Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

For valentine’s day, I thought I would post something about preventing spousal violence.

Earlier this year, a Justice Canada federal study was released, which details the incidents and costs of spousal violence. There are some interesting findings from the study. For one thing, the study estimates that the costs of spousal violence are very high: an estimated 7.4 billion per year in Canada (and this is said to be a deliberately conservative estimate). The costs include things like legal bills, emergency room visits, lost wages due to time off from injuries, the costs of personal safety measures such as paying for call display to identify stalking spouses, and possible moving expenses to escape the spouse.

Here is the findings on the incidence of spousal violence as reported by The Toronto Star:

Drawing on a Canada-wide police database, researchers found almost 50,000 cases of spousal violence reported to police that year, more than 80 per cent of them involving female victims. The cases included 65 homicides, 49 of them women. (Source: Beeby)

Here is the break-down of the costs associated with spousal violence by gender:

Altogether, total costs were conservatively estimated at $4.8 billion for female victims and $2.6 billion for male victims. (Source: Beeby)

I think that is interesting. Note that according to the study, 80% of the victims of spousal violence are women and 20% are men, but violence committed against men accounts for 35% of the costs associated with spousal violence. The Star article does not describe why the costs are higher for men than for women. If I had to guess I would say that the higher costs are likely associated with the wage gap, since men earn more than women on average, their time away from work would be more expensive. But that is just a guess. Perhaps the issue is that men have more disposable income on average than women do, and so men spend more on their own protection than women do. Beeby mentions that the study found that 80% of the costs of violence are born by the victim themselves (the remainder is born by public services and employers). I am not sure what else might account for the difference.

So this study shows that shelters save money. But they also save lives. It is interesting to note, however, that shelters tend to save men’s lives more than women’s lives:

Let us look at the statistics and see who is murdering whom. Going back to the 1970s we learn that the domestic homicide rates in the U.S. were about the same for men and for women, around 1,000 such killings per year.

Coming to today, the latest figures available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics provide a comparison of intimate homicide rates for 2005 compared with 1976. Here is the official breakdown for 2005: 329 males and 1,181 females were killed in that year by their intimate partners. Clearly men are much more likely to kill their partners than women are to kill theirs. We know from other research that same-sex homicide is predominantly male, a fact of some significance in the statistical breakdown because some of the male intimate homicide victims are not killed by women at all but by their male partners.

Returning to the discrepancy between the decline in the rates of female-on-male domestic homicide and the male-on-female rates, Statistics Canada (1998, 2005, 2010), and other Canadian sources reveal the same trend has occurred in Canada since the years that the women’s movement took shape. For the year 2009, for example, three times as many Canadian women were killed by spouses and ex-spouses as were men.

So what is the explanation for this striking decline in women killing their partners? Researchers including myself attribute the decline to the fact that women who often killed out of fear for their lives now had an alternative avenue of escape thanks to the availability of women’s hot lines and domestic violence services, including shelters. (Keep in mind that women who kill their partners are generally battered women, whereas men who kill are often striking out due to a break-up or threatened break-up.)

“Exposure reduction theory” is the term coined by Wells and DeLeon-Granados in a 2004 article to explain this phenomenon of the significant decline in male homicides by their partners. This theory holds that if a woman can escape from a dangerous battering situation, she will do so, and that if she resorts to using lethal partner violence, it is most likely a protective mechanism. In any case, it is a paradox, rarely realized that the proliferation of domestic violence prevention for which women and victims’ advocates have fought so hard is saving the lives of battering men more than of battered women. Many of the female victims who obtain help from domestic violence services are eventually stalked and killed. (Source: van Wormer)

Shelters provide women a way of escaping violent relationships, and this is more likely to save their male partner’s life than to save the woman’s own life. Clearly, we still need to be doing more for women, but what exactly? Would men’s shelters help reduce homicide of female partners? Van Wormer’s article is not as clear on that. She does suggest that stresses like job loss might increase the rate at which men kill their partners:

So we can conclude that socio-economic status is clearly a correlate of the male-on-female killings. In contrast, the economic factor is less striking in the female-on-male intimate homicide rates. We should also consider the fact that the recent rise in the numbers of murder-suicides and whole family slaughters is correlated with the high unemployment rates for men. (Source: van Wormer)

So shelters clearly help, and if job loss is correlated with spousal homicides by men, shelters should continue to be funded during times of recession. It is great that shelters save men’s lives, but we still have work to do thinking about how we can reduce the rate of women who die at the hands of their intimate partners.

Link Round-Up

Dean Beeby “Spousal violence costs Canadians billions, study findsThe Toronto Star. December 24, 2012.

