In the news…

// 27 October 2008

A round up of some stories:

Firstly violence against women is adapting to new technologies – a stalker used Facebook to facilitate his crimes which resulted in a woman having acid thrown over her. The perp has been found guilty of planning that attack and of GBH but the jury failed to reach a verdict over rape charges. Because obviously in that situation the woman freely gave her consent didn’t she?

Also in the UK this new publication on minority ethnic women, domestic violence and housing was released by the Race Equality Foundation. Meanwhile in Preston the head of the Women’s Refuge is blaming the credit crunch for rising domestic violence reports. Now this worries me for various reasons, it links class/capital to domestic violence and therefore implies it doesn’t happen in wealthy families, which is nonsense. It repositions domestic violence as being associated with the poor, characterising the working classes as more violent than others – a damaging stereotype. It hides the fact that domestic violence is caused by one partner exerting control over the other through violence (emotional, physical, financial etc). We know that money is a major source of relationship strife but we also know not every family in financial difficulty will also experience domestic violence – that results from (usually) a man deciding it’s OK to hit, starve, rape or otherwise abuse their partner. I would have hoped the head of a Refuge would know better.

In Argentina, however, journalists have adopted a ten point list of commandments for reporting on sexual violence. It’s something the UK could do with adopting too, here’s the list:

  1. The following terms are correct usage: violence against women, gender-based violence and sexist violence.
  2. Gender-based violence is a crime insofar as it is illegal behavior that must be prevented and punished, a social problem, an assault on the right to life, dignity, and physical and psychological integrity of women, and an issue that concerns the defense of human rights.
  3. We will uproot from our work the term “crime of passion” to refer to murders of women who are victims of gender violence. Crimes of passion do not exist.
  4. It is of the utmost importance to protect the identity of the victim, rather than that of the aggressor. Make it clear who is the aggressor and who is the victim, and indicate what attitudes and situations may put women in violent relationships at risk, to help raise their awareness about their situation.
  5. Some information can harm the victims and their families. It is not always a good idea to identify the victim. It is offensive to refer to victims by diminutives, short forms of proper names, nicknames, and so on.
  6. We will never look for justifications or “motives” (alcohol, drugs, arguments, jealousy, a couple’s separation, infidelity, and so on) that only distract attention from the central issue: violence. The cause of gender-based violence is the control and domination that certain men exercise over women.
  7. It is essential to check the facts, especially from official sources.
  8. Keep the subject on the agenda by denouncing violence in all its forms: psychological, economic, and emotional, without waiting for women to be killed. Tell the story taking into account the uniqueness of each event, but also the elements that each has in common with other cases. This will help us avoid the use of expressions like “once again” or “yet another case of,” and prevent a dulling of sensitivities.
  9. Be particularly careful with the photographs and images illustrating the article. Respect the victims and their families, and avoid sexism, sensationalism and obscenity. Never steal images or audio material from a victim. When using a musical background, do not select motifs that inspire terror, or lyrics that talk about “love-sickness” or jealousy.
  10. Our articles will always include a free telephone helpline number for victims, and any other information that may be useful for them.

Anyone any ideas on 1. drawing up a list for the UK and 2. getting the media to adopt it?

Last week a woman led Friday Prayers for the first time in Britain. Dr Amina Wadud faced critical challenge and public demonstrations from those believing women are second class citizens in Islam.

In Niger we are awaiting a result on a trail alleging slavery – Hadijatou Mani alleges she was sold for around $500 at age 12 and made to do domestic and agricultural work for 10 years. She was also raped and forced to bear her “owners” children (who also become his slaves), suffered beatings and was repeatedly returned to her “owner” when she ran away. She is suing the government for failing to protect her after failing in the local courts to win her freedom. Slavery is alleged to also still exist in other west African states including Mali and Mauritania and Niger only outlawed it five years ago.

