Question: What Do We Stand To Gain?

Jill at Feministe links to yet another article talking about how rape statistics are exaggerated and proceeds to painstakingly take apart its logical flaws and rape apologetics. There are so damn many of these articles, however, and many of them include the notion that feminists are constantly inflating the proportion of women who have been raped. And as Jill points out, these kinds of arguments require all forms of mental gymnastics and contortions of reason in order to fit the statistics into the theory.

But beyond that, I really want to know what these people think are feminists’ motivations for inflating these statistics. This article is more straightforward about it than most, in that it explicitly spells out the claim that feminists are inventing rape where none happened. Feminists, apparently, are so desperate to believe that a crisis of violence against women exists, that rape is altogether too common, and that we need to work and work hard to stop it, that they will search for any means possible of making people believe that. When someone gets all anti-feminist about equal pay, or men’s rights activists start spouting off about how divorce/child support issues always benefit women, or anti-choice crusaders try to push through bills like the “Unborn Victims of Crime Act”, and they include statements about how the selfish, selfish feminists just want everything their way all the time, at least I can make sense of their arguments. They think women are asking for more money or unfair amounts of freedom or an unequal redistribution of wealth. They’re wrong, but I can see why they could imagine this cabal of feminists sitting in their ivory towers drumming their fingers and developing ways to strengthen the matriarchal stronghold on society, and I can respect that this feminist conspiracy at least appears to be made up of humans with standard human desires for power and money.

But those of us who apparently spend all our time inventing rape statistics and surveying women in order to convince them that they’ve been raped stand to gain…what exactly? I realize that people who write articles like this have never spoken to a flesh-and-blood feminist in their lives, but I’m beginning to wonder if they’ve ever even had a real conversation with a human being.

Betacandy was writing an article a while ago that included a reference to rape statistics and chose to use a conservative 1 in 8 estimate, rather than the oft-cited 1 in 4, which is a number that was reached independently by several reputable agencies, feminist and non-feminist alike (including Statistics Canada). Her strategy was to avoid getting sidetracked onto an argument about the statistical accuracy of the numbers when regardless of which is closer to the truth, those numbers are absolutely unacceptable. I’ve heard far too many women tell me their stories of rape and sexual abuse, not to mention the stories I have myself, and I never want to hear another one. Ever. I never want to have to. It does me absolutely no good to drum up statistics that only make the problem seem bigger and more hopeless and more universal and less worth fighting against.

Do they think feminists get paid on commission for the number of women we can get to disclose rape to us? What the hell kind of sense does any of this make?

If any one can provide an actual answer for what it is we are supposed to gain with this strategy, I’m all ears.


7 thoughts on “Question: What Do We Stand To Gain?

  1. Jay says:

    In his book “Freakonomics”, Richard Leavitt explains what anti-rape activists (and any other activist, for that matter) has to gain by inflating statistics: increased visibility, increased outrage, and increased support.

    Now: I’m not saying 1 in 8 isn’t a horrible number by itself…but after all the discussion we have about how rape is ignored/marginalized, can we agree that anti-rape activists have something to gain by trying to make people more upset about rape? To maybe feel that they’re more personally effected by it?

    It’s not a feminist thing (and I’m not accusing feminists of doing it)…but it does happen. Even people who support perfectly noble and worthwhile causes have, at times, lied or exaggerated to make their particular problem seem bigger, more important, or more in need of funding/support than it would otherwise seem if they used accurate statistics.

    I think it’s horrible that people might say “1 in 8 is okay, but 1 in 4, that’s over the line”. But some people do think like that.

    (Leavitt’s main example was a crusader for the homeless, who simply invented numbers out of whole cloth at some points to make people think homelessness was a really really big problem. Does that mean it’s not a big problem? No. Does that mean it’s not worthy of working on? No. But he did lie and make stuff up…is that okay, because it was a noble cause?)

  2. purtek says:

    Okay, first of all, I’m not inclined to necessarily trust the book “Freakonomics”, as (although I haven’t read it) trusted sources with strong academic backgrounds in economics have pointed out some very major flaws in his statistical reasoning. But more to the point, I was sort of meaning beyond the level of just “getting people on our side”. If you read the quotes from the article in question, you’ll see that apparently we’ll go so far as to convince women that they’ve suffered rapes that haven’t happened in order to achieve that goal. And at that point, it seems we mythical feminists would be arriving at a place that is exactly opposite to where we claim to intend–making more women suffer more due to this previously non-existent trauma that we’re projecting onto them. Which doesn’t make any sense at all.

  3. Jay says:

    1.) Hadn’t heard the criticisms…could you point me towards? I loved the book, in general, but if there are flaws/issues I want to read them.

