Thursday, August 1, 2013

Twitter-Rage: Jane Austen made me do it

When I first heard of the "Jane Austen twitter-rape-threat arrest" I did not think I would write about it because, I thought, he should be arrested, he deserved it. Threatening someone is a crime, so this seems like a straight forward, uncontroversial case. Make a threat, get arrested. Nothing to write about there. A threat is a threat, right?

I started thinking more about this because I saw "rape threat" comments when I posted a video of Feminist protests at the University of Toronto. I did not want to get into censoring comments, but I deleted the "I want to rape her" and "she should be raped" comments as I saw them. Not only are these comments abusive and offensive but they add nothing to any conversation. At best these comments shut down conversation, and inflame tensions.

Why do some people make these comments? 
I doubt that the commentators were serious, people say so much nonsense when they are in an anonymous on-line forum, but it does indicate that there is repressed anger in some men. 

If a child were acting out in anger, of course we would ask "why?" If a dog bites someone, we assume it was provoked, or that it was maltreated in the past. So, what's going on with these men? Were they born angry?

The same month that ushered in the first arrest of a man for a threat on Twitter also saw the Supreme Court of Canada set free Nicole Doucet Ryan, the woman who tried to hire an undercover RCMP officer to murder her ex-husband, Michael Ryan. It was caught on video and the prosecutor believed he had an open-shut case. 

After separation, Nicole Ryan asked her husband, Michael Ryan, if he wanted to get back together, but Michael wanted a divorce. This did not sit well with Nicole, so she decided to murder him. She made repeated attempts to hire a hit man for 7 months in 2008.

During trial Nicole claimed to be a battered wife whose only option to escape abuse was to murder her ex-husband, who lived 200 km away from her. And the court accepted her story without any corroborating evidence, or testimony from her ex-husband. The fact that he wanted the divorce, and moved far away, should undermine any claim that he is a threat to her. But the court accused the RCMP of neglecting Nicole Ryan and set her free. Why? So she can complete her task? Women's groups are hailing this as a victory for justice even though the RCMP was found to have behaved properly throughout all investigations, contrary to the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The pressure to grant women immunity from punishment for crimes they commit is ever present in our culture. Somehow being killed or injured by a woman is not as bad as being killed or injured by a man. That's bizarre logic, but it is promoted by tax-payer funded organizations like NOW, SOW, and the Elizabeth Fry Societies

The "E-Fryers" believe that women cannot be criminals, but that they are "criminalized," a term that clearly dresses up the female perpetrator in victims clothes. E-Fryers go even further, stating that "women who are criminalized should not be imprisoned; all efforts will be made to prevent women from being incarcerated." Mission accomplished for Nicole Doucet Ryan!

Native American man from James Bay. Confined to a
wheel chair and lives on the street in Kingston, ON
You might be tempted to think that this is an aberration; that it is not indicative of contempt for men in our culture. But there are just too many indications to ignore. We celebrate divorce when a woman gets the house, children, and paycheck. We ignore the huge numbers of male suicides, many of which are triggered by divorce. We walk past the growing crowd of mostly men living and begging on the street. We laugh when a woman cuts off a man's penis because he filed for divorce. We celebrate as "heroic" when a woman becomes a single mother. We celebrate the falling numbers of male University students as a victory for women, and then, in the next breath, chant "more needs to be done for women," for example at NASA, in business, engineering, in Scotlandthe US, everywhere in every way. We also spend far more on female specific health and medical research even though men die much younger than women.

Spending on research for women's health has yielded tremendous benefits for women in breast cancer detection, treatment, and even preemptive treatment, "just in case," and there was furious outrage in the US when a task force recommended against mammograms for women under 50. The recommendation was based on science that determined the risks of testing outweighed the benefits. However, public outrage ensured that the test remained available and fully-funded.

How about widespread Prostrate cancer screening? Apparently it's not needed, in part because men are "much more likely to die of something else". To put it another way: men don't live long enough to die from prostate cancer. Hell, if all men could be persuaded to die by middle-age on the job or in war, we wouldn't need to fund any research on Men's Health. We could simply conclude that "Men don't die from heart attacks," "Men don't die from lung cancer," and even that "prostate cancer doesn't exist," because it is almost non-existent in men under 60. If they hang themselves, we won't talk about that.

But that is the point. You have to live long in order to get prostate cancer, and you have to live even longer to die from it. Perhaps you have to live as long as women live. The fact that men die younger than women may be the entire reason that more men don't die from prostate cancer. Almost all deaths from prostate cancer are men over the age of 65, furthermore, after 65 there are more deaths due to prostate cancer than from breast cancer. It would be exponentially worse if men lived as long as women. If the genders were reversed there would be multiple global movements, protests, funding sources, etc, etc.

The HPV vaccine is another interesting case. HPV was known to cause genital warts, and the following cancers from the beginning:  cervical, head and neck, anal and penile cancer. However the vaccine was reserved for girls until the vaccination rate slowed in 2012. Now health professionals are promoting the treatment of boys, but it is still not funded. 

Selling the importance of protecting boys from HPV is not as easy as selling protection for girls, so they point out that "It would also cut the risk of girls becoming infected through sexual contact" with boys. The justification for protecting boys must include that it will help protect the girls, whereas the girls were deemed worthy on their own. Presumably this will override the problem that "the cost effectiveness factor is not that great for boys."

The over-arching message everyday in our culture is that women are sacred. Google "Women are sacred" and you will get results like "Women are sacred 2013 conference," books on the Sacred Woman, and "Our sacred duty to honor women" conference. 

Google "Men are sacred" and you will find a punk rock band.

Women are sacred. Men, on the other hand, are disposable, and the evidence is ubiquitous.  Dr. Warren Farrell identified this problem 20 years ago in his book "The Myth of Male Power," and more recently Michael Gilbert explores the evolutionary reasons for this in "The Disposable Male," three very powerful words that summarize the status of men in our culture. 

Dr. Farrell points out that there once was a reason for men to sacrifice and risk their lives. There once was a reward: a family, status in society, a home, grandchildren bouncing on your knee ... a future. These rewards are mostly gone for many men, and replaced with ridicule, homelessness, and alienation from family life. A growing army of men face crippling, life-long support payments to the women who now block access to their children. Most of these men would have died protecting their families, without being asked.

The message that men are disposable is so common that it is invisible; it is part of the background noise of our culture, and we automatically filter it from conscious awareness, like the sound of a furnace fan. It's there all day, every day, and almost everyone has internalized its' right to be there, its' "truth." It isn't until the fan noise is gone that we may realize it was ever there.

So when a man one day thinks that he matters, not as a resource, but as a person, that his own personal fulfillment should mean something to someone, that he should not be disposable, that there is sacredness about him too, he may get angry at his past mistreatment. 

To the words of Jane Austen, "Angry people are not always wise," we might add "and they make stupid threats on Twitter."