Why I was rejected for Labour Party membership and my response

I updated this blog on 7 July 2020, why I decided that I wouldn’t walk away from the Labour Party, but would continue to challenge their refusal of my membership application.

I’m a feminist from a working-class background. I was social-class conscious before I was sex-class conscious. I’d been a member, admittedly largely inactive, of the Labour Party for most of my adult life. I’d managed to hold my nose when Tony Blair changed Clause IV in 1995, and it was removed from membership cards, symbolising to me, a move away from the party’s proud socialist history. But I resigned at some point about  ten years later when his promises to reform the House of Lords failed and I was angry that a party supposedly based on equality baulked when it came to dealing with such a blatant example of inherited privilege.  I can’t remember when I re-joined but I resigned for a second time in 2018 when the then General Secretary, Jennie Formby, announced that all-women-shortlists would no longer be women only. The conflict between my feminism and the party’s commitment to dealing with sex inequality felt irreconcilable.  

I was devastated by the results of the general election in December 2019. I’d voted for Labour, of course.  I was barely interested in the furore around Corbyn. Labour are a political party, not a cult, and it has always been the party’s principles and their manifesto that mattered to me more than the leader; and the 2019 manifesto set out objectives that I would want to see underpinning society. It seemed to me – as it still does – that a Labour Party that didn’t meet my feminist ideals offered better opportunities for ordinary women than any other party. I was gutted at the thought of another five-years   of Tory rule, let alone the prospect of ten, so I applied to re-join within days of the defeat. 

Just over three months after I had applied to join the Labour Party, I received a letter (carrying the Stonewall logo) by email saying my membership had been rejected because: “information brought to our attention is that you have engaged in conduct online that may reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility based on gender identity.” The letter contained no evidence to back this assertion, so I appealed against the decision and submitted a subject access request. 12 weeks later, I received an email with an attachment to a document containing 14 tweets that, I must conclude, illustrate my on-line crimes. I was invited to make a “statement giving your reasons why you should be accepted into membership of the Labour Party and your reply to the decision to reject your application.”  I’ve decided to make my reply – and the reasons for their rejection – open. The tweets cover these eight issues:  

  1. Men’s fatal violence against women
  2. Not all feminists are the same
  3. Fantasies of totalitarian regimes
  4. Women’s sport and human rights
  5. Jess Phillips and the smell of sexism
  6. Non sequiturs
  7. Lesbians’ right to set their own sexual boundaries  
  8. Poodle kitten extermination and probable extinction
  1. Men’s Fatal Violence Against Women

The case against me

My defence

I spend a lot of time working on men’s fatal violence against women.  I calculated that number for a blog that I wrote in 2018, available here. I updated that figure in 2019, see here . So as far as I am able to find, the most recent data for the UK suggests that between 2007 and 2019, there were 62% more homicides perpetrated by trans-identified males than there were homicides of  people (who were all male) who identified as transgender.

I happen to think that knowing the truth about sex differences and fatal violence is an essential step towards ending men’s fatal violence against women.  I would also say that the truth is also an important step in addressing violence against those who identify as transgender, or indeed men’s violence against other men.

2. Not all feminists are the same

The case against me

My defence

There are variations on an allegation regularly made by trans extremist ‘activists’ that UK feminist groups are allied to and indeed funded by the religious Right in the USA.  It may be true of some women who consider themselves to be ‘gender critical’, some but not all of whom also consider themselves to be feminists. It isn’t true of any groups I’m involved with, any women I’m friends with and it isn’t true of me. It pisses me off. Don’t generalise from the beliefs or actions of some (and make)  an assumption about the beliefs or actions of all of any demographic. I thought that was a pretty basic principle. Evidently not one that the Labour Party thinks is important.

3. Fantasies of totalitarian regimes  

The evidence against me

My (partial) defence

Ermm, seriously?  I sincerely promise that I do not want to overthrow this fragile constitutional monarchy with a totalitarian regime that bans words. Actually, I’d love to get rid of the embarrassment that is the ‘royal family’, but it wasn’t what I was thinking about when I wrote this tweet; and I will admit that I think the phrase ‘gender-neutral’ is an oxymoron. There’s nothing neutral about gender, it’s a primary weapon of patriarchy functioning to enforce women’s sex-based oppression.

4. Women’s sport and human rights

The case against me

My defence

I absolutely stand by every word.

5. Jess Phillips and the smell of sexism

The case against me

My defence

Jess Phillips does important work on domestic violence and abuse though her role as an MP. I am particularly grateful to her for reading the names of all women killed by men (collected by me), on International Women’s Day every year for the last four years. I know this means a lot to many of the friends and families of women killed and I feel so very honoured to have played a role in getting their names recorded in Hansard. However, I strongly disagree with the opinions she expressed in Mumsnet and Penis News interviews. I also believe that some of the critique (at best), trolling and the death threats she has received are rooted in sexism and misogyny. It reeks. I can disagree with her on this issue (and others) and still respect and feel grateful for her work on men’s violence against women.

6. Non sequiturs

The case against me

My defence

I take full responsibility for this appalling non sequitur. What was I thinking? I’m sorry. Maybe it made sense at the time but it doesn’t now.

7. Lesbians’ right to set their own sexual boundaries  

The case against me

My defence

I stand by every word.  Lesbians are same-sex attracted women and I will defend their right to set their sexual boundaries on this basis. To require otherwise is lesbophobia. Can someone in the Labour Party or anywhere else justify this? 

8.        Poodle kitten extermination  and probable extinction

The case against me

My defence

I really, really, really do not wish death upon poodle kittens. They’re such gorgeous little grumpy faced gremlins. I would never knowingly bring one to harm. Save the poodle kittens!

