A few months ago, I got into a name calling contest with someone I’d never met that spanned nearly three days. The fight was spurred by a comment I made on the Ottawa Citizen’s website regarding a story on Emma Watson’s (a.k.a. Hermione) speech at the United Nations. Miss Watson had just been appointed the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador for Women and just delivered what I (and many others) thought was an excellent speech on gender equality. And I said as much in the comment I left, adding that if things were to improve, that men were going to help with some of the heavy lifting as well. Well, this apparently provoked this individual (who we’ll call “Allan” moving forward) who asked why I (and the author of the Citizen article) wasn’t more compassionate to my own gender and continued to tell me in no uncertain terms that racism, homelessness, mental illness, failure of education and the failure of the government to care for veterans, suicide and just about every other evil and crime in the western world were overwhelmingly exclusive male problems and women’s issues (because y’know, women have never been affected by racism or suicide or government negligence and incompetence) would only ever improve if men were taken care of (because apparently if you’re a man in Western society, your life is automatically tougher then a woman’s). The thing is, he didn’t leave this gem of wisdom on the Citizen’s forum, where I made my initial comment, no he found the Facebook page I maintain for the Ottawa Edge and he started the fight there. In fact, I’ve left it there in case anyone’s curious to see what it looks like to spend a few unsavoury hours in the mind of a misogynist. I gave legitimate debate a token try and when that inevitably failed I promptly followed in the footprints of the immortal Bugs Bunny, one of my personal heroes, and white duel glove slapped him-after I slid a brick in the glove. It was very easy to tease his thinly veiled hatred and bigotry out from beneath the thin veneer of his “logic” and expose him for what he was-a misogynist who couldn’t contain his bitterness and hatred. He was a puzzle that was easily solved, an ideological relic who wanted a return to the times when men were considered special simply by the merit of their gender because he had failed to achieve anything significant in a time when you actually needed to do something special to be considered special. There’s a reason behind sharing this tale and I’ll get to it in just a sec.

Researchers at the University of North Dakota recently conducted a study that concluded one third of men on American college campuses would rape a woman if they thought they could get away with it. The same study found many of the men who admitted they would rape a woman shied away from using the word rape and those who didn’t expressed some pretty horrible attitudes towards the fairer sex.   The study has gotten a lot of attention and has been promoted by a number of online news services (often times as obvious click bait) and has been embraced by a number of Equal Rights Activists. It has been polarizing to say the least. But the problem isn’t the survey’s results, it’s the survey itself. Most importantly, the sample size. Only one school was used in the survey-the University of North Dakota itself-and only 86 male students were surveyed, with only 73 giving responses that could be used.


Now anyone who knows the slightest thing about statistics and surveys knows that nothing reliable can be proven by a sample size of 73. It robs the study of any credibility at all. When grocery store chains perform surveys on what kind of drink box kids like best or where they should display the new flavor of ketchup they use minimum survey sizes in the thousands. When pollsters try to predict which political party or candidate is leading their respective race; they’ll talk to 73 respondents in the span of an hour on their way to a sample size also in the thousands. Quite simply, trying to draw any results or conclusions on a sample size of 73 for anything is the very definition of stupid and no one with any legit academic credentials would normally dare release the results of a study with such a microscopic number. It would be like trying to say that a third of all Christians would endorse the genocide of gays by surveying 73 people from the same church in Mississippi. Or that a third of women believe in polygamy because 73 women who belonged to a Mormon church in Salt Lake City were surveyed.   Or that a third of NFL fans think the New England Patriots are cheaters because 73 Indiana Colts fans were surveyed. The idea that you can paint an accurate picture of college students country wide based on the responses of 73 guys at one single school is beyond absurd. This study, for all intents and purposes, is flawed to the point of being useless.

But I’d wager that the results might not be too far off the mark. And that’s the problem.

