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November 17, 2005


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Everything you have said applies to a greater extent to men - especially physical violence and rape, if you count prisons.

I am probably an even stronger and physically fit male - I recently played Div-II football as a defensive tackle, weighing over 260 pounds. I am also a former basketball player and shot putter. Yet, I would also feel extremely nervous walking alone past midnight in the forest or any place else that is not crowded. My size and strength will not protect me against a group of wild teenagers or a gun-toating nut case. My point is, this topic is not a male versus female issue. But for a woman to do the same is bordering on insanity. I always wondered what women (and men) who go out jogging alone at night are thinking.

Anyway, I don't know you, but I sense you have some axe to grind against men.

The Law Fairy


You say that the issue isn't a gender-divided one, yet you maintain in your very next sentence that for a woman to do what is nerve-wracking for a man, would be "bordering on insanity" for a woman.

Professor Nussbaum's point is not that men feel safe at night and women don't, and it isn't that sexual violence isn't perpetrated against men. Rather, I take her point to be that for men, life presents fewer such fears, and where those fears are present they are not gender-specific. When you go out at night and feel nervous, is it because you are a man? Or is it simply because it is dark? Is your fear particularized to your gender or your sex? Are you afraid that you will be raped or sexually assaulted? Or are you afraid that you will be attacked and mugged? For many women, the fear is gender- or sex-based -- and I suspect this is the case for far fewer men (the difference may be slimmer where we're talking about gay men, who are often attacked for their sexuality just as women are).

I'm interested how you leap to the conclusion that Professor Nussbaum has an axe to grind with men; I didn't see anywhere in her article that she criticized or in any way maligned men -- in fact, I don't think she even used the words "men" or "man." She's just trying to point out ways we need to help women. Surely no rational and decent man should be opposed to that?


Buy a gun and carry it. You won't feel that threatened by other people. Even big people bleed out when they're shot in the chest.


I think women do have much more to fear than men, during night and day. Outside a prison, men almost never have to fear rape. As for muggings and other assaults, I believe (admittedly with no real evidence) that most are perpetrated by one or two people, who would be far more likely to attack a woman than a man.

My wife and I live in a relatively low crime town, but I still ask her not to walk or wait for a bus after dark.

I think men can't really understand the fear of women, and until gangs of women (or strong, individual women) start assaulting men, we probably never will.

I don't know much about the law, so this may be a grossly simple way of thinking, but are punishments for assault currently tied to the relative difference in strength between attacker and victim? If a man of average build attacks another man of average build, will that result in a lesser punishment than if a man of average build attacks a child? Or, if three men attack a single man, does that result in a stronger punishment than a one-on-one attack?

Is that how the law currently exists?


It's undoubtedly true that women -- even affluent, well-insulated women in Prof. Nussbaum's position -- are just physically more susceptible to violence then most men. It's not just a women's rights issue -- any man with a wife, daughter, or sister should be very worried about it.

I just don't get why the liberalization of concealed carry laws is not a big feminist priority. A relatively trivial investment in a pistol, some ammunition, and a little training allows any women to render even a very large, very aggressive man dead.

And even if it's never used, I think a pistol goes a long way to easing the daily anxiety described by Prof. Nussbaum. I'm not a woman, but I work in a medium-sized city with a serious crime problem. My parking garage is about four blocks from the office, and in between is disreputable, urban high rise apartment building and usually assorted shady characters. My concealed carry permit and revolver really make the walk back to the car a calmer, much more pleasant experience.

I recommend at least a .38 or 9 mm, and something in a smaller frame for ease of concealment and comfort.


I'm not exactly sure why, but I find the two pieces of gun advice hard to take. If you don't mind, I'd like to ask a few questions to understand how the whole carrying-a-gun thing works.

- Do you carry the gun on you while you're at work?
- When you walk back to the garage, is it in your briefcase (or bag), or is it in a holster somewhere on you?
- When do you pull it out? Like, how do you know when you're in enough danger to warrant it?
- If you're beset by a group, and you shoot one of the group, do you feel that will improve the outlook of your final result? Or, if you're attacked by a group, would you just go Bernie Goetz and put down the whole group?


How is carrying a gun superior to carrying mase or pepper spray or something? Except that it gives you the option of killing people instead of injuring them and getting away, I guess?


Why is carrying a gun a solution at all? It seems at best a temporary fix, and a poor one at that (you still have the fear of attack, you just think you can counter it). The real solution lies in changing social behaviors so that women don't have to ever experience this fear.

Read what Prof. Nussbaum wrote about Finland. Finland didn't get that way because of concealed carry laws. And the point of that anecdote is that even though Prof. Nussbaum was able to convince herself that she was safe, she could not shake her deep-seated, subconscious fear.


