The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls

Manchester 22

We now know the names of the 22 people confirmed dead in the attack in Manchester, and we know the 17 of them were women and girls.  Whilst not to deny or denigrate the lives of the 5 men that were also taken, it is essential that we view the attack as an attack on women.

Daesh have claimed responsibility and so the attack is rightly framed in the context of religious extremism.  The patriarchal oppression of women by men is at the heart of this ideology,  and in that respect Daesh is not alone.  Inequality between women and men and men’s violence against women go hand-in-hand the world over.  It is estimated that across the globe  66,000 women and girls are killed violently every year .  Generally those countries with the highest homicide rates are those with the highest rates of fatal violence against women and girls; but other factors are at play too,  countries with higher levels of sex  inequality also have high rates of men’s violence against women and girls. The UK is no exception, this year, even before the attack in Manchester, at least 37 UK women had been killed by men.  Links between men who perpetrate violence against women  and terrorism are now being identified; and mass killers, including school shooters, are almost always male.

Gender is a hierarchy, the ideals of masculinity and femininity are critical tools in maintaining the oppression of women by men,  in the creation of men’s violence against women and the conditions that support and enable it. We cannot afford to fail to identify and name patriarchy as an ideology underpinning violence and we cannot afford to fail to name male violence against women in the Manchester attack.   If we want to end men’s violence against women and girls we will have to dismantle the structures that support inequality between women and men, without this almost any intervention that we might make will have little impact.

The prevent agenda, one of the 4 strands of the UK governments counter-terrorism strategy,  has been condemned as toxic and anti-Muslim, as reinforcing rather than healing mistrust, but cultural relativism is not the solution.   If we want to tackle terrorism, we need to understand and acknowledge that structural inequalities that create the conditions for violent hatred – be they grounded in patriarchy– or imperialism or  capitalism  – are critical and that solutions, if they are to have any impact, need to be equally ambitious.  We also need to make sure our definition of terrorism includes acts of violence perpetrated by those claiming to be motivated by the aims of ideologies held, or perceived to be held, by populations who are mainly white. Religion is one of the tools of ideology. We need to push for a secular state, that doesn’t have to be about the absence of religion from the lives of those who choose it, but it does mean the separation of religion and the state.   Of course if we are to learn from the mistakes of imperialism, this means that the West cannot impose secularism on the Global South.  But we can redouble our efforts to fight for universal Human Rights for all, and human rights fully encompass women’s rights. The right to life, the right to freedom from torture, the right to freedom from slavery: men’s violence against women and more broadly the oppression of women is an international human rights crisis.

Yes, now is the time for unity – and in that unity we should seek our connections to those killed and harmed in the name of violent and oppressive ideologies across the world.  We must be unified in our fight to identify, name and end all forms of men’s violence against women and girls and also to end hierarchies between women and girls.  Whether international terrorism or domestic terrorism, men’s violence against women and girls is used to control, disempower and degrade women and girls.  The attack in Manchester was an attack on women and girls, on our liberty, our safety, our lives.   The response to terrorism must always include the rights of women.

In memory of

Angelica Klis, 40

Georgina Callendar, 18

Saffie Roussos, 8

Kelly Brewster , 32

Olivia Campbell, 15

Alison Howe,45

Lisa Lees, 47

Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51

Megan Hurley, 15

Nell Jones, 14

Michelle Kiss, 45

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14

Chloe Rutherford, 17

Eilidh Macleod, 14

Wendy Fawell, 50

Courtney Boyle, 19

Elaine McIver,43

And also,

Martyn Hett, 29

Marcin Klis, 42

John Atkinson, 28

Liam Curry, 19

Philip Tron, 32

Male entitlement to women’s spaces, bodies and lives

 

“Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl

Than to be with another man

 Catch you with another man 

That’s the end’a little girl”

 John Lennon and Paul McCartney

 

“I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.   …….. If I can’t have you girls, I will destroy you. [laughs] You denied me a happy life and in turn I will deny all of you life, it’s only fair. I hate all of you.”

Elliot Rodger

Male entitlement is a deadly seam running through male violence against women whether coercive control, FGM, rape, prostitution, trafficking or murder.

