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

Funny Old World

I’m pleased to see the widespread media coverage and condemnation of violently misogynistic social media, including the death and rape threats to Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy, both women that I respect and who are working to make changes for women.  I’m pleased to see that so far two arrests (of men) have been made in relation to these threats.

I’m pleased to see how many women and men have spoken out in support of Caroline and Stella and against the cowardly bullies who seek to silence and intimidate them and many other women who dare to raise their voices.

I’m hopeful that we might be reaching a point when misogynistic abuse is no longer accepted as an inevitable consequence of women’s use of social media.

Ironically though, I haven’t seen one headline about actual rapes.

  • Maybe I missed the headline telling us that 350 rapes were reported to London’s  Metropolitan Police last month (June 2013).  A 40% increase on June 2012.

Ironically, I haven’t seen much coverage of actual murders of women through male violence.

Maybe I’ve missed the media coverage that looks at death and rape threats in the context of femicide and sexual violence against women.

I’m fed up that connections are not being made. Male violence against women and girls is not just about threats through social media.  It is a reality of life across the world. What is it going to take before we all say that male violence against women and girls needs to end?

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.

Anybody would think that Florida State Attorney Angela Corey has a problem with young black men and women

Angela Corey is an American attorney currently serving as the State Attorney in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit Court after being elected in 2008. She is the first woman to hold the position. Angela Corey is reputed to be a ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor. On average, Corey tries more male juveniles as adults than any other county court in Florida. However, Corey also tries a much greater percentage of black male juveniles as adults than the rest of Florida. In the five year period between 2006/7 and 2010/11, across the state of Florida, an average of 52 % of black male juveniles were tried as adults for crimes they had committed. Angela Corey tried an average of 70%. The same state over the same time period tried an average of 25% of white male juveniles as adults for crimes that they had committed, Angela Corey, on the other hand, tried an average of 18%. (Source)

florida juveniles tried as adults

In 2012, Julie Bindel interviewed Angela Corey. In a piece on the death penalty, Bindel quotes Corey talking about the death penalty:

“I had a young black woman tell me she was totally against the death penalty unless somebody killed someone in her family. Luckily justice is blind and we treat everyone’s loved ones the same.”

I do not support the death penalty. However, analysis of death penalty data tells us that Florida is far from unique with its racist application of ‘ justice’.  Since 1976, 35% of people executed in the USA were black, 56% were white.  Their victims were black in 15% of cases and white in 77% of cases. However, where the victim was white and the killer was black, there have been 261 executions (I prefer to see them as state sanctioned murders). Where the victim was black and the killer was white there have been only 20. What is particularly worrying is that America knows its justice is racist.   The United States General Accounting Office, Death Penalty Sentencing report from February 1990 states: “In 82% of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e., those who murdered whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks.”  Angela Corey is therefore just one of many, but if justice is -as she claims – blind, it is blind to racism not race.

Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old young black man was chased, beaten and shot by George Zimmerman in Florida on 26th February 2012. Zimmerman claimed he feared for his life and was acting in self-defence.

Less than two years previously, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old black American woman had been jailed under Corey.  On 1st August 2010, Marissa Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, hit her, attempted to strangle her, threatened that no one else could have her and told her, “Bitch, I will kill you,” as he ran towards her. She fired a warning shot from her gun which was angled away from him. She did not hit him and originally Rico Grey said that he did not believe she had intended to kill him.

George Zimmerman pleaded self-defence,  even though he ignored a 911 call-taker’s recommendation that he did not need to leave his car and chase Trayvon Martin, even though, despite this recommendation to the contrary, he hunted for Trayvon Martin, confronted him, attacked him and shot him dead. Marissa Alexander was trying to flee from Rico Grey. She was in her mother’s home. He had attacked her moments before and was threatening to kill her. He has a record of domestic violence against her and several other women.

Trayvon Martin is dead. His shooter, his assailant, his attacker, George Zimmerman, walked free after being found not guilty of murder.

