What's more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.
Our findings, detailed in our new book out this month, Sex and World Peace, echo those of other scholars, who have found that the larger the gender gap between the treatment of men and women in a society, the more likely a country is to be involved in intra- and interstate conflict, to be the first to resort to force in such conflicts, and to resort to higher levels of violence....
It's ironic that authors such as Steven Pinker who claim that the world is becoming much more peaceful have not recognized that violence against women in many countries is, if anything, becoming more prevalent, not less so, and dwarfs the violence produced through war and armed conflict. To say a country is at peace when its women are subject to femicide -- or to ignore violence against women while claiming, as Pinker does, that the world is now more secure -- is simply oxymoronic.Well, Pinker's argument is one I don't think much of myself (we discussed it here); nevertheless, I'm not sure what to make of this argument.
Stability as such isn't much of a goal, if what is being stabilized is injustice. Thus, to some degree, you would think it would be a good thing to see that states that are fundamentally unjust were also unstable: that's just what we might think we would want to see.
On the other hand, growing instability doesn't seem to improve the situation for women much: in fact, it seems to worsen it.
It seems probable that they have their causality exactly backwards. Good treatment for women does not cause political stability; it seems to result from it. It is in a stable atmosphere that women have often done best in human history, because it is in such an atmosphere that the traditional male advantages are minimized: size, strength, and a mental structure that evolution has shaped for war. In a stable environment, it is development of long-term relationships rather than combat that tends to shape society: and these are traditional female strengths. It's the periods of long-term prosperity and stability in which women have advanced their political and legal position.
This suggests that if you want to see women's treatment improve, you should work to stabilize society; but you will almost certainly be stabilizing an oppressive environment for the women when you do it. The goods that come for women will come from their own work and their own natural strength, over time, not because of external efforts.
Nevertheless, there are some counterexamples to the theory that occur to me. It would have been true during the height of the instability of the industrial age, for example, that women had greatest equality (if not best treatment) in the places rendered most unstable by the revolution; and likewise, in WWII, it was the instability that created the opportunity for large-scale female migration into factory work.
This set of data suggest that creating instability is a great thing to do insofar as it gives women a greater hand in the means of production, which may only be possible in industrialized or post-industrial societies. It was certainly true that many Marxist revolutions promised women this very good if they would join the revolution and help overthrow the government, which is why many third-world Marxist leaders were women. However, after the revolution the promised goods rarely materialized.
If this is the truth, though, then there's no general rule about correlation or causation to be made here. The fact that stable states are correlated with female rights is true only just now; it was not true before, and might not be true later.
The authors would like it to be true that the correlation (and even the causation) ran in their direction, because it could allow us to avoid making a value judgment between stability and freedom for women. In fact, I suspect we will often have to make such judgments: and I am as ready to strike a blow for freedom today as I ever was, though experience has made me less hopeful about how much we can actually achieve in our own historical moment.