How to identify a school you shouldn’t send your kids too.

A school in Gustine Texas has forced around two dozen kids, segregated them by sex and then forced them to pull down their pants after feces was discovered on the gym floor. The school’s defence, via Superintendent Baugh of the school district, appears to be that they only made the kids pull down their pants just a little bit.

Because there is totally an acceptable amount of lowering underwear that schools should be able to force children to do.

I am completely flabbergasted by this. I cannot believe that any adult with even a modicum of respect for children could even think about doing this, never mind actually following through with it. And, this is without getting into the issues of child protection and the possibility of the child acting out due to child sexual abuse or a developmental delay that results in children being unable to understand the consequences of their actions. I find it very hard to believe a neurotypical child who has never experienced abuse would do something like this. Even if this turns out to be a bet between children, there is clearly an unhealthy power dynamic occurring.

The parents have gone to the media and are demanding that the school be held accountable. I’d be tossing around words like sexual assault and threatening to sue the school. I’d also be looking for a new school for my kid because children have the right to bodily autonomy. They shouldn’t be exposed to this type of abusive behaviour. Because, it is abusive.

Granted, finding feces on the gym floor isn’t a highlight of anyone’s career in education and a school in this situation does need to find the child responsible. They need to find the culprit to appropriately support the child. Demanding children lower their underwear is disgusting behaviour – and this without getting into the issue of child sexual abusers working in schools. To be honest, I’d be wondering if the teachers whose idea this was and those who participated were child sexual abusers. I certainly wouldn’t trust them near children.

What if they had found the culprit this way? Does the school believe public humiliation is an appropriate punishment? Or, that mass humiliation as a communal punishment is anything but piss poor teaching? What if the child had done it as a cry for help because of sexual abuse in the home? Or, that the gym teacher was sexually abusing them? Or, the caretaker staff were? What if this was an accident following long-term bullying of the child by other students? What if it were incontinence caused by long-term anal rape?

There are so many other questions that arise from a school who does this that I could spend the next 7 hours listing them. What they all boil down to is that any school who thinks this is appropriate isn’t a safe school for children.

Jay Leno can fuck right off

So, Jay Leno has now joined the line-up of dudes who claim they believe the women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape Yep, apparently Leno has always known that Cosby is a sexual predator. And, he believes all the women. But, he still has Cosby on his talk show.  Because it’s easy to come out pro-women after years of women being labeled liars & some other dude calling Cosby out.

Since we can’t possibly allow profit to drop by supporting women by refusing to have a sexual predator on your talk show which has a bazillion members of the audience and regularly won the most watched show in its time slot. Nope, instead Leno until a whole bunch of decades later to come out to support women.

Leno can take his sanctimonious twaddle elsewhere because I genuinely don’t give a shit about the number of rich, white dudes lining up now to claim they believe women when they could have done something 20 years ago. Leno is a coward – not a supporter of women’s rights.

Why don’t we talk about bad fathers?

This is an old post that I meant to expand but didn’t:

 Today, Giles Fraser wrote about the ways in which mothers fuck up their children. Granted, he briefly mentions fathers but, mostly, Fraser blamed women for not being ‘good enough’. At no point does Fraser mention the role of fathers in raising children or ‘fucking them up’. Fraser ignores the reality of male violence against women and children within the home that has a serious detrimental effect on children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Why are mothers always to blame when it is men who commit the vast majority of violence within the home? Children experience domestic violence at the hands of their fathers both as victims and as witnesses. It is fathers who sexually assault and rape their children. It is mostly fathers who refuse to financially support their children preferring instead to allow them to live in poverty to punish the mother and it is fathers who kill their children to punish the mother. Why do we blame mothers for not being “good enough” when it is fathers who are the mostly like to abuse children – physically, emotionally, and sexually. Why don’t we talk about bad fathers?

