Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Friendly Reminder: Male Violence


I’ve tried a couple times to write this piece. Each and every time I do, it ends up in a semi-comprehensible rant because why do I even have to say this shit part 2,305,723.

You know how people are always talking about the violent crime among black youth, Hispanic immigrants, insert other racial minority here? How many time have you seen news reports, articles, books, TV shows, documentaries, and other media frantically pontificating about why these people of color are committing violent crimes in such high rates? And what can we do about it because OH SHIT IT MIGHT AFFECT WHITE PEOPLE.

Just like how people are pointing out how nobody talks about white-on-white crime, I’m here to remind you that nobody addresses the group that can boast the highest rates of violence in comparison to other groups of the same type. Men.

Men commit 90% of the homicides in the US.

About 75% of all violent crimes in the US are committed by men.

Men commit 7.15 acts of violence for every one time a woman commits an act of violence.

While researching statistics, it’s striking how difficult it is to find surveys and studies that examine crime rates based on gender. You can find mountains of information about how many women will be the victims of male violence each year. But this is focusing on the victims. Coming across data that focuses on the perpetrators takes some digging.

Compare this to crime rates by race. That’s the easiest thing in the universe to find. Type “crime rates by” into Google and see what you get. Could this have something to do with the fact that white people aren’t on the top of that list?

But when a privileged group is at the top of a list of badness (like “white-collar” crimes), then that’s not news. That’s not troubling. That’s not something worth looking into.

That’s just the way it is.

Try going to a place (most any place) on the Interwebs and talking about these facts. Talk about male violence against women, rates of rape and domestic violence statistics, and demand that something be done about it. You’re almost certain to come across some variation of that magical phrase. That’s just the way it is. Or there will always be bad people in the world. You can’t stop rape/assault/violence from happening. There will always be “people” who just do bad things.

And by “people,” what they really mean (but never say), is men.

What can we do about the crime rates in black/hispanic neighborhoods? Build more prisons! Harsher sentences! Three strike rule! Lock them all away! Or, perhaps on the liberal side, better schools! Support programs! Affordable housing! Rehab centers!

What can we do about male crime rates? Nothing. That’s just the way it is.

Even when people do attempt to do something about about it, it’s always reactionary. Let’s build women’s shelters and rape crisis centers and pass laws that punish male batterers and hold schools accountable for how they treat victims. That’s all well and good, but what about preventing the crimes? Any time prevention is talked about, it always puts the responsibility on women to protect themselves from men and sets them up for being blamed if they do become victims.

Why? This doesn’t stop the problem. One woman could successfully avoid a male rapist by not wearing a thing or walking a way. But that rapist will just go look for other women. He’s not just going to give up. He remains with the moral and emotional capacity to harm someone. Therein lies the problem. In the man.

The problem is with men. Men have a violence problem.

Here (and there and everywhere) is where I would be accused of saying that all or most men are violent by nature and that most men commit violent crimes. No. I’m saying the opposite. It’s everyone else who’s saying that men are inherently violent.

That’s just the way it is. There will always be bad people.

Comic courtesy of Emmy Cicierega

The statistics are striking. Compared to crime rates by race, the differences in crime rates by gender come with a massive gap that should make us all do dramatic double-takes. But we don’t. We expect it to be that way. Because that’s what we’re told. That’s just the way it is.

I refuse to accept that. I refuse to accept that that’s just the way men are. Men are absolutely NOT inherently violent. They are not more aggressive. This has nothing to do with testosterone. Shove your evopsych bullshit.

No biology can account for a gap that massive. Men are socialized to be this way. We treat boys as though they are or will become violent. And so they are. And it does not have to be this way. Men can be NOT violent. You can tell by the way that there are so many men who never commit violence. They are inherently just as good as any woman. Men are not born with violence and hatred in their hearts. Someone teaches it to them.

