I don’t know why infographics are bugging me so much lately. They’ve been around for a while and they’ve never captured my attention for more than about four seconds. But last week one posted by, of all people, First Book got me going. The misleading use of statistics is something that has bothered me since I completed my undergrad degree in psychology. And infographics are often chock full of bodgy statistics. I really should just ignore them. But I care about literacy and poverty so last week’s infographic warranted a post. You know what else I care about? Women’s Rights.
So this infographic includes a range of statistics relevant to the rights of women, beginning with women at work and wage disparity, with particular focus on the even greater disparities facing women of color. Yep, fine. I’m familiar with these statistics – nothing too surprising. As someone who works at home, I cringed on being reminded of the ubiquity of workplace sexual harassment though. Glad to be away from that.
Next there’s some stuff about poverty. Again, nothing that surprising. I didn’t know the poverty numbers were “the highest in 17 years” though. Not really shocked to hear it, but still, that sucks.
Then violence. One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence, one in five will be raped. Horrible statistics, nightmarish, but ones I’m well aware of.
Then I came along to this:
Well, I confess, this one made me go “huh?” Quite apart from the hideous graphic of a man beating a woman, this statistic – 45% of hate murders against transwomen – seemed bizarrely implausible. Not because hate crimes against transgender people are rare exactly; they aren’t in the sense that if you are trans then you are more likely to be a victim of a hate crime than some other typically targeted groups. But I know there is quite a lot of hate crime in the USA. And a lot of target groups. And proportionally there are far fewer transsexuals than another frequently targeted group: male homosexuals (advocate groups estimate a 1/200 prevalence of male to female transexxualism, and about 1/10 for male homosexuality. These are the most generous estimates, and certainly not free from criticism), not mention African American or Hispanic groups.
So I started to look at the statistics. Again, I ran into the problem that this infographic does not cite its sources. I had to try to find supporting statistics myself. So I started with the FBI statistical database on Hate Crime, where I discovered to my disappointment that it looks like the FBI does not differentiate between transsexuals and homosexuals. Nevertheless, the FBI statistics quickly repudiated the infographic because according to their statistics only 20.8% of hate crimes were motivated by sexual orientation bias. So I’m thinking, where is this 45% coming from? Maybe it’s a small mistake. Maybe 45% of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are against transwomen. As I said the FBI doesn’t break down their data this way, so I had no way of checking.
Then I realized the infographic said “hate murders” not “hate crimes”. Ah, I thought. Maybe this is where the figure comes from. It makes a certain depressing logic that transwomen, if they are victimized in any hate crime, it is likely to be murder. But the FBI tells me there was a total of FOUR hate murders in 2011. That’s four too many of course, but still – how do you get 45% of 4? So now I’m wondering where on earth this number came from, and it bugs me, because it calls into question ALL the statistics on this graphic. That’s just how my mind works. Is it based on the numbers over several years? What years? Are they basing it on some other research and coming up with a wildly divergent figure?
So I stare at the number again. And stare at it. And stare. And then I ask myself what seems to be pretty obvious question: why does a graphic about women’s right’s include a statistic that no matter how you look at it represents a very small number of incidents? Not that transwomen don’t belong in a chart about women’s rights – of course they do. They’re women. But when we’re talking about literally MILLIONS of victims of sexual harassment per year, millions of victims of domestic violence and rape what is the motivation for including perhaps TWO victims of hate murder?
So I’m wondering whether it was a way to get murder onto this chart in a way that supports the overall thesis about the continuing struggle for women’s rights. 45% is an impressive percentage I guess, and assigned to relatively small group of transwomen creates the suggestion that there is something horrible going on, but wouldn’t the nearly 3000 women murdered per year in the USA be impressive enough? Maybe not in comparison to the over 10,000 men. “23% of murder victims are women” sounds almost like a win for women’s rights in a sick way. If murder could ever be a win. And it can’t.
