The Globe and Males

The Other Side of Gender Bias
in Canada's National Newspaper

by Adam Jones

Are You Getting the Picture? (Blondie cartoon)

[Copies of this work can be ordered individually or in bulk through the Gender Issues Education Foundation in Edmonton, Alberta. See ordering information at the end of this document, or link now.]


[Note: Readers interested in an overview of the philosophical argument are invited to proceed directly to "A Polemic and A Paradigm".]

I. Introduction
II. Comments on the Findings
III. Violence Against Women, Violence Against Men
IV. Conjugal Violence: Eliminating the Male Minority
V. Occupational Homicide: Covering (Up) the Story
VI. Suicide Solution
VII. The "Culture of Violence," I: Men Need Not Apply
VIII. The "Culture of Violence," II: A Comic Aside
IX. Sins of Omission, Sins of Commission
X. A Polemic and A Paradigm
XI. Conclusion


One of the central accomplishments of the women's movement over the last two decades has been to draw media attention to the physical suffering and institutionalized victimization of women in North American society. In Canada, the aftermath of Marc Lépine's terrorist rampage at the University of Montreal accelerated the nationwide flurry of analysis concerning the issue of violence against women, which was generally held to be the relevant context for Lépine's actions.

The other side of human suffering and victimization in Canadian society has, unfortunately, passed almost unnoticed by mainstream media. Aspects of suffering which could be considered largely or specifically "male" have tended to be ignored, dismissed, or distorted. This has served to highlight the broad range of female victimization experiences - an important and worthy subject. But it has also denigrated or de-emphasized the male side, which in any humane and objective value system ought to be accorded every bit as much consideration and concern.

This phenomenon does not seem to be the result of a "boomerang" effect in media coverage. We are not dealing here with matters which have been male preserves in the past - something which might justify greater attention to the female side to help redress the balance. Rather, in this respect, the male experience has never been a matter for social concern as such, for reasons that will be examined later.

All this suggests an anti-male bias, unfashionable though such a concept may be to progressive minds. To clarify some essential features of this bias, I propose to examine a series of articles from Canada's self-proclaimed "National Newspaper," the Toronto Globe and Mail. The articles were published between March 10 and June 15 1990. They constitute part (but only part) of the Globe's wide-ranging analysis of social issues, including "women's issues" - that is, issues and social problems which are allegedly indicative (predominantly or exclusively) of the female experience in our society.

It is important to mention that the examples of anti-male bias dealt with here are not necessarily representative of the Globe's overall coverage of social issues, or women's issues, during the sample period. In fact, much of this overall coverage is solid, informative, and unbiased. Focusing on women's experiences performs the vitally important function of bringing women's concerns to wider public attention. These positive elements are sometimes to be found even in articles which we will otherwise criticize for their anti-male bias.

A few comments on methodology may be in order. The articles were selected, over a roughly three-month period, on the basis of their perceived bias. Although they may well be suggestive of a wider trend of anti-male bias in media coverage, I have chosen to limit the present inquiry to the subject of physical victimization (or depicted physical brutalization in films, TV, and cartoons). In a few cases, I refer to other examples of coverage which reflect biased, insensitive, or dismissive mindsets. Such mindsets, in my view, could well account for the woefully inadequate treatment of male victimization, and I discuss them at greater length in the concluding sections of the paper.

I also devoted some time to follow-up research. Here, I examined the microfilmed version of the Globe and Mail for the period March 1 - June 30 1990. I wanted to re-read Globe coverage more systematically, in the light of the patterns of bias I had detected during the original compilation process. I also wanted to see whether these patterns of bias were mitigated or offset by any other Globe coverage during, or shortly before or after, the sample period. (Hence the decision to examine coverage from a point two weeks prior to the first article selected, and continuing two weeks after the last article selected. The overall sample period was therefore four months.) This follow-up research turned up no evidence that the patterns of bias were offset by other Globe coverage. In several instances, in fact, further evidence for these patterns came to light. I have incorporated this supplementary evidence at various points in the text.(1)

Of course, the argument here will not by itself demonstrate clear trends in the Globe's coverage over time. Nor does the evidence here serve as proof of bias in the media as a whole. It seems to me, though, that a broader bias does exist, and that it should be easily perceptible to anyone who can be provided with the analytical tools to recognize it. Thus I hope that by isolating some of the features and strategies of Globe coverage, the average reader will be able to test my propositions for himself or herself. Researchers, moreover, might find the present work useful in formulating hypotheses for more systematic content analysis: if a clear pattern of sexist bias is apparent in a diverse selection of articles culled from just four months of coverage in Canada's most prestigious newspaper, the topic may well warrant further attention and exploration.

With one minor exception (to be noted), all articles cited here are Globe editorials or feature pieces by staff writers, whether bylined or uncredited. None is the work of a Globe columnist, whose contribution could be seen as reflecting the views of an individual, rather than overall Globe standards and editorial strategies.

Comments on the Findings

The Globe and Mail articles considered here each employ, consciously or unconsciously, one or more strategies for denigrating, de-emphasizing, or ignoring male suffering and victimization. A brief outline of these strategies is as follows:

1) Concepts of gender discrimination which logically apply to both women and men are limited, in their practical application, to women only. In particular, gender-specific discussion of violent victimization in the Globe is limited to discussion of violence against women alone. Logic suggests that if human violence is to be subdivided into categories of victims (rather than of perpetrators), then all such violence among adults which is not "against women" must be "against men." In practice, the concept of "violence against men" does not exist, although this category represents the majority (in its most extreme manifestations, the large majority) of acts of violent victimization in Canadian society.

2) Statistics which provide newsworthy, sometimes shocking data regarding both sexes' physical suffering are liable to be either misrepresented or discussed in highly selective fashion. Both of these sub-strategies serve to emphasize women's suffering and de-emphasize men's, while focusing attention on the stereotype of the male as perpetrator (rather than the victim or survivor) of violence.(2) Often, some of the available data suggest a significant and even predominant level of male suffering. But once again, this suffering is dismissed or downplayed. Its nature and implications are rarely rendered explicit.

3) In cases where the victims of violence cited in statistical data are overwhelmingly male (for example, suicide and on-the-job homicide) - where, therefore, a gender component is both obvious and relevant - the victims are likely to be categorized not by gender, but by some other gender-neutral classification variable (e.g., age, occupation). When classification by gender does take place, the language used will tend to be bland, perfunctory, and colourless. There will be no inquiry into the broader social and cultural context of the physical suffering. Where the victims or survivors are women, on the other hand, the gender variable will tend to assume primary significance. The social context, moreover, will be explicitly or implicitly conveyed, often in language with real emotional resonance.

4) In cases where the general "culture of violence" is under discussion (for instance, levels of violence in mainstream or pornographic films), and where gender is used as a classification variable, the gender-focus will be on depictions of violence against women in the context of a culture which promotes such violence. It will rarely (in fact, never in the sample period) be on violence against men, in the context of a culture which also promotes such violence.

Let us turn now to the articles themselves.

Violence Against Women, Violence Against Men

On April 28 1990, The Globe and Mail published a long and impassioned feature article by staff writer Vivian Smith. The article, which appeared on the front page of the high-profile Saturday "Focus" section, was titled "Living in Fear." "Women are afraid to go out alone," the sub-heading stated. "Why does half the population have to put up with a restricted life?"

To understand the context of Smith's article, we need to refer back to the article from which the Globe writer took her lead. Three days earlier, the Globe had published a brief report headlined: "One in four felt unsafe walking alone at night." The article reported the results of a Statistics Canada Survey, Patterns of Criminal Victimization in Canada (hereafter, PCVC). The Globe story began: "One in four Canadians felt unsafe walking alone in their own neighbourhoods at night ..."

The "angle" of the original article, then - as indicated by its headline and lead sentence - is perceptions of liability to violent assault and other crimes, such as robbery or theft. The Statistics Canada data themselves are more wide-ranging: they compare actual liability to personal victimization, as measured by incidence of such victimization, with perceptions of liability.

The original Globe article stresses the second of these two aspects of the PCVC findings. The article provides no actual statistics on perceptions of liability. It states only that "Women, the elderly, city-dwellers and those who were divorced, widowed or separated were most concerned about their personal safety, along with those who were victims of recent crime." This is a nearly-direct quote from the StatsCan report itself.

The Globe story cites comments by one of the report's authors, Holly Johnson of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Johnson "said women are being assaulted in urban areas almost as frequently as men. In cities [citing the PCVC findings], 89 of every 1,000 men were victims of violence, while for women it was 87 per 1,000. In rural areas, the rate was 83 per 1,000 for men and only 54 per 1,000 for women."

The StatsCan data indicate, then, that in urban areas, the risk of violent victimization is approximately equal for men and women. In rural areas, men are considerably more at risk -- a disparity the Globe article accurately conveys by the word "only," i.e., "only 54 per 1,000 for women."

It is important to note, as the Globe story does not, that the PCVC is inevitably imprecise in its discussion of personal victimization. Its sub-category of violent crimes includes only assault, sexual assault, and robbery. It does not include the most extreme form of violent victimization - homicide. The PCVC survey was conducted by telephone, and thus depended on the victim's being alive at the other end of the phone to answer inquiries (being, that is, a survivor). This important fact is unmentioned in the original Globe article, and it should be borne in mind during the discussion of Vivian Smith's report, which we will return to shortly.

A close examination of the PCVC turns up further relevant data on personal victimization. "Among Canadians," the report notes, "the risk of personal victimization is highest for those who are male, young, single, residents of urban areas, and those who are students or unemployed" (PCVC:13). This hierarchy is repeated, in almost identical form, later in the report (PCVC:21). Again, males are placed at the top of the list, and are deemed most liable to suffer personal victimization.

In discussing the correlation between lifestyles and risk of theft and violent victimization, StatsCan reports the following:

Overall, students report the highest rate of victimization [among lifestyle categories]. ... Although male and female students reported almost identical rates of [non-violent] personal theft, male students have a rate of violent victimization almost 60% higher than female students. (PCVC:25)
We return now to Vivian Smith's feature article based on the PCVC report. Like the original Globe article, Smith's feature emphasizes women's perceived liability to personal victimization. In pursuing this reporting strategy, we will see that the Globe writer systematically misrepresents the StatsCan data on actual liability to personal victimization, and dismisses a crucial missing element - homicide - altogether.

Here is how Smith seeks to establish a link between women's perceived and actual liability to violent victimization. "A study released by Statistics Canada this week," Smith writes early in her article, "showed that women are more afraid than men of being violently attacked, and with good reason. In cities, they are now just as likely to be victims of assault as men, the study on crime statistics found." (Emphasis is added here and for all subsequent quotes.)

