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. 

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. 

So, George Lucas is Marrying a "Gold-Digger"

At least, that’s what the Huffington Post seems to be implying with this headline: “Let the Prenup Be With You”. The fact that George Lucas is engaged to Mellody Hobson, an investment firm president who also serves as chairperson of Dreamworks Animation is irrelevant. 

Or, the very obvious fact that there is no such thing as a “gold-digger”. That’s just patriarchal bullshit designed to punish women for trying to survive in a Capitalist-Patriarchy.

This piece is precisely why I found this article by Vagenda so problematic. Yes, they are calling Hugh Hefner a creepy pervert for marrying a woman so much younger than him and there simply aren’t enough people lining up to call Hefner on his creepiness because he really is the quintessence of creepiness.* The problem with Vagenda’s article is that they are operating under the assumption that their audience is smarter than it actually is; that their audience knows there is no such thing as a “gold-digger”. 

At least, I hope Vagenda are assuming their audience of neo-liberal Guardian readers are smarter than they are because otherwise they seem to be buying into the myth of gold-diggers:  

Crystal Harris has played a blinder as far as the transaction with Heff is concerned. She barely even needs to follow through, the wily minx, giving a whole new resonance to the phrase “happy ending”. She graduates maxima cum laude from the International School of Gold Digging, an accolade to which those of us languishing in hotel bars wearing bandage dresses, or occupying the recesses of websites such as in the hope of catching the eye of a sickly impotent billionaire, can only aspire.

Of course, there is the slim chance that Harris is pulling a Gloria Steinemand going fully undercover – but it’s unlikely, considering that the scope of her ambitions echo those of billions of women the world over.

Whilst I’m not personally acquainted with Gloria Steinem, I do think she would object to having her name used as a stick with which to beat other women. Whatever the personal motives Crystal Harris has for marrying Hugh Hefner, he  remains the problem. Not Harris. He is the man responsible for the mainstreaming of pornography to the point that all women are now considered fucktoys with no redeemable features. If we were considered human, the Huffington Post wouldn’t have posted such an offensive article about a woman marrying a man. Can you imagine what they would have printed if Hobson weren’t a white, middle class, highly educated women with a very powerful job?

* Actually, I would rather not have read the article since I live in hope that Hefner will somehow accidentally fall off the planet taking the entire “Playboy Empire” with him, but he hasn’t. Instead, Hefner has once again married a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. Because he’s a deeply creepy old man. With a serious ick-factor. And, a history of VAW.

Hugo Schwyzer is Not a Feminist

Normally, I’m not one for telling people whether or not they can self-define as feminists. I think it’s rude and pointless. We all come to feminism from different perspectives and are all at different points of our feminist journey. It’s counter-productive to insist on the right to label, or not, others. That said, there some pretty basic tenets of feminism that aren’t negotiable. Perpetrators of domestic violence, rape and other forms of MVAW aren’t feminists. I do think it is possible for men who express anti-feminist statements to change. I don’t think violent men can change enough to ever be feminists.

This is why I am genuinely perplexed by the fawning that Hugo Schwyzer receives. He has consistently minimised his history of violence against women. Schwyzer writes of being an “accidental rapist” and “accidentally endangering” a former partner in a murder-suicide attempt.

I have no time for men who seek to minimise their personal history of MVAW by claiming personality disorders or drug addiction. Being a feminist means taking responsibility for one’s actions and the consequences therein. Claiming that an episode of MVAW was “drug-fuelled” isn’t taking responsibility. It is minimising one’s responsibility. There is a huge difference between the statements “I am a recovering drug addict but my addiction does not minimise my culpability for the violence I committed” and “it was accidental VAW because I was stoned”. 

One is forgivable because it involves genuine remorse. The other is not. 

Real male feminist/ feminist allies get this. They understand that their behaviour has no excuse, that it would remain unforgivable for many women and they don’t insist on trying to get women to forgive them. They take responsibility for their actions and words quietly and without requiring cookies and blowjobs for being good boys.

Hugo Schwyzer needs to start listening to women. He needs to start acknowledging that there are valid reasons that women find him frightening and then he needs to stop trying to intimidate them into silence. When he stops trying to silence women, I might be willing to engage with his work. As long as he continues to embrace the silencing of women who disagree with him, Schwyzer will never be a feminist.

And, let’s be realistic here, if Mike Tyson, who has a similar history of domestic violence and rape, were to start referring to himself as a feminist whilst blithering on about hegemonic masculinity, no feminists would be lining up behind him to stroke his ego and insist on his admittance to feminist spaces. We’d be laughing our asses off at him. Schwyzer is allowed in because he’s white. That’s a huge problem that white feminists need to address because we are silencing our sisters by allowing Schwyzer to continue pontificating as if he were the Messiah of Feminism.

