RBPEA: On abuse and gender

What is abuse, or violence? How do we prevent it, or at least reduce it? And to what extent, and in what ways, is gender a contributing factor in any of this?

In line with the theme of this blog-series, in what ways can we use RBPEA – techniques from enterprise-architecture and systems-thinking, applied at the Really-Big-Picture level – to guide us to new insights on this? And how can we apply those insights back in everyday enterprise-architecture?

(As in previous posts, a reminder about the purpose of this series. Although – as explained in the intro-post to this series – we’re using gender at a kind of global scale as a worked-example throughout the series, the focus here is not about gender as such. It’s much more about the principles and practice of how to use enterprise-architecture and systems-thinking tools in general at very large scale and scope – Really-Big-Picture – and then bring insights and analogies from that type of assessment back down to the everyday, in practical enterprise-architectures.)

I’m acutely aware that, of all the posts in this series, this is the one that’s going to be the most challenging for many people – not least because, in part of this post, I’ll have to explain that several of the most common and most long-cherished beliefs about these concerns turn out in reality to be just plain wrong, and, far from resolving the problems, are actually a primary cause of them. But to set the scene, and, I hope, take a bit of the sting out of a bit, I’ll start with a personal story that isn’t actually about abuse or violence at all.

I first went away to boarding-school, forty miles from home, when I was I was eight years old – in fact just a couple of weeks after my eighth birthday. The school itself was about a mile away from the school boarding-house, and the only practical way to get there was by bicycle. The last part of the route was down a narrow tree-lined pathway behind some houses, with the path itself marked out by upturned bricks. Running a little bit late, I came round the corner too fast, skidded on some fallen leaves, fell off the bike and, wearing the school-uniform short-trousers, landed hard on one of the bricks with my knee. Ripped it right open, of course – the oddly greeny-yellowy colour of the kneecap itself was all too visible in the middle of the bloody, leaf-splattered mess. Sobbing in shock, I limped the last few tens of yards into school, where I was quickly picked up by the school nurse, whisked off to hospital, and duly stitched up. Literally. Not life-threatening, by any means, but more than a bit unpleasant for a long-way-from-home eight-year-old. The scar on my knee is still with me to this day, and probably even some of the mental and emotional scars too.

What was interesting, though, was a comment made later to my parents – themselves both doctors – by the school nurse: “He was crying”, she said, “so I knew he wasn’t badly hurt”. She wasn’t being nasty, or sexist, or indulging in some kind of little-boys-shouldn’t-cry putdown, it’s actually a really important observation: people who are badly injured need every available scrap of energy just to keep themselves together – they don’t have any energy to spare or to waste on relative-luxuries like crying.

This observation is crucially important to us whenever we look into any majorly emotion-laden area such as violence and abuse – especially in context of gender or the like. Within any such context, we’ll soon find that there are a very large number of people doing a heck of a lot of yelling and screaming about how hurt they are. Some of them will be hurt in nothing more than their own self-importance and pride, and they’re just a darn nuisance; likewise the all-too-many who are just attention-seekers, and who are often the ones yelling the loudest, of course. It happens. There are many who are genuinely hurt, though, and, as with my knee after its argument with that brick, they’ll need the respective equivalent of patching-up and calming down the tears. But it’s the ones we can’t hear – who may be making no sound at all – who most need our attention and help: yet it’s often very hard to find their weak-signals in amongst the far louder cacophony of ‘me-first’ complaint. That to me is the most important challenge here: to not allow ourselves get distracted by all of the usual self-important yelling and screaming, and instead take real care to prioritise our always-limited attention and resources in terms of who genuinely does need it first. Which, as we’ll see, may well not be those whom we’d necessarily expect…

Keeping that in mind, let’s move on. First, as with the previous post on equality, let’s establish an anchor-principle or reference-touchstone for any exploration on abuse and violence:

There is never an excuse for abuse or violence, from anyone, to anyone, including Self.

You’ll note that there’s no reference to gender in that anchor-principle. And that’s deliberate – not least because probably the most common vector for violence or abuse is from Self to Self. We don’t care who’s involved or what happened or who did or didn’t do what first or who said what to who or whatever: there’s no just no excuse for violence or abuse. Ever.

Which gets tricky, because the first thing most people seem to do, as soon as there’s some incident, is to try to find someone to blame: but blame itself is a form of violence or abuse – so says the Duluth Model, at the very least. Which means there’s no excuse for blame, from anyone, to anyone, including Self.

The other thing that most people seem to demand, as soon as there’s some incident, is that someone should be punished: but punishment itself is a form of violence or abuse – usually third-party abuse, to be technical about it. Which means there’s no excuse for punishment, from anyone to anyone, including Self.

Hmm… tricky…

The next assertion that comes up, of course, is that surely someone must deserve the blame or punishment for whatever-it-is. And someone else doesn’t deserve it – that’s justice, isn’t it? But to answer that, here’s a quote from the classic social-sci-fi novel The Dispossessed, by one of the great feminist authors, Ursula le Guin:

‘You can go! Good riddance! But if you try coming back here, you’ll meet with justice!’

He was afoot and leaning across the table, shouting straight into Bedap’s face. Bedap looked up at him, and said, ‘You don’t mean justice, you mean punishment. Do you think they’re the same thing?’

‘He means violence’, Rulag said. ‘And if there is violence, you will have caused it. You and your Syndicate. And you will have deserved it.’

A thin, small, middle-aged man beside Trepil began speaking, at first so softly, in a voice hoarsened by the dust-cough, that few of them heard him. He was a visiting delegate from a Southwest miners’ syndicate, not expected to speak on this matter. ‘…what men deserve’, he was saying. ‘For we each deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead Kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.’ They were of course Odo’s words from the Prison Letters, but spoken in the weak, hoarse voice they made a strong effect, as if the man were working them out word for word by himself, as if they came from his own heart, slowly, with difficulty, as the water wells up, slowly, slowly, from the desert sand.

