Dear MET, you need to learn the definition of the word mistake.

I’ve just seen the appearance of Commander Graham McNulty (Specialist Crime Investigative Unit) on Channel 4 News. It was appalling.

You did not “make a mistake” in investigating the multiple rapes committed by John Worboys. Nor, are there any “complexities” in rape cases because they happen in private. Oddly, burglaries also happen in private places and we don’t think it’s “complex” to investigate them.

Your officers made a decision not to investigate rapes reported by women. They failed in their duty to investigate appropriately.  The High Court judgment awarding compensation to two victims of Worboys uses the word “systemic” when referencing your failure to investigate Worboys.

Frankly, McNulty’s appearance on Channel 4 News leaves me less faith in your organisation to support rape victims and investigate the crimes involving sexual violence.

You have a problem within your organisation and women don’t trust you. You need to recognise this and actually do something about it. Otherwise, I’m going to assume you still don’t care about women.

#DickheadDetox: Perez Hilton

Perez Hilton is a shitstain on the face of humanity. I’ve never added him to the #DickheadDetox because, frankly, I didn’t know where to start with his misogynistic body-shaming and victim blaming. He is cruel and spiteful and racist and classist.

Yesterday, he tweeted out this:

“Inside every gay man is a fierce black woman!”

This pretty much sums up everything which is wrong with Hilton in one sentence.

Not that this is shocking in any way shape or form since googling Hilton and racism brings up a veritable encyclopaedia of “How to be Racist”.

Welcome to the Patriarchy where dogs are more important than women

Welcome to the Patriarchy where the brutal murder of two women are insignificant in the face of the death of four dogs. At least, according to The Mirror who responded to the murders of  Christine Lee, 66, and daughter Lucy, 40,  with a chat to the RSPCA.

Granted the death of 4 dogs isn’t something to celebrate but I’m going to go ahead  and suggest that brutal murder of two women by a male member of their family is (a) not an isolated incident but rather part of systemic male violence against women and (b) more worrying than the death of four dogs. I’m sure I’m going to get a pile full of hate mail for this stance but I really don’t care.

Christine Lee and her daughter Lucy were brutally murdered.  Men who kill women who are known to them almost always have a history of domestic violence. Yes, John Lowe, 82, has a documented history of animal abuse and had been give a 5 year ban on breeding dogs by the local council but this is important because animal abuse can be a warning sign of domestic violence.

Lets focus on what is important here: another man violently killing women. A full history of his abuse of animals is not necessary. What is important is investigating whether or not he has a documented history of violence against women, which I’m fairly sure it will.

This is the story of the murder of Christine and Lucy.

Their family deserves our consideration and support.

Christine and Lucy deserve our collective will to end violence against women.

 

Thank you to Counting Dead Women for raising this disgraceful example of misogyny.

 

 

On Being a “Media Whore”

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this. It didn’t seem worth writing a response to something so full of hate: labelling women as “media whores” for trying surviving in a Capitalist-Patriarchy which hates women.

This isn’t a feminism I signed up for: attacking other women. Most of us are struggling to pay our bills. We are all doing the best we can and, yes, it’s fucking hard trying to make a living as a writer. I certainly don’t make a living as a writer. After all, everyone knows the Huffington Post doesn’t pay it’s bloggers. If they offered me a paying job would I take it? Absolutely! I’d write for the Daily Mail too. If it comes down to feeding my kids or writing for Brendan O’Neill, well, it’s not really a choice is it?. Having principles doesn’t feed your kids.

Having principles and refusing work because of them is only possible if you are financially secure due to family money or winning the lottery. It’s not practical for the vast majority of women living on the planet and it’s inherently anti-feminist to blame women for taking work to pay their rent or feed the kids. The assumption that women you’ve never met are in a financial position to turn down work is classist. It erases the experiences of working class women and those living in abject poverty.

I’ve been pretty open about being a disabled, single mother whose work possibilities are severely limited by both. If they world were fair, my dream job would a lecturer at a university teaching undergraduates women’s history and supervising postgraduates. But, the world is not fair and, short of winning the lottery, there is no way I will ever be able to afford the training to achieve my dream job.

