit crimes (just as it was a minority of blacks who committed crimes) but all men are seen as the problem just as blacks face a similar harsh and undeserved judgement.  It is a curious fact that women are more often the abusers of children but we have never heard anyone blame women as a group for that.  It would seem absurd to do so yet it seems okay for most people to label and judge men as a group due to the actions of a tiny percentage.

Blacks are immoral –  Without the white influence blacks were seen to be immoral.   They were thought of as animalistic and always interested in sex with little restraints. Rape was a strong fear that was apparently encouraged by the memes of the day.  Immoral people are looked down upon.  They are the problem. Now it is men who are looked down on as being immoral and lacking in restraint without the civilizing impact of a woman in their lives.

The book pieces together the various lies about Blacks that were maintained over time that had the powerful impact of “proving” that blacks were inferior to whites.  So inferior in fact that the general assumption was likely that they deserved their sub-human treatment.  These scholars tell us that this is part of the purpose of these common sense lies.  They relieve any guilt that the bearer may have felt about poor or inhumane treatment that was doled out. Here’s a quote from the book:

“The group in power is always likely to use every means at its disposal to create the impression that it deserves to be where it is.  And it is not above suggesting that those who have been excluded have only  themselves to blame.”   

So the “common sense” that was the cultural meme was propagated as common knowledge but had the impact of not only condemning blacks as inferior it was also key in justifying poor treatment or poor conditions.  Blacks were obviously the victim of this type of thinking with the idea that since they were were root of social pathology they really didn’t deserve to be served like others.  The same can be seen with men today.  The assumption is that since men are the problem they really don’t deserve to get any sort of special treatment.  These are both ways to justify poor treatment by those in power.

Conclusion

I think we are safe to assume that these memes were being propagated unconsciously.  I don’t think that most citizens were intentionally hateful and judging towards blacks, they simply were going along with the tide of thought that was prevalent at the time.  It is obvious that these sorts of memes were very damaging to blacks.  It doesn’t take much imagination to conceive of the hurtful impact of being seen as inferior.  Over time I am sure it was building up and building up.   A new consciousness needed to arise in order to leave the old programming.

As we have seen blacks begin to shed the old judgements and racist attitudes a curious thing is transpiring.  Black women are doing much better than black men on almost every parameter.  Could it be that black men are now more free from the racist attitudes but are now forced to carry the harsh judgements about being male?  This seems to surely be a possibility.

Today I think men are suffering because of this sort of cultural meme.  Like the early 20th century no one notices that they are carrying and expressing this misandry.  Even the men are slow to realize it. This is eerily similar to the invisibility of the 20th century treatment of blacks.  No one (or very few) knew at the time that they were acting like bigots. It took years of challenging and exposure of the hatred for people to realize they were carrying and propagating racism.  I can only hope that we are able to more quickly help people see that they are carrying a similar hatefulness towards men.

And so it goes.

 

 

FINDING A SAFE PLACE WHEN STRESSED

Boys and girls often process emotions differently. When my daughter was young and in need of support she had a special technique.  She would come to me and say “Daddy, I need special time,” and I knew just what that meant.  We needed to face two chairs towards each other and she would talk about what was bothering her.  She might complain that her friend had said she talked too much and I would respond with a supportive “Ah, Julia.”  She might then tell me that another friend had told her that she didn’t want to play with her ever again and I would again offer support through a simple, “Ah, Julia.”  After about 5-7 cycles of “Ah, Julia,” she was ready to go!  Her cup was full and, she would say “Thanks, Dad” and off she would go outside to play.

What was Julia doing?  She was creating a “safe place” for herself.  One important aspect in healing is that when people are in trouble psychologically they will first look for a safe place.  Julia went a step farther.  Once she had the safe place she used it to tell her story.  Combining these two elements is the outline of the common path that most of us use in healing ourselves. Finding safety and then telling our personal story. Julia arranged for me to steward that safe place and then talked about what was bothering her.  Through this story-telling process done in a safe place she began to find healing.  One other common example of this process is attending a support group which acts as a safe place for people to tell their story and through the repeated telling balance is found.

My son, however, would not come to me and say, “Daddy, I need special time.” Absolutely not.  Why not? The reason is that sitting face to face is simply not safe for him.  Where do men and boys like my son feel safe?  More often, it is not when they are face to face, but rather when they are shoulder to shoulder taking action.  Think of the places where men feel close to other men.  It is most often when they are taking action and working on a common goal.  The more dangerous the goal, the closer the men feel to each other.  Wartime, police departments, fire departments, and sports teams at a championship are all examples of this.  Through working together, shoulder to shoulder, the men feel close to other men. Here lasting friendships are forged within that safety.

Would Luke ask for special time?  No.  He would come to me and say, “I wanna wrestle!” Keep in mind that he was in first or second grade, and I am 6’2″ and far from tiny.  I would say, “Okay, but you better be ready for me!”  Then the wrestling would commence.  At first he would have me down, then I would have him down. Back and forth it would go.  At some point during the battle, Luke would stick his little head up and say, “Jimmy got beat up at school today,” and I would ask if it was bad and he would say “Oh yeah, there was blood coming from his nose.”  Then the interlude abruptly ceased, and he growled loudly and attacked me with all his might.  A minute or two later, Luke might stick his head up again and say, “I miss Granddaddy.”  He was referring to my father who had died just a few months before.  My heart cracked open, and I responded that I missed him too.  In a flash, he would growl and attack again and was on top of me with all his might.

