Psychologist Steven Pinker, author of the excellent ‘The Blank Slate’, is currently publicising a new book of his which examines why society has (according to him) become steadily less violent since the middle ages. One of the most obvious reasons, he believes, is the empowerment of women.
In answer to the question – ‘What do you want readers to take away from your new book?’, he replies :
To be grateful for some of the institutions we take for granted, such as government and the court system. That, as much as we are irritated by lawyers, cops and government, the alternative is worse. The forces of reason, enlightenment, cosmopolitanism, women’s empowerment – we should be grateful for all this and not nostalgic for a time in which everyone’s world was far more constricted.
In an article at Edge magazine last month, discussing his book ‘A History of Violence’, Pinker points to statistics showing a dramatic and steady decline in the figures for both rape and domestic violence since the 1970’s. He assumes it to be the result of the awareness campaigns of second wave feminists, and uses it as a contextual argument for his wider thesis that the growth of minority rights groups results in less violence against vulnerable people in society.
The women’s rights movement has seen an 80 percent reduction in rape since the early ’70s when it was put on the agenda as a feminist issue. There has also been a two-thirds decline in domestic violence, spousal abuse, or wife beating, and a 50 percent decline in husband beating. In the most extreme form of domestic violence, namely uxoricide and matricide, there’s been a decline both in the number of wives that are murdered by their husband’s and the number of husbands that have been murdered by their wives. In fact, the decrease is much more dramatic for husbands. Feminism has been very good to men, who are now much more likely to survive a marriage without getting murdered by their wives.
I haven’t read the book yet, so perhaps there is more detailed argument contained within it for relating feminism and the alleged reduction in violence. But it does seem that he is guilty of the same astonishing simple-mindedness in confusing correlation and causation, that our old friend Hank Pelisser made earlier this year.
Before giving some counter explanations, it needs to be made clear why intelligent people such as these two are so easily able to jump to such simplistic conclusions regarding feminism’s role in society. The assumption is that feminism is part of the general progressive train of Enlightenment thinking. But feminism is quite different to other civil rights campaigns, such as the abolition of slavery, of torture, the promotion of gay rights, anti-vivisectionism etc. Unlike them, feminism did not arise as a natural consequence of the decline of Christian thinking and a more objective, rational, and humane way at looking at how society treats all of its citizens. Feminism arose primarily as a reaction against that Enlightenment way of thinking and its consequences – one of which, of course, was a steady opening up of the free sexual market, which has left the mass of ordinary women sexually disadvantaged in comparison to the young and beautiful.
Admittedly, a reason for feminism’s success is that it has been seen (particularly by educated men) as a natural progression in the ever more enlightened and rational way of social thinking and acceptance of universal humanity. But in actual fact, feminism is a trojan horse that has been allowed to grow under the banner of secular liberalism, when in truth it has always wanted to destroy it. Feminism is a vicious and selfish reaction to the forces of modernism and secularism. Feminism is not the apex of the Enlightenment project but its antithesis and ultimately its destroyer.
I do not have space or time to discuss whether rape has really fallen so dramatically since the 1970’s. But alternative explanations easily present themselves, assuming of course that the decline is genuine.
It’s hardly surprising that rape has been in free fall just as the free sexual market has steadily widened, and that this decline began most evidently in the very same years when the sexual market had suddenly been opened (with the adoption of the contraceptive pill). Why would (some) men continue to resort to rape when suddenly they had the prospect of consequence free sex at the end of every visit to the pub or the club? In fact, these statistics rather contradict the feminist mantra that rape is ‘all about power’, and instead confirm the real world common sense view that sex is about frustrated males getting sex by force when they can’t get it through consent.
The decline in rape has not been brought about by the women’s movement. It has been brought about by the continual widening of the free sexual market, caused by secularism and technology like the pill, bringing about the acceptance of promiscuous sex, as well as the increasingly widespread availability and tolerance of pornography. The women’s movement, in fact, has been a reaction to that new sexual liberalism and accessibility, resulting in ever more desperate and frenzied attempts to restrict male sexuality and preserve the market value of the average vagina.
To finish with, some words about feminism and the decline of violence in general. Pinker claims that ‘most violence is male’ and takes it as a given that the increase in political power of women will naturally result in a decline in male violence.
One could challenge the very assumption that violence has declined at all in the last few decades. Whilst accepting that the incidence of murder, street robbery and assualt has declined, violence against the individual at a state level has increased. For example, feminists giving the state the power to break down the doors of thousands of its citizens (and potentially millions more) in order to arrest them for looking at cartoon pictures in their own home, and to forcibly take them away to be incarcerated for perhaps years or even decades, is arguably an act of brutal state violence, and something that would likely have appalled most Enlightenment thinkers, and yet it is not something that would appear on Pinkers statistics for violent crime.
One could also state that feminism is a luxury that only successful, wealthy, and peaceful societies can afford. I think Warren Farrell (or maybe Paul Elam) describes feminism as only being possible when men have made the environment safe enough for the women to leave the cave.
Pinker largely glosses over the inconvenient facts of two world wars occurring in the last century. He seems to claim that they are blips and that, in any case, pound for pound they weren’t actually the most destructive wars in history. He prefers to focus on the ‘great peace’ between nations, or at least superpowers, that has existed in the 65 odd years since the end of World War II. This has to be down to the emergence of women into the political arena, he feels.
As I’ve argued here before, war between major powers effectively ended on that February night in Dresden when the British and American airforces burnt alive over 100,000 children, women, and pensioners. From that point on, any major war would result in the deaths of as many women (or even more women) than men. This is largely the reason why a shot has barely been fired in anger on the European continent since 1945. German women were happy to cheer and wave off their brave menfolk to be slaughtered at the Eastern Front – the ultimate shit test (‘come back a hero or come back dead’ has been the female cry of war for millenia). But as soon as carpet bombing and nuclear weapons meant that every woman was effectively placed on the front-line, war has suddenly become unthinkable, at least in any society in which women have the vote.