• September 1, 2015

Myths or Facts in Feminist Scholarship?

An exchange between Nancy K.D. Lemon and Christina Hoff Sommers

Christina Hoff Sommers, in her essay "Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship" (The Chronicle Review, online edition, June 29), criticized Nancy K.D. Lemon, a lecturer in domestic-violence law at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Law, for publishing errors in the popular textbook she edits, Domestic Violence Law, and for not taking seriously her continuing criticisms of the book. "One reason that feminist scholarship contains hard-to-kill falsehoods is that reasonable, evidence-backed criticism is regarded as a personal attack," Sommers charged. Following is Lemon's response to those criticisms and Sommers's rebuttal. Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Nancy K.D. Lemon: Christina Hoff Sommers accused me of being a "scholarly merchant of hype" for material in my popular textbook, Domestic Violence Law. In fact, she is the one whose assertions are untrue and who is impervious to correction.

I have worked in the domestic-violence field as an attorney since 1981, and pioneered teaching domestic-violence law. When I started teaching this course in 1988 at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Law, it was the first such course anywhere. I created a reader, which was in such demand by other law teachers that I contacted a publisher, and the book Domestic Violence Law was first published in 1996. The third edition by Thomson/West has just come out, along with an updated teacher's manual.

Sommers first contacted me by e-mail on February 21, 2009, and told me she had been traveling around the United States criticizing me and my textbook. The timing of her e-mail message was fortuitous, as I was working on the final edits of the most recent edition. I double-checked the specific points she expressed concern about and read the sources she cited in her e-mail message. In my response to her, I stated that while I had found some minor inaccuracies in the piece about the origin of the "rule of thumb" and had corrected those, I had confirmed the sources of the other supposed inaccuracies she challenged.

In spite of my response, she wrote in The Chronicle Review that she is "open to correction," yet she ignored my response to her and continued to complain of the same purported inaccuracies.

In regard to the rule of thumb, for example, she asserted that Romulus of Rome, who is credited in my book with being involved with the first antidomestic-violence legislation, could not have done this as he was merely a legendary, fictional character, who along with his brother Remus was suckled by a wolf.

In fact, Plutarch and Livy each state that Romulus was the first king of Rome. He reigned from 753-717 BC, and created both the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. He is also credited with adding large amounts of territory and people to the dominion of Rome, including the Sabine women. The modern scholar Andrea Carandini has written about the historic reign of Romulus, based in part on the 1988 discovery of the Murus Romuli on the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome.

R. Emerson Dobash and Russell P. Dobash, pioneers and well-respected leaders in the field of domestic-violence research, discuss Romulus in their 1979 book, Violence Against Wives. They state that the marriage laws passed in 753 BC, under Romulus of Rome, allowed men to beat their wives, and that this rule continued into England and the United States in the 1700s and 1800s. Dobash and Dobash refer to a "rod drawn through the wedding ring" in describing the size of the stick husbands were allowed to use for this purpose, the same guideline referred to as the rule of thumb.

Professor Henry Ansgar Kelly has also researched the history of the term "rule of thumb," along with the historic right of husbands to chastise their wives. In his article, "Rule of Thumb and the Folklaw of the Husband's Stick," in the September 1994 issue of the Journal of Legal Education, he cites Matthew Bacon, an 18th-century jurist, who published a legal treatise in the United States and England in 1736 containing the comment that husbands had a legal right to beat their wives. Similarly, Kelly cites Sir Francis Buller, an English judge, who said in 1778 that it was acceptable for husbands to beat their wives with a stick the size of their own thumb, though Kelly notes that others disagreed with Butler that this was permissible. Kelly also says that while canon law did not condone husbands beating their wives, the ordinary gloss to civil law did allow this. The history he reviews finds early jurists and legal treatises on both sides of condoning actual wife-beating. However, Kelly cites numerous early sources showing the right of husbands to "moderately chastise" their wives.

There are several 19th-century American cases in which judges referred to the rule of thumb, if not by name, then by reference to sticks or switches and their relationship to the sizes of the husbands' fingers or thumbs. These cases include Bradley v. State (Mississippi, 1824), State v. Rhodes (North Carolina, 1867), Fulgham v. State (Alabama, 1871), and State v. Oliver (North Carolina, 1874).

According to John K. Wilson in the fall 1994 issue of Democratic Culture, Elizabeth Cady Stanton also stated in her 1854 address to the New York legislature, "By the common law of England, the spirit of which has been but too faithfully incorporated into our statute law, a husband has a right to whip his wife with a rod not larger than his thumb, to shut her up in a room, and administer whatever moderate chastisement he may deem necessary to insure obedience to his wishes, and for her healthful moral development!" (quoting Stanton et al., History of Woman Suffrage, 1881).

Sommers has also stated that my textbook includes an article by Joan Zorza referencing a March of Dimes study on domestic violence that never took place. Sommers states that she contacted the director of science education for the March of Dimes, and he denied that there was any such study. Rather than asking me for a citation, she announced in her lectures that the study did not exist and that my book was full of made-up truths. Even when I told her I had seen a copy of the study as provided by Zorza, Sommers went on to make the same assertion in her piece in The Chronicle.

Apparently the March of Dimes employee was unaware of the research this agency financed. The study Zorza sent me, "Battering During Pregnancy: Intervention Strategies," by Anne Stewart Helton and Frances Gobble Snodgrass, appears in the September 1987 issue of the journal Birth. The article states at the bottom of the first page: "This work was supported by a March of Dimes grant for the prevention of battering during pregnancy." The study states that battered women had twice the number of miscarriages than did nonbattered women.

Zorza also sent me a scanned copy of "Domestic Violence, a Women's Health Issue," a 1994 report of the N.Y. State Senate Democratic Task Force on Women's Issues, chaired by Senator Suzi Oppenheimer. That report included a reference to the March of Dimes Protocol of Care for Battered Women, which noted that battered women are twice as likely to miscarry, four times as likely to have low-birth-weight babies, and 40 times as likely to have infants who die within the first year, compared with nonbattered women.

Sommers also challenged a statement by Zorza in my textbook regarding the high incidence of battered women in emergency rooms. Sommers says she received a message from a statistician at the Centers for Disease Control who stated that the incidence of females in emergency departments because of domestic violence was 0.01 percent in 2005 and 0.02 percent in 2003.

Apparently that statistician has not read the Centers for Disease Control Web site, which stated, when I checked it on July 15, 2009: "IPV," or intimate-partner violence, "is a major cause of violence-related injuries. Intimate partners were identified as the perpetrators in 36 percent of all emergency department visits by women who suffered from one or more violent injuries."

Similarly, the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice has reported that 37 percent of all women who sought care in hospital emergency rooms for violence-related injuries were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend (Michael R. Rand, "Violence-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments," 1997).

We also find similarly high figures published in medical journals, hardly bastions of radical feminism. D.C. Berios and D. Grady, in their article "Domestic Violence: Risk Factors and Outcome," in the August 1991 issue of Western Journal of Medicine, found that among 218 women presenting in a metropolitan emergency department with injuries due to violence, 28 percent required hospital admission and 13 percent required major medical treatment.

Doctors Evan Stark and Anne Flitcraft, prominent researchers in this field, announced similar findings in their 1996 book Women at Risk: Domestic Violence and Women's Health: "The initial conclusion of our research was that more women sought medical treatment for injuries resulting from domestic violence than for any other cause." … Later "studies continued to document substantially the same or higher figures than we uncovered" (Sage Publications Page xvii).

The N.Y. State Senate report mentioned above cites the American Medical Association's "Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Domestic Violence," which note that battered women account for 19 percent to 30 percent of injured women seen in emergency departments.

Similarly, the study cited above backed by the March of Dimes contains the following statement: "The magnitude of the problem is shown in a Yale University study in which 21 percent of the 2,676 women treated in the emergency department were battered." (See "Wife Abuse in the Medical Setting," by Stark and Flitcraft et al., in Domestic Violence Monograph Series No. 7, 1981.)

Sommers seems to have a history of making inaccurate assertions. Ironically, one of the articles she cited in her e-mail message to me in support of her assertions regarding the origin of the rule of thumb was the Kelly piece. In fact, rather than supporting Sommers, Kelly disagrees with her, stating: "The explanation she gives from a Women's Studies Network communication by a folklorist, Philip Hiscock, that [the term "rule of thumb"] comes from woodworking … is supported by no evidence."

Kelly is not the only researcher or scholar to find Sommers's scholarship in error. In Women at Risk, Stark and Flitcraft note that their research findings regarding the high numbers of battered women in emergency departments were challenged in 1994 by none other than Christina Hoff Sommers, even though she is a philosopher, not a medical researcher, and thus had no basis for disputing their findings.

Sommers seems to have made a career out of attacking other academics and researchers and disagreeing with their findings, citing the same assertions repeatedly over at least the last 15 years, even in the face of evidence contradicting her claims. It seems I have the honor of being her most recent target.

I have been teaching law students for 22 years and am the author of one of the leading textbooks on domestic violence. It is important for students to receive accurate information; good scholarship requires nothing less.

Christina Hoff Sommers: Essentially everything in Professor Lemon's response is wrong.

She confidently informs us that Romulus actually existed and ruled Rome from 753-717 BC. That is preposterous. She cites Livy and Plutarch as sources. These first-century writers did not claim to be offering historically accurate accounts of events that took place some 700 years before their time, but openly professed to be summarizing beliefs, myths, and legends that had come down through the ages. She also cites the contemporary Roman archaeologist Andrea Carandini—a maverick figure who discovered what he claims might have been a wall of a palace that could have belonged to Romulus. As the July/August 2007 issue of Archaeology politely notes, his suggestion "represents a sharp break with two millennia of scholarship."

Lemon's textbook teaches that King Romulus had a code of laws in which wife beating was "accepted and condoned." That claim goes beyond anything ever suggested by Livy, Plutarch, or Professor Carandini. Where are her sources for these real-world enactments of a magistrate whom nearly everyone regards as fictitious? She credits a 1979 book by Rebecca and Russell Dobash, assuring us that they are "well-respected leaders in the field of domestic-violence research." Which they may well be—but if they had evidence that Romulus existed and information about his code of laws, they would also be among the most renowned classical historians of our time, which they are not. Why has this honor eluded them? In their book on domestic violence, Dobash and Dobash write, "Men who assault their wives are actually living up to cultural prescriptions that are cherished in Western society." Perhaps it is their political pronouncements that have rendered Lemon blind to their scholarly limitations on matters historical.

According to Lemon's text, William Blackstone and other British common-law jurists promulgated the "rule of thumb" law that gave a husband the right to "beat his wife with a rod no thicker than his thumb." False. Scholars have searched for this precedent in English law but without success. Though a few 19th-century American southern judges allude to it, no one has ever been able to find the actual law—neither in Blackstone nor in any other source.

Lemon, in her response to my piece, cites the example of the 18th-century British judge Francis Buller, who allegedly deployed the rule of thumb in his courtroom. But UCLA scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, who has written the decisive exposé of the rule-of-thumb ruse, points out that Buller did not refer to the law in any official ruling, but mentioned it in an off-the-record remark. Buller was then mercilessly pilloried in the London press and caricatured in cartoons as "Judge Thumb." One Buller biographer denies that the judge ever made any such remark, and no one can find any official record of his words or of any case adjudicated by Buller that could have given rise to his comment.

But no matter, a legal legend was born. In Lemon's hands, the phantom rule of thumb is presented as a fundamental precept in European and American jurisprudence. Lemon has read Kelly's exposé. That the faux law—complete with attributions to William Blackstone—is blandly included in the latest edition of her textbook borders on academic malfeasance.

Lemon stands by the claim in her book that "the March of Dimes found that women battered during pregnancy have more than twice the rate of miscarriages and give birth to more babies with more defects than women who may suffer from any immunizable illness or disease." When I read that passage to Richard P. Leavitt, director of science information at the March of Dimes, he said, "That is a total error. There is no such study." Now Lemon faults him for not being aware of a study carried out by his own organization. How could its director of science have been unaware of so important and dramatic a finding? Here is how:

The March of Dimes never did any such study, nor did it commission any such research. The source Lemon cites is a 1987 article in the nursing journal Birth by two authors who were awarded a grant by the March of Dimes to do a small study of battery during pregnancy and to summarize strategies for prevention. In their introductory remarks describing the scope of the problem, the authors refer to a 1981 monograph by Evan Stark, Anne Flitcraft, et al., titled Domestic Violence. It makes claims about the links between battery and miscarriages, and it was not connected with the March of Dimes in any way. When students are told in Lemon's book that "the March of Dimes found …," they are led to believe that this reputable organization carried out the major study with the advertised finding. They do not assume that the finding was by a third party, which was then referred to by someone who received a grant from the March of Dimes to do a small study on a different topic.

A few final words about Lemon's defense of the emergency-room factoid. According to her textbook, "Between 20 and 35 percent of women seeking medical care in emergency rooms in America are there because of domestic violence." The number of women who annually seek emergency-room care is approximately 40 million, so Lemon is saying that between 8 million and 14 million women are there because they suffered from beatings by intimates. That is not even remotely true. The Centers for Disease Control and Justice Department statistics she cites to demonstrate her book's accuracy are not about the 40 million women who visit emergency rooms, but rather about the approximately 550,000 women who come to emergency rooms "for violence-related injuries." Of that group, approximately 35 percent were attacked by intimates. Far less than 1 percent of the women seeking medical care in emergency rooms are there because of domestic violence.

Lemon has just published the third edition of her celebrated, error-ridden casebook. This time, as her response to my Review piece proudly proclaims, she was well aware of my criticisms and brushed them aside with disdain. Law students will now be treated to another round of Elvis sightings parading as scholarship. As I said in my article, my complaint with feminist research is not that authors make mistakes but that the mistakes are impervious to reasoned criticism. They do not get corrected, and the critic's motives are impugned. Nancy Lemon's response to my article illustrates the problem perfectly.


1. rightwingprofessor - August 10, 2009 at 09:44 am

Wow Dr. Lemon just got torn to shreds, what a scam artist. Keep up the good work Dr. Sommers.

2. kathden - August 10, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Just with regard to the beginning of Lemon's remarks: I am astonished by the naivety of her use of classical scholarship. If Lemon is going to delve into history, maybe she needs to take an undergraduate course in historiography. Sommers' response, including its tone, seems to me on the mark.

3. ccwriter - August 10, 2009 at 02:19 pm

I don't have access to the materials cited above, so verification is difficult. But here is a nugget worth considering. Both quotes are from the materials above: Lemon: "37 percent of all women who sought care in hospital emergency rooms for violence-related injuries were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend" Sommers: "According to [Lemon's] textbook, 'Between 20 and 35 percent of women seeking medical care in emergency rooms in America are there because of domestic violence.'" See the difference? Lemon's textbook makes a claim about ALL women seeking emergency room treatment. But Lemon herself makes a claim only about women seeking emergency room treatment FOR VIOLENCE-RELATED INJURIES. If we trust Sommers to quote Lemon's textbook accurately (and it is worth checking) this is a discrepancy that should not stand. It's the kind of error that might be missed in the rush of proofreading, but it is not a trivial error, since it concerns the kind of factoid that finds its way into the public consciousness and stays there.