Katherine van Wormer “Women’s Shelters and Domestic Violence Services Save the Lives of Men,” Psychology Today. December 11, 2010.

Katherine van Wormer “Reducing the Risk of Domestic Homicide” Social Work Today. Vol. 9 No. 1 P. 18. January/February 2009.

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This is not really a post, as much as a collection of links. Usually I try to write some thoughts, but today I am deep in marking. Nevertheless, I wanted to provide some links to help counter the media silence around the Idle No More movement. On December 10, 2012, a number of Canada’s First Nations came together around the country to protest the legislative changes Harper is making to the Indian Act and the erosion of environmental protections (among other things). The Indian Act has always been a racist and terrible piece of legislation (for example, this legislation served as the template for South African apartheid), but these changes are making things worse, not better.

Link Round-Up

Idle No More’s Website and Blog, which includes their manifesto describing the reason behind the protests.

Anishinaabewiziwin “Everyday Cry: Feeling Through Ogitchidaakwe’s Hunger Strike” by Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy. December 27, 2012. This is a great piece. I think everyone should read it. It moved me to tears.

Zig Zag Warrior “Idle No More? Speak for Yourself…Warrior Publications December 12, 2012. A critical perspective on the protests.

âpihtawikosisân “The natives are restless. Wondering why?” âpihtawikosisân December 11, 2012.

Trevor Greyeyes “Keep up the Pressure with Idle No MoreThe First Perspective December 11, 2012.

Andrew Loewen “Idle No More & Settler-Colonial Canada” The Paltry Sapians December 11, 2012. (lots of pictures and videos of the Edmonton march at this link)

Nora Loreto “Idle No More: Non-Indigenous responsibility to actRabble.ca December 10, 2012.
IDLE NO MORE: CANADA’S FIRST PEOPLES ARE RISINGIndigenousRising December 10, 2012.

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On Having it All

woman juggling to "Have it all"

This woman “has it all” and it doesn’t look like very much fun. And oh, hey, where’s dad?

I am really not sure why the inability to have it all is supposed to be some kind of strike against feminism. I don’t think feminism ever suggested that women could “have it all,” or should desire to “have it all” (whatever that even means). But some people seem to think that because women have to choose between being high-powered career-oriented persons and being full-time parents, this somehow means that feminism betrayed women and we should return to the old ways with a male bread-winner and a female stay-at-home partner. But here it might be worth noting that if the goal is to “have it all” the old way is no better than the straw-feminist way, because the “traditional 1950s family” still does not involve a woman who “has it all.” Instead, it merely results in women who don’t have it all and also cannot choose which way they would like to have it.

We should admit that the situation is completely unlike the one described by Venker in her terrible “The War on Men” piece for Fox news, and it is also completely unlike her “apology” for that piece:

Rather, Venker said, it is that, “women, once they have children would prefer to work part-time or not at all when their children are young. Their career trajectory will be different than that of men. Feminists don’t like that. They want everybody to want the same thing, career trajectories to be the same. Women may say I really want to exercise or hang out with my friends and have coffee or go shopping and have a cushier life, and your guy will be happy to do that, and go to the office all year long for 40 years to allow you to do that. Men don’t have that option. And there is nothing wrong with having different road maps.” (Source: The Daily Beast)

Actually, feminists have never claimed that everyone should want the same things. That is precisely why feminists have argued that women should be able to choose whether they want careers rather than being forced to be a stay-at-home parent, though feminists also accept that women should be able to choose to be a full-time parent if that is possible for them and what they desire. It is Venker who is making essentialist and universalizing statements about what “women” want once they have children. Venker also completely ignores that many men also want to be home with their children. She says that “Men don’t have that option” to stay home. But feminism has precisely been arguing that both sexes should have these options. Just as feminists think women should be allowed to choose work, so too, they think men should be able to choose to stay at home, if that is what suits them. It is Venker, not feminists, who are limiting what people are supposed to want.

Then, to make matters worse, Venker paints an unrealistic portrait of what it is like to be a stay-at-home parent. It seems, on her world-view that stay-at-home mothers spend their time exercising, hanging out with friends, shopping and having coffee, a “cushier” life, as she describes it. Venker thinks that a man will be happy to work in order to allow his wife this “cushy” life. But many stay-at-home moms describe their days as difficult and full of work (laundry, getting the kids from here to there, feeding the kids, etc. etc.) it is precisely this stereotype of the stay-at-home life as “cushy” that often feeds resentment among both spouses: among men because they see their life as full of toil and placating bosses in order to afford their wives this “cushy” life, and among women because they resent that their husbands see their lives as “cushy” when in fact it is full of nearly-unrelenting Sisyphean work (work that once done, must then be redone). And let us not forget that the working world can also involve its fair share of “cushy” activities if one is in the upper-classes. It is true that blue-collar jobs are not so cushy, but as someone who works full-time in a upper-middle-class job, I can tell you that a fair amount of my time is spent having coffee-or-dinner-or-lunch-meetings, exercising with friends (if golf counts as exercise) and so forth.

