When did violence against men become fashionable?
Picture this as a music video promo. The artist is an attractive Aryan male popstar, with a strong jawline, blonde hair, good physique, etc, and the music is typical clubland drivel (that isn’t important) with lyrics about how “you’re a bad girl” or something along those lines.
The video begins innocently enough; the star is cooking breakfast for his irritatingly attractive girlfriend, who promptly leaves for work. The star then turns up at his girlfriend’s office, but incognito. He blatantly harasses and flirts with his girlfriend (who is unaware of his true identity) in her office, tricking her into cheating on him with himself, like some kind of really bad Shakespeare-aping soap opera. At first she likes it, and plays along, but his sexual playfulness begins to evolve into aggression. He slaps her at one point, and thrusts her to and fro around the workplace (of course this is miraculously worked into a dance routine). He then forces her into a Mercedes benz, pressing her against the back seat – at this point she is no longer enjoying this whole ordeal at all and is starting to look scared and intimidated. They reach their apartment, and the singer’s true identity is revealed. His girlfriend is terrified as he mercilessly forces her into his bed with his hand against her throat and a cocky smile on his face, he allows her to struggle before thrusting her back into the bed and then kicking her in the chest, a blow so hard that she flies off the bed.
This would be shocking. Music tv channels would refuse to play it and it would likely receive a YouTube ban, or at least an age restriction. There is no doubt of this; even the word “slap” had to be bleeped out of the radio edit of Kanye West’s single “All of the Lights” despite the context of guilt and shame. Yet this music video is real, was enormously popular at the time of its release in 2008 and at the time of writing the primary version alone has 90,285,404 views on YouTube. The only difference between what I described above and the real promo is the sex of the two protagonists; the video I’m referring to is Womanizer by Britney Spears, and involves Britney Spears attacking her boyfriend. Other examples of violence against men in popular music include an American country singer named Carrie Underwood’s 3.3 million-selling single “Before he cheats” which involves her smashing up her boyfriend’s car with a baseball bat, because she suspects him of infidelity.
This violent discrimination against men isn’t restricted to music, it exists in advertisements too; whilst many modern adverts simply try to make men look foolish in a comical way, in the late 90s a dark trend developed for glamorizing violence against men. The most extreme mainstream example of this was the Nissan Micra’s “Hate Male” campaign in women’s magazines, which encouraged women to write in to the company and receive postcards showing men in pain as a result of borrowing their wife’s Micra without asking. The post cards depictions included men with their jackets ripped to spreads and others doubling up in pain over their crutches.
My question is this: why is it that whilst violence against women is (rightly, don’t think for one second I’m trying to condone hitting women) an enormous taboo, violence against men has practically become institutionalized into pop culture.
A possible answer lies in contemporary film. It’s a blatantly obvious stereotype pumped by virtually every single high-grossing blockbuster film within living memory of anyone reading my blog that the men are the powerful, aggressive heroes and villains, whilst the women are the more submissive protagonists. Maybe this idea of men being constantly involved in violence has meant that when taken out of the context of a ridiculous film, one that no one actually thinks is real, and placed in the normal situation of men and women interacting with each other, it is assumed that men can just “take it” when it comes to violence. It’s part of male culture, so why shouldn’t your boyfriend be able to take a punch?
From a less serious point of view, it could be assumed that women just have a natural ability for claiming the moral high-ground when it comes to confrontation; I know for a fact that if one of my male friends burst into tears after being slapped by his girlfriend he would be made fun of, rather then sympathized with. I’d like to say that I’d be caring and offer him help, but frankly I’ve never been in that situation, so can’t really comment.
During his guest slot on Michael Mcintyre’s comedy roadshow (half-term holiday boredom leaves no comedic stone un-turned) a Canadian comedian named Sean Collins joked about how women are like Jedis when it comes to violence, giving the example of when his wife hit him, only to start crying and say “I can’t believe you made me hit you!” resulting in him apologizing.
The problem with this issue is that at the end of the day, violence is violence, and in a relationship it can only ever be harmful. I understand that violence can be terrifying idea for women as they are typically physically weaker then their male counterpart, and so are helpless.
But men can be victims too. The alpha male stereotype of a dominant physically powerful man is not completely unfounded, those men do exist, but they certainly aren’t a majority. What’s more is that in Britain (according to the Home Office) 40% of domestic abuse victims are male, and I can’t help but suspect that the true figures are significantly higher, seeing as women can only expect sympathy when exposed to be victims of abuse, but the same cannot be said of men.
This means that no one, especially a pop singer whose target audiences include young girls, should be trying to ‘compensate’ for violence against women by condoning violence against men, let alone glamorizing it. Instead, I’d say that women should simply embrace power and strength, not its misuse, as Nicki Minaj sings on Roman’s Revenge “I am not Jasmine I am Aladdin.”