Men Who Hate Women

June 19, 2014
Is this something Western culture encourages?

Is this something Western culture encourages?

 

Elliot Rodger

The recent shooting spree in Isla Vista, has some feminists suggesting that the perpetrator, Elliot Rodger, was motivated by misogyny and that he is only the tip of the iceberg made up of everyday misogynists. Here are some reactions,

Amanda Hess/Slate: Rodger was not a domestic abuser. He was a mentally ill young man who had better access to firearms than he did sufficient mental health care. But his stated motivation behind targeting both male and female victims—“If I can’t have them, no one will”—echoes the attitudes of the perpetrators of domestic violence.

Jessica Valenti/The Guardian: After all, while it is unclear what role Rodger’s reportedly poor mental health played in the alleged crime, the role of misogyny is obvious.

Katie McDonough/Salon: …we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm.

Ryan Buxton/HuffPost quoting Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks :

“The problem for most women when they looked at that manifesto and they looked at these videos is not how strange he sounds, it’s how familiar he sounds, because we’ve all heard some measure of those sentiments in some form in our lives,” Franks said.

In varying degrees these voices all try to link Rodger’s action to misogyny and to view them as an expression of a misogynist culture. Some, like Salon’s Brittney Cooper saw the shooting as result of White male privilege but Salon’s Joan Walsh later downgraded this to a half-white privilege in a more nuanced article that discusses his mixed race and its potential implications. She even dares to finish her piece with,

To suggest that other races and other cultures don’t treat women as property is to miss how prevalent that attitude is. Sadly, misogyny and male entitlement come in every color and culture.

I don’t agree with much of what she is saying since she still claims that Rodger’s rampage was due to misogyny and male entitlement, but I appreciate the effort to go beyond the blame-Whitey reflex that progressives typically rely on.

The common denominator to all of these claims is that they are not backed up with any sort of evidence or even basic logic. A minimum of common sense suggests that if culture is a major factor behind this, then it would be happening everywhere all the time. So at most culture could be a factor for certain susceptible individuals. But people who do crazy stuff like this tend to have personality disorders – Rodger shows very clear signs of narcissism – and they are known to be extremely resistant to external influence. And as for Mary Anne Franks statement that he doesn’t sound strange in his videos have a look here and try to agree with her,

What is Misogyny?

It’s possible that misogyny is both common and the cause of a lot of violence directed at women. But there doesn’t seem to be much research indicating this. There doesn’t even seem to be any consensus of what misogyny is – a simple hatred, the idea that women are inferior to men, that they should have a certain role in society etc. These criteria obviously don’t mix well since insisting that for instance women should be subordinate to men isn’t necessarily hateful. It may be stupid, but stupidity is not hate. Amanda Hess offers a definition by fellow feminist Julia Serano, stating that misogyny is the belief that “femaleness and femininity are inferior to, and exist primarily for the benefit of, maleness and masculinity.” This doesn’t make sense either since you could easily hate women without believing that. In short, there is no meaningful and consistent definition of misogyny but this is not stopping anyone from having an opinion of that which they can’t define.

Intimate Partner Violence

But let’s disregard the issue of definition for a moment and assume that Rodger’s spree is the tip of the iceberg of misogyny. What would that iceberg of men committing the more mundane violence look like? There is some research on a particularly common form of violence towards women, intimate partner violence, that I’ve discussed before. It suggests that psychopaths and men with borderline personality disorder are very common in this category. But psychopaths are not by any definition misogynists since they will indiscriminately use and abuse just about anyone they come in contact with.

A stronger case could be made for borderline men (to be clear, a subset of these men), although at least anecdotally borderline women and gay men display a similar behavior towards their male partners. Borderliners sometimes end up with a bad attitude towards the category of people they are sexually and romantically interested in and for most of the men that category would be women.

The Regular (Spanish/Hispanic) Wife Beater

Still, if we stick to the iceberg metaphor, we should perhaps look at men without psychiatric diagnoses who have been convicted of domestic violence. In a recent study of this kind, psychologist Maria Vecina at the Complutense University of Madrid examined a sample of 295 such men using her colleague Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory, in this measure only of the five Harm, Authority, Fairness, Ingroup and Purity excluding Liberty for some reason. She focused on the so-called sacralization of moral foundations, the degree in which some (or all) foundations are viewed as sacred or non-negotiable. The reason for this being that sacralization has the potential for conflict,

The need to defend what we hold sacred—whether peace or war, freedom or slavery, my interests or yours—can quickly become an attack on those who question these values.

