When Women Don’t Count

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criminal justice, Republican Party, Women's Issues

A couple of unrelated stories saying the same thing — first, following up yesterday’s post on how gun rights “trump” everything else these days, here’s a story from South Carolina about prosecutors who say “stand your ground” laws don’t apply to domestic violence situations.

In November 2012, Whitlee Jones fatally stabbed her partner, Eric Lee. She has testified that she did not mean to kill Lee when she issued the fatal wound, but that she only meant to fend him off while he blocked her from exiting the house with her belongings, attempting to leave him for good. The incident occurred just hours after Lee had punched Jones repeatedly and dragged her down the street by her hair.

People had witnessed Lee brutalizing Jones and called the police. Naturally, when the police showed up they talked only to Lee, who told them there was no problem. So the cops left. Brilliant. Shortly after the police left Jones tried to get out of the house, and she says he attacked her again, so she stabbed him. And he died, and now she is facing homicide charges.

And why doesn’t “stand your ground” apply to this situation?

But prosecutors say the 2006 SYG law does not apply to housemates in episodes of domestic violence, as that was not the legislation’s original purpose.

“[The Legislature’s] intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers,” Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd, the case’s lead prosecutor, told The Post and Courier. “We believe that applying the statute so that its reach into our homes and personal relationships is inconsistent with [its] wording and intent.”

So, in other words, stand your ground only applies if one is defending oneself from a stranger? On what planet does that make sense?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1980 to 2008, among all homicide victims—

  • Females were more likely than males to be the victim of intimate killings (63.7%) and sex-related homicides (81.7%) .
  • Males were more likely to be involved in drug- (90.5%) and gang-related homicides (94.6%).
  • Female murder victims (41.5%) were almost 6 times more likely than male murder victims (7.1%) to have been killed by an intimate.
  • More than half (56.4%) of male murder victims were killed by an acquaintance; another quarter (25.5%) were murdered by a stranger.

Self-defense laws that apply only to defending oneself from strangers are, therefore, self-evidently screwy even for men, but more so for women.  This same document says men represent 77 percent of homicide victims and 90 percent of perpetrators, but given that male homicides tend to be drug and gang related, it’s not clear to me what the stats are regarding men not involved in gangs and drugs, and that’s something I’d be curious to know.

Even so, it seems to me a lot of white Americans are obsessed with unreasonable fear of the “other,” whether of brown Guatemalan toddlers sneaking across the Rio Grande or drug-crazed black people breaking into their homes and killing them. I actually couldn’t find authoritative data on how common it is for armed criminals of any color to break into homes while the occupants were inside. Burglaries are common, of course, but burglars prefer it if the homeowners are not home.

A lot of men also have a hard time accepting the fact that most rapes are not, in fact, perpetrated by strangers lurking in dark alleys but by men the victim knows.  Conservative men in particular will denounce rape in the abstract but defend it in the particular, especially when the accused seems like such a regular guy. And they nearly always seem like such regular guys.

But the point is that, if the prosecutors are right, then South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law was written to address threats that probably don’t actually happen that often to real law-abiding citizens, but it doesn’t apply to the ways people really are threatened, especially women.  Again, brilliant.

The other story showing that women are still a variation from the default norm in America comes from the sharp-eyed Josh Marshall.

For years there was a constant refrain in American politics which would speak of two electorates, even two elections: election results among white people and then the results when you counted the votes of black people. There were more denigrating and racist versions of this talk. But the most revealing were the versions that weren’t consciously racist at all. They were at their peak of popularity in the 80s and 90s and went something like this: “Democrats haven’t won the white vote in decades. Without blacks, they’d barely be holding on as a national party.”

There were various permutations of this refrain. But, as I’ve discussed before, all carried with them the tacit assumption that black votes, while legal, were somehow a second-rate product in the grand economy of voting.

We’ve come a long way, baby, or not —

I raise this history because we seem to be seeing a similar trend in attacks upon or diminishment of single women. Last week long-shot New Jersey Senate candidate Jeff Bell noted that he’d actually be ahead if not for single women. He then went on to blame his opponent’s double digit margin on single women and single mothers who vote Democratic because they are “wed” to the social safety net and “need benefits to survive.”

