Man Haron Monis wasn’t a risk to the public because women don’t count

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. The magistrate, 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.

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

#IMD2014 : Manhood Rites of Passage

It goes without saying that I believe International Men’s Day is the ultimate example of whiny-arsed men having tantrums about the entirety of the female population of the planet lining up to suck their cock. This year’s tagline is:

The ability to sacrifice your needs on behalf of others is fundamental to manhood, as is honour. Manhood rites of passage the world over recognise the importance of sacrifice in the development of Manhood.

Men make sacrifices everyday in their place of work, in their role as husbands and fathers, for their families, for their friends, for their communities and for their nation. International Men’s Day is an opportunity for people everywhere of goodwill to appreciate and celebrate the men in their lives and the contribution they make to society for the greater good of all.

You know who also makes sacrifices every single fucking day: women. It’s women who do the vast majority of caring in our  world: for their children, extending family members and their communities. It is women that do the “volunteer” work needed  to maintain libraries, hospitals, and youth facilities. How many men do you see running parent councils at schools? Running fundraising for playgroups and nurseries? Which parent shows up at school to help with reading? This isn’t because women “don’t work”. Women do all of this on top of working full time (whether in paid employment or not). If women went on strike tomorrow and refused to do any care work, volunteer work or paid employment, the economy would collapse. And, this  is without acknowledging women’s reproductive labour through pregnancy. If men went on strike tomorrow, women would step in and pick up the pieces.

How the fuck is being a grown up a “passage to manhood”. Seriously, this is even bigger claptrap than the appalling shite they ran last year on role models.

How many men do you know who can do the following:

  • name the school crossing guards
  • take the day off work when their kids are sick
  • name the teacher/ dentist/ GP
  • know how to operate the washing machine
  • even know where the washing machine is located in the house
  • spend their evenings sewing costumes for World Book Day
  • stand in a queue for 5 hours to get their kids a ticket to see Mr Tumble
  • do 50 % of the childcare and housework

Because I don’t know any. I know a lot of women whose partners think cooking dinner constitutes helping out at Christmas and have no problem whatsoever in taking 3 days off work when they have a sniffle but don’t lift a finger when their wives have the flu.

I also don’t see a whole lot of men working to end violence against women and girls. When we live in a world where:

  • men choose to kill 2 female current or former partners a week
  • one in three women experience domestic violence
  • more than 30 specialist refuges for women have been closed due to funding cuts
  • more people are upset about Ched Evans being denied the right to play football than they are about him committing rape
  • where the BBC can write articles confusing child sexual exploitation and grooming with affairs
  • where the majority of children living in poverty due so because their “fathers” refuse to pay child maintenance

I don’t see men “sacrificing” their salaries to ensure that their children are properly clothed and fed. I don’t see men “sacrificing” their hobbies to care for their children or vulnerable relatives. I don’t see men running fundraising projects for their kids school or their mother’s residential centre. I don’t see men fighting for laws that would protect vulnerable people from sexual and economic exploitation. I see a whole lot of men benefiting from these laws though.

The real difference between International Men’s Day and International Women’s Day is that men are whinging about behaving like adults and women are campaigning to stop rape, domestic violence and fatal male violence against women and girls. This is just another example of Margaret Atwood’s famous quote: “men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them”. These aren’t equally valid campaigns. International Men’s Day is a joke and men who think they “sacrifice” requires cookies and a special day are the kind of men who need to be kicked off the planet.

Synthia China Blast: convicted for the rape, murder and abuse 13-year-old Ebony Nicole Williams (content note)

Image taken from Gender Trender

Let me be perfectly clear here: I do not like the US judicial system. They have sent generations of communities to prison for the crime of being poor or not white. The entire judicial system is racist, misogynistic, homophobic and simply not fit for purpose. The death penalty is barbaric and the three strikes rule inhumane. Incarcerating people for non-violent crimes is an asinine position – as is incarcerating juveniles with adult men. Hell, I’m not sure incarcerating men with other men, considering the sheer number of rapes which happen daily in US prisons, is anything but a human rights abuse.

That said, I am very concerned with the ways in which the media is covering Laverne Cox’s support of Synthia China Blast and the campaign to have safer housing for transgender people in US prisons. Blast, born Luis Morales, was convicted of the 1993 rape, murder and the abuse of the corpse of Ebony Nicole Williams who was only 13 years old. The campaign for safer housing writes this:

Synthia China Blast, an SRLP client and Prisoner Advisory Committee Member, has been incarcerated in New York for twenty-one years. Synthia identifies as a transgender Latina woman and proud native of the Bronx. Prior to incarceration, she experienced family rejection, lack of access to safe education, homelessness, police profiling and violence because she is transgender. The violent gender policing and various forms of trauma she experienced as a youth have only been reproduced and exacerbated while being held in various men’s prisons operated by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) over the past seventeen years.

