Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gender & hate crimes (by Suzie)

         An Associated Press story says Obama’s election has led to an increase in race-based hate crimes. From a feminist perspective, I’d like to suggest two things:
         1. When we talk about violence, we need to stop disappearing gender. Society needs to continue to question why men are more likely to use violence, whatever the issue.
         2. We need to remember that violence against women because of their gender often does not get reported as a hate crime. For example, the AP story quotes an expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center, but as far as I can tell, the law center still does not track crimes based on gender. Its programs, including the Teaching Tolerance curriculum, center on race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.
        People at the Reclusive Leftist site can wonder if anger at Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin has morphed into more violence against women, but I don't know of anyone tracking that, not the way the Southern Poverty Law Center counts other hate crimes.
        Fifteen years ago, I asked Richard Cohen, then the legal director for the law center, why it didn’t track crimes committed because of gender. He told me:
        “In some ways, the problem of violence against women is so pervasive that it’s in kind of a different category altogether.” He said men’s anger toward women might be a “much more deep-seated psychological thing than racism.”
        You would think that pervasiveness and deep roots would be an argument for inclusion, not exclusion.
        If feminism must fight all oppressions, as third-wave feminists believe, then we need to continue to ask groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center to include gender. If it doesn't have the resources, perhaps it could partner with a feminist nonprofit. That way, we could divide up the work, instead of saying feminists must do everything or nothing.