QotD: “both the snake oil merchant right & the zanier reaches of the rainbow left are currently tripling down on the idea that women have a social duty to fuck men”
You can tell me horseshoe theory is nonsense all you like, but both the snake oil merchant right & the zanier reaches of the rainbow left are currently tripling down on the idea that women have a social duty to fuck men & that to refuse is to either cause or perpetrate violence.
QotD: “I keep reading the Fae tweet and keep wondering what exactly domestic violence “gone right” would be. Presumably when the woman complies before the man has murdered her?”
I keep reading the Fae tweet and keep wondering what exactly domestic violence “gone right” would be. Presumably when the woman complies before the man has murdered her?
Peddling of falsehood wrapped up as knowledge (actually most men who commit intimate partner femicide make a decision to kill) and the minimising of the impact of domestic violence & abuse for those who live with it let alone those who have been killed, a new low for Jane Fae
QotD: “Before #MeToo, There Was Catharine A. MacKinnon and Her Book ‘Sexual Harassment of Working Women’”
Although the ritual itself has an incalculably long history, the term “sexual harassment” has only been around since the mid-1970s, when activists at Cornell University coined it during a consciousness-raising session. It was MacKinnon’s book, though dense and academic, that brought the idea broader attention, charting a course for the legal system to more effectively handle instances of harassment as cases of sex discrimination, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As far back as the 19th century, women were occasionally able to reap monetary damages through the courts if men touched them inappropriately in public, but tort law was an inadequate means of addressing harassment claims, MacKinnon believed, because it personalized injuries that were inflicted socially and ecumenically.
Lawyers who had tried to apply the civil rights statute to these claims had largely failed, in part because courts struggled to process what was essentially discriminatory about a practice that could theoretically victimize anyone: How could you ever know that a woman was subject to harassment because she was a woman, rather than, say, an individual who happened to be female? MacKinnon’s approach was rooted in the theory that sexual harassment realized and reiterated women’s inequality, that it locked women into a kind of dependence and failure.
It was not until seven years after the arrival of MacKinnon’s book, though, that the Supreme Court recognized sexual harassment as a Title VII violation. The case was Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson and it had little nuance. In it a bank teller had charged that a company vice president had coerced her into having sex with him repeatedly, that he had touched her in public and raped her. Here the court ruled unanimously that harassment resulting in a hostile work environment was discriminatory and unlawful.
In a recent essay in The New York Times, MacKinnon celebrated the #MeToo movement, acknowledging that it was able to achieve what sexual harassment law, despite its sporadic victories, could not: a unified movement against an intractable brand of predation. Accusers were suddenly believed. Why the revolution finally got the reception it deserved has still not entirely been sorted out, but it seems clear that a war waged from the vantage point of legal theory was bound to have a harder time than a war waged from the modern media.
The 1970s and ’80s witnessed various efforts to expose and address the dark and dangerous habits of American intimacy. Movements against domestic violence and child abuse, for example, had meaningful allies in popular culture. In 1984, “The Burning Bed,” a television movie based on the true story of a Michigan housewife, Francine Hughes Wilson, who lit her husband on fire while he was sleeping, in retaliation for years of brutality, was viewed by 75 million people. The movie was crucial in transforming public understanding of spousal abuse: Shelters for battered women began opening around the country; the police began to take the issue more seriously; women who killed battering partners, and children who killed battering parents, were understood to be victims of a destructive syndrome that often gave them judicial reprieve.
Best-selling thrillers like “Flowers in the Attic” and “When the Bough Breaks” took on child abuse and molestation, and by the 1990s we began to see the spread of community notification laws that required convicted sex offenders to register. The law followed in a sense what narrative awakened first.
The movement against sexual harassment had something else, however: a mass-market antagonist in the empire of Helen Gurley Brown and Cosmopolitan magazine, which preached a feminism of patriarchal compliance. Brown encouraged young women to work hard, build careers and run companies, but to accomplish it all by coddling the men they worked with and finding sexual freedom along the way. In “Sex and the Office,” Brown’s sequel to her loopy best-selling instructional “Sex and the Single Girl,” she delivered a playbook for the way young women should understand male bosses that included lessons in making them feel godlike. Colleagues were potential sexual partners and the cubicle was Tinder: “Though it may seem to the untrained eye that you are selflessly working on office projects together, what you are really doing is sinking into them like a cobalt treatment so that you may make off with them after work.”
