Charlize Theron in 'Atomic Blonde”
Domestic violence by women toward family members has risen twice as fast as those by men in the United Kingdom. According to statistics obtained by the Sunday Telegraph under freedom of information legislation, female perpetrators now account for 28 percent of cases of domestic violence – compared to 19 per cent a decade ago.
In a disturbing column in The Telegraph Celia Walden reports that in her own circle of acquaintances she finds that three out of four men have suffered some form, however mild, of abuse from women.
She is not ignoring the fact that most domestic violence is by men on women and that society has turned a blind eye to this for centuries. Indeed, she writes that in the year to March 2019, 1.6 million British women experienced domestic abuse. About two women a week are being killed by a current or former partner just in England and Wales.
As someone who has written about domestic violence against women before and will sadly feel the need to write about it again: I share that outrage. But whataboutery only ever paralyses discussion on and around any subject, and my aim today isn’t to question “who are the bigger victims here?” We know that the vast majority anywhere in the world are female. No, I’m more interested in what has prompted this rise in female violence against men.
The trend line cannot be ignored. Walden blames it in part on the glamorisation of female violence in films and television, from Chloe Moretz’s 11-year-old hellcat in Kick Ass and Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Netflix’s Queen of the South, in which two female drug barons go about their bloodthirsty business.
Such portrayals may be motivated by the idea of ‘empowering’ women against domestic violence. But given the persistence of the problem, it seems they are not helping the victims but further empowering the wrong sort of women. And before feminists see these new figures as cause for rejoicing that ‘at last, it’s pay-back time for men’, some of the cases may be against vulnerable and elderly men, or little boys. Do we really need to ‘empower’ child abusers?
Furthermore, despite the common belief that ‘intimate partner violence’ is an issue solely for heterosexuals, it occurs among lesbian and gay couples at levels similar to or higher than heterosexual cases. Such relationships form only a small minority of all couples. But it is worrying when they are also glamorised in popular entertainment, with dark and inconvenient facts airbrushed out of the picture. Worse, LGBT+ rights are emphasised over the rights of the majority to discuss these issues, especially when the discussion might damage perceptions of such couples being just as good, or even better, at parenting.
Feminists may rage against drawing attention to the issue of female violence, but now, as in the past, it is even more shocking than male violence because we expect men to be violent — but we do not expect the same of women.
And with their role as mothers, it was and is disturbing to think that society is actually encouraging female violence while decrying male violence. The answer is not to ignore the problem, or even to celebrate it, but to address violence wherever it is found. We also need to look for solutions — and grievance politics, which thrives on problems without solutions, is not the best place to find them.
Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).