This is why 3rd wave “choice” feminism is so dangerous: it allows people to make assumptions about women they have never met and genuinely know nothing about. It assumes all women have inherited money from their parents and are completely free of being held accountable for the consequences of their decisions. Anyone who thinks that women make choices without constraint is either a nincompoop or completely incapable of empathy.

The reality is that the world is a pretty shit place for many women: we live with sexual and domestic violence, unequal pay, inadequate housing,  and living in a country where the economy benefits from the unpaid work of women and then labels us lazy despite us doing the majority of the work which keeps the economy afloat.

Blaming women for surviving is neither fair nor kind. It’s precisely the same type of abusive behaviour that women experience from men on a daily basis. The patriarchy already tries to divide women into categories of “good” and “bad”; we need to stop replicating that and stop demanding perfection from women.

We also need to learn to express our anger and hurt without trashing, denigrating or libelling other women. It is never acceptable to call another woman a whore. It is never acceptable to attack any woman using misogynistic language and it is certainly anti-feminist to police other women’s friendships, acquaintances or work colleagues.

You have no idea whats going on in the lives of complete strangers online and it’s time to stop pretending that we do. And, it’s time to stop excusing abusive behaviour because of “anger” or “hurt”. Anger is understandable. Abusive language and behaviour is not.

The New Turns Feminism Conference and the no-platforming of Julie Bindel

Last November, I was asked to speak at the New Turns: Feminism in the 21st Century Conference on the panel on Feminism and Capitalism. When I was invited, there were already a number of high profile women attached to the event like Prof Liz Kelly, blogger Glosswitch, Kat Banyard, Julie Bindel and Sarah Brown. I accepted the invitation because it was a great line-up with some fabulous panels planned.

I did not know until I arrived that the journalist and campaigner Julie Bindel had been no-platformed. She was originally scheduled to appear on a panel on transgenderism and feminism with Sarah Brown, a transwoman, who is a city councillor in the city of Cambridge. When I was invited in November it was with the impression that Bindel and Brown would both be appearing on the panel on transgenderism and feminism.

I do not know the exact timeline of what happened next but this is what I have gathered from various conversations on the day and on Twitter after the conference.

  • Brown objected to being on a panel with Bindel and said so on twitter on several occasions.
  • A number of people began campaigning to have Bindel no-platformed because of “transphobia” and “Islamaphobia”
  • The NUS have/had a no-platform policy for Bindel and QME ran a petition to have Bindel banned on this
  • The New Turn organisers then tried to have Bindel moved to the panel on Violence against Women due to her long career of activism on the issue.
  • This was not deemed acceptable and the boycott was not rescinded
  • There was also a sustained campaign of harassment against the organisers, specifically a female organiser not the men which in and of itself is misogyny.
  • In the end, the entire panel on transgenderism and feminism was cancelled and the other two panelists, including Sarah Brown, were disinvited.

As I said, the were numerous conversations about the situation on the day; I cannot say for certain what happened and when because I was not involved. I do think the conference organisers were placed in an untenable situation in which they are dependent on                                            NUS support and effectively had no choice. Responsibility for the no-platforming of Bindel lies squarely with the NUS, QME and those engaged in the sustained campaign of harassment. During the conference, numerous panel members made it very clear that they fundamentally disapprove of no-platforming any women. A statement at the end of the conference by the organisers also made it very clear that Bindel’s work on violence against women is important and dismissing this work is simply inappropriate.

During the conference, I heard a number of people say that Bindel was no-platformed for transphobia and that they ‘knew’ she was transphobic, yet none of them had read Bindel’s work. They also didn’t know who Sarah Brown is. Many others didn’t know there was supposed to be a panel on transgenderism and feminism or that anyone was uninvited. I have to wonder how many people demanding that Bindel be no-platformed are familiar with her work.

It was certainly depressing being at a feminist conference with women suggesting that it was ok to no-platform Bindel despite knowing nothing about her or her work. Considering the frequency with which women have been silenced through harassment, libellous statements and abuse from men, I would hope that feminists, at the very least, would personally investigate before demanding women be no-platformed. Frankly, I find it utterly hypocritical to demand the silencing of women you’ve never heard of.

