Feminist scholar and author Christina Hoff Sommers has a sure-to-be controversial piece in today’s USA Today challenging the Department of Justice’s statistics on what the agency calls “Intimate Partner Homicide.” I think the Politically Correct handbook translates that as “domestic violence.”
Anyway, Hoff Sommers has something to say about the statement Attorney General Eric Holder recently made that “Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45.” Hoff Sommers says, it just isn’t true.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Justice Department’s own Bureau of Justice Statistics, the leading causes of death for African-American women between the ages 15-45 are cancer, heart disease, unintentional injuries such as car accidents, and HIV disease. Homicide comes in fifth – and includes murders by strangers. In 2006 (the latest year for which full statistics are available), several hundred African-American women died from intimate partner homicide – each one a tragedy and an outrage, but far fewer than the approximately 6,800 women who died of the other leading causes.
So where do these loose facts come from? Why are they so easily thrown around; accepted as truth? Hoff Sommers explains:
It is possible because false claims about male domestic violence are ubiquitous and immune to refutation. During the era of the infamous Super Bowl Hoax, it was widely believed that on Super Bowl Sundays, violence against women increases 40%. Journalists began to refer to the game as the “abuse bowl” and quoted experts who explained how male viewers, intoxicated and pumped up with testosterone, could “explode like mad linemen.” During the 1993 Super Bowl, NBC ran a public service announcement warning men they would go to jail for attacking their wives.
In this roiling sea of media credulity, one lone journalist, Washington Postreporter Ken Ringle, checked the facts. As it turned out, there was no source: An activist had misunderstood something she read, jumped to her sensational conclusion, announced it at a news conference and an urban myth was born. Despite occasional efforts to prove the story true, no one has ever managed to link the Super Bowl to domestic battery.
But the Washington Post investigation failed to kill these flawed statistics from being bandied about. As such, the sports = abuse story repeated itself in the British newspapers during the 2010 World Cup. Even after a BBC investigation found the report to be based on “cherry-picked figures, the statistics are still treated as fact. Hoff Sommers says this ultimately hurt women:
Misinformation leads to misdirected policies that fail to target the true causes of violence. Worse, those who promulgate false statistics about domestic violence, however well-meaning, promote prejudice. Most of the exaggerated claims implicate the average male in a social atrocity. Why do that? Anti-male misandry, like anti-female misogyny, is unjust and dangerous. Recall what happened at Duke University a few years ago when many seemingly fair-minded students and faculty stood by and said nothing while three innocent young men on the Duke Lacrosse team were subjected to the horrors of a modern-day witch hunt.
And this campaign of misinformation doesn’t just hurt women in the West, it hurts women everywhere-particularly in Middle East where women are subjected to some of the most restrictive laws.
Misinformation about violence against women suggests a false moral equivalence between societies where women are protected by law and those where they are not. American and British societies are not perfect, but we have long ago decided that violence against women is barbaric. By contrast, the Islamic Republic of Iran – where it is legal to bury an adulterous woman up to her neck and stone her – was last year granted a seat on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Hoff Sommers is spot on in her analysis but we’ve seen this before…from the big guy. You see, Attorney General Holder is simply repeating the words of his boss, President Obama. Shortly after taking office, Obama delivered a major foreign policy speech in Cairo (which Carrie Lukas and I wrote about here) where he touched on the struggle for women’s rights in the U.S. while simultaneously making all countries of the world equal in that struggle. Carrie Lukas and I highlighted the President’s stunning display of rhetorical moral relevancy, saying:
Women’s rights are supposed to be one of those universal principles, as President Obama acknowledged in his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. He noted that the U.S. will support literacy and economic opportunities for women around the globe. Yet he failed to live up to his promise to discuss the problem “squarely.” Indeed by saying “the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life,” he belittled the real plight of women around the globe.
Now, thanks to Christina Hoff Sommer’s excellent article, it’s all become a little more clear. It’s no wonder Obama thinks the United States is such a backwater hell hole for women. He’s been looking at his buddy Holder’s meaningless “intimate partner homicide” statistics.