J. Soltys's Weblog

October 14, 2008

Violence In the Home vs. Gender – Diagnosed or Demonized?

(October is domestic violence awareness month. My blog will focus on domestic violence from the often ignored and silent perspective – the male victim – and how organizations, politicians, and society deny men and their children the same awareness, compassion, and resources offered to women.)

Lady Madonna: Part 1

by Tim Goldich

The dark picture we have of men would lead us to believe that most child abuse is male-inflicted. In fact, the opposite is true, and by a wide margin. Women commit the vast majority of child abuse and infanticide. Of course that’s only because women perform the vast majority of childcare, nevertheless, our assumption that men are the primary perpetrators against children is emblematic of our attachment to the MB/WG paradigm.

We would hate to think that there was anything less than a Madonna in the nursery, but the facts paint a less-than-“angelic” picture. In fact, if we dare delve deep enough, in the shadows there lurks a picture of motherhood darker than any we care to know.

Before embarking down this road it is important to remind ourselves why. Why do we delve deep to reveal the darkest corners of the maternal psyche? I can answer that question with another: “Why do dads kill?,” asks the front-page headline of the Chicago Sun Times (06/25/07). In answer to that question, also from the front page, in “family-murder cases, a clear pattern emerges, experts say. The father wipes out his family simply because he’s tired of dealing with them.” Really, as simple as that? Also on the cover in a narrow-cropped photo of Christopher Vaughn, who allegedly killed his wife and three kids, eyes staring out and looking a lot like Satan. So, here on the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper we are told that dads kill their families simply because they grow weary of them. Message sent: men are evil violent scum; don’t marry a man, he’ll kill you and your children the moment he grows tired of dealing with you.

So, again, why do we delve deep to reveal the darkest corners of the maternal psyche? Because, in failing to do so, we are left with only a demonizing of men and an anglicizing of women—we are left with ManBad/WomanGood.

When Andrea Yates drowned her children in the bathtub, all five of them, one at a time, it made the cover of Newsweek (07/02/01). The headline? “‘I Killed My Children’: What Made Andrea Yates Snap?” Note how this Newsweek cover treats both Andrea Yates and what she did as unique. By contrast, in dealing with Christopher Vaughn and what he allegedly did, the Chicago Sun Times cover asks why dads kill as if to implicate all dads. It may not literally implicate all dads, but oftentimes it is the blunt message that sticks in the brain and the blunt message reads “dads kill.” Not some dads kill, or this particular dad killed, but just: “Why do dads kill?”. A headline that asked “Why do moms kill?,” would be protested accordingly.

The Newsweek cover quotes Andrea’s reply when a police officer asked, “Do you realize what you have done?” Her reply, “I killed my children,” could either be taken as cold-blooded or it could be taken as an expression of horror and remorse. What follows may nudge us toward the latter interpretation: “What made Andrea Yates snap?” Isn’t that really asking: What was Andrea Yates’ excuse? Also on the cover: “Understanding Postpartum Depression” and “Anna Quindlen on Every Mother’s Secret.” Yes, Anna “It’s not that I don’t like men; women are just better” Quindlen is asked to give her unbiased opinion on the subject [Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, CBS, 04/15/93]. So now we know what made Yates “snap” and we are given a further nudge toward an empathy interpretation of her actions.

Many will merely glance at the covers. The verdict will be obvious. Look for it and you’ll find the ManBad/WomanGood paradigm insinuating itself into our media/cultural products with a pervasiveness comparable to the way food additives are included in the products we buy at the grocery store. Comparing the two covers, the greater empathy shown a woman could not be more self-evident. Now let’s take a look inside each article starting with The Chicago Sun Times.

According to Minneapolis criminal profiler Pat Brown, men who commit “familicide” fall into one of two categories. “Some men decide to commit suicide because they are heavily in debt, have failed in their jobs or are otherwise falling apart. In a supremely selfish act, they decide to take their families with them. Those who don’t kill themselves are more likely to just want to be free, Brown said.” (Sun Times, p. 4). When a father kills we don’t ask what made him “snap.” We don’t care to know what his excuse was. He may well have been provoked in the worst way imaginable, but we’re too intent upon vilifying him to seek out that which might mitigate his guilt in some way. We are not invited to consider either his “depression” or his “stress.” In fact what we’re told explicitly precludes any possibility of redemption: “They are manipulators. They’re narcissistic, filled with grandiose thoughts. And they’re pathologic liars who blame everyone but themselves for their problems.” And there’s no end to it. “But they’re usually not insane . . . they know right from wrong” (Sun Times, p. 4). So, when it comes to fathers who kill, there can be absolutely no possibility of an “excuse.”

