Yet another call for a permanent international tribunal on violence against women comes to us this morning from France, where opinion columnist Ignacio Ramonet, writing for Le Monde diplomatique, cites the usual appalling statistics that make patriarchy-enthusiasts’ eyes glaze over. Here’s a little taste:
For European women aged 16-44 violence in the home is the primary cause of injury and death, more lethal than road accidents and cancer. Between 25% and 50% of women are victims of this violence. In Portugal 52.8% of women say that they have been violently treated by their husbands or partners. In Germany almost 300 women a year – or three women every four days – are killed by men with whom they used to live. In Britain one woman dies in similar circumstances every three days. In Spain it is one every four days. In France six women die this way every month: 33% of them are knifed, 33% shot, 20% strangled and 10% beaten (1). In the 15 member states of the European Union (before enlargement to 25), more than 600 women die every year because of sexist brutality in the family.”
Of course, you and I don’t need Ignacio Ramonet to tell us that the epidemic of violence is not just limited to bride killings by rural primitives in India and Africa; we are patriarchy-blamers, and we know what time it is. But there is no doubt that we do need loud proclamations reminding us of the suffering of non-European women whose advocates in the West are few and far between.
I say this because our racist conceits are more thoroughgoing than we care to admit. As I have oft opined, Americans display a notably high tolerance for the suffering of others, especially when those others are brown. Like white dudes and their birthright of male privilege, Westerners are indoctrinated from birth with a sort of first-world entitlement. This allows us to keep “exotic” cultures at arm’s length, to luxuriate in a cavalier unfamiliarity with their strange, primitive ways, and ultimately, to think of them as ideas rather than people, as less real than we are, and therefore less important. My own unscientific, blog-centric survey, based on the much-lower-than-average number of comments generated by posts that focus on violent misogyny in “third-world” countries, is that even seasoned patriarchy-blamers are rather less outraged by ritual stonings in Pakistan or mass rapes in Rwanda than they are by Dove soap’s attempt to pass off skinny white models as fat girls.
Educated European honkys are whacking their fair share of wives and girlfriends. Dudes in Botswana are whacking them, too. Assholes in India are trading them for goats. Godbags in Saudi Arabia are throwing acid on them. All over the world, in fact, women are getting the shit kicked out of them every single day, and the international community needs to step up and call the thing what it is: an epic human rights catastrophe. Every moment that passes without such a declaration is a moment that all women pass as marginalized, objectified, despised sub-humans.