This has become the state of feminist politics: we cannot simply disagree with one another. Instead, it appears that feminism is about silencing women you disagree with: preventing them from speaking by having them no-platformed and if that doesn’t work going with harassment and violent threats. And, now demanding women you’ve never heard of be no-platformed because someone else told you that they heard that the person did/said something you are now required to disagree with.

The New Turns conference should have been brilliant. All of the panels has a wide variety of speakers covering a spectrum of feminist political beliefs. My panel on feminism and capitalism included an investment banker, a Marxist-feminist and me on the incompatibility of radical feminism and capitalism. The panel called “Generation Y” had Liz Kelly and Viv Regan, the managing editor of Spiked, on it. I can assure you that I fundamentally disagree with absolutely everything Regan had to say about the state of modern feminism, the reality of rape culture and “victim” feminism. Regan represents everything I find offensive about liberal feminist discourse and I still believe that it was important that Regan spoke at the conference (if only to hear the brilliant Rosa from the new online magazine Bad Housekeeping demolish Regan’s arguments.)

This is precisely how feminism should operate: giving all women a chance to speak, hearing them and making informed decisions based on your analysis of information received and not just what someone said to you based on something someone else said one time.

Feminism doesn’t require us to all agree on everything all the time. It’s actually one of the things which used to make feminism a powerful movement: that we disagreed and argued and fell out. This is normal. As Liz Kelly said during the Generation Y panel: feminism is a movement, not a political party. There is no party line that we *have* to follow. Yet, we appear to have arrived at a situation where feminism is a hierarchy with a strict party line where the loudest and most abusive shout and silence others.

Threatening other women with violence, demanding they be no-platformed for not agreeing with you, and publicly trashing other women isn’t feminism and we’ve got to stop pretending it is.

We are silenced, harassed and ignored by men on a daily basis. They don’t read our writings, listen to our music or watch films which star women who are fully clothed. We should not be silencing each other.

We don’t have to agree. Hell, we don’t even have to like one another but we shouldn’t be silencing the voices of other women. Call them out if you disagree but don’t silence.

And, conferences like this are organised by unpaid volunteers. If you don’t like how they are running a conference, do your own. Don’t abuse the organisers.

 

 

The Incompatibility of Radical Feminism and Capitalism

radical feminism is radical because it challenges all relationships of power, including extreme forms such as male violence and the sex industry … Instead of tinkering ar

ound the edges of the question of gender, radical feminism addresses the structural problem which underlies it.

We do not use the term patriarchy to refer to the rule of the father but rather the systemic oppression and subordination of women rooted in the “appropriation by men of women’s sexual and reproductive capacity” which, as Gerda Lerner states predates the formation of a class society and the concept of private property but it is nonetheless now inseparable from capitalism. Control of women’s potential capacity for reproduction and sex(uality) has been commidified and politicised with the creation of the state

When radical feminists use the term sex, we are referring to the biological realities of female, male and intersex bodies. We use gender to refer to the social constructions and stereotypes placed on bodies which are culturally and historically contextualised. Gender is a harmful social construct that operates as a system of oppression through the unequal power relationship between men and women: and within the categories of male/female when referencing race, sexuality, class, faith etc. Gender is harmful because it takes the simple biological reality of women’s potential reproductive capabilities to deny women access to public spaces and, therefore, power. Gender creates categories of masculinity and femininity and claims them as real despite the fact that they vary widely in definition across cultures and history. It also eroticises the power differential between men and women rendering women as a “sex class”.

The patriarchy predates capitalism but they are now intertwined so that we cannot dismantle the patriarchy without fundamentally deconstructing capitalism, or, more simply, eradicating it completely. As such, radical feminism and capitalism are inherently incompatible. After all, when the stock phrase “equality under the law” is used, radical feminists ask: equal to whom? What group of men do women want to be equal to when wealth and power are located within a very small group of mostly white men.  This power is maintained through the threat of and the actuality of violence whether this is violence within the home or sanctioned by the state. When

What we don’t do is adequately contextualise male violence within the broader framework of control of women’s reproductive and sexual capacity. The media occasionally covers the mass rape of women in the Congo yet consistently fails to mention that the war in the Congo is caused by capitalism and consumerism.[4] We artificially separate the economic reasons for war from the human cost of those wars.

