It was a busy week in the media, and for all the wrong reasons. There was plenty of tragedy and outrage to go around that one of the most ridiculous items of the week almost passed us by.
If you heard it, it was likely one of the most alarming stories of the week: According to a survey by the Thompson Reuters Foundation, the United States was one of the ten most dangerous countries in the world for women. We actually just got into the top 10, with countries like India, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Yemen included. No other developed first-world nation was in the top 10.
That sounds pretty horrific. This was all based on facts, right? Hard, empirical data about women’s rights and sexual or spousal violence, right?
Well, not quite.
“The actual methodology is something of a joke,” Alex Griswold wrote in The Washington Free Beacon. “Rather than comparing statistics on sexual violence, contrasting government policy, or anything that would give us concrete, objective measurement to judge one country against another, Thomson Reuters Foundation polled 548 women’s rights experts across the globe and asked them their opinion on the most dangerous countries.”
“The experts weren’t completely crazy. The United States didn’t make the top ten lists when asked about women’s access to healthcare, discrimination, human trafficking, or dangerous cultural or religious practices. But the reason it ranked in the aggregate top ten was because the women’s right experts inexplicably ranked the United States as the third worst country in the world for Sexual Violence and the sixth worst for Non-Sexual Violence.”
Griswold noted that “(t)here are two things going on here. The first is that the provided definition of ‘sexual violence’ is broad. ‘In your view, what is the most dangerous country in the world for women in terms of sexual violence?’ the question asks. ‘This includes rape as a weapon of war, domestic rape, rape by a stranger, the lack of access to justice in rape cases, sexual harassment and coercion into sex as a form of corruption.’
“While all the behaviors listed are vile, it seems sort of self-evident that some are worse than others,” he continued. “Being sexually harassed by a colleague can be dehumanizing and traumatizing, but it’s nowhere near the ballpark of wartime rape. The justice system failing American rape victims is all too common and disappointing, but that’s not nearly as bad as countries that require two women to contradict a male witness.”
The second part pops up when you read another particular from Thompson Reuters: “The survey was taken after the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment went viral in October last year as Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct by more than 70 women, some dating back decades. Hundreds of women have since publicly accused powerful men in business, government and entertainment of sexual misconduct and thousands have joined the #MeToo social media movement to share stories of sexual harassment or abuse.”
While the experts were right to point out that the accusations being made were reprehensible, they missed the larger point: We were in a country where those accusations could be made and we could have a discussion about them. There are literally dozens — probably over a hundred — countries in the world where that isn’t the case.
“Consider that the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai in the head for her suggestion that girls should go to school,” Tim Worstall wrote in the Washington Examiner. “Women gain more advanced degrees than men in the U.S. these days. This is evidence of a certain difference in rights and opportunities, no?”
Meanwhile, he noted that over 1 percent of American women participated in Women’s Marches across the United States. “while Saudi women have only just been allowed to drive, and Iranian still cannot attend sporting events. These are vast differences in rights. That the Women’s March was originally driven by mere sexual boasting is also evidence of a chasm in the lived experience. That so many were driven to protest over said crudity of expression shows that the more important parts of life are already sorted.”
Iran, it is worth noting, didn’t even make the list. It also didn’t include nations like Burma, where women are reported to be routinely raped with impunity by government troops simply for being part of the wrong ethnic group, or our neighbor Mexico, where hundreds of women have been raped and killed over the past two decades in one border city alone with absolutely no justice for their deaths.
No, according to Thompson Reuters, not one of these countries is as dangerous for women as America.
Did nobody looking at this survey think that maybe things had gone awry in the process? Did nobody looking at the methodology see the groupthink at play? Did nobody involved with this realize that the overarching point that was trying to be made by these so-called experts — that America has some way to go to achieve sexual equality — was going to be totally undermined by the utter frivolity with which the plight of women in dozens of other countries was marginalized in order to accommodate what was, in effect, a plug for the #MeToo movement?
America is and will remain a safe country to be a woman, far safer than scores of other countries that didn’t make the list. There is always progress to be made, but progress has never come at the expense of the facts.
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