Michael Beck: Why labelling men who kill as ‘non-violent’ is irresponsible journalism

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 09.06.42Every single week, 2 men in England and Wales make a choice to kill their current or former partner. Despite the fact that these men consistently have a history of domestic violence, the media insists on reporting comments from random neighbours claiming that these men are ‘caring fathers‘, ‘loving brothers’, ‘quiet neighbours’,  and, as above, ‘non violent’. Men who choose to kill are violent. It’s pretty much the definition of the word since murder is an inherently violent act. As a culture, we refuse to recognise that coercive control is a choice made by men who believe they are entitled to own women and children, and that men who kill are not aberrations, but representative of the consequences of patriarchy.

The Guardian’s coverage of the murder of Nicola Beck by her husband Michael Beck is a quintessential example of how not write about male violence. It insinuates that Nicola’s request for a divorce was irrational because Michael did want it and, therefore, Michael’s choice to murder was rational. They quote Michael’s brother-in-law Hugo Peel who said this at the inquest:

” … Beck was a gentle man. …He had a sort of hope in his heart that he could repair the damage. He was not a violent man, quite the opposite. … He was not courageous in social interaction or dealing with issues. He would walk away from confrontation, he felt unequipped to deal with confrontation.”

Family members and neighbours frequently do not see the violence women are forced to live with. Perpetrators tend to be highly manipulative and very careful with their behaviour around other people. It’s not at all uncommon for close family members and friends to have no idea just how violent a man is. Publishing these types of quotes without making the context of how perpetrators operate clear obscures and elides the reality of male violence against women and children. This is particularly important in the context of Peel suggesting Michael was incapable of dealing with confrontation as it implies, once again, that Michael had no choice; that he lacked the skills to recognise Nicola as a person and so was forced to kill her. It is utterly irresponsible for The Guardian to have published this statement.

The most dangerous time for a woman who has an abusive and controlling partner is when she tries to end the relationship. The risk of physical and sexual violence increases and this is the point when women are most likely to be murdered, frequently with their children, or when children are murdered to punish their mother. It should go without saying that a neighbour, whose entire relationship with a perpetrator is saying hello when putting out the rubbish for collection, or a family member who has not witnessed violence or controlling behaviour themselves, are not in a position to make evidenced judgments about whether or not a man is gentle, good, or kind. Media who report these types of statements are engaged in bad journalism completely lacking in research or reality.

This is a copy of Michael’s suicide as it was published in The Sun (who themselves concentrated on the Beck’s financial status rather than the murder, because it’s more important to note that Michael was rich rather than recognising the life of Nicola). Generally, we do not support the publishing of suicide letters. We have made an exception in this case because the letter is not only a suicide letter but a defence of murder.

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 10.54.41

The Sun’s coverage is as senstionalist as one expects of the tabloid press. The Guardian uses less emotive language, but it also glosses over the evidence of Beck’s clear history of entitlement and financial control as written in his suicide note:

“I have spent my entire life fighting over money”

Yes, Michael was a stockbroker, but this quote is in relation to his marriage and not his career. It is not normal to spend one’s life “fighting over money”. The Guardian do quote the assistant Devon coroner, Lydia Brown, who makes it clear that financial control was part of the motive for this murder, without contextualising financial abuse as a form of coercive control. This is without the issue of Michael defining murder as ‘grubby’ and demanding his family punish Nicola’s family.

Where the Guardian truly failed was at the end of the article. They included the hotline phone number for the Samaritans (116 123, UK) but did not include the National Domestic Violence Hotline (0808 2000 247). The Samaritans media guidelines make it absolutely clear that the number should be included in any media coverage of suicide, but this was not just a case of suicide. Michael Beck clearly had a history of domestic violence and this was a murder where coercive control was a defining factor as Michael felt justified in killing Nicola because she tried to escape his abuse. The feminist organisation Zero Tolerance have written a comprehensive media guideline for reporting violence against women and girls that require the inclusion of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Granted, Zero Tolerance’s guidelines are 42 pages long, however the The National Union of Journalists have written a 3 page media guideline on reporting violence against women and girls for those journalists unwilling to take out 15 minutes of their day to do some basic research. The NUJ make it very clear that it is essential to include the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The question is: why did The Guardian prioritise the Samaritans hotline? And, why did they fail to recognise that this murder was a consequence of male entitlement and coercive control? When will mainstream media start to recognise that murder-suicides are almost always a consequence of domestic violence? That victims of domestic violence matter as much as people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts? That men who kill their children and/or current or former partners are not victims but perpetrators? Because the failure to include the National Domestic Violence Hotline implies that Michael is more deserving of respect and empathy than his victim. And, this is not an aberration but part of the conducive context in which male violence occurs and part of the continuum of violence against women and girls.

Nicola deserved better from The Guardian.

This was first published by Everyday Victim Blaming on August 27, 217.

