Gender Oppression in U.$. Prisons

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[Gender] [Racism] [Abuse] [ULK Issue 1]
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Gender Oppression in U.$. Prisons

Sexual Violence in Prison shows Gender not about Genitalia

In 2004, pictures released from u$ prisons in Iraq showed amerikan bio-wimmin warding over primarily bio-male Iraqis in acts of rape and sexual assault. This incident helped substantiate MIM's long-standing line that gender is not based on genitalia and that amerikans with female genitalia are in fact gendered male. The male gender, by definition, being the dominant group in gender relations under the patriarchy.

MIM had already suggested that prisoners in the united $tates might be gender oppressed before the Abu Ghraib pictures came out. This was due to the control of the sexuality and leisure time of prisoners by the state. In particular, Black men as a group are prevented from having consistent sexual relationships. This of course affects the family structure of the oppressed and therefore is a form of national oppression as well.

To help sort out the gender status of biomale prisoners, a recent Department of Justice report gives us the surprising statistics that, "In State and Federal prisons, 65% of inmate victims of staff sexual misconduct and harassment were male, while 58% of staff perpetrators were female". (Here we are discussing the 52% of reported sexual violence in prisons where the captor assaulted captive. The rest were inmate-on-inmate assaults, addressed more below.) (1) In the general population 97% of sexual violence reports are wimmin victims and the perpetrator is generally male (around 98%). The instance of female perpetrators is actually a higher rate in instances of assaults on males, estimated at around 14%. (2) Much higher than female assaults on wimmin, but nowhere near the 58% of assaults on prisoners of any biology.

With 93% of the u.$. prison population being male, we would expect a much higher percentage of assaults to be against males than females, even if rates of assault for wimmin was higher. But assuming 97% of victimization is of bio-wimmin as it is on the street, you'd only get 29% of the absolute number of assaults being against men in prison. So we're seeing a ratio of male to female victims on the order of 2 times the general population. In other words, if wimmin are five times as likely to be assaulted in prison than they are on the street, then men are 10 times as likely.

Unfortunately, the study does not breakdown the statistics of female on male vs. female on female assaults. But even if we assume that all of the 35% of staff sexual assaults on wimmin in state and federal prisons are perpetrated by wimmin, that leaves another 23% of the perpetrators who are females attacking males (assuming one-to-one incidents, which was the vast majority). Even if you want to argue that no male guards ever sexually assault female prisoners, you see a significantly greater rate of bio-wimmin engaging in sexual violence against males in prison compared to the general population. Since female assaults on males in the general population are much higher than female assaults on females, we would be better off assuming the opposite. If we assume a proportional breakdown you'd be comparing 58% female perpetrators against bio-men in prison against the 14% on the street. If that weren't bad enough, we must factor in that females are still only a minority of prison staff, accounting for 22% in the federal system. (3) So that 58% of assailants is coming from maybe a quarter of the staff that happen to be bio-wimmin. These are the statistics that back up our line on Lynndie England that it could have been any amerikkkan womyn sexually assaulting Iraqi bio-men. And if we acknowledge that Iraqis under occupation are much more powerless and oppressed than amerikan citizens, then these statistics speak even louder to say that amerikan bio-wimmin are the enemies of the oppressed.

So first we saw that the vulnerability of men to sexual assault increases twice as much as wimmin after incarceration. On the flip side, we see bio-wimmin working for the state greatly increase their rates of assault compared to wimmin on the street. They go so far as to overcome men at the state and federal levels. In local jails the stats were closer to life on the streets, with 80% of the victims of staff sexual assault being female and 79% of perpetrators being male. (1) But even there a 20% rate of victimization of bio-men and 21% rate of assault by bio-wimmin is a noticeable difference.

Prisoners More Vulnerable than Wimmin?