Luke was doing the same thing as his sister but was using the wrestling as a safe place to tell his story.  Boys and girls often find safety in different places. The general rule (not true for every child of course) is that girls will more often tend to seek out safety in INTERACTION while boys will more often seek out a safe place through ACTION [2].

Dr. Shelly Taylor, professor of psychology at UCLA, has spent many years investigating the possible neural substrate for these sex differences. She began by observing that most of the research on stress published before 2000 had been conducted on men [1]. Women had been left out for a variety of reasons, such as the concern that hormonal variations associated with the menstrual cycle might skew the results.  Taylor has now conducted many studies using only women as subjects.  What she found has changed our understanding of stress and the role of sex differences.  She found that most women do not engage the “fight or flight” system as readily as men; instead, they engage a different system, which Dr. Taylor calls “tend and befriend.”  Women, when stressed, will (according to Professor Taylor) tend to move towards others and move towards interaction.  This is very different from the masculine habit of moving toward action when stressed (fight), or moving towards inaction (flight).  Professor Taylor’s findings brought to mind what I had seen in Luke and Julia and started to make sense of these different strategies.

Dr. Taylor believes that these differences in the biobehavioral response to stress may be due, at least in part, to underlying hormonal differences between men and women.  She cites research suggesting that oxytocin plays a key role in the “tend and befriend” system in women. Some have called oxytocin the “cuddle hormone”.  What Taylor found was that though both men and women release oxytocin after stress, a women’s estrogen amplifies the effects of the oxytocin which increases her urge to affiliate (tend and befriend). The higher testosterone levels in men appear to blunt the effects of oxytocin, reducing the inclination to move towards others when stressed.

Dr. Taylor suggests that there are two basic strategies in response to stress: action (“fight or flight”) or interaction (“tend and befriend”). Luke and Julia followed the expected path based on their biological sex, with Luke preferring the more male strategy of action and Julia preferring the female strategy of interaction. Importantly, while this is common, it is not always the case. Each child is different and our challenge is to evaluate them individually based on their unique approach.

Boys and girls often process emotions differently. Being aware of each child’s unique way of finding safety and telling their story can only help in facilitating their growth and healing.

References
  1. Taylor, S.E. (2003). The Tending Instinct: Women, Men and the Biology of Our Relationships. New York: Henry Holt.
  2. Golden, T.R. (2000). Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing (2nd Ed.), Gaithersburg, MD: G H Publishing.

Information about Domestic Violence

There is an interesting battle of information going on in the domestic violence scene. The service providers and legislators offer statistics that show the ever increasing incidence of domestic violence. It faithfully shows that men are the perpetrators and women are the victims. Importantly most of their numbers come from hospital and police records or their own statistics. This gives them a decidedly biased flavor. The flavor is that women are nearly the only victims and men the only perpetrators. Keep in mind that the services they offer are for women only. Imagine that we built a hospital for only Caucasian diabetics our statistics would reflect that whites were the overwhelming majority of people we served. We could easily make a case for the need for more services for whites who had diabetes and disregard the need for other races. In the same way, the domestic violence industry’s reliance on their own statistics is skewed and misleading and fails to count the male victims due to its bias.

But what if someone else studied the problem from a different perspective? A perspective that relied on scholarly research in peer reviewed scientific Journals? That is just what has happened. There is an alternate voice that paints a very different picture. Bonafide peer reviewed research. When you look at the scientific research on domestic violence done by legitimate scientists in studies that are supervised by other non-partisan scientists you get a very different story. What you find is that women actually initiate domestic violence more often than men. You also find that men are a significant portion of the injured victims of domestic violence. The Archer meta-analysis published in Psychological Bulletin (2000) looked at all the previous research and found that when they were all tallied that men comprised 38% of the injured victims! Starkly different figures than you get with the stats offered by the domestic violence industry.

For a quick look at a listing of numerous scientific studies you can go to Martin Fieberts page. Skim through the entries and get a sense of the number of studies that have come to the same conclusion: that domestic violence is a two way street with both men and women being victims and perpetrators. In fact Murray Strauss PhD., one of the grandfathers of domestic violence research, states that domestic violence is 25% men beating women, 25% women beating men, and 50% brawl between the two.

The obvious question is why do we have no services for men?

Maryland Report — Domestic Violence and Male Victims

Perhaps the most confusing, perplexing, and controversial area in which men’s health needs are overlooked is the issue of male victims of domestic violence. One immediately noticeable trend is the strong tendency to focus solely on female victims and ignore male victims. This tendency is seen repeatedly.  Most media, whether print or electronic, focuses on female victims of domestic violence and all too often fails to mention male victims. Almost every article in the newspaper and every program on TV about domestic violence focuses on female victims.  We see the same focus in academia: courses in sociology and women’s studies repeat the message that women are the primary victims of domestic violence and rarely mention male victims. If you look on the internet at web sites of domestic violence agencies you will likely see a similar bias.1 One oft-quoted statistic is that according to a Department of Justice report, there are 1.5 million women each year in the United States who are victims of domestic violence.  What you don’t see is that the same report also found that there are 834,000 male victims of domestic violence each year in the United States.2  Rather than adding the two and saying 2.3 million Americans suffer from domestic violence each year, all too often the only statistic highlighted is the one about women. One side of the story is told and the other side is ignored, as 834,000 men are omitted. Nationally, we have the “Violence Against Women Act” which boldly excludes men from its name. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (a national group that teaches judges on the issue of domestic violence) offers a typical description which includes women but seems to minimize men: “Domestic violence puts millions of women and their families at risk each year and is one of the single greatest social ills impacting the nation.”3 There is no mention of men who might be at risk.  Most organizations promote the idea that females are the overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence.  The general public has heard that message for decades and believes it to be the sole truth.  But is it?

