trends and sequiturs, real or non

I am reluctant to dip my toe into this – with all the gamergate nonsense going on, rational, level-headed discussion about gender issues and violence seems hard to find (for my part, I’ve managed to maintain a stubborn ignorance of gamergate, as it seems like a colossal waste of time).

You may have heard recently that a man murdered a woman recently, and uploaded the photos to 4chan. Megan Seling wrote about it here. As with most articles on PITW these days, it quickly turned into a shitshow of trolling and insults. I just have a few things to say here, then, rather than wading into the quagmire there:

The point/crux of the article as far as I can tell is an attempted segue from the news story (“man murders woman, uploads photos to internet”) to the conclusion.

First, this segue, as far as I can tell, is a nonsequitur, starting roughly here:

The reason Kalac’s actions feel so much more shocking than other recent tragedies is because they manage to bring together a number of women’s rights issues – the devaluation of women, domestic violence, and a woman’s right to privacy – into one stomach-churning trifecta.

It doesn’t bring those things together, though – or at least that connection is not demonstrated. If you say that A “brings together” B, you have to explain how – saying something doesn’t make it so, as I have mentioned on twitter as well. What follows is a collection of other unrelated instances of man-on-woman/women violence presented with no connection other than “a man murdered a woman”.

He clearly didn’t see much value in his own life, but what is so much sadder is that he saw even less value in Coplin’s life. A man’s right to have a woman, and not be betrayed by that woman, is outweighing a woman’s right to life at all at an alarming rate, and that is fucking terrifying.”

and further from the comments:

In both cases, the woman is not being seen as human, but rather a lesser being for the man to treat however he wants. That’s what makes it a woman’s issue over a basic human one.

It’s absolutely true that he devalued her life – that’s what murder is. Murder is the ultimate culmination of the devaluing of life. It’s necessary but not sufficient to make this a “woman’s issue over a basic human one”. It’s not entirely clear to me what Seling’s conclusion is saying with respect to ownership and “outweighing”, but my best guess would be a contention that Kalac’s crime and other crimes reflect a rising rate of domestic violence/murder. This, however, is demonstrably not the case – women killed by intimates has been decreasing since 1993. To be sure, there are still real issues of gender inequality and violence, but weak or flawed causal inferences like these do a disservice to genuine awareness campaigns. If that’s not what she is actually saying, I’d love some clarification..

As the world comes online, we will have more and more windows into things – both horrible and wonderful – that were already happening all over the world. It’s easy to mistake our increased visibility into incidents with a rising trend. It’s horrifying to see domestic violence, and we should continue to try to eliminate domestic violence, but it would be a mistake to think that increased awareness/visibility means a rising trend.