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.
Naked headless women golf tees, it’s all a bit of a laugh, eh? Adding, according to Dunlop, “a little humour to your game” or “the perfect gift for someone who takes the sport a little too seriously.” Bend down and stick the nice bit of pink plastic tits and arse in the ground, balance your golf ball head, swing and “thwack”. Hilarious.
But what about those of us who aren’t laughing?
I grew up in a village in Yorkshire with a pub called The Silent Woman. The pub sign was a picture of a woman carrying her head in her hands. To be silent a woman had to be headless. A misogynistic leap of association, dragging in the nagging wife, the fishwife, the gossip: to be silent a woman must be headless. Is there a feminist on social media who hasn’t experienced attempts at silencing when she expresses her opinions? I’ve lost count of the number of men who have told me “Don’t start with ….”, “Shut up,” or called me variations of screeching, bleating feminazi. The Silent Woman in Slaithwaite did not have a unique pub name, there are several across the UK, with The Headless Woman as a variation. Sometimes the name appears with the couplet: “Here is a woman who has lost her head, She’s quiet now—you see she’s dead” (Author unknown) just in case the inference from name alone isn’t clear enough. Carl Jung talked about cultural archetypes. Cross cultural , universal concepts that he believed indicated a collective unconscious. Unconscious forces that are expressed in images, religion, stories and mythology as they enter consciousness and shape our interactions in society. The silent woman, synonymous with headless woman is a patriarchal archetype. It reflects sexist misogynistic cultural values. Not convinced about the concept of patriarchy? Remember Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects? “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”
The objectification of women, reducing us to hilarious little objects that exist to titillate men, to give them a giggle, is another means of keeping us unequal. Reducing us to hilarious little objects towards which to swing a golf club makes hitting us fun. Making a joke out of the objectification of women and male violence against women is another way of normalising and reducing our ability to stop and stand back, to confront the horrible reality of what is happening.
Male violence against women does not exist in a social vacuum, it simultaneous reinforces and is reinforced by inequality between woman and men, given more than a helping hand by the objectification of women. Two and a half years ago, I started counting UK women killed through male violence. Since I started counting in January 2012 and the end of May 2014, 333 UK women had been killed; amongst them, I am aware of six women who were decapitated. Anyone still laughing at Dunlop’s golf tees?
Is it funny if I remind you of 29-year-old Gemma McCluskie? She was actor living in London. In March 2012, her brother Tony McCluskie, 36, killed her by hitting her head and then chopped her up with a cleaver and a knife. The next day, he took a cab carrying a heavy suitcase. A week later, her torso was found in the suitcase in the canal close to where he was dropped off. A week later her arms and legs were found in black bags. It was another six months before her head was found.
Will you laugh if I tell you about Elizabeth Coriat? In March 2012, Daniel Coriat, 43, killed his 76-year-old mother Elizabeth Coriat in their shared home in London. She was found on her bed, fully clothed, decapitated and mutilated with various weapons embedded in her head and body, injuries to the wrists and ankles in a ‘crucifixion-like’ pattern. She had suffered almost 50 separate injuries inflicted by weapons including carving knives, secateurs, a chef’s steel and a pruning saw. Her head had been cut off completely off, rotated 180 degrees, and placed back on her body.
Will your golfer stop talking the sport so seriously if we think about Catherine Gowing, a 39-year-old vet who was murdered by a serial rapist Clive Sharp, 47, in October 2012? He raped her for 4 hours before killing her. The next day he bought bleach, petrol, a hacksaw and spare blades, and a Halloween mask. He dismembered Catherine’s remains in open ground before disposing of her body in various locations in North Wales. Only her torso, right hand and foot have been recovered; her head and remaining body parts were never found.
Will the story of Reema Ramzan bring back the missing humour to your game? 18-year-old Reema from Sheffield was murdered by her boyfriend Aras Hussain, 21, in June 2013. According to forensic evidence although he had stabbed her in the chest, Reema was likely to be alive while her head was being cut off, though would of course have lost consciousness at some point. A post mortem showed Reema had also been stabbed in her shoulder and leg. Injuries on her hands were consistent with self-defence. Judge Mrs Justice Cox told Hussain “”The pain, terror, anguish and desperation she would therefore have suffered, as you inflicted these appalling injuries upon her and ended her life, is truly horrifying to contemplate.”