Rico Grey is alive and well. His shooter, who was trying to escape from him and against whom he has a history of violence, was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Marissa Alexander was sentenced to twenty years in prison.

George Zimmerman has a criminal record which included domestic violence and “battery of law enforcement officer”. Marissa Alexander did not have a prior criminal record.

Anyone would think that ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor Angela Corey is a little tougher on young black men than young white men. Anyone would think that ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor Angela Corey is a little less tough if the victim of crime is black. Anyone would think that ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor Angela Corey is a little tougher on crimes committed by black women with a history of being a victim of domestic violence.  Anyone would think that justice in America is racist.

Anyone wanting to support Marissa Alexander may want to sign this petition demanding that she is pardoned: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/503/600/056/dont-imprison-marissa-alexander-for-standing-her-ground/

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

UK women killed through suspected male violence January – May 2013

41 UK women killed through suspected male violence in 2013.  41 women in  150 days, that’s one  woman every 3.66 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

Extremism: race, racism, religion, sex, power.

Within minutes of the breaking news of the violent murder of Lee Rigby, his death was being linked to Islamic extremism and terrorism. On the same day as his death, members of The English Defence League were involved in violent clashes with police in Woolwich, their Leader Tommy Robinson stating “This issue is political Islam,” adding, “It’s political Islam that’s spreading across this country.” By Friday, the British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, had also visited and had tweeted that the alleged killers should be wrapped in “pig skin” and shot again. Four days after Lee Rigby’s murder, a so called copy-cat crime in France was reported on at least one national radio station, using this incident to illustrate the problem of Islamic extremism as an international one. Radical-Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, a man only likely to intensify anger and hatred, was given a platform by both the BBC and Channel 4. 48 hours after Lee Rigby’s death, Islamophobic hate crimes were running at 10 times their usual rate.

Also in the news this week, were the arrests of eight people, six men and two women, by police investigating an arson attack in Huddersfield in 2002. The fire killed eight, two women, one young man and five girls, three others, two women and one man managed to escape. Three young men were arrested shortly after the incident, one charged with murder and two with manslaughter. A fourth was arrested and ran away whilst on bail, he still has not been caught. Petrol was poured through the letter box, the house had been destroyed by the time fire engines had arrived, just four minutes after neighbours had called them upon hearing the windows smash as petrol-bombs were thrown into the house. That seven of the eight victims were women or girls and the four held responsible all young men seems to have evaded anyone’s notice. I wish I could believe that the omission of mention of the race of both victims and perpetrators meant that this was not seen as important, that it was a reflection of a society where people are valued equally, but I don’t. Every report has included the names of the dead, those who escaped and those charged. All but one of them, their visiting grandmother, were born and grew up in Huddersfield. Their names tell us that they were of south Asian descent. I wish I didn’t cringe at the photo and description of the ‘modest house’ in which 11 people were sleeping, believing this innocuous-sounding phrase, to be a judgment; and like the list of names, to be a statement of ‘other’.

It’s days since Lee Rigby was killed, there has been much discussion about the causes of extremism yet the issue of gender has been all-but ignored despite the glaring over representation of men, whether radical-Muslim, EDL or BNP. According to the Tell MAMA (Measuring anti-Muslim attacks) project, (in data collated before Lee Rigby’s death) 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 and 54% of all cases are linked to supporters of the EDL and BNP. The gender patterns are clear – and predicable – to anyone who cares to look for them.

The heads of nearly 100 mosques have signed an open letter in which they describe the “absolute horror” that they share with the rest of British society at the crime committed “in the name of our religion”. Similarly, every EDL march is met with opposition, from both anti-fascist groups and members of local communities who want to make it known that the hatred and rhetoric of the EDL is not in their name.

So far this year, I’ve counted 39 UK women killed through suspected male violence. But the only voices linking these crimes are feminist ones. Mainstream media steadfastly refuses to make connections between sexism, misogyny, domestic and sexual violence and killing women. Identifying trends and making links is important, it helps us to identify causes and therefore – where there is the will – the potential to find solutions and create change. Why hasn’t a COBRA meeting been called to look at fatal male violence against women? Immediately when race or religion is a factor in violence, it is identified, named and often met with retaliation. Why isn’t it the same with sexist and misogynistic murder? 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 majority make links?

