Recently, I ended up in a discussion with a professor at the University of Oregon who shared this article from the feminist outlet Ms. Magazine titled, “Why Don’t We Talk About the Gender Safety Gap in the U.S.?”
The article quotes a recent U.N. report “documenting “alarmingly high rates” of gender-based violence against girls and women,” and it concludes with the following statements: “A formal commitment to gender equality in the law has yet to mean that men and women benefit equally from societal improvements like lower crime rates … or enjoy anywhere near parity rights to physical freedom and security. … women’s absorption of the gap’s costs continues to be largely taken for granted.”
There are two contexts in which this article quotes any actual figures pertaining to rates of violent crime. The first, and most emphasized context, is in discussion of who reports feeling safest. ““Most Americans,” researchers [behind a Gallup poll conducted in December of 2014] concluded, “continue to feel safe in their immediate communities, with 63 percent saying they would not be afraid to walk alone there at night.” However, the 63 percent number masks a difference: almost half of women, 45 percent, report not feeling safe, whereas 73 percent of men reported that they do [feel safe]. … [These] results lined up closely with European country results of that survey, which … found that 75 percent of men in Europe said they felt safe, compared to 55 percent of women. … these measures undoubtedly reflect different standards of safety, as well as commitments to women’s safety.”
Of course, feeling safe is no absolute measurement of actually being safe, and the article itself does at least half–heartedly takes a single second to notice this: “Men … may have an exaggerated sense of confidence about their safety and control…,” though it barely stops to consider the ramifications of this fact for the use of how safe men and women ‘feel’ as a measure for actual safety. In the one and only statement in the whole article to actually address the relative gender rates of victimization in violent crime, the article says this: “Historically, men were more likely to be the victims of violent crimes, however, according to the Department of Justice’s most recent crime report, between 2004 and 2013 rates of violent crimes against men and women reached equal levels of prevalence.”
What you’d never get a full impression of from reading this sentence is that, from 1980 to 2008, men were in fact a whopping 77% of all victims of violent crime. Historically and up until very recently, men have been the mass majority of those victimized by violent crime by far. Now, you might even get the impression that the article is telling you that “rates … reached equal levels of prevalence” because rates of violence against women have been increasing to match rates of violence against men. Certainly the article does nothing to clarify that this is not the case, and the alarmist tone (“deep structural gender inequities … continue to … perpetuate unconscionably high levels of socially tolerated gender-based violence”) most certainly lends to that impression, even if it isn’t said directly.
However, if this were the impression you gathered, you would be wrong.
First of all, rates of violent crime have in fact been decreasing all across the board.
And therein lies the clue to our “violent rates of crime … reach[ing] equal levels of prevalence.”
Let’s take a look at the actual data.
Violent Crime (per 1,000) –
2004: 25.5 (Female) / 30.2 (Male)
2013: 22.7 (Female) / 23.7 (Male)
Serious Violent Crime (per 1,000) –
2004: 8.4 (Female) / 10.6 (Male)
2013: 7.0 (Female) / 7.7 (Male)
Rates of crime are in fact dropping for both men and women across 2004–2013. They’re dropping relatively more for men than for women, but this hardly fits the narrative that “deep structural gender inequities … continue to marginalize women”—men are relatively more victimized by violent crime when it occurs in the first place (again: over recent decades, more than 3 out of 4 victims of violent crime have, in fact, been men). And as of 2013, those numbers still aren’t quite “equal.” Combining the two figures, we’ve gone from 6.9 more men per 1,000 victimized than women to 1.7 more men per 1,000 victimized than women. That’s still more men than women victimized.
_______ ~.::[༒]::.~ _______
On the basis of all this, I predicted we would see that whether crime rates rise or fall, it is men who are most effected by the change. I settled on 1985–1990 and 1999–2001 as case examples of times when rates of violent crime rose.
Across 1985–1990, crime rose from about 20,000 to about 25,000 total victims.
In 1985, there were 14,738 male victims and 4,707 female victims of violent crime.
In 1990, there were 19,128 male victims and 5,174 female victims of violent crime.
The number of male victims rose by 4,750. The number of female victims rose by 467.
Across 1985–1990, 90% of the increase in victims of crime were male.
From 1999 to 2001, crime rose from about 17,000 to about 21,000 total victims.
In 1999, there were 12,376 male victims of violent crime and 3,900 female victims of violent crime.
In 2001, there were 15,034 male victims of violent crime and 4,520 female victims of violent crime.
The number of male victims rose by 2,658. The number of female victims rose by 620.
Across 1999–2001, 81% of the increase in victims of crime were male.
