I was about to write a post about cuts to domestic violence services in Nottingham and how this is undermining efforts made by Nottingham police to address misogyny as a hate crime. But I skipped to the comments section, which highlighted something else I've been thinking about lately.
Articles about women's right are often followed by comments suggesting that these are at the expense of men's. Similarly, the other day when Agenda published their research on women's mental health I noticed comments on Twitter suggesting that this was a 'typical feminist' argument which ignored that suicides rates are higher for men.
The backlash against feminism is pervasive on social media. It suggests that men's rights and needs are being marginalised by feminism. This view can be understood as a manifestation of gender inequality and misogyny - undermining, denying and often ridiculing the harms that women do experience as a result of often subtle but entrenched notions that female lives are worth less than men's. As highlighted earlier in the week by Agenda, women only domestic violence services are essential if women are to feel safe.
However I think it's important not to completely dismiss these points. After all, suicide rates are higher for men, and men do experience domestic violence, albeit at lower rates than women (recorded rates depend on how DV is defined - those that measure DV as a long-term pattern of coercive control show that women are affected much more significantly).
It's important that in focusing on the needs of women, we don't deny the vulnerability of men. After all, that would feed the stereotype that men are powerful and aggressive, and cannot be vulnerable and emotional. And, as bell hooks argues, we need to recognise and allow men the possibility of change.
We also need to recognise that the high levels of male suicide relate to gender stereotyping too (something I've written about here), with the stereotype that men should not talk about their emotions or ask for help leading many to take their lives. Just as a gendered approach is needed to domestic violence support, it is also needed to prevent male suicide. It's not about making services available to all, but ensuring that specialist services are available for all.
As with the closure of women’s refuges around the country, this isn’t just shortsighted or even dangerous. It sends a message that domestic violence services – much like children’s centres and social care for disabled people and the elderly – are now a frivolity that the state feels free to discard.