When the article shifts its attention to their female equivalents, however, the tone shifts dramatically. According to John Philipin, psychologist, crime profiler and author of true-crime books, “By contrast, many mothers who kill their families suffer from depression, depressive psychosis, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses” (Sun Times, Jim Ritter, “Why do dads kill? To be ‘free,’ experts say,” p. 4). Women who kill are said to suffer from these illnesses implying that even women who kill remain the victims.

The Newsweek article begins: “Andrea Yates was the ultimate caregiver—until depression and the strains of raising five children drove her to an unspeakable crime.” (p. 20). Note the air of incredulity that accompanies a heinous act when committed by a woman. “How could a mother commit such an act against nature and all morality, ending the lives she had so recently borne and nurtured. And kill them so methodically, one by one, holding them under the bath water (imagine eyes staring back) and laying them out on the bed wrapped in sheets like little Christian martyrs” (Newsweek, p. 20).

“About 200 children are killed by their mothers every year, according to Justice statistics. Sometimes moms blame the Devil. Or they think they are saving their children from a hellish life by sending them to heaven. The psychologists call these ‘altruistic killings.’ Andrea Yates was apparently suffering from a specific, diagnosable—and treatable—condition called postpartum psychosis.” (Newsweek, p. 20). It was on the basis of that diagnosis that Yates was eventually judged not guilty by reason of insanity. “Yates’ attorneys never disputed that she drowned 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah in their Houston-area home in June 2001. But they said she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and, in a delusional state, believed Satan was inside her and was trying to save them from hell.” (“Andrea Yates Found Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity; Will Be Committed To State Mental Hospital,” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/07/26/national/main1837248.shtml, 07/26/06). So, I guess it was five of those “altruistic killings” that Yates committed?

Patricia Pearson:
By contrast, when a sample of men convicted of infanticide were surveyed in Brixton Prison in Great Britain, those who offered altruistic motivations were scoffed at. Wrote their interviewer: “The statement ‘that it was best for the children’ . . . is an expression of the fact that the perpetrator himself thought that the infanticide was the best way out—that is to say, the act was egosyntonic.” [When She Was, p. 88]

No matter what the circumstances, a father who drowned his five children one at a time couldn’t possibly be received so empathically as to have his actions labeled “altruistic.”

Newsweek quotes Andrea’s mother, the one person we would expect to love Andrea most unconditionally. “She was the most compassionate of my children. Always thinking of other people, never herself. She was always trying to care for everybody.” (Newsweek, p. 20). And follows that with a pitiful image of Andrea Yates caring for her Alzheimer’s stricken father while pregnant. “Between caring for her father and her children, it is hard to think that Andrea ever had time for herself.” (Newsweek, p. 21). True enough, however, between working/commuting 70 hours a week plus domestic and other chores expected of him, many a husband/father has no time for himself.

According to the Newsweek article, most multicide killers (i.e., men?) are coldly psychopathic. “Andrea was the opposite; if anything, she apparently cared too much. She may have felt she could never do enough for her demanding husband. In a horribly twisted way, she may have tried to be too good a mother.” (Newsweek, p. 20). Even as we’re canonizing the female killer note how we begin blaming the nearest male, her “demanding” husband. But no one blames Andrea, not even the devastated father of those five murdered children. ‘“One side of me blames her because, you know, she did it. But the other side of me says, ‘Well, she didn’t, because that wasn’t her.”’ (Newsweek, p. 20). Spoken like a typically chivalrous and infinitely magnanimous male. What wife would express such forgiveness toward a husband who did what she did?

Houston police officer Frank Stumpo: ‘“Do you realize what you have done?’ he asked her. She looked right at him and said, ‘Yes, I do.’ She told the police, ‘I killed my children.’ Stumpo looked around. The house was a mess, he thought, dirty and unkempt.” (Newsweek, p. 25). At this point Rusty had returned home but was kept out of the house presumably to protect Andrea. Asked if he wanted a glass of water, “he doubted anyone would find a clean glass in the house. Stumpo looked anyway, and couldn’t find one—until Andrea calmly pointed him to the china cabinet.” (Newsweek, p. 25).

