The thing I don’t like about numbers

While documenting the extent of the horrors men commit against women is important and eye-opening, I’ve always found certain uses of stats, especially the state-approved ones, boring and even obscuring.

In many cases, they grossly under-represent the extent of the violence. Take the statistic that one in four women have been raped in a lifetime: it’s inaccurate even when applying more conventional definitions of rape. Which het-interned woman has not submitted to PIV under some form of pressure, out of fear of loosing their boyfriend, emotional blackmailing, or because they were too tired to say no and to have to justify themselves for the next 30 minutes, or because they didn’t even think they had a right not to do it, etc. ?. But most importantly it completely denies the fact that PIV is inherently violent and is always obtained through some form of coercion or another, and that the risk of rape is inherent to hetero-internment because that’s the point of it. The correct statistic would be that all women conscripted to ownership by men have been raped at least once in a lifetime: which means that we can easily assume that all women have been raped, save for a tiny, tiny minority of very lucky women who have escaped incest rape, hetconscription and sexual violence altogether.

The statistics are state-approved because they don’t depart from a radical feminist (and truthful) definition of male violence. It counts only a minority of the most obvious and overt forms of violence – the rare occasions where male strangers rape non-prostituted women in the streets or in the outside “public” sphere. That is, the kind of assaults we are trained by men to fear and identify as threatening, so we behave like good girls and don’t go out at night by ourselves and consider our owners (rapists) as our protectors and saviours. At the very best, stats will only take into account the few times where the husband or boyfriend used more violence than usual to obtain his daily, weekly or monthly ratio of PIV. The same applies to counting killed women; in the number of women killed by men every year, we don’t count girls, prostituted women, and women killed through forced ‘suicide’, the women who died a slow death from the years of abuse and confinement, form cancer and other consequences of male violence. Sometimes we count them but these figures are rarely if ever put together.

Such stats are also confusing because they treat rape or abuse as something accidental, as something that happens to some women and not others, as if it were some kind of lottery between winning the good or bad man. It implies that despite the fact a lot of men are bad, some aren’t, and treats rape as some kind of inchoate catastrophe falling upon some women – like car accidents.

Unlike other statistics which aim to point out the harm of certain situations for those trapped inside it – say, a survey on the damage of coal mine working on the employees, which demonstrates that one in four mine worker gets lung cancer. It will be very clear to everybody that the cancer is directly linked to the fact the workers work in a coal mine: what causes the cancer is constant exposure to coal and the harm of getting cancer is inherent to this exposure. This is the very point of the survey, to denounce and stop exposing humans to coal on a daily basis.

However, stats on male violence always erase or obscure the context in which women are raped, as if it happened randomly and had nothing to do with the inherent problem of being constantly exposed to men (to be more accurate, owned by them). Such surveys will never introduce the subject with phrases such as “We wanted to demonstrate the inherent harms of exposure to men by showing that one in four (or all) women will be raped by a male at least once in a lifetime”. The way the stats are presented is truncated and circular: rape is bad because women are raped. This blindfolding of the context deliberately prevents seeing the big picture – exposure to men is bad because men rape women – and prevents going to its logical conclusion – we should avoid interaction with men because it’s too dangerous.

What I also highly dislike about stats is that it microscopically singles out one small aspect of men’s oppression of women as if patriarchy were just a sum of discreet, separate acts of violence against women, and not a coherent, organised system set up by men. Of course being raped by men is one of the main problems of oppression, but men don’t rape in a vacuum. The very reason men can rape so many women and so often is because they hold us captive so we can’t escape the rapes. They marry us to them. They force us to live alone with them and organise society in a way that we have nowhere else to go than being owned by a man. If we looked at slavery, we wouldn’t denounce slavery by saying that slavery is bad because one in four slaves are whipped once a week. We show how slavery is inherently violent, because violence is necessary to keep the slaves captive and submissive – to keep them enslaved. The problem in slavery isn’t that one in four slaves are whipped, so we should fight for slaves’ rights not to be whipped: the problem is that humans are being enslaved, and that it’s inherently violent, oppressive and deprives of freedom. Or take another example: animals in a cage. The problem isn’t that the animals aren’t fed properly, but that they’re encaged and held captive and this is inherently limiting and traumatising to animals.

The same applies to women. These “one in three”, “one in four” or “one in twelve” numbers obscure the fact that captivity to men is necessarily violent to all women in patriarchy. It encourages seeing rape as something external, as something that happens to other women, to think of ourselves as the lucky 3 in four women who haven’t been raped, and thus encourages the thought that not all women are concerned by oppression and patriarchy, it allows to think of yourself as an exception. It masks women’s oppression and the very nature of oppression: that it’s necessarily oppressive to all members of the oppressed group. And since the primary means of men’s oppression against women is sexual violence, well it follows that all women have been subjected to some form of sexual violence or another because this is how we are oppressed. Sexually violating us and imprisoning us in a system where we can’t escape sexual violation from men at least once in a lifetime, is the reason why men set up their patriarchal system.

Stats give the impression of being objective facts, but if the context is erased, numbers are

minimised and the very point of such stats denied (to encourage women to avoid the danger – men), well, that’s lying. It’s confusing.



past musings


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