Considering that this sample is of convicted men it looks surprisingly heterogeneous and normal, with 25 percent having higher education and 25 percent elementary education, 27 percent identifying as liberals, 23 percent as conservatives and 50 percent as moderates. Vecina chose only Spanish-speaking men, that is ethnic Spaniards and immigrants from Latin America. This doesn’t seem like a big limitation and overall her claim that this is an ecological rather than WEIRD sample seems justified. She also included three control samples. One of these was Spanish-speaking women convicted of domestic violence, a much smaller sample of only 13 women, the only ones who, like the men, were prescribed a court-mandated psychological treatment for domestic violence during that time period.

The other control groups consisted of 100 male psychologist who work with violence prevention and 160 female psychologists. The first sample is certainly bound to be highly WEIRD and the author justifies this with wanting something that would contrast with the original sample, not sure what the point would be. The female psychologist not specifically working with violence prevention is probably a less WEIRD sample; some 40 percent of them identified as conservatives in sharp contrast to other samples of Western psychologists that have been up to 95 percent liberal.

Sacralization

As Vecina hypothesized, the convicted men sacralized moral foundations much more than others. This may seem obvious given the nature of the other samples but they did this even comparing with the subset of conservative women – and both conservatives and women are known to sacralize more than others. Here are some key results,

  • There was no significant differences between the violent men group and the violent women group in any of the sacredness subscales.
  • There were significant differences in all of the sacredness subscales between both of the violent groups of men and women and both of the non-violent groups of men and liberal women.
  • There were significant differences in the Fairness and Authority sacredness subscales between both of the violent groups and the conservative (non-violent) women with the violent groups sacralizing more.

Politicizing

Vecina also found that political conservatism predicted risk of violence, although keeping in mind that most nonviolent participants were academic women, and men working with violence prevention, that’s not saying much. Just looking at the original sample of convicted men, we can see an even distribution of conservatives and liberals (in fact, slightly more liberals even), which suggest that this is not a big factor. And yet the author tries to fit the convicted men into a profile from previous research showing conservatives sacralizing Authority, Ingroup and Purity more than liberals. The problem is that the men sacralized all foundations more than control groups. So Vecina suggest that for Harm this might be a matter of responding in a socially desirable way – “gee, I wouldn’t hurt a fly.” While this is possible, I would argue that for a Latin sample, where honor culture is strong, reporting a sacralization of Authority might also be socially desirable given that in such a culture you’re supposed to assert yourself, often with violence. In fact, a measure of pro-violence belief used by the author was how much participants agreed with the statement, “sometimes one has to resort to violence if one does not want people to think one is dumb.” That item could easily fit into a measure of honor culture.

The Romantic Misogynist

Again, since there was an equal amount of liberals and conservatives among the convicted men it doesn’t seem to be a matter of political orientation, but of sacralization as such. This is also in line with the findings of BPD being linked to intimate partner violence since both BPD and sacralization are about emotional intensity and unrealistic idealization. Or in plainer English: romanticism, which in personality psychology sorts under neuroticism, the only major trait that is consistently more common among women than men. This suggests that the bulk of the iceberg of violence, and possibly also misogyny, comes from men who are somewhat like women.

That’s where the evidence leads us: not to a culture of toxic male entitlement, but the frustrated reactions of a small group of men who are emotionally unstable, who have an idealized and unrealistic view of the world in general and whose personalities are if anything more similar to that of women than men. At least some of these men may well be genuine misogynists if simply defined as hating women – although I’m sure they love their feminist enablers.

This is not to say that women can’t be part of the problem. The question of what might characterize the women who become victims of male violence is interesting and no doubt a sensitive topic that I might pursue in a later post…

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Fragile and Dangerous – Men with Borderline Personality Disorder

August 25, 2013
"She'll be sorry."

“She’ll be sorry.”

The Predator

Most people are familiar with the characteristics of violent men, either by first-hand experience or through news and true crime books and TV shows. We all know what they look like: fearless, callous, thrill- and pleasure seeking guys who take what they want and who get easily frustrated if someone gets in their way. It’s the familiar antisocial person ranging from the neighbourhood thug who gets into fights when he is drunk, to the full-fledged psychopath that entirely lacks empathy and uses other people for money, sex or other benefits.

And the Prey?

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are a completely different breed. Their core features are their desperate need for love and lack of interpersonal skills. They fall head over heels in love with people they don’t know the first thing about and then become disillusioned and deeply resentful when the other person fails to match their fantasies. They are emotionally unstable and vulnerable and they feel very hurt and betrayed when people, as they see it, let them down. They fear being abandoned and often threaten to kill themselves. Another typical behavior is self-harm, cutting or burning themselves.

Borderlines can often come across as poor and misunderstood – perhaps because they genuinely feel that way – and being vulnerable they hardly evoke any fear in others. Their melodramatic gestures are sometimes pathetic or tragic, but again, nothing that will scare anyone. But it should.

