Violence Against Women Is Not the Problem ...
Violence Against Women Is Not the Problem ...
... Violence Is
I originally posted this to my livejournal on December where, more than a little to my surprise, it garnered more positive responses than I had expected, though there were a couple of exceptions.
As most of you will know, 15 years ago a mess of a man named Marc Lepine gunned down 14 engineering students at l'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. All 14 were women and that was no coincidence.
Lepine hated "feminists" and mass murder was his revenge.
Ever since then, feminists with whom I usually agree, and feminists with whom I seldom do, have come together to
celebrate memorialize this anniversary.
As an example of sexism.
As an example of patriarchy.
As a totem to the evil that is Violence Against Women.
I've never worn a white ribbon, and don't intend to.
I fear the over-simplification that comes from turning a historical crime into an icon; I distrust using that icon as a metaphore for many (or all) of society's ills. And I think using Lepine to stand in for undeniable, day-to-day sexism that does still exist in our society is a good way to blind us to the root cause of violence - which is not only expressed with firearms, but also with road-rage, with vicious words and even with the still-present (though mostly forgotten) threat of anhielation under which we have all lived since 1945.
Violence against women is not a problem.
Violence against women is a symptom.
Recently, I was exposed to some statistics about "violence against women".
In 2002, 28, 953 women were victims of domestic violence.
67 were murdered
38 were victims of murder attempts
514 were sexually assaulted
21,774 were assaulted.
Horrifying statistics, no doubt. But I think it is important to remember that in that year, according to Statistics Canada, though 206 women were murdered in Canada, so were 376 men.
If being murdered is your criteria, it is better to be a woman than a man in this society. And I am not aware of any blue-ribbon campaign to remember the men who have been victims of violence.
Yes, I know: The vast majority of the murderers were men. I really do know that. But that's my point - or, at least, it serves to illustrate it.
Since 1989, the enrollment of women at engineering schools has more than doubled. Women are now a majority in Law and in in other fields.
Since that day, thousands of heroic women have voted, with their tuition fees, and said, "I will not give in to terrorism."
And, I suspect, the vast majority of those women also say, "I am not a feminist", though in their actions they declare that they are. (Which confuses me and is the topic for another post.)
The point is not that most murderers are men. Or that a significant minority of victims are women.
The point is: violence is a problem.
For many years now, I have used two observations - one statistical, the other not - to determine the level of civilization of any city I have spent time in.
The first is the murder-rate. In any kind of society that works, that statistic is the least amenable to manipulation by political interest groups, or the fact that a lot of people don't trust the police. A body is a body and someone has to count it.
The second is much more subjective: How many women do I see walking the streets alone at night?
The fewer murders, the better; the more lone women, the better. (Toronto stacks up pretty damned good for North America, but my girlfriend still tries to get a ride home from the subway station after 9:00 o'clock or so. This city is very far from perfect.)
Yes, most of the women who are murdered are murdered by men; and yes, most of the men who are murdered, are murdered by men.
What does this mean?
If more men are murdered than women, does it mean we do not live in a sexist society in which women are valued less than men? Well, not necessarily.
Does it mean that we live in a hierarchical society in which the weak are preyed on by the strong? Well, maybe a little, but most murders are committed by people who know the victim, male or female.
What does it mean, then?
My problem with the White Ribbon Campaign is not that it is trying to help female victims of violence, or that it is working towards gun-control.
My problem with the White Ribbon Campaign is that it offers up cartoon in place of a schematic.
Most men don't rape, don't beat, and don't murder their partners. Most men don't get into drunken brawls and murder the asshole who dissed them at the bar.
My problem with the White Ribbon Campaign is that it uses the image of Marc Lepine to stand in for a myriad of very complex social problems. It is a way of making us feel good about ourselves without addressing the real (and much more difficult) problem of violence itself.
The problem isn't that (some) (individual) men kill women. The problem is that (some) (individual) men (and a much smaller number of women) kill.
Leaving aside the minority of those murderers who are clinically insane - who murder because a leprechaun on their shoulder tells them to - what we are dealing with is a problem of violence.
Marc Lepine hated "feminists". He could just as easily been one of those kids in Columbine who hated their classmates. Marc Lepine has very little to do with the residual sexisms that poisons our society and a great deal to do with a significant subclass in our society who see no obtion but brute force when frustrated.
I am a man. I feel it myself. When I get frustrated, or insulted - "dissed", if you will - I want to throw a punch, or worse. How much of this has to do with the fact I have a cock instead of a cunt, I don't know; I suspect most of even my mostly well-controlled violent feelings come more from nurture than nature (words can be a remarkably effective sword, but that too is a topic for another post), but I don't know.
I don't wear a white ribbon because I believe that symbol does more to separate us than it does to unite us. That it makes the assumption that women are not individuals, but members of a (oppressed) group. That it fosters an us-against-them mentality that leads "both" sides to forget the real issue - that fucked-up people are killing other people - in favour of a group-think (men are perpetrators; women are victims) that ignores the fundamental fact that we are all individuals and that, even worse, ignores (what I think is) the fact that the problem is violence, not violence against women.