Human trafficking, for sexual, domestic and labour slavery, is one of the largest industries in the world and is intimately tied in with trafficking of illegal substances and arms.  We allow children to work in sweatshops earning less than a subsistence wage so we can change our wardrobe every 3 months and have a new mobile phone every 12 months. We simply fail to discuss the reality that capitalism requires poverty, racism, misogyny and classism to exist. This is antithetical to radical feminism.

The Equal Pay Act has existed since 1970 and women still earn 15% less than men.  Women of colour continue to be paid less than white women for similar work. Women still do the majority of unpaid work including childcare, housework, caring for elderly relatives or those with disabilities, and the organising of family life. This work is not counted when we assess women’s economic output despite the fact that the unpaid labour of women is worth tens of billions of dollars annually. This is male economic violence against women: both within the family and by the state. It maintains women’s oppression through poverty.

We all know the statistics on domestic and sexual violence: we know that 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience domestic violence from a male partner during their life. We know that 2 women a week are murdered by their current or former partner, yet we don’t talk about the consequences of male economic violence against women and children which starts with women’s unpaid labour.

Women’s Aid states that the financial cost of domestic violence in the UK, in which women are the majority of victims, is 23 billion dollars. According to the charity Gingerbread, only 38% of single parents receive child maintenance. Despite the fact that children in single parent households are twice as likely to live in poverty, the government has seen fit to dismantle the Child Support Agency, which was hardly fit for purpose to start with, and replace it with an agency that will charge people to use it.

The dismantling of the welfare state in the UK has disproportionately affected women pushing more women and their children into poverty. According to the Fawcett society:

(w)omen are more likely to be employed in low paid, part-time work, more likely to head a single parent household, likely to have less financial assets and more likely to live in poverty, especially in older age.

Women are more dependent on state benefits than men. In their roles as carers, women are more likely to be impacted by cuts to the NHS, education and social services, particularly if they or their children are disabled.

If we look globally, more than 780 million people live without access to clean water and 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation. In the US, 1 in 3 women live in poverty. The UN estimates that 80% of female workers in sub-saharan Africa and South Asia are in vulnerable employment.

These are the consequences of capitalism that is predicated on racism, poverty and misogyny. We cannot liberate women from male domination as long as our economic and political power requires many women to live in poverty without access to education, clean water, health care, and nutrition. This is why radical feminism and capitalism are incompatible.

 

Below are links to research into poverty and women’s rights.

 

Prostitution, Sexual Slavery and the Sex Industry:

Radical feminism opposes the legalisation of prostitution and seeks to end what is commonly referred to as the “sex industry”. The global sex industry uses women’s poverty and institutionalises and normalises violence against women, racism, and the colonisation of women’s bodies. Aboriginal women in Canada and the US are disproportionately represented in prostitution, poverty and prison. Women involved in the sex industry, from prostitution to lap dancing clubs, have higher rates of PTSD than other groups of women as well as higher rates of substance misuse and histories of sexual violence.

Prostitution, trafficking for sexual slavery and the legal forms of the global sex industry is worth billions of dollars and the vast majority of this money rests in the hands of men. Men control the trade in the bodies of women and childre, profit from the trade and abuse women’s bodies for their personal gratification. As long as women are forced to live in poverty, women will be forced to work in the sex industry.

Beauty Industry :

The beauty industry is a billion dollar industry that prescribes women’s behaviour and appearance. Women are deemed unfuckable unless they meet very narrow guidelines of beauty: tall, thin, and white. Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth shows how the industry keeps women materially and psychologically poor.

The cost of being “beautiful” (and therefore worthy of humanity) includes the billion dollar cosmetic industry, plastic surgery for implants and liposuction as well as designer vaginas. The fashion industry, with it’s obsession with clothes which do not fit adult women and shoes which maim, is also worth billions:  money which women are forced to pay to deemed worthy of employment and life.

