Wednesday, 04 December 2013

Something is wrong with men, and it’s not women

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Women are not alone in feeling angry, bewildered, hurt and helpless about violence against women. Men feel it too, and they can and should speak up.

Privilege? Hmm, let’s see. White, middle aged, middle-class, heterosexual male. Check. Full-time semi-professionally employed. Check. Tertiary education. Check. Never sexually or otherwise abused, unless you count a miserable few years of bullying at secondary school. All checked.

And, with full regard for all the triggers this may set off, and with the deepest respect for all the women who’ve said all this a million times before me, I’m angry.

I’m angry about men and the violence they seem unable, or worse, unwilling, to prevent in themselves and others.

I’m angry and I’m sick of it and I want to do something but I don’t know what. Everywhere I look there’s more of it and it doesn’t even fucking stop in the sports pages, in fact that’s where you get the best picture of how Wrong this all is.

I wrote back in July about why I’ve given up on my beloved St Kilda Football Club and the AFL itself, and the grubbiness has continued through Milne’s committal (he is to stand trial in August next year); Milne’s legal team at one stage tried, in the words of the Magistrate, to turn the committal into a “Royal Commission into the Police”.

Now that he has been committed to trial his legal bills are going to escalate by orders of magnitude. Luckily for Milne, the Pack still loves him.

The way I read this article, this story made the news not because anyone at the club, the AFL or the Players’ Association spoke to the media, but because one “coterie” (ie passionate fan who pays huge membership every year to be closer to the organisation) member did so. Guilty or innocent (and remember, the AFL and the club and everyone else will tell you til they’re blue in the face “He’s innocent until proven guilty”, which, along with copyright and contract law seems to be the only law that applies where top-flight sportsmen are concerned), this is wrong.

This is not mates passing the hat around for an old ex-player who’s down on his luck. This is The Pack. This is The Group, The Brotherhood saying “FUCK YOU” to the victim, to her supporters, to the police, to the law – he’s One Of Us, a Chosen One, we have the resources and the connections to set ourselves above all of you; we are untouchable.

To his (or perhaps his advisers’) credit, Milne turned down the offer of a fund-raising dinner and is remaining silent on the subject; I shudder to think what the conversation would’ve revolved around and what jokes would have been told had it gone ahead.

There’s no need to go through, for the billionth time, all the victim-blaming and slut-shaming that went on when the Milne complaint was first aired. Or, for that matter, all the other occasions when a player or players have been accused of rape or assault.

Even the best-intentioned warnings to young, star-struck women make it Her Fault though; women are supposed to just accept that groups of fit young men are going to behave like beasts (they have no choice, no control over their behaviour after all), that they are going to treat women like lumps of meat to be used, tallied up and thrown away.

Women have to be careful to keep themselves safe, and bear the “well you shouldn’t have gone into the room with them, should you?” when they’re unable to.

So rarely as to not count at all, does a man, for instance a club president or a league CEO or a senior commentator, say that there is actually a responsibility on the young men involved. Boys will be boys, these things happen, it’s a grey area, they get women throwing themselves at them all the time, how are they to truly judge what’s right and wrong?

They’re victims of peer pressure, testosterone, superstardom, whatever. It’s not their fault. They have a limited view of life outside football, of women, society, of normal behaviour.

And it’s not just sportsmen. The Gittany case made headlines for a lot of good reasons and a lot of depressing ones. It was a judge-only trial, so there weren’t as many restrictions on reporting before and during it, for one thing.

A jealous, controlling, violent man killed his partner. It happens every week, but not generally in stylish fifteenth-floor apartments, and the offenders don’t often go to trial with a Not Guilty plea, so there are no salacious detail to report. All we get with a Guilty plea is a few oblique references to the horrifying, tragic end of a sad, scared life at the point of a knife, or a fence post, or fists and boots.

The silence of men on matters of rape and violence against women is shameful – Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Lay and the Chief of Army David Morrison’s recent and on-going statements stand out so baldly because they are almost alone in saying what needs to be said:

Violence against women is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men. As is violence against men. As are all violence offences. As are all wars, and the industrialised rape that follows.

There is something wrong. Something is going wrong, has gone wrong, for generations, in the raising of boys into men.

It’s clear, to me at least, that Gittany’s need to control his fiancée (and his attitude that women are there to “serve” him) came not from a distorted, arrogant over-confidence, but from the exact opposite.

He was motivated by fear, by low self-esteem, by a lack of proper attachment and emotional grounding as a child. Without a proper sense of self he had to project an identity onto his fiancée/victim and that simulacra had to be perfect and perfectly controlled, or his sense of self would evaporate, leaving him alone, unprotected and vulnerable.

And, as is the case with so many men, fear turns to anger and anger’s only, or at least easiest, expression is violence.

I’m not making excuses for him, there are no excuses for what he did, we need to understand why he did what he did and how we can other men following his path.

Something is wrong.

Why do men turn to anger and violence so often and so easily? Why are so many men afraid to admit it, about themselves and about their friends, colleagues, team-mates, male relatives, drinking buddies, sporting heroes?

So often when a woman writes or says something similar to what I just have, the immediate response is to cry “Misandry”, as if the stats are just propositions or theories. Why can we not accept what is true?

Something is wrong.

Violence against women is not a Women’s Issue. It is not for women to protect themselves from us, nor to educate us on how we should behave.

It is down to us, as fathers and sons and brothers and friends and colleagues, AS MEN to work this out. For ourselves, for once. We are not victims of misandry or radical lesbians or feminazi killjoys or their sandal-wearing pussy-whipped PC husbands and boyfriends.

To the extent that we’re victims of anything or anyone, we are here at the pointy end of societal evolution, finally with the resources (ie, educated, unrepressed women) to look back a bit and see how much is Wrong with how we were raised, how our fathers and theirs before them were raised.

Telling women how to keep themselves safe from us is not the answer. Teaching ourselves how to be safe is.

Justin Shaw

Follow Justin on Twitter: @JuzzyTribune