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Tragedy Wears a Human Face: Reply to Rep. Ellen Sauerbrey
September 14, 2005
by Carey Roberts

This past week Ellen Sauerbrey, US representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, went to Washington, hoping to shore up support for the State Department's pro-feminist agenda. But her plan backfired.

Sauerbrey's speech, "Freeing Women from Exploitation and Despair," presented this last Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation, was flawed in its framework, biased in its presentation, and dangerous in its social implications. Let me explain.

Marxism divides society into two groups: haves and have-nots, with the interests of the groups pitted in primordial conflict. Traditional Marxism views economic class as the heart of the problem. In contrast, neo-Marxism -- under the guise of gender feminism -- places sex at the crux of its analysis. And neo-Marxism is the framework that representative Ms. Sauerbrey operates from.

I have lived and traveled in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. I have visited some of the most remote and poverty-stricken corners of our planet. And this conclusion is clear: tragedy is not a gendered phenomenon.

Let's start with Sauerbrey's first claim, that the right to be safe represents "the most fundamental human right to which every woman is entitled." If that's true, then I'm sure Sauerbrey would agree that safety is the most fundamental right of men, as well.

According to the WHO World Report on Violence and Health, violence accounts for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females.

Does that 2:1 sex imbalance warrant consideration and concern?

Sauerbrey also deplores the plight of refugees, singling out "the rape of displaced women in Darfur" for particular concern. But if Sauerbrey had read a little further in the UN Human Rights Commission report, she would have learned that the attackers also "indiscriminately attacked those who had not fled...with a particular emphasis on men and boys."

What moral code says we should deplore the rape of women and ignore the killings of men?

When Sauerbrey turns to the topic of healthcare, her remarks verge on the hallucinogenic.

Sauerbrey laments the notion that "Women's health receives too little attention in the developing world." What she fails to mention is that in almost every country around world, men lead shorter lives than women. This lifespan disparity is especially pronounced in Eastern Europe. In Russia, for example, women live more than 13 years longer than men.

Excess male suicide is another troubling indicator. "The rate of suicide is almost universally higher among men compared to women by an aggregate ratio of 3.5 to 1," according to the World Health Organization.

Despite these facts, all the gender-specific programs of the WHO focus on women and neglect men.

Then representative Sauerbrey turns to the problem of domestic violence. "In a sample survey of over 300 women in Santiago and in Managua, reports of domestic violence reached 40% and 52%," she notes.

But the bias of that statement is self-evident - why weren't men included in the survey? According to published research on international trends of domestic violence, women are just as likely to physically assault their partners as men.

The concerns with Ellen Sauerbrey's speech go beyond the matter of balance and intellectual honesty.

Because once we agree that women as a class are victims, that points to men as the perpetrators. And once again Sauerbrey falls prey to the feminist analysis, implying that all the woes of women can be blamed on men.

The scapegoating of large groups of people carries an ugly historical legacy. The lynchings of Afro-American men on trumped up charges of "violating" white women's physical integrity comes to mind.

Traditionally, men have been viewed as the defenders and protectors of women. But once you start to suggest that men are a menace to women, then you are undermining the basis of the traditional family. Before long the social order begins to come unglued, and all manner of state invention into citizens' private lives becomes justified.

Indeed, Sauerbrey openly discounts the role of men as fathers with this comment: "When you educate a man you educate an individual; when you educate a woman you educate a whole family."

If this tirade had appeared in Ms. Magazine, it would be bad enough. But Sauerbrey's remarks represent the official US stance at the United Nations.

If there is an object lesson in Ellen Sauerbrey's well-intentioned but misguided speech, it is this: We should ponder the seductive appeal of radical feminism, a divisive ideology that plays on powerful psychological instincts that lurk within all of us.

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