The National Council Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) offers a similar message that women are the vast majority of the victims of domestic violence. According to their definition of domestic violence: “There is not a typical woman who will be battered – the risk factor is being born female.”4 If “the” risk factor is being born female, that seems to exclude men from sharing the risk. But a look at their own statistics compiled from state governments tells a very different story. In the state of Maryland, according to NCADV statistics, men comprise 23% of the victims of domestic violence, and women are 23% of the perpetrators.5 Maryland State Police statistics reveal similar estimates, listing men as 25% of all victims of domestic violence.6 These numbers are confirmed and even exceeded when compared with peer-reviewed research. What you find is that men are a sizable portion of the victims of domestic violence, a much larger portion than is usually mentioned through a variety of sources. In fact, peer-reviewed research reveals that most domestic violence is characterized not by one person abusing the other, but by what is termed as “reciprocal” violence: a brawl between two partners.7 The bulk of the research also suggests that women are more often the initiators of the violence.8  This sharp contrast between the commonly-held public view of women as the vast majority of domestic violence victims with men as the sole perpetrators, versus the research and statistics compiled by authoritative sources, paint pictures that are hard to reconcile.

The domestic violence agencies in Maryland are obviously comprised of a compassionate group of people dedicated to fighting a horrible problem.  The Maryland Commission for Men’s Health wholeheartedly agrees with them that domestic violence needs our attention and our resources. The issue that the commission finds worrisome is that it appears that only a part of the problem of domestic violence is being addressed in earnest: the female victims. The other parts are taking a back seat: male victims and female perpetrators. Due to this imbalance, some Marylanders go unserved and left in great pain.

There is a saying among NASA engineers that “an ounce of thrust at takeoff can mean thousands of miles down course.”  The ounce of thrust that has thrown the domestic violence industry off course is the idea of holding men and masculinity solely responsible for the incidence of domestic violence. In its early years as a cause, many of those working in domestic violence assumed that men were the sole cause of domestic violence and, of course, women were seen as the only victims.  It was this contention that has limited their vision to see the complexity of domestic violence and its many victims both male and female, heterosexual and homosexual. Over the years, various organizations and individuals have tried to offer feedback that males are in need of treatment as victims and females are in need of attention as perpetrators, but all too often their voices go noticably unheard.

How did things get to this point?

When domestic violence activism first started in the 1970’s, the leaders were mostly feminists who were rightly concerned about the lives and safety of women. What they saw was shocking: situations where muscular men were beating innocent women. Very quickly these stories started making their way to the media. People were shocked and outraged. The activists kept the stories flowing to the media and the media continued to alert the public to the truly awful horror stories. The feminist activists applied their ideological template to the issues of domestic violence. In the 1970’s, the feminist template presumed men were a major cause of women’s problems and were a large inhibiting factor holding women back from a variety of opportunities.  Phrases like “all men are rapists” and “men are pigs” were commonplace.  Men were routinely disdained and blamed.  The horror of males committing domestic violence gave some reason to believe that these early misandrist stereotypes of men might hold some truth.  Uncaring men, using their power to control and beat women, were observed repeatedly in these domestic violence situations, and this led to the assumption that it was men who were the underlying cause of a grievous social problem.  Sadly, we now know that this idea of men being the underlying cause of the problem represents a truth but simply not the whole truth.  What we now know is that although the stories of women being beaten by bullying men were certainly true, they told only part of the story.  Researchers today characterize domestic violence as being 25% men beating women, 25% women beating men and 50% being more of a brawl between the two people.9  The brawling and the violent women had been overshadowed by the more shocking and outrageous examples of helpless women being beaten by bullying men.

This statistical breakdown of 25%-25%-50% is a shock to many and very difficult to believe.   However, we have already seen how the premier national domestic violence organization, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), verifies that in Maryland, for example, men comprise 23% of the victims and females 23% of the perpetrators of domestic violence.  Why would people not believe this to be the case?  Could it be that an ideology that holds men as the primary culprits in incidences of domestic violence continues to inhibit them from seeing situations in which men are victimized by abusive women?

The feminist idea that men are wholly responsible for domestic violence found immediate traction.  The horrible situations that were being reported were all of abusive men terrorizing defenseless women.  This sort of scenario struck a chord in both men and women who heard these reports.  The women were moved due to their own compassion for other women and children who might be vulnerable and in need.  The men were moved since an important part of the man’s biological and social sex role is to provide and protect for women and children.  Seeing women abused by out-of-control men was a very strong call to action for most men.  It is little wonder then that most states quickly developed laws and the beginnings of support for these female victims.  By the 1980s, only a few short years from the early activism of the 1970s, many states had already put domestic violence laws on their books. That’s moving pretty fast, for legislative bodies, who are known for their tendency to be circumspect when introducing whole new classes of penal laws.

