Sunday, February 05, 2006

"Stats" that Make the World Worse

I was listening to Kate O'Beirne, the author of Women Who Make the World Worse : and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports,on C-Span last night. Okay, so I don't agree with some of her points on why women should stay married even if unhappy, for the sake of children, blah blah blah. But she had a number of interesting things to say, including a discussion of how some feminists continue to exaggerate the extent to which women are abused and involved in domestic violence, etc. Yes, some women are being abused as are some men, but some feminists see fit to call psychological abuse and "controlling behavior" domestic violence--hell, this would make all of us victims (and perpetrators) of abuse at one time or another. This overexaggeration of what constitutes abuse as well as a distortion of the number of women who are physically abused has resulted in over a billion federal dollars being funneled to domestic violence causes as well as to the passing of sexist laws such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

One of O'Beirne's most salient points to the smirking journalist/interviewer on C-Span was that girls and women are being sold a bill of goods that there is danger lurking around every corner. How will this message help our girls and young women build the real confidence and assets they need to go into the working world as fully functioning adults if they resort to victimhood as a way of life? These messages of the lurking dangers for women are blatant at times, but in other ways are subtle enough to be excused, even by intelligent people.

For example, at the Volokh Conspiracy this week, Professor Eugene Volokh pointed out to an Oregon State University newspaper that it was not possible to have 2000 rapes a day, one every five minutes, as a press release and website from the Oregon State University Women's Center stated. Well...duh. It is admirable that Professor Volokh points out the problem to the women's center but they do little about it, as you can see, they did not even remove this lie -- I mean, "fact" -- from their Myths and Facts sheet. But in the comments section, Professor Volokh defends these distortions as a problem with numbers:

Here is commenter Smithy's take on the "mistake":

Typical leftist exaggeration from the unhinged feminist left. You can chalk it up to enumeracy -- I chalk it up to plain craziness.

And Professor Volokh's reply:

Smithy: It's not exaggeration; it's mathematical error. It's not "enumeracy"; it's "innumeracy." I know of no "craziness" that manifests itself as the inability or unwillingness to do arithmetic. There's little reason to think that the authors of the underlying web page or of the newspaper article are "unhinged." There's nothing inherently leftist in high estimates of the level of rape; conservatives should be and are concerned about rape, too. As my original post suggested, there's a debate among serious scholars about the true incidence of rape; the 2000 per day figure is not outlandish, though it is on the high end of the estimates.

I tend to agree with Smithy--although I will go a step further and say it is not craziness on the part of unhinged feminists--it is craftiness. There is a logic and the subtle art of propaganda in these feminists' statistics that scream "give me more funding for women's issues ASAP." Heck, this exaggeration of stats even sells books out of fear--In Gavin De Becker's,The Gift of Fear,he has a chapter on "Intimate Enemies" that reminds us that before our next breakfast, twelve women will be killed by domestic violence--man, that will really get you choking on your Cheerios. However, if we take a look at the tables by the Bureau of Justice, I am a little puzzled that so many women's lives are being cut short before I have had my first meal of the day. I counted 1193 women killed by intimates in all of 2002--if 12 were killed before breakfast that would mean 4380 women would be killed during that time period.

I guess all we can deduce from this is that feminists with agendas can't do math.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Dr. Helen.

I don't think it is just "craftiness," though I am sure it is part of the odd statistics that keep getting published.

The other part (with apologies to Professor Volokh, who has spent too much time splitting hairs to see the Mohawk, if you catch my drift) is that our current culture is no longer about fact, but feelings.

Thus, it doesn't matter if the statistics are demonstrably untrue. They SHOULD be true, is the underlying assumption. And if you attack those statistics, why then you disagree with the underlying assumptions. Thus, if you attack the statistics, you must not think that rape is a problem. It's nonsense, but it squelches dissent and forces extremist thought.

The usual Left-liberal trope: how you feel is more important than what you do....or should do.

Remember what Dan Rather said about the faked memos? They were "...fake but accurate..."

Thanks for encouraging reason in an unreasoning society.

10:49 AM, February 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is like that 1/4 women will be raped trope that runs around, especially on campuses. Even RAINN only claims 1/6, and that's 1/6 have been the victim of attempted or completed rape, not 1/6 will be. 1/4 is a very different number than 1/6 and "have been" is a very different thing than "will be".

