Labour leader David Cunliffe has sparked a new controversy by apologising to a women’s refuge symposium ‘‘for being a man’’ because they are the main perpetrators of family violence.
‘‘Can I begin by saying I’m sorry – I don’t often say it – I’m sorry for being a man, right now. Because family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children,’’ he said.
‘‘So the first message to the men out there is: ‘wake up, stand up, man up and stop this bullshit’.’’ His comments came as Labour headed into its election year congress, and sparked a war of words on social media.
Many ridiculed Cunliffe for apologising when most men were good fathers and partners.
The theory goes like this: Sure, most men are ‘good fathers and partners’ and they aren’t directly committing abuse. But many men hold misogynistic attitudes that perpetuate a culture in which domestic violence and sexual abuse are allowed to flourish, hence there’s a collective responsibility for those crimes. The various scandals around the ‘Roastbusters’ alleged gang-rapes are Exhibit-A in terms of evidence for the ‘rape-culture’ hypothesis in New Zealand. The police who refused to investigate the complaints and the host of media figures who instantly jumped in to defend a pack of alleged gang-rapists by attacking their victims weren’t directly committing crimes, and are probably good dads, etc, but their attitudes create a culture in which rape and violence towards women are tacitly tolerated.
The problem with Cunliffe’s apology for being a man and acknowledging that collective responsibility is that while the rape-culture hypothesis is pretty much accepted as valid by most people involved in left-wing politics, at least under the age of forty, it’s completely alien to most of the rest of the population, who have absolutely no idea what Cunliffe is talking about here. Why is he sorry? What’s wrong with being a man? Most men are good dads, etc.
Also, if you’re a adult male you have an incentive not to believe the rape-culture argument. Rape and domestic violence don’t really affect you, while accusations that you have a collective responsibility for it do – which is why some people are more outraged by Cunliffe’s awkward statements than they are by any of the actual abuse that happens in this country.