The Gazette (Montreal)

Saturday, March 02, 2002

Let's clear air for open dialogue on gender bias

Letter to the Editor
Montreal Gazette

Mary Mayman's and Marlene R. Taube's dissent, expressed in their Feb. 28 letter "Column misses underlying issues in Yates case" concerning Tommy Schnurmacher's Feb. 24 column, "Women are getting away with murder," ironically, misses the underlying issue.

In essence, Mr. Schnurmacher asserts judicial bias in favour of women, vis-à-vis men, exists in matters pertaining to crime and punishment. Ms. Mayman's and Ms. Taube's ineffective rebuttal narrowly focuses on Andrea Yates's psychological profile, attempting to sidetrack the broader arguments, which point to a double standard benefiting women in both the courts of law and public opinion.

Women's legal defences carry more weight, and female convicts are afforded greater sentencing leniency by virtue of their gender. Defences, such as the "battered-woman syndrome," are granted discriminately to women while no such protection exists for men.

In spousal murder trials, 13 per cent of female defendants obtain acquittals vs. only one per cent of male defendants. The average prison sentence for convicted men in such cases is 17.5 years, vs. 6.2 years for convicted women.

Ms. Yates's medical diagnosis, as succinctly offered in the letter, in no way nullifies evidence supporting the prevalence of gender bias, regardless of Mr. Schnurmacher's inability to distinguish between depression and psychosis. Furthermore, your correspondents' comment that "women suffer far higher rates of depression than men" cannot be substantiated because men are inherently less likely than women to speak about their condition, much less report it.

It's unfortunate opinions not popular with the feminist elite must endure the usual reactionary rhetoric and be branded "misogynistic." How can we eliminate all barriers to equality unless we can at least clear the air for a more open and respectful dialogue?

Louie Vassalos
St. Laurent

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