#womenwrites: on gender, identity politics and VAWG

All politics is “identity politics” by @MayaGoodfellow
via @WritersofColour

Charlotte Bronte did NOT repair her mourning shoes with her dead sister’s hair! by @KatharineEdgar

‘Impunity has consequences’: the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Princesses Are Terrifying. So Is Ivanka Trump via @ElleMagazine

Maybe We Do Need White History Month or Millennials Don’t Know Shit About Slavery or Picking Appropriate Essay Topics or Being a Black English Adjunct Sucks Sometimes– via @writermrsmith

I’m Tired by @RowenaMonde  via @RoomOfOurOwn

A brief history of ‘gender’  via @wordspinster

On Optimism and Despair by Zadie Smith

National Geographic’s ‘gender revolution’ cover fails women via @FeministCurrent

Transforming a victim blaming culture

evb-logo-1Media discussions of male violence against women focus on the actions of the victim rather than the perpetrator. How can we challenge this narrative using survivor’s testimony without putting them at risk of online harassment?

 

“If I was Ched Evans i would find that whore and actually rape her this time!!”

This is one of the many abusive and threatening messages directed at the victim in the rape trials (and appeals) of footballer Ched Evans’ over the past 4 years. She has experienced an incessant barrage of abuse and threats of physical and sexual violence via Twitter, alongside a deliberate smear campaign including repeated breaches of her anonymity. She has also received a tremendous amount of support from women across the UK. Her experiences demonstrate both the importance of centering the voices of survivors, who are frequently disbelieved, but also the limitations, particularly with the development of social media platforms predicated on notions of ‘free speech,’ that allow survivors of rape to be labeled ‘a fucking cunt’ or ‘lying psycho bitch’.   Social media platforms have, to date, been unwilling to have honest discussions of the reality, representation, and ubiquity of male violence against women and girls, despite a recent EU report that suggests 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-74 have experienced sexual or physical violence. …

Read the full post at Open Democracy.

16 ways to End Violence against Women and Girls

These are just a few of the ways that you can support women’s services during the 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Male Violence against Women and Girls.

  1. Donate £1 to a different specialist women’s service like the national organisations Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, or Refuge every day.
  2. Donate £1 to your local service providers supporting women who are living with domestic and sexual violence and abuse. BME women’s services have been disproportionately impacted by so-called ‘austerity’ so please don’t forget them.
  3. Share fundraisers for women’s services across social media. We understand that many women can not afford to donate £1. Sharing fundraisers is just as essential as being able to donate £1.
  4. Host a coffee morning for your friends to raise money.
  5. Bring some baked goods into work and ask for donations to a service of your choice from your co-workers.
  6. Collect clothing, bedding and any other unused household items to donate to your local refuge or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc.
  7. Donate toys to a local refuge for children who will be living in them at Christmas or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc..
  8. Donate new toiletries and another nice gifts for teenage girls and women living in refuges.
  9. Make a donation to your local food bank. All women are disproportionately impacted by poverty and austerity measures. Women living with violence are disproportionately impacted by cuts to housing benefits and women’s services. 
  10. Donate sanitary products to food banks. These are essential for women and teenage girl’s access to education and work. 
  11. Write to your local councillors, MP, or MSP to demand ring-fenced funding for women’s specialist services, including those for BME women or those with disabilities.
  12. Write to local councillors, MP, MEP, or MSP and ask them to undergo specialist training on domestic and sexual violence and abuse from specialist organisations.
  13. Write to your MP and MSP demanding they support the campaigns to end the detention of refugee women and children.
  14. Write to your MP and MSP demanding mandatory sex and healthy relationships education in schools, as well as campaigns to make schools safer for girls.
  15. File complaints with media about inappropriate, misleading and offensive coverage of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
  16. And, if you’re a man, stand up for women’s rights. Challenge men who make rape jokes. Call out male friends who refuse to financially support their children. Insist your employer implement the equal pay legislation. Donate money to rape crisis centres and refuges. Wearing a white ribbon isn’t enough. Your need to do the work to end violence against women and girls.

You can find the address and contact details of your local councillor via  WriteToThem.

 

This post was originally published on Everyday Victim Blaming.

£4 BILLION – the current outstanding child maintenance bill

£4 billion.

This is the outstanding arrears of child maintenance owed in England and Wales. According to a report by the charity Gingerbread called Missing Maintenance, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) estimates that only £467 million will ever be recovered.This leaves nearly one half of single parent families, the vast majority headed by women, living in poverty.

