Owen Jones, Feminism and the difference between criticism and trashing

I only read Owen Jones’ article on the austerity cuts and violence against women late tonight.  I tweeted out that I wished a woman had written it but that’s my standard response to any topic involving women’s lives. Cultural femicide is a real thing and a young, white male writing about the effects of austerity cuts on the reality of violence against women is covered under that umbrella.

Violence against women, as Jones’ states, is a national crisis but it is one in which the perpetrator is consistently erased. It is women’s campaigning and research which led to the development of women’s services. It is women who have consistently supported other women whilst being threatened, denigrated and treated like shit for doing. We need to insist that women’s work in the field of VAW is kept centred in our development of public policy.

Jones’ writes about violence against women and the effects of the austerity cuts without once talking about the perpetrator.  It is absolutely essential to talk about male violence against women and children. It is men who  assault, rape, torture, and kill women and children. It is men who refuse to pay child maintenance preferring instead to allow their children to live in poverty. The reason we need refuges and rape crisis centres is because of male violence. Talking about the effect of cuts to women’s services without naming the reason we need them is to ignore the root of the problem. Domestic violence costs the UK economy approximately 23 BILLION POUNDS a year. Men cost our economy 23 billion pounds a year and instead of tackling this issue properly, the government decides to “save” money by punishing the victims of male violence.

When I tweeted out my disappointment in Jones writing this article, I did so not realising it was his weekly column spot. I still wish a woman had written it but I more concerned about the failure to name the perpetrator. I’m also surprised at how many reacted to the discussions around Jones’ article. I’m not sure when wanting a woman to have written the piece became confused with trashing. Or, why a valid feminist concern about naming perpetrators has become an example of feminists being big stinky meanie-pants.

The thing is I only read Jones’ article because I like his work.  He’s one of the few male journalists that I bother reading anymore. He’s written some brilliant pieces and he’s written some things I fundamentally disagree with, which, oddly, is pretty much how I feel about every single writer whose work I like. I don’t expect to agree with anyone 100% of the time and it’s absolutely sycophantic for people to claim they do this. Having a different opinion to another person is not trashing. Disagreeing with someone’s work isn’t ‘trashing’

Criticism is a valid and valuable tool. We need to be able to have these discussions. We need to have a space where women who agree and disagree with Jones (or who don’t give a shit either way) can share those opinions – and the reasons for them – without worrying about being attacked or subtweeted about.

It’s okay for women to disagree with each other and to disagree with men. It’s not ok to tell women that they are shit feminists for disagreeing with you.

7 thoughts on “Owen Jones, Feminism and the difference between criticism and trashing”

  1. Such an important message. Criticism is absolutely a healthy thing when it’s communicated responsibly. Our culture of ripping people to shreds for disagreeing is ridiculous, and in the context of feminist writing it’s also very intimidating. I’ve not been blogging for long and I’m probably a bit too selective with what I discuss, and it’s mostly for this reason. I wonder how many other peoples voices are being silenced in this way.

    1. I’m sure they are and I think, as feminists, we need to be very careful in not re-creating patriarchal language and communication structures with other women. We don’t need to hold each other to impossible standards but we also need to stop thinking about total obedience to 1 version of feminism as the ‘truth’ and recognise how hard it is for women to find feminism in a culture which punishes us for doing so and give each other some actual space. We also need to stop insisting that disagreement is inherently anti-feminist. We also need to acknowledge that it is possible to criticise without it being called trashing – that there is a huge difference between saying hey, I don’t agree with you on this and this is why and your whole campaign/idea is fucking stupid.

  2. I too love his writing and I actually think it’s huge when men get active in the movement against violence again women, especially in this case using their.own column inches. As mum to four boys I see how they do engage with male role models differently to me, no matter how much I try and change that (a wider society thing?), and in reality most sons are not raised with parents as outspoken on feminist issues as mine are. However,, naming the perpetrator is absolutely a fundamental flaw, and if not an editing issue, one he needs to at least learn from. I can understand how word count could lead to an error of judgement but it’s an important one.

  3. I tweeted pointing out that he had received praise from ‘feminist’s’ for writing this article where as when womon do write on this subject and name the majority perps as men they are not given similar attention or praise! I added it was much like the fella who pushes the pram and gets warm greetings for doing so where as womon who do this everyday hardly raise a smile with their interlocters . Some feminists did notike my tweets?????? Some feminists like to bolster male ego for even the slightest crumb they throw off the table. I am not one of them!

  4. I don’t think the issue is the fact that the article was written by a man. The issue is why it is taken more seriously when written by a man, when women have been saying this for a long time to no avail, especially considering the incompleteness of an article that only names the result and not the causes of the problem. It’s like treating a patient’s spots and ignoring the measles virus that they are a symptom of – a recipe for failure.

  5. yes – so what do we do now? How do men take responsibility for this? I’m talking about VaW at Left Unity tonight – what do I tell them? What actual campaigns should they get involved in (or start)?

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