There is no mention of Blast’s final conviction for child rape and murder – instead the coverage suggests that the Blast was incarcerated for being a transwoman.

Did Blast grow up surrounded by structural violence – absolutely. He was a member of a gang and had a history of violence. But, recognizing the violence within the system which results in boys like Blast perpetuating the very violence which harmed them does not mean we can ignore the crimes they commit.

We absolutely do need to talk about the criminal justice system and it’s gross failures to rehabilitate prisoners. We need to fight to spend our defence budgets on our own communities to prevent generations of children growing up experience poverty and violence. But, this doesn’t mean that we absolve people of their responsibility in committing crimes. We can believe the system is inherently corrupt and that prisoners deserve better treatment whilst holding individual people responsible for the crimes they committed.

Blast committed child rape and murder. We cannot ignore these facts.

You can read more here.

*As I was writing this blog, the video of Laverne Cox reading Synthia China Blast’s letter has been set to private and is no longer visible on Buzzfeed. These are the chunks of the video published on Buzzfeed:

“I was born and raised in the South Bronx, however since age 15 I’ve been raised in prison. In fact – since age 16 – I’ve only been home once, in 1993, for three months. I’ve been in prison ever since. I’m 38-years-young.”

“I am a political transgender woman ‘slash’ prisoner. I strongly support the rights of LGBT brothers and sisters in the community who are imprisoned also.”

“They may not live in a cage 23 to 24 hours a day like I do, year after year, with no fellow prisoner contact, but they too face the constant torment that LGBT prisoners face in here.”

“Lack of adequate medical care, abusive and evasive treatment by law enforcement officials, denial of basic human rights, the freedom to live among the straight society without fear of retaliation.”

“As a whole, in or out of prison, we all suffer,” Cox reads.

“My members consist of one voice. I want my voice to be heard, I want my dreams to matter, I want people to know who I am because tomorrow is not promised.”

“We each have to be an example for one another, we are minorities in here. If you are part of PAC, you are either directly or indirectly part of the LGBT family.

The letter concludes: “So when I’m asked why did I join the Prisoner Advisory Committee, I smile because I didn’t join anything. I found my family.”

UPDATE:

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project has released a formal statement in response to the removal of the video of Laverne Cox reading Synthia China Blast’s letter. Apparently, they didn’t bother to tell Cox what Blast was incarcerated for and don’t think it’s important. I’m glad Cox has demanded they remove the video,  although the lesson here in checking shit out before signing your name to it is one a whole lot of celebrities might want to familiarize themselves with.

I am very disturbed by the message within the SRLP which effectively states that it doesn’t matter why a transwoman is in prison, they must be supported regardless. Prejudice is a common reason for incarceration in the US and many people within the system should not be there, particularly those incarcerated for substance misuse, prostitution and petty theft. But, there is a huge difference between a transwoman incarcerated for prostitution and one incarcerated for rape, murder and abuse of a corpse – just as there is with any other group of  people incarcerated. We can understand that the carceral system is built on racism, poverty etc and that young men and women living in ghettos end up in gangs for millions of reasons which have nothing to do with personal choice whilst still holding them accountable for their actions. Understanding the system and campaigning to destroy it doesn’t mean that people who commit rape and murder should be forgiven because of the violence they grew up with. Lots of people grow up in families and communities ravaged by poverty and structural violence who do not go on to commit child rape and murder. Whatever we think of the system itself (and it’s a massive failure), the crimes committed by individuals within it need to be spoken about. Failing to address Blast’s actual crimes undermines the SRLP.

UPDATE TWO:

Laverne Cox has posted a response on her tumblr.

UPDATE 3:

This video was just shared on my FB. It is Cox’s reading interspersed with facts about the murder of Ebony Nicole Williams :

 

Dear BBC, Khloe Abrams was killed by her father.

Liam Culverhouse, of Northamptonshire, pled guilty in a Nottingham Crown Court to the charge of causing or allowing the death of his daughter.

Khloe Abrams died at the age of 19 months from a serious trauma following a brutal assault by her father Liam. Khloe died from her injuries 18 months after her father assaulted her. Khloe was an infant and her father caused her such serious trauma that she spent the last 18 months of her life in a hospice in Loughborough, Leicestershire.