 

Mrs Doubtfire is a Great Dad: And Other Stories of Stalking as Fathering

I was watching reruns of Bones the other day. I love Kathy Reich’s books and her character of Temperance Brennan and the TV show is an interesting way of rebooting the series without following the books (although I suspect partly this was a way of ensuring that an actress in her 40s wouldn’t play the main character because middle age women are a no-no if they aren’t married with children). The entire subplot of one episode was of the male lead Special Agent Seely Booth, played by David Boreanaz, using his privilege as an FBI agent to investigate the new partner of the mother of his child. At no point during the episode was it made clear how creepy, controlling and illegal the act was; instead, it focused on what a good Dad he was.

This same story line was integral to the plot of Mrs Doubtfire: a movie which celebrates incompetent fathers stalking their ex-wives and gaining access to their personal life and house through deception.  I’ve written before about my failure to recognise the abusive behaviour within Mrs Doubtfire:

 The stalking of the mother and the wearing down of her boundaries is classic abusive behaviour. Being “jealous” of Miranda’s relationship with a new man isn’t the behaviour of a good man – it’s the behaviour of an abusive man who believes his ex-wife is also his possession. Daniel has no right to interfere with his ex-wife’s new relationships. He has no right to stalk her and he has no right to manipulate her. Lying to Miranda and the children about who he is isn’t a funny movie plot. It’s the creepy behaviour of a classically abusive man.

I’ve seen far too many police dramas recently where fathers misuse their power to stalk their former partners and spy on them. This is always presented as normal behaviour by a man concerned about his children’s safety. The male lead in Breakout Kings, played by Domenick Lombardozzi,  consistently violates the boundaries of his ex-wife and screams in her face. Even when their child is abducted, he fails to talk to the ex-wife and, instead, screams repeatedly at her. This is the entire sum of their communication throughout the series: he shows up at her house screaming and demanding to see the kids. He pushes his way into the house, demands they do exactly what he says immediately and repeatedly refers to the child as his possession. Somehow, we’re supposed to believe these are the actions of a good cop who loves his children and not of an abusive man continuing to abuse both the ex-partner and child after the end of the relationship – that stalking and harassment are the signs of a good partner and not a criminal act.

I would like to see a cop drama run this story line and the police officer get caught and sent to prison. Just once, I want a program to reflect the reality of male violence, stalking and harassment.

 

Brilliant Girl Blogger and Feminist Activism

This post comes under the heading of ‘nepotism-by-proxy’ since these particular blogger happens to be the daughter of a friend.

HotCrossBrezel is run by Cat who is active across various social media platforms, including instagram, where she shares her art, and youtube. Cat’s most recent post is in response to her parents planning on refurbishing their kitchen. So, Cat spent the weekend researching on pinterest ways to improve your kitchen and wrote this brilliant blog about cheap ways to do so.

We spend so much time humiliating children who misuse social media or who make simple mistakes about politics which then gets shared by 3 000 people. What we aren’t doing is teaching children how to use social media appropriately so they can share their work. We need to stop sharing all of those Buzzfeed articles which name and shame people for mistakes online and we need to stop pretending that banning kids from social media will protect them. Online bullying is rife but telling kids to stop using Facebook won’t end it. If we want to stop it, we need adults to engage in the behaviour we want children to mimic. Kids engage in online bullying because adults do.

Lynn Schreiber, mother of the awesome Cat, has written extensively on safeguarding and social media. Her most recent blog examines the new problematic campaign from the NSPCC which ignores the issue of online bullying to focus on sexual predators (and assumes boys sending girls pictures of their penis is normal behaviour). Parents and schools need to know more about online safeguarding of children, but it needs to start with parents modelling appropriate behaviour. And, yes, I judged every single person who shared the youtube video of a young gymnast’s suit ripping on so her vulva was on display negatively. In fact, the phrase perpetuating sexual violence was what I was thinking every time I saw it shared.

Social media is a fundamental part of our culture now. Kids need to learn to use it and we need to start positive reinforcement as a way of teaching children to use it effectively. I love Cat’s blog and her YouTube channel. I want to see more young girls developing the confidence to showcase their talent and their enjoyment of life online. I want to see a generation of kids growing up knowing that social media can be a positive place.  I’ve allowed my youngest daughter to get an Instagram account. It’s at the top privacy setting possible and it mostly features pictures of our cats being ridiculous. I’m hoping that my daughter will follow Cat’s lead and be confident in sharing her art online as well. And, I’m hoping I will never have to have the conversation about online bullying with her.

