Monthly Archives: May, 2020

QotD: “A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead”

A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead.

It is believed to be the first Canadian terror case not tied to Islamic extremism and could mark a turning point, experts say, as the authorities crack down on the misogynistic incel or “involuntary celibate” movement, which has its roots in online chatrooms.

The 17-year-old suspect, who as a minor cannot be named, is accused of entering an erotic massage parlour in Toronto in late February and killing Ashley Noell Arzaga, 24.

He also allegedly stabbed the shop’s owner as she wrestled the machete from him. Reports of the incident suggest another man was injured before an arrest was made.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initially charged him with first-degree murder and attempted murder but upgraded both charges to include “terrorist activity” on Tuesday in light of new evidence discovered by Toronto police. The suspect was in attendance at court via video link.

“Terrorism comes in many forms and it’s important to note that it is not restricted to any particular group, religion or ideology,” the RCMP said in a statement.

Incels — usually indignant, sexually frustrated men — blame women for their inability to form romantic relationships. Some openly call for violence against women, or “Stacys”, and “Chads”, the men they date. The RCMP now class it as an “ideologically motivated violent extremist movement”.

Almost 50 deaths have been linked to incels across North America in recent years, prompting calls for such attacks to be classified as domestic terrorism. Suspects tend to be lone wolves using easily accessible weapons, such as knives and vehicles, and lack ties to specific organisations, all of which hinder police efforts to stop them.

The authorities have declined to level terrorism charges in similar cases, including a 2018 attack in Toronto where ten people were killed and 16 injured when a van drove into pedestrians on a busy road.

Even though the suspect, Alek Minassian, allegedly told police that he identified as an incel and hoped to “inspire future masses” to join his “uprising”, he was not charged with terrorism.

Minassian was allegedly inspired by Elliot Rodger, who is believed to have perpetrated the first incel-related attack in 2014 when he killed six and injured 14 with a knife, gun and car in Isla Vista, California.


QotD: “CPS backed off assault charge over fear of ‘rough sex’ defence”

Prosecutors declined to pursue charges against a man accused of assault because of fears he would claim it was consensual sexual behaviour — a decision that will intensify pressure to outlaw the “rough sex gone wrong” defence.

The woman involved said she had been physically and sexually assaulted but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told her that “the suspect could say you consented to these assaults”.

The Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote to Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, yesterday asking him to review the case. “If that’s what is going to happen, there could be no prosecutions of sexual offences at all, because in every case the defendant could say ‘she wanted it’,” Harman said.

MPs and campaigners want to ban what has been called the “Fifty Shades” defence, in which men who admit to causing fatal injuries to a woman claim they resulted from a consensual sex game. The name comes from the bestselling novels about a couple involved in bondage and submission.

A key pillar in the defence of the killer of the British backpacker Grace Millane, strangled in New Zealand last year on the night before her 22nd birthday, was that she enjoyed “rough sex”. He was found guilty of murder.

There is cross-party support for outlawing the defence, with Harman leading the parliamentary campaign alongside the Conservative MP Mark Garnier. The pair have backed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will go to a bills committee this week, to try to prevent men who have committed murder escaping justice by using this defence. Ministers have pledged to look into it.

Campaigners led by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), a legal charity, also want the bill to make strangulation a specific offence. Nogah Ofer, a solicitor with CWJ, said strangulation was a “red flag” that indicated victims of domestic abuse were at the highest risk, but “police often minimise the crime as it doesn’t leave many, or sometimes any, visible signs . . . so perpetrators are only charged with common assault”.

The letter from the CPS to the alleged victim in the assault case stated: “A prosecution could follow in relation to this offence, but the courts have shown an interest in changing the law so that the suspect could say that you consented to these assaults. This would be difficult to disprove,” citing the specifics of the case.

It went on: “If I prosecuted this offence it is likely to lead to lengthy legal proceedings in which the background to the case would have to be visited as far as the sexual practices that led to and accompanied the infliction of the injuries. In my opinion it is not in the public interest to pursue this charge.”

Since 1972, men have used “rough sex” as a defence following the deaths of 60 women, according to the campaign group We Can’t Consent To This. Just under half of the men did not face a murder charge.

The CPS said: “We carefully consider all the facts of every individual case before making a charging decision. If we are satisfied that the legal test for a criminal offence is met, then we will always prosecute.”


