Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A feminist challenge: what to do when the facts are against you

What to do about domestic violence? Two American professors have pointed to research which shows very clearly that women are much safer when married to the biological father of their children:
This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls. But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers. The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.

Just how strong is this research? Well, look at the graph below. The first column shows the incidence of violence (toward children) in families with married biological parents; the highest one (over ten times higher) shows that for a single parent with a partner.

And there's this graph:

This time the graph shows domestic violence towards women. The two lowest lines, the ones which barely register, show levels of domestic violence for married couples. The highest one represents single mother with children families. It's difficult to tell exactly but it looks like the single mother rate of domestic violence is over 30 times that for married women.

The evidence seems irrefutable. Women are safest when married.

But that's not a conclusion that feminists are likely to want to draw. So what is a feminist to do?

Enter Australian feminist Clementine Ford. She remains undeterred and argues as follows:
The concept of male-bestowed ‘protection’ is one that harms rather than helps women. A society which operates along paternalistic lines is one which undermines the rights of women to exercise their own autonomy and protect themselves. Instead of advising women to tether themselves to a ‘decent’ man who’ll willingly marry them and protect them from the world’s villains, we should instead be enforcing a zero tolerance policy towards those people who abuse. Men are not the conservators of women, and it’s not their morally bestowed obligation to protect us. As human beings, it is the moral obligation of everybody to refrain from harming others.

Her logic goes something like this:

1. As a feminist and a liberal modernist she holds individual autonomy to be the key good in life
2. It is not autonomous for women to depend on men for their physical safety
3. Therefore, society must be remade so that women can protect themselves and not need help from men
4. This requires society to make sure that no man ever commits an act of violence against women
5. Therefore society had better make sure that no man ever commits an act of violence against women

The moral thing, thinks Clementine Ford, is for women to be autonomous, therefore we must insist that people act in ways that conform to this moral outlook.

Note that the primary concern of Clementine Ford is not to safeguard women and children from violence. It is to promote female independence from men. That is why she will never accept "male-bestowed protection" even if it is effective in terms of minimising the risk of women experiencing violence.

The problem with Clementine Ford's approach is a basic one, namely that she makes the good of autonomy the sole, overriding moral aim.

That can't end well. It's dangerous to think that there is one single good that society has to be forced to conform to. Better to recognise a range of goods that have to be ordered into a workable framework.


  1. Of course the state would largely achieve this by having male police officers protect women. At some point a man is protecting you. She just seems to want the man to be a machine (wageslave under the control of the system) rather then a full blooded human being doing it because he believes in it.

    Moreover, the complete elimination of all violence everywhere would, in a practical logistical sense, require an almost 1984 style police state. Thus in her quest for perfect autonomy she would have to surrender her autonomy to the state.

    1. "Moreover, the complete elimination of all violence everywhere would, in a practical logistical sense, require an almost 1984 style police state."

      An almost 1984 style police state is exactly what feminists want. Imagine a female jackboot stamping on a male face - for ever.

  2. "Thus in her quest for perfect autonomy she would have to surrender her autonomy to the state."

    Why would she object to that? The state works for her not against her.

  3. "Note that the primary concern of Clementine Ford is not to safeguard women and children from violence."

    It's hard to know which is more depressing - her lack of interest in the welfare of real women in the real world or her total obliviousness to reality itself.

  4. I'm interested in the "we need to have zero tolerance" solution that Ms Ford proposes. She seems to believe that "zero tolerance" would result in zero occurrences, perhaps because she hasn't noticed that intolerable behavior is actually quite common. We can raise the social stigma of a behavior to the maximum level possible, and yet the behavior still takes place because there are people who have a powerful desire to engage in the behavior and who don't much care about social stigma. We have zero tolerance for murder, for instance, and yet there are still murders. And, the truth is, civilized people already have "zero tolerance" for what used to be known as "wife beaters" (what is it now, significant other beaters?). In the middle class circles I know, there is a degree of tolerance for men who sometimes drink a little too much, but I'm quite sure there would be no tolerance for a man who sometimes beat his wife. But of course, as the data show, because these are first wives, the chances that any of them will do so is small.

    I've put "zero tolerance" in quotes because this phrase doesn't actually mean what it seems to mean. "Zero tolerance" actually means less tolerance than is presently being shown, but every sane person recognizes that, as the toleration dial moves closer to zero, the practices that must be employed to suppress the undesirable behavior become more intolerable than the behavior itself. For instance, a society that truly had zero tolerance of "domestic violence" would have surveillance systems installed in every domicile, extremely aggressive rapid-response teams stationed on every block, and desert island penal colonies for significant other abusers. Perhaps this strikes Ms. Ford as a sort of Utopia!

    1. She probably sees the jackboots of said state crushing the necks of others i.e. men not people she cares about i.e. women.

  5. we should instead be enforcing a zero tolerance policy towards those people who abuse.

    If "we" (society? the state? other women?) are protecting women, then women are just as non-autonomous (i.e., dependent on others) as they would be if a man protected them. Geez.

  6. There's a response to the article showing the stats to be cherry-picked. Though the point remains, women and children are safer in good marriages, probably due to a variety of influences.

    The rest of the comments to the article are like a sledge-hammer of stupid straight to the face.

    "Don't blame women! Teach men not to rape/abuse/murder etc..."

    1. We're not blaming women, we are blaming the feminists who have supported the sexual 'revolution' which glorified rape by promoting 'free love (extra-marital sex)'.

  7. Additional point in the "logic"...

    6. Men must be willing to engage in violence against other men in order to protect women.

    Whilst not overtly expressed this is very much the core of White Ribbon advocacy.

  8. Don't forget that NAM (Non-Asian Minorities) have high rates of single motherhood, bastardy and impulsive violence (ethnic and criminal causes such as drugs), and that when this is all rolled together into U.S.A. statistics, it will paint a very different picture compared to say a white Caucasian or Asian man having a illegitimate child (households there are 3-5 times more stable there), because few Democratic leaning psychologists and journalists want to lay the blame at their own violent underclass, welfare supporting NAM constituents who are part of the same party.