Services serve the needs of someone.
Disservices purport to serve the needs of someone, but don’t – they either don’t work at all, or they serve someone else’s needs. Or desires. Or something of that kind, anyway.
And therein lie a huge range of problems for enterprise-architects and many, many others…
This is the fifth part of what should be a six-part series on services and disservices, and what to do about the latter to (we hope) make them more into the former. This part ended up being far larger than expected (some 12,000 words), so it’s been split into four sections, of which this is the second:
- Part 1: Introduction (overview of the nature of services and disservices)
- Part 2: Education example (on failures in education-systems, as reported in recent media-articles)
- Part 3: The echo-chamber (on the ‘policy-based evidence‘ loop – a key driver for failure)
- Part 4: Priority and privilege (on the impact of paediarchy and other ‘entitlement’-delusions)
- Part 5: Social example (on failures in social-policy, as reported in recent media-articles)
- Part 5A: Social-example – Introduction
- Part 5B: Social-example – Media-examples 1-5 (this post)
- Part 5C: Social-example – Media-examples 6-9
- Part 5D: Social-example – Implications for EA
- Part 6: Assessment and action (on how to identify and assess disservices, and actions to remedy the fails)
In previous parts of this series we explored the structure and stakeholders of services, and how disservices are, in essence, just services that don’t deliver what they purport to do. We then illustrated those principles with some real-world examples in the education-system context. Following that, we outlined some of the key causes for disservices – in particular, the ‘echo-chamber’ of misplaced, unexamined belief, and ‘power-against’, a dysfunctional misconception of power as ‘the ability to avoid work’ – and derived a set of diagnostics to test for these.
In this post – Part 5 of the series – we’ve started to put all of that into practice, in assessment of real-world services. To complement that previous exploration of education-services, we’ll look at social-services, and the social-policy that underlies them. For reasons explained in the previous section of this post, the example of services from social-policy that we’re exploring here is around identification and resolution of domestic-violence.
The catch there, of course, is that, as with education, these domains are highly ‘political’, so I’d better reinstate the same warning-sign from the earlier post:
I’ve suggested a probable vision/purpose for the DV-resolution enterprise that we can use as a touchstone throughout this assessment:
- that all parties feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves and doing things
And to counter the risk of any potential ‘Misuse, abuse and violence’ arising from the assessment itself, we could perhaps keep reminding ourselves that:
- there is never an excuse for abuse or violence, from anyone, to anyone, including Self
Our starting-point in the Introduction to this post was that the Duluth Model – the supposed ‘standard model’ for the DV context – posits an asymmetric Starhawk-type power-model operating within the DV context, which asserts that males are the only perpetrators of abuse, and females the only victims:
Yet if, in reality, the power-relationships are not gendered as such, we’d expect to see evidence of a more symmetric model of power-dysfunctions – a ‘race to the bottom’ codependent ‘mess’:
But if, via a ‘policy-based evidence’ echo-chamber loop, a Duluth-style asymmetric model is being imposed on what is actually a more symmetric context for DV, we would expect to see hints, and more, of something that looks more like this:
If that is the case, then such distortions could create disservices on a truly vast scale, potentially damaging or destroying literally millions of lives. Otherwise known as Not A Good Idea…
So as with the education-example from Part 2, let’s look at some recent media-examples in the DV context, and apply the diagnostics from Part 3 and Part 4 to each, together with some thought-experiments to test out your own responses and understandings – and then let you decide what’s actually going on, and what could be done about it.
In the assessments below we’ll refer often to the abuse/violence categories list from Part 4, so it’d probably be useful to re-include the list here:
- A: Coercion and threats → Negotiation and fairness
- B: Intimidation → Non-threatening behaviour
- C: Economic abuse → Economic partnership
- D: Emotional abuse → Respect
- E: Misusing sexuality → Sexual respect and trust
- F: Priority and privilege → Shared responsibility
- G: Isolation → Trust and support
- H: Misusing children → Responsible (about) parenting
- J: Misusing others (third-party abuse) → Social self-responsibility
- K: Minimising, denying and blaming → Honesty and accountability
- L: Lying and dissembling → Truthfulness and transparency
Enough introduction, I hope? Let’s get started.