Rulag listened, her head erect, her face set, like that of a person repressing pain. Across the table from her, Shevek sat with his head bowed. The words left a silence after them, and he looked up and spoke into it.

Definitely a lot less Simple than it seems at first glance, isn’t it?

Before we move forward, let’s do a quick refresh of where we’ve been so far. From the Introduction to the series, we came up with this list of self-challenges:

  • What are you certain is true, is indisputable fact? How do you know it’s true? Who told you so?
  • With perhaps a little less intensity, what do you assume is true, even if you don’t know for a fact that it’s fact? In what ways do you trust that it will remain ‘true’? And why?
  • What would happen to you, and perhaps to others, if you find out that it’s not true, or is true only under particular circumstances? What would change? And what, if anything, would remain the same?

It’s really important to keep challenging ourselves with these questions as we go through this.

Next, from the post on power and gender, we started off with Starhawk’s power-model, in which functional-power is deemed exclusively ‘female’, and dysfunctional-‘power’ – power-over, or abuse and violence – is deemed exclusively ‘male’:

We also looked at the Duluth Model on domestic-violence resolution, which is built on a power-model essentially the same as Starhawk’s. It provides us with a list of categories of abuse and violence, and asserts that all of these are inherently and exclusively ‘male’:

  • coercion and threats
  • intimidation
  • economic abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • using privilege
  • using isolation
  • using children
  • minimising, denying and blaming

However, within the exploration in that post, we saw that the asymmetry of Starhawk’s power-model fails to stand up to real-world evidence; whilst a simple five-minute practical thought-experiment on the Duluth Model – swapping gender-pronouns on the Duluth Wheel [PDF] descriptions, plus a quick check against real-world evidence – quickly demonstrated that its core assumption of male-exclusivity was flat-out false. It also indicated that there are two further categories that we’d need to add to the Duluth Model:

  • sexual abuse
  • third-party abuse

From which it also became clear that the standard Duluth Model’s design is essentially little more than full-on third-party abuse against men – and hence, far from reducing violence, is actually structured primarily to create it. Given that the use of the standard Duluth Model is currently mandated by law in the majority of US states, and in many other countries as well, it’s kinda obvious that this is yet another really-large-scale example of Not A Good Idea.


Which kinda suggested that, if we’re going to get anywhere with this, we really need to cut back on the male-blame, and take a more honest gender-symmetrical approach…

Which, in turn, using standard systemic analysis and systems-thinking techniques, led us to a revised version of Starhawk’s power-model, that assumes gender-symmetry around both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’:

Which itself is built on the following assertions – all of them explicitly non-gendered:

  • Power is the ability to do work, as an expression of personal choice, personal responsibility and personal purpose
    (note: power is the ability to do work – not the ability to avoid work)
  • Work is whatever people choose to do (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, etc)
  • Power-from-within is the ability to source and access human power from within the self
  • Power-with is the ability to assist each other to generate and access power-from-within, and to share that power with others
    (alternatively, power-with is the ability to do work, as an expression of shared choice, shared responsibility and shared purpose)
  • Power-over is any attempt, by anyone, toward anyone, to prop Self up by putting any Other down
  • Power-under is any attempt, by anyone, toward anyone, to offload responsibility onto the Other without their engagement and consent

And, from the ‘On equality and gender‘ post, an anchor-principle about the real nature of equality-as-experienced:

  • The needs, concerns, feelings and fears of women and of men are of exactly equal value and importance

Hence, when things don’t work out, and we hit the downward-spiral into abuse and violence, we then have something that help us make sense of the real gender-symmetry of all those less-than-happy attempts at power-over and power-under:

Which we can address via a revised-Duluth model which treats both genders as exact equals.

Or which we could, if we were allowed to. But here we hit up against, a huge, huge problem, built up from the interweavings between a broad suite of societal-scale factors including:

  • the social taboo against acknowledging women’s violence
  • early-nurturing gender-bias and attribution of blame, seen as in nursery-rhymes such as the infamous ‘What are little boys made of?
  • culturally-imposed suppression of males’ expression of feelings and personal voice
  • deep-rooted over-protection of girls and women as ‘genetic-future’
  • deep-rooted gender-stereotypes – including several that largely deny female agency and/or female responsibility

A key factor in one of those gender-stereotypes relates to a theme mentioned in the ‘on empathy and gender‘ post, about ‘object-based’ versus ‘subject-based’ approaches – treating anything other than Self either as an object to be acted on by Self, or as a semi-autonomous subject of Self that is deemed to exist solely to serve the Self. We don’t need to go into the detail, but there’s a key gender-tendency that males tend to take a more object-based approach, whereas females tend to take a more subject-based approach. But the crucial difference is that in an object-based approach, the actions are visible, and the Self is responsible for the action; whereas in a subject-based approach, the actions on the subject are largely non-visible, with the required visible actions then to be undertaken by the subject – which means that the Other-as-subject is deemed responsible for the action and its consequences. There’s also a strong crosslink to preferred modes of power-against: object-based tends to come out as more-visible power-over, whilst subject-based tends to come out either as power-under, or less-visible forms of power-over such as emotional-abuse or privilege-abuse. Following the logical implications of all of that, and given that gender-stereotype about object-based versus subject-based, the result is that both men and women will inherently tend to expect or assume that only men are responsible-and-to-blame for anything-and-everything that goes ‘wrong’ in the world – always-and-only the ‘perpetrators’.

(Note, though, that blaming men for everything is, for women, not such a great idea as it might look, because the inevitable logical-corollary is that women ‘must’ therefore be viewed always-and-only as ‘victims’ – agency-free and responsibility-free, maybe, yet also entrapped in the same over-‘protection’ as powerless infants. We’ll come back to that point later.)

