By Rod Van Mechelen
Don't accept rides from strange men/ and remember that all men are strange as hell. - Sisterhood is Powerful, Robin Morgan
Using O.J. to put the squeeze on men
1994 Bellevue, Wash. - From the antics of Tonya Harding to Who Stole Feminism?, a book by Christina Hoff Sommers that slams "gender" feminism, the feminist extremists have suffered one blow to their credibility after another. Then came the O.J. Simpson murder case, offering an opportunity for them to regroup with exaggerated claims of male aggression and domestic violence. But such exaggerations do more harm than good.
To most of us, the Simpson murder case was a tragedy, but to certain feminist extremists, it was a goddess-sent blessing, providing an opportunity for them to regain ground lost during the previous year.
The Best of Times to Complain
In 1992 life seemed good for the media-designated leaders of the feminist movement. While Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi appeared on the cover of Time magazine sounding a call to arms, Anita Hill toured the country accepting awards and lucrative lecture fees.
It was the best of times for complaining that for women it was the worst of times. With each new victory their confidence soared. The opposition was weak, the backlash more media myth than reality, and the gender quake of feminism was rocking the "master's house" to its very foundation. Patriarchy was under siege, and a rout seemed imminent.
But their rout turned into retreat as proponents of equal rights and responsibilities began exposing their assertions of widespread female victimization by men as gross exaggerations. Lacking hard evidence to the contrary, there was little they could do until the Simpson case provided an opportunity for them to regroup, using the grim scene of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman to magnify the problem of domestic violence. As the previous year should have taught them, however, wild claims do more harm than good.
By late 1993, several authors were sending discordant aftershocks rumbling through the bedrock of public opinion with books like Naked at Gender Gap: A Man's View of the War Between the Sexes, The Myth of Male Power, and Not Guilty: The Case in Defense of Men protesting the pop feminists' earlier exaggerations.
At first, the extremists dismissed them as whining remnants of a dying patriarchy, but by mid-1994 they turned their attention to damage control when Christina Hoff Sommers' Who Stole Feminism? exposed their more valuable propaganda, such as the American Association of University Women's report, "Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America," as biased at best.
Tonya Harding and Lorena Bobbitt didn't help the pop feminist cause, either, and the entire nation listened with amusement to their sputtered excuses for failing to unconditionally support Paula Jones' sexual harassment case against President Clinton. With another book by Warren Farrell, and Cathy Young's pro-fairness book, Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, both on the horizon, they desperately needed something to reestablish women as victims of male malfeasance. What they needed was a media event. A big one. And they got it.
A Timely Horror
Nicole Simpson's murder made headlines the same day the Los Angeles Times Syndicate published novelist Katherine Dunn's article, "Crime and Perception," that explained why the hysteria over murder and mayhem is based more on myth and media manipulation than true danger. For the pop feminists, the timing couldn't have been better as the blood-soaked remains grimly mocked the idea most men are not murderous.
Within days the New Rage women were cranking out articles, statistics and reports repeating the biased assertion that violence is a crime men do, and they do it to women: "Of the 4,936 female slaying victims reported nationwide in 1992, the latest year for which statistics are available," observed Jessica Seigel in the Chicago Tribune, "29 percent were killed by their husbands or boyfriends. That compares with 4 percent of male victims killed by wives or girlfriends."
In another article titled "Unsafe at Home," Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Tina Kelley quoted Carolyne Ford, program director at a Seattle shelter for abused women and their children, as saying "People think batterers are out of control, but that's not true. Generally, all they beat are their spouses, girlfriends or partners." Kelley's article made no mention of abusive women, and the accompanying chart indicated all batterers are male. Where did this come from? It was "just something I had a feel for," Kelley said. The problem is "90 percent male, 10 percent female."
How could a major metropolitan newspaper report a statistical distribution based on a reporter's feelings?
Women Batter Equally
Women, according to every one of the more than a dozen studies that examined both male and female behaviors, perpetrate about half of domestic violence. This is supported by studies of lesbian relationships, which, according to Claire M. Renzetti's book, Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships, are almost as violent as heterosexual relationships -- 25 percent for lesbian versus 27 percent for heterosexual.
And while it's true that of the 23,760 people murdered in 1992, 1,431 of them were female victims of husbands and boyfriends, compared to the only 753 male victims of wives and girlfriends, the article invites bias by suggesting this is a universal problem when, in a population of more than 250 million people, they represent less than one 100th of a percent. It's simply not the epidemic they make it out to be.
