In Defense of Eve Ensler

Via The Debate Link, I read a post at Harry’s Place about rape prevalence statistics.1

The blogger, Michael Ezra, reports attending an Eve Ensler speech:

In her speech, Ensler declared that one in three women in the world are raped. Of course, Ensler did not cite a source for this stupendous claim. The reason she did not do so is because it is fictitious.

In comments, Michael says that people like Ensler “are ruining their own cause with such preposterous statements.”

A quick Google search turns up Ensler referring to a “UN statistic that one in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime.” In fact, she makes more or less this same claim over and over.

But I didn’t find one example of Ensler claiming that one in three women are raped.

So what does that mean? Well, it means that even if Ensler made that claim when Michael saw her speak, it’s not what she typically says.

If we give Ensler the benefit of the doubt, I think we should conclude that either Michael unintentionally misheard her, or Ensler intended to make her usual “one in three” claim but misspoke.

But even if Ensler said that “one in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime,” is that justifiable? Or is it “preposterous”?

This 2003 UN Report (pdf link) says “One in three women throughout the world… in her lifetime… will be beaten, raped, assaulted, trafficked, harassed or forced to submit to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).” In turn, the UN’s source for that claim is this paper (pdf link) from John Hopkins University, which finds that “around the world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.” Contrary to the phrasing of the UN report, the John Hopkins report excludes “trafficking in women, rape during war, female infanticide, and FGM.”

As you might expect, the John Hopkins report isn’t original research; instead, it’s a compilation of many different studies from around the world, and at least some of the compiled studies are themselves compilations. I don’t think it’s possible to have any great degree of certainty with this sort of report; there are too many variables. For example, is coercion defined the same in all the studies? Does the word for “coercion” really has the same connotations in each of the many languages the different source studies used? All rape is coercive, but is all sexual coercion rape? The broad scope of the study makes it impossible for a conclusion like “one in three” to come wrapped in iron certainty.

On the other hand, although the John Hopkins figure is inherently uncertain, it doesn’t seem completely unreasonable. Moreover, because the one in three figure excludes wartime rape and trafficking, the real figure for “women being beaten or raped” could conceivably be higher than the one in three John Hopkins estimated.

Or maybe it’s lower. I don’t know for sure, and neither, I suspect, does anyone else.

That said, I think Michael Ezra is unfair to Eve Ensler, for a few reasons.

1) It’s likely that either Michael misheard Ensler, or Ensler misspoke. If I’m correct about that, then Michael’s critique of Ensler is (unintentionally) unfair.

2) The “1 in 3″ claim that Ensler has made many times, which is different from the one Michael attributes to her, is not “fictional”; its a claim that has frequently been made by UN officials, and that is backed up by reasonable research from a reputable source. Even if the study is mistaken or exaggerated (and I don’t know it is), it’s not preposterous for Ensler to think UN statistics are reliable.

3) The claim that one in three women has been “beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime” is not on its face ludicrous. Admittedly, that’s not exactly the same as Ensler’s claim that one in three women has been “beaten or raped in her lifetime,” but it’s pretty close.

I don’t propose to defend everything Eve Ensler have ever said or written; I’m pretty sure I disagree with her on some topics, although I also greatly admire her dedication to good causes and her amazing fundraising for those causes. But on the narrow question of the “one in three” statistic, unless we have solid evidence that Ensler actually said what Michael attributed to her, and that it wasn’t a simple case of misspeaking, I don’t think Michael Ezra’s condemnation of Ensler is justified.

Michael also writes:

…according to Ensler, not all rape is bad rape. In early versions of The Vagina Monologues, Ensler had a twenty-four year old woman ply a thirteen year old girl with alcohol and then sexually violate her. As the National Post (Ontario) October 6, 2006 reported, Ensler’s child character states: “I say, if it was a rape, it was a good rape, then, a rape that turned my [vagina] into a kind of heaven.”

One wonders about Ensler’s moral compass.

It’s worth noting that “The Vagina Monologues” was based on interviews with women about their actual life experiences. In the monologue Michael mentions, “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could,” Ensler later changed the character’s age to sixteen and struck out the “good rape” line.

I’m not an “art is never offensive” sort of person; art expresses ideas, and some ideas are offensive and deserving of criticism. In particular, the depiction of rape as positive for the victim is something that deserves extreme critical scrutiny.

But I’m not willing to say it’s never acceptable for a playwright to make a distinction between statutory rape and forcible rape. I’m not willing to say it’s never acceptable for a playwright to depict a character who benefited from sex with an adult when she was underage. I want statutory rape laws to apply to adults in real life, but that doesn’t mean they should always be applied to characters in plays. Art, unlike the law, doesn’t have clear-cut boundaries and resists saying “never.”

For a more nuanced take than Michael’s, I’ll quote “Tia,” who wrote in comments at Unfogged:

…The monologue isn’t about the moral status of the adult, but the experience of the girl. There are utilitarian reasons to make statutory rape illegal regardless of circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it’s inconceivable that a legal minor could ever have a good sexual experience with an adult. An adult is never in a position to know she or he is not using coercive power, so the adult’s actions are never justified, but there could be some circumstances in which harm did not result.

