The bodies of Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, and her sister, Sofia Trinidad, 23, were found almost a week after they disappeared after being seen leaving a party near the city of Santa Barbara, in Honduras. Maria Alvaro was due to fly to London this week to compete in the Miss World competition as Miss Honduras. Plutarco Ruiz, Sofia’s boyfriend has confessed to killing both women, allegedly because he was angry and jealous after seeing her dance with another man.
Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of sex inequality between women and men. We need to make the connections between the objectification of women and violence against women. While women are seen and judged as decorative objects judged by sexist beauty standards and simultaneously as men’s possessions, women and men can never be equal; and as long as we have sex inequality, we will have male violence against women. The ‘Miss World’ competition is part of the problem.
And yet femicide – the systemic killing of women because they are women – rarely makes the news. If it does, it is usually because, as in the case of the murder of Maria Jose Alvaradom the woman herself is seen as newsworthy. Across the world, hundreds of women are violently killed every day. So far this year, in the UK, at least 131 women have been killed through suspected male violence. Ordinary women killed by ordinary men, violence so ordinary that it is rarely front-page news.
In April this year, John Butler, 62, went to the flat of his former partner, Pauline Butler, 61, and stabbed her. In his trial, Butler told the court that he couldn’t remember how the knife had ended up in his hand and that he had fallen after she had pushed him, causing him to accidentally injure her. The court heard that Pauline Butler had previously threatened him with a knife. Of course, being dead, she wasn’t able to challenge his version of events. Pauline had been found with a number of knife wounds to her neck, chest and back. As judge, Mr Justice Edis pointed out, had Butler not wanted Pauline to die, he would have called an ambulance, rather than remove and wash the knife, take her dog to his home, drink a beer and smoke a cigar. Butler was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder, due to loss of control, and sentenced to jail for seven years in jail.
Sybil Sibthorpe was 80 years-old in May, 2012, when she was found in her garden with “significant” head injuries after being beaten by her former tenant Lee Grainger, 41. Grainger pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced to 12 and-a-half years. According to the judge, Grainger was “a significant danger to the public”.
Adrian Muir, 51, killed Pamela Jackson, 55, by beating or kicking her head with such force that she suffered fractures to her skull and bleeding to her brain. He then drove over 120 miles before digging a grave in moorland and burying her with a bunch of flowers in a Tesco carrier bag. Muir initially denied murder and claimed he had been framed. He posted fake entries from her Facebook page suggesting she was still alive. It took police more than two months before they found Pamela’s body in May 2013. Muir’s fingerprint was found on the carrier bag inside her grave, and a CCTV camera caught him cleaning the back of his car in a supermarket car park. He later claimed that she had attacked him, “like a bloody devil”. Muir was jailed for 18 years, not for murder, but manslaughter.
Felipe Lopes, 26, had a six-year police history of violent assaults on women before being jailed for 12 weeks in 2012 after tracking down and assaulting an ex-girlfriend whom he had previously stabbed. Within two weeks of his release, in January 2013, he had beaten 23-year-old Anastasia Voykina to death with a hockey stick. Before he killed her, neighbours had called the police to her flat on two occasions, because, they said, his attacks on her were so severe, the building was vibrating. Judge Richard Marks said to Lopes: “There is no doubt in my mind you intended to kill her. You are and will remain for an indefinite time a significantly dangerous man, particularly to women.” Lopes pleaded guilty to manslaughter, not murder, on the grounds of diminished responsibility because of his mental health problems. He was jailed for a minimum term of seven years and three months.
Like Filipe Lopes, Vincent Francis had a history of violence against women. In court it was alleged that he had assaulted his girlfriend, Holly Banwell, at least 27 times. Some of the assaults had been overhead by neighbours; it was also alleged that he had attacked a previous partner. On 4 September, 2009, Holly had been out with her 17-year-old friend Stacey Hyde, they had then gone back to the flat that Holly and Vince Francis shared. Stacey remembers waking up to hear Holly screaming but not what happened next. A 72-year-old neighbour told police that she saw Francis trying to swing Stacey around by her pony tail while her friend Holly looked on, screaming. Holly Banwell called the police, telling them “…my boyfriend is beating my friend… I need the police ASAP”. On the recorded call she is then heard saying “they are fighting”, before screaming “Stacey has a knife and has stabbed him”. Stacey was sobbing when the police arrived, she told them “he tried to kill me…I had to help Holly…he was going to kill her…I thought he would kill me…”.
