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April 15, 2009

Comments

Terrific post, hilzoy.

Just when I think nothing could be more scrupulously reasonable and thoughtful than the last hilzoy post, you go and write another. Voice of Moderation, indeed....

I agree, in principle.

That women do hit their partners is something that isn't easily discussed - my friend who suffered from an abusive girlfriend didn't speak about it for years afterwards. I was living a few doors down from them at the time, I saw them every day, and I didn't know. It doesn't make me feel any better about that to know that nobody did.

A man who is being regularly hit by a woman, his wife or his partner, is in an even worse situation for talking about it than a woman in the same situation.

There are differences: women are much less likely to hit hard enough to cause serious damage, temporary or permanent. Women are much less likely to kill their partners - women who murder their husbands or boyfriends are much more likely to do so because their husbands or boyfriends are abusive, not because of abuse. And, as noted on another thread, women are much more likely to be economically dependent on their abusive partner - though having a partner who is economically dependent on you may also be a tie, it's not the same kind of tie.

There was a trend for a while (possibly still is, though I haven't seen it for a while) of men getting into online discussions of domestic abuse with complaints about women-only shelters that they felt should admit men. Not, usually, because they themselves needed shelter, but apparently just out of picky anti-women "principles". This is counterproductive - shelters are needed for people who were economically dependent and literally can't afford to leave but need somewhere to hide - and those are going to be women.

But in any discussion of partner abuse, domestic violence, I agree it's probably better to attempt gender-neutral language - difficult though that is.

Just an apropos: Recently, there was a sort of debate in newspapers here about a celebrity who had boasted of "beating up" her unfaithful boyfriend. I think the consensus was something like:
1. It's really not OK to do or boast of something like that.
2. It's somewhat worrying that young women should think that it is.

Nice, hilzoy. ty.

The language has been reminding me of the excuses for using 'he' to mean both genders. - With possibly more justification, but we've no need to sound like *that*.

""What about battered men??? Huh???", said in the same tones in which one might say: but what about the white victims of racism???"

Well, yes, the analogy is almost exact: In both cases we're talking about relatively common phenomenon which can be extremely damaging to the victims, but which some people see as important to deny the existence of.

"Not, usually, because they themselves needed shelter, but apparently just out of picky anti-women "principles"."

Can't say I'm surprised Jes would write something like that. I'll leave it at that.

Surely there are especially bad things about being a woman who has been beaten up by a man -- the fact that men tend to be stronger leaps to mind -- but one thing that must be especially tough about being a man in that situation is that it is nearly invisible, especially when compared to domestic violence committed by men against women.

Without devolving into another round of let's figure out the line between blaming the victim and accepting responsibility for one's own actions, there's another potential (negative) causal link here:

A woman who strikes her (male) partner may not do much damage due to the differences in size/strength. But I suspect that a woman who strikes a male partner is proportionately more likely to be struck in return. Physical violence tends to beget physical violence.

Brett: Can't say I'm surprised Jes would write something like that.

Going by what they themselves said. Of course, they may one and all have been lying.

Von: But I suspect that a woman who strikes a male partner is proportionately more likely to be struck in return. Physical violence tends to beget physical violence.

Possibly. OTOH: Some people do not respond with physical violence. (As noted in the other thread, women striking back against male abusers also get recorded in the crime stats of women violent to their partners.) There exist men who would never hit a woman - not even if she hit him first. There exist people who will never be able to hit someone they love - men and women both. There exist people who simply believe very strongly that violence is wrong except in self-defense, and will not use violence unless they feel genuinely threatened - and a small woman may be able to hurt a big man, but is hardly likely to make him feel threatened unless she's using a weapon. And there exist people who are less likely to hit someone whom they know will hit them back.

It's really not as simple as "Physical violence tends to beget physical violence".

It's really not as simple as "Physical violence tends to beget physical violence".

I actually think it is, if you're looking at an average (expected) likelihood of violence.

What a world Brett Bellmore lives in, where whites are the real victims of racial discrimination in this country, and trying to help women who have been the victims of spousal abuse violates the rights of men.