Sex and gender aren’t the same though. In the context that I was using the words, one refers to whether a human being is female or male. The other (as I have mentioned above) is a primary weapon of patriarchy functioning to enforce women’s sex-based oppression. It isn’t helpful to confuse the two.

To conclude

I believe in universal human rights. I would love to see a government based on socialist, anti-sexist and anti-racist principles.  None of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Green Party are good for women, or poor people, or people of African, Caribbean, Asian or Arabic or any other non-Caucasian heritage. I’ll never vote for the Conservatives as long as I can draw breath. I can’t imagine voting Lib Dem because their libertarianism is too often at the expense of women’s rights and dignity, and the Greens (as they are) are a lost cause. I want to be able to vote Labour with pride and as a member.

Apparently, the tweets above (and to be honest plenty more where they came from) make me unworthy of the Labour Party. From where I stand though, if the Labour Party defends the positions in opposition to them, the Labour Party is letting women down. I believe a Labour Party that actively tackles misogyny, sexism, sex discrimination and sex inequality is worth fighting for.

Labour Party Policy should be developed through the National Policy Forum, not indirectly determined by the membership committee by refusing membership to people with ideals that are not even incompatible with the party manifesto.

I would like to see a Labour government.

I do not believe that people can change sex. I do believe that women are discriminated upon on the basis of sex. I think the 2019 manifesto demonstrated that the Labour Party knows this too.

SUSAN B ANTHONY

Counting Dead Women: Reviewing 2012 – How 107 dead women became 126

When I talk about why I started counting dead women, I begin with my realisation that in the first three days of 2012, seven UK women had been killed though male violence.  More than two years later, I found out it wasn’t seven women in three days, but eight.

Betty Yates, a retired teacher who was 77 years-old, was found dead at home in her house in Bewdley, Worcestershire on 4th January.  She had been beaten with a walking stick and stabbed in the head four times, two days earlier.  The knife used to kill her was still embedded in her neck.  Stephen Farrow, 48, was charged with her murder through DNA evidence matched after he murdered vicar John Suddard on 13 February.

2012 then, in the first three days of the year, eight women were killed though male violence.  Three days: 8 dead women: 3 shot, 2 stabbed, 1 strangled, 1 smothered and one beaten to death through 15 blunt force trauma injuries.

By the end of the year, I’d counted and named 107 women killed though suspected male violence, but as cases of women’s killings went to court, that number grew.  By February 2013 it was 109 women, by  the end of July it became 114, then 118.  In October 2013, I added Carole Waugh and then later Louise Evans;  in March 2014, I added Sally Ann Harrison.  May 2014, and not only is there Betty Yates but Jenny Methven, Yong Li Qui, Patricia Seddon and Eleftheria Demetriou.

Jenny Methven was 80 years-old when she was found dead on 20th February, she died through blunt force injuries to her head and body. Her skull was fractured from one side to the other with bone splinters embedded in her brain. 46-year-old William Kean has been found guilty of her murder.

Yong Li Qui, 42,  was murdered by Gang Wang, 48.  In his trial, he denied he intended to kill her or cause her really serious harm. He had beaten her head with an object so severely that her skull was fractured and her brain tissue could be seen.  She died on 25th March, a week after being attacked.

Patricia Seddon, 65, and her husband Robert, 68, were shot dead by their son Stephen. Four months earlier, he had staged a road accident and attempted to kill them by driving into a canal with them strapped in the back seats of a car.

Eleftheria Demetriou, 79, was stabbed to death by Hakim Abdillah, 38, she was killed through multiple wounds to the heart and spleen by a man she had befriended and who used to call her ‘grandma’.

I’ve written before about how I initially started counting women killed by men who were partners, ex-partners or family members: domestic violence; I’ve also looked at how femicide is a more useful but still problematic term because, whilst using patriarchal society as a context  it focuses on women killed because they are women  and not enough on toxic masculinity.

Between the five women above, two, Betty Yates and Patricia Seddon were murdered by men who also murdered a man.  I don’t know how the sex of 80 year-old Jenny Methven, 79 year-old Eleftheria Demetriou, and 77 year-old Betty, was relevant when they were killed by William Kean, 46,  Hakim Abdillah, 38 and Stephen Farrow, 48.  The age gaps between killer and victim, the inevitable differences in their strength; and the brutality of their attacks mean masculinity and power over women and misogyny, the hatred of women cannot be ruled out.   But the differences between the numbers of men who kill women (or men) to the number of women who kill women or men; and the number of men who kill their mothers (or father) to the number of women who kill a parent mean that if we want to end male violence against women, we need to look at patriarchy, sex inequality and socially constructed toxic gender for the answers.

The names of all 126 UK women killed through male violence in 2012 can be found here.

Here’s a thing: women exist

Insult us from the playground to parliament: Bitch. Witch. Slapper. Cow. Dog. Mouse. Mousse. Tart. Whore. Slut. Slag. Slattern. Fish-wife. Bossy. Bag. Harridan. Hag. Man. Man-hater

Strengthen the cage: reinforce gender by making girlhood pinker, shinier, sparklier
Princess, pretty, doll, lady,
Sweeter Sweetie: sugar, honey, treacle

Abort us. Kill us, rape us, burn us, drown us
Constrict us: corset, girdle, spanx. Tie us in, tie us down
Restrict us. Write us out of history. Block our education
Pay us less. Prevent us from voting, driving, ski-jumping

Sell us lies
Fill us with botox, collagen, PIPs
Our lips, wrinkles, breasts, bottoms: bigger, puffier, perter
Our skin too shiny, too dull, too dark, too pale
Cut out our fat, labia, clitorises
Heels higher, towering, teetering, toppling
Hair longer, straighter, blonder
Strip it, pluck it, wax it, shave it

We promised to obey
Treat us as property
Legalise our commodification
Prostitute us. Objectify us
Hide us in modest clothing
Shame our bodies
Camel-toe, nipple-block, vagisil

This is society, not biology, not psychology
Man-made
Patriarchy

Infiltrate, assimilate, vilify
Turn the tables, accuse us of hate-speech
Deny us a platform
Segregate us
Try to ban us from meeting

I am woman, hear me roar
Phenomenal Woman
Keep trying. Try harder
Your hatred
Your need to subjugate, dominate and place your interests first will not silence me and my sisters
You will not erase us
Still I rise. We rise.