Supporting young girls is a fundamental part of feminist activism. I’m going to start practising this by sharing blogs and writing supportive comments. We can change online spaces for girls. We just need to take the lead.

 

THE ORIGIN AND IMPORTANCE OF THE TERM FEMICIDE by Diana E.H Russell

This article appears on Diana E.H Russell’s website. You can find more of her work here.
I first heard this word … in 1974 when a friend in London told me that she had heard that a woman in the United States was planning to write a book titled “Femicide”. I immediately became very excited by this new word, seeing it as a substitute for the gender-neutral word “homicide.”

I first used the term femicide in public when I testified to the approximately 2,000 women from 40 countries who attended the first International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, in Brussels, Belgium, in 1976. Here is a photo of the female-only participants attending this groundbreaking global speak-out, some of whom also testified about other crimes against women. We, the organizers, used the term “crimes” to refer to any and all forms of patriarchal and sexist oppression of females.

Belgian feminist Nicole Van de Ven and I compiled a book about this event, including all the testimony, which we titled Crimes Against Women: The Proceedings of the International Tribunal, which was published in 1976. Used copies of this book are still available on Amazon.com.

Incidentally, when I finally discovered that Carol Orlock was the author who had planned to write a book on femicide, but had never done so, she told me that she couldn’t recall how she had defined femicide. She also expressed delight that I had succeeded in resurrecting this term that now promises to eventually raise global awareness of the misogynist character of most murders of women and girls, as well as mobilizing women to combat these lethal hate crimes against us.

When I testified about femicide at the International Tribunal, I defined it implicitly as a hate killing of females perpetrated by males. For example, I stated that:

“From the burning of witches in the past, to the more recent widespread custom of female infanticide in many societies, to the killing of women for so-called honor, we realize that femicide has been going on a long time.”

Just as murders targeting African Americans and/or other minority groups, are differentiated by those that are racist and those that are not, so must murders targeting females be differentiated by those that are femicides and those that are not. When the gender of the victim is irrelevant to the perpetrator, the murder qualifies as a non-femicidal crime.

After making minor changes in my definition of femicide over the years, I finally defined it very simply as “the killing of females by males because they are female.” I’ll repeat this definition: “the killing of females by males because they are female.” I use the term “female” instead of “women” to emphasize that my definition includes baby girls and older girls. However, the term femicide does not include the increasingly widespread practice of aborting female fetuses, particularly in India and China. The correct term for this sexist practice is female feticide.

Examples of femicide include the stoning to death of females (which I consider a form of torture-femicide); murders of females for so-called “honor;” rape murders; murders of women and girls by their husbands, boyfriends, and dates, for having an affair, or being rebellious, or any number of other excuses; wife-killing by immolation because of too little dowry; deaths as a result of genital mutilations; female sex slaves, trafficked females, and prostituted females, murdered by their “owners”, traffickers, “johns” and pimps, and females killed by misogynist strangers, acquaintances, and serial killers.

There is a continuum of femicides ranging from one-on-one sexist murders, e.g., a man strangling his wife because she plans to leave him; to one or more males killing a group of women for, say, refusing to wear the correct attire in public; to the other end of the continuum, for example, mass femicides such as when preference for male children results in the killing, or death from neglect, of millions of female babies and girls, as in India and China.

My definition of femicide also includes covert forms of the killing of females, such as when patriarchal governments and religions forbid women’s use of contraception and/or obtaining abortions. Consequently, millions of pregnant women die every year from botched attempts to abort their fetuses. And when promiscuous AIDS-infected males continue to feel entitled to have sex with their wives, girl friends, and/or prostituted women and girls, their sexist behavior causes the death of millions of these women and girls. So do AIDS-infected males who refuse to wear condoms to protect their female sex partners and the females whom they rape, including the common practice in parts of Southern Africa where many males rape babies — including their own daughters — believing that these barbaric acts will cure them of AIDS. Hence, I consider AIDS resulting in the deaths of females to be a form of mass femicide.

