The general assumption – well, we all assume it’s true because every damn feminist on the planet keeps telling us it’s true – that intimate partner violence is because of the inequalities of the patriarchy. Or capitalism for the really extreme explanations. If only we were a more equal society – economically and also in gender rights – then such violence would diminish to the point of entirely vanishing away.
As it turns out this isn’t true, not remotely so. Such intimate partner violence is more common in Sweden than it is in Spain. And absolutely no one is going to say that Sweden is more patriarchal than Spain now, are they? Nor is it more unequal.
One of those things I didn’t know. More than that, the difference isn’t something that is, among those who study such things, even remotely controversial. The observation stands entirely as a known and accepted part of the statistics. The only arguments are over why it happens. It even has a name, the “Nordic Paradox”. Suggesting that it’s not even about Sweden, it’s something to do with those icy social democracies. Even gender equality perhaps.
Among those who don’t want to have to face up to this inconvenient fact the usual response is, oh, well, they’re measuring different things. What Sweden defines as partner violence is much closer to what it ought to be. Spain just ignores a lot of it.
You know, like Swedish rape law considering agreed upon bonking but without the agreed upon condom to be rape. You know, Julian Assange. Ah, no scratch that reference, not a good one for lefty causes, is it?
But even that turns out not to be true. It’s not just recorded intimate partner violence which is higher in gender equal Sweden than patriarchal Spain, it’s actual intimate partner violence:
Prevalence of intimate partner violence against women in Sweden and Spain: A psychometric study of the ‘Nordic paradox’
They test the statistics:
The high prevalence of intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) in countries with high levels of gender equality has been defined as the “Nordic paradox”. In this study we compared physical and sexual IPVAW prevalence data in two countries exemplifying the Nordic paradox: Sweden (N = 1483) and Spain (N = 1447). Data was drawn from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights Survey on violence against women. To ascertain whether differences between these two countries reflect true differences in IPVAW prevalence, and to rule out the possibility of measurement bias, we conducted a set of analyses to ensure measurement equivalence, a precondition for appropriate and valid cross-cultural comparisons. Results showed that in both countries items were measuring two separate constructs, physical and sexual IPVAW, and that these factors had high internal consistency and adequate validity. Measurement equivalence analyses (i.e., differential item functioning, and multigroup confirmatory factor analysis) supported the comparability of data across countries. Latent means comparisons between the Spanish and the Swedish samples showed that scores on both the physical and sexual IPVAW factors were significantly higher in Sweden than in Spain. The effect sizes of these differences were large: 89.1% of the Swedish sample had higher values in the physical IPVAW factor than the Spanish average, and this percentage was 99.4% for the sexual IPVAW factor as compared to the Spanish average. In terms of probability of superiority, there was an 80.7% and 96.1% probability that a Swedish woman would score higher than a Spanish woman in the physical and the sexual IPVAW factors, respectively. Our results showed that the higher prevalence of physical and sexual IPVAW in Sweden than in Spain reflects actual differences and are not the result of measurement bias, supporting the idea of the Nordic paradox.
So, we’re left with that lovely question. Why do more gender equal countries have more intimate partner violence?
Which leads to a more important one. Why is absolutely everything we’re told about gender violence, as a result of this, such colei*?