Domestic Violence: Men Speak Out by Lebanese psychologist Azza Charara Baydoun is a result of the author’s field research on men who are charged with violence against their wives. What makes this publication different from many others in the field is that Dr Baydoun presents the issue of domestic violence from the men’s point of view. Those who took part in the study were willing to talk about their experiences in the context of the methodical procedures used in the research.
Rather than focus on the victims, Dr Baydoun’s research centres on the perpetrators. It is this that makes the book a valuable addition to the field of social studies in the Arab region.
It is not easy to review the book from a narrow perspective; all that is possible here is to point out some of the impressions and remarks about the men’s attitudes mentioned in the book, especially concerning the alleged reasons they use and their view of themselves and the ‘other’—mostly their wives.
Through the men’s testimonies and the analysis introduced by Dr Baydoun, it is remarkable that most of the men who practice violence against women do not mention the details, unlike the women themselves who are usually more able to narrate the violence inflicted on them in detail.
In general, the violent incidents narrated by men include a mix of situations and declarations justifying and defending their actions. The men tend to consider violence as part of their character, and some of them do not even see that what they do qualifies as ‘violence’. Some who beat their wives do not consider it ‘violence’. Even in cases where they admit to resorting to ‘violence’, they blame their wives for being responsible for the violence. They accuse their wives of provocative behaviour such as incessant arguments until matters get out of hand. In short, they see that women are responsible for the violence inflicted on them. This self-view allows men to see themselves as victims of provocation rather than perpetrators of violence.
This view is not restricted to those families in which wives complain about violence, but extends to those societies as a whole where a macho image is upheld. The macho principal is one of the main elements in the propagation and social acceptance of domestic violence.
It is apparent that men’s manners disclose a societal culture that is not restricted to individual attitudes. One of the motives that result in violence is when a man expresses his disappointment because he expects his wife to be the ideal woman he imagined before marriage. Other men, according to Dr Baydoun, consider their wives not womanly enough in any sense of the word—not sexy enough, or not their dream homemakers.
Domestic Violence: Men Speak Out includes wider aspects not referred to in this short review, and has more than a theoretical value for those interested in the issue of domestic violence. It could also have a practical value since it is valid for discussion among young girls and boys to learn more about perceived justifications in the context of domestic violence.
Domestic violence provides a rich source of material for awareness and training activities in combating violence and discrimination in general.