Some people might wonder why I decided to use the invented word femicide instead of some other term like gender-discriminatory-murders. First of all, gender discrimination is not specific about which gender is a victim of discriminatory murder. In addition, the prefix “fem” connotes female, and “icide” connotes killing — as in terms like homicide, suicide, genocide, patricide, matricide, infanticide. More importantly, the excitement I felt when I first heard the new word femicide caused me to intuit that other feminists would likely share my response.

Just as U.S. Professor Catharine MacKinnon’s invention of the new feminist term sexual harassment was necessary before laws against these crimes could be formulated, so I believed that inventing a new term for sexist/misogynist killings of females was necessary for feminists to start organizing to combat these heretofore neglected lethal forms of violence against women and girls. Still today in the United States, where rates of violence against women are extremely high, most feminist organizations set up to combat violence against women, continue to ignore the most extreme form of it, that is, the murder of women.

….

I’d like to begin my conclusion by quoting a slightly edited version of a paragraph of the testimony on femicide that I delivered at the International Tribunal in 1976.  These words followed my reading descriptions of 17 examples of femicides that had occurred recently in San Francisco, in the Unites States — where men’s murders of their wives are by far the most frequent form of femicide.

Men tell us not to take a morbid interest in these atrocities.  The epitome of triviality is alleged to be a curiosity about “the latest rape and the latest murder.”  The murder and mutilation of a woman is not considered a political event.  Men tell us that they cannot be blamed for what a few maniacs do.  Yet the very process of denying the politics of this form of terrorizing women helps to perpetuate it, keeps us weak, vulnerable, and fearful.  These are the twentieth century witch burnings.  The so-called “maniacs” who commit these atrocities are acting out the logical conclusion of the woman-hatred which pervades all the patriarchal cultures in the world.

 More recently, increasing numbers of male leaders in several countries order their armies and supporters to perpetrate mass rape-and-mutilation femicides as a deliberate strategy in their patriarchal wars.  If increasing numbers of women and our male allies don’t succeed in organizing effective strategies against femicide, the already epidemic prevalence of femicides in almost all countries will escalate even more.

We must demand that the United Nations recognize that large numbers of males are engaged in a war against women and girls in which many of us are terrorized into submission.  National and international efforts must be made to assist feminists in ending this war — including by implementing severe punishments for the millions of perpetrators of femicide, just as the perpetrators of genocide are prosecuted for their murderous acts.

What is feminist activism: Jessica Valenti, Julie Bindel and the loss of criticial analysis

(cross-posted from My Elegant Gathering of White Snow)

Jessica Valenti’s latest article in the Guardian made me roll my eyes. It’s yet another in a long line of dreary “who gets to be a feminist” that doesn’t actually discuss what it means to be a feminist, so much as taking out 10 minutes to trash the reputation of other women who call themselves feminists. Interestingly, it’s precisely what Valenti suggests Bindel does in Bindel’s latest Guardian article.

There is a very necessary discussion of the definition of feminism to be had – both in law and praxis. Valenti’s definition rests on gender equality. My definition is the liberation of women, as a class, from male violence and that our liberation requires the abolition of gender. It recognises that capitalism is intertwined with patriarchy and that both are predicated on inequality in law and culture. Women can never be “equal” to men when capitalism requires many to live in poverty in order to allow a small group access to wealth. Gender equality means nothing when we have laws that grant women equal pay in existence for more than forty years and women are still consistently paid less than men and this is without acknowledging the fact that women of colour are paid less than white women. I believe pornography, prostitution, and all other forms of the sex industry constitute violence against women and girls.

Jessica Valenti and I have very different definitions of feminism. I think her feminism actively harms women and I’m sure she would feel the same about my definition. The difference is I don’t doubt Valenti’s commitment to feminism and to supporting women. I fundamentally disagree with her political stance but not her activism.