What prevented evidence of other forms of domestic violence from coming to the surface? One answer to this question comes from one of the original domestic violence activists, Ellen Pence. Pence was the author of an important book about domestic violence and the influential Duluth Model (discussed below). She was also the founder of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.  Pence admits that there was an effort to avoid issues related to women’s violence and highlights the neglect of female abusers:

In many ways, we turned a blind eye to many women’s use of violence, their drug use and alcoholism, and their often harsh and violent treatment of their own children.10

Why would the original activists “turn a blind eye?”  Did they not see that turning a blind eye put many innocent people in jeopardy?  One of the reasons was surely that the theoretical framework of men being the “only abusers” left no room to see women as anything but victims.  The norm for viewing female abusers came to be that a female abuser was considered to have been “abused in the past” and was acting this way out of hurt and self-defense, not evil or anything else. Their view of domestic violence simply did not allow room for the possibility of the woman as the abuser, plain and simple.  As in all things, if your theoretical framework doesn’t account for a phenomenon to exist, it is much less likely to be recognized.  It is also probably true that the media showed more interest in the stories where women were abused by men.  These stories touched a cultural nerve and therefore sold more papers and air time.  People wanted to read about female victims, but were not so interested in hearing about males who were abused by women. The early activists must have found that they could get the word out much more quickly and more powerfully by focusing on stories about men beating women.

The focus on male batterers and female victims has left us knowing a good deal less about female batterers. How could the less-physically powerful women ever batter or intimidate men?   What we have since found out through research is that violent women make up for their lack of physical strength by using weapons and the tactic of surprise.11  In domestic violence situations, women will often use weapons when men are vulnerable.  Think of Lorena Bobbitt who severed her husband’s penis while he slept or Mary Winkler who shot her husband in the back with a shotgun while he was sleeping, or Clara Harris who ran over her husband with her car as her daughter sat next to her.  All are examples of women committing domestic violence by using the element of surprise paired with lethal weapons. Interestingly, none of these murders or incidents was ever portrayed by the media as domestic violence.  The words “domestic violence” seem to be reserved exclusively for male-on-female violence only.  When women do choose to be violent as in the above examples, muscles simply don’t matter.  A shotgun will beat muscles every time.  The national figures for the United States show that 30% of spousal murders, the most lethal form of domestic violence, are committed by women against their husbands or partners.12

It wasn’t just the domestic violence activists who intentionally ignored women’s violence.  Our culture also tends to look the other way.  For whatever reasons, a woman’s violence is simply not as upsetting to see.  Just watch television shows or movies to see the frequency of women hitting or kicking men. In today’s world it is a given for women to hit men on TV but not the other way around.  Everyone sees this but few seem to get upset or to protest.  We are living with a huge double-standard where a woman’s violence against a man is something we see in cartoons, movies, commercials, or TV as innocuous or even comical. We see plenty of violence from men towards other men but when we see violence from men towards women it is seen as anything but comical or innocuous; it is seen as deadly.  This double-standard likely increases the chances for women’s violence in relationships to be overlooked by the media, the general public and by domestic violence workers.

It is also likely true that once these activists were looking for funding for their endeavors from the government or private institutions, the stories about “vulnerable women in great need of safety” brought much more attention and promises of funding than did a similar story of a man being abused by his wife.  Every politician wanted to be seen as the one helping solve this problem by “making women safe in their own homes”.  Those stories about men as victims simply didn’t have the same traction.  No politician wanted to touch those.  For them, rather than help male victims in their lobbying for funds, the stories of abused men would likely muddy the waters and detract from the powerful images of women-in-need.  The stories about men-in-need were also completely counter to the growing ideology that men were the source of all domestic violence.  An abused man simply didn’t fit into that framework and would likely have decreased the success of any unisex funding efforts.

It is easy to see how the ideology of men as the source of the domestic violence problem likely developed over the initial years of domestic violence activism.  It fit with the image that the media was helping to portray. It fit with the feminist idea that men were “the problem” and it surely helped in advocating for domestic violence funding.  There were good reasons simply to not bring up men-as-victims.

The Duluth Model

In the early 1980s an important event transpired in the history of domestic violence prevention.  A group of domestic violence activists met in Duluth, Minnesota after a particularly gruesome murder of a wife by a husband.  The group started to put together what would eventually become the “Duluth Model”, which has since become a staple ideological protocol for most domestic violence agencies in the US.  In some states, its use is mandated.  In many ways it has become the handbook for those working with domestic violence victims and situations.  It is important to understand the initial questions asked by the Duluth gathering at the inception of the Duluth Model theory.  Here are questions asked by those at the initial gathering: “Why is she the target of his violence”  “Why does he think he is entitled to have power?”  “How does the community support his violence?”13  As you can see from the questions, the Duluth Model at its very beginnings was only about male violence towards women.  It was never about mutual violence or a woman’s violence towards a man. It was only about men beating women.  It had no remarks or suggestions for abused men or about female perpetrators.  The flagship theory of the industry only focused on women as victims and men as perpetrators.  Australian author Tom Graves has evaluated the Duluth Model and lists its major problems.  Here are the first three:

1.  It believes that violence is masculine and that men are responsible for violence
2.  It refuses to remark or address the fact that men can be the recipients of violence
3.  It holds only men responsible as change agents.14

These three errors play a huge part in the failure of the Duluth Model to address the needs of male victims and the needs of female perpetrators.  Let’s hypothesize a possible example of the damage that can occur from stereotyping victims of domestic violence:  Imagine both wife and husband have been drinking.  The wife, in a burst of anger, throws a wine bottle at her husband who was hit on the arm as he blocked the bottle.  The wife next comes after him with a wine glass and tries to throw wine in his face.  He blocked that also and in the process, the wine glass breaks and cuts his wife.  The police arrive.  They find a bleeding and crying wife and a husband who claimed that he had been attacked.  Their Duluth Model training has taught them that the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are female and so, what do they do? Arrest the man and put him in jail!  No matter how much the man might try to explain his actions, the police would likely refuse to listen.  In fact, once the wife realizes her husband was going to jail, she would probably start to tell the truth, that she was the attacker.  The police would of course hear none of it and off to jail the man would go.

