Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Women: an “up” and some “downs”

For the “up”, we have the election of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to the presidency of Argentina. Mrs Kirchner joins the ranks of women who have been presidents or prime ministers in many countries, including neighbouring Chile, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Israel, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Not the United States, though, not yet.

For the “downs”, we have a series of news items, which I’ll present before commenting:

  • Australia Shocked by Case of Raped Indigenous Girl
    Australia has been rocked by the case of a 10-year-old indigenous girl who was gang raped in her home community, and the revelation that her nine rapists had not been given prison sentences, in part because the judge found that the victim “probably agreed” to have sex.
  • Rape of Girl, 15, Exposes Abuses in Brazil Prison System
    It was at Abaetetuba, in the northeastern state of Para on the fringes of the Amazon, that a 15-year-old girl arrested on suspicion of petty theft was illegally placed among 34 male inmates in late October. For 26 days they treated her as their plaything, raping and torturing her repeatedly. Sometimes she traded sex for food; other times, she was simply raped, federal investigators here said.

    The police in the jail did more than turn their backs on the violence. They shaved her head with a knife to make her look more like a boy, investigators said, and now are blaming her for lying about her age.

  • Mexico: Cannibal Suspect Found Hanged
    A 38-year-old man accused of killing a girlfriend and eating parts of her body was found dead in his cell in Mexico City, apparently a suicide, prison officials said. Guards found the man, José Luis Calva Zepeda, hanging by his belt. He was arrested in October when the police discovered the dismembered body of his girlfriend in his apartment and human flesh in a frying pan.
  • Life in Prison for Canadian Serial Killer
    The serial killer Robert William Pickton was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years on Tuesday for the murders of six women whose bodies were butchered in the slaughterhouse of his pig farm near Vancouver.
  • Jailed Rapist Confesses to Murders 30 Years Ago
    A convicted rapist who has been in and out of prisons for decades has confessed to nine murders, including those of five women that terrorized this city along the Mississippi 30 years ago.
  • 7 Troopers Suspended in Sex Assault Inquiry
    Seven New Jersey state troopers were suspended on Tuesday in connection with an investigation into a young woman’s report that she had been sexually assaulted.

    The woman, 25, told law enforcement officials that she was assaulted last week by “multiple male individuals,” including some who may have been members of the New Jersey State Police, the Mercer County prosecutor’s office said.

Confessions, investigations, job suspensions, a life sentence. Outrage. You’d think I’d be adding these to the “ups” list instead. But no, the point here isn’t that we’re addressing the problems after they happen, though it is good that we’re doing that. The point is that it’s happening in the first place.

The point is that no matter how much we want to think it’s gotten better, violence against women is still right out there, right up front. Disgusting, sadistic, pointless violence — pointless except that it provides at least one man with a sense of power, a feeling of superiority over women.

That I read all of those in one evening — and you, also, get to read them, or at least my excerpts, in one sitting — was particularly disturbing. Maybe this was a bad day for such news. Still, the concentration makes it clear that this stuff isn’t rare. It happens all the time, everywhere.

Why am I picking on this sort of thing? After all, violence toward men happens all the time too.

But it’s not the same thing. First, we hear about women as serial killers or sexual predators in a vanishingly small number of cases. It’s men who do this, almost exclusively. Second, male-male violence is usually either entirely random (he wasn't specifically targeting men) or directed at a single person for a particular reason.

In these cases, women were victims of violence against women in general.

It just has to stop.

Maybe if women ran the world....


Tammy said...

Interesting blog!

Just this past week our teenage daughter's former boyfriend broke into our home in the middle of the night. Of course, he was arrested (the police tracked him to our house/caught him before anything horrible happened), but our family is still in shock. My husband commented that he did not understand why certain men felt the need to control women. I like your comments about superiority and violence - well said! I will forward your blog to my hubby.

Thank you.

Lidija said...

Thanks for posting, Barry, however depressing all this is. I'll add the one I just read about a girl from Canada whose father strangled her because she would not wear a hijab. This violence is not limited to or only coupled with sexual assault, but seems to be that sexual assault is the chosen (almost instinctual?) way of threatening women unrelated to the attacker. This, I think, applies to both random and planned violence.

For those of you who want to do something about it, you can donate to a local shelter for battered women and children, or to a rape crisis center, or volunteer there. And raise your sons to be better than their fathers. And elect more women to office :)

"boys get locked up in some prison
girls get locked up in some house
and it don't matter if it's a warden
or a lover
or a spouse
you just can't talk to 'em
you just can't reason
you just can't leave
and you just can't please 'em"

Maggie said...

I don't know if my thoughts are coherent enough to comment on this. I wonder if men were kinder to each other, if fewer men would feel the need to assert their power over women. That is, I'm sure, a gross oversimplification because men, as you point out, do have more violent tendencies than women (generally). What can you do in the face of those genetics? Would being successful and feeling powerful in the arena of men be enough to prevent a man from coming home and beating his wife, or going out on the streets and raping a stranger? Would it help at all?

And I don't know if a non-violent man can answer that any more than I can (from his gut, I mean), because I suspect a non-violent man has non-violent genes because he has a complement of other genes that made his ancestors successful at reproduction.

What does it feel like to be so violent, and can people be convinced that they should try to overcome it?

Anonymous said...

It is almost certainly going to turn out that the male, perhaps simply...
In the lacking of the paired and sometimes compensatory X -
In having rather the 'stunted' Y; is vastly less empathic, thus tending to sociopathy.

It may - if your tend to the hunter-gatherer
persuasion of sociobiology - be that this represents a reasonable tradeoff.
In biologically eschewing the empathic virtues the male
WILL be more aggressive & violent.
Thus a better defender of the cave folk and skilled killer of other animals.

All that said and without apology:
Men do almost all of the bad stuff that is done.

Sux for us to be that way.