I actually think it is, if you're looking at an average (expected) likelihood of violence.

I actually think we'll have to agree to disagree on this.

(Seriously, it sounds like the kind of question that could be answered, that possibly has already been answered, with some good research and quality number-crunching. "Is a man statistically more likely to hit a woman who has just hit him?" Only I don't have time to go trawl the web for an answer. So.)

I think we're misunderstanding a bit by focusing on the difference in physical strength, and on rational-actor calculations about who's more likely to hit whom. Differences in physical strength are a real factor, but not the main one: abuse is a psychological dynamic, and the abuser's main advantage is his or her appalling comfort with hurting the victim. The victim might be weaker, but that's not really the point. The point is that he or she doesn't have the heart to really hurt the abuser, while the abuser has no scruples (indeed progressively fewer scrupled) about harming the victim.

Partner abuse isn't a fight, and the "average (expected) likelihood of violence" in other contexts doesn't apply. The abuser doesn't start hitting until he or she knows that the victim won't fight back, and won't leave. In almost every case, there's been a process of testing and "grooming," often with an escalating progression of other controlling and disrespectful behaviors before the physical abuse starts.

A woman who strikes her (male) partner may not do much damage due to the differences in size/strength. But I suspect that a woman who strikes a male partner is proportionately more likely to be struck in return.

Maybe we could add that to the Book Of Things People Suspect That Aren't Substantiated By Anything. It's a great resource when you feel compelled to comment, but don't have anything to back up the point you feel compelled to make.

Yeah, the whole "What about MEN???" thing is pretty moronic. What about them? They're victims of a crime. They shouldn't have to be. But the issues they face tend to be pretty different from the issues female victims of domestic violence face. They might feel trapped in an abusive relationship, but the nature of that entrapment tends to be pretty different. I don't see any reason why discussion of male victims of abuse have to happen concurrently with discussions of female victims.

The only place where I've felt that popular feminism led me wrong was when I went from law school to a prosecutor's office internship. In law school, it was verboten to question the truth of allegations of abuse. And then at the prosecutor's office I was on case intake, and sorting real allegations from nonsense ones was the entire job. And you know what turns out?

There are a lot of people out there who spend their lives and their marriages getting absolutely hammered and screaming at each other, and then tattling to the police. Its just what they do. Every Friday.

The abuse they allege is always something like "he pushed me over onto the couch" or "she was slapping me and I had to cover my head to protect myself." There's never a mark or any evidence of damage. They've reported similar cases in the past, and the partners alternate as accuser and accused. Sometimes they race to the police station to see who can report the other first. Neither of them have ever pursued a case after the initial filing or initial arrest. All of their cases are misdemeanors with similar fact patterns. And their attitude is more of vindictive triumph than fear or hope or anything that might seem plausible for someone in an actual, classical abusive relationship.

I hated dealing with those cases, because of course it terrifies you that you might make the wrong call. And you know that the people you're dealing with need serious help, but the help you have available is exactly the opposite of the help they need- sending the cops over to help them "one up" their partner is just feeding the pathology, and that's really all you can do because they're going to stop aiding the prosecution the moment the cops scare their partner a bit. So you just let the gears of the justice system grind on, because if you guess wrong and arrest someone the worst they get is an arrest on their record (no conviction, the case will be dropped when they make up after the hangover ends), and if you guess wrong and don't arrest someone, you might be responsible for someone's death.

Meanwhile, you can't discuss the issue with anyone outside of the prosecutor's office. Popular feminism seems to have taken the tact of stigmatizing the suggestion that an abuse allegation might be false. I get why this has occured historically- there was a time when the behavioral norm was to dismiss abuse allegations as most likely being fabrications, and feminists want to reverse this norm and create a norm of generally believing abuse allegations.

But... it kind of sucks when you're actually in the spotlight on these issues. Being the target of efforts to change perceptural norms by stigmatizing the public recognition of stuff that actually happens, well, really sucks.

I dunno. A better politicaly philosopher than I could probably write a very interesting post about the use of social stigma to create or alter norms of belief, and the relationship of certain norm creation techniques to power and critical legal theory and so on... but I'm getting pretty far from the original point I guess.