We should admit that no one can have it all. Both mothers and fathers often want to spend more time with their families and less time at work. So what needs to change is work expectations. We could, for example, divide some jobs among more people to make those jobs more flexible. But we should dispense entirely with the myth that feminism falsely promised women they could have it all, when having it all was really what the traditional family offered women. Neither feminism nor the traditional family offers anyone the chance to have it all.

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First Same-Sex Marriage in Toronto on January 14, 2001.

Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa were the first to be married in Toronto at Riverdale’s Metropolitan Community Church on January 14, 2001.

Sometimes debates about marriage equality position the debate as though marriage equality opposed religious freedom. In Canada, however, some churches exercised their religious freedom in order to help usher in equal marriage. The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC Toronto) was one of the first to marry same-sex couples in Ontario. As Wikipedia reports:

On January 14, 2001, [Reverend Brent] Hawkes gained national attention by performing a wedding ceremony for two same-sex couples at the Metropolitan Community Church. Although city clerks would not issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages at this time, Hawkes employed the alternative provided in Ontario law for regular church attendees to publish official banns for three consecutive weeks, and thereby conducted a legal marriage without requiring prior government permission. In the spirit of the banns as a public opportunity for interested parties to raise legal objections, the church also issued a press release in late 2000 announcing its intentions. The government of Jean Chrétien did not endorse the marriages, althoughGovernor-General Adrienne Clarkson sent a personal letter of support. The city clerk refused to register the record of marriage, leading to a court battle. On July 12, 2002, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the marriages performed by Hawkes in January 2001 were legal, but stayed its decision pending a possible appeal, and on June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario affirmed this, and striking down all barriers againstsame-sex marriage in the province, with immediate effect. (From Wikipedia, most links broken by Bakka)

So, religious freedom and marriage equality are not always at odds with one another. Indeed, religious freedom sometimes works in ways that support marriage equality even when the government has not yet moved to support it.


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Today marks the six-year anniversary of equal marriage in Canada on July 20, 2005 (although it is important to note that same-sex marriage was already legal in most of the provinces and one territory before that). Since the passage of Bill C-38, which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada, there has been no negative effects on heterosexual marriage or the rest of Canadian society:

Nobody has married their car, their tree or their favourite living room chair. No priest has been forced to marry same-sex couples. No pedophiles have married children….

Nor has gay marriage undermined straight marriage…

In fact, according to the article linked above, divorce rates have fallen in Canada. Further, our economy has not crumbled. Things are going pretty well here.

Last year I posted a video by Grimace in which he interviewed Canadians about how the legalization of same-sex marriage changed the life of Canadians. Even those who were opposed to equal marriage said the law had not changed their life (though I assume that is more true for heterosexuals than for homosexuals). Here is another video (an old one from 2006) where Grimace interviews Canadians about whether they would like to reopen the equal marriage debate. Among those interviewed, most seem to think the issue is settled and equal marriage should remain the norm for Canada since “we can’t pick and choose rights.”

Canadians seem satisfied with the current state of affairs, and there have been no negative effects on Canadian society. So yippee for same-sex marriage in Canada.

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Wow, this is terrible. It really shows how when we are looking at relational and structural problems an individualistic explanation can just lead you so awry.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Notice how all of the blame is placed on women themselves. At about minute 1:00 we hear that women have “equal opportunities” and “equal rights wherever they go” yet “women choose to opt out” and they squander the “investment” society has made in their education because they choose “not to contribute in equal amounts to society as men do.” Wow women really are pretty terrible and irresponsible, sucking up all that government funded education only to “opt out” because it is too stressful, or they have to raise children and therefore don’t contribute to society as much as men do.

This completely erases the important fact that raising children is contributing to society. In fact, it is one of the most fundamental and ineliminable requirements for a society that lasts longer than a generation (financial speculation, not so much).

Second it erases the fact that in heterosexual relationships women’s choices around raising children are inextricably entwined with men’s choices around raising children. Someone has to raise the children, that responsibility won’t go away. If men choose not to, then there is no one other than women to do so. You can’t fix the problem by shaming women for squandering the social investment we made in educating them and expect that to solve the problem. The problem needs to be solved through negotiations among men and women together considering how they are relationally entwined in this child raising business. Those kinds of negotiations might actually require businesses to change their expectations in order to facilitate work-life balance so it is no longer quite so “stressful.” Pretty much everyone gets stressed out when they are working more than one full-time job.