Finally, if your sense of humour needs a final nudge there’s 60-year-old Judith Nibbs who lived in Hackney, London. Judith had been active in the local community for many years and had worked delivering meals-on-wheels to the elderly for the last 6 years. She also cared for her disabled daughter. In April 2014, police responding to a call found her decapitated body in her blood-splattered flat. Her estranged husband, Dempsey Nibbs, 67, was also there. It is believed he had stabbed and seriously injured himself after killing Judith. Police are not looking for anyone else.
Those golf club thwacks to the head have a broader context beyond beheaded women. There are numerous women murdered through blows to the head: garden ornaments, kitchen implements, hammers, feet, fists, blunt force trauma, fractured skull, brain injury. There’s also 68-year-old Sally Hingston, murdered by 25-year old and 6ft 10 Benjamin Radojezic: Sally survived a brutal beating – with a golf club – only to be dumped half naked in a ditch where she took 17 hours to die in Buckinghamshire in 2009.
Off with her head. Oh, such a laugh. The naked headless woman – a little bit of humour for your game of golf. I’m not laughing. After reading this, could anyone be?
Jo Sharpen has stated a petition to Dunlop to remove the naked woman golf tees from sale. You can sign it here https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dunlop-sport-remove-the-misogynistic-nudie-tee-product-which-features-a-decapitated-woman-s-body# %85
The headline “Woman stabbed to death ‘because she was wearing traditional Muslim dress’” is repeated across today’s news.
Attacking Nahid Al-Manea because of what she was wearing was a racist hate crime and blaming her clothing is judgemental victim blaming. I have no desire to defend any religion. All religions that I am aware of oppress women. But I want to know why we can almost immediately place her murder in a box called ‘religion’ or ‘racism’. So far this year, I’ve counted more than 70 women in the UK killed though suspected male violence, but I’ve yet to see anyone other than feminists identifying this a problem with patriarchy or misogyny.
According to the Tell MAMA UK project, 58% of anti-Muslim attacks reported to them are against women and girls with a 2:1 ratio of women victims in Islamic clothing compared to men in Islamic clothing, 75% of perpetrators are male. The sex differences are clear – and predicable – to anyone who cares to look for them. When race or religion are a factor in violence, these are rightly identified and named . Why isn’t it the same with sexist and misogynistic murder?
We’re not calling racially motivated attacks isolated incidents, nor should we, but that’s still how male violence against women is too frequently viewed. Racist violence does not happen in a vacuum that is unaffected by other forms of hate-crime. Of course we need to drive out racism but we need to open our eyes and make the connections between all crimes of male violence against women – any woman, all women.
Within minutes of the breaking news of the violent murder of Lee Rigby last summer, his death was being linked to Islamic extremism– a threat to “our British values”. The government’s emergency response committee, COBRA, was convened the following day. Why hasn’t a COBRA meeting been called to look at fatal male violence against women? The murder of Lee Rigby was abhorrent, but any murder is abhorrent. There should be no hierarchy. Could it be that it is only when the primary aggressors are those acting against, not reinforcing the dominant ideology, that the structural root of violence is identified?
According to Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell MAMA UK “If the killing is found to be an anti-Muslim in nature, then this will be the second Islamophobic murder in 14 months,”. Two in 14 months is two too many. Nahid al-Manea, 32, was stabbed to death. A 52 year-old man has been arrested. I’ve seen more than 70 versions of this same story in the UK already this year. Over 70 dead women. Over 70 male killers. 70 dead women in five months. Women with a wide range of backgrounds. Nine dead women this month so far. Who isn’t making the connections?
A piece written by Sian Norris today “Go die in a fire” is not just an idle threat – as I know only too well” made me think. In Sian’s words:
“ Telling women to die in a fire is no idle threat. It is the reality of millions of women throughout history. It is the reality of women alive today. It is my reality, as a survivor of having men set my hair on fire. It is not ok to despise women’s real life experience of male violence. It is not ok to use women’s experience of male violence in your desperate efforts to make women shut up.
I, too, hate that saying. Through my work counting dead women, I know that 17 women in the UK were either murdered in fires or set alight after they had been killed between January 2012 and December 2013. As Sian concludes
“If you read this, and you are one of those people who has told women to die in a fire, who has threatened to silence women by setting them on fire, then for fuck’s sake, think about what you are saying and who you are saying it to.”
