It’s not victim blaming, it’s woman blaming by Sonia Orchard
Rape Culture Is Surveillance Culture via @scaachi @buzzfeed
REST IN PEACE, INVISIBLE WOMAN by LINNEA DUNNE http://buff.ly/2bNBvoI
Our Kids Don’t Need F@*#ing Pedal Desks, They Need Recess by Maria Guido
Black Girl Is a Verb: A New American Grammar Book by Crunk Feminist Collective
9 Signs you may be living with childhood trauma – and what you can do about it via @WomanAsSubject
This is the outstanding arrears of child maintenance owed in England and Wales. According to a report by the charity Gingerbread called Missing Maintenance, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) estimates that only £467 million will ever be recovered.This leaves nearly one half of single parent families, the vast majority headed by women, living in poverty.
The current Conservative government is in the process of closing the Child Support Agency (CSA) to replace it with the Child Maintenance Service, which charges women £20 for the privilege of opening a file and then a sum each month if some semblance of the maintenance is actually paid. The new vaunted system has seen only 53% of the families registered receiving maintenance with 90 000 people having not paid during one three month period. There is already nearly £53 million in unpaid maintenance. Many of the families will receive only negligible amounts of money, as the DWP does not require the full maintenance to be paid in order for the account to be registered as compliant. Realistically, a father of 4 earning £70 000 a year can pay only £5 a month and still be included within the 53% statistic.
Equally problematic is the fact that the Child Maintenances Service is actively writing to the primary caregivers to request they ‘forgive’ the debt owed by non-paying fathers – as though the primary caregivers of children, who are overwhelmingly women, can neglect to pay rent, council tax and the credit card debts they rack up buying groceries knowing these debts will be ‘forgiven’. As Polly Toynbee makes clear,
Some 90% of CSA cases have now been transferred over to the CMS, but only 13% of mothers affected have decided to pay the new fees and apply to the CMS: the DWP must be pleased, as it had publicly estimated that 63% would pursue their claims. All the pressure in official letters is to deter mothers. The £20 fee may be a mild block, along with charging fathers 4%, but the evidence suggests mothers just give up when prodded by these letters.
Charging mothers to use the Child Maintenance Service is simply a way for the government to abdicate responsibility. They are very clear that the sole purpose is to force more parents into dealing with child maintenance themselves. In doing so, they have refused to recognise the reason why men, and it is overwhelmingly men, refuse to pay maintenance: it is both a punishment and a form of control over their former partners. This is male entitlement writ large by men who do not care about the welfare of their children.
We need to start calling the refusal to pay maintenance what it really is: financial child abuse. Forcing your children to live in poverty because you cannot be bothered to support them or refusing to punish the mother are not the signs of ‘good fathers’. It is the hallmark of an abusive father.
It is not difficult to implement child maintenance policies that are effective and ensure that men cannot hide their assets. Placing the Child Maintenance Service under the heading of HM Revenue & Customs so that child maintenance is garnished directly from the salary of the non-resident parent. This coupled with actual punitive policies for those who refuse to pay, such as a fee for every missed payment, interest accrued on outstanding payments, and the use of enforcement agents (bailiffs) to confiscate personal property, and, potentially, criminal proceedings would see an immediate increase in the number of men who start to pay their maintenance. Canada’s maintenance enforcement program has the right to suspend the driver’s licenses and passports of men who are in arrears recognising that the legal obligation to pay maintenance being higher than the desire to vacation in Hawaii.
There is a quote bandied about in discussions of child contact and child maintenance that says ‘children aren’t pay per view’, as though children were nothing more than a possession to be passed about. As with Women’s Aid campaign, Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives, we need to stop talking about children as possessions and start talking about children’s rights. Children have the right to live free from violence. Children also have the right to live outwith poverty.
The erasure of men’s financial responsibility for their children, supported by government policy, is an absolute disgrace. It is, simply, state sanctioned child abuse.
Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives Petition
Thomas Gibson has been fired from Criminal Minds after kicking a writer in the leg following ‘creative differences’.
