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Congress tends to pass some bills on the eve of a major holiday or at the tail end of a session because some members, at least, are embarrassed to do it when the press is likely to notice. The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is one of these.
Anthropologist Lionel Tiger called it a "civic celebration of antipathy to men." Last July, columnist Wendy McElroy cited it as an example of how "inaccurate studies [that] become entrenched in laws govern our daily lives." But members of Congress are understandably unwilling to vote against a bill opposing antiwoman violence. Regardless of the bill's content, a vote against it could easily be used at the next election to unseat almost anyone who dared to cast it.
When VAWA slipped into law in 1994, the late Andrea Dworkin, the most outstanding male-hater of her generation, told the New Republic that the only reason the bill got through the Senate is that "senators don't understand the meaning of the bills they pass." What she seemed to mean, I wrote in a U.S. News column, is "that Congress was naively institutionalizing the radical view of domestic violence as antifemale terrorism by a relentless oppressor classmen."
Last summer, when Congress held hearings, columnist Cathy Young of Reason magazine and the Boston Globe suggested that VAWA be detached from its roots in antimale radical feminism and renamed "The Family Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Act." That didn't happen, and the reauthorization of VAWA provides a massive $3.9 billion, some of it for praiseworthy programs but much to fund the march of radical feminism. Young wrote another column last week pointing out that because of lobbying by men's advocacy groups, VAWA money can now go to provide assistance to male as well as female victims of domestic violence.
In theory, this means the ideological slant of the original VAWA (men are oppressors, only women are victims) is a bit dented, though hardly overcome. As Young points out, most of the state coalitions against domestic violence are based on the men-bad, women-good ideology, "a secular religion with the patriarchy as the devil." There should have been congressional insistence that that each state create a board to oversee how VAWA money is spent. It would still be a good idea if Congress could awaken long enough to consider it.