4. unenclosed - August 10, 2009 at 06:16 pm

What is remarkable about this debate and the comments that follow is the degree to which people who might at least make some claim to academic integrity fail to understand the basic elements of scientific inquiry. I must admit, as does ccwriter, that I don't have access to the materials cited, but here's the point: Lemon, even in this brief essay, provides citations that one might look up and verify. Sommers, on the other hand, only makes vague references, providing little more than anecdotal evidence that may or may not be supported. To say that "scholars have searched" or claim that another scholar is a "maverick" might be fine for an opinion piece (or a report published on a think-tank's web site), but it would be difficult at best to check her claims. Furthermore, Sommers doesn't understand key elements of Lemon's claims. For example, it is clear from Lemon's discussion that the "rule of thumb" is an element of the common law, which means that scholars could search all they like for a statute without finding one. No wonder Sommers doesn't respond to Kelly's statement that there was no evidence to support Sommers' criticism. I could go on, but clearly Sommers fits in well with her colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute who deny global warming and that the greed of American economic elites is largely to blame for the economic crisis. Like alcoholics whose self-image depends on denial, AEI's "scholarship" only serves to justify the failure to address deeply-rooted problems in American society. That domestic violence is a substantial problem that affects a disturbingly large portion of American women should not be in question: To use Sommers' numbers, if it is the case that 35% of the 550,000 women who seek treatment in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries (note that only rarely do battered women suffer violence that puts them in the emergency room, and the definition of domestic violence includes non-violent means of coercion), that means that, on average, 192,500 women *every year* suffer a level of violence sufficient to put them in the hospital by their intimate partners. The number should concern any reasonable person.

5. larkspurmtn - August 10, 2009 at 06:21 pm

ccwriter - you made the exact point I had noticed. This simple example of Sommers apparently not carefully reading the words printed on the page and written by Lemon, make me doubt the validity of the other claims made by Sommers (this is in reference to the emergency room percentages). However, I do find Sommers' treatment of the March of Dimes issue, to the extent I can judge from here, to be better. It seems a stretch for Lemon to call the study a "march of dimes study" when it was simply supported by a grant. It is not surprising that the MoD guy was not familiar with the study and didn't claim it as one of their own. I would encourage Lemon to not use the MoD name if it's not warranted. The study still may have important and reportable results. And, back to the other side, another apparent criticism by Sommers seems to be a stretching of what Lemon actually says. She does not say that it was a "law" in her writing about early Amerian judges referring to the "rule." Thus Sommers' refutation is absurd. This debate demonstrates the importance of teaching our students how to very carefully and critically take in information, use sources, etc.

6. boiler - August 10, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I do have to echo Somers on the Romulus stuff. You can speculate that Romulus was a historical figure, in the same way that you can speculate that there was a historical basis for Abraham or Gilgamesh or King Arthur. But to put dates on his reign and to claim that you know something about his legal code is ridiculous. To back it up with citations from Plutarch and Livy is even worse, revealing a disturbing lack of understanding of the nature of historical sources. It's astonishing to me that a reputable scholar would write something like that.

7. kenwd0elq - August 10, 2009 at 10:54 pm

I have to say that anyone who categorically states that Romulus was a real person and King of Rome starts out with a deep well of distrust about whatever else she might say. Oh, REALLY!?! What other impossible tall tales is she ready to report as fact?

8. brteacherguy - August 10, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Paul Bunyan dug the Grand Canyon by dragging his axe behind him. I can cite sources to prove it.

9. akunz - August 11, 2009 at 02:30 am

The initial assertion in Lemon's book by Zorza is that "between 20 and 35 percent of women seeking medical care in emergency rooms in America are there because of domestic violence." The assertion should be that "between 20 and 35% of women who come to the ER for violent injuries are there because of domestic violence." Do you see the massive difference in that sentence? Lemon does not. She keeps arguing about the percentage which is not the problem. It is the percentage OF WHAT that is the problem. 36% of 550,000 women who come in for violent injuries is a much smaller number than 36% of 40,000,000 total women who come into the ER for all reasons. Failure of reading comprehension on Lemon's part.

10. jlmartjr - August 11, 2009 at 08:20 am

Sorry, but as soon as Plutarch and Livy are cited as reliable sources, you lost me. I enjoy reading Plutarch as much as the next guy (did I really just write that?), but I reserve the right to scoff and stop listening to people who cite them as historical sources.

11. rightwingprofessor - August 11, 2009 at 09:45 am

Thank goodness Lemon is only a mere "lecturer" and not tenured.

12. ldsdanny - August 11, 2009 at 10:03 am

I think the Duke U Lacross Team "rape" case showed hwo even faculty members and people in the Prosecutors offices have bouhgt into the false ideologies promoted b ythe likes of Lemon. Where numbers are fudged, in order to support the "researcher's" personal agenda and/or ideology.

13. auto23 - August 11, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Speaking of rules of thumb, here's how you interpret statistical claims regarding experiences said to beset the vast American public -- the US lost some 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam. Every year, about 40,000 people are killed in car accidents in the US. Do you know someone (or of someone) who died in Vietnam? Do you know someone (or of someone) who was killed in a car accident? Most of us, assuming we remember the war, could answer yes to one or both of these questions. Ms. Lemon cites some confusing sources for the percentages of women going seeking medical treatment in ERs are there for injuries related to domestic violence. But she wants to make it sound like something damn-near an epidemic. Yet how many of us know a woman who suffered such injuries? According to Ms. Lemon's claims, I should be seeing lots of women out in public bearing evidence of domestic violence -- black eyes, bruises, swollen lips, etc. But I don't. Ms. Lemon's statistics don't pass the smell test.

14. yancyland - August 11, 2009 at 02:11 pm

I have to disagree with auto23; his/her assertions don't pass "the smell test" for me. To say that the statistics on domestic violence are wrong because we don't all know someone who has been a victim is ridiculous. For someone who is a Vietnam vet or killed in a car accident (two examples cited in the comment) this is likely one of their defining characteristics, one of the first--or only--things you might know about that person. Not so with someone who has been a victim of domestic violence; they don't walk around with a permanent black eye to advertise their "status." Rather than asking, how many of us know a woman (and not all victims of DV are women, by the way) who has suffered from DV? The question should be: Have you ever asked the women in your life if they've ever been abused by an intimate partner? I suspect that question would get an entirely different answer, and one that might surprise auto23.

15. rightwingprofessor - August 11, 2009 at 03:29 pm

We've already thoroughly established that Lemon is mistaken on her domestic violence numbers, I think even she will admit that now. She meant the percentage of women in the ER for violence related injuries, not the percentage of all ER visits for women. Unforunately the mistake is just one of many tha tmade it through to her book.

16. barnstable - August 11, 2009 at 03:31 pm

In response to unenclosed: I believe it is you, not Prof. Sommers, who misunderstands the specious argument Prof. Lemon makes about the rule of thumb. You write: "Furthermore, Sommers doesn't understand key elements of Lemon's claims. For example, it is clear from Lemon's discussion that the "rule of thumb" is an element of the common law, which means that scholars could search all they like for a statute without finding one." Common law is not mere common sense; it isn't just this unstated thing that everyone knows and is never written down. Common law is the body of precedent that has been built up from the practical application of jurisprudence, itself a specific and educated form of "common sense." Blackstone's truly massive work, for example, is entirely dedicated to common law. It sought to trace, explain, and codify common law, and has been used since then as a reference for others seeking to understand common law. It is, in fact, a big book of common law, and it is only one of many such. For you to aver that, because Lemon claims that the rule of thumb is common law, therefore you won't find it written down anywhere, is precisely opposite the truth. I would also note that it is just this kind of shallow understanding of history and lack of rigor in the use of language that loses Lemon much of her credibility. Please don't repeat her mistakes in that regard.

17. barnstable - August 11, 2009 at 03:32 pm

Sorry for the lack of paragraph breaks in the above comment.

18. vfichera - August 11, 2009 at 05:27 pm

[Off-topic comment removed by moderator.]

19. avalongod - August 11, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Barnstable: Thank you for your comments about common law. I would have said them, had you not already done so. Yes, citing Livy and Plutarch on the issue of the historical accuracy of Romulus is absurd. I'm no historian, but I've read enough scholarly historical books to have read again, that those original sources were not "historians" in the modern sense. The "rule of thumb" has also been pretty thoroughly debunked. Not an academic site, but the website "The Straight Dope" has a pretty nice discussion of this issue and how this urban legend might have gotten started. Ultimately I have to agree with Sommers that such shoddy scholarship is used to educate a new generation of legal minds. Too often ideology trumps science.

20. commonsense - August 12, 2009 at 01:29 am

And I wondered why those in the "real world" don't take academics seriously! While you all nitpick whether Romulus was actually a king, women ARE victims of intimate partner violence too often. Ms. Sommers has a beef with feminism in general and as Lemon pointed out, doesn't accept challenges to her challenges. In fact, Lemon's book is accepted by the legal community and legal scholars and will be until something better comes along. I suggest that the whining about scholarship be focused on actual scholarship to produce something better. Or just hush.

21. vegetablelollipop - August 12, 2009 at 03:05 am

To Christina Hoff Sommers: My mother endured horrible, physically altering domestic violence at the hands of my father. As a child, after my mother left in the middle of the night, we spent four years in and out of domestic violence shelters while waiting for section 8 housing (my mother was a housekeeper/cleaner). Professor Christina Hoff Sommers: How are you helping women and children who endured this madness? It may be well to some that you are advancing an anti-feminist agenda and criticizing other scholar's research. But how are you using your resources and intelligence to address this terrible social problem, violence against women and children by men? Have you ever seen what a woman's face, neck, upper chest and arms looks like who has been burned by acid thrown at her by her male partner? I have. I saw this and other horrors as a child. One of my earliest memory is of my mother being beaten out the window, glass shard embedded into her legs, blood over the window frame, walls and floor. I was 4 years old. The social worker asked me to draw what I saw. Years later the social worker at Georgetown University's Child Development Center reminded me of my vivid, spot-on, detailed drawings of this and other incidents that my brother desrcibed in words. She reminded me of my drawings to verify that my memories happened, that they were mirrored by the police reports and my mother and brother's descriptions *and* the medical evidence. This isn't necessarily a feminist debate. It's a HUMAN problem. Your criticisms seem mighty, mighty petty in light of the true horrors that go on every day. What in God's name are you doing to address these problems from your Ivory Tower?! At least Professor Lemon is working to address the problem. But you? You have yet to lift a finger. And let me tell you something, Christina Hoff Sommers: you'll need many years of sustained social advocacy to make up for lost time. Please shut up if you are helping to address the problem.

22. akunz - August 12, 2009 at 05:42 am

commonsense and vegetablelollipop, emoting is not going to solve the problem. When someone has ridiculous errors in her work (as Lemon does) people might discount EVERYTHING she says as unreliable. How much better for Lemon to correct glaring errors, so that her book can then be a solid resource in combating domestic violence. Sommers is doing Lemon and by extension victims of domestic violence a favor by allowing Lemon a chance to publish a credible textbook.

23. cpparis - August 12, 2009 at 06:45 am

Thank you vegetablelollipop for your personal insights. I too had similar experience. For auto23 to say ", I should be seeing lots of women out in public bearing evidence of domestic violence -- black eyes, bruises, swollen lips, etc" shows how unaware he/she is regarding what domestic violence. My mothers "scars" are not where anyone can see and the violence that spanned four decades went undetected by neighbors. How many victims never end up in the ER? How are those numbers accounted for?

24. lagrinne - August 12, 2009 at 06:57 am

Christina Hoff Sommers is a TOOL of the conservative right. Anti-Feminism is her schtick; she gets paid to undermine and denigrate other women. If you have read any of her other work, you will note not only inaccuracies and generalizations, but just all-around piss poor scholarship. I don't think that SHE even believes the venom that she spews. This woman is a CAPITALIST, first and foremost...and she has made a VERY good living as a mouthpiece for the right. I usually try not to begrudge anyone their "hustle," but hers is destructive in that it feeds into the dominant ideologies already at work in this culture. If she were any kind of a real scholar, she would not be whoring herself out to any right-wing organization that she believes might help her sell a book. The newest wave of Feminist Movement is gaining momentum globally, and NO ONE is more excited about this than Sommers; indeed, she sees nothing but dollar signs in HER future!

25. ksledge - August 12, 2009 at 07:50 am

I haven't looked up all of the sources mentioned here and I'm not expert on the topic. It does appear, though, that Lemon has made a couple of errors. The most glaring is the emergency room visits. It also seems like the Romulus claims are a stretch. I do think, though, that we should listen to what unenclosed has to say about the argument. Lemon is at least backing herself up.................................................................................................... akunz -- Totally agreed. Domestic violence is a very big problem, but if we fudge the numbers when we try to address the issue, no one will listen to us at all! ...................................................................................................... auto23 -- What yancyland said! You have a very big availability heuristic problem. Deaths are more salient than injuries, and they're also not something that a family tries to hide behind. They also get reported in the news. DV victims actively hide their injuries. Also, if you work out the numbers as unenclosed did, you're left with 192,500 women visiting the emergency room each year for domestic violence injuries. That's substantially more DV victims than the combination of total Vietnam deaths and yearly auto accident deaths.

26. lee77 - August 12, 2009 at 08:01 am

Fascinating discussion! Not being an historian or law expert, I went to that "trusted source" Wikipedia, just for a quick check, and found more support for Sommer's statements than Lemon's. Interestingly, I didn't see Lemon cited in the long Wikipedia Domestic Violence entry (although she was referenced in a couple other entries.)

27. dank48 - August 12, 2009 at 09:47 am

If lagrinne were any kind of a real scholar, she would know that innuendo, implication of guilt by association, reckless assertions of motive, demonization, and irresponsible attempts at mind-reading do not constitute an argument. Lagrinne has no business calling anyone else a whore while she's indulging her penchant for cheap shots, speculation, and name-calling. I would not wish to insult decent working women who provide a socially useful service by comparing them to someone who would put forward such pathetic ad hominem slurs, inadequately dressed up as argument. A more apt comparison would be to the badger game, but with bait like lagrinne, I can't imagine who would fall for the scam.

