The devastating effects of male privilege

Instagram is awash with quotes - mostly cheesy, occasionally inspirational, rarely dull.

Discovering anything of real value is increasingly difficult, as volume submerges quality, but one pearl of social media wisdom does linger in my mind:

The true measure of a man is found in the smile of his wife.

Of course, this motif should be appreciated in its figurative sense, away from anachronistic interpretations of love existing exclusively between male and female. It should refer to any loving partner, any close companion, not merely a man and his wife. It’s 2019, let’s get real.

Nevertheless, I found this to be a truly beautiful quote. It struck a chord with my values and distilled into one sentence everything I aspire to be. It became my guiding philosophy in life.

Within that framework, I would like to discuss the broad issue of domestic violence, with specific focus on male aggression, dominance and abuse. Few things anger me more.

In Britain, around 2 million people suffer domestic violence every year, and I’m keen to highlight that almost 700,000 men are included in that number. The face of a domestic abuser isn’t exclusively male. There is far more nuance to the issue nowadays, absent of stereotypes and misconceptions. However, in this article, I would like to address male-instigated violence due to family history and my attendant passion for eradicating this scourge.

Some of the key women in my life have suffered at the hands of domestic violence. I have seen first-hand the devastating damage it can have wreak on confidence, self-esteem and, ultimately, a person’s ability to attain their future goals. I have also seen the immense bravery required for the oppressed to grab their liberation, the winding road of shattered hopes and false dawns that can eventually lead to freedom.

Somebody must share the unimaginable horrors that transpire every day in this world, articulating for the voiceless. Somebody must stand up for the faceless victims, the nameless wounded. Somebody must speak for the subjugated.

In my unqualified opinion - informed by empirical evidence - male-instigated domestic abuse rests on two pillars: a failure to deal with inherent personal problems, and a corrupt definition of masculinity perpetrated by an ignorant society.

It’s not for me to define what constitutes a ‘man.’ We have to move beyond such archaic structures, such rigid labels, such obsolete definitions. Life is fluid. Society is malleable. You have the right to capture your own views, beliefs and ethical codes. But I also have the right to express my opinion, and that’s what I’ll do.

You can have the bulging muscles and the pimped-out Range Rover, the pit bull and the super bike, but if you beat your partner, you are not a man. You are a coward.

You can visit the gym five times a week and sink ten pints at the football with your mates, but if you shout and slam, scream and shove your way through a relationship, you are not a man. You are scum.

You can have a full sleeve of tattoos and indulge in the cocaine epidemic every weekend, but if you sulk and snarl, threaten and intimidate your way to satisfaction, you are not a man. You are a dickhead.

I’m fully aware that every act of domestic violence has a trigger, or multiple triggers. The issue of direct provocation and subsequent retaliation is beyond my kin, and I will leave that to the professionals. However, the subliminal triggers – a chaotic upbringing, untrammelled anxiety, frustration stemming from indignation, associated addiction problems – can be explored in greater detail. They can also be dispelled as valid rationale, because there are no excuses for domestic violence. Everything in life is optional, and we must take responsibility for our own actions regardless of the forces that attempt to induce them into taking a certain direction.

This blog is driven by a desire to raise awareness of mental ill health, campaigning for the changes that will save lives around the world. Creating a non-judgemental environment in which people are comfortable divulging their struggles and sharing their problems is an essential part of that mission. I will help anyone with a mental health disorder, defend anyone in need, until their obvious, unresolved problems begin to seriously harm others in an unprovoked fashion.

I know the journey to recovery and stability is horrendous, encompassing so many challenging stages: awareness, acknowledgement, acceptance, understanding, getting help, making changes, believing in the changes, and persevering with a new (often fragile) reality. I will fight with all of my strength to support the knowingly mentally ill who partake in this gruelling process.

However, I have limited time for people in denial. I cannot help them, because they are not helping themselves. I have no time for knowledgeable people who refuse to accept their reality and instead convey their problems onto other people via hostile, irritable, passive-aggressive and outright abusive behaviour. That’s where I draw the line.

