Effeminate Christianity

 

Jesus is a metrosexual deity, sometimes seemingly transgender or outright feminine or at the very least androgynous. This was common among salvific godmen and divinities at the time. During the mass urbanization of the Axial Age, the old agrarian fertility goddesses became less of a focus. In their place, some male figures of worship inherited the characteristics of the old goddesses, not only aspects of their physical appearance but also key attributes such as self-resurrection and triune identity.

This mythological gender mixing has remained within Christian tradition. It pops up from time to time. Every few centuries or so, effeminate portrayals of Jesus begin appearing. This is partly because of the origins of Christianity, as within the early Roman Empire it was seen as a religion of women, slaves, and low class — an equation of power that Jesus sought to turn on its head. Jesus himself was described as taking a particular interest in speaking with, healing, and defending women. This sense of Christianity carried over even into more recent history such as how, for example, early Evangelicalism, in the post-revolution and largely unchurched South, was considered unmanly in how it initially attracted mostly women and slaves, not to mention the overly emotional (i.e., ‘feminine’) mode of religiosity.

Every now and then, some modern artist will portray Jesus as feminine. And of course, there is always outrage. But there is an ancient history to this going back to the earliest Christians. This Western crisis of gender identity is far from being a mere recent phenomenon inflicted on society by radical feminists. Supposedly ‘traditional’ gender roles have been overturned multiple times these past millennia. As one of the key figures in this ongoing anxiety, Jesus is constantly being re-envisioned.

This has lead to right-wing moral panics about emasculated males and demands for muscular Christianity. Even though women played major roles in the early church, even though there were influential female mystics and visionaries and preachers over the centuries, many conservative Christians to this day worry about women even having minor roles for fear they will turn churches into “women’s clubs”. And in American history, this fear has been real, considering churches have been places of political organizing and occasionally insurrection. The earliest feminists in the 18th and 19th centuries, after all, were feminists who often took inspiration directly from their Christian faith.

On a related note, one of the most famous black churches in Charleston, SC was the site of the planning for a slave revolt. And churches played a central role during the Civil Rights movement. In dreams of freedom, many blacks during slavery and Jim Crow took inspiration from the Bible itself (e.g., the Jews once having been enslaved and in their escape many of their oppressors died). This gives new meaning to Friedrich Nietzsche’s claim that Christianity was a slave religion. It also might be noted that it was common for Southern women to be likened to slaves in the expectation of their submission to the social order, but then again Biblical figures like Moses and Jesus also were expected to submit. Rebellion from within, sometimes by women, has been plaguing the church for centuries. The First Great Awakening (1730s-1740s) along with the American Revolution unleashed these internal tensions within Christianity.

In modeling themselves after Jesus’ teachings of turning family against family, Evangelicals like other dissenter sects, from the Quakers to the Shakers, sought to break free from kinship loyalties and form new spiritual families. Following Jesus’ example, Evangelical preachers put particularly great importance on women, praising their capacity of spiritual sensitivity and vision. Many women found they could gain a new kind of confidence, respect, and authority within their adopted spiritual families:

“Pious sisters could also rely on early Baptist and Methodist preachers to affirm that women of all ages and races might exercise their gifts by speaking before public, sexually mixed, religious gatherings. Thereby the clergy endorsed the view that acceptable forms of female spiritual expression went beyond fulfilling their private roles as dutiful wives, mothers, and sisters. Indeed, rather than advising women to restrict their influence to the uplift of their households, ministers encouraged them to display their talents in churches and religious meetings at neighboring homes. To assert themselves as authoritative public presences was an extraordinary liberty for women in a culture that otherwise required them to be silent and subordinate.”
(Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross, Kindle Locations 3283-3288)

This gave further evidence that these Christianities were effeminate and emasculating. As kinship loyalties were based on a highly entrenched patriarchy, this was a radical challenge to the entire social order:

“Both ritual practice and the association of fellowship and family thus sustained converts to early Methodist and Baptist churches. Separating the sexes at public worship obscured the painful absence of converts’ unbelieving family members. Condemning their upbringings eased converts out of past lives embedded in kinship networks. Identifying the church as a family endowed converts with a new circle of spiritual kin, often one more sympathetic to their religious strivings than were relatives by blood or marriage.”
(Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross, Kindle Locations 2953-2957)

Further challenges came from other of Jesus’ teachings such as, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female.” For those who took their Bible seriously, these were powerful words. Jesus didn’t only speak in this way for, through his actions, he demonstrated what it meant to defy authority. And as I’ve pointed out here, the very portrayals of Jesus showed him as a profoundly ambiguous figure who transcended the divides of social identities.

The ancient and extensive history of a ‘queer’ Jesus can’t be erased. There has always been a bit of the trickster to Jesus and the trickster, by nature, is always hard to pin down. For anyone who doubts that, ask the Roman and Jewish authorities during Jesus’ life. If Jesus were around today, he’d give the modern Pharisees a run for their money.

* * *

The Feminine/Androgynous Jesus
by Valerie A. Abrahamsen

Jesus was a man, right? In the New (Christian) Testament of the Bible he certainly was. However, in the first few centuries of the Common Era (CE), images of Jesus were not limited to male.

During this era, a great deal of Christian literature, generally called “apocryphal” or “extra-canonical,” circulated but did not make it into the New Testament (NT). Similarly, art depicting images of Jesus, his family, his disciples and their stories was also created, not all of the images taken from NT texts. In both the literature and art of the first Christian centuries, Jesus’ sexuality could be ambiguous, androgynous or even feminine.

What may be shocking, offensive or bewildering to us most likely resonated for the people of the time and had parallels in the culture. […]

What is more problematic for us moderns is the portrayal of Jesus as sexually ambiguous, with feminine traits. Examples of an ambiguous Jesus are found in both art and literature and, as Cartlidge and Elliott point out (page 66), some of this evidence leads to “intricate academic footwork” and “dodging and weaving” of interpretation; that is, scholars tend to dismiss the importance of images and texts of which they cannot make sense. […]

Cartlidge and Elliott point out that the debate about Jesus’ sexuality must have been raging from the earliest times of the development of the church, as attested in these literary and artistic pieces of evidence. If the feminine/androgynous Jesus and the tripartite Jesus are viewed from the point of view of ancient, even prehistoric, religion, it becomes more comprehensible as to why such depictions and images appeared and resonated with early Christians. The prehistoric nature goddess (whom we met earlier) was often accompanied by a young, vital male deity, especially in her aspect of the life-creating force; “male animals and humans stimulate and enhance life” (Gimbutas, Living Goddesses, 117). Taken alongside the power and influence of Mary – Mother of Jesus, Mother of God, Theotokos – the appearance of the young Jesus fits this ancient pattern. In the competitive Graeco-Roman and early Byzantine era, the pairing of the powerful Mary with the powerful, younger Jesus made sense.

Similarly, Jesus with feminine characteristics suggests that he took on attributes of powerful female deities in the Graeco-Roman and early Byzantine milieus. If Jesus had characteristics of these goddesses, devotees attracted to them might also be converted to the Christ cult.

Understanding Early Christian Art
by Robin Margaret Jensen
pp. 124-127

One of the most striking and, to modern eyes, curious aspects of the beardless, youthful image Jesus is Christ’s endowment with feminine physical characteristics, including small protruding breasts, sloping shoulders, wide hips, and long curling hair. Such representation obviously contrasts with the darker, bearded type of Jesus image, but it also often presents an image of Jesus that differs from congruent representations of the apostles, who usually are given quite masculine appearances, with clipped beards, short hair, broad shoulders, and square jaws. The contrast between Jesus and his apostles shows up very clearly on several fourth- and fifth-century sarcophagi (cf. Figures 42, 48). Such feminine features led to the original misidentification of a famous statue of Christ as a seated woman poet. […]

However, in contrast to mortal human males, long ringlets and beardless cheeks characterized the iconography of certain late antique gods — Apollo and Dionysus in particular. Moreover, Apollo and Dionysus iconographic types also share other feminine attributes seen in the youthful Jesus images, including the round shoulders, small but obvious breasts, wide hips, and full cheeks of the nearly hermaphroditic figures described by Euripides, Ovid, Diodorus, and Seneca, or portrayed in the classical iconography. Dionysus, especially, underwent transition from a mature, bearded, Zeus-like figure on archaic Greek vases to a late-classical and Hellenistic appearance as a youthful, androgynous and “Apollonian” image. However, while the changes in Dionysiac types have been noted by art historians, the variants in Jesus’ iconography (which parallel those of Dionysus) are rarely discussed in modern secondary literature.

The parallels between Jesus images and Apollo or Dionysus in earlier Roman iconography raise certain fascinating theological issues, including whether some art objects were specifically commissioned by or for women, who envisioned or experienced Jesus as female, and whether they emerged in non-orthodox Christian communities that varied their gendered images of the Triune God and transferred particular attributes from the pagan deities to Jesus, including Dionysus’ role as a god of fertility. Jesus’ application of the metaphor “true vine” to himself (John 15:1) may have strengthened the parallel. […]

A more likely possibility is that representations of Jesus were simply consistent with the portraiture of the savior deities of the Hellenistic mystery cults, especially Apollo, Dionysus, and Orpheus. The iconography of Jesus merely borrowed from the traditional and familiar portrayals of those gods, perhaps in part because of their similar divine attributes. Serapis, too, was known to be represented with female breasts (although not beardless) and statues of that god are known to have been restored as the goddess Roma or Minerva. These classical types had come to be visually synonymous with the concept of deity; certain physical characteristics automatically signified divinity to the ordinary viewer. The power of association encouraged those characteristics to be transferred to Jesus iconography, as they had become a kind of artistic marker — or shorthand — for the appearance of a certain kind of god. Jesus’ transformation of water to wine at Cana and his statement, “I am the true vine,” may account for the adoption of Dionysiac vintaging scenes for Christian monuments. Perfectly orthodox Christians could image Jesus with feminine physical attributes because those attributes visually signalled characteristics that were deeply rooted in the visual language of the surrounding culture. However, not only were these borrowings intended to suggest that Jesus possessed certain god-like qualities, but in fact subsumed all divine attributes in one person.

Jupiter’s portrayal and perception as majestic and powerful — both Lord and Judge — could be borrowed to transfer these same characteristics to Jesus in compositions like the enthroned apse of Sta. Pduenziana. Certain aspects of Orpheus’ or Dionysus’ portrayal as idealized, youthful “savior” gods were likewise applied to images of Jesus. The gods featured in the mystery cults of late antiquity were immanent and personal gods with whom devotees had intense encounters, not unlike Jesus. Moreover, they were gods of resurrection who survived descents into the underworld. Orpheus additionally was often depicted as a shepherd in a paradisical setting — a figure that parallels the Christian Good Shepherd. Clement of Alexandria had already pointed out certain parallels that formerly misguided pagans might find between the old gods and the divine Son in Christianity. No wonder, then, that aspects of traditional representations of these gods would be transferred to visual imagery of Christ, including the almost feminine beauty associated with such gods in particular.

The Roman god Bacchus as a Christian icon
by Riley Winters

Bacchus was the Greco-Roman god associated with mental and physical duality. His mythology began in Greece, under the name Dionysus, a foreign god joining an already existing civilization (Dionysus and Bacchus are comparable deities, but for the purpose of this article, “Bacchus” will be utilized to discuss the pagan god to avoid confusion).