My very first reaction to this news was that there was no way one of the highest rated shows for CBS would fire its lead actor solely for kicking a writer – as the first media stories claimed. Allowing male celebrities to engage in violence and abusive behaviour on set. It took years of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by Charlie Sheen before he was fired from Two & A Half Men – and even then only because he was rude about one of the producers.
So, I started googling Gibson to see what else he’s been up to. According to The Hollywood Gossip and Variety, the producers of Criminal Minds had already sent Gibson on anger management classes after he shoved an assistant producer in 2010. They also claim that Gibson has a history of “aggressive and verbally abusive” behaviour. The Hollywood Reporter insinuates that Shemar Moore left Criminal Minds last year following years of strife on set. There is also a lawsuit from Gibson’s former manager which also alleges abusive behaviour that has yet to receive a judgment from the Labour Commission.
The Hollywood Reporter, which is one of the more detailed descriptions of the allegations against Gibson, also mentions similar lawsuits – including one from Nicolette Sheridan for wrongful termination. Now, I never watched Desperate Housewives and only vaguely heard of Sheridan leaving the show, which I understood was because she was rude to Teri Hatcher (who, in turn, was apparently rude to Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, and Marcia Cross). Turns out I was wrong about the Sheridan lawsuit. She alleges that she was fired due to complaints about physical and verbal abuse by show creator Marc Cherry. Cherry claims her contract was ended due to her unprofessional behaviour and treatment of the other main actors. The lawsuit has wound its way through several courts and is set to restart in 2017 focusing on unfair dismissal rather than the allegations against Cherry.
The idea that Gibson was fired for kicking a co-worker was analogous to being rude (rather than verbally abusive) set me off on a spree of googling that resulted in me reading far too many ‘Worst Celebrities to Work With’ lists, which were pretty much the same:
These are some of the highlights:
Russell Crowe‘s reputation for aggressive and abusive behaviour on set has not prevented him from getting hired – whilst Katherine Heigl has been effectively blacklisted for being opinionated. I think we can all agree with Heigl that Knocked Up was misogynistic twaddle, even though she has now backtracked on that statement. Shannon Doherty is meant to be ‘demanding and controlling’ on set – Edward Norton and Christian Bale are lauded for the very characteristics that label Doherty ‘bad’. And, really, lists of ‘difficult actors’ that include Heigl for trashing a film she starred in tend to ignore Steven Seagal – a man who has reputedly kicked numerous people on several sets between he legs.
According to this list, Jennifer Aniston is a bitch for choosing to eat alone whilst on set and Jennifer Lopez for requiring a personal assistant on call 24/7, which somewhat begs the question about the working conditions of personal assistants across Hollywood and businesses. Now, I’m all for unionising personal assistants and increasing pay and decreasing contact hours but Lopez is hardly a bitch for doing exactly the same thing as every single male actor in Hollywood. I can’t even begin to work out what Beyonce did wrong here.
Even Bustle, a supposedly feminist media site, includes 9 women on their list of “16 Actors who are the worst to work with”, including Lindsay Lohan whose documented history of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ is self-harming through alcohol and drugs rather than say, kicking a member of staff.
Only one list mentioned Randy Quaid:
… an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor, apparently behaved so badly while working on the pre-Broadway play “Lone Star Love” in 2007, that he was banned for life from Actors’ Equity and fined $81,000. A complaint filed by all 26 cast members against both Quaid and his wife/manager Evi alleged sexual harassment, physical violence and a variety of other transgressions.
Granted none of the gendered constructions of ‘bad’ are particularly shocking. Women have always been held to a higher standard than men. Male celebrities are forever given free passes for their violence – Charlie Sheen even got a sitcom based on his abusive behaviour called Anger Management. That millions of people actually watch. The media, who adore trashing Lindsay Lohan for her drug and alcohol abuse, have remained silent on the domestic violence she has experienced.
I’m sat here waiting for the inevitable allegations of domestic violence against Thomas Gibson. Men who believe they are entitled to verbally and physically abuse their co-workers tend to be the same ones who believe they have the right to abuse their partners and children. And the minimisations of Gibsons’ behaviour.