My gun's with me at work. I pull it out if I'm in fear of my life. I can take down a group if necessary.

As for it being a "temporary fix," it's no more that than asking people to wear seat belts to avoid car accident injuries. Sometimes the best and most efficient fix is self help, not an unrealistic and utopian social revolution.

Finally, as for the merits of mace and pepper spray: frankly, they're not that effective, they can be turned on the victim, and they present more risk than using firearms.

The Law Fairy

Strange how this thread has turned into a discussion about guns...

I disagree that guns are a temporary solution; to this problem they're not a solution at all. Bringing up guns in this context is a non sequitur. It's not about what women should be doing to protect themselves; it's about how society needs to change so that women aren't at a disproportionate risk of violence. No external solution we propose will solve the problem because it is institutionalized. You say women should carry guns; perpetrators of violence against women can also carry guns. What about learning self-defense (by the way, with effective self-defense techniques, size is not important unless we are talking a hugely disproportionate difference)? Perpetrators of violence against women can ALSO learn self-defense. Any "solution" you propose that women take upon themselves to solve the problems caused by inequality don't help, because any proportionate advantage can be negated.

The problem is that women are victimized in the aggregate. This doesn't mean that men are "bad" people, or that there aren't women who can take care of themselves. It means that women as a whole are at a greater risk of violence because women are not viewed and respected as equals at the institutional level. Many governments look the other way when women are abused in the home. They choose to forego contentious equality-affirming measures because to work for equality is seen as "special treatment" by those who don't understand how the system victimizes women. Until women are viewed as fully human on a very basic, fundamental level, they will always be subjected to a greater risk of violence. THAT'S the problem, and guns won't solve it.


"Consequently, many apparently nonviolent practices count as forms of violence — and they should so count, because they have the same crippling effects on women’s capabilities as actual bodily violence."

No, they should not count as violence. If the Declaration would be improved by their inclusion, it should be amended to read "gender-based offense" or otherwise expressly encompass non-violent acts.

We needn't muddy a perfectly serviceable word that is commonly understood to mean the infliction of physical harm. There is an important distinction between bodily and psychological harm, and the need to equate the two for this narrow policy purpose doesn't justify the redefinition.


"Throughout the world, women’s bodies are vulnerable to a range of violent assaults that include ... female infanticide, ..., and sex-selective abortion....

"If our topic is ‘human security,’ we should begin by admitting that no woman, from pre-birth to advanced old age, has it."

Threats to women "pre-birth"? And gendered fetuses? There's a fine line you're walking here--next you'll tell us that these unborn women are, in some relevant sense, "persons." Or else you're risking incoherence.

Rue Des Quatre Vents

Prof Nussbaum's writing is at once captivating because personal and thought provoking because morally interesting. However, this cut and paste style of blogging doesn't seem to work rhetorically. Part of the aesthetic of blogging entails a more spontaneous approach and flow of narrative and argument. Portions of articles written for other publications lack this vitality when pasted onto the site. Take away the safety net Prof Nussbaum and let it rip. You might have a blogging muse in you yet.


Law Fairy,

you wrote, "Until women are viewed as fully human on a very basic, fundamental level, they will always be subjected to a greater risk of violence. THAT'S the problem, and guns won't solve it."

actually, the problem is that women will always be subjected to a greater risk of violence than men, and no government can change that.

carrying a gun will at least improve any given woman's situation.

punishing those who attack women more severely than those who attack men can help.

utopian dreaming that a fundamental law of nature can be changed will improve noone's situation.

The Law Fairy

zeimer --

Thanks for proving my point exactly. Amazing how easy it is to write off actual social problems by pretending nature "intended" them or they're somehow unchangeable because of "nature."

Oh wait -- unless you're God. Are you God?


no, i simply realize that one must do what one actually can do in this world, and not pretend that some idyllic cartoonland is attainable.


the thing with the gun argument is that you're relying on a series of implicit premises that are very much weaker then your argument suggests. for example, your argument requires that muggers care that women are armed - that is, that women armed with guns present a credible threat to would-be muggers. but for every successful use of a weapon, i'd wager there's at least one failed use - whether the gun couldn't be reached, or was misfired, or whatever. your argument also requires that would-be muggers BELIEVE that a would-be victim is carrying a gun, again something i'd bet would be unlikely until you armed an extraordinarily high percentage of people. your argument also denies the possibility that muggers could simply team up with each other, use larger weapons, or otherwise overwhelm victims despite their gun. and your argument ignores externalities - innocent victims killed through gun accidents. i'm curious whether you or the NRA or whomever has data on these points, as it would either shore up or cripple your argument substantially.


actually, the gun argument relies on data which indisputably proves that, in communities where everyone carries, the number of such attacks are much lower.

where carrying is illegal, and the criminals assume (correctly) that it is highly unlikely that the targets of their violence are carrying, crime is much higher.


the data (which i have not seen) might "prove" that attacks are lower, but it doesn't prove the causal connection you're arguing in favor of. at best, it suggests correlation. it would be interesting to know the strength of correlation of other potential explanatory variables. do you have any comparative data?