In Euripides’ Bacchae, Bacchus came to Greece from a far off land and shook up the Thracian king with his new religious practices and effeminate ways. The Bacchanalia, a procession of satyrs and overly drunken women, led to the king’s disapproval of Bacchus’ religion, eventually resulting in the death of the Thracian king. Though this particular myth is vastly different from the stories of Jesus, there are similar visual themes the Christians expertly borrowed in their symbolic portrayal of Jesus to aid the Romans in accepting the new religion, allowing it to eventually become the primary faith of the empire.

On the surface, the similarities between Bacchus and Jesus are easily evident. Both gods are first depicted as youthful and feminine. Bacchus is intended to be androgynous, with long flowing hair and a soft face. Jesus, however, is in part portrayed young to reveal his innocence, highlighting his purity. […]

There is also an important similarity between these two figures in that their early imagery reveals that their faiths were initially targeted toward women in the beginning of their worships. Men were the religious leaders of both societies, and women were commonly ignored or pushed to the side. To gain a position within the Roman culture, both Bacchus and Jesus had to show a value for women, giving them a voice in the male-dominated world. The primary worshippers of Bacchus were the Maenads, women who reached a heightened level of ecstasy through excessive drinking. According to Greco-Roman thought, the drinking allowed the women (and the few men who participated) to achieve a spiritual release they were otherwise not allowed because of the norms of their society. Religious worship, however, temporarily exempted them from these rules.

Similarly, Jesus showed an interest in women by taking the time to heal those who otherwise were ignored and exiled. One of the images found in the catacombs relates to the Woman with the Issue of Blood who was cleansed by Jesus after reaching for his robe, her faith in his power alone healing her. According to the Biblical account, the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who herself travelled with the twelve apostles. Both Bacchus and Jesus emphasized the importance of women early in their mythologies by providing women with the attention they desired from their deities right away. By focusing on women, a large faction of supporters rose around both men quickly, the power of the forgotten ones. This was a very strong image in both Greco-Roman and early Christian culture, and both were commonly depicted with women in their art.

 

Feminine Images of Jesus: Later Medieval Christology and the Devaluation of the Feminine
by Jenny Bledsoe

During the later medieval period in Western Europe, feminine representations of Jesus abounded. Medieval Christians had begun to emphasize the humanity of Jesus in reaction to the religious foci of the era before their own (early medieval focus on the spirit and Jesus’ resurrection), and seemed to find that “feminine” characteristics were most expressive of the human nature of Jesus. […]

As a result of economic changes, the later medieval period refashioned Christology, as well as conceptions of self. Feminine images of Jesus express changing ideals of femininity and also the socially accepted roles of women in the Church and the public. This study explores later medieval representations—both textual and visual—of Jesus as mother in order to determine the implications of such representations for actual women. We will sample three medieval writers who wrote about feminine Jesuses, two writing in the heyday of incarnation theology and feminized Jesus imagery—the twelfth century monastics Bernard of Clairvaux and Hildegard of Bingen—and later, one fourteenth century theologian who inherited the legacy of her predecessors, Julian of Norwich. In her book on Hildegard’s theology of the feminine, Barbara Newman describes the shared focus and understanding of all medieval representations of a feminine Jesus: “The common denominator is a sense that the feminine is somehow problematic; being neglected, undervalued, or wrongly understood within a patriarchal culture, it needs to be perpetually redefined, revalued, and relocated in the general worldview.”1 Although all of the medieval writers subscribed to essentialist understandings of gender based in a patriarchal society, it is true that they all seemed to think that it was necessary to explore and define the feminine more fully and consider how the feminine fits within human understandings of God. […]

Feminist Theology

Some feminist theorists argue that descriptions of divine motherhood refer to long-suppressed ancient worship of female goddesses or androgynous gods. Elaine Pagels writes that the monotheistic religions are unusual in comparison to other world religions in that the former do not employ feminine imagery to describe God.2 By 200 CE, upon the establishment of the Christian canon, orthodox Christianity discouraged feminine symbolism for expressing the essence of the divine.3 While women played leading roles in Gnostic Christian groups, which sometimes described God in feminine language, the orthodox tradition banned female leadership and description of the divine as female. Pagels questions why the orthodox Christian tradition so ardently demanded that women and feminine conceptions of God be banned from Christian hegemony: “Is it possible, then, that the recognition of the feminine element in God and the recognition of mankind as a male and female entity bore within it the explosive possibility of women acting on an equal basis with men in positions of authority and leadership?”4 […]

Medieval Conceptions of Motherhood

At this point in Western culture, there was no conception of separate religious and secular realms. And so, religion defined all aspects of later medieval society, including the role of the mother. Spiritual writers define the medieval woman or mother as having three distinct characteristics: “The female is generative (the foetus is made of her very matter) and sacrificial in her generation (birth pangs); the female is loving and tender (a mother cannot help loving her own child); the female is nurturing (she feeds the child with her own bodily fluid).”15 In medieval representations of Jesus as mother, Jesus displays these feminine characteristics, all of which are based on medieval physiological theories

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The Hidden Lesson of The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale has returned with a second season. I finished the second new episode. It offers much food for thought. The story itself is wonderfully told, partly because it is based on a fine piece of literature, but credit is due to the screenwriters and main actresses.

Also, it is one of the most plausible and compelling dystopias of the near future. That can’t be doubted. Still, it could be doubted that it is the most probable dystopia, as there are so many other possible dystopias. Some would argue we are already living in a dystopia, the only issue being how bad can it get. That isn’t to say we should fool ourselves that recent events have been as important as they seem in how they loom in our immediate public imagination. The shit storm has been brewing for a long time.

As I watched the beginning of the second season, it occurred to me that The Handmaid’s Tale is the nightmare of a specific demographic. I think it’s an awesome show, but as a working  class white guy I’m not the target audience. It doesn’t speak to my personal fear-ridden fantasies about the world I see around me. Nor does it speak to white working class single mothers, poor rural Christians, homeless veterans with PTSD, recent immigrant families, Native Americans on reservations, young black men targeted by police, etc.

I’ve talked about the haunted moral imagination of the reactionary mind. Well, this show is the haunted moral imagination of the liberal class. To be more specific, I noticed that all the lead roles are professional white women or were before the theocrats took over. Both seasons focus on various professional white women who in the pre-catastrophe world were moving up in the world. The actresses by profession are of the liberal class with most of the main actresses being Millennials and so the show points to their experience.

An older gay guy tries to warn a younger lesbian to be careful at the college where they both work, but she dismisses him as trying to “hide the dykes” and she acts tough. Like most liberal class Americans, she has never lived in a world where there were severely dangerous consequences for people like her. The toughest battles were fought in the past and it was assumed that society was permanently changed and continuously improving, the liberal class’ version of Whig history.

What exists outside of the liberal class moral imagination is the fact that, for many Americans outside of the liberal class, this society has been horrific for a long time. The Handmaid’s Tale is a story about those suffering the consequences of their complicity in what has been done to others. Minority women and poor white women in the United States have been experiencing continuous oppression, including sterilizations in recent history. Middle-to-upper class white feminists maybe thought, at least prior to Donald Trump’s presidency, that the worst battles have already been fought and won with only some cleanup to eliminate the last of the misogynists in power, but as for other women the worst battles are yet to come and they’ve long known the risks of continuing to lose the fight.

The fear of American theocracy isn’t entirely unrealistic, obviously. Yet the origins of the fear come from within the dark heart of American liberalism itself. All those secular societies that the United States destroyed and replaced with theocracies along with other forms of authoritarianism, that was done with the full support of Democrats like Hillary Clinton who laughed at the suffering of Libyans (and ask Haitian-Americans in Florida why they didn’t vote for Clinton and helped swing the state and hence the entire election to Trump). A vote for the Democrats, no different than a vote for the Republicans, is to support the exploitation, oppression, dislocation, and killing of hundreds of millions of mostly poor brown people in dozens of countries around the world (the war on terror alone has involved the US military in more than 70 countries).

The Handmaid’s Tale is the shadow cast by American actions worldwide, actions supported by both parties for generations. The liberal class has been fine with promoting theocracy elsewhere, just as long as they don’t have to think about it or admit their own responsibility. What is portrayed in this show is not speculation. It is what we Americans have already done to untold numbers of women elsewhere. Within the haunted moral imagination of the liberal class, there is a seething guilty conscience that fears its own moral failure.

What The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t show is how a society becomes like that. It never happens with no presentiments and precursors. In a previous post (But Then It Was Too Late), I shared a passage from Milton Mayer’s They Thought They Were Free (ch. 13). Like one of the characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, Mayer’s was a good liberal college professor, someone who meant well but wasn’t a fighter and wasn’t prone to radicalism. He didn’t protest or revolt when he had a chance, waiting and waiting for the right moment to speak out until it was finally too late:

“Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late. […] It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

“But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.”

That describes America this past century. And economically well off white liberals have been part of the problem. When bad things happened to the poor, they weren’t poor. When bad things happened to rural and inner city residents, they weren’t rural or inner city residents. When bad things happened to minorities, they weren’t minorities. When bad things happened to immigrants, they weren’t immigrants. When bad things happened to foreigners, they weren’t foreigners. And so most liberals did nothing. The liberalism (and feminism) they fought for was one of privilege, but they didn’t realize that once all others had been targeted by oppression they would be next and then no one would be left to stand up for them.

The saddest part of an authoritarian takeover is how easy it is to see coming decades in advance. Radical left-wingers have been warning the liberal class for generations and they would not listen. The Handmaid’s Tale does make the liberal class sit up and pay attention. But do they learn the most important lesson from it? That lesson is hidden deep within the story and requires soul-searching to discern.

An Opportunity… Lost?

It’s hard to ignore the #MeToo movement right now. And that is a good thing. It is forcing much to the surface. This is a necessary, if difficult, process. But I fear that the recent trend of women coming forward will simultaneously go too far and not far enough.

For example, a recent allegation against Al Franken is that he had his arm around a woman during a photograph and squeezed her waist. Even assuming this allegation was honestly intended, such an action is not sexual misconduct. If the woman didn’t like being touched in that manner and thought it inappropriate, she simply should have stated so at the time. I realize it is difficult to speak out when a situation is uncomfortable, but making a public allegation of such minor behavior so long after the event in no way helps anyone involved. Besides, it is an insult to women (and men) who have actually experienced sexual harassment and assault.

That kind of thing will end up causing many to question the legitimacy of even the women who should be coming forward, which some fear is already leading to a backlash. And that would be an unfortunate and counterproductive result. What we need is a better process for dealing with these problems. Trial by media and judgment by public opinion is inherently anti-democratic. This atmosphere further promotes those like Trump, in pushing the reactionaries toward greater reaction. And partisanship makes the whole fiasco even more of a mess.

We live in a society where there is so much abuse, far beyond the recent cases: women molesting young boys, police harming minorities, the homeless being endlessly harassed, etc. People, not only men, in positions of authority misuse their power in victimizing others all the time. And most oppression is largely impersonal, as it is systemic and institutional. We need to be having a larger conversation. What has been happening lately is a good start. But I worry that this is where it will end. And as a society, after scapegoating a few people, we’ll likely go back to pretending that our society isn’t completely fucked up in a thousand ways.

