Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You've Been Bradwilcoxed. Washington Post on How Women Can Stay Safe.

I'm singularly blessed by my warped sense of humor.  It lets me enjoy the most recent Washington Post opinion piece on women, after the George Will one (about being a victim of sexual violence as a coveted status), partly because it reminds me of this opinion piece in 2008, about us wimminfolk:

We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?

Imagine something like that published in WaPo about any other large demographic groups!

Anyway, today's piece is quite wonderful.  It suggests that all men should get married and have children, because that way they stop being violent towards women!

I lied, sorry.  The piece does that thing backwards and upside down.  The url address sets the stage:


The early versions of the title and the sub-title were even more explicit (on top, the current ones are below):

None of the above is the fault of the article authors, because they don't get to pick the headlines or url addresses.   But all that is really quite something, as a response to the #yesallwomen Twitter hashtag.

When I read some of it,  the examples I saw were about street harassment, stranger violence and rapes by others than family members.  It could be that the hashtag is full of nothing but complaints about the women's unmarried male partners or their stepfathers now, but I doubt that.

The article itself is by two academics.  One seems to have a focus on the happiness of traditionally religious women in his earlier research.  Sarah Posner reports:

In a 2006 interview with Christianity Today, headlined "What Married Women Want" (subhead: "Sociologist Brad Wilcox says one type of marriage makes most women happier"), Wilcox claimed his research showed:

    ◦    "Women who have more traditional gender attitudes are significantly happier in their marriages. They're more likely to embrace the idea that men should take the primary lead in breadwinning and women should take the primary lead in nurturing the children and managing the domestic sphere, managing family life."

Which suggests to me that digging into Wilcox's research would be necessary to understand what his tables and graphs might mean or not mean.  (And nope, naughty Echidne,  you are not allowed to speculate that perhaps Wilcox believes graceful submission by women to traditional gender norms is the price they must pay for safety).

On the piece itself:  All I can say without the research that would be needed* is that the authors don't really solve the chicken-and-egg problem, even within intimate partner violence:

Which comes first, domestic violence or the dissolution of marriage (or the decision not to marry someone who is violent in the first place)?

They refer to the selection question but don't say much more about it than this:

For women, part of the story is about what social scientists call a “selection effect,” namely, women in healthy, safe relationships are more likely to select into marriage, and women in unhealthy, unsafe relationships often lack the power to demand marriage or the desire to marry. Of course, women in high conflict marriages are more likely to select into divorce.
So what would happen if a woman in an unhealthy, unsafe relationship somehow had the power to demand marriage?  The relationship would suddenly turn into a healthy and safe one?  Forgive me for doubting that.

Note, also, that the article doesn't say anything about violence aimed outside the family or about the women (or men) who are the victims of that.  That leaves out all street harassment, sexual violence on campuses and so on.

*For example, I'd need to know if social class and income are controlled for in those studies, because poverty increases stressful events in life, poor areas are less safe and single parents are on average poorer than families with two parents.  I'd also need to know if the marriage correlations take age into account, because being unmarried correlates with  being young and younger people may face higher risks of violence than older people (having to do with how much one goes out and where etc.)

Added later:  This piece addresses some of the pertinent issues in the data.