Anti-violence campaign needs role models

ROSEMARY MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2013

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Rosemary McLeod

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OPINION: It's good to run a campaign against violence toward women and children, but what a cringe-making start it had on television the other night, with a bunch of middle-class men awkwardly pledging in unison that they'd never lift a finger.

Not one of them looked capable of slapping a wasp on a picnic table.

Campaigns like this, aimed at men, get off to a bad start when they give the impression that men who sign up are trying too hard to please Mother.

Boys who wear Mother's horrible knitted jumpers and meekly carry her shopping bags may be nice boys, but they will be the target of peer derision. There must be a better way.

There are obvious echoes here of the Temperance Union's campaign against booze that ran in the 19th century. For that, too, you signed a pledge.

At the time drunkards in this country were a serious menace, and small towns could have nearly as many pubs as people. Drunk men are often violent and their families would have borne the brunt of that once their bonding sessions with like-minded mates ended in soggy pledges of booze-driven devotion, and they staggered home to sober wives and kids.

There was a need for temperance, however wowserish, to protect them, and now, too, there is a need to protect women and kids from violence. But how to get through to the many men who think violence against wives and kids can be justified? And more, how to get through to men who simply don't notice what their mates are really like anyway?

As Allan Titford, former poster boy for the white backlash against the Waitangi Tribunal, went down last week for 24 years for rape, violence, abuse, and arsons he'd blamed on uppity Maori, commenting in the wings were two men who just couldn't believe the idol had feet of dung.

Right-wing ad man John Ansell said when he'd seen Titford recently with his new partner and child he'd seen only "a big pussycat". Now he sees a possible martyr, perhaps the victim of a conspiracy, "fitted up" because he was an "irritant" to government.

He'd believe nothing, Ansell said, until he saw all the evidence – meaning a judge and a jury of dispassionate men and women couldn't possibly get it right, though he probably could.

"I certainly don't accept the evidence of blubbering ex-wives," was his memorable utterance, "I didn't see a monster [with his new partner]. I saw a loving couple."

We see what we want to see, and blokes should stick up for other blokes, right? This is the man who once described the ACT party, for which he has been creative director, as: "A party for men, and women who think like men."

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I guess I'm one of what he has also called "white cowards" for not standing up to the "Maorification of New Zealand". And some politicians sit down in the same room with this.

Another Titford supporter is a farmer whose land was also purchased and given to local Maori as part of a Waitangi Tribunal settlement. Don Harrison reckons that, ''Susan [Titford's wife] has been influenced to do what she's done. I've heard this woman - who is apparently so scared of Titford - give as good as she got.'' So she should have been charged with assault, too, I guess. 

If nothing else, sympathy for Titford should be cancelled out by the knowledge that, as part of his campaign against biculturalism, he attacked sacred Maori historic sites, and bulldozed a preserved pa, the irreplaceable heritage of all New Zealanders.

Proven intimidation, bullying, lying and destructiveness amount to a package that should make any man question his judgment, but here is a good example for the White Ribbon people of how some men will go soft on their battering mates, those good blokes, rather than believe they do any harm.

- The Dominion Post

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