A facebook friend recently shared this video. For me, it threw up some difficult and complicated issues which I thought were worth exploring.
It's true that men are set up to be the victims in these particular scenarios. I am also very certain that male abuse by females is more common and varied in its nature and manifestations than public awareness might suggest. This is not good, and not acceptable, and not something for women to be proud of, anymore than men should be proud of abusing women. It also means that heavy targeting of abuse awareness programs towards women may leave some men vulnerable and without the knowledge of available support. I suspect the lack of coverage except in cases where the female is seen to be fighting back, is a reaction against the relative power men have had historically, both to determine the structure of society, and to set rules and have their way with women in domestic and other settings. That and their (on average) taller, leaner figures being perceived as the only defences they need, and a testament to their ability to abuse women far more severely than women could ever abuse them. Outwith specific abuse cases, perhaps male abuse by females is also perceived by some outsiders as a sort of nonindividualised, inherited comeuppance for men, for past and present treatment, blocks and inequalities. Perhaps it is in this perception, outsiders find an excuse for the misconducts in question, and a justification for not having to get involved. But this is the wrong approach to levelling the playing field.
Results of these experiments could be used in many ways, either to uphold or undermine women's rights campaigns. It might be used to 'debunk' the need for proactive feminism, on the grounds that the apparent inequalities and injusticies faced by women have now been debunked. This is concerning; the problems that feminism seeks to address are statistically and journalistically backed-up across more than one culture, Western or otherwise, developed or otherwise. For me, rather than debunking male privilege, this experiment highlights another kind of subtle sexism in the perception of women in relation to men; one that permeates even a misplaced rooting for these females as symbols of a toppling patriarchy; and illustrates why its consequences are to the detriment of ALL genders.
1. Men who get abused by women may themselves be chastised for being effeminate, and incompetent at defending himself. Aside from all the other issues this throws up (such as homophobia or transphobia), and the danger it puts men in because of the stigma attached to such accusations and reputations, what is so awful about femininity that it should be regarded as something to be shamed or punished as a sign of weakness, instead of accepted, cultivated and protected as a valid way of being for all? Especially if non-violence is implicit in its concept.
2. Men abused by women may be told to be mature, to ignore it or to just walk away. If a women was told to ignore a male abuser or just walk away, it would be decried on the grounds that the problem was being grossly oversimplified, that if she could walk away or defend herself she would, and that the male abuser would simply pursue her until he'd got his way. So is a female abuser automatically considered a mere shadow of her male counterparts? This, too, is sexist, and that sexism comes back to damage and make vulnerable the men in question: isn't the female abuser capable of hitting as hard and hurting as deeply, strategising as cunningly and pursuing as mono-maniacally? Yes, on average, some physiological characteristics may differ between men and women, affording some average differences in strenghts and weaknesses of some types. But then, devised methods of attack will work within that, and the results will be just as damaging. Given this, there is no reason why women should be less competent at fighting and subduing than men. A competent woman could completely overpower an incompetent man, even if he was bigger and bulkier, which brings us back to point 1, whilst debunking the sexist assumptions and perceptions uncovered by point 2.
Until females are taken as seriously as males, given as much social power and privilege, and perceived as just as physically and intellectually capable as men; and until abuse of them stops being seen as a (c)overtly accepted cultural norm or unpreventable phenomenon; perceptions of inter-gender abuse will not be regarded or followed up equally either.