While it is important to move away from one-on-one relationships in trying to understand gender systematically, incidents of sexual violence remains a widely accepted and useful indicator of gender oppression. The DOJ study showed sexual violence to be reported by prisoners at a rate of 2.9 per 1000 (it is not broken down by biology). This is about the same rate that 16-24 year old people, the age group with the highest rate, report sexual assault in the general population. The overall rate of reported sexual assault in the united $tates is 0.8 per 1,000 according to Department of Justice statistics. Only counting wimmin, the rate is 1.4 per 1000. Going back to prisoners, if we only look at state prisons the rate was 3.75 per 1000. All of these statistics are based on reported cases, and there could be reporting discrepancies between these groups. However, the statistics for prisoners are reported by the prisons, whereas the other stats are reported directly by the individual to the survey. Therefore, incidents not reported to police may be captured in the general population data, while they will not be reflected in the prisoner data.

So, it seems that prisoners (of both genders) and youth (of both genders) are reporting more sexual assaults than wimmin over all. If being young or incarcerated is really twice as risky as having female genitalia as the report rates suggest, then not only are there other considerations to determine someone's gender status, but there are factors that are much more important than what genitalia a persyn is born with. Below we will see how age and incarceration intersect to create one of the most gender oppressed groups in the united $tates.

MIM has established the basis for gender as purely gender in a persyn's physical development, age and health status. Therefore, when nation and class are not major complicating factors, such as within the amerikan labor aristocracy, these are the basis for gender differences.

However, the greatest differences in gender are found between the imperialist nations and the Third World people. Therefore when we talk about the spectrum of gender oppression we place most First Worlders on the male end of the spectrum, regardless of biology. We have demonstrated how First World bio-wimmin benefit by the patriarchy elsewhere. (4) The picture of bio-wimmin as sexual assailants in prisons above only adds to this argument. Now let's continue to look at how bio-men in the internal semi-colonies suffer under patriarchy via the criminal injustice system.

Are Black Men Gendered Female?

MIM circles have suggested that Black men could be gendered female due to their high rates of incarceration and historical vulnerability to whites who accuse them of rape. In other words, their gender power is limited by white hysteria around the Black rapist, and Black crime in general, in the context of a white-dominated society. The recently released statistics on sexual assault in prisons help to support this argument.

Among staff perpetrators in prisons and jails, 71% were white; 20%, black; and 7%, "Hispanic" and these averages were pretty similar to jails and prisons taken alone. (1) It's hard to argue that the 71% is a disproportionate number of assaults by white staff, as that is close to the representation of whites in the general population. However, in most service or otherwise undesirable fields of work, whites are becoming less common. It is a contradiction of our times that Blacks and Latinos are doing more of the footwork of the criminal injustice system than ever before. In the federal bureau of prisons whites make up only 57.2% of the staff. This number likely varies greatly among state prisons and local jails. Many states are still working on the good 'ol boy network, but some more prosperous states have taken the neo-colonial approach.

Among inmate victims, 80% were white; 14%, Black; and 5%, "Hispanic" in local jails, while 54% were white; 32%, Black; and 12% "Hispanic" in state and federal prisons. (1) In this data you see once again that whites are disproportionately the victims, even if they are slightly more likely to be the perpetrators. A couple explanations for this are suggested below. Even using the state and federal prison data, whites are 1.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than average, while Blacks and Latinos are below average for the prison population.

However, if you create an index based on the general population and not on prison populations you'll see that the u$ prison system results in Black bio-men facing much more sexual assault than other bio-men, especially whites who now have an index below average at 0.78 (see figure 1). By comparing these indexes between Blacks and whites one can see that when someone is born in the united $tates, h chances of being raped in h life would be 3.3 times greater if she is Black as opposed to white, ignoring other factors.

The identity politics crowd takes a mechanistic approach to oppression, giving the Black gay wimmin the pedestal of the most oppressed. They often put the straight Black man and straight white womyn on a similar level as each having one strike against them. But not only have Blacks historically been at the bottom of the national hierarchy in the united $tates, in the realm of gender they can compete with the white womyn pretty well for the title of oppressed. In general, all u$ citizens are gendered male anyway though. Just as the Black man is torn between his position as an amerikan citizen and an oppressed national, he is able to taste great gender privilege as well as oppression.