What's more, and what the extreme feminists refuse to acknowledge, is that sexuall assault/rape indidence has fallen 64% since 1994, and that 80% of victims are under 30. I also wonder how broadly "sexual assult" is defined, and I think that will vary from person to person on something like the Crime Vicitmization Survey.

Even the suggestion that rape could be a reproductive strategy, and thusly approaching it from the perspective of regular violent crime is useless will really rile the women's studies crowd, as will the suggestion that there are probably a lot of false accusations. If you're both drunk, for instance, she can't render consent but you can so it's rape...etc etc.

The issue is so bloody sensitive that nobody's willing to have a level-headed discussion.

11:35 AM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

anonymous and timothy,

I agree that feelings seem to trump logic and a level-headed discussion is about as likely as a man being treated at a domestic violence shelter but we must try to moderate some of these absurd statistics that make every woman out to be a victim and every man out to be an oppressor. It takes away from our time to treat the real victims of violence and leads those who are simply dealing with interpersonal problems to conclude that they are the target of abuse.

11:45 AM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


The ability to eyeball these stats and do simple addition is not even math--it is arithmetic 101. I am sorry but if people are this lame when it comes to simple addition, can they really be counted on for the higher level of critical thinking it takes to work with a university or school?

12:04 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Steven said...

Yes, but it's not the feminists' fault. They're victims of sexism, conditioned by Barbie to believe "Math is hard".

12:19 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Steven said...

Hmm. 2 to the 45th power is over 35 trillion. So if the number killed in 1960 was 1 or greater, the cumulative total would have been over 70 trillion in 2005, while if the number killed in 1960 was 0, the cumulative total would have been zero. And obviously, you can not have a non-integer number of killings.

Since 70 trillion is clearly ridiculous, then by the anti-gun advocate's own statements, no kids were killed by guns in the period 1960-2005.

12:25 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


Well, you would think that these "enlightened women" at the Women's center would be willing to brush up on their math skills, given that their ilk nearly got rid of Larwence Summers over his remark at Harvard College for saying that there were differences in the abilities between men and women. I say these women should prove their competence by at least performing the lowest level of math possible which is addition etc. They cannot have their cake and eat it too. If they think Larwence Summers is wrong--they should prove it.

12:31 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:05 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

If you take the average annual number of "completed rapes," of females, reported and unreported from 1992-2000, according to this BJS report you get about 361 per day. Remember this includes attempted rape and sexual assualts. And, this is based on a survey, not just police records.

To get to the 2,000 rapes per day one would have to increase the numbers in this report by more than 5.5 times. I have trouble believing the numbers in this report are that far off.

Conveniently, the OSU web page gives no references. I have found in my experience that otherwise intelligent, well educated people will pass along highly questionable statistics without question.

Of course, as DrHelen pointed out, the dead before breakfast statistics are far off also, unless all these murders occur from Jan. 1 to April 9. To bad that the feminists are perpuating the myth that girls aren't good at math. And our politicians are so busy running scared that they can't face the truth.

2:07 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

I agree with Anonymous @ 10:49. To the feminist or liberal, it is inconsequential whether any of these statistics are factually or demonstrably true, or whether the math is right or wrong. The liberal/feminist point is that the statistics COULD be true. Thus, if you assume that men oppress and abuse women, you must accept that women suffer economically and socially as a result. The amount of abuse or suffering by women isn't the point, it's the potential abuse and suffering. In other words, it could happen this way. Whether it does or not is irrelevant if you are working in conspiracy theory mode.

Many liberal and feminist movements are logical arguments based on illogical premises, because in each case they are addressing issues that they feel strongly about.

2:25 PM, February 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Volokh as quoted here:

There's little reason to think that the authors of the underlying web page or of the newspaper article are "unhinged." There's nothing inherently leftist in high estimates of the level of rape...

I love the guy, but he is sadly mistaken here. The mathematical "errors" of the feminist left are always skewed in a way that exaggerates whatever oppression du jour is being addressed.

Haven't read O'Beirne's book but I'm looking forward to it. I hope she references Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, one of my intellectual heroes, who broke this ground about a decade ago in Who Stole Feminism and followed up more recently with The War Against Boys

Love the podcasts.