Maybe we could add that to the Book Of Things People Suspect That Aren't Substantiated By Anything

I suspect that psycho-chicks are the best in bed.

Could you add that too.

"What a world Brett Bellmore lives in, where whites are the real victims of racial discrimination in this country, and trying to help women who have been the victims of spousal abuse violates the rights of men."

The world where whites as well as blacks are victims of racial discrimination, and men as well as women get abused, happens to be the real world.

I don't get this obsession with having to generalize about who does what more.

I think abuse is something that has some archetypal situations that are very similar regardless of the people involved. Patrick just brought up one: the get drunk and fight every Friday night, and most of the time nothing happens but maybe one time it does. On the past thread some people mentioned the "I love em to death and they're so erratic I am scared what they'll do if I leave, so I feel paralyzed." Hilzoy talked about her own interaction with a classic domineering, fixating type. They're all abuse, they all have a large psychological abuse aspect and they can all turn violent.

I think people pay most attention to the domineering type of abuse because that's the most likely to have repeated hospital visits and people finding out. If that ends in death then it's hard not to shake your head and wonder how the victim could stay through all of it while it was getting progressively worse.

But the other types of abuse can be just as damaging psychology and emotionally and end in violence too. The difference is that then people rationalize it by thinking "oh well he just got really drunk and out of control that night" or "she flipped and it was a crime of passion."

Maybe it's because I pay attention to behavior and personality rather than external descriptors, but I think if you're going to generalize something like abuse it's a lot more productive to talk about what roles people tend to play and how to help with that. Because those role types are much more consistent than physical traits.

My uncle for example developed a classic "battered woman" mentality because his wife was so abusive, and after she sent him to the ER for the third time he decided to take their kid and run (as Hilzoy said it was about saving the kid not himself) and his wife found out and shot him to death in front of their daughter. Yet despite having years of police, psychological and medical evidence (like him having broken bones numerous times and her never having as much as a scratch) she only served six years because she was a mom, and he was probably abusing her anyway.

I feel the same way about addiction. There is so much emphasis on drug addiction, but I've known far more people that were addicted to other things like work, sex, buying expensive items or even something as abstract as "falling in love" as proof they were a worthwhile human being. These people showed the exact same thought process and negative consequences as drug abusers (well except for the criminal aspect) but because they weren't addicted to the right thing it was ignored.

But in any discussion of partner abuse, domestic violence, I agree it's probably better to attempt gender-neutral language - difficult though that is.

Posted by: Jesurgislac

When I initially posted my statistics, it was in response to:

"I will also refer to abusers as 'he', and to their victims as 'she'; this is accurate in the overwhelming majority of cases."

This wasn't a gotcha!, or nit-picking to discredit a statement, or nit-picking for the sake of nit-picking. It was because I believe that the abuse dynamic isn't a gender-related phenomena and to look at it that way is to possibly miss the real causes and impede any real attempts at remediation.

There is the common and well-known child abuse. Less common and less well-known but every bit as real is elder-abuse, where children abuse their parents. People tend to associate bullying with boys beating up other boys for their lunch money; it is also true - and very pervasive - that girls bully girls, girls bully boys, etc. The oldest kids pick on the younger, true. But the reverse is also true, and more common that many would think.

In short, in just about every permutation of human relationships, the potential for abuse is there. Acknowledging this is the first step towards dealing with the problem; for example, a lot of schools now have a 'mean girls' procedure where they wouldn't even have conceived of the issue forty years ago. That's progress.

hilzoy, not to pile on you, but the folks who use male victims as a rhetorical tactic also ignore same-sex domestic violence. Men are abused not just by women, but by men. (And of course there are women abused by their female partners.) Gay men have long been on the forefront of offering help to male victims of domestic violence.

Maybe we could add that to the Book Of Things People Suspect That Aren't Substantiated By Anything. It's a great resource when you feel compelled to comment, but don't have anything to back up the point you feel compelled to make.

