Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Problem with Freakonomics

I'm currently reading the book Freakonomics, and I'm almost finished with it. So far, I love it, but my love for it is conflicted.

1) There is an error regarding statistics about sexual violence, and the way those statistics are briefly discussed is highly problematic. By making the generalization that women's health advocates lie about how many women are assaulted, Levitt is undermining the credibility of women's health advocates and the anti-violence movement. Additionally, he's using the right number with the wrong description. He says that the proclaimed statistic is that 1 in 3 women is the victim of rape or attempted rape. The real 1 in 3 statistic is much broader, indicating the number of women who will experience an escalated form of sexual violence (which includes rape and attempted rape, but also completed and attempted sexual assault, child abuse, and relationship abuse of all kinds).

I'm not making the claim that Levitt is a jerk, or that no women's health advocate has ever lied before. But in a culture and society where violence against women is condoned, where rape myths run rampant, and where victims are further victimized for speaking out, he should have been much more sensitive about that material. No excuse for that.

2) In examining parenting, Levitt is really examining the intersections of race and parenting. And while I find it fascinating, and I also want to see the race gap made non-existent, I'm uncomfortable with the general detachment I get from the writing. I need to have some other race conscious people read this book and see if they have similar feelings. I'm just thoroughly uncomfortable reading a white guy talk about race. I also hate that the adjectives "black," "white," "Hispanic," etc. are used improperly as nouns. We're not blacks, whites, or Hispanics (I use Latin@, but I didn't write this book), just like we're not gays or straights. We're PEOPLE. Black PEOPLE, white PEOPLE, etc.

Again, the authorial intent is probably benign. But this language perpetuates the idea that we are our markers. If you have dark brown skin, you are "a black." Nuh-uh. Doesn't sit well here.

No comments:

Post a Comment