This is why I am quite disgusted with her article in the Guardian likening Julie Bindel to Sarah Palin. It demonstrates a complete failure to fact check Julie Bindel’s 30 years of feminist activism and erase it based on one article that Bindel wrote over ten years ago. Feminism needs critical analysis. We need to read the research, the personal testimonies, and then make judgements based on fact. Basing the entire career of one woman on one article from 10 years ago isn’t critical engagement. It ignores Bindel’s work with Justice for Women and supporting the Emma Humphreys Prize for Ending Violence against Women. It ignores Bindel’s work on the harm of pornography and prostitution – you don’t have to agree with her position but erasing her work is patriarchy in action.

Julie Bindel is a gender abolitionist – this doesn’t mean she “oppose(s) the very existenceof trans individuals” as Valenti claims. It means she is a gender abolitionist who campaigns to eradicate the hierarchical oppression of gender. Bindel is extremely critical of the behaviour of a small group of transactivists, not all of who are transgender, but Bindel is very clear this is a small group who engage in abusive harassment. She is very consistent in stating that the behaviour of this small group is not representative of transgender people as a whole. This is the exact same argument that liberal feminists use when discussing “not all men”.

Critical analysis is essential to a healthy feminist movement. I have seen far too many feminists claim that Julie Bindel is ‘transphobic’ because they read that fact on the Internet. They know nothing else but that Bindel is transphobic and the NUS no-platformed her for being “vile” (the fact that the NUS engages with all sorts of violent dictators and men whose financial wealth is predicated on human rights abuses of their employees goes unremarked).

Being a feminist isn’t just about a label or recognising “gender equality”. It’s a political theory that requires critical thought. This doesn’t mean that all feminists agree with one another on issues but it does mean that we are required to come to our own political stance ourselves – and not because some dude on the internet thinks a woman is a vile because she wrote an article 10 years ago and has since retracted it. Accepting what we are told without thought is patriarchy in action – not feminism.

 

Abortion on demand is a mandatory requirement for women’s liberation

Whilst abortion is legal in the UK, it is not available on demand.* Abortion can only be carried out in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors agree that “abortion would cause less damage to a woman’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy”. That’s only if you’re lucky enough to live on the mainland. Abortion isn’t available in Northern Ireland. There are some obvious exceptions to the 24 week rule involving saving the life of the mother or preventing grave or serious injury to her; as well as the more difficult issue of aborting a fetus due to disability.**

I find any limits on abortion problematic. I think all women should have access to abortion when they want it without having to faff about finding two doctors who agree to the procedure. Having to find two doctors just extends the unwanted pregnancy unnecessarily causing added stress. The right to decide what does and does not happen to one’s own body is a fundamental issue of self-determination. I believe that women have the right to abortion at any point in their pregnancy; after all 91% of abortions in 2011 were before 13 weeks. There are very, very few abortions after the 24 week point and, no, the Sarah Catt case isn’t representative of anything. She was denied an abortion and therefore chose to self-abort. Catt was also not convicted under the abortion laws; instead she was found guilty of an archaic law from the mid 19th century. Women are perfectly capable of deciding if and when they need an abortion without having to discuss it with two doctors; doctors who may or may not be anti-choicers.

The language around accessing abortion itself infantilises women. We can only have an abortion if someone else tells us we can. Not because we want one. Not because we need one. But, because someone else deems it medically necessary. Abortion should be available to women at any point in the pregnancy because the woman deems it necessary and not because someone else gave her permission to do so. I also dislike the rhetoric around “good” abortions for victims of rape versus “bad” abortions for women who have had the temerity to have consensual sex without wanting to get pregnant. Any attempts to create a hierarchy of acceptable reasons for women to have abortions just limits women’s choices. It is the heart of woman-hating. This is without getting into the fact that many women have to access abortions for financial reasons. It’s hardly a choice if you are having an abortion because you can not afford to feed a child. That is why we have a welfare state [or did before the ConDems destroyed it]. Limiting access to abortion gives others rights over women’s bodies. It serves only as a punishment for the crime of being born with a vagina.