 

Who gets to define femicide?

I’ve been undecided about the use of the term ‘femicide’  to describe the list of names of the UK  women killed through suspected1 male violence.  The term is useful because it takes the concept of fatal male violence against women beyond domestic violence and that’s important, many people’s understanding of the concept of fatal male violence against women stops and ends at women killed through domestic violence.  However, that the term ‘femicide’ in itself fails to name the male as the agent is problematic.  An early definition of femicide as “the killing of females by males because they are females” dealt with this, though there is a convincing argument for the inclusion of women killed by women because of the influence of patriarchal values.

In 2012, the participants of the Vienna Symposium on Femicide agreed the following:

Femicide is the killing of women and girls because of their gender, which can take the form of, inter alia: 1) the murder of women as a result of intimate partner violence; 2) the torture and misogynist slaying of women 3) killing of women and girls in the name of “ honour”; 4) targeted killing of women and girls in the context of armed conflict; 5) dowry-related killings of women; 6) killing of women and girls because of their sexual orientation and gender identity; 7) the killing of aboriginal and indigenous women and girls because of their gender; 8) female infanticide and gender-based sex selection foeticide; 9) genital mutilation related femicide; 10) accusations of witchcraft and 11) other femicides connected with gangs, organized crime, drug dealers, human trafficking, and the proliferation of small arms.

As a list of some of the forms that femicide can take, this is helpful and aids the understanding of femicide as something much wider than domestic violence.  The use of the term ‘inter alia’ meaning ‘among other things’ indicates that even they were not convinced that this included everything.  They’re right, it certainly doesn’t include everything.  The definition fascinates me.  It is 123 words long.  123 words and the words man, men or male do not appear once. The full declaration is over 800 words long.  It mentions men and boys once, in reference to ‘sensitising education programmes’. The argument that femicide can also include the killings of women by women because of the influence of patriarchal values is not so convincing that it warrants the absence of the identification of men as perpetrators in a declaration to take action to end femicide that spans over 800 words. The vast majority of women who are killed, are killed by men, whilst it is also true that the vast majority of killers of men are also men, this cannot warrant the failure to name men as the killers of women.  One of the significant achievements of feminism is getting male violence against women into the mainstream and onto the policy agenda.  One of the threats against this achievement is that those with power take the concepts and under the auspices of dealing with the problem shake some of the most basic elements of feminist understanding right out of them.  The exclusion of male violence from the declaration on femicide is inexcusable.  Inexcusable because failing to name the agent will not help us to end, or even reduce, fatal male violence against women.  Could failing to name men as the agents of femicide be a patriarchal political act?

I’ve written about the murders of 18 year-old Samantha Sykes and 17 year-old Kimberley Frank in other pieces.  It was their murders by Ahmad Otak that convinced me that a list of women killed by men through domestic violence, simply was not enough. Otak wasn’t the boyfriend of either of them, but of Elisa Frank, Kimberley’s sister.  The murders of Samantha and Kimberley don’t fit the definition of domestic violence, but they’re absolutely about a man trying to exert power, control and coercion in his relationship, reports of their murders have stated that he was attempting to show Elisa that he would allow no-one to stand in the way of them being together. The murders of Kimberley and Samantha were every bit about male violence against women, control and coercion through the display of the power to kill.  I doubt anyone would try to say that the murders of Samantha and Kimberley weren’t femicide.

I’ve been challenged about the inclusion of older women killed in the process of robberies and muggings in my work naming the women killed through male violence.  In 2012, six older women, aged between 75 and 88 were killed by much younger men, aged between 15 and 43 as they were robbed or mugged:

Irene Lawless, 68 who was raped, beaten and strangled by 26 year old Darren Martin. Pornography depicting rape and featuring older women was found on his home computer.

Margaret Biddolph, 78 and Annie Leyland, 88 were strangled and robbed by Andrew Flood, 43, who knew them through his job as a taxi driver. He’d also robbed a third woman elderly woman and threatened to kill her cat.  He was clearly targeting women.

Delia Hughes was 85 when she was killed by 25 year-old Jamie Boult. He struck her repeatedly about the head with a hammer, a hammer he was carrying specifically because he intended to kill.  When Boult was sentenced, Delia’s daughter, Beryl said

“I’ve never seen a dead body before. Seeing my mum her head battered, covered in blood, black and blue with bruises, sitting in a pool of blood, blood splattered on the walls, this is a sight that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

The murder of Delia Hughes was not simply a robbery gone wrong.

Similarly, Jean Farrar, 77, was kicked and stamped on by Daniel Barnett, 20, until she was her virtually unrecognisable.  Her  son Jamie was absolutely right when he said 2Daniel Barnett did not need to enter my mother’s house that night. He chose to. Upon finding my mum at home, he easily could have left.  Instead he chose to beat her and throw her against the wall. And when she screamed in pain, he chose to kick her, stamp on her, and jump on her head until she was unable to scream any more.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Jamie Boult and Daniel Barnett’s choices to carry out robberies, that these choices also included choices to inflict fatal violence was not inevitable.

