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.