Sub-Science Bolsters Violence-Against-Women Claims

Ilana Mercer, December 17, 1999

During the month of December, Canadian feminists crescendo their laments about the plight of women in North America. At the same time, it’s business as usual for the slave trade in women all over Brazil, Thailand, Mauretania, Pakistan and India. While Canadian fems gave vent to angst during the commemoration of the Montreal Massacre, the Kuwaiti parliament was in the process of rejecting a bill giving women political rights.

As cloistered and self-absorbed as North American gender feminists are, they are also rather powerful. And they are intent on forcing us to “make a permanent link” between the murder by Marc Lepine in 1989 of fourteen Ecole Polythechnique female students and the alleged endemic violence against women in Canadian society.

What a shame that commentators were not hip to this perennial attempt  to constrict discussion on a complex, psychosocial event. Here was the ultimate double bind of intellectual totalitarianism: accept one interpretation of Lepine’s actions, or stand in the dock for perpetrating more of the same, alleged, institutionalized violence against women.

How does the act of a lone individual come to symbolize the culpability of all men? And how does an abstraction like the patriarchy come to be fingered as the overarching cause of this tragedy?

Here’s how: This absurdity is shored up by the flaky corpus of violence-against-women statistics. Which, in turn, relies on the faulty premise of a continuum of violence along which all male actions must be construed. To the gender feminist, sexual innuendo is a form of violence against women, which is why she gets so exercised over the occasional caustic comment uttered by any mild-mannered man. Consider this, and Judy Rebick’s comments become less bizarre: “The Montreal Massacre,” wrote the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s host, “was an extreme example of violence women face every day from abusive men.”

In “Moral Panic: Biopolitics rising,” Professor John Fekete, recipient of the Distinguished Researcher Award at Trent University, exposes the sub-science that bolsters the violence-against-women claims. The 1993 StatsCan Violence Against Women survey, together with other equally outrageous surveys like the CanPan, props up the inflated numbers nobody questions; the same numbers advocates bandy about every December 6; that politicians rely on for drafting policy and plumping for resources; and that Judy Rebick touts when she says three out of ten women have been physically or sexually assaulted by their partners.

The VAW survey is the building block in the edifice of the violence-against-women industry, not least because it is scandalously rubber stamped by Canada’s chief number cruncher. With the VAW survey, asserts Fekete, StatsCan has traded science for voodoo.

For one, it’s a single sex survey with no input from men. It reflects an exclusive ideological focus on female victimization and excludes, conveniently, violence females incur from other females. Neither were women asked about their own acts of violence towards the man in the relationship even though dozens of two sex surveys conducted in Canada and the U.S. confirm “that women in relationship with men commit comparatively as many acts of violence as men do, at every level of severity,” as Fekete writes.

Developed at the height of the post-Lepine “war against women” panic, the VAW questionnaires are the product of a collaboration with advocacy groups and feminist stakeholders. They are fraught with problems of unrepresentative sample, lack of corroboration, a reliance on anecdotes, and a use of over inclusive survey questions. Undergirding the promiscuous statistics yielded in the survey is a reliance on prevalence figures. When claims makers say a third of all women have been assaulted in their lifetime, they refer to the prevalence of assault over a life-time, instead of the incidence of assault over, say, a 12-month period (that being approximately three percent). Lifetime rates inflate outcomes considerably and make for good copy. “What existential meaning,” wonders Prof. Fekete, “can be attached to a report that once in an entire lifetime someone that a woman knew touched her knee without an invitation?”

There must be, on the other hand, some existential significance to the fact that women continue to live longer than men, that five times as many young men commit suicide, that men are more likely to be unemployed and less likely to get another job, and that they are infinitely more likely to suffer potentially life-destroy industrial accidents and. Sympathy for the “patriarchy” might be a lot to ask feminists, but a dose of reality as to where in the world sisters are truly disadvantaged isn’t a tall order.

©1999 Ilana Mercer
The Calgary Herald
December 17

CATEGORIES: Canada, Feminism, Free speech, Gender Issues, Pseudoscience