Calgary Herald

Friday December 17, 1999, p. A28

Sub-science bolsters violence-against-women claims

Outrageous surveys prop up inflated numbers nobody questions

Ilana Mercer, Calgary Herald

In early December when feminists were lamenting the plight of women in Canadian society, the Kuwaiti parliament was in the process of rejecting a bill giving women political rights. While Canadian feminists were giving vent to fashionable angst during the commemoration of the Montreal Massacre, it was business as usual for the slave trade in women all over Brazil, Thailand, Mauritania, Pakistan and India. Okay, so North American gender feminists are notoriously cloistered and self-absorbed. But they are also rather powerful, and are intent on forcing us to "make a permanent link" between the murder by Marc Lepine in 1989 of 14 Ecole Polythechnique female students and the alleged endemic violence against women in Canadian society.

It was indeed a shame that commentators were not hep to the perennial attempt by feminists to constrict discourse on a complex psychosocial event.

Here was the ultimate double bind of intellectual totalitarianism: accept one interpretation of Lepine's actions, or stand in the dock for perpetrating more of the alleged institutionalized violence against women.

But how does the act of a lone individual come to symbolise the culpability of all men? And how does an abstraction like the patriarchy come to be fingered as the overarching cause of this tragedy?

Here's how: This post hoc absurdity is shored up by the flawed corpus of violence-against-women statistics, which in, in turn, relies on the faulty premise of a continuum of violence along which all male actions must be construed.

"The Montreal Massacre," writes Judy Rebick, CBC host, columnist and feminist extraordinaire, "was an extreme example of violence women face every day from abusive men."

Consider that to the gender feminist sexual innuendo is a form of violence against women, and it becomes easy to see why she gets so exercised over the occasional caustic comment uttered by any mild-mannered man.

In his book Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising, Professor Fekete, recipient of the Distinguished Researcher Award at Trent University, exposes the sub-science that bolsters the violence-against-women claims.

The 1993 Statistics Canada Violence Against Women survey, together with other equally outrageous surveys, props up the inflated numbers nobody questions: the same numbers that advocates bandy about every Dec. 6; that politicians rely on for drafting policy and plumping for resources; and that Judy Rebick touts when she says three out of 10 women have been physically or sexually, assaulted by their partners.

The Violence Against Women survey is the building block in the edifice of the violence-against-women industry not least because it is stamped with the imprimatur of Canada's chief number cruncher.

With the survey, asserts Fekete, Statistics Canada has traded science for voodoo. The survey is a single-sex survey with no input from men, thus reflecting an exclusive ideological focus on female victimization, to the exclusion, conveniently, of violence incurred from other females.

Neither were women asked about their own acts of violence towards the man in the relationship even though dozens of two-sex surveys conducted in Canada and the United States confirm "that women in relationships with men commit comparatively as many acts of violence as men do at every level of severity," writes Fekete.

Developed at the height of the post-Lepine "war against women" panic, the VAW questionnaires are the product of a collaboration with advocacy groups and "feminist stakeholders." As such, they are fraught with problems of unrepresentative sample, lack of corroboration, a reliance on anecdotes, and a use of over-inclusive survey questions. Undergirding the promiscuous statistics the survey yielded is a reliance on prevalence figures. When claims-makers say a third of all women have been assaulted in their lifetime, they refer to the prevalence of assault over a lifetime, instead of the incidence of assault over, say, a 12-nionth period (that being approximately three per cent).

Lifetime rates inflate outcomes considerably and make for good copy.

"What existential meaning," wonders Fekete, "can be attached to a report that once in an entire lifetime someone a woman knew touched her knee without an invitation?"

On the other hand there must be some existential significance to the fact that women continue to live longer than men, that five times as many young men commit suicide, that men are more likely to be unemployed and less likely to get another job, and that they are infinitely more likely to suffer industrial accidents and diseases which may destroy their lives.

If not sympathy for the patriarchy, then a dose of reality as to where sisters are truly suffering would do feminists some good.

Ilana Mercer is a freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at

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