Josh goes on to quote other voices of the Right, including Rushbo, saying variations of the same thing. And of course the reason there is a gender gap is that there are women voters who, sensibly, vote according to their self-interests, whether for equal pay or reproduction rights or protection from domestic violence, and Democrats overwhelmingly support such things while Republicans overwhelmingly oppose them. And why might single mothers be more concerned about the social safety net, pray tell?

Every now and then I still run into men who actually cannot understand why gender and racial diversity is a good thing in a governing body. Why can’t a legislature or board of directors made up almost entirely by white men make perfectly sound and reasonable policies that apply to everybody?

Because so often they don’t, that’s why.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 16, 2014 @9:55 am

    “Why can’t a legislature or board of directors made up almost entirely by white men make perfectly sound and reasonable policies that apply to everybody?”

    Probably because of their sense of privilege and natural superiority.

    That 3/5ths of a human being in our Constitution didn’t just trip off someone’s tongue.
    Someone had to sit down and figure that out.
    Naturally, he was a white guy.

  2. joanr16  •  Oct 16, 2014 @1:04 pm

    prosecutors say the 2006 SYG law does not apply to housemates in episodes of domestic violence, as that was not the legislation’s original purpose

    Huh. Silly me, but I thought it was state supreme courts– not local prosecutors– who are responsible for interpreting the “intent” of legislation. If Whitlee Jones could afford a good defense lawyer (there’s the rub), that lawyer might-could get a judge pretty riled up at those prosecutors.

    But then, South Carolina.

  3. uncledad  •  Oct 16, 2014 @1:16 pm

    “So, in other words, stand your ground only applies if one is defending oneself from a stranger? On what planet does that make sense?”

    Planet white earth of course. Stand your ground is only intended to protect white folks from being charged with murder for murding colored folks. We can’t have non-compliant wives using the law against their husbands for christ sake, unless of course the wife happens to be white and married to a scary blackman!

  4. Bonnie  •  Oct 16, 2014 @2:37 pm

    Regarding single women, I have been single all my life. I started working and supporting myself when I was 18. Worked two jobs often in the early years because the pay was so low; and, worked three jobs at one time, which nearly killed me. But, I continued to work all my life. In 1974, I got my first Federal Government job and worked for the Feds for 38 years. I am now retired, living off my generous retirement package and still happily single. I have never had welfare or subsistence of any kind. Additionally, I have many other single women friends who are like me and worked every day of their lives until retirement. Most of us vote democratic; however, I have a twin sister (never married) who is a Morman and you can guess who she voted for in the last election. Nevertheless, none of my very large circle of friends fit the stereotype of single women that Republicans try to portray. P.S. We all met at college.

  5. Mike G  •  Oct 16, 2014 @7:31 pm

    “[The Legislature’s] intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers,”

    Because they can’t just come out and say, “It’s only supposed to apply to gun-toting white guys”

  6. Bill Bush  •  Oct 16, 2014 @8:47 pm

    I think these people have Teabola. The illness causes them to think everything is supposed to be the way they would have liked it to be in 1950 if they had been alive then, minus black people who were not maids, and minus women who wanted anything but a house and kids, and minus anyone not white except a few token Indians and some distant Asians to make plastic items. And a couple Irish drunks just for comic relief. Not that they’re stereotyping or anything, it is just how the delusion portrays the world they wish they inhabited.

  7. Doug  •  Oct 16, 2014 @9:25 pm

    Is there a violation of equal protection under the law to suggest that a law which allows self defense for a male against an unknown intruder isn’t applicable to a female who has been abused by her male partner and knows she has very good reason to fear for her life?

    BTW – the article about the woman doesn’t mention if she did or didn’t have access to a cell phone to call the police to give her safe passage out of the house. If she could have called for help and didn’t that weakens her claim IMO and if she couldn’t cal for help while trying to escape – it makes her defense ironclad.

  8. Swami  •  Oct 16, 2014 @10:44 pm

    I would assume that South Carolina’s SYG law weren’t written by their legislators. In all probability I’m sure they purchased the basic ALEC – Stand Your Ground– economy edition. Maybe a little light on technical details, but covers a wide range of protections for legally blowing away most undesirables.

    It’s easier than making Hungry Jack Pancakes… Just add the victim



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