(Important note: When an echo-chamber dominates a domain, it will usually present and maintain its own ‘the standard narrative’ that purports to describe ‘the whole truth’ about that domain, but which in reality covers only a subset of that domain – leaving crucial elements unacknowledged, unaddressed and sometimes dangerously-‘invisible’. In this type of work, where as enterprise-architects and the like we must always work with the whole-as-whole, we therefore need to search for and explore potential counter-examples to ‘the standard narrative’, in order to identify any potential echo-chamber and its concomitant risks to the overall shared-enterprise within that domain.
In this assessment of social-policy and the like for the DV domain, most of the examples below must, of necessity, explore counter-examples to the current ‘standard narrative’ as promoted by the Duluth Model and its ilk. This does not, however, imply any assertion that incidences that do align with that ‘standard narrative’ (i.e. female victims of male violence) do not exist or are unimportant. In particular, none of what follows should be taken to belittle or deny such women’s pain. (To do so would itself be category-K abuse ‘Minimising and denying’.) All it does imply is that there may be a larger picture here, part of which may be being blocked out by a ‘policy-based evidence’ echo-chamber loop, leading to damaging disservices to some or all stakeholders.
Remember that we’re not dealing with a zero-sum context here: sadly, there does seem to be an almost limitless supply of human suffering, and the existence of one person’s pain does not diminish or deny another’s. Please keep that in mind when working through the examples that follow below.)
— Media example #1: BBC News: ‘Australia campaigner blames men for family violence‘
Note that the keyword ‘blame’ is in the title – a warning of potential specifically category-K abuse, ‘Minimising, denying and blaming’.
((Thought-experiment #1.1: Apply language-inversion to the title, to derive the title “campaigner blames women for family violence”. How do you respond to this? If this is different from your response to the actual title of “campaigner blames men for family violence”, what are the factors the drive that difference? If blame itself is a form of violence – category-K – but used by the blamer in an assertion that only others are violent, then what are the implications here? For example, what would that imply about the campaigners’ awareness of and/or willingness to tackle their own echo-chamber?))
As you’ll see from its text, the article gives example after example of ‘male violence’, but no mention anywhere in the article of any instance of violence by women or violence against men – giving the implication, via exclusion, that it does not exist.
((Thought-experiment #1.2: Apply concept-inversion to the article, and imagine an article on DV that gave example after example of ‘female violence’, but no mention anywhere of violence by men or violence against women. What would be your response to that? What are the factors that drive the difference between your response to that, versus your response to the original article? If DV is symmetric, but the reports are not, what drives the difference between your responses to reports that present an asymmetric view?))
A quote from the article:
Since then, Ms Batty has emerged as a powerful advocate for the rights of women and children at risk and has sparked a national debate about public attitudes to domestic violence and the lack of government support for the victims.
Note that if a symmetric-type power-model does apply in the DV context, then the reference to “women and children” here, in an explicit asymmetric-type model, would imply both a mix of category-H ‘Misusing children’, category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ and category-K ‘Blaming’ abuse against men, and also category-K ‘Minimising and denying’ of women’s violence against children.
Ms Batty says her experience with the media has been mostly positive but she says the way the Hunt murders were reported shows many people still blame women while making excuses for the violent behaviour of men. Research suggests news coverage influences both public policy and public opinion on topics such as gender-based violence.
Note if a symmetric-type power-model does apply in the DV context, then use of the media to promote an asymmetric view would be category-J ‘Third-party abuse’.
((Thought-experiment #1.3: Apply language-inversion to the quote above, to derive the assertion: “many people still blame men while making excuses for the violent behaviour of women”. How do you respond to this? If men are likewise victims of domestic violence, that inversion-statement would be similarly valid: so if your response to those two otherwise-identical assertions is different, what is it that drives those differences?))
— Media example #2: BBC documentary: ‘Beaten by my boyfriend‘
To quote the programme-blurb:
With one in four women in the UK suffering abuse from their partner or ex-partner in their lifetime, and one in six men in the UK having experienced domestic abuse, Stacey wants to find out whether there’s any way to break the cycle of violence.
((Thought-experiment #2.1: Apply language-inversion to the title, to derive the title “Beaten by my girlfriend”. How do you respond to this? If this is different from your response to the actual title of “Beaten by my boyfriend”, what are the factors the drive that difference? If blame or denial are themselves each a form of violence, what are the implications here?))
