Friday, September 16, 2005

I is for Invisible Elephant

In building my new list of 'Landscape' links for the side of the page, I linked to my 'U is for Unequal' post as 'Legal Equality?'. I thought that it belonged there, because it cites people in the NJ law profession saying openly what we all (ok, all men) suspect them of - that they treat men much worse than women on purpose. But then something struck me. Something I had read over oh, tewnty, twenty-five times, and hadn't seen. Take a look:

...people [judges] are told to interpret this law broadly in order to maximize protection for the victim. So if anybody ever came back at you and said, 'Gee, that's a real reach in terms of probable cause,' you have a legislatively mandated response which is, 'I erred on the side of caution for the victim' -Nancy Kessler, chief of juvenile and family services for the AOC

Did you see it? Besides the point of the quote -that judges are intentionally unfair to protect women, what else is there that stands out?

Do you see it?

In the quote, women are being described using the word 'victim'. Remember, these are women who are often just saying that 'they feel scared' - and in fact, many of them are just doing this to get their husband thrown out of the house in order to gain leverage in the divorce and custody battle.

The fact that the women were likely in no danger, and that the men's rights are being abused is the whole point of what Nancy is saying. She indicates that women need protection even when they are just 'feeling scared'. And Nancy, the chief of juvenile and family services, in her mind just automatically converted these whimpering women who were at no real risk into 'victims'. And I didn't even notice. The elephant was in front of me, but I couldn't see it.

We are all programed by our culture with a variety of incorrect preconceptions and messages. Some of these messages that tell us that women are innocent, weak and need protection, -and that men are strong and abusive. But when these myths of male and female behavior get translated into law, men suffer greatly. Language IS important, and we need to keep our eyes on the language and what is being said. We need to call a spade a spade, and a woman who has never suffered any physical trauma of any sort cannot rightly be called a 'victim' of domestic violence.


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