Over on Alas, Kate L. makes an Odious Comparison . (My italics):
I don’t really know about other feminists, but I for one will be the first one to tell you that sexism – both personal and institutional – hurts men as well as women. Now, that being said, I’m afraid that I do agree with amp that the degree of harm is different and that in general most women are probably harmed more than most men, but there is substantial harms to both due to rigid gender role expectations.
How can you draw any conclusion about who is harmed more if you don’t fairly evaluate the harms to both?
The extended discussion between me and Amp, which lead to his revised definition of feminism, began with this post, and this comment by him to Robert’s reply. Amp describes in considerable detail the cataract of disaster that has poured onto the heads of Iraqi women since the invasion. I queried Amp’s statement from his comment that “there’s strong evidence that for girls and women in particular (but not exclusively), things have gotten much worse since we invaded”, (my italics), asking him: “please provide some evidence that it’s not overwhelmingly men in particular who are being targetted for violence?”
Amp’s reply was quite intemperate. He later retracted some of the snarkiness, but stood by his his main point, which was that it wasn’t his burden to prove his claims, but mine to disprove them:
Daran, provide me with some evidence that non-combatant men have been killed more than non-combatant women…
In any case, I don’t doubt for a second that men’s lives in most of Iraq have been made much worse by the US invasion, and that there is an endless supply of violence – perhaps even a majority of violence, by some measures – directed at men, especially if one doesn’t see any moral distinction between shooting an armed combatant to death and shooting an unarmed civilian to death.
In any case, it wouldn’t alter my basic opinion at all. Even if men were the majority of victims in Iraq, I’d still think that there are clearly some forms of violence, abuse and loss of liberty that have been directed more at women then at men, and I’d still be writing about those problems.
Well I took on that burden. It took me several months to find some actual figures, but here they are: 5.4% of civilian fatalities of the on-going violence are women. I estimate about 2% are children, almost certainly mostly teenage boys. The figures for the wounded are similar: 6.4% are women and 2.3% are children.
I don’t think Amp would stand now by what he said then, except for the last quoted paragraph. The question is, how did he ever come to believe that women in Iraq suffered more violent victimisation than men? The answer, of course, is the complete whitewashing of the extent of male victimisation in both mainstream and feminist media, coupled with the feminist gender-norm – the Odious Comparison – that makes such declarations de rigueur in feminist circles without any analysis of the harms suffered by men. Before I found those UN reports containing actual figures, I had to ferret around in reports and news articles for any clues that might have survived the whitewashing. This story for example, discusses these killings at length without any direct reference to the sex of the victims. It’s like reading a description of the Nazi Holocaust which avoids mentioning the word ‘Jew’. But it does contain a clue about two thirds of the way through:
Even the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) humanitarian news agency reported on April 26 that “More than 90 women become widows each day due to continuing violence countrywide, according to government officials and non-governmental organizations devoted to women’s issues.”
Another extremely telling point in the IRIN report is that “Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs says that there are at least 300,000 in Baghdad alone, with another eight million throughout the country.” The report said that at least 15 police officers’ wives are widowed every day, and that local NGOs in Iraq said the situation had become much worse since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which has brought horrific violence on a level not seen before
Woah there! Eight million widows!? (The figure would include widows from the Hussein era, and so is not necessarily inconsistent with extimates of post invasion deaths in the tens or hundreds of thousands. I am nevertheless sceptical about this figure.) 90 widows per day? Notice that these indirect victims of the violence are gendered. It is only through the centring of the female victims, that the sex of the direct victims becomes visible, and then only by inference. When male victims are discussed directly, they’re desexed, and thus rendered invisible as men. See this post for another example of the desexing of male victims.
Compare with this femininst treatment: “Iraqi Women’s Bodies Are Battlefields for War Vendettas” it says in the headline. Contrast the emotive description of the woman’s murder with the perfuctory language of her brother’s. “They pierced her body with bullets.” vs. “He was also shot and killed.” In case you’d forgotten the headline, the same formulation is used about midway though the article: “women’s bodies [are] the battlefields on which vendettas and threats are played out.”
This is a conservative treatment. It adheres to the mainstream gender-norms exemplfied in the first article, in that the overwhelming levels of male victimisation are rendered invisible, in effect, denied. It is only through being subordinated to a woman’s death, that a male victim is visible at all. A progressive treatment would challenge these gender-norms.
Media whitewashing of harms to men isn’t restricted to Iraq, and it isn’t restricted to war. It applies across the board of feminist discourse which “looks at female oppression through a microscope, and male oppression through a telescope. Backwards. Pointing at the ground. With the lens covers still on. And both eyes closed.”
So again, how can you tell who’s harmed the most, if all your sources of information whitewash the harms to men?
(Crossposted with Feminist Critics.)