A few thoughts on the gendered coverage of the Raoul Moat story

// 12 July 2010

I’m not going to write in huge detail about this story because frankly I could write for pages and pages.

I do want to draw attention to a few things, though: first of all, the idea that Samantha Stobbart was at all to blame for any of the saga. This particularly garbled little blog (which I wasn’t sure was a genuine opinion, but it doesn’t seem to be a spoof) is an example of this viewpoint. Indeed, Moat’s “friend” (and self-confessed woman-beater) Paul Gascoigne seemed to support this apologetic stance on Moat’s actions when he declared in his barely-coherent interview, “Someone must have wound him up.” (Presumably just like Gascoigne’s wife Sheryl wound HIM up.)

His self-pitying epitaph, “Nobody cares about me. I haven’t got a dad,” is of course sad, but you know who else hasn’t got a dad now? Raoul Moat’s children. And his child with Samantha Stobbart wouldn’t have a mother either if his attack on her had succeeded.

Nobody is responsible for Moat’s actions but himself. And to say otherwise is egregious victim-blaming.

Comments From You

Shea // Posted 12 July 2010 at 12:23 pm

Exactly.

No excuses, no special pleading. Moat needs to take responsibility for his actions.

You know what is sad about this, is that there always has to be a woman to blame in the story somewhere doesn’t there?

This is an utterly selfish man, who did this because he wanted the fame and attention and to feel important for once in his pathetic life, the same as Derrick Bird. If this was about settling scores there are other non violent ways. He has as you point out cost a man his life, injured another and the mother of his child and taken his daughter’s father away.

There is no excusing or justifying what he did and blaming his ex-partner is just the most cowardly and pathetic behaviour.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 12 July 2010 at 1:28 pm

Raoul Moat was no different than the many, many men who murder their ex-female partners and her children if she has any. Moat like all these men was a callous, clever manipulator who consistently portrayed himself as ‘the victim.’

Given malestream media never, ever reports news factually and without malestream bias I am not in the least surprised that once again women are being blamed for men’s accountability and responsibility.

The question never addressed within malestream media is why so many men enact lethal violence against women and sometimes men whilst simultaneously portraying themselves ‘as the victim.’

See link below for a very detailed analysis of the systemic methods misogynistic men use to maintain their pseudo male right of domination and control of women and her children.

http://stop-ferfieroszak.hu/en/everyday-male-chauvinism-intimate-partner-violence-that-is-not-called-violence-by-luis-bonino-and-pe

Jilly // Posted 12 July 2010 at 1:41 pm

It seems to me that ‘someone wound me up’ is the universal excuse for bad behaviour – up to and including murder. You cannot blame someone else for your own actions. Personally if someone winds me up I stay away from them

angercanbepower // Posted 12 July 2010 at 2:06 pm

Jennifer Drew, I tend to skip over your rants, but I caught the beginning of this one and couldn’t help myself:

Raoul Moat was no different than the many, many men who murder their ex-female partners and her children

Really? He is “no different”? I can think of quite a lot of ways in which he is different.

You often have valid points to make but your hyperbole does them (and you) a disservice.

Antigone // Posted 12 July 2010 at 2:10 pm

I think the press may have got a bit confused in their desperate struggle to keep viewers glued to the screen. One minute Moat is a madman, the next a pitiful loner. The only things that I feel certain about are that I don’t know the full story but that he is culpable when it come to his actions. But the danger of 24 hour news allowing inane chatter to fill air time is that theory takes over fact and blame is the a big part of this.

The blog you linked to concerns me greatly. That someone eavesdropping on a conversation in which they are mocked should be part the case against Stobbart is unbelievable. On the other hand, the writer says that Moat was at odds with the police for many years, but they are not even partly responsible according to him. Very strange logic.

Kate // Posted 12 July 2010 at 3:56 pm

That blog is appalling and the writer clearly understands nothing about the dynamics of abuse. But for the sake of my sanity I’ve decided to stop thinking random loser bloggers are representative of public opinion.