When all of those factors combine together, it completely skews, for most people, that gender-symmetric view of the challenges we face:

…into something that looks more like this:

It’s also in effect the underlying source for Starhawk’s power-model, which in essence derives from very old yet almost-ludicrously unexamined stereotypes around little girls made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’, versus little boys made of ‘slugs and snails’ who supposedly hurt them. It’s kinda scary sometimes to see how shallow and, bluntly, childish so much of this really is, and yet also so deep-rooted, and hence so difficult to shift…

But the consequences are scary indeed – and are the key reason why the problem of gender-abuse has proved so intractable.

This is where we – you – face a real choice.

Again, I’ll illustrate this with a personal experience. As it happens, I’ve done a lot of work in this space: quite apart from a near-lifelong exploration as a professional observer and analyst of life-in-general, I spent most of the 1990s working with various colleagues to research these themes, and again in the late-2000s whilst doing whole-of-enterprise EA work for a government agency – hence, unlike most people, I do have a fairly solid grasp of what is fact in this context, and what is not. But in a bizarre (non)-conversation whilst waiting for a bus outside a museum in Oxford a couple years back, I was lambasted by a female friend-of-a-friend who told me flat-out that what I’d told her about this field – what follows here in a moment or two – could not be true. On what basis could it not be true, I asked her: what research had she done, from what sources, what cross-checks? None, she said, but she knew it wasn’t true. All of her beliefs, all of her instincts, she said, told her it wasn’t true, and therefore it could not be true – and, as a man, I had no right to question her truth, and therefore, by definition, what she believed was true, and hence it was self-evident that I was lying. Which, she said, proved that I was an abuser of women, and should apologise to her. Immediately. Now.


Yeah, much of this mess really is that bad…

So here’s the choice: are you okay about working with the challenges in that checklist, and face up to what is – for most people, it seems – a fairly huge mythquake about gender-abuse? To do it, you’ll definitely need that personal-challenge checklist from earlier in this post:

  • What are you certain is true, is indisputable fact? How do you know it’s true? Who told you so?
  • With perhaps a little less intensity, what do you assume is true, even if you don’t know for a fact that it’s fact? In what ways do you trust that it will remain ‘true’? And why?
  • What would happen to you, and perhaps to others, if you find out that it’s not true, or is true only under particular circumstances? What would change? And what, if anything, would remain the same?

If you’re not willing to face that challenge, that’s fine – it is your choice, not mine – but if so, you really should stop reading this right now: you’d find what follows too challenging to your existing beliefs, and, rather than face it, you’d almost certainly attack me instead – which wouldn’t help either of us. In any case, you can safely skip over the next section, and start again at the ‘Practical applications’, which isn’t about gender at all.

But if you are willing to face that challenge, here goes…

The quick one-line summary: for the most part, the current common public-perception of violence in general, and domestic-violence in particular, as something that ‘(all) men do to (all) women’, is completely, utterly, totally wrong – it has almost no basis whatsoever in real-world evidence or real-world fact. And yet most law and public policy is based on exactly that misperception – which in itself compounds the problem, making things worse for everyone with every iteration. Yes, it really is that bad.

You’re going to want evidence from me, to back that up that assertion, but, bluntly, this isn’t the place for it: this post is hopelessly over-long already. It would need at least a book, or several books – in fact I got halfway through writing one in the late-1990s, but eventually gave up in despair. Around the end of the 1990s, after a decade of full-on assault from just about every side, I really did give up: I gave all of my text-books and research-material to a group of colleagues, and wrote the whole thing off as a bad experience I’d prefer to forget. All that I had left were a complete book-manuscript on gender-issues (which a publisher at Penguin really liked, but told me she could only publish it if I were willing to pretend that I was a woman…), that half-finished book on gender-abuse, the revised-Duluth model, some in-person interviews with men in abusive relationships, and a couple of analysis-reports, ‘Domestic Violence – Recent Statistics in Victoria‘ [‘RSV‘] and ‘Domestic Violence – ‘Shameful Statistics Exposed’‘ [‘SSE‘] – all of which are still accessible up on my personal website. Not much to show for a decade’s-worth of work, but there ’tis…

Since I can’t quote much of chapter-and-verse any more, what I’ll have to make do with here are some anecdotes and examples. If you know and trust my work on enterprise-architecture, this comes from exactly the same place, with exactly the same discipline and rigour: the overall metaprocess itself is described in some detail in the ‘What I do and how I do it‘ post, and it isn’t any different here. If you come from just about any kind of engineering or science background – including social-science – you should be able to recognise, just from these anecdotes, just how serious the problem that we’re facing really is. Most of the examples are from Australia in the 1990s through to the 2010s; and whilst Australia does seem to be one of the worst-offenders in this – see post ‘Australia’s sexism strikes again…‘ – it turns out it’s not all that much better anywhere else.

Anyway, here goes, with some of the themes that I personally worked on:

Lesbian domestic-violence: According the standard perception, this cannot possibly occur, because by its definitions only males are violent. Around 1992, though, two of my lesbian friends ended their relationship with a knife-fight – fortunately without any significant damage to each other. However, they wanted to part cleanly – achieve ‘closure’, in the psych sense – and asked the state domestic-violence [DV] service for advice. In essence, they were told flat-out that “it couldn’t have happened, because they were both women”; and when they insisted that it had indeed happened, were told even more firmly to “shut up, go away and stop rocking the boat”. They did finally discover a ‘feminist lesbian DV service’, but its key concept was that the only way to resolve lesbian DV was to find a man to blame – any man at all would do – and that that process of blaming the man would, in itself, would automatically resolve the violence. (It doesn’t, by the way – the avoidance of self-responsibility merely makes things worse.) Since my friends wanted to acknowledge their own responsibility – and hence their own power – they asked me to find or develop something that would actually work for their needs. That was the genesis of the revised-Duluth model – because it makes no arbitrary assumptions about gender, sexuality or anything else.

