This post is a bit of a random one-off. Just a (maybe not-so) silly rant.
VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) seems to be getting more egalitarian, slowly but surely. It’s a good sign and good progress. But even if the text of the act becomes 100% egalitarian some time down the road, there is still a problem: the title.
But what’s in a name? Well, the name continues to give the impression that women are the only major/meaningful victims of domestic violence, as well as stalking, etc. also covered in the bill. This is really problematic for non-female victims of those crimes, perpetuating harmful myths that have had real ramifications for real victims. It’s also just a slap in the face for those victims.
Surely if there were a “Rape Against White Women Act” (RAWWA) we would see fit to change the title, even if the text itself already included black people, men, LGBT people, etc. Wouldn’t we? RAWWA is a slap-in-the-face title for victims that don’t fit the description in that title. The same is true of VAWA.
I don’t know why we can’t just rename VAWA “The Domestic and Sexual Violence Act”, or something along those lines.
- Prison Rape Statistics - January 27, 2013
- Seattle One Night Count - January 25, 2013
- Newtown Shooting, and the Nature of Risk - December 25, 2012
Because that would erase women.
It’s better to erase men.
I think it’s appropriately named for the time being.
Because in our society, labeling it “violence against WOMEN” makes it a legitimate problem that no one can deny or challenge.
Imagine the mockery and derision that a “violence against men” act would engender. The man-shaming would be loud and long. But point to violence against women, and you’ve got an issue that no one would dare speak (or vote) against.
“I think it’s appropriately named for the time being.”
Wait till you get married.
“But what’s in a name? Well, the name continues to give the impression that women are the only major/meaningful victims of domestic violence, as well as stalking, etc. also covered in the bill.”
In another connection JtO cites a basic legal principle “expression unius est exclusio alterius” = “expression of one is exclusion of the other”.
Why? It has a lot of provisions in it that still apply to women only or else, for all practical intents and purposes, are only relevant to women. Giving it a gender neutral name would be misleading. I have a real-life friend who was the victim of immigration fraud done under the provision of VAWA, less than a couple months ago.
Why? Because until you are legally shackled to someone, the gravity of the inequality in that law may not be apparent to you. That’s all.
The immigration fraud thing puzzles me. I have seen claims of DV used as a bogus grounds for asylum. I have heard of clalims of DV being used to get advantageous divorces form US citizens who had ben used to get status. Typically these were women, of course, because that’s how the law reads and is applied. So I don’t see how de-gendering the law would increase or decrease the incidence of that.
Which is why the name should stay as it is. Calling it anything else would be a lie.
Under regular divorce law, the length of your marriage is taken into account when determining what rights and privileges to extend to either party. Under VAWA, you can be married for a day and still get asylum if you claim DV. So as a matter of fact there wouldn’t be any incentive for or incidence of for this type of fraud if it wasn’t for VAWA. And these provisions specifically for the sake of women, knowing full well that it’s mostly men who get married to foreign nationals. You can’t separate the letter of the law from the spirit of the law and discount the very reason why it had been enacted in the first place by making the wording of it gender neutral.
I was just thinking about this the other day, Xakudo; it really should be gender neutral. And I mean every bit of it, not just the name. If women were the primary victims of domestic violence, a gender-neutral bill would help them in proportion to the amount of violence inflicted against them. Victimized women, as a group, would stand to lose nothing if the language, associated programs, etc., were changed (unless an irresponsible group of lawmakers targeted the bill’s creations for cuts or didn’t fund them due to not wanting to waste support on men), while victimized men would stand to gain because they’d at least be more recognized (and perhaps some additional programs just for them would be ad… eh, who am I kidding.)
The current name appears to be more of the “women are delicate flowers who can’t live without the protection of the big, strong men in congress” damselling thing.
Anyway, below are some statistics from the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. There other statistics in the executive summary showing women as, by far, the primary victims of rape* (noting that this is intimate partner violence, so it doesn’t include things like prison rape).
“About 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) at some point in their lifetime.”
“Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).”
“An estimated 1 in 17 women and 1 in 20 men (5.9% and 5.0%, respectively) experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to taking the survey.”
Across all types of violence examined in this report, state-level estimates varied with lifetime estimates for women ranging from 11.4% to 29.2% for rape; 28.9% to 58% for sexual violence other than rape; and 25.3% to 49.1% for rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
For men, lifetime estimates ranged from 10.8% to 33.7% for sexual violence other than rape; and 17.4% to 41.2% for rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.”
*As an aside here, one of the things I think taints the discussion about domestic and sexual violence (not that damselling doesn’t taint it enough) is that there is a disproportionate focus on rape. I don’t think anyone disagrees that it is a heinous act, but focus on it in all its forms, I think, takes away from other acts of intimate partner violence that can also have severe consequences/repercussions for the victim. To me, it’s part of a very common line of thinking that, if something isn’t the worst** (or, in cases where something is good, the best), then it’s not worth talking about.
Oops. Ignore that **. I had another footnote talking about how “worst” is defined, but I thought that it veered a little too much off topic.
Except that it’s not enough for it to be written in a gender neutral manner. You could also write a perfectly color-blind Voter ID law and it would still suppress voter turnout proportionally to the darkness of their skin. Some of the problems with VAWA is that it doesn’t require any sort of verification of many of the claims that women can make against men.