28. nyhist - August 12, 2009 at 09:52 am

The 'rule of thumb' debate is somewhat beside the point and is irrelevant to the fact accurately pointed out by a previous commentator: historically in America or England husbands were not just allowed but expected to chastise their wives 'moderately' to control their behavior. When wives complained to judges or neighbors about mistreatment, debates ensued about what constituted appropriate correction, not about the correction itself. Male heads of household were expected by civil officials to keep other household members in line--children, servants, and slaves as well as wives--and everyone expected them to use physical as well as other means to do so. (A man whose subordinates misbehaved lost his standing among his peers.) Many works of women's history in America and England have documented this pattern. I direct the attention of both Lemon and Sommers to this scholarship, which is all fully footnoted to primary sources. See books by Kirsten Fischer, Susan Amussen, Mary Beth Norton, and Kathleen Brown.

29. stmartins - August 12, 2009 at 10:30 am

I'm generally no supporter of Sommers, and I agree that her critique of Lemon's textbook lacks specifics. Nevertheless, I find Lemon's response naive in the extreme. In fact, I find that I can't take either of them seriously. Both are clearly poor scholars and Sommers has a long track record as nothing better than a political hack. A pox on both.

30. auto23 - August 12, 2009 at 10:41 am

Yancyland/cpparis, You're both talking anecdotes while Ms. Lemon is asserting DV is a social phenomena affecting many many women. You don't think her claims pass the smell test? Then let's do some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Assume that out of a US population of 300m, 100m are adult women. Ms. Lemon says of the 40m ER visits by women last year, 20-35% were for DV injuries. Let's say it was 25%. That means 1 in 10 adult American women suffered DV injuries in the past year serious enough to require medical attention. By implication, Lemon is asserting that the incidence of DV injuries is 250 times higher than deaths in car accidents. Which explains why battered women are such a common sight on American streets. (Oops.) I doubt Ms. Lemon is mendacious in her use of statistics. Rather, I think she has the math skills of a Smith College art history major.

31. barnstable - August 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

Nyhist, Bad scholarship is not "somewhat beside the point"--it is the entire point of Sommers' critique of Lemon. If you cannot divorce the particular argument over academic rigor from the emotional issue of domestic violence, you will be hopelessly unprepared to make any progress toward the truth.

I doubt if there is one person commenting or reading this thread who think that there isn't too much domestic violence. For criminy sakes, one instance is too many, and there are plenty more than one. I have a young daughter, and I want to do everything I can to reduce the chance that she or any of her friends will have to go through something like that. But when Lemon draws conclusions about the causes and solutions of domestic violence, and then seeks to support these conclusions with what proves to be falsehoods, and is demonstrably resistant to correcting these errors, she ought to be rightly denounced, as she is making it harder for the truth to be revealed.

Even assuming she is right in her conclusions, she is not thereby freed from intellectual rigor. If, in the interest of advancing her cause, she perpetuates fallacious reasoning, she forfeits her position as a scholar and becomes a mere advocate--something any of us can be, because there are no standards to advocacy. If she pretends to something better, she has to BE better. The same holds true for Sommers, and those who can root out fallacious reasoning on her part are right to do so.

On another note, I disagree that the "rule of thumb" debate is irrelevant to the larger issue of the extent to which domestic violence was supported in Brit/American society. The "Judge Thumb" story, in particular, suggests that the extent may have been less than Lemon would have you believe. The press and others gave that jurist the nickname "Judge Thumb" in a spirit of ridicule and condemnation, which does not support the idea that corporal punishment of spouses was so ingrained in society that it was thought of as entirely normal.

32. estark - August 12, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I will only comment on that portion of the exchange between Hoff-Sommers and Lemon that refers to my own research, which Hoff-Somers dismisses as a "factoid." She picked this term up from Richard Gelles. Gelles, who has republished an article on what he terms "the myths" of domestic violence numerous times attacks our work as "a small study of a single emergency room." At the time he described our findings as a myth, he had already endorsed the book in which Dr. Flitcraft and I reported them, so he was aware that the random sample-- the gold standard in research-- on which we based our conclusions included 3675 women, one of the largest samples ever studied in the domestic violence field. Our work was based on medical records, not actual interviews with female patients. The reason for this was that there were few services available for victims of partner violence at the time and we felt it was ethically inappropriate to expose women to questioning about abuse when we could not protect them. At the time, doctors rarely identified abuse as the source of women's injuries. Instead, they would make notes in the medical record such as "beat up by boyfriend" or "kicked with foot," seemingly more concerned about the nature of the injury than its source. When we counted up these cases, we discovered that fully l8.7% of the female patients complaining of injury in our ER could be identified as abused and over 90% of these women had presented an abuse-related injury to our hospital in the last few years, indicating the abuse was probably a current problem. In comparison, ll% of the injuries presented during the target year were caused in auto accidents, at the time considered the most common cause of injury to adults. In other words, domestic violence caused almost twice as many injuries as what was then considered the most common cause. In reporting our findings, we were careful to say that domestic violence was the most common source of injury "for which women sought medical attention." In other words, many more people may be hurt in falls than by domestic violence, but just not in the hospital context. What is really important, though, is that once researchers were able to ask women directly, they actually came up with evidence that many more women than we reported were victims of abuse in the medical setting. In the largest study published to date of female partner abuse conducted in a primary care setting, for instance, more than twenty-one percent (21.4%) of the 1,952 women surveyed suffered physical and/or sexual abuse from an intimate male partner in their adult lives. Prevalence estimates from primary care sites generally fall between 7% and 29%, lower than the averages from emergency sites (Bullock, l989; Freund, Bak & Blackhall, l996; Gin, Rucker, Frayne, Cygan & Hubbell, l991; Rath, Jarratt & Leonardson, l989). But some are considerably higher. For instance 55.l% of l,443 women seeking medical care in two university-associated family practice clinics in Columbia, South Carolina had experienced some type of intimate partner violence in a current, most recent or past intimate relationship. Although the majority of these women (77.3%) experienced physical or sexual violence, 22.7% were suffering the consequence of nonphysical abuse (Coker, Smith, McKeown & King, 2000). Conversely, 38.8% of the women in a Midwestern community-practice setting reported they had been abused (Hamberger et al, l992). So where she gets l% or some such is beyond me. Hoff-Somers' citations from the CDC are also incredible. In a 2008 report, the CDC estimated that domestic violence resulted in approximately 2 million injuries to women and 600,000 to men annually (CDC, 2008)at an annual cost which now exceeds l0 billion dollars. Since this data refers only to injury and not to the numerous other consequences of abuse women present for treatment, these figures are gross underestimates. Gross exaggeration should certainly not be tolerated in academic writing, even when the reporter has a legitimate concern with publicizing an important problem like abuse. During the Bush years,when the research establishment was completely politicized by extremists, it was acceptable for a philosopher like Hoff-Somers with no training or publication record in research to be given every available platform to trumpet her anti-feminist and mysogynistic bias. Why now?

33. myemotan - August 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Does one need "Romulus" to establish the seriousness and urgency of the abuse of many women, even one woman? (Dr. Okhamafe)

34. barnstable - August 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm

estark, Thank you for the details you provide. That's exactly the sort of peer-reviewed info that is needed to throw more light than heat on this debate (leaving aside the less useful Bush-bashing and ad hominems that close your comments). I for one appreciate being able to get access to carefully done research. I also appreciate you and others giving this issue the attention it deserves; I don't honestly know how much I'd have been thinking about it if I didn't have a young daughter (which probably reflects rather poorly on me, but it's the truth).

I'm sorry if you have included this before, but is there a link to the results of your research you can provide? I think I can track the other references you made in parentheses to other studies.


35. schaber - August 12, 2009 at 02:07 pm

If more people actually read what passes for legal scholarship there would be much more debate. As it is, usually only those who are writing on a similar topic read legal scholarship. It generally passes unread, except by editors, into the dusty shelves of a law library.

36. dank48 - August 12, 2009 at 02:58 pm

What gets me is the emotionalism of so much of the above. No, it's not "acceptable" that even one instance of DV occurs. But when Dr. Stark cites ". . . the random sample-- the gold standard in research-- on which we based our conclusions included 3675 women, one of the largest samples ever studied in the domestic violence field," it's really not clear from what pool the sample was randomly selected. There seem to be extrapolations that go unexplained, and logical leaps that are assumed to be valid. There are surely more studies, carried out more recently and under more clearly defined criteria, that shed light on this. Light seems to be needed. Again, DV is unacceptable, but the unacceptability of the offense does not automatically confirm the validity of any study's findings. There's a nasty whiff of "the offense is so heinous that the defendant must be guilty" about this. This subject certainly would not be the first in which researchers' very understandable moral outrage colored their findings. The outrage is understandable, but it does not lead to better understanding.

37. madamesmartypants - August 12, 2009 at 03:14 pm

I disagree with the first 10 comments or so and agree with the last few just before mine. I think Lemon won this battle. Hoff Summers' argument about the March of Dimes comes down to wording, not evidence--the study still supports the research. It seems specious to argue about what the MoD director of science does or doesn't know about the studies funded by his organization--though I am sure that there are enough that he doesn't remember the ones that are over twenty years old off the top of his head--when the issue at hand is whether battered women have twice the number of miscarriages than did nonbattered women. As for the Romulus argument: historians in the past did not write things the way we do today. We cannot apply our standards of historical accuracy to theirs, so it is difficult to assert the Romulus story as "fact." However, it is plausible that a king named Romulus did exist in Rome in the 8th c. BC, and I do not find claims to the contrary any more grounded in "fact" than Lemon's original claim. Many kings throughout history have had mythical tales attached to their biographies--Charlemagne, various Roman emperors, French kings thought to be able to heal the sick. That doesn't mean they could do those things, but it doesn't mean they didn't exist, either. Historiography is often about making the best guess you can based on all the evidence at hand, and Lemon, though not a historian, does just that. Lemon provides far more evidence to support her belief that Romulus did exist than Hoff Sommers does to prove the contrary. As anyone who has ever published knows, it is very easy for minor errors to slip into a published text. Hoff Sommers fails to prove that the work contains gross inaccuracies which would be misleading for students of domestic violence law. Since experts in their fields keep assigning it, it is clearly a valuable text that they approve of. In contrast, Hoff Sommers has no expertise, a history of sloppy research and a reputation for a conservative bias and sensationalism. I deplore the Chronicle for giving her the space to flout her nonsense in a public forum.

38. sam_hill - August 12, 2009 at 03:25 pm

Professor Lemon's second paragraph is meant to establish her bona fides and her authority, but tell us that she created this field of study and published its only text book. That indicates she will never, ever concede Sommers points and thereby destroy her livelihood, her professional reputation, and her ticket to nice conferences. No 9/11 Truther, no UFO believer can be dissuaded of their beliefs and every arguments is shushed aside on the flimsiest basis. Also, madamesmartypants, its not just a question of whether Romulus existed, its also did he promulgate the "rule of thumb"? Lemon only cites the Dobashes' book for that assertion. Sommers effectively undermines the Dobashes' credibility by quoting this nugget: ""Men who assault their wives are actually living up to cultural prescriptions that are cherished in Western society."

39. davidgmartin - August 12, 2009 at 04:22 pm

So, attacking someone as a tool of conservative forces represents reasoned scholarly argument? Is it also reasoned scholarly argumentby saying that some people are abused therefore gives others the right to abuse the facts and to avoid correcting their errors? It is truly sad what constitutes argument for some.

40. akunz - August 12, 2009 at 04:43 pm

The path to hell is paved with good intentions. Do the people here who are ardently supporting Lemon simply because domestic violence is a very bad thing think shoddy scholarship is going to help its victims? Wouldn't it be better to clarify with specificity the problem so that the best solutions can be sought? Simply throwing a bunch of questionable assertions against the wall and hoping something sticks may initially get some attention but it doesn't help lawyers and counselors analyze the actual problem and come up with good EFFECTIVE solutions. Scholarship should illuminate the problem not obscure it.

41. nyhist - August 12, 2009 at 04:44 pm

barnstable, when I said in my first comment that the 'rule of thumb' debate was somewhat beside the point, I meant that whether or not such a rule ever existed, the abuse of wives by husbands was commonplace and indeed accepted within the worldview of seventeenth (and into the eighteenth) century English and American society, as is evident in the books by the authors I listed. Almost any extant court records from the period demonstrate that fact, and some of them are now online, at least in published and somewhat expurgated form, so anyone can see and read them. The 'rule of thumb' is never mentioned. That doesn't mean that judges and bystanders did not agree that husbands could physically 'correct' their wives' misbehavior. Lawyers (and philosophers?), I think, occasionally argue about things that historians don't find very compelling or fundamental, as with this so-called rule. Husbands' abuse of wives happened at the time and was widely accepted as appropriate behavior for male heads of household. The extent to which today's domestic violence is directly related to such historical patterns (when certain obvious behavioral norms have shifted since the 18th century) is another matter.

42. akunz - August 12, 2009 at 04:55 pm

nyhist, your comment is exactly why Lemon should not have dug in her heels on the "rule of thumb" issue. If she had looked at the scholarship in a clear-eyed way, she would have recognized the problem when it was brought to her attention, dropped that line of (bogus) evidence, and buttressed her argument with the sources you cited. Instead, she refused to back down in the face of an error, causing people to wonder what else she wrote could not be trusted.

43. _perplexed_ - August 12, 2009 at 05:03 pm

After reading the exchange between Lemon and Sommers, checking sources insofar as possible, and reading the numerous comments above, I can conclude only that the victims of spouse abuse are poorly served both by researchers and by the reseachers' critics; but I now do understand better how a Ward Churchill is possible.

44. minnesotan - August 12, 2009 at 06:13 pm

I am shocked and amazed by Prof. Lemon's gullible (at best) or dishonest (at worst) use of sources. Her practice, it seems, is to cherry-pick the facts she likes from sources she does not bother to evaluate. Plutarch, indeed! How Lemon can earnestly assert that Romulus performed this or that action, with no primary evidence at all, is absurd. Romulus and Remus do make a nice starting point, for purposes of parallelism, though; Lemon's claims are myth from beginning to end.

45. christhecommonlawyer - August 13, 2009 at 02:51 am

No one has looked at how the common law creates a principle. There must be a decided case which established a precedent-the principle is known as stare decisis. Therefore if the rule of thumb had any basis at common law, there must be a case-and there is none. I am happy to be proved wrong. But if this is to be relied on for a proposition then the historical evidence must be there.

46. vindolanda - August 13, 2009 at 03:50 am

I am surprized to find that the point of view of the wolf that nourished Romulus and Remus is missing from the book.

47. hughes1998 - August 13, 2009 at 04:30 am

I suppose Lemon believes Plutarch's Life of Theseus is also history. Frankly, I'm not at all surprised that such a dim bulb teaches at one of the nation's better law schools. But I am trying to decide who is worse--Lemon or those rushing to her defense. This is about more than just "whining about scholarship." It's also about politics--the left-leaning kind that so detests the AEI and its "political hacks" that it will turn a blind eye to the distortion of truth and debasement of knowledge.

48. dgcamp - August 13, 2009 at 05:44 am

I think the two of them need to go onto the Dr. Phil show and work out thier differences.