In March 2010, at the age of 18, Stacey Hyde was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. While awaiting trial she had been given well-intentioned but misguided advice from other prisoners affecting her responses in court and possibly, consequently, how she was viewed by the jury. The law has been changed since then too, so that loss of control caused by fear of serious violence can now be taken into account, but this wasn’t an option at the time Stacey was convicted.
Stacey is due in court to appeal her conviction on Thursday and Friday this week, the 13th and 14th November, 2014. Since her conviction, new evidence has emerged about her mental health, for example that she had ADHD at the time of her offence, and in addition, other psychiatric diagnoses resulting from a difficult childhood. If Stacey’s appeal is accepted, her conviction for murder will be overturned for one of manslaughter. She has already served five years and it is possible that she will be released from custody.
Trials for murder and manslaughter are complex. Each with their own particular circumstances and it is right that those circumstances are taken into account. I’m sure there are many reasons why Stacey’s case can’t be directly compared to those of the men I’ve mentioned above, and yet: Unlike 62-year-old John Butler who claimed he’d been attacked by Pauline Butler before he stabbed her, or 51-year-old Adrian Muir, who claimed Pamela Jackson attacked him before he beat her head and fractured her skull, a 72-year-old neighbour had witnessed Francis attacking Stacey, and Holly Banwell called the police telling them that he was beating her. Also, unlike Muir, she didn’t lie her way through a two-month police investigation. Like 41-year-old Lee Granger, who killed 80-year-old Sybil Sibthorpe, at 17, she was half the age of the man she killed. But a 17-year-old young woman – in fear of her life and that of her friend - killing a 34 year-old-man, cannot really be compared to a 41-year-old man, described by a judge as a risk to the public, bearing a grudge against and beating to death his 80-year-old former landlord.
Stacey was 17, legally a child, a child with a history of mental health problems and experience of sexual violence, when she killed 34-year-old Vincent Francis, a man with a history of perpetrating violence. Her claims of being assaulted by the man she killed are not unverified. She is not a risk to the public. She did not lie and deny her actions though the investigation. She did not try to hide a body. Unlike John Butler, Lee Grainger, Adrian Muir, Filipe Lopes and many men who have killed women since she killed Vincent Francis, Stacey Hyde was found guilty of murder, not manslaughter. Stacey has never denied that she killed Vincent Francis, but she wasn’t a murderer, she was a child, a frightened child.
Like anyone else, I was saddened to wake up to the news that a body has been found in the search for 14-year-old Alice Gross, and that her disappearance has now become a murder inquiry; similarly, I felt sickened to hear about the rape and murder of 23-year old Hannah Witheridge, just two weeks ago.
But since Alice went missing – and in addition to Hannah – at least ten other UK women have been killed through suspected male violence. Why don’t we all know the name of Leighann Duffy, 26, stabbed to death in Walthamstow? What about Glynis Bensley, 48, who witnesses said was pursued by two masked men on bikes before she was killed? Perhaps some people will recall the name of Pennie Davis, 47, found dead in a field, stabbed as she tended her horse. What about Serena Hickey, Dorothy Brown, 66; Nicola Mckenzie, 37; Davinia Loynton, 59; or Lorna McCarthy, 50?
The murder of 82-year-old Palmira Silva who was beheaded in London was also front page news this month, but few were aware that she was the third woman to have been beheaded in London in less than six months, after Tahira Ahmed, 38, in June and Judith Nibbs, 60, in April. Was this simply because beheading is big news at the moment due to the murders of David Haines, James Foley and Steven Sotloff?
The killer of 15-year-old Shereka Marsh, shot in Hackney earlier this year, was found guilty of manslaughter this week. Did we all mourn the 15-year-old school-girl, described by teachers as one of their “shining stars”, on course to sit 10 GCSEs this summer? Wasn’t being accidentally shot by your boyfriend also big news, also international news, this month?