Rusty Yates was earlier described as “demanding.” Maybe so, but if he didn’t demand housekeeping, and he didn’t demand help with the financial burdens, then perhaps he wasn’t all that demanding. Many a wife is “demanding”: demanding toughness, strength, and courage of her husband; demanding of competence, demanding of domestic chores, demanding of career success and demanding financially. Even so, if a husband/father did what Andrea Yates did, who would ever think to pin the blame on his “demanding” wife? Yet the media made every effort to vilify Rusty Yates and hold him responsible for the murder of his children.

In a follow-up article, Newsweek (04/01/02) describes Rusty’s tireless campaign on behalf of Andrea. He defended her on every show from the “Today” show, to Larry King, to Oprah. For his chivalrous efforts he faces contempt of court charges for violating a gag order. But that’s only the beginning; “as he crisscrossed the nation, simmering questions about his own accountability have boiled over.” (Newsweek, 04/01/02, p. 6).

Andrea’s mother and siblings told reporters that Rusty, a controlling husband who often downplayed his wife’s mental illness and shut them out, bears some responsibility for the tragedy. Andrea’s best friend, Deborah Holmes, did the same. On radio call-in shows, Internet chat rooms and newspaper editorial pages, the questions continue. . . . Rusty is “innocent of any criminal offense,” says his lawyer, Ed Mallet. Some legal experts, however, think that even if Yates escapes criminal charges (including contempt of court) he may have a tough time defending himself in civil court where a jury could find him partly responsible. (Newsweek, 04/01/02, p.6)

(Tim Goldich is in the process of publishing a series of books on the subject of gender issues as seen from both the female and the male perspectives. His first book, Loving Men, Respecting Women: The Future of Gender Politics, Love and Respect in the Past, Love and Respect in the Present, and Love and Respect in the Future will be released in the near future.)

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January 25, 2008

Research and the Genders

man_hiding_face.jpg       I have felt for a long time that the research community tends to ignore male issues and focus more attention on female issues. This opinion would be quickly debated by feminist and their supporters who would argue two similar points:
First, historically research has focused exclusively on men, and what I am witnessing is “balance” taking place. In their eyes, quality research into serious issues from the female perspective is catching up after all those years of serious male focused research.
Second, I know I will find the element of “two wrongs make a right” in their argument. They will say, since women were ignored for so many years, it is only “righteous” or “fair to now ignore men’s issues.

Recently I was listening to a radio show where the subject of women’s health was being discussed. I was waiting for someone to mention the historical discrepancy between male and female research, and I didn’t have to wait long. But as I listened, I realized how every woman’s opinion centered on the fact that the cause of this disparity was blatant sexual discrimination. Not one woman offered any opinion that strayed from this belief. More importantly, it was the attitude that men did this with a conscious knowledge that it was wrong. As if society back then should have realized what it knows now. According to these women, and even society today, men as a whole are held to a standard for their actions and behaviors in the past by the more knowledgeable and greater understanding criteria of the present.
But is this fair?
When I studied psychology in school, it was always noted that the same standards used for research in the past, would never be allowed today. The research community of old consistently violated moral, ethical, and individual rights of their research subjects during experimentation that are strictly prohibited in today’s research communities. But this information is always left out of the feminist argument. Think of it this way: What the feminist are really arguing is they are upset because research atrocities and personal violations were not implemented upon women in the same numbers as men. Huh???
What is missing from the feminist point of view is the fact that the research community of old actually had an inherent patriarchal respect for women; that is, it would have been despicable to use women or children in human experiments that could result in serious complications or even death. Instead, the research community saved this potentially tragic research for men only.

So it appears that while the element of sexism was present in the research community, the overall reasons for their exclusion may have been due to a fundamental element of respect for women and their physical well-being. Another argument missing from the feminist perspective is that since men were perceived as the bread winners of the family, it would only make sense that to insure the stability of the family, research into men’s health would take precedent over women’s. If the man of the house was healthy, then by proxy, his wife and children would enjoy good health. By today’s standards, this is an unacceptable philosophy, but at that time, not only would men have accepted this philosophy, but the women would have accepted it also.

So it seems that things did balance out. Men received better insight and care into their physical health, but suffered the atrocities placed upon them by the unregulated research community. Women, on the other hand, did not receive the proper attention towards their healthcare needs, but at the same time, did not have to suffer the consequences of research atrocities.

So why bring this all up?