A careful reader will perceive the illogic of Smith's argument, even without reference to the actual StatsCan findings. Proposition One, for Smith: Women are more afraid than men of being violently attacked. (True, according to StatsCan.) Proposition Two: Women have "good reason" to be more afraid of violent attack than men - because they are "just as likely" to be personally victimized (violently or non-violently) in urban areas.

Of course, being "just as likely" to be violently attacked is by no means "good reason" to be more afraid of violent victimization. Note here that Smith selectively cites only the data on urban victimization, while effectively dismissing the PCVC data indicating that, in rural areas, men are considerably more liable than women to be violently victimized. (This means, of course, that overall, there is a significant gap between male and female victimization rates.) And her refusal to consider homicide statistics as part of the broader scenario is striking.(3)

Smith continues:

In the StatsCan study, the crime that most concerned 73 per cent of women aged 15 to 24 was assault or the threat of it. Only 35 per cent of men in that age group had that concern - they worried more about theft and property loss. Holly Johnson of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, who helped write the report, said men feel more secure in being able to fight off their attacker. It may also be that men know they are only losing their stuff. Women are attacked because they are women.
This is a remarkable passage. Smith notes, accurately, that far fewer men than women have a fear of (i.e., perceived liability to) violent attack. But this perception - as is obvious from StatsCan's findings - bears no relation to actual liability to violent attack. Regardless of their average greater physical strength, and their socialized feelings of immunity from assault, men in fact are more at risk of violent attack not leading to death. And when it comes to homicide, the most extreme form of violent victimization, the disparity is large.

For Vivian Smith to claim, then, that "It may be ... men know they are only losing their stuff" in situations of personal victimization, is more than inaccurate. It is grotesque. The allegation is doubly dishonest in that, as we have seen, StatsCan found male rates of non-violent personal theft ("losing their stuff") are actually lower than female rates!

In actuality, as Statistics Canada has consistently suggested in the PCVC and other easily-available reports, men are losing much more than their "stuff." They apparently are being violently victimized at a greater rate than women; they are also twice as likely to be murdered. Thus, men do not "know" they are "only losing their stuff," as Smith contends. "Knowledge" implies factual foundation, and none exists for this assertion. Rather, men perceive themselves to be less vulnerable - partly because of their average greater physical strength, but partly, no doubt, because of patterns of male socialization which emphasize bravado and impunity even where these may be inadequate tools for dealing with harsh reality.

This socialization is on display in an earlier StatsCan Survey on Urban Victimization, and its implications are fascinating, in a morbid sort of way. StatsCan found that "Significantly, the young male expresses little concern about or fear of crime, even after he has been victimized."(4) Another aspect of the data concerned reporting of crimes to the police. Here, "Males ... were far more likely to find reporting too inconvenient, even when injured."(5) Clearly, the impact of socialization is extraordinary, and extraordinarily destructive. Even though they are more likely to be victims and survivors of violent crime, men are less likely to fear it - even if they have been previously attacked - and less likely to report attacks, even when wounded by them!

The perceptions on which Smith places such great stress, therefore, bear an inverse relation to reality, if we consider only the crude statistical indices.(6) This may seem a controversial claim, but it is an inconsistency that is explicitly noted in the very Statistics Canada report which Smith uses to support her assertions. "Women and the elderly," the PCVC authors write, "tend to express higher levels of fear, but have fewer victimization experiences" (PCVC:56). In an earlier article for a StatsCan publication, Holly Johnson, a co-author of the PCVC, even found this inconsistency ironic:

One of the ironies of crime in Canada is that those who express the greatest fear of crime are often the least victimized. While women and elderly people are the most likely to fear for their personal safety, they are not the groups at highest risk of victimization.(7)
"When we examine the categories of people most likely to be victimized," noted StatsCan in its 1983 victimization survey, "many popular myths are exploded."(8) One of the main "myths" alluded to in the survey is that women are more prone to violent victimization than men. It seems we cannot count on The Globe and Mail to explode these "popular myths," however. Throughout her article, Vivian Smith's reporting strategy instead seeks to bolster the strictly limited focus of her article. Data are ignored, selectively cited, or seriously misrepresented. Women's suffering, and their perception of liability to physical victimization, are explored at length. The greater male risk of violent victimization is ignored, the better to emphasize the role of the male as perpetrator, rather than victim or survivor, of violence.

It must be reiterated that there is nothing wrong, as such, with a feature discussing women's adverse experiences and perceptions of liability to victimization. Indeed, these could be discussed in detail and even exclusively. If we accept, however, that balance and objectivity are requisites of fair reporting, it is incumbent on The Globe and Mail at some point to devote space to the male side of the story. If the male victim or survivor is viewed as unworthy of social concern, some editorial statement to this effect would be useful. Moreover, it is incumbent on Smith, within the confines of her article, to note men's greater liability to the basic violent victimization that is the subject of her feature.

It is no surprise to discover that the Globe, for its part, did not commission a special feature on the violent victimization of men ("Living At Risk"?). In fact, the male-relevant data in the PCVC report received not a column centimetre of attention, as such, in the pages of "Canada's National Newspaper."(9) In its treatment of male victimization, meanwhile, Vivian Smith's reporting strategy is characterized by a tone of mockery and cynical derision in the face of male suffering. It is an approach that would leave a reader of humane sensibilities aghast - if its targets had been female rather than male.

Conjugal Violence: Eliminating the Male Minority

As mentioned, one of the forms of violent assault to which women are especially and exceptionally prone is conjugal violence. Shortly after the appearance of Vivian Smith's feature, The Globe and Mail reported on its front page the outcome of a landmark Supreme Court decision which recognized the right to pre-emptive assault of a battered woman who had shot and killed her boyfriend ("Court widens use of self-defence plea in battering cases," May 9 1990). The court case gave rise to two Globe editorials ("Ms Lavallee's reasonable apprehension," May 7; "The domestic victims of male rage," May 9). Both editorials, by treating domestic violence as something exclusively visited upon females by males, were powerfully biased against male victims and survivors.

In its May 7 editorial, the Globe wrote: "[T]here is a pattern to the attacks by an abuser on an abused spouse ... the person being abused can sense when a threatened attack will be far more dangerous than those she has known." The editorial closed, ironically, by noting "the need to neutralize male bias and humanize the law." In fact, the anti-male bias is obvious in the above quotation. The Globe refers to "attacks by an abuser on an abused spouse." Both phrases are gender-neutral formulations of a domestic-violence scenario. But the pronoun used, "she," implicitly limits the possible gender of the victims or survivors to women alone. Of course, sexist use of the pronoun "he" as a universal designation is still widespread, and some commentators have taken to substituting a similarly universal "she." This is certainly not the Globe's standard practice, however. The fact that a gender-exclusive focus is intended finds confirmation in the May 9 editorial. It includes the following passage:

Attempts to explain domestic violence lead in a hundred different directions, many of them conjectural. One view is that it stems from a social acceptance that men make the rules in marriage, and that violence is an appropriate instrument of control. Another suspects that television violence leads to the assaults that leave real bruises. Some regard wife assault as a flexing of economic as well as physical dominance.
If the possible causes are dismayingly diverse, the remedies can be more precisely defined, beginning with the kind of first-aid made available at women's shelters.
"Domestic violence" as a phenomenon is viewed as coterminous with wife assault. At its root is "the social acceptance that men make the rules in marriage." No nuances are permitted.

Note first that the term "domestic violence," when it is used accurately, is a broad one: in standard social-scientific usage it includes abuse and battering of children and elders. In these areas, obviously, a large proportion of perpetrators are women, and the Globe's gender-specific formulations are absurd.(10) Even in the narrower context of partner-on-partner violence, a moment's thought should suffice to show that, even if we assume men are always the perpetrators in conjugal violence situations, men could also be the ones on the receiving end: that is, in male homosexual relationships. (Similarly, both perpetrator and victim/survivor of domestic violence could be female, as is not uncommon in lesbian relationships.)

In actuality, the domestic-violence picture is more complex still, as the Globe tacitly conceded five days later in a substantial article ("Abused rarely seek treatment, report says," May 14). The article noted that

According to [two] studies, women are the victims in 80 to 90 per cent of spousal attacks. Men were victims in so few cases that reliable estimates for the general population could not be made.
This is the only mention in the entire article of men as victims or survivors of domestic assault in heterosexual (or, for that matter, homosexual) relationships, even though by the Globe's own reckoning men may comprise a tenth to a fifth of victims/survivors, apparently excluding homosexual partnerships. The rest of the article concentrates on women, a focus which is of course justified by the fact that the level of women's suffering in situations of partner-abuse is much greater. Again, though, we see in the May 14 article a tacit and highly rigid equation of conjugal violence with wife abuse. The heading employs the gender-neutral term "abused," while the lead sentence begins: "Battered women in Canada rarely seek medical aid but cry out for emotional support ..."(11)

Let us briefly depart from the Globe material to consider some underlying elements of the conjugal violence scenario. According to a recent StatsCan report on conjugal violence,(12) "The definition of wife assault ... ranges from a face-to-face verbal threat to an attack with extensive injuries. ... The majority of attacks in the CUVS [Canadian Urban Victimization Survey] were acts of hitting, slapping, kicking or being knocked down (83%), or of being grabbed, held, tripped or pushed (58%)." What happens if the same range of actions, when directed by a woman against a man, is defined as "husband assault," as it clearly should be? The data on this count, though limited, are quite consistent. According to the large-sample surveys carried out by Gelles and Straus in the U.S. (see note 10), when a gender-neutral "Conflict Tactics Scale" is used to measure violence between partners, the incidence of man-on-woman and woman-on-man violence is about equal (in fact, reports of woman-on-man violence are slightly more numerous). Similar results were reported by Merlin Brinkerhoff and Eugen Lupri of the University of Calgary in their 1987 survey of 562 Calgary couples, which used a scale strongly influenced by Gelles and Straus's.(13) Data compiled from the All-Alberta Study (AAS) for 1987, carried out by the Population Research Laboratory of the University of Alberta, also used the Conflict Tactics Scale and found roughly equal reports of husband-on-wife and wife-on-husband violence. (Only the incidence of husband-on-wife violence was published.)