You really can’t fault someone for wanting only one full-time job. You can, however, fault a system that makes that option impossible. Women might have equal opportunities if we consider paid employment in isolation, but men don’t have equal opportunities if we also consider child care to be something that should accounted for as part of many adult lives. Paid employment and child care should be considered together, not separately. This would go a long way toward improving the adult lives of both men and women.

Dart describes how much business has invested in helping women and other minorities to advance. All of this effort seems wasted because of the problems with women themselves. Maybe it is time we start asking questions about the investment, though… where is it going? How does if affect care-giving responsibilities? How has society invested in this essential aspect of its own perpetuation? Maybe we are not looking in the right places when we are talking about women’s advancement…

So Fuck You Globe and Mail for this terrible piece (I am hesitant to blame Beatrix Dart because the piece is obviously highly edited, and in another video she does mention men and women having a dialogue together–although not about sharing work at home, and instead only about their “stereotypes” and unintentional behaviour–so I feel unsure about whether it acurately reflects her views, but if it does, fuck you Beatrix, too).

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My dissertation is like a long-term relationship, and right about now I would love to have a fling with a term paper.

My dissertation, I love you, I think you are the most worthwhile idea I have tried to pursue, but you frustrate me. Why are we having this argument again? I thought last month we had settled that issue. But here it is coming up again today.

You are a deep and worthwhile love, but you are no longer that exciting. Sure, there are moments when I see the spark again, but I am tired of the same old arguments and issues being raised after I thought they were solved. I am coming to know you slowly and more deeply, but knowing you in this way is more complex. There are things about you I cannot change and that do not neatly fit the argument I design. Knowing you in this way is harder, and slower, and requires more acceptance not only of you as you are and as you remain intractable but also accepting myself and my own limitations.

To the term paper I long to woo, you are so exciting and new. Sure I realize that there will be nothing lasting or really meaningful about our relationship. But you are so exciting. Even the fact that I won’t really know you is exciting. I get to spend a few weeks or months with you, and I will begin to think I know you well, and knowing you thrills me. I feel like I am accomplishing something when I make you smile or blush into the argument I outlined for you.

It is true I don’t really know you, but only the you that fits what I am trying to say. This I think is part of your attractiveness, you will reflect better on me than the dissertation that I have to please despite the incongruities in argumentation. I don’t really know you, though I think I do, and this illusion points not to my limitations but to the possibilities.

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I promised a post about why I do not think crying makes one weak in all cases (see the discussion here), and I said I would write this post before the end of May. Of course that deadline has now passed, but I was having a hard time remembering what I thought about crying because I was feeling unusually happy for a stretch. But now my work-related productivity has slowed a little and I remember the other kinds of feelings that are not related to happiness.

To begin with I want to be clear that I think there are several varieties of crying, and some of these might indeed be an expression of weakness. I do not think this means that all kinds of crying are weak, however. Nor does it mean that forms of crying that do express weakness are only expressing weakness; emotions can express more than one thing at a time, I believe. I have cried out of weakness, and this happens when I am crying out of frustration, because I feel helpless, overwhelmed, or sometimes for no reason that I can discern. But even in those moments there is sometimes some strength in crying because through tears I can ask for help and you have to be brave to ask for help. You have to be willing to make yourself vulnerable to someone else, and that takes a lot of courage. There are also many other times when I have cried and it has not been from weakness, and has not involved an admixture of weakness at all.


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Lately I have been thinking a lot about the different ways that we can value things. In particular I have been thinking about intrinsic and extrinsic value and how this relates to Kantian ethics through his views on respect. When we value something extrinsically (or instrumentally) we value that thing for the sake of something else. When we value something intrinsically, we value that thing for its own sake.

Kant’s major contribution to the concept of respect was to say that it was owed equally to all, in contrast to older views that honoured only those in the upper echelons of the social hierarchy. Kant justifies the idea that we are each owed equal respect by talking about how each person has intrinsic value, which he calls “dignity.” Human dignity, according to Kant is the idea that we are not fungible in the way that commodities are. Dignity is a special kind of value that Kant contrasts with price. It is because persons have dignity that they are owed respect, which entails treating others always as ends in themselves (or, as intrinsically valuable), and never as mere means (as having only extrinsic value).

In North American culture we often talk about human dignity, official documents like the declaration of independence, the UN declaration of human rights, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms all contain references to human dignity or human equality that echo Kant’s concerns. The question I have is: how well do we promote this view? Although we claim to think that Kantian respect is important, that all people are born equal and are intrinsically valuable, I think we fail to promote the idea that people have intrinsic value and more often think of people in terms of their extrinsic value, particularly their usefulness or productivity.


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