But Prisoners are Rapists Too

The Bureau of Justice reports that 48% of the incidents of sexual violence reported by prisoners were perpetrated by other prisoners. The idea that prisoners rape each other is nothing new to amerikans. It is probably more surprising to cop-loving amerikans that 52% of the incidents were actually perpetrated by prison staff, despite research that has shown the tendency of people to mistreat others when they have control over them in an oppressive prison environment.

One question that comes to the forefront in looking at prisoner-on-prisoner rape is whether these instances parallel lines of national oppression, with the oppressed being disproportionately victimized in gender relations. However, the prisoner perpetrators of sexual assault according to the reported incidents are approximately representative of the prison population by nationality. Meanwhile, the victims of rape are 72% white, when whites only make up 35% of the general prison population. As mentioned above, the accusal of rape against Blacks and other oppressed nations has been a tool of both national and gender oppression. It is possible that some of this statistic is an exaggeration based on white hysteria. But there are also reasons to believe that whites may face greater threats of sexual assault, such as the decline of white street organizations and the association of whites with the power structure. Franz Fanon and Eldridge Cleaver both talk about the socio-political motivations behind the pursuit or rape of white wimmin by Black men. In the all-male prison environment the white man can step in to play this symbolic role. If anything, gender is used as a counter-balance to national oppression among prisoners more than an extension of white power. It is on the systematic level that Blacks are facing significantly more gender oppression as explained above.

One area there seems to be a significant difference in rates of victimization is between different agegroups of prisoners. MIM sees age as part of the gender strand of oppression, so this seems intuitive. In the last two years of data, victims were on average younger than perpetrators. The latest data from 2006, show that 44% of victims were age 24 or younger, while 81% of perpetrators were age 25 or older. Unless 44% or more of the prison population are under age 24 (U.$. Dept of Justice does not seem to publish this data), the most vulnerable age group to sexual assault appears to be disproportionately more vulnerable once put in prison. Another source indicates that youth in adult prisons are 5 times as likely to be sexually assaulted than if they were in a youth prison. (6)

Some 82% of the victims in inmate on inmate sexual assaults were male. Where assaults are almost exclusively same-sex this is merely indicative of the significantly greater propensity for men to rape. But we cannot ignore the fact that 82% of the victims are bio-men as well. It is clearly a case of population dynamics. In this sense prisons are a perfect example to prove that gender relations are not dependent on having certain genitalia. By eliminating bio-wimmin, sexual assault does not disappear, in fact it increases for a variety of reasons in prison. And we see factors such as age, health status and physical development more clearly define a persyn's gender status. The young, physically small, mentally ill but physically healthy are the primary targets for gender oppression. (7)

In some ways the patriarchy within prisons is just a reflection of the greater society and in others it is a more extreme microcosm of power dynamics. This is indicative of the two levels on which fighting gender oppression in prisons must be conducted. The first level requires the transformation of the prison system to one that builds communal values rather than being a tool of oppression and punishment. The second requires combatting the eroticization of power in society in general and the dismantling of the patriarchy. Both require the revolutionary dictatorship of the oppressed to become realistic.

In the meantime, the extremes of amerikan prison life serve as an educational tool for the masses. It is much easier for a group to accept the "all sex is rape" line when they have been on both sides of patriarchal oppression, when they've been the victims of the extreme power dynamics of prison life, and when many have had their own gender privilege taken away for doing what every one else is doing and just calls sex or love. It is in these ways that we take some positive lessons from these statistics for the future building of a proletarian feminist vanguard among lumpen youth in the united $tates.

The clearer lesson we take from all this is the negative lesson of the alliance of amerikan bio-wimmin to the patriarchy. The group that is traditionally considered the greatest victim of patriarchy by the white nationalist left is behind 58% of sexual assaults in u$ prisons. That just doesn't add up.

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