By Zepezauer, Frank S.; Biden, Joseph R.
Insight on the News , Vol. 12, No. 20
Yes: Laws on spousal abuse are unfair to men and give sanction to feminist ideas.
Gender feminism translated into victim-rights newspeak gets attention where it counts -- and costs -- the most: in the mainstream media, state legislatures and Congress. Consequently, at a time when even Democrats support government downsizing, the 2-year-old Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, promises to drain $1.9 billion from the federal treasury. It is the mother of all wife-battering laws and it is a case study of the way such laws hurt men.
VAWA infuses big money into a vast network of female-specific government programs that amount to a feminist bureaucracy. It includes 260 women's commissions, 560 women's-studies programs and more than 1,000 domestic-violence and rape-crisis shelters. In Washington it includes a rabbit warren of agencies -- most of them run by women, all of them for women and nearly all of them taxpayer funded.
Much of the money filters down to the states, which funnel millions every year into enforcement procedures and women's shelters. California, for example, spends more than $15 million a year. The sum increased 1,000 percent in just 12 months, the result of the media storm that blew in when the O.J. Simpson case broke.
With the Simpson case on every front page for months, wife battering escalated from a social problem to a national crisis, presumably afflicting "millions of households." And Simpson became Everyman. Columnist Anna Quindlen wrote that his was "the story of a man who, like many, many other men, beat up his wife and didn't think there was anything the least bit wrong with it." San Francisco journalist Joan Smith wrote that Simpson's spousal abuse is "woven into our culture." Mariah Burton Nelson, author of The Games Men Play and the Women Who Get Beaten, reported a society in which "hurtful acts are portrayed as natural -- for men."
These heated declarations insinuated into prime-time discussion the feminist theory that violence against women -- rape and wife beating -- is how men maintain the satanic patriarchy. In Gloria Steinem's words, "Patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself" This perception of the "patriarchy" is vintage gender feminism. It divides men and women into gender classes analogous to racial classes. From that perspective, all women form a victim class and in every intergender conflict men are the problem and changing them is the solution. This blinkered vision of victimhood places men as a privileged -- and guilty -- gender class beyond legitimate social concern.
All of which overlooks the steeply declining social and economic status of American men. Males are the minority of incoming college students. Compared with females, they earn lower grades, have more adjustment problems and show up more often on suspension, expulsion and drop-out records. They are falling behind girls in reading and writing and cluster heavily in remedial courses. They also engage more frequently in self-destructive behavior, racking up a suicide rate four times greater than girls. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism?, calls boys "the educationally weaker gender" whose worsening academic and social performance deserves high-priority concern.
Relative to women, men have suffered a 25-year decline in average income and employment. In five business cycles between 1970 and 1993, jobs for men decreased while jobs for women increased. During the 1990-1992 recession, women gained 50,000 jobs while men lost 1.7 million. And since 1979, men without college education -- usually in the lowest economic half of the income spread -- have suffered a precipitous 17 percent drop in income.
Today, males 25-75 years of age have death rates from heart disease that are two to three times those experienced by females in the same age group. In fatal industrial accidents, men make up 94 percent of the casualties. …