49. humean - August 13, 2009 at 07:11 am

In relation to the claim about wife-beating, I'm surprised nobody has cited the note on Dr Lesley Hall's website or searched H-Histsex, where the issue of the thumb-thick stick has been discussed several times and dismissed as a canard. In a post to H-Histsex Lesley Hall comments: For a quick overview of the canard (which IS a canard) about 'stick no bigger than his thumb', see http://www.lesleyahall.net/factoids.htm#thumb For a longer analysis of the issue, see Maeve E. Doggett, Marriage, Wife-Beating and the Law in Victorian England (1992). This is, as far as I know, the only thorough study of the subject though it's also discussed in other works on women and marriage and their legal position in the C19th - e.g Shanley's Feminism, Marriage, and the Law (1989).

50. civilian - August 13, 2009 at 07:50 am

What I find most shocking about this article and the subsequent discussion is the view that men in domestic violence situations are limited to the role of abuser. A number of researchers, notably Terrie Moffitt of the University of Wisconsin, have documented that women hit their male partners at least as often as they are hit. Yes, we all know that men tend to hit harder, but society and the law should not be concerned with who hits hardest, only who initiates violence - and that is 50-50. Instead of worrying about minor disinformation, why not concentrate on the distortion of the domestic violence message by feminists and do something about the climate in which male victims of DV cannot risk reporting the incident. Let's face the fact that feminism is sexism and should be given no more credibility than one would afford to racism.

51. phikaw - August 13, 2009 at 09:54 am

Barnstable Re: your observation that you wouldn't have thought much about domestic violence if you hand't had a young daughter. Have you seen the study that hypothesizes that having a majority of daughters tends to make people, particularly fathers, more liberal than having sons does? I don't know how to evaluate the quality of the research, but it's an intriguing hypothesis, possibly worth more study. Here's a link to the discussion paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=900380 Here's a linke to Nate Silver's discussion of the statistical analysis: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/05/having-daughters-rather-than-sons-makes.html Here's a linke to a critique of the study: http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2005/12/daughers_liber.html It would be helpful if people in general were concerned enough about domestic violence, as well as a wide range of discrimination that women experience on a daily basis, to both bcome more honestly informed (and thanks to estark for providing some good information) and motivated to address whatever in themselves and in the society at large contribute to such behaviors. I've read Sommers over the years and have found her analyses to be so deeply embedded in and informed by an idealized conceptual framework about family, history, and community that it is difficult to take her work very sriously. That's not to say that she might sometimes say something correct; indeed, it would be highly improbable that someone, anyone, wouldn't at least some of the time utter correct statements. But, I do wonder why she is given a platform in a supposedly respected venue to offer opinions about work which she is largely unqualified to evaluate. I'm not qualified to evaluate it either, being neither a legal scholar nor a statistician nor a historian. So, I don't have any comments on the merits of Lemon's work.

52. nyhist - August 13, 2009 at 10:00 am

I will weigh in again with a historical comment: in the 17th and 18th centuries, wives who abused husbands (as some did) were punished by the courts, unlike the reverse situation, as I pointed out earlier. The spouses, in short, were not treated in parallel fashion.

53. sjallenh - August 13, 2009 at 11:01 am

It's strange that much is turning on the founding of Rome, but since scholarship is at issue, I must point out the uncanny resemblance between Lemon's sixth paragraph and the wikipedia entry for Romulus and Remus. Here's Lemon's sixth paragraph: "In fact, Plutarch and Livy each state that Romulus was the first king of Rome. He reigned from 753-717 BC, and created both the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. He is also credited with adding large amounts of territory and people to the dominion of Rome, including the Sabine women." And this from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulus_and_Remus: "According to the tradition recorded as history by Plutarch and Livy, Romulus served as the first King of Rome...Romulus not only created the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate, but also added citizens to his new city by abducting the women of the neighboring Sabine tribes...adding large amounts of territory and people to the dominion of Rome." I would like to hear from Lemon before drawing conclusions.

54. rightwingprofessor - August 13, 2009 at 11:33 am

estark, You clearly have an advanced case of Bush Derangement Syndrome, please seek help immediately.

55. bookish67 - August 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I'm happy to argue details. And, for those people who are talking about specifics, like in the case of studies and classical history, I appreciate your knowledge and attention, because this is from where we draw our larger sense of understanding. In all research, there is a larger point. I understand that Lemon's larger point is to draw attention to domestic violence against women as a distinct social problem. What is Hoff-Sommers's thesis? Is it anything other than to challenge Lemon's details? It looks as if it is taking issue with smaller points in order to suggest that domestic violence is not a problem. Why not study things that deserve attention rather than invest time in saying that something is unworthy of our time?

56. wiener - August 13, 2009 at 02:03 pm

I have written a book on the history of domestic violence (Men of Blood: Manliness, Violence and Justice in Victorian England - Camb U.P. 2004), and can say with confidence that (1) violence against wives has been common for centuries, probably as far back as one goes, and certainly remains a serious problem today, and (2) Prof Lemon's refusal to correct obvious errors in her work is dismaying, and not the behavior one expects of a serious scholar. Serious scholars know that Romulus was a MYTH, as was the notion that there ever was a "rule of thumb" in English law. As one of the commenters above noted, it is not the errors but her insistence on standing by them, her treating criticism as warfare, that is profoundly dangerous to the quest for truth.

57. m_ramsey - August 13, 2009 at 03:18 pm

Bookish67: Hoff-Sommers' point is that Lemon's book contains inaccuracies that should be addressed (Lemon disagrees). This is not a noble enough cause for you? More generally: we should be having this kind of discussion about ALL of the most popular textbooks (across all subjects). Can anyone think of even one that would be free of the type of mistakes Lemon's book is accused of?

58. dodgerroger - August 13, 2009 at 03:32 pm

Bookish, Sommer's stated her thesis: that not only do these writers print mistakes, they refuse to correct them when they are pointed out to them. Lemon proves her thesis. For people who think that Lemon rebutted any point of Sommers, you are wrong. Even if Romulus existed, there is NO Latin legislation that dates to his time period by a factor of several hundred years. The March of Dime mistake is not a matter of words, it is fundamental error in scholarship, wrong at best, dishonest at worse. A MoD paper referenced a fact, it did not prove the fact (and in that the reference was not even the main part of the paper, irrelevent at that). Estark seems to have misread the another point, Sommers was dismissing a fact as presented in the textbook. The text said "of all emergency room visits", Lemon modifies it in her response to "emergency room visits caused by violence", but those are two different things. The claim in the textbook was not written by Lemon (she edited this part), and should be corrected to be accurate. Otherwise it is misleading. The 1% figure doesn't downplay DV, it just shows how many emergency room visits are for non-violent reasons. Finally, I have to touch again on Lemon's use of history. Her attitude in the response is odd to say the least. It shows an inability to distinguish between myth and fact, something that is a serious shortcoming for a legal professor.

59. mara8432 - August 13, 2009 at 05:00 pm

Yet Another Conservative Hates on Feminism http://www.campusprogress.org/opinions/4244/yet-another-conservative-hates-on-feminism

60. mara8432 - August 13, 2009 at 05:07 pm

Excerpted from Uncovering the Right on Campus, copyright 1997 by the Center for Campus Organizing (CCO) ISBN 0-945210-07-8. Female Anti-Feminism for Fame and Profit: by Jennifer Pozner 1. Claim you are a feminist. Use Leftist lingo to gain rebellious credibility in a supposedly politically correct culture. Insist you care about women's equality and strength, but you resent the "victim mindset" espoused by 90's feminists. Become vocally indignant at their refusal to tolerate your "dissenting feminist voice." Use your role as "rebel feminist" to denounce every feminist concern other than women's economic advancement. 2. Denounce all other feminists. Blast feminists as willfully distorting statistics and facts to garner support for their various causes. Denounce feminist scholarship as overly ideological and non-academic. Then substantiate your claims by using faulty research methods and superficial interviews. Rarely contact the authors, activists and psychologists you libel. 3. Take a lesson from Monopoly. Go directly to the media. Do not pass up the college lecture circuit. Do not turn down close to $200K in Right Wing grants. Wait for the money to come rolling in. I wish the preceding section was merely satire. Unfortunately, the how-to guide above could very easily be a synopsis of the methodology employed by Christina Hoff Sommers in Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. Sommers believes that the battle against sexism has been waged and duly won; therefore, since sexism is a thing of the past, feminists are fighting against imaginary problems. Sommers insists she wrote her 1994 book "because I am a feminist who does not like what feminism has become." She then offers up an across-the-board condemnation of almost every influential activist, scholar, agency and study of the second wave feminist movement. To Sommers, "gender feminists" (the label she gives to activists and writers such as Gloria Steinem, Patricia Ireland and Susan Faludi, who believe that sexism is still a pervasive and detrimental force in this society) are proponents of a "divisive and resentful philosophy [which] adds to the woes of our society and hurts legitimate feminism." She believes that feminist academics have created doctrinairian women's studies programs which "shortchange women students... waste their time, give them bad intellectual habits... [and] isolate them socially and academically." According to Sommers, "overzealous" young women "bemuse and alarm the public with inflated statistics" when they attempt to prosecute as a rapist and gender bigot "a boy getting fresh in the backseat of a car." Feminists who target anorexia, bulimia and dangerous standards of feminine beauty practice "alarmist advocacy." Sommers dismisses studies which prove high rates of wife-battering, calls campaigns against sexual harassers "witch hunts," and attacks the American Association of University Women's Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America, which found that girls' self-esteem suffers as a result of encountering gender bias in the classroom.

61. dodgerroger - August 13, 2009 at 05:15 pm

Humm, more attacking the messanger. If all this is true, so what? Does it make the reality of Romulus any more true, or demonstrate that the "rule of thumb" is well established in common law? No. Those are still errors, and they are not being corrected. Your posts, and the article they reference once again are proving Sommer's thesis. As she stated above: "my complaint with feminist research is not that authors make mistakes but that the mistakes are impervious to reasoned criticism. They do not get corrected, and the critic's motives are impugned." You, Rutherford, and Pozner are merely proving her point over and over again.

62. diamond4 - August 13, 2009 at 06:26 pm

<Comment removed by moderator at poster's request.>

63. pulseguy - August 13, 2009 at 07:05 pm

In Canada we have been told that 1 in 3 women will be violently assaulted in their lifetime. This has been a standard number tossed around for decades. At some point this number was called into question and the research used to justify the statement was looked at. The question asked was so broad as to be ridiculous. It included being yelled at. So, the question was something like, 'have you ever been assaulted, punched kicked, etc.', all part of what one would think of as being included in violence, but continued on to ask, 'or been yelled at, or emotionally intimidated in any way such that you did something against your will'. After reading the question, most of us wondered how it was only 1 in 3 that could answer yes to that. Everyone of my male friends answered yes to the question, everyone of my female friends answered yes also. Despite that this research, if you can call it that, is essentially meaningless, the number is still said over and over as if it were true. It paints a false picture of life in Canada. It is a lie. But, it is a lie that gets told and re-told.

64. m_ramsey - August 13, 2009 at 07:23 pm

Diamond4: You asked, for some reason, "would you want to build your career on choosing a couple of critics and challenging them on their details." I'm going to go ahead and say no. You will have to help me with how this changes Hoff-Sommers' claims--I'm not following you here. Does Lemon need to change her "details" (as you put them) or not AND are they just "details" (the implication being that they are not significant)? I THINK that was the issue of the article. You go on to ask about Hoff-Sommers' larger goal. I certainly cannot say but many here seem to have opinions that, as far as I can tell, are not supported by the present article. (That doesn't mean they aren't valid, it just means that it is difficult to pin down exactly what people are arguing--especially to those of us who are not aware of the broader feminism debate and its key players).

65. ccwriter - August 13, 2009 at 07:48 pm

pulseguy: What you are describing is not so much a lie as a calculated misuse of language. Legally, the word assault can mean almost anything. If I put one finger on your shoulder, and you object, that can be labelled assault. The phrase "assault and battery" exists because the law makes a distinction. The more violent of the two is battery. What we colloquially call rape is often defined legally as "sexual battery." It may be true that 1 in 3 women will be violently assaulted in their lifetime. The modifier "violently" does not, I think, have any legal meaning, so again, it means anything. The law uses words like "aggravated" when it describes things that you and I think of as violent. The problem with pseudo-claims such as you describe is the inferrence people will make. Someone says "violent assault," and the listener leaps to "punch in the face" or "knife in the chest" or "rape." The average listener does not realize that, if such crimes were the object of discussion, the speaker would be using phrases like "battery," "sexual battery," or "aggravated assault." So, yeah, it's a lie of sorts, but more insidious than the lie that presents untruth as truth. This kind of lie misrepresents the truth by allowing listeners to understand legal or pseudo-legal jargon in its non-legal, everyday sense. It claims X, and X is technically true, but the listener understands X to mean Y, which was of course the intent.

66. pulseguy - August 13, 2009 at 11:25 pm

ccwriter: Thanks for your comments. This is the kind of thing that discredits academic feminism. And, I think that is the intent behind the criticism of Lemon. Feminism as an equality movement can only be supported by any reasonable person. But, where it becomes merely an advocacy group for one sector of society against another sector, than it can be dismissed. This isn't good for equality, which enriches us all.

67. tracy_ - August 14, 2009 at 01:19 am

In addition to Christina Hoff Sommers the American Enterprise Institute has on its payroll the outspoken Somali-born feminist Ayann Hirsi Ali, whose compelling memoirs of her emancipation from an abusive Islam have been bestsellers in the United States and Europe. To note that Hirsi Ali's story advances the geopolitical goals of the American Enterprise Institute and its sponsors is not to impugn her sincerity or her integrity. But the usefulness of Hirsi Ali's case to the AEI is undermined by evidence that the domestic and intimate-partner violence against women in Islamic cultures may not after all be so very different in scope and severity than these forms of violence in the West, even if the former have become major targets of international concern while the latter go under the radar. This is why Ms. Hoff Sommers has been deployed: to show that violence against women in the West is a "myth," while violence against women in oil-rich Muslim regimes is genuine, and among the legitimate warrants for economic, military, and diplomatic intervention. That Ms. Hoff Sommers' case against Ms. Lemons hinges so largely on the silly and belabored business of Romulus's historicity is a distraction, as is Lemons' regrettable rising to the bait rather than simply qualifying or eliminating this portion of her text. But Ms. Hoff Sommers' entire, amply funded case is a deliberate distraction from the problem of domestic violence in America, and from the ways that eight years of American policy in the so-called Muslim world has appealed disingenuously to the plight of women under Islamic law to advance American interests even as the crafters of that policy (the AEI, for example) evince little concern for women's equality at home--even to the point (as in the case of Ms. Hoff Sommers) of actively undermining it.