This Week in Missing the Point Completely: BFI on Roman Polanski

The BFI is currently running a retrospective on the films of Roman Polanksi. When questioned on their decision on their Facebook page, this is the British Film Industry’s response:

Thank you for all your comments and feedback, we’re listening and acknowledge your strong views. Showing these films has been planned for over 18 months, mindful of Polanski’s 1977 US conviction. The BFI takes its responsibility to audiences very seriously and we fully appreciate that recent events have heightened awareness, however, our focus is not on the director, but the films, none of which are autobiographical or reflective of Polanski’s conviction. We recognise the important contribution Polanski’s films make to world cinema and film culture and we want to ensure that new audiences get the opportunity to see them on the big screen. By presenting his films in this way the BFI is not condoning or making any judgment on Polanski’s personal past history.

Yep, by showing Polanski’s films, the BFI are “not condoning or making any judgment on Polanski’s personal past history” and the only reason anyone could possibly be raising this as an issue is because “recent events have heightened awareness”. It isn’t at all probable that people have been raising the issue of Polanski’s conviction for drugging and sodomising a child since it happened. Us feminists only remember things like child rape exist when other famous men are discovered to be child rapists. If it hadn’t been for the discovery that Jimmy Savile was a paedophile, none of us would remember that Roman Polanski is currently a fugitive from justice having fled the US to avoid a prison sentence for raping a child. 

Obviously, I’m being facetious here [and I’m telling you I’m being facetious because it is actually amazing the number of people who don’t seem to understand] but, this separation of male violence from the men who commit the crimes is destructive. It silences victims whilst simultaneously creating a hierarchy of abusers with Roman Polanski being a “good” abuser because The Piano won him some Oscars. 

The “he’s an artiste” defence comes up every time these issues are raised and it remains utter garbage. Being an “artiste” has never been an acceptable excuse for an adult male to abuse a child and it never should be. It doesn’t matter if the “artiste” in question is Roman Polanski or Anthony Kiedis [who brags about “having sex” with a 14 year old in his biography Scar Tissue]. Both men have traumatised childhoods, Polanski is a Holocaust survivor whilst Kiedis was the victim of physical and sexual abuse as a child, but these traumas aren’t excuses for their behaviour as adults. 

The moment we condone the abuse these men commit because of their status as “artistes” is the moment we stop holding them accountable for their crimes. It does not matter how brilliant their films are or how much we love their music. We can not separate the art these men produce from the violence they inflict on vulnerable women and children. 

Barbie and the 3 Musketeers: Not actually anti-feminist sludge

I know, Barbie is really an odd choice for a feminist blog to be writing about in anything but negative tones but Barbie and the 3 Musketeers is a really interesting film. It many ways it is actually quite a feminist film; if you ignore all the references to crushes on princes, fashion, the dancing kitten and the fact that they use fans and ribbons as weapons. Yes, it’s a lot to ignore but there is a really odd pro-feminist sisterhood message running through the film and not just in the reference to the original Buffy film. 

The film is about 4 women whose dream is to be Musketeers, which, obviously, women aren’t actually allowed to be. But, they do become Musketeers without the help of any men and in spite of the malicious interference of an old woman [because they couldn’t quite escape the evil witch motif so enamoured by fairy tales]. They become Musketeers and don’t date the prince. They ride off into the sunset together. To defend their kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a whole lot wrong with this film but the emphasis on the power of sisterhood, the direct challenge to Patriarchal constructions of femininity and a film aimed a little girls which does not end with a marriage to the incredibly dim prince is a whole lot better than the insipid Disney princesses. It’s actually pretty radical, despite being wrapped in pink ribbons. 

On the other hand, these lyrics are just sludge:

What are the chances, that we’d be here today?
Different girls from different worlds
Tryin’ to find our own way
Now we’re the perfect team, sharin’ the same dream…

All for one who knew,
Together we’d know what to do?
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one… one for all

Don’t try to stop us, or keep us down and out
The power of four forevermore
And now there is no doubt
Answering the call, breaking down the wall

All for one it’s true,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

We may look beautiful
We may be dutiful
But don’t be fooled of our finesse
We’re here to save the day
Come on, on grade, touche
We’re no damsels in distress
Don’t mess with the dress

All for one you too,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

All for one it’s true,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

All for one and one for all
All for one, one for all x2

Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Axt of Esme Lennox

Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Axt of Esme Lennox is one of my school Christmas Fair finds. There is a reason I always ‘help’ at the book stall. This year I did exceptionally well on the first trawl through the donations. And, promptly wrapped them up and shoved them under the Christmas Tree as ‘birthday presents’. The best part of having a Christmas birthday is being able to put another stack of presents under the tree. Inevitably, I wind up buying myself books in charity shops whilst trawling through them for the teenager [and a big thank you to whoever donated all the Anne Rice books. That was the Teenager sorted].

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is so very beautiful and so very heart-breaking. It is just the story of two young girls born in India who return “home” to Edinburgh to find husbands. As with so many of the children of British Raj, the two girls are traumatised and lonely. They are the unloved pawns of a society obsessed with appearance. They, inevitably, are punished for the transgressions of their parents and their parents’ parents. 

It is about families and betrayal and the destruction of generations after one malicious act. It is the story of madness, rape, betrayal and the Patriarchy. 

There is no redemption. There is no forgiveness. There is only the waves of destruction which threaten them all.