An important qualification must be noted for these consistent data. As Gelles and Straus write, "the greater average size and strength of men and their greater aggressiveness means that a man's punch will probably produce more pain, injury, and harm than a punch by a woman"; equal incidence does not add up to equal damage.(14) A workable estimate of the proportion of male victims of severe conjugal violence is 15 percent, making it clear that social resources and media attention should be concentrated strongly though not exclusively on the female victim.(15)

Nonetheless, Gelles and Straus have some scathing criticisms of the "complete research and perceptual blackout of the issue of men who are hit by their wives." The argument that "there is no such thing as a battered husband ... flies in the face of logic and empirical data," including "at least ten additional investigations [that] have confirmed the fact that women hit and beat their husbands." Husband abuse, they contend, is "a form of intimate violence for which there has been no research, no sincere publicity, and no public or private funds invested ... many radical feminists have fought for years to keep battered husbands closeted so that the small amount of money that was available for wife abuse would not be jeopardized. Battered men have been kept closeted, but the funding has been cut nonetheless."(16)

It would be a source of considerable anguish to me if any of the above were construed as seeking to downplay the obscene levels of male conjugal violence against women in our culture. The struggle to obtain funding for battered-women shelters is still an immensely difficult one; it is a struggle to which two of my friends have devoted much of their adult lives. I hope the argument, however, is clear: nothing in the empirical literature warrants a description of domestic or conjugal violence in terms which utterly exclude female perpetrators and male victims/survivors from the equation.(17)

Let me make one more point before leaving this controversial topic. Paradoxically, there seems to me something subtly anti-feminist in this discrimination against male victims and survivors of conjugal violence. If one is to accept the basic principles of equality that feminism advances, then one must accept that women, like men, are capable of the entire range of human action and experience: from the summits of artistic creativity and human compassion, to the depths of debased violence and evil. Anyone who implicitly rejects such a notion - who appears to expunge it from the language, and therefore from public consideration - is in a way harking back to earlier times, when the image of women as pure, delicate, and sacred went hand-in-hand with women's oppression and virtual disqualification from public life.

Feminists of both sexes ought to weigh carefully the long-term implications of this, and to separate the style from the possible substance of such commentary. In this vein I was intrigued to come across a recent article by the noted American feminist, Bell Hooks, which follows this line of argument.(18) Hooks quotes Joan Cocks, author of The Oppositional Imagination, as follows:

Radical feminism's romanticization of women as essentially innocent or good may be more benign than the dominant culture's degradation of women, and it may be more well-meaning than the culture's idealization of women in a backhanded way that suggests they are really the weaker and less dramatic sex. Still, it is absolutely infantilizing and embalming. It implies that women are not complex enough in desire, sophisticated enough in imagination, and dynamic enough in will to act in vicious as well as virtuous ways, out of passions, predilections, and motive forces that are not men's but their own.(19)

The "romanticization" evident in the analytical approach adopted by the Globe and Mail is no less pernicious. Hooks adds: "Accepting a version of female experience that sees us solely as victims, as the dupes of men, enables us to ignore both the violence we do to other women and children and to less powerful men." The implications of this "simplistic account of female experience," Hooks writes, are apparent. "By denying female agency it implicitly disallows our capacity to rebel, to resist, to act in a revolutionary way. A despairing vision, it acts to reinforce patriarchal power; it does not subvert or undermine it."

Returning to our criticisms of Globe reporting, though, a legitimate question does arise. Given that a huge disparity exists in the degree of suffering borne by female versus male victims and survivors of conjugal violence, could it not be argued that the editorial strategy and language of the Globe is justified? Is it legitimate, in other words, to equate the general phenomenon (here, severe victimization in a conjugal setting) with the large majority of victims?

If this strategy is to be employed, and impartially, one will want to see whether the Globe's treatment of situations in which men constitute the overwhelming majority of victims will employ similar strategies of identification and equivalence. If this proves to be the case, then the Globe's overall reporting strategy could in some sense be viewed as non-sexist, even if individual cases taken in isolation might suggest anti-male (or for that matter anti-female) bias.

Let us consider, then, the Globe's coverage of two phenomena which are every bit as "male" as conjugal violence is "female," according to the Globe's implicit criteria.

Occupational Homicide: Covering (Up) The Story

On March 26, Globe and Mail writer Patrick Sullivan reported the findings of two researchers from the Ontario Ministry of Labour and Ontario's chief coroner's office. The findings of these bodies are summarized in the headline to Sullivan's article: "Ontario cabbies, gas bar staff shown to face high murder risk."

"Gasoline station attendants and taxi drivers in Ontario," the article begins, are killed [i.e., murdered] on the job at almost the same rate as police officers, a study says." (The report cited 84 "work-related homicides" in Ontario alone from 1975 to 1985.)

Note that here, unlike the articles on conjugal violence, the classification of victims is by occupation, not by gender. But as Sullivan's report continues, a different emphasis suggests itself:

Although the average annual homicide rate was only 0.17 deaths per 100,000 workers, the researchers found that employees in certain job categories are at much greater risk.
For instance, seven gasoline station attendants were killed during the period, for a rate of 5.9 per 100,000 male workers. That compares with the rate of 6.1 for male Ontario police officers, 13 of whom were killed from 1975 to 1985.
Similar rates for female employees were not determined because the total number of women slain on the job during the study period - about one year - was too small to provide similar groupings. Instead, they were grouped under broader categories such as trade, service and manufacturing.
The authors of the report, published in the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health, found that 73 of the 84 victims [87 percent] were men, for a work-related rate of 0.26 per 100,000 workers. The rate for women was 0.05.
Clearly, then - by the Globe's apparent criteria, as outlined earlier - liability to homicide on the job is at least as much a "male" phenomenon as liability to conjugal assault is a "female" one. (Hence, perhaps, Sullivan's note concerning the statistical inadequacy of figures for female homicide victims. This comment is remarkably similar, in its language and significance, to the statement in the Globe's May 14 article dismissing male victims and survivors of conjugal violence: "Men were victims in so few cases that reliable estimates for the general population could not be made.")

But the women victims of on-the-job homicide are by no means dismissed in the peremptory manner of male victims and survivors of conjugal violence. Certainly, they are not utterly excluded from the discussion by the kind of semantic sleights-of-hand employed in the Globe's two editorials on "domestic violence." In fact, in the paragraphs immediately following the above-quoted passage, Sullivan goes out of his way to stress the significance of female victims, despite their relatively fewer numbers:

Gary Liss, one of the authors [of the report], said in an interview that even though a relatively small number of women were killed on the job, homicide accounted for an estimated 25 per cent of their 'traumatic occupational fatalities' during the study period.
"I think the study does show that homicide accounts for an important proportion of women's work-related deaths," said Dr. Liss, of the Ministry of Labour's health studies service.
By this reasoning, then, the small minority of women on-the-job homicide victims deserves attention because homicide accounts for a significant proportion of women's "traumatic occupational fatalities." But all this indicates is that male workers are in every respect at much greater risk of occupational fatalities than female workers. This makes sense when one considers the overwhelming male predominance in the most risky occupations - fishing, farming, construction, mining, and so on - and it is borne out by Canadian government data. Perhaps the single most shocking figure I came across in research for this paper is the proportion of male victims of on-the-job fatalities: 97 percent.(20)

In the case of women victims of on-the-job homicide, then, a full two paragraphs are devoted to explaining why the reader should not dismiss the small minority of women victims, even though the proportion for women is - by the Globe's implicit criteria - as statistically insignificant as the figures for male victims of conjugal assault. As we have seen, the strategy could not be more different when it comes to the minority of male victims of conjugal violence. It is not only that they are dismissed in the space of a single paragraph in the May 14 story on "domestic abuse." What is much more egregious, the Globe in its editorials simply refuses to construct a vocabulary which would permit the conceptual expression of male victimization; it refuses to concede the possibility of men being victims and survivors.

It is, I would argue, almost inconceivable that an editorial line equating the majority category of victims with an exclusive category of victims could have been constructed, had the Globe chosen to devote an editorial to on-the-job homicides. How obvious would the bias have been, if such homicides had been treated as an exclusively male concern, with a vocabulary (extending beyond mere choice of pronouns) which absolutely barred consideration of the minority of female victims?

Suicide Solution

Further evidence of this pattern of bias can be found in The Globe and Mail's coverage of another phenomenon, the victimization pattern of which is equally "male" by the Globe's standards.

An article by Sean Fine, published in the Globe on April 2, was headlined: "Disturbing number of teens seek solution in suicide." The article reports the deaths by suicide of three young people, all male, in the town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Suicide, as Fine notes, "is the second leading killer of Canadian teen-agers, after accidents." The story continues:

Although teen suicide rates in Canada have risen only marginally in the past 15 years, the phenomenon of 'suicide clusters' - also dubbed 'suicide contagion'- has grown during that time in North America, mostly among teens and people in their early 20s.
Throughout Fine's article, all references to suicide victims (excluding mention of individual victims) are gender-neutral: "teens and people in their early 20s"; "teen-agers"; "kids"; "children"; "teen-aged friends," and so on. Recall that this is roughly the same strategy employed in the March 26 article dealing with on-the-job homicides. There, the classification variable employed was occupation, rather than gender. As with the March 26 story, though, a different emphasis suggests itself elsewhere in Fine's article on teenage suicide. It arises from a small table, headed "Suicide Rates by Gender," which accompanies the article. The table cites data from the Canadian Institute of Child Health demonstrating that young males are overwhelmingly more likely than young females to commit suicide. Overall, men constitute about 80 percent of suicide victims - a statistic which was cited in this precise form, without further classification by age, in an earlier Globe article.(21)

Two sentences, in small print, provide a preface for the table which accompanies Fine's article. They read, "Suicide rates in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories ranked highest in Canada. Young males are more likely to commit suicide than young females."

The latter sentence, with its notably bland language, apparently exhausts the gender-specific aspect of suicide, in the Globe's view. There is no indication in the main body of the text that the suicide phenomenon deserves a gender-specific focus, in the way that, as we have seen, conjugal violence appears to warrant such a focus to the complete exclusion of the minority category of victims and survivors. In fact, as we mentioned, there is no gender-specific language in Fine's text at all, except when he is citing individual suicide victims (all male) as examples. The pattern seems fairly consistent in other Globe coverage of suicide during the sample period, again with the exception that gender is noted when individual suicide victims are mentioned.(22)

We might also speculate as to what the focus of a Globe article on suicide would be if 80 percent of suicide victims were female. Would a feature tend to concentrate on the general issue of suicide, or would it likely address itself to the phenomenon of female suicide, with attempts to discover what deep-set insecurities and patterns of socialization could possibly account for such a striking statistical disparity?