68. akunz - August 14, 2009 at 01:48 am

tracy_, what a load of BS. The AEI's "geopolitical goals" do not depend on denying domestic violence in America. They have never declared nor implied that domestic violence is America is a "myth" as you claim.***********But your assertion that "domestic and intimate-partner violence against women in Islamic cultures may not after all be so very different in scope and severity than these forms of violence in the West, even if the former have become major targets of international concern while the latter go under the radar" tells me just about all I need to know about where you are coming from. You have a rich fantasy life. I'm sure it enriches your existence immensely. Enjoy.

69. hughes1998 - August 14, 2009 at 03:41 am

"This is why Ms. Hoff Sommers has been deployed . . ." Talk about "larger goals." Of course it was only a matter of time before a raging conspiracy theorist would connect Hoff Sommers to political power structures and the misadventures of American foreign policy. Why does the political left bristle so when its falsehoods and errors are revealed via "reasonable, evidence-backed criticism"? Hoff Sommers says it's because such criticism is "regarded as a personal attack." But it's more than that. How unfortunate that so many of the social engineers of the left, motivated as they are by their desire to impose peace and social justice on us all, are willing to perpetrate, ignore or defend factual errors and outright lies in scholarship to advance their utopian vision.

70. unclemonkey - August 14, 2009 at 05:01 am

This is a depressing discussion, and a really, really depressing bunch of comments. Hoff Sommers must have hoped from the start that Lemon would not concede any errors--Sommers' tone is derogatory, and the implication is that if Lemon (as I think she demonstrably did) wrote sloppily, her conclusions are questionable. If Romulus didn't promulgate the rule of thumb, feminists' complaints about violence are suspect, huh? No points for Sommers. But if her motives look deplorable--and a lot of her supporters seem determined to believe that just the right number of women are getting beaten up or worse--the Lemon camp is what makes me cringe. Don't get me wrong: activism is the engine of progress, and I assume it was Prof. Lemon's feelings as an advocate that motivated her work in domestic violence law. More power to her advocacy! But her rebuttal of Sommers' critique is riddled with marks of two of the most pernicious beliefs in American thought today: that being on the ethically right side of an argument excuses you from factual or logical rigor, and that "respected experts" (who are all coincidentally like-minded confreres in the hothouse of academe) can refute outside critics just by speaking ex cathedra. So Sommers as a philosopher is supposedly not qualified to examine the logic of citing Livy as a witness to facts centuries before his birth, nor allowed to point out that 35 per cent of women injured by violence does not come close to being 35 per cent of women going to emergency rooms. And the real suffering of tens of thousands of generally poor and ill-educated women excuses Prof. Lemon in her cushy Berkeley job from distinguishing a study commissioned and controlled by the March of Dimes from one that got MofD money at third hand. Not hardly. But while that's poor stuff, it's miles above the comments with their frothing-at-the-mouth attacks on Sommers as an AEI stooge, misogynist enemy of feminism, and yes, a CAPTIALIST. The prospect of social justice in America (hughes1998, may you live to have it imposed on you, however little you like the idea of being treated fairly), or even civil discourse, dims every time a leftist or feminist gets carried away in this sort of impotent, name-calling rage--and Sommers' essentially picayune fault-finding starts to look magisterial. If Rush Limbaugh were scripting this debate, would it be much different?

71. martindschwartz - August 14, 2009 at 10:15 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

72. m_ramsey - August 14, 2009 at 11:37 am

Tracy: "to show that violence against women in the West is a 'myth,'"... Please show me where Hoff-Sommers writes/implies that violence against women does not occur. You also write that her arguement: "hinges so largely on the silly and belabored business of Romulus's historicity"...In fact, Hoff-Sommers' case does not not hinge "largely" on this. If anything, it is an equal part of a triumverate (Romulus, correct % of battered women, MoD). I'd also like to know how calling for accuracy in a textbook "is a deliberate distraction from the problem of domestic violence in America." ***************************Unclemonkey: although I mostly enjoyed your comments I am confused about a couple of points. You write: "If Romulus didn't promulgate the rule of thumb, feminists' complaints about violence are suspect, huh?" Is that really how you understood her arguement? Also, you write: "...and a lot of her supporters seem determined to believe that just the right number of women are getting beaten up or worse..." Do you really mean to say that Hoff-Sommers supports think that a certain number of women should be beaten up? Obviously that would be a disgusting and ridiculous comment so I'm pretty sure I'm reading you wrong there. I think you meant that her supporters are determined to see that the accurate number gets reported. No?Finally, I think you stoped too soon when you wrote "...Sommers' tone is derogatory..." If you were going to write something like that surely you should have mentioned the same of Lemon. Lemon writes things such as "Sommers seems to have a history of making inaccurate assertions" and "Sommers seems to have made a career out of attacking other academics and researchers and disagreeing with their findings." These statements may very well be true--I do not know--but I think that if one is going to call the kettle black one ought to do the same for the pot (excuse my clumsy attempt there).

73. elise23 - August 14, 2009 at 01:44 pm

I'm surprised that this article was entertained by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and I fear it gives more credibility to those who would deny that domestic violence is as serious and as prevelant as it is in the US today. The general body of domestic violence and sexual assault research (yes, they are deeply connected since a significant amount of sexual violence is perpetrated by a male date or intimate partner against a female) shows that indeed 1 in 4 women will experience gender violence in their lifetimes. In reference to pulseguy above, you should really look at your state's laws regarding both domestic violence and sexual assault, because intimidation and threats are more increasingly included in the laws that address gender violence, and therefore should certainly be included in any study on such topic. I digress. I think it is important to question the agenda of the Chronicle as to posting this article/response in the first place. I have yet to see other "academic" debates reported in the same way in the Chronicle - especially giving such equal weight to sides that are so fringe (Sommers) in the discussions about a topic where all too often, people's lives are at stake. It is just another reminder to us all that there is still so far to go to eradicate sexism and other oppressions when even academic media such as the Chronicle will allow (and encourage) discussions that desensitize readers as to the real intensities of autrocities like domestic violence and sexual assault (perpetrated mostly by men, despite what civilian has posted above).

74. civilian - August 14, 2009 at 02:06 pm

Again, why do we not see any discussion, let alone acknowledgement, that women assault men? Reading this discussion is no more sophisticated than the half-century old litany of "black men raping white women". Take away the words "black" and "white" and you basically have the same agenda.

75. elise23 - August 14, 2009 at 02:49 pm

It isn't that there is no discussion of women absuing men, it's just that overwhelmingly the research and arrest rates and conviction rates for domestic violence and sexual assault are perpetrated by men. And, while acknowledging the minority of women who do abuse is indeed important, framing the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault as if it were equally perpetrated takes the focus off the fact that both DV and SA are sexist based crimes. It isn't that all men are bad or are perpetrators by any means, but to deny that most violence (of every type) is enacted by men is a fallacy and desensitizes the discussions that the root cause is truly influenced by systematic sexism and oppression from multiple factors in society.

76. civilian - August 14, 2009 at 03:55 pm

elise23, you are wrong. The overwelming research is that men and women initiate violence in equal numbers. Do your homework. Everyone has known this for well over 30 years, since Dr. Murray Straus's work with the Conflict Tactical Scale (TCS) in 1979....... The arrest and conviction rate leaning heavily toward men is a direct result of political pressure brought about by feminist advocacy groups....... In my city of Minneapolis, the police were forced to abandon the rather enlightened policy of arresting both parties in DV cases that they adopted in the 1960's in favor of a model that views women as victims and men as perpetrators.......

We know from crime surveys that women initiate violence against men in half the incidents, yet the arrest rate for simple assault is 10 men for every woman. The result of this is that men do not report DV and violent women are never brought into the system.

77. elise23 - August 14, 2009 at 04:30 pm

I have very much done my homework, and research from dozens and dozens of authors such as Muftic, Buffard, Swan, Gambone, Caldwell, Sulliven, Snow, Kimmel, Dasgupta, Melton, Belknap, McMahon, Pence, Henning, Renauer - not to mention Tjaden and Thoennes all disagree that intimate partner violence happens at the same rates by women and men. Even when looking at research regarding women who do use violence against their intimate partner, the evidence clearly states that women's use of force is significantly different in nature (more defensive, much less brutal and injurious) than men's use of force.

And with regards to your last paragraph, remember that the estimates for women who report violence by an intimate partner to authorities is only 15-50% depending on which study you are reading and if it was conducted by a criminal justice organization or not.

78. minnesotan - August 14, 2009 at 05:05 pm

So, because more men get arrested for domestic violence, this means they committ the crime more often? How does that make us left-leaning types feel if we apply that same philosophy to the fact that African-Americans are overrepresented in our prison system? Does that mean they deserve it because they are more likely to be criminals? This is the conclusion someone with a consistent philosophy would come to, yet I doubt many of Lemon's supporters would accept responsibility for ALL of the conclusions to which this argument must lead. It is this type of forked-tongue hypocrisy that people like Sommers want to see banished from scholarship. As far as I'm concerned, argue what you want -- but do it honestly.

79. madamesmartypants - August 14, 2009 at 05:06 pm

Civilian, which is it--do men and women initiate violence in equal numbers, or do women initiate violence against men in only half the incidents? How do these reports measure "equal" degrees of violence--is it "equal" if a woman slaps a man and he nearly bludgeons her to death? Pre- and post-feminism, men have had much higher arrest and conviction (not to mention death) rates for violent crimes because they commit more violent crimes, period.

As far as IPV against men goes: I agree that this doesn't get enough attention, especially when men attack other men. Does anyone remember Jeffrey Dahlmer? One of his victims escaped and went to the police. The police dismissed his case and sent him back home with Dahlmer, where he was subsequently killed and eaten. The police didn't want to get involved in a gay men's quarrel.

80. kabombach - August 14, 2009 at 05:12 pm

I am finding this discussion fascinating. It is a mishmash of anecdotal comments about how abused women act in public (We either stay at home until we heal; cover it up with long sleeves, pants, and makeup; or invent stories about how the injury occurred. You are not supposed to notice anything. OMG, it works.) and some discussion that is worthwhile. Yes, Lemmon needs to clean up her text and sourcing--but if that is all Sommers has, its not much. And putting the discussion into a political, historical, and social context is worthwhile because everything, even we, exists in such a context.

I do have to laugh at the suggested equality between women who get violent and men who get violent. The adult men in my family weigh 200, 210, and 225. The adult women weigh 160, 115, and 105. If one of the women slaps one of the men and he punches her into the next time zone, is this an equal situation? Some of you seem to be saying so.

81. madamesmartypants - August 14, 2009 at 05:30 pm

Minnesotan: I'm glad we both agree that racial profiling is wrong. Here's why arrests of men in general and arrests of black men are different: Bias arrests occur when one race in a position of power arrests large numbers of members of another race that is disempowered, e.g., white men arresting black men for trivial reasons.

Now let's change "race" to "sex"in the above equation: Sex-based bias arrests occur when one sex in a position of power arrests large numbers of members of another sex that is disempowered, e.g., women arresting men for trivial reasons. Does this occur? Actually, it doesn't--because most police forces are composed mostly of men, it's usually men arresting other men. So your argument that high male arrests for domestic violence are like high arrests of African-Americans is not logical.

82. elise23 - August 14, 2009 at 05:56 pm

Hmmm. I would actually frame the issue of disproportionate numbers of women being victims domestic violence/sexual assault in terms of a systematic gender-based oppression in the same way I would frame the disproporationate numbers of non-whites being arrested, prosecuted, and convicted as a systematic race-based oppression. I don't see any conflict there. It isn't that men are being "profiled" for arrest of domestic violence by polict in the same way non-whites are by police. Research on domestic violence and sexual assault victimization in non-criminal contexts show dramatically higher rates of female victimization by men. So it certainly isn't just an issue of who is getting arrested.

83. jolene_ - August 14, 2009 at 06:02 pm

Violence initiation or victim provocation is another area in which we need to specify terms more carefully. More than one person here is using "violence" to mean "domestic violence." MOST violent crime happens BY men AGAINST other men--not against women--so the distinction matters. And from criminal justice and research perspectives, the outcome of the violent interaction, not only who initated it, is very important--isn't that obvious? I agree that it is very peculiar of the CHE to host a non-academic critic in this way, but if Lemon's defensiveness didn't hobble her so, she could have made this into a bigger and better conversation. I wouldn't want to have either one of them in class.

84. m_ramsey - August 14, 2009 at 07:53 pm

Elise23: It is a proven fact that 1 billion women suffer domestic violence in the US EVERY day. Before you attempt to suggest a more conservative number that is ACTUALLY based on the available evidence I should warn you: I will accuse you of, as you put it, "deny[ing] that domestic violence is as serious and as prevelant as it is in the US today." Be ye warned.

85. scholarace - August 15, 2009 at 12:53 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

86. scholarace - August 15, 2009 at 01:55 am

Apparently, my earlier post has ended all conversation about this wonderful topic. I regret that. Maybe I can revive it.

I wrote that people who believe that Romulus actually existed in the real world have no critical faculties whatsoever. It follows from what I wrote that Nancy K. D. Lemon has no critical faculties whatsoever. Of course, from that it follows that no college or university should employ her as a teacher. She might be employed in other positions. Perhaps, I should explain.

You see, according to the story of Romulus, he was a child of a
Vestal Virgin and the god of war Mars. So, if someone believes that Romulus actually existed then they also believe that the god of war Mars actually existed. Because he is a god, Mars continues to exist. Some people believe that this is true. Some people believe that Arnold Schwarzennegger is a descendant of Hercules who was a child of a human and an Olympian god. I do not believe these things.

I do not believe that the gods of Olympus actually existed and continue to exist. I believe that someone who believes in the gods of Olympus will find no difficulty in believing in the witches that caused the ruckus at Salem, the Jewish conspiracy that controls international finance, and the knights of King Arthur who await the right moment to return.

I believe that someone who believes that Romulus actually existed is only a breath away from hallucination. They are only a breath away from finding Romulus sitting on their sofa and requesting some strong Roman coffee. No doubt they will have some to serve him.

87. akunz - August 15, 2009 at 01:58 am

scholarace, how did you make paragraph breaks?



88. akunz - August 15, 2009 at 01:59 am

Oh, they've corrected that annoying problem. Heavenly.

89. scholarace - August 15, 2009 at 02:07 am

OK, you got me. I am descended from the god Athena and she makes the paragraph breaks for me.

In practical terms, I use Internet Explorer 6 and I press "enter" when I desire and "voila" the break appears.

Maybe the website has updated their software. Give it a try.

90. scholarace - August 15, 2009 at 02:23 am


You are right there with Lemon. You claim that 1 billion women are abused in the USA daily. Sweetie, there are only 300 million people in the USA. Are these abused women imported daily?