QotD: “Domestic Abuse Bill – the need for an offence of non-fatal strangulation”

About Centre for Women’s Justice

Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) is a legal charity working to hold the stateto account on the response to violence against women and girls. We are a lawyer-led organisation whose work focuses on challenging failings and discrimination against womenin the criminal justice system


CWJ is calling for a free-standing offence of non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation.We believe that this form of offending is currently significantly under-charged across the UK.Our view is strongly supported by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the Victim’s Commissioner and numerous domestic abuse charities.

What is non-fatal strangulation?

It is widely recognised that non-fatal strangulation and asphyxiation (eg. suffocation with a pillow) are a common feature of domestic abuse and a well known risk indicator [1]. Strangulation and asphyxiation are the second most common method of killing in female homicides – 29% or 17% [2] -as compared to only 3% of male homicides [3]. In addition, research highlights how non-fatal strangulation is frequently used as a tool to exert power and control, and to instil fear, rather than being a failed homicide attempt [4]. It sends the message that ‘if you do not comply this is how easily I can kill you’. Non-fatal strangulation is a gendered crime.Reports describe strangulation as extremely painful and the inability to breathe as very frightening. Loss of consciousness can occur in 10 to 15 seconds and lack of oxygen to the brain can result in mild brain damage. Although there is little or no visible injury, numerous longer-term effects are reported, including fractured trachea/larynx, internal bleeding, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus, ear bleeding, sore throat, a raspy voice, neurological injuries such as facial and eyelid droop, loss of memory and even stroke several months later as a result of blood clots [5].

Why is a new offence needed?

Under-charging demonstratesa failure by both police and prosecutors to appreciate the severity of non-fatal strangulation. A separate offence would also emphasise the importance of non-fatal strangulation when risk assessments are carried out.

The current legal position

There is currently no distinct offence of non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation [6] and it can be difficult to prove intent for an offence of attempted murder. In the majority of cases prosecutions can only be brought for an assault offence. The lack of observable injuries means that offenders’ conduct is often minimised, and they are charged with common assault rather than with actual bodily harm (ABH). CPS guidance for prosecutors on offences against the person [7] states that when deciding whether to charge with common assault or ABH:

Whilst the level of charge will usually be indicated by the injuries sustained, ABH may be appropriate … [where] the circumstances in which the assault took place are more serious e.g. repeated threats or assaults on the same complainant or significant violence (e.g. by strangulation or repeated or prolonged ducking in a bath, particularly where it results in momentary unconsciousness.) (emphasis added)

The guidance indicates that non-fatal strangulation and suffocation offences should result in a charge of ABH rather than common assault. However, in our experience this does not take place in a great many cases.

Realities on the ground

CWJ carries out training for local domestic abuse services around England and Wales. Over the past two years we have trained over 32 organisations at 24 training days in London, the Midlands, North East and North West of England, North and South Wales and the South East. Our experience is based on reports by frontline domestic abuse support workers who take part in our training. CWJ’s training includes the CPS guidance quoted above. In most, if not all, training sessions domestic abuse support workers report that cases they deal with involving strangulation are generally charged as common assault. We hear this consistently and from support workers across the country. We therefore believe this to be a systemic issue rather than local isolated failings.

Charging decisions

Common assault is a summary offence which can only go to the Magistrates Court, whereas ABH is more serious ‘either way’ offence which can go to the Magistrates or the Crown Court. Police have the power to charge summary offences without a charging decision from the CPS [8] We do not know whether in practice officers obtain input from CPS in such cases. Frontline support workers report that police officers tend to focus primarily on physical injuries when assessing domestic abuse situations. Strangulation and asphyxiation leave minimal injury and are therefore easily dismissed as relatively minor. However, prosecutors are also responsible for under-charging and for under-charged cases proceeding to trial.

CWJ frequently hears of cases where prosecutions are not brought because the six month deadline for charging summary offences has passed. Where strangulation is treated as a common assault, rather than ABH, cases are closed by the police due to this deadline, without referral to CPS. Had they been treated as ABH there would be no time limit for charging. A new offence must be an ‘either way’ offence to reflect the severity of the conduct involved and remove time restrictions.

Risk assessment

A separate offence of non-fatal strangulation will also help the police to identify this critical risk factor in their overall response to domestic abuse. This is illustrated by the Coroner’s report in 2019 following the inquest into the death of Anne-Marie Nield.

