Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Here in Spain it certainly seems that there is an epidemic of domestic violence going on right now; murders and beatings are on the news and in the papers with some frequency. It is argued by some that these violent acts are caused by an institutional sexism in Western society, by a patriarchal structure that demeans women systematically. I don't buy it.

The most recent tragedy was yesterday, when some piece of scum in Figueres set his wife on fire. She suffered burns over 60% of her body but is expected to survive. According to the Vanguardia, in recent years in Spain there have been seven attempts by men to set their wives on fire. Now, that is plain sick and disgusting, and I have no sympathy for those who physically abuse others; my personal feeling is that prison should be exclusively reserved for criminals who use violence, and that all criminals who use any kind of violence--rape, murder, robbery, assault and battery--ought to be sent there.

My question, though, is whether there is really an increase in cases of domestic abuse of women or whether it's just being reported more now. My personal guess is that woman-battering is actually on the decline, percentage-wise, as society becomes wealthier and "softer"; agreed, extreme cases like yesterday's in Figueres always get in the news, but I wonder if a lot of the milder cases being reported these days wouldn't have just been swept under the rug in the past.

In order to throw gasoline on a smoldering fire, TV3's lead-in to the story on the news was titled "El horror masclista"--"The sexist horror".

Here are some excerpts from "Who Stole Feminism?" by Christina Hoff Sommers.

For a long time (Richard J.) Gelles and (Murray A.) Straus were highly regarded by feminist activists for the pioneer work they had done in this much-neglected area. But they fell out of favor in the late 1970s because their findings were not informed by the "battery is caused by patriarchy" thesis. The fact that they were men was also held against them.

Geller and Straus do find high levels of violence in many American families, but in both of their national surveys they found that women were just as likely to engage in it as men. They also found that siblings were the most violent of all...The vast majority of family disputes involve minor violence rather than severe violence (defined as "actions that have a high probability of leading to injury"). In their 1985 survey...they found that 16% of couples were violent--the "Saturday Night Brawlers" (with the wife just as likely as the husband to slap, grab, shove, or throw things.) In 3 to 4 percent of couples, there was at least one act of severe violence by the husband against the wife...Gelles and Straus are careful to say that women are far more likely to be injured and to need medical care...Murray Straus estimates that approximately 100,000 women a year are victims of severe violence (in the US)--far short of Senator Biden's claim of three or four million...Because of changing demographics and improved public awareness, there was a significant decrease in wife battery between 1975 and 1985...

Gender feminists are committed to the doctrine that the vast majority of batterers or rapists are not fringe characters but men whom society regards as normal--sports fans, former fraternity brothers, pillars of the community. For these "normal" men, women are not so much persons as "objects". In the gender feminist view, once a woman is "objectified" and no longer human, battering her is simply the next logical step. Just how "normal" are men who batter?...

Are the batterers really just your average Joe? If the state of Massachusetts is typical--the large majority of batterers are criminals...according to Andrew Klein, "almost 80 percent of the first 8500 male subjects of restraining orders had prior criminal records in the state. Many...were for offenses like drunk driving and drugs, but almost half had prior histories of violence against male and female victims. In other words, these men were generally violent, assaulting other males as well as female intimates. The average number of prior crimes against persons complaints was 4.5."

"Time" (magazine)...informed readers that between 22 percent and 35 percent of all visits by females to emergency rooms are for injuries from domestic assaults...The primary source (for this claim) is a 1984 study...conducted in downtown Detroit....of the 492 patients who responded to a questionnaire about domestic violence, they report that 90 percent were from inner-city Detroit and 60 percent were unemployed. We also learn that the 22 percent figure includes both women and men...

In a November 1992 study...a survey of all 397 emergency departments in California hospitals. Nurse managers were asked, "During a typical month, about how many patients have been diagnosed with an injury caused by domestic violence?" The nurses' estimates ranged from two per month for small hospitals to eight per month for the large hospitals.

Ideology aside, there are indications that those who batter are not average. Talk of a generalized misogyny may be perventing us from seeing and facing the particular effect on women and men of the large criminal element in our society...We need to understand why the number of sociopaths in our society, especially violent male sociopaths, is so high.

My guess is that the number of violent male sociopaths in US society is declining, and this is clearly reflected in the crime rate. Sure there are other causes, like better policing, stiffer sentences, higher income and education levels, but I'm going to chalk it up at least partly to what some are calling the "Roe effect". I think that the sort of people likely to give birth to sociopaths are reproducing less and less.

That is, abortion became a constitutional right in the entire US in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Ever since then, it's been easy and cheap to get an abortion in the US, and there are more than a million performed every year. Now, who gets abortions, as a general rule? Not your stable, middle-class couples, but your single mothers. This is why young people in the US are more traditional than they used to be; the folks who lead an unstable (not liberal or leftist, but the kind that makes you a lousy parent) lifestyle, screwing around a lot and drinking and using drugs and partying a lot and not holding down steady jobs and associating with trashy people, don't reproduce any more. The kids who have been born since '73 are much more likely to belong to a stable family unit because nonstable people have been able to get the Future Unwanted Babies of America aborted.

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