Top Eleven Favourite Books of 2014

These are my top eleven favourite books of 2014 in no particular order:

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place

There is little I can say to give this book justice but Kincaid’s essay on the impact of colonialism, slavery, and corruption in Antigua as seen through the prism of reality/unreality (tourism) is a must read.

Lynn Harne’s Violent Fathering

Harne’s text needs to be read by every single person involved in the family courts, child protection, police and politicians since she debunks the theory that children need fathers, even violent ones, in their lives. Harne examines all the research which demonstrates that children are actively harmed by domestic violence and that forcing women to continue to relationships with a violent partner for the ‘sake of the children’ is all about men’s rights to women and children as possessions and not about the children. She makes it clear that despite this evidence on the harm violent men do to children (and their mothers) government policy insists on the rhetoric children need fathers because of misogynistic, patriarchal assumptions about men’s rights. Preventing violent men from continuing to abuse their former partners through contact with their children is not what is best for children – particularly when these men continue to commit financial child abuse through the withholding of maintenance.

Lorraine Radford & Marianne Hester’s Mothering Through Domestic Violence

This is another essential read for anyone working in social services, education, the criminal justice system, family courts and anyone blaming the victims of domestic violence instead of the perpetrator. Hester and Radford approach the issue of mothering from a variety of ways making practise recommendations from research evidence and knowledge of the law. They also make it clear how the separation of children from mothers, within social services, when dealing with domestic violence causes both groups harm, particularly with the government policy to encourage women to leave violent relationships with very little in terms of practical support and legal protection to offer them and the increase of violence for many in the post-separation period. Effectively, this book is clear evidence that the current responses to domestic violence, in law and practice, work to undermine mothers and blame them for their own victimisation. Far too little professional intervention is aimed at the perpetrators. Good practice should be based on the individual needs of mothers and children, not on the rights of violent men.

Anita Rau Badami’s Can you hear the nightbird call? and Tamarind Mem

I read these whilst in Canada caring for my sister. Can you hear the nightbird call? follows three women after the partition of India, migration to Canada exploring family, love, hate and the seeds of terrorism. Tamarind Mem is the story of Kamini and her mother Soroja, and confronting the past. It is about the love and difficulties which bind mothers and daughters everywhere. These are both incredibly beautiful books and were read at a time in my life when family, love and hate were rearing their heads in my personal life.

Marilyn French’s War Against Women

This book is 25 years old but still relevant. The war against women continues unabated – but with more violence and hatred.

Lydia Cacho’s Slavery Inc.: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking

Slavery Inc. is incredibly heartbreaking as Cacho tracks the rape traffickers and their victims from Mexico to Turkey, Thailand and the US exposing their not-so-hidden connections with tourism, pornography, illegal drugs trade, arms dealing, money laundering, terrorism and the illegal trade in body organs. The first person interviews with all who are involved in this industry  make this a truly powerful, if terrifying, book.

Denise Thompson’s Radical Feminism Today

The book was based on Thompson’s PhD entitled: Against the Dismantling of Feminism: A Study in the Politics of Meaning which is a much better title considering the book is about defining feminism and not about the state of radical feminism today (or as it was in 2001). Why the publisher thought the title Radical Feminism Today was an appropriate title for a book on defining feminism is, frankly, boggling.

Thompson is a radical feminist and her definition of feminism is about male domination. In this she critiques a wide variety of feminist  and non-feminist writing which use terms like patriarchy, gender and sex without referencing biology or the reality of male domination and male supremacy. A feminism which does not recognise this reality is not, in fact, feminism.

Thompson deals with the issues of gender, race and class by insisting on the primacy of male domination and supremacy: women all suffer from the effects of the Patriarchy which is historically and culturally contextually whilst acknowledging the importance of multiple oppressions in how women experience Patriarchy. A major theme throughout the text is that we simply are not working with defined terms; instead we allow them meanings which do not have biological realities (gender). In order to do feminism, we must define what it is we mean by feminism and cannot simply be by women for women otherwise it is reduced to the idea that everything a woman does is feminist because a woman does it. Feminism has to recognise male supremacy and domination or it is simply irrelevant.

Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy

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.