Anne-Marie Nielddied during a sustained assault by her partner, who had previously subjected her to non-fatal strangulation. Officers who dealt with the previous incidents failed to appreciate the significance of strangulation as a risk factor, and graded the risk as standard rather than high. There was no support offered to her and no referral to the multi-agency panel. The Coroner expressed concern that at the time of the inquest two and a half years later there was still no reference to non-fatal strangulation in the police force’s domestic abuse policy and a lack of understanding of the issue amongst the officers involved.

A freestanding offence

Strangulation has been identified in other jurisdictions to be a significant factor for risk assessment requiring a freestanding offence [9] In the US around 30 states have non-fatal strangulation offences and in Australia the state of Queensland introduced the offence in 2016, with other states due to follow [10]. A freestanding offence of strangulation or asphyxiation which is an either way offence will require police to treat such cases with the gravity they deserve and refer all such cases to the CPS for a charging decision. It will also draw the attention of prosecutors to the seriousness of this form of offending, with training around the particular links between strangulation / asphyxiation, domestic abuse and homicide.

For more information contact Centre for Women’s Justice

[1] The standard risk assessment tool for domestic abuse is the “DASH” checklist which includes a question aboutattemptsto strangle, choke, suffocate, or drown the victim /survivor. The factors within the DASH checklist have been identified through extensive research on factors associated with serious domestic violence and homicide.: See Journal of Emergency Medicine (2007)

[2] The Femicide Census for 2018 reports 46% of deaths by stabbingand 29% through strangulation or asphyxiation, blunt instrument 16%, kicking/ hitting/ stamping 13% and all other methods below 5%. See page 28

[3] Office for National Statistics Homicides in England and Wales year ending March 2019 reports 17% of women killed by strangulation or asphyxiation, with stabbing the most common method of killing for National Statistics Homicides in England and Wales year ending March 2019, see note 2 above.

[4] Thomas, Joshi and Sorenson (2014)

[5] Sorensen, Joshi and Sivitz (2014) Pendletonand Strack (2014)

[6] Section 21 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 sets out an offence of attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle in order to commit an indictable offence, however this only applies when this is done in order to commit some other serious offence.


[8] Director’s Guidance on Charging Para 15.

[9] Edwards (2015) Criminal Law Review Issue 12 This article also contains a detailed analysis of relevant English law.

[10], see also note 4 above.

PDF of document here

QotD: “Gloria Steinem says TV drama of 1970s feminist history ‘ridiculous'”

It stars Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne in a glossy, big-budget TV account of 1970s feminist history but one key player who was there, Gloria Steinem, is withering: it is ridiculous, undermining and just not very good, she said on Friday.

Steinem, arguably the world’s most famous feminist, has revealed she is not a fan of the new Hulu TV show Mrs America, which premiered in the US last month and is coming to BBC2 in the UK later in the year.

The show stars Byrne as Steinem and Blanchett as her rightwing nemesis, Phyllis Schlafly, who is seen leading the fight against the equal rights amendment.

Steinem was due to make her first appearance at the Hay festival this year. Now cancelled, she is one of the first interviewees for a reconvened online version, speaking to the writer Laura Bates on Friday about her new book, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off!

Steinem was asked for advice on how to deal with women who were not feminists and perpetuated sexism.

They existed, Steinem said. “But what is important to remember is, though women may be a problem for other women, they don’t have the power to be the big problem. Women may be adversaries, but we don’t have the power to be our worst adversaries.

“For instance, there’s now a not very good series here called Mrs America and it gives you the impression that … Schlafly, who was a very religious and rightwing woman who opposed the equal rights amendment … it gives you the impression that she was the reason it was defeated.

“In actuality, I don’t believe she changed one vote. Nobody could ever discover that she changed even one vote. The insurance industry here opposed the equal rights amendment because if they stopped segregating their actuarial tables it would cost them millions upon millions of dollars.”

Schlafly was someone “brought in at the last minute” to make it seem that women opposed equal rights when the truth was “the vast majority” always supported it, Steinem said.

“The series makes it seem as if women are our own worst enemies, which keeps us from recognising who our worst enemies are. Not that we aren’t in conflict, yes we are in conflict, but by and large we don’t have the power to be our own worst enemies.”

Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, said the media often set up debates with token women, seeking to create a “cat fight as a means of undermining feminist argument”.

Steinem agreed. “That’s the problem with this ridiculous television show. I’m sure the actors in it are fine, it’s just the thrust of the story is the problem.”

Mrs America was created by the former Mad Men writer and producer Dahvi Waller, who has stressed it is not a biopic of Schlafly or Steinem. It also stars Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress; and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique.

