According to some parts of the NZ blogosphere (in the comments here), asking all women who are admitted to hospitals questions about domestic violence implies that all men are abusers. The simple act of asking a woman these questions says that the person who asks the question, or the person who causes them to be asked, thinks that the woman’s partner is abusive.
I think there’s a much more positive way to look at it.
At my local supermarket, everytime I go to the checkout with a bottle of wine, the checkout operator is required to summon the supervisor, who makes the decision about whether or not I look old enough to be legally allowed to buy alcohol. As it turns out, even a schoolkid on minimum wages who can barely string together a coherent sentence would only need to glance at me to see that I am well over the age of 18, and for that matter, well over the age of 25 (the ‘safety’ age that most supermarkets use – if you look younger than 25 you will be asked to produce ID). I have greying hair, which I don’t colour (a form of vanity in itself), a figure that shows some evidence that I have had three children, and my clothing is fairly conservative – no crop tops for me! But insisting that the checkout operator calls the supervisor means that there is no room for capricious judgement. I don’t feel insulted – it’s just the system, and an utterly impersonal one at that. And it’s a good one. It means that I can’t stand over the checkout operators and put pressure on them. Not so important in my case, given that I am legally allowed to buy alcohol anyway, but there are three secondary schools within walking distance of the supermarket, so there are plenty of kids around who might like to be able to buy alcohol. Plus no one is making personal judgements about me: they are just working within the rules that have been set up by that supermarket.
I have been sickened by the stories of child abuse that have hit our newspapers in the last few days. At first, I could hardly bear to read them, and even after I did read them, the only way I could console myself was to hug our own little princesses, and reassure myself that they would never, ever, be treated in that fashion.
Yet they might be. Not now, while they are children, in their father’s and my care, but in the future, at the hands of their partners or the people they date.
That’s why I’m glad about the initiative to ask all women who present at hospital three questions:
* Has anybody hurt or threatened you?
* Have you ever felt controlled or always criticised?
* Have you been asked to do anything sexual that you didn’t want to do?
Al Gore thinks the internet can save us. I think he may be right, but only if we are at least somewhat proactive about searching out contrary views.
There’s an interesting article in New Scientist about Gore’s latest book, The Assault on Reason (Chris Mooney, “Critical times need critical minds”, New Scientist 195: 2613, 21 July 2007, pp. 46 – 47). It’s here but you need to be a subscriber to access it.
Chris Mooney, the writer of the article, describes how Gore argues that we need a “well-informed citizenry”. We can and should do far better in becoming informed, so that we can genuinely debate complex issues. According to Mooney, Gore’s hope is that the internet can save us. But…
The internet is much like television in that it overwhelms audiences with choices and leads to an inevitable kind of self-selection. Many web surfers opt out of serious information entirely, or choose groups of like-minded individuals who rarely encounter contrary perspectives. This concern – voiced in Cass Sunstein’s book Republic.com – is never grappled with by Gore. The blogosphere, for all its virtues, too often mirrors Sunstein’s image of large groups of people engaging in mutual intellectual back-scratching, rather than challenging their own convictons. “Reason”, if it means anything, must include sustained engagement with opposing viewpoints.
Good point. And one which was made, prophetically, way back in 1990 by David Brin, in his novel Earth. …
A day late, but I’m using travelling home from Noosa as an excuse. It was 24 degrees there yesterday…. and we came home to 14 degrees in Wellington today.
I’m not sure that Harper Lee would have identified as a feminist, but this passage in To Kill a Mockingbird grabbed me the first time I read it, back when I was about 13 years old.
“Scout, I’m tellin’ you for the last time, shut your trap or go home – I declare to the Lord your’ gettin’ more like a girl every day!”
With that, I had no option but to join them.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960
For those who haven’t read it (yet!), Scout, the narrator of the novel, is a girl, and Jem is her big brother.
Just along from where we are staying in Noosa, there is a house that’s
wittily named, “Emoh ruo.”