This is not about guns! This is not even about self-defense, or about what women can personally do when walking down the street and are confronted with danger.

What can be done so that this situation never has to happen? We need to talk about how society can protect women. We need to talk about the attitudes that keep women objectified. And we need to look at the ways in which the law can be strengthened to benefit women who are victimized, which is not idealistic, but realistic.


Dear Anon,

You contradict yourself. You speak of how this discussion is NOT, "about self-defense, or about what women can personally do when walking down the street and are confronted with danger" while in the same breath / blog you ask what can be done; specifically, what society can do to protect women -- as if women are separate from society, as if society is some authority figure that must be entreated. Would you have women remain helpless, thoughtless, solution-less objects desperately in need of society's help? I submit that this discussion is all about what women can personally do when confronted with danger.

I would ask why women must relegate their protection to society? How is that going to help women in any way? Women have relegated their protection to society, husbands, civil authorities, etc. and the result is the present international situation. It is only through women taking their protection into their own hands and assuming responsibility for their personal protection that any progress is made toward safety.

(I am not advocating that all women should carry guns, although I do carry one myself and would encourage all educated, rational humans to do so. But only after several gun-safety classes and years of experience shooting guns in controlled environments, such as shooting ranges, etc. But, this discussion is not about gun control.)

I agree with Ms. Nussbaum in her encouragement of women gathering together and involving themselves in discussions with the objective of changing their personal paradigms. Because women are a living, breathing part of society, when they change their paradigms, they change societal paradigms. To speak of women as separate from society imitates the philosophy of difference that has kept women as non-participants in civil functions ranging from home and money management to voting.

Are women different than men? Absolutely. But simply because men tend to dominate societal, economical, and civic functions, does not mean that women are separate from society and unable to protect themselves. The act of women gathering together, discussing their safety problems as a community, and resolving to change their worldview to include what each woman can do personally when confronted with danger is exactly what this is about.


My comment above was addressed to "Monster" not "Anon." Oops. My first time to this blog site. :-)


i have read all of these blogs and i am still greatly disturbed by the first one by alvin. in america we are very blessed as women, when you look at the rest of the world. but there is no way that you could make a statement like,"Everything you have said applies to a greater extent to men - especially physical violence and rape, if you count prisons." where to you see male children getting sold as sex slaves where they are drugged and malnurished and treated like animals until they die. not to mention the psycological trauma they will suffer even if they are ever rescued. While the taliban was in control of afghanistan there was no womans health. none. i'm sure that if a man had a problem he could find help to solve it. 95% of afghan women are illiterate, because it was illegal for them to go to shool or even be taught at home.

female genital mutilation is another factor that i don't feel is a big problem for the male sex, but for women in some countries it is a big deal, and something that has to stop. beyond the sexual aspect of it there is also disease and infection that can spread because the body is not able to clean itself properly.

all in all i also agree with prof. Nussbaum in the spect of always being afraid that someone will try to hurt you or rape you when your out alone, specifically at night.
i am 6'0" tall and i am very sturdily built, and yet those fears always come floating back into my mind whenever i walk to my car after work, or wherever i'm going. And i think that most women would agree that rape is a bigger fear for women than just physical abuse, mugging etc.

to wrap this up, i never considered myself a feminist, but now i realize that all decent people should consider themselves just that, if thats what it takes to help bring about security to all humanity.

African American

I agree, you need a weapon to protect yourself as a woman, women are physically weaker than men and they need a level playing field..get a gun

Jessica Margolin

Men who say that there's violence against men: yes there is. The difference is that there is violence against a woman for simply being a woman. ("You are a woman, therefore I will dominate you against your will.") There is violence against men because there is violence *in general*.

Lowering violence overall would be great; I'm completely with you on that.

As for violence against women, specifically:

Don't forget the cavalier attitude the medical establishment treats womens' symptoms, both from a research and a clinical perspective.

I frequently tell my female friends who are told that whatever-it-is is because they're hypochondriac or melodramatic -- just want attention -- whatever invalidation it is, that hypochondria is a recognized illness, so along with a diagnosis of "it's all in your head" should be a referral to a psychotherapist of some sort. The fact that I have never heard of a single instance where this HAS happened -- where there has been a referral to a psychotherapist -- just goes to show the prevalence of the diagnosis: "Whiny annoying woman who I want to go away."

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