I expect you’ll already be aware that the attack on Danielle Lloyd in a nightclub last week prompted the usual predictable response from the Daily Mail about Bad Women. (I won’t bother linking to them on this occasion but will tell you that it’s all about the so-called “Rise of the Thugettes”.)

Why is it that violence committed by women is so often treated as somehow “special” or beyond the pale when, really, the problem is surely that some people, regardless of their genders, think it’s okay to behave like that? Then there’s the glory and awe often attached to being seen as “hard” that has seemed to rule both the playground and the street for as long as I can remember…

I touched on these issues during a phone-in with Shelagh Fogarty on Radio Five Live breakfast. You can still catch it until 10am tomorrow morning (scroll to 3.05.20 in the programme onward or click here to listen to part of the discussion).

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 1 June 2009 at 10:50 pm

Whilst I have never claimed women have never committed an act of violence against another woman or to a lesser extent a man, it must not be forgotten that it is disproportionately male violence against women which is so normal it is non-news. That is why the isolated incident of female violence against females was given such widespread media coverage.

The media conveniently has a ‘blinkered and de-gendered aspect’ whenever mens’ violence against women is reported or for that matter male on male violence is reported. The media never states the gender of men who commit violence but instead refers to their ‘deviance, abnormality, race, class or even employment status.’

Women are not afforded the luxury of having their gender omitted whenever they are reported as having commited a crime irrespective of whether it is a violent one or not because the headline always begins with ‘girl or less commonly woman attacks/commits etc.

The central issue is how dominant ‘common sense’ notions of masculinity are invisibilised rather than highlighted and problematised. The Daily Male constantly promotes claims that we live in a culture wherein women and girls are supposedly becoming increasingly violent but statistics tell a different story. The CPS in its first report on crime from a gendered analysis evidenced that 94% of defendants for violent offences committed against women were men (2007/8) and 86% victims were women (2007/8). (http://womensgrid.freecharity.org.uk/?p=1553)

Violence is not one wherein women and men commit offences in equal numbers. Not forgetting of course, women who do commit violent offences are subjected to more rigorous criticism and shame than men. Men are ‘allowed’ to commit violence because this supposedly proves such men are ‘real men’ who are prepared to physically attack another male when they believe they are not being accorded ‘respect’ (particularly if the one disrespecting them (sic) is female).

One only has to look at how knife crime has been deliberately portrayed as ‘youth crime’ when in fact it is teenage males knifing other teenage males. The problem is not ‘youth’ but males and how they absorb uncritically male-dominant myths concerning masculinity and male behaviour.

Sam Rico // Posted 2 June 2009 at 3:10 am

wow, this seems to have gone really well, i think that you got your points across on the show perfectly. sounds hard- my mum hates being on TV or radio.

Sam Rico // Posted 2 June 2009 at 3:25 am

omg just got to the part of the show with that ‘susan anne’ religious nutcase. shame you werent still on the line to argue with her :-(

Polly styrene // Posted 2 June 2009 at 8:23 am

Do you think there’ll ever be a headline in the Male – “75% of violence committed by men”?

Me neither.

My name is Jose // Posted 2 June 2009 at 9:57 am

Your Comments

“Jennifer Drew said:

The media never states the gender of men who commit violence but instead refers to their ‘deviance, abnormality, race, class or even employment status.'”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6364252.ece

A Catholic community worker was beaten to death by men shouting that they were members of the Ulster Defence Association, his widow said today.

The Times must of forgotten not to state the gender of his attackers!

The media will state whatever information they have available.

To claim that ”

The media never states the gender of men who commit violence” is just plain wrong.

Jess McCabe // Posted 2 June 2009 at 10:51 am

Why is it that violence committed by women is so often treated as somehow “special” or beyond the pale

I think the problem is the other way around – that violence committed by men is largely socially sanctioned – even encouraged to an extent as an ‘appropriate’ manifestation of masculinity. Although violence is terrible no matter who’s commiting it, it’s also true that any violence or even aggressive speech is treated as unnatural when a woman does it. Obviously violence should never be condoned and is inherantly wrong, but it’s wrong because it’s abusive and wrong, not because it’s infringing on ‘decent’ feminine behaviour…

Kristiina // Posted 2 June 2009 at 10:59 am

“The media never states the gender of men who commit violence.”

Especially when it’s about rape the passive voice is used. Media tells us that “a woman was raped” or that the number of rapes has increased, as if rapes happen on their own.

Holly Combe // Posted 2 June 2009 at 11:07 am

Jose: While I agree that to say “never” is something of an exaggeration, I still think it’s fair to say women’s violence (i.e identified by the media as being committed specifically by women or a woman) receives more attention, proportionally, then men’s.

I haven’t got the full details to hand but the reference here indicates Cynthia Enloe may have done a study on this.

My Name is Jose // Posted 2 June 2009 at 11:57 am

“While I agree that to say “never” is something of an exaggeration, I still think it’s fair to say women’s violence (i.e identified by the media as being committed specifically by women or a woman) receives more attention, proportionally, then men’s.”

Hollie: The simple fact is, our society is more comfortable with male on male violence or male violent death, than womens.

Holly Combe // Posted 2 June 2009 at 12:38 pm

Well, if that’s true, it’s hardly a good thing is it?