 

International economics controlled by multinational corporations and poverty:

 

Water Facts from the UN

  • 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet.
  • 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.
  • 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
  • Various estimates indicate that, based on business as usual, ~3.5 planets Earth would be needed to sustain a global population achieving the current lifestyle of the average European or North American.
  • Global population growth projections of 2–3 billion people over the next 40 years, combined with changing diets, result in a predicted increase in food demand of 70% by 2050.
  • Over half of the world population lives in urban areas, and the number of urban dwellers grows each day. Urban areas, although better served than rural areas, are struggling to keep up with population growth (WHO/UNICEF, 2010).
  • With expected increases in population, by 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50% (70% by 2050) (Bruinsma, 2009), while energy demand from hydropower and other renewable energy resources will rise by 60% (WWAP, 2009). These issues are interconnected – increasing agricultural output, for example, will substantially increase both water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water between water-using sectors.
  • Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.
  • Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies).

 

Domestic Violence Statistics (taken from Women’s Aid):

  • 1 in 8/ 1 in 10 women experience domestic violence annually
  • 45% of women experience one form of interpersonal violence during their life.
  • There are 13 million separate acts of physical violence or threats of physical  violence each year against women by current or former partners
  • 32% of women who had ever experienced domestic violence did so four or five (or more) times, compared with 11% of the (smaller number) of men who had ever experienced domestic violence
  • women constituted 89% of all those who had experienced 4 or more incidents of domestic violence.

 

What is the cost of domestic violence?  (Women’s Aid)

The estimated total cost of domestic violence to society in monetary terms is £23 billion per annum. This figure includes an estimated £3.1 billion as the cost to the state and £1.3 billion as the cost to employers and human suffering cost of £17 billion. (Walby 2004). The estimated total cost is based on the following:

  • The cost to the criminal justice system is £1 billion per annum. (This represents one quarter of the criminal justice budget for violent crime including the cost of homicide to adult women annually of £112 million).
  • The cost of physical healthcare treatment resulting from domestic violence, (including hospital, GP, ambulance, prescriptions) is £1,220,247,000, i.e. 3% of total NHS budget.
  • The cost of treating mental illness and distress due to domestic violence is £176,000,000.
  • The cost to the social services is £0.25 billion.
  • Housing costs are estimated at £0.16 billion.
  • The cost of civil legal services due to domestic violence is £0.3billion.

The statistics collated by Walby above are recognised as an under-estimate because public services don’t collect information on the extent to which their services are used as a result of domestic violence. The research doesn’t include costs to those areas for which it was difficult to collect any baseline information – for example cost to social services work with vulnerable adults, cost to education services, the human cost to children (including moving schools and the impact this has on their education), and it excludes the cost of therapeutic and other support within the voluntary sector.

The cost of domestic homicide is estimated by the Home Office at over one million pounds: a total of £1, 097, 330 for each death, or £112 million per year.

 

Information on Child maintenance from Gingerbread:

  • Only two-fifths (38 per cent) of single parents receive maintenance from their child’s other parent (31)
  • For all those with an agreement for child maintenance (both through the CSA and private arrangement) the median weekly amount received is £46 per family (32)
  • The average amount of child maintenance liable to be paid through the CSA is currently £33.50 per week (£22.50 if all cases with a weekly assessment of zero are included in the average). (33)
  • Among parents with care in receipt of income-related benefits, the average amount is £23 (excluding cases with a weekly assessment of zero) (34)
  • Of single parents receiving child maintenance through the CSA, 40 per cent receive less than £10 per week, 38 per cent receive between £10 and £50 per week and 22 per cent receive more than £50 per week (35)

 

Signs of Violent and Controlling Behaviour from Women’s Aid:

  • Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening.
  • Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children; lying to your friends and family about you; telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
  • Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people; not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting your telephone calls; taking money from your purse without asking; refusing to help with childcare or housework.
  • Breaking trust: lying to you; withholding information from you; being jealous; having other relationships; breaking promises and shared agreements.
  • Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls; telling you where you can and cannot go; preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
  • Harassment: following you; checking up on you; opening your mail; repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you; embarrassing you in public.
  • Threats: making angry gestures; using physical size to intimidate; shouting you down; destroying your possessions; breaking things; punching walls; wielding a knife or a gun; threatening to kill or harm you and the children.
  • Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts; having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex; any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
  • Physical violence: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling.
  • Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; saying you caused the abusive behaviour; being publicly gentle and patient; crying and begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again.