The “good rape” line is the character’s clumsy way of trying to express her sense that she has a sovereign right to interpret her experience and no societal rule or interpretive frame can take that away. [...]

This monologue comes in the context of an entire show that returns to the “rape sucks” theme again and again. For that matter, her relationship with the woman is in the context of a monologue that’s already depicted a rape and said how much it sucked.

Anyway, if the Vagina Monologues is about any one thing, it’s about how you are in possession of a truth about your body and your experiences of it and with it that all sorts of people will try to distort and we would do well to hear how you speak it in your language. The monologues were based upon interviews with women; for all we know her original subject used the “good rape” line, although that shouldn’t matter as long as it’s realistic and true to a character, and I find it so. I’m pretty sure a guideline that elevates prudence over truth isn’t going to be good for art.

There’s no reason to be senseless about the stories you tell or the language you do it in, but I thought that “good rape,” was chosen advisedly, to say to the show’s exceedingly anti-rape choir, even you might not like the terms in which women describe themselves and their lives, and you too may have to work hard to understand them and to develop a moral understanding that’s broad enough to contain them. Maybe few people can hear that, but that’s really not the fault of the show qua art (though in practice VM is something of a political tool, and in that role it has to take into account the audience’s limitations).

Anyway, I think a moral idea that it’s wrong for adults to have sex with teenagers should be elastic enough to absorb the notion that harms will vary, or it’s going to crash on the shoals of reality.

I think Tia’s argument is persuasive. That said, this isn’t a simple question, and some thoughtful people will disagree with Tia. (See Kid Bitzer’s response, for example: “The world is not improved by more depictions of women–worse than that, girls–saying how rape was really good for them.”)

For folks who are interested, here’s a video of Crystal Callahan performing the “Coochie Snorcher” monologue. TRIGGER WARNING, because the monologue includes descriptions of rape and child abuse, and needless to say it’s NSFW.

Post-script: Michael also commented on Mary Koss’ studies — and virtually everything he writes is wrong. I may respond to him on that subject in a future post.

When I began writing this post, I intended to agree with Michael that Ensler’s “one in three” statement was utterly wrong, before quickly moving on to Koss’ far more defensible statements. But then I couldn’t find any evidence that Ensler has made the claim Michael attributed to her, and the direction of the post changed.

That said, I have, on rare occasion, heard feminists say that 1 in 3 women are raped in their lifetime. As far as I know, that 1 in 3 statistic is contradicted by every credible study of rape prevalence, and it’s a mistake for anyone to repeat it.

  1. The original post now seems to be offline, so I’ve replaced the original link with a link to the archive of the page at web.archive.org. –Amp, 5/26/2013 []
This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Popular (and unpopular) culture, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

38 Responses to In Defense of Eve Ensler

  1. 1
    Robert says:

    The trouble with the statement is two-fold.

    One, that it conflates two bad things into one bad thing, and one of the bad things is, from most points of view, considerably worse than the other. “One person in three will be either mugged or murdered” – holy cow! But wait.

    Two, with regard to the less bad of the two crimes, one in three over the course of a lifetime…might not really be that high. How many men will be beaten up, over the course of their life? Too many, obviously, because all violence is bad…but probably one American man in three will be beaten up over the course of an entire lifetime, and most of us don’t think of the received life experience of the American male as being a horribly violent one. Gosh, I’m only 42 and I’ve been beaten up before, and my life is a fucking picnic.

  2. 2
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I hate to talk about semantics, but, well… the root cause of this is semantics. There isn’t a socially consistent definition of what constitutes “rape” or “sexual assault,” and because those terms are so widely used the variance in terms ends up causing a lot of confusion.

    In the context of every study which I have ever seen, the study authors explicitly define their terms. That is as it should be. However, when describing or referencing the study, other people will rarely (if ever) give the descriptions of the originally-defined terms. And that opens up a Pandora’s box.

    It’s like a big game of telephone:
    X runs a study in which X decided to defined “sexual assault” as including unsolicited and intrusive sexual statements, such as street harassment. X gets a very high sexual assault rate.

    Y writes an article and talks about X’s work. Y just states “X found that 50% of women were sexually assaulted.”

    Z writes an article referencing Y and points out that 50% of women are sexually assaulted but that only 10% report to police and only 1% obtain a conviction.

    Then various members of the public read all those things and apply their own internalized definition of “sexual assault” to whichever article they read.

    And so on.

    None of those people have done anything wrong. It’s just a factor of the malleability of the terms used.

  3. 3
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Also:

    This is strongly affected by the fact that offense rates (in general, not just against women) tend to be pyramidal: offenses which are worse are committed less frequently, while offenses which are “less worse” are committed less often. (% of women who have been verbally harassed) > (% of women who have suffered minor assault such as groping) > (% of women who have been more seriously assaulted) > (% of women who have been raped) and so on.