Paula Castle was 85 when she was knocked to the ground when she was mugged by Jiervon Bartlett and Nayed Hoque who were both 15.  They may not have intended to kill her, but they also mugged another woman the next day.  They were clearly targeting women.  

I’ve been told that the killing of elderly women as part of a robbery or mugging is “not femicide”.  I disagree.  These women were killed because they were women.  And if their killings are not femicide, then it is because the term femicide is being misused

Epistemology questions what knowledge is and how it can be acquired. The acquisition and identification of what constitutes knowledge does not escape structural inequalities of sex, class and race.  Dr Maddy Coy of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University calls for the recognition of practice-based evidence, for example from specialist women’s organisations, to be considered as expertise as worthy as that of academics.  It’s ‘participant observation’ when it’s produced by an academic, it’s ‘anecdotal’ when it comes from a women’s services provider.  Does the objectification of women and the valuing of us on our merits based on the patriarchal fuckability test mean that it is the murders of elderly women that are those most likely to be excluded from the term femicide?  Women talk about the mixed blessing of becoming invisible as we grow older, is that what has happened with the term femicide?  Has sex inequality, particularly in patriarchally infected academia and state bureaucracies, depoliticised them term ‘femicide’ to the point that male violence has been erased from the concept?  Until the hierarchies of knowledge  are eradicated, then the role of anything considered knowledge in upholding structural inequality, is open to question.

How easy is it to escape socially constructed gender? How many of us, if our values were assessed and measured, would be found not to be influenced – at all – by sexism and sexist stereotypes?  Do we know that the population of men who kill women are not more sexist and misogynistic than a control group? When misogyny and sexism are so pervasive, are all but inescapable, can a man killing a women ever not be a sexist act?  A fatal enactment of patriarchy?

If an 800 word declaration on  femicide is the best that policy makers and ‘experts’ can come up with and yet it does not mention the words ‘male violence’ ,  if it does not name men as the agents and beneficiaries of fatal male violence against women, it is time for feminists to take back the term and make sure that the definition is ours.

Footnotes

 1 I have to say ‘suspected’ until a trial has been held or an inquest in the case of a man who has also killed himself.

2 Credited to   Diana E. H. Russell

 

Femicide: UK women killed through suspected male violence January – August 2013

Many people know the statistic: ‘two women in England and Wales a week are killed through domestic violence‘; but how many try to connect with that and to feel the impact of what it really means?

Through naming the women killed, I’m trying to made the horror and unacceptability of what is happening to women feel more real. I began, in January 2012, by  recording the names of all women killed through domestic violence but as time went on, I wanted to make the connections between the different forms of fatal male violence against women. Since I started the list, I’ve counted 197 dead women.  I’m not going to stop counting and naming the women until I think the government is doing the same, ‘counting dead women’ and doing all it can to make the connections, making good its commitment to end male violence against women.  Please join me demanding action from the government by clicking here and signing my petition.

When I started keeping the list, I was shocked and angry about the lack of attention given to these murders, and what feels like a wilful refusal to look at the links between the forms and causes of violence against women. Male violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men, and until a government seriously approaches the issue from that perspective, women and girls will continue to be beaten, raped, assaulted, abused, controlled and killed by men.

The list below is the 78 UK women killed through suspected male violence so far in 2013.  78 women in  243 days, that’s one  woman every 3.1 days.

Janelle   Duncan Bailey 25 02-Jan
Akua   Agyueman 23 03-Jan
Anastasia   Voykina 23 07-Jan
Myrna   Kirby 57 11-Jan
Suzanne Bavette Newton 45 13-Jan
Virginja   Jurkiene 49 19-Jan
Chloe   Siokos 80 22-Jan
Debbie   Levey 44 28-Jan
Sasha   Marsden 16 31-Jan
Una   Crown 86 31-Jan
Hayley   Pointon 30 03-Feb
Pernella   Forgie 79 07-Feb
Ganimete   Hoti 42 11-Feb
Samantha   Medland 24 17-Feb
Alexis   Durant 42 20-Feb
Glynis   Solmaz 65 20-Feb
Dimitrina   Borisova 46 21-Feb
Victoria   Rose 58 02-Mar
Chantelle   Barnsdale-Quean 35 04-Mar
Susan   Cole 54 06-Mar
Christina   Edkins 16 06-Mar
Jennifer   Rennie 26 11-Mar
Daneshia   Arthur 30 18-Mar
Pamela   Jackson 55 last seen 20 March
Ellen   Ash 83 21-Mar
Mary   Roberts 50 27-Mar
Janis   Dundas 63 05-Apr
Deborah   Simister 45 08-Apr
Lisa   Clay 41 09-Apr
Mariam   Ali Shaaban Hussain Khesroh 24 11-Apr
Dawn   Warburton 40 13-Apr
Naika   Inayat 52 17-Apr
Jabeen   Younis 32 19-Apr
Irene   Dale 78 27-Apr
Heather   Arthur 50 29-Apr
Salma   Parveen 22 29-Apr
Christine   Baker 52 30-Apr
Margaret   Knight 77 01-May
Margaret   Mercati 63 15-May
Margery   Gilbey 88 24-May
Georgia   Williams 17 26-May
Yvonne   Walsh 25 02-Jun
Krishnamaya   Mabo 39 03-Jun
Myrna   Holman 76 03-Jun
Reema   Ramzan 18 04-Jun
Katie   Jenkin 20 08-Jun
Alice   McMeekin 58 08-Jun
Marianne   Stones 58 09-Jun
Lilima   Akter 27 14-Jun
Zaneta   Kindzierska 32 16-Jun
Mushammod   Asma Begum 21 20-Jun
Linzi   Ashton 25 29-Jun
Rania   Alayed 25
Louisa   Denby 84 01-Jul
Susan   White 51 01-Jul
Kate   Dixon 40 02-Jul
Denise   Williamson 44 05-Jul
Sabeen   Thandi 37 07-Jul
Shavani   Kapoor 35 10-Jul
Jane   McRae 55 17-Jul
Julie   Beattie 24 19-Jul
Rosemary   Gill 48 20-Jul
Alexandra   Kovacs 25 21-Jul
Jean   Redfern 67 22-Jul
Sarah   Redfern 33 22-Jul
Keisha   McKenzie 28 29-Jul
Linah   Keza 29 31-Jul
 
