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Our Goal Should be the Elimination of All Violence

TORONTO, ON – (November 26, 2018) On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Prime Minister Trudeau said correctly that “Gender-based violence harms us all.” Unfortunately he went on to claim that only women and “people of diverse gender identities” are victims of it, thus ignoring and belittling the experience of many men and boys who also, tragically, suffer domestic violence.

We should all be united against this scourge. And the first necessary step is to face the truth: Men and boys are victims as well as perpetrators, and they are victims of female as well as of male aggression. Moreover, when men in particular attempt to speak up about their suffering they are often ignored or ridiculed rather than listened to with respect and compassion. In this case our own Prime Minister marginalized them through careless stereotyping.

CAFE calls on the Canadian government to examine readily available statistics about the true extent of domestic violence and stop taking such a hurtfully one-sided view of the issue.

Justin Trottier
Executive Director,
Canadian Association for Equality


CAFE’s Full Response to the PM’s Statement on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

The Prime Minister is surely correct in urging people to prevent “gender-based violence.” Unfortunately, he fails to take his own declaration seriously. The word “gender” includes both women and men. This is not merely a technical matter of interest only to linguists. As feminists have done a good job in bringing to popular attention, words matter. In this case, words have been selected carefully to impose a particular, limiting, ideological frame of reference on journalists, lawyers, judges, legislators, teachers, activists and so on.

The Prime Minister’s assumption relies on theories and even beliefs, not on empirical evidence. The key assumption here is that “violence against women” is something different from, and far more important than, violence per se. It is true but trite that only women are the victims of “violence against women.” But most victims of violence per se are men.

That fact usually provokes two defensive comments, both of which make no sense intellectually or morally. (1) “Violence against women” has no relation to other forms of violence — that is, to violence against men — because it enacts some primordial desire of men to attack or at least threaten women in order to establish and maintain their own power over women. But no archaeological evidence proves this conspiracy theory of history. It is an ideological doctrine, an article of faith, that now passes for conventional wisdom. (2) “Violence against women” should take priority over violence in general and violence against men in particular, because the latter is usually perpetrated by men themselves. But this means that male victims somehow deserve their fate and thus deserve no compassion. Should we refrain from blaming victims only if they belong to official victim classes?

Underlying the separation of “violence against women” from violence per se is a double standard, one that relies heavily on identity politics. From that point of view, people are not individuals of unique and infinite value but also of personal responsibility for their own behavior and accountability for it. Rather, they are representatives of persecuted racial, sexual or other classes. Men, supposedly, are not victims of persecution. Violence against men, therefore, has no political significance at all – and, by implication, no moral significance. This is why Canada has conducted a National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, but not into missing or murdered Indigenous men (although the latter are at least as numerous as the former).

The Prime Minister should be bringing Canadians together, not fragmenting them into identity groups and thus polarizing the country. Even now, many women care about the condition of men, and many men care about the condition of women. But that fundamental sense of fairness requires both institutional and symbolic support. The Prime Minister is either knowingly or unknowingly ignoring that universal fact of the human condition.