There is a quote supposedly attributed to Margaret Atwood, the Canadian novelist who is the author of The Handmaid's Tale amongst many other works. The quote is, in various forms, this node title. Margaret Atwood never said these things as a direct quote, but they are the short version of things that she did say, as reported here. It is a bit of a bigger discussion, with a bit more content, but Atwood said that while men fear ridicule and exclusion from women, women fear violence from men. It does put problems in perspective.

The FBI keeps a great amount of statistical details about the age, race and gender of criminal offenses and victims. These are kept in the Unified Crime Report, and one of these tables can be seen here. There are probably inconsistencies in this data: this is only for single offender/single victim crimes, it is for murder, which may or may not be the same thing as homicide. And it is, of course, for only one year: 2010. But lets look at this data as a good starting point. Most perpetrators, and victims, of murder are men. Of the six thousand homicides in the table, about four thousand are male on male. On the other hand, 1698 women were killed by men that year. 1698 is a large number, and certainly greatly outnumbers the 405 homicides that are done by women against men. I could find other statistics for the vast amount of crimes, including sexual crimes, where women out-number men as victims. Women have a good reason for being afraid of men.

But men also have a good reason to be afraid of women. Not for the stated reason in the quote of being ridiculed, but because women do kill men. At about 20% of the rate, but women do kill men. A good analogy is stroke: 72% of stroke victims are over the age of 65. Does that mean that a young person shouldn't be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke? In much the same way, even though a man should still find himself safer in a relationship with a woman than vice-versa, he still should be careful of himself.

And here I go away from the land of well-kept statistics, and go into the land of possible strawmen. Because now I will be talking about cultural views, and inferred ones at that. There are female killers, and sometimes they became infamous. Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of the murder of her toddler daughter, is one of the more infamous women charged with murder. Jodi Arias, currently on trial for the killing of her ex-boyfriend, is another. She claims self-defense after emotional abuse, but her story has large inconsistencies in it. Yoselyn Ortega, a nanny in New York City, stabbed her two young charges to death in what was presumably a fit of extreme mental illness. And in a case that I have trouble even bringing up, two men and two women were arrested in Chicago in a case of murder and necrophilia. But when these things happen, I think the general reaction is that the women are extreme aberrations. Which is a fair point to make. These are extreme aberrations. Even the "normal" acts of violence that women commit are aberrations, because violence is not a healthy part of a mature adult.

But where the problem arises is that men who commit violent acts are seen as being fundamentally male, while women who commit violent acts are being fundamentally not female. Aggression is a natural trait of men, and the men who don't commit crimes are the ones who learn to rein it in. Aggression in women is some type of bizarre inexplicable aberration.

It is almost as if male behavior lies along a continuum. Going from the shy man, we get to the self-confident man, and on to the flirtatious man, then the harassing man, then the physically intrusive man, then the rapist and then the murderer. All of these are just an expression along a single line of maleness, an x-axis that goes from sweet guy to killer. Some of the confusion arises because "aggression" as a trait can mean two things: it can mean the ability to seek what you want, value your own needs, and move forward against other people's judgment. Or it can mean either a disconcern with, and even enjoyment of, other people's suffering. I don't know if these personality traits are truly on a continuum, either in men or in women.

There is a lot more to be said about this, and I can't draw any conclusions. All I can say is that the attitude that violence is somehow intrinsic to men is not as overwhelmingly true as people's perceptions make it out to be, and that it is based on, and leads to, some very unproductive views of the link between personality and violence.

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