Anu   Kappor 27 04-Aug
Caroline   Parry 46 08-Aug
Mayurathy   Perinpamoorihy 06-Aug
Judith   Maude 57 11-Aug
Gail   Lucas 51 14-Aug
Orina   Morawiec 21 15-Aug
Julie   Connaughton 57 16-Aug
Jane   Wiggett 57 16-Aug
Sabrina   Moss 24 24-Aug
Merissa   McColm 31 25-Aug
Betty   Gallagher 87 25-Aug

Femicide: UK women killed through suspected male violence January – July 2013

66 UK women killed through suspected male violence so far in 2013.  66 women in  212 days, that’s one  woman every 3.2 days.

Name Age Date killed
Janelle Duncan Bailey 25 02-Jan
Akua Agyueman 23 03-Jan
Anastasia Voykina 23 07-Jan
Myrna Kirby 57 11-Jan
Suzanne Bavette Newton 45 13-Jan
Virginja Jurkiene 49 19-Jan
Chloe Siokos 80 22-Jan
Debbie Levey 44 28-Jan
Sasha Marsden 16 31-Jan
Una Crown 86 31-Jan
Hayley Pointon 30 03-Feb
Pernella Forgie 79 07-Feb
Ganimete Hoti 42 11-Feb
Samantha Medland 24 17-Feb
Alexis Durant 42 20-Feb
Glynis Solmaz 65 20-Feb
Dimitrina Borisova 46 21-Feb
Victoria Rose 58 02-Mar
Chantelle Barnsdale-Quean 35 04-Mar
Susan Cole 54 06-Mar
Christina Edkins 16 06-Mar
Jennifer Rennie 26 11-Mar
Daneshia Arthur 30 18-Mar
Pamela Jackson 55 last seen 20 March
Mary Roberts 50 27-Mar
Janis Dundas 63 05-Apr
Deborah Simister 45 08-Apr
Lisa Clay 41 09-Apr
Mariam Ali Shaaban Hussain Khesroh 24 11-Apr
Dawn Warburton 40 13-Apr
Naika Inayat 52 17-Apr
Jabeen Younis 32 19-Apr
Irene Dale 78 27-Apr
Heather Arthur 50 29-Apr
Salma Parveen 22 29-Apr
Christine Baker 52 30-Apr
Margaret Knight 77 01-May
Sara Bates 33 04-May
Margaret Mercati 63 15-May
Margery Gilbey 88 24-May
Georgia Williams 17 26-May
Yvonne Walsh 25 02-Jun
Krishnamaya Mabo 39 03-Jun
Myrna Holman 76 03-Jun
Reema Ramzan 18 04-Jun
Katie Jenkin 20 08-Jun
Alice McMeekin 58 08-Jun
Marianne Stones 58 09-Jun
Lilima Akter 27 14-Jun
Zaneta Kindzierska 32 16-Jun
Mushammod Asma Begum 21 20-Jun
Linzi Ashton 25 29-Jun
Rania Alayed 25 Inconclusive, her body still has not   been found
Louisa Denby 84 01-Jul
Kate Dixon 40 02-Jul
Denise Williamson 44 05-Jul
Sabeen Thandi 37 07-Jul
Shavani Kapoor 35 10-Jul
Jane McRae 55 17-Jul
Julie Beattie 24 19-Jul
Rosemary Gill 48 20-Jul
Alexandra Kovacs 25 Inconclusive
Jean Redfern 67 22-Jul
Sarah Redfern 33 22-Jul
Keisha McKenzie 28 29-Jul
Linah Keza 29 31-Jul

What about the men?

This is an update of a piece I wrote at the beginning of April about the men who killed women in the UK in 2012 and the methods they chose to do so.

Femicide is the killing of women by men because they are women, some include the killing of women by women where patriarchal views can be seen, in other words femicide is the killing of women  motivated, directly or indirectly, by misogyny and sexism.

I wrote  ‘Counting Dead Women’ on 25th March 2013 about  112 UK women killed in the UK through male violence in 2012, but through researching trial outcomes, that number was revised and had to be increased to 114. Repeating the exercise for this piece  eight  months later, again, the figure needs to be revised.  It now stands at 120.  120 women in the UK were killed through male violence in 2012, that’s one woman in the UK killed through male violence every 3.04 days.

The 120 women were killed by 118 men, four men were multiple killers. One man killed three women, three men killed two. Two women was killed by two men  and another by two men and a woman.

So far, 63 men have been found guilty of murdering 65 women.

Ten men, who killed 12 women between them have killed themselves. Five men shot themselves after shooting seven women, one man drowned himself after drowning his partner, one man hanged himself after strangling his partner and of three men who stabbed women they were or had been married to, one killed himself through poisoning, one by slitting his own throat and one in what is described as a serious self-harm incident whilst in prison.