In subsequent research some years later, we discovered that by that stage there were more state-funded DV-support services for lesbians than for heterosexuals. From some of the brochures that we saw for those services, and in-person conversations with some of facilitators who ran them, it was indicated that, per capita, DV within female:female relationships was around two to three times more common than in female:male relationships – whereas according to the standard perception, it should be rare to non-existent. (See footnotes in my old online-essay ‘Gender-issues – which way forward‘.)

— Arbitrary gendering of DV: In the work on the revised-Duluth model, it became abundantly clear that the original model was, uh – ‘based on flawed assumptions’, shall we say? – and, by its very structure, would be far more likely to increase overall violence than reduce it: any ‘success’ it might have would be more likely to be in spite of the model rather than because of it. This is decidedly worrying when it’s supposed to be the international standard for such matters: given that it took literally no more than five minutes with the most rudimentary of thought-experiments (swap gender-pronouns and see if it still makes sense) to demolish its central thesis, did no-one bother to apply any scrutiny before adopting it? And if not, why not?

— Addiction to fear: A close female friend became enamoured of the proprietor of the local feminist bookshop, who taught her that the more afraid she became, the more power she would have. Not surprisingly, she spiralled down into a near-permanent state of paranoia and panic, from which any action on anyone else’s part would trigger off a gale of accusation, recrimination and tears. It created a state which was, frankly, hell for anyone around her: but it did bring her plenty of attention, which she certainly craved – hence ‘powerful’ in the sense of preventing work from happening, yes. The bookshop-proprietor, meanwhile, spent much of her time oscillating in and out of psychiatric-hospital, with one after another of pseudo-suicide attempts – i.e. attention-seeking rather than genuinely life-threatening – all of which were blamed on non-existent men.

— Incompetent ‘academic’ research: For his Masters thesis, a colleague set himself the task of doing a meta-analysis of DV studies in Australia, with an emphasis on both-gender studies, in order to identify a viable base for DV policy. Turned out that both-gender studies were extremely rare – there’d only been a small handful over a decade, whereas there were dozens that studied female-only. He could not find a single study with a defensible methodology: not one. Many fell over at the most basic of hurdles: errors such as circular-reasoning, arbitrary reasoning from particular to general, arbitrary assertions about both-gender from a single-gender study, or even errors in simple arithmetic. Many of the studies were statistically-meaningless SSLOPs – self-selected opinion-polls – which made grandiose claims of ‘proof’ of high risks to ‘all women’. Every error either inflated the female-risk figure, or reduced or denied the male-risk figure, or both: there were no exceptions.

(Incidentally, I was very disappointed a couple weeks back to see several of my female EA colleagues walk straight into this same trap, in response to a study that some of them had seen – a female-only study that had asserted that all women had a 1-in-5 lifetime risk of DV. Not one of those women-colleagues questioned the methodology, and several went on to make arbitrary assertions of the lack of risks for men. None of those colleagues would make such a blatant error of using one-sided, unverified data in an EA decision: I cannot understand why or how they could make such a mistake elsewhere, solely because it’s a different context.)

In some of my later analysis-work, I tracked back through the citation-trails of some of the better (i.e. methodologically-more-valid) studies: errors in misuse or misinterpretation were frequent, and often frankly startling. For example, there had been a US hospital-data study in which 40% of the identified victims had been male; in the Australian study that cited it, all of the male victims had been reinterpreted as female – and the now apparent absence of male victims was asserted as ‘proof’ that only females were victims. Again, every citation-trail error either inflated the female-risk, or reduced or denied the male-risk: there were no exceptions.

For reference, the relatively-few large-scale both-gender studies with proven and defensible methodologies – such as the long-running US National Family Violence Survey – consistently indicate close to a gender-symmetry in DV. The overall picture suggests that if anything – though by a small margin, and possibly only in Anglo-type cultures – the majority of victims of physical DV are male. For non-physical DV – emotional-abuse, economic-abuse, isolation, separation from children, third-party abuse, various forms of intimidation – the vast majority of victims are male. The only researchers who claim that high or total asymmetry exists – i.e. that women alone are victims of DV – are those using ‘feminist-research’ models that assert a-priori that all DV is an inherent outcome of and necessity for ‘patriarchal domination of women’.

Skewed gender-ratios from academic research: One of the few studies we found that had at least a nominally-valid methodology was Routley, Sherrard et al., ‘Domestic Violence – Recent Statistics in Victoria’ (December 1994). I did two analyses on this, one from the ‘general-public’ version in the journal Hazard (see ‘Domestic Violence – Recent Statistics in Victoria‘ [‘RSV‘]) and one from the 140-page ‘for academics only’ version (see second half of ‘Domestic Violence – ‘Shameful Statistics Exposed’‘ [‘SSE‘]). The study’s data-source was ‘hard-data’ in the sense that it was drawn from hospital-records, and covered both genders; the methodology was based on a now-notorious US study, Stark and Flitcraft (which, amongst its more egregious of errors, classed all car-accident injuries as ‘proof’ of domestic-violence by males) but did include explicit checks to mitigate against most of that study’s errors. It defined three categories – positive, probable and suggestive – and on that basis, in the RSV version, stated that “we discovered that in all three categories the female:male victim-ratio was 5:1”. This ratio is still frequently quoted as ‘fact’ in the press, and used as a nominal basis for state policy on DV.

