I recently saw some cranky hag on TV whining about how TV violence against women has increased 120%. It was only a short commercial, so I wasn’t entirely sure what her point was. Was the original level ok? Should they have spread it out more? Maybe she was angry that the 120% increase wasn’t enough, in which case I’d have to agree. TV would suck without violence against women.
She couldn’t have been trying to make a feminist point. There’s nothing more feminist than beating men and women equally. The patriarchal power structure would be thrilled to ban all those badass, violent shows that make you respect women, like Air Master and Black Lagoon.
I tracked down the study. (It’s short and very readable, so I encourage you to give it a quick look.) Here are some of the major findings:
- Violence, irrespective of gender, increased 2% from 2004 (N=3840) to 2009 (N=3929)
- Violence against women increased 120% from 2004 (N=195) to 2009 (N=429)
The 120% stat is mathematically correct but highly misleading. Look at the sample sizes. TV violence against women remains an underwhelming minority. According to these numbers, violence against women increased from 5% of all TV violence to 11% of all TV violence. There are still nine depictions of violence against men for every depiction of violence against women.
Another problem with the study is that the definition of violence against women is extremely broad. It includes literally any act of violence against a woman. It doesn’t matter whether the violence was gender-based. It doesn’t matter whether there was a justification for it. It doesn’t matter whether it was grossly unrealistic. It doesn’t appear to matter whether the perpetrator was male, female, or unknown. As long as there is a female victim, it counts.
Here are some examples from the study:
This is a legitimate (and awesome) example of violence against women. Other examples aren’t so convincing.
Sylar never cared about the gender of his victims. It could’ve been a man and nothing would’ve changed.
I am so offended that an armed murderer got punched.
Satire of the legal system’s historical bias against women? We certainly don’t want that thrown into public discourse.
So, regardless of the type of violence, its intent, or how little it appears, the depiction of violence against women at all can be harmful, right? The study cites a research paper demonstrating that TV violence against women desensitizes viewers. All I could find was this paper’s abstract, but that’s enough to show there’s more to the story.
The present study was designed to measure physiological desensitizatian (heart rate) and to investigate the relationships between this measure and other cognitive, affective, and attitudinal components of the desensitization process. Subjects were either exposed to a two-hour videotape portraying violence against women or to exciting, nonviolent material (i.e., auto races, nonviolent sex). Following this, all subjects were exposed to two brief clips of violence perpetrated by a man against a women. During these clips, all subjects’ heart rates were monitored. Afterwards mood reactions and perceptions of the perpetrators and victims depicted in the dependent measure clips were measured. The results indicated that heart rates for subjects exposed to the violent videotape were lower during the final 90 seconds of each violent dependent measure film clip than controls. Although the violence-viewing subjects experienced no change in moods, control subjects experienced significant increases in hostility, anxiety, and depression during the dependent measure clips. Subjects in the violence-viewing condition attributed less injury to the victims but greater responsibility to the perpetrators in the dependent measure clips, compared to control subjects. There was no apparent relationship between physiological desensitization and later victim/perpetrator judgments. (emphasis added)
When the viewers are desensitized, they attribute greater responsibility to the perpetrators. Isn’t that a good thing? This study is conclusive proof that TV violence against women makes the world a better place.