Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blowing Smoke

"Progressive" or otherwise touted to be clever media outlets pushing concern is not a new phenomenon. As we know, NPR is great at this sort of thing.

It is just disappointing every time it happens.

One occurrences of late of this was a few items in Charles M Blow's piece for the New York Times, titled "Yes, All Men".

Let's just roll out the numbers and facts directly from his article: (Assume US if not specified)


  • Intimate partner violence - 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced intimate-partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national violence studies show that up to 70 percent of women have at some point experienced violence from an intimate partner.
  • Percentage of murders due to intimate partner violence - Violence by intimate partners accounts for between 40 percent and 70 percent of all murders of women.
  • Child Brides - 64 million girls worldwide are child brides; 46 percent of women ages 20 to 24 in South Asia and 41 percent in West and Central Africa report that they married before the age of 18. 
  • FGM - 140 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation/cutting. 
  • Sexual harassment in schools - 83 percent of girls 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.
  • Higher HIV transmission risk - Women are already two to four times more likely than men to become infected with H.I.V. during intercourse.
  • Nonconsensual sex is injurious - Rape increases the risks because of limited condom use and physical injuries.
  • Percentage of HIV infections due to intimate partner violence - Percentage of 11.8 percent of new H.I.V. infections in the previous year among women 20 or older were attributed to intimate-partner violence.

Let's look at these items again, but let's bucket them first:

Serious issues:

  • Intimate partner violence
  • Sexual harassment in schools
Serious issues relying on Islam or similarly backwards cultures for life:
  • Child Brides 
  • FGM 
Grisly reminders of awful realities that greatly impact women:
  • Higher HIV transmission risk
  • Nonconsensual sex is injurious
Statistical bullshit:
  • Percentage of murders due to intimate partner violence
  • Percentage of HIV infections due to intimate partner violence
Let's focus on the last two just to see where we go wrong when talking up feminism "by the numbers".

Nonsense Percentages

The two datapoints touted are thus - the percentage of deaths and  the percentage of infections of women that are due to intimate partner violence.

The problem is, what should these percentages be?

The perpetrators of 35% to 70% of all murders of women are current or former partners. Is this number alone supposed to be alarming? 

Given that in a given year some number of women will be murdered, what percentage of murders should be the blame of a perfect stranger

Switching to HIV infections, let's assume that a woman will contract HIV this year. According to the data, 12% of infections are due to intimate partner violence. But let's look at the big picture.

The potential causes of new infection for an adult woman:
  • A blood transfusion
  • An ignorant partner
  • Sharing needles
  • A malicious partner (rape or other intentional infection - intimate partner violence)
  • A malicious stranger (rape or other intentional infection)
  • Other causes
Having no control over the absolute number of infected, what cause or causes would should make up the majority of infections? Are we hoping that ignorance and neglect always eclipses the purposefully evil?

It may sound strange, but it may be the world we should hope to live in would be one where from the perspective of percentages, intimate partner violence would make up the vast majority of all violent assault and murder.

Imagine two worlds - one where most violent assault is caused by jealous partners enacting a sadistic revenge, and the other that is more prone for motives to be more frequently aligned with paltry sums of money, boredom or randomly directed madness. Which is actually preferable?


Rounded out reasoning

Near the conclusion of the article, Blow writes:
“The U.S. has a larger gender gap than 22 other countries including Germany, Ireland, Nicaragua and Cuba, according to a World Economic Forum report ... [that] rates 136 countries on gender equality, and factors in four categories: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment.”
The CNN piece covers the article:
Why wasn't the U.S. even close to the top? While the country scores high on economic opportunity and education for women, it scores poorly on political empowerment.
Yes, Cuba apparently scored higher than the United States in a rating that included political empowerment.

How is political empowerment scored?

Seemingly only by checking the genitals of politicians. The United States actually wouldn't have scored as high as it did if people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Susana Martínez did not exist. Which is rather humorous as there is surely a New York Times columnist that would say that these three politicians do not represent women. Where is Maureen Dowd when you need her?

Back to the subject at hand - the report.

What Blow leaves out is that the only G8 countries that managed to score higher than the United States are Canada and Germany. This matters a great deal more than scoring worse than South Africa, Lesotho and Nicaragua. Those that tuned in for a look at "everyday" statistics already know that the "gender equality" of these countries loses some of its meaning after considering the frequency of the murder of women.

Blow also ignores that countries with "progressive" policies like longer maternity leave often have a larger gender wage gap.

Blow again quotes his son:
"It’s very important for everyone to be a feminist."
Indeed.

Now, what else is important?

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