Creative Destruction

December 6, 2006

Putting Obstacles in the Way of Male Survivors

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Daran @ 8:27 pm

I’m embroiled in a bit of an interblog flame war with some of the feminists over at Alas. I don’t want to involve CD or its readers in all that, but part of my latest post addresses some substantive issues, so I’ve decided to post an editted and expanded version here.

ms_xeno:

Check it out. Right next door, Daran is going on and on about “feminist apartheid” and how men simply must horn in on everything women do for women because “that’s where the money tends to end up.” Tends to. It just falls in our laps like free milk and cookies in fucking kindergarten. Truckloads of free milk and cookies, and how meeeeeeean of us not to give him any just because he holds out his hand. Sweet jeebus.

Let’s have a look at what I said right next door

What kind of space are you talking about? I don’t want a homeland for male survivors. I don’t want reserved seats at the back of the bus or separate but equal provision. I want inclusion.

And then

there are male-created survivor spaces. But it’s the female ones that get the lion’s share of the resources and recognition.

Many years ago, I was an administrative support worker of a group for both male and female survivors. We had a funding application rejected on the grounds that the funder was supporting the local Women’s Aid Centre, and therefore there was no need to support us. Set aside for a moment the fact that the services we offered to women were complimentary to and non-overlapping with those of the WAC; what this episode illustrates is the complete invisibility of male survivors, despite our efforts to centre them in our campaigning material.

I’m asking for access to public resources. I’ll take no lectures from Ms_xeno about the hand-to-mouth existence of many of these little groups. I was there. I was doing it. Fundraising was part of my job. And yes, I do feel that sexual abuse/domestic victims in my half of the population are entitled to be heard by public bodies, and to a share of the public resources intended for victims. But I wonder how it feels, as ms_xeno apparently does, for her half of the population to be entitled to all of it.

Unfortunately ms_xeno is not a lone voice. There are many within the survivor movment with similar views to hers, who actively seek to place obstacles in the way of those who try to access and develop resources for male survivors.

Let me give an example. The following account is not my experience. It was told to me by one of the two female founders of the survivor group I used to work for. She had no reason to lie and I’ve no doubt she was telling me the truth.

The two members, both women, went as delegates from the group to a conference for female survivors in the south of England. When they arrived, (having paid their fees in advance, and having incurred travel expenses from Scotland) they were told by the organisers there was a problem. Some of the other delegates were objecting to their presence. The group qualified to attend as a survivor group for women, (and of which women were the majority of members) but because it was a survivor group for men as well, this offended the sense of gender-purity of some of the other delegates. Eventually their objections were put to a vote, which was defeated, but there was a substantial minority who voted to exclude our delegates.

These are the attitudes that we’re up against. Whatever privileges might attach to maleness in other contexts, there are none in the context of abuse-survival. Rather “privilege” is a magic word used by ms_xeno and her ilk to justify her bigotry and prejudice.

5 Comments »

  1. And yes, I do feel that sexual abuse/domestic victims in my half of the population are entitled to be heard by public bodies, and to a share of the public resources intended for victims. But I wonder how it feels, as ms_xeno apparently does, for her half of the population to be entitled to all of it.

    Ms Xeno didn’t say that, nor do I believe for a second that she believes anything like that. Ms. Xeno was denying that MRAs have a right to expect access to the resources that feminists have spent years creating to help women; she wasn’t speaking out against the idea of advocates for abused men receiving resources from the government.

    I doubt that either of your anecdotes are accurate, any more than your criticism of Mx Xeno was accurate. How convenient for your argument that the feminists you criticize aren’t named, and aren’t here to give their own versions of the events you describe.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 21, 2006 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

  2. Ampersand:I doubt that either of your anecdotes are accurate

    That looks like a very odd claim.

    So far as I can see there can be only two reasons for doubting the accuracy (as opposed to their representativeness) of the two anecdotes related by Daran. He might be lying. But does he, in your experience and within the limits of your powers to verify, make a habit of doing this? Or, in the case of the second anecdote, the two women might have lied to him. But, as you know nothing about them, on what grounds would you impugn their veracity?

    Did you, in fact, mean to say that the events related by Daran are *unrepresentative* of the situation as a whole?

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 21, 2006 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  3. Ms Xeno didn’t say that, nor do I believe for a second that she believes anything like that. Ms. Xeno was denying that MRAs have a right to expect access to the resources that feminists have spent years creating to help women; she wasn’t speaking out against the idea of advocates for abused men receiving resources from the government.

    I don’t know how you managed to factor MRAs into that, since neither I nor ms_xeno in response mentioned them.

    Unfortunately government resources are limited. I wish it weren’t true; I really do. If we could get the same resources then we could be separate but equal, But they are, and we can’t.