Men’s violence against women and girls, systemic, connected, has killed at least 11 dead UK women this month. At least 111 UK women have been killed through suspected male violence so far this year, 111 women in 272 days is one dead woman every 2.45 days.
Older, black, usually but not all, killed by men they had known and loved – their husbands, boyfriends, ex’s and sons (8 women have been killed by their sons this year, 13 last year, 16 the year before) – why don’t we care so much about these women? Young, white and blond, killed by a stranger, hold the front pages – but don’t bother to make the connections with other women killed by men; talk about anything, immigration, terrorism, tourism, guns and gangs – talk about anything except male violence against women and girls.
To everyone – woman and man – who says they’re a feminist because they believe in equality, I have to ask you, what does it look like, this equality that you speak of?
Gender. You probably want gender equality, don’t you? But gender is inequality. Gender is the convenient invention, the way we train women and men to be different, to be unequal. Gender equality is a smokescreen. Gender is a hierarchy. Feminine, masculine, they can never be equal, they are subordination and domination dressed up in frilly pink and crisp blue.
You mean wage equality, right? Are you going to achieve that by equal pay for equal work? Yes? Or no? ‘Cos that’ll never do it. Work has no inherent value and just somehow, we’ve ended up with women’s work undervalued, so unless we all do more of the same, or unless we increase the value of what we see as ‘women’s work’, we’re stuck. Wage equality without radical reform, is an impossible dream, never to be realised with the Equal Pay Act.
Child birth? Are you looking for a brave new world where that is equal? Or a world where bearing and rearing children does not render women unequal? Are men gonna wipe an equal number of bums? Babies bums? Sick folk’s bums? Old folk’s bums? Equality of sharing, caring, cleaning and weaning.
What about valuing women for how we look? You know, the patriarchal fuckability test? Are men going to be equally judged by what they look like, rather than what they do? Women can chose to walk in painful heels, to maximise their ‘assets’, to flaunt or enhance their curves. Some women enjoy that femininity shit, don’t they? You surely believe in a woman’s right to choose, don’t you? Of course you do. But what do we chose? Why do we? If we’re equal, would we? And those that choose not to, will they be equal too?
What about war? Do you want women to start an equal number of wars to men? To fight and die in equal numbers to men? To rape in equal numbers to men? For men to be raped in equal numbers to women? Which is it? How’s that going to work under your equality? What about no war? Maybe no war. But in this man made world of arbitrary boundaries and power struggles, how’re you going to achieve no war?
Democracy’s great, isn’t it? A cornerstone of equality, maybe, for sure? But only 24% of the UK cabinet are women. You’ll sort that out in the name of equality, won’t you? And where’s the equality when 6 percent of children go to independent schools but make up 45% of the cabinet? When 61% of the cabinet graduated from just two universities? 5% percent of the cabinet – two people – are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. What’s democracy again? Power of the people, ruling through freely elected representatives? It’s just that not everyone gets an equal chance of representing. Just not rule by representative representatives.
What about the sale and purchase of women? Are men going to be commodified just the same? Objectified? Pornified? Trafficked? Pimped? Ah, yes, but what about choice again? That old turkey. A woman’s right to choose to sell sex? Are men going to make the same choices? If not, why not? Where’s the market? And how come it’s poor women, black women, in some counties indigenous women, who disproportionately make that choice? What about their equality? What about mine? If some women are commodities and some men are buyers, how can any of us ever be equal? If my sisters are for sale, they cannot be, I cannot be, equal.
Equality under the law? Yeah, surely you want that too. But how are you going to get that, with laws written by rich white men to protect the interests of rich white men? When we have a legal system celebrated for innocent until proven guilty. When insufficient evidence is synonymous with lack of guilt, with innocence. Can’t you see how it’s stacked? When poor people, black people and women who have been abused are disproportionately found guilty, disproportionately disbelieved, where’s the equality?
When the Equality Act 2010 covers age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity but not class, not poverty, what is even the point of pretending it’s about equality?
Male violence against women? Bet you believe in equality there too, don’t you? Domestic violence is gender neutral, right? Rape? Those hidden male victims? If you refuse to see inequality, if you don’t even believe that most violence is perpetrated by men, how are you going to achieve equality? Which equality are you going for there? Increasing the number of male victims? Increasing the number of female perpetrators? Can’t be reducing male violence, can it? Male violence isn’t a thing, is it?