This man would be placed into a mandatory Duluth Model domestic violence “educational” group.  He would not be allowed to speak the truth of what had happened. When he would try to explain that it was his wife who had attacked him, he would be told to be quiet and focus on his violence. The truth of his being abused would be seen by the group leaders as an “excuse” that keeps him from taking responsibility for his violence.  He would be forced never to mention his wife’s violence.  He would have two choices.  One would be to tell the truth and not “graduate” from the educational sessions, which would leave him legally vulnerable.  The other would be to lie and say he was the abuser.  We could guess that this man would choose to lie simply in order to ”graduate” from the “training”.

This sort of example shows how the system can take on the role of what is being called a “third party” abuser.  The spouse no longer has a need to batter.  The police and community agencies are now taking over that role by treating the falsely-accused man in a manner that lacks respect for him as a human being who has been abused or as a citizen with the right to be presumed innocent or to have his side of a given unwitnessed incident fairly considererd.  This is what can happen when pre-judgments arising from stereotypes are used instead of impartial mindsets coupled with factual analysis.

Since its inception, the Duluth Model has been reworked and made more “gender neutral”, but it continues to fail miserably in its capacity to address the needs of men who are victimized and of women who are violent.

If you visit the Duluth Model web site, you can see that their primary focus on female victims continues to this day.  The Duluth site claims that women account for as many as 97% of the victims of domestic violence.15  We know from both police reports and from peer-reviewed research that this is far from the truth.  It does however show that the Duluth Model continues to be focused on female victims and has failed in taking current thinking and research into account, thus placing male victims at risk and allowing female perpetrators to go unchecked or psychiatrically untreated for their abusiveness.

The Duluth Model spreads to the community

As the domestic violence industry grew, the Duluth Model took a greater and greater hold on the theoretical practices of domestic violence agencies.  As it took this greater hold, the ideas of domestic violence being only about men beating women spread farther.  As funding grew for domestic violence agencies, the funding for trainings grew correspondingly.  The 1994 federal Violence Against Women Act started pouring about one billion dollars per year into domestic violence endeavors.  A part of that money was spent on trainings given to the court systems, judges, police, lawyers and domestic violence workers.  The message the workshops broadcast was founded on the Duluth Model ideology that women were the vast majority of domestic violence victims and men were only a tiny minority.  More and more, the ideas of the Duluth Model became the standard.  It was presented as fact that domestic violence is pretty much only about women being abused by men.  That ideology is now set firmly in place.  The early work of the activists has focused exclusively on abused women and now the theoretical framework that guided their work is firmly planted in an ideology that focuses on female victims but ignores the needs of male victims and the actions of female perpetrators.  Now these ideas have been spread successfully into our community agencies and public institutions.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — Researchers

Murray Straus, Richard Gelles, and Susan Steinmetz are early researchers on issues of domestic violence.  This group published a book in 1982 that ran counter to the feminist ideology.  The book, Behind Closed Doors,16 said clearly that domestic violence was a two-way street with both men and women responsible as perpetrators and victims.  The response was swift and powerful.  Upon publication, Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz were immediately seen as enemies. Prior to their findings that there is gender symmetry in domestic violence, they had been praised and held in high esteem as instrumental in the early research on domestic violence.  But once they found data that contradicted the feminist belief that men were the only perpetrators and women the only victims, things changed drastically.  At that point, they lost their glow and became villains to those who supported the ideas of women as the only victims of domestic violence.  Death threats and other avenues of intimidation were used to try to silence them.  Murray Straus, Ph.D., describes his struggle with intimidation and explains his own reluctance to publish his results that went counter to the feminist domestic violence ideology:

Researchers who have an ideological commitment to the idea that men are almost always the sole perpetrator often conceal evidence that contradicts this belief. Among researchers not committed to that ideology, many (including me and some of my colleagues) have withheld results showing gender symmetry to avoid becoming victims of the vitriolic denunciations and ostracism. Thus, many researchers have published only the data on male perpetrators or female victims, deliberately omitting the data on female perpetrators and male victims.17

In essence, these researchers were being bullied. In fact, Straus published a paper in 2006 that describes not only the intimidation they suffered but also chronicles the specific ways that the feminist researchers made certain that their own data only produced the desired results that reflected the ideology that women were the primary victims of domestic violence.18

The research by Straus, Gelles, Steinmetz, and many others which clearly shows that men are victims has been available through journal articles for years.19   Some activists have drawn from the statistics and findings and tried to use this information to change the system to encourage existing services to include focus on male victims of domestic violence.  When activists make such attempts, they are usually met with the same results most every time:  the domestic violence industry claims that the peer-reviewed research is inaccurate and cites numbers from their own clinical settings, hospital settings, and emergency rooms.  The numbers they cite are very different from the research numbers and clearly show that domestic violence is indeed primarily a “men beat women” problem.  So who is correct?  The quick answer is BOTH.  The research numbers from scientists such as Strauss, Gelles, and Steinmetz are correct from their perspective and from the populations they studied.  These numbers were usually drawn from the general population and reflect the “average” person or family.