When is there going to be a #MeToo movement for every time a poor person is unfairly evicted from their home, every time a family falls into debt because of medical costs, every time someone turns to prostitution or selling drugs in order to pay the bills, every time another person is sent to prison for a victimless crime, every time a poor black child is damaged by lead toxicity, every time an innocent is killed in America’s endless wars of aggression, and on and on? And When will the corporate media and identity politics activists equally obsess over the abuse, oppression, and prejudice millions of Americans (mostly poor or minority, many of them men) experience everyday?

I want a just and fair society. But we refuse to look at all of this vast abuse and put it in context. It’s not limited to individuals or even limited to specific kinds of abuse. It all connects together, as a victim of one kind of abuse might grow up to become a victimizer of another kind of abuse, and few people want to talk about this culture and cycle of victimization where the status of victim and victmizer blurs over time. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d have to question our complicity in not protesting or revolting against such overwhelming moral depravity that we have come to accept as normal or simply, out of discomfort and apathy, that we silently pretend isn’t happening.

I’m not feeling hopeful. Much of what is going on with sexual allegations is a useful and necessary first step. But it is a tiny step compared to how far we need to go. What needs to be challenged is the authoritarianism inherent to a hierarchical society built on high inequality — such as a powerful white woman like Hillary Clinton laughing about a situation, the death of Gaddafi (because Western imperialists didn’t want a Pan-African currency), that led to mass violence of untold number of poor brown people; and don’t forget that the pseudo-feminist Hillary Clinton attacked women who came forward with sexual allegations against her husband.

Even limiting ourselves to the patriarchy, consider the following. Some feminists want to emphasize the stereotypical narrative of older male victimizers and younger female victims. And some feminists want to claim that, even when boys and men are victimized, it isn’t systemic as it is with girls and women. But these ways of looking at abuse is part of the patriarchal worldview. The only way to challenge patriarchy is to move the frame of discussion toward intersectional politics, where it is understood that abusive women too can hold power over others and where most men are at risk of being victims of a systemically oppressive and abusive society.

When is that discussion going to happen? Besides the men’s rights activists, you can get some radical leftists to take it seriously. But there isn’t much discussion across the corporate media, in establishment politics, and among liberal class activists. This moment is an opportunity that could quickly become a lost opportunity. It’s far from clear that civil rights for women and all Americans will be advanced, rather than undermined and misdirected. Already it is becoming yet another political game and media spectacle, exactly what the establishment loves to promote in maintaining the status quo.

Unsurprisingly, as women have increased in number moving up the corporate ladder, the rate of workplace harassment of men by women has also increased. Are we hoping to lessen abusive behavior toward women or simply make abusive behavior more gender equal? Are we hoping to end the patriarchy or to help more women join the patriarchy?

Why can’t we get to the point of acknowledging that we live in a severely oppressive society that victimizes large numbers across numerous demographics? Why not focus on and publicly discuss the systemic, institutional, and pervasive reality of population-wide victimization and how it cyclically persists, sadly with many victims becoming a new generation of victimizers? What are we afraid of? And why would we rather allow this horrific moral failure to continue than accept our shared responsibility in dealing with it? If not now, when? Why do we continually delay justice? Why is it never the right time to seek reform and defend the rights of all victims?

Compassion isn’t a limited commodity and justice isn’t a zero sum game. I have a suggestion. Instead of being manipulated by divide and conquer, instead of seeking the benefit of one’s group alone, let’s seek solidarity against a system of victimization that makes it possible for victimizers to take advantage of others. Let’s all agree that so many of us have been harmed by this dysfunctional social order. Let’s work together to create a better society for everyone. Let’s give voice to a shared intention to include, support, and promote each other through a vision of common good. And let’s strive for a functioning social democracy built on the upholding and defense of constitutional civil rights and universal human rights.

That almost sounds inspiring and unifying. Now that is something to which we can all add an emphatic #MeToo!

* * *

How Politics Might Sour the #MeToo Movement
by R. Marie Griffith

Why the #MeToo Movement Should Be Ready for a Backlash
by Emily Yoffe

Could cascade of allegations send #MeToo movement off the rails?
by Pam Louwagie

Is #MeToo Only For Women? Should It Be?
by Abby Franquemont

What Happens When Men Say #MeToo, Too?
by Colin Beavan

To Stop the Abuse of Women, We Also Have to Stop the Abuse of Men
by Mike Kasdan and Lisa Hickey

When #MeToo Means #WeBlameYou
by T. S. Barracks

Yes, Men Can Be Sexually Harassed In The Workplace
by PLBSMH

More Men Report Sexual Harassment at Work
by Robert DiGiacomo

More men file workplace sexual harassment claims
by The Washington Times

Women Harassing Men
by Gretchen Voss

Sexual harassment of men more common than you think
by Emanuel Shirazi

Sexual harassment at work not just men against women
by Science Daily

Workplace sexual harassment at the margins
by Paula McDonald and Sara Charlesworth

When Men Face Sexual Harassment
by Romeo Vitelli

I Was Sexually Harassed By My (Female) Boss
by Eugene S. Robinson

Men who were sexually assaulted by women share their stories – and how their friends reacted
by Nicola Oakley

‘It’s hard for a guy to say, “I need help.”‘ How shelters reach out to male victims of domestic violence
by Jenny Jarvie

‘There is nowhere for us to go’: Domestic violence happens to men too
by Ginger Gorman

The Number of Male Domestic Abuse Victims Is Shockingly High — So Why Don’t We Hear About Them?
by Jenna Birch

Laughing at the Sexual Abuse of Boys?
by Amy Simpson

Why female violence against men is society’s last great taboo
by Martin Daubney

The Understudied Female Sexual Predator
by Conor Friedersdorf

10 Ways Female Sexual Predators Assault Men And Boys
by Jim Goad

Sexual Victimization by Women Is More Common Than Previously Known
by Lara Stemple and Ilan H. Meyer

Sexual victimization perpetrated by women: Federal data reveal surprising prevalence
by Lara Stemple, Andrew Flores, and Ilan HMeyer

Sexual Abuse of Men by Women is Underreported
by Christen Hovet

Cases of sexual abuse of boys by women raise awareness of an uncommon crime
by Keith L. Alexander

Sexual Abuse of Boys
by Jim Hopper

When Men Are Raped
by Hanna Rosin

The Hidden Epidemic of Men Who Are Raped by Women
by Steven Blum

Myths and Facts
Adapted and expanded from an online piece by Ken Singer

500% Increase in Female Abuse of Men
by BLM

Latest Data From The ABS And AIC
by One in Three

Men Can Be Abused, Too
by domesticshelters.org

Embarrassment barrier for abused men
by Melissa Wishart

Why are so many MEN becoming victims of domestic violence?
by Antonia Hoyle

Woman As Aggressor: The Unspoken Truth Of Domestic Violence
by Edward Rhymes

Domestic Violence Against Men: Women More Likely To Be ‘Intimate Terrorists’ With Controlling Behavior In Relationships
by Lizette Borreli

The Truth About Domestic Violence Against Men
by Abby Jackson

What Domestic Violence Against Men Looks Like
by C. Brian Smith

Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too
by The National Domestic Violence Hotline

CDC Study: More Men than Women Victims of Partner Abuse
by Bert H. Hoff, J.D

More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals
by Denis Campbell

‘Men tolerate abuse’: Over 5,000 reports of domestic abuse against men made in 2016
by Hayley Halpin

Domestic violence against men soars to record levels as number of cases treble in past decade
by David Wooding

Domestic violence against men – Prevalence
by Wikipedia

Not All Men, And Not All Women, But Some

Now that the title has caught your attention, let me set up the context for the central point I want to make. After that, I’ll make clear what I mean and fully articulate my argument. This post has been in the writing process for several years. Simmering on the back burner, I finally decided it was ready to be served. The main motivation for completing this project had to do with data I found all those years ago, data that I rarely if ever see mentioned. So, if you are interested to know what largely inspired this post, go to the very end where you will find that data. But if you are hankering for a lengthy detailed analysis, I promise not to disappoint.

Before I begin, let me put the context into context. The following discussion of gender issues is part of a decades-long project to put all issues into an ever larger context, to put humanity in the context of the collective and intersectional, to put society in the context of the systemic and institutional, and much else along those lines — involving social justice and civil rights, social sciences and culture, socioeconomic inequality and environmentalism. Et cetera. It is only in taking the broad view that we can hope to glimpse the big picture. As always, my guiding principle is to push further beyond.

* * *

What civilization has done to women’s bodies is no different than what
it’s done to the earth, to children, to the sick, to the proletariat;
in short, to everything that isn’t supposed to “talk.”
— Tiqqun, “Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl” 

There have been more sex scandals in the news lately than at any other point in recent history, maybe in living memory. Many powerful men have had their careers ended and their personal lives destroyed. There is no doubt that many and probably most of them deserve it, especially the sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein. But I do feel wary about all of the cases and potential future cases being jumbled together as if they are equal, similar to my concern about someone criminally charged for public urination (or even an 18 year old high schooler who had sex with his/her 17 year old girlfriend/boyfriend) being put on the sex offender list along with serial rapists and child molesters.

Witch hunts quickly form when public shaming determines a guilty judgment before any legal trial and democratic process is allowed to begin. There is a long history of innocent people getting caught up in false accusations, not to say that is what is going on now. It’s just that there is blood in the water and a feeding frenzy of righteous outrage has begun. Of course, there is plenty of reason for righteous outrage. I might argue that, in some ways, it doesn’t go far enough. Our society needs a moral reckoning of the highest order. We are long past the point where we either need a truth commission or a revolution, for all the moral rot at the heart of America.

What also is concerning is the hypocrisy of moral condemnation in our society. There are forms of power and oppression all around us that do far more harm than even sexual predators, but these other acts of wrongdoing and injustice are more socially acceptable and with many legal loopholes that protect the victimizers. Take for example the illegal and unconstitutional wars of aggression that kill millions of innocents, mostly poor brown people. Or as another example, consider the profit made by corporations that pollute the water and air, leading to high toxicity rates primarily harming poor brown people in the US and abroad. The harm caused by these is surely far greater than all of the sexual abuse combined. Why is righteous outrage and public shaming so selective? It ends up feeling more like scapegoating that evades our collective guilt about the even vaster moral failure and social injustice in our society.

Also, I can’t help but notice that corporate media in promoting this situation prefers to focus on both victims and victimizers who just so happen to be wealthier and whiter than most Americans. It becomes yet another soap opera to distract from darker truths and harsher realities. Do they think by sacrificing a few rich white guys that populist anger will be appeased? Is this an attempt to prevent the coming political storm by diverting it? Or is it simply, in our collective frustration about our collective failure, we are seeking an outlet for the pressure building up that otherwise would erupt in mass protests, maybe even riots and revolts? We should be mad. If anything, we aren’t yet mad enough. The worst guilty parties among the ruling elite remain mostly unchallenged and unscathed.