In all this and more, equality just doesn’t provide the answers. Equality is a condition of a just society, not a cure for an unjust one. So when I say feminism isn’t about equality, it’s about women’s liberation from men’s oppression, this is what I mean. Ending inequality is a big part of feminism, of course it is. But equality is impossible in the society that we have. That’s why feminists talk about smashing patriarchy because we need to think bigger. I don’t even know what a society free of patriarchy would look like. I don’t know how we’ll get there, but I know we’ll never get there down the road called ‘equality’.
Early this year, I heard Bea Campbell ask ‘What would a world without male violence look like?’ Shit. I can’t even imagine that.
The phrase “innocent victim” has re-emerged to describe Sabrina Moss – a 24-year old teacher who was shot dead in London as she celebrated her birthday in August 2013 – in British bastions of judgemental conservative journalism The Daily Mail and the Express.
It’s a phrase that came in to my consciousness when it was used to describe 16-year-old Jane MacDonald who was murdered on 26 June 1977 by being hit on the head with a hammer three times and stabbed in the chest and back around 20 times. When her face-down body was turned over by police, they found a broken bottle complete with screw-top embedded in her chest. She was murdered by Peter Sutcliffe and was the fifth woman of thirteen that he is known to have killed. Before her, there had been 28-year-old Wilma McCann, beaten with a hammer and stabbed to death in October 1975; 42-year-old Emily Jackson, beaten with a hammer and stabbed 52 times with a screw-driver in January 1975; Irene Richardson, 28, beaten with a hammer and stabbed and slashed with a Stanley knife in February 1977 and Patricia Atkinson, 32, beaten and clawed with a hammer and also stabbed, in April 1977. Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson and Patricia Atkinson had not been described by the press as innocent victims. Why? Because Jane MacDonald was the first woman known to have been murdered by Sutcliffe who was not in prostitution. Sutcliffe himself shared this belief that prostituted women were less worthy than none prostituted women. In his confession, referring to Jane MacDonald, he said
“The next one I did I still feel terrible about, it was the young girl Jayne MacDonald. I read recently about her father dying of a broken heart and it brought it all back to me. I realised what sort of a monster I had become. I believed at the time I did it that she was a prostitute.”
“When I saw in the papers that MacDonald was so young and not a prostitute, I felt like someone inhuman and I realised that it was a devil driving me against my will and that I was a beast.”
Leaving aside Sutcliffe’s failure to take responsibility for his actions – blaming them on being driven by the devil, not his own violent misogyny – the implication is clear, that beating and stabbing four prostituted women to death was something less than monstrous. He became a monster when he killed Jane, not when he had killed Wilma, Emily, Irene and Patricia.
This week, Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he killed. State prosecutor Gerrie Nel refered to Pistorius as causing “the death of an innocent woman” and again referred to him being “convicted of a serious crime of killing an innocent woman.” Of course, Reeva Steenkamp, in comparison to Pistorius was innocent, but surely that is almost always the case when comparing murder victims to their killers. If not innocent, what are they? Guilty? Or perhaps somehow complicit in their own death?
Despite attempts at law reform, some women’s complicity in their own murders is still implied indeed enshrined in British law. Academic Adrian Howe has looked at infidelity in the sentencing of men convicted of intimate partner homicide. She points out that “For over 300 years, criminal courts have regarded sexual infidelity as sufficiently grave provocation as to provide a warrant, indeed a ‘moral warrant’, for reducing murder to manslaughter.” and that whilst “ ‘sexual infidelity’ was expressly excluded as a trigger for loss of control in the new loss of control defence laid down in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009”, “sexual infidelity still has mitigating prowess” in diminished responsibility pleas, as does men’s ‘distress’ if they kill a partner who is in the process of leaving them. This ‘distress’ could just as easily be described men’s entitlement, or their rage that their partner has the audacity to reject them and move on. A woman’s murder is somehow less heinous, deserving a reduced plea of manslaughter or a reduced sentence, if the court accepts that something that she did contributed to a man’s choice to kill her.