We do need to take some care over those statistics in the blurb: for example, we don’t know whether the violence/abuse categories have been applied selectively – such as identifying all categories for abuse and violence against women, but only category-A physical-violence against men. Both-sexes studies of DV are still surprisingly rare, but when the same criteria are applied to both sexes in the same way via formally-defensible methodology, we usually find something much closer to gender-parity: for example, re-analysis of a hospital-based study indicates a probable gender-parity overall, but with possible disparity of up to 1:1.4 female-to-male, or roughly the inverse of the disparity in the quote above. In practice it’s probably wisest to start from an assumption of parity, balanced out across the full category-set, and only accept assertions of disparity after careful checks of methodology perhaps even more than of data.
((Thought-experiment #2.2: Apply language-inversion to the quote above, to derive the assertion: “one in four men suffering abuse from their partner or ex-partner in their lifetime, and one in six women having experienced domestic abuse”. How do you respond to this? What difference does it make to your interpretation of this, if men are placed first as victims, and where the passive yet concrete verb “suffering” is used for men, but the more abstract “having experienced” is used for women?))
((Thought-experiment #2.3: Revisit thought-experiment #1.3, applying language-inversion to the earlier quote, to derive the assertion: “many people still blame men while making excuses for the violent behaviour of women”. Given the indication in this media-example that men not only are indeed victims of domestic violence, but also at similar rates of incidence as for women, in what ways – if any – do your response to and interpretation of that alternate phrasing change? If so, then in a more general sense, what does this tell you about the kind of evidence, and standards of evidence, that you need in order to literally ‘change your mind’? What did you need in order to help you quieten down your own echo-chamber here?))
— Media example #3: BBC Trending: ‘Should you go online with allegations of domestic violence?‘
To quote the article’s lead-line:
A shocking video by a woman with a black eye went viral this week – but is taking to social media with abuse allegations always the right thing to do?
In the article, Ruth Glenn, of the US National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says the impact of such videos can be decidedly mixed:
The pros are that victims are finding a way to be out front with what’s happening to them. They’re gaining their voice,” she says. “But the cons are, first and foremost, a victim’s safety.”
Agreed, the safety of the victim should indeed be of paramount importance. Yet once we add awareness of mutuality of abuse in codependent-relationships, and, even more, the potential for category-J ‘Third-party abuse’, then identifying exactly who exactly is ‘victim’ and/or ‘perpetrator’ is not always as clear-cut as it might seem. A self-published video, presenting only one side of a story, without context, and in highly-emotive terms, will embed very high potential not just for category-J abuse, but also category-K ‘Denying and blaming’, category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ and more – including ‘blowback’ category-J abuse against the person who posted the video. In that example, the main intent appears to have been a ‘burn the bridges’ transition, leading to genuine self-empowerment, but at a cost of considerable category-J abuse against the other party, who had no opportunity to tell their side of the story.
((Thought-experiment #3.1: Apply gender-inversion to that lead-line, as “A shocking video by a man with a black eye”, purportedly caused by his female partner. What would your reaction be – emotional, conceptual or otherwise – to such a video? Would you expect such a video to “go viral”? Would you expect, as in the woman’s case in the article that, of the responses from those who viewed the video online, “The vast majority were positive but there were a few which were critical”? If you would expect there to be differences, what would be the sources and assumptions behind those differences?))
The article also describes the category-J outcomes of another video-record:
Hillary Adams now says she was surprised by the initial reaction to the footage … of a video of her father beating her with a belt.
Adams’ father, William Adams, was an elected county judge in Texas, and denied wrongdoing, claiming he was just disciplining his daughter. … But as a result of the controversy, William Adams was suspended from his job, which involved hearing family court cases, and later lost a re-election bid.
In effect, the father in this case was charged, prosecuted, tried, convicted and punished solely through ‘the court of public opinion’, on the basis of an apparently-damning yet context-free video, and without any opportunity to present his side of the story to that ‘court’. A case like this one may seem clear-cut, but when potential for category-J abuse is present – and especially so as single-person-perspective video can be so easily faked (category-L), be the outcome of self-delusion and self-importance (category-F), or more – then there can be a very high risk of ‘Guilty until proved innocent’, with no means for establishing innocence. Whether by accident or by intent, category-J ‘Third-party abuse’ can be disturbingly easy to set up via social-media, and the risks must be taken into account in any interpretation of such material.