    Whether you’re talking about rape, assault, theft, sexism, racism, or pretty much anything else: widening the definition down the pyramid will always result in an increase (often a very large one) in reported frequency. Limiting it up the pyramid will always result in a real decrease.

    When the miscommunications involve a combination of going down and up the pyramid, you can–very rapidly–end up at an impasse even though everyone is acting in good faith.

    To use an example from this post, Amp said (my emphasis added):

    But even if Ensler said that “one in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime,” is that justifiable? Or is it “preposterous”?

    This 2003 UN Report says “One in three women throughout the world… in her lifetime… will be beaten, raped, assaulted, trafficked, harassed or forced to submit to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).

    Amp has met the gold standard: he’s cited, and linked to, his source. But it’s easy to see that if someone else were to summarize Amp’s post, they might well skip over the crucial distinction between the various definitions.

    The U.N. definition includes things which are “up” the pyramid from Ensler’s quote, such as sexual trafficking (which presumably always includes rape and kidnapping and which AFAIK also includes other types of abuse.) It also may include things which are “down” the pyramid, most notably “harassment.” (this depends on the definition of “harassment,” which i haven’t dug for yet. that’s why I said “may.”)

    Is the study a fair comparison? I have no idea–but at least Amp made it possible for me to find out. Yet if someone else cites Amp, they probably wno’t cite the U.N. study, and confusion may result.

    There’s really not a bad guy here. It’s just a predictable result of using an ill defined term.

  4. 4
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    offenses which are worse are committed less frequently, while offenses which are “less worse” are committed less often

    should be MORE often.

  5. 5
    Mokele says:

    Something that bears thinking about in this isn’t just “correct” vs “incorrect”, but accuracy and the sensitivity of results to error.

    Allow me to put it into terms of my field of study. Let’s say I’m trying to determine the medical consequences of a bite to the hand from a dog and from a crocodile. In both cases, I dissect some specimens and measure the relevant bite force properties, and all of my measurements will have some margin of error, resulting in a final margin of error for total force and therefore damage. In the case of the dog, these errors matter a lot – a slight difference in muscle area or lever arm means the difference between soft-tissue damage and a bone-crushing bite. In the case of a crocodile, the errors are almost inconsequential, as unless all measurements are off by an unimaginably huge margin, the result will be a bite that can pulverize bone like it’s made of Rice Krispies. Whether I estimate Po as 22 N/cm2 or 30 N/cm2, the croc has still turned your hand into something that could come out of a sausage maker.

    The point: in one study, a little bit or error has a big consequence, in another, even huge errors have little consequence.

    Imagine if Eve’s stats are off by an order of magnitude, and that excluding anything but forcible rape knocks it down by another order of magitude (to 1 in 300). This level of error is almost impossible, even given the methodological issues raised, but let’s take it as a worst-case scenario. Even 1 in 300 is a truly massive number, resulting in a total of nearly 12 million raped women worldwide. That’s about four times the total number of AIDS deaths over the entire course of the pandemic, just for a sense of scale.

    The punchline: If the stats are anywhere remotely within the realm of reality, rape is a HUGE problem, affecting HUGE numbers of people. Even with errors that would strain credulity, the outcome (that this is a huge problem, and serious action is needed) is the same.

    So really, it’s all just quibbling about useless statistical trivia in an attempt to avoid the key conclusion – Rape is a big problem and we need to do something about it.

  6. 6
    chingona says:

    This post, and David’s, are an appropriate response to this sort of thing. I get hung up wondering why Michael Ezra was so damn mad about it. The whole tone of his post was that it’s the fault of people like Eve Ensler that people don’t take rape seriously. Really? If those feminists would just get their facts straight, then people would get around to stopping rape. It’s well known that before feminists starting exaggerating the incidence of rape, everyone took it much more seriously. Forgive me for having a hard time even engaging with that sort of argument.

  7. 7
    Jenny says:

    On another note, there’s a few somewhat misguided post colonialist critiques of her here, Reed moreso:
    http://www.zcommunications.org/three-cheers-for-eve-ensler-by-keith-harmon-snow

    http://www.counterpunch.org/reed09172010.html

    Whadya y’all think?

  8. 8
    Tamen says:

    Jenny: Here’s what I think. I’ve no problem with focusing on rape in Congo. Although very few seems to be aware of the fact that the number of male rape victims is not insignificant – one sexual violence clinic in Goma said that more than 10% of it’s cases are men ( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/world/africa/05congo.html ).

    However, if these quotes are accurate I find them to be horrible:

    Christine Schuler Deschryver describes the process where militias enter a village, kill all the men, and sexually assault and brutalize the women. [8]

    This is “femicide” says Deschryver, a charge repeated by Eve Ensler and echoed by Amy Goodman.

    Does this illustrates how much african male victims are worth for them? By using the word “femicide” about this it seems like they are intentionally erasing the killed men – intentionally assigning them no worth at all. I find that reprehensible.