The "Culture of Violence" I: Men Need Not Apply

Explicit depictions of violence in the mass media have caused considerable concern in North American society over the last two decades or so. In general, criticism has focused on the possible adverse effects on children of a daily diet of depicted murder and assault, whether in cinema, magazines, or on television. Many feminist scholars and mainstream commentators have also sought to establish a causal link between depicted and actual violence against women.

Three Globe and Mail articles from the sample period, two by Globe staff-writers and one by a regular contributor to the "Facts and Arguments" page of the revamped Globe, are relevant to this portion of the discussion. The first is a June 15 story, "Researching the ratings," by Julia Nunes. This tells of "a university study [which has] concluded that R-rated videos often contain more violence against women than do X-rated videos":

Two University of California professors studied 90 randomly selected R-, X-, and XXX-rated videos for acts of violence (physical aggression not related to sexual activity) and sexual violence. On average, the R-rated videos showed far more violence against women and as much sexual violence as the X- and XXX-rated ones.
That is the framework for the discussion of depictions of "violence" and "sexual violence." Not once in the article is there any suggestion that depicted violence against men might also have been studied by the researchers. In fact, once again, there is no indication it even exists as a conceptual category: in the blink of an eye, we move from the general social phenomenon of depicted violence ("Study finds U.S. [ratings] system not accurate guide to violence," reads the article's sub-heading), to the gender-specific phenomenon of violence against women. When we turn to the study in question,(23) we find that the researchers' analysis was actually gender-neutral. For X- and XXX-rated films, the disparity in one of the two categories of violence referred to in Nunes' article (sexual violence) was considerable, with men the sizable majority of depicted aggressors and women the large majority of depicted victims. However, for the other category mentioned (non-sexual violence), those initiating and receiving the depicted violence were split roughly evenly between men and women.(24)

The blindness to the male side of the equation is also evident, with an intriguing twist, in John Haslett Cuff's April 16 article, "Put-downs and profanity arouse few laughs." Cuff is examining the new breed of television situation-comedies. He writes: "In spite of the preponderance of women in recently introduced American television sit-coms, a nasty vein of misogyny keeps popping up." The trend is indicated, for him, by an episode of Wings where "a character's wife is referred to repeatedly as 'the pig'," and an episode of The Marshall Chronicles, where "a teenage boy uses the term 'stuck-up bitch' several times."

Cuff's comments on the phenomenon are revealing:

These instances of linguistic violence strike our ears with uncommon force. We applaud, in principle, any move to free the language of adult television from the sort of prudery that sees loving sexual relations as taboo while sanitizing and condoning the worst sort of violence. Still, such anti-female profanity stands out, even amid the incessant, low-brow invective that characterizes so much alleged television comedy.
But why does the anti-female profanity stand out, precisely? Unpleasant as this kind of language may be, there is no suggestion in Cuff's article that "incessant, low-brow invective" is something exclusively visited upon female TV characters. In fact, as any regular television viewer can easily ascertain, the verbal and depicted physical abuse which is permissible against men far exceeds that permitted against women. One thinks of Jack's endless pratfalls and physical victimization on Three's Company, or the pulverizing punishment meted out to the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, or a recent episode of Designing Women in which a female character tells a male, "If you do this again, I'll feed your family jewels [testicles] to the squirrels."(25)

"Anti-female profanity stands out," as Cuff puts it, precisely because it is unusual, and because we are socialized to take such profanity much more seriously than its anti-male equivalent. "The worst sort of violence," which the Globe writer mentions in passing and in a gender-neutral way, is indeed "sanitiz[ed] and condon[ed]" on TV. That is just what we would expect, given that its victims on television and in films are usually male, as anyone with a notebook and a few hours to spare can readily establish.(26) Cuff's abstract criticisms of the general phenomenon of depicted violence are blind to the gender-specificity of most of this violence.

Still, all is not lost. Later in his column, discussing an episode of Bagdad Cafe, Cuff notes in passing: "And to counterbalance the sexism of the other shows, men are given short shrift here and mocked regularly." That is the extent of the discussion of male victimization (in this case, victimization by verbal abuse and mockery). Since it doesn't "strike our ears with uncommon force," there is apparently nothing further that need be said. Certainly, it is not viewed as representing "a nasty vein of misandry" on TV; it is not perceived as a trend, and until it is so perceived, it will not be perceived as an issue. (As well, it is a curious world view which sees abuse of one gender effectively "counterbalanced" by abuse of the other.(27))

A third example of the desensitization to depictions of male victimization must be cited more cautiously, since it was written not by a staff-member but by Marian Botsford Fraser, a regular contributor. I include it only because it so strikingly reveals the mindset which prevails when depicted violence is under analysis, in the Globe and elsewhere.

The article is headlined "Misogyny comes to the movies," and appeared on the "Facts and Arguments" page of the new-format Globe on June 19. The sub-heading reads: "Now playing at a theatre near you are slick Hollywood products that frequently feature explicit sexual and physical abuse of women. They're cleaning up at the box office and even the critics aren't criticizing."

Fraser writes:

If by chance you imagine that misogyny is dead, join the line-up at your local cinema for a reality check. In recent mainstream movies such as Internal Affairs (the No. 4 four [sic] biggest grossing movie the week it was released), and Revenge (highest grossing movie in the Vancouver Lower Mainland its first weekend out), misogyny is alive and kicking and scarcely ever mentioned by the critics.
The "misogyny" in Internal Affairs, for Fraser, is demonstrated by the fact that
all the women [are] casually and mostly naked most of the time. (Where do they find those dresses that keep falling off?)
Also, all the women get laid - viciously, casually, explicitly. Mostly by Mr. [Richard] Gere. Only Mr. [Andy] Garcia's partner escapes; she's a glamorous, husky-voiced lesbian, but in the end Mr. Gere gets even her, with a very big bullet through the midriff. (Mr. Garcia also learns how to be a real man; his wife isn't turned on by him until he beats her up in a fit of jealous rage.)
This is, at the very least, a preposterously misleading description of Internal Affairs. Far from the women in the film being "casually and mostly naked most of the time," I found three fleeting scenes of female nudity (topless only) in the entire film. None occurs in a violent context; one is a brief glimpse of Garcia's wife in the shower. Though some of the depictions of sex are callous, some are also tender and loving (as between Garcia and his wife, who is certainly "turned on by him" well before he "beats her up in a fit of jealous rage."(28))

Botsford Fraser does not explain why "casual" or "explicit" sex - "getting laid," in her term - should be inherently misogynist. As for the "husky-voiced lesbian," Garcia's sidekick on the police beat, she is the film's principal female character, and is depicted in a highly sympathetic manner throughout. For example, her fight for life after she is shot by Gere - and Garcia's subsequent agonizing as he waits at the hospital for news of her fate - represent by far the most protracted and empathetic treatment of human suffering in the entire film. (The "very big bullet" that Gere shoots her with, incidentally, seems to be a standard-issue .38. It certainly does less visible damage than the shotgun shell which blows a fist-sized hole through the midsection of a male policeman earlier in the film.)

Botsford Fraser is somewhat closer to the mark with Revenge - a numbingly stupid and macho movie, in which women serve mainly as decorative tinsel. She writes:

The movie Revenge is marginally subtler, if only because it is set in Mexico with lots of sputtering candles, dust storms and mosquito netting to obscure the brutality. Madeline Stowe is the victim; described by her powerful and wealthy husband Anthony Quinn as a "girl" with a body too beautiful to be spoiled (for him) by child-bearing, she falls in love with glamorous fighter pilot and all-American gentleman Kevin Costner. For this she is savagely beaten by Mr. Quinn, her face is slashed from ear to ear, and she is carried off to a brothel for a life of drugged, bestial sex.
Our hero Kevin (he carriers [sic] real weapons here like guns and knives, not just baseball bats) goes after her; there is more bone-cracking, blood-soaked, women-slapping violence, and then in the penultimate scene (sorry if I'm spoiling this for anyone) Mr. Quinn formally demands and gets an apology from Kevin for apparently the most heinous crime in the chivalric tradition - wife-stealing.
The woman dies. The men live. That's entertainment.
The careful reader will note Botsford Fraser's evasive phrase: "bone-cracking, blood-soaked, women-slapping violence." In context, it would seem the women in Revenge are generally the ones on the receiving end of this violence. Are they? It is worth examining both Revenge and Internal Affairs in greater detail, to see exactly what proportion of the violence is directed against women.

We can divide the depicted violence in these two films into three categories: 1) Homicidal, leading to death; 2) Serious, leading to apparently serious injury (e.g., a gunshot wound, a face-slashing, a beating leading to injury or unconsciousness - for present purposes, sexual abuse involving rape or attempted rape is also included in this category); 3) Relatively mild, consisting of slapping, punching, or pushing.

The results for Revenge are as follows:

Violent Acts - Revenge

Gender of Victim/Survivor
Type 1
Type 2
Type 3
Male 5 2 3
Female 0 2 3

The disparity for Internal Affairs is even more striking:

Violent Acts - Internal Affairs

Gender of Victim/Survivor Type 1 Type 2 Type 3
Male 7 4 7
Female 1 1 3

When combined, the depicted violence in these two films looks like this:

Violent Acts - Revenge and Internal Affairs

Gender of Victim/Survivor Type 1 Type 2 Type 3
Male 12 6 10
Female 1 3 6

Note that in the category of most extreme depicted violence, all but one of the victims are male (twelve out of thirteen). Now recall the sub-heading supplied for Botsford Fraser's article by the Globe editors, mentioning "slick Hollywood products that frequently feature explicit sexual and physical abuse of women." Do the sub-heading and Botsford Fraser's attempts at elaboration represent a fair indication of the main patterns of violence in these films? If not, why is it that the violence directed against women merits an in-depth pseudo-analysis and much outrage, but the violence directed against men does not - in fact, does not appear even to exist as a concept?

The pattern of depicted violence against men, by the way, appeared to carry over to the Hollywood blockbusters of 1990: Dick Tracy, RoboCop 2, Die Hard 2, Total Recall and the like. In Die Hard 2, for example, a total of 21 people are killed individually on-screen. All are male. One is killed by being sucked through the jet engine of a Boeing 747 (there is a close-up shot of minced remains splashing along the fuselage). Two are crushed to death; one is killed by being jabbed through the eye with a jagged object. There are also two planes destroyed, one with a mixed load of passengers, the other with a smaller but all-male contingent aboard. One will search in vain for outraged press commentary, in the Globe or elsewhere, concerning the massive violence against men in these cinema epics. As in society at large, the pervasiveness of this violence renders it invisible as such.