But how about the domestic violence agencies numbers?  Well, they are correct also, but one must note that the sample they draw from is very biased.  They draw from a population that has been utilizing services specifically built for women who were abused.  It is little wonder that they would therefore be more likely to show greater numbers of female victims.  Imagine a hospital that was built specifically for the treatment of caucasian diabetics.  When they look at their own numbers and stats they would assuredly say that the majority of victims of diabetes are white!  Since their services are built to serve whites, that is exactly what their stats will show.  One would also assume that they would be teaching in the community about whites and diabetes and also do Public Service Announcements for whites who might have diabetes.  The same thing happens within the domestic violence industry.  The entire system was originally built for women.  The name of the law the Violence Against Women Act makes that very clear.  It is little wonder that the statistics they compile and the research done within the domestic violence industry on their own populations would reflect that women were the primary victims.  You see this idea filter down to the clinical level where almost every group for domestic violence victims in Maryland is for women only.  The treatment groups are almost always built for male perpetrators and female victims. The overwhelming majority of public service announcements on domestic violence are focused on female victims.  When you solicit for a certain type of victim, it is no surprise that your statistics, trainings and treatment will center around that particular type of client.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — Clinicians

While the peer-reviewed research has been noting male victims for years, the clinical side of the equation has now started getting noticed.   In 2007, the American Psychiatric Association published an article in the August issue of Psychiatric News titled: “Men Shouldn’t be Overlooked as Victims of Partner Violence.”20  The article cited some of the research findings about women being more likely then men in relationship to initiate domestic violence and focused on issues of reciprocal interpersonal violence versus nonreciprocal violence. Here is a quote from the article:

Regarding perpetration of violence, more women than men (25 percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women.

And another:

As for physical injury due to intimate partner violence, it was more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal than nonreciprocal. And while injury was more likely when violence was perpetrated by men, in relationships with reciprocal violence it was the men who were injured more often (25 percent of the time) than were women (20 percent of the time). “This is important as violence perpetrated by women is often seen as not serious,” Whitaker and his group stressed.

The word is getting out that both men and women are perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — The Courts

The courts are also starting to take notice of the discrimination that men face in the domestic violence industry.  In the Woods et. al. vs California case in 2008, a Superior Court in Sacramento, ruled that male domestic violence victims had been unconstitutionally denied services.  The court held that state laws violated men’s equal protection rights by excluding male victims from state-funded domestic violence services.  The court found: “domestic violence is a serious problem for both women and men” and that “men experience significant levels of domestic violence as victims.”21  The court also found a percentage of state-funded programs deny men services they are entitled to receive.

Then, in October 2009, a West Virginia judge struck down state rules for regulating domestic violence shelters because they operate “on the premise that only men can be batterers and only women can be victims” and “exclude adult and adolescent males from their statutory right to safety and security free from domestic violence based only on their gender.”22

Are there men who fall through the cracks?

We have seen how the domestic violence industry has had a history of blaming men and masculinity for domestic violence. This sort of theoretical assumption has a negative impact on the willingness of men to seek help. The men, not unlike the early female victims of domestic violence in the 1970’s who were very reluctant to seek treatment, are certain that no one cares about their situation and are highly unlikely to seek out services when not invited. What compounds this problem for men is that their gender is blamed for the original problem.

We have learned from Maryland State Police statistics that men comprise about 25% of the victims of domestic violence in Maryland.23 What we don’t know is the percentage of males seeking treatment as victims of domestic violence.  In checking with a number of Maryland Domestic Violence agencies, they often say that the number of male victims is very small.  Some of the treatment centers claim that men are only 4% of their clients.  If the State Police count men as 25% of the 20,000 victims of domestic violence recorded annually in Maryland and the agencies that offer treatment for domestic violence say that men are only 4% of the victims that request treatment, that seems to leave a huge number of men who are untreated victims.  It seems likely that a large percentage of the 5000+ men who are reported by State Police as victims of domestic violence in Maryland are falling through the cracks and not getting the help they need and are entitled to as citizens and residents.

Summary

What once started as a righteous cause to help battered women has evolved over the years to be something that seems to help battered women but also seems to neglect the needs of violent women and battered men and ignores the imperatives that the fundamental demands our tradition of justice holds dear.  Both the media and academia seem to focus solely on female victims of domestic violence, with a much smaller focus or none at all on male victims.  Researchers doing peer-reviewed research have consistently found evidence that men and women are both victims of domestic violence, but this finding has not been translated to changing the treatment that men receive in domestic violence agencies. Clinical groups such as the American Psychiatric Association are beginning to alert the public and clinicians that men are indeed a sizable percentage of domestic violence victims.  The courts have also started pointing out the discrimination that is present in many domestic violence agencies that treat men and women differently.
This report is not claiming that men are never served through domestic violence agencies in the state of Maryland.  It is however claiming that Maryland’s domestic violence services have traditionally been created for women only and this has a chilling effect on men’s usage of these facilities.

