September 2006

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Almost every day for months, and sometimes several times a day, I have heard a PSA about domestic violence on the radio. The script goes something like this: [fun, happy tone] “You teach your son to hit a fly ball, to hit the puck in the net and, haha, hardest of all, to hit the books.” [Serious tone begins.] “But you should teach your son early and often not to hit women.” This ad is put out by the Family Violence Prevention Fund and you can visit their website at www.endabuse.org. They have transcripts for several ads on their site but not for this one.

I hate this ad for two reasons.

First, the idea that men should not hit women is already ingrained in our culture. It is connected to the pre-feminist notion that women should be placed on a pedestal. And, most importantly, it obviously has not worked because men are hitting women.

Second, this campaign perpetuates a myth regarding domestic violence. The myth is that all or most domestic violence follows the pattern of the awful Julia Roberts movie Sleeping With the Enemy (1991). In that movie, wonderful Julia is beaten by a domineering and psychotic husband. She makes his coffee the wrong way (or something like that) and he flies into a rage and beats her. I think that portrayal of domestic violence, while true in some cases, presents a simplistic view of human relations.

I believe the typical domestic violence incident begins with two people arguing. The argument becomes heated and then escalates into violence. Maybe the escalation to violence is most often initiated by the man, I don’t know. I don’t think the available statistics really address this question. But it seems likely that the escalation to violence is sometimes (half the time? a third of the time?) initiated by the woman. Once the conflict has escalated to violence, men being generally bigger and stronger, women suffer the worst injuries. From endabuse.org, “Male violence against women does much more damage than female violence against men; women are much more likely to be injured than men.”

The most important message of domestic violence awareness is that it occurs across all ethnic, cultural, gender and income groups. Domestic violence occurs in lesbian and gay relationships. In other words, the most important message is its universality. Blaming men alone for domestic violence hurts that message. Here is the breakdown by gender, from endabuse.org: “Intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women. In 2001, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims of intimate partner violence (588,490 total) and men accounted for approximately 15 percent of the victims (103,220 total).”

The number of male victims is probably higher due to underreporting. (From endabuse.org, “Women are seven to 14 times more likely than men to report suffering severe physical assaults from an intimate partner.”) On the other hand, many of the male victims were gay. (I.e., the perpetrators were men.) And I wonder if these statistics are measuring who got the worst of it in each case. (I.e., the person who is the most physically damaged is designated the victim.) In any case, I don’t dispute that the end result of domestic violence is that women are suffering, and that women are suffering significantly more than men. But I want to know more about what’s happening at the beginning and in the middle. If we want to reduce domestic violence, we need to understand it and I don’t think that annoying radio PSA reflects an understanding of it.

I know some will accuse me of “blaming the victim.” I think that’s a cop-out with the side effect of stifling debate. I’m saying domestic violence is more complicated than “women good, men bad.” I’m saying we should teach our boys and girls, “Don’t hit other people.” And, “Don’t resort to violence to solve conflicts.”

Boy, I’ve been a piss-poor blogger recently. I’ve had a few other things going on, hard as that is to believe. The most notable is that I helped my brother with the website for his Senior Support Services charity run, Erace Homelessness. I encourage all you Denverites to participate!

I wonder if other bloggers write entries on a backlog like comic strip artists. I usually have about ten ideas in the hopper, some half-written, but as soon as I have something ready to go I throw it up.

More often then not, I get an idea for an entry and write it up immediately. The other day I was at my pizza place and there was this twentysomething guy twenty feet away from “my office,” as I like to call my favorite table. For some reason, he was eating the last half of his slice while standing at the counter and he was chewing with his mouth open and smacking his lips down on every bite and those unholy smacks echoed through the restaurant like the great drums of Cimerria. I’m no etiquettemeister but I wanted to say, “Dude, for the love of God, could ya chew with your mouth closed? Some of us are trying to eat in here.”

Anyway, as I was driving home from the pizza place I thought of writing that up in an entry but decided against it. Too bloggy. Nevertheless, I’ll get back to work. I have some good ideas in the hopper.

Garage SaleOkay, okay, I must credit Becca with all the organizational legwork, such as neighborhood signage, product displays, most of the product and all the heavy lifting. (Hence she gets top billing.) I just provided the venue and contributed two boxes of books that exactly zero (0) people inspected. Though I didn’t sell any books, I received an education.

The key to having a successful garage sale, I learned, is that you need a steady stream of customers. To get a steady stream of customers, you must find a way to appease the Drive-By Onceover. The DBO is when a car packed with 2-4 bargain hunters slows to a crawl in front of your sale. If the DBO yields unsatisfactory results, the passengers avoid making eye contact with the rejected sellers and the driver is instructed in a hushed tone and perhaps with a subtle wave of the hand to hit the accelerator. But if the DBO yields satisfactory results, the bargain hunters then Park & Peruse.

Backstage View of SaleClearly, the trick is converting those DBOs into Park & Perusers. P&Ps are elusive creatures but they are not dangerous. A cursory glance at quality, presentation and diversity of goods no doubt plays a role in satisfying the DBO. But I believe there is one determinative factor, a remarkably simple one: quantity. You must have so much crap on your lawn that a proper DBO is an ocular impossibility.

Unfortunately, our sale was all too vulnerable to the DBO and we had precious few P&Ps. On the bright side, we did spend a sunny afternoon sitting on the front lawn.

In the top photo, note the open window in the upper right corner of the frame. This window was used to dispense refreshments to the staff. Incorporating a roach coach operation into the sale was discussed — perhaps if we made it drive-thru we could have made some money from those DBOs after all. The second photo was taken from said window, just in case you wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look at a Labor Day Garage Sale Spectacular.

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