Oh, great. Ben Radford has put his foot in his mouth again. Radford has announced that he is “over” rape, that he doesn’t like the “One Billion Rising” efforts by Eve Ensler because she abuses statistics, and that he’s going to beat up a whole bunch of straw feminists. You can tell he’s got all of his ideas about what feminists believe from listening attentively to anti-feminists — it’s rather like reading an anti-evolution rant from someone who has got all of his information from creationist web sites. It tells us nothing useful about the subject under discussion, but it’s extremely revealing about the critic’s personal biases.
Ophelia has already set all of his straw on fire, but I have to mention that I agree with him on one thing: this One Billion Rising stuff leaves me cold, for reasons that Natalie Gyte articulates so well. Radford’s reasons, though, are classic hyperskepticism. Ensler has said that one in three women will be raped, violated, or beaten in their lifetime, which is where that “one billion” number comes from. Radford objects! It’s not true!
The correct statistic is not that one billion women will be raped in her lifetime (as Ensler said in an interview on Democracy Now!), nor that one in three women “will be raped or beaten” in her lifetime (as Ensler states on the One Billion Rising web site), but instead that one-third of women “has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused” in her lifetime (as referenced in the study linked to on the web site). “Otherwise abused” includes “homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse.” All these are serious, legitimate problems, but not all of them are physical beatings or rape (nor even involve men). This is important because mischaracterizing the statistic as reflecting women either being “raped or beaten” harms victimized women instead of empowering them by not reflecting the true diversity of forms of abuse.
You know, when someone tells me that statistics are being distorted for a cause, I imagine someone misrepresenting the data with exaggeration or understatement to bias it in a prejudicial direction. I don’t consider simplifying for a public interview while keeping the core numbers accurate to be using “misleading statistics to support their social agendas.”
One billion women have been victims of “homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse,” confirmed by statistics that Radford cites. One billion women. Radford’s hyperskepticism is so fierce that he objects to Ensler using 3 general words — raped, beaten, violated — instead of 26 more specific words, but is willing to overlook the horrific truth that she is correct and one billion women will suffer for their sex in their lifetime.
Maybe it’s a good thing he’s over complex social issues; from now on he can stick to the easy stuff, like debunking bigfoot stories, that are apparently at the upper limit of his intellectual capacity.