No matter how bad the sexual abuse is among wealthy whites, the oppression among the poor and minorities is far worse. There is no comparison. This greater oppression doesn’t spare poor men and minority men for reasons of male privilege. And let us not forget that most men are poor and/or minority, not powerful plutocrats wielding their patriarchical authority. When we speak of violence and abuse by men, there is a long history of racism behind it. Black boys are more likely to be perceived, treated, and prosecuted as adults while black males in general are more likely to be perceived as scarier, more dangerous, and less innocent. That is on top of the fact that blacks, mostly black males, are more likely than whites to be stopped and frisked, arrested and prosecuted, punished and imprisoned in relation to crimes that whites commit at higher rates. Plus, men are more likely get prison time than women for the same crimes. The issue of ‘Not All Men’ can mean life or death for poor minorities facing a system and social order of racial violence that has benefited not just white men but also white women, especially the wealthier.

I take victimization as a serious issue, far more than do most people. But it must be understood as a system and cycle of victimization, as I’ve pointed out before (A Fucked Up World). The victims and victimizers are disproportionately determined by privileges as much if not more related to race and class than to gender. Certainly, the compounded impact of intersectionality involving race and class is a one-two punch that destroys more lives than most privileged white feminists would care to think about.

* * *

Some women like to criticize men as violent and blame all of violent society on men, but the overwhelming data doesn’t make women look all that better than men. Depending on the specific data in terms of which forms of harm and which demographics, female perpetrators often are a higher percentage than male perpetrators. A lot of child abuse also comes from women, much of it sexual abuse and sometimes leading to death, although most of it is neglect. Women could make excuses for this fact such as “not all women.” Though true women disproportionately spend more time with children, it still doesn’t explain why so many women choose to abuse and harm children when given the opportunity.

Also, it doesn’t explain why we have heard so little about wide-scale maltreatment, including sexual abuse, of boys by women. It took generations for larger number of male perpetrators to be brought to justice, beginning with Catholic priests and now focused on celebrities and politicians. How long will we have to wait for more female perpetrators to be forced to face justice? What will it take for boys and men to be supported enough to not fear coming forward? With recent cases, we might be barely seeing the tip of an iceberg. One would like to believe that, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But does it?

Consider the consequences and what they mean. Does child abuse by women lead to a more violent society? Hell yes. And does victimization lead to ever more victimization, in an endless cycle of vast suffering? No doubt about it. So, does scapegoating a particular demographic help in dealing with the problem? Not in the slightest. Such scapegoating is as much a part of the problem, in that it helps evade the real issues of how bad it all is, how systemic and pervasive. Instead of child maltreatment dividing the genders, it unites us all in a common problem with large numbers of perpetrators found in all demographics. The saddest part is how many victims grow up to become victimizers. This isn’t about blaming victims or excusing vicitmizers. But it is depressing truth, as studies show, that many victims grow up to be victimizers. And, specifically, I suspect that many (how many?) male victimizers of female victims were earlier in life child victims of female victimizers. This is suggesting that we live in a far more fucked up world than most people want to admit. Our collective problems are collective sins. It is never just about those other people.

Claims of male privilege has a major kernel of truth and yet, as a generalization, it is easily taken too far. What about poor men? And what about minority men? Poor and minority men (the two demographics combined being the vast majority of men) are disproportionately in military and on the front-lines and so disproportionately injured and killed in war. And black males are disproportionately stopped and frisked, harassed and killed, prosecuted and imprisoned compared to whites, even for crimes that whites commit more often (e.g. whites are more likely than blacks to carry, use, and sell illegal drugs, while blacks are more likely to be arrested, prosecuted harshly, and imprisoned longer for illegal drug crimes).

Consider an African-American woman who is a daughter, wife, and mother to black men. If she were to say not all black men are bad and don’t deserve what they get in our society, why should she listen to or care about what privileged white feminists have to say in broad brushing men? Why should she care more about anything that detached white activists say than she cares about the problems of racism and poverty that do more harm to her and her family on a daily basis than maybe all the gender bias combined? The idea of “not all men” might have a different meaning as she worries about her son heading off to school, in a world that is harshly unfair and violently unforgiving. Implied in the white feminists’ outrage is an unstated belief about “not all whites,” as if the sins of racism can be separated from gendered oppression.

There are a number of great books on racism. One of my favorites so far is Racial Paranoia by John L. Jackson. The author points out how the rhetoric of colorblindness and political correctness has made open debate very difficult and fraught. It is an improvement over slavery and Jim Crow, but in the place of overt racism there is now a paralyzing racial paranoia. This is harmful for all involved. Similarly, one could teach right-wingers and reactionaries how to speak in politically correct ways such as not saying “not all men,” but that would simply hide the problem and allow it to proliferate. Reactionaries, in particular, are more talented in using political correctness than liberals will ever be. There are few more powerful tools of manipulative rhetoric than politically correct language, behind which dark motives and cynical views can be hidden. The more politically correct someone is, the less you should automatically trust them.

I’ve read more books on racism than on feminism. But there is much crossover between the two. I was reading a recent book by Angela Davis who is a famous black feminist. Even my conservative dad knew who she was from her activism of past decades. I like her perspective of intersectionalism, where multiple oppressive forces meet. In her case, that involved being both a woman and being black. Intersectional feminism arose in response to and criticism of mainstream feminism. These other feminists saw that racial and class privilege dominated even within feminism.

These are difficult issues to understand, to communicate, and to discuss. Emotions tend to run high and there are always good reasons for people to feel angry and frustrated. I was wondering also if there isn’t a challenge of gender paranoia similar to the racial paranoia. We obsess so much about speaking politically correct that we don’t easily trust that people actually mean what they say. We need more consideration for not just demanding that others say the right things but also, for all involved, to communicate well and honestly. Communication is a two-way street that demands mutual respect and understanding, and a whole lot of intellectual humility and personal humility.

Several people I know have, in the past, posted about the “not all men” meme. I’ve found myself resistant to writing about it, even though it is important, for the meme itself doesn’t particularly interest me. The entire debate on both sides has been a distraction from the real issues. Over these past several years, I’ve given this topic way more thought and consideration than I planned. Maybe it is worth the trouble or maybe not. People get upset, angry, and exasperated for good reason. But this leads people often getting the better of themselves and so pushing for attitudes that are ultimately counterproductive.

I don’t identify as feminist and I’m certainly not an anti-feminist. If I were to pick a label, I’d go with humanist or maybe something even broader than that. I’ve never overtly thought of myself as a women’s rights advocate, not that I’m against women’s rights, and I would find no inspiration in being a men’s rights advocate. First and foremost, I’m simply a human rights advocate, no matter the gender, race, or any other identity of the humans in question. I try to not favor one demographic of identity politics over any other, although I can’t help myself in being particularly saddened by the most desperate of poverty. My capacity for sympathy is fairly large and inclusive — there is plenty of compassionate concern to go around. As far as that goes, I’m also an animal rights advocate, ecosystem rights activist, and biosphere rights advocate. I’m generally in favor of all varieties and arrangements of life forms. If you are some combination of animate, aware, and responsive, if you are capable of growing and reproducing, then consider me a strong ally. I’m more pro-life than most self-described pro-lifers.

I hold this position because human reality is complex, reality in general actually. Our lives involve overlapping identities and influences. This is what is referred to as intersectionality — what might get talked about as systems theory, complexity theory, etc when focusing on anything besides individual humans. The study of intersectionality originates from feminism, but the theory more broadly applies to any “intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.” Outside of feminism, some might refer to this as an “extended self” or something along those lines, in that self-identity and subjective experience don’t easily fit into the classical liberal’s hyper-individualism (upon which is built the social Darwinian pseudo-meritocracy of capitalist realism). The basic idea is an old understanding, and I’m fairly sure I’ve come across versions of it going at least back to the Enlightenment thinkers (it definitely was understood by some like Thomas Paine during the American Revolution, a conflict that was as much about economics and class as politics and governance, as much about social identity as civil rights). The basic motivation behind this broader understanding of humanity and society is that people who begin by fighting one type of problem end up fighting against a whole web of problems. There are few if any isolated problems in the world.

Take the Elliot Rodger’s incident. It involved the intersectionality of ethno-racism, self-hatred, mental health, misogyny, and gun violence. Probably other issues could be added as well. The broader context could also be thrown in. When a disadvantaged minority male in an underdeveloped country does the exact same thing, it doesn’t attract the attention of most Westerners, particularly not most comfortable Western feminists who are well-educated, middle class, and white. The division of privilege and power between countries is greater than the division of privilege and power within most countries. Saying that someone is a woman or a feminist doesn’t say much about that person or their experience. Likewise saying someone is a man doesn’t say much either.

Intersectionalism is explained well at the Thinking Girl blog:

“It turns out that not all women have the same experience, thus making it impossible to universalize the experiences of women under one group title “woman”. […] Crenshaw also uses an analogy she calls the “Basement Analogy”. Imagine a room in which the most well-off members of society reside. Below is is a basement, filled with all the people whose identity prevents them from being able to access the room. There is a trap-door in the floor of the room, and the people in the basement are scrambling for access. Those on top, or most likely to be granted access to the room, are those who only have one factor of their identity working against them: white women, disabled white men, non-white men, white non-christian men, white poor men, and so on. These people are standing on the shoulders of those who have two factors against them: black women, gay non-white men, poor white women, disabled women, etc. And so on, and so on. These analogies, while perhaps not perfect, provide a great visual, yes? […] Because we are not just one thing, but a compilation of many facets that make up a whole person, it is next to impossible to talk about women as if we are a homogenous group.”

Take that explanation of society and magnify it by the demographic and geographic differences, the economic and political inequalities of the entire global society. This larger view can be overwhelming and so the typical activist more often than not focuses narrowly on their own local area, their society or their country or just their community. This is also why so many activists focus on single issues and ignore the complications of an intersectional understanding. But for obvious reasons this omission of a greater context can be problematic.

What forms the lived experience of oppression and victimization isn’t a single issue. It isn’t just about being a woman, being homosexual, being handicapped, being a minority, being poor, or being in a post-colonial underdeveloped country. Where it gets really bad is when a number of these intersect in the lives of individuals, and so act as compounding factors. This is why the average well-educated middle class white American feminist is better off (less oppressed and victimized) than most people in the world, including most men in the world. But you might assert that not all self-identified feminists are well-educated white women in wealthy countries. True, but quite probably most are.

I would argue that the real derailing of much-needed discussion is this lack of awareness and appreciation for intersectionality. The enemies of human rights are strengthened when activists separate their identity politics and special interests from that of everyone else. There are no successful movements without allies. There are no allies without alliances. And there are no alliances without mutual respect and understanding. Some feminists are demanding that others listen to them, but there is no genuine listening that only goes one way. Everyone wants to be listened to. Minorities want to be listened to. Poor people want to be listened to. The mentally ill want to be listened to. Victims of war want to be listened to. Numerous other groups could be named that all want to be listened to. But that doesn’t give the right of any of these people to tell everyone else to shut up and only listen to them.

It’s because such issues as feminism are so important that those who self-identify as feminist shouldn’t sell themselves short. They should radically push feminism to its limits, broaden it to touch upon all aspects of human experience and all of the issues of human rights infringement. They should seek mutually beneficial alliances with other activists from across the board. The criticisms I’m making here of mainstream feminism are the same criticisms that radical feminists themselves have made. Intersectionality studies comes specifically out of the black feminist movement. The criticisms came from black women who saw white privilege and other privileges as remaining dominant within the leadership of the feminist movement.

