Does Feminism
Discriminate Against Men?
A Debate

Ch. 5 Domestic Violence: Who is Doing the Battering and What’s the Solution?

Excerpts from Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? A debate by Warren Farrell

“Men learn to call pain ‘glory;’ women learn to call the police”

Don’t Men Batter Women More Because Men Have More Power?

This question falsely assumes men batter women more. Here’s why that’s a false assumption...

If we look at only police reports and all-female self-help groups, it appears that men perpetrate about 90% of the domestic violence. But both these figures are dependent on a person’s willingness to volunteer a complaint. The women’s movement taught us, though, that many women keep feelings to themselves if they feel they will be ridiculed. The only way to know if this might also be true of men is to ask men, (rather than wait for the men to call a police station and say, “My wife is beating me. Help me” and fear the police will die laughing.)

We began including men in questions about domestic violence in 1975, when Suzanne Steinmetz, Murray Straus and Richard Gelles conducted the first scientific nationwide sample of both sexes.[i] The researchers could hardly believe their results. The sexes appeared to batter each other about equally.

Dozens of objections arose (“Don’t women batter only in self-defense?”; “Aren’t women hurt more?”). Over a hundred researchers during the next thirty years double-checked via their own studies. About half of these researchers were women, and almost all of the women were feminist academics. Most expected to disprove the Steinmetz, Straus, and Gelles’ findings.

To their credit, despite their assumptions that men were the abusers, every domestic violence survey done of both sexes over the thirty years in the U.S., Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia found one of two things: Women and men batter each other about equally, or women batter men more.

To the researchers’ greater amazement, women themselves acknowledged they are more likely to be violent, and to be the initiators of violence. [ii] Finally, women were more likely to engage in severe violence that was not reciprocated. [iii]

Studies also make it clear that the women are more likely to inflict the severe violence. How? Women are 70% more likely to use weapons against men than men are to use weapons against women...[iv] They are more likely to wait until men are asleep, drunk, or otherwise incapacitated. For example, one woman waited until her husband fell asleep, then “sewed him in the sheets, and broke his bones with a baseball bat.”[v]

Abuse against men is most common among the elderly, when a frustrated female caretaker starts battering her older, sicker husband. He feels he can’t do anything about it because he is dependent on her for his care.

When I first investigated this research, for Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, my preliminary readers expressed considerable skepticism until I created an Appendix with each of the fifty most significant studies and their findings. The larger and better-designed the study, the more likely the finding that women were significantly more violent.

Since Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say was published in 1999, have new studies have confirmed these findings? Yes. For example, in 2006, Dr. Murray Straus presented data from 68 studies in 32 nations, concluding that college women worldwide commit more dating violence than their male counterparts.[vi] More specifically, about a third of dating relationships had some violence, and most dating violence was mutual. The second largest category was couples where the female partner was the only one who was violent. Perhaps the most revealing finding is that when a woman is the dominant partner, she is more likely to be violent than when a man is dominant.

Aren’t Women Injured More Than Men?

Despite the fact that women are more likely to use weapons and severe violence against men, 1.9% of the men and 2.3% of the women surveyed said they had sought medical treatment for an injury due to partner abuse.[vii] Here’s why I believe that grossly underestimates the injuries to men. When I do a radio show and ask men who have been severely battered to call in anonymously, I ask them if they reported their injury to a hospital or police. The answer almost invariably is “no.” Even for a broken arm , if they seek medical attention, it is reported as an athletic injury. And doctors are not trained to cross examine the man to see whether the claim of an athletic injury might be a cover up….

[i]Murray A. Straus, Richard J. Gelles, and Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family (NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980). repeated

[ii]Murray A. Straus, Richard J. Gelles, and Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family (NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980). This was the original nationwide random sample that sparked the controversy after finding that 3.8% of husbands beat their wives; 4.6% of wives beat their husbands. repeated

[iii]Straus, Richard J. Gelles, Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family (NY: Doubleday/Anchor, 1980), op. cit., p. 43-44. repeated

[iv]US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Violence by Intimates,” March, 1998, NCJ-167237

[v]" Barbara Spencer-Powell, Overland Park, KS. In Letters” section, Time, January 11, 1988, p. 12. repeated below

[vi] Murray A. Straus, “Men are More Likely than Women to be Victims of Dating Violence,” based on data from 68 coordinated studies including 13,601 students at 68 universities in 32 nations. by the Family Research Lab of the University of New Hampshire, May 21, 2006.

[vii]Barbara J. Morse, “Beyond the Conflict Tactics Scale: Assessing Gender Differences in Partner Violence,” Violence and Victims, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1995, pp. 251-272. not rep

© 2010, Warren Farrell (with Steven Svoboda) vs. James P. Sterba

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Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim. - Betty Friedan

Warren Farrell, Ph.D., is the author of numerous international best-sellers on men and women, including Why Men Are The Way They Are and The Myth of Male Power. Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and Father and Child Reunion has led to Dr. Farrell doing expert witness work that has encouraged many judges to keep dads in children’s lives. Dr. Farrell’s released Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap and What Women Can Do About It in 2005 and Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? A debate in 2008.

Warren is the only man in the US ever elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City. He has been chosen by The Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders, is in Who’s Who in America and in Who’s Who in the World. He has taught in five disciplines, most recently at the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Diego, and is ranked by the International Biographic Centre of London as one of the world’s top 2000 scholars of the Twentieth Century. He has appeared on over 1,000 TV shows worldwide and lives in Mill Valley, California with his wife and two daughters.You can visit him at or E-Mail

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