However, from the SSE version – which is not accessible to most people, and took us quite a lot of effort to obtain – a very different picture emerged. In the ‘positive’ category, the published ratio of 5:1 (actually 4.9:1) female:male, arose primarily as the result of an arbitrary change of methodology (exclusion of any medical-records containing the one-word cause-summary ‘Domestic.’) and a couple of really basic arithmetic-errors; after correction for those errors, the actual ratio from the source-data, using the originally-specified methodology, was approximately 3.1:1 female:male. In the ‘probable’ category, the figures actually indicated a ratio of around 1.1:1 female:male: the sole reason for the published 5:1 ratio was – and I quote – “this [the 1.1:1 ratio] was not what we expected, so the [already-incorrect] 5:1 ratio was applied to derive the male figure”. In short, having invented the 5:1 ratio, its subsequent usage was then presented as ‘proof’ that the 5:1 ratio applied – a really blatant example of circular-reasoning. The same circular-reasoning was applied to the ‘suggestive’ category, whereas in reality the ratios were fully reversed, at 1:2.9 female:male. If we sum up the respective numbers, positive-only gives a ratio of 3.1:1 (as above), positive+probable gives a ratio of 1.6:1, and positive+probable+suggestive gives a ratio of 1:1.4 – a outcome and skew of ratios across the different categories that is pretty much exactly what we would expect if a) the real ratio was somewhere relative-close to parity, and b) DV as a cause of male injuries is systematically suppressed or denied, even by the males themselves.

At the time, the ‘official line’ was that the female:male ratio was at least 30:1, so it’s kinda self-evident that to the proponents of that ‘official line’ even the erroneously-increased 5:1 ratio from the Routley, Sherrard study would have come as something of a shock – let alone the real figures, which in essence indicated that the current policy of female-only support-services was in blatant and extreme breach of gender-equality principles. During a phone-conversation we had with one of the report’s co-authors, there was a ‘Deep Throat‘ moment in which it became clear that huge pressures had been applied by at least one of the report’s sponsors, to get the figures fudged so as to support a more ‘politically-acceptable’ view. (When we looked at the report’s list of sponsors, it was also fairly clear who had applied that pressure, and why.) Given that there is a lot of money, jobs and more resting on the myth of female exclusivity of victimhood in DV and elsewhere, this was merely one of many incidents where what ‘Deep Throat’ would describe as “follow the money” – or, more generally, “follow the payoff” – became all too evident.

Self-dishonesty of many ‘pro-feminist’ men: After I’d completed and published the revised-Duluth model – a version which, unlike the original, was genuinely gender-neutral and not based solely on methodologically-indefensible male-blame – I was summoned (correct term) to ‘explain myself’ (correct term) at an inquisition (correct term) convened by the leadership of the pro-feminist men’s-group to which, at that time, I still belonged. I argued that it was genuinely pro-feminist to support women in facing their own violence, and hence reclaim their own responsibility and power: but it did not go down well. Of the men there, one was an academic whose income and professional status depended on promoting whatever was currently considered ‘politically-correct’, and made it explicitly clear, first, that he did not want anything to upset his gravy-train, and second, that like the classic ‘Vicar of Bray‘, matters such as honesty or professional-ethics were very much secondary relative to his own personal advancement. Another was not actually ‘pro-feminist’ in any real sense at all, but merely wanted to use it as a means to get back at the kind of redneck men who had made his own rather bookish childhood a hell. Two of the others regarded themselves as ‘leaders of a post-patriarchal revolution’ (though failed to see the inherent irony of that) and would brook no deviation from their own Marxist-based ideology. Only one of these self-appointed ‘judges’ of others’ work was genuinely interested in supporting women’s power and women’s empowerment, and, like me, left the group soon after. I understand that the academic is now a professor at one of Australia’s major universities; of the others of those four, I’m delighted to say, I’ve since heard no further word at all.

— Blatantly-false politicised claims: As can be seen in the first part of the SSE report, we analysed a press-release from the Australian Cabinet-level Office for the Status of Women [OSW], claiming ‘Shameful Statistics Exposed’ on DV. None of the assertions made in the press-release were even vaguely in the ballpark of validity: relative to the nominal data-sources provided by OSW itself, the average over-exaggeration in the press-release was around twenty-times. The only factually-correct figure in the entire press-release was the amount of money to be assigned to ‘selected women’s organisations’ to promote the same misinformation.

— Biased design of domestic-violence support: In the late-2000s, I did some EA work for a government agency in the social-sector. One of the tasks included reviewing the state’s policy on DV, and the department’s resultant provision of support-services. This is a quick summary of that review:

  • The core policy on DV for the state had been requested from, and written by, a self-declared ‘feminist action group’. They asserted that because more women than men took out protection-orders against a partner, therefore all support-services were to be reserved exclusively for women. There had been no review of this document – in fact a request to review had apparently been explicitly rejected, without reason provided. The document was taken straight into state policy, and thence state law – again, without parliamentary scrutiny of any kind.
  • Services were duly set up, for women only, staffed only by women.
  • The operational manuals explicitly stated that any man who called for help must automatically be presumed to be a perpetrator, and referred immediately to police for investigation and charges; the call itself was not to be logged or recorded.
  • Any woman calling for help was to be automatically assigned a protection-order, whether she wanted it or not.
  • In parliamentary reports, the (artificially)-increased rate of protection-orders supposedly taken out by women was asserted as proof that the policy was valid and correct; the (artificial) absence in the call-records of any calls by men for help was asserted as proof that no such services were required.

In short, blatant circular-reasoning of the worst order, with serious social consequences. I flagged this in my report, but nothing whatsoever was done: instead, I received a rebuke and a warning that I was potentially ‘overstepping my authority’, with a thinly-veiled threat that my contract could be revoked at any moment if I mentioned the issues again.


That’s just some of my personal experiences. Here are a few more that I’ve noted in passing:

— Rigged statistics: Somewhen in the late 1990s (I forget when exactly), the OSW commissioned Statistics Australia [SA] to carry out what they termed a ‘Women’s Safety Survey’. SA suggested that better value-for-money, from a policy perspective, would be from a both-gender study, but OSW were adamant that this should not be done, and it became clear very quickly that the whole aim was to leverage the credibility and reputation for impartiality of SA to support a politicised game-play. This point was made even more blatant when the OSW actually published the ‘results’ of the survey (“10% lifetime risk for all women”) before the survey itself had even been designed, let alone applied; the final survey included frankly-bizarre assertions such as that a five-year-old boy playing with a plastic toy gun should be classed as ‘dangerous threat by male with weapon’. Several senior officers of SA – both male and female – resigned over the affair, and sadly SA’s reputation for impartiality has never fully recovered.