As Sara Salem explains in Decolonial Intersectionality and a Transnational Feminist Movement:

“One example of such an approach would be to conceptualize feminism as a project that views patriarchy as a system oppressing both women and men. Rather than view gender justice as an individualistic goal to be attained by every woman — a view that sometimes views men as ‘the enemy’ — alternative visions in which patriarchy is conceptualized as a system that oppresses everyone can be more useful. This is not to say that men do not benefit from patriarchy — all men do. Rather it is to complicate ideas of masculinity by showing that not all men benefit equally. Work on masculinities has shown that men who fit the ideal type are in a power relation not only with women but also with men who are outside of what is considered ‘masculine.’ Pushing this conceptualization further, it is also more applicable to societies in which individualism is not the norm. For many women in postcolonial societies, the aim is not to challenge men, but rather to challenge the system and structures that allow men to become dominant. This will lead to justice not only for women but for men as well. This is why many postcolonial feminists focus on class so extensively, because they see the ways in which other structures — such as class — intersect with patriarchy in ways that oppress everybody. Thus ‘reforming’ men or even ‘reforming’ gender relations will never be enough: entire structures that intersect and depend upon one another need to be dismantled. There can be no feminism without anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and so on, because patriarchy does not exist in isolation from imperialism, capitalism and other structures.”

* * *

For years, I’ve heard the statistics on male violence. I don’t doubt that we live in a violent society and that men participate in it to a greater degree. This is true on the victimizing end and, in many cases, on the victimized end.

More men than women commit rape, more men than women get in fights, more men than women shoot others, more men than women belong to gangs, etc. At the same time, more men than women are injured in industrial accidents, more men than women are sent off to die in wars, more men than women are harmed in the line of police duty, more men than women are burned horribly as firemen, etc. Men are generally more likely to kill and be killed, more likely to harm and be harmed, both when involved in morally reprehensible acts and when involve in morally honorable acts. I’m not arguing that each harmful act by a man is balanced by a beneficial act by a man. That would be too simplistic of an analysis. This data just is what it is, whatever is one’s final judgment.

My interest in violence has been less about gender, though. What original motivated my research was discussions of race and racism, largely because of having spent so many years living in and observing the racial order of the Deep South. The debate on violence almost always is degraded to arguments over which race, ethnicity, regional population, or other demographic commits the most violent crime. The answer one comes to depends on how one slices up the data. And too often one slices up the data in the way that gives one the answer one wants to find.

Minorities, in terms of mainstream identity politics and ignoring radical intersectional feminism, tend to get portrayed as a more complex demographic than that of women and with a more complicated history. Minorities have historically been exploited, oppressed, and victimized in almost endless ways. They experience high rates of poverty and prejudice which inevitably correlates to all kinds of social problems, violence and sexual abuse included, and health problems as well such as environmental racism (e.g., toxic dumps disproportionately located in poor minority communities). However, there obviously is much crossover between the two demographics. Both minorities and women are marginalized. And minority women are marginalized the most. The more marginalized a demographic the more closely the issue of violence crops up. Minority women are more likely to be victims of violence, but going by a brief perusal of the data they are with some categories of violence sometimes more likely also to be the perpetrators. This all goes along with poor people having more untreated addictions and mental health issues because of less access to healthcare and addiction programs, and a million other factors involving stress and trauma. Life can massively suck if you are poor and, if you are a poor minority women, it can be worse than anything most others could ever imagine.

I remember growing up in South Carolina during the 1980s and 1990s. It was far from uncommon to see black parents, typically mothers and of the lower class, hit their kids and yell at them. That is just anecdotal evidence, but some data shows there is higher rates of such things as child abuse among that demographic, as among any other demographic of greater poverty. It can’t be doubted that poverty, especially in a high inequality and racist society, is a harsh and unhappy condition. It’s hard to know what to think about abuse in that kind of situation. A hard life tends to make people hard, sad as that may sound. Also, there is fear among poor minority parents that if they don’t forcefully get their children in line, the consequences could be much worse when their kids aren’t given the benefit of the doubt by dangerous authority figures such as cops. It isn’t an excuse for child abuse, but it is what it is.

One of the issues I’ve been returning to over the years is gender and violence. What is the actual data on the gender gap of violence? Besides commonly repeated statistics, I really didn’t know what to expect when I first began researching it. But it immediately became apparent that the issue would be a challenge to make sense of. For some reason, extensively detailed data hasn’t been kept about gender and violence, especially not about women as perpetrators. It has been assumed men commit most of the violence, and so apparently most of the data-gathering and studies have focused on male victimizers and female victims. Male victims have been wary about coming forward and often dismissed when they do come forward. And female victimizers (along with female criminals in general) are prosecuted less often and less harshly than men, since they are often perceived as mentally ill (or whatever) rather than personally responsible and legally culpable. We don’t have a good way to make clear comparisons, but there is beginning to be better data that is showing up.

Men are the main culprits in most categories of violence, in how the criminal system operates and the data is kept. But even ignoring the complications of limited reporting and prosecution, women still don’t have a lot to be proud of — particularly when it comes to the surprising rates of women committing child abuse, child neglect, and child homicide. Partly, if one wishes to make excuses for bad behavior, this can be explained by the fact that women spend more time alone with children and so simply have more opportunity. As always, there is more violence committed by all involved than should exist. I wonder what would be the feminist critique of the high rates of women abusing children, especially boys. I’m not a feminist. I don’t tend to put victimization and suffering into the categories of identity politics. But for the most vocal feminists I come across online, identity politics are recruited to explain so much.

Feminists refer to abuse data all the time, and for good reason. Violence tends to be directed toward the disadvantaged, which in many cases in our society means women. Still, if you are a poor under-educated minority boy, you might not feel much male privilege compared to the middle class college-educated white feminist. In identity politics, it easily becomes a contest about whose victimization is bigger and whose suffering is more worthy, a pointless game to play but such is human nature. For my purposes, I was initially and have been primarily interested in what the data might show, without any clear expectations or preconceptions. Yes, I was already aware that women in general experience much rape, spousal abuse, and other similar atrocities — not something I was ever questioning or doubting. That data taken alone can’t be debated for it points to an unhappy truth, which explains the defensiveness of the “Not All Men” meme.

But as far as that goes, neither are all women the same, for the experience of a wealthier white woman is not the same as that of a poor minority woman. So, what about situations where women are at more or less of a disadvantage? Is violence specifically and necessarily about masculinity, either as biology or patriarchy? Or is violence simply about the power and opportunity to do so? And why are wealthier white women given a greater voice about victimization even though it is poor minority women who are more likely to be abused, raped, etc? Heck, even poor black males are more likely to experience oppression and maltreatment than wealthier white women. If the police show up to a scene involving a middle-to-upper class white woman and a lower class black male, which one is more likely to be harassed, arrested, or shot (no matter which party is guilty)?

* * *

There are those trying to command and shame others to listen. Too many people wanting to be heard and too few willing to listen. One might suggest that the best way to get people to listen is by modeling the behavior in listening to others, an admittedly difficult task when so many people feel silenced and are struggling to be heard.

Feminism isn’t or shouldn’t be limited to women and their victimization, as strange as that might initially sound. Patriarchy, paternalism, male violence, etc effects men as much as women. Actually, men probably experience violence of the patriarchy more than women. War zones, prisons, and homeless camps are filled with the male victims of a cruelly unjust society that has been supported and promoted by privileged women as much as privileged men.

It’s about our inability to think or discuss anything with complexity. As with racism, there is always more going on. A major factor with racism is skin tone bias, even blacks being racist against darker-skinned blacks (i.e., blacks who are stereotypically blacker) along with whites being racist against darker-skinned whites such as the historical prejudice against swarthy Americans of southern European ethnicity, such that racism is so pervasive that it crosses the color line. Blacks, as research shows, internalize racism. And likewise, women internalize patriarchy. What about boys who are abused and told to toughen up by mothers, female teachers, and other female authority figures in a patriarchy in order to raise these boys with patriarchal values? What about boys who are shamed by sisters, girlfriends, and wives to go off to war and do other horrific acts? Then who is the oppressor and who the oppressed? When women often have the most direct and everyday influence in instilling values in young children, why is it that patriarchy continues to be learned by each new generation long before kids enter the larger world ruled by men? When each generation is victimized and enculturated into the victimization cycle, there are too few innocent people left untraumatized and without dysfunction. Innocence is hard to find and complicity is near unavoidable. No matter how much we struggle against it, we all get caught up the social order we are born into.

Complaining about people who say not all men are rapists, abusers, misognynists, etc is pointless and counterproductive. Most importantly, stating “not all men” is simply pointing out a fact. It is true that not all men or even most men are those things, even though at the same time more men are those things than is good for society. No one should ever complain, though, about someone pointing out an obvious truth. I’d add that not all women (fill in the blank) either, but some are. As with men, women are part of this same patriarchal society. It’s like complaining about a white person who says that not all white people are racists, bigots, white supremacists, and Klansmen. It is true, even as we all carry unconscious prejudices. I’m willing to bet that research would also show that most women, in our society, harbor gender bias against women. Not all men are male chauvinists, just as not all women are angry feminists and not all feminists are privileged activists. Nor are all feminists misandrists and dogmatic ideologues. Not all feminists seek to shut down open dialogue through thought police dismissals of men who dare to point out the obvious fact about “not all men”. And as not all women are feminists of whatever variety, not all feminists are women.

If you dismiss others, that will predispose people to dismiss you. If you listen to others, that will predispose people to listen to you. It is basic psychology. It is also a corollary to the Golden Rule. You do unto others as you’d like them to do unto you because it is a worthy moral guide to action, but also because it is pragmatic way to get beneficial results. I despise anything that closes down fair debate and open dialogue. It’s one thing to call someone names, but it’s another thing to tell someone what they can and cannot say. If you call me a name, I can argue about whether the label is accurate and we can discuss that. But if you simply refuse to acknowledge my position at all and dismiss me based on assumptions you make about me, that is problematic for all involved… and it is extremely irritating. It doesn’t encourage me to respond with sympathy, when I receive none. Why should I submit myself to your cause? Sure, in your own private space and in your own private meetings, you can argue about having a safe space where you choose who is invited in and who is allowed to say what. But don’t pull that bullshit in open discussions on the internet or in public forums.

It derails conversations by alleging others are derailing conversations. Oddly and sadly, some assume conversations can only be one way and controlled by one person or one group. Others go with the more traditional notion that conversations happen as a dialogue between and inclusive of two or more parties. Telling people to “shut up” about anything isn’t an invitation to dialogue or even a request for them to listen. It is blatant dismissal, a rude condescension, treating the other the way a short-tempered parent would a child. It isn’t seeking mutual respect and understanding, that is for sure. It is a command to be submissive and do as told.

This makes people feel unwelcome and uninterested in participating. This is the perfect recipe for making feminism irrelevant to most of the population. The average American isn’t interested in being shamed and bullied, no matter the claims of good intentions, higher purpose, and greater cause. It’s not that such things as public shaming aren’t sometimes necessary tools, but we must keep in mind that they are powerful and easily abused. Authoritarians will always be better at using shame than liberals. Consider how public shame, often with a focus on sexual issues, was used to attack the political left during the Cold War. And consider how false sexual accusations have destroyed numerous lives, such as the daycare fiasco that led to a number of innocent people being sent to prison for several years. Guilty until proven innocent is no way to promote morality and justice, much less democracy and freedom from oppression.