Some insights - both intentional and unintentional - into the desensitization process are offered by the Globe's Jay Scott, one of the most able and perceptive film reviewers in North America. On March 23 1990, Scott reviewed Kathryn Bigelow's violent female cop epic, Blue Steel.(29) The film, Scott wrote, "is really about ... power, specifically the power that emanates from the end of a gun." Bigelow "has said that one of her desires in Blue Steel was to 'eroticize' the gun":

She certainly consummates her compulsion: no male director has ever treated a hand-held instrument of death with the cool lust Bigelow brings to the credit sequence, in which the camera virtually licks the exterior - and interior - of a pistol. ...
It's terrific, seductive, perverse filmmaking, but what's the point? ... Bigelow probably made Blue Steel because she wanted to photograph heads being smashed and people being killed. Fair enough. Cinematic celebrations of the power and poetry of cops-and-creeps violence - Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver, Brian De Palma in The Untouchables, Sam Peckinpah in anything, William Friedkin in To Live and Die in L.A. - have a well-nigh endless history in Hollywood.
For all its designer icing, Blue Steel is essentially a day-old item, except that it has been baked by a woman in tribute to a woman [i.e., the policewoman, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who is the film's central character]. Politically and historically, that's a huge exception: at this stage in the century, a male director who unapologetically got hot over the good guys' guns and gloated over the scarlet holes they blew into the bad guys' bodies would receive moralistic critical reprimands.
Scott is able to isolate some of the basic contradictions in the cultural context which allow a film like Blue Steel to flourish unchallenged. To some extent, though, he ends up typifying the double standard he discusses. What, after all, is the most obvious characteristic of the exceptionally violent films that he mentions as precedents (Scorsese, Friedkin, Peckinpah)? Surely, that the victims of explicit violence in these blood-and-guts extravaganzas are overwhelmingly male. Since depicted violence against men is culturally acceptable - since, to use Scott's terms, the "good guys" and "bad guys" are guys - the works of these filmmakers can constitute a legitimate cinema genre, and Scott's language can be casual, dismissive, and breezy ("Fair enough"; "a well-nigh endless history"). It's hard to imagine him being similarly cool about a genre which featured the explicit slaughter of women as the overwhelming majority of its victims. This must remain a speculation, however, since such a genre does not exist. Nor, if it did exist, would it likely find acceptance in mainstream society.

The "Culture of Violence" II: A Comic Aside

Nothing, to my mind, typifies our culture's desensitization to the violent victimization of men better than the comics page of the average big-city daily newspaper. There is a vast gulf between the amount and kind of depicted violence or abuse directed toward male characters in comic strips (at the hands of both female and male assailants), and that permitted against female characters.

In the space of just under a month in 1991, for example, the comic strip Beetle Bailey ran three instalments in which the "humour" centres around brutalization of the mild-mannered title character, a man. In one strip, Beetle is pounded into an anonymous tangle of twisted limbs by the beefy female staff-sergeant. In another, Beetle refuses to answer a question from "Sarge," his superior. Sarge responds: "I'll beat it out of you," and is shown knocking Beetle unconscious. In the third and most chilling example, Beetle is depicted as an almost gelatinous mass of flesh on the ground. Sarge is standing on a step-ladder in order to leap down onto Beetle's ruined body with greater force. The joke is that Sarge "is really coming down hard on Beetle." The horror that would greet any analogous depiction of female victimization is easy to imagine.(30)

It is also striking how often the comics adopt patterns and language which would have clearly reactionary political overtones if the depicted victims were female. For example, conjugal violence against men is a staple of strips like Andy Capp and Drabble (the latter carried by The Globe and Mail). Female victims are never featured (they used to be in Andy Capp, but - revealingly - this became too politically explosive). As an example of the double-standard, consider a Hagar the Horrible strip (published February 3 1991) which shows the burly Viking Hagar playing a game of poker with one of those mild, physically unprepossessing male characters (like Beetle Bailey) who seem to exist only to be brutalized by everyone else in the strip. Here the character says to Hagar, "Hit me" (asking for another card). Hagar knocks him to the floor with the ghastly punch-line, "He was askin' for it." Imagine a female victim in the place of the male one, given our sensitivity to the "he-was-asking-for-it" stereotype in cases of rape and conjugal violence.

Discussion of the comics carries us beyond the sample period employed elsewhere in this paper, and indeed beyond the parameters of The Globe and Mail, which does not carry the strips (Beetle Bailey, Andy Capp, Hagar) featuring the greatest depicted violence against men. I move beyond the narrower framework here for a simple reason: of all the assertions made in this paper concerning the cultural acceptability (and banality) of violence against men, this critique of the comics can perhaps be investigated most easily by any reader with access to a daily newspaper and a few minutes to spare.

Sins of Omission, Sins of Commission

This study has not looked closely at cases of Globe reporting where sources are quoted making biased statements, without balance being sought from other sources. In many instances, though, these examples seem to represent not incompetent reporting, but rather a simple inability to perceive the sources' bias. Perhaps, then, we may consider these examples as part of the broader pattern of biased reporting. Once again, the most common strategy is for a gender-neutral phenomenon to be equated, in the course of the article, with its application to women alone.

Two representative examples are worth noting briefly:

Vivian Smith, "Complaint sparks action on gory magazine," Globe and Mail, April 3 1990, p. A3. The complaint referred to comes from a Toronto woman, who is quoted as follows: "Gorezone ... is a disturbing publication in that it glorifies [gender-neutral] violence and sadistic behaviour." Children, this woman argues, will tend to think that "hacking, dismembering and generally destroying women is acceptable." The only depiction of violence specifically referred to in the Globe article is a "photo that shows a boy actor of about 8 showing pain as an adult actor takes a large knife to a tattoo on the boy's chest."

Gene Allen, "Ban tape that blames victims of sexual abuse, MPP urges," Globe and Mail, May 4 1990, p. A12(M). This article describes "A self-hypnosis tape that tells sexual abuse victims they are paying the price for their own abusive actions in past lives." Conservative MPP Margaret Ladland is quoted as follows: "What it's talking about, purely, is that if we as women are victims of sexual abuse, we are the cause. ... [W]e have to make a decision to protect the women in Ontario today." For her part, Mavis Wilson, then-Minister for Women's Issues, is quoted as saying: "I'm opposed to messages that blame women for sexual assault." There is no indication in the body of the story that the tape's message is addressed exclusively to women survivors of sexual abuse. Indeed, the reporter's language is firmly gender-neutral throughout - but sources are sought out to comment on women's plight alone.

It is also worth noting, in passing, examples of Globe reporting which appear to reflect the "male bashing" which has long been in vogue among some sectors of the feminist movement, and which has gained a parasitic kind of credibility as more humane feminist perspectives have achieved mainstream acceptance.

From the sample period, consider the article in the Globe's April 26 edition (p. H12[M]), headlined: "Good men even harder to find than 20 years ago, poll reports." The lead sentence reads: "U.S. women increasingly find men mean, manipulative, over-sexed, self-centred and lazy, a survey released yesterday says." The organization which conducted the survey is obscure, but since its findings fit neatly into the prevailing pattern of gender bias, the data are accepted and widely disseminated. Try to imagine a Globe headline reading, "Good women even harder to find than 20 years ago," or an article referring to women as "mean, manipulative, over-sexed, self-centred and lazy." Without doubt, the outcry would be immediate, and the polling data themselves would be viewed as reflecting the deeply-embedded misogynist tendencies in the American male.

A more subtle example from the sample period is Michelle Lalonde's article, "Women hailed as better suited for role in environmental issues" (May 25, p. A14[M]). Writes Lalonde: "Women are more involved in and better suited to solving the environmental crisis than men, a conference on women and the environment was told yesterday." Again, imagine the genders reversed, and picture the Globe dispatching a reporter to cover a conference on "Men and the Environment" (assuming the reporter could fight his or her way through the tangle of feminist pickets). It is just conceivable that the Globe would print a report on such a conference, mentioning statements by a key speaker to the effect that men are innately better suited to dealing with the issue at hand. It's hard to conceive, though, that such a report could be written without an immediate attempt to seek balance from other sources - for example, a representative of a women's organization who would denounce the dinosaur mentality and sexist bias of the conference proceedings.

A Polemic and A Paradigm

Consider two recent press reports. The first is from the New York Times:
The Peruvian Army occasionally reacts to ambushes and attacks by invading a community and killing dozens of young and old females, sometimes in full view of relatives.
The second, similar report is from the Manchester Guardian Weekly:
A few weeks ago, one of the most noted killings of the year occurred in El Poblado [Colombia], a city braced daily for disaster. A group of yuppie teenagers (old money or new? no one is prepared to say) were drinking happily in a popular bar. Enter a group of masked gunmen, dismounting rapidly from their four-wheel drive campers. They separate the girls from the boys, and then kill the girls, 19 of them.
Marc Lépine, it seems, has numerous comrades-in-arms. Everywhere, brutal misogyny reigns. But in fact, we have altered these accounts very slightly. In the first, "males" should be substituted for "females." For "kill the girls" in the second, read "kill the boys."(31)

Is the reader's response - the sense of shock and indignation one feels at these accounts - in any way altered when men are the victims? Does the casual, almost blasé tone of the second article, for instance, seem inappropriate when female victims are substituted for male ones?

Perhaps the examples are too far from home to seem directly relevant. What follows, then, is an article from The Gleaner, the student newspaper of Vancouver Community College - Langara. The article shocked me when I first read it more than two years ago - mostly because it bore some resemblance to one of the central traumatic experiences of my own life. In some ways, it contains the seed of the paper you are now reading.