((Thought-experiment #3.2: Apply first-person reframe: Imagine that someone has posted online a video about you, accusing you of some form of abuse, which (to you) has little to no basis in fact, or shows a (to you) unfair or one-sided view of a more complex story. You find out about this only when others – many of them complete strangers – accuse you of being ‘an abuser’, and demand your punishment. What defence would you have against such a category-J attack? What options – if any – would be available to you to tell your side of the story, or to refute the accusations? What impact could such accusations – even if unfounded – have on your work and professional reputation, and on your relationships with colleagues, family and others?))
We might also note apparent gender-disparities on perception of agency, responsibility and culpability:
She does feel differently, however, about the impact of the video on her mother, who is seen on camera encouraging William Adams and at one point beating Hillary herself.
“It isn’t fair to make judgements on my mother,” she says. “When people saw her with that belt in her hand, she was trying to fix things the only way she knew how to.”
((Thought-experiment #3.3: Given that both parents literally ‘belted’ their daughter, apply gender-inversion to the context above, where the mother is presented ‘the culpable abuser’, and the quote above is reframed as “It isn’t fair to make judgements on my father. When people saw him with that belt in his hand, he was trying to fix things the only way he knew how.” What is your response to this reframe? If you see the parents differently, in terms of agency, responsibility and culpability, what are the factors and assumptions that underpin those differences? Given that the denial of agency and responsibility is also closely correlated with denial and suppression of personal-power (‘power-from-within’), what impact might such denial have on each parent’s ability to change their behaviour?))
— Media example #4a: BBC: ‘Missing mum Rebecca Minnock ‘can’t keep hiding’‘
— Media example #4b: Daily Mail: ‘EXCLUSIVE – Mother on the run with her toddler son dramatically hands herself in…”‘
— Media example #4c: Guardian: ‘Runaway mother Rebecca Minnock manipulated press, court hears‘
— Media example #4d: Guardian: ‘‘Scourge of the system’ Rebecca Minnock told she no longer faces prison‘
These media-examples form a chronological set about a case in which a mother, Rebecca Minnock, absconded with her young son Ethan, in direct breach of a family-court order in a custody case, where it had previously been ruled that the child should live with the father because the child was “not emotionally safe” with the mother.
((Thought-experiment #4.1: Explore your own opinions and assumptions about how parental duties should be shared – or not-shared – after family-breakdown. For example, do you believe that it should be assumed that children should always go with the mother? – and if so, why?))
((Thought-experiment #4.2: Note the strange paediarchally possessive language often used about children in such cases: the concept of ‘custody’, or “belongs with”, for example, or the common usage of the singular-possessive “my child”. What changes in language would be needed so as to move away from such paediarchal assertions?))
Item #4a describes police activity in the search for mother and son, including court-cases against Minnock’s mother and her mother’s partner, who had committed perjury and more to aid Minnock in hiding from the court. It also quotes from the first of Minnock’s two interviews with newspapers whilst on the run:
She told the newspaper she had “lost all trust and faith in the system completely” following a custody ruling that Ethan should live with his father.
((Thought-experiment #4.3: Explore your own opinions and assumptions about the proper role of the court-system in family-breakdown: for example, whether it is appropriate for one parent to unilaterally ignore the decision of a court.))
((Thought-experiment #4.4: Apply gender-inversion to the language of the quote above, as “He told the newspaper he had ‘lost all faith and trust in the system completely’ following a custody ruling that Ethan should live with his mother”. If the respective father had absconded with the son, what would you expect the response of the court and the media to have been? What would be the sources and stereotypic-assumptions behind any differences in response?))
The woman police-officer in charge of the search makes a personal plea to Minnock to give herself up, telling her she was “a good mother”, but must submit to the authority of the court.
((Thought-experiment #4.5: Apply gender-inversion to the context of the paragraph above: would you expect a police-officer to tell the boy’s father that he was “a good father” to do what he did? If not, what sources and stereotypic-assumptions would underpin the differences in response?))
