In February, George Zimmerman – a male adult – murdered Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old child. Much has been written – rightly so – raising questions about race and racism in the murder itself and the subsequent lack of prosecution. A noteworthy piece by my friend Meredith Moise takes this analysis a step further and challenges us to consider how our views of race and our internalized racism impact how GLBT People prioritize issues in the GLBT Community. Others have specifically examining the history of accepted, often state-sanctioned race-based violence by whites against blacks. Trayvon’s murder has also spawned numerous confessionals by white people professing their racism and apologizing to black people. Anecdotally, most of the confessionals (which perhaps do nothing to fight structures that perpetuate racism) appear to be from white females. It should go without saying that racism is a cancer that we all must work to eradicate – but I will say this again. Racism has no place in a democratic society. Moreover, all white people – including me – have internalized racist views and should confront and challenge those views, early, often, and repeatedly.
These conversations are important. Remarkably absent from the conversation about Trayvon, however, is a discussion of male violence. George Zimmerman – an adult male – murdered Trayvon Martin. Why is this significant?
Statistics bear out that males commit most violent crimes, with males committing 87% of all homicides. Males are almost 4 times more likely than females to be murder victims. Significantly, males commit 91.3% of all homicides involving a gun, suggesting that lethality increases because of the weapons Males choose. New data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey details the extent and effects of male violence against females. That survey demonstrated that across all types of violence, Males commit most crimes most often.
Statistics demonstrate that males commit violent crimes at greater rates than females, and are more likely to use a weapon that will cause death. Legislation promoted by male-dominated organizations further buttresses the ability of males to commit violent acts and escape punishment. To avoid prosecution for Trayvon Martin’s murder, George Zimmerman relies on the “Stand Your Ground” law promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (with an overwhelmingly male board of directors) that ensures that prosecutions in cases where the perpetrator asserts self-defense will decrease. It appears to date that Zimmerman may escape prosecution for his actions, in large part due to this law.
Given these grim statistics, why have we as a society failed to address the problem of male violence? When a lesbian points out these statistics, she is usually greeted with accusations of “man hater.” When a female points out these statistics, she is sometimes greeted with accusations of “lesbian.” If statistics bear out that males are more violent as a class and more lethal as a class of perpetrators (and they do), why isn’t this the subject of substantial inquiry?
We are averse to acknowledging male violence because we do not want to make the males in our lives uncomfortable. In addition, just as it is uncomfortable for males to acknowledge that they benefit from sexism and male privilege, it is equally uncomfortable for males to take responsibility for the disproportionate violence they commit. Try having this conversation with the significant males and Nigels in your lives and see what happens. Try pointing this out to male (or “formerly” male) GLBT Community members and watch the defensiveness fly!
Of course, it doesn’t help the conversation around violence that males are viewed as the default Human. This phenomenon makes “violence” a human problem rather than a male problem, thus placing the burden on males and females equally to address such violence.
So what do females do? We shoulder the blame. We accept individual responsibility for violence that we don’t commit and haven’t committed. We participate in the obfuscation of male violence. We fail to confront what is so glaringly obvious that it has become invisible – males as a class are violent. Your dad, brother or boyfriend may not be violent, but males as a class are more violent than females.
Humans – males and females – need to stop debating whether males are more violent. Males are by far the principal perpetrators of murder (and let’s not get started on rape, war, torture, incest, sexual abuse, and genocide). So what is it about males and “masculinity” that leads males as a class to such violent behavior? Is this something males learn? What can we do as a society to help males unlearn these “masculine” lessons? Or is male violence innate? What if certain “behaviors” (i.e., violence) that we understand as “masculine” can be biologically traced to neurological structures? How do we solve that problem?
Whether male violence is due to masculine gender socialization or male biology, we cannot answer these questions if we continue to avoid this discussion. We cannot fix a problem that we refuse to name. Name it. Say it with me: Male violence.
Friday, 06 April 2012