Here's an issue that's been raised a couple times in the last few days: how does the feminist approach to combating domestic and sexual violence deal with male victims of violence?
I'm going to admit straight up, this is not going to be one of those posts where I have a strong opinion and defend it tooth and nail. I simply don't have the knowledge. Every side of this debate presents different statistics and evidence, and my personal experience (from ambulance and ER work) is heavily skewed toward female victims--partly because there's more of them, but also possibly because male victims report less often or because they're less likely to discuss it with a female stranger. So instead of getting into a persuasive essay, I just want to name some of the factors in play here:
This is absolutely a problem.
I hope nobody here would deny that men are victimized sexually and by their intimate partners, by both men and women, and it's not rare. While I've seen more female victims in my work, I've certainly seen plenty of men.
And male victims are in a uniquely tough spot. The establishment tends to make a joke out of them, question their masculinity, suspect them of being the aggressor when their abuser is female, and generally not be a big help. The feminist movement far too often takes a "sorry, not my department" attitude. And the most visible members of the men's movement are too busy yelling "BITCHES CUNTS WHORES" in their mothers' basements.
There aren't a lot of well-publicized, legitimate entities offering male victims advocacy and support, and that is unfair and, plainly, sucks.
Unfortunately, this is also a favorite argument of sexists.
"Men get victimized too" is true and troubling, but part of the reason many feminists are uncomfortable discussing it is that they've had the following argument five thousand times:
Fran Feminist: "One of the biggest difficulties for women escaping abuse is when they no longer have any support from friends and family by the time they're able to leave."
Frida Feminist: "Absolutely, overcoming systematic social isolation can be..."
Scott Sexist:"HEY! MEN GET VICTIMIZED TOO! WHAT ABOUT ALL THE WOMEN WHO BEAT MEN AND NEVER GET CAUGHT? WHAT ABOUT THAT, HUH?"
Fran Feminist: "That's terrible, but we're talking about..."
Scott Sexist: "HORRIBLE WOMEN JUST MANIPULATE MEN INTO SUFFERING THEIR ENTIRE LIVES WHILE WOMEN GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING THEY WANT!"
After a few of these, it just gets your hackles up. It's rare that these Scotts know about, much less support, any actual programs for male survivors; they just want to take over the conversation and make it all about debating the point that some women do some evil things, and using basic algebra, this cancels to "women are evil."
Unfortunately, the frequency of this kind of argument tends to leave feminists guarded and suspicious when Alex Actual Trauma Survivor shows up to the conversation. Thanks to Scott's fine work, Alex has to extensively prove he's not one of those guys before any productive discussion at all can occur.
More women than men are victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Because of underreporting on both sides, all statistics can be questioned, but I think it's pretty clear that this isn't a 50-50 thing. Acting like the world is currently 50-50 (and therefore, all protections and resources available to women are injustices against men) is a tactic of Scott Sexist--we're coming out of a very recent history of women being explicitly second-class citizens, and we're still socially in a pretty iffy spot right now.
Sexism works against men as well (see below), but not as often and not as reliably. A woman who beats her boyfriend may be given loopholes because of sexist preconceptions, but it doesn't give the woman a motive to do so, whereas sexism does give men motives to attack women. I mentioned above that violence against women gets more attention, and this isn't for purely political reasons--it's also because there's more violence against women.
Violence against men deserves more attention than it currently gets, but violence against women does as well.
Sexism is still a factor here.
Male victims of sexual and domestic violence don't live in some wacky backwards world where women are the dominant class and men are oppressed. Nor do they stand as proof that oppression is a myth and all abuse is just random violence between individuals.
Instead, they're victims of different stereotypes that turn out to be just as destructive. Instead of "a woman doesn't always have the right to refuse sex," they run up against "a man would never want to refuse sex." Instead of "women always make wacky accusations, don't believe her," they get "women aren't aggressive enough to hurt men, don't believe him." Instead of "it's okay for your husband to control you," they get "you're not a real man anyway if you let your wife control you."
The effects may be just as soul-crushing, but the mechanisms are different. Male and female victims, in the social/political context, go through different things, and for this reason can't always be lumped together.
So those are my thoughts, inconclusive as they are, on "what about the male victims?" I'm not comfortable with dismissing it as mere derailment, but I'm also not comfortable allowing it to derail. And ultimately, in that we can come to see men as vulnerable and women as self-responsible adults, it could become a shining example of how Feminism Can Help Men Too. I don't think it is now, because of the aforementioned "not my department" attitude. But it could be.