UK Domestic Violence Poster Blatantly Stereotypes Men As Abusers
The Royal Borough of Greenwich, a southeastern borough of London, began a campaign in August to promote awareness of domestic violence and its effects on young children. As part of the campaign, the borough has hung a series of posters in London train stations.
One of the posters blatantly stereotypes fathers as violent abusers. It depicts a man abusing his wife and his young son crying with the caption “Dads – Have The Strength To Change.”
The poster stereotypes all men as violent and abusive, when in actuality, only a small percentage of the male population abuses their wives. The blatant stereotyping in the poster is reminiscent of condemned mid-20th century sexist advertisements, such as Del Monte ketchup’s “You mean a woman can open it?” ad.
The domestic violence awareness poster is shocking in an era supposedly sanitized of gender roles and stereotypes. It implies that only men are perpetrators of domestic violence, but that could not be farther from the truth. According to the national coalition against domestic violence 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
Most reports of the prevalence domestic violence against men are underestimates because men are much less likely than women to report the abuse to the police. Society tells men that they are supposed to be the stronger partner and admitting to being abused by their wives is seen as weak and shameful.
The poster wrongfully simplifies domestic violence into a single gender issue when it is really a societal issue.
The council of the Royal Borough of Greenwich defended the poster by stating that the poster merely represents the fact that more men are abusers than women. But that’s the thing about stereotypes—while they all have their basis at least somewhat in reality, it doesn’t make it any less wrong to make assumptions about people because they are a certain gender, race, age, etc.
Imagine the outrage if there were a poster of a teen murdering someone with the caption “Young people — have the strength to change.” Then imagine if the producers of the advertisement defended their poster by saying that young people are much more likely to murder someone than adults over the age of 25, so it is an acceptable representation of murder demographics as a whole. While that statistic is true, it does not make the poster any less ageist, offensive or morally reprehensible.
People recognize the societal issues, such as socioeconomic and family backgrounds contribute to higher rates of gang violence among teens. However, people are less likely to acknowledge that there may be societal problems that contribute to the gender disparity of the rates of domestic violence.
We should realize that domestic violence is a complex issue — one that cannot be solved by hanging up a poster that essentially says “Dads – Just Stop Being Violent.”
The stereotypes being perpetuated by these UK posters have tangible consequences, especially in family law courts. Judges generally favor mothers when awarding custody largely because of the societal perception that mothers play a more important role in raising children than fathers.
False allegations of domestic violence are also a big problem in family courts. Judges tend to believe women when they claim that their husbands abuse them, even though it is often just a “he-said, she-said” scenario.
As long as the media continues to portray men as abusers and women as victims, achieving fairness in family courts will be difficult, if not impossible.
Transport For London has covered up the caption of the poster in one of the train stations, which is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the rest of the posters will also be covered and the Royal Borough of Greenwich finds a better way to shed light on family violence which doesn’t stereotype all men as abusers.