17 men have been found not guilty or murder but guilty of manslaughter (two of which were culpable homicide sentences in Scotland). Even the name manslaughter renders women invisible.  Of the 17 men found not guilty of murder, nine pleaded diminished responsibility on the grounds of mental  health problems;  three pleaded loss of control and three that they did not intend to kill. (I’ve been unable to find details of the mitigating factors put forward by the remaining two men.)  Of the 17 men found not guilty of murder:  Four men  had killed women by stabbing them, one man by axing and stabbing, five men  had beaten women to death with an object, three men had strangled them, two men had kicked women to death, one man had smothered a women and one man killed a women through multiple injuries.  One of the men was found not guilty of murder but convicted of manslaughter with a sentence of only seven and a half years, despite killing a woman by stabbing/slashing her  11 times in what was described as a frenzied attack and a history of 25 court appearances for 44 offences, which include offences relating to domestic violence.

16 men killed their mothers, or have been accused of their killing. One man has been found guilty of killing his grandmother.  Five of the men who killed their mothers were found guilty of manslaughter/culpable homicide. Two men who killed their mothers also killed themselves.

14 cases have not yet been to trial and one man has been judged unfit to stand trial.

Five older women, aged between 75 and 88 years were killed by younger men, aged  between 15 and 43 years as they were robbed/mugged.  Two of the women died of head injuries, two were strangled and one was beaten to death with a hammer.

The average age of men in the UK who killed women in 2012 is 38. The average age of the women killed is 44. If the men who killed their mothers (or grandmother) and those who preyed on elderly women because of their vulnerability are removed, the average age of male killers becomes 40 and that of women killed becomes 39.

It’s often the case that details of how men have chosen to kill women are not reported until the case has gone to trial, so the following list is still incomplete. However, from what has been reported to date, the primary means selected by men to cause death to women have been:

  • Shot:                                                          7 women
  • Stabbed:                                                    34 women
  • Stabbed and beaten:                              4 women
  • Blunt force trauma:                               7 women
  • Strangled:                                                 12 women
  • Asphyxiation :                                          4 women
  • Strangled & asphyxiation:                     3 women
  • Strangled, beaten and stabbed:           4 women
  • Drowning:                                                 1 woman
  • Hammer injuries:                                    4 women
  • Stabbed/axed/slashed:                          4 women
  • Multiple injuries from kicking and beating:

                           8 women

  • Burned:                                                     1 woman
  • Fire:                                                            2 women
  • Head Injuries:                                          14 women
  • Deliberate Car Crash:                             1 woman
  • Body still not found:                               1 woman

When we look at women killed by men, it is important that we name men’s violence.

Just a typical week in June – ignoring men’s abuse of women and children

135,000 tickets were sold for the Glastonbury Festival this year. How many of those attending will have complained that one of the main stages was named after a child abuser? How many even knew? What is the conspiracy of silence that allows a man who has been directly and publicly quoted as saying  “Girls used to queue up outside oral sex they were particularly keen on, I remember one of my regular customers, as it were, turned out to be 13, though she looked older.” And “All they wanted me to do was abuse them, sexually, which, of course, I was only too happy to do.” to continue to be so venerated? John Peel’s Festive Fifties may indeed hold treasured memories for many of the music industry’s agenda setters but given that he happily admitted shoving his dick in the mouth of a 13 year old girl, isn’t it time to shove him off his pedestal?

It’s not even a week since Linzi Ashton was found dead in Salford, Greater Manchester.  She died from strangulation and multiple injuries resulting from severe beating.  Her former boyfriend, Michael Cope is currently wanted by the police for her murder, before she died, he was wanted for raping her.  Yet the Police,  who confirmed that Cope has  a history of violent and aggressive behaviour and represents a risk to the community, have described their relationship as ‘acrimonious’ and this has been picked up and repeated – not challenged and not identified as victim blaming- in multiple press reports.  Acrimonious means “caustic, bitter, harsh”, it implies duality.  It does not describe a man with a history of physical and sexual violence.

The bodies of a family of three from Ireland, living in Spain were discovered after reportedly being dead several days. It is thought that Philip Wood  shot dead his wife Sheila and their daughter Sophie before shooting himself. Press reports have included details of the pressure that Philip Wood was under, of money problems, of Sheila Wood’s ill health and Sophie Wood being disabled, none have looked at the deaths within the context of male violence against women.

FBI files seen and reported by a British newspaper revealed that dead pop star Michael Jackson paid out over £23million to buy the silence of at least two dozen boys he abused over 15 years.  The FBI has allegedly held files – which included private investigators’ reports, phone transcripts and hours of audio tapes dating back to 1989 – since 2002.   Jackson was cleared of a charge of abusing a child before his death in 2005.  The files, despite being in possession of the state,  were not passed on to  the prosecutors.  The state knew and the state kept quiet.

The process of grooming in child sexual abuse has gained  wider awareness though the trials of groups of men with multiple victims, including cases in Oxford and Derbyshire.  Earlier this month,  Jeremy Forrest, a teacher aged 30 was found guilty of five charges of underage sex with a pupil, then 15 years old.  Now aged 16, she has spoken to a newspaper and claimed that it was she who groomed her teacher, not the other way round.  The interview has been widely reproduced and sensationalised  across the press.  Grooming is a process by which an abuser gains trust and establishes an emotional connection, making a potential victim feel special as a preparation for abuse,  the perpetrator progressively sexualises the relationship.   The girl is legally a child and her adult teacher had a duty of care for her.  Press reports of a child grooming an adult are collusion with the adult abuser.  The collusion suggests that grooming is something that the press can only identify if the perpetrators are groups of Asian men.

35% of women worldwide have experienced male violence

38% of all murders of women worldwide are committed by intimate partners

There are an estimated 78,000 rapes in the UK every year

Last year at least 114 UK women were killed through male violence

The number of people convicted of sex offences on children aged under 16 in England and Wales increased by nearly 60% between 2005 and 2010.