  9. 9
    Mandolin says:

    Tamen,

    I don’t represent or affiliate with these people, so I have no idea what their thought process is. I offer a partial, possible explanation: it is culturally well-known and accepted that murder is terrible and that war directly kills people, particularly men. The kind of gang rape issues haven’t been as well understood. So it’s possible they’re trying to say, “Look, we already know about this (horrible) thing, so let’s look at this other, also horrible, thing.” (Perhaps/probably less horrible, though I seem to recall reading that rape victims who get pregnant are sometimes driven out of their homes and expected to die in exile?)

    I would not have phrased it like that. Without context, and just looking at the quote as is, it’s tasteless and upsetting that they did. (Context might or might not matter; I’m just indicating that I don’t know it.)

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    Rethought and deleted a comment 30 seconds after posting it. I’ve gotta run now, I have an appointment, but I’ll comment more later.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    However, if these quotes are accurate I find them to be horrible:

    Christine Schuler Deschryver describes the process where militias enter a village, kill all the men, and sexually assault and brutalize the women. [8]

    This is “femicide” says Deschryver, a charge repeated by Eve Ensler and echoed by Amy Goodman.

    Does this illustrates how much african male victims are worth for them? By using the word “femicide” about this it seems like they are intentionally erasing the killed men – intentionally assigning them no worth at all. I find that reprehensible.

    I don’t mind focus — I think if a particular activist wants to focus on helping women (or helping men), then that’s fine. But, as Mandolin said to me in conversation, focus isn’t the same thing as erasure, and erasure isn’t fine.

    Regarding Christine Schuler Deschryver, it’s simply appalling that she describes a situation as one in which men are mass-murdered and women and girls are mass-raped (and often murdered) as “femicide.” That goes over the line from focus to erasure, in my view.

    (Although it’s also fair to note that, if her self-account is accurate, Deschryver does a lot of extremely good activism that helps people who need it, and that should be accounted for as well before people make judgments of Deschryver.)\

    Finally, let me point out that Deschryver is not Ensler, and it’s not fair to compress them into one person, or to condemn Ensler for Deschryver’s words. (Ditto for Amy Goodman).

  12. 12
    james says:

    It is tough, but I think sometimes you just have to come to terms with the fact that people you otherwise admire are in some respects batshit crazy.

    So it’s possible they’re trying to say, “Look, we already know about this (horrible) thing, so let’s look at this other, also horrible, thing.”

    They’re not. These are educated people, when they use word like ‘femicide’ or ‘real’, ‘true’ or ‘primary’ victims they genuinely mean what they say. Which is that the major problem resulting from a group of men dying face down in the mud is the impacts it has on women, and the problems of the women are more horrible than the problems of the men. I don’t like it, but that’s the case.

    Finally, let me point out that Deschryver is not Ensler, and it’s not fair to compress them into one person, or to condemn Ensler for Deschryver’s words. (Ditto for Amy Goodman).

    Yeah, I think it’s wrong to pile on just one person. These views are widespread in some groups of feminists. It isn’t just mis-speaking. I was going to respond to Mandolin’s suggestion that it’s culturally well-known and accepted that war particularly kills men by saying ‘I don’t think that is the case’ and between each word linking to a well known feminist or feminist organisation saying the opposite. Those statements are easy enough to find, but I realised it’d be cruel and aggressive and changed my mind.

    At some point in the 60s the idea just got around in these circles that war was a macho pissing contest which mainly wrecked havok on women, and if you’re very passionate about something you’re not going to push back against the idea, and can get a very distorted focus. It does alienate people with a better sense of perspective through. Sorry.

  13. 13
    Mandolin says:

    I just don’t really think that linking to organizations saying women are the primary victims of war (although there’s a difference between saying “the primary” and “primary”; the latter is defensible, as it suggests they’re not secondary), as offensive as it is, contradicts the fact that it is culturally well-known that men are victims of war. There’s a vast array of media, for instance, depicting this, everything from RED BADGE OF COURAGE to ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. By contrast, the narratives about women as primary victims of war (again, not “the primary” as in “the only primary” but primary rather than secondary) are relatively rare and recent, although books like Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH do tackle the subject.

    I’m not saying there aren’t asshole feminists. There totally are. But I’d need a bit more proof than a dozen, or even a hundred, examples of asshole feminists saying asshole things to believe that their ideas are in any way mainstream or culturally accepted.

    I do appreciate your arguments, and I wanted to make sure to acknowledge that I definitely agree with you on the essentials here. Some feminists are assholes. It is not acceptable to follow up a story about murdered men by describing women as the primary victims, even if it’s an attempt at a rhetorical flourish, because that rhetorical flourish is damaging and cruel. War is a horror.

  14. 14
    Tamen says:

    I was writing a reply to Ampersand and Mandolin yesterday, but it got lost when I got an unable to connect to database error message.

    First I must say that all links in this comment describes horrible attrocities and may very well be triggering.

