GENDER WARS: 'If a woman hit you, would you hit her back?'
A Facebook poll asked social media users whether or not it was okay to hit a woman if she hit you first. Journalist SHERELE MOODY says the poll missed a vital point.
"IF a woman hits you, would you hit her back?"
An online poll asking this question appeared on an Australian men's rights Facebook page about two weeks ago.
By the time the poll was deleted, almost 80,000 people had responded.
At one stage 80% of voters said "yes", they would hit a woman who hit them.
This dropped to 49% as anti-violence activists urged Aussie females to cast a "no" vote.
As with any social media post, the public commentary flowed thick and fast, with the majority of the men saying hitting a woman "in self-defence" was justified.
A lot of commentators also declared that if women wanted equality they should expect "equal rights and equal lefts".
"So what you are saying is you don't want equal rights. You want more rights. As for me my mother raised me if a bitch hits you with her fist knock that bitch out," one bloke opined.
And another vented: "If a woman attacks me I will hit her back no questions asked. Keep your damn hands to yourself and you ain't going to have a problem ... can't follow that a left hook will remind you good and proper."
And there was this comment about "chivalry": "If a woman puts her hands on a man then he has every right to hit back. Remember chivalry & equality cannot co-exist. Woman wanted equality so here it is."
A minority of commentators said violence should not be an option.
"Why would a woman ever hit? Violence is not the answer. More than enough legal ways for a woman to leave the guy. If she chooses to hit. She chooses violence," one bloke wrote.
A woman responded with: "I hope none of these 'men' have sisters, wives, mothers, daughters, nieces, female friends.... SICK!!".
HOW THIS GROUP TROLLS WOMEN
I'VE chosen not to name the organisation involved because the last thing it deserves is promotion. I'll refer to it as the "MRA group".
The group loves the limelight, often stating "any publicity is good publicity" when its activities are discussed in the media - which is surprisingly often.
Its website says it aims to: "To expose the double standards, hypocrisy and misandry of feminism;to destroy feminism in Australia; and to give men a voice without being silenced by feminists."
It regularly urges its followers to protest against female-focused businesses as well as not-for-profits and charities supporting female survivors of family violence.
In June last year, the organisation hit the headlines when it urged its members to troll the Facebook page of Brisbane company Tradettes after owner Helen Yost posted she was seeking to add another female plumber to her staff.
Yost's page copped thousands of anti-women comments and one-star reviews and she was inundated with negative emails, phone calls and text messages.
"They're saying that we're trying to run the industry down and that we're not doing a good job as female plumbers," Ms Yost told network 10's The Project.
"They've also been sending emails, they've been sending messages through the Facebook page and they've been prank calling us all day today."
The owners of the offending Facebook page refused to speak to media about this, but in the hours after the Tradettes trolling was exposed, the MRA group proclaimed "any publicity is good publicity" on its socials.
"All we did was state they were sexist for implying that male plumbers don't clean up after themselves or have an attention to detail," the post said.
"Naturally The Project (TV program) took this as an opportunity to push their anti-male agenda by making this sexist company look like the victims."
The day after the Tradettes trolling started, the same organisation urged its members to turn their focus to the Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe, also in Brisbane.
Why? Because it had announced it would be stocking Clementine Ford's new book Boys Will Be Boys.
"Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe in Brisbane are promoting Clementine Ford's man hating book," the MRA group posted on its Facebook page.
"Be sure to leave them a one-star review for promoting the hatred of men."
And the trolls attacked, leaving the ubiquitous one-star ratings and negative reviews.
"DISGUSTING MAN HATING BOOK STORE THAT PROMOTES MISANDRISM [sic]!," one person posted on the Avid Facebook page.
Another followed this up with: "Since you promote misandrist Clementine Ford who hates men, I will never visit this bookshop/cafe ever again."
Hundreds of missives along these lines rolled in until word of the attacked leaked out and social media users across the country took the situation into their own hands.
The trolling backfired, as Facebookers delivered 5000 new likes to Avid's page, while leaving 2000 glowing and supportive five-star reviews.
It's vital to note that Facebook page owners cannot remove offensive reviews, a flaw trolling experts take advantage of.
The only way to nip this in the bud is to turn the review portion of your page off, something most owners are loathe to do as positive reviews can lead to better profit.
MISSING THE REAL ISSUES IMPACTING MEN
THE organisation behind this trolling has a web page stacked to the gills with articles opposing feminism.
It also has a Twitter account and two Facebook sites.
For the seventh time, Facebook removed the group's open page - which had about 8000 followers - for inciting violence against women. Within days of the page being removed its owners had started a new one.
Its other site - a closed Facebook group - has more than 11,000 followers. A quick glance at its members list shows the vast majority are male.
In social media terms its follower figures are small, but this organisation could still use its influence to make a difference in the lives of the thousands of men who are attracted to its ethos.
In Australia, guys have rough ride. There is no doubt about this. If you are male, chances are you will die at a younger age than the women in your life.
