Hate Crimes and Gender

By Jessica Hodge

Approximately two years ago, I wrote a blog entry on the same issue I am writing about today – the gender category of hate crime law. In the blog entry I wrote two years ago [1], I shared how I was anxiously waiting for the FBI to publish their most recent version of the Hate Crime Statistics report. This report, published by the FBI each year, is a compilation of crime statistics submitted by police agencies across the country. [2] The report provides details on the number of hate crimes committed across the country and in each state, what types of offenses were committed (e.g., murder, assault, vandalism, etc.), and which types of biases were present within the offenses (e.g., anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Jewish, etc.). While there are certainly flaws with this report, I am always curious to review it as the report provides the only national indicator of hate crime offenders and victims that we have in this country.

Two years ago, I eagerly waited for the report to come out because it had been two years at that time since the gender category had been included within the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). With the passage of this Act in 2009, police agencies were required to gather statistics on gender-motivated violence, similar to how they gathered statistics on other types of hate crimes. As someone who has studied gender-motivated hate crimes for over a decade, I was anxious to see how the inclusion of the gender category within the federal law would change how these types of crimes were handled by law enforcement officials. Since it was two years after the passage of the HCPA, I was ready to finally see how gender-motivated hate crimes compared to other types of hate crimes across the country. So what did I learn when the report was published that year? I learned that I was going to have to continue to wait….and wait….and wait. Now, four years after the passage of the HCPA, and two years since my previous blog entry on this issue, I still wait. In fact, I find myself in the same position as I did two years ago – waiting to see whether the gender category will finally be included within the FBI’s annual report.

Why is it taking so long for the gender category to be included within the FBI’s report? There are a few possible explanations. Although it has been four years since the passage of the HCPA, sometimes agencies are slow to implement a new policy if they are not fully supportive of the change, they do not have the proper resources to fully implement it, or they need to develop and provide training to the appropriate staff so that the change can be executed correctly and efficiently. In other words, sometimes it takes time for a new law or policy to be put into place.

Despite the frustration of having to wait the past four years for the changes to take place, I have been reminded of something recently – I can remain frustrated and wait, or I can work to make changes. Although I might not be able to change how quickly (or not) the gender category is included within the FBI’s annual report, I can work to change how gender-motivated violence is perceived by law enforcement officials, how news reporters cover gender-motivated crimes, and perhaps most importantly, how society views offenses committed against persons simply because of their gender. When we ignore how crimes motivated by someone’s gender are similar to other types of hate crimes, we send a message to the victims, the offenders, and to society that gender is not important – that crimes motivated by a victim’s gender are not as serious or as harmful as crimes that are motivated because of one of the other types of bias. This needs to change, and I do not have to wait for some report to work on these changes.

I hope that in two years I will have a very different story to share.

Jessica Hodge, Assistant Professor

Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, UMKC


[1] To read this blog entry, see: http://info.umkc.edu/wgs/2011/10/

[2] For more information regarding the FBI’s report, see: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr.

“Latina Spiritualities” – A Lecture by Professor Lara Medina

 Join us for a special presentation by Dr. Lara Medina, California State University at Northridge

“Latina Spiritualities: Paths of Creativity and Responsibility”

Thursday, April 25th

6:00 ~ 7:30 p.m.

Katz Hall 101

Reception will follow the lecture

Dr. Medina’s presentation will provide an overview of the diverse strands of Mexican American/Chicana spiritualities, beginning with an historical perspective on our indigenous lineages, the impact of Christianity, and ongoing creative strategies to sustain spiritual and political activism.  This event is sponsored by Latina/Latino Studies Program, Women’s & Gender Studies Program,  and the Bernardin Haskell Lecture Series Fund.

The lecture is open to UMKC students, faculty, and staff, and members of the Kansas City community.

 

 

Professor Kathy Krause Awarded NEH Fellowship

Dr. Kathy Krause, professor of French in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, has won a year-long National Endowment for the Humanities grant that will allow her to complete her research and write a book on “The Role of Noblewomen in Literary Production in Northern France during the 13th Century.”  This is not the first time her research has earned national-level recognition.  In 2008, Dr. Krause explored the subject as a Fulbright scholar in northern France and Belgium.

Her interest in this topic was piqued as she read a number of French literary works from the 13th century.  Not only were women major characters, but in many cases, they held substantial lands.  Dr. Krause explains, “A remarkable number of female protagonists and other major female characters are heiresses.  In many cases, that is what starts their troubles, and thus the story itself.  These were works of fiction, but they reflected the reality of the time.  As I researched, I found that during this period almost all the major domains in northern France were inherited by women.  In most of western Europe–with notable regional variations–women inherited in the absence of a brother.  If there were no male children, daughters could, and did, inherit.”  In later centuries, the historical record was re-interpreted to conform to a male-dominated social structure.  For example, in the 19th century, men couldn’t imagine women as heiresses, so they wrote women out of the stories.

Dr. Krause, who joined the UMKC faculty in 1995, said the NEH Fellowship will not only benefit scholarship in the field of medieval literature, but also her students.  “The work I’ve done with manuscripts has already enhanced my teaching, helping me to give students a better understanding of what literary production was like in the Middle Ages — as well as what real life was like.”

 

Gender and Identity in 1950s Cookbooks

By Mari Nomura

As a kid I spent hours paging through old cookbooks. My favorites were from the 1950s. I was fascinated by the kitschy illustrations, curious casseroles and decadent desserts. The years of love and use were evident in our copies: the well-worn binding easily opened to favorite recipes and margins were speckled with notes about who-liked-what. These books were a part of our family.