This is the story of Khloe’s brutal murder at the hands of the one man who should have protected her but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the BBC’s coverage of the casehere

There are 333 words in the BBC article.

Exactly 37 words refer to Khloe.

Exactly 36 words refer to the criminal case and plea from Liam Culverhouse.

A further 34 words refer to the case refer to Khloe’s mother Clare Abrams.

In article of 333 words, only 107 words refer to the actual death of a baby at the hands of her father.

The BBC devoted the other 226 words to coverage of Liam Culverhouse’s career as a soldier in Afghanistan.

The death of a baby at the hands of her father isn’t considered as important as her father’s career as a soldier.

Liam Culverhouse survived an attack in Helmand province in 2009 that resulted in the death of 5 other soldiers. It is possible that the trauma Culverhouse suffered was directly linked to his violent behaviour which resulted in a brutal attack on his 7 week old daughter. But, this isn’t what the BBC wrote about. 

There is an actual discussion that needs to be had over the increased violence and self-harm perpetrated by returning soldiers who have PTSD. We all know soldiers are more likely to commit suicide, they have higher rates of violence against partners and children and they have higher rates of substance misuse. The failure to support returning troops and the subsequent impact on their families and friends is a disgrace to our nation. This is an important story to tell.

It is entirely possible that the violent assault on Khloe by her father was caused by PTSD. It is also possible that Culverhouse was simply a violent man.

The BBC doesn’t even bother to investigate these issues; instead it has written an entire article on the death of a baby by glorifying the military career of her killer.

We need to have a real conversation about PTSD in returning soldiers. We need to talk about self-harm and domestic violence. We need to talk about sexual violence. We need to talk about why our government still has no real programs in place to deal with PTSD and male violence within the Armed Forces.

We need to have these conversations honestly. Erasing the crime committed by a man who happened to experience a traumatic event is not an honest conversation. It is just another example of a man’s responsibility for violence being eradicated.


Khloe Abrams was brutally assaulted at the age of 7 weeks. Her death is the fault of her father. This is the story the BBC should have reported.

[Thank you to EVB_Now for bringing this case to my attention]

Andrew Parsons: Wife Murderer but still a “Good Father”


Andrew Parsons has been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of his wife Janee Parsons. Andrew murdered his wife in front of their young son. The murder was captured on a dictation machine that Andrew had hidden under Janee’s bed to spy on her. He stalked his wife and then he murdered Janee.

Janee’s crime: having an affair and ending her marriage to Andrew. Andrew murdered Janee because she ended their relationship. Yet, the judge, Patrick Eccles, summation includes the following phrases:

“You were overwhelmed in my judgement by jealous rage.

“Nobody can predict the psychological harm which will be significant to your son.

“You were and no doubt are a good father, you will suffer for the rest of your life knowing the harm you have caused to them.”

Eccles has not only excused Andrew’s violence by labelling it “jealousy” and, therefore, abnormal, he has also chosen to claim that Andrew was a “good father”. Jealous men are not good fathers. Good fathers do not murder their former partners in front of their children. Any man who chooses to abuse or murder his (former) partner is not a “good” father. He is a violent man.

Andrew Parsons lawyer, who at least should be expected to engage in victim-blaming, claimed that Parsons was “clinically depressed” and under “extreme pressure”. Many people are clinically depressed and under extreme pressure and they do not murder their (former) partners.

Janee Parsons was brutally murdered by her former husband, yet the judge has implied that it is her fault for making Andrew jealous.

There are no excuses for violence.

Jealousy is used as an excuse to diminish men’s responsibility for their violence.

Jealousy is used as a way of blaming women for their brutal murder at the hands of violent current or former partners.

Janee Parsons was brutally murdered. Her son saw his mother being murdered. They are the victims of this crime; not Andrew.

Another week, Another Family Annihilator.

Another man murders his children but it’s okay because he was upset about being separated from his mother. 

A five year old girl and a ten year old boy were killed by their father. That is the story. 

A father murdered his own children. A father slit the throats of the two people he was supposed to love and care for above all else. 

A father killed the two people he should have protected from violence. 

Currently, the identities of the father and the two children he brutally killed are not being released but we do that the man was British. We know that he separated from his wife three years ago. We know the relationship ended due to domestic violence. We know that he only had supervised contact with his children until this weekend. We know that the very first time this father had his children unsupervised, he murdered them. 

This is yet another example of a family annihilator punishing his ex-partner by murdering their children. Like Ceri Fuller, Gavin Hall, Mohammed Riaz, and Michael Pederson, this case is just another example of a family annihilator. It is another familiar tale of male violence.  