    My quote was from the first link Jenny posted in her comment and that they were not direct quotes from Deschryver, Ensler and Goodman. Keith Harmon Snow, who was the writer of that article, didn’t provide direct quotes from those, but I took his quote at face value. Now I’ve done some searching and found the source for what Deschryver said (my emphasis in the second quote):

    CHRISTINE SCHULER DESCHRYVER: They usually come at the end of the day or during the night. They just come and circle the villages. Most of the time, they killed all the men, and they take all the children, the girls, the mothers, the grandmothers as the sex slaves into the forest and steal—what can I say—everything they have…

    CHRISTINE SCHULER DESCHRYVER: Yeah, it’s a femicide, because they are just destroying the female species, if I can talk like this, because can you imagine now—in Africa, woman is the heart of family.

    Source: http://www.democracynow.org/2007/10/8/they_are_destroying_the_female_species

    I must echo James in that I have a hard time believing that this is just an unfortunate use of words from Deschryver.

    I believe Harmon Snow included Amy Goodman because she conducted the interview and has referenced it many times. I would not say that Amy Goodman has echoed this as it seems clear that it is the opinion of the interview object and far less clear that it’s the opinion of Goodman.

    As for Eve Ensler, a quick Google search reveals that she very often uses the word femicide to describe the situation in DRC.

    http://www.vday.org/node/1881
    http://www.glamour.com/magazine/2007/08/rape-in-the-congo
    http://www.pbs.org/pov/lumo/special_ensler.php

    So I am not as quick to absolve Eve Ensler as Ampersand seems to be.

    Although it is as Mandolin said culturally well-known (although there are exceptions to this – many believe that civillian women are more affected by war than civillian men) that men are in particular killed directly in war it is also culturally expected to care less for the male war victims than men. Ensler’ and Deschryver’s statements reflects this. Men killed in war is very often just a nameless and faceless number which will invoke no sympathy or outrage while women killed and maimed in war is supposed to invoke more sympathy and outrage – this is especially true of conflicts far away from us. Many feminists will argue that this is because men is the default gender – and they will argue that as if that is a good thing in this case. Which it obviously is not. Victims who envoke sympathy are more likely to be helped.

    Jenny: I would like to know why you think the articles by Keith Harmon Snow and Ishmael Reed is “misguided”? It seems to me that they both dig far deeper into the underlying causes than both Deschryver and Ensler does. In particular Deschryver almost comes off as describing the Hutus as sub-humans.

  15. 15
    Jenny says:

    Reed for one ropes all feminists into one category of imperialist while Harmon Snow rants against one side of the Congo conflict when both are equally guilty. And speaking of Hutus, he’s constantly denied the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

  16. 16
    Tamen says:

    Jenny: I must admit that I haven’t read much else of any of them than those two articles you linked to. However, the particular article of Reed you linked to didn’t adress “all feminists” as far as I could see (I’ll admit I read rather quick through it) and as far as I can see Harmon Snow seems to be very focused on what influences western corporate exploitation of african resources have on the situations – almost making him seem a bit too much of a conspiracy theorist at times (I searhced a few of his articles on the genocide in Rwanda) – although I in no way is versed enough in the topic to outright support or dismiss his views.

    However, was there anything in the specific articles you linked to which you found misguided or were you viewing those articles also in light of what you knew of them elsewhere?

    I also note that you used the modifier “somewhat misguided”. Was there some critique of Ensler and Deschryver from Reed and Snow which you agreed with?

    You asked us whadya y’all think and I am curious enough to ask back as you revealed very little in your comment.

  17. 17
    Jenny says:

    Well, I didn’t want to make it out to be a slander on them, so I lightened my word choice. While I think Ensler’s use of Femicide is misguided, I think her heart’s in the right place and Reed especially falls into the trap of the old “Feminists hate men” myth.

  18. 18
    Jenny says:

    That and Harmon Snow contradicts himself in the article: first he says it’s a really good, courageous piece and then outright attacks them for even appearing in a beauty magazine. It’s really bizarre.

  19. 19
    Tamen says:

    Both you and Ampersand have made what can be read as excuses for both Deschryver and Ensler. Ampersand said:

    Deschryver does a lot of extremely good activism that helps people who need it, and that should be accounted for as well before people make judgments…

    while you said that although Eve Ensler’s use of the word femicide is misguided you think her heart is in the right place.

    I have no doubt that Eve Ensler and Deschryver for that matter really cares about the female victims in DRC and they do a lot to help those women. That, however, should not make them immune from criticism.

    Ensler used the word femicide about the situation in DRC from around 2007 when she was there the first time. And it’s just not a matter of using it on a blog, in an interview or an article in Glamour, but also when testifying for the Senate Foreign Relations ( http://www.docstoc.com/docs/38551533/Testimony-of-Eve-Ensler-before-the-Senate-Foreign-Relations ) in May 2009. She used the term again in an article in the Guardian in June 2010. She seems to acknowledge that there has been some pushback on that term in this article ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-ensler/no-more-rape_b_787806.html ) altough she seem to accuse her critics of perpetuating the situation in DRC:

    Why are we still arguing over the definition of genocide and femicide and spending fortunes counting the numbers of raped women rather than stopping the atrocities?