_______ ~.::[༒]::.~ _______
Her response? “When you are comparing the % increase in violent crime victims you have to compare the increase in male victims vs. the increase in female victims. So if we take your example, victims in 1999 vs 2001, the male victims increased by 21% and the female victims increased by 16%. … we need to look at the % increase relative to the gendered total because you are claiming that if there were an increase in crime, men would be the preponderant victims. For the ratio to go back to the pre-2008 disparity, violent crimes against men would have to increase by by 58% and violent crimes agains women would have to increase by 0%. No statistic I’ve seen would predict that.”
I answered: “It’s exactly the kind of derived statistic we would get if, say, crime rose by 5000 victims and around 5000 of them were men. That’s not that different from crime rising by 5000 victims and 4400 of them being men, which is exactly what happened in 1985–1990.” To that, she said: “You’re applying the numbers from your 1999–2001 homicide rate increase to the numbers from the 2013 total violent crime stats (over 3 million). If male crime victims increased by 4,400 in 2014 from their 2013 number of 1,567,070, that would be a 0.3% increase in male victims.”
Sounds implausible, right? She’s making it sound like my position is committing me to expect that there’s going to be a 58% increase in male victims—from 1,567,070 to 2,480,000; an increase of 909,000 new male victims—as soon as crime goes back up. But as far as I can tell, it’s an abuse of statistical reasoning. Why? Because it’s just the wrong statistic to look at, plain and simple. There’s absolutely no reason to look at it in the first place, unless you’re scrambling for any way of looking at the data that doesn’t seem to lead to the conclusion I’m presenting.
So I responded to that by drawing an illustration that should make that a little clearer:
“Start with 10 female and 1,000 male victims in a hypothetical year.
Suppose that I’m the “murders per year” monster, and I kill 200 women and 100 men every year.
That’s a trend, and I think we can all agree that that much is obvious. (If we don’t, I quit.)
Alright, so in the first year that’s a 2000% increase in victimized women and a 10% increase in victimized men. Next year, it’s a 95% increase in women and a 9% increase in men. Jump forward three hundred years, and next year we get a 0.33% increase in women and a 0.32% increase in men. Does the change from 2000% and 10% to 95% and 9% to 0.33% and 0.32% look like a trend? No. But we just started out acknowledging that a trend is there: I’m the “murders per year” monster, and I kill 200 women and 100 men every single year. The statistics you get when you compare percentage increases of men and women won’t show you that trend, but the way you measure what I do is by looking at what I do. When I get angry, I kill more men than women. When I calm down, the gender ratio drops back down, because I’m no longer killing more men than women. That is what the data shows.”
In the end, she just kept contorting herself to hold on to those secondary numbers as a way to avoid my conclusion with only the faintest hint of any bare thread of actual reasoning left remaining behind her rejection of it: “You can’t compare apples to oranges. Even in looking at your stats, there is a consistency in numbers which invalidates your argument. I’m sorry you can’t see that.”—and at this, she simply stopped respoding to me.
This wasn’t, in general, an unintelligent woman I was talking to.
It takes an ideology to make someone go this contortionist to avoid something this straightforward.
_______ ~.::[༒]::.~ _______
Stepping back again, we can look at the actual historical trends in what actually happened at previous times when crime fell. We looked, already, at what happened when homicide rose between 1985–1990 and beween 1999–2001. So what happened prior to those increases in crime? What happened during the times when crime fell?
In the five years between 1980–1985, crime fell from about 24,300 to about 19,900 total victims.
Thus, in 1980, there were 18,766 total male victims and 5075 total female victims.
And in 1985, there were 14,738 total male victims and 4707 total female victims.
Total male victims fell by 4,028. Total female victims fell by 368.
91% of the decrease in victims of crime between 1980–1985 were male.
In the ten years between 1990–2000, crime fell from about 24,900 to about 16,800 total victims.
Thus, in 1990, there were 19,128 total male victims and 5169 total female victims.
And in 2000, there were 12,407 total male victims and 3799 total female victims.
Total male victims fell by 6,721. Total female victims felll by 1,370.
83% of the decrease in victims of crime between 1990–2000 were male.
By her reasoning, the male rate fell by 21.5% in 1980–1985 and the female rate dropped by 7.25%. This should have made it unlikely, somehow, for the male rate to have increased by 29.8% and the female rate to have increased by only 9.9% in 1985–1990. Similarly, the male rate fell by 35% in 1990–2000 and the female rate dropped by 26.5%. And this should have made it unlikely, somehow, for the male rate to have increased by 21.5% and the female rate to have increased by only 15.9% in 1999–2001. But that’s exactly what happened, and it’s exactly how the statistic that men are a full 77% of all victims of violent crime remained true across this entire span of time (1980–2008).