Mostly, I’m shocked that CBS took the steps to fire him, regardless of his behaviour on set. Because, Gibson is no different to hundreds of male celebrities who believe they are above the law. I mean, obviously, Gibson has now hired lawyers because having a penis in Hollywood means never ever taking responsibility for your actions and choices.
I wonder how many shows would be immediately cancelled if their male stars were fired for abusive behaviour on set?
Clint Eastwood has a very nice spread in Esquire with his son Scott in which he pontificates on being too important to raise his son and claiming that people who call out racism belong to the ‘pussy generation’.
Have to say, I assumed Eastwood was dead what with being rather old. He’s certainly not lying about most things being deemed unracist when he grew up but that’s because he was born when segregation was legal. He was 34 when the Civil Rights Act came into effect in 1964. I’m not entirely certain that you can claim that the Jim Crow laws were a ‘big hoodoo’. Or that the implementation of the Civil Rights Act was worse than people calling out racism. Or, that people should just ‘get over’ racism.
But, hey, Eastwood is descended from a dude who arrived in the US on the Mayflower. So he can totally support Donald Trump because Eastwood is one of the ‘good immigrants’. And not one of those people fleeing civil war, terrorism and poverty who thinks that the message written on the Statue of Liberty still constitutes American law:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The only thing going for him in the interview is that he doesn’t trash talk the mother of one of his children, which is something I suppose. He’s certainly not all that concerned about casual misogyny either.
So, life lessons from Clint Eastwood on being a ‘good’ man include not bothering to raise your children, racism is acceptable, people who believe in social justice need to get over themselves, and anyone who doesn’t agree with him is a pussy.
This rolled up on my Facebook feed this morning – one of those ‘suggested posts’. Usually, these posts are just dire. This one is heart-breaking. The website someecards.com have shared the text below with the photo and name of the woman who wrote it. I have redacted both because what is below isn’t the story of a ‘good marriage’ as someecards.com suggests but a story of emotional blackmail, male entitlement, sexual harassment and coercion within marriage. This is what rape culture looks like:
Making space to have sex when you have small children, jobs and other caring responsibilities can be difficult. That is no excuse for whining and sexually harassing your wife. Being put in a position where you have to ‘trade’ sex in order to eat what you want or listen to your music isn’t a healthy relationship. It’s a coercive relationship. Passive aggressive ‘dry humping your leg’ and asking if you want ‘sausage’ is gross behaviour. Jabbing his dick into your back to push you into sex isn’t romantic. No woman should ‘feel bad’ because they don’t want to have sex and a man who makes you feel that way should be divorced.
This is male entitlement writ large – the belief that he is entitled to sex whenever he wants regardless of his wife’s desires. It’s sexual coercion at best.
Rape culture isn’t just the stranger who sexually harasses you in the street or the man on public transport who touches you without permission. It is men who believe that marriage entitles them to sex and that women should be bullied and harassed into it for daring to say no. It is conducive context in which men ‘pestering’ for sex are seen as somehow romantic. It is the context in which a woman’s right to say no is erased. It is the context in which controlling behaviours (eating chocolate/ listening to music) are deemed ‘normal’ rather than evidence of domestic violence.
I’ve redacted the woman’s name because I believe victims of sexualised violence have the right to anonymity. This woman is a victim of sexualised violence. She deserves anonymity. And a life without a man who thinks fucking her is his inalienable right by dint of marriage.
Apparently, I’m one of the only few people who enjoyed the film Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Based on the YA fiction books written by Cassandra Clare, the film is about Clary who, on her 16th birthday, discovers she isn’t a normal girl but a shadow hunter – born to fight demons. Being YA fiction, there is the usual love story between Clary and the boy who saves her life, Jace. But, at it’s heart, City of Bones is a book about a group of teenagers fighting to save the world whilst dealing with friendships and love. All are brave, intelligent and loyal. And the two female characters, Clary and Isabelle, are both kick-ass fighters. Granted, its all a bit silly and escapism but, as the new Ghostbusters film has shown, girls want to see more films with brave girls. Not less.