Beatrix Campbell’s End of Equality

Marina S. wrote a fabulous review of this text for Trouble & Strife that says better than I can why this is such an important book:

As is often the case with the best of feminist writing, this slim volume makes clear something which has been stubbornly inexplicable: what went wrong for the feminist movement? Why was our revolution unfinished? How could we have failed so badly (we think) when seemingly so close to achieving our goals? Two generations of feminists have wrestled with these questions, quite often wrestling with each other in the process. Recrimination and antagonism was bred from a frustrating failure of the liberal paradigm to explain the backlash of the 80s and beyond. If history always marches towards greater equality, and we are not seeing that equality manifest for women, then the fault, the thinking goes, must be in us: we have failed to be inclusive; we have failed to understand race; we have failed to take the correct attitudes to sexuality, marriage, domestic labour, sex work.

In contrast to this soul-searching, Campbell locates the seeming retreat of feminism in a squarely material framework. The reassertion of capital’s power after its brief post-World War II retreat rolled back or arrested not only feminist politics, but the civil rights movement, the student rebellions and other political liberation movements that were active in the 60s and early 70s. What she terms the ‘neo-patriarchal’ paradigm congealed around and in support of the neoliberal economic and political turn in global affairs in the last third of the 20th century. Not just Britain and the US, but countries as politically diverse as China and India went through processes of ‘liberalisation’ beginning in the 70s, and the impact of these changes on women has often been profoundly regressive.

The biggest philosophical difference between neoliberal, patriarchal politics and feminism is that the former is profoundly pessimistic. Human nature in the neoliberal reading is base, selfish, violent and grasping – and incapable of reform. All radical politics is embedded in a confidence that people will strive to cooperate, coexist and care for each other if the material conditions they find themselves in don’t militate against it.

It is no coincidence, in this view, that we live in an age of war without end; an unintelligible series of local skirmishes and conflicts in which women, and the cooperative, relational social capital they nurture, are often the hardest hit, not as accidental ‘collateral damage’ but through deliberate acts of mass rape and disenfranchisement that hit purposefully at the heart of social existence. Violations of human rights, in Campbell’s phrase, ‘are not side effects, but a decisive methodology’. Feminism’s project, in her view, is to bear witness to the ‘wit and heroism that makes up everyday life amid chronic violence’.

Anna Politkovskaya’s A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya

It feels like I have read this book a thousand times. This is just another war with another brave woman crossing into hell to report on genocide, mass rape and the real consequence of capitalism. I have read it a thousand times reading testimonies of Holocaust survivors – Odette Abadi, Eva Brewster, Ruth Elias. I’ve read it when the countries named were Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bangladesh. I’ve read Linda Polman’s catalogue of failures of UN peacekeeping forces in Somalia and Haiti. I have read it in Beverly Allen’s Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia  and Anne Llewellyn Barstow’s War’s Dirty Secret: Rape, Prostitution, and Other Crimes against Women. I have read Judith Zur’s research into memories of violence among Mayan Indian war widows. I have read about the Rape of Nanking and the slaughter of civilians at Mai Lai. And, I read every blog posted on Women Under Siege about BurmaNorth KoreaLibyaSri Lanka Darfur and countless other war zones where sexual violence is an intrinsic part of genocide. I have read feminist texts like Beatrix Campbell’s End of Equality  which demonstrate the direct link between capitalism and the oppression of civilian populations through sexual violence and war.

The names of the perpetrators change. The name of the conflict zone changes. The civilian populations targeted change. The names of the reporters changes. The names of those murdered grows longer. But, still the Twentieth Century remains one where genocide, mass rape and torture were normal – a  century where more people lived in abject poverty without access to clean water, sanitation and even food in order to perpetuate a capitalist economy that privileges very few.

Anna Politkovskaya’s text is powerful, distressing and enraging. It is a catalogue of torture, murder, rape and the acceptability of concentration camps all whilst the rest of the world looks on and does nothing. It is about men’s desire to exert control and power: to control natural resources, including people. We allow children to starve to death and grandmothers to perish from preventable diseases despite having the ability to prevent them because it would interfere with men’s desire for power.