By David Dykhuiszen and Darren Atwater
Up to twenty Langara students have been injured in a rash of violence over the past two weeks, believed to be the work of the same group.
The latest incident occurred Tuesday when up to four students were randomly beaten during a five minute period around 3 o'clock. The exact numbers are not available as some victims do not report the incidents. The Gleaner has agreed not to reveal the identities of any witnesses.
According to eye-witnesses, one male student was "roughed up" at the bus stop in front of the main building, but fled at the approach of a security guard.
Next, a woman was verbally and physically harassed by individuals resembling descriptions of the group, in a stairwell beside the cafeteria. She also ran.
Thirdly, a man was "flattened and drop kicked twenty feet" on the soccer field, again seemingly randomly.
Last, another man was beaten to the ground outside the Langara library main door. The group then ran north. Police arrived ten minutes later. ...
This latest incident happened after a near riot in the Students' Union Building during its pub last Friday injured 14 people. The group, who were identified by students as some of whom were involved on Tuesday, attended the pub and ordered beers.
"They were definitely looking for a fight," one student said.
The brawl started by one of the group hitting a standing student with a tire iron, breaking his skull and jaw with a crack which "could be heard over everything." A second blow shattered his hand and was followed with several to the body.
Another student was beaten to the ground with a black-jack. Another witness says one pub patron stood up and ordered the youths to leave. He was answered by a hurled chair, breaking two windows. Once outside, the group hurled shards of glass which the gang tossed into the crowd "like frisbees." Several students lost teeth, some required stitches, and one received a minor concussion. Police arrived 30 minutes later.
This incident followed a group beating of a male student in front of the cafeteria on the previous Tuesday. Several students identified some of the group as those involved in the Friday and Tuesday incidents.
There have been no arrests yet. ...
It would not surprise me if the average male reader of this account were to feel a sick feeling in his stomach, as I did. Quite likely, the article would bring back memories of incidents from his own life: a beating in a school-yard, perhaps, or a surprise attack in a pub by a man who was "definitely looking for a fight." Perhaps most readers, male or female, would grant that the kind of events discussed in the Gleaner article are those to which men are especially and exceptionally prone. It is no surprise, reading the article closely, to find that only one survivor (of "harassment") is specifically designated as a woman. I would be willing to bet - though I have not been able to establish this - that all or almost all the survivors referred to in gender-neutral language are, in fact, male: the "student ... beaten to the ground with a black-jack"; the students who "lost teeth" and "required stitches." Not only does this make intuitive sense; it also seems to me unlikely that the gender of the survivor would pass unmentioned if she were female. Women losing teeth and being beaten with black-jacks make news as women.

It is examples like this which call into question the common claim that "Men are attacked, yes, but women are attacked because they are women." In the above instance, it should not take a great analytical leap to grasp that a man is peculiarly prone to this kind of random public violence. If a man is attacked in a bar or cafeteria by a crowbar-wielding stranger, and if no masculine prestige or prowess would accrue to the assailant for hauling off and clobbering a woman instead, then whether the target is attacked because he is a man is not supremely relevant; he is attacked by virtue of his being male.

Another timely example may serve to emphasize my point about male victimization. The images are still vivid in North American minds of the vicious police beating of Rodney King, a Black resident of Los Angeles. King was pulled over by L.A.'s finest for speeding on a freeway; by pure chance, the beating was captured on video-tape by an onlooker. The events shocked the world:

He [King] was brutally beaten by three officers with batons; shocked and burned twice with a stun gun; and kicked in the head, face and stomach while down on the ground, as a dozen other officers looked on. ... The [video] tape shows King on his knees, attached to an electrical line from the stun gun, being struck repeatedly by a baton-wielding policeman. As he falls to the ground, several officers take turns swinging at his legs. King rises to his knees and attempts to shield himself from the blows, but the policemen continue to smash him in the gut and on the legs. One kicks him, another stomps on his head or neck. One eyewitness heard King cry out, "Stop, please stop!"
But the officers continued to rain at least 40 blows on the defenseless and unresisting King, finally handcuffing and hog-tying him, and sending him, bleeding badly, to a nearby emergency room. There King received 20 stitches - including five inside his mouth - and treatment for burns, massive bruises and lacerations.(33)
After the tape was aired, many commentators and Black activists made the same point: the only unusual thing about the incident was that the brutality was captured on tape. Every critic of the police actions noted the obvious racism which characterized not only the assault on King, but the broader police attitude toward the Black community in Los Angeles. To my knowledge, though, no-one has made a point that seems to me equally obvious: this kind of systematic police brutalization, so common in large American cities and hardly unknown in Canada, is something not visited on minority groups per se, but on male members of those minority groups. Has anyone seriously suggested that police officers, out to prove what tough customers they are, regularly drag away women (even Black women) and take turns beating them to bloody pulps at roadside, while fellow officers stand around and watch? During the flurry of media attention that followed the King beating, many other individual instances of similar assaults were mentioned and brought to light. Without exception, all the victims and survivors of such brutality mentioned in the limited range of material I consulted were male.(34) No doubt a systematic investigation would turn up exceptions, but the trend is strikingly clear: the victims and survivors of this kind of police brutality are victimized by virtue of their being male. Nowhere was this fact deemed worthy of comment, even though in this case the gender variable was arguably more relevant even than the racial one, which commanded universal attention.

We can take this line of reasoning further, in a way which returns us to the specific Globe and Mail articles we have examined. If a man holds a particular job because that job is traditionally a male preserve, and if he is murdered on the job because he is in someone's way, then he is killed mostly by virtue of his being male - even if we have to resort to clumsy syntax to convey this fact, and even if the grisliness of the gender component is only implicit. Similarly, if someone in Newfoundland is a fisherman; if this occupation, like all the other extremely high-risk occupations, is mostly or exclusively a male preserve; and if he is drowned at sea, as 250 have been in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia alone over the last ten years, then he is dead by virtue of being male.(35)

We live in a culture which is trained to view the violent victimization of women as a much more serious offense than the violent victimization of men. The bias is visible in any number of phenomena: the social sanctions against striking or injuring women; the "women-and-children-first" rule of rescue (note the lack of outrage when Iraq's Saddam Hussein released all his female hostages during the early stages of the Gulf crisis, but kept the men); and the exceedingly heavy punishments historically dealt out to men found guilty of sexual assault against women in a non-conjugal setting (as distinct from forms of physical assault traditionally directed against "other men").(36) The carte blanche historically accorded male violence in the domestic sphere mitigates this picture partially, but only partially; as we have seen, to the extent that domestic victimization of men exists, it is a topic of almost no mainstream concern.

The bias permeates our popular culture so completely that it is usually invisible, as I hope I have indicated over the course of this paper. In an achievement of truly historic proportions, the feminist movement has succeeded in bringing domestic victimization of women into the open. It now joins the other aspects of women's physical and social victimization as a subject of intense public scrutiny, both in the mainstream media and at the highest levels of government. This is reflected not just in the articles we have examined here, but in the systematic gender-specific attention paid to women and women alone by Statistics Canada, the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and other bodies.(37)

Now, all this attention is insufficient, in that the long journey of ameliorating women's suffering has barely begun. It is also the case, though, that the attention is disproportionate, given the actual patterns of violent victimization discussed here. As far as the male side of the equation is concerned, it has not even been recognized - not least by males themselves - that any amelioration is necessary.

The spotlight on women's suffering is a valuable one when it serves to highlight the concerns of a previously marginalized, historically oppressed sector of society. But I have argued that the reason no concomitant attention is paid to male victimization as such is not because the victimization does not exist - indeed, it is endemic in our society - but because the physical victimization of women has always spawned greater outrage. Part of the explanation for this is the solicitude normally accorded to those who are, on average, physically weaker - women and children, the elderly. Part, however, is the product of the longstanding philosophical tenet of male-dominant society: that women are political and juridical children requiring male guidance and protection, as well as isolation from the rigours of public life. The feminist movement has worked hard to undermine many of the philosophical foundations of male-dominant society, but this one it has too often swallowed - though selectively. It seems the exceptional outrage which public violence against women evokes has proved tactically convenient for feminism - despite the fact that this outrage is in key respects hypocritical.

The vocabulary available to us exerts an unconscious but powerful constraint upon thought and action: "Language is practical consciousness," as Marx wrote in The German Ideology. Thanks to the tireless efforts of two generations of feminists, the vocabulary of "violence against women" is now standard usage. Hence, violence against women is thinkable. The vocabulary of "violence against men," by contrast, does not exist. Hence, the very phrase is an oddity, and leads to nothing more than blank incomprehension or raised eyebrows.(38)

"But aren't men the ones committing all the violence?" A reader of average alertness will have noticed that I have been at pains to emphasize the liability of males to victimization, since this is so uncommonly stressed. It is not my intention, though, to deny the gender component to perpetration of violent crimes. A large majority of perpetrators are male.(39) The stereotypical assumption, though - generally unspoken - is that violence committed against men by assailants who are male merely proves that "boys will be boys." Only when the violence crosses the gender boundary (in the direction of male to female) does it become worthy of gender-specific analysis.

Note first of all that the male-as-perpetrator paradigm does not justify the invisibility of the gender component in media treatment of an issue like suicide, or of "agent-less" victimization like non-homicidal occupational fatalities. Clearly, the notion that men are "asking for it," just by being men in a male-dominant society, is deeply entrenched.

The dangerous irrationality of the "boys will be boys" motif becomes clearer if we apply the framework to other situations of victimization and transgression. Do we say, for example, that a Black woman who is raped by a Black man is unworthy of the same attention or sympathy given to a survivor of an interracial rape, because after all, "That's just how Blacks are"? When a Salvadorean peasant is murdered and mutilated by soldiers or death-squads, is his or her suffering dismissed because "That's how politics works in those Latin American countries"? In fact, as we all know, such viewpoints are not uncommon. But we immediately perceive their redneck roots. Anyone holding to an equitable and progressive perspective - one that is attuned to violations of human rights and physical integrity, and that does not allow abuses to be ignored on bigoted grounds - will recoil from such an approach. Surely, Canada's most prestigious newspaper would never sink to such depths. Why is it, then, that when the victims and survivors are male, the mere fact that their assailants tend also to be male is enough to consign the matter to the dustbin? We do not even have a vocabulary to express the peculiar vulnerability of men to particular kinds of victimization and suffering, including the varieties which spark outrage and much sociologically-nuanced analysis when the victims and survivors are female.

The type of change I am arguing for has a simple normative foundation. I contend that a human being experiencing discrimination, victimization, or suffering is inherently worthy of sympathy and support - regardless of gender. Few, I am sure, would contest this basic premise. Next, I would point out (again uncontroversially) that particular forms of suffering or victimization are intimately related to the "role obligations and institutional constraints" of a particular social group - whether the group is delimited by age, gender, ethnicity, or some other variable.(40) Where this is the case, analysis and discussion should be sensitive to the specific vulnerabilities, liabilities, and adverse experiences which accrue disproportionately to members of one or more of these social groups.

The paradigm I propose is objective enough, but it is also partisan - and rightly so. In the context of the mass media, what is required is open-minded investigation and balanced reporting, of the kind that has been so sorely lacking in the Globe and Mail coverage analyzed here. At the same time, the proposed paradigm places itself firmly on the side of the individual experiencing suffering and victimization. No one, for example, is to be excluded from this commitment because he or she happens to share some characteristic (such as age, race, class, or gender) with his or her assailant. Transparent strategies - even unconscious ones - which blame the victim for the victimization are to be weeded out.