The current Conservative government is in the process of closing the Child Support Agency (CSA) to replace it with the Child Maintenance Service, which charges women £20 for the privilege of opening a file and then a sum each month if some semblance of the maintenance is actually paid. The new vaunted system has seen only 53% of the families registered receiving maintenance with 90 000 people having not paid during one three month period. There is already nearly £53 million in unpaid maintenance. Many of the families will receive only negligible amounts of money, as the DWP does not require the full maintenance to be paid in order for the account to be registered as compliant. Realistically, a father of 4 earning £70 000 a year can pay only £5 a month and still be included within the 53% statistic.

Equally problematic is the fact that the Child Maintenances Service is actively writing to the primary caregivers to request they ‘forgive’ the debt owed by non-paying fathers – as though the primary caregivers of children, who are overwhelmingly women, can neglect to pay rent, council tax and the credit card debts they rack up buying groceries knowing these debts will be ‘forgiven’. As Polly Toynbee makes clear,

Some 90% of CSA cases have now been transferred over to the CMS, but only 13% of mothers affected have decided to pay the new fees and apply to the CMS: the DWP must be pleased, as it had publicly estimated that 63% would pursue their claims. All the pressure in official letters is to deter mothers. The £20 fee may be a mild block, along with charging fathers 4%, but the evidence suggests mothers just give up when prodded by these letters.

Charging mothers to use the Child Maintenance Service is simply a way for the government to abdicate responsibility. They are very clear that the sole purpose is to force more parents into dealing with child maintenance themselves. In doing so, they have refused to recognise the reason why men, and it is overwhelmingly men, refuse to pay maintenance: it is both a punishment and a form of control over their former partners. This is male entitlement writ large by men who do not care about the welfare of their children.

We need to start calling the refusal to pay maintenance what it really is: financial child abuse. Forcing your children to live in poverty because you cannot be bothered to support them or refusing to punish the mother are not the signs of ‘good fathers’. It is the hallmark of an abusive father.

It is not difficult to implement child maintenance policies that are effective and ensure that men cannot hide their assets. Placing the Child Maintenance Service under the heading of HM Revenue & Customs so that child maintenance is garnished directly from the salary of the non-resident parent. This coupled with actual punitive policies for those who refuse to pay, such as a fee for every missed payment, interest accrued on outstanding payments, and the use of enforcement agents (bailiffs) to confiscate personal property, and, potentially, criminal proceedings would see an immediate increase in the number of men who start to pay their maintenance. Canada’s maintenance enforcement program has the right to suspend the driver’s licenses and passports of men who are in arrears recognising that the legal obligation to pay maintenance being higher than the desire to vacation in Hawaii.

There is a quote bandied about in discussions of child contact and child maintenance that says ‘children aren’t pay per view’, as though children were nothing more than a possession to be passed about. As with Women’s Aid campaign, Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives, we need to stop talking about children as possessions and start talking about children’s rights.[7] Children have the right to live free from violence. Children also have the right to live outwith poverty.

The erasure of men’s financial responsibility for their children, supported by government policy, is an absolute disgrace. It is, simply, state sanctioned child abuse.

 

Gingerbread’s Missing Maintenance Report

Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives Petition

 

 

The firing of Thomas Gibson: Celebrity Culture and the Inevitability of Male Violence

Thomas Gibson has been fired from Criminal Minds after kicking a writer in the leg following ‘creative differences’.

My very first reaction to this news was that there was no way one of the highest rated shows for CBS would fire its lead actor solely for kicking a writer – as the first media stories claimed. Allowing male celebrities to engage in violence and abusive behaviour on set. It took years of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by Charlie Sheen before he was fired from  Two & A Half Men – and even then only because he was rude about one of the producers.

So, I started googling Gibson to see what else he’s been up to. According to The Hollywood Gossip and Variety, the producers of Criminal Minds had already sent Gibson on anger management classes after he shoved an assistant producer in 2010. They also claim that Gibson has a history of “aggressive and verbally abusive” behaviour. The Hollywood Reporter insinuates that Shemar Moore left Criminal Minds last year following years of strife on set. There is also a lawsuit from Gibson’s former manager which also alleges abusive behaviour that has yet to receive a judgment from the Labour Commission.