— Fake ‘glass-ceiling’:  Something that I noticed quite often in Australia, particularly in government departments, was that whilst the chief-executive would be male, many if not most of those at the next rank down would be female. From what I actually saw in practice, there seemed to be three key factors in play. One – again, particularly in government departments – was that there was a dominant feminist myth around ‘all women are consensual’, and hence for a woman to take the ‘top job’ in a ‘patriarchal hierarchy’ would be seen as ‘betrayal of the sisterhood’ (and yes, that is the kind of language that I heard bandied around). The next was that it was seen as both convenient and necessary that a man should always be available as a scapegoat – and the only way to ensure that that would happen was to place a compliant male in that ‘top job’. The third was the more obvious one: that the presence of a man in the ‘top job’ could be used as ‘proof’ of the existence of a ‘glass ceiling’, and therefore, to correct this, that women should and must be assigned priority over men at all levels below the ‘top-job’. The overall result was a structure that was increasingly and actually female-dominated, but able to maintain the illusion of ‘male-dominance’ that was required in order to feed the continued pro-female bias of the structures.

Pro-gender bias: I don’t remember where I saw this study, but it’s been around quite a while. A researcher gave sweets (US: candies; Aus: lollies) to a group of 8yr-olds, and asked the children to share them out with others. Both genders tended to give more to those of their own gender, but with boys it was a tendency, whereas with girls it was near-absolute: boys gave to boys and girls, girls gave almost exclusively to other girls. Extended to adulthood, this leads to an overall tendency to expect that ‘fairness’ exists only when girls or women have the majority of everything – hence constant demands that women’s needs should be assigned priority over men’s at all times.

Reality of female violence: A surprising number both of women and men seem to believe that female violence does not even exist – let alone recognise its true scale, or the damage that it causes. As a counterpoint, read, for example, Rosalind Wiseman’s research-based Queen Bees and Wannabes; or the novel Cat’s Eye by the one of the great feminist authors, Margaret Attwood; then realise that the same well-practised violence and abuse is applied as much – if not much, much more – to men.

Sexual abuse: Single-gender studies often present a picture of extreme threat to all women – with rape as ‘the teary trump card of feminism’, as Katie Roiphe put it. Yet when we do both-gender studies, using the same questions each way, a radically-different picture emerges: it is, again, essentially gender-symmetric, with many young men, like young women, experiencing sometimes-extreme rape – even though the males often in effect still get blamed it for it all, through terminology such as ‘involuntary penetration of the female’.

Even more disturbing are the mocking responses that males frequently receive from both sexes if they ever complain about an unpleasant or unwanted sexual encounter: I’ve come across examples such as “you got some, didn’t you? – what are you complaining about!”. (Would anyone at all say the same to a woman who’d been through the same experience?) It is, in classic feminist terms, literally blaming the victim for having been abused – and yet the victim in these cases is male.

Sexual harassment: The complaints about ‘sexual harassment against women’ never seem to stop – yet has anyone considered the same from a male perspective? In her book The Change, Germaine Greer describes her in-person experience of the impact on her own sexuality of testosterone, provided to her as part of hormone-therapy during menopause: she describes her sexuality becoming visually-driven, immediate and demanding. The exact same experience applies to many if not most men, all the time, from the onset of puberty until at least the mid-50s, and often later – without choice in the matter. (A crucial distinction here needs to be drawn between feelings – which are not under one’s control – versus action in response to feelings – which are one’s literal ‘response-ability’.)

Consider, then, everything that women themselves describe as ‘sexy’. Lipstick – particularly red lipstick – simulates sexual arousal; perfume, in most cases, intentionally simulates pheromones of sexual arousal; high-heels change the gait to one that is more overtly sexual; add in silky stockings, a short skirt, a low-cut top or plunging neckline – all of them indicating sexual availability. All of these help women – as they themselves put it – ‘feel sexy’. They then walk down the street, in effect advertising at full volume immediate sexual availability to all – and then complain that some men actually respond? (Or, in some cases, that men don’t respond…) That those men ‘should know’ that it’s not for them, but only for ‘Mr Right’, or for other women? To be blunt, this is subject-based abuse at its most extreme. And in any case, if such women knowingly display themselves as ‘sexual objects’ in that way, do they honestly have any grounds to complain about being treated as such? ‘Sexual harassment’ goes both ways, folks – and it’s time we started being lot more honest about that.

Speaking personally, I greatly resent having my own limited sexuality used as a weapon against me: in a business context, misplaced sexual-advertising by women is not ‘men’s fault’, but a darned nuisance that, frankly, is unprofessional in the extreme – and deeply disrespectful towards men, or, also frankly, of those women to themselves. Over the years I’ve known a few women who do know how to flirt well and responsibly in a business-context, and make it into a form of power-with for everyone – but they seem to be very much the exception than the rule, perhaps especially in business within Anglo-type cultures. Latin America – Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, in my experience – seems to be at one end of the spectrum, overtly sexual in a way that I personally find very confronting, given the inherent prudishness of my so-English background, but at least it seems honest; whilst Australia sits at the opposite end of the spectrum, stunningly dishonest about all of this, with young women chanting “we have a right / to dress as we please”, but demanding that others alone must bear all of the responsibilities and consequences. Oh well.

Assertions of ‘right’ to abuse men: More Australian examples: I was surprised (though perhaps shouldn’t have been, given the ‘male-blame’ culture so predominant there…) at the number of young women who told me that they believed, with absolute certainty, that they had a full legal right to assault a man if they chose; yet they also insisted that any response at all, by the man they’d just assaulted, would “definitely” be a criminal act. They simply could not see or comprehend the asymmetry of this. Some of the drivers behind these attitudes and expectations came from feminist writers such as Dale Spender, author of ‘Weddings and Wives‘ (“many women want to have weddings; few of them want to be wives” – literally-abusive evasions of responsibility in both items!), whose frequent exhortation to women was that they should “on principle, insult at least three men a day, to keep them in their place”.