Well, aside from common sense (that a violent reaction tends to provoke a violent response), there are studies that generally back up the notion that reciprocal violence occurs. See:

http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/42/15/31-a

and

http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/97/5/941 (Abstract) ("Conclusions. The context of the violence (reciprocal vs nonreciprocal) is a strong predictor of reported injury. Prevention approaches that address the escalation of partner violence may be needed to address reciprocal violence.")

The world where whites as well as blacks are victims of racial discrimination, and men as well as women get abused, happens to be the real world.

No, Brett--men as well as women get physically abused, but the reason men get abused is not sexism. Similarly, whites may occasionally lose out to blacks in our society, or even get abused, but they are not victims of racial discrimination. Discrimination is something powerful groups do to the weak, not the other way around.

Good post.

I still am of the following opinions.

1. Abuse by men of women is worse, because of course men are larger, and there is something about testosterone, that makes the "worst of men" really bad.
2. Abuse of men by women, though clearly less serious than the opposite, is, I think, much more common than the statistics show.

So that was my only objection to the initial post, and you've answered it here.

"Discrimination is something powerful groups do to the weak, not the other way around."

But in interpersonal relations, power is a relative concept. It is certainly possible (and I'm sure has happened) for a poor white person to be discriminated against in a context where rich black people have power over him.

Von - my response was snarky, and I apologize for that.

In your comment, you purported an increased likelihood of the male reciprocating. That's what I was objecting to. That's what you would want to support. Your abstract says:

"In nonreciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases."

which might point to a decreased likelihood of male reciprocation.

Once again, I apologize for being rude. It seems like almost everything I read these days is a justification of what someone wants to be the case for unstated reasons. My desire to assume good faith gets worn down.

Mikkel

I am sorry to hear about your family's tragedy. My sympathies.

"I think we're misunderstanding a bit by focusing on the difference in physical strength, and on rational-actor calculations about who's more likely to hit whom." -- Doctor Cleveland

Abso-bleeping-luteley.

There's another aspect of this particular discussion that hasn't come up. Hilzoy was talking about her experiences with a battered womens' shelter. I'll lay odds she saw no battered men at all. (Are there any battered mens' shelters? I've never heard of any.)

And of course, there are English pronouns -- we can't refer to a person without knowing about his/her posession of a Y chromosome (without grammatical monstrosities like "his/her"). Lotsa luck trying to change the language.

David, no need to apologize. I was thinking out loud .... speculating, really.

I pretty much agree with all of Hilzoy's post. Whether it's the anti-circumcism folks or abused men folks, there's amount of exaggeration that seems to accompany the legitimate point. (I'm less sympathetic to the anti-circ folks, who frequently combine exaggeration with a complete disregard of the science.)

lightning,

I prefer the use of their in the 3rd person neutral.

Yeah, I didn't mean to leave out violence in gay relationships. I did see some of that at shelters, and it was awful.

"And of course, there are English pronouns -- we can't refer to a person without knowing about his/her posession of a Y chromosome (without grammatical monstrosities like 'his/her')"

There are a variety of ways to refer to people without referring to their gender.

Even if one dislikes using "they" as a singular (and there's plenty of precedent for that in the history of the English language, regardless of whatever your high school English teacher told you), one can recast most references to the plural, or one can refer to "one," or one can engage in any number of other alternatives.

I've never found it particularly hard; you just have to take a bit of care.

"No, Brett--men as well as women get physically abused, but the reason men get abused is not sexism."

Aside from this assertion being dubious, (Apparently your definition of "sexism" is as tendentious as your definition of "racism", or you'd understand that women can be sexists.) why the heck should somebody who's being abused care whether it's because of 'sexism', or just because their partner is a violent creep?

"Similarly, whites may occasionally lose out to blacks in our society, or even get abused, but they are not victims of racial discrimination. Discrimination is something powerful groups do to the weak, not the other way around."

Do you suppose that anybody who isn't driven to deny that blacks can be racists actually takes that tendentious definition of "racism" seriously? Way to define yourself as being right, Rea.

In any case, even if you accept that definition, the conclusion doesn't follow, since global minorities are perfectly capable of being locally powerful majorities.

"Apparently your definition of "sexism" is as tendentious as your definition of "racism", or you'd understand that women can be sexists."