1 Tayyaba Batool, 13, Rabiah Batool, 10, Ateeqa Nawaz, 6, Aneesa Nawaz, 2, Najeeba Nawaz, 6 months, their mother Nafeesa Aziz, 35, and their uncle Mohammed ateeq-ur-Rehman, 18, their grandmother, Zaib-un-Nisa, 54.

Infertility, patriarchy, profit and me, or: “KERCHING!” – Infertility and woman blaming, woman shaming, woman controlling

I awoke this morning to what I thought was good news: a campaign to raise awareness of the relationship between a woman’s age and infertility.

I’m 45. I’d assumed that I’d become pregnant when the time was right. The time felt right when I was around 36 years old; I believed I’d been a mixture of lucky (not to have had an unplanned pregnancy, to have had a decent-enough education, to have a challenging and rewarding job, to have a home/mortgage and to have met someone I wanted to share life and parenthood with), unlucky (it had taken a while and a few ‘not so great choices’) and sensible (it had all taken effort). The ages 38 to 41 brought the delights of temperature/ovulation charts, followed by drugs to control ovulation and eventually four failed IVF attempts, one reaching the dazzling ‘success’ of an early miscarriage; complete with a side order of giving up alcohol and caffeine, vitamin and mineral supplements, losing weight, acupuncture and – and it pains me to admit this – listening to awful visualisation CDs, surrounding myself with ‘fertility colours’ and a strategically placed piece of rose crystal (no, not internally). I’m going to blame the mind altering ovulation and IVF drugs for my descent into those, please allow me and also grant me lifelong forgiveness for any adverse reaction that I might have to the phrase ‘positive mental attitude’. I’m now, jointly with my partner, about twenty thousand pounds lighter in pocket. 1

The years between the ages of 40 and 44 were not easy ones for me, with grief, loss, depression, jealously, bitterness, emptiness and despondency the companions of dwindling hope. I found out that our first IVF attempt hadn’t worked the day before my 40th birthday. I can still see where I was when I received that phone-call.

I didn’t have a seamless transition into acceptance of childlessness but one Saturday morning, in February 2012 came across this piece by Jody Day on her work to set up Gateway Women, and – once I’d stopped sobbing – I contacted her and eventually enrolled on her group work programme. It set me free, allowed me to move on.2

I’ll probably never know why I didn’t get pregnant, none of the testing involved with infertility treatment found any problems, I have ‘unexplained infertility’ but certainly age is a – if not the – most likely significant contributory factor. Fast forward to this morning and the issue of women, age and fertility being discussed on the radio and in social media and I was pleased. Pleased because I genuinely believe that there is insufficient attention paid to infertility, in society, in education and also in feminist discourse on women and reproduction.

However there are awareness-raising campaigns and ‘awareness-raising’ campaigns. The one people were talking about this morning is part of First Response’s “Get Britain Fertile”, campaign and is purportedly about warning those women who want to and are able to delay motherhood about the risks of doing so. First Response is a registered trademark of Church & Dwight Co. Inc., a £1.7 billion ($2.6 billion) company with headquarters in New Jersey, USA with brands including Arm & Hammer, Trojan, Nair, Oxi Clean, Orajel, Lady’s Choice and First Response. Whether they knew it or not, people were talking about an awareness raising campaign that is funded by a multi-million pound company that also trades in diet foods and hair removing products, products that rely upon misogyny created self loathing like chips need potatoes. The campaign is lent legitimacy through the backing of Zita West, the self-called “UK’s no. 1 for preconception planning, natural fertility, assisted fertility, pregnancy coaching and post-natal support”. I found three active UK companies registered is her name, all selling fertility products and treatments.3 In other words, this awareness raising campaign is about selling products through the medium of raising awareness. There doesn’t appear to be any of this messy business stuff referred to in the campaign.