This is why the new television series being shown in the UK on Netflix is such a disappointment. Much was made by the producers of having more space in which to be creative with the source material – something that definitely required better writers than they’ve hired (teenage boy in lust with teenage girl: “you’re so interesting” said no boy ever.) Instead of having two brave girls, they’ve gone with a much more whiny Clary and, most appallingly, Isabelle is no longer a brave shadow hunter equal to the boys. She’s a sex kitten who spends most of her time naked or having sex. Shadowhunters is aimed at an older audience so sex isn’t a problem. It’s the fact that the only person, out of all the main characters, who is having sex is the girl. And, not just having sex but her form of fighting demons involves being sexual.
This is Isabelle Lightwood in the film
Everyone else is dressed for battle in black leather.
Isabelle is in kitten heels and a tight red dress – one she’s just put back on covered in fairy dust having had sex with said fae to find out how to enter the vampire’s lair. Because, despite having access to a IT department that would make Apple jealous and, therefore, access to city planning information, the only way to discover how to enter the vampire’s clearly marked out lair through abandoned subway tunnels is for Isabelle to writhe around a bed half-naked with a random fae dude – something none of the boys are expected to do.
I know Netflix wants to be edgy, you just have to look at how much time Jessica Jones spends having sex rather than being a superhero to see that, but erasing yet another brave girl and turning her into nothing more than a sex-obsessed plaything for the boys isn’t edgy or exciting. It’s just the same old porn culture insisting that girls can’t be brave fighters. Their only role is victim or sex toy.
Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid by Rufi Thorpe is beautiful, heart-breaking and enraging on how mothering impacts women’s abilities to become a published author recognising the selfish and narcissistic behaviour of male writers is rewarded whilst women are held to impossible standards. Yet, buried within this incredible piece of writing are the following two paragraphs:
“I have never worried that the mundane world would muddy my celestial paws; I’ve always been perfectly able to lick my stamps myself. In fact, I have been far, far too able. The older I get, the more I recognize the leveraging power of ineptitude. My husband can’t cook well; I do the cooking. My husband accidentally shrinks a few sweaters; I do the laundry. My husband can’t lactate; the baby comes to New York. In his inability to do things, he is excused from labor. In my rush to excel, to shine, to be a good wife and mother, I have done nothing but ensure my labor will be lengthy and unpaid.” …
There are other ways too in which I am invisible. I often feel that the work I do around the house is the work of an invisible person. How else could my husband consistently leave his underwear tucked behind the bathroom door? His wet towel on the bed? Surely, he does not imagine me, swearing, swooping to pick up his damp, crumpled briefs with a child on one hip as I listen to a podcast and ponder going gluten free. He is not making a statement with his actions, saying, “Here, wife, pick up after me.” Instead, I think that on some level he believes that he lives in an enchanted castle where the broom comes to life and sweeps, and the teapot pours itself.
Women are expected to do all the unpaid caring work. That Thorpe recognises this but gives her husband a pass on being lazy, thoughtless and inconsiderate is just too distressing.
It would be nice if we all lived in a house where a cooked from scratch, nutritious meal was served three times a day. But this isn’t the Victorian era and servants aren’t a mandatory statement of social acceptability. You don’t need to be a great cook to make dinner for a family – pasta and soup aren’t hard to do (and I say this as someone with dyspraxia where following instructions and accurate measuring aren’t actual skills, as my children can attest).
Men do not believe they live in ‘enchanted castles’. They believe that other people (read wife or mother) are going to do the shit work. Men who consistently leave dirty underwear lying around are making a point about who actually matters in the relationship. It takes 30 seconds to put your pants in the laundry basket. It takes 30 seconds to turn the washing machine on and 15 minutes (max) to put away clean laundry. Working long hours is not an excuse for being unable to pick up your own dirty underwear – unless you think childcare and housework are not real work. A man who can operate a smart phone can read the instructions on the label of clothes and the manual for a washing machine.
Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid isn’t heart-breaking simply because it evidences the extreme inequality between women and men, but because Thorpe sees this as inevitable in her own relationship. Thorpe thanks her mother for sacrificing so much, including never writing her own book, in order for Thorpe to succeed. That her husband is unwilling to put his own dirty underwear in the laundry basket to help support Thorpe is male entitlement writ large.