Brett, without arguing over whether discrimination by members of a weaker class against members of a more powerful class is "sexism" or "racism," it's undeniable that people who have immense privilege in our society because they are members of a far more powerful class of people ("white" or "male," for instance) still have, in society overall, vastly more privilege than people who are still grossly discriminated against.

Or do you believe that, in fact, "white" people and "black" people in our society have, as a class, equal amounts of power, and suffer equal amounts of discrimination? Do you believe, in fact, that men in our society have, as a class, equal amounts of power, and suffer equal amounts of discrimination?

These are the relevant questions, regardless of how we apply the words "sexism" and "racism."

At bottom we won't go wrong remembering that both men and women are human, subject to the many weaknesses of our species.

Women do abuse men. The physicality of the abuse is limited in the main because women are generally lighter and weaker than men, but the human heart shows no similar disparity.

The dark truth is that the abused, women and men alike, often love and need the abuser. The abuser, by conventional moral calculus, is undeserving of such love, yet the abused still wants to provide it and the abuser desperately needs it. We know this because we see the suicides of abusers who are no longer loved, and consequently no longer tolerated.

Art and law know they must address this quandary. Hilzoy's contribution is to bring these riddles of the heart to a larger audience of the thoughtful. I am privileged to be a part of the conversation.

Thank you for this followup post, Hilzoy.

Thank you hilzoy.

I'd like to see the focus on services for abused people. There are more differences between individuals of the same gender then across gender groups.

Exploring why women don't leave abusive men confuses a policy discussion. Better to explore what adults and children need to escape abuse and get help building a constructive path to health.

In a time where more households are anchored through women's benefits/salary than ever it is imperative we not get trapped into stereotypes of a previous time. This trend bears watching.

As Mikkel noted, the problem with any abuse is that it breeds it into the next generation. If we choose only to define it to one gender then... we're simply perpetuating gender stereotypes in a different way.

Any belief system that ends in "-ism" is a yellow flag that we make sure it is not co-opting universal problems. It also invites circular firing squads that pretty much lock in policy paralysis.

Correction: I incorrectly conflated a point I meant to make separately (that abuse of any kind recreates itself in the next generation) with Mikkel's post that abuse crosses gender lines with equally tragic results. Apologies.

What I believe, Gary, is that "racism" and "sexism" are attitudes, not power relationships. Individuals can posess those attitudes irregardless of the relative power of the groups they happen to be members of.

"Individuals can posess those attitudes irregardless of the relative power of the groups they happen to be members of."

Brett, prior to 1861, many "white" people hated "black" people and many "black" people hated "whites" in turn.

Which set of people were worse off, due to the relative power of the two different sets of people?

Would treating and speaking of these two prejudices as equal, as equivalent, and as equal wrongs, make sense to you? Were both sets of people equally threatened by the other's prejudices?

"What I believe, Gary, is that "racism" and "sexism" are attitudes, not power relationships."

And therefore we can ignore everything you say on every topic until the end of time. Phew! What a relief.

"Which set of people were worse off, due to the relative power of the two different sets of people?"

Got nothing to do with whether both of them could be racist.

This defintion of racism Gary is using is of fairly modern vintage, it was created specifically to deal with the cognitive dissonance liberals experienced when confronted with black racism. Couldn't deal with it, so you defined it away. You do a lot of that, I've noticed.

From Merriam Webster:

racism
One entry found.


Main Entry: rac·ism
Pronunciation: \ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm also -ˌshi-\
Function: noun
Date: 1933
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

Absolutely nothing there the powerless aren't capable of.

Long time reader, been meaning to start commenting for a while now.

Anyway, I think Brett's right. Sexism in particular, and most -isms in general, are largely about one's expectation that others will conform to one's stereotypes of them, and treatment of them accordingly. I think most reasonable people would agree that traditional gender roles are heavily tilted in favor of advantaging males. That doesn't mean that men aren't also constrained by said expectations. A male who, for example, wishes to become a prekindergarten teacher in modern American society is going to be significantly disadvantaged by his gender. This, by definition, makes him a victim of sexism.