The man I know, in his divorce from a foreign national, was told that the only way that his ex wife’s claim of DV against him could be struck from her Visa application was if he got the marriage annulled. That’s right – the only way to get the DV claim struck from the Visa application was for him to claim that the marriage never even happened. His wife didn’t have to prove the DV in family court for it to be valid for her Visa application, so there was no reason for her not to accuse him of DV. I used to be this guy’s room mate and I’ve known this guy through dozens of partners, but then a couple weeks after he got married he had bite marks on his neck and face and told me that she bought a whip and tried to whip him in the shower. He got fired from his job weeks after marrying her and finally told her he’d file for divorce. So she stole his passport, driver’s license, credit cards, flew across the country, maxed out his personal savings, and checked herself into a hospital 1 week after last seeing him a thousand miles away and claimed that he had just hit her. She used that hospital record on her Visa application to claim DV and supplied the documents she stole from him to officials who entered him as her sponsor in the US. This woman is so brazen that she and her lawyer have filed for alimony after 9 weeks of marriage, claiming that he should pay for her to finish going to med school and get board certified to practice medicine in the US.
Luckily, some of the provisions in VAWA that allowed for all of this to happen had been struck in the re-authorization. Which, in hindsight, explained why she had pushed so hard for them to get married so soon after he met her and why she pushed so hard to destroy it as soon as it happened – she was literally counting down the days before this gig would be up.
So, bottom line – you can make that law as gender neutral as you want and it’s not going to do shit. It’s going to “proportionally” screw over one group of people by another group of people who do a greater proportion of the screwing-over. A bad law is a bad law.
“Which is why the name should stay as it is. Calling it anything else would be a lie.”
Got it. And you are right about the effect of VAWA on asylum fraud.
dungone is right. This is the core porblem with the law:
“Some of the problems with VAWA is that it doesn’t require any sort of verification of many of the claims that women can make against men. ”
Gender neutal langauge is no improvement if it just means men can use it to pull the same shit on women that women can pull on men now. The probelm is the law’s denial of due process.
“So, bottom line – you can make that law as gender neutral as you want and it’s not going to do shit. It’s going to “proportionally” screw over one group of people by another group of people who do a greater proportion of the screwing-over. A bad law is a bad law.”
That is correct. When I suggested that it be changed to gender-neutral language, my brain automatically assumed that any language that could disadvantage one group over another in the bill should also be struck. That’s the problem with speaking from an ideal as opposed to the actual law 🙂
“The probelm is the law’s denial of due process.”
I can already imagine someone ranting about how, if there’s due process, victims will forever be powerless to escape their victimhood and will live in perpetual fear.
The biggest issue that I have with this act is that it wants us to believe that certain types of violence take precedence over others. The problem with that is “who” gets to determine which is worse. So, lets say you punch your wife in the face one morning and then later that evening you are jumped in the corner bar and beaten with feet and fists. We all know which one is more violent and deserving of our sympathies, right. 😉
Currently having a bit of disorientation… I read this post here, then I have one left on my blog saying my Julian Assange post is bullshit and there is no justice for women anywhere. (I told her I wasn’t an anarchist, but she persists in calling me one)
Next to last comment here: http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-empire-strikes-back.html
I won’t back down from defending Assange. Just won’t, sorry. If anyone can’t see what all that is about, they are simply naive as hell.
I am currently trying to figure out how to keep all of these things in mind and learn to be fair to both genders, while still feminist. Maybe its impossible. I simply won’t go along with the okeydoke anymore, at the same time, I do care about women.
Daisy, IMO, just drop the label feminist. I know, easier said than done. I don’t really know your religious background that much but if you’ve sort of given up on organized religion maybe you can try looking into humanism. And, ftr, I do not self identify as a humanist either…although I am considering it. These days I sort of just call myself an independent thinking liberal. (I used to call myself an independent _social_ liberal but I am NOT onboard with several social issues democrats seem to use for votes. Nevermind that these past 3 years I have been apolitical…even anti-political).
I’m not sure I agree.
While I have certainly had my share of bad experiences with people who identify as feminist, and it seems Daisy is increasingly having similar experiences, I also think it’s a valuable label and one worth fighting for. Especially after hearing Daisy talk about her own experiences with second wave feminism, I have gained a great deal of respect for the label, and I think it would be a shame if it was left exclusively to middle-upper-class white women complaining about their sex lives. There are still significant issues facing women, and I think it would be good for the movement to have some people in it that can be taken seriously, you know?
Then again, encouraging Daisy to keep the label would be a bit hypocritical of me since I do not don it myself.
Honestly, I don’t know why these things need to conflict with being feminist. Is it just because other feminists disagree with you? Do they own the label “feminist”? Why not just keep using the label no matter what your views are? You’ve been a feminist for a long time, what gives anyone else more of a right to define what feminism is than you?
You could also identify as a “dissent feminist”, indicating that you are feminist, but that you disagree with the movements current most prominent goings-ons.
I’ve also, personally, toyed with the idea of adopting both the label “feminist” and the label “MRA” (ultimately, I’ve chosen not to). Partly just to upset and confuse people, but also partly because it does to a large extent express my views: I care about women and men, and I think there are significant issues facing both.
In a perfect world, there would me an exceptionally slow and rusty meat grinder under the floor of every meeting of lawmakers into which any person who attempts to name a bill or act is unceremoniously dropped. Numbers (or given names, like hurricanes) would avert more than a few catastrophes.
I know several people who consider themselves both. Personally, I reject all labels and affiliations because all sides fall short of my standards.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a feminist. For example, if you’re egalitarian, or if you simply choose to focus on women’s issues as your personal cause (while not denying that men’s issues still exist).
The fact that it’s such a broad term can lead to confusion, though. If you called yourself an egalitarian, your position would be clearer, albeit narrower.
Daisy: “I am currently trying to figure out how to keep all of these things in mind and learn to be fair to both genders, while still feminist. Maybe its impossible. I simply won’t go along with the okeydoke anymore, at the same time, I do care about women.”
You’re doing just fine, Daisy.