September 5, 2011
The domestic-violence incident involving former New York City deputy mayor Stephen Goldsmith illustrates what Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk has written about. Domestic violence has become an area where the government takes control away from the individual woman.
After Mrs. Goldsmith said to her husband, “I should have put a bullet into you years ago,” Mr. Goldsmith shoved her into a counter, smashed a phone, and held her for some moments. She called the police. When they got there, she didn’t want her husband arrested, but it didn’t matter. Arrest is mandatory once the woman has made the call, and her husband spent two days in jail before the charges were dismissed when she declared her wish that he not be prosecuted. (And the Goldsmiths were fortunate there. According to Suk, many disputes result in mandatory prosecution and sentencing, over the objections of the woman.)
Now the Goldsmiths have begun a public-relations offensive, calling the domestic-violence incident a “mistake” and a “misunderstanding.” No, it was not a mistake or misunderstanding. It is the law. A woman who declares herself a victim of domestic abuse by calling the cops will for a time be seen as incapable of making her own decisions. Evidently Mrs. Goldsmith regrets her action, but now his career is in shambles, his children have suffered, and the marriage is marred. No evidence has been presented that Goldsmith was a serious abuser; it was all for nothing.
As I mentioned in a previous PBC entry, Suk argues that, thanks to feminism, the home has been defined for the purposes of the law as a ”place of male violence.” This is due to what Suk calls “governance feminism,” developed by Catharine MacKinnon, which “focuses on the subordination of women by men, particularly in intimate and sexual relationships.” According to Suk, MacKinnon’s “influence on our legal system’s understanding of men and women cannot be overstated. If you talk to police, prosecutors, lawmakers, and judges about domestic violence, perhaps they have not read MacKinnon, but they often subscribe to the premise that men subordinate women through sex and violence.” Suk’s book, At Home in the Law: How the Domestic Violence Revolution is Transforming Privacy, from Yale University Press, was published in 2009.