Propaganda is a dangerous thing. Hitler and his minions saw the power of the radio and used it viciously. In the USA today, one political party seems to have adopted the same strategy with all available media. We have a moral obligation to oppose propaganda however we meet it. We have a moral obligation to focus, think, and reason. Everyone take a logic course, please.

91. goxewu - August 15, 2009 at 08:37 am

"Propaganda is a dangerous thing. Hitler and his minions saw the power of the radio and used it viciously. In the USA today, one political party seems to have adopted the same strategy with all available media."

Please. First, Godwin's law: Bringing the rhetorical nuke of Hitler into a discussion where he's not directly relevant indicates the writer knows he or she has already lost the argument.

Second, "ONE political party"? Does scholarace remember WMDs, yellow cake, the never-occurred Prague meeting, aluminum tubes and all the other...um, untruths, in the drumbeat leading up to the invasion of Iraq? Or just the existence of Karl Rove?

Yes, this is old stuff, but when we have the likes of scholarace using a debate about the validity of research on domestic violence (incidentally, I think it's pretty clear that, in terms of evidence and logic, Hoff Sommers is generally right and that Lemon is more or less full of hockey pucks) to drag in Hitler and, by implication, tar the Democrats with being Goebbelists, a corrective must be issued.

92. hughes1998 - August 15, 2009 at 04:22 pm

" . . . a corrective must be issued." It takes a thoughtful conservative such as Michael Gerson to remind both the left and right that interjecting the specter of Nazism into our political discourse in order to vilify an opponent trivializes the horrors of the Third Reich and "desacralizes those memories -- shrinking them to the size of our political agendas and robbing them of their power to shock and teach." What might be said, however, is that, ironically, the Obama administration and Democratic Party are engaged in a crass propaganda campaign regarding domestic policy that is eerily reminiscent of the one the Bush administration ineptly engineered for foreign policy and the so-called "war on terror." The playbook in the former's case feels more like Woodrow Wilson and George Creel's Committee on Public Information, which was in the business of mobilizing public opinion to support American participation in World War I. The media's role today in drumming up support for Obama's policies is reflective of the Democratic Party's condescending view of the public and reminds me of Wilson's main media manipulater, Walter Lippman, who wrote that, thanks to the media, the public had no role to play in addressing important questions of policy because it was given to outbursts of emotion and so incredibly ignorant of the facts. To quote, ironically, a left-wing observer of the uses of propgranda and ardent foe of the Bush administration, "'Un-American' is a favorite name-calling device to stain the reputation of someone who disagrees with official policies and positions. It conjures up old red-baiting techniques that stifle free speech and dissent on public issues. It creates a chilling effect on people to stop testing the waters of our democratic right to question the motives of our government." How's that for hypocrisy?

93. scholarace - August 15, 2009 at 05:06 pm


In all honesty, I believe that Obama and his minions have embraced propaganda in a way that goes beyond anything an American president has done before. I remember cartoons showing Bush standing at a flagpole and sending up yet another flag. I agree that he did that sort of thing. But that's peanuts. Obama and his minions are engaged in hard core demonization of not only their opponents but of their targets, such as the health care industry. For a president to say that physicians perform unneeded surgery for the purpose of satisfying their greed is to fuel bitter division in our country, to support the tired, worn, and clearly bogus myths of the Left, and to brutalize our discourse. I believe that he and his minions want to brutalize our discourse in order to end our discourse.

By the way, the WMDs are in Syria. Or do you not believe that the Israelis bombed a North Korean constructed reactor in Syria only a few months ago? If you do believe that Syria was constructing a North Korean style reactor, then how could you possibly be skeptical of WMDs? Do you doubt that Ahmadinejad seeks WMDs? Take him at his word.

By by the way, I wholly endorse hughes1998 very well written statement just above.

94. m_ramsey - August 15, 2009 at 05:31 pm

Hello Scholarace, sarcasm and hyperbole can sometimes be used to make a point. I won't come down on you too hard (I really appreciated you referring to me as "sweety"--it made me feel special) but my statement was purposfully outlandish.

Good job on catching the fact that the US does not have 1 billion people though.

The point of the comment: Hoff-Sommers very cogently points out that Lemon's figures on abused women are incorrect and that the actual number is lower. Elise23 interprets this as "deny[ing] that domestic violence is as serious and as prevelant as it is in the US today." I, therefore, made up a fantasically large number on the grounds that, according to Elise23's logic, incorrect statistics further the domestic violence cause if large enough. This is obviously preposterous.

95. goxewu - August 16, 2009 at 11:01 am

It's my general assumption that commenters are offering their statements "in all honesty" and don't have to say so at the beginning of a comment. If they do open with, "In all honesty," it usually means either a) what follows is an exception to the commenter's usual dishonesty, or b) that what follows will likely be dishonest in the same way that what somebody says following the opening "Clearly,..." will be not at all clear.

Second, the is no comparison in scale or intensity or mendaciousness between the Demcratic propaganda machine (and yes, there is one) is issuing in the first year of the Obama administration and what the Republican propaganda machine issued in the drumbeat-buildup to the invasion of Iraq.

Third, there were no WMDs in Iraq at the time of the invasion; their existence was a total fiction used as part of the justification of the invasion of a country which had nothing at all to do with September 11th, 2001. This has been rather de facto been admitted by even those on the WMDs-exist side in 2003, particular the unfortunate then-ambassador to the UN who embarrassed himself in public claiming that they did.

Finally, the nation heaves a sigh of relief knowing that Scholarace wholly endorses hughes1998's statement. A New Magna Carta cannot be far behind.

96. hughes1998 - August 16, 2009 at 03:32 pm

"Third, there were no WMDs in Iraq at the time of the invasion; their existence was a total fiction . . ."

So you're a propagandist, goxewu, but not a very good one since effective propaganda is based in truth. The "total fiction"/fabrication allegation is a lie. And you should know it. At one time Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and elected to use them; at another point he elected not to; he was restarting some weapons programs that had been dormant. The intelligence question preceding the war was whether and at what future point he might make another decision to use them. It was the consensus among the intelligence agencies, outlined in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, that Iraq had such weapons that led Bush to conclude that Iraq posed an imminent threat that justified the U.S.-led invasion. This was the view of Iraq also held by the Clinton administration. Other countries' intelligence agencies shared the U.S. conclusion that Iraq had stockpiled such weapons, though most wisely disagreed with the Bush administration how best to respond. So there was broad consensus on the technical aspects, but as we now know there were certain individuals within the U.S. intel agencies who dissented regarding the political question of whether Iraq was an "imminent threat." All the relevant documents for you to educate yourself are available, such as the work of the Iraq Survey Group, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report, the WMD Commission, more formally known as the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Craig Whitney's book The WMD Mirage. Go to it boy!

97. djjrjr - August 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Whatever else, I would hope we can preserve a sense that to say that either Lemmon or Hoff is a fool, wrong, wrong-headed is not equivalent to dismissing DV as an actually extant problem.

That's the bind that's been created too often in the academy. Could we call it "the 'sacred' gambit"? Some of our colleagues exploit the fact that it's easy to conflate criticising one's evidence, logic, methods, sense of proportion, or overall arguments with expressing disdain for one's political convictions or lack of concern about some issue. If one questions, for example, whether X is as central a problem in society as someone claims, one is taken to have said that X doesn't exist or that one is in favor of X.

98. avalongod - August 17, 2009 at 10:37 am

There seem to be a number of posts here that state something along the lines of "how dare we question Lemon when DV is a serious problem." I would like to point out that the issues of whether Lemon's scholarship is accurate and whether DV is a serious issue are not intertwined. Equating skepticism of Lemon with a lax attitude toward DV is dishonest.

May we all stipulate that DV is a serious issue no matter whether Lemon or Sommers (or neither) are correct.

I'd suggest that neither Lemon NOR Sommers are about to back down from any of their positions. In defense of both of them, I suspect this is largely human nature. Relatively few people will acknowledge errors in a public forum and even the few I can think of only do so from positions of great power and prestige (so admitting an error is no big deal). Debate can be helpful even if rancorous sometimes. I think the overall winner here is the Chronicle for publishing such an interesting debate.

99. civilian - August 17, 2009 at 11:03 am

The argument that police should profile men for arrest because they hit harder is absurd. In every situation other than domestic violence police are trained to arrest the perpetrator of violence, not the larger of the two combatants.

The basic facts of domestic violence are that most arrests are for minor, non-injury assaults, ie. simple assaults. It is in this area that men are arrested in numbers disproportional to who initiated the violence.

Profiling is wrong whether it is done by gender or race, but there is a huge difference between the two, no police department has a written policy to arrest black men but all too many have a written policy to arrest men in domestic violence situation.

The sad fact is that our policies concerning DV are so warped that when a woman slaps a man in a restaurant and the police are called, chances are he will get arrested.

As for elise23's short compendum of pro-feminist research, Martin Fiebert of the University of California, Long Beach has maintained a web-based annotatated bibliography of DV studies. Here is a summary: This bibliography examines 254 scholarly investigations: 199 empirical studies and 55 reviews and/or analyses, which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 252,800.

100. civilian - August 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

Here is the url to Martin Fiebert's list.


And here is an excellent article in Mother Jone Magazine. Note, the article is almost a decade old. Even the progressive/left Mother Jones accepted the basic facts about DV ten years ago.


"May/June 1999 Issue

A surprising fact has turned up in the grimly familiar world of domestic violence: Women report using violence in their relationships more often than men. This is not a crack by some antifeminist cad; the information will soon be published by the Justice Department in a report summarizing the results of in-depth, face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 860 men and women whom researchers have been following since birth. Conducted in New Zealand by Terrie Moffitt, a University of Wisconsin psychology professor, the study supports data published in 1980 indicating that wives hit their husbands at least as often as husbands hit their wives.

101. goxewu - August 17, 2009 at 01:48 pm

re hughes1998: "Boy" went to it, or started to go it, working from the generalized (Craig Whitney's book, "The WMD Mirage"--the title should have told hughes1998 something) back to the particular. This is what I found in the first place I looked--the first webpage cited for the book on Google, Powells.com (a big online bookseller):

"Features the official report from the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction--named by President Bush to try to prevent similar policy debacles in Iran and North Korea.

"It also includes the official speeches, United Nations reports, and declassified government investigation reports that show, step by step, how the United States got the crucial question of arms in Iraq so terribly wrong.

"The documents show that:

" The CIA concluded in 2002 that Iraq had reconstituted its WMD programs, but in fact Saddam had dismantled them;

" American policymakers consistently assumed the worst case: regardless of his denials, if there was intelligence that Saddam might be making weapons of mass destruction then he had them and was hiding them. UN inspectors, by contrast, assumed that thorough inspection and insistence on complete Iraqi documentation could determine what the truth was;

" UN inspectors were frustrated by Saddam's refusal to cooperate freely and thwarted by American military impatience just as they thought themselves on the verge of success;
 American inspectors sent in after the war in 2003 found no weapons of mass destruction and how they--and Washington insiders--began to question the basis of the prewar intelligence.

"The New York Times editor and contributor to The 9/11 Investigations (PublicAffairs, 2004) Craig R. Whitney has scoured the documents surrounding the search for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In The WMD Mirage, he has assembled the most revelatory and pertinent of these. The result is a startling narrative trail that leads readers through the intelligence and misinformation leading into Iraq--and a telling portrait of how the Bush administration, whether deliberately or unintentionally, with scant evidence and largely against the will of the international community, convinced the American people and their few allies of the urgent need for war.

"A must-read for scholars, voters, and anyone interested in the goings-on in Iraq, the growing threats perceived elsewhere, and the truth behind our frayed international reputation, The WMD Mirage offers the real story of the missing weapons of mass destruction. In offering such a clear-eyed and documented picture of how we got it wrong in Iraq, The WMD Mirage is the first widely-available book that also includes the new conclusions of the Presidential Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission."

The exchange with scholarace and hughes1998 is probably out of place in a thread about domestic violence (although scholarace is the one who introduced "Hitler and his minions" into the discussion"). Perhaps it's best to return to the more prosaic kind of domestic violence and leave the domestic violence done to the truth by the Bush Administration in 2003.

102. vfichera - August 17, 2009 at 08:34 pm

Remember Kitty Genovese? The woman who was raped and murdered in a half-hour long attack in 1964 Queens, New York while a large apartment-buildingful of people watched from their windows -- and no one called the police? (cf.

103. vfichera - August 17, 2009 at 08:36 pm

Comment continued:

cf. http://soundportraits.org/on-air/remembering_kitty_genovese/

When asked why they did nothing, many of the residents of that building reportedly replied, "I thought it was her husband/boyfriend."

Well, some might be tempted to say, in turn, "quod erat demonstrandum."

104. stevenkass - August 17, 2009 at 10:39 pm


The Kitty Genovese story is an excellent one to bring up, though not for the reasons some might think.

The Kitty Genovese story (critically the story, as opposed to the real personal tragedy of her murder) took hold because a newspaper reporter chose emotion over fact and published a now-famous, but almost certainly wrong statistic (38 bystanders did nothing). The statistic and the story changed the public consciousness and made its way into generations of psychology textbooks.

A good article about the story was published in the September 2007 issue of American Psychologist "The Kitty Genovese Murder and the Social Psychology of Helping: The Parable of the 38 Witnesses," by Rachel Manning, Mark Levine, and Alan Collins.


105. vfichera - August 18, 2009 at 10:16 am


It is indeed becoming much more widely-recognized that the 38 tenants of the nearby apartment building could not have been fully aware of the exact nature and extent of the attack, if only from the fact that the three stabbing occurred in separate areas of the building perimeter.

While Gansberg is to be faulted for conflating partial witness with total knowledge in his famous New York Times article, the fact that one of the residents of the building stated to him that she thought this was a "lovers' quarrel" remains of major interest to the topic of this CHE thread. And, as for dispelling myths, that is and was my intent, thus the link to the interview with Genovese's female partner.

It is noteworthy that the article referred to in the comment above does indicate that one of the trial witnesses testified to seeing the perpetrator beat the victim -- and that witness is not presented as having attempted to contact the police. Further, the resistance of the police to accepting the calls for help which appear to have been made that night is not examined for its possible conformance to the perceived "lovers' quarrel" scenario. Must we forget that laws needed to be passed to require the police to enter into domestic violence disputes and that, by statute, no husband could be convicted of raping his wife in most states of the union in 1964? (The latter fact, alone, should give us pause in these contexts.)

The article referred to above does not examine this, although it does note, but more or less in passing, the work of Francis Cherry who criticized social psychologists for ignoring the gender relations issues in the event. Indeed, it is precisely this "impense'" (as the French would say) to which I am referring. That an entire "parable" (as that article describes it) evolved (and is examined in that article) without taking serious stock of a major constituent of the event: the murderer has stated that he wanted to kill a woman, any woman, that night and that at least one major witness of the event testified to the fact of a woman being beaten.

Again, "quod erat demonstrandum"....