None of this is to claim that there aren’t men who are dangerous. My basic point is that we need to take these problems even more seriously by looking at them more carefully and fully, without fearing what we might see when looking in the mirror of our society. Too many women, like too many men, seem reluctant to honestly confront these problems. Those trying to over-generalize and blame a single demographic are part of the problem, not part of the solution. By default, they are codependently rationalizing away the wrongdoing of those they identify with and making excuses for the systemic moral failure of our society. This is a collective problem, far beyond being limited to one population or sector. That is probably what scares people so much. Scapegoating is easier than taking social responsibility that would require that we acknowledge that, as members of this society, we are all complicit.

We need to be as concerned with the rights and well being of others as we are for our own rights and well being. Mutual concern and compassion leads to mutual respect and understanding, mutual trust and cooperation, mutual support and alliance. There is strength in numbers, when seeking larger changes. Why do some self-righteous activists want to divide their own supporters and potential supporters? Isn’t divide and conquer usually a technique used by one’s enemies, rather than promoted from within a movement itself? Let us place justice for all above identity politics for some. If that means we have to go through a difficult phase of social conflict, public shaming, moral outrage, etc, then so be it. But instead of stopping short, we would make sure to push it as far as it can go, until full justice is attained. None of us will remain untouched by the changes that will follow.

* * *

The following are some of the sources for my thinking. I’ll begin with some of what I consider to be obvious observations about the “Not All Men” meme. Below that, there is much fascinating data about race and gender in terms of social forces and the legal system, victims and victimizers, etc. Much of the info is about what data we so far have about female perpetrators of child maltreatment.

Comment by rj paré

I would say that any complaint generalizing all of a given gender, or a particular ethnicity, faith or orientation is flawed to begin with. I don’t think anyone who points that out is ever saying that the particular complaint never happens – just that it is always wrong to paint with broad strokes.

Not All Feminists

There you are, explaining how we could simplify airport screening procedures by using racial profiling, and suddenly-

Not all Arabs!

Or you and your friends are just making some really good progress on figuring out the racial origins of our society’s crime and unemployment problems when-

Not all Blacks!

Then you think you can at least have a conversation about how women with a massive sense self importance and entitlement end up shifting everything into gender war terms when-

Not all Feminists!

It’s almost like you can’t sit around making generalizations about groups you don’t like without someone showing up to introduce a qualifier? If reasoned discourse doesn’t exist in order for us to draw massive negative generalizations about groups of people we don’t like, what exactly is it for?

Comment section of #YesAllWomen

ou812 writes:

Phil, how do you respond to people who say “Not all Muslims are terrorists” after a suicide bombing?

Matt W writes:

“Fourth—and this is important, so listen carefully—when a woman is walking down the street, or on a blind date, or, yes, in an elevator alone, she doesn’t know which group you’re in.”

Hence, group stereotyping is a useful practice that has gotten much undeserved bad press. The HBD folks will be thrilled that we’ve come around on this.

My only point is that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If you support sex-stereotyping, then you’ve gone and supported other stereotyping as well, such as racial. See a black guy, cross the street. You don’t know which group of black guys he is in, after all.

I don’t deny, stereotyping is useful. We should just stop berating everyone for doing it in ways we don’t approve of.

wc4 writes:

I have a little food for thought. When Westboro Baptist started receiving remarkable attention for its activities, Christianity almost in its entirety stepped back and marginalized (at least in my humble observation) them with little more than finger-pointing and “not all Christians are like that” allegory. We already knew that; this wasn’t the latest breaking news story. However, it seemed to work. That’s the important aspect. Christians pushed away and shunned their most deplorable effectively, simply by getting together openly and candidly, and saying, “No, we will NOT be THAT.”

So, I’m compelled to posit these questions. What happens when, in the midst of this immense and pivotal gender conflict, a bloody million men get up and marginalize misogynists and misogyny? Is it not possible that the “not all men” phenomenon as a demand of men by men that we will NOT be THAT, as well as a reassurance to women, no matter how weak?

I choose to speak up primarily because I really, genuinely want to see something constructive come out of the conflict. It’s the only way the conflict ever really ends with all parties on equal footing. That M&M analogy is remarkable and profound, and should disseminate with reckless abandon. However, it doesn’t tell me – an anti-misogynistic male – how to help you get what you want and need. When I look at a woman, I see a human being, an individual, and my equal; and that’s not enough for me either, as not enough men see the same. So, I offer the perspective that allows this “movement” to be a demand as well. I offer it in hopes that, even if I’m completely, mind-bogglingly wrong, something constructive will come of it.

Alf Fass writes:

“Why is it not helpful to say “not all men are like that”? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don’t need you to tell them.”

As I read the argument Phil makes he’s saying “sure, not all men are rapists, but there is a group of women who think that all men are potential rapists”

Such women I think are equivalent to people who think “sure not all black men are muggers, but all black men are potential muggers”

People who think that way are respectively sexists and racists.

Colin Robinson writes:

40 years ago, Susan Brownmiller published her influential book “Against our Will: Men, Women and Rape”. There she described rape as “a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear”. Note the words “all men”.

Still today, she quotes that statement on her website. http://www.susanbrownmiller.com/susanbrownmiller/html/against_our_will.html

I’d agree that it shouldn’t be necessary to say “not all men”. Unfortunately, because of feminists like Brownmiller, it is necessary.

Young Mice, Like Children, Can Grow Up Too Fast
by Alison Gopnik, WSJ (see To Grow Up Fast)

In the new experiment, published in 2015 in the same journal, the researchers looked at how the young mice reacted to early stress. Some of the mice were separated from their mothers for 60 or 180 minutes a day, although the youngsters were kept warm and fed just like the other mice. Mice normally get all their care from their mother, so even this brief separation is very stressful.

The stressed mice actually developed more quickly than the secure mice. As adolescents they looked more like adults: They were less exploratory and flexible, and not as good at reversal learning. It seemed that they grew up too fast. And they were distinctive in another way. They were more likely to drink large quantities of ethanol—thus, more vulnerable to the mouse equivalent of alcoholism.

These results fit with an emerging evolutionary approach to early stress. Childhood is a kind of luxury, for mice as well as men, a protected period in which animals can learn, experiment and explore, while caregivers look after their immediate needs.

Early stress may act as a signal to animals that this special period is not a luxury that they can afford—they are in a world where they can’t rely on care. Animals may then adopt a “live fast, die young” strategy, racing to achieve enough adult competence to survive and reproduce, even at the cost of less flexibility, fewer opportunities for learning and more vulnerability to alcohol.

This may be as true for human children as it is for mouse pups. Early life stress is associated with earlier puberty, and a 2013 study by Nim Tottenham and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that children who spent their early years in orphanages prematurely developed adultlike circuitry in the parts of the brain that govern fear and anxiety.

Yes, Preschool Teachers Really Do Treat Black And White Children Totally Differently
by Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post

Black children are 3.6 times more likely to receive a suspension in preschool than their white classmates, according to 2013-2014 data from the Department of Education. But, “until now, no research existed to explain why boys or black preschoolers are at greatest risk for expulsion,” Gilliam said on a call with reporters.

According to Gilliam, a teacher’s implicit biases can have a big impact on a child’s future.

“Implicit bias is like the wind, you can’t see it but you can sure see its effects,” Gilliam said. “Implicit biases do not begin with black men and police, they begin with young black boys and their preschool teachers, if not earlier.”

Let Black Kids Just Be Kids
by Rogin Bernstein

George Zimmerman admitted at his 2012 bail hearing that he misjudged Trayvon Martin’s age when he killed him. “I thought he was a little bit younger than I am,” he said, meaning just under 28. But Trayvon was only 17.

What may be most tragic about Mr. Zimmerman’s miscalculation is that it’s widespread. To many people, black boys seem older than they are: In one study, people overestimated their ages by 4.5 years. This contributes to a false perception that black boys are less childlike than white boys.

Black girls are subject to similar beliefs, according to a recent study by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality. A group of 325 adults viewed black girls as needing less nurturing, support and protection than white girls, and as knowing more about sex and other adult topics.

People of all races see black children as less innocent, more adultlike and more responsible for their actions than their white peers. In turn, normal childhood behavior, like disobedience, tantrums and back talk, is seen as a criminal threat when black kids do it. Social scientists have found that this misperception causes black children to be “pushed out, overpoliced and underprotected,” according to a report by the legal scholar Kimberlé W. Crenshaw.

That’s why we must create a future in which children of color are not disproportionately caught up in the criminal justice system, a world in which a black 17-year-old can wear a hoodie without being assumed to be a criminal.

The Race Factor in Trying Juveniles as Adults
by Jennifer L. Eberhardt & Aneeta Rattan, NYT

But as our society has scrutinized this line between juvenile and adult, there has been little discussion of how race might influence people’s perceptions of juvenile status, despite widespread and substantial racial disparities in juvenile sentencing. Consider Florida, which is the state that had most often assigned juveniles life without parole sentences in cases other than homicide. As of 2009, 84 percent of the juvenile offenders who received this sentence were African-American.

In our own work, we find that race can have a sweeping effect even when people consider the same crime. Prompting people to think of a single black (rather than white) juvenile offender leads them to express greater support for sentencing all juveniles to life without parole when they have committed serious violent crimes. Thinking about a black juvenile offender also makes people imagine that juveniles are closer to adults in their blameworthiness. Remarkably, this was true for both people who were low in prejudice and those who were high in prejudice and for both liberals and conservatives.

Thus, race has the power to dampen our desire to be merciful. This is why race must be considered in discussions about how we protect juveniles and what punishments are deemed appropriate for them. Though often overlooked, perhaps race is key to helping us understand people’s support for punitive policies more generally.

Kids in Prison: Getting Tried as An Adult Depends on Skin Color
by Sarah Gonzalez, WNYC

The WNYC Data News Team went through state records of every person who is currently in a New Jersey prison, and isolated those who were minors on the date they committed their crime. Here’s what we found:

  • At least 152 inmates are still in prison today for crimes they committed as kids in the past five years
  • 93 percent of them are black or Latino
  • The most common crime they committed was robbery
  • 20 percent of them have sentences of 10 or more years
  • 2 are female inmates

Men Sentenced To Longer Prison Terms Than Women For Same Crimes, Study Says
Huffington Post

If you’re a convicted criminal, the best thing you can have going for you might be your gender.

A new study by Sonja Starr, an assistant law professor at the University of Michigan, found that men are given much higher sentences than women convicted of the same crimes in federal court.

The study found that men receive sentences that are 63 percent higher, on average, than their female counterparts.

Starr also found that females arrested for a crime are also significantly more likely to avoid charges and convictions entirely, and twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted.

Other research has found evidence of the same gender gap, though Starr asserts that the disparity is actually larger than previously suspected because other studies haven’t looked at the role of plea bargains and other pre-sentencing steps in the criminal justice system.

A 2009 study suggested the difference in sentencing might arise because “judges treat women more leniently for practical reasons, such as their greater caretaking responsibility.”