— Purported ‘natural-criminality’ of males: A study in Queensland noted that boys were convicted of minor crimes at around 16 times the rate of girls – which some had taken to prove that boys were by nature more criminal than girls. Exploring the deeper context of this, the study found, though, that for the same nominally-criminal action – such as shoplifting – girls were four times less likely to be charged by police, and four times less likely to be convicted on trial. In other words, the overall conviction-ratio was merely an artefact of social bias against males, demanding far higher standards of social-responsibility and social-accountability than for females – a blatant example of structural-abuse against males, and, ultimately, females too.

Attempts to rig the legal-system: Australia again: barrister Jocelynne Scutt – at that time also the state’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner – made several attempts to force through into the legal-system revised ‘Judge’s Rules’ that would make it illegal to doubt a woman’s statement in court. The logic appears to have been that to doubt a woman’s word was a form of emotional-abuse, which was itself a criminal offence. This principle would not, of course, apply to any statements made by men – an interesting example of ‘anti-discrimination’… The effect would have been to make imagined-memories, unfounded-allegations and even intentional-perjury – but again, only from women – all legally admissible and unchallengeable as ‘evidence’.

Fortunately for everyone, those changes were not accepted into the legal-system. However, the Family Court did accept some aspects of this, in a bizarre rule-change in which the property-split in a contested divorce without children would default from 50:50 to 80:20 in the woman’s favour if any allegation was made by the woman that any form of domestic-violence had occurred. (As above, domestic-violence against males was deemed not to exist, so the rule only applied to allegations by women.) The catch was that the allegation itself was deemed to be proof that the abuse had occurred: no actual evidence was required, and any counter-evidence not only non-admissable in court, but deemed to be proof that the initial allegation was correct. In my 1995 interviews with men in abusive relationships, it was clear that most had suffered badly from this form of ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ domestic-theft and third-party abuse; an Adelaide lawyer I spoke with at the time asserted that, since there were no penalties at all for false-assertions by women or their legal-representatives, it was quite rare that any affidavit from the local women’s resource-centre would not be a perjury.

Jocelynne Scutt was also one of the prime-movers for OSW’s attempt to push through into Australian law a ‘Bill Of Women’s Rights’. This would have mandated that all law be reframed such that women alone had ‘rights’, and men alone had responsibility and/or blame. Fortunately for everyone, a change of government meant that the attempt fell through; but its impact could be assessed from the fact that at that time Australia had no general Bill of Rights – and still doesn’t, by the way.

Yeah, that’s another list that goes on and on and on, too…

So where does this leave us? In a mess, frankly. Few people, I hope, would doubt – or, at the very least, I don’t doubt, at all – that violence and abuse in many forms have been and still remain a serious problem for many women, particularly coming from men: it is getting better for women over time, but it’s something that, collectively,  we do and must need to deal with, better than we have done so to date. Yet there are, unfortunately, still far too many people who doubt and worse about the reality of the violence and abuse that men experience, from women especially – and there are still vast amounts of pressure, social, legal, academic and otherwise, driven by forces ranging from ideology, incompetence, malice and outright fraud on a truly massive scale, to try to keep it hidden from public view. No-one wins, in any way, from such concealment: all it does, ultimately, is hurt everyone.

It’s something that collectively, we all need to face – and not just conveniently-selected subsets, of it, either – but always and only the whole-as-whole. It’s a system, an interweaving, interdependent web of forces and counter-forces: attempting to ‘fix’ just one part of it will always make things worse. From a systems-thinking perspective, that’s perhaps the one point that most needs to be hammered home here.

The fundamentals and anchor-principles that we’ve developed throughout this series should help in this – perhaps especially:

The needs, concerns, feelings and fears of women and of men are of exactly equal value and importance.


There is no excuse for violence or abuse, from anyone, to anyone, including Self.

And, as per early on in this post, we perhaps most need to look out for the ‘quiet ones’, the ones who are really damaged – and who, unless we listen out carefully for them, are drowned-out in the cacophony of those making much loud noise about how much they’ve been hurt, yet about what is actually nothing much at all. The ones who have been most hurt are usually the ones least heard – and that applies not just to women, but to men too.

As enterprise-architects and systems-thinkers, we perhaps most need to lead by example on this, to practice these principles ourselves, to police ourselves in this. If we ourselves fail in this, we fail everyone.

Which might perhaps explain why, a few days ago, I found myself oscillating between utter disgust and utter fury when I saw one of our quite well-known male EA colleagues (who I won’t name) come out with this Tweet:

  • Yes, some women are #sexist, & when they get equality we’ll have to address that – but sadly that day seems a long way off. #ForMyDaughter

When I queried him on this – fairly strongly, I’ll admit – he then compounded the offence by trying to throw the entire blame on me. Where, he demanded, was an example of a Tweet in which I had criticised a man for being sexist against women? The blunt reality is that, in person, I don’t know any people like that: I take considerable care not to be around the kind of people who think it’s acceptable to abuse women. But of professional necessity, sadly, it seems I’m often forced to associate with people – both female and, in this case, male – who think it not merely acceptable but even praiseworthy to promote violence by women, or violence against men. Utterly sickening, frankly: but that’s who I have to deal with sometimes in this space. Oh well.