The book appeared in 1968 and in 2004 was reissued with an enthusiastic blurb from Donald Trump. In the 1990s, Brown’s brand of feminism, dependent on the idea that women needed to work within the structures available to them, gained a new currency and held on for a long time. MacKinnon, of course, believed that the structure itself was the problem, a notion that for more than three decades has largely been received as benighted and fusty. At long last, we’re coming around.
How long before lefty/liberal men just start calling battered women and raped children ‘snitches’ or ‘narcs’?
Lib Dem policy is explicitly supportive of trans people’s right to self define. We also support decriminalisation of sex work. Our feminist principles align with our liberalism. We are not a party that has a lot of time for carceral feminism. Hope that clarifies.
This is actually really scary, ‘carceral feminism’ is the newest though-terminating cliché, being thrown around like it actually means something.
Like ‘TERF’, ‘SWERF’, ‘whorephobe’, etc, it is being used to stifle debate and shut down critical thinking. That it is coming from a political party is appalling.
How long before lefty/liberal men just start calling battered women and raped children ‘snitches’ or ‘narcs’?
Last week, Sally Challen, who in 2011 had been convicted of her husband Richard’s murder and handed a 22-year sentence, was granted permission to appeal. Sally – now 63, a mother of two, who’d been with Richard since the age of 15 – doesn’t deny that she bludgeoned him to death with a hammer, before driving to Beachy Head to kill herself. But what’s changed in the years she’s been in prison, is that the law now recognises that domestic violence can’t always be quantified simply in bruises and broken arms, but may also include “coercive control”, where it’s not just a person’s physical integrity that’s violated, but their human rights.
Challen’s legal team will submit fresh evidence that they say shows Richard humiliated her, isolated her, lied to her about his affairs with other women, controlled her finances, and raped her, after she kissed one of his friends on the cheek. Once, when they had guests for dinner, he threw the entire meal Sally had cooked, along with plates, into the bin. She killed him in 2010, then covered his body with a curtain, leaving a note that said: “I love you.”
It’s not uncommon for abusive relationships to end in a fatality, but usually it is the man left standing – on average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. No doubt it’s this that has catapulted Challen’s story of domestic abuse into the headlines, over those where it was a woman who died and the murder barely acknowledged. Initially this case played as a crime of jealousy after Challen discovered one of her husband’s affairs. This week, the details have been repeated in every paper, and gorily, too. Whereas men killing women? Typically a weary inclusion three clicks deep. But either way, a conversation about domestic abuse is horribly welcome.
I’m writing as last week’s snow is thawing. Challen’s appeal feels like the slimmest, but warmest slice of light at a time when the system is in crisis, when there is nowhere for escaping women to hide, when help for victims has been diluted to a homeopathic degree, with a huge number of hostels closing because of government cuts, and when (according to a survey by Refuge) almost 40% of 16 to 21-year-old girls say they think coercive behaviour in relationships has become normalised.
Sally Challen’s case has the potential to change, if not the world, where men will surely continue to abuse women until what it means to be a man changes completely, then the way we look at the world, and in turn, the women suffering inside it. This case has comprehensively laid out the ways in which women are crushed by their abusers. It’s shown the depth of violence women suffer in these relationships, the lack of control they have, whether of their bank accounts or how regularly they’re allowed to go to the toilet, and so in turn, explains how difficult it can be to leave this house, this double-glazed prison.
We know the role that children play in these stories, we’ve seen how mothers will put themselves at risk to protect them. If Sally’s appeal is successful, as her son David (who has been campaigning steadily for her release, calmly answering questions about his father’s death on Good Morning, and calling for mental abuse to be taken more seriously in this country) is hoping, then thousands of women living in similar small hells, could be freed too. To David then, happy Mother’s Day.
QotD: “35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partnered sexual violence at some point in their lives.”
More or Less is a BBC Radio 4 programme that investigates the use of statistics in everyday media; today’s broadcast looks at an advert by the UK branch of UN Women about rates of sexual violence against women and girls, called ‘Draw a Line’.
The first thing is that they confirm the statistic that two women a week in the UK are murdered by a current or ex-partner.
Next, they look at the claim that, for 1 in 3 girls, their first sexual experience is coerced, which is more complicated. The claim comes from a 2005 WHO report, which studied ten different countries, all of which have very different rates of sexual violence.
14-30% of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru, and Tanzania, reported being forced to have sex, while fewer than 1% of women in cities in Serbia, Montenegro and Japan described their first sexual experience as forced. The big difference is due to age, in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru, and Tanzania the women were reporting rape from within child marriages (when they were girls under the age of fifteen).
