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Sunday, August 04, 2002

Brent Kesler writes:

"I believe Ms. Dellatorre argues that while men suffer from patriarchy, women do so to a greater extent, and so feminist studies should properly focus on women, rather than men. To accomplish this, she restricts the domain of discourse to gender violence. Thus, only male/female relationships concern us. Then, she claims that the victims of gender violence are almost universally women."

I hope to clarify what I see as a misstatement of my arguments by Mr. Kesler. Firstly, I did not restrict the domain of this discouse to gender violence. While I believe that this is a major source of oppression for many women (and some men), I would be the first to admit that that is far from being the only source of oppression for women. Instead, Mr. Kesler initiated the focus on gender violence in his own defense of the victimization of men in hands of depression. If anything, it becomes more apparent that women are more disadvantaged than men when one considers sexual harrassment in the workplace, sex discrimination at work and in the academy, and a culture that privileges male heterosexual desires, in the form of often violent pornography. In these other arenas, I would argue that men are at an even greater advantage.

However, Mr. Kesler challenged my assertion that women are victims of gender violence in a much higher proportion than men are. Here are a few statistics I found illuminating:

1.) In the former Yugoslavia, 20,000 women and girls were systematically raped by both sides of the conflict during the first months of the war.

2.) Everyday, 6000 girls are genitally mutilated - more than 200 000 per year (2000).

3.) Every year in India, 5000 brides are murdered or commit suicide because their marriage dowries are considered inadequate. (2000)

4.) In the US, one in five women will be victims of rape in their lifetime. A woman is raped every 3 minutes. 55 percent of American women report having experienced rape and/or physical assault in their life-time. 10 women are killed by their batterers each day (1998).

5.) In Russia, half of all murder victims are women killed by their male partners. (1995)

(Thanks to the Sisterhood is Global Institute)

While I do not dispute that men suffer under their own system of gender oppression, too, I think it is sad that many men are so self-absorbed that they can only focus on their own oppression to understand the need for change. However, this is clearly desirable to men who instinctively defy changes in gender relations and attempt to maintain a restrictive status quo.

On a more concilatory note, I agree with Mr. Kesler on his connection between the psychological forces affecting men who beat and rape women with the forces that lead to men taking their own lives. While I seem to have come off in this debate as a feminist that is blind to the suffering of anyone other than women, that is not in the least my position. I do care deeply about the harms men and women suffer under the current system. I just think that at this point in history there is a pressing need to focus on the plight of women while also considering men's experiences in that context. I hope that we can all agree on the need for systemic change, affecting both men and women in different but equally significant ways.