Emo

Despite of the soap opera-type behavior found in psychiatric literature, between 25-50 percent of people with borderline are boys and men, and males who are angry, jealous and hateful tend to be dangerous. Women may think these guys, with their frailness and tragic personas are intriguing and good projects for improvement. A typical example of what they may look like comes from the musical genre called Emo. As the name suggests it deals with emotionally intense feeling of romantic nature, often tragic and bitter themes. And like borderlines they are often interested in self-harm and suicide.

But bitterness and hate isn’t just expressed by self-destructive gestures. In the emo lyrics you can often find passages that would suggest violence towards partners as well. Here are some excerpts from one of the more popular emo bands Fall Out Boy’s song Chicago Is So Two Years Ago,

My heart is on my sleeve
Wear it like a bruise or black eye
My badge, my witness
Means that I believed
Every single lie you said

You want apologies
Girl, you might hold your breath
Until your breathing stops forever, forever
the only thing you’ll get
Is this curse on your lips:
I hope they taste of me forever

With every breath I wish your body will be broken again, again
With every breath I wish your body will be broken again, again
With every breath I wish your body will be broken again, again
With every breath I wish your body will be broken again

Lashing Out

While the emo isn’t the only borderline male it seems like a pretty good example. And like the lyrics above suggest, borderline violence isn’t just directed at the self. A study on correlates of personality disorders conducted by clinical psychologist Joshua Miller and colleagues confirms this violent aspect of BPD. They had students fill in self-measures of personality disorders as well as other measure of for instance crime and violence. As expected, they found that crime was most strongly associated with psychopathy (which is a dimensional trait that to some extent can be found in the normal population). Also as expected, borderline was linked to self-harm. But perhaps more surprisingly, borderline was also strongly correlated with intimate partner violence, even more so than for psychopathy and narcissism.

Self-measures may of course be exaggerated, especially when we are talking about people with a taste for drama. But other research confirms that this is for real. One study from 2007 by psychiatrist Donald Black found that around 30 percent of new inmates in Iowa met the criteria for borderline and another study from this year by psychiatrist Marc Schroeder and colleagues, again looking at actual offenders, found a similar pattern with borderline being the second most common personality disorder after antisocial personality disorder. Of offenders who had committed both sexual and non-sexual violent crime half were antisocials and a third were borderlines as compared to third most common category of narcissistic disorder at a mere 3 percent. Given that borderline is rare in the general population, around 1-2 percent, it’s clear that these individuals are very violent.

The Hidden Threat

So it seems the borderline personality is a large and rather hidden threat to women (and probably some men too although women are usually less violent). No one seems to talk about these men. They rarely feature in the media or public debate. Maybe it’s just because they are so fragile and look more like victims than perpetrators. Pointing the finger at these guys may feel like kicking on someone who is already lying down. But they are not victims of anything but their own shaky grip on reality, and excusing them or looking the other way will only make for more violence.

 

For a more personal and in-depth look at these guys, check out Shanon’s excellent post,

http://strangedaysinthecity.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/boderline-boys-and-6-ways-to-spot-them/


Don’t Judge a Nation by the Size of Its Government

February 21, 2013

A recurring issue in the political debate is that of big or small government. From the political right, big government is invariably seen as an objectively bad thing. It breeds corruption and it lulls hard working citizens, and especially minorities, into a false sense of entitlement. It leads to public overspending and fiscal disaster. The left are not crazy about framing the debate in the big versus small dichotomy. They could say that big government means social security, public schools, infrastructure and so on. But since most people are naturally suspicious of the government, the term “big government” will never have a good ring to it. It just sounds too much like Big Brother (and sometimes it is). Recently president Obama even went as far as to say the following in his State of the Union speech,

It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.

And he is a big government guy!

This got me thinking. Is the size of the government really objectively good or bad? There are no official measures the government size (that I know of at least) but I think total tax revenues as a percentage of the GDP could be a reasonable proxy.  I selected 38 countries that are comparable in terms of development, that is most countries in Europe and USA, Canada, Australia, and the richer countries in East Asia. I omitted really small countries since they would affect the result disproportionally. That gave me a list of 38 countries listed below, in order of size (biggest first),

  1. Denmark 49.0
  2. Sweden 47.9
  3. Belgium 46.8
  4. France 44.6
  5. Finland 43.6
  6. Norway 43.6
  7. Austria 43.4
  8. Italy 42.6
  9. Germany 40.6
  10. Netherlands 39.8
  11. Slovenia 39.3
  12. Hungary 39.1
  13. United Kingdom 39.0
  14. Spain 37.3
  15. Argentina 37.2
  16. Portugal 37.0
  17. Russia 36.9
  18. Israel 36.8
  19. Czech Republic 36.3
  20. New Zealand 34.5
  21. Poland 33.8
  22. Estonia 32.3
  23. Canada 32.2
  24. Australia 30.8
  25. Ireland 30.8
  26. Latvia 30.4
  27. Greece 30.0
  28. Slovakia 29.5
  29. Switzerland 29.4
  30. Japan 28.3
  31. United States 26.9
  32. Korea, South 26.8
  33. Croatia 26.6
  34. Belarus 24.2
  35. Lithuania 20.9
  36. Chile 18.6
  37. Singapore 14.2
  38. Hong Kong 13.0

Next, I looked up some key indicators of how well a country is doing:

1. GDP (PPP) per capita (IMF 2010-11)

2. Gross government debt as a percentage of GDP (IMF 2011)

3. Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from Transparency International (2012).

