Monday, August 04, 2003

I've been following the story of Marie Trintignant, the French actress who died this week as a result of a beating by her rock-star boyfriend. (The boyfriend has the nerve to say that when Trintignant lay unconscious after he hit her, he thought she had simply fallen asleep.) Of course it's a terrible story -- shocking in France, where her family is famous in the film industry and his band, Noir Desir, is super popular. Of course it's hard for the media to resist the celebrity aspect of it all (does the name O.J. Simpson ring a bell?), but I came across a feature in Time Europe today ("Until death do us part") and was impressed to find the magazine has taken the opportunity to discuss domestic violence in some depth. It includes a good range of sources, personal accounts, and statistics.

However, this feature is linked to a story called "Violent femmes: Girls get ugly", and this kind of story makes me crazy. It claims that German women are increasingly committing violent crimes. And look! It's oh-so-easy to blame feminism:

Why are German women becoming more violent? Gender equality may have something to do with it. ... "Girls and young women are generally less inhibited in adopting male forms of behavior, whether it's assertiveness, talking tough or using one's elbows," argues psychologist Arnd Stein, who specializes in the treatment of young people. "Unfortunately, the same goes for the use of brute force."
Funny. In the following paragraph, a professor of law and criminology is quoted as saying that "Human aggressiveness is not gender-specific." Which is it? Silly me -- I'm confused. I thought you just said that "talking tough" and "using one's elbows" are "male forms of behavior."

In fact, the whole Time story reads like something from about ten years ago, and it really surprises me. Any first-year criminology student could drive a truck through the holes in this story.

First of all, claims that are based on percentages, especially when comparing the criminal behaviour of men and women, are misleading. The story tells us that violent crime has increased "by almost 8%" among women under 21 in Germany over the last year; the kicker is that the corresponding figure for young men has dropped. But what does that mean? Without knowing the real numbers, this statistic is totally meaningless. The fact is that violent crime is rare, and it is especially rare among women. So let's say that in 2001, 50 young women committed violent crimes, while 350 young men did the same. (I'm totally making up these numbers.) And say that in 2002, 54 "girls got ugly," while 345 boys did. It would indeed be true to say that violence had increased by 8% among girls and dropped among boys. And so freaking what? Does the dynamic change? No.

Second, we're told that "women are the first to use physical force in six out of every 10 cases of relationship breakups." Again, this makes me crazy. Making a general statement about "physical force" is also meaningless. Here's a scenario: heterosexual couple fights, and fights bad. Woman slaps man's face. Man plows fist into woman's face. But she started it! Yeah, and he finished it.

I can't even talk about the title of the story. I won't be able to sleep if I get into that. Suffice it to say, it makes me crazy.

Hey, are you still here? Cool. Then I'll tell you this: I watched a gem of a TV movie last night. Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story. Oh, yeah, baby. You can read a review, with a hilarious title, here: "Five guys, nine arms." And by the end of the movie, as the one-armed drummer was succeeding in keeping the beat to "Pour Some Sugar On Me," Haiku was finished. Photos soon to come.

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