The Washington Post is having a very, very bad week when it comes to misogyny. First, it published a column by conservative George Will claiming that not only is there not an epidemic of sexual assault on campuses across the country, but that those who allege they were assaulted are likely trying to cash in on the “coveted status” that “victimhood” allots them.
As if that weren’t bad enough, now the news outlet has published a new column, this time explaining how to reduce violence against women. The master plan? Marry them off.
“One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married,” reads the original headline, with a subhead, “The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies.” The backlash online against the article was instantaneous, causing the Washington Post to rewrite the headline, only, and leave the rest of the message intact.
Even with a revamped headline (“One way to end violence against women? Married dads. The data show #yesallwomen would be safer with fewer boyfriends around their kids.”) the message remained unaltered. Violence against women, according to the columnists, is a result of women remaining single, versus entering into a marriage contract.
“[O]bscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers,” argues co-authors W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson. “The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.”
“So, women: if you’re the product of a good marriage, and feel safer as a consequence, lift a glass to dear old dad this Sunday,” they conclude.
The multitude of studies cherry picked by the article’s authors are problematic on their own. After all, when it comes to violence against women, 30 percent of it globally is instigated by an intimate partner, and 38 percent of all women murdered are murdered by an intimate partner.
It’s not surprising that the authors would be inclined to play with statistics to try to promote their “pro-marriage” viewpoint. Wilcox has already been accused of skewing data to help support legal arguments for same-sex marriage cases. Publishing in one of the country’s most prestigious news outlets now gives their version of “facts” an air of authenticity they could not get by continuing to preach to the religious right family values crowd.
Also sadly unsurprising is the introduction of yet another article full of theories of how women and girls can protect themselves from violence, rather than creating some true solutions to stopping abusers from committing acts of violence and assault, both physical and sexual. Advising women and girls to marry as a means of protecting themselves against abuse doesn’t actually fix the problem, as domestic violence statistics show, and even if it did, promoting it as a solution moves our talking points back to a realm where it is up to male partners to offer protection from other men’s attacks.
Marriage is not an answer to the crisis of violence against women. Not drinking in public is not a solution to avoiding sexual assault from strangers or acquaintances. We do not need to arm ourselves with guns or protective underwear.
What we do need is a real campaign that says women are not property, violence against women and girls will not be tolerated, victims’ accounts will be taken seriously and not dismissed as “status seekers” and judges will not give light sentences or no sentences because of an assailant’s background, history, position or wealth.
What we also need is a media that will confront these issues, rather than pander to those who diminish them. We must keep the media just as accountable for its role in perpetuating this crisis as we do the assailants committing the crimes.