    It’s not like including men would necessarily take away resources from women anyway. For example one of the problems we had was obtaining literature suitable for men. It wasn’t the cost of printing an extra 33% of copies, that would be only a few percent of the total cost of producing the literature. The problem was that the literature had been written in an exclusive male-blaming fashion in the first place. If would have been just as useful to women had it been written inclusively. (Indeed it would have been more useful to women because it would not have also excluded women abused by women, or women who had been supported by men.)

    I doubt that either of your anecdotes are accurate, any more than your criticism of Mx Xeno was accurate. How convenient for your argument that the feminists you criticize aren’t named, and aren’t here to give their own versions of the events you describe.

    That is a problem with all personal anecdotes. Are they all to be excluded from consideration, or just those that don’t suit you? For example, if a woman were to recount her rape by a man, should we dismiss that too?

    While you’re thinking about that, here’s another anecdote. The back-of-the-bus analogy I use is particularly poignant to me, because I have literally been barred from a bus because I am male – a real bus with wheels and an engine. Here’s what happened:

    In 1993, at the same time as I was working for the survivor group, but unrelated to that work, I was taking part in a summer playscheme for children. One day an outing had been scheduled and we needed a bus. The rule for voluntary organisations with resources like buses is that they share with those that don’t. However when we asked the woman’s centre[*] this rule apparently didn’t apply to them. They were willing to lend us their bus, but only if we promised not to allow any adult men on board. I’m not sure why. Maybe they were worried about the male cooties, I don’t know…

    But feel free to disbelieve this anecdote too. I realise it’s much, much easier to stick your hands over your ears and say “I can’t hear you” than it is to consider that there might be anything wrong with the movement you are so heavily invested in.

    [*]not the woman’s aid centre; that was a different organisation whom we got on well with, despite their getting our money on that one occasion, which appalled them as much as it appalled us.

    Comment by Daran — December 21, 2006 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  4. For example, if a woman were to recount her rape by a man, should we dismiss that too?

    That a significant number of women are raped by men is not a controversial fact; it is a well-documented, widely-accepted fact among most people in society, including among many experts in studying crime prevalence. (Although some MRAs and anti-feminists, who I realize you don’t identify yourself with, would deny it.) Whether or not women being raped by men is a real, recurring problem is not something we have to rely on anecdotes to decide.

    In contrast, what you’re trying to establish is not as well supported; in fact, it seems almost entirely supported by anecdote.

    But feel free to disbelieve this anecdote too. I realise it’s much, much easier to stick your hands over your ears and say “I can’t hear you” than it is to consider that there might be anything wrong with the movement you are so heavily invested in.

    And I guess it’s much, much easier to believe that feminists are evil man-bashers than it is to consider whether or not you might be a biased observer. And that perhaps that’s why you have no real evidence, apart from your biased anecdotal observations.

    The reason male victims lack funding isn’t feminism, Daran. You’re not an MRA, but you’re just like them, in your irrational belief that everything should be blamed on feminism.

    Tom:

    So far as I can see there can be only two reasons for doubting the accuracy (as opposed to their representativeness) of the two anecdotes related by Daran. He might be lying

    Or he might be an honest reporter of his biased observations and memories. Or, as you correctly say (and I should have mentioned this as a reason for doubt) his experience could be non-representative.

    I think that everyone, me included, has a tendency to interpret events and organize memories in ways that go along with their worldviews. This is one reason that anecdotal evidence, especially by itself, is of limited use; for example, I don’t think I’ve gotten the full story about anyone’s nasty divorce unless I’ve heard from both sides (and sometimes, not even then). (Or unless I personally knew the couple well pre-divorce).

    Both Daran and I are very passionate in our views. This makes both of us untrustworthy reporters of uncheckable anecdotes that make “the other” side look awful, in my opinion.

    Edited to add: Finally, the fact is that it’s not at all clear Ms. Xeno holds the views Daran attributes to her (I’m quite sure she doesn’t); and yet he reported the views he wrongly attributed to her without indicating that there was any ambiguity at all. While I don’t think Daran lied, I think there’s good reason for doubting that he’s a perfectly unbiased and accurate observer.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 21, 2006 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

  5. Me:

    For example, if a woman were to recount her rape by a man, should we dismiss that too?

    Ampersand:

    That a significant number of women are raped by men is not a controversial fact; it is a well-documented, widely-accepted fact among most people in society, including among many experts in studying crime prevalence. (Although some MRAs and anti-feminists, who I realize you don’t identify yourself with, would deny it.) Whether or not women being raped by men is a real, recurring problem is not something we have to rely on anecdotes to decide.

    Although this is a bit of a sidetrack, I agree that there is no honest controversy that a significant number of women are raped by men. I do have some concerns about survey response error. – It ought to be possible to do internal statistical consistency checks (for example relating prevalence to incidence) to detect some kinds of possible response error, but I have never seen this discussed. Rather it seems to me that it is just assumed that survey respondents are reliable. Unfortunately, I don’t have the statistical knowledge to pursue this line of enquiry.

