Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Nov. 21, 1996 issue of Workers World newspaper
Collette Boothe was slashed to death on Nov. 4 in her Bronx apartment. Her husband Stanley, who had a long history of wife abuse, was later found dead.
Princess Barrife was found with her throat slashed Nov. 6 in her Bronx apartment after the constant crying of her 9- month-old daughter worried a neighbor. In October the child's father, Cleon J. Spence, had pleaded guilty to violently harassing Barrife. He had received a suspended sentence and a year's unsupervised probation.
Helen Coppola was fatally shot at her job in Manhattan on Nov. 8 by her estranged husband Pasquale Coppola. He had a long history of wife beating and had recently threatened her life.
All three women are victims of anti-women violence. According to 1992 statistics, four women are murdered by their male partners every day in the United States. Such killings--nearly 1,500 each year-- account for 12 percent of all murders nationwide.
The issue is violence against women. Each year more than 4 million women are physically assaulted by their male partners. Men are responsible for more than 95 percent of all "domestic" assaults, which in turn account for one- quarter of all the violent crime in this country.
In fact, battering is the greatest single cause of injury to U.S. women--more than car accidents, rapes and muggings combined. Yet, government sources estimate that only about 10 percent of all instances of it are even reported.
The only remedy the government currently offers women who are being verbally harassed, physically assaulted, stalked, kidnapped or threatened with death is a court order of protection. Helen Coppola had that piece of paper, but it didn't save her life.
Why are women being assaulted and killed in the name of love?
Some chalk it up to human nature: Certain men cannot control their innate aggression. So they turn it on those closest to them. But calling mysogny--woman-hating--human nature lets sexist society off the hook.
Actually, studies show that wife battering rises as economic hardship increases and men who are laid off become enraged and frustrated.
Capitalism exploits and impoverishes people. Since the system also defines women as inferior and unimportant, it's no surprise that exploitation and impoverishment leads some men to take out their rage and frustration on women.
Yet violence against women pervades all classes. Analyzing the problem from a Marxist perspective sheds light on its origins.
Ownership of private property is the motor that drives all forms of class society--whether slave-owning, feudal or capitalist. Because of what Frederick Engels called the "historic defeat of the female sex," women have been oppressed as men's private property ever since society was first divided into classes thousands of years ago.
Male dominance of women, or patriarchy, was instituted because property-owning men wanted to bequeath their wealth and power to their sons. First they had to possess and control their wives.
Men treating women as private property--whom they can control, batter or even kill--is the origin of violence against women.
What is needed to end these brutal and deadly forms of women's oppression? Ending private property and breaking the many chains of class society that oppress working and poor people around the world.
Only then can all human relations be reorganized on the basis of mutual respect and equality. And women won't have to fear for their lives.
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