    Not that it’s not a valid call for action, but it doesn’t show much self critcism for her use of the word femicide – also considering that her organization V-DAY uses that term to this day: http://drc.vday.org/background

  20. 20
    Jenny says:

    About Reed: it was this line from the counterpunch article that ticked me off:
    “A sort of gender Yacubism is operating in white and black feminist circles, but instead of evil whites being created by a scientist, it’s evil men. ”

    There’s another example here too:
    http://counterpunch.org/reed12042009.html

    “This film includes the worst portrayal of black women I’ve ever seen, which makes TheRoot contributors– young black women professors- -endorsement of the film puzzling.

    These are the types who are using the university curriculum to get even with their fathers and teach courses in black women’s literature, but can’t identify more than three. (The great novelist, the late Kristin Hunter Lattany, who was driven out of her college teaching job by a racist campaign [see her novel, Breaking Away] did not receive a single retrospective from these women.)”

    So in his case, it’s not just white feminists he’s attacking, he attacks black feminists/womanists too.

  21. 21
    Ampersand says:

    Both you and Ampersand have made what can be read as excuses for both Deschryver and Ensler.

    Bullshit. You quoted me out-of-context (going so far as to quote only a partial sentence), when there’s no possible way the post as a whole could have been read as saying that I’m saying they should be “immune from criticism.” Your reading is dishonest, unfair, and unreasonable.

  22. 22
    Tamen says:

    You are right Ampersand.
    I struggled with phrasing that part and ended up making my point more forcefully and absolute than your comment warranted.

    Excuse was too strong a word and I should’ve said “more immune” instead of just “immune”.

    I took “judgement” to include “critique” in your comment. I’ve not voiced any judgement or criticism of Deschryver as a person outside this particual thing with the use of the term femicide. I took it to be judgement of this particular act of her – using the term femicide – when I read your comment.
    Hence that paragraph came off to me as saying that Deschryver’s other good deeds should be taken into account before critiquing her. And that I interpreted as her good deeds mitigating to some extent the criticism levelled at her or the judgement of this particular act.

    If you by judgement meant judgment of person as a whole rather than a judgement of this act then my point is void. If not I want to state that I don’t generally believe that other good acts should mitigate bad acts.

    I sincerely didn’t intend to quote you out of context. I tried to shorten my comment and cut what I thought were superfluous in your sentence when I quoted it. I’ll try to err more on the safe side in the future. Can I trust that the numbering of comments is static for reference – or are they shifted if comments gets deleted for some reasons?

    I also grouped you together with Jenny comment about Eve Ensler being misguided on the use of femicide, but her heart is in the right place. That sounded a lot like the “but s/he is good person at heart” phrase which very often is used to defend/mitigate specific bad acts/opinions.

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Tamen.

    I did indeed mean “judgment” to mean “judgment on them as a person,” not just “critique of a particular statement or view.” I think the overall tone and impact of at least one of the links you provided is that Deschryver and Ensler are monstrous, horrible people, the scum of the earth. But I agree that your comments here haven’t done that; I was just reacting to the link I’d just read.

    Shortening quotes is generally fine. In this particular case, I think the quote-shortening significantly altered my statement’s meaning, but it’s not important enough to go into the parsing in detail unless you really want me to. These sort of misunderstandings happen inevitably, it’s no big deal.

    As best as I can manage, the comment numbering is static. Sometimes things beyond my control happen messing up the comment numbering, but that’s pretty rare.

  24. 24
    Tamen says:

    Ampersand, I must say that I am still missing why my quote-shortening significantly altered your statement’s meaning. English is not my first language and I don’t know if it’s s language, culture or some other blind spot I have since I initially thought that the shortening didn’t significantly alter the meaning of the statement. As you say, misunderstandings happens, but If you can be bothered to give a short reasoning why you think so I might learn something.

    Other than that I’ll just point out that it was Jenny, not me, who introduced those links into this thread. I read those articles she linked to and commented on what I found to be a valid criticism of Ensler and Deschryver in those. All links I’ve provided are links directly quoting Ensler and Deschryver in interviews by Amy Goodman or to their own articles and organizations and I’ve deliberatedly taken care to not provide inflammatory and over the top links.

  25. 25
    Mandolin says:

    “and that should be accounted for as well before people make judgments of Deschryver.”

    This implies that judgments of Deshryver are appropriate.

    Sorry, that wasn’t as clear as it could have been (not intentionally; it’s just early here and I was all, ‘hey, I’m clear’ when I was not at all). “This” as in the additional prepositional phrase of “of Deshryver” implies that the author expects that judgments of Deshryver can and (in context of the whole comment) should be made.

    It’s probably a language issue… It’s a contextual implication here, but I can’t give you a grammatical rule that would necessarily work in other circumstances to see when someone else is doing it. There might be one, but I can’t unearth or articulate it. Sorry. English is weird.