Item #4b: is the second of Minnock’s media-appearances, in which she sets out to “tearfully defend herself” and her actions. The photo-shoot includes 19 photographs and two videos of Minnock and her son, showing her in her role as ‘caring mother’.
((Thought-experiment: Apply gender-inversion to the context: would you expect a newspaper to organise such a photo-shoot on behalf of an absconding father, to assist him to “tearfully defend himself”, and similarly showing him in the role of ‘caring father’? If not, what assumptions and stereotypes are in play here?))
The newspaper report states:
She took off after it was ruled she was obstructing access to her son after she made ‘false’ allegations about his father.
The quote-marks around the word “‘false'” imply that the interpretation of the allegations as false could be in doubt.
((Thought-experiment #4.6: Is there a tendency amongst media and society in general to give to women more of ‘the benefit of the doubt’ than to men? If so, what assumptions and stereotypes drive those differences? And what would the implications be for women’s power, if they are held to a lower standard of responsibility and accountability?))
The report in #4c, however, makes it clear that the court had no doubt at all about the falsity of her allegations:
Following a very high level of inquiry, it has been found [by the court] that the mother positively invented allegations against the father on two occasions in an attempt to stop him having any contact or relationship with the child.
Item #4d, describing the court-appearance after the mother had given herself up, indicates the court’s view of her actions:
Judge Stephen Wildblood QC … was fiercely critical of the mother’s decision to flee. Wildblood said: “It would be patently wrong to suggest that Ms Minnock was so overpowered by protective maternal instinct that she was driven to behave in the way that she did.”
“Her behaviour was manipulative, attention-seeking and truculent. It caused immense distress to many. It caused a very large amount of public money to be wasted. Any suggestion that Ms Minnock was driven into a corner and had no alternative but to act in this way is also without any foundation.” …
“Her actions were manifestly contrary to the welfare of her child and were a product of her own self-focus. They had nothing to do with what was best for this child.”
((Thought-experiment #4.7: Apply gender-inversion to the language above, as for a father who had absconded with his child. You would probably not be surprised to hear the respective judge state that “His actions were manifestly contrary to the welfare of his child and were a product of his own self-focus”, or that “His behaviour was manipulative, attention-seeking and truculent”; but would you be surprised at “It would be patently wrong to suggest that [he] was so overpowered by protective paternal instinct that he was driven to behave in the way that he did”? If so, what stereotypes and assumptions drive an expectation that ‘maternal instinct’ would or should be regarded as in any way different, or that a lower standard of self-responsibility for women would or should be expected?))
Also in item #4d:
[Judge] Wildblood said Williams [the boy’s father] had behaved with “extreme sensitivity” and “has kept the pain, frustration and distress that he must have been feeling to himself”.
((Thought-experiment #4.8: If Minnock too had “behaved with ‘extreme sensitivity'” and likewise “kept the pain, frustration and distress that she must have been feeling to herself”, would there have been any ‘media-worthy story’? To what extent are the media complicit in rewarding illegal/irresponsible behaviour of the kind critiqued by the judge here?))
In his summing up, also reported in #4d:
The judge said: “He [Williams] and Ethan are the victims of this mother’s actions.”
It would perhaps be more fair to say that everyone is a victim here: not just the father and son, but the court and its officers, police, media, the general public, Minnock’s family, and Minnock herself. In terms of the violence/abuse categories, though, it’s a long and worrying list of abuses on Minnock’s part:
- false-allegations about the father to the court – category-L ‘Lying’, for attempted category-J ‘Third-party abuse’ against the father via the court, and also category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ against both father and son
- taking the child away – category-H ‘Misusing children’, category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ against the father, and category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ and category-G ‘Isolation’ against the son (who, as per #4b, wanted to see his family)
- manipulating her mother and partner to commit perjury and more – category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ to enable category-A ‘Making the Other do illegal things’
- causing court and police to set up a unnecessary nationwide search, over concerns for the safety of the child – category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ to court-officers, police and the general public, and category-C ‘Economic abuse’ against the state (for unnecessary costs)
- manipulating media to attempt to gain public sympathy – category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ (manipulation) for category-K ‘Third-party abuse’ against court and father, and some elements of category-J ‘Minimising, denying and blaming’, in an attempt to assert category-F ‘Priority and privilege’ (that her needs should take priority over those of all others)
- denying responsibility – category-K ‘Denying’ (in #4d, complaining about being ‘gagged’ by the court – a remark that the judge dismissed as “singularly inappropriate”)
And to all of this we would probably also need to add category-C ‘Economic-abuse’ yet again, because, as indicated in #4a:
The judge told the court that Ethan’s father was not present because he had run out of money.