Dead women get no opportunity to defend their character; but even if they could, it should not make a difference. Victims of violence should not be graded according to their worth, the balance would inevitably be tipped to discredit those not deemed to be ‘good’ women according to a scale reflecting class-biased and sexist values of what a woman should be. We can see this when we look at the justice system and men’s sexual violence against women. Women are not equal in the eyes of the law. The concept of ‘lady-like’ behaviour controls, judges and stratifies; acceptable/respectable standards of woman or girlhood align with middle-class standards of conduct and appearance. Catharine MacKinnon argued that the law divides women along indices of consent from ‘the virginal daughter’ to ‘whorelike wives and prostitutes’ with women who meet standards closer to the former, less likely to be found to have consented to unwanted intercourse, more likely to be believed regarding rape and sexual violence. Women who are socially or educationally disadvantaged are less likely to ‘perform well’ in the criminal justice system1 and women from working-class backgrounds are more likely to refuse to adhere to the status of victim, more likely to endure/cope and more likely to minimise injury2, as victims is it we who are on trial, we who are judged and the men who attack us who benefit from our perceived innocence. In Rotherham, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and beyond, we’ve seen how labelling girls as slags and troublemakers allows the men who abuse to continue to do so.
Women victims of male violence should not have unequal status under the law. Whether we have fucked one man or woman or five hundred; whether we pay our bills though prostitution, preaching, teaching or trust funds. Our laws, written by white middle-class men, favour white middle-class men and all women victims of male violence deserve justice, not just those of us who according to some scale of judgement are deemed ‘innocent’.
1 Temkin 2002b:6
2 Skeggs, 2005:971
Just women killed by men: shifting definitions and learning though Counting Dead Women
It’s over two and a half years since I unintentionally started counting dead women back in January 2012 when the year began with report after report of women killed through domestic violence. I know now, but I didn’t then, that in the first three days of 2012, eight women in the UK were killed through male violence. Three days, eight dead women: three shot, two stabbed, one strangled, one smothered and one beaten to death through 15 blunt force trauma injuries
Eight women aged between 20 and 87, their killers aged between 19 and 48 were husbands, partners, boyfriends or ex’s; , sister’s partner, aunt’s partner, robber and grandson. I remember the feeling of incredulity that connections weren’t being made, that dots weren’t being joined, that no-one was talking about a pattern, or at least a series of related events.
At first, I counted women killed through domestic violence, then, on March 9th 2012, Ahmad Otak stabbed and killed Samantha Sykes, 18 and Kimberley Frank, 17. Otak wasn’t the boyfriend of either of them, but of Elisa Frank, Kimberley’s sister. After killing Kimberly and Samantha in front of Eliza, he abducted Eliza and drove to Dover in an attempt to escape to France. The murders of Samantha and Kimberley didn’t strictly fit the definition of domestic violence, but they’re absolutely about a man trying to exert power, control and coercion in his relationship. The murders of Kimberley and Samantha were no less about male violence against women that they would have been if he had been the boyfriend of one of them.
I’d never planned to start counting and I think I’d imagined that I’d stop at the end of 2012. At the end of the year, I tried to define who I was counting and who I wasn’t using the term ‘gender related murder’. With the start of 2013, I started a new list and kept on counting. Slowly finding a voice through social media, particularly twitter, I started blogging early in 2013. I wrote my first piece about how I started counting and some of the things I’d learned and called it Counting Dead Women. With the term ‘gender related murder’ I was trying to express that fatal male violence against women went beyond ‘domestic violence’; that there was more to men’s sexist misogynistic murders of women than the widely used ‘Two women a week killed by partners or ex-partners’, that socially constructed gender has an influence beyond domestic violence . I had a notion, that I now reject, that I wasn’t talking about all instances where men had killed women; and I didn’t want to be accused of exaggerating and adding women just to make the numbers higher.
So, there were some women who had been killed by men that I didn’t add to the list, for example where she’d been killed but so had a man - my thinking ‘So, this wasn’t just sexism/misogyny’ – or one case where the killer was an employee of the woman he murdered, ‘maybe he’d have killed his employer even if he had been a man?’ I had more questions: Who counts as a ‘UK woman’? What about women from the UK murdered on holiday? If I counted UK women murdered overseas, should I therefore not count women who were not from the UK if they were murdered here? What about so-called mercy killings? In a country where assisted dying is not legal, surely some people might make the choice through lack of choice. What about girls? When does the killing of a child become sexist?
