5 March 2009

Men and women

I heard an advert on the radio yesterday, flogging a firm of solicitors in the station's target area. Presumably this firm of lawyers practised all types of legal work, but this was concentrating on their specialism in divorce proceedings.

A short skit was acted, then earnest voiceover man (ie, someone not quite as good as this chap here) did the blurb about first meetings being free, taking the pain out of the process etc.

What do you think the skit consisted of?

Have a guess. If you were writing a skit about divorce, what would you put in it?

That's right. Husband is mentioned in passing and is a right bastard, wife is a blameless, weak victim sobbing her heart out to her overly-sympathetic pal.

It's the obvious angle to take. It's also by no means unrealistic. But it is also exceptionally one-sided.

I've seen a number of male friends go through utter hell when their wives have decided, for whatever reason, to leave them. Men, irrespective of culpability, are always hit hardest in a divorce. Fathers 4 Justice are a danger and a nuisance but they exist because men are extremely poorly treated.

I'm also absolutely certain that no sales executive and no advertising copywriter would think for a moment about writing a commercial for divorce lawyers which shows the man to be the wronged party, pouring his heart out over a beer to a sympathetic buddy.

It would be too controversial. It would also go against the grain of generally how men are always automatically thought to be wrong in any sort of relationship issue, until they prove themselves to be right.

There was a debate on domestic violence on the radio recently, set specifically at the angle of when men are the victims.

Some woman actually dared to text in and say any man who is on the receiving end of violent behaviour from his wife must have deserved it somehow. Men are, apparently, incapable of being entirely blameless.

Imagine turning that argument around. A man hits his wife, or bites her while she sleeps, or throws scalding water at her (all examples of violence quoted by male victims on this radio programme) - and then says she was asking for it. His feet wouldn't touch the ground.

Yet it is default police practice to arrest or apprehend the man when they are called to a domestic violence incident, even when the man is the complainant, the one with the obvious injuries, the one who dialled 999.

One man sent some stats to an Evening Standard journalist about domestic violence on men. The journalist - a woman - rang him back and rejected the story because "domestic violence on men doesn't exist".

She may be extreme in her views, I accept that.

Domestic violence on men is also glorified in fiction. Whether it's allegedly light-hearted stuff like Nora Batty whacking Wally with a sweeping brush for daring to go to the pub for an hour, or a radio ad featuring a downtrodden geezer whose wife doesn't like the way he bought the shelves from the wrong place and promptly belts him.

Hilarious. Now write an ad where the woman is perceived to be the victim while her husband cuffs her one in a jovial manner. Go on.

You can't, can you? And nor should you. So why is it okay to do it the other way round?

It's also worth bearing in mind that women can fight back when they are the victims. A man who is being smacked incessantly by his crazed wife with a baseball bat has to take it, or escape. Lay a finger on her in self-defence and he's a goner. Any man who did that would never, ever win a self-defence argument in court, irrespective of the facts.

We also get the same debate from the columnists in our papers whenever another high-profile case of sexual assault has resulted in an acquittal of the man because the woman has been proved a liar.

Now if a man is guilty of such a heinous crime, he should be plastered all over the press in the way the guilty ones currently are. If he's guilty, he'll get the public vilification he merits, as well as the lengthy custodial sentence.

But he should be anonymous until, and only if, he is convicted. Too many totally innocent men, dragged through the courts because the woman was trying to protect her own standing, or felt a bit queasy with herself after a one-night stand, have had their identities spread throughout the media prior to acquittal, prompting that appalling "no smoke without fire" argument which will tarnish them for the rest of their lives.

The law needs altering so that both complainant and defendant - and therefore, any witnesses whose own identity can make it obvious who either is - remain anonymous until the verdict. When the verdict comes...

Guilty = identify the defendant.
Not guilty for reasons other than false evidence from the complainant = keep anonymity for both.
Not guilty because the complainant lied = identify the complainant.

... it's made clear whose details should be made public, if anyone's.

I've long held the belief that it's a woman's world. I've no beef with that - hell, women worked and protested like mad to get the status they merited and that human nature knew was right. Women run households and families and do so amazingly. Men are happy for quieter lives.

But I doubt even the most ardent feminist thinks it is helpful for ads to portray estranged women as weak victims. Believe me, the majority of divorcees or separated folk I see at my club nights, relishing their single status, are not men. There are estranged men out there, living it up, but they are far outnumbered by the women.

And certainly I suspect that the less politically motivated woman believes that all humans are equal, and some should not be more equal than others on the basis of gender ahead of truth.

2 March 2009

Out to lunch, a long one

I'm sure you've felt most bereft by the absence of regular blog entries over the last two weeks, but life has consisted pretty much of driving, working, driving again, eating, dog walking and sleeping, with the occasional crap football match thrown in.

In other words, I'm following one of the great adages of broadcasting technique - ie, if you've nothing to say, say nothing.

I'll be back before long, if you can handle it.