The presenter interviewed Claudia Garcia-Moreno, the woman who co-authored the report, who doesn’t think we have the data yet to support the 1 in 3 claim globally; she and her team are still working on violence against women and girls, and have collated studies on physical and sexual violence against women and girls from around 75 countries, and have come to the conclusion that:
“35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partnered sexual violence at some point in their lives.”
The figure of a third is one that keeps recurring in different studies from around the world (but there are many countries with no data collection at all). The Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that around a third of women report experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lives.
Theodore Johnson first killed a woman in 1981. He tipped his wife Yvonne over the balcony of their ninth-floor flat in Blakenhall Gardens, Wolverhampton, having already hit her with a vase. Well, they had been arguing – a factor that enabled him to plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation. The second woman Johnson killed was Yvonne Bennett, in 1992. He strangled her with a belt while their baby slept. Her “provocation” was that she refused the box of chocolates he had bought to win her back; he was able to plead diminished responsibility and, after a two-year stay in a secure psychiatric unit, was released and again free to form new relationships. Then, in December 2016, Angela Best became the third victim of Johnson, 64, and on Friday he will be sentenced for her murder. Best’s spur to his violence had simply been to end their relationship and start a new one with someone else.
Johnson’s case seems extraordinary. How could it happen? A list of victims, a history of violent and controlling behaviour in relationships … yet twice he was freed to kill again. Somehow, Johnson slipped through the system. Or was the problem that the system failed to take proper account of Johnson, of his capacity to kill, and as a result failed to take care of the women he went on to meet?
For all the apparent uniqueness of Johnson’s triple killing, he is not the only male perpetrator of femicide to have been given the opportunity to reoffend. In July last year, Robert Trigg, 52, from Worthing, was convicted of the murder of his partner Susan Nicholson six years earlier, and the manslaughter of his previous girlfriend, Caroline Devlin, five years before that. The deaths had initially been treated by West Sussex police as unsuspicious; the convictions were obtained only after the family of Nicholson, unconvinced by the police investigation, commissioned an independent pathologist.
And before that, in 1983, Keith Ward killed his partner, Julie Stead. He pleaded provocation, received a three-year custodial sentence and seven years later killed his ex-partner Valerie Middleton. According to the Office for National Statistics, one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, and two women are killed each week in England and Wales by a current or former partner. So what does the case of Theodore Johnson tell us about the sentencing and treatment of domestic violence in the UK?
Prof David Wilson is a criminologist with a special interest in serial killers. “When I looked at Theodore Johnson,” he says, “I saw a man who has killed three or more people in a period greater than 30 days. Technically, he’s a serial killer. What is the context in which he has been able to kill, especially after being incarcerated on two separate occasions? That context is misogyny. Women being killed by men who are in a relationship with them is seen as a thing that happens, something that just occurs. Last year, two women a week died at the hands of their partners or ex-partners. That is an extraordinary figure that begins to reveal something not about serial murder but about the phenomenon of everyday murder. There is this unreflective acceptance that violence towards women is normalised.”
Domestic homicide and domestic violence are better understood now than when Johnson was first convicted in 1981. But does there linger a sense that these are somehow explicable categories of homicide and violence? Maybe it’s that word “domestic” that seems somehow to qualify it. Media reports of such crimes tend to sympathise with the perpetrator. The Daily Mail, for instance, described Lance Hart, who killed his wife and daughter in July 2016, as “a jilted father” and quoted a source as saying: “I don’t know what the issues were in their marriage, but I can’t understand why he had to kill his daughter as well.”
An act of domestic violence tends to be seen as something that occurs within the walls of a particular relationship. It belongs to the relationship, rather than to society at large. “We often hear that the murder of a woman by a man is a tragic accident or a crime of passion – an isolated incident that surely will never be repeated,” says Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid and a former barrister. To shed light on the phenomenon of domestic homicide, Women’s Aid, in conjunction with Karen Ingala Smith (who set up the blog Counting Dead Women), has for the past two years published what it calls a “femicide census”. It records all the women killed by men in a year and last month published data for 2016 showing that 113 women were killed by men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“The femicide census shows that these are not isolated incidents,” says Ghose. “They are part of a repeated pattern with misogyny as the root cause. I think that is probably what the case of Theodore Johnson is telling us: it is revealing a more systemic pattern and a failure in our society to wake up to femicide.” She uses the term “femicide”, she says, “to label very clearly the killing of women because they are women. But whatever the words, we need to get away from the idea that this is a family or private matter.