 


[1] Denise Thompson, Radical Feminism Today, (Sage Pub. 2001)

[2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, (Oxford University Press: 1986)

[3] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (Oxford University Press: 1986) p.8

[4] Million Women Rise coalition at UK Feminista Summer School. 2011

Women are not possessions: fighting rape culture with misogyny

Every time I hear someone say  to a man ” You should call out rape apology because what if the woman was your mother or sister or aunt or daughter”, I wince. It’s one of those statements that men who think they’re helping make without recognising that it actually reinforces rape culture.

Rape culture depends on creating a dichotomy between “good” and “bad” women.  This is the basis of patriarchy: women as possessions of men who are controlled and oppressed through (violent) social structures which reinforce the construction of women as possessions. Implying that men should not rape in case someone else rapes their mother or sister or daughter is not helping to dismantle rape culture. It merely reinforces the belief that some women are unrapeable because they are not a possession of a man. If we want to end rape culture, we need to say rape is a crime committed against women, children and men; not because they are possessions of a powerful man but because they are human and are entitled to bodily autonomy and safety.

I understand that many people use the expression “what if it were your daughter or mother” because they are trying to help. We just need to be careful that the language we use does not accidentally reinforce the very structures we are trying to dismantle.

The “Die in a Fire” Meme: Making this Positive Feminist Activism

This week I received more of these “die in a fire” tweets. Normally I ignore these types of abusive messages insofar as I have no interest in acknowledging abusive trolls. However, as these trolls are well aware, my sister recently suffered a catastrophic house fire. The fire marshall has made it clear that if my nieces and nephews were in their rooms, they would have died. Many other women have similar stories of losing family and friends in a fire. This is without acknowledging the history of burning women as punishment: from the witch hunts to suttee to the murder of women and children by violent men.

The “die in a fire” meme is misogyny.

It is used to silence women, control and punish women.

Any woman using this phrase or suggesting that it’s excusable is not a feminist. They are abusers.

Rather than wasting time trying to explain why “die in a fire” is misogyny to abusers, let’s turn this into a positive piece of feminist activism and donate to Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid in the names of women who have been brutally assaulted and murdered through the use of fire.

Family Annihilators: The Murder of Luke Batty and the Reality of Domestic Violence

This was first published at Ending Victimisation and Blame: Everyday Victim Blaming.

Luke Batty was brutally murdered with a cricket bat by his father Greg Anderson in a cricket ground in the presence of his mother.

Greg Anderson was then shot by a police officer in what was apparently a “suicide by cop”.

For 3 days, the media has been reporting Anderson’s poor mental health and writing sympathetic articles about how we must empathise with Anderson for feeling upset at being denied contact with his son. Excuses were made as were demands for empathy with Anderson.

Yet, the evidence of Anderson’s history of domestic violence has been clear from the start. There is also no evidence of a formal diagnosis of mental illness. This line appears to have come from a quote from Luke’s mother Rosie Batty and has been picked up as fact by the media. As far as I have been able to ascertain Anderson had no formal diagnosis of mental illness which has been released to the media although he was homeless for many years; people who are homeless are statistically much more likely to have mental illnesses and ones which remain undiagnosed and untreated than the general population.

We know now that Anderson had been questioned by the police in January for assault and let go despite 5 outstanding arrest warrants. We know that Anderson had multiple interactions with various agencies because of his history of violent behaviour. We know he was only allowed contact with his son in public places because of his violent behaviour. We know that Rosie Batty had an AVO against him because of his violent behaviour. We also know that the murder was premeditated since Anderson took a knife to the cricket pitch.

Despite this, the media have been writing about how much Anderson “loved his son” and that it wasn’t known why Anderson “snapped”.

Anderson took a knife to his son’s cricket practise. He had a history of domestic violence. These are not the actions of a man who loved his son. They are the actions of a violent, controlling man.

As it stands, we do not know the exact nature of Anderson’s health but we do know that men who murder their children very rarely have mental illnesses and that people with mental illness are far more likely to harm themselves than to harm anyone else. This is one of the biggest myths about mental health: that those who have clinical diagnoses are violent.