I’m more concerned by the force’s complete failure to protect Ms Stobbart, in what is a depressingly routine inability by police to take threats seriously. I hope the IPCC is critical but I suspect little will come of it. And the media focus is of course on the far more dramatic angle of how did the police fail to apprehend someone in a pretty unusual manhunt, not the more mundane question of how yet another man was able to harm his ex-partner.

Mobot // Posted 12 July 2010 at 8:52 pm

While I think that victim blaming is a horrible indictment of the misogynistic world we live in, I haven’t personally seen evidence in the media of tendencies towards it in this case. Don’t get me wrong, clearly there are people who will side with an abuser (as the blog you linked to shows)… but I don’t think that the portrayal of Moat as tragic or mentally ill equates with the idea that he must have been ‘driven to it’ by his ex-partner. While I of course believe that people should take responsibility for their actions, I don’t think anyone on this forum or in the general public can make definitive statements about ‘fact and blame’ because all we really have is portrayals by the media, which are full of speculation anyway… none of us are privvy to an accurate diagnosis of Moat’s mental health, although I think we can assume that he wasn’t in a stable psychological state. I understand why, in an emotive and disturbing case like this one, people would throw words like ‘evil’ around but I think that, as with rape, portraying people who commit acts of violence as ‘monsters’ just fuels the idea that ‘normal’ people could never behave like this… in terms of partner violence I’m sure we are all aware that this is not the case. It would be great if the media would stop going for the ‘sexiest’ headlines, portray the idea that we all have the potential for behaviour like this, and criticise a culture that quietly vindicates violence against women (and violence in general)… but I won’t be holding my breath.

MariaS // Posted 12 July 2010 at 10:22 pm

angercanbepower: “‘Raoul Moat was no different than the many, many men who murder their ex-female partners’ … I can think of quite a lot of ways in which he is different.”

The only difference is that he went on the run and his violence escalated to threaten people other than his partner or family. Jennifer Drew’s point is sound: what’s being lost in all the media’s sensationalising frenzy is that really this is just one more common-or-garden horror story of a man who hurts and threatens his partner/ex-partner to try and control or punish her. These kind of cases are there in the news with depressing regularity but garner little comment.

I haven’t looked at a wide variety of media reporting on this, but I was very struck that the “Profile” article on Moat on BBC Newsfollowing his death makes absolutely no mention of his history of violence towards Samantha Stobbart (or even a link to their own article about it, dated about a week earlier, that I’ve just linked to there).

I notice from that link about the relationship violence that Stobbart is now 22 and had been living with Moat for 6 years, so the relationship began when she was around 16 (or earlier?) and he 31. This adds an extra dimension of wilful ignorance to the outrageous victim-blaming post by Benjamin Barton that Carrie links to, which asserts that it is just “rational” to say that Stobbart should have anticipated Moat’s violent reaction to news of her new relationship: “If she hadn’t cheated on him, lied to him, deceived him, badmouthed him and demeaned his morale, all of this would never have happened.”. As if her choices were made completely freely, instead of her being a young woman in a desperate situation: trying to get out of a relationship with an older, violent, jealous man, complicated by the fact that she has a young child with him. She in fact left on several occasions to escape his violence, and went to stay with her grandmother. According to the grandmother, Moat would turn up there and threatened Samantha and her family members with a gun. Stobbart’s father said that she had actually previously been shot by Moat. (from the BBC article).

Barton also thinks that Stobbart telling Moat that her new partner was a police officer was some kind of taunt (in the comments he suggests that the gender-reversed equivalent would be a man telling his ex that he was now going out with a model). This ignores the most obvious explanation for the lie that occured to me: that she was trying to protect herself. And indeed I just found that Stobbart quite clearly stated in her public appeal to Moat: “I said this because I was frightened. I have not been seeing a police officer.”link.

The police were warned by prison authorities that Moat had made specific threats against Stobbart while in prison, yet took no action to protect her. A man makes repeated pronouncements on the theme that “if he couldn’t have her then nobody else could” and follows through on his threat. In fact, his attack was just an escalation of violence, just the latest in a series of attacks on Stobbart.