 

A Proposal For Practical Change

There is a domestic violence group named “Safe For All” that offers trainings nationwide and is particularly aware of the many issues around domestic violence, including those of male victims and of people in homosexual relationships, also an under-recognized and under-served group.   Their web address is http://safe4all.org/24 The National Family Law Legislative Resource Center, www.nfvlrc.org25 represents the nation’s leading authorties, clinicians, and researchers on domestic violence and could also offer trainings and consultations.26

Although calls to Maryland shelters and crisis lines to test for discriminatory handling of reports have at the present time not been conducted, there is no question such testing can be conducted and most likely will be conducted in order to support lawsuits similar to the successful ones used in the legal cases in California and West Virginia cited above. The results of such testing in Maryland would likely mirror these results: In a national poll by Clark University, female researchers studied 302 abused men who sought help. Their key findings were that 63.9% of men who called hotlines were told they only helped women, and 68.7% said the hotlines were not at all helpful. Of those that contacted a local domestic violence (shelter) program, 95.3% said the program gave the impression that they were biased against men, 78.3% said they don’t help male victims, and 63.9% suggested the male caller was the batterer. (See; http://clarku.edu/faculty/dhines/results.htm.27 )

Therefore, in order to avoid costly and time-consuming lawsuits, it behooves the State of Maryland to require all domestic violence service organizations that receive pass-through federal funding or state funding of any type to receive training in non-discriminatory but practical approaches and techniques for handling domestic violence cases and suspected or reported cases. Such training is available via the two organizations referenced above, and also from others.

Whether or not gay and heterosexual men represent a small minority, a large minority, or an equal number of such victims as compared to women in the population is immaterial. The State of Maryland  by its policies and procedures is obligated to encourage and support only those organizations that practice inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination. However, not even very large urban areas can financially support “separate but equal” domestic violence facilities and services for men and women. Not only is it not practical, but such a policy does little to combat discrimination and only encourages conflict over funding resources.  1. The purpose of this training is to provide guidance and directives in how to implement a non-discrimination policy in all service areas.  2. As part of this training program, a compliance coordination methodology shall be developed to assure that the non-discrimination policy is being carried out by agencies who participated in the training. 3. The training will provide cost-effective, implementable, and practical steps that each agency or organization can take to eliminate discrimination and incorporate gender and sexual orientation inclusive policies.

We respectfully request the Office of The Governor to immediately begin the implementation of such a training program.

REFERENCES


1 One example is the Allstate page <http://www.clicktoempower.org/> linked from the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) web page that rightly claims that 3 women each day (actually it is closer to 4) die of domestic violence in the United States. They fail to mention that nearly 2 men die each day due to being murdered by their female partner. This is a glaring omission. In 2007 1640 women were murdered by their male intimates and 700 men were murdered by their female partners. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=971 Why are the male victims omitted?

2 “Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey | National Institute of Justice.” Office of Justice Programs. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/172837.htm>.

3 “Family Violence.” National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges . N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <www.ncjfcj.org/content/view/20/94/>.

4 “National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.ncadv.org/learn/TheProblem.php>.

5 “Domestic Violence Facts: Maryland.” National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <www.ncadv.org/files/Maryland.pdf>.

6 “Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV).” Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV). N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://mnadv.org/DV_Stats/ucr_stats.html>.

7  Whitaker, Daniel. “Differences in Frequency of Violence and Reported Injury Between Relationships With Reciprocal and Nonreciprocal Intimate Partner Violence.” Journal of Public Health 97.May (2007): 941-947. Print.

8  Ibid.

9  Ibid.

10 Pence E. Some thoughts on philosophy. In Shepard M and Pence E (eds.): Coordinating Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from Duluth and Beyond. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers, 1999, p. 30.

11  McNeely, R. L., Cook,  P. W. & Torres, J. B.  (2001).  Is domestic violence a gender issue or a human issue?  Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 4 (4), 227-251.

12  “Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – Intimate partner violence.” Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) . N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2010. <http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=971>.

13 Paymar, Michael, and Ellen Pence. Education Groups for Men Who Batter: The Duluth Model. 1 ed. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1993. Print.

14 Graves, Tom. Power and Response-ability: the human side of systems. London: Tetradian, 2008. Print.

15 Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Home of the Duluth Model.” Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Home of the Duluth Model. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheelgallery.php>.

16 Gelles, Richard J., and Murray Straus. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. New Ed ed. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Print.

17 “Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symetry in Partner Violence.” University of New Hampshire. N.p., n.d. Web.18 Dec. 2009. <pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/V74-gender-symmetry-with-gramham-Kevan-Method%208-.pdf>.

18 Ibid.

19 “REFERENCES EXAMINING ASSAULTS BY WOMEN ON THEIR SPOUSES OR MALE PARTNERS: AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY.” California State University, Long Beach. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm>.

20 Arehart-Treichel, Joan. “Men Shouldn’t Be Overlooked as Victims of Partner Violence.” APA Psychiatric News 42.15 (2007): 31-33. Print.

21  “Appeals court decision supports battered men.” San Francisco Bay Area — News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds: SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/15/BA3S13HOLS.DTL>.

22 Press, The Associated. “W.Va. domestic-violence program regulations voided  – News – The Charleston Gazette – West Virginia News and Sports.” – – The Charleston Gazette – West Virginia News and Sports. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200910080509>.

23 “Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV).” Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV). N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <http://www.mnadv.org/DV_Stats/ucr_stats.html>.

24 “Welcome!.” Stop Abuse for Everyone. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <safe4all.org>.

25 Robinson, Michael. “National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center.” National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <http://www.nfvlrc.org/>.