P.S. My own small experience of the "crowd effect" was in a gender-neutral (because a non-personal) event while I was a graduate student taking a seminar in a building located on a lakefront during an ice storm. A major power line snapped outside of the building and was clearly visible from the room's "window-walls," snapping and sparking and dangerously swinging in the wind on the street. The male professor and the class of students ran to the windows and were mesmerized. I looked at them in amusement (and a bit of disgust, it must be added) as I alone calmly left the room to find a telephone to report the event to the police. When I came back it was still several minutes before someone said "Shouldn't we report this?" -- to which I replied, "I already have."

106. avalongod - August 18, 2009 at 10:40 am

I have to wonder if the Kitty Genovese story, whatever the truth of it, is a prime example of "confirmation bias" in science. As others have noted, it still, many years later, is frequently discussed in psychology classrooms as an example of "bystander effect." Let's stipulate (for the sake of argument) that the original description of the event is correct...does this prove that "bystander effect" is an important phenomenon?

Not at all. What about the countless criminal events that occur in which multiple witnesses call the police or, in some occassions, try to intervene directly at great risk to themselves. Perhaps tens of thousands of such events have probably happened in the decades since the Genovese murder, but none of these get much discussion in psychology classes...

107. civilian - August 18, 2009 at 04:50 pm

vfichera, I find your response to @stevenkass most confusing.

1. I note that it was a FEMALE who you accuse of having characterized the attack on Kitty Genovese as a "lover's quarrel". Is it possible that she perceived the disturbance to be just that, a quarrel, not an assault?

2. It is true that spousal rape was not addressed by law until the 1970's, however you seem to imply this springs from a vast male conspiracy rather than simple logic and basic human rights.

While women have every right to safety and free-will in marriage, their spouses also have a right to be assumed innocent rather than proven guilty by accusation.

In marriage, sex is expected. This creates problems for the law, since determining consent is difficult enough in dating situations and near impossible within marriage.

Abolishing "spousal" exceptions to rape laws have been helpful in protecting women's rights, especially in those cases where the parties are not living together, but as anyone reading this thread would immediately see there very clear and very strident anti-male gender bias in the law and public discussion concerning rape and domestic violence.

Yes, women need protection, but then so do men.

108. vfichera - August 18, 2009 at 07:29 pm


1) Yes, and women participate in female excision rites against young girls in many countries (including, in secret, our own United States) -- culture inculcates females as well as males. Somehow, human rights advocates have gotten beyond the ironies of such situations and do not condone or accept crimes against women simply because a woman is a perpetrator.

It is indeed possible that the woman interviewed by the reporter perceived the disturbance to be "simply" a quarrel. I have already indicated that, to my mind, the more interesting question about the "parable" is the fact that social psychologists have stared at a case for decades where the perpetrator stated his motive was to kill a woman, any woman -- and yet, spun a whole theory of the bystander that had nothing to do with gender relations. Gender relations were clearly at the very center of the murder so perceptions of male-female violent conflict where only the female is screaming for help as "a lovers' quarrel" is interesting in itself. Police hesitation to get involved would be of a different stripe, of course, for it introduces legal concepts and expectations.

2) I'm not sure I understand how spousal rape exemptions spring from "simple logic and basic human rights." The basic human rights of whom?

I am confused by a comment which presents the right of a spouse to accuse a spouse of rape as thereby "proving" the spouse "guilty by accusation." I am equally confused by the double-entendre of the sentence "In marriage, sex is expected." It would appear that the tradition of the female assumption of the male's name in marriage might be part of a constellation of "property rights" in marriage, extending also to that of the spouse's body. Property rights that may be enforced by the force of the spouse involved?

It is not clear that it is more difficult to determine consent within marriage than within dating situations. One need only consider the question as to why, in a culture where many couples choose to live together without being married, and for decades at a time, the married spouses alone have no right to accuse the partner of rape or sexual battery.

Unfortunately, the distinction has had significant consequences, in some states, even in the presence of violent coercion and where the spouses are separated or had not yet filed for divorce. And in many states the convicted perpetrator of spousal rape has been exempt from being placed on the sex crimes offender list, for example, as well.

It is far from evident that there is "very clear and very strident anti-male gender bias in the law" although that is likely true in "public discussion concerning rape and domestic violence." After all, as recently as 2003, the Supreme Court struck down the Violence Against Women Act, hardly evidence of anti-male bias. And in the court of appeals case where a violent spousal rape conviction was overturned because no formal divorce papers had been filed, even though the spouses were living separately, the question of the human rights of the woman was far from controlling (yes, I had the reference but lost it when this site was not working and "ate" my entire posting earlier today).

Let me close by saying that my introduction of the spousal rape laws (and the laws which require police to make an independent judgment as to whether domestic violence has occurred, even if the victim denies it, and to arrest a suspected perpetrator) into this discussion was intended to try to underscore that there exist distinct legal markers which, unlike the "rule of thumb," are clearly documentable and can highlight what the societal expectations were before a specific law's appearance and what the law sought to redress in those expectations as they evolve(d).

109. vfichera - August 18, 2009 at 08:21 pm


It is interesting to note that the "democracy" the U.S. government has "exported" to Afghanistan appears to have taken our earlier legal tradition on spousal rape and allowed them to be introduced into the code of laws which will apply to the Shia population in that country. Indeed, some fear that these laws "condone marital rape": http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6798358.ece

And even more interesting, "donor countries" (e.g., U.S., etc.)are hesitant to "protest too much" for fear of affecting Thursday's upcoming elections in Afghanistan where they hope Karzai will prevail.

So, it does indeed appear that "men's rights" have found a legal haven in the American-sponsored "democracies" of the Middle East. Since July, Shia men need have no fear that their wives will "prove [them] guilty by accusation." Some in the international blogosphere, as is well-known, have noted that the position of women in that country as well as in Iraq has regressed to a point where ironic comparisons have been made to more liberal policies for women under Saddam Hussein.

"Rule of thumb" for exporting "democracies": women must accept their "place" in society, as common currency in political affairs.

110. civilian - August 18, 2009 at 09:53 pm


I am not sure what is relevant about a 45 year old assault. Why did you bring it up? Haven't we moved on since then?

Shouldn't we at least leap into the last quarter of the prior century, if not all the way to the 21st century?

There is much about this that brings to mind the Japanese who soldiered on in the Philippines for decades, refusing to admit the war was over.

Beyond that why is this a case about gender relations?

If the perpetrator had believed that he had instructions from Andromeda, would the case then be about inter-galactic relations?

In other words, why make sweeping generalizations based on the actions of one violent and demented individual?

As for the police... remember there was no 911 then and I believe it was early Sunday morning, after Saturday night bar closing. I would imagine the dispatch stack was 20 calls deep.

If the witnesses who called the police had reported "a man killing a woman", I am sure they would have responded immediately.

2. Sex IS expected in marriage, just as movies are expected in theaters and wrestling is expected at the FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN on FOX.

If this is news to you.... Gosh, what can I say?

For the courts and law enforcement, it is easy to prove rape when the victim and perpetrator are strangers, all it usually takes is a rape kit and a time-line.

When two people share the same bed and are married, all a rape kit demonstrates is the two had sex. It proves nothing, since sex often occurs within a marriage.

If one insists sex was not consensual and the other says it way, how is law enforcement and the courts suppose to determine who is telling the truth.

It is a classic case of conflicting rights. People have the right to safety, but also have the right to the assumption of innocence.

In 2003, the Supreme Court struck down a few sections of the Violence Against Women Act. They should have struck down the entire act after detecting the strident anti-male bias in the title.

111. civilian - August 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm


What is happening in Afghanistan with Shira law is sad, but that is the way it always is, two steps forward one step back.

That is what happened in the U.S., after years of strugglig to eliminate the last vestiges of Jim Crow, disparate impact and hate, our nation spawn the feminist movement, and it all came flooding back in a new and virulent form.

112. vfichera - August 18, 2009 at 11:13 pm


The "last vestiges" of "Jim Crow"-like segregation of women (say, from the Ivies, from Oxford, from much of the public sphere, etc.) weren't worthy of being eliminated?

Who got the vote first? Women or blacks? Yet the feminist movements of the twentieth century are condemned as "new and virulent forms" of civil rights activism?

Fascinating choice of words.

113. civilian - August 19, 2009 at 08:11 am


Fifty years ago Feminism divided into those who worked for social progress and those who wallowed in the past to rationalize their current rage.

Grow up, move on.

114. badtom - August 19, 2009 at 11:39 am

_perplexed_ commented "...but I now do understand better how a Ward Churchill is possible.". I must say that this comment goes to the heart of one of the problems of the Academy. Academic rigor is, too often, the victim of what seems to be political correctness, (I do apologize for using that hackneyed term). The problem seems to be especially prevalent in the Identity Ghetto, where advocacy for a particular worldview too often trumps scholarly investigation. Mel Brooks one noted that "...sometimes it's good to be the king...", and if I were the king one change that I would make would be to requite that interdisciplinary fields, such as feminist studies, operate under the ageis of one or more traditional academic departments, rather than operate as a freestanding department. My hope would be that this step would replace advocacy with scholarship. At the very least tenure decisions might be made by folks more concerned with the reputation of their departments than with the reflexive espousal of a political point of view.
A few years ago a couple of doctoral students in nursing at the University of Maryland wondered what the leading causes of death among pregnant women were. They initially hypothesized that such things as hemorrhage or sepsis might be killing pregnant women, but when all was said and done, they discovered that the leading cause of death among pregnant women was...murder. This lead to research into the problem of domestic violence against pregnant women, which has shown such violence to be something of a problem. This is not advocacy, rather it is scholarship. We need more of this and less of the sort of cottonheaded pap that makes folks feel good about themselves.

115. vfichera - August 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm


I'm having trouble with history and arithmetic again.

"Fifty years ago Feminism divided into those who worked for social progress and those who wallowed in the past to rationalize their current rage." - civilian

Now, if the spousal exemption laws began to be repealed in the late seventies (and I think that would be thirty years ago and probably around the time of the Rideout case), which branch of the divided feminism was it, exactly, that achieved the legislative reform?


I totally agree about women's studies' need to be anchored in the other "traditional" disciplines from which it draws its methodologies. This has as much to do with the "peer review" of the standard research methodologies associated with the disciplines as well as the "content" areas of the disciplines themselves. Having, as is often the case in small institutions, say, an historian review a women's studies research piece in the biological sciences is to invite Alan Sokal "Social Text"-like scandals all over again.

116. cossackathon - August 19, 2009 at 02:59 pm

As someone who normally leans to the left on political and cultural issues I find Dr. Fox to be the one working the smoke and mirrors in this exchange. The sub-theme of her whole argument seems to be "I'm a pioneer, hear me roar." Perhaps Dr. Sommers is, as some charge, a tool of the right-wing, but she is essentially that it is just the kind of faux history and funny numbers Fox employs that besmirch the idea of "domestic violence studies."

117. stevenkass - August 19, 2009 at 03:49 pm

@badtom: You write that "the leading cause of death among pregnant women was...murder."

One of the most-quoted studies for statements like yours is a 2005 article in the American Journal of Public Health (DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2003.029868). That article concluded that "Homicide is a leading cause of pregnancy-associated injury deaths."

If this is the source of your statement, you may have committed the same error as Lemon does. Many news reports of this research have so erred, in any case.

The word *injury* is part of the statistic these authors published. The study authors found that homicide was a leading cause of *injury* deaths. They did not make a conclusion about all deaths.

Furthermore, the authors define deaths as "pregnancy-related" if the decedent was pregnant or up to a year postpartum. The authors therefore did not make a conclusion about "pregnant women."

In addition, the authors used the phrase "a leading cause" in their conclusion, not "the leading cause."

Though these authors did not address the relative position of homicide among all deaths among pregnant women, the statistic you gave may in fact be true. If it is the case that homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, context is critical in order for it to be informative of public policy or other action. As with all statistics, the question "compared to what?" is key. Is homicide a less common cause of death among non-pregnant women of similar age, race, geographic location, and socioeconomic status?

One of many better research questions would be: "Is pregnancy an independent risk factor for death by homicide?" The most obvious variables to control for are gender and age, which correlate with pregnancy, but geographic location, race, marital status, and other factors are likely important as well.

Progress to combat violence against women deserves better research, and the cause is poorly served when what research there is is mischaracterized.

Feel free to post references that support the statistic as you stated it and include the critical "compared to what?" context.

118. civilian - August 19, 2009 at 04:41 pm


Those who wallow in the past to rationalize their internal rage, achieve nothing.

119. civilian - August 19, 2009 at 04:47 pm


See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45626-2005Feb22.html

According to this article in the Washington Post covering the CDC report, the leading cause of injury death for pregnant women was automobile accidents.

"The CDC study found that homicide accounted for 31 percent of maternal injury deaths. Auto accidents accounted for 44 percent, other unintentional injuries for 13 percent and suicide for 10 percent."

120. vfichera - August 19, 2009 at 05:06 pm


"Those who wallow in the past to rationalize their internal rage, achieve nothing."

Hmmm. This is clearly an occupational hazard for all historians who must, therefore, redouble their effort to be very accurate and thorough in their reporting, especially of statistics, laws, etc.

"Caveat lector."

Come to think of it, that just about sums up the subject of this thread.

121. civilian - August 19, 2009 at 05:35 pm


On that we agree.

122. stevenkass - August 19, 2009 at 06:08 pm


Thanks. The Post article is a nice example of careful reporting. In addition to what you quoted, it underlines the narrow nature of the finding: "The study looked only at "injury deaths" and drew no comparison to deaths from medical causes."

While WaPo failed to commit the "Lemon error," other news organizations did commit it:

"A study published in the March 2005 edition of the American Journal of Public Health found that homicide was a leading cause of death among pregnant women in the United States between 1991 and 1999."

The ABC News quote is doubly false: the study didn't find what's stated, and what's stated is probably untrue, based on the JPH study and other studies and statistics I've looked at since my earlier post. I'll post references if anyone wants.

(Well, I suppose the statement could be true under an extremely generous definition of "leading," as in describing someone who placed 9th out of 10 in a race as "one of the leading finishers," but that wouldn't excuse it.)

The kind of sloppy reporting ABC News published could easily be the source of statements like badtom's, and the "homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women" false factoid.

123. romulus - August 20, 2009 at 12:22 am

I'm kind of disappointed that out of almost 1400 pages, all we can really argue about is me.

124. gcjimenez - August 20, 2009 at 10:33 am

It is absolutely impossible to carry on a discussion with academics, or anyone else, unless you discuss one thing at a time. If you're arguing about one thing and your interlocutor is arguing about something else, your discussion is not going to be very productive. We're all supposed to learn that in Freshman rhetoric or composition, though many of us learned it earlier.