But rather than the increasing awareness of the true extent of male violence against and abuse of women and children leading to an increased condemnation of perpetrators and an increased commitment to end gender based violence, the rising voices of the naysayers,  the pointing fingers of the victim-blamers and the deafening silence of those that look the other way seem to me to be getting louder.

Femicide: UK women killed through suspected male violence January – June 2013

52 UK women killed through suspected male violence so far in 2013.  52 women in  181 days, that’s one  woman every 3.48 days.

Janelle Duncan   Bailey 25 02-Jan
Akua Agyueman 23 03-Jan
Anastasia Voykina 23 07-Jan
Myrna Kirby 57 11-Jan
Suzanne Bavette Newton 45 13-Jan
Virginja Jurkiene 49 19-Jan
Chloe Siokos 80 22-Jan
Debbie Levey 44 28-Jan
Sasha Marsden 16 31-Jan
Una Crown 86 31-Jan
Hayley Pointon 30 03-Feb
Pernella Forgie 79 07-Feb
Ganimete Hoti 42 11-Feb
Samantha Medland 24 17-Feb
Alexis Durant 42 20-Feb
Glynis Solmaz 65 20-Feb
Dimitrina Borisova 46 21-Feb
Victoria Rose 58 02-Mar
Chantelle Barnsdale-Quean 35 04-Mar
Susan Cole 54 06-Mar
Christina Edkins 16 06-Mar
Jennifer Rennie 26 11-Mar
Daneshia Arthur 30 18-Mar
Pamela Jackson 55 last seen 20 March
Mary Roberts 50 27-Mar
Janis Dundas 63 05-Apr
Deborah Simister 45 08-Apr
Lisa Clay 41 09-Apr
Mariam   Ali Shaaban Hussain Khesroh 24 11-Apr
Dawn Warburton 40 13-Apr
Naika Inayat 52 17-Apr
Jabeen Younis 32 19-Apr
Irene Dale 78 27-Apr
Heather Arthur 50 29-Apr
Salma Parveen 22 29-Apr
Christine Baker 52 30-Apr
Margaret Knight 77 01-May
Sara Bates 33 04-May
Margaret Mercati 63 15-May
Margery Gilbey 88 24-May
Georgia Williams 17 26-May
Yvonne Walsh 25 02-Jun
Krishnamaya Mabo 39 03-Jun
Myrna Holman 76 03-Jun
Reema Ramzan 18 04-Jun
Katie Jenkin 20 08-Jun
Alice McMeekin 58 08-Jun
Marianne Stones 58 09-Jun
Lilima Akter 27 14-Jun
Zaneta Kindzierska 32 16-Jun
Mushammod Asma Begum 21 20-Jun
Linzi Ashton 25 29-Jun

The Coalition Government and broadening the fight to end violence against women and girls beyond the Criminal Justice System

On the 25 November 2010, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Coalition Government launched the Call to End Violence against Women and Girls, just over six months after it had come in to power. It was followed in March 2011 by an action plan comprising 88 supporting actions for taking the strategy forward. In the foreword, the Home Secretary Theresa May acknowledged:

“The causes and consequences of violence against women and girls are complex. For too long government has focused on violence against women and girls as a criminal justice issue”

and went on to say that prevention would be at the heart of the government’s approach, along with working with families and communities to change attitudes. Lynne Featherstone, then the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information added that

“This suffering is a form of gender inequality and it is wrong”.

It almost sounds like we have a government that is ready to recognise that violence against women and girls is both a consequence and cause of inequality between women and men. The problem is, despite Theresa May’s assurances, the government seems to be wilfully ignoring many of the ways that they could address violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System.

Starting with the cuts that followed the comprehensive saving review, the austerity package has hit women hardest. Data from the Women’s Budget Group revealed

  • Of the welfare savings (cuts) 74% came from the pockets of women.
  • Two-thirds of those who have lost jobs in councils and schools since May 2010 were women, in 19 English local authorities, 100% of the jobs that were lost were women’s jobs
  • For the first time in decades, the pay gap between women and men has stopped decreasing and started increasing.

The Universal Credit scheme, the government’s next big step in welfare reform, is scheduled to start in October 2013. The government says it’s about fairness, about making work pay and making the welfare system simpler by providing a single monthly payment for those in receipt of benefits. Where a couple are claiming, benefits will paid jointly to just one of them. This is despite the finding, in the British Crime Survey 2004, that 41% of women who’ve experienced domestic force have also suffered financial abuse. Where women are in receipt of benefits and in violent relationships, perpetrators are being mandated to have increased control over finances.

The wider measures to end violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System don’t appear to extend to personal finances.

Lynne Featherstone has spoken about her outrage at the pressure for women to look a certain way; that she can see how body image affects women’s confidence and even goes as far as saying that it can be a kind of violence against women. She went on to say “There’s obviously sometimes a good rationale for plastic surgery. When you’ve had five children and your breasts are hanging round your waist and it’s affecting your life, then I wouldn’t really have a problem with women getting that sorted”. Try as I might, I cannot see how identifying the effects of feeding babies on a woman’s body as a good rationale for surgery are anything other than misogynistic. She has also said of herself, “I have the power of all middle aged women, the power to nag” “I have the powers of high level nagging”.

The wider measures to end violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System don’t appear to extend to addressing the pressure on women to conform to the patriarchal fuckability standard or avoiding descriptions of women’s contribution to politics that conform to negative gender stereotypes.

