Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday December 15, 1999, pA17

Committing 'data rape':

Radical feminist notions about male violence reflect a misuse of statistics based on eugenic assumptions.

By Tana Dineen
Ottawa Citizen

The word "eugenics" connotes evil. It evokes images of death camps and more recent "ethnic cleansings." But the term did not originate with Adolf Hitler's anti-semitism. It dates back more than a 100 years to the work of Sir Francis Galton, who established the science of eugenics based on the notion that society could be improved by selecting and encouraging its brightest citizens to flourish.

Dear to Galton, and others of his social class, was the belief that intellectual greatness was inherited. His studies, in which all of the subjects were eminent members of the aristocracy, bolstered arguments for lowering the birthrate in the lower classes. One result was the imposition of harsh sterilization laws in the early 1900s in both England and North America.

Decades later, spurred by similar eugenic values, psychologist Cyril Burt began publishing data to support his genetic inheritance theory. His work, for which he was later knighted, had far-reaching impact. Throughout the Commonwealth, governments mandated the measurement of "innate intelligence." Based on their test scores, generations of children were streamed into unequal educational systems. Only after a journalist noted contradictions in Burt's writings and exposed his faked data were these laws challenged.

Nowadays, we condemn eugenics, oblivious, it seems, to the ways in which it is once again having a pervasive influence on our society. The underlying belief that individuals, grouped by some common factor, share genetic features which are either good or bad, has not disappeared. Prominent researchers promote the bias. And laws are put in place which, by discriminating against one group, promise to make society better.

A case in point, currently shaping Canadian law, is a body of quasi-research premised on the belief in female superiority. The much touted 1993 Statistics Canada survey on Violence Against Women claims that 51 per cent of Canadian women have been the victims of rape or attempted rape and that 98 per cent have personally experienced sexual violation.

In reality, in their efforts to portray women as innocent victims of male violence, the researchers looked at the numbers through a "a feminist lens" and committed what has rightly been termed "data rape."

Likewise, in another study supporting this image of men as violent, researchers reported that 11 per cent of Alberta women were assaulted in one year, 1989, by their partners. But the public was told only half the story; the rest of the data revealed that men were being assaulted by their female partners about as often.

There are dozens of studies worldwide which report virtually identical rates. When researchers look fairly at both sexes, it is the similarities between the genders, not the differences, which are remarkable.

But this is not what we are told. A study of "woman abuse" on Canadian college campuses shocked the public when it was reported that "81.4 per cent of women said they had been victimized by at least one form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse during the preceding year." What was not made clear was that the "abuse" may have been nothing more than a swear word or insult.

Regrettably, these widely reported studies are having a profound influence in the political arena. Men are being successfully portrayed as the violent sex. Federal and provincial ministries spread the propaganda. Canadian laws are rewritten in response to the cry: "Women must be protected."

What really needs to be acknowledged is the eugenic underpinnings of the anti-male data. This is the type of data which Hitler used to justify the extermination of the Jews. It is the type of data which the British upper classes used to justify sterilizing the retarded. Now, it is being used to condemn men.

The radical feminists are using their version of eugenics research as a weapon. Feminist Marilyn French declares that "All men are rapists." Andrea Dworkin defines romance as "rape embellished with meaningful looks." Sally Miller Gearheart writes that the number of males must be reduced to 10 per cent of the population, with this low number to be maintained only to allow for the propagation of the species.

While such extreme opinions may not be officially endorsed, the stereotyping of the male as violent and beast-like is widely accepted. Consider the bias in favour of mothers in custody disputes. The outrage if one dares to question a woman's accusation. Or how a woman can take a rifle, murder her husband and, then, manage to convince the courts that she was the victim.

These eugenic manipulations have gone too far. Such acts of violence against men should be identified for what they are: crimes against humanity.


Tana Dineen is a licensed psychologist in Victoria, Canada and the author of Manufacturing Victims.

Copyright 1999 Ottawa Citizen