“He has been legally represented at his own cost through these proceedings which have gone on for a long time,” he said.
Perhaps the simplest way to put it is that in terms of the category-model we’re using for this study, almost the only categories of abuse that Minnock did not commit here were category-E ‘Sexual-abuse’ or extreme category-A outright-assault…
Yet after all of that, there were almost no legal consequences for her, because:
After Minnock expressed fears about the emotional damage sending her to prison for any breach would cause the child, Williams said he no longer wished proceedings to continue.
This is, in effect, an outcome of emotional-blackmail by the mother against the father: or, more specifically, using implicit threat of category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ against the child to leverage category-H ‘Misusing children’ for category-A ‘Making the Other drop charges’.
((Thought-experiment #4.9: Apply gender-inversion to the situation above, as a father who “expressed fears about the emotional damage sending him to prison for any breach would cause to the child”, and the mother therefore asking the court to withdraw its charges against him. What would you expect the response of the court, the media and the general public to this would be? Is there an expectation that different standards and ‘rights’ would apply to men versus to women? If so, what drives those differences?))
Finally, we might note that another BBC article on similar concerns includes the quote:
But he feels as a father he’s not got the sympathy a mum may have got in the same situation. There is a perception that it’s largely fathers who abduct their own children, but according to Reunite 70% of parents who carry out abductions are mothers.
((Thought-experiment #4.10: If “there is a perception that it’s largely fathers who abduct their own children”, but in reality more than twice as mothers as fathers actually do so, what are the factors and social-stereotypes that drive this misperception? What are the probable impacts of such a misperception, on social-policy and more? What could be done to correct such a misperception?))
— Media example #5: BBC: ‘Fatal silence: Why do so many fortysomething men kill themselves?‘
This item explores a somewhat different context, of apparent violence to self rather than violence to other:
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50. A hundred men die a week. It is more prevalent than at any time in the last 14 years and men are four times more likely to end their own lives than women.
((Thought-experiment #5.1: Much is often made of the statistic that in Britain around 100 women are killed by men each year; yet here we see similar numbers of deaths of men dying each week. The bleak reality is that if someone is undergoing extreme, continual and seemingly-inescapable violence and abuse, yet with no apparent access to any kind of recourse or support, then suicide can seem to be ‘the only remaining option’ – literally, the only way to end the abuse. Given that, then what might this very large disparity suggest about some of the darker realities of domestic-violence?))
“Incidence of suicide peaks among men in that decade (40s). You can guess at reasons – your wife leaves and takes the children, you lose your job at an age when it’s difficult to find another. All that could heap stress on men who feel pressure to provide for their families.”
Note the implicit references here to a wide range of different forms of abuse:
- “your wife leaves and takes the children” – category-D ‘Emotional abuse’ with category-H ‘Misusing children’ and category-F ‘Priority and privilege’, also probable social category-J ‘Third-party abuse’ as in #4 above
- “you lose your job at an age when it’s difficult to find another” – societal-scale category-C ‘Economic abuse: Preventing the Other from getting or keeping a job’ and category-F ‘Priority and privilege’
- “pressure to provide for their families” – societal/familial category-D ‘Emotional abuse’, category-C ‘Economic abuse: Taking the Other’s money’ and often category-F ‘Priority and privilege: Treating the other like a servant’
((Thought-experiment #5.2: The sources for those abuse-factors above range across a continuum from intra-individual, interpersonal and familial, all the way to whole-of-society scale. Given that this is a continuum, what are the advantages and disadvantages of isolating out single segments of that continuum from all of the rest, as in the case of DV and certain other forms or instances of violence or abuse explicitly identified as ‘crimes’? Which stakeholders within the overall context – if any – would benefit from such an arbitrary separating-out, emphasising some factors and ‘minimising and denying’ of others?))