However, in the discussion above there are two conceptually distinct discussions going on at the same time (the French call this a "dialogue des sourds" -- a debate between the deaf):

1. Some people want to talk about DV, about how serious a problem it is, and about how retrograde and unhelpful Hoff-Sommers' lifelong efforts have been in this regard. That is really a very interesting topic, and I wonder why the Chronicle does not sponsor another debate on that topic. However, it was CLEARLY not the topic of the debate above. Therefore, all comments of this nature, however cogent, are completely off-topic. People who consistently go off-topic really shouldn't be academics. They should go into the arts or entertainment, where surprising and innovative flights of fancy are expected and appreciated. Or they could go into politics, where logical argument is practically taboo.

2. The above debate is merely about whether Lemon is meticulously accurate in her scholarship. That may well be an excessively narrow, parochial focus, given the importance (to many) of DV. People who are frustrated by the narrowness of this topic should write an article or start a debate on the broader subjects of Point 1. However, their comments are mis-placed here. Worse, they support and defend laughable errors.

To cite Romulus is to invite serious questioning of one's intelligence, much less one's academic credentials. To be blunt, in the ordinary course of affairs, only a very stupid and uneducated person could cite Romulus as a historical figure, using Livy and Plutarch for support. If I had done that in a paper for my High School Latin class (my teacher was a classical scholar), old Mr. Smith would have kept me after class to gently reprove me. He would have been very surprised and disappointed to see me make a gross error of that sort, even at age 16.

I am not saying that Lemon is stupid; but I am saying that in this case she makes a laughable, ridiculous, embarrassing, absurd error -- and then, defends it in front of an audience that she knows will contain scholars of Roman history. She may not be stupid, but she does a disconcertingly good impersonation. The same goes for the defenders of the Romulus assertion. This is academic "rigor" of which a creationist would be quite proud. It would make as much sense to "cite" the Bible to disprove Darwinism.

I have known many doctors and lawyers who were fairly competent in their professions even though they would routinely make dopey observations similar to Lemons'. So it is quite possible Lemons' textbook is excellent and useful. I don't know. Again, that is not the point. Here, we are just asking if she has met the minimum standards of serious scholarship. She has not. She has not even come close.

I am a graduate of the law school at the University of California-Berkeley. I believe the current dean is Chris Edley. I would suggest that it is time for Edley and Lemon to have a chat: "Prof Lemon, we really love your class, but please hurry up and change that stupid Romulus quote and fix the rule-of-thumb stuff as well. You're embarrassing us."

Now, having concluded my main point, I will permit myself an off-topic observation about the subject that fascinates so many of the commentators -- DV.

Lemons' defender "estark" quotes CDC figures to the effect that 2M women and 600,000 men are injured annually by DV. "Civilian" refers us to studies which suggest that women are just as physically aggressive as men. So why are more women injured?

I would like to see an analysis of DV according the body-weight of the parties involved. I would like to test the hypothesis -- "In DV situations, usually it's a matter of a bigger, stronger person attacking a weaker one, regardless of gender."

If by some mystical intervention, all women woke up tomorrow 15% heavier and stronger than their male partners, I believe the CDC's DV figures would reverse within one or two years on a gender basis.

People in intimate relationships fight. The smaller or weaker of the two usually gets the worst of it. About 25-30% of DV seems to be of women against men. Yet, when we discuss DV in the popular media, we almost never discuss female-on-male violence. Why is that? Could it be a form of sexism?

125. vfichera - August 20, 2009 at 11:16 am


Interesting point about the role of physical size and strength in DV (although Protagoras uses this presupposition as an example of the role of verisimilitude in judgment, which often prejudices a jury against the victim in the case of a physically less robust attacker).

I would add that what may be crucial is to what extent physical strength is culturally "present" or "absent" in the mind of a female, and in the mind of a male, individual in the presence of conflict. These cultural mental self-representations likely do not simply break down into gender stereotype categories but are significantly influenced by physical experiences. And as such, these mental self-representations of strength or weakness have also been evolving as the roles of the two sexes in public life are becoming more convergent, at least in American society.

For example, do weaker men never initiate fist-fights with stronger men? Does a short woman with a karate belt earned in college physical education classes react with force against any attacker, regardless of size or gender?

This variable is clearly worthy (and has likely been the subject) of extensive investigation but will not necessarily yield results commensurate with objective physical size in all, or perhaps even, most instances.

* * *

On what constitutes "off-topic": Perhaps it would be useful to remind ourselves of the standardized types of techniques used in the teaching of reading (cf., e.g., Janet K. Swaffer, et al. Reading for Meaning. Prentice-Hall, 1990): The physical (in this case, virtual) format of the object to be read, its title, any images which accompany it, etc. all contribute to the capture of the "context" and the "content" of the object to be read and dramatically assist in the determination of meaning.

Proposition: The title of the article "Myths or Facts in Feminist Scholarship," together with the URL which includes the words "Domestic-Violence," both located in a Chronicle Review section entitled "Opinion and Ideas" clearly inspire and justify the expansion of the "comments" (itself a broad term) to topics reasonably related to these semantic constellations.

126. civilian - August 21, 2009 at 07:39 am

Again, the vast majority of DV cases are for simple assault. In other words, no one really gets hurt, so in that - size does not matter.

But that is not the real story.

Not a week goes by that one does not see a television or film portrayal of: the slap in the face, the crotch kick or the punch in the nose. It is always conveyed with humorous female on male violence.

For instance, Chrysler marketed the Neon with an ad that conveyed a couple walking down the street. He stares at a car. She thinks he is looking at a woman. She slaps him, knocking him down.

Everyone laughs.

The cultural message is clear. It is okay for women to hit men because they will not hit back.

The fact that men cannot hit back - enhances the humor.

127. rogueclassicist - August 21, 2009 at 08:53 am

what seems to be missing in all of this debate is an examination of what, if he did exist, romulus did for roman marriage 'legislation' ... on such in the context of this 'discussion', please see the post at my rogueclassicism blog:


128. vfichera - August 21, 2009 at 11:35 am


"Not a week goes by that one does not see a television or film portrayal of: the slap in the face, the crotch kick or the punch in the nose. It is always conveyed with humorous female on male violence."

Unfortunately, hardly a _day_ goes by that one does not see a television or film portrayal of a rape or of some form of male-on-female sexual battery. The fact that the woman usually, by the contrivance of the circumstances, cannot hit back enhances the drama.

One is tempted to start caculating the ratio of such acts portrayed where the woman "likes it" in the end or "forgives him" vs. where the perpetrator is punished. I'm not even sure if the statistics are (pardon the pun) "neck and neck."

Of course, there's always that true (was it, Central park?) rape case, where the perpetrator was let off by the judge because there was no evident sign of resistance from the victim -- even though the rapist held a broken Coke bottle to her throat.

I guess that enhances the "dark humor" of all of this, now, doesn't it?

129. gcjimenez - August 23, 2009 at 11:27 am

For "vfichera" I would comment that you are perfectly justified in expanding a discussion to relevant ancillary areas -- but only after you have addressed the debate's central topic. You cannot seriously argue that the title of this debate invites a general debate on DV completely divorced from any reference to the actual remarks made by Lemon and Hoff-Somers?

Otherwise, it must be interesting to have a casual conversation with you:

civilian: "Hey, V, how you doin? Sunny today, isn't it?"
vfichera: "That reminds of a story I heard about male hegemony."

Though I may have missed it amongst your voluminous commentary, it does not seem that you have anywhere addressed the obvious absurdity of Lemons' scholarly errors. Can you please just admit that Lemon committed a couple of amazing howlers, and then we can get back to all your interesting points about evil male hegemony?

I cannot agree with "civilians" contention that size doesn't matter in DV. Evolutionary psychology suggests otherwise. Normally, an organism will never initiate physical conflict with a larger, stronger organism (absent the imperative of fighting from a cornered position, or of territorial defense of one's offspring from predation). In nature, when we see the cat chasing the dog, we are usually surprised (I know it does happen, because I have a feisty cat).

Male chimps rise through a hierarchical social ladder which requires them to physically dominate the troop's females before moving on to confront adult males. Bonobos, in contrast, show us that females will resist and overcome male aggression whenever the social context allows them to do so.

In humans, a 15% size and weight advantage by males has left us with the troubling legacy of male-on-female DV. Emerging from ancient bio-cultural origins, the practice was condoned by a number of early social traditions which have been propagated to this day. In many countries it is still socially acceptable for a man to beat his wife, though in no country in history has the reverse been true.

However, throughout that long history women have fought back. The best defense a woman had was simply to fight back physically any way she knew how. Why do women everywhere favor long nails? Many men with long scars on their faces can explain; but do they need to?

Women are excellent physical fighters and are quite capable of defending themselves if there is anything close to a strength equilibrium. In a certain small but significant percentage of male-female relationships, the female will be as strong or stronger than the male. What do we know about the incidence of DV in such cases? Me, I know nothing, but I am willing to have my theory tested empirically. I would be willing to bet that any cross-cultural analysis of DV in such relationships would reveal a very significant delta in terms of the gender originating the DV, as compared with the societal average.

In any event, male-on-female DV was probably a fact throughout most of human history and pre-history. Throughout that time, females resisted DV in a social cat-and-mouse game that provided women with a variety of social and psychological defenses against physical oppression. See Lady MacBeth. I would never argue that women succeeded in leveling the playing field. Rather, they did the best they could to compensate for social inequalities that favored males. In intimate relationships, throughout evolution, men who permitted themselves DV did so at a certain cost and risk. A brutalized spouse is not likely to feel any guilt over adultery. Moreover, the oppressed spouse will resist violence with psychological and social techniques if physical defense is unavailing. In practice, this means that women have developed a psychological edge over men in their ability to manipulate emotional conflicts to their advantage (I have no evidence for this whatsoever, other than being married for 20 years).

Today, we have inherited many of these social and psychological defenses against male on female violence. In many societies today, hitting a woman is the most profoundly shameful and disgraceful act a man can commit. Men are, quite rightly, constrained by powerful social taboos from hitting women. This is one reason why the general size advantage of men has not translated into an even more widespread and ubiquitous incidence of DV. DV is still, thankfully, the exception rather than the rule.

However, we are now left with a lack of appreciation for the ability of many females not only to resist violence, but to impose physical and psychological violence themselves. Unlike males, women who enjoy a size or strength advantage are not constrained by social taboos from exploiting their advantages. When physical advantages are added on top of the psychological and social constraints available only to women, we get a situation today where a small, wimpy male spouse can be unbelievably brutalized by DV and get no sympathy or hearing from either friends or the law.

I've heard some wild stories to this effect, but that would be citing anecdotal evidence, like the Kitty Genovese or Central Park rape cases, so I'll just wait for data.

Female-originated family violence is an important and neglected area of social enquiry, given that so much of that violence is directed against children, both male and female (most child abuse is committed by females).

Anyone who is really concerned with the issue of violence should begin their research with a long gaze into the mirror. If you see a human looking back at you, that's a person who is definitely capable of oppressive violence.

if you'd like to throw some post-modern bricks at my reductionistic Darwinism, feel free to flame my blog at:


130. vfichera - August 23, 2009 at 03:00 pm

@ gcjimenez

My reading is that civilian actually agrees with gcjimenez that size rather than gender is what dominates the evolution of DV. Of course, since a majority of women and a majority of men fall within similar size ranges, there appear to be other variables involved, e.g., economic dominance/dependency, etc. And as for women's fighting back, yes, but often there appear to be psychological self-representations of "weakness" also in play, even in the case of physical parity.

* * *

"Though I may have missed it amongst your voluminous commentary, it does not seem that you have anywhere addressed the obvious absurdity of Lemons' scholarly errors." - gcjimenez

Let me repeat at the behest of my (equally?/more?) voluminous sparring partner what I intended as a direct commentary on Lemon v. Hoff-Sommers (evinced by civilian's earlier challenge):

"Let the reader beware."

It was indeed entered above, albeit in Latin -- however, I believe we all can be excused for missing anything or everything in this newly primitive commenting format from the Chronicle where no numbers are provided for the comments (and where the total indicated at the top is equally "behind the times," as it were):

[Open quote]
"Those who wallow in the past to rationalize their internal rage, achieve nothing." [- civilian]

Hmmm. This is clearly an occupational hazard for all historians who must, therefore, redouble their effort to be very accurate and thorough in their reporting, especially of statistics, laws, etc.

"Caveat lector."

Come to think of it, that just about sums up the subject of this thread.
[Close quote]

131. vfichera - August 23, 2009 at 03:37 pm

@ vfichera

Addendum: I too, got lost in the comments, and erroneously attributed to civilian the position concerning physical size actually espoused by gcjimenez. I retract the first sentence at the beginning of my preceding comment.

132. civilian - August 24, 2009 at 10:50 am

"Unfortunately, hardly a _day_ goes by that one does not see a television or film portrayal of a rape or of some form of male-on-female sexual battery. The fact that the woman usually, by the contrivance of the circumstances, cannot hit back enhances the drama." - @vfichera

When is the last time you saw a rape as portrayed a source of humor?

The primary element of media depictions of physical assault by women against men, is that he cannot return the slap, the punch or the groin kick.

It is what makes it so funny.

On the other hand rape and physical assault against females are never portrayed in the media as humorous, these things are always surrounded by capitalized and bolded quotation marks to emphasis them as bad, just to make sure the viewer does not come away with the wrong impression.

Contrary to what you suggest, portrayals of women fighting back against rape and domestic violence are the staple on LifeTime, Oxygen, The Soaps and Oprah.

133. vfichera - August 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm

@ civilian

Well, why recount my "favorites"? One need only "Google" rape and humor to find out which are the most viewed examples lately on the Internet.

This clip is from the film "Observe and Report" commented on a feminist blog: http://community.feministing.com/2009/06/lets-clear-up-this-whole-rape.html

Date-rape film "jokes" are likely the largest sub-genre of "rape humor".

134. civilian - August 24, 2009 at 05:18 pm


So you searched Google and actually found a few obscure hits on "rape and humor".

It strains credibility to believe that rationalizes the television industry blasting the "it's okay to slap, punch and kick men" message into million's homes on a weekly basis. Or with Hollywood doing the same with the big screen.

135. vfichera - August 24, 2009 at 08:41 pm


I suggest that civilian and vfichera might profitably cease and desist at this point, for they are actually at a draw: each has cited only one instance illustrating their respective "takes" on female-on-male and male-on-female sexual violence (rape, etc.) as "humor" in visual media. (Oh wait, the female-on-male violence cited wasn't actually "sexual," was it? -- but I digress.)

I suggest that the readers of this thread are not interested in more examples. So, let us move on....

136. sjallenh - August 31, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Do you folks not read? Weeks ago I pointed out that we can add plagiarism to her record (this is part of her *defense* of her scholarly record!). Or is that not worthy of comment? Whatever. You've probably all moved on to the next distraction.

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.

  • 1255 Twenty-Third St., N.W.
  • Washington, D.C. 20037
subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.