No. There is no evidence of Bettina Arndt's 'contributions to gender equity'

No. There is no evidence of Bettina Arndt’s ‘contributions to gender equity’

Bettina Arndt
To the disbelief of many gender equity advocates across Australia, Bettina Arndt, a self-professed men’s rights and One in Three Campaigner, sexual assault denier, and sympathiser of convicted pedophile Nicolaas Bester, was over the weekend appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, in recognition for her contributions to “gender equity through advocacy for men”.

This shock reverberated around the country, hitting particularly hard those women who are survivors of men’s violence, and researchers and practitioners in the prevention of violence against women field who are well aware of the lack of substantiation behind Arndt’s work, which is ideologically driven rather than evidence-based.

Bettina Arndt’s website, which has the hashtag #MenToo, for example, is all rhetoric and no evidence in its assertion that women are the aggressors and abusers of men.

She claims that she is really “ashamed of women at the moment” with “false accusations of violence used to destroy men’s lives.”Arndt invites the community for a discussion around these issues, however does not provide any evidence on which her claims are based. She also ignores a multitude of studies discounting the idea that women commonly make false accusations – a damning myth being repeated by the likes of Pauline Hanson in her calls for a review of the family law system.

Arndt has also spoken widely about the need for proper support for the purported “one in three” male victims of domestic violence who have been abused by women. This number has been roundly dismissed by experts as in accurate and a misrepresentation, and is based on ABS data which has long been identified by researchers as lacking adequate detail and rigour to support this claim.

Feminists have fiercely advocated for action to address men’s violence against women, however in this case the statistics speak for themselves. These are that on average one woman a week is killed by her current or former partner; one in three women experiences physical violence; one in four emotional abuse, while one in five experiences sexual violence.

Statistics also show that violence perpetrated against women is more severe than that perpetrated against men, with women are almost four times more likely than men to be hospitalised after being assaulted by their spouse or partner. It is this evidence base that led the federal government – in partnership with COAG – to develop the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their children 2010-2022.

Prevention of family violence and all forms of violence against women work in Australia is also informed by the national framework developed by Our Watch called Change the Story. The framework, underpinned by rigorous research, outlines the drivers of violence against women, including: the broader condoning of violence such as those who hold beliefs that justify, excuse, downplay, shift blame and trivialise men’s violence against women.

Sadly, the work of Arndt – particularly her efforts to downplay men’s violence against women by perpetuating myths about the rates at which men experience violence – can be seen to uphold rather than challenge this key driver.

Her work is antithetical to the gender equity cause not just because it misrepresents the facts about violence against women in Australia. It also perpetuates another dangerous myth that work to address gender inequality is anti-men.

After receiving her award, for example, Arndt went on to claim that “quiet Australians aren’t happy about the constant male-bashing in our society and I’m working to try to change that”.

She also expressed her hope that her award “will encourage others to join me in campaigning for true gender equity – fair treatment of men and women.” These statements presume that addressing men’s violence is somehow anti-men and not in their interest. This couldn’t be more wrong.

Other drivers mentioned in Change the Story include stereotyped notions of masculinity, men’s control over decision making, and disrespect towards women and male peer relationships that emphasise aggression. Addressing these drivers of violence against women is to acknowledge that gender stereotypes are as harmful to men as women, and that it is as much in their interest to be liberated from toxic norms of masculinity as it is women’s.

It is unfortunate that the lack of evidence and biases in Arndt’s work were not more carefully considered in the Order of Australia nomination process.

The end result is that more power has been given to those wishing to subvert the progress that many family violence and violence against women advocates and practitioners are making in Australia.

This work, steeped in evidence and reliable statistics, seeks to end violence against women and violence by addressing toxic masculine norms and should be embraced as of benefit to all women and men.

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