I started thinking about and using the term Femicide ‘the killing of women because they are women’ and wrote about it here in October 2013. But it still didn’t feel right, the term ‘femicide’ itself doesn’t name the agent, neither does the short definition above, purportedly because women can kill women as a result of patriarchal values. Of course that’s true, yet the 123-word definition of femicide agreed at the Vienna Symposium on Femicide whilst giving some useful examples of forms that fatal violence against women can take, still didn’t name ‘male violence’ and it excluded a group of women that I’d begun to identify through my counting: older women killed by younger men in what were sometimes described as ’botched robberies’ or muggings. The level of brutality that some men used against these women, the way some targeted women and the use of sexual violence, meant to me that their murders could not be excluded. I posed that question, that in a world where sexism and misogyny are so pervasive, are all but inescapable, can a man killing a woman ever not be a sexist act? A fatal enactment of patriarchy?
It’s September 2014 now. Last week, on Thursday, 82-year-old Palmira Silva became at least the 100th woman in the UK to be killed through male violence this year. I say at least the 100th because I have a list of more than 10 women’s names where the circumstances of their deaths has not been made publicly available. In the same way that the list of 107 women’s names that I’d gathered by the end of 2012 is now a list of 126 women, I expect that time will reveal women who have been killed this year, women I haven’t heard about or who I haven’t yet been able to include because information about their deaths has not been released .
Because I’m counting dead women, keeping this list, I was able to make connections that others simply wouldn’t know about. On Thursday evening, a tweet I wrote, identifying Palmira Silva as the third women to have been beheaded in London in less than six months was trending in London. My blog had more hits in one day than it usually has in a month. Some people heard about my list for the first time and asked questions, making me realise it was perhaps time to revisit and update my explanation of what I’m doing and why.
Why am I counting women killed through male violence? Because if we don’t name the agent, we can’t hope to identify the causes. If we don’t reveal the extent of men’s fatal violence against women and the various forms it can take, we will never be capable of a thorough enough analysis to reduce or end it. If the bigger picture is revealed, people can begin to see the connections. That’s why I know that I need to keep counting dead women and campaigning for this to be done officially.
My thinking has developed and changed since January 2012. There’s no reason that it won’t continue to do so. Not everyone likes what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. Not everyone agrees with my analysis. Not everyone thinks women killed by men are worth of counting.
So, who counts? Women. Women, aged 14 years and over, women killed by men in the UK and UK women killed overseas. Regardless of the relationship between the woman and the man who killed her; regardless of how he killed her and who else he killed at the same time; regardless of the verdict reached when the case gets to court in our patriarchally constructed justice system created by men and continually delivering anything but justice to women; regardless of what is known and not known of his motive. Just women killed by men.
82-year-old Palmira Silva was found beheaded in a garden in Edmonton, north London. A 25-year-old-man was arrested on suspicion of murder. Police have stated that there is no reason to suspect a terrorist motive.
This is not an “isolated incident”. She is the third woman to have been beheaded in London in less than six months. On the 3 June 2014, Tahira Ahmed, 38, was decapitated. Her husband, Naveed Ahmed, 41, was charged with her murder. In April 2014, Judith Nibbs, 60, was decapitated, allegedly by her estranged husband Demsey Nibbs, 67.
Last year, in June, Reema Ramzan, 18, was decapitated by boyfriend, Aras Hussain, 21. The year before, in October 2012, Catherine Gowing, 39, was decapitated and raped by serial rapist Clive Sharp, 47. In March the same year Elizabeth Coriat, 76, was decapitated by her son Daniel Coriat, 43; earlier the same month, Gemma McCluskie, 29, had been decapitated by her brother Tony McCluskie, 36.
A beheading is no less horrific if there is not a suspected terrorist motive. Yet, 100 women in the UK have been killed though suspected male violence so far this year. Each of their deaths should cause outrage. That they don’t, that fatal male violence against women is accepted as one of those things that happens, that a COBRA meeting hasn’t been called to stop men from killing women, should tell us all we need to know about who is – and who isn’t – seen as important in our society.