    2.) Apologies if my answer wasn’t what you were looking for; I was mainly addressing the bolded questions, not looking at the overarching issue. My bad.

    3.) I hope you realize I don’t agree with the rationale I presented; I was merely presenting it.

    4.) To address your clarified point, about why mythical feminists would convince women they’ve been raped when they haven’t, some possible answers (none of which really make sense, unless you have a twisted mind, but which can hang together in a somewhat coherent way):

    –Self validation. Supposedly (in the minds of the detractors), these mythical feminists feel they have been raped when they really haven’t. By persuading other women that they’ve been raped, they’re supporting their argument that they themselves have been raped.
    (y’know, instead of just laying down and admitting it’s their own fault, and they’re just a slut, the way the detractors would prefer.)

    Counter to use against these people: trying to tell someone else that they haven’t been violated displays an incredible level of arrogance and lack of empathy.

    –Said mythical feminists are really all about kicking men in the nuts, literally and metaphorically. So by convincing women they’ve been raped, they further the attitude that men are a bunch of mean ol’ rapists, and eventually men will be emasculated and subjugated by public outcry.

    Counter to use against these people: You’re out of your freaking mind, man.

    There’s probably more…that’s all I got right now.

    5.) The reason the detractors will not see the illogic of their viewpoint is because they refuse to believe that the feminist motive is truly to help women. They believe you’d happily hurt women if it furthered your agenda (whatever that might be), including convincing them they’ve suffered imaginary rapes.

  4. purtek says:

    Okay, general apologies because I wrote that response in one of my “too busy to really think right now” spaces, and it comes off more pissy with you than warranted.

    Your responses (and counterpoints to the detractors) are essentially along the lines of what I’m asking, really…I guess I really mean that I fundamentally cannot understand the lack of empathy or rational analysis displayed in these arguments. I figure that assuming that the person with whom I’m disagreeing has actual reasons for believing as s/he does–whether those reasons be rational, political, psychological, selfish, cultural, whatever–generally helps me to have an actual, potentially productive conversation. Which means I’m trying to wrap my brain around the arguments of rape apologists…so to see people who can’t make the same leap for feminists honestly just blows me away. This is my fundamental, unshakable naivete at work again, apparently.

    A lot of what gets to me is that this stuff really hurts me. It breaks my heart. I know you’ve heard at least a few women speak out about their experiences of violence, so you’re aware that many (myself included) feel they are taking a risk to do so. And there’s almost a sense of glee among some of the people who are cutting down feminists, dismissing the feelings of rape victims, and writing articles like this one. You can see the smirk in it.

    There’s really a full post in this, but I find myself struggling to even make the comment, because admitting that it causes me pain to hear this stuff is just another example, for some of these people, of cultivating the “victim mentality”.

    Re: Freakonomics. I didn’t see these criticisms online, I heard them in real life. It would take me a bit of research to look up any online equivalents (though I’m sure they exist). Sorry.

  5. Jay says:

    1.) No apologies necessary…your response was perfectly reasonable.

    2.) Re: inability to understand…I’m with you on this. But it’s not so much an inability as an unwillingness. You (and I like to think I) are capable of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and trying to judge their position on it’s merits, rather than dismissing it out of hand or immediately viewing it in the worst possible light. Some people simply won’t do this…not because they can’t, but because they feel evaluating someone else’s position fairly undermines their own. It’s a sad state of affairs…and it primarily reflects upon them. It tells me “this person doesn’t believe enough in what he’s arguing to do it honestly”.

    3.) Re: how this hurts. I’m aware (though I won’t pretend I can feel what you’re feeling), and I’m sorry (and I hope my putting their arguments in such blunt, flat terms wasn’t too much like a straight jab to the gut). THAT’s what I can’t understand…not how people could view their opponents so badly, but how they can STATE those views so absolutely and contemptuously, with complete disregard for who they’re talking about. Not the “why” they do it…just what kind of person is able to.
    There are a lot of people I disagree with, and a lot whose views I find ridiculous or contemptible. I try my best to treat even my enemies/opponents politely, when possible.

    4.) Re: Freakonomics. No worries, I can look around myself. I just wondered if you had something handy.

  6. […] 5, 2008 · No Comments In comments to this post, Jay and I got to talking about what it is I (we) really don’t understand about many of the […]

  7. BetaCandy says:

    This post is great, and so are the comments, and I have only one tiny thing to add:

    The argument I hear most often seems to be that feminists hate men and want to make men look bad.

    Okay, let’s assume that’s true. WHY do they hate men so much? Could it be, I dunno, because men have wronged them in some way? I mean, does hate like that come out of nowhere?

    The argument doesn’t even stand up without opposition. It defeats itself.

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