The Hollywood Reporter, which is one of the more detailed descriptions of the allegations against Gibson, also mentions similar lawsuits – including one from Nicolette Sheridan for wrongful termination. Now, I never watched Desperate Housewives and only vaguely heard of Sheridan leaving the show, which I understood was because she was rude to Teri Hatcher (who, in turn, was apparently rude to Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, and Marcia Cross). Turns out I was wrong about the Sheridan lawsuit. She alleges that she was fired due to complaints about physical and verbal abuse by show creator Marc Cherry. Cherry claims her contract was ended due to her unprofessional behaviour and treatment of the other main actors. The lawsuit has wound its way through several courts and is set to restart in 2017 focusing on unfair dismissal rather than the allegations against Cherry.

The idea that Gibson was fired for kicking a co-worker was analogous to being rude (rather than verbally abusive) set me off on a spree of googling that resulted in me reading far too many ‘Worst Celebrities to Work With’ lists, which were pretty much the same:

  • women were listed for mental illness or drug and alcohol addiction
  • perfectionism in men was deemed controlling behaviour in women
  • women not liking their co-stars (like Hatcher) was labelled as ‘bad’ as men who engaged in verbal aggression and physical violence on set.
  • Not one of the women listed in ANY of the lists had a history of physical or sexual violence. Most of the men did.

These are some of the highlights:

Russell Crowe‘s reputation for aggressive and abusive behaviour on set has not prevented him from getting hired – whilst Katherine Heigl has been effectively blacklisted for being opinionated. I think we can all agree with Heigl that Knocked Up was misogynistic twaddle, even though she has now backtracked on that statement. Shannon Doherty is meant to be ‘demanding and controlling’ on set – Edward Norton and Christian Bale are lauded for the very characteristics that label Doherty ‘bad’. And, really, lists of ‘difficult actors’ that include Heigl for trashing a film she starred in tend to ignore  Steven Seagal – a man who has reputedly kicked numerous people on several sets between he legs.

According to this list, Jennifer Aniston is a bitch for choosing to eat alone whilst on set and Jennifer Lopez for requiring a personal assistant on call 24/7, which somewhat begs the question about the working conditions of personal assistants across Hollywood and businesses. Now, I’m all for unionising personal assistants and increasing pay and decreasing contact hours but Lopez is hardly a bitch for doing exactly the same thing as every single male actor in Hollywood. I can’t even begin to work out what Beyonce did wrong here.

Even Bustle, a supposedly feminist media site, includes 9 women on their list of “16 Actors who are the worst to work with”, including Lindsay Lohan whose documented history of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ is self-harming through alcohol and drugs rather than say, kicking a member of staff.

Only one list mentioned Randy Quaid:

… an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor, apparently behaved so badly while working on the pre-Broadway play “Lone Star Love” in 2007, that he was banned for life from Actors’ Equity and fined $81,000. A complaint filed by all 26 cast members against both Quaid and his wife/manager Evi alleged sexual harassment, physical violence and a variety of other transgressions.

Granted none of the gendered constructions of ‘bad’ are particularly shocking. Women have always been held to a higher standard than men. Male celebrities are forever given free passes for their violence – Charlie Sheen even got a sitcom based on his abusive behaviour called Anger Management. That millions of people actually watch. The media, who adore trashing Lindsay Lohan for her drug and alcohol abuse, have remained silent on the domestic violence she has experienced.

I’m sat her waiting for the inevitable allegations of domestic violence against Thomas Gibson. Men who believe they are entitled to verbally and physically abuse their co-workers tend to be the same ones who believe they have the right to abuse their partners and children. And the minimisations of Gibsons’ behaviour.

Mostly, I’m shocked that CBS took the steps to fire him, regardless of his behaviour on set. Because, Gibson is no different to hundreds of male celebrities who believe they are above the law. I mean, obviously, Gibson has now hired lawyers because having a penis in Hollywood means never ever taking responsibility for your actions and choices.

I wonder how many shows would be immediately cancelled if their male stars were fired for abusive behaviour on set?

 

Violence against women, domestic violence and the problem of gender identity

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Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Sisters Uncut are a great example of grassroots feminist activism. Their protest at the premier of the film Suffrage helped raise awareness of the consequences of the decimation of specialist support services for women. However, their campaign is specifically about the importance of specialist domestic violence services, which is why I was disappointed to read a piece in the Independent by a member which uses the term domestic violence and violence against women interchangeably.

* See Michael P Johnson’s Typology of Domestic Violence

** The report into this was recently released and I have not yet had a chance to read it.

Language Does Matter: FGM is not “cissexist”

These four tweets have been appearing in my TL for days.