This defintion of racism Gary is using is of fairly modern vintage, it was created specifically to deal with the cognitive dissonance liberals experienced when confronted with black racism.

In absolute and utter earnestness: can you provide some support for that?

"This defintion of racism Gary is using"

Of course, I said nothing whatever about a "definition of racism."

My words: "Brett, without arguing over whether discrimination by members of a weaker class against members of a more powerful class is 'sexism' or 'racism....'"

"These are the relevant questions, regardless of how we apply the words 'sexism' and 'racism.'"

I realize it's helpful in not answering someone's question to simply make up out of whole cloth some other assertion, but possibly you could try answering what I actually asked you, Brett?

Thanks.

Gary, why would I care to deny that blacks on average had (And to a lesser extent still do have) it worse than whites, because whites on average were more powerful? (Any more than you'd care to deny that the rare free black in revolutionary America was better off than a white slave.) I've said nothing to suggest otherwise.

The point I'm trying to make here is that people are individuals, not merely instances of groups. Abuse, whatever it's motivation, occurs to, and is committed by, individuals. Let's not try to build stereotypes right into our defintions of terms like "racism" and "sexism".

I'll get ahead of the curve without waiting for Brett's response. I not only am fine with defining racism, among many usages, as "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race," but I have a much stronger definition, which is summarized here, in the section from the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia:

[...] ny action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview — the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called "races," that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some "races" are innately superior to others. Racism was at the heart of North American slavery and the overseas colonization and empire-building activities of some western Europeans, especially in the 18th century. The idea of race was invented to magnify the differences between people of European origin in the U.S. and those of African descent whose ancestors had been brought against their will to function as slaves in the American South. By viewing Africans and their descendants as lesser human beings, the proponents of slavery attempted to justify and maintain this system of exploitation while at the same time portraying the U.S. as a bastion and champion of human freedom, with human rights, democratic institutions, unlimited opportunities, and equality. The contradiction between slavery and the ideology of human equality, accompanying a philosophy of human freedom and dignity, seemed to demand the dehumanization of those enslaved. By the 19th century racism had matured and the idea spread around the world. Racism differs from ethnocentrism in that it is linked to physical and therefore immutable differences among people. Ethnic identity is acquired, and ethnic features are learned forms of behaviour. Race, on the other hand, is a form of identity that is perceived as innate and unalterable.
The whole notion that human beings are divided into inate physical categories of "races" is 18th century pseudo-science. It's nonsense, other than as a self-defined cultural construct. Where it's forced on people, responding defensively in standing up as one of the oppressed groups makes some sense in a sociological and political sense, but it's still nonsense as any kind of science.

The important question isn't to quibble over the various usages of the word "racism" (or the word "sexism") but to focus on the facts people live with.

Sure, members of minority, or less powerful, groups can be racist or sexist in believing in the innate superiority of their group, or in denigrating characteristics of another group, whether minority or majority, powerful or less powerful. I wouldn't argue otherwise.

What's important in looking at our society is observing the facts of how these prejudices play out: does one group have significantly, if not immensely, more power than another? Is one group far more privileged, as a group, than another? Does one group significantly damage the quality of life of another? Are these groups mirror images of each other in their power?

The answers are yes, yes, yes, and no.

Are there "black" people who believe their group is superior to "white" people? Yes. Do they have an equal amount of power to damage the lives of "white" people in our society? Not even remotely. The power of "white" people to damage the lives of "black" people in our society remains immense. Who suffers far more from racism in our society, the "whites" or the "blacks"? "Black" people.

Similarly, although women in many instances are actually a minority, they're still lacking innumerable privileges accruing to the average male in society overall, and in most (not all) situations. Women are not yet treated equally to men. Women are not running 50% of the Fortune 500, or 50% of the House or Senate. We've still yet to have a woman president. Etc., etc., etc.

These, and similar facts, are what's important. These are the stories of millions of people who suffer degraded lives compared to what they should have, and would have, if they were members of the more privileged class, rather than members of the weaker class.