Steinem, 86, talked about the importance of feminists of all ages working together. “Segregating by age is as ridiculous and destructive as segregating by race or class or gender or anything else. We learn from each other. We need each other.”

Bates said she still found girls in schools who felt they were a lone feminist voice. “There are these girls everywhere who think that they are the only one and who are on the verge of giving up and who feel completely defeated and are lambasted by their peers … they are called feminazis, they are made fun of, they are ridiculed.”

What would Steinem’s message be to those girls?

“I would say to her … trust that voice inside you and find a listener and a friendly voice somewhere. Maybe you’re not finding it in your classroom but maybe there is somebody in your neighbourhood, just somebody you feel drawn to. Talk to that person … Trust your own wisdom.”


QotD: “Why is porn so misogynist?”

Why is porn so misogynist? Answer: The greater the degradation of the woman, the hotter the porn. Porn only works to the degree it totally debases the woman, and turns her into the “cumdumster” that she certainly must be because she “chose” to be there of her own free will. That way he, the user, is NOT debasing her because she already debased herself, because well, she chose to be there. A circular argument that makes a feminist’s mind spin, and a man’s penis hard.

Gail Dines

(found on tumblr)

QotD: “Hull school ‘sorry’ after pupils researched porn homework on web”

A head teacher says he is “sorry” if homework asking pupils to define types of hardcore pornography led them to undertake inappropriate web searches.

The work was given to children, aged 11 to 14, at Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull, the Hull Daily Mail reported.

Principal Chay Bell stressed the assignment did not require internet research as the answers were in the material the pupils were sent.

Leon Dagon was “flabbergasted” when he saw his 13-year-old sister’s homework.

The work is part of pupils’ Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) learning, the school said.

The students were asked to “define” topics including hardcore pornography, soft pornography as well as female genital mutilation and breast ironing.

They were also asked questions about alcohol, drugs and smoking, as part of the homework.

Mr Dagon, who took to Facebook to share his concerns, said: “My little sister knows make-up and TikTok at the age of 13. She doesn’t know about hardcore porn, and then asking her to define it.

“The majority of children nowadays will now go on the internet to help them with their homework and if you type that kind of thing on the internet, God knows what’s going to pop up.”

Mr Bell said: “I am genuinely sorry if parents or students have unnecessarily researched any of these phrases and for any offence caused by this mistake.”

He said students “were not directed to research these topics themselves on the internet because all the answers to the questions posed are contained in the teacher-produced materials we shared”.

The work was in line with government guidance, but he added: “I have asked that no future PSHE materials contain any potentially sensitive content and will ensure all materials are fully age-appropriate.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said it was a matter for the school and had no further comment to make.


QotD from Assata Shakur

QotD: “Why is there ‘shame’ around women and pole dancing?”

These days, men who frequent strip clubs, follow porn stars on Instagram, and share unsolicited nudes or dick pics are called “fuck boys.” Yet, a woman who does the same is “empowered, liberated, and reclaiming her sexuality.” Women who claim the “feminist” label are able to be critical of men who engage in what some might call “toxic masculinity,” but when women engage in similar practices, critics are said to be attacking women. Why?

When I pointed out that pole dancing is not empowering, after J.Lo’s controversial Super Bowl halftime show performance, I failed to acknowledge one fact: many women want to be sexually objectified, even if it comes at a cost to both themselves and other women. And fulfillment of that desire — however harmful — can be interpreted as an empowered choice.

It is no mere coincidence that, despite having accessed the highest of educational and economic privilege, many women are voluntarily taking pole classes and posting photos of their asses online. We are deeply attached to life under a glass ceiling. We may have equal legal rights, but we still live in a porn culture, and, like victims of trauma bonding, we are clinging to the notion that we can reframe the harm of objectification as “free choice,” and therefore it is no longer harmful. But this puts us in a bind: even if objectification is a free choice, it still hurts women, meaning we are in a prison of our own making.

We are both embarrassed by and enmeshed within the terms of our own sexual subversion. The knee jerk “don’t judge how women choose to be sexual” response tells us all we need to know about female sexuality today: we cannot fathom sexuality existing outside of the extremes of either religious puritanism or sexist voyeurism, and we refuse to think beyond this.

As Paolo Freire explained in his 1968 book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the oppressed, once freed, often become their own oppressor: “Having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, [the oppressed] are fearful of freedom.” Whether it’s selling nudes, going to strip clubs to see other women clap their ass cheeks, or groping women in a display of faux-lesbianism, women have become the untouchable cheerleaders doing exactly what we would call men douchebags for doing.

