The Washington Post continued its great women's issues coverage with this pro-tip: if women want to stop being assaulted, raped, and murdered, they should marry their baby daddies and stop sleeping around. All this time the power to end violence against women has been in the hands of women, #yesallwomen, not men. And in case you think we're being unfair to the Post — and you haven't been following columnists like George Will and Richard Cohen — here's the (original) headline and subhead of the story:
Yes, "baby daddies." The new headline:
...shifts the impetus to men, but doesn't fix any of the words below it. Writers W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson note that #YesAllWomen, the "dramatic" social media response to the Santa Barbara shooting, drew attention to the fact that "across the United States, millions of girls and women have been abused, assaulted, or raped by men, and even more females fear that they will be subject to such an attack." And while the hashtag was overly concerned with drawing attention to male aggression, it didn't focus enough on the way that men protect helpless "females" from other men. "Obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers."
The studies Wilcox and Wilson reference find that children in homes with two parents are less likely to be sexually assaulted, and women are less likely to be abused by a husband than a boyfriend. But this could be correlation, not causation. Poor women are more likely than wealthy women to experience all kinds of violence, including sexual assault. Married women tend to be wealthier, older, and better educated, and therefore better able to safely extract themselves from toxic situations.
Black and Hispanic women are more likely to be raped than white women, and also earn less money than white women. Minority women, who have higher rates of poverty, are less equipped to leave abuses boyfriends, especially if they're financial dependent on them. Wilcox, however, would argue that those women, unfortunately, don't have to power to make their abusers put a ring on it. Wilcox concludes that the reason married women are abused less is because "women in healthy, safe relationships are more likely to select into marriage, and women in unhealthy, unsafe relationships often lack the power to demand marriage or the desire to marry." Emphasis added.
Wilcox and Wilson's argument is as baffling as it is insulting, until you read his bio: Wilcox "directs the Home Economics Project at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies." AEI is a right-leaning think tank. Conservatives have been pushing the idea of marriage as the cure to all societal evils for years. Apparently, making men the good guys and unmarried women the cause of their own misfortune is part of that strategy but, once again, the argument falls apart, unless the two can prove how marriage would end sexual assaults on college campuses and in the military.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.