Parts of this post were used in Aggravated.
In the previous post I looked at the overly religious nature of Ada Dixon’s book, Overcoming and Dealing With a World of Abuse, which I believe make the chance of it being used as a psychological self-help book extremely remote. Another thing I noticed about the book was its tendency to use male gender pronouns in an overwhelmingly negative context, and to largely cast females as victims. Dixon excused this tendency to some degree in a footnote on one of the early pages. She stated that abuse does happen to both sexes, but said she used feminine pronouns for victims and masculine pronouns for women because “the majority of victims are female and most perpetrators are men.” I tracked each of the pronouns between page 11 (the introduction) and page 219 (the last page of text).
Since a single sentence or paragraph could use several repetitions of pronouns to describe one individual, I counted a batch of pronouns only once if they all referred to one single abused individual or abuser. The three pronouns in the sentence, “He went to the supermarket where he work as a teenager, where some of his friends still worked,” would only count as one male pronoun. In Dixon’s book, referring to a character we’ll call Betsy (not the name Dixon used), the word ‘her’ is used four times, ‘she’ nine times, and ‘woman’ one time on two pages. There was also one mention of her ‘husband,’ and of ‘him.’ Her husband wasn’t her abuser, though, so I didn’t count his pronouns. There are fourteen pronouns or identifiers on Betsy’s first page which depicted her as the victim of abuse. A description of the incident continued on the next page, with 16 more identifiers for Betsy, plus two instances using the words ‘stepdad,’ and ‘him,’ to describe her abuser when she was a child. For those two pages of description, the 27 female descriptors of Betsy were counted as only one feminine descriptor of a victim. Her husband’s were counted zero times because he wasn’t a perpetrator or a victim. Her stepfather’s three descriptors were counted as one male pronoun for a perpetrator. In other words, I didn’t count the actual numbers of pronouns or identifiers, just the instances of abuse that were referenced, and whether that person was classified as an abuser or a victim.
In my chart, I used the term Abusive Male where words like ‘male’ or ‘he’ or ‘him,’ etc. were used to describe a male in a negative context (such as an abuser). I used Abusive Female when pronouns or gender identifiers like ‘she’ or ‘her’ or ‘woman’ were used to describe female abusers. Male Victim and Female Victim are the reverse of that, of course, indicating the use of gender pronouns to describe a male or female as a victim. Between pages 11 and 219, I found references to 71 separate abusive males, 10 abusive females, 23 male victims, and 68 female victims. I’m not saying she should have been more politically correct. I’m saying I believe her choice of words is indicative of a tendency to think of males as abusers and females as victims, and I think that bias may have extended to her testimony in the court cases where she appeared as an expert witness.
Dixon also, when referring to generic individuals or groups, such as addicts, had a tendency to use almost entirely male pronouns, as in “The essence of all addictions is the addict’s powerlessness over his compulsive behavior.” I did count those as male victims. At any rate, it seems to me that Dixon did show a clear bias by mostly referring to males as abusers and females as victims.
In the next post I’ll take a brief look at the possible influence Dixon’s book may have had on Hanna’s story and her testimony.
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