Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Getting the Activism Materials Wrong

Recently someone made an anti-domestic-violence poster that's been passing through activist communities on the internet. It's something I'm a bit uncomfortable with.

The poster (really an image with text) shows a woman with a black eye, with text over it saying "Real Men Don't Hit Women", and then in smaller type, "If you agree, please hit like and share". It was presumably intended for Facebook.

Dealing with domestic viokence is a worthwhile goal. I recognise that they're particularly going after a subculture-inspired sense of entitlement that some men have to hit their significant other as a means of discipline/control over them. It's a violent and one-sided thing, and for both reasons it shouldn't happen.

I don't like the way the poster works though:

  • First, it invites logical fallacy by invoking a "no real $IDENTITY does $THING"
  • Second, it grabs onto and uses gendernormativity for its ends. I can understand *why* they might do this; they're either trying to turn a harm on a harm or they're trying to reach people who don't live in the same kind of world-of-ideas that I do
  • Third, it risks replacing one bad gender-norm with another; the notion that men can hit other men but women are to be cherished and not hit is just as problematic as positing that men have a special right to hit their romantic partners as a means of control. The goal, I think, has to be that violence should not be used as a means of control in relationships, and (possibly wandering off-topic) that it's not generally a good idea in other contexts either. There are rare circumstances where people will need to hit other people in life, and I don't think they should distinguish between gender in those circumstances.
(Some might see it as problematic that the poster neglects same-sex pairings; I understand how they feel but people off-the-beaten-path just have to deal with not being the default imagined person, and many things are excusable in that light; a number of people with my inclinations make a big deal out of "bisexual erasure" in media, for example; I think it's generally misguided to care)

I recognise that insisting on my theories may seem problematic for activism; activism works best as broad movements that are close to the mainstream. Still, there's an honesty concern here; I would not want to propogate or assent (or even refrain from criticising) things that seem problematic to me. This poster, despite its very good aims, incorporates too many problems for me to be happy with it.


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