Men who kill their children, themselves and/or (ex-)partners are referred to as family annihilators. These men have one thing in common: a history of domestic violence.They are controlling men who choose to harm their children and former partners to punish them. If Anderson did suffer from mental health problems, then he is an anomaly rather than representative of men who murder their families.

We need to contextualise the brutal murder of Luke within a pattern of male violence. It is not an isolated event nor is it one which could not have been predicted. Domestic violence does not happen in a vacuum. In the UK, two women a week are murdered by violent partners. 1 in 3 women in the world will experience domestic and/ or sexual violence. Children and women experience violence in the home on a daily basis.

Domestic violence costs the world economy billions every year yet we continue to pretend that family annihilators are “isolated events” and “tragic incidents”. The truth is the opposite: domestic violence is an everyday occurrence for many women and children.

We need to start addressing the issue of domestic violence properly. We need to stop pretending that domestic violence is an isolated, non-gendered crime. Men are the vast majority of perpetrators of domestic violence. These men do not have mental illnesses. They make the choice to be abusive.

I am waiting for the results from an official inquest into the murder of Luke because I do not trust the media to report accurately about the mental health of Anderson. The media is complicit in perpetuating male violence through inaccurate reporting and victim blaming. If it turns out that Anderson did suffer from mental illness that went untreated, then the agencies involved with him will need to be held accountable for their failures. If Anderson was not mentally ill and was a family annihilator, then the media needs to be held accountable for perpetuating damaging myths about mental illness and myths about male violence.

We need to the media to stop writing articles which make excuses for violent men. We need them to follow the guidelines set out by the National Union of Journalists on how to report domestic and sexual violence appropriately. We need the media to take responsibility for perpetuating the myths on domestic and sexual violence.

We need to prevent more children being murdered at the hands of their fathers and we can not do this without being clear what caused their death.

– See more at: http://everydayvictimblaming.com/submissions/3715/#sthash.SVpJDnjP.dpuf

 

Update and Clarification: The first news report I read referred to Luke with the last name Anderson. I’ve since been informed that Luke had his mother’s name Batty. I’ve changed the names within the piece to reflect this.

Anderson had brought a knife with him to the cricket ground and threatened an officer with it which is what lead to his death by shooting. Reports now suggest that he also used the knife to harm Luke. Arriving with a knife suggests premeditation.

The Creation of Patriarchy, the Reality of Women’s Oppression and Infertility.

Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy is an absolutely fabulous text and I highly recommend it. Lerner’s thesis is based on the belief that women’s oppression is based on both women’s potential reproductive ability and their potential as sex objects which occurred before the creation of private property and a class society. This is then institutionalised in practise through the creation of slavery, the codification of laws and the creation of monotheism. Lerner’s thesis is, obviously, far more complex than that brief sentence and her work deserves more thought than I’ve written.

A conversation earlier today on twitter had me thinking in a different direction. The conversation was about recognising women’s oppression as a class due to potential reproductive capacity without excluding those women who are infertile. This is all completely speculative and I’ve done no research and am quite open to being completely wrong on the following (and would love suggestions for books which either prove or disprove my musings).

I agree with Lerner’s thesis: women are oppressed because of reproductive and sexual capacities but I have been thinking about the role of infertile women in the creation of patriarchy. Women’s safety depended on their relationships to men with power. This would have put infertile women in very precarious positions. If they could not bear their husband that much vaunted male heir, how would it impact their safety? Yet, an infertile sister might be of economic boon to their brother’s household if she was deemed unmarriageable (or replaced by another woman).

So, what was the impact of being infertile for women across cultures and history?

  • Would women who are infertile be more likely to be used for sexual slavery?  At certain points, their infertility could be classed as a positive since the lack of offspring would prevent questions about dynasty, inheritance and power.
  • The infertility of first wives could give space for other women to carve themselves a place of safety by bearing a child for a powerful man.
  • With the high rate of maternal mortality, the labour of infertile women in childrearing, caring, housework and estate management must have been of economic benefit.
  • How often were infertile women used as “bogeymen” as a warning for women to behave lest they too become infertile.

 

If anyone has suggestions for research which has addressed these issues, please get in touch!