According to government statistics, approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year, that’s an average of 233 women raped by men in the UK every day. Last year in the UK, 142 women were killed through suspected male violence, that’s one dead woman every 2.5 days; and between January and April this year, 50 UK women have been killed. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to one of the first three types of female genital mutilation. Prostitution, pornography and trafficking reduce women to commodities, possessions and objects for market exchange, men the purchasers, controllers and profit-makers.   It is estimated that prostitution revenue is around £110 billion per year worldwide, involves around 40-42 million people worldwide, of which 90% are dependent on a procurer,  75% are between 13 and 25 years old and the overwhelming majority are women. The global pornography industry was estimated to be worth  £57 billion in 2006.  Approximately 230 girls are still missing, more than a month after they were abducted in Chibok, Nigeria.  Women are still routinely ‘given away’ by their fathers in marriage ceremonies and fathers, not mothers are named on marriage certificates.  Male entitlement to women and girls and male violence against women and girls are inextricable.

Mass killings make news headlines in the way day-to-day fatal violence rarely does.  The day after Elliott Rodger murdered six people, 82-year old Harold Ambrose called the police from the home he shared with his wife in Boxted, Essex, and told them that he had shot her dead. When armed police reached the house, they found 77-year-old Wendy Ambrose,  sitting dead in a chair in the living room with two gunshots to her head and face. Harold Ambrose was found dead in the garden with a single gunshot wound to his head.  Harold Ambrose’s name has not trended on twitter, it has not made widespread national, let alone international, news coverage.  A man killing a woman is so ‘everyday’ that those who set the agenda do not deem it worthy of attention.

Male entitlement to women’s spaces crosses the realms of the theoretical, cultural and physical.  Whether it’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers aka Stockholm Syndrome: the musical, misogynist fantasies of emotional and sexual abuse in the guise of stories for children or adult women, Tom Jones (for example and by no alone) with his songs of Christmas rape or murdering women, popular culture from fairy-tale to pop-music and film is littered with the message that women exist for men. The guy gets the girl. Reward. Happy ending. Some of the men that haven’t management to grasp the intricacies of women’s liberation from structural oppression demand to be, rather than support, feminists. Socially constructed gender and biological sex become conflated, woman is seen as a state of mind. Women-only conferences are threatened by men’s rights activists and women’s domestic and sexual violence services are increasingly re-commissioned as ‘gender-neutral’ services under a barely disguised reactionary ideology.  And whilst I was delighted to learn that Sweden has just elected the only formal feminist party to the EU parliament with a Roma woman, Soraya Post as its representative, my heart sank when I read that the role of men is seen as the same as that of women in the Swedish Feminist Initiative. How can we be the same when in patriarchal society we are anything but?

It has now been confirmed that Elliot Rodgers killed six people, four men and two women, the motivating force of his entitled misogyny and bitter jealously revealed in his self-recorded “last video”.  Elliot Rodger’s sense of entitlement is glaringly obvious. Prostitution was even suggested as a possible – missed – solution to Rodger’s choice to kill.  As explored here by Megan Murphy “What could possibly be a better cure for male entitlement than more male entitlement?” Glaringly obvious and not unusual, male entitlement is frequently accepted as an excuse or justification for everyday fatal male violence against women. For most women, leaving a violent relationship is the best way to end the violence (63%) but for over a third it is not: the violence reduced for eight per cent, stayed about the same for five per cent,changed to something else, such as stalking and other harassment, for 18 per cent, got worse for three per cent and only started when they split up for three per cent.  In my tracking of UK women killed through male violence, women being killed by men when they ended relationships, as they left, as they formed relationships with others or after leaving a violence relationship is ever present: Jabeen Younis, 30; Samantha Medland, 24; Rosemary Gill, 48; Chloe Siokos, 80; Gabielle Stanley, 28; Julie Beattie, 24; Da In Lee, 22; Shaista Khatoon, 33; Marion Vita, 48; Janee Parsons, 31. This list could go on and on. Whilst men’s murderous entitlement to women’s spaces, bodies and lives continues unchecked and sometimes supported by liberal capitalist ideology, male violence against women and girls will continue and the lists of women killed by men will continue to grow longer.

On Monday 25th November  it is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I’ll be highlighting the UK’s appalling record of women killed through men’s violence in 2013.