Reporting otherwise detracts from the serious nature of spousal assault, murder and domestic violence, and invites moral outrage -- what pop feminists would call a "backlash."
For example, indulging the pop psych jargon commonly used to immolate men, we might complain that ignoring female violence allows women to remain in denial and let them continue to deal in an unhealthy way with conflict resolution while still commingling with their children. According to the American Humane Association, 61 percent of child abuse is perpetrated by women. (Handbook of Family Violence) Would fewer children be abused if we incarcerated women more?
Being Victimized No Excuse...for men
Suggesting such a pro-arrest policy would be unreasonable -- even biased -- because it stereotypes all women on the basis of a violent few. But that is precisely the posture feminists take toward to men.
In the Simpson case, for example, some have suggested he may have been provoked. Not good enough! Says Carolyne Ford, "Many people still believe that if you push someone far enough they have the right to strike back at you. But no one has that right."
Really? Then what of the Battered Woman Syndrome defense? What of Lorena Bobbitt? Is there a double standard, here?
Whether applying double standards or opportunistically sensationalizing the violence a very few men do, ultimately the pop feminists discredit themselves and, by association the good causes they purport to champion. Better to tell the truth.
Truth is, women and men created and inherited our society together. Regardless of our sex, we all have an equal capacity for love and hate, good and evil, and the ability to harm or to help. No one is to blame for this, but we do share equal responsibility for creating a sane society.
Lying about men won't make that happen. Only the truth will help. As Dr. Sommers stresses, "Truth brought to public light recruits the best of us to work for change. On the other hand, even the best-intentioned 'noble lie' ultimately discredits the finest of causes."
The Battered Woman Syndrome gained prominence following the murder trial of Jennifer Patri in 1977, a case detailed by Steven Englund in Man Slaughter. In it, he chronicles the defense attorney's successful portrayal of Jennifer Patri as a "battered woman."
Englund himself believed that argument until, after working with Patri and the other players in the case in preparation for his book, he reluctantly concluded she was more liar than victim, more jealous than battered. The "battered woman syndrome" was first and successfully used to defend a woman who was not battered.
Moreover, many men complain women batter too. The pop feminist response has been yawning dismissal: "(W)hen the high incidence of domestic violence became an issue in the media in the United States during the early 1980s, a cry was heard from some corners that wives were beating husbands too, subsequent studies (several) showed without a doubt that the number of such incidents is minuscule, compared to the incidence of wife-battering by husbands." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 84)
The problem with this is that it's dead wrong.
Husband Battering: Under-Reported
Most studies of wife-battering depend on researching crime statistics. These are numbers based on a self-selecting population. That is, from a population comprised of both those who decide to report, and those who decide not to report, only those who decide to report will be counted.
Most who decide to report are women, and most who decide not to report are men. Hence, most cases of reported spouse battering involve women being attacked by men. There is no shame for a woman to report herself a victim, but men who complain of being battered by women are liable to be ridiculed and ignored - it's not "manly" to be a victim.
In surveys based on randomly sampled populations, scientists found that, in 1975 men were battered by their wives by a 1.2:1 margin. Ten years later, that margin had increased to 1.47:1. (Handbook of Family Violence, Steinmetz and Lucca, p 237)
Police statistics on spouse battering indicate between twelve and fourteen cases of wife battering are reported for every case of husband battering, indicating husband-battering is a seriously under-reported crime. Perhaps only one case out of between seventeen and twenty are reported. Beyond fear of being ridiculed for being "hen-pecked," what else would prevent men from reporting their wives' abusive behavior?
Men scarcely notice a jab in the ribs that would bruise most women. Growing up, boys routinely hit one another's shoulders with their fist as a means of demonstrating toughness. Most women, on the other hand, seem to have a lower tolerance for pain. So while pop feminist's urge women to scream to the police every time their husbands take a swipe at them (which is the right thing to do - battering is assault, and assault is a crime), most women may kick, pound, jab and swat their men with impunity because men are supposed to be tough. Tough enough to take both physical and emotional abuse.
The idea of emotional battering is fairly new to the male-reality. When I was an adolescent, being "afraid of girls" was considered a personal problem, not something we could blame on the opposite sex. Nor do pop feminists want us to realize how much women emotionally batter men, because it would undermine their special status as victims (if someone is a victim, we cannot hold them responsible for the harm they do in self-defense).
But women commit a lot of emotional violence.