4. Murder rate by country according to UNODC, most recent year.

I chose murder rather than crime in general since it’s a more robust measure than lesser crimes that will be reported in varying degrees in different countries.

And then I did the scatter plots. Starting with GDP (PPP) per capita (IMF 2010-11),

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and GDP (PPP) per capita on the y-axis.

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and GDP (PPP) per capita on the y-axis.

As you can see there is practically no correlation at all, a negligible 0.04. Next the public debt, does big government lead to fiscal irresponsibility?

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and gross government debt as a % of GDP on the y-axis.

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and gross government debt as a % of GDP on the y-axis.

Again, the correlation is negligible at 0.05. But what about countries that are in real trouble? If we look at the  the ten countries with the largest debts, they have an average size/tax burden of 33.3, which is very close to the overall average of 34.0. Next we look at the Corruption Perceptions Index,

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and Corruption Perceptions Index on the y-axis.

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and Corruption Perceptions Index on the y-axis.

As you can see from the regression line, now we have something, a small correlation of 0.16. But note that the CPI measures lack of corruption so a higher score is better. This means that corruption actually decreases as the size of the government increases. This seems counterintuitive since big government should provide more bureaucracy for corruption to thrive on. But it’s a well-known fact that big government countries like those in north western Europe are among those with the least corruption in the world. Finally crime, or murder to be precise,

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and murder rates per 100K inhabitants on the y-axis.

Government size/tax burden on the x-axis and murder rates per 100K inhabitants on the y-axis.

Here we a have also have a slight but negative correlation, -0.19. This is more what you’d expect since a small government means less social security and less social control, and that should translate to more crime.

So what’s the verdict? With such small correlations it’s hard to say that the data gives much support for big or small government. It may seem to lean towards bigger is better but those correlations are just too low to make much of. The conclusion is rather that government size is a matter of preference. If you value personal freedom and feel that everyone should take more responsibility for themselves, then a small government is the way to go. If you value a society that takes care of all its citizens even if it stands in the way of your personal freedom, then a big government is the answer.


Peace, Love, and Pit Bulls – What Your Choice of Dog Says About You as a Person

December 11, 2012
Not at all as aggressive as the dreaded Chihuahua.

Not at all as aggressive as the dreaded Chihuahua.

The term Pit Bull usually refers to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier. They all share certain typical characteristics, such as an athletic build, large jaw, and muscular neck.

Are they vicious freaks? The breed as such does not display any typically aggressive behavior. Research show that other dogs like Chihuahua and the Dachshund are much more aggressive. And yet statistics from CDC show that Pit Bulls kill by far more than any other dog breed. How can this be?

Well, for one, the Pit Bulls are strong so that when they do attack they can do more damage than Chihuahuas or a Dachshunds.

But perhaps more importantly, Pit Bulls attract a certain type of owners who contribute to the problem. Several studies have shown this. In 2006 one study published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence looked at 355 dogs of high and low risk profile. The high risk dogs are those common in fatal attacks, mainly Pit Bulls, making up 92 percent of the sample, but also Rottweilers and some other breeds. They found a clear overrepresentation of criminal convictions among owners of high risk dogs for things like assault, domestic violence, endangering children, and illegal possession of drugs and weapons.

This could be seen as a social marker but other studies have examined the personality traits of high risk dog owners. In 2009, one study published in Journal of Forensic Science found that these owners score high on the traits primary psychopathy and sensation seeking. Another study that followed up on that study in the same journal interviewed 754 college students about their dogs and their personality, thoughts, and behavior. It found a similar pattern of antisocial tendencies. These traits are highly inheritable and resistant to environmental influences. So it’s not a social marker but a matter of personality.

And that is why you should be cautious when you encounter a Pit Bull. While the breed has a good temperament and some owners are responsible, the combination of anatomy and ownership profile makes for a dangerous dog. This is no doubt why liability insurance costs so much for these dogs, and why many companies refuse to insure Pit Bulls. The insurance companies are disinterested in the debate; they must be competitive and just look at the risk and the bottom line.

In a way this is obvious. I mean, even if you don’t believe in the statistics and the research, no one can deny that these dogs are feared by many. So who wants a dog that will scare people? Exactly those that are identified in the research – individuals scoring high on sensation seeking and psychopathy. People who think a Pit Bull would be exciting to own and who don’t have much empathy with others.


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