Thanks to a commenter on the thread about feminism and the murder rate, I found some interesting discussion about Latoyia Figueroa’s murder (scroll down about two-thirds of the page). Criminologist Jack Levin addresses the horrifying fact that the most common cause of death among pregnant women and new mothers is murder by speculating about the cultural pressures that might drive men to kill women who are carrying their children:
We glorify, we romanticize fatherhood but there are many men who don’t want it. They see the baby as an obstacle to their success.
Of course, there’s more to it than that: some men who don’t want to be fathers take the responsibility for avoiding fatherhood onto themselves, while others expect their girlfriends to bear all the responsibility. The ones who think murdering your pregnant girlfriend is an appropriate response to an unwanted pregnancy push the sexist, women-are-to-blame thinking to its extreme, but the difference between believing you have the right to kill her and believing you have the right to compel her to have an abortion is one of degree and not kind.
It’s true that one of the ways our culture contributes to crimes like this is by putting pressure on men that some cannot live up to. But the other side of the coin is the image of motherhood and femininity as subservient to male control that makes these men consider their partners as objects for them to control and, if necessary, destroy. Both are cultural pressures, both are factors in crimes like that, and I’d prefer to see more attention paid to the one that directly affects women than to the one that could be read as excusing men.
But at least Levin is focussing on the actions of the criminal. Criminal profiler Pat Brown picks up this social pressure and runs with it into blame-the-victim territory:
I think we also have women out there who are not picking men who want to be fathers. It’s a simple solution for the women. Don’t get pregnant by men you do not trust and absolutely think want to be in a relationship and want to move into fatherhood.
Such a simple solution. Don’t want to be murdered? Don’t marry a murderer. Don’t want to be raped? Don’t let yourself be alone with a rapist. Don’t want to be used as a sexual object and then discarded? Don’t associate with sexist jerks. Not to say that victims of murder and rape are to blame for what happens to them, of course, but we know there are predators out there and it makes sense for women to take these few simple steps to protect themselves.
It falls to Levin to point out the flaw in this plan:
Not all of these guys…in fact some of them are the last person you’d suspect and that’s part of the secret of being a sociopath and getting away with murder. So you know sure, let’s use warning signs and common sense, but it doesn’t always work.
Until men who see women as expendable objects start wearing labels to distinguish them from the rest of the male population, “don’t get involved with a jerk or a sociopath” isn’t a solution at all. There are men who appear to be wonderful, caring people as eager for parenthood as the women who fall for them, but who, at the first sign of things not conforming to their fantasies, blame the women and expect them to fall immediately into line. When the man who is genuinely trustworthy and the man who is only trustworthy as long as he gets what he wants look the same to the naked eye, what’s a girl to do?
Whatever filters women set up to screen out the jerks and the sociopaths, they lose. No filter is perfect: it will either underblock and let undesirables through or overblock and screen desirables out. If the filter underblocks, you could end up with someone who thinks murder is an acceptable form of birth control, and the likes of Pat Brown will suggest that it’s your fault for not realising who you’d tangled with. And if it overblocks, you’re an evil misandrist who thinks all men are rapists and won’t give a nice guy a chance.
But given that the stakes are so high, why do “nice guys” deserve a chance before they’ve produced solid evidence, as opposed to unreliable assertion, of why they should be trusted? Outside of feminist discussions, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the question asked. Nice guys deserve a chance because they’re nice guys, and because deep down, a woman really needs a man and won’t be happy without one. Male privilege and the myth of subservient femininity, all packed into one unexamined assumption.