  26. 26
    Mandolin says:

    ” Yeah, it’s a femicide, because they are just destroying the female species”

    Just could be an emphasis here rather than an exclusive; if she were from California and youngish (like me), it would probably be one. (Think: “Yeah, it’s femicide, because they are, like, destroying the female species;” just can be used the same way.) Whether it was meant as one or the other would be an issue of intonation, and I can’t hear her to tell?

    But seriously, wtf? Female is a species now? Even with a charitable reading, she’s got some seriously weird shit going on.

    Have not explored further than what’s in the thread. Sorry. Am mostly noveling. (Added later: Although given the amount of time it just took me to finish writing this comment, maybe reading would have been a better procrastination.)

    ” Men killed in war is very often just a nameless and faceless number which will invoke no sympathy or outrage while women killed and maimed in war is supposed to invoke more sympathy and outrage – this is especially true of conflicts far away from us. Many feminists will argue that this is because men is the default gender – and they will argue that as if that is a good thing in this case. Which it obviously is not. Victims who envoke sympathy are more likely to be helped.”

    Yes, absolutely.

    In this case, I don’t think it’s because male is the default _exactly_. I think it’s a combination of:

    1) male is the default expected war casualty, so any war casualty that is not the default is a “man bites dog” story. “Man bites dog” stories are always more likely to elicit a kick of sympathy. To get the same effect with “dog bites man,” in this case, you’d have to shade in more details about “man” by, e.g., giving him kids, describing his hobbies, or, preferably, profiling his character.

    That’s not to say any of this is morally right, just that it seems to be part of the way the human brain (or maybe the American brain) processes tragedy… after hearing the same thing (“man is killed in war”) a hundred times, it needs an extra detail (“‘not-man’ [woman, child, dog even] is killed in war,” or “[modifier] man is killed in war.”)

    You can get the same effect in reverse. Stay-at-home-dad has a different interest level than stay-at-home-mom. If you can nail the narrative circumstances to avoid homophobia and prejudice against convicts, you can sometimes achieve this effect by describing male rape victims in fiction or journalism. (Not to say there isn’t minority kick-back; we had to ban an amazingly assholish feminist from the blog once for saying men just didn’t mind being raped as much as women did.)

    I approach this more or less from the same perspective as the idea that human (or at least American) brains seem to care more about evil done with a motive behind it than evil done without one, e.g. we can organize against “evil people planning to kill civilians” but global warming fails to evoke the same rage. (There was a study about this a couple years ago, which I will now be too lazy to link to.) The interest in “man bites dog” stories is essentially inevitable, and probably related to the way our brains (fail to) calculate statistics, e.g. we think super-fucking-rare things are incipiently dangerous, like stranger pedophiles breaking into our houses to kidnap our children, and fail to be afraid of things that are much more statistically likely to cause harm, like car accidents. I imagine it’s also related to donor fatigue.

    A skilled journalist or fiction writer can get around the problem by writing specifically and well. That’s my professional relationship to it. I’m not sure how people involved in other professions get around the problem.

    2) I do think there’s an important secondary reason for why women are seen as especially bad victims of war, and it’s the same reason why women aren’t drafted. It’s because of the historical (particularly Victorian?) association of women with children as people without full power or agency. Helpless victims are generally seen, in the abstract, as morally more compromising to attack than victims that are perceived as being able to fight back. A thirty-year-old getting into a shouting argument with and overpowering and strangling a five-year-old evokes a different emotion than a thirty-year-old getting into a shouting argument with an overpowering another thirty-year-old. If you assume that women are essentially helpless and morally stunted, which is a common historical social attitude in the west, then killing them is basically like killing a child. And of course you can’t draft them into war or let them fight in combat; how could they handle the responsibility?

    This attitude is sort of gone (though it lingers) from intellectual contexts but remains in physical ones.

    The association of women with children in general acts to women’s extreme disbenefit (see, e.g., historical attitudes that women are like children and thus can’t be trusted to run households or own property), but occasionally turns up something like “not responsible enough to be drafted” which, if you’re like me and essentially a physical coward and/or philosophical pacificist, is good (and, much as I can’t personally fathom the desire to enter combat, if you’re a female cadet who wants to fly in combat roles, sucks).

  27. 27
    Mandolin says:

    For an example of a ‘not-man killed in war’ story that takes advantage of the sentimental response provoked by non-default victims, see Brad Denton’s “Sergeant Chip

    ETA: For an example of a ‘[modifier] man killed in war’ story, see “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien in which the objects act as the specifics that modify the men from generic to individual.

  28. 28
    Tamen says:

    Somewhat related: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/304/5/553.short

    This peer reviewed study published in the Journal of American Medical Association shows a rather different picture than the one painted by Ensler, Deschryver and the logo used by the Femicide.info organization.