“It struck me that all of these [factors] affect women too. So why is it that although half the calls Samaritans receive come from women, four times as many men end up dead?”
((Thought-experiment #5.3: “So why is it that although half the calls Samaritans receive come from women, four times as many men end up dead?” What might be some of the factors here? For example, what might be the differences in expectations or realities about availability of help, the consequences of seeking help, the actual utility of any supposed help?))
((Thought-experiment #5.4: Apply language-inversion to the quote above, as “So why is that although half the calls Samaritans receive come from men, four times as many women end up dead?” What would your response be if that were so in reality? For example, would there be any change in your sense of the severity and urgency of the problem of suicide? What changes – if any – would you expect in the broader societal perspectives on the problem? If there are any differences in what would, in effect, be perspectives on the relative value and importance of the lives of women and men, what assumptions and stereotypes would likely underpin such views?))
Joe Ferns, from the Samaritans counter-suicide charity, notes a difference in cultural responses to signs of distress in women and in men:
If you came into work on a Monday morning, and perhaps there’s somebody in the office who’s upset, something’s happened over the weekend and they’re crying. I’d put it to you that if that was a woman, if that was a female colleague, that what would happen is somebody would gather that person together, take them off to the toilets and they’d have a chat and come back and probably little would be thought of it.
If you come into the office and find a man crying at his desk, I suspect that the reaction of the people around that person is far more dramatic. People assume something really bad must have happened. …
There is a difference between the way that we react to men and women expressing the way that they feel.
((Thought-experiment #5.5: Imagine that the “somebody in the office who’s upset” is a woman. She confides in you that she’s been beaten or abused by her partner:
- Would you believe her?
- What evidence would you need, before you would believe that the incident did indeed take place, and that she is describing it in an as balanced, all-perspectives view as best she can?
- Would you blame her in part or whole for the incident – for example, would you say to her that “You must have done something to deserve it”?
- Would you ask if she’d hit him back – and if she hadn’t, ask why she didn’t?
- Would you regard her as somewhat of a failure, a wimp or a coward for having been abused by her partner?
- Would you know where to call for help, advice or support for her?
- If so, what help, advice or support would you expect to be offered to her? (For example, would there be some kind of shelter to where she could go – taking the children with her if necessary?)
- Would you suggest that she contact the police?
- If so, what would you expect the police response to be?
- Would you suggest that she ‘go public’ about it, as in item #3 above?
- If so, what would you expect others’ response to be towards her and/or her partner?
- And would you expect that ‘going public’ would actually help her to recover her own ‘power-from-within’, and move on?
Now imagine that the “somebody in the office who’s upset” is a man. He confides in you that he’s been beaten or abused by his partner:
- Would you believe him?
- What evidence would you need, before you would believe that the incident did indeed take place, and that he is describing it in an as balanced, all-perspectives view as best he can?
- Would you blame him in part or whole for the incident – for example, would you say to him that “You must have done something to deserve it”?
- Would you ask if he’d hit her back – and if he hadn’t, ask why he didn’t?
- Would you regard him as somewhat of a failure, a wimp or a coward for having been abused by his partner?
- Would you know where to call for help, advice or support for him?
- If so, what help, advice or support would you expect to be offered to him? (For example, would there be some kind of shelter to where he could go – taking the children with him if necessary?)
- Would you suggest that he contact the police?
- If so, what would you expect the police response to be?
- Would you suggest that he ‘go public’ about it, as in item #3 above?
- If so, what would you expect others’ response to be towards him and/or his partner?
- And would you expect that ‘going public’ would actually help him to recover his own ‘power-from-within’, and move on?
What differences do you note between your responses to the woman and the man? What differences do you note between your expectations of how others would respond to the woman or the man? What differences would you expect between how men or women would respond to the ‘abused party’ in the scenarios above, to either the same sex, or the opposite sex? What assumptions and stereotypes underpin any or each of those differences? Referring back to the abuse/violence diagnostic in Part 4 of this series, what, if necessary, would or could you do to move your responses more towards ‘Equality, fairness and non-violence’ in each case, and help others do likewise?))
(Continues in Part 5C, ‘Services and disservices – 5C: Social example (Media examples 6-9)‘.)