So maybe the creator of this graphic included this perplexing statistic as the only way to get the word “murder” on it without revealing that in fact men are four or five times more likely to be murdered in the USA. It’s a bit half baked, but I could see that happening. I just don’t know. At this point I’m pretty much ready to give up. I don’t get it. It bugs me but it’s not the end of the world. I should just let it go. Then I think of something.
Rape is a hate crime.
Rape is hate crime. Rape/murder is a hate crime. We are constantly told that rape is a crime of anger and violence, of HATE, not of sexual desire. Certainly in the case of rape-murders this has got to be true. And get this – nearly 100% of victims of rape murders are women. About 90-95% of rape victims are women. Some rape victims end up dead. The overwhelming majority of those are women. And the perpetrator kills them because he hates women.
And yet, according to the FBI only seven, not seven percent, SEVEN “hate rapes” occurred in 2010. Excuse me? With very few exceptions (loving consensual sex between a 17 year old and a 21 year old for example, which in some states is prosecuted as statutory rape) ALL RAPES ARE HATE RAPES. And certainly all rapes that end in murder.
Rape is a hate crime! If rape was defined as a hate crime then the chart could furiously declare that “90% of victims of hate rape are women.”
According to US law the categories for the motivation for hate crime include race, religion, nation origin actual or perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED GENDER, people. Many rapes occur because the rapist hates women. Therefore…yeah, you get it.
I get how political this is. I really do. The very concept of “Hate Crime” exists to address criminal animosity towards marginalized groups. The groups targeted, according to the FBI, are mostly minority groups. In 2011, of hate crimes:
- 46.9 percent were racially motivated (although “16.7% of incidents were motivated by anti-white bias”).
- 20.8 percent resulted from sexual-orientation bias.
- 19.8 percent were motivated by religious bias.
- 11.6 percent stemmed from ethnicity/national origin bias.
- Less than 1 percent (0.9) were prompted by disability bias.
Notice anything missing? Despite “gender” being included in the statute, no hate crimes motivated by gender are recorded. Are you trying to tell me that of 80,000+ reported forcible rapes in 2011 (at best probably half the actual number), not one perpetrator scrawled “slut” or “bitch” on the wall? Or worse things? That when “slut” or “bitch” is scrawled on lockers, windscreens or front doors, this should not be prosecuted as a hate crime?
It’s almost as though the FBI doesn’t consider women a marginalized group. And here it’s important to understand the difference between minority and marginalized. I’ll tell you why. Because groups can be marginalized even when they are in the majority. Ask black South Africans for example. Women are a marginalized group, so marginalized that we’ve even been pushed out of the targets of hate crime club. So much that hate crimes aimed at WHITE MEN make the list before rape does.
Were even those seven “hate rapes” racially motivated I wonder. Do the police even bother considering that a man raping a women of another race might be motivated by hate for her race? Cross racial rapes are quite rare, but they are out there, in the thousands. About 15-20% of forcible rapes or sexual assaults are committed by someone of another race than the victim. This translates to maybe 15,000 rapes or sexual assaults. Surely SOME of those were motivated by racial bias? All of them were motivated by gender bias of course, but I’m ready to give that up. Throw me a bone here, FBI. SEVEN hate rapes? You’ve got to be kidding me.
It just seems wrong. It seems to imply that kicking over a tombstone or vandalizing a church is a worse crime than rape. I’m sorry but it’s just not. The Orangemen could kick over every tombstone in Belfast and I still wouldn’t care as much as if they raped one Catholic girl. Or a Protestant girl. Or any girl or woman, regardless of their motivation.
The marginalization of women is so deeply ingrained that it crosses all cultural groups, has existed pretty much since the beginning of recorded history and forms a vital part almost all religious organizations, as well as military organizations, who together by the way, control the entire world. And just as a black US president doesn’t mean racism is over, a few female prime ministers doesn’t mean the women’s movement can rest on its laurels. Not yet.
If everything on the infographic that started this all is true (and I think it is, apart from the 45% thing which I still don’t quite understand) then clearly women are still a marginalized group. Why then are hateful crimes against us not called “hate crimes”?
There’s an answer out there, but it’s so complicated and delicate that I don’t dare even try. I’ve finally been undone. That’s something.