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The term FGM is not cissexist. Female genital mutilation, as defined by the World Health Organisation,

“includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. … FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

This definition does not even begin to describe the actual practise and consequences of female genital mutilation. The long-term consequences of FGM includes: sterility, difficulty urinating, increased infant and maternal mortality, fistulas, bleeding, and infections. As an organisation, the WHO has serious problems with misogyny, racism, and classism. It replicates capitalist, patriarchal white supremacist controls over women’s bodies, an allegiance to wealthy industrialised nations and far too much investment from pharmaceutical corporations whose whole raison d’être is making money: not helping people.

Yet, even the WHO recognises that FGM is a form of violence against women and girls. It is only performed on girls. We need to be able to name this crime – just as we need to name every other form of violence against women and girls. We will not end violence against women and girls by obfuscating language.

We need to be able to talk about abortion, access to birth control, and all other forms of reproductive justice as women’s issues. We need to recognise and label these as forms of violence against women and girls. We need to be clear that male circumcision is not equivalent to female genital mutilation. It may not be medically necessary and it may cause pain to infant boys, but it does not maim and kill infant boys like the practise of female genital mutilation does. Circumcision does not cause sterility or result in difficulty in urination. It doesn’t kill.

It is not “cissexist” to talk about the biological reality of women’s bodies and the damage done to them within a capitalist-patriarchy. Frankly, even the suggestion that it is “cissexist” demonstrates a fundamental inability to actually understand the reality of lives of women and girls in our world. I am incredibly angry at living in a society in which identity politics have not only erased all political and theoretical understandings of the oppression of women as a class but that we have to see this type of bullshit bandied about as if it’s The Most Important Thing Ever Written. It’s not. It’s just the same women-hating shite that we have to deal with on a daily basis.

The term FGM is not “cissexist” and suggesting that it is is misogyny.

Dear Ally Fogg, Start your own Counting Dead Men Project …

Dear Ally Fogg,

Please start your own Start your own Counting Dead Men Project. I am so incredibly bored of you derailing the amazing work Karen Ingala Smith and other women are doing tracking male violence against women and girls in order to shriek “whatta bout the menz”

It was completely unnecessary for you to respond to this:

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We all know the vast majority of violence against women and girls is committed by men. We know the vast majority of women and girls murdered are killed by men – most of whom the victims know personally. We know men are the majority of perpetrators of domestic violence against women, children and other men. We all know that in the rare cases of female on male homicide, that many (if not most) of the female perpetrators kill men who are abusing them. We also all know that Ingala Smith is tracking women killed by men, so your complaint is just ridiculous.

If you genuinely care about male victims of violence, stop derailing conversations about male violence against women and girls and start your own Counting Dead Men Project. I’m sure if you ask Ingala Smith politely, she will give you some top tips on the best ways to research the data on women who kill men.  To make it as accurate as Ingala Smith’s Counting Dead Women Project, you will need to ensure you include more than just names. You will need to include whether or not the male victims had a history of domestic violence.

You could even start a Counting Dead Men Project which includes EVERY single male victim of homicide so we could see that the vast majority of men are killed by other men. But, we all know you won’t bother doing this. It’s far easier to derail conversations about the reality of male violence to whine than it is to actually do the work Karen Ingala Smith does: giving a name to the women who are murdered every month.

If you can prove that women kill two men a week and that these women did not kill a violent current or former partner in self-defence, then I might stop thinking your an MRE. We all know you can’t prove this though.

Stewie

P.S I’ve storified some of the great feminist response to Fogg here.

COUNTING DEAD WOMEN PETITION

Some brief thoughts on Emma Watson UN Speech on #HeForShe  

I was interviewed by BBC Radio Tees this morning on whether feminism is necessary following Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. I spoke with a male journalist (who clearly doesn’t like feminists) and Angela Epstein who has made a career out of belittling feminism. These are the notes I wrote just before the interview:

Reasons for Feminism:

General:

  1. 2 women a week are murdered by current or former partners – this does not include homicides perpetrated by extended family members including fathers and brothers.
  2. 40 women an hour are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  3. Women and children are the vast majority of victims and refugees of war yet are very rarely represented at national and international peace agreements.
  4. 150 women a day are turned away from refuges in the UK due to lack of space.
  5. Women are more likely to suffer ill health and death due to male violence than they are to die from cancer, heart disease and car accidents.
  6. Women still earn less than men for the same work – this gap is wider for Women of Colour.
  7. Last year, a 13 year old girl was labelled “sexually predatory” in all her actions by the attorney responsible for prosecuting her perpetrator of sexual assault – an appalling breach of her human rights which only got national attention due to the work of Ending Victimisation and Blame
  8. 1400 girls were sexually abused, raped and trafficked in Rotherham whilst the police, social services, CPS, and schools did nothing. The media has reported this as if it was a one-off event rather than simply an exemplar of what is happening to girls across the UK every day in places like Nottingham, York and Sheffield
  9. Jimmy Savile was allowed to continue sexually assaulting and raping hundreds of young girls and boys whilst working for the BBC and engaged in “charity work”. He was given his own rooms in hospitals. Staff everywhere knew and no one stepped up to support the children.

