The overwhelming thing that continues to strike me in the rhetoric by faith leaders about the issue of violence against women is the absence of a focus on the gendered specificities of violence against women. In certain quarters of the Anglican Church we do not recognise the problem of gendered violence, instead we talk about ‘domestic violence’ or ‘family violence’ and seem reluctant to the point of being afraid to talk about this problem in the terms that declare its gendered reality: that is, male violence against women. The underlying assumption is that women’s violence against men is pervasive and equivalent to men’s violence against women.
The weight of all the evidence in Australia and globally is that women are disproportionately affected by violence and that the vast majority of violence against women is perpetrated by men. This is not to deny that a minority of men suffer violence and will need services, but to assert that it mainly affects women.
Fundamentally the issue of violence against women is a blokes issue; a problem with men’s attitudes to women and supported by cultures that either produce, perpetrate or condone these behaviours. Any attempt to tackle violence against women that does not take into account the gendered nature of violence toward women is not going to get us very far. In my experience, incorrectly naming the issue will not and, does not contribute to any significant change in culture. By recognising the gendered nature of violence against women this has the potential to shift a perspective to make it one where responsible men address these issues head-on and take, for example the issue of, sexism seriously, as seriously as they take all other forms of oppression, including racism and poverty. If men take sexism as seriously, then we’re going to begin to start to see significant positive changes in our culture. Sexism is one of the central oppressions in human societies, and one that directly, not tangentially, intersects with all other forms of oppression. Sexism, or male dominance, is part and parcel of oppression at every level, and it needs to be understood by faith leaders as such.