Why the nation is so stunned at all this, and why the police failed to take his threats seriously is beyond me. Or maybe not. The real problem is when jealousy-driven violence is tacitly accepted as a regrettable but understandable reaction by a man when his partner chooses to leave him and chooses to enter a relationship with someone else (or when he suspects that this has happened). Barton’s post is just an exceptionally explicit example of this. I wonder if Barton realises that his take on the shootings is no more than a straightforward reiteration of Moat’s own self-justifications: from Moat’s much-publicised letter to the media/the police: “She pulled the trigger by doing so [cheating] just as much as me.”

The media hasn’t challenged this narrative at all as far as I can see – the subtle complicity in this justification for partner violence is there wherever Stobbart’s new relationship is presented as a “reason” or cause for Moat’s actions.

The new dominant social narrative we urgently need? Women (well, people), can make their own free choices about their sexual partners and to say that they should “expect” violent retribution from the partners they reject is utterly unacceptable.

shiv // Posted 13 July 2010 at 1:09 am

Oh ,thank God I found this website today! As a survivor of domestic abuse, the whole Moat saga and its portrayal in the media has revolted (but not surprised) me. Everything MariaS said mirrors my own thoughts so much; the reporting has left me dismayed and furious.

This man was an ABUSER plain and simple- he ticks almost every box:

-“She made me do it”

-“I’m not responsible for my own actions”

-“She’s as guilty as I am”

-“If I can’t have her, no-one else will”

He demonstrated an overwhelming desire for power, control and ownership and also seems to have been an expert in portraying HIMSELF as the victim.

I found last week extremely difficult to deal with. I still feel incredibly angry today at the multiple instances of violence and terror this man perpetrated- and that he now seems to be gaining a sort of sympathy in certain quarters.

My thoughts go out to Samantha Stobbart, her new (now murdered) partner’s family and to the policeman who were all shot in cold blood. I feel especially bad for Ms Stobbart, because I strongly suspect she will (wrongly) blame herself, and will be haunted by this for years to come. I wish her strength for the future.

To add to Jilly’s comment,which I totally agree with- Moat’s actions have “wound me up” to an exceptional degree but I would rather vent my anger and upset by talking it through with my WA support worker and my boyfriend than go on a self-indulgent, revenge-fuelled shooting spree.

Thanks for giving me space to say this.

MariaS // Posted 13 July 2010 at 8:25 am

Relatedly, Echidne has a post about a workplace spree shooting in the USA and the way the police and media present the fact that the shooter had a history of domestic violence:

“‘A man in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend opened fire at his former company Monday, killing two people and wounding four others before fatally shooting himself.

The man, 37, had worked at Emcore Corp., a fiber optics and solar power company based in Albuquerque, where his girlfriend still worked, Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said at a news conference…. The gunman and his girlfriend had at least one previous domestic violence incident in Rio Rancho, an Albuquerque suburb, but the dispute had not been reported to police and there was no arrest’ …

… How did they share this incident? It’s such an odd formulation. As if domestic violence incidents are something external which just fall on people and as if such incidents are somehow equal fights. … I’m smelling a trend in these stories, one which labels violence which is domestic as something potentially different from other types of violence.”

And less notable – until other people are affected and the violence cannot be ignored. It’s amazing, one person has shot several people, probably including his partner (though at this stage that is not confirmed) and yet the police in this statement refer so carefully non-comittally to the violence in their relationship, stepping back from apportioning blame. The effect, intended or not, is to present the “domestic dispute” as the cause of the shootings, instead of what it should be, additional evidence that the shooter was someone who was already known to resort to violence.

angercanbepower // Posted 13 July 2010 at 10:51 am

I’m sorry about this. I didn’t mean to suggest that male partner abuse against women is not endemic. This case clearly has similarities with lots of others and the press have as usual been irresponsible in their coverage of this aspect of it.

I was just trying to make the point to Jennifer Drew that she often overstates her case.

Josie // Posted 13 July 2010 at 11:45 am

Me too Shiv. I’m also a DV survivor and Moat’s self-pitying whining and pathetic justifications for his crimes have turned my stomach this past week. I also worry about Samantha Stobbart – what she must have been through at his hands in the past doesn’t bear thinking about, and now she’s likely to be (wrongly) riddled with guilt for some time to come.