Men are more likely to suicide than females, they also have poorer health outcomes, they are more likely to be killed in road crashes or to be murdered, they have higher rates of alcohol, drug and gambling addictions and there are more males in our jails than females.
Our society has major expectations for our blokes. We want them to be tough and manly and if they show emotion they are called derogatory "feminine" names like "princess" and "pussy".
Many people still expect men to fit certain stereotypes, including what it means to be a father. Even in 2018, blokes are encouraged to work hard and long hours to care for their families and the cost to them is spending precious time with their children and partners.
Yet MRA group - and others like it - refuse to focus on the issues that need to change to improve the lives of the country's males. Instead, they use their power to cause division between the genders, almost always focussing on the one thing that is more likely to kill a woman than accidents or suicide - intimate partner violence.
The owner of this particular MRA group did not respond to a request for comment, but has long proclaimed: "domestic violence is not a gendered issue".
This is despite all the reputable data clearly showing that, yes, it is a gendered issue because women are the primary victims of violence at the hands of a current or former partner and men are the primary perpetrators of this violence.
That said, men do experience intimate partner abuse, but it is more likely to be emotional and when they do die in domestic violence situations, their killers are usually other male family members or female partners who have used self-defence as a last resort.
Last year, the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team published its report into all DV homicides in that state from 2012 to 2014.
The report was based on police investigations and criminal and coroner's court outcomes and it revealed that 159 women were killed by current or former male partners and family members in the 14 years and none of the murdered men died at the hands of a female family member who had a history of subjecting them to violence.
There are no similar reports for Queensland or other Australian jurisdictions because their respective governments have only recently appointed domestic violence death review panels or they are yet to go down this path.
BUT IS IT RIGHT TO HIT A WOMAN IN SELF DEFENCE?
ASKING social media users to vote on whether or not men should hit women is just plain wrong, but it is a question that makes you stop for a minute and think.
As someone who spent their childhood and teenage years surrounded by violence, I can attest to the urge to retaliate.
When I was eight or nine years old, a much older girl bashed me as I left the school yard. The following afternoon she decided to give me another going over. This time though, as she raised her fist towards my head, I ducked and punched her in the stomach with all my strength. Even today - almost 40 years later - I can feel my fist sinking into her tummy and I can still see the shock on her face.
This is the only time I have ever hit a person and I can tell you I instantly regretted it.
Why? Because she hit back, flogging the proverbial out of me.
The lesson learned? Violence begets violence.
Female abuse survivors often talk to me about the times they've struck their attackers in self-defence. Invariably, they suffer even more violence because they retaliated.
All Australian states and territories have laws regarding protecting your property and yourself. In a nutshell - you can defend yourself or another person or your property if you believe you will be harmed. You can read more about this at www.findlaw.com.au/articles/5022/self-defence-law-in-australia.aspx.
When we are talking about self-defence, we need to be really careful about what we are defending ourselves against.
Yes. It is right to protect yourself, but you must only do this if you believe that your safety - or that of someone else - is genuinely at risk. That is - you are going to be severely injured or killed.
Restraining physically a person who comes at you, or someone else, with a weapon is very different to punching someone's lights out because they slapped you.
HOW TO RESPOND TO VIOLENCE
AT the end of the day, any organisation that opposes violence should be encouraging people to make responsible decisions when they are in this situation.
They should be saying that the only thing to do if you are not at risk of harm, is to walk away - regardless of the gender of those involved - and to offer balanced advice and support.
If you're a bloke and a woman hits you here are some options:
- Walk away and do not retaliate.
- If it is safe, speak to her about what has happened, tell them it is not acceptable and urge them to get help.
- Contact police to report the violence and seek medical attention so your injuries - scratches, bruises and others - can be documented.
- Speak to police, your lawyer or your local community legal centre about your options regarding domestic violence orders.
- Phone Mensline on 1800 600 636, 1800Respect or your local domestic violence service to seek the support of trained professional. They will be able to link you with crisis accommodation, therapy, material aid and legal support.
- If you are in a domestic violence situation and you cannot leave immediately because of children and/or pets, ask a DV service or your local police DV liaison officers to help you formulate a safety plan to get you and your loved ones to safety.
- Tell your friends, family, employers and colleagues so they too can help you in whatever way is needed.
Australia has a long way to go before we see the end of violence. We know that 17 people have been murdered in Australia in 2018 - that's a little over four people a week.
Men are the victims - and the suspects - in 15 of these deaths.
Instead of giving men opinion polls to answer, we need to encourage blokes to walk away from volatile situations.
We need to make sure they know that the safest way to retaliate - and to stay alive - is to use your head and the criminal justice system. That's why we have one. - NewsRegional
News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her coverage of domestic violence issues. Sherele is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and a member of the Femicide Australia Project.
*For 24-hour support domestic violence support phone 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Mensline on 1800 600 636.