In the US women are campaigning around the prioirities for federal monies and arguing that spending cuts for state budgets are being driven by claims for funding by defence organisations like the Pentagon. Their point? Domestic issues such as homelessness, health care and so forth are coming second to perceived external dangers and campaigns on foreign soil. They also point to the lack of women politicians and military personal which leds to an over-emphasis on “male” values of dominance.

In political news in the UK this website gives us a timeline and information on political women and political changes from 1800 to today.

In more philosophical mood, has a great article on the ways in which the pseudo-scientific approach of evolutionary psychology are infiltrating and damaging our lives.

Men, the popular account of evolution tells us, are rampantly heterosexual skirt chasers. (Anyone who’s gay serves, at best, as evidence of the supposedly nonadaptive delights in which some humans indulge and, at worst, as evidence of what is unnatural and therefore immoral.) This understanding of male sexuality helps fuel a culture Michael Kimmel recently labeled “guyland,” the life stage and social space in which teenage and twenty-something men cultivate a rude-dude attitude, resenting anything intellectual, politically correct, or smacking of either responsibility or women’s authority. What better than the caveman narrative to help these guys avoiding the demands of adult life define themselves as, nevertheless, real men?

And this article from 1976 looks at the dark side of feminism, trashing.

Comments From You

Cara // Posted 27 October 2008 at 11:24 am

That list is great. I wouldn’t change it in any major way.

Maybe add something about hate crime. I have long argued that gender-based violence should be a hate crime…beat someone up because they are black, or Muslim, or Jewish etc. and it is.

Getting the media to adopt it…might be, er, challenging. I wish they would though. Gutter press always sensationalise gender-based violence.

Clare // Posted 27 October 2008 at 1:05 pm

Regarding the DV article, I think the issue is actually the reporting – Valerie Wise said “People are seeing rising prices of food and fuel and energy and it is one of the factors that contributes to domestic violence.” And unfortunately she is right – as a DV worker myself there is a link – nothing *causes* DV other than the desire to have power & control over another, but outside stresses such as financial issues or berevement can escalate abuse – which is the corrolation shown here. We certainly are seeing an increase in the severity of abuse due to financial strain – but the abuse was always there to begin with.

Besides, I would like to point out that the credit crunch is not just affecting the ‘poor’ as I think it’s quite obvious that anyone with a mortgage, car, job in finance or in fact any position within our economy is being affected.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 27 October 2008 at 6:12 pm

In fact the correct term is ‘male violence against women – not ‘violence against women’ or ‘gender-based violence against women.’ Why? Because unless it is stated precisely who is committing violence against women the terms becomes meaningless. Gender-based crime? Oh does this mean both women and men commit violence against each other in equal measures? No, because overwhelmingly it is men who commit violence against women not the reverse. Could it be perhaps another attempt at ‘not upsetting male sensibilities’ or attempting to minimalise extent of male violence against women?

The Argentine definition contradicts itself because no. 4 says ‘make it clear who the aggressor(s) is/are. Therefore, unless that taboo word ‘male’ is put in front of ‘violence against women’ we will not know which biological sex is committing such acts of violence against women. You can’t have it both ways – continue to hide male accountability whilst simultaneously proclaiming male accountability will be published.

Re: DV – credit crunch is not the main factor as to why men continue to commit violent acts against women. It is male power and many men’s belief in their right to control and dominate a female partner. Poverty is not the main factor because not all poor men commit violence against a female partner. Excuses, excuses and yet more excuses.

Re: man convicted of GBH – of course he couldn’t possibly have raped the woman – after all she obviously wanted him to commit a particularly appalling act of violence by disfiguring her face and of course the allegation of rape in no way has anything to do with this man’s sadistic belief women apparently exist for his sexual pleasure and abuse. Hate crime? Of course not – just another case of an individual man giving in to a ‘moments weakness and allowing his evil side to take over.’

elaine // Posted 27 October 2008 at 10:10 pm

loved the 10-point list from argentine journalists. i always personally opposed the invasion on the victims privacy, pictures, anything. and also the objection to “crime of passion” as a label is a very important point. this always seemed to me a way to “romanticize” violence.

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