2:32 PM, February 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that feelings [often] trump facts, but when it comes to such statistics as get thrown around, I think the issue is one of agenda, rather than error or being mathematically challenged. And certainly, the feminists have their agenda, and it's downright scary.

I also agree that how we define terms plays a big part in the statistics we broadcast. If I remember correctly my Gender Educ. class of 15 years ago, sexual assault was so broadly defined that I wonder how any man works up the courage to touch any woman, even just in a friendly or chivalrous manner.

3:42 PM, February 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And another thing (slight tangent, here, but very slight)--men are so vulnerable to accusations of child sexual assault that I sometimes worry, when I'm out with my husband. He is a man who truly loves children, and all it would take would be one mother who misinterpreted his intentions when he's waving at or talking to a young child. He'd be toast. The legal outcome would matter far less than the accusation.

3:45 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

helen, in the OP, said "...blah, blah, blah." ?? In reference to staying married though unhappy.

I think you meant to be more nuanced than that. Very few people advocate that women (or men) remain in an abusive situation for the sake of the children. But I wouldn't be so airily dismissive of those who remain married for the sake of the children even though they are unhappy. 1) It does tend to be better for children (before anyone loses their temper over that, trying to justify that their divorce was too good for their children, I am speaking generally -- and the numbers back me up). 2) Keeping promises is usually regarded as a good thing, and 3) Poverty doesn't tend to improve people's outlook much either.

4:33 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


I hear what you are saying and I understand that divorce is bad and hard for children. I think people should weigh their options very heavily before making such a decision. However, if someone is miserable year after year in a marriage, this misery also, can have an effect on children. I have seen the other side where people stay married year after year for the kids--the kids even tell the parents to get a divorce and mean it. The kids grow up avoiding or having little understanding of a healthy relationship because of the problems between their parents. I cannot believe that people should always stay married--just because you are not being abused does not mean you should stay in a miserable situation--or even one that is tolerable at best. There are people who are not meant to be together--I would not persuade such people to stay together for their children. What is important is that the parents not fight over the children after a divorce--this can create a great deal of stress for them.

4:43 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

To follow up on the dialogue between Dr. Helen and AVI regarding divorcing someone because you are unhappy and the marriage is making you (and/or your children) miserable.

Why is it a better solution to divorce as opposed to encouraging the spouses to find some way to save their marriage, or at least to act in a civil manner while married? There had to be some reason why they got married to start with, and it bothers me when people are willing to end a marriage because it doesn't work for them anymore. I have no problem with ending a marriage where there is infidelity or actual mental or physical abuse, but people who are married can be unhappy sometimes and even frequently where there is great hardship. To end a marriage because the spouses don't like each other anymore is shallow, and I seriously doubt that the next relationship will work out any better. And no matter what the children say, the lesson they learn is defeatist and destructive.

6:33 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


I agree that it is important not to give up too early, but honestly, I see people who stick it out through thick and thin and the only lesson the kids learned was to get involved in their own unhealthy relationship and then never get divorced but continue to get more and more bitter (as they complain to me or anyone else who will listen). I am not talking about throwing in the towel after a year or two but years of misery are not good for anyone.

6:39 PM, February 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Unfortunately we have culturally come to the point where it is highly dangerous to be male and interact in any meaninful way with children that are not your own. All it takes is the accusation to completely, permanently, irrevocably ruin your entire life. And the writing's on the wall, the degree to which even *false* accusations destroy your life will only increase with time as information becomes more available. In the face of this you have to be INSANE to be both male and try to play a positive role in the life of a child that isn't yours.

11:26 PM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Janesvillean said...

Yes, some women are being abused as are some men, but some feminists see fit to call psychological abuse and "controlling behavior" domestic violence--hell, this would make all of us victims (and perpetrators) of abuse at one time or another.

All that education, and you're stupid as the day is long.

2:40 AM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having had the “pleasure” of attending several indoctrination, I mean “Awareness” seminars on domestic violence, I feel qualified to make some observations about the workers and activists involved in domestic violence programs.

First, these women (always women) are strongly committed to the cause. And it is a cause. Any method or tool to further the cause is easily justifiable. Secondly, their understanding of the issue derives from anecdotal and personal experiences which are limited in scope.