Yet, the media already seeks to excuse his violence by claiming he was “upset” about being separated from their mother. Neighbours are claiming he “drank too much”, whether or not that is true remains to be seen but we do know he brutally murdered his children. 

There are no excuses for killing children. Divorce is not an excuse. An affair is not an excuse.

Men who kill their children do so because they choose to; because they believe they own their children. Make no mistake, this is a male crime. Karen Ingala Smith has analysed the children murdered in 2012 in the UK. Her research clearly points to this being a case of male violence, but we already knew that. 

We know this is a story of male violence. We just don’t want to talk about it. Instead, we make excuses for these men. We blame their ex-partners for ending the relationship. We blame the economy for these men losing their jobs. We blame everyone but the men who choose to murder their children.

As long we continue pretending that this is not about male violence, more children and women will continue to die at the hands of violent men. We can talk about a “crisis in masculinity” because men are upset about not being “breadwinners” and call for a return to an ahistorical concept of capitalism which has existed for less than 150 years in industrialised nations but we can’t discuss male violence.

Instead, we blame women for the actions of men. 

Two children were brutally murdered by their father. That is the story. 

Their mother deserves to grieve in peace without the media blaming her for having the temerity to end her relationship with the father of her children.

Angela Bourkes’ The Burning of Bridget Cleary

Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary is a social history of the use of fairies and other myths to control people’s behaviour in Ireland in the 19th century. She traces the history of these myths to contextualise the brutal torture and murder of Bridget Cleary by her husband and kinsmen. It is very powerful but equally horrifying. What impressed me the most is that Bourke places the murder of Bridget firmly within a narrative of domestic violence. There are no excuses for male violence so, whilst the murder is contextualised with a history of faeries, changelings, power struggles, and jealousy  Bourke holds the murderers accountable. Bourke then situates the trial of Bridget’s murderers within the political context of British Home Rule of Ireland and the British construction of Irish people as savages.

The Burning of Bridget Cleary is one of the most fascinating and well-researched books I have ever read. Bourke traces multiple layers of  history and myth to tell the story of the murder of Bridget Cleary. It’s rather like Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher* but from a feminist perspective rather than a comprehensive social history. 

I honestly can not recommend this book enough. It is brilliant, insightful, frightening and, above all, a true picture of the complicated processes required to tell the history of women. 

*The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is worth a read too as it contextualises the origins of detectives in British society within the literature of the day particularly in relation to the work of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens.

Her Name was Reeva Steenkamp : It’s Time We Take Personal Responsibility for our Media Culture

I am so very angry at the reporting of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The hypocrisy and women-hating of our media never fails to shock me.

I have written numerous times on the issue of personal responsibility in maintaining the women-blaming rhetoric in our celebrity- obsessed mass media culture; the hypocrisy of the British press publishing nude photos of some celebrities without consent whilst whining about other news media publishing those of others. I’ve written about the mass media’s sensationalising and eroticising male violence for entertainment purposes and of the harmful nature of “women’s” magazines. I’ve written about the links between reality television, bullying culture and the lack of personal responsibility in the Huffington Post.  

The media response to the murder of Reeva Steenkamp by her partner has been just as offensive as every other story of the murder of a woman by a man. The failure to name Reeva Steenkamp and the rendering her as an object has even surpassed even my cynicism of the media’s desire to reinforce rape culture and VAW. I’m not going to link to the picture in the Sun or the article in the Daily Mail since both have been shredded on twitter this morning. And, really, no one expects much from either since they both stopped publishing the news years ago. 

However, they aren’t the only mainstream media who’ve gone with worshipping a murderer at the expense of the victim. I found the Guardian’s retrospective on the life of the murderer of Reeva Steenkamp particularly galling. The Washington Post went with a quote on how some man never saw Reeva Steenkamp’s murderer as “violent”. He’s just murdered someone. I think the boats sailed on the question as to whether or not the man was violent. The BBC can’t seem to remember Reeva Steenkamp’s name. The mainstream media is effectively removing Reeva Steenkamp for the reporting of her own murder.

So far, I’ve only read two articles on the murder of Reeva Steenkamp which weren’t offensive: Mother Jones wrote about it relation to the issue of gun violence in South Africa whilst the F-Word UK wrote about the sensationalising and obfuscation of responsibility of VAW committed by athletes. It is utterly pathetic that the mainstream media has not managed to report this case with anything approaching empathy.

You can complain to the Sun about their front page by phone:  0207 782 4104 

Or, email: dominic.mohan@the-sun.co.uk  and ombudsman@the-sun.co.uk

Do feel free to tweet your anger to @rupertmurdoch

There is a petition here demanding that the Sun apologise for their front page.