Starting at 6.00am, on the twitter account @countdeadwomen, I’ll be going through the UK’s diary  of women killed by men.  I’ll be starting with the 2nd January when Janelle Duncan Bailey, was strangled by ex-boyfriend Jerome McDonald, moving on to 3rd January at 6.10, when Akua Agyuman died,  two months after being stabbed in the chest and abdomen by her husband Minta Adiddo.  Every 10 minutes, I’ll move through the year to commemorate all the women who I have found who were killed though men’s violence.  So far I know of 114 women killed this year, so I’ll still be tweeting at midnight.

I’d massively appreciate if you could circulate this information through your networks and if you’re on twitter, please tweet support or re-tweet.  Getting the link out to to the petition ‘Stop Ignoring Dead Women’ would be great too.

Men’s violence against women is not natural, it is not inevitable, so much more could be done to end it. Please join me demanding action.

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

 

Remembering the women who are killed though male violence does not mean forgetting those who live

Most women who are victims of male violence don’t get killed.  I’ve been writing – a fair bit – about the UK women who are killed through  male violence; women who were killed by their partners, ex-partners, sons, grandsons, fathers, rapists, robbers, friends and more. But the women who are killed by men are only part of the story.

The government estimates that around 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 85,000 women are raped every year. Most women live to tell the tale, except, according to the same report, around 28 per cent of women who are raped never tell anyone.  That means almost 24,000 women in the UK were raped last year, and no-one, except them – and the man or men who raped them – knows. It means that you may know one, or more woman, who was raped in the last year and have no idea. Others might tell a friend, or an organisation like Rape Crisis, but only around 15% tell the police.

UK police receive an average of one phone call per minute about domestic violence, that’s around 1,300 calls a day, or 570,000 a year.  Over eighty per cent of these calls are from women.  Most, through certainly not all, are still alive. There are various estimates of what proportion of domestic violence that occurs is reported to the police, it is usually stated that something between 26-40 per cent is reported. This means that between 60 and 74 per cent of domestic violence is not reported to the police. Even if you assume that one phone call means one incident and take the higher estimate of reporting: 40%  (and therefore the lower estimate of under reporting) and so assume that for every one incident reported, 1.5 are not, this would mean 855,000 domestic violence incidents happen – and are not reported – every year.  Most, but not all, of the women who experience these violent assaults from them men they share their lives with, are still alive.

Between 11th and 15th June 2012, Women’s Aid members reported that approximately 11,380 women were supported in non-refuge/community-based services.  In addition there were an estimated 2,095 calls to local and regional domestic violence helplines. Most, but not all, of the women who used these services and made those phone calls, are still alive.

Women’s Aid estimate that 19,510 women and 19,440 stayed in refuges last year. Around 69% of them had sought help from the police, around two thirds of them had been experiencing violence for at least two years before they contacted the police. Around a third of women living in refuges had never contacted the police. Most of them are still alive.  More than half had spent more than five years living with an abusive man before leaving him, more than half had left him at least once before.  Not dead.  But you don’t live through domestic violence until you reach the point where – for your own safety and well-being, and/or that of your children – you choose to move in to a refuge, and remain unaffected.

Some of the women who have been raped in the last year, or who have experienced sexual assault, or who reported male violence to the police, or who stayed in refuges, or who phoned helplines, or visited outreach services, who took out injunctions, whose situation was discussed at a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference, who were visited by social services because of safeguarding concerns about their children, who told only a friend, or who told absolutely no-one at all, some of these women will be dead this time next year. Most will not be.  Some of the women who will be dead this time next year, are living in fear of death now, as you read this.  Some of them will have told a friend, a family member or a professional that they ‘know’ that ‘x’ is going to kill them , that it’s just a matter of time. Some of them don’t expect to die, because that sort of thing happens to someone else.  Most of them will be right, but some will be badly and sadly wrong.  Some of the women who have told someone that they are afraid that they are going to be killed will be wrong, too many of them will be right.