More obviously, feminism is important because a young woman stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. For this, she has had threats of sexual violence through the theft and release of private images and all manner of abuse. This is why feminism is necessary – because women have no right to an opinion in the public sphere.

Reasons for feminism pertaining directly to Emma Watson:

  1. The threat to release of photos of Watson nude which have been stolen and then released publicly: this is sexual violence
  2. Count down clock to Watson being “legal”
  3. the fact that the Daily Mail published an article on her outfit rather than the speech

 

My issues with Watson’s speech:

  • no practical advise on how to change,
  • very little structural analysis: remains embedded in neoliberal discourse on choice
  • the word feminism is important. There is a reason why that word is derided and insulted – it’s because the word has power. It makes it clear why women are trapped in continuing cycles of poverty, male violence and child-bearing and rearing,
  • Watson calls for men’s inclusion but ignores why men do not want to support women’s rights as it challenges their power,
  • real male allies do not need to be coaxed into clicking a button on a website. They are already doing the work by reading and listening to feminists and then putting their knowledge into practise by supporting women’s liberation,
  • We need to stop stroking men’s egos and worrying about their feelings. We’ve had 10 000 years of human history where women have been raped, tortured and murdered. Men have the power to change this and have chosen not too. We need to stop focusing on being inclusive to men and start actively challenging them,
  • This statement is odd: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled”
    • Women aren’t compelled to be submissive, they have no choice. Men do have a choice to be controlling and they make the choice to engage in this behaviour within the home and within the public sphere. Men absolutely do suffer because of gendered stereotypes but we need to be clear that men who use violence are making a choice to do so – if we think otherwise, we insult all the men who make the choice to act like a decent human being.

I do have criticisms of Watson’s speech but more importantly, I am dancing with joy that she stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. As a mother of members of the Harry Potter generation, I am ecstatic by this speech. As a feminist, I am happy that Watson stood up and defended women. I do have concerns about her speech, particularly the idea that we don’t need the word feminism, but I am so fucking glad she made it.

Here’s a great post from Clementine Ford on Watson’s speech.

MP Michael Fabricant: Just Another Violent Man

Michael Fabricant is just another violent man who knows perfectly well that threatening a woman with physical violence won’t result in any punishment to him since violence against women is “just a joke”. And, we won’t hold him accountable for such an abusive statement because, hey, he “apologised”.

Let’s be very clear here: Fabricant didn’t just say something silly or ‘off the cuff’. He made a very clear threat which doesn’t need to be followed with actual physical violence. Fabricant knows perfectly well that he doesn’t need to actually intend to carry through the threat; he knows that he can count on several millennia of male violence against women that has silenced women for the threat to be real. This way Fabricant can ‘pretend’ it’s a joke and not something he’d actually do.

It’s just bullshit though. Men say this shit because they actually believe that violence against women isn’t a real crime. As with the “die in a fire” meme, the speaker doesn’t actually have to be planning on setting the specific target on fire for the threat to be real. These aren’t statements are real threats because women are punched in the throat every single day. Women are set on fire, or have their bodies set on fire, every single day.  We don’t know if we will be the woman that experiences the violence on this particular day or if we will experience it another day. We just know that male violence against women and girls is endemic and most men don’t give a shit about it.  The men who support his apology can pretend that they to won’t ever commit violence against women, even though most of them will be perpetrators. Those who choose to be bystanders and ignore the problem are just as culpable as those who perpetrate it.

Men who did give a shit would be calling out Fabricant right now. They wouldn’t just be asking for an apology. They would be demanding he be suspended from his party pending a formal review and Fabricant undertaking mandatory training on violence against women via either a national or local specialist service such as Women’s Aid or Ending Victimisation and Abuse. They would be calling for all politicians to undergo specialist training before being allowed to vote on services on violence against women and girls. They wouldn’t be labelling Fabricant’s threat a ‘joke’ or ignoring.

Men who actually give a shit about violence against women and girls should be spending tonight writing letters to Fabricant, his party and his constituents office making their anger clear. They would be writing letters to editors or publishing articles on why this is a real threat of violence against women.

They wouldn’t be minimising Fabricant’s threat.

 

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