Jo Cox, the Laboour MP for Batley and Spen, is the 57th woman to be murdered in the UK in 2016 by a male perpetrator.
Whilst the police have yet to confirm the name of the perpetrator, named as Thomas Mair by the media, or eyewitness accounts of Mair shouting ‘Britain First’, what we do know is that the police are investigating the possibility of white supremacist political motivations. We also know that another man had been arrested in March under the malicious communications act. The Times claims that the police were considering changes to Cox’s security due to the three months of harassment leading up to the arrest in March but that there was no link between the harassment and Cox’s murder.
The media are already using terms that minimise Mair’s responsibility such as ‘loner’, and ‘mentally ill’. Sky New has tweeted this headline based on a quote from Mair’s brother Scott who claims Mair was ‘non-violent’ without a hint of irony.
Because shooting a woman three times, repeatedly stabbing her, kicking her and pulling her by her hair are not somehow multiple acts of violence? Our experience researching media representations of domestic and sexual violence and abuse across multiple media platforms in 4 countries suggests that this refers only to public forms of violence – those committed in the home against intimate partners or other female family members is rarely recognised as forms of violence. Soraya Chemaly’s coverage of the massacre in Orlando evidences just how far the media will go to erase a perpetrator’s history of domestic violence.
The Guardian and BBC are quoting neighbours using the term ‘quiet’ as though not knowing your neighbour socially mitigates personal responsibility for criminal acts of violence. The Daily Mail summed up much of the current media coverage in this one sentence:
“There is unconfirmed evidence Mair supported far-Right causes and claims he had mental health problems and had been released recently from psychiatric care.”
The conflation of mental illness with violence is simply not tenable. People who live with mental illnesses are statistically far more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators. Yet, white men who commit crimes of violence are frequently labelled ‘mentally ill’ by the media despite very little evidence to support the label. People who support white supremacist organisations, including paramilitaries, do not suffer from mental illness either. The media linkage of Mair’s history of mental illness as a precursor to femicide is irresponsible; as is ‘humanising’ Mair by writing about his love of gardening.
What we do know is that the vast majority of violence in the UK is committed by men; not because they are ‘mentally ill’ but because we have a culture of hyper-masculinity and male entitlement that not only condones but actively encourages violent behaviour in young boys and men.
Whether or not we learn if this murder was politically motivated act of racist terror or a targeted personal attack, we can contextualise this murder within the framework of violence against woman and girls. The murder of Jo Cox is not an ‘isolated incident’; not when Cox is the 57th woman to have been murdered by a man already this year. It is part of the continuum of violence against women and girls which includes the harassment of Cox and other female MPs who have also received rape and death threats, the 85 000 women will be raped by a male perpetrator in England and Wales, the hundreds of thousands of women who are living with domestic violence, teenage girls who are sexually harassed on the streets by adult men, sexual harassment in schools and workplaces, and the women currently detained in Yarls Wood fleeing sexualised violence in their countries of birth only to be sexually assaulted again whilst supposedly ‘safe’ in detention centres.
Statistically, it is far more likely that the murder of Jo Cox was an act of political terrorism by a man who supports white supremacist organisations and who will have a history of misogyny. As Chimene Suleyman writes for Media Diversified:
In all likeliness this was not symbolic brutality against the system — not an act of a random nature against any old representative of the political class — but a fundamentalist attack on a woman whose ideals, both in her charity work and as MP, placed human rights for disenfranchised Syrians, oppressed Palestinians and immigration at the core of her narrative. What an appallingly upsetting shame then that she should die, not because of her stance on human rights but instead killed within a British climate that has confused social sociopathy for economic debate and scaremongering immigration laws.
Jo Cox was murdered by a man who made a choice to kill – a man who also has a documented history of ties to white supremacist organisations during a political campaign that has seen racism and xenophobia replace debate, whilst we congratulate ourselves on not having a misogynistic and racist candidate like Donald Trump running for political office.
Whilst we mourn the loss of Jo Cox, some reflection on why people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones is required. Men like Thomas Mair are not aberrations. Racism and misogyny are not ‘isolated incidents’. They are British culture and we need to fix this.