I’d like to add “If you tell women to “die in a fire,” please remember:
Stacey Mackie, aged 35, was doused in white spirit and set alight on 27th January 2012. Police broke into her flat when a neighbour raised the alarm, They found her sitting in the lobby with 80-95% burns, her clothes were almost entirely burned off and her hair was singed. As a police officer tried to comfort her, she replied: ‘I know I am going to die.’ Terrence Armer 61, was convicted of her murder, killing her after she had ended their relationship. In court he denied that he had killed her and told the jury that he loved her.
Catherine Wells-Burr, aged 23, was smothered by Rafal Nowak. Anna Lagwinowicz and Tadevsz Dmytryszyn removed her body from the house and drove it in her car to a remote countryside location. Her badly-burned body was found in the burnt-out car on 12 September 2012.
Kayleigh Buckey, 17, her six month old baby daughter Kimberley and her mum, Kim Buckley, 46, were killed in a fire in their home. Kayleigh’s partner and father of Kimberley, Carl Mills, aged 28 was found guilty of their murders.
The body of Una Crown, aged 83, was found on 13th January 2013. She had suffered serious burns. Officers first thought she had accidentally set herself on fire before serious stab wounds were identified in her post-mortem. Her murder remains unsolved.
The body of Chloe Siokos, 80, and that of her husband Argyrios Siokos, 69, were discovered after a fire at their home on 22 January 2013. Police said Chloe had other injuries inconsistent with the fire being the cause of death and that it was thought that Argyrios Siokos had murdered her before starting the fire.
Sasha Marsden, aged 16, was sexually assaulted and stabbed in the head and neck by work colleague David Minto, 23. Her body was wrapped in a bin liner and carpet underlay, and dumped in an alleyway on 31 January 2013 before being set on fire. Her injuries were so severe that she had to be identified by DNA from her toothbrush.
Ellen Ash, aged 83, was smothered by her son Jeffrey Ash on 21st March 2013. He set fire to her home and fled before handing himself into police. Fire crews found her badly-burned body on the living room floor.
Naika Inayat, aged 52, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a fire started by her husband Mohammed Inayat on 17 April 2013. Their three daughters were also injured in the fire, one of them, 16-year-old Saimah, who had to jump from a bedroom window, suffered 50 per cent burns
Julie Beattie, aged 24, was murdered by Ashley Williams on 19th July 2013. He hit her over the head with a hammer before he doused her in a mixture of petrol and diesel fuel. She staggered out of the house in flames and said “‘Ashley did this to me”, before collapsing. She later died of her injuries. Her murder was witnessed by two children aged four and five, they became the youngest witnesses to give evidence at a murder trial.
Varka Rani, aged 24, was strangled with the pipe of a vacuum cleaner by her husband Jasvir Ginday, 29, on 12th September 2013. He had previously filed a missing persons report about her ‘disappearance’. Police found her remains in the garden incinerator when neighbours reported thick, unpleasant-smelling smoke. Ginday told police he had been burning leaves, but one of the officers lifted the lid and saw the remains of a skull. Varka had been placed in the incinerator in the foetal position after her death.
Shehnila Taufiq, 47, her 19-year-old daughter Zainab, and sons Bilal, 17, and Jamal,15, all died in a petrol-fuelled blaze at their home after it was mistakenly targeted in a revenge attack on 13 September 2013. Kemo Porter, 19, Tristan Richards, 22, Nathaniel Mullings, 19, Shaun Carter, 24, Jackson Powell, 20, Aaron Webb, 20, Aaron Jeffers, 21, and a 17-year-old youth who cannot be named for legal reasons are standing trial. The trial continues.
Ahdieh Khayatzadeh, 46, suffered severe burns after being doused in petrol and set on fire by her ex-husband Ahmad Yazdanparast on 12th October 2013. Firefighters who brought her out of the building alive said she was in “horrendous” condition, so badly burned that they couldn’t tell if she was male or female, and “very much conscious”. She died in hospital the same day, Before she died she told a paramedic that her ex-husband had carried out the attack because she had divorced him.
Mahnaz Rafie, aged 48, died of stab wounds before a fire started in her home on 12th December 2013. Her mother Dolleh Joseph, 74, was rescued by fire crews but pronounced dead at hospital from smoke inhalation and burns. Her husband Hassan also died from smoke inhalation and burns. It is believed that the fire started after the gas supply was tampered with. Police said they were not looking for anyone else
“Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
Catch you with another man
That’s the end’a little girl”
John Lennon and Paul McCartney
“I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it. …….. If I can’t have you girls, I will destroy you. [laughs] You denied me a happy life and in turn I will deny all of you life, it’s only fair. I hate all of you.”