I’m as Progressive as they come and I’ll defend my beliefs and values until the cows come home, cook dinner and leave again. And Gender Equality is a hill I’ll die on six days a week and twice on Sunday. But I’m also a Pragmatist and the only thing this survey, and the attention its received, will do is hurt the cause it’s trying to help.

Look, if you don’t think there’s a problem, on college campuses or anywhere else, with how our culture views and treats women or the challenges and often dangers they face on a day to day basis, and how they often get the short end of the stick legally, then I don’t know what to tell you. Entire forests have been felled detailing the problems that women face, the struggles they’ve endured and the sacrafices they’ve made and how far we still have to go as a society, and every day we’re often provided with another example of how if a women speaks out or seeks justice, for any reason, she faces merciless vilification in the media and around the water cooler. I can offer at least a dozen day to day examples of the casual disrespect I see women suffer, often with an accepting grace I could never muster. Not to mention the daily cases we see in the world at large by a culture that prefers its women to be window dressing or damsels in distress. Or victims, preferably the quiet ones. And there are certifiable, legitimate statistics in both Canada and the United States that more then bear that reality out.  If I ever have the privilege of being a father and I happen to have daughters I’m going to be freaking out on a truly epic level (and I’m never really kidding when I say that they’ll be armed and know how to kill a man by the time they’re thirteen). If you really want a clear example today, I’ll refer you to a story on Cracked.com, written by a rape victim entitled “8 Ways the Legal System Screws Rape Victims (Like Me).” It isn’t the story you should read (although I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you need an eye opening reality check), but the feedback it received. Against my better judgement I skimmed some of the more then 4300 comments left on the site and the hundreds more left on Cracked’s Facebook page (on a story that had only been posted that morning, mind you) and Sweet Baby Batman the amount of victim blaming, name calling and naked misogyny turned my stomach so badly that I wanted to run out onto the street and penis punch the first straight male I encountered. With a honey badger. That had rabies. Some of the respondents, in all their class, replied to this young woman’s article, a woman who had been raped and endured the humiliating trial to convict her attacker, that her story was uninteresting and she needed to work on her “base writing skills.” The simple fact that the United Nations, a global body that usually addresses major issues with glacial speed, thinks it needs a Goodwill Ambassador for Women speaks volumes. So again, if you’re one of those people who refuse to acknowledge the problem or willfully ignore it, well not only do I not have time for you, but you are part of the problem. So now that we’ve got that straight . . .

The reason this survey is more damaging then anything else is because it bases its results on wholly unreliable procedures. And it’s more obvious then Donald Trump’s hairline. The problem is this survey gives the deniers and the haters, the people like my aforementioned friend “Allan,” another bullet in their arsenal. And a big one at that. Whenever the debates begin to rage, when someone tries to illustrate the very real problem in our culture by citing legit numbers and statistics, opponents will simply be able to roll their eyes and respond “you mean like the North Dakota one?” In short this survey stains far more thorough and efficient studies with its incompetence.

You want a real survey? Conduct it on a dozen schools in each of the fifty states, engaging at least a thousand respondents on every campus. I would not be surprised to see if a much larger, much more detailed survey yielded similar results (horrified and disgusted, but not too surprised), but a true conversation cannot begin with just the sliver of a study that researchers at the University of North Dakota provided. Extend it to high schools as well and offer a detailed analysis of views, perspectives, age, subjects majored in, academic success, economics even vocabularies and cross reference all of that data against that individual school’s record on sexual assault (because every day it seems we’re hearing of more and more schools that have spent years brushing thousands of sexual assault allegations under the rug a la Penn State). That’s where the conversation, as overdue as it is, begins. That’s where it has to begin. Now will people like “Allan” (or the fine folks at the likes of FOX News, Breitbart or others for that matter) take the survey at face value, no matter how thorough it is? No. But they won’t be able to use it against the already mountains of data proving the problem exists and desperately needs to be addressed. They’ll have one less disguise to hide their ignorance and hatred and have one less excuse to use when they’re dismissed from the conversation.

Shayne Kempton


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