Having had the opportunity to actually go to domestic disturbances and actually see and talk to the subjects involved at and immediately following the event (rather than days later when everyone has had time to rationalize and justify their actions) I understand that the issue is much more complicated and complex than DV advocates will ever admit.

In fact, the DV workers see the police as part of the problem, being all macho and violent after all. The answer for the DV worker is always “Arrest him.” Unfortunately for them, in the real world both parties are often abusive. (I refer you to the Guttmacher Study that showed that in over 50% of violent relationships both parties were violent.) This means that in a given situation, the she may well be chargeable, but not the he.

In any case, an abuser is a person of weak self image who uses intimidation, verbal and physical, to demonstrate to themselves their control of their environment. (Put simply, these folks are scared, and scared people are dangerous.) This control takes the form of everything from simple manipulation to beating the tar out of someone. Note that the underlying defect is not gender. The methods used are, to varying degrees, related to gender.

As a society we can only directly attempt to control this when it reaches the level of violence. That means actual physical harm. We have to expect that the victim will act in their own self interest. I am troubled by some of the new laws that disregard a victim’s obligation to take action to help themselves. These laws treat victims as children who can buy beer and cigarettes.

Having said this much, I expect to get some heated response. I take that as a sign that I am tap dancing on a nerve. If the above angers you, you are not thinking, you are emoting.

4:40 AM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He eats breakfast only once in 4 days. /sarcasm off

9:07 AM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen,

I agree that there's nothing worse than abuse of statistics, thanks for doing your part to correct it.

10:25 AM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is craftiness.

I doubt that. We are talking about women after all. I'd describe it more as an issue of barely-disguised low-cunning of the type one would expect from a some insignificant animal, like a shrew, for example. Wouldn't you agree, Dr. Helen?

11:34 AM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Steven said...

1) I was, of course, speaking tounge-in-cheek about the infamous "Math is hard" Barbie.

2) Certainly, zero is an integer. My point about integers is that the total number of deaths could not be between 0 and over 70 trillion, because the number of 1960 deaths had to be an integer. If there had been a non-integer number of deaths in 1960 (one one-billionth of one death, for example), then you can get a reasonable number for total deaths mathematically, but a non-integer number of deaths is senseless. Thus, the only reasonable number of deaths in 1960, if we take the doubling as fact, is the integer 0.

(Note that restriction to integers is perhaps too loose, since negative numbers are also valid integers. However, it is at least theoretically possible for gun violence to result in a net saving of lives, so . . . )

7:02 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger pst314 said...

According to Department of Justice statistics, the rates for reported domestic violence are pretty much the same for lesbians and for gay men as for heterosexual couples.

So much for the "evil men" canard, but don't hold your breath waiting for the V-Day demagogues to take note of this.

9:25 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger reader_iam said...

Wow! First we had "truthiness"--the word of the year for 2005?

Could it be that "mathiness" will be this current year's winner?

Well, why the heck not?

9:44 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

27.4% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Back to our mild disagreement. I have indeed heard people say that their parents should have gotten divorced. I have heard more people devastated that their parents were. My subjective impression had always been the latter outnumbered the former. It was thus gratifying to learn that the current run of the numbers supports my impression.

11:22 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Jeff Faria said...

On this specific subject, you will want to read this post, written by a long-time practicing New York City therapist: The Suicidal Pursuit of Perfection by 'ShrinkWrapped'

11:06 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger jeff said...

One of my aunts is a provost of some sort at Oregon State - I sent her a link to Volkoh's post with the comment that it really wasn't the sort of thing you wanted the school paper to get noticed for.

I haven't heard back from her yet.

3:02 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


Keep us updated--I would love to hear her input.

6:42 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave said...

Many people are essentially innumerate.

I remember reading a story about how some anti-gun activists were trumpeting a statistic that every year since 1960 the number of kids killed by guns has doubled.

11:52 AM

Really?!! As an activist and researcher for the gun-rights movement, I've read a lot of anti-gun propoganda. While I've heard many outrageous claims, that's one I haven't come across.

Unless you can cite a source, I'm going to call B.S., and assume it's a strawman you created because you want the anti-gun activists to be even more innumerate than they already are.

11:46 AM, February 16, 2006  
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