Why I Am a Christian

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Why I Don't Respect the "Respect" Campaign

     "You must be the last man who still does that," said my cousin's daughter, as I manoeuvred to walk on the outside of her on the footpath. But childhood training runs deep, and I was brought up to be a gentleman. So I would normally be sympathetic to the government advertisements encouraging respect for women. But when it showed a man telling his son, "Don't throw like a girl," depicted as a bad thing, I decided to look up the government website it recommended.
     First of all, please understand that this article is not about the Respect domestic violence hotline, which is probably doing a good job. It is about the government "information" campaign on the website https://www.respect.gov.au/, which explains that, while disrespect for women does not necessarily lead to domestic violence, all domestic violence (by men) invariably starts by disrespect. (Rather like pregnancy starts with kissing.) Go over to the page entitled, "Stop the Excuses" and upload the brochure, "The Excuse Interpreter".
     Before we start, if you haven't already done so, please read my article of November 2014, in which I examine the real official statistics on domestic violence, and pointed out that:
  • the problem is not domestic violence or violence against women, but violence per se, with males being the most common victims (usually from other males, admittedly);
  • the incidence is low, and getting lower; and
  • there is no culture of violence against women, but rather the actions of a minority who are fully aware they are behaving contrary to community norms.
     The reason I bring this up is that the brochure opens with a set of false statistics. Firstly, it claims that on average one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner, and quotes as reference the 2015 homicide report of the Australian Institute of Criminology.
     False! The report does list 109 intimate partner homicide for the financial years 2010-12, but you have to download the full PDF report to see that only 83 of these were women. That's one every 9 days. No, this is not a quibble. Overquoting by a quarter to make a point is not a light matter. Even more serious is the fact that the authors simply quoted a popular figure without even reading their own reference.
     To put this in perspective, let us compare the figures for the previous double year, 2008-2010.
Total women killed by an intimate partner: 83 in 2010-12, down from 89 in 2009-2010.
Total female homicides: 182, up from 175 previously.
Total male homicides: 328, down from 366.
     Also, this is Australia, not Liechtenstein. For a population of 24 million, the homicide rate is very low, and is now the lowest it is ever been. We are winning the war on homicide, but nobody notices.
     There is no "epidemic of domestic violence". However, in order to inflate the figures, we have seen a subtle change in the popular reporting. They often talk of "domestic and family" violence. The latter includes the killing of parents, children, siblings, and more distant relatives. Many of these did not share a house with the offender and, in any case, the motive is likely to be different from that for the killing of an intimate partner. A ten year overview reveals that intimate partners were the victims of 23½% of homicides, and other family members 18%. It demonstrates the truism that whatever has a potential for great good has an equal potential for great evil. Families are usually the source of our greatest happiness, but when they go bad they can cause us terrible suffering. As Joy Davidman once wrote: although we think killing a close family member is far worse than killing a stranger, the family members who get themselves murdered have often done a lot more to deserve it than the average casual stranger.
     The next set of statistics provided by the brochure is that one in three women have been the victim of physical or sexual violence by someone they knew since the age of 15, and one in six has suffered violence from a current or former partner. The source given was the 2012 Personal Safety Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
     Misleading! You have to read the report closely, but it includes both actual and threatened actions in its definition of violence. As I pointed out in my earlier article, the rates of actual violence are about a half or a third of these figures. Also, the survey includes even pushing or grabbing in its definition of violence. One thing, however, it does make clear: the situation is getting better. The incidence of violence (broadly defined) was lower in the 2012 survey compared to 2005, and much lower than in 1996. (Check out the charts in the lower part of this page.)

