Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Feminist Ideas vs Fieldwork

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the largest anti-abuse network in the United States, and this organization does real "field work" helping victims of rape, abuse, and incest. If there is an expert on these problems, RAINN is certainly on the list of candidates; these people are out in the field doing real work helping real victims.

I mention this because earlier this year (2014), RAINN released a report to the White House with specific recommendations for how to reduce the number of rapes on college campuses. This is important because it provides us with an opportunity to perform an experiment: if the mainstream feminist perspective on rape is correct, then we should expect RAINN's recommendations to emphasize things like combating rape culture and reworking masculinity, which many feminists have insisted are the major underlying causes of rape.

However, not only does the RAINN report not recommend addressing rape culture and masculinity, it specifically denounces focusing on these topics as tactics to reduce the number of rapes on campus.

"In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming “rape culture” for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime. 

While that may seem an obvious point, it has tended to get lost in recent debates. This has led to an inclination to focus on particular segments of the student population (e.g., athletes), particular aspects of campus culture (e.g., the Greek system), or traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., “masculinity”), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape. This trend has the paradoxical effect of making it harder to stop sexual violence, since it removes the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personal responsibility for his or her own actions."

Source: https://rainn.org/images/03-2014/WH-Task-Force-RAINN-Recommendations.pdf

And just like creationists who are confronted with biologists who actually work in the field, many feminist bloggers dismissed these experts, claiming that RAINN just doesn't understand feminism, or isn't looking at the problem correctly.



A similar situation arose when Erin Pizzey opened the first battered women's shelter in the UK in 1971. She soon discovered that many of the women at her shelter were just as violent as their husbands, and that a lot of domestic violence was reciprocal, and some feminists at the time reacted violently and hatefully when she voiced those observations. Again, feminists were at odds with a field worker.

This is what I mean when I say that I disagree with feminist ideas: while I support the goal of gender equality, I disagree with their models of reality (e.g. rape culture) and with the solutions these models present, as, it seems, RAINN also does.

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