Saturday, April 04, 2009

A fantasy of domestic violence.

Kiera is an actress. Attractive, vivacious and well-liked, she works hard for her money.

At the end of a long day, it's late, she's tired and happy to get away (although not as late as many of the all male crew who have to stay and pack away, prepare for the next day, and close up). She's in such a hurry to leave that she waits until she's driving to take off her makeup. But is she really happy to get away?

Back home in a pristine new block of apartments, all nice, clean glass and pine surfaces, she steps into her place and calls out "Sweetheart?". But then she notices the broken mirror and trail of blood. She doesn't seem surprised and there's no cry of "My God, what happened?!" so we're driven to realize that this is nothing particularly unusual.

Sweetheart comes around the corner and looks at her. He's bleeding from his right hand, she notes he's hurt and hands him a rag. He says something about her being in a leading role and asks if it feels real. "Gentle heart, please" she says "it's my job", and he throws the rag in her face.

Bizarrely, she turns and looks at you and says "Sorry, we didn't agree to that, that wasn't in the script". What? But before we're given the chance to figure out what's going on, he hits her, with his open left hand, knocking her to the floor, where her cheek is already bleeding - it could be his blood, but we're clearly meant to think it's hers, so we'll just go with that and assume he must have been holding a weapon. "Please, I didn't agree to this!" she cries and shrieks as he pulls her hair, and then starts kicking her.

The camera pulls back, and we see that the kitchen where he kicks and kicks her is actually a TV set, but the kicking goes on and on as fantasy blends with reality and the tagline "isn't it time someone called cut?" appears before a cut to black.

Well, yes, it is time someone called cut, because this little vignette has about as much to do with reality as CSI or Doctor Who. What is the point? It is an ad for the "women's aid" charity in the UK - they want you to spend 2 pounds a month on them to help them stop "two women a week" from dying from domestic violence. I'm willing to bet a lot more than 2 pounds a month that none of those 104 women a year are even remotely like Kiera Knightley.

I know for sure that the unknown number of men who die at the hands of their partner every year are nothing at all like her.

The aching irony of the tagline is clearly unintentional. It really is time someone called "cut" on this kind of thing. Domestic violence is hardly ever, perhaps never, very much like this. Yes, there are deeply disturbed, controlling men and women out there, and yes, there are purely innocent victims who keep coming back to them and martyring themselves to their problems, doing nothing to provoke them and barely making any protest at all as they're used as a punchbag time and time again.

That is the fantasy, anyway. It is the TV studio's conception of domestic violence - malignant, inhuman perpetrator and innocent helpless victim - aided and abetted by those who would sell this strawman to us so they can continue to fight their already over-financed crusade against it. Because anyone who's had any contact at all with real human interpersonal problems knows that it is a blatant, even criminal misrepresentation of reality. Grossly simplistic, it is nothing more than cynical manipulation of a gullible public.

"There is no excuse for domestic violence" is one of those phrases that sounds good, but says nothing. Like "in the best interests of the children", it is a magic incantation which allows you to do anything at all to the designated scapegoat, starting with dehumanizing stereotyping and caricaturing, moving to demonizing and then finally locking him away in a real or metaphorical jail built from an imposed idea of what actually happened and which probably has very little to do with reality.

Any woman identifying with Keira Knightley in that ad clearly has only a very tenuous grasp of reality anyway. I'm sorry girls, but the bitter truth is that not many of you look very much like her, even after you've spent hours making yourself over (moreover, I'm not sure I'd want you to). Likewise, how often does your boyfriend make an unprovoked, brutal attack against you like that? Most likely, he's never done more than yell at you, possibly pushed you away, as you yelled at him. But no worries, that's enough for you to count yourself one of the one in four British women who will supposedly suffer domestic violence. Feel free to quote the number without citation, everyone else does.

No man is going to consciously identify with the interestingly faceless aggressor in the ad. (His facelessness is a dead giveaway, he doesn't really exist.) More likely any reasonably normal man will feel his protective juices rising and, if he were there, look for ways to stop the attack on Keira. But a man's protective urges are always double-edged, based, as they inevitably are, on a deep-down realization of his own potential for violence. Thus, should anyone see something of themselves in him, it is probably with some considerable amount of internal cringing, unless he happens to be psychopathic. But a smart psychopath would probably be much more devious than that and a dumb one much more obvious to everyone.

The same, by the way, would go for women, if the roles are ever reversed.

But we're not supposed to identify with Keira or her attacker. We're the audience, on the outside, looking in, not part of this problem. We're supposed to get all generously protective of her and hand money to people who hopefully, but by and large probably don't, have a more sophisticated idea of what really goes on in a conflictive relationship.

In the meantime, the same old stereotyped, caricatured, criminally simplistic message gets peddled to the gullible public, reinforcing their prejudices of domestic violence and building up their approval of a society which pillories a man at the merest hint from a woman that he might be less than perfect, handing her the perfect weapon with which to control and abuse him.


wobs said...

A breathe taking piece. Keep up the good work.

wolfboy69 said...

It would be nice if, just for once, they actually mentioned that DV is a 50/50 issue. Women are just as likely to initiate violence as men. Yes, men can be stronger and hit harder, but women tend to use weapons to even the scale. Why not an ad that is neutral to gender, that talks to the issue of stopping DV period.

As soon as I saw this, I shut down. JADF, you are correct that this is a fantasized version of DV and just isn't relateable or believable. But the 'sheeple' will eat it up, and the funding will come through.


Chris Hunt said...

It's also worth noting that men's (as well as women's) lives are ruined every day due to false charges of abuse. Thus, how many children are deprived of a parent short-term or even permanently. Somehow, this is not reported on by the mainstream media.