But does it matter?
     I have an ingrained objection to exaggerations even in a good cause. But it doesn't mean the cause isn't good. If we concern ourselves with cases of one person injuring or terrorising another, then we are probably looking at one or two percent of couples. In absolute terms, this is still an important social problem. So does the "Excuse Interpreter" provide any help in the matter?
     It commences with stating, plausibly, that the cycle of violence starts with disrespect, but then goes on to explain that, without realising it, we end up saying things which teach that aggression and disrespect are a normal part of life. For example, one of them is "making fun of girls because of their appearance." Of course, if you cast your mind back to your own childhood, you may remember that girls also make fun of other girls because of their appearance. It is part of the devious power play for which the female of the species is famous. They also make fun of boys because of their appearance. And boys make fun of other boys in the same way. It's a jungle out there. And, of course, saying "Don't throw like a girl" is "using gender as an insult."
     They then follow it up on page 3 with a list of comments which justify bad behaviour, and how they may be interpreted by the young people involved - such things as: "It's only a bit of fun", "It's just a joke", "It's tough being a boy", and "Boys will be boys", among other things. Read it all.
     Now, it should be obvious that occasions exist where such statements are just plain common sense, and others where they really are just excuses for bad behaviour. Most parents are capable of using their common sense in this matter. Whether any of this spills over into bad behaviour in later life is a moot point. It may not have escaped your notice that a certain antagonism between the sexes exists in childhood. Before they "discover" each other at puberty, boys and girls regard each other as members of rival, and often hostile tribes.
      Note that this antagonism rarely spills over into fisticuffs. Boys may settle their differences by fighting, but girls belong to a different tribe, and so are outside the male power structure. That is why parents easily drum into their sons that hitting girls is definitely taboo, but find it harder to stop them hitting each other. Socialisation always works best when it follows the natural lines of human instincts.
     Apart from that, you might consider that whether a boy grows up to bash his lady love may have less to do with whether his elders say that boys will be boys, or his father tells him not to throw like a girl, and more to do with how he sees his own father treat his mother. If nothing else, this reveals the weakness of the whole campaign: it is aimed at ordinary, decent parents whose children are the least vulnerable. Like the white ribbon campaign, it is preaching to the choir.
     But the real crunch comes on page 4 with the section, "Avoiding Gender Stereotypes".
Gender stereotypes are labels that reinforce outdated ideas of how men and women should behave. Popular phrases imply that boys should take control and suppress their emotions, and girls should be passive and accommodating.
     Outdated? The male and female roles which exist in every society on earth, which are older than the human race, and which have evolved for their adaptive value?
     First up, you shouldn't say, "Man up". It might make a boy think that men need to be tough. And you wouldn't want your son to be tough, would you? It might make him more resilient to the trials of life, and to succeed in the corporate jungle. Indeed, you might like to ask the opinion of grown women about this, because I haven't heard many of them include the term, "wuss" in their description of their ideal man.
     Also taboo are "Who wears the pants?", "She has you under the thumb", and "You're so whipped". Really? These sound like the things one might say, rightly or wrongly, to a grown man in a settled relationship or marriage, not a nervous teenager testing the waters of the dating game.
     As for girls, it is apparently inappropriate to say, "She's such a bossy boots", because it implies she shouldn't be assertive. I know a couple of girls who would say that about their own big sister, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she is female; it's because she is such a bossy boots. It also appears to be against the rules to refer to a girl as a tomboy, because it implies she is not feminine enough, nor as a little princess, which implies she is too feminine. How any of this makes her more likely to be a victim of domestic violence is far from obvious.
     In other words, this is a case where a good cause has been hijacked by politically correct social engineers seeking to overturn the traditional ie natural roles of men and women. And the irony is, such campaigns are not only ineffective in the long run, but counter-productive. If you want to inculcate respect for women and reduce domestic violence, the best way is to reinforce the male's natural role as protector and provider. Socialisation always works best if it goes with the flow of natural instincts rather than against it.

Who's responsible? The campaign claims to be a joint Australian, state, and territorial government initiative. The relevant ministers must have signed off on it. Did they read it fully? Do they agree with it all? We never voted to have social engineers try to change us. Who wrote it? Someone whispered in the ear of someone in the corridors of power that a campaign to respect women would be a good idea, and then outsourced it to those with a more sinister agendum. It just goes to show that we must never relax our vigilance, for democracy is slowly being taken over from within.