“What gets me,” she says, “is that these are repeated patterns of control and violence.” In the case of Johnson, he had a controlling relationship with all three of the women he killed. He twice attempted suicide after the killings; most recently he threw himself under a train after he murdered Best, and lost an arm and a hand in the process. These attempts, according to Wilson, are further examples of controlling behaviour. “It’s about him continuing to try to construct a narrative to explain what he did. He is trying to maintain control of the narrative.”
“It is the repeated patterns of behaviour that need to be exposed and which need to inform criminal justice,” Ghose says. She cites the most recent femicide census that found that more than two-thirds of women killed by men were killed by a current or former partner. Two-thirds of the women killed in 2013 were killed in their own home or the home they shared with the perpetrator; 77% of women killed by a former partner were killed in the first year after separation.
“If we better understood these patterns and root causes of fatal male violence against women, the criminal justice system can hand down more appropriate sentences for perpetrators who are high-risk,” Ghose says. “And when perpetrators are eligible for release, there should be proper support and protection for women. If the safety and the right of women to live freely were prized, we would not see patterns of male violence ignored.”
Domestic violence of all categories is not only a problem of the criminal justice system. After all, as Suzanne Jacob, the CEO of the charity SafeLives, points out, only one in five victims of domestic abuse contacts the police. When they do, and when a perpetrator is brought to justice, the most likely charges that will be brought against them are actual bodily harm or criminal damage, “neither of which carries a particularly robust sentence”. Women, on the other hand, who kill violent partners tend to be strongly sentenced, according to Harriet Wistrich, the founding director of the Centre for Women’s Justice: “Victims of domestic violence who retaliate are quite frequently convicted of murder, where men [who kill] are able to use defences to reduce their convictions.”
“It’s somehow seen as not as large a breach of the social contract we all have with each other,” says Liz Kelly, the director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University. Nor is the review likely to mention misogyny, a word that is also absent from risk assessment forms. As Kelly says, “Misogyny is not seen as a form of extreme dangerousness … We need to identify these men who hate women and [understand] that they are a danger to all women.”
Of the 113 women killed by men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year, 85 died in their homes, according to the Femicide Census, an annual analysis by the charity Women’s Aid.
Nine in 10 women killed during 2016 died at the hands of someone they knew. Of these, 78 women were killed by their current or former intimate partner, three by their sons and five by another male family member. Nine were killed by a stranger.
Women’s Aid said that the census revealed patterns in the killings. Many were committed in similar locations, a sharp instrument was used as a weapon in 47 cases.
“More needs to be done to address men’s fatal violence against women, as once again the Femicide Census reveals fatalities not as isolated incidents but as part of a repeated pattern of male violence against women,” said Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid.
“Shockingly, in 2016, over two-thirds of women killed by a man were killed by a current or former intimate partner; 83% of these women were killed at their own home or the home they shared with the perpetrator.
“The government must urgently put the prevention of femicide at the centre of its work to combat male violence against women and girls.”
Women escaping domestic violence can be rehoused in refuges, but Ghose warned that the government was planning to remove supported housing funding for refuges, placing women in greater jeopardy.
“Without a safe space to escape to, more women will be killed by men that they know,” Ghose said. “The government must act now. Refuges are a vital lifeline, not an optional extra; they are not just a bed for a night but essential for women and their children to safely escape domestic abuse and rebuild their lives away from the perpetrator. A crucial part of preventing more fatalities must be to ensure sufficient provision for domestic abuse and sexual violence services, including refuges.”
She added: “Demand for refuges already far outstrips supply and the proposed funding model could be the breaking point. Refuges will be faced with the awful reality of either turning more women away or closing their doors for ever.
“Only by creating a long-term and sustainable funding model for a national network of refuges can we ensure that every woman can safely escape domestic abuse.”
Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of the charity, nia, which campaigns to end violence against women and children, said the census provided vital data allowing for male on female violence to be contextualised.
“Men are killing women and girls; most often women and girls that they are related to,” she said. “Nine out of ten women killed by men in the census were killed by someone they knew. Over three quarters by a current or former partner. Every woman killed was important. But when we think about women killed by men, it’s important that we don’t forget about women who were killed by a man who wasn’t a partner; in 2016 they included a 30-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted and killed as she walked to work, a 20-year-old woman who suffered 60 separate injuries as she was raped and murdered by a delusional sexual predator who had promised to help her get home safely and an 81-year-old woman who was battered on the head and set alight by an intruder in her home. Men’s fatal violence against women extends beyond their partners and families.”
The National Domestic Violence helpline can be contacted on 0808 2000 247