A modest proposal for dealing with unwanted husbands

David Warren , 

The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last Sunday I wrote, and was chastised by several correspondents for writing:"The keystone of the feminist order is 'domestic violence.' Men are so universally presented as having 'anger management issues,' that even in the extreme case, where a woman has murdered her husband, the court will invite feminist 'experts' to argue that the man must have deserved it. And the man in this scene is unable to defend his own posthumous reputation, for dead men tell no tales." As if in response to this cue, an Ottawa court -- veritably, an Ontario Superior Court -- reached that very evening a "Father's Day Verdict" in the trial of one Teresa Pohchoo Craig. By way of precisely illustrating my remark, the jury responded to "expert" feminist testimony by quashing both first- and second-degree murder charges, convicting her instead only of "manslaughter" for stabbing her husband while he slept. Widow Craig's "support group" was also out in force to hear this latest legal vindication of what we might call "the woman's prerogative" in the postmodern age.

Feminist "experts" argued that, even though there was no evidence the late Mr. Craig had physically abused his wife, ever, in any way, he was nevertheless guilty of "verbal abuse," for telling her it was "my way or the highway." This amounted to "battered wife syndrome," according to Dr. Evan Stark, author of Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life, and the star defence "expert." Widow Craig was also victim of "battered mother's dilemma," since the dead man had allegedly told her he'd get custody of their child if she left.

The notion that a man would get custody of the child in such circumstances is risible. Mrs. Craig had only to make one phone call to the police, or one visit to the nearest women's shelter, and a living Mr. Craig would have been family court toast. The notion that the man in such circumstances will get custody even of his own paycheque, after any kind of "abuse" has been alleged, is similarly risible. One must assume that not only Mrs. Craig, but the entire jury, was born yesterday.

I am not entirely without sympathy for the widow. I'm sure it was an unhappy marriage. Moreover, I can make an argument for her lawyers: for once courts have begun to accept such metaphysical arguments, as abuse without abuse, a defence lawyer is bound to use them in the interest of his client. I can think of no way to excuse the courts.

To grasp the injustice of this case, and of many preceding cases across Canada and around the Western world, one has only to reverse the "genders." Let my gentle reader imagine, if she will, that Mr. Craig had put the pillow over Mrs. Craig's face, while stabbing her in her sleep. He admits to that, but his lawyers argue that he was suffering from "battered father's dilemma" since he would never see his son again if Mrs. Craig left him. Let us also bring in some neighbours to tell the court that the hypothetically deceased Mrs. Craig was a shrew, a scold, an alewife, constantly ordering her poor husband about. True, she never hit him, but the hapless fellow was suffering from "battered husband syndrome" all the same, to say nothing of "post-traumatic stress disorder." Further comment is unnecessary.

But I don't want to leave this unpleasant subject on a negative note. Let me suggest one practical reform, to make our present legal arrangements less painful, and by way of introducing "feminism with a human face." I propose that some sort of constitutional challenge be brought to the Supreme Court, or even presented to Parliament (though I would prefer it go to the more powerful legislature), arguing for the restoration of a form of capital punishment in Canada on humanitarian grounds.

We wouldn't be asking for it in cases of murder, terrorism, etc., but only in those where a woman has decided to terminate a husband or boyfriend. The argument would be that in such cases, the woman herself should be spared the disagreeable necessity of performing the deed, and the man of having to endure an amateur execution that might prove cruel, unusual and prolonged.

Under the system I propose, where a man is to be terminated, his wife or girlfriend would simply provide his name and address to the police, who would then deliver him to a kind of "Morgentaler clinic" for unwanted men. There'd be a slight, but unavoidable paperwork delay, while the police assured themselves that all the man's property would be transferred to his widow or girlfriend by a proper will. (We might also need a court ruling to prevent life insurance companies from refusing to pay out after a man has been "euthanized.") As a legal formality, there might at first be a standing committee of qualified feminist experts at every "men's clinic," to pronounce judgment before each execution is performed. Later, our Supreme Court could strike down this formality, as an unwarranted interference in women's "equality rights." David Warren's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.