We want to pick apart the “toxic masculine” and hold its leaders to account, but, as women, we refuse to do the same. On Twitter, one woman said that while she is ok selling her nudes to men, she wouldn’t be OK with her boyfriend buying other women’s nudes. The double standard is odd. But the only acceptable response to someone like her is, #yougogirl.

While third wave feminists insist we cannot criticize women’s performances of “sexuality,” lest we engage in “slut shaming,” the truth is that women are not shamed for being sexual — rather, they are routinely and widely shamed as prudes for saying “no.”

It is unequivocally clear that commodified versions of sex are not shamed in our society. The opposite is true: the selling of sex and porn is rampant and encouraged. As Meghan Murphy points out, “Prostitution is already destigmatized, it’s not helping.”

I am not speaking from a place of judgement, either, but from experience (and honesty). I will be the first to admit that the reason I have chosen to get blackout drunk, take a million selfies, flash my friends, and make out with a hot woman at the bar is not because I am making an empowered choice to challenge the patriarchy and reclaim queer sexuality, but because I, like every human on earth, am deeply shaped by sexist conditioning. I do not write critically about this to shame women, but to criticize the conditions that shape our choices.

Historically, all women have lacked sexual sovereignty over our bodies. This fact is pretty widely accepted after several waves of feminism and the #MeToo movement. Yet, it is unacceptable to question the ways in which burlesque, pole classes, and nudes — the highbrow, upper-class replications of lower-class women’s sexual subordination — further entrench the problem.

To be clear, I’m not telling women not to do these things — I’m pointing out that reselling the problem at a higher price point is not a solution.

Bizarrely, many of us are terrified of a return to a Victorian-type era, where sex is repressed, but we are not terrified of our present day: where there are more women and children sexually enslaved than ever before and millions of us mindlessly wank over propaganda for that exploitation.

Far from resolving this paradox, feminist approaches have reinforced our entrenchment within it. Arguing we “reclaim it and do it for ourselves” has only led women further down the very same path that men like Hugh Hefner and Harvey Weinstein wanted us on. Rather than presenting new or alternate visions of sexuality, we have the same old “tits out for the boys” norm, but this time apparently we’re doing it for ourselves. Just like regular old objectification, “self-objectification” still leads to increased risk of depression, body image insecurities, lower self-esteem, and poorer treatment from both men and women alike. None of these harms are mitigated because some women are objectifying themselves as a choice.

Mischaracterizing women who speak on this issue as prudish and pearl-clutching is only doubling down on the misogyny that fuels sexual exploitation. It is necessary that we criticize exploitation and sexual objectification in order to advance authentic sexuality — look to Audre Lorde, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Adrienne Rich, who have all masterfully articulated the differences between the pornographic and the erotic.

There is a time for calling out the men who demonstrate “toxic masculinity” — the Harvey Weinsteins of the world who have made a fortune while exploiting and sexually objectifying women and girls. But there is also a time for calling out the leaders of the “toxic feminine” — those women who perpetuate harmful imagery and claim it is empowering: the Emily Ratajkowskis, the J.Los, and, frankly, the entirety of third wave feminism. I am not shaming women who pole dance, post nudes, or strip — I want to look truthfully at how these choices are limited and shaped, and talk about why women do feel ashamed when they participate in their own oppression.

Laura McNally, Feminist Current

QotD: “Sex Matters: How Male-centric Medicine Endangers Women’s Health and What We Can Do About It”

We can all identify someone having a stroke, can’t we? A sudden loss of function on one side of the body, drooping face, slurred speech, numbness. Sure we can — but that someone will most probably be a man.

With women, stroke symptoms are very different. They may present as a migraine-like headache, light-headedness, possibly a drop in co-ordination. Transient ischaemic attacks, or mini strokes, are often described by women as, “I felt funny for five minutes, but now I’m fine” or, “I had total brain fog for an hour, but I’m OK.”

The critical thing, says Dr Alyson McGregor, an emergency medicine consultant, is that these unique female symptoms are only now being pinned down. Many doctors, let alone the public, don’t recognise them, meaning women’s strokes are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

Unsurprisingly, although men are more likely to suffer strokes, more women die of them; twice as many, in fact, as die from breast cancer. Strokes are the third leading female cause of death, but their symptoms are often brushed off as urinary tract infections, migraine or anxiety. This means proper treatment is frequently delayed, anticoagulants are prescribed at a lower, less effective dose than they are for men, and outcomes are poorer.