Sian and Crooked Rib has written a form letter here.

There are other suggestions for activism here.

Please make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. As EVAW has been tweeting, you can use article 12 of the Code of Practise to make your complaint.

More importantly though, we have got to start taking personal responsibility and stop financially supporting the media outlets which perpetuate VAW as entertainment. There is no point in complaining about the Sun running such an offensive front page if people are clicking on it which increases their advertising revenue. The same goes for the Daily Mail. Complaining about the hateful nature of celebrity culture  whilst financially supporting it is hypocritical.  If we genuinely want to stop this shit from being published, we need to stop buying the Sun, Daily Mail, Heat and OK Magazine. We need to stop financially supporting a culture of bullying vulnerable people for entertainment. 

The Sun may have chosen to run an offensive picture but they did knowing full well that people will buy it. 

We need to start boycotting all forms of media which sensationalise violence in society. We need to start making formal complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. We need to start getting our media coverage from sources interested in justice rather than profit.

We need to force our media to cover actual news without glorifying male violence.

UPDATE:

Here are some very good criticisms of the treatment of Reeva Steenkamp within mainstream media:

Helen Lewis in the New Statesman
Marina Hyde in the Guardian
Jane Fae in politics.co.uk

Apparently, murdering your wife is not a sufficient reason to lose custody of your children.

Neil Ellerbeck murdered his wife Kate Ellerbeck on November 14th, 2008. Kate received 43 separate injuries in the attack before being strangled to death. Neil was sentenced to 8 years in prison for “manslaughter”.  The jury cleared him of murder “on the basis of lack of intent to cause serious harm”; 43 separate injuries which lead to her death but it was still judged a “lack of intent to cause serious harm”. How did we get to a point where 43 separate injuries leading to death aren’t considered intent to cause serious harm?

Neil’s responsibility for the murder of Kate was minimised by the press in a myriad of ways, with their obsession over Kate’s affairs whilst simultaneously downplaying Neil’s own affair. The Telegraph and Daily Mail were both obsessed with how much money Neil earned as an investment banker, as if being a rich white man was more important than his status as a murderer. The very obvious  signs of domestic violence were ignored and the quite clear indicator of Neil’s potential to physical violence downplayed. Neil was tracking his wife’s movements. He was recording her conversations. Jealously and controlling behaviour are obvious indicators of a propensity to violence, yet these were minimised in the media.

This is, apparently, part of the Judge’s statement at sentencing:

‘We have studied and dissected a marriage which was obviously in terminal decline. It should have ended in separation and divorce. Tragically it ended in death.

‘The jury have found that you did not intend to kill or cause really serious harm during the long eruption of violence which ended in her death.

‘You achieved a great deal in your life, but it is plain to me there was a darker side of your character – the secretive obsessively jealous husband who spied on his wife, invaded her privacy and contributed to the unhappiness in the final months and years of her life.

‘A husband who knew divorce was coming and would go to almost any length to prevent that from happening.

‘You squirreled money away intending to keep it from your wife. It was the darker side to your character that boiled over.

‘I am sure you intended some harm to your wife albeit not serious harm. I am sure your anger and frustration erupted that morning when it became clear your wife was serious about divorce and it was then you applied constant and deliberate pressure to her neck.’

Neil was sentenced to eight years for the murder of his wife. He served four before being released. He is now living in his former home with his two children. He murdered their mother and only spent 4 years in prison. He now has access to his million dollar home. He has custody of his children. A man who brutally murdered his wife because she asked for a divorce is now living in their former home with their children.

Because, murdering their mother in anger doesn’t constitute a significant risk to the children’s lives.

Because, a middle class white man who violently murdered a woman shouldn’t lose custody of his children.

Because, a middle class white man couldn’t possibly be a risk to his children.

After all, no middle class white man has ever murdered his children.

Because, a middle class white man with a clear history of domestic violence against his partner couldn’t possibly be a risk to his children.

The facts that he has already abused the children by forcing them to live in the house where he was abusing their mother, that he has already committed child abuse by killing their mother, and the fact that he is continuing to abuse his children by forcing them to live in the house where he killed their mother with him are all, well, just irrelevant really. After all, some women who have experienced domestic violence lose custody of their children for her failure to protect her children from living with domestic violence. The man’s role as perpetrator is ignored.

Instead, he gets to move back into his expensive house and pretend that he hasn’t already destroyed the lives of his children.

Welcome to the Patriarchy: where women and children don’t matter.