What does domestic violence look like? Would you recognise it? Would you be aware of it, or do you live in the distracted vortex of technological obligation, head buried in phone, mind lost in egotism?

The overt symptoms of domestic violence are well known. The black eye, the bruised arm, the public brawls. But what about the subtle signs, the pain transmitted only in unspoken body language? Treading on eggshells. Tiptoeing around the stormy landmines, the volcanic triggers. Hoping for ‘good days,’ fearing ‘bad days.’ What about those signs of domestic violence? Would you turn a blind eye?

It’s all too easy to think about other things, to distract ourselves when faced with something that jars, something that unsettles. To pretend something is not happening is the great elixir of middle class contentment. Well, this is happening! It’s happening right now. It’s happening to people you know, people you walk past or speak to every single day. It might even be happening in your house. That must change, as a matter of utmost urgency.

No woman should be shocked into silence by patrimony. No woman should have to flinch or apologise because of misogyny. No woman should be forced to pre-empt violence, to live a reticent life of locked tongues and twitchy defensiveness. We have to grow up. We have to unleash people from the antiquated shackles of chauvinism. This cannot go on.

Domestic violence is a harrowing bid for power and control. It is perpetrated by the lost and the insecure, those who thrash about in constant umbrage and misplaced resentment. Women as a global collective suffer as a result of each individual instance of domestic abuse. Local, isolated pain manifests in widespread, overarching struggle. The establishment of male dominance by physical means, even by a minuscule minority, affects the whole universal ecosystem. In many ways, concealed to varying degrees, women are forced into a submissive state of obedience to and reliance upon supposedly superior men who stand tall, loom large and dominate autonomy. Such environments and cultures create a common struggle for female emancipation, the profound effects of which are especially taxing on mental fitness. 

Some may argue that my beliefs on this issue tread the perilous fault lines of stereotype. Again, I’m keen to reiterate that, according to statistics, women instigate domestic violence almost as frequently as men do. The point of this article, more generally, is one of feminist awakening – informed by, and a rebellion against, the often subtle, unknowing sexism I see every day.

The effects of such brutality - such oppressive male privilege - on female mental health are catastrophic. They are also ignored by the mainstream, swept under the carpet by the establishment and disregarded as an unsavoury nuisance by the untroubled.

It’s time to speak up.

If you have suffered domestic violence in the past, please know that, out there across the nation, in the spirit of kind-hearted folk, you have great respect and admiration. Keep going, keep believing. We all support you.

If you are in the raw, early stages of recovery from domestic violence, guarded and somewhat bewildered, keep going. The actions you have taken to stand up for yourself and reclaim your freedom are the most important you will ever take. Things will get better. Life will improve. You will achieve great things.

If you are suffering from domestic violence right now, in any of its various forms, firstly know that this is not your fault. You are not to blame. No matter how hard it may be, talk to people. Talk to anybody. You will be surprised at how willing people are to help. We can find a solution to any problems you may have. Just try to find the time, space and strength to rediscover yourself, because that person is wonderful, that person is independent, that person is capable of fantastic things.

And finally, if you are currently perpetrating domestic abuse – physical, psychological, economic or otherwise – just know that it is not big and it is not clever. We can all see through your pathetic mask of masculinity, your cringe-worthy veil of insecurity dressed as strength. You cannot hide evil inclination; it jumps out too easily before discerning eyes. Stop viewing those close to you as a personification, extension or cause of your problems. Admit your struggle. Accept your issues. Get the help you need and make essential changes. Perhaps you’ll find liberation, too.

The human condition is a stupendous thing. It’s unique, charming, fun, intriguing and beautiful. Within every single person resides enormous potential for achievement. We all have at least one special skill, one gift that can make the world a more colourful, vibrant and happier place. Systematically destroying those mesmeric characteristics in somebody else through brute force, to a point where that person becomes a distressed shell of fear, is an unspeakable tragedy.

We have the power to change it, if only we want to.

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