Past studies have also found that minority men are, on average, given longer prison sentences than white men convicted of the same crimes.

5 Bizarre Realities of Being a Man Who Was Raped by a Woman
Amanda Mannen, Cracked

a 2012 survey of 40,000 households found that a staggering 38 percent of sexual-assault victims were male. Nearly half of those men reported that their attacker was a woman.

Current evidence on sexual abuse by women
from Breaking the last taboo: sexual abuse by female perpetrators
Renee Koonin, South Eastern CASA

While it is essential to work with the most recent available research and not inflate figures through dint of emotion or ideology, it must be remembered that a couple of decades ago, abuse by men was considered rare. At least we have to be open to the possibility that sexual abuse by women may be more prevalent than we currently understand, and hence provide the opportunity for disclosure (Renvoize 1993). Is there any evidence to challenge current thinking on the prevalence of female sexual abusers?

It was courageous women speaking out about their abuse as children that first alerted us to the staggering incidence of sexual victimisation of children. Similarly, adult survivors of sexual abuse by women are coming forward, saying that until now they have felt doubly silenced. After the National Conference on Female Sexual Abuse in London, the radio program, ‘This Morning’ opened a hotline inviting callers to talk about abuse by women. In one day, they received over 1,000 calls, 90 per cent of whom stated they had never told anyone (Elliott 1993). In April 1993, a television program called ‘Unspeakable Acts’, was screened by the BBC. The Broadcasting Support Services Helpline received I60 calls by women abused as children by females immediately after the screening. National self-help groups for survivors of female abuse have been established in America and the United Kingdom. Closer to home, a group for women abused by females in childhood was established after the Incest Confest held in Sydney in July 1992. None of this gives us incidence or prevalence figures, but we are hearing from people who were silent until now.

Claims of sex abuse by women grow
Hannah Richardson, BBC News

Childline’s report did not claim that sexual abuse by women was on the rise.

It instead suggested that, as more boys were tending to call its helpline, more cases were being reported.

Female Perpetrators and Male Victims of Sexual Abuse: Facts and Resources 
Loree Cook‐Daniels, Forge

Of the studies listed, between of 37-53.8% of male children abused by female perpetrators

Sexual Abuse By Women: The Crime No One Wants To Investigate
Anna North, Jezebel

Reliable data on the prevalence of sexual abuse by women is almost impossible to come by. Philby cites one UK abuse hotline, ChildLine — 11% of its callers in 2004 reported being abused by a woman. But women make up only 1% of convicted sex offenders in England and Wales. The picture is just as complicated in the US, according to an article by Lisa Lipshires in Moving Forward Newsjournal. One report found that women were responsible in 20% of US abuse cases between 1973 and 1987, but states report their data differently, and not all divide abusers by gender.

Sharp rise reported in child abuse by women
Sam Marsden, U.K. Independent

New figures show a 132 per cent rise in complaints of female sexual assaults to the helpline service in this period, compared with a 27 per cent increase in reports of abuse by men. […]

The disturbing statistics follow the recent high-profile case of nursery worker Vanessa George, who was a member of an internet paedophile ring along with another woman.

Last year ChildLine heard from 1,311 children who said they had been sexually assaulted by their own mother, representing 61 per cent of all calls about abuse by females.

Research for the helpline found that boys were more likely to say they had been abused by a woman (1,722 cases) than by a man (1,651).

Child Maltreatment 2006
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

In 2006, nearly 80 percent (79.9%) of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and another 6.7 percent were other relatives of the victim. Women comprised a larger percentage of all perpetrators than men, 57.9 percent compared to 42.1 percent. More than 75 percent (77.5%) of all perpetrators were younger than age 40. […]

For FFY 2006, 48.2 percent of child victims were boys, and 51.5 percent of the victims were girls. The youngest children had the highest rate of victimization. […]

Nearly three-quarters of child victims (72.2%) ages birth to 1 year and age group of 1–3 (72.9%) were neglected compared with 55.0 percent of victims ages 16 years and older. For victims in the age group of 4–7 years 15.3 percent were physically abused and 8.2 percent were sexually abused, compared with 20.1 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively, for victims in the age group of 1 2–15 years old. […]

Nearly 83 percent (82.4%) of victims were abused by a parent acting alone or with another person. Approximately, 40 percent (39.9%) of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone; another 17.6 percent were maltreated by their fathers acting alone; and 17.8 percent were abused by both parents. 19 Victims abused by nonparental perpetrators accounted for 10.0 percent (figure 3–5). […]

Three-quarters (75.9%) of child fatalities were caused by one or more parents (figure 4–2). More than one-quarter (27.4%) of fatalities were perpetrated by the mother acting alone. Nonparental perpetrators (e.g., other relative, foster parent, residential facility staff, “other,” and legal guardian) were responsible for 14.7 percent of fatalities. […]

Given the definition of child abuse and neglect, which largely pertains to caregivers, not to persons unknown to a child, most perpetrators of child maltreatment are parents. Also included are relatives, foster parents, and residential facility staff. During Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2006:
■ Nearly 80 percent (79.9%) of perpetrators were parents of the victim;
■ Approximately 60 percent (60.4%) of perpetrators were found to have neglected children; and
Approximately 58 percent (57.9%) of perpetrators were women, and 42 percent (42.1%) of perpetrators were men.

Who abuses children?
Australian Institute of Family Studies

Findings from the ABS Personal Safety Survey (2005) indicated that of participants who had experienced physical abuse before the age of 15, 55.6% experienced abuse from their father/stepfather and 25.9% experienced abuse from their mother/stepmother. A further 13.7% experienced abuse from another known person and the remainder were family friends, other relatives or strangers (ABS, 2005).

A British retrospective prevalence study of 2,869 young adults aged 18-24 (May-Chahal & Cawson, 2005) found that mothers were more likely than fathers to be responsible for physical abuse (49% of incidents compared to 40%). However, part of the difference may be explained by the greater time children spend with their mothers than fathers. Violence was also reported to be perpetrated by stepmothers (3%) or stepfathers (5%), grandparents (3%) and other relatives (1%) (May-Chahal & Cawson, 2005).

Further research shows that when taking issues of severity into consideration, fathers or father surrogates are responsible for more severe physical abuse and fatalities than female perpetrators (US Department of Health and Human Services [US DHHS], 2005). Other researchers such as Daly and Wilson (1999) have argued that biological parents are less likely than step-parents to physically abuse their biological offspring due to their greater investment in the genetic continuity of their family.

Understanding Violence by Women: A Review of the Literature
Correctional Service of Canada

As noted earlier the interpretation of gender differences is difficult in this area because women are more likely to have care of children, often as single mothers, and to spend more time with them. In the US Reiss and Roth (1993) report that infants and small children are more likely to be killed by their mothers than their fathers, in part as a result of the mother’s greater caretaking role. Child deaths are also likely to result from combinations of circumstances and actors eg. an individual parent, both parents, boy-friends, step parents and grandparents, foster parents and babysitters (Greenland 1987). They may result from a single event or an extended history of battering or neglect. In very rare cases they may be identified with severe pathology (eg. the Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, Schreier & Libow 1993).

A detailed study of deaths from child abuse and neglect in Canada, the United Kingdom and the USA, and of the many problems of research in this field, was undertaken by Greenland (1987). Of the 100 cases examined in Ontario, he found that slightly more women than men were responsible for a child’s death, they tended to be younger than male perpetrators, and the child more likely to die as a result of neglect than abuse. Male perpetrators were more likely to have injured the child physically. In the United Kingdom, among 68 deaths, there was a higher frequency of male perpetrators.

Greenland stresses the variety of circumstances in such deaths and the importance of studying a total population rather than the most extreme cases. In both samples he attributed the largest proportion of deaths to the `battered child syndrome’, followed by child neglect and homicide (ie. a single event not related to a history of abuse). In both countries he also identified baby-sitters and temporary carers as a specific group. Some of the factors associated with high risk children and their parents were also identified. He concluded that the proportion of deaths attributable to mental illness was rare, and that there is an indisputable link between child abuse and neglect deaths, and poverty and family stress in all three countries.

Morris and Wilcznski (1993) in their study of mothers who kill their children report that children under one year of age made up 12% of all deaths in England and Wales in 1989. Most of those children were killed by parents. An analysis of all such cases where the suspect was a parent between 1982 and 1989, a total of 493, indicated that almost half of the children were killed by their mothers. As they underline, this is in marked contrast to other types of homicide where women are usually well outnumbered by men.

What is also evident from the work of Wilcznicki and Morris as well as other writers (eg. Allen, 1987a & b) is the differential way in which such men and women were treated by the courts. Of those originally charged with murder, more than half of the fathers were sentenced to imprisonment, compared with under 10% of the mothers. The great majority of those mothers were subsequently convicted on a lesser charge and received probation or (psychiatric) hospital orders. This was generally on the grounds of diminished responsibility (that at the time of the crime they suffering from an abnormality of the mind). Of those cases where the initial charge was manslaughter, just over half the mothers received a sentence of imprisonment, compared with the majority of the fathers. Thus overall, the criminal justice system in England and Wales is less likely to convict mothers who kill their children for murder, and less likely to sentence them to prison. In the USA the authors suggest, such mothers are more likely to receive a sentence of imprisonment.

Those mothers who do receive a prison sentence tend to be seen as ‘bad’ mothers in contrast to otherwise ‘good’ mothers who were seen to be suffering from some form of personality disorder or depressive illness. Morris and Wilczynski conclude that this tendency to see women’s violent behaviour as unnatural is not in the end helpful to women. Like Greenland (1987) they argue that the reasons mothers may kill their children are ‘many and varied’, and ‘normal’ women can kill their children when they are confronted by social and economic circumstances which are severe enough’ (p. 215). The focus on the pathology of the mother diverts attention away from the poverty and isolation in which such mothers often live and, they argue, their lack of social and economic power in a society which regards all women as natural mothers.

Husain, Anasseril and Harris (1983) in a study of 23 homicidal women admitted for pre-trial psychiatric evaluation found those who had killed a child were much younger than other women. Korbin (1989) in a study of nine women imprisoned for killing their child suggests that the deaths followed a pattern of abuse of the child, that the women had provided warning signals to professionals, family members and neighbours after previous incidents, and had rationalized and minimized the abuse to themselves. Her work confirms that of other researchers in the field in highlighting the `plethora of adverse conditions and risk factors’ in the life histories and current circumstances of the women, including their own histories of abuse. On the basis of other work in the field (eg. Daro 1987; Fontana & Alfaro 1987) she suggests that prediction of such fatal incidents may be impossible, but that intervention and education should be directed beyond individual families to community networks which can support them, and research, at the circumstances leading to such events.

