Man Without Qualities

Monday, June 23, 2003

The Wrong Rail

The assault on the dangerously mythologized feminine role in the family continues with a new study:

"We are not saying anybody is at fault," says psychologist Miriam Ehrensaft of Columbia University. "But new data is emerging that says women are also involved in aggression. If we do not tell women that, we put them at risk." .... The little-talked-about involvement of women in mutual aggression with men is "the third rail of the domestic violence field," says Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work. "Touch it and you get electrocuted." Both he and Straus have done studies that caused fiery controversies. Gelles says the lifetime risk of a woman being struck by a male intimate partner is about 28%. And "depending upon who is doing the survey and how you measure it, you could get numbers of up to 50%." But he says a man's lifetime risk of being struck by a woman is also about 28%.

The feminist cultivation of the "benevolent, non-aggressive female" role in the family in the midst of the broader feminist insistence on minimizing the significance of differences between the sexes is curious, dangerous and extremely volatile. But Dean Gelles is quite clearly in error to assert that involvement of women in mutual aggression with men is "the third rail of the domestic violence field."

No. The involvement of women in aggression against children is the third rail of the domestic violence field. As reluctant as this society is to acknowledge widespread violence of women against their mates, that reluctance is nothing compared to the reluctance of the society to acknowledge the likely widespread violence of women against the children placed in their charge. It may be true, as this study suggests, that She may slap him. But then he may hit her harder or more often. But unlike feminine violence against men, "her" aggression towards children - especially infants - can easily be serious or fatal.

If confirmed, the results of this study should be a wake-up call to anyone truly concerned about the welfare of children - a group which does not include much of the feminist establishment, most notably Hillary Clinton and the other opportunists constituting the Children's Defense Fund - who have not been particularly active in defending children against feminine violence. Such inactivity is, in my view, likely attributable to the political awkwardness the topic creates for the feminist establishment - an awkwardness even more acute that that caused by addressing the issue of women's violence against men:

[T]he newest findings challenge the feminist belief that "it is men only who cause violence," says psychologist Deborah Capaldi of the Oregon Social Learning Center. "That is a myth."

But it is not the worst or the most dangerous myth in this area.

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