  29. 29
    Tom Nolan says:

    Mandolin

    and that should be accounted for as well before people make judgments of Deschryver

    The confusion comes from the idiomatic use of ‘before’ sometimes to mean ‘instead of’, as in: ‘Great Britain should put its own house in order before criticising Australia’. That sentence might be taken to mean (a) ‘Great Britain, having put its own house in order, will then be in a position to criticise Australia’ but it is generally taken to mean (b) ‘Great Britain should mind its own damn’ business.’

    You were aiming to say something like (a) and Tamen understood something like (b).

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    Tamen, you asked why I though the way you quoted me changed my meaning. I wrote:

    Although it’s also fair to note that, if her self-account is accurate, Deschryver does a lot of extremely good activism that helps people who need it, and that should be accounted for as well before people make judgments of Deschryver.

    The sentence had an attribution that you cut out. As I wrote it, the statement that “Deschryver does a lot of extremely good work” was attributed to Deschryver’s own self-account, implicitly acknowledging that I don’t know if her account is accurate or not. The way you quoted me, it sounded like I know Deschryver does a lot of good work. So I do think what you cut made a significant difference, and the cut made me sound a lot more like a rah-rah cheerleader for Deschryver than what I actually wrote.

    That said, I’m only going into this because you asked me to; I don’t consider it a big deal.

  31. 31
    Tamen says:

    Thank you for expanding on that for me Ampersand.

  32. 32
    Patricia Bee says:

    I have no wish to criticize Ms. Ensler, and it was in searching out more information about her after hearing her on a very excellent FORA TV interview that I came across this blog post. I can’t swear to it and I’m not inclined to listen to the entire 1 1/2-hour interview all over again just now, but I believe she used the 1 in 3 figure in that talk.

    It’s well worth watching/listening to regardless. One does not have to log in, and the program is broken into segments if one would prefer to sample.
    http://fora.tv/2011/03/02/I_Am_An_Emotional_Creature_An_Evening_with_Eve_Ensler#fullprogram

  33. hello

    Jenny wrote:
    >>>>>Reed for one ropes all feminists into one category of imperialist while Harmon Snow rants against one side of the Congo conflict when both are equally guilty. And speaking of Hutus, he’s constantly denied the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.<<<

    I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone has. The statement "he's constantly denied the 1994 Rwandan Genocide" is extremely problematic, and I can't seem to resist the use of label "ignorant". No matter how I try to say that it comes out as hostile. Its not. Ignorance is when we don't understand something we think we do. Would you say? So, I'm ignorant, in fact, of why Jenny would believe that I am "constantly denying the 1994 Rwanda genocide" and, more, why she would WANT To believe that. Perhaps the answer to the latter is becuase choosing to believe that I am "denier of the 1994 Rwanda genocide" gives you (Jenny) some (false) sense of power which you use to counteract the sense of emasculation and deracination of the psyche that comes when one is confronted by something so far out of their own realm of understanding that, easier to accuse and blame and deny than to try to comprehend, it must be treated as outrageous. In this case, "genocide denial." So, again, I'm happy to answer anyone's question about my position on "genocide" in Rwanda, 1994, before or after.

  34. i forgot to click “Notify me of followup comments via email…”

  35. 35
    keith harmon snow says:

    Interesting that Jenny, for example, has so much to say ABOUT me — which is generally not favorable and stems from ignorance — but nothing to say to me.

  36. 36
    Ampersand says:

    Or perhaps it just means that Jenny has never seen your response to her, which was written something like 11 months after her comment. (Not everyone checks the “notify me of followup comments” thingy).

  37. 37
    MrK says:

    Tamen,

    ” This is “femicide” says Deschryver, a charge repeated by Eve Ensler and echoed by Amy Goodman. ”

    ” Christine Schuler Deschryver also said “They are killing the female species.”

    What is a female species?

    James,

    ” Yeah, I think it’s wrong to pile on just one person. These views are widespread in some groups of feminists. It isn’t just mis-speaking. “

    CSD also implied that all Congolese men are rapists. She has no problem smearing an entire nation.

    I would like to see statistics from real surveys. Meanwhile, there is the 2007 DRC Demographic and Health Survey.

    Also, the DHS found that only 1.3% of the population of the DRC is ‘HIV positive’. Also read here.

    Tamen,

    ” Somewhat related: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/304/5/553.short

    This peer reviewed study published in the Journal of American Medical Association shows a rather different picture than the one painted by Ensler, Deschryver and the logo used by the Femicide.info organization. ”

    Thank you. I quote:

    Women reported to have perpetrated conflict-related sexual violence in 41.1% of female cases and 10.0% of male cases. “

    Huh?

  38. 38
    Tamen says:

    MrK:

    What is a female species?

    Presumably Christine Schuler Deschryver means women. Why she chose to use the weird term “female species” is anyones guess, but I wouldn’t be suprised if it is an attempt to othering males (by implying that they belong to another species than women).

    ” Women reported to have perpetrated conflict-related sexual violence in 41.1% of female cases and 10.0% of male cases. “

    Huh?

    I am not sure what you mean by “Huh?”. Was that particular finding surprising or did you have trouble parsing the sentence?