    However for response error to be great enough to falsify your claim that “a significant number of women are raped by men” is beyond credibility, and so I do not dispute it.

    You miss my point anyway. I was not suggesting that anyone’s personal anecdotes should be used to prove generalised or statistical claims, but rather that they should be admissible to illustrate them. We can change the example to something you do not have statistical evidence for. Do you have, for example statistical evidence to show that hostile police questioning of rape complainants is widespread? If not, would you doubt a rape survivor who described such an interview?

    In contrast, what you’re trying to establish is not as well supported; in fact, it seems almost entirely supported by anecdote.

    That male victims/survivors were denied resources? Are you joking?

    I mean, have you ever actually tried access resources on behalf of male survivors? Because if not, then what business have you got telling me who has been there and has done that how difficult it was?

    And I guess it’s much, much easier to believe that feminists are evil man-bashers than it is to consider whether or not you might be a biased observer. And that perhaps that’s why you have no real evidence, apart from your biased anecdotal observations.

    Either my friends’ participation at a conference was put to a vote, or it was not. Either the play scheme was offered a bus on condition that it guarantee that no man would ride, or it wasn’t. Either the Woman’s Aid Centre was disaffiliated from the national body (I didn’t tell you about that one, did I?) because it objected to the latter’s anti-male stance or it did not. I don’t know any of these for certain. It’s just what the female members of the group, of the play scheme, and the female coordinator of the WAC told me. And as you know, women are such liars…

    The reason male victims lack funding isn’t feminism,

    And your evidence for this is?

    Daran. You’re not an MRA, but you’re just like them, in your irrational belief that everything should be blamed on feminism.

    And here we have the standard ad hom. You’ve offered nothing to contradict what I’ve said except the hands over the ears and the ad homs. Is it my turn to call you something rude now?

    Or he might be an honest reporter of his biased observations and memories. Or, as you correctly say (and I should have mentioned this as a reason for doubt) his experience could be non-representative.

    It could be non-representative, but I don’t think it is. Note that I am not claiming these attitudes are universal, only that they are prevalent. I did say that the vote was defeated, so that a majority supported my friends’ admission to the conference. I also said that “we got on well with” the Women’s Aid Centre, which is true. We – I – worked closely with them, and apart from the fundamental philosophical disagreement, which I don’t recall ever raising with them, I had no problem whatsoever with them and worked with them very well. They even allowed, encouraged me even, to visit their refuges when the family whose child I was a befriender of went into shelter.

    But they were disaffiliated…

    Both Daran and I are very passionate in our views. This makes both of us untrustworthy reporters of uncheckable anecdotes that make “the other” side look awful, in my opinion.

    I’m not trying to make “the other side” look awful. I’m trying to point out a problem which exists within feminism, just as there is a problem within contrafeminism. The difference between us is that you defend feminism broadly, while I reject and shun the problematic elements within contrafeminism, (which is basically most of it😦 ).

    Edited to add: Finally, the fact is that it’s not at all clear Ms. Xeno holds the views Daran attributes to her (I’m quite sure she doesn’t); and yet he reported the views he wrongly attributed to her without indicating that there was any ambiguity at all. While I don’t think Daran lied, I think there’s good reason for doubting that he’s a perfectly unbiased and accurate observer.

    Here’s what I said again:

    What kind of space are you talking about? I don’t want a homeland for male survivors. I don’t want reserved seats at the back of the bus or separate but equal provision. I want inclusion…

    there are male-created survivor spaces. But it’s the female ones that get the lion’s share of the resources and recognition.

    Many years ago, I was an administrative support worker of a group for both male and female survivors. We had a funding application rejected on the grounds that the funder was supporting the local Women’s Aid Centre, and therefore there was no need to support us. Set aside for a moment the fact that the services we offered to women were complimentary to and non-overlapping with those of the WAC; what this episode illustrates is the complete invisibility of male survivors, despite our efforts to centre them in our campaigning material.

    Here’s ms_xenos response:

    Check it out. Right next door, Daran is going on and on about “feminist apartheid” and how men simply must horn in on everything women do for women because “that’s where the money tends to end up.” Tends to. It just falls in our laps like free milk and cookies in fucking kindergarten. Truckloads of free milk and cookies, and how meeeeeeean of us not to give him any just because he holds out his hand. Sweet jeebus.

    In your honest opinion, do you think it is clear that I hold the views ms_xeno attributes to me? Do you think there is any ambiguity that in fact I don’t? Finally do you not think “any ambiguity at all”, if there is any, is “indicated” by quoting the passage at issue which I did, but ms_xeno did not.

    Comment by Daran — December 22, 2006 @ 12:17 pm | Reply


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