McGregor is one of America’s experts in the male-centric bias in the medical profession, which for years has nurtured doctors with the false belief that apart from the sex organs, men and women are biologically identical. While everything from textbooks and medical tenets to drug research and dissection mannequins treat male bodies as the human norm, she says women’s bodies react differently from their DNA up. (In fairness, a leading US medical school puts a wig on a mannequin to flag it as female.)

The unconscious sex bias in medical knowledge, which first came to my attention in Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women last year, is fairly jaw-dropping stuff. Heart attacks, for instance: men often get the classic symptoms of pain down the left arm, chest pressure, nausea, cold sweats, while women may present with only mild pain and discomfort, fatigue, possible shortness of breath and a strong feeling “something isn’t right”. They’re often told they’ve got a panic attack and anxiety, and sent home.

One study of cardiac misdiagnosis in 100,000 people showed that women under 55 who went to A&E with significant heart-attack symptoms are seven times more likely to be sent home than men, doubling their risk of death. Overall, women are three times more likely than men, in the US at least, to die after a serious heart attack.

Women’s hearts fail differently. After cardiac arrest, unlike men, their hearts have pulseless electrical activity — they flatline and they’re not shockable. Any TV hospital drama featuring doctors waving electric paddles on a woman is cobblers. (Apparently the only tools are CPR and adrenaline.) Plus, while men gather big clots of plaque in their blood vessels, women’s vessels absorb it, weakening and stiffening. This microvascular dysfunction stresses the heart, but — guess what? — angiograms aren’t designed to detect it. And, poignantly, women are the primary victims of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy — broken heart syndrome — thought to be caused by a massive surge of fight or flight hormones after a stressful event, such as a family death. Suddenly the left ventricle of the heart balloons and cannot beat properly.

Women are less likely to be treated for sepsis, arrhythmia and chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. They’re less likely to be referred for tests for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and autoimmune and various neurological disorders. In other words they’re undertreated and underbelieved.

Women metabolise prescription drugs differently from men 40 per cent of the time, but most drugs are still tested almost exclusively on men. It’s cheaper and easier. The catastrophe of thalidomide tightened regulations to protect women of child-bearing age and many researchers then chose to exclude them completely. Big Pharma’s testing protocols are developed to identify male-pattern symptoms.

Take statins. A prominent female cardiologist, quoted in the book, says they have little benefit for the millions of women who take them — and there is zero evidence that they lower the risk of heart attack or stroke for women. Or aspirin: the anti-blood-clotting benefits of aspirin have been observed only in men; with women, they don’t outweigh the risks. Another study shows naltrexone, an anti-addiction drug, reduced the use of alcohol and drugs in men, but increased it in women.

Most roads in women’s health, though, lead back to a male idea of female anxiety. Women are more likely to receive a psychiatric diagnosis — always remembering “hysteria” is derived from the Greek word for uterus, “hystera” — and there is “a pervasive unconscious belief in medical culture that women are prone to illogical and unreasonable outbursts”. In other words, they’re attention-seekers and their complaints less believed. McGregor sees this implicit bias everywhere in medicine.

In one study of IBS, men were more likely to be offered x-rays, women anti-anxiety medicine and lifestyle advice. Another study showed severely injured women were less likely even to be brought to A&E (49 per cent women, 62 per cent men). The researchers ruled out all other factors and found subconscious gender bias.

In the same way, the emphasis on anxiety as the go-to female condition means women themselves discount their inner wisdom and apologise for their feelings instead of trusting them. They “talk themselves down”. McGregor has seen women with heart-attack symptoms leave emergency waiting rooms because they or their husband persuaded them it was just anxiety. On similar lines, the Yentl syndrome describes the vicious circle whereby the more women try to explain their pain, the more doctors tune out. She is convinced women that process pain differently — but because the physiology is not understood, their pain isn’t properly tackled by existing drugs.


Tell the BBC commercially raped children are not ‘workers’

The text accompanying this BBC report (which itself does not use the term ‘sex work’), refers to commercially sexually exploited children as ‘workers’.

You can complain to the BBC here, please feel free to copy or adapt the below text:

I am writing to complain about a report on missing/trafficked children in India using the term ‘sex work’ to describe the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Words and the meanings of words matter, a raped child is not a ‘worker’; ‘sex work’ is a partisan term, and using it in the context of child exploitation reduces a sexual exploitation issue to a mere labour issue.