I want us to know about the women who are killed through male violence, I want us to commemorate them and to learn lessons from their deaths that might prevent other women being killed.  That doesn’t mean I ever forget those that live every day  with male violence, or its after-effects.  Portia Smart wrote a painfully honest blogpice: Being is Bewildering  on living with PTSD after multiple experiences of male violence and a woman left this comment on my petition asking the government to properly record and analyse all forms of fatal male violence.  They say so much about living with male violence even after the violence itself has stopped:

“My father beat my mother even after she divorced him, he beat my mother when I was a child and that’s all I knew! My brothers thought it was ok so they beat me, it didn’t stop until we moved away, so I know all about male violence and what it does to children and women, it demoralizes them, makes them feel like they deserved it, that they started it, that they didn’t wear the proper dress or didn’t have their make up right or didn’t get the tea in time, or didn’t clean up after the kids…male dominance was a part of my life for a very long time and the police did nothing for a very long time, my mother is 70 odd years old now and still she gets afraid when people shout…..that’s my father’s legacy.”

Most male violence against and abuse of women doesn’t kill women, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It doesn’t mean that those affected are not profoundly affected

Simone Jabakhanji – Infertility, suicide and male violence

Reports on the inquest into the death – by hanging – of Simone Jabakhanji, 27, bring together two issues that are important to me: male violence against women and infertility.   Simone’s death has been covered in the mainstream British press including  the Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sun and The Independent. She was from Lancashire but living in Gambia in August 2011 when she died.

The Independent, The Sun and The Telegraph describe Simone as a bride, the Mail as a newlywed bride.  Actually she wasn’t, she was a woman.  A woman who had been married to a man for a year and a half at the time of her death.  A woman who was a human being worthy of acknowledgement in her own right regardless of her marital status, a woman who does not need to be defined by virtue of her relationship to a man, or indeed any other person.

The Sun refers to Simone as “Row wife” in the title of its piece on her, the Mail refers to her “tempestuous relationship” with husband Mohammed Jabakhanji and the Independent describes how Mrs Jabakhanji had been rowing with her husband ( thus positioning her as the active subject, the instigator and him the passive object, the receiver) .  Most reports also cover that Janice Lally, mother of Simone Jabakhanji, told the inquest that her daughter was frightened of Mohammed Jabakhanji, that she had to give him quiet space for days when he got angry, that this quiet space was preferable to him breaking her legs.  Close friend of Simone, Abigail Stone told the inquest that she had spoken with her friend on the day of her death and had advised her to return to England.  Not one of the sources above used the phrase “domestic violence”, not one of them referred to Simone’s death in the context of “male violence against women and girls”.

The titles of three of the four pieces manage to tell us that Mohammed Jabakhanji was African and place Simone Jabakhanji’s death in the context of her husband’s infertility.  The Sun, winning a rare prize for relative diplomacy, waits until the first paragraph of its piece before raising the issues of either race or infertility.  Positioning  Simone’s death in relation to her husband’s infertility further removes  Mohammed Jabakhanji from the role of abusive perpetrator and closer to that of victim, victim of infertility.  The Mail doesn’t quite let him off the hook, telling us that his infertility was a result of his unhealthy lifestyle, his smoking  cannabis and drinking.  Mohammed Jabakhanji may well have been infertile, but I know of no fertility test that has the ability to identify the cause of infertility as alcohol or smoking.  There is a correlation between heavy drinking and smoking and reduced fertility, but correlation is not causality.  It is worth considering too, that there would probably be far fewer babies born if the relationship were quite so straightforward.

Coroner Simon Jones has been quoted as saying,  “When a death like this happens in this country [the UK], we get police statements, photographs of the scene.  To record a verdict of suicide in the UK, I have to be satisfied to a very high standard of proof that she did what she did intending to end her own life.”

“But we can’t be certain what she did was done with the intention of ending her life. That would be at odds with the conversations she had with family and friends. Similarly there is no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved.”  Simone’s body had been embalmed without an autopsy in Gambia before being repatriated to the UK.  An open verdict was recorded in relation to her death.

Several small studies have demonstrated a link between infertility in women and psychological distress, reporting high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide. There is less research into the impact of male partner infertility on women’s mental health. It is possible that if Simone Jabakhanji killed herself, her husband’s infertility was a factor, possibly even a crucial one in her decision.   However, research from the Women and Equality Unit, has shown a  clear relationship between domestic violence and suicide in women victims: every year in the UK, 500 women who have experienced domestic violence in the last six months, commit suicide.  Despite each of the four articles managing to link Simone’s death to Mohammed’s infertility, not one of them positioned it in relation to domestic violence, into his coercive, controlling and frightening aggression.

Another woman dead, reduced to her status in relation to a man; another man’s violence minimised and overlooked.

Simone Jabakhani