One might be tempted to let the present situation rest. After all, at least half the population - the female half - is beginning to receive its due in terms of mainstream discussion of its victimization experiences. Issues, as we all know, do not necessarily arise in the media at the same time as their complements. Instead, media processes reflect brief cycles of intense interest in particular aspects of social problems.

The drawback to such a wait-and-see attitude is that analysis of the female experience in the coverage we have considered often seems closely linked to an inaccurate and insidious depiction of the male experience. It is not that male suffering is eliminated from the equation simply because its time for media treatment has not yet come. Rather, it seems that giving the male side of the equation the attention it deserves would threaten the prevailing trend of analysis, which (explicitly or implicitly) equates masculinity with the violent and repressive forces loose in North American society.

One of the results of this framework is a pervasive ignorance of basic facts about physical suffering and violent victimization in our society. Out of curiosity, I recently asked a feminist friend who writes regularly and prominently on violence against women whether she thought males or females, statistically, were more likely to be murdered. She answered, "Why, women of course," as though the question were too ridiculous to contemplate. In other situations, when I cite this most elementary homicide statistic, I encounter a particular response. First, there is a reflexive launching into some familiar line of reasoning. Then - sometimes after further prodding and cajoling - there is often a welcome pause as the significance of the data sinks in, apparently for the first time. With respect and affection, I suggest this may signify a deeper weakness in the consistency and accuracy of feminist formulations of the violence-against-women problematic.

The intention of this paper has been to shake up pat assumptions. I readily acknowledge that this task has been undertaken at the expense of constructing a balanced analysis. Certainly, if we stir up the standard equation with a solid polemical gust, many of the standard elements will settle back to earth. Perhaps, though, we will find the more groundless assumptions called into question, along with the biased and stereotypical mindsets that underlie them. It may then be possible for some important and little-noticed elements of the debate to insinuate themselves, and claim the recognition due to them.

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1. Analysis of the microfilmed Globe was limited to the main ("A") section of the newspaper (except the Saturday "Focus" section and the daily "Arts" review where this appeared outside the "A'" section). Thus, it did not include the "Report on Business" or supplementary material like the Globe's glossy magazine inserts. Letters to the Editor were not considered. Note that while the original group of articles was taken from the Globe and Mail's National Edition, the microfilmed version of the Globe is the Metropolitan Toronto edition. Where articles from the microfilm record are cited, Metropolitan Edition page numbers are indicated by an "M," e.g., "A10(M)." All other page references are to the National Edition.

2. I will use the term "survivor" instead of or alongside "victim" as often as possible, though there is no ready substitute for "victimization." In general I reserve "victim" for someone who has suffered a fatal attack or injury. Here I am following Marilyn Musser and Carolyn Meade, who reject the "victim" label in their book A Resource Guide: News Coverage of Sexual Assault. They write that "While the individual has been a victim and made powerless temporarily, it is important to remember that she or he has survived and has the opportunity to regain control over her or his life." I agree, and commend not only the terminology but also the gender-inclusive language employed in their argument. (Their book is available from the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319, USA.)

3. Other Statistics Canada findings report an even larger gap between male and female victims of violent crime. See, for example, Holly Johnson, "Violent Crime," Canadian Social Trends (Summer 1988), p. 27: here it is stated that males are twice as likely to be victims of violent offenses. These are listed as homicide (murder, manslaughter, infanticide), attempted murder, sexual assault, assault, and robbery. The figures are taken from the 1981 Canadian Urban Victimization Survey. (Apparently, these were the most recent data available, given that Johnson - a StatsCan researcher and co-author of the PCVC report - was writing in 1988.) On homicide, see Statistics Canada, Homicide in Canada, 1988: A Statistical Perspective (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1989), pp. 32, 55, 65. Some relevant passages from this report: "The 1988 ratio of male to female [homicide] victims is the same as the previous ten year average. During this past decade ... males have generally been twice as likely to be victims of homicides as females. ... Strangers killed males and females in ... similar proportions (22.8% and 18.3% respectively) ... There have been two distinct trends in terms of homicide victims by gender. From 1961 to 1970, females accounted for over 40% of homicide victims. Since that time, they have comprised approximately 35% of all victims. In 1988, the proportion of female victims (35.1%) was very similar to the previous ten year average." I find it especially interesting that these data dispel the myth that men are killed by strangers, whereas women are killed by people known to them. In fact, as the report makes clear, the proportion of strangers to familiars is very similar for men and women.

4. Canadian Urban Victimization Survey, Bulletin No. 1: Victims of Crime (Ottawa: Solicitor General Canada, 1983), p. 4.

5. Canadian Urban Victimization Survey, Bulletin No. 2: Reported and Unreported Crimes (Ottawa: Solicitor General Canada, 1984), p. 9.

6. I qualify this statement because it may well be that women's rates of victimization are artificially lowered by the fact that they perceive themselves to be more liable to assault; women would therefore tend to take extraordinary care to avoid potentially injurious situations outside the home. Likewise, socialized male bravado may lead men to expose themselves to public environments which put them at greater risk of violent attack. This would account for at least some of the otherwise large disparity in victimization risk: women's real rates would be higher if they were as plagued by the false feelings of impunity common to men. Perhaps, for the purposes of fashioning a social policy not founded on simple number-crunching, the seriousness of the risk and of the damage done should be viewed as roughly equal for both sexes. I must emphasize, though, that this egalitarian approach would require attention to male victimization as such - attention of the kind that so far has been accorded exclusively to women.

7. Holly Johnson, "Violent Crime," Canadian Social Trends (Summer 1988), p. 27. The earlier Canadian Urban Victimization Survey, meanwhile, "shows that Canadian women experience a lower frequency of victimization than men but express greater fear for their personal safety. This finding has been consistent across nations and over time ..." See Canadian Urban Victimization Survey, Bulletin No. 4: Female Victims of Crime (Ottawa: Solicitor General Canada, 1985, p. 1). (There is, perhaps revealingly, no Survey Bulletin on male victims of crime; Statistics Canada's own bias in this regard will be touched on later; see note 37.)

8. Canadian Urban Victimization Survey, Bulletin No. 1, p. 4.

9. Some of these themes did, however, receive brief exposition in my letter to the editor, Globe and Mail, May 25 1990.

10. According to a recent Globe article, "Of the 18 slayings of children by parents [in Québec in the year ending March 1990] ... the majority were committed by mothers. Most of these were infanticide." André Picard, "Figures on violent deaths of children called alarming," Globe and Mail, January 2 1991. In the U.S., the most extensive and precise survey of domestic violence found that for both child-battering and abuse of the elderly, women constitute a slight majority of perpetrators. This makes intuitive sense given that the large majority of caregivers in such situations are women. See Richard J. Gelles and Murray A. Straus, Intimate Violence: The Causes and Consequences of Abuse in the American Family (New York: Touchstone, 1988), pp. 63, 85.

11. See also the Globe editorial, "Essential shelter for battered women," April 10 1990, p. A6(M). "When a woman decides she has had enough, hastily gathers up the children and takes flight from an abusive husband, a decent society should be prepared to make the catch." There is no suggestion that this should also be true for the minority of battered husbands, nor for male partners in homosexual relationships, both of whom may also be seeking to escape from abusive domestic situations.

A Globe article from the Canadian Press, published on June 21 1990, noted that "A woman who punched her husband in the face and poured beer and perfume on him has been sentenced to 18 months' probation and ordered to get counselling for her heavy drinking." There is no suggestion, in this article or elsewhere in Globe coverage in my experience, that this might be part of a wider trend deserving of a degree of social concern.

According to Canadian Social Trends ("Homicide," Summer 1990, p. 15), 23% of murdered spouses are male. (The proportion is much higher in the United States.) A large number of these victims, perhaps a majority, are men who have abused their spouses; the spouses respond murderously out of revenge, desperation, or fear. A large number (perhaps a minority) are not.

12. Juristat Service Bulletin 10:7 (May 1990).

13. Merlin Brinkerhoff and Eugen Lupri, "Inter-Spousal Violence," Canadian Journal of Sociology, 13:4 (1988), pp. 407-434.

14. Gelles and Straus, Intimate Violence, p. 90. With regard to how much of the female-on-male violence is pre-emptive, retaliatory, or in self-defense, a recent article by Straus argues that available data "does not support the hypothesis that these assaults [on male partners] are primarily in self defense. One out of four of the women who reported assaulting their partner indicated that he had not hit her" during the previous year, and overall initiation rates are similar at all levels of severity, as noted. (Straus, "Assaults by Wives on Husbands," paper presented at the 1989 meeting of the American Society of Criminology; emphasis in original.) Intimate Violence, on the other hand, includes the statement (p. 90) that "nearly three-fourths of the violence committed by women is done in self-defense ... more often than not a wife who beats her husband has herself been beaten." The claim is perplexing in light of Straus's (and others') survey data showing approximately even rates of violence initiation for men and women, at all levels of severity. Clearly, the fact that a woman and her partner have traded assaults ("a wife who beats her husband has herself been beaten") tells us nothing about the patterns of violence and violence initiation among couples who employ physically-assaultive methods of conflict resolution. A simple assumption of "self-defense" is in no way warranted. The "three-fourths in self-defense" figure has been cited by other scholars seeking to qualify or downplay their finding of roughly equal rates of violence initiation (e.g., Brinkerhoff and Lupri; see note 13). But in a telephone conversation (February 18 1992), Straus called the assertion in Intimate Violence "a blunder" not supported by the survey evidence: "You can quote me on that." It is, furthermore, an assertion not repeated elsewhere in his scholarly output, to my knowledge.

15. For discussion of this figure, see Straus, "Assaults by Wives on Husbands." The proportion of female initiators of overall partner-on-partner violence is of course much higher, as noted.

16. See Gelles and Straus, Intimate Violence, pp. 90, 105-06, 114, 149-50, 188. The ten additional studies referred to are listed on page 275. [1998 note: a recent annotated bibliography cites 85 such sources.] The authors are perhaps charitable in their assessment of radical-feminist motivations for sweeping the issue of battered men under the carpet. In many cases, the oversight seems linked not only to a legitimate desire to secure funding for abused women, but to a puerile ideological framework which demonizes men as callous transgressors and idealizes women as gentle victims. For more information on male victims of conjugal violence, see Suzanne K. Steinmetz and Joseph S. Lucca, "Husband Battering," in Vincent B. Van Hasselt et al., ed., Handbook of Family Violence (New York: Plenum Press, 1988), pp. 233-246. A rare treatment of the topic in the mainstream media is Albert Noel, "Battered men need shelter too, social workers say," The Gazette (Montreal), October 5 1991, p. P3.