Child sexual abuse
Wikipedia

“Research attention is now being directed towards women who sexually abuse children.”[4] It is not uncommon for a male who has been sexually abused by a woman in his youth to receive positive or neutral reactions when he tells people about the abuse.[5] Males and females sexually abused by male offenders, on the other hand, are more readily believed.[6]

According to a study done by Cortoni and Hanson in 2005, 4-5% of all recorded sexual abuse victims were abused by female offenders.[6] However, the Cortoni study numbers don’t match the official statistics by The United States Department of Justice which found a rate of 8.3% for “Other sexual offenses” for females and The Australian Bureau of Statistics found a rate of 7.9% for “Sexual assault and related offences” for females.[citation needed]

Other studies have found rates to be much higher. For example:

In a study of 17,337 survivors of childhood sexual abuse, 23% had a female-only perpetrator and 22% had both male and female perpetrators.[7]

The sexual abuse of children by women, primarily mothers, constituted 25% (approximately 36 000 children) of the sexually abused victims. This statistic is thought to be underestimated due to the tendency of non-disclosure by victims.[8]

According to a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education – In studies that ask students about offenders, sex differences are less than in adult reports. The 2000 American Association of University Women (AAUW) data indicate that 57.2 percent of all students report a male offender and 42.4 percent a female offender with the Cameron et al. study reporting nearly identical proportions as the 2000 AAUW data (57 percent male offenders vs. 43 percent female offenders).[9]

Some have even suggested that a greater degree of child molesters are female, estimating as many as 63% of sex abusers may be female.[10]

According to a 2011 CDC report there are an estimated 4,403,010 female victims of sexual violence that had a female perpetrator.[11]

[Criminology] Review: Sexual Abuse of Children (by Women)
J. H. Nomer

Overview

  • Accounting for self-reports bring the victimization rates to an alarming 58% (Kramer, 2011 & 2012).
  • In 1992, a hotline program hosted by the British children’s charity Kidscape, it was discovered that 90% of the victims of female rapists had never reported their abuse to anyone, making it the most under-reported crime of all time. The majority of the callers were women. (Elliot, 1994).
  • Women committed at least 25% of all child sexual abuse in the U.K — an estimated 250,000 children were victimized by women in the with 86% of their victims being met with disbelief when attempting to report (Elliot, 1994).
  • BBC1 broadcasted the documentary, “The Ultimate Taboo: Child Sexual Abuse by Women” in 1994. The sheer cruelty and sadism of female rapists portrayed was, at that time, beyond belief.
  • In 1996, a national report published by U.S Department of Health and Human Services found women perpetrated 28% of child sexual abuse. Similar examinations were also reported by Health Canada (Mathews, 1996).
  • “The sexual abuse of children by women, primarily mothers, once thought to be so rare it could be ignored, constituted at least 25% of the sexually abused victims. This statistic is thought to be underestimated due to the tendency of non-disclosure by victims.” (Boroughs, 2004).
  • In 2004, the U.S Department of Education (USDE) compiled known studies of educator sexual misconduct to find at least 43% of the perpetrators were women.
  • In a large-scale school survey in South Africa, 41% reported a female perpetrator while 27% reported both male and female perpetrators (Andersson, et al, 2008).
  • In the majority of cases, women who sexually abuse children, do so completely alone (O’Connor, 1987; Kalders, et al, 1997 & Aylward, 2002). The Correctional Service of Canada (CCS) reports similar findings in their 2008 case study.
  • Arrest report data are meaningless, as female rapists are generally either not arrested, not prosecuted or not sentenced to jail time (Finkelhor, et al, 1988; Vandiver, et al, 2006). A British Home Office study, found that the average sentence length for sex crimes for males was 41.2 months. This was twice the sentence length for females, averaging 22.2 months (Grey, et al, 2001). Feminist criminologists reported similar discrimination in sentencing (Embry, et al, 2012).
  • In cases that do result in incarceration, female rapists were not required to seek sexual deviance treatment (Aylward, et al, 2002).
  • Female offenders do not have an unusually high rate of mental illness (Faller, 1987; Saradjian, 1996).
  • It’s also important to note that in cases involving those who do have diagnosable psychiatric illnesses, it cannot be automatically concluded that this caused their offense. (Faller, 1995) reports that out of 23 women, who were coded as being mentally ill, only 3 showed that mental illness was related to offending behaviour.
  • Sexual sadism is unusually high among female perpetrators (Fedoroff, et al, 1999). (Kelley, et al, 1993) investigated sexual abuse of children in day care centers and found female pedophiles often forced children into watching them rape other children. (Kaufman, et al, 1995) reports women often used foreign objects to penetrate their victims. (Aylward, et al, 2002) reports female pedophiles were more likely to have the child engage in sexual behavior with another adult while they watched. (Wiegel, 2009) compared women who molested children, to women with other sexual deviances and reported that the women child molesters abused multiple children.
  • The First National Conference on Female Sexual Abuse, hosted by Kidscape founder Michelle Elliot, was violently disrupted by feminists in an attempt to block their discussions (Elliot, 1994). Feminist organizations continue to attack researchers who refuse to conform to biased scales of “patriarchal dominance”. Funds acquired for the “welfare of women” are instead funneled into extremism.
  • Feminist pedophiles. “The validity of three assumptions about self-esteem, sex-role identity, and feminism in female offenders was empirically investigated in a study of 73 women awaiting trial (ATU) in Massachusetts. ATU and a comparison group of women were administered several paper-and-pencil questionnaires measuring self-esteem, personal autonomy, psychological masculinity and femininity, and feminism. Despite age and educational differences, ATU women were similar to non-offender women. The results did not support assumptions regarding low self-esteem and increased masculinity in female offenders. The third assumption about feminism in young female offenders received slight support.” (Widom, 1979).

Bibliography

  1. Beck, A. J., Cantor, D., Hartge, J. & Smith, T. Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth 2012. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report. NCJ 241708.
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Spiritualism and Bicameralism

In Spirit of Equality, Steve A. Wiggins discusses the recent Ghostbusters movie. His focus is on spiritualism and gender. He writes that,

“A thoughtful piece in by Colin Dickey in New Republic points out some of the unusual dynamics at play here. Looking at the history of Spiritualism as the basis for the modern interest in ghosts, Dickey suggests that women have been involved in the long-term fascination with the dead from the beginning. Their motive, however, was generally communication. Women wanted to relate with ghosts to make a connection. The original Ghostbusters movie represented a male, rationalistic approach to ghosts. As Dickey points out, instead of communicating, the men hunt and trap rather than trance and rap.”

I’m familiar with the spiritualist tradition. It’s part of the milieu that formed the kind of religion I was raised in, Science of Mind and New Thought Christianity.

The main church I grew up in, Unity Church, was heavily influenced by women from when it began in the late 1800s. Its founding was inspired by Myrtle Fillmore’s spiritual healing, women were leaders early on in the church, and ministers officiated same sex marriage ceremonies at least as far back as when I was a kid. It’s not patriarchal religion and emphasizes the idea of having a direct and personal connection to the divine, such that you can manifest it in your life.

The gender differences mentioned by Wiggins are the type of thing that always interest me. There are clear differences, whatever are the causes. Psychological research has found variations in cognition and behavior, on average between the genders. This is seen in personality research. And brain research shows at least some of these differences are based in biology, i.e., women having on average a larger corpus callosum.

I’m not sure how these kinds of differences relate to something like spiritualism and the fictional portrayal of human interaction with ghosts/spirits. The two Ghostbusters movies do offer a fun way to think about it.

Reading Wiggin’s piece, I thought about an essay I just read this past week. It offers a different perspective on a related topic, that of hearing voice commands and the traditions that go along with it. The essay is “Evolution and Inspiration” by Judith Weissman (from Gods, Voices and the Bicameral Mind ed. Marcel Kuijsten).

She notes, “that all over the world, throughout history, most of the poets who hear voices have been male, and their poems are usually about the laws of the fathers.” She considers this likely relevant, although she doesn’t offer any certain conclusions about what it might mean.

In the context of what Wiggins brings up, it makes one wonder what separates the tradition of voice-hearing poets and spiritualists. I can think of one thing, from that same essay.

Weissman mentioned that command voices often tell people what to do. A famous example was Daniel Paul Schreber who, when hearing a voice telling him to defend his manhood, punched in the face an attendant working at the psychiatric institute. Interestingly, Schreber was a well educated, rationalistic, and non-religious man before he began hearing voices.

Command voices tell people, often men, what to do. It leads to action, sometimes rather masculine action. Few people hear such voices these days and, when they do, they are considered schizophrenic—crazier than even a spiritualist.

From the New Republic article, The Spiritualist Origins of Ghostbusters, Colin Dickey offers an explanation about spiritualism in a gender-biased society.

“Spiritualism also celebrated precisely those aspects of femininity that the rest of culture was busy pathologizing. Nervousness, erratic behavior, uncontrolled outbursts, flagrant sexuality—doctors and psychiatrists saw these all as symptoms of hysteria, that ever-elusive disease that mostly boiled down to women acting out. But these same unruly behaviors were qualities prized in an excellent medium, and women who exhibited these traits were routinely praised for their psychic sensitivity. Women who might have otherwise been institutionalized found celebrity through Spiritualism instead.”

That makes me wonder. Which is cause and which effect? How does spiritualism and other forms of spirituality get expressed in other kinds of societies?

I’m reminded of two other things. First, there was an interesting passage on hysteria from a book on Galen, The Prince of Medicine by Susan P. Mattern. In bicameral fashion, the woman’s uterus (Greek hystera) literally had a mind of its own and was presumed to move around causing problems. The second thing is another part from the the Weissman essay:

“The last priests died shortly after the Ik were forcibly moved, and only one person was left who could still hear commanding voices, Nagoli, the daughter of a priest. Because she was not allowed to become a priest herself, she was called mad.”

Spirituality, when it was part of the social order, was respectable. But when that male-oriented society broke down, the spiritual ability of that woman was then seen as madness. The men (and the other women) couldn’t hear the voices she heard. The voices that once were guidance had become a threat. If that voice-hearing daughter of a priest had lived in 19th century United States, she might have been diagnosed with hysteria or else have become a popular spiritualist. Or if her culture hadn’t fallen into disarray, she would have been no one special at all, perfectly normal.

Communication Failure, Again

I was in another debate with a feminist about rape. My last such discussion was a few months ago. It was equally frustrating this time. I really don’t like ideologues and I really don’t like political correctness, either from the left or the right.

It isn’t even about whether I agree with someone or not. In this case, I think I may have been more in agreement. But it is pointless because such a person wants to hide behind their beliefs and opinions, hide behind their righteousness indignation, and I suppose hide behind their sense of suffering and victimization.

Life sucks and there plenty of reasons to be angry. I understand that. It is easy to get defensive and polarized into a position. I also understand that. But all my attempts at understanding came to nothing, so it seemed.

It sure can be frustrating trying to talk to someone who is stuck in that mentality. The person I was dealing with never came around to understanding that we were probably completely in agreement, at least about the central issues at hand. She so much wanted to make me into an enemy that divisiveness and heated argument was the near inevitable endpoint.

I wish I was better at communicating in such situations.

Feminomics: Red v. Blue Family Paradigms

Feminomics: Red v. Blue Family Paradigms

“Hidden by the statistics on family instability is a big success story. College-educated women are the only group in the country whose marriage rates have increased, and their divorce rates have fallen back to the levels of the mid-sixties — before no-fault divorce or the widespread availability of the pill. At the same time, the Census Bureau reports that highly educated mothers are more likely to work than are their less-educated counterparts. With stagnating incomes for the working class, this upper quarter of families, concentrated in urban areas and the blue states on the coasts, has increased the advantages their children enjoy. Their secret: invest in women as well as men, empower reproductive choice, support companionate relationships, and reap the benefits of family formation by mature parents with a measure of financial security.”