That some small smattering of "white" folks may occasionally suffer some minor inconveniences in highly limited and isolated siutations, due to the racism of another group, or that some small smattering of men may occasionally suffer some minor inconveniences in highly limited and isolated siutations, due to the sexism of some women, is to focus on the pain and problems of something like 1-2%, if that, of these groups, rather than the fact that the overwhelming majority of "blacks" and "women" suffer limitations and discrimination in life they shouldn't have to.

That's what's important. Quibbling over the semantics of what is or isn't "racism" or "sexism," and whining about the problems of a handful of members of the privileged classes is an almighty weird set of priorities, and is, dare I say, an expression of privilege itself.

It's very unbecoming.

Let me also add this pointer to Governor David Paterson's eloquent statement today:

[...] “This is a civil rights issues,” Mr. Paterson said, citing issues like hospital visitations, health insurance coverage and inheritance that are connected with marriage. He called for an end to “a legal system that has systematically discriminated against all of them.”

He continued:

Anyone that has ever experienced degradation or intolerance would understand the solemn duty and how important it actually is. Anyone that’s ever experienced antisemitism or racism, any New Yorker who is an immigrant, who has experienced discrimination, any woman who has faced harassment at work or suffered violence at home, any disabled person who has been mocked or marginalized, understands what we’re talking about here. We have all known the wrath of discrimination. We have all felt the pain and the insult of hatred. This is why we are all standing here today. We stand to tell the world that we want equality for everyone. We stand to tell the world that we want marriage equality in New York State.
He said, “I understand the trepidation and the anxiety that people feel right now,” but said that “rights should not be stifled by fear” and that “silence should not be a response to injustice.”

“If we take no action, we will surely lose,” Mr. Paterson declared. “Maybe we’ve already lost. There is no gain without struggle.”

Mr. Paterson noted that his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, had introduced a similar bill in 2007. “I’m wondering if I’m in a time warp or have been sent someplace else in time,” he said, citing critics who said he was “rushing.”

“Didn’t we cry out for democracy, and didn’t we ask for the openness and transparency of government that we thought we deserved?”

The governor continued: “I am not in any way attempting to instruct the majority leader of the Senate or the speaker of the Assembly … I am here to speak against those who are antagonistic and antithetical and always have been, not only to marriage equality, but equality,” for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The reality is that for me this is the time to fulfill the dreams of our founding Constitution, which implored us to expand the rights of the union. Our founding Constitution has been expanded to include African-Americans, the right of women to vote, the right of immigrants to get citizenship in this country.”

The problems of "white" people, and the problems of sexist discrimination of men pale into trivia in the overall scheme of things, by comparison.

The point I'm trying to make here is that people are individuals, not merely instances of groups. Abuse, whatever it's motivation, occurs to, and is committed by, individuals. Let's not try to build stereotypes right into our defintions of terms like "racism" and "sexism".

Do me a favor: Print this out, tape it to your forehead, and look in the mirror every time you get the urge to type the phrase "you people" or the word "liberals" in the comments to this blog.

It's not often that I disagree with Jes by being the *more* radical feminist one, but this time I do.

in any discussion of partner abuse, domestic violence, I agree it's probably better to attempt gender-neutral language - difficult though that is.

Abuse of women by male partners is objectively worse (=more likely to lead to murder, for instance) but also *different* from abuse of men. It is different because it has been -- historically, and in many cultures or subcultures still is -- endorsed. It is expected, it is normal, it is something (some proportion of) men feel entitled to do. They feel that way because other people back them up.

The problem of humans getting violent with their intimate partners is probably eternal. The super-problem here, the over-arching problem, is that one particular sort of violence is tolerated, endorsed, classified as "chastisement" or business as usual. IMHO treating female-on-male abuse as the equivalent of socially-endorsed male-on-female abuse is a way of directing attention away from the social factors, and in particular from the way that *we*, the rest of society, are complicit.

"Any more than you'd care to deny that the rare free black in revolutionary America was better off than a white slave."

White slave? Do you mean an indentured servant? There was quite a distinction between their crappy situations - which were limited to 3-7 years -- and that of slaves. They signed a contract enforced by the courts on both parties, including an obligation to supply "sufficient Meat, Drink, Apparel, Lodging and all other necessaries befitting such a Servant," as well as a buy-out option.

