The North Shore News
February 26, 1999
Terri Petkau is a sociologist who has been brought up sharp against the fallacies of the feminist perspective while completing with distinction a tightly argued MA thesis at McMaster University, Hamilton. Ms. Petkau had endeavored to evaluate the perceptions patrol constables had of the wife-assault sensitivity training they received. And what these frontline workers had to say threatened to overturn her once firmly-entrenched feminist sensibilities. The training, informed completely by feminist strictures, is doing more harm than good.
Explains Ms. Petkau: “I saw the male species as oppressors of women since time immemorial. I marched, I drew up petitions, I camped out at city hall.” When told by the men and women of the force that the feminist training was failing, Ms. Petkau set out to find out why. “I listened with disbelief to the accounts of the police officers,” she relays. Ms. Petkau’s study traces and documents the dubious constructs employed in a typical feminist sensitivity training course.
While the feminist perspective now poses as truth, in reality it is nothing but a theoretical understanding. Its take on wife assault is “just one of many competing perspectives.” The feminist orthodoxy, moreover, “appeals to carefully selected studies that support its view and overlooks, discounts, or ignores those studies challenging it.”
How does this perspective ingratiate itself? First, it offers up carefully crafted, mutually exclusive categories of victim and offender: The woman is pure, moral and blameless; the male is cast as inherently immoral, deserving only condemnation and punishment. This one-way process in feminist training does not permit shades of gray.
The men and women of the patrol constabulary are also taught to perceive the couples with whom they intervene as being mired in relationships of power, control and escalation. Feminist trainers speak authoritatively about the triumph of terminating the abusive relationship, the cycle of leaving and returning to the villain, and the inevitable revictimization by a patriarchal society. These concepts are the scaffolding of the perspective and are not to be questioned.
The officers are told unequivocally that wife assault exists equally across the socio-economic board. This is a fallacy. On the beat, they encounter a different reality: Wife assault is largely a lower-class phenomenon. Feminists, who need people to believe domestic violence is an equal-opportunity offender, would sooner fortify this mythology than direct resources where needed.
By the time they complete this sensitivity training, police-patrol trainees have been exposed repeatedly to visuals of rare atrocity stories. This is meant to cause the officers to disregard the difference between the rare cases of extreme brutality and the minor levels of violence they encounter on their patrols, something that also feeds into the concept of a continuum of violence against women: If every incident between a man and a woman can be framed as a prelude to an atrocity, then all men can be branded as predators. Indeed, the slippery slope logical error—which allows feminists to link a wide range of separate attitudes and behaviors for which there is no evidence of a connection—also allows them to condemn the mild-mannered man given to the occasional caustic comment, to sharing an axis with O.J. Simpson.
Another training totem has it that a woman’s problematic behavior, such as drug addiction or child abuse, is a consequence of her victimization, whereas a man’s conduct is always his responsibility. The feminist counselor will categorically refuse to hold women accountable for their role in the violence. Plagued by the same dysfunctional patterns over and over again, yet being assured by their helpers that the problem always lies with the man, these dysfunctional women are fated to shuttle from one violent relationship to another.
Anyone who has attended a feminist training course is familiar with the dedicated anti-intellectualism described. Dare to venture an explanation for human behavior that doesn’t mesh with the feminist credo; and one is warned about perpetuating unhelpful myths. Patrol constables in Ms. Petkau’s sample, however, had a hard time swallowing all this. Is it because the men and women on the shop floor are part of an oppressive system? Not at all. Constables who interface with couples in strife simply don’t see what their feminist trainers instruct them to see. They don’t report formulaic escalation. They find instead that men and women are equally capable of initiating violent acts.
Patrol constables do have a strong commitment to neutrality and a keen sense of justice. The policies they must follow are often based on extreme examples and don’t reflect the complexities of social life. This reality compels well-intentioned frontline workers to abandon a nuanced understanding of violence between couples and settle for reductive scripts. The feminist dogma acts as a straightjacket!
Reality is a powerful solvent of myth. Presently, the officers reject the feminist account of wife assault; it’s simply inconsistent with what they encounter on the beat. Despite being uniquely positioned to pronounce on domestic violence; officers in the examined precinct don’t count. When it comes to formulating policy, frontline workers are given little credibility because, in Canada at least, the feminist lobby gets to define “what occurs in intimate violence as well as suggest solutions.”