Sharing images of ‘missing children’: the problems of violent fathers and spiteful trolls

Within hours of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, people across social media were sharing images of those who were declared missing. Some of these were shared by family and friends who knew girls and women attending the concert, but who had not yet heard whether they were safe. These images were also being shared by those wanting to help – a desire borne out of genuine kindness. Unfortunately, by early Tuesday morning, media were already reporting that some of the images being shared were of people who were not at the concert. One of the first images we saw when we logged on to Twitter was of Nasar Ahmed, who died in November from an asthma attack at school. We immediately tweeted out asking people not to share images of children declared missing unless they knew that the source is real. At that point, we didn’t know the scale of the spiteful and cruel trolling. Then we were informed that another image being shared was of Jayden Parkinson who was murdered in 2013 by her boyfriend, who had a history of domestic violence. In the end, multiple false images were being shared; many of which originated from a thread on reddit where men were encouraging each other to deliberately and maliciously harm the families and friends of victims with ‘fake news’.

Male violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The toxic hyper-masculinity, which results in suicide bombers targeting young girls attending a concert in Manchester, the mass sexualised violence of children, and the proliferation of violent pornography is also responsible for the so-called ‘trolling’ of victims of male violence. Terrorists, like rapists and domestic violence perpetrators, depend on the support of these men to increase the carnage and fear. Whilst we’re quite sure that these ‘trolls’, who deliberately shared misleading images will have absolute tantrums about being compared to the supporters of Daesh, they are part of the same conducive context of violence against women and girls that allows male violence and toxic masculinity to flourish.

This is the reality of male violence in the global context: men believing they have the right to commit violence against the bodies of women and children; men believing they are entitled to control women and children; and men thinking it is hilarious to maliciously target traumatised victims and their families.

There is another reason to be careful when sharing images of ‘missing children’ online, which is also due to male violence. In this case, it is men who are perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse.The most dangerous time for women is when they leave a controlling or violent partner. It is this time period which sees an increase in the intensity of violence, such as that requiring medical treatment, but also murder: of the woman, a mother with her children, or the children to ‘punish’ the mother. Violent fathers denied access to their children have been creating fake ‘missing children’ notices for years, relying on the kindness of strangers on social media to stalk former partners and children.

It is essential to ensure that images of ‘missing children’ come from a reliable source: a family member or police in order to prevent violent men finding victims of their violence and, now, preventing so-called ‘trolls’ for targeting victims of terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, due to institutionalised racism and misogyny, police forces don’t always recognise missing children as ‘missing’. BAME children are far more likely to be deemed ‘runaways’ and, therefore, not worth ‘wasting’ police time in searching for them. Mainstream media are equally culpable and are far more likely to share images of white children who are missing. Sometimes social media is the only place actively searching for these children. If a missing child image does not come from a reliable source, you can reverse image research to find the origins of the photo.

In a just and fair world, all missing children would be deemed equally important. Mainstream media would give as much attention to a missing 14-year-old Black boy from London as they do a 13-year-old white girl from Surrey. The police would have appropriate resources to find children and support them – after all, children who do run away from home do so for a reason. Sometimes home is the least safe space for a child. Children, and their mothers, would be able to live free of violence, or the threat therein. Perpetrators would be held accountable for their actions and choices. Family courts would ban violent fathers from using them to continue controlling their former partners. Child contact would be deemed in the best interest of the child based on peer-reviewed research, which clearly shows that children do better without being forced to visit violent fathers.

We don’t live in a just world though. And, until then, we need to take care on social media to ensure that the children labelled missing are actually missing. We need to hold the mainstream media and police to account when they fail to investigate and report on missing BAME children. It is a delicate balance that no one will not always get right every time, because it is hard to believe just how spiteful and malicious online ‘trolls’ are. They depend on our compassion for others, which is why we need to hold the men who posted false images of ‘missing children’ legally culpable, as well as those who commit terrorist attacks. Sharing fake images of ‘missing’ children is a heinous act and it is part of the continuum of violence against women and girls. We need to eradicate all forms and this starts with insisting that spiteful and malicious ‘trolling’ of the victims of violence is a serious criminal act so that no other family has to go through what happened to those impacted by the Manchester bombing: as victims themselves or families like those of Ahmed and Parkinson.

 

First published at Everyday Victim Blaming on 7.6.2017

Violence against women and girls is state-sanctioned terrorism

Man Haron Monis was placed on a two-year “good behaviour bond” in 2013 after writing a series of offensive letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He was then charged as an accessory in the murder of his ex-wife Noleen Hayson. Monis was released on bail. Since then, he has appeared twice in court on 40 sexual assault offences. Magistrate William Pierce, who originally granted Monis bail, said he did not represent a threat to the public. He was not deemed a threat at subsequent hearings. Now, two more people are dead following Monis’ siege of a café.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is asking if the hostage taking could have been prevented. The answer to this question is yes, but not for the reasons Abbott is suggesting. Had Monis’ clear history of multiple counts of sexual violence been taken seriously, he would not have been granted bail. Monis was not considered a risk to the public because we still define public to mean men.

Monis was charged with 40 separate sexual offences and was still not deemed a threat to the general public. This is the reality of rape culture: systemic violence against women is simply not considered a problem. We need to start using the term terrorism to define male violence and we need to start recognising that women are human too. Until we do, men like Monis will continue to perpetrate these crimes, which are not ‘isolated incidents’ but systemic, state-sanctioned terrorism against women and girls.