I have found over the years of doing men’s work that any research done by predominately “female interest” researchers and institutions will usually be biased towards men when the research covers issues that cross gender lines – the same behavior these women have attacked men for.
We have already seen some distorted and discriminating research from these female interest groups concerning the genders such as:
These female “dominated” groups are not concerned with the male partner perspective when researching abortion; they are not concerned about male victims of domestic violence and the independent research showing greater numbers of male victims than their own research; they once claimed girls were being discriminated extensively in school when it was actually the boys suffering extensively in academics; and they have also claimed pregnant women are at greater risk of being murdered by their husbands or boyfriends when in fact, almost all research positions that this is not true.

So while scanning the web, I found this research concerning depression from the Society for Women’s Health Research, a Washington, D.C., based advocacy organization. It discusses the findings of their research concerning male and female doctors and their ability to diagnose depression in women. While I am aware that this research was intended to focus strictly on the perceptions of male and female doctors concerning women and depression, it disturbed me to find there was no mention of the crucial facts concerning men and depression.
The reason I take issue over this exclusion is due to the repeated reinforcement of female suffering and their corresponding statistics always being included in research and media articles that focus on the male side of cross gender issues.
For example, research and articles written about male domestic violence victims will always include statistics concerning female victims to maintain proper “perspective” on the issue. Research or articles about male suicides will almost always include the fact that women are more likely than men to attempt suicide. And nobody these days would dare to talk about the sacrifices our male soldiers are making in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars without making sure to include the female victims, even though their numbers are greatly smaller.
Overall I do not have a problem with this approach. I feel it is fair and balanced.
What I do have a problem with is that it appears to me when research or articles focuses exclusively on women issues that cross gender lines, more often that not it excludes the statistics on male suffering, and ignores maintaining a proper “perspective” on the issue; hence, male discrimination.
In this research on doctors and female depression, I found this discrimination present again.
The article stated:

Women doctors are more likely than their male counterparts to believe that women are specifically susceptible to depression during two key times of hormonal transition in a woman’s life: puberty (67.5 percent to 48.2 percent) and perim[eno]pause (92.8 percent to 67.5 percent).

The research also stated:

The survey did find consensus among male and female doctors on several issues. Almost identical percentages of women and men doctors, about 84 percent, agree that women are at higher risk than men of ever having major depression.

Sadly this research article didn’t maintain proper “perspective” and reveal some disturbing stats about male depression.
One of the leading healthcare institutions, the Mayo Clinic, has this to say about men and depression:

Each year, depression affects about 6 million American men and 12 million American women. But these numbers may not tell the whole story. Because men may be reluctant to discuss male depression with a health care professional, many men with depression may go undiagnosed, and consequently untreated.

When they visit their health care professional, men are more likely to focus on physical complaints – headaches, digestive problems or chronic pain, for example – than on emotional issues. As a result, the connection between such symptoms and male depression may be overlooked.

In a given year, men with depression are more than twice as likely as men without depression to die of any cause. Women with depression also have an increased risk of dying, compared with women without depression, but the difference is not as great as it is in men.

Although women are twice as likely to have depression, men are four times as likely to suffer its worst consequence: suicide. Starting in adolescence, men are far more likely than women to take their own lives. Older men, particularly white men over age 85, have the highest suicide rate. Although women attempt suicide more often than men do, men are more likely to complete suicide.

Men take an average of just 12 months to go from contemplating suicide to attempting suicide. In contrast, it takes women about 42 months. During this time, men are less likely than women to show warning signs, such as talk of suicide. Because this window of opportunity is so short, family and mental health professionals may have little chance to recognize a man’s depression and intervene.

After reading those statistics, wouldn’t a few sentences about men and depression seem appropriate? And considering doctors unskilled in detecting male depression have a shorter time frame to work with in order to avoid a tragedy, one would think the researchers would have made some mention of this. But there is no mention of this at all – not even one sentence.

My point: For years women have complained how research has ignored women when confronting serious health issues that cross gender lines. While once true, I feel it is definitely not the case today. I feel serious male issues are ignored in preference for the latest “suffering” of women.
More importantly, men are carrying the burden of being perceived as inherently discriminatory, but over time, we see women are just as comfortable ignoring the serious issues that men face in order to raise awareness towards their own – the very thing they have scolded men for over the years. And sadly, our society as a whole seems to be comfortable with joining them in this behavior.
The jab against men is that they are uncaring and selfish. Maybe men would show more compassion and empathy for others and the serious issues they face if others would show more compassion and empathy for them.

I know, the idea is so stupidly silly and pragmatic, so the chances of it working are probably slim.
Silly me.

Women And Men Doctors Have Divergent Views On Women And Depression
Male depression: Don’t ignore the symptoms

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