26 Please consult with the Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health for more information on these organizations.

27 “Results from Study on Men’s Experiences of Partner Aggression.” Clark University | One of 40 “Colleges that Change Lives”. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <http://clarku.edu/faculty/dhines/results.htm>.

Maryland Report – Men’s Health

“‘Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death,’ says Randolph Nesse of the University of  Michigan in Ann Arbor.’ If you could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer,’ he says. Nesse’s colleague Daniel Kruger estimates that over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the US if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.”  New Scientist Magazine, July 2002

If we apply Kruger’s national numbers to the state of Maryland (multiply by
.018, the percent of the US population residing in Maryland) we can estimate that 6750 Maryland men die each year due to their higher mortality rates than females.  This means that one Maryland man dies every 80 minutes as a result of his being male. The sad fact is that according to age adjusted data from the Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007, our Maryland men and boys die earlier and more often from leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, accidents, suicide, and homicide.¹ The only leading cause of death out of the top 15 for which women outnumber men is Alzheimer’s Disease.  The men simply don’t live long enough to outnumber women diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Being male has a huge impact on both our longevity and our state of health. Simply put, Maryland men live both shorter and sicker lives than Maryland females. We know that black males in Maryland live on average to be only 70.9 years old and white males live on average to about 76.9 years of age.  Both black and white women outlive both black and white males with black females living on average 78.0 years of age while white females live to be 81.6.²   It appears that one’s sex is a significant factor in longevity as it is in health.

Judging from these numbers, one would assume that there would be special programs focusing on the health of Maryland males. This is simply not the case. Our Maryland men are largely forgotten when it comes to services provided for gender-specific problems. An informal assessment performed by the Maryland Men’s Health Commission’s support staff of male-specific and female-specific health programs in Maryland showed that women have numerous programs for their unique health problems. Examples include a Breast and Cervical Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Program, a program for screening breast and cervical cancer, a Maternal and Perinatal Health Program and numerous others.  There are special programs for women for family planning and for female victims of domestic violence. The state of Maryland had a program titled “Women Enjoying Life Longer” which focused on women’s wellness issues.  Maryland also has a “Women’s Health Program” which is meant to assess and address health issues that commonly, uniquely, or disproportionately affect women throughout their lifespan. Many millions of dollars of Maryland’s budget directly support the programs identified above.

When we look to the men’s side of the equation, we see far fewer programs.  The Commission’s informal assessment showed that there was one pilot program in Charles County for prostate screening and another that was funded by the Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF).   There are no Maryland programs for testicular cancer, no programs for prostate cancer, no programs for men who are depressed or suicidal (even though men comprise 80% of the suicide totals), no programs for men who are victims of violence even though men are murdered more than five times as often as women.3  What we found from this informal survey was that the health services provided specifically for men are very sparse when compared to those provided specifically for women.

The Maryland numbers are far from an aberration and are very similar to what we see on a national level. The US has multiple national commissions for women’s health and none for men. There has been a bill to create a men’s health act that has been sitting dead in committee for the last ten years. It simply can not get enough votes or interest to pass. You can see a national website womenshealth.gov for women’s health and another site girlshealth.gov specifically for girls.  Both are paid for and sponsored by the US federal government.  However, a search for menshealth.gov  or boyshealth.gov uncovers only a “server not found” error.  These sites simply do not exist.  Looking internationally, you can see that this same bias of focusing on the health and well-being of women and girls and ignoring that of men and boys is common throughout the western world.  The only western country that is aggressively addressing this issue is Australia, where legislators have been busy evaluating their present health system and its bias against boys and men and making significant adjustments.  Hopefully, initiatives in states such as Maryland will cause our country and others to step forward like Australia and find compassion for both men and women, boys and girls.

Many experts agree that the bias we are describing exists but there is very little consensus on the likely cause.  Many are pointing to the traditional roles of men as a possible factor.4  The men’s traditional role of “provide and protect” primarily sends resources to others while discouraging the utilization of those same resources by those who are doing the providing.  This leaves men motivated to help and care for women and children but much less interested in being of help to men.  We can see this play out as our largely male legislators have focused on issues of women’s health while ignoring those of men.  Others point towards the relatively new ideas of evolutionary psychology that examine the men’s “dominance hierarchy”5 which  compels men to strive for status by competing with other men.  Males are therefore more likely to want to strive to serve women and children and thereby move up in status, but less likely to offer services to fellow competitors.

No matter the reasons behind this bias it is glaringly obvious to anyone who takes the time to investigate that men’s health issues are in serious need.  This report will focus on a number of areas where Maryland men have been largely forgotten and the impact that this has had on men and boys.  Recommendations will follow each individual section.

References

1. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007.  Table 38, Age-adjusted Death Rates per 100,000 Population for Selected Causes of Death by Race and Sex. Maryland 2007. http://mdpublichealth.org/vsa/doc/07annual.pdf

2. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007.  Table 7,  Life Expectancy by Age, Race and Sex, Maryland 2007. http://mdpublichealth.org/vsa/doc/07annual.pdf

3. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007.  Table 42,  Death and Death Rates for 15 Leading Causes, Maryland 2007. http://vsa.maryland.gov/doc/07annual.pdf

4. Farrell, W. (1993). The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are The Disposable Sex. New York: Simon & Schuster.

5. Moxon, Steven (2008). The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How The Sexes Relate at Work, at Play, and in Society. UK: Imprint Academic.