That most of the decrease in violent crime impacted men in 1980–1985 (91%) did not stop most of the increase across 1985–1990 from primarily impacting men (90%). Similarly, that most of the decrease in violent crime impacted men in 1990–2000 (83%) did not stop most of the increase across 1999–2001 from primarily impacting men (81%) once again. Either way, Ms. Magazine’s spin on the gender of crime remains hypocritical. The article complains that “formal commitment to gender equality in the law has yet to mean that men and women benefit equally from societal improvements like lower crime rates … or enjoy anywhere near parity rights to physical freedom and security. … women’s absorption of the gap’s costs continues to be largely taken for granted.”
We could just as easily state on the basis of this data that “a formal commitment to gender equality in the law has yet to mean that men and women are protected equally from societal disruption when crime rates rise … men’s absorption of the costs when violence grows continues to be taken for granted”. But feminists wouldn’t dare—the emphasis must be on women–as–the–unequivocal–victims and men–as–the–unequivocally–privileged–elite, no matter what violence must be done to the facts to keep them held within the frame of that narrative.
_______ ~.::[༒]::.~ _______
That’s case study #1. I’ll be quoting a wide variety of further sources in the future to continue supporting the point: feminists don’t care half as much about gender disparities unless they can be spun as harming women most—even if the fact behind the spin is that violence is simply dropping more for men, who have historically been by far the most victimized by violent crime in the first place (and women are still benefiting from a decline). This selective focus, combined with wild exaggerations of those disparities where they are found, has left us in relative ignorance about a variety of disparities that do in fact impact men most, and left us with a wildly distorted and unrealistic impression of what the overall balance of gender disparities in the U.S. really looks like. The truth, in my view, lies somewhere inbetween the extremes of both “feminist” and “mens’ rights activist” narratives.
Feminists often attack anyone who chooses not to define themselves as “a feminist” by claiming that (Jezebel): “to identify as a feminist is simply to acknowledge that women are people, and, as such, women deserve the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities as other styles of people (i.e., men-people). … If you are not a feminist …, then you are a bad person. Those are the only options. You either believe that women are people, or you don’t.” In practice, however, “feminism” is very clearly widely and largely defined by the belief that women unequivocally get the short end of the social stick. No feminist anywhere is going around defining Mens’ Rights Activism (which I might have more to say about in the future) as “the belief that men are people,” saying “If you are not a Mens’ Rights Activist, then you are a bad person. … You either believe that men are people, or you don’t.” It shouldn’t strike anyone as controversial to say that this is because Mens’ Rights Activism is seen as unnecessary—because of the implied belief that men are already unequivocally receiving all possible benefits of sitting comfortably on top of the social totem pole.
If we accept this as the real definition–in–practice of feminism, however, then the empirical accuracy of its actual premises can be called into doubt—and this article, once again, serves as just one in what will become a far–reaching series of case studies supporting the point that they should. We hear nothing in this article about the fact men are historically more than three out of four victims of violent crime. We hear no explanation that rates are becoming more similar simply because crime is falling right now in general—and falling for women, too. The male disparity in crime victimization simply isn’t worth discussing, for the vast majority of feminists, until it becomes (almost) equal through falling faster for men (who were a far greater majority of victims to begin with) than for women—at which point we hear that “A formal commitment to gender equality in the law has yet to mean that … women … enjoy anywhere near parity rights to physical freedom and security.” Again, I want to emphasize just how absurd this statement actually is: men have historically been the mass majority of victims of violent crime by far. Now that crime is dropping, the fact that it is dropping faster for men than it is for women—causing the rates to become almost, and yet still not quite, similar—at least for now—is taken to support the conclusion that women have “nowhere near equal rights to physical security.” The situation is, quite literally, and in plain point of fact, the reverse: men are still not quite equal to the low rate of victimization in violent crime that women experienced, as of 2013—and we have every reason to expect that if violent crime rises, that ratio will change to the disadvantage of men once again. Men are almost experiencing the low violent crime rates that women are right now, thanks to a current overall drop in violent crime. The fact that men are almost being murdered as infrequently as women are right now—for the first time in recent United States history—is taken by these feminists to support the claim that women are “nowhere near equal.” Men for once being almost equal to women in enjoying a low violent crime rate is used to say that women are “nowhere near” equal to men. This reasoning couldn’t be any more ass–backwards.
If I may have the same right to define my own labels in my own terms as feminists claim for themselves, then I’d like to define choosing not to define as feminist as choosing to try to return some balance to the conversation.
Violence against women is terrible. Violence against men is terrible too. Why not just stop there?
This is what a feminist looks like.