Intimate Partner Violence: Not A Zero Sum Game

Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium, June 5, 6 and 7th, 2015.  Get your tickets here.

Dr. Tanveer Ahmed
Dr. Tanveer Ahmed – Psychiatrist, author, father, DV advocate.

The story of inter-partner violence is inextricably to the story of gender relations. There has been an upheaval of masculinity in recent decades, with men over-represented in suicide, school drop outs and relationship failure. Fatherlessness is on the rise. While we rightly celebrate the tremendous empowerment of women, there remains a degree of reluctance to fully acknowledge the worsening vulnerabilities being exposed among men. Gender relations is often treated as a zero sum game with advocates fearing that speaking out for men may result in a corresponding loss for women.

In my view, the position that male violence towards women is driven entirely by patriarchy and male entitlement is increasingly bogus. Both the research and my own clinical experience suggests that male violence occurs for many of the same reasons violence occurs in others settings, varying from mental illness, substance abuse and poor regulation of rage. The ethnically diverse migrant nature of Western societies add further complexities regarding the effects of accelerated male disempowerment. Without acknowledging this, the well meaning advocates working to help female victims will lack effectiveness. They also help perpetuate the myth of the universality of male strength and female weakness, directly at odds with feminist demands of equality in other fields.

Women remain disproportionately affected by inter-partner violence but there can be little doubt that female violence towards men is on the rise, as is public awareness thereof. Women are also more likely to be abusive to their children. The issue has importance because male victims lack legitimacy. Worse, they are often figures for ridicule.

Inter-partner violence remains a scourge that diminishes not just the people directly involved, but the environments in which we raise our children. For anybody interested in relationships and wellbeing, the real causes must be highlighted beyond the dogma.

14 thoughts on “Intimate Partner Violence: Not A Zero Sum Game”

  1. Dr. Ahmed, I think you should rethink your statement, “In my view, the position that male violence towards women is driven entirely by patriarchy and male entitlement is increasingly bogus.”
    I just want you to be aware that, patriarchy and male entitlement are the cornerstones of feminist theory and the cause of toxic masculinity and violence against women. Although I agree with your view, I also know that you may be starting a fight against a very powerful group that gives no quarter, –take care please.

      1. its sad that speaking the truth and standing up against violence brings bomb threats and pulled fire alarms

    1. Exactly because of that.
      Patriarchal theory is not a kind of theory that is supposed to be a cornerstone of anything.
      It’s too complex and derivative to be a cornerstone.
      A corner stone is “we observe that light seem to always have the same fixed speed, and this speed shows up in a number of calculations on electromagnetism, always fixed. Lets assume the light speed in the vacuum is a constant and see what the consequences are for our model of the universe and compare it with our experimental data and see if it can make accurate predictions about things we do not know yet or if it will fail.”
      And questioning a theory isn’t a crime. Science isn’t religion.
      You are supposed to question it.
      And guess what, evidence more and more make patriarchal theory as ridiculous as flat earthism.
      It crashes in the light of any same gender DV (which is just as much prevalent and more prevalent in lesbian couples) it crashes unto the weight of DV against males, against kids, and it keeps crashing.

    2. “I just want you to be aware that, patriarchy and male entitlement are the cornerstones of feminist theory and the cause of toxic masculinity and violence against women”

      These people have no real power. Their power is an illusion.

  2. Can some one explain why it isn’t a zero-sum game?
    No, really, I’m serious here.

    The amount of funding that goes to domestic violence programs is finite. This is a given. So within this finite amount of resources, devoting a portion of the resources to any group is to leave all other groups without that portion of resources. Given that domestic violence itself is mostly invisible, those advocates can only judge success against this invisible danger by the amount of resources devoted. So obviously, with a finite amount of resources to devote, and the devotion of resources being the only visible means of judging success. That means the advocates simply must decide where it is better for them to devote the resources they are providing(or, obviously, causing others to provide).

    Even if we assume that the authors statements are correct, that resources would be more effectively utilized if they were more evenly distributed, IE would could stop more violence if we addressed root causes that perpetuate a cycle of violence(metaphorically grabbing the axle of the wheel and getting your hand injured by the torq) rather than simply focusing pushing one side of the cycle(metaphorically protecting your hand by pushing the edge of the wheel briefly) and wondering why the cycle doesn’t lose appreciable momentum(in the metaphor the wheel may in fact be losing speed from the pushes on the edge, it’s just not appreciable), it’s still a finite amount of resources to devote to anywhere. That means this is, in game theory terms, a Cake Cutting game. Fairness in a Cake Cutting game is determined by values, so only if both players of the game have equal value does the pieces of cake cut need to be equal. Having a larger slice of the cake is still considered fair and just if the player who has that larger slice grants it more value. So it is still fair and just, by games theory, for the majority of advocates who are the ones donating these finite resources, because they give one player more value than another.

