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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Radio Confirms Our Fears

It has only been four days since I posted the first of two articles about ERBs and political interference in research. But here we are, handed a good example of how it operates. They must be primed to respond at the other end.
   The May 26 broadcast of CBC’s Metro Morning brings us the news. It’s all about a researcher named Alexandra Lysova of the University of Toronto. Alexandra has won a coveted scholarship from the P.E. Trudeau Foundation. To earn that, she’s had the good idea of doing research on women who go to jail for committing intimate-partner violence (IPV).
   Predictably, the research is being attacked by feminists; they accuse it of “blaming the victim,” since, according to feminism, the female can only be a victim, not a perpetrator.
    There is a hint of political interference in both the newscast and in the foundation’s published announcement. On the radio, Alexandra went to pains to respond to feminists and comfort their prejudices: the research, she said, would help women prevent being victimized. It was all pro-woman, and none of it had anything to do with protecting any male.
     The show’s host, Matt Galloway, reinforced this: Alexandra’s research, he said, was about “women who have a role in initiating violence.” Note the word “initiating”; it is not synonymous with “committing,” or “inciting.” The clear message, then, is that there had to have been violence by both partners, but no female responsibility or will.
    Thus, the research model, working hypothesis, and the statement of “positive outcomes for the community” would not appear to consider the female as perpetrator, but only as a misguided victim who got caught up in the battle.
      There’s only one problem with that: Ms Lysova’s female subjects are all behind bars. They have all been convicted of harming their spouse, presumably a man! Had they just “hit back,” they would not be in jail in the first place, they’d have been considered victims. 
      Here's a second problem. Millions of men experience violence at the hands of their wives—and do not hit back. Is Ms Lysova allowed to study that? And consider where she’s getting the data: in the U.S. and Aboriginal jail populations. That is relevant because more men in South Chicago are killed by their wives than wives are harmed by their husbands. And, among Aboriginal women in Canada, their violent-offender rates are astronomical in comparison with the non-Aboriginal population. 
     Yet the research seems silent on women as offenders and perpetrators, so it seems to be practicing political avoidance on precisely the population it chooses to study. We'd love to know the role that REB and departmental vetting played in this proposal (but no, we'll never get a key to that database). 
       It’s instructive to look at the way the foundation announced this grant, since it shows some of the putative influences of the REB:
Women's Involvement in Intimate Partner Violence: Dynamics of Escalation and Desistance

Women's involvement in intimate partner violence (IPV) remains an issue requiring further exploration. Despite some perspectives that question women's ability to engage in violence as active, rational human subjects, recent studies recognize the importance of exploring women's contributions to the dynamic nature of violence in intimate relationships. Alexandra Lysova's doctoral research aims to identify patterns of escalation in a single conflict and patterns of escalation or desistance across successive conflicts based on an interactional, dynamic perspective that integrates competing views on IPV, such as family violence and feminist perspectives. She assumes violent dynamics may escalate, remain stable over time, or desist depending on police intervention, and the structure (including power, gender, and economic inequalities) and the quality of the relationship. The data for Alexandra's research come from interviews with incarcerated women about their lives in the three years prior to their incarceration. The longitudinal data and multi-level design lend themselves to hierarchical linear modelling, which will allow Alexandra to assess the independent contributions of individual and relationship characteristics to the dynamics of women's involvement in IPV.

Let’s see if we can parse this for politics.

  • Title: Women's Involvement in Intimate Partner Violence: Dynamics of Escalation and Desistance.  As Ms Lysova said on the radio, she is “only” interested in enabling women to de-escalate the violence initiated by a male. “Desistance,” she explained, is where the woman saves her verbal provocation or incitement for “after the man has sobered up.”  This may be a wise strategy and a noble goal; but it does not study women as willing perpetrators of violence, which they sometimes are. Furthermore, many a man who is drunk is vulnerable to female violence, not prone to being violent himself; this is often the pattern among Aboriginal couples.
  • Despite some perspectives that question women's ability to engage in violence as active, rational human subjects, recent studies recognize the importance of exploring women's contributions to the dynamic nature of violence in intimate relationships. Those “some perspectives” that Alexandra is obliged to explore in her study all come from the core of gender-feminism, particularly the references to "structure and power" (i.e., no violent female has free will) and the myth of Female Rage. As we saw in a previous post, Female Rage is an unscientific, exculpatory doctrine, entirely self-interested; there is, say the feminists “no female violence, only female rage.” It’s like the Nazi theory of WWI: Germany’s defeat was caused by Jewish bankers, not German militarism; perhaps it was also caused by too deferential an attitude towards the evil Jew. 
  • At any rate, Alexandra is careful to say that women “make a contribution” to the partner violence, and that the violence is “dynamic.” Feminist-dominated boards will like that; this language may exclude the study of the violent woman and the passive male victim.
    • Finally, Alexandra’s statement says this about her research, that it is based on an interactional IPV, such as family violence and feminist perspectives. That’s the evidence of politically-approved bias. Alexandra will not study inherently violent women (but they are in jail!) or reach conclusions that squarely contradict gender feminism. Her study will integrate both feminist apologetics and the more scientific methods of psychology or criminology. This is the kernel of the corruption.
    We wish Ms Lysova success in her studies and in her career; but mostly, we wish her the precious gift of freedom. May her investigation go wherever it must, and may she someday be a free woman in a real university department.

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