I would say the problem is that society frames “male violent death” differently according to gender stereotypes. Any violent deaths of women tend to be fetishised by the media as dramatic and titillating, whereas men’s are often stereotyped as either something that comes with the territory of being a man (i.e everyday) or somehow heroic. Male violence is often taken as a given and, traditionally, women have been expected to keep it in check by behaving to a higher standard and thus inspiring men to be “gentlemen”. I don’t think that’s really fair on anyone because it’s a system that insults men by assuming them to be less capable of controlling themselves and punishes any women who fail to be the “ladies” expected to civilise them.

I think the “Woman as Angel” pedestal has a lot to answer for. It means women are protected and controlled in a way men usually aren’t and we pay a high price for that. Yes, men are generally framed as more dispensible but they are rewarded for that with respect and power, should they manage to live up to a macho stereotype. Meanwhile, the value placed on women is, in my opinion, a bittersweet truth: we’re treasured and cherished (rather than respected) as long as we stay on our backs and accept a subservient role. The kind of chivalrous attitude that comes with the Woman as Angel archetype thinly disguises a deep misogyny that is often unleashed when women step out of line. I think it’s true that some people are indeed more shocked when a woman dies but, sadly, that’s often just because she’s somebody’s wife or Mother (or perceived/assumed to be or that she “would have been” in the future). She has a use value.

tom hulley // Posted 2 June 2009 at 1:24 pm

Last year’s ‘ladette thug’ stories in all the papers (tabloid and posh) were based on distorting a serious report about discriminatory experiences faced by women in the criminal justice system. All the papers simply took a tacky story from Reuters -journalism off the shelf.

On socially sanctioned male violence -has anyone notice the male mannequins in M&S? They look militarist and unwholesome to me.

I heard that ‘La Garconne’ was published in France in 1922. It means ‘ladette’ and referred to worries about newly independent (or just a bit independent, in truth) women at the time. So nothing changes.

On last night’s news, 2 judges from Britain’s-Got-whatever were consulted about a crisis. The reporters assumed it was the 2 male judges and also assumed the woman judge would have no understanding, authority, etc etc.

I am rambling but please work even harder, F-word people, equality is slipping away faster than integrity just now.

I know it is not your fault so best of best of best regards meanwhile.

Cara // Posted 2 June 2009 at 4:15 pm

My name is Jose – yes, I would actually agree that society is more comfortable with violence comitted by men than that committed by women.

I also agree with Holly – violence by women is (as was the point of her article) judged far more harshly.

Why is this? It comes down to societal attitudes. Men are seen as naturally aggressive. Women are not supposed to be. We are meant to be sweet and nurturing and accommodating. When a woman steps outside her gender role, she is very harshly, disproportionately punished. (cf. women get longer sentences for violent crimes than men, or custodial sentences when men do not for similar crimes).

Equally, men suffer who are not stereotypically masculine; either socially, because they are ostracised as they are not willing to take part in Saturday night’s fighting or beaten up for being ‘gay’.

I don’t think this is a good thing. Society shouldn’t be comfortable with any violence, nor should men be pushed into macho roles and women into passive ones.

As for violence done *to* women; I don’t know. I mean, yes, on balance most people find a man hitting a woman unacceptable – in theory. That said, domestic violence is often still dismissed as ‘a domestic’.

1 in 4 women suffers sexual assault in her lifetime. That, too, is violence, and yet it is so often covered up; people just don’t believe the victim, she was flirting with him, she went home with him etc. so she must have wanted it.

Isa // Posted 2 June 2009 at 4:44 pm

What infuriated me about some of the newspaper coverage was the whole “well she asked for it” mentality. The fact that Danielle had suffered serious physical abuse in a previous relationship with a boyfriend was mentioned in a list of violent incidences that have happened to her on nights out, so of course not only is she acting in an unladylike way and setting a bad example but it’s her own bloody fault that she’s been beaten repeatedly. I remember years ago how shocked I was after being beaten by a boyfriend to be told by a friend that I should learn to give men what they want or else I would always be treated badly. Things haven’t moved on, have they?

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 2 June 2009 at 7:00 pm

Cara,

I agree with you when you say that men who are not ‘macho’ get a rough time. My boyfriend is actually very feminine and passive, which I like, I would hate to be with a ‘fighter’

Laurel Dearing // Posted 2 June 2009 at 7:14 pm

Lisa, you must have missed something, i believe we all apparently got bored of “new men” and wanted “real men” back *rolls eyes*

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 2 June 2009 at 7:45 pm

laurel, :)

RadFemHedonist // Posted 9 June 2009 at 11:19 am

Yep, I sure know that lovely young man at my college who treats everyone equally and supports abortion rights and doesn’t make misogynistic jokes and is generally feminist even if they don’t necessarily call themselves one doesn’t make me horny, I mean where’s the commanding manner, the stiff upper lip, the testosterone driven manliness, the willingness to start fights and the ability to crush beer barrels between two fingers?

I very much agree that women’s deaths are seen as sad because it means they can no longer provide care to men and “their” children, whereas when men die, it’s viewed as sad because they are no longer individually alive, though sometimes they are viewed as more disposable.

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