When I think about raising awareness of issues relating to women, age and fertility, I want us to be talking about the facts. Whilst the average age of a first-time mother has been increasing, a woman’s fertility peaks in her early to mid-twenties after which it begins to decline, this is true of both natural and assisted conception. Three out of four men and women overestimate by five years the rapid decline in women’s fertility at 35 not 40.

When I think about raising awareness of issues relating to women and fertility, I want us to be talking about how women are judged for getting pregnant too young, for getting pregnant without a long term and male partner, for getting pregnant or failing to get pregnant when too old, for getting pregnant and remaining in or leaving paid employment, for only having one child, for having too many children, for having abortions, for staying in abusive relationships or leaving and breaking up ‘happy families’. Teenage mothers, single mothers, lesbian mothers, older mothers, women who work, women who stay at home, woman who have ‘x’ number of children, childless women, women who leave, women who stay –whether through choice or lack of choice- what unites us is that according to someone, we’re doing it wrong!

When we’re looking at why some women are delaying the age at which they have children and why some choose to have them as soon as they can, we need to look at how hard we make it for women to afford to be able to have children, how hard it is to have children and rewarding paid employment, how expensive and for many, unaffordable, childcare is, why for some young women their aspirations do not go beyond motherhood or why for some a child is seen as the solution to their sense of isolation, loneliness and worthlessness. We need to look at equality issues, we need to show the concept of ‘reverse-Darwinism’ – the panic about the trend for women with higher levels of education to have children in later life and fewer of them (and therefore more likely to face infertility) – the contempt it deserves, whilst looking at what we can do to support women of any social background in their decisions to have, or not to have children and to be able to plan the size of their families.

We need to look at the roles of men in raising families and at the effects of their ages, their jobs, their contributions in the home. We need to look at gender stereotypes and their impact on family life, relationships and woman and men’s ‘choices’. We need to make it no big deal for families to be made of people in same sex relationships whether or not they have children.

We need a global perspective. We need to look at poverty, inequality and fertility rates and ensure the relationship between higher birth rates and countries with lower GDPs and higher gender inequality, are seen as problems of international poverty inequality and gender inequality.

TV presenter Kate Garraway fronts the new campaign; she said that she “agreed to become Ambassador to the campaign” because “I want to alert women to start thinking about their fertility at a younger age than our generation did. They should get prepared and make informed choices early so there is no chance of sleepwalking into infertility.’ According to a report in the Telegraph, as part of the campaign, Garraway spent a day being transformed into a heavily pregnant 70 year-old by a prosthetic make-up artist, to “shock and provoke debate about how old is too old to have a baby”.

kate garraway old pregnant women article-2326293-19D52D22000005DC-611_306x450

The thing is I’ve never met anyone who planned or plans to delay having a baby into their 70ies. Women’s fertility declines through their 30ies and 40ies, what’s the point in an awareness campaign featuring a woman supposedly in her 70ies? Isn’t this confusing the message? Isn’t it telling women that they don’t want to delay motherhood until their 70ies, not that they cannot? The only way that this photo has impact is by exaggeration based on misogyny, the special misogyny reserved for older women in a society where women are valued by what they look like and an ideal of beauty rooted in youth.

This new campaign is not about raising awareness of the relationship between women’s age and infertility; it’s not about supporting women to make informed choices and making society more supportive of women’s choices. This campaign is about persuading women to start spending money on fertility treatment at a younger age and it relies upon misogyny to do so.

Footnotes

1 Yes, I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to make the choice to spend a lot of money on unsuccessful fertility treatment.

2 Gateway Women was hugely beneficial for me, and I’d encourage any woman struggling with issues around childlessness by circumstance not choice to find out more: gateway-women.com

I’d also like to acknowledge that the support of Jodie and the group that I was part of contributed to me daring to start blogging.

3 They’re not legally required to disclose their annual turnover and I wasn’t able to find it.