    In order for this to be proven to be a non-zero-sum game, you not only have to prove that resources would be more effectively utilized if they were more evenly distributed, but also prove that the greater effectiveness would offset the loss of resources to the valued player. To use the cake cutting game, you have to show that as you cut the cake more evenly, the cake gets bigger, so the bigger piece of cake going to the more valued player does not actually get smaller when more of the cake is going to the player with less value. Just because the cake does get bigger(the resources are utilized more effectively) does not mean that it’s an even one to one ratio with the amount being lost by the more valued player, and until you can hit at least that one to one ratio(if not a higher ratio, where everyone gains more as the cakes growth outstrips the losses) then advocates are fully justified in treating the game as if it were zero-sum precisely because of the values they have placed on the players.

    Oh… and you’ll forgive a second yet unrelated thought added to the above, to quote:

    “They also help perpetuate the myth of the universality of male strength
    and female weakness, directly at odds with feminist demands of equality
    in other fields.”
    Actually from what I’ve seen, there is nothing at odds here. I shouldn’t go into a digression on the matter, but with some study of it, I’ve seen how this fits with feminist demands in other fields.

    1. “Can some one explain why it isn’t a zero-sum game?
      No, really, I’m serious here.

      The amount of funding that goes to domestic violence programs is finite.”

      Because it doesn’t draw away from womens services, because it’s not a gender issue, it’s a violence issue. There should be NO such thing as a battered WOMENS shelter: There should only be battered spouses centers. The continued existence of battered womens shelters are as stupid as the idea of “white people assaulted by black people police stations”, or “fires started only by electrical outlets in the bathroom fire stations.”

      You only have to worry about resources if you think the best solution is to invent a fire station that only fights electrical fires in kitchens, and one for electrical fires started in bedrooms & another to fight electrical fires started in lounge rooms & another to fight electrical fires started in car ports & then moving on to the many sorts of chemical fires.

      Just have a fire station that fights all fires. Because even though the specific root cause is different, they are all fire.

      1. That was very well stated and very easy to understand. The same must apply to Domestic Violence. It’s violence against another human being. It stands to reason that all violence by all people against any person should be seen as equally the same violence that society would like to end. Or is some type of violence not important. Hello, 911….sorry we only respond to kitchen fires. You say you are on fire in the garage? Drop and roll then, try the hospital who may direct you to the morgue if needed.

        1. “try the hospital who may direct you to the morgue if needed.”

          I’m sorry, this morgue only accepts cadavers of people who died due to some form of heart failure.

      2. I’m sorry, I had a longer post that addressed each of your points in turn, but we’re probably in agreement on this anyway, so that wasn’t needed. I’m playing devils advocate here, but there’s no need for me to get bogged in minutia.

        Do you really believe that advocates for battered women’s shelters would accept the idea of putting women and men together in gender neutral shelters? If so, why aren’t they advocates for battered spouses centers as you say? If not, then what argument do you think will change their mind?

        Everyone worries about resources. To use your logic, we don’t need funding to fight breast cancer, because we already have funding to fight diseases. That’s not going to convince people to stop funding to fight breast cancer. We need to specifically show, and make people believe, that ending the cycle of violence and abuse will help all victims, and that perpetuating the cycle harms all parties involved. Until then the advocates who control the funding will see it as a zero-sum game and only some victims are valuable enough to deserve the finite support available.

        1. “Do you really believe that advocates for battered women’s shelters would accept the idea of putting women and men together in gender neutral shelters?”

          Doesn’t matter if they’ll accept it or not. ALL battered spousal shelters as they exist right now are funded in part by government funding in exchange for pandering the Duluth model. Over rule the Duluth model & defund any shelter that won’t accept male entrants just as they would female: They very quickly get the message that there gender ideology will no longer be accepted.

          An if some refuse & shut down, that’s just more money for the creation of other new shelters that will.

          An if the femi-fascists kick up a stink simply swap out the word man for black man & echo their own sentiment back to them publically, let them see how bigoted what they are saying is in context: A woman is attacked by a black man on the street, she is taken to a hospital at which point she demands all the black staff & patients be removed from the building immediately, because everyone knows black men are sub-humans who just want to assault white women, she was assaulted so that’s evidence that black men can’t be trusted.

          See? You put it into context and the rhetoric starts to gain a whiff of the bigoted to it, doesn’t it.

          1. You make it sound so simple. If it was anywhere near as simple, it would have already been done, when we’ve yet to instill into peoples hearts that it’s not a zero-sum game.

            Those “femi-fascists” with the gender ideology have a pretty strong sway politically. They have and will fight to keep the Duluth model from being overthrown, since they instituted it in the first place. Their rhetoric is more than a whiff of bigoted to begin with, it doesn’t need that kind of context to be seen as bigoted by most sane people, and by those deeply into the ideology even that context isn’t enough to make them see otherwise. The problem being that I’ve not managed to convince very many people of that. I’m sure you’ve encountered their responses.

          2. “You make it sound so simple.”

            It is simple: All it requires is simply legally recognizing that men are a protected group under discrimination laws & so can’t be legally discriminated against, at which point it becomes impossible for Duluth funding to continue, as it discriminates against a protected group.

            All the domino’s are in place in the states, you just need to knock over the first one.

            Once that first domino is knocked over the wailing & the gnashing of teeth by feminists simply becomes all noise and fury representing nothing.

          3. True enough, though on the other hand knocking that domino over is going to take some effort. For that I wish us all the best of luck.

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