I believe in the good of men. And that’s why I say we need to examine violence for what it is: Male violence. Violence against women is male violence against women. Something about our society is causing men to become aggressive, which causes higher rates of violent crime among them. And what’s more, most victims of male violence are actually other men.

We need to combat male violence for the sake of everyone. We need to stop balking at the idea of addressing the truth about violence in the US and in most of the world – that the vast majority of violence is committed by men. We need to recognize that it’s not “normal” and we need to cast aside the fear that speaking the truth about it will get us labeled as “man-haters” or “reverse sexists” or what have you.

This is not about demonizing men. It’s about recognizing the truth and helping men. It’s about fighting the problem rather than being resigned to the suffering of billions of people across all genders at the hands of men.

Because that’s not just the way it is.


Smeagol said...

I wonder if it could be biological. Are there any studies done on the animal kingdom and gender specific violence? I know that some male animals will fight over mates....

I don't feel demonized by this sort of post, and it really makes me think. I agree that there is a problem with male violence, but maybe it's not addressed because no one knows how to deal with it. If we look at someone's economic status as a trigger for violence, then the solution is clearer: fix the economic situation. Can we fix the violence problem without fixing the economic situation? Sure. Education. Will that work for men as a whole? Maybe, and my education growing up was not to be violent. Some of my peers (like me) heeded that education,and some didn't.

So, the point is, that we all KNOW that men are more violent, but we don't know why, and we are trying to stop it from happening. Do you want to give harsher sentences to men who are violent? That hardly seems to be the point you are making. Educate men more on the dangers of violence? Sure, but why not just include everyone in that education, and you might weed out that one in seven woman who is violent.

You are right, no one talks about the fact that men are the majority of criminals and are more violent (by far) than woman. It's not because we don't care, it's because we already know. And we don't know what to do about it.

Lindsey Weedston said...

Hi Smeagol, thanks for the comment. I don't think harsher sentences would help at all, since our prison system is terrible and violent in itself. I am a huge proponent of teaching empathy and healthy interaction in school starting at a very young age. Psychology in general should be mandatory and start in elementary school. But we also need to address the cultural belief that men are violent by nature. Whether or not there's a biological component is beside the point, really. It doesn't fit into our human society. We need to stop telling boys that violence is masculine and that expressing healthy emotion (like crying) is a good thing. This needs to be a widespread effort that gets as many people involved as possible. I don't know exactly how this would work, but I try to do my part by talking about these ideas both online and with people I know personally.

Sarah Kaal said...

I agree with this comment so much with an add-on: yes schools should teach empathy, but really it should be the family units (and friends and neighbors) that should be teaching and emphasizing empathy and healthy relationships. There is enough burden on schools as it is, and schools can't be held 100% responsible for raising a child (it's unfair only because it's impossible). It needs to be a team effort of family, community, and schools.

Lindsey Weedston said...

Right! Thank you for adding that. I forgot to mention that if we're going to have schools teaching these things, we need to way way way ramp up the funding for schools. We need to be paying teachers at least twice as much as we are now and give ALL schools as much funding as they need for the best equipment and resources. There should also be training programs for new parents that pay the parents to take them.

Carrie said...

Hooray for this article! I've been using this tactic against racists on online boards for ages. When some racist asks why are people of color so prone to violence and crime, I ask him (it's always a dude) to answer why is it that the only group with a higher propensity toward violence and/or crime than people of color is men. Silence.

Sometimes I'll be met with "what about Lizzie Borden and Aileen Wuornos?!", at which point I can merrily tell them they are confirming that women, in comparison to men, kill and maim so infrequently that you can rattle off the names of the very few females who bucked gender tradition. For every female they can come up with, I could provide hundreds of male names.

Seeing stats from a different angle makes these racist men very angry. I love, love, love your well-written and informative piece. I'm bookmarking it and will be borrowing from it liberally :)

Lindsey Weedston said...

That is AMAZING. I'm glad you like it, please feel free to use it to shut down misogynists as often as possible.