Nadine Dorries has been busily trying her best to erode abortion rights, to reduce the abortion time limit from 24 to 20 weeks, a measure which is reported to be supported by Theresa May, Maria Miller and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Yet in 2011, 91% of abortions took place before 13 weeks and the number of abortions post-13 weeks has been steadily declining since 2008. There are bigger issues in reproductive health care that need attention, such as reproductive violence, access to contraception and improving access to early abortion.

The wider measures to end violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System don’t appear to extend to considering the impact of reproductive violence or an attack on women’s bodily autonomy.

Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities has recently set out plans for a ‘Guide for Girls’ information pack to help parents bring up ‘aspirational young women’. The aim is to help girls ‘realise their potential’ in response to concerns raised by the Women’s Business Council, including the fact that the number of female chief executives in the FTSE 100 has fallen to just three in the past year.

Miller told the Observer:

“Making sure women can be successful at work and in business is essential if we want a strong economy. Encouraging women to fulfil their potential doesn’t begin when they are already working; it starts when they are young, still at school. A vital part of future career success is the aspirations that girls have early in their lives, and the choices they make about subjects and qualifications.

“Parents are vital in helping girls make these choices, and we know that many parents want help with that. This campaign will give parents the knowledge and confidence they need to make sure that their daughters make choices which will help them realise their ambitions.”

Yet since the Coalition Government came to power, more than 400 Sure Start children’s centres have closed and more than a third (£430m) has been cut from Sure Start government funding between 2010-11 and 2012-13. Sure Start was launched in 1998 with the aim of “giving children the best possible start in life”. In the first year of the Coalition Government an additional 300,000 children were plunged into poverty. The British Crime Survey has identified poverty as a risk factor to some forms or domestic and sexual violence. Poverty is a strong predictor of low educational performance. Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation demonstrated that disadvantaged children are more likely to be reluctant recipients of the taught curriculum, influencing different attitudes to education at primary school that help shape their future and their future aspirations. It may be a cynical position but it does not seem likely that the target audience of Maria Miller’s ‘Guide for Girls’ is parents living in poverty.

The wider measures to end violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System don’t extend to addressing the educational attainment of girls raised in poverty.

Also this month, Labour proposed an amendment to Clause 20 of the Children and Families Bill to make relationships and sex education a mandatory part of the school curriculum. This seems wholly consistent with Theresa May’s stated aim of increasing the focus on prevention and working to change attitudes – for example the attitudes of the 43% of young people who agree that it’s acceptable for a boyfriend to be aggressive under certain circumstances. Yet all but two members of the government, including Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone, voted against the proposal.

The wider measures to end violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System don’t extend to the full potential of the school curriculum to be a force for attitudinal change.

One of the steps that the Coalition Government has introduced to tackle domestic violence is The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, or Clare’s Law, that enables people to ask the police if their partner has a history of domestic violence.

It was created following a campaign by the family of Clare Wood, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, in 2009. A pilot is currently being run in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottingham and Gwent. Greater Manchester police revealed that approximately half of the requests they receive result in the disclosure of information whilst Wiltshire police have revealed that they received 10 applications in one week alone. Whilst the principle of allowing women access to information held by the state about violent men is welcome, there remain questions, these include how a woman may be judged in the light of actions that she takes or doesn’t take if she is informed of a man’s violent past. There is a huge potential for shifting the culpability for violence back on to the victim and for agencies to absolve themselves of their responsibility – after all, she knew about him and didn’t leave. There is also the question of whether women will be held responsible for harm that a violent perpetrator does to children, after all – she knew about him and didn’t leave. There is also the matter of access to specialist support which is vital for women, whether or not they find out that a man has a history of violence. Those that are told that there is no history on record have surely asked for information because they have legitimate reason to feel concerned. We know that most domestic violence is not reported. “No history on record” is not the same as “no history” or “no risk”.

Theresa May said at the launch of The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme: “Domestic violence is a dreadful crime which sees two women a week die at the hands of their partners and millions more suffer years of abuse in their own homes. That is why we are constantly looking at new ways of protecting victims.” I welcome this; but what about the full range of wider measures to end violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System?

And what of the specialist services, the ones that support women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence? A Freedom of Information request to 152 local authorities found that of the 101 councils that responded, there had been cuts of £5.6m to services including refuges, domestic violence advocates, victim support centres and centres for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted between 2009/10 and 2012/13. Remaining services are increasingly subject to competitive tendering, with contracts frequently awarded to organisations that are not specialists, that are not run from woman centered perspectives but that are chasing business and able to make low-cost bids.

The wider measures to end violence against women and girls outside the Criminal Justice System don’t extend to maintaining and extending specialist service provision. Until we see effective steps being taken that actually do result in a decrease in male violence against women and girls, cuts to services speak louder than empty promises.

The Home Secretary was right, for too long successive governments have focused on violence against women and girls as a criminal justice issue if they have focused on it at all. However, if the Coalition knows that a wider approach is needed, its actions and inactions belie that commitment. When we have a Prime Minster who resorts to sexist put-downs of women MPs, when there are only five women but nine Oxford alumni in the coalition cabinet, when the Deputy Prime Minister cannot bring himself to condemn a rich and powerful man putting his hands around a woman’s throat because it might have been “just a fleeting thing”, the government is undermining and contradicting the fine promises of its strategy to end male violence against women and girls.  Male violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of structural inequality between women and men, and until a government seriously approaches the issue from that perspective, women and girls will continue to be beaten, raped, assaulted, abused, controlled and killed by men.

This post is an updated version of a piece that appeared on the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association blog. My thanks to FWSA for inviting me to write for them. http://fwsablog.org.uk/2013/06/19/the-coalition-government-and-broadening-the-fight-to-end-violence-against-women-and-girls-beyond-the-criminal-justice-system/