Anonymous said...

That's a brilliant piece. I myself have suffered the widespread social vilificaion of having (in retaliation to her constant physical abuse for 2 years) slapped my girlfriend which point she screamed blue murder about hitting her with a tennis raquet.

This resulted in 2 years of social ostrasation in my community with her taking the opportunity to be more manipulative and devisive as ever with the knowledge that she now had me more under her thumb than ever.

When I eventually woke up to the fact that I was living the life of some kind of criminal underclass in a world of undeserving princesses it was a bitter pill to swallow.

Anonymous said...

I’ve had to deal with the extreme behavior of my ex for a dozen years. Sometimes the behavior threatens the kids, sometime me, sometimes just the peace. Her anger knows no boundaries, and she will try to get her way at all costs.

I’ve kept the documentation, recordings and logs. They stretch over months and years relentlessly and include threats, stalking, and deliberate alienation and manipulation of the kids.

Mostly, she disturbs the peace that I and the kids share. With shared custody, we have little choice but to interact weekly, and sometimes painfully. She stalks and harasses me and kids and friends, and then brags about it, and her free attorney. She seems to suffer from a progressive disease that seems to age her, feed on her anger, and color everything she does with work or family.
Her pseudonym here can be Martha

Anonymous said...

Great piece. My husband's ex has told everyone she was a battered wife and when I confronted her on the issue she said "You can be battered without having ever been hit."
Being married to her ex husband and seeing the worst of his temper, it infuriated me. He'll yell back. He'll walk away from a woman in hysterics. He'll be visibly angry, but he is no abuser in any sense of the word.
Did she hit him? Absolutely,but it was because he pushed her to it. I never hear that argument work the other way.
Good for you for saying this.

StillHere0509 said...

My ex tried to charge me with battery and assault the other day, and i didn't even touch her. It spurred me into writing a blog that was upbeat and fun called "The Ex Wife Survival Guide".

I thought it was time for men to have a place to poke a little fun at their ex's. Check it out if anyone has time.

StillHere0509 said...

How about a new tv show called "Camp Custody" a camp in the Sierra Nevadas where divorced parents with kids go to play survivor style events. The victor gets custody of the kids at the end.

You laugh, but you wait. It will happen.

Anonymous said...

As an Investigator in the UK, specialising in parental abduction, I've been involved in numerous cases these past five years where staff from women's refuges have actively been involved in assisting in the abduction of children from their homes/fathers.
Whilst I DO accept that there is domestic violence - I'm also (as a woman) very aware that this comes from both parties; and I've known relationships where women have thought nothing of stubbing lighted cigarettes out on their partner's faces in arguments: in the safe knowledge that they won't retaliate!
As for me giving £2 a month to Women's Aid? Only when... and if they promise to stop using the money to remove father's from their children lives.

Anonymous said...

more spam to the comment section but...

great work

i was surfing the internet and found this and its crazy. i like seeing the other side of that and the reality of it. yeah i known that there has got to be one relationship out there that might be that situation, but you addressed that problem.

thank you for spreading your ideas to people who are like me that will soak it up like a spounge and probly forget it when i wake up tommorrow for work. i appreciate it though.


Holly said...

I work in a criminal law office AND a strip club so I have seen and heard a lot of domestic violence stories unfold. Unfortunately, the sad truth is, rarely are the women who are victims of repeated domestic violence quality individuals themselves. And most survivors who finally break free will tell you that they were completely different people at the time they were dealing with it. Usually it is a mutually abusive relationship, but the man just raises his hand first. Not that there aren't exceptions, but it's rarely as as preditor-prey as Lifetime would have you believe.

Anonymous said...

good post. dv charges are usually bs used by 1 spouse to gain automatic custody and control of kids and home by other at the expense of the children. and the law does no investigation. just believes the accuser.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this,

I shall also add to the heap of me-too posts. I know women who have been beaten. I know people of both sexes who are held in fear of never seeing their children again, while being terribly afraid for their children, and what their children will think of them.
I'm lucky that I never knocked up my wife. I'm lucky that my experience was mild.
She was in charge, and if I angerd her, the best case scenario was a swift kick to the balls, followed by her telling me how lucky I was to have her. Worst case the kicks were repeated and with hair pulling, maybe a burn too, while she told me just what a peice of shit I was. With me trying desperatly to calm her down, wishing for a good day full of snuggles an nice sweet sex.

yeah, we both had/have issues.
She had to leave me after she finally got sick of having a hurt little puppy for a husband.
My family just thinks I left because of the cheating. I'm still ashamed, and try to avoid them at all costs.

Now if only there was a way to actually help people in these situations. If you would of said "sir, whats with that burn on your neck?" I would have told you that I got it at work, if you knew the truth I would of told you to go to hell and quit returning your phone calls.

Veldang said...

How about an ad where the Woman attacks the Man, then he calls the police and they arrest him?

At least then we know it would be showing the truth.

antisocial butterfly said...

The main abuser in my life was a woman, though the children (and some men and women) were the victims of plenty of male (and some children of both genders)
abusers as well. I am so grateful for sites like yours and Violent Acres for making it clear that we have a voice and we can be more than statistics. I started my own blog to try to deal with my own issues and perhaps connect with others the way V__ connected with me.
i am happy to share your sites with others. thanks for putting yourselves out there.

Anonymous said...

A father and child disunion

Divorced Fathers said...

I used to work with a high powered solicitor who was beaten by his wife and he was so ashamed that he let her get away with it for years.

I don't believe its 50/50 as men are more agressive by nature its a chemical and cultural thing.

There is never an excuse for turning to violence at all. Interesting piece and nice to see a different take on things. Please keep this up.