November 25 is the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women – not White Ribbon Day

November 25th was first chosen as the date for an annual day of protest of male violence in 1981. This occurred at the first Feminist Conference for Latin American and Caribbean Women in Bogota. It was chosen in memory of Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel.

The Mirabel sisters were political activists who fought the fascist government of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. They stood up to a genocidal regime that used torture, rape and kidnapping and they were murdered for it. This is why November 25th was chosen as an international day of activism that “denounced all forms men’s violence against women from domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners.”

November 25th received official recognition as an international day to raise awareness of violence against women from United Nations on December 17, 1999.

None of this information is out with the public realm. Even Wikipedia, not known for its accuracy, manages to get the facts right. Yet, November 25th is rarely referred to as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women anymore. Instead, it is called White Ribbon day after a campaign started by men in Canada.

The origins of the White Ribbon campaign are important. It was created by pro-feminist men in 1991 in response to the massacre of women at the Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6 1989. A man killed 14 women because they were women. Men stood up to take responsibility for men’s violence. We need men to take responsibility for the violence they perpetuate and perpetrate.

Yet, somehow, White Ribbon no longer occurs on December 6th (although still recognised in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women). Now, White Ribbon day is November 25th – a day started by women of colour in Latin American and the Caribbean about the murder of 3 women in the Dominican Republic.

As Karen Ingala Smith points out, there is something extremely questionable about an event created by white men eclipsing a day of action and remembrance created by women of colour. It is quite surprising just how many men involved in the White Ribbon campaign don’t know the origins or the actual date of their own campaign. One even ran a panel at Feminism in London and looked shocked that no women’s organisation had raised the issue before. The fact that men just hadn’t been listening (or bothered to google) didn’t seem to occur to him.

White Ribbon Day is December 6th. Co-opting a day celebrating the activism and work of women to make it all about the men – and check out this comment from a white ribbon ‘supporter’ – isn’t about men taking responsibility for their role in supporting a global war against women. It’s about being seen to be doing something.

These are the names of the women murdered at the Polytechnique:

  • Geneviève Bergeron
  • Hélène Colgan
  • Nathalie Croteau
  • Barbara Daigneault
  • Anne-Marie Edward
  • Maud Haviernick
  • Maryse Laganière
  • Maryse Leclair
  • Anne-Marie Lemay
  • Sonia Pelletier
  • Michèle Richard
  • Annie St-Arneault
  • Annie Turcotte
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

The anniversary of their massacre deserves to be remembered. Their names deserve to be remembered – as do the names of Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel. We need to remember all the women who are raped, tortured, abused, and killed by men. And, we need to remember all the women who stood up and said enough.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women isn’t about men. Speaking over and erasing women’s activism isn’t proof that men are committed to ending violence against women and girls. It’s just the opposite.

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.

Je Me Souviens

Geneviève Bergeron

Hélène Colgan

Nathalie Croteau

Barbara Daigneault

Anne-Marie Edward

Maud Haviernick

Maryse Laganière

Maryse Leclair

Anne-Marie Lemay

Sonia Pelletier

Michèle Richard

Annie St-Arneault

Annie Turcotte

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

Dear Ally Fogg, Start your own Counting Dead Men Project …

Dear Ally Fogg,

Please start your own Start your own Counting Dead Men Project. I am so incredibly bored of you derailing the amazing work Karen Ingala Smith and other women are doing tracking male violence against women and girls in order to shriek “whatta bout the menz”

It was completely unnecessary for you to respond to this:

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 10.23.41 with:

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 10.20.55

We all know the vast majority of violence against women and girls is committed by men. We know the vast majority of women and girls murdered are killed by men – most of whom the victims know personally. We know men are the majority of perpetrators of domestic violence against women, children and other men. We all know that in the rare cases of female on male homicide, that many (if not most) of the female perpetrators kill men who are abusing them. We also all know that Ingala Smith is tracking women killed by men, so your complaint is just ridiculous.

If you genuinely care about male victims of violence, stop derailing conversations about male violence against women and girls and start your own Counting Dead Men Project. I’m sure if you ask Ingala Smith politely, she will give you some top tips on the best ways to research the data on women who kill men.  To make it as accurate as Ingala Smith’s Counting Dead Women Project, you will need to ensure you include more than just names. You will need to include whether or not the male victims had a history of domestic violence.

You could even start a Counting Dead Men Project which includes EVERY single male victim of homicide so we could see that the vast majority of men are killed by other men. But, we all know you won’t bother doing this. It’s far easier to derail conversations about the reality of male violence to whine than it is to actually do the work Karen Ingala Smith does: giving a name to the women who are murdered every month.

If you can prove that women kill two men a week and that these women did not kill a violent current or former partner in self-defence, then I might stop thinking your an MRE. We all know you can’t prove this though.

Stewie

P.S I’ve storified some of the great feminist response to Fogg here.

COUNTING DEAD WOMEN PETITION