Yes, that Tweet may be ‘#ForMyDaughter’, as he says, but let’s be utterly blunt about this: it is overtly sexist; it is not only overtly condoning violence and abuse by women, but overtly promoting and supporting it; it is overtly promoting the maintenance of said abuse and violence into the indefinite future – especially given that, as shown above, maintenance of a pretence of ‘non-equality’ is a key requirement to maintain highly non-equal ‘special priority’ for feminists and their camp-followers; and it also seems to me to have a sense almost of gloating about it, a kind of malicious ‘delight in spite’ that I’ve seen and experienced so very often in and around the feminist domain, especially in Australia. Overall, the nearest to even a vaguely-polite response that I could think of, to that Tweet, would be that it’s Not A Good Idea – Not A Good Idea at all, for anyone, at all. Including his daughter. So let’s again hammer this point home yet once more:

There is no excuse for violence or abuse from anyone, to anyone, including Self.

That Tweet above is gender-violence and gender-abuse – and a lot of it, at that.

There is no excuse for it. No excuse. At all.


Oh well. Disappointing for our EA community, to say the least…

So what can we do about it? Do what we can, really: deal with whatever is in front of us right here, right now, in as fair and honest a manner as we possibly can, using guidelines and anchor-principles such as those above.

Beyond that scale, there’s not much that we can do right now, is the short-answer. The pressures against being honest about any of this are still huge – and if we do come straight out into the open about this, usually the only result is that we get hurt, and nothing useful happens. (Says he, speaking from a lot of first-hand experience on this…) Often the most that we could do, I suspect, is simply to note that it is so: treat it like any other architectural-waiver that describes a clunky high-risk-but-best-we-can-do-at-the-present-time kludge – we map out the context, the drivers, the idealised-future and so on, and mark for it future review. Exactly as for any other architectural risk, we don’t simply drop it into the too-hard basket, try to forget about it, and pretend that it doesn’t exist: it’s a risk – a huge risk, at the RBPEA scale – and we need to treat it properly as a risk. No different from anything else, really.

For what it’s worth, there are tools for this that not only exist, but have been proven to work well, too. Rather like the attempts to use the IT-centric disaster-area that is TOGAF in real-world EA, the inanely male-blame-based Duluth Model is most definitely not one of those tools that we could safely use for violence-resolution: by its very structure – much as with TOGAF in EA – in most contexts it’s capable only of making things worse than they already were. Instead – again, much as I did with TOGAF and the TOGAF ADM – a fairly simple ‘metaframework’-type adaptation gives us a fully non-gendered violence-resolution process: and again, it has been tested and proven in real-world practice in a fair few places across the globe, for almost two decades now. Check it out, perhaps? – see what you think, anyway.

Practical applications

(These ‘everyday enterprise-architecture’ parts of the posts of this series probably don’t have much to do with gender as such – in fact if you do try to tackle these types of gender-issues above directly in mainstream enterprise-architecture, it’s probable that all you’ll succeed in doing is getting yourself either fired or jailed. Not recommended? Remember too that whilst gender is not the least of our problems at the RBPEA scale, it’s also by no means the worst: there are at least two more-serious sources of mythquakes, ones that could destroy the entire culture at a global scale. Instead, what we’re after here is insights that we can apply right now in our routine, everyday enterprise-architecture practice.)

Probably the key insight from all of the above is that any form of ‘anything-centrism’ is bad news for an architecture. As soon as anything demands to be placed as ‘The Centre Of All Attention’ – as we’ve seen so often with the obsessive IT-centrism of so much so-called ‘enterprise’-architecture, for example – then by definition we’re likely to lose any sense of the whole-as-whole. And if we allow ourselves to do that, we’re no longer working with ‘the-enterprise-as-system’, we’re working with ‘the-enterprise-as-mess’ – and almost certainly making that mess worse with every passing moment… Let’s again just reiterate that that’s Not A Good Idea? For a true whole-of-enterprise architecture, whole-as-whole is the only way that works.

There is a catch, of course: the various vested-interests who want their pet-focus to be placed as that sole ‘The Centre’ – IT-application vendors, for example, in the classic EA space – will not be pleased to see anyone doubting their beliefs, their self-importance. So don’t be surprised if you get serious pushback against any attempt to get people to look instead at the whole-as-whole: it always happens – so stand your ground.

In my own case, for example, I often get accused, at the RBPEA scale, of somehow being ‘anti-feminist’ because I ‘fail’ to place feminist concerns as the sole ‘The Centre’ of the social space; but back at the level of everyday enterprise-architecture, I’m also often accused of somehow being ‘anti-IT’ because I ‘fail’ to place IT as the sole ‘The Centre’ of the enterprise. Some of the attacks can get pretty nasty, but I hold my ground as best I can, and work hard to show that a whole-as-whole view gives better outcomes for everyone overall. It is what works, though it can be darned hard work at some times to do it…

Perhaps the other key point here is that ultimately none of this is really about gender anyway, as such: the same principles apply everywhere, in every context, even if it’s only about relationships between machine and machine. For example, take a look at the gender-neutral version of the revised-Duluth model: take a careful – if perhaps somewhat-painful – look at how most if not all of those challenges occur in an organisation’s relations with it’s customers, suppliers, employees, investors, stakeholders, whoever, or whatever, at just about every possible scale. (Okay, sexual-abuse probably wouldn’t be an issue between machines, but just about everything does apply in some way or other, once we explore the metaphors and analogies in proper depth.) In the case of that specific table, the problem-descriptions are over on the left, and what we need to make it work well for everyone are the outcomes – or their metaphoric equivalents – shown on the right. Pretty simple, really – though we do also need to remember that ‘simple’ ain’t the same as ‘easy’!

Another suggestion would be to take a look at the ‘manifesto’ on power and response-ability, from the book Power and Response-ability: again, it describes in some depth how the same principles play out in the everyday business-context, and beyond. Hope you find it useful, anyway.

And that’s about it, really. (Which it needs to be, because this has been a very long post, even by my usual over-long standards…) We’ll move on shortly to do a wrap-up on the whole series. But first, though, a quick look at what we might describe as ‘an anticlient’s tale’, summarising where much of the analysis above and earlier in this post came from, and why.

Over to you for now, perhaps?

Posted in Business, Complexity / Structure, Enterprise architecture, Futures, Power and responsibility, Society Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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