Male entitlement is a deadly seam running through male violence against women whether coercive control, FGM, rape, prostitution, trafficking or murder.
According to government statistics, approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year, that’s an average of 233 women raped by men in the UK every day. Last year in the UK, 142 women were killed through suspected male violence, that’s one dead woman every 2.5 days; and between January and April this year, 50 UK women have been killed. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to one of the first three types of female genital mutilation. Prostitution, pornography and trafficking reduce women to commodities, possessions and objects for market exchange, men the purchasers, controllers and profit-makers. It is estimated that prostitution revenue is around £110 billion per year worldwide, involves around 40-42 million people worldwide, of which 90% are dependent on a procurer, 75% are between 13 and 25 years old and the overwhelming majority are women. The global pornography industry was estimated to be worth £57 billion in 2006. Approximately 230 girls are still missing, more than a month after they were abducted in Chibok, Nigeria. Women are still routinely ‘given away’ by their fathers in marriage ceremonies and fathers, not mothers are named on marriage certificates. Male entitlement to women and girls and male violence against women and girls are inextricable.
Mass killings make news headlines in the way day-to-day fatal violence rarely does. The day after Elliott Rodger murdered six people, 82-year old Harold Ambrose called the police from the home he shared with his wife in Boxted, Essex, and told them that he had shot her dead. When armed police reached the house, they found 77-year-old Wendy Ambrose, sitting dead in a chair in the living room with two gunshots to her head and face. Harold Ambrose was found dead in the garden with a single gunshot wound to his head. Harold Ambrose’s name has not trended on twitter, it has not made widespread national, let alone international, news coverage. A man killing a woman is so ‘everyday’ that those who set the agenda do not deem it worthy of attention.
Male entitlement to women’s spaces crosses the realms of the theoretical, cultural and physical. Whether it’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers aka Stockholm Syndrome: the musical, misogynist fantasies of emotional and sexual abuse in the guise of stories for children or adult women, Tom Jones (for example and by no alone) with his songs of Christmas rape or murdering women, popular culture from fairy-tale to pop-music and film is littered with the message that women exist for men. The guy gets the girl. Reward. Happy ending. Some of the men that haven’t management to grasp the intricacies of women’s liberation from structural oppression demand to be, rather than support, feminists. Socially constructed gender and biological sex become conflated, woman is seen as a state of mind. Women-only conferences are threatened by men’s rights activists and women’s domestic and sexual violence services are increasingly re-commissioned as ‘gender-neutral’ services under a barely disguised reactionary ideology. And whilst I was delighted to learn that Sweden has just elected the only formal feminist party to the EU parliament with a Roma woman, Soraya Post as its representative, my heart sank when I read that the role of men is seen as the same as that of women in the Swedish Feminist Initiative. How can we be the same when in patriarchal society we are anything but?
It has now been confirmed that Elliot Rodgers killed six people, four men and two women, the motivating force of his entitled misogyny and bitter jealously revealed in his self-recorded “last video”. Elliot Rodger’s sense of entitlement is glaringly obvious. Prostitution was even suggested as a possible – missed – solution to Rodger’s choice to kill. As explored here by Megan Murphy “What could possibly be a better cure for male entitlement than more male entitlement?” Glaringly obvious and not unusual, male entitlement is frequently accepted as an excuse or justification for everyday fatal male violence against women. For most women, leaving a violent relationship is the best way to end the violence (63%) but for over a third it is not: the violence reduced for eight per cent, stayed about the same for five per cent,changed to something else, such as stalking and other harassment, for 18 per cent, got worse for three per cent and only started when they split up for three per cent. In my tracking of UK women killed through male violence, women being killed by men when they ended relationships, as they left, as they formed relationships with others or after leaving a violence relationship is ever present: Jabeen Younis, 30; Samantha Medland, 24; Rosemary Gill, 48; Chloe Siokos, 80; Gabielle Stanley, 28; Julie Beattie, 24; Da In Lee, 22; Shaista Khatoon, 33; Marion Vita, 48; Janee Parsons, 31. This list could go on and on. Whilst men’s murderous entitlement to women’s spaces, bodies and lives continues unchecked and sometimes supported by liberal capitalist ideology, male violence against women and girls will continue and the lists of women killed by men will continue to grow longer.