RE: our ongoing ‘conversation‘ about sex differences in murder prevalence: I just got a comment from a man who writes, in response to another commenter concerned about the abusive language that’s come my way in recent days:
That’s a victim mentality. Stop going “Waaah! The menz are picking on me coz I’m a feminist!” This is just how the internet works. Everybody threatens and swears at each other on the web…I’m a man and I’ve had people on the internet say that they’re going to kill me and batter me… It doesn’t just happen to women or feminists. (emphasis mine.)
|So, let me start with this: I agree wholeheartedly that, “It doesn’t just happen to women or feminists.” Is there anyone, anywhere, who would disagree with that statement? Women are entirely capable of behaving like animals. And men are entirely capable of being victimized by women’s uncivil behavior. My husband, for example, received a lot of hostile feedback from both men and women after publishing an important study on obesity several years ago.
And yet… all of the truly — dare I say it – violent verbal attacks on my husband (i.e. the death threats and calls for dismemberment) were from men. Similarly, all of the instances of me being called a CUNT to date have been from people who are identifying themselves as men. (And for those just joining the conversation, I’ve decided not to skirt around the word CUNT and have chosen to spell it out in full, as the men who’ve called me a CUNT have done. I do apologize.)
So now we come to the incendiary topic of risk factors again and the concept of relative risk. (Warning: Hurt Feelings May Result!) Having a risk factor for a condition does not mean that you will invariably exhibit said condition. It means that you are at increased risk for having the condition. In other words, you are relatively more likely to have that condition. In some cases, relative risk is meaningless, practically speaking. For example, if I am relatively more likely to be abducted by aliens than my neighbor, our risk of abduction is still so slim that it becomes moot to discuss who is at greater risk of flying off in a space ship. On the other hand, some conditions – such as violence – are very, very common. In those cases, it’s important to discuss relative risk in order to do a better job at preventing lots and lots of people from becoming killers or from becoming murdered. (As I’ve said ad nauseam, since we know that young men are at extremely heightened risk of committing homicide or becoming its victim, we can target murder prevention strategies to those young men, rather than to old ladies and puppies.)
Returning to my commenter’s claim. While I agree that the internet is theoretically an equal opportunity abuse venue, I hypothesize that men are at greater risk of making death threats on the internet and calling women CUNT on the internet. Does this mean that ALL men are calling me a CUNT? Does it mean that no woman can or ever will call me a CUNT on the internet?
No!! It does not. (Indeed, I eagerly await the flurry of supportive evidence that will clog my inbox showing examples of women calling someone CUNT or making death threats. Yes! There are exceptions. And, yes! Women can behave like uncivil oafs and creeps. But I am hypothesizing that, contrary, to my commenter’s suggestion, there is an element of ‘gendering’ in the internets. Yes! I am really holding firm on this assertion. I believe men are more likely than women to use internet language suggestive of the possibility of violence.
Am I claiming a strictly evolutionary or sociological argument? I am not. I leave that to my expert interlocutors. I also think it’s largely irrelevant. As Steve Pinker likes to say, testosterone may be the trigger for a lot of violent behavior (and, let’s not forget, women have testosterone, too! I suspect a robust level is coursing through my veins even as I speak.) But who cares, really? Levels of violence — levels of hostility on the internets… these things ebb and flow, depending on various historical, cultural, and structural factors. If we didn’t have the internets, for example, we wouldn’t have any internet language suggestive of the possibility of violence.
Or, one might hypothesize, if the internet culture weren’t skewed somewhat in the Y chromosome direction — for example, did you know that Wikipedia editors are 91 percent male — one might – might – see a different culture on the internet. Who knows? We might see more gossiping and scratching and hair-pulling. But I’m guessing we would see fewer THREATS OF VIOLENCE and CUNT-CALLING.