17. It should also be noted that a much higher degree of social sanction exists for female violence against the male than for the reverse, at least at lower levels of violent interaction. Low-level assault on the male by the female, in the form of slapping, punching, or kicking, is so ingrained in our culture that it can safely be the stuff of sitcoms and beer commercials. It is not generally perceived as "assault," as it should be and would be if the agent and victim were reversed; social ridicule would accrue to any male who pressed charges on these grounds, not least from his male peers. Personal conversations with men who have been slapped or punched - i.e., "battered" - by women have led me to a much greater awareness of the feelings of pain, impotence, and humiliation which these ostensibly trivial assaults can entail, especially given the socially-conditioned damage to self-esteem which accrues to a male assaulted by the "weaker sex." I invite readers to seek their own anecdotal evidence in this regard. As for depictions of female-on-male violence in the mass media, Lori Monk, a student of sociology and law who was an early reader of this manuscript, writes: "This is worthy of a paper on its own. Since you pointed this out to me last spring, I've been amazed at the prevalence of it" (emphasis in original). Researcher Murray Straus concurs: "There seems to be an implicit norm permitting or encouraging minor assaults by women in certain circumstances. ... Even casual observation of the mass media suggests that such ritualized 'slap the cad' behavior is presented almost every day as an implicit model to millions of women on television or in a movie or novel." (See Straus, "Assaults by Wives on Husbands.")

18. Bell Hooks, "Challenging Patriarchy Means Challenging Men to Change," Z Magazine, February 1991, pp. 33-36. Hooks departs from her own experiences with a brutalizing father, and the "overwhelming killing rage" she felt towards him: "The memory of my rage has stayed with me, a constant reminder of the violence I am capable of, a violence just as strong, just as intense as that of any man."

19. Joan Cocks, The Oppositional Imagination: Feminism, Critique and Political Theory (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), pp. 181-82. Cocks's brilliant dissection of radical-feminist theories of sexuality and agency is highly recommended.

20. 97.4 percent, to be precise. See Employment Injuries and Occupational Illnesses 1972-1981 (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1984), p. 10. "Every 2.1 hours of a working day, a work-related death occurs in Canada" (p. 128). The fact that almost without exception the victims are male rarely seems to surface in discussions of job discrimination; it is also remarkable how much digging was necessary to uncover the astonishing statistics. More recent data have found that, at a time when women accounted for a full 44% of the Canadian workforce (1988), men suffered nearly four times as many "time-loss injuries." See Statistics Canada, Work Injuries 1986-1988, p. 13; also, Women in Canada: A Statistical Report, 1990, p. 78.

21. See "Is suicide on the increase?," Globe and Mail, July 22 1989, p. D2. "There are 22.8 suicides for every 100,000 men, compared to 6.4 for every 100,000 women. Over-all, almost 80 percent of people who kill themselves are male, and since the late seventies the rate for men has increased while that for women has fallen." The article is essentially a brief snippet reporting Statistics Canada data. Perhaps this accounts for the bland and straightforward tone of the comments - though the other examples of desensitization to male suffering which I cite in this paper might caution against such an optimistic assessment. The data in this Globe article, incidentally, appear to be drawn directly from Renee Beneteau, "Trends in suicide," Canadian Social Trends (Winter 1988), p. 25. This article includes the straightforward assertion that "Suicide [is] largely a male phenomenon" (p. 23).

22. An article by Theresa Chruscinski and Peter Gabor which appeared during this period follows the approach perfectly, but it is an outside contribution and cannot be taken as firm evidence concerning Globe editorial practice as such ("Meeting the needs of troubled teens," March 28 1990, p. A6[M]). See also the editorial, "Northern Canada's bleak statistics," April 4 1990, p. A6(M). Here, the Globe asks plaintively: "Why would young people in Canada's North be apparently so much readier than others to quit this life?"; various sociological and cultural explanations are adduced. Obviously, the question is worth exploring. No such inquiry, however, is launched into the fact that the "young people" (in Canada's North and elsewhere) are overwhelmingly male.

More recently -- outside the sample period -- the Globe's editorial, "When suicidal thoughts enter young minds" (February 4 1991), accords perfectly with the pattern I have described. To my knowledge, it is the only general editorial treatment given the suicide issue since the sample period.

23. Ni Yang and Daniel Linz, "Movie Ratings and the Content of Adult Videos: The Sex-Violence Ratio," Journal of Communication 40:2 (Spring 1990).

24. The researchers defined (depicted) violent behaviour as "occurring whenever a person intentionally imposes or attempts to impose hurt, abuse, or force upon another person. Such behaviour might include slapping, hitting, spanking, pushing, pulling hair or clothes, striking with fist or kicking, severe beating or fighting, using a weapon or threatening with one, confinement, bondage, kidnapping, torture, dismemberment, mutilation, attempted or actual suicide, and attempted or actual murder." Sexually violent behaviour, on the other hand, was defined as "behaviour that depicts sexual activity with deception, coercion, or aggression, threatened or actual ... The sex and violence had to be intertwined."

25. Designing Women, episode broadcast on CBC-TV, February 12 1990.

26. George Gerbner's classic study of television violence in the late 1960s found that male victims of violence outnumbered females 386-62 in combined weekly samples from 1967-69. See Gerbner, "Violence in Television Drama: Trends and Symbolic Functions," in Comstock et al., ed., Television and Social Behaviour. Reports and Papers, Volume I: Media Content and Control (Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health Education, and Welfare, 1972). Gerbner's subsequent content analyses of television violence have included a gender component, but one based on a more complex ratio system of calculation; lump totals are missing.

27. I am indebted to Globe reader Manuel Matas for pointing this out in his letter to the editor, May 30 1990.

28. The use of the term "beats her up," incidentally, suggests a protracted and systematic physical assault, of the kind that is dished out to numerous men over the course of the film. In fact, the violence here consists of a single hard slap, open-handed.

29. The scene in Bigelow's previous film Near Dark, in which vampires take over a redneck bar and hunt down, mutilate, and murder the men inside it (as well as one woman), is a classic example of depicted violence against men - classic because it is astonishingly well-wrought. It manages to disturb and shock even an audience grown used to seeing men slaughtered wholesale on their cinema screens.

30. Beetle Bailey, strips of June 25, July 20, and July 21 1991.

31. Juan E. Mendez, "U.S. Joins Peru's Dirty War," New York Times, May 7 1990, p. A17 (Mendez is executive director of the human rights organization Americas Watch); Richard Gott, "The narco terrorists," Manchester Guardian Weekly, August 19 1990, p. 23.

32. The Gleaner, October 27 1988, p. 1.

33. Michael Novick, "brutality tape could do in L.A. Police Chief Gates," The Guardian (New York), March 20 1991, p. 5. Some of the police officers looking on, incidentally, were female.

34. In Montreal in 1991, considerable controversy arose over trigger-happy police, who shot nine people to death over the course of the year and wounded seven more. All of those killed (and wounded) were male; only one of those killed was Black. The killing of the Black victim (Marcellus François) became a cause célèbre in Montreal, and the gender element partially surfaced with charges that police were specifically targetting Black men. But the implications of the fact that all victims (regardless of race) were male were nowhere explored, to my knowledge. See the Montreal Gazette editorial (January 12 1992), "Are police using guns too often?," which is notable for its obfuscation of the obvious: "Officers in Quebec killed nine last year ..." "nine people died from police bullets ..." "Of the nine deaths ..." And on and on.

35. The statistics are from a January 1991 article in the Globe entitled, "Industry seeks stricter regulations to prevent future deaths at sea."

36. The often-excessive nature of the rape penalties is acknowledged in Susan Brownmiller's groundbreaking work, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New York: Bantam, 1975). Brownmiller writes (p. 425): "A modern perception of sexual assault that views the crime strictly as an injury to the victim's bodily integrity, and not as an injury to the purity or chastity of man's estate, must normalize the penalties for such an offense and bring them in line more realistically with the penalties for aggravated assault, the crime to which a sexual assault is most closely related. ... [T]he severity of the offense, and the corresponding severity of the penalty that might be imposed, might better be gauged by the severity of the objective physical injury sustained by the victim during the course of the attack." For examples of the death penalty in rape cases, see Brownmiller, pp. 22, 24, 76, 236-37, 240, 421.

37. A glance at the 1989 Statistics Canada Catalogue reveals an extraordinary disparity in the specific attention accorded women versus men. The general entry for "Women" in the StatsCan catalogue features some twenty subheadings with references to the "female" aspects of various social phenomena. There is one such subheading under "Men." In addition, there are six full reports specifically on women's situation, and just one on men's specific situation. See Statistics Canada Catalogue 1989 (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1989).

38. Likewise, there is no commonly-used equivalent for "misogyny" to describe hatred of men (misandry). The term "sexism," meanwhile, has come to be associated exclusively with anti-female bias. Incidentally, I am not wedded to the term "violence against men." If anyone finds it analytically sloppy, let them come up with another term which describes the phenomenon and permits a degree of social concern to be mobilized to confront it. "Violence to males," for example, might avoid some of the between-group connotations of the word "against."

39. According to Holly Johnson, "Most violent offenders are men. In 1986, 76% of those charged with violent crimes were men, while 8% were women and 16% were young offenders." Presumably, the disparity carries over to the young-offender category as well, although this is not subdivided by gender. See Johnson, "`Violent Crime,'" p. 29.

40. The quoted phrase is taken from page 29 of the StatsCan report, Patterns of Criminal Victimization in Canada, discussed earlier. Here, the authors are discussing the lifestyle correlates which expose men to particular risk of violent victimization: "The essential logic of this position is that the role obligations and institutional constraints embodied in major social status dimensions such as gender, age and income affect patterns of customary action and thus the degree of exposure to persons and situations that threaten criminal harm." (To be accurate, the PCVC authors view the notion of "gender constraints" as only one possible explanation, though one that is commonly offered by sociologists.)

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Created by Adam Jones, 1998. This work is copyrighted, although permission is granted for use of individual passages if the source is acknowledged.  Copies of "The Globe and Males" can be obtained for $5.00 (Canadian), postage included, from the Gender Issues Education Foundation, 10011-116 Street #501, Edmonton, Alberta T5K 1V4.
Last updated: 10 October 2000.