 So it came as a surprise when I opened The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook recently. I expected to feel nostalgic and was instead confronted by this section on cooking for men: “when the men return from a day’s fishing … you’ll want to be prepared with a hearty late supper … They will fare well; and so will you, as you go skipping off to your own evening … with the girls.” What?! That must be a mistake. I kept reading and found an excerpt about men “inventing” grilling while women watched and criticized. It concluded “… and it’s been that way ever since: Men continue to be inspired and resourceful cooks — and women continue to do most of the cooking.” Oh no, it was true. Men were repeatedly depicted as serious providers who require hearty meals while women existed to serve men; their actions and needs were flippant and trivial. These cookbooks that occupied a warm, fuzzy place in my heart were replete with oppressive language.

 Filled with questions, I went to the library. Although women were consistently portrayed in traditional domestic roles in cookbooks, millions of women actually worked outside the home. The “housewife identity” was more a work of fiction on the part of the cookbook authors than a depiction of reality. Why would this be — who would benefit from propagating a “housewife identity”?  My answer came as I realized that many of the popular cookbooks in the 1950s were produced by large food conglomerates such as General Mills and General Foods. These companies relied on women as the primary purchasers and consumers of their products, and they wanted to keep it that way.

 Promotional cookbooks consistently tied a woman’s  identity to the food she purchased, served and ate. They explained food should be interesting and attractive, just like the hostess. Some even warned that a boring dinner implied a boring cook. Luckily, you avoid such traps with the help of their cookbook. But, these solutions were consistently biased. Betty Crocker’s cookbooks were heavily weighted with recipes that contained General Mills products, such as Gold Medal Flour and Bisquick. In many ways, promotional cookbooks were no more than lengthy advertisements and domestic propaganda by the food companies.

Today, most of us think of cookbooks as practical, benign guides, devoid of bias. However, there are still companies behind cookbooks and those companies are still motivated by profits. In the 1950s, cookbooks sought to scare women into buying their products (lest they be negatively judged by their peers). Even though this method is unpopular today, companies are still trying to convince consumers to buy their goods. I challenge you to learn from these 1950s cookbooks: take a hard look at your everyday items and the rhetoric they espouse. Even the seemingly innocuous items may be fodder for prejudice.

 

The Hate Crime Statistics Report – Gender-Motivated Violence

By Dr. Jessica Hodge, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology

As someone who studies hate crimes and teaches a class about the subject, I find myself anticipating every year the release of the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report.[1] In this report, the FBI provides a variety of statistics involving the types of hate crime incidences that occurred during the previous year, and the number of hate crime offenders and victims that were involved in these offenses. The statistics included within this report are the numbers submitted to the FBI from police agencies across the country. While these numbers do provide a national picture of the number and types of hate crime offenses that took place during the previous year, the FBI’s report is far from accurate. For example, not all police agencies across the country regularly report statistics to the FBI, and even with the agencies that do report statistics to the FBI, not all of these will include their hate crime statistics. Another problem with the FBI’s numbers is that most crimes go unreported to law enforcement and thus are not included within the final total. This occurs for a variety of reasons, but in the context of hate crimes, victims are often reluctant to report incidences for fear of retaliation or further victimization by the offender(s) or by police officers. This is substantiated by the fact that advocacy groups, such as the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project,[2] describe significantly higher numbers within their own reports since victims of hate crimes often feel more secure going to these organizations for assistance.

Even though I am aware of the flaws with the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report, I still look forward to seeing the report every year as this is the closest thing we have to official national statistics. As someone who studies the subject, I am always interested to see how the numbers have changed in comparison to previous years’ reports. For example, I can see what types of bias crimes are most common across the country, and whether the type of crime (e.g., property crime vs. violent crime) differs depending upon the type of bias motivation (i.e., whether the crimes were motivated by the victims’ race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.). However, this year, I am particularly anxious to see the report, so much so, that I have been checking the FBI’s website almost daily. Why do you ask? Well, good question!

Two years ago, on October 29, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). This law had gone through many revisions and encountered much resistance, but after ten years, the law was finally passed by Congress and signed by the President.  This law, now two years old, provided several changes to the federal hate crime laws that existed at the time; yet, in my opinion, one of the most significant revisions was including the category of gender within this law. This was significant because prior to the passage of the HCPA, if a victim was targeted because of her gender, this would not be counted within the FBI’s report because the gender category was not included within the FBI’s definition of a hate crime. As someone who has studied the subject of gender-motivated hate crimes for almost ten years and recently published a book on the topic[3], this is a BIG deal. Now that the gender category is included within the FBI’s definition, this means that the category is now on the radar of local police departments. This a huge step toward finally recognizing the impact of gender-motivated violence and for acknowledging how these crimes are just as harmful as other types of bias crimes. While it may take time for police to fully understand how gender-motivated crimes are similar to other types of bias motivated crimes, this is at least a step in the right direction. The collection of statistics does not eliminate the problem, but statistics do inform policy and practice. And for this reason, I wait for the FBI to release this year’s report and wish a “happy anniversary” to the Mathew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.


[1] For more information regarding the FBI’s report, see: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr.

[2] For more information regarding the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, see: http://www.kcavp.org/site/.

[3] My book is titled Gendered Hate: Exploring Gender in Hate Crime Law. For more information, see: http://www.upne.com/1-55553-751-0.html.