Indenture also often included apprenticeship training in a skill.

Wikipedia:

[...] The agreement could also be an exchange for professional training: after being the indentured servant of a blacksmith for several years, one would expect to work as a blacksmith on one's own account after the period of indenture was over. During the 17th century, most of the white labourers in Virginia came from England this way. Their masters were bound to feed, clothe, and lodge them. Ideally, an indentured servant's lot in the establishment would be no harder than that of a contemporary apprentice, who was similarly bound by contract and owed hard, unpaid labour while "serving his time." At the end of the allotted time, an indentured servant was to be given a new suit of clothes, tools, or money, and freed.
Did free people of color have it better in America of the 17th century, or the pre-Civil War 18th century? I'm no expert, but so far as I know, it would vary depending on which indentured servants and which free people of color you compared. Doubtless some of the latter were better off than some of the former. What were the percentages, or average, comparative situations? I don't know.

"The point I'm trying to make here is that people are individuals, not merely instances of groups. Abuse, whatever it's motivation, occurs to, and is committed by, individuals."

Indeed, but let's also not ignore the fact that slaves weren't slaves because they were individually picked to be slaves -- they were picked because they were members of the group of "black people."

It's important to remember that everyone is an individual, and it's important to remember that when groups are discriminated against, or people are treated as members of a group, that the group matters as much or more.

Ignoring one of these things would be as blind as ignoring the other.

"It is different because it has been -- historically, and in many cultures or subcultures still is -- endorsed. It is expected, it is normal, it is something (some proportion of) men feel entitled to do. They feel that way because other people back them up."

Say, in Afghanistan, to point to one of the clearest and most indisputable examples.

Certainly in America there was tremendously less support for abused women, and more support for abusive men, even in the 1960s than there is today, and these differentials increase as we go backwards in time.

As always, and I must have written this a thousand times over the decades, the situations of more privileged classes are not mirrors of the situations of less privileged classes.

Paradigms that suggest otherwise are false.

Yet we see this sort of false mirror analogy all the time from people who, for one reason or another, find it convenient to minimize the disparities of the more privileged and less privileged.

I wish they'd stop.

Indenture also often included apprenticeship training in a skill.

Slightly OT, white indentured servants had the added luxury of being able to escape and blend in with the rest of the citizenry. Black slaves had much less in the way of such recourse, for obvious reasons.

"Women do abuse men. The physicality of the abuse is limited in the main because women are generally lighter and weaker than men,"

Women are far more likely to use weapons. Weapons eqaulize any size advantage the victim may have.

The real problem is not who is liklelier to abuse, the problem is how society handles the abuse. Female abuse of men is dismissed or condioned - see the Mary Winkler case where she shot him the back while he was asleep and cliamed self-defense. It's not her fault that the jury bought it; it wass the jury's sexism that was at fault.

So the comments above to the effect that women cannot be sexist because they don't have institutional power are bunk. Woemn have great instituitonal power in the court system when it comes to DV and the use of accusations of DV. The misuse of DV aacusations as has been noted in divorce cases.

Some states have laws designating men as the primary offenders as a class because it is often so diffcult to tell who is doing what when police respnd to a DV situation, and they have to arrest someone.

At the federal level VAWA institutionalizes this gender bias.

So this comment refers to some society other than the US:

"Abuse of women by male partners is objectively worse (=more likely to lead to murder, for instance) but also *different* from abuse of men. It is different because it has been -- historically, and in many cultures or subcultures still is -- endorsed. It is expected, it is normal, it is something (some proportion of) men feel entitled to do. They feel that way because other people back them up."

Gary, read the 13th amendment lately? Yes, there were white slaves, generally such as a punishment for crime. I don't really see why you have to deny that some whites were slaves, or some blacks were free, to recognize that the overwhelming number of cases ran the other way.

Brett, if you're going to ignore almost everything I write to you, and not respond to it, and instead go off on some point I haven't even addressed, I'm going to cease bothering to respond to you.

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