Every woman who waits for a man she wants to date to come to her and initiate the relationship is exercising sexual dominance over men. Every woman who accuses a man of sexual harassment for asking her out for a date is guilty of emotional assault. Every woman who laughs at a joke about kicking a man's testicles is emotionally brutalizing men. Lashing out with words, they undermine the already bruised and scarred egos of men who subject themselves to this kind of abuse for only one reason - love.
Motivated by the desire to love and be lovable, men repeatedly reach out, only to have their hands and faces slapped. After so much abuse, it can finally get to the point where many men get stuck in the act of initiating. Such men are common - called "Casanovas" and "Don Juans," they are the walking wounded, having been so battered by women that they've lost sight of the goal, and obsessively ask for what, in their tightly capped grief, they can no longer accept: love.
It doesn't stop there, however. After the honeymoon, many women prove the veracity of the old Irish saying, "Before they got married, he thought she would never change, and she expected him to change. After the wedding, she changed, he didn't." After the wedding, many women set about trying to change their men, and men often find that damned intrusive, rude and abusive.
If a woman wants a husband who will be a party animal, she should marry a party animal, not plan on making one out of her homebody husband. On the other hand, if she wants a reflective fellow who enjoys long walks on sandy beaches and sharing quiet moments watching sunsets, then she should not marry a party animal with plans to change him after the wedding.
Women who do are guilty of emotional abuse, but pop feminists rely on the Victorian concept of female moral superiority to dismiss such assertions - insofar as they're concerned, women have the right to change men because women are morally superior. Any man who resists is, by their reasoning, guilty of violence against that superiority, and should be eliminated.
A Process of Elimination
Pop feminists and misandrists have a trick they like to pull - blaming men for their own violence: "My husband struck me twice - right after I struck him first." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 83) Some times, because women don't learn the same prohibitions against using violence against the opposite sex that men do, they use it as an inappropriate mode of communication: "He refused to communicate at a vital time and I kicked him in the balls." (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 84) How often would men report themselves battered under such circumstances? Not many.
How many women report men for domestic violence in instances that they (the women) initiated? What happens when a woman hits a man? If she misses his head or genitals, he's unlikely to take her blows seriously, and that makes her angry. Angry women can be dangerous - if they can't use force to get what they want themselves, many will appeal to a higher authority, such as male police officers, to do it for them: a woman strikes out at a man, bruises her arm when he blocks her blow, she calls the police and the next thing he knows he's under arrest for "wife battering." I've seen it happen. Or perhaps he hits her back - same result. He's guilty, she's the "victim," and it doesn't matter whether she started it or not. Who would take him seriously, anyway?
Late in 1991 I received a threatening phone call from a woman who read an article on sexual harassment I'd written in one of the local newspapers. She said she and her "big girlfriends" were going to "come over and beat the shit" out of me. My first impulse was to laugh. (Note: Since then, I've received so many death threats, crank calls, and hate email that I no longer pay any attention to them.) But then a friend asked, "If you were a woman and a man called and said those things, what would you do?"
Our culture encourages us to stereotype men as aggressors and women as victims, yet I was as much a victim of emotional violence as if I'd been a woman and my caller had been a man. So I reported the incident to the police. The officer who came to take my statement suggested I should just forget it until he realized who I was and filed a "celebrity harassment report." I appreciated the special treatment. What bothered me was that it was special treatment - if I hadn't been a writer, would the entire affair have been ignored? Would I have been just another unreported statistic? Pop feminists complain that male officers do not take women's reports of domestic violence seriously, but the evidence requires us to ask, do they take men's complaints more seriously, or less?
Taking men's complaints less seriously works to the advantage of pop feminists in two ways. First, it eliminates the opposition. If there's little official evidence that women harass, intimidate, and batter even more than men, then we have little choice but to accept their assertion that women are victims and men are villains. Then, it inflates the impact of the wife-battering statistics they cite. If women and men batter, and are battered, in precisely the same numbers, then we have parity and it's a social issue rather than a women's issue that feminists can politicize. But if we reduce the reported number of incidents of spousal abuse against men, this increases the ratio of battered women to men, supporting the pop feminist claim that men are villains and women are victims.
So what should we do? Ignore the problem? Pretend it isn't there until men are virtual slaves? Do we rebel now and stage the inevitable backlash immediately? Or do we demand equal rights and responsibilities for all regardless of gender? Or should we begin by exposing the pop feminists cover-up of male-victimization? It's up to you.
Rod Van Mechelen