I read this morning that there is a Facebook group in support of Raoul Moat, which currently has 10000 members, and on which he is described as a ‘legend’, ‘a hero’ and is full of comments along the lines of ‘Good on ya mate, I would have done the same if my bird had done me over’. Sometimes you wish you could scrub your own brain clean…..

Sheila // Posted 13 July 2010 at 12:45 pm

I have written to Women’s Aid to ask if they can say something to condemn this facebook page. Think I’ll write to Fathers for Justice too – it’ll be interesting to hear their response.

Denise // Posted 13 July 2010 at 12:52 pm

Moat was a horrific, walking, talking cliche, a grotesque parody of a certain type of male – domineering, body building, woman hating, ugly, boring, stupid, fan of macho shithead movies. Like the grotesque parody of the man-made Barbie Woman, except that she doesn’t kick off and start murdering partners and rellies with her weapon of choice. If someone dumps her, she’ll have another boob job!

People need to look at the kind of society that gives rise to men like Moat, who think they have a divine right to rape and murder and basically treat as a possession any woman they like. Instead of which, the media persists in acting as if every case was a shocking, one-off aberration. The kind of society which produces men like this is a rape culture. If only the media et al could acknowledge that and these men as the huge problem and danger they are, instead of slagging off women-as-a-species and writing and spewing insulting, useless crap about what could have ‘wound him up”, we might, just might, actually get somewhere.

shiv // Posted 13 July 2010 at 2:27 pm

Totally agree, Josie. I didn’t know about the Facebook page- I’ve just checked it out, its membership is now over 17,000. I tried v hard not to read the content as I knew it would be disturbing and upsetting, but saw enough to feel like I needed to jump in a bath of disinfectant.

I’ve reported it and sent a more detailed email to F/book admin. A tiny- possibly insignificant- act, I know, but my own small contribution at redressing the massively gendered reporting of this case…and the “fans” it seems to have attracted.

Sickening and depressing, but I’m trying to stay strong- hope you’re OK too.

Josie // Posted 13 July 2010 at 3:48 pm

Sheila, excellent idea, would love to hear the Fathers for Justice response in particular! I’m ok Shiv, just makes you feel sick and hopeless sometimes, doesn’t it? Good idea about complaining to Facebook though – must do the same myself. Look after yourselves ladies x

Sheila // Posted 13 July 2010 at 4:13 pm

Well, you can say this for Real Fathers for Justice – they respond quickly! I couldn’t be bothered with Fathers for Justice as the intro music to their website was driving me nuts and I couldn’t skip it.

Here’s what RFFJ said, there’s a prize for the person who spots the most blame-shifting excuses.

“Rffj have not been asked to make an official comment on the case.

Roaul Moat was not a member of Rffj and it’s not known whether he was a supporter of the campaign, if he had been in touch with us at the outset of his recent troubles and we could have directed him to the resources and expertise of our members, the outcome may well have been different.

From what we have seen and read in the media, he was brought up without knowing his biological father and didn’t have much of a relationship with his mother, Rffj believe that the best outcomes for children are when they are brought up by 2 loving parents, we campaign for both to be treated equally by the law should they separate or divorce.

Rffj in no way what so ever condone or approve of this mans actions or evil intent to maim and kill. Yes, cases like this give men, and fathers a bad name. It’s a testimony to the resolve of most fathers separated from their kids, criminalised and asset stripped, that there aren’t more situation like this one.

There is likely to be more to this case than has come out. It sounds by all accounts that several authorities and services failed this man and his family. They fail many more, and people just fight in silence or give in.. This is a case that nobody can ignore. It is tragic and the man lost the plot completely.

He is responsible for his abhorrent acts, but we also have to say that the influences and actions of others that maybe pushed this man over the edge need to be brought to the fore too. It’s too easy to look on and blame this on the individual. People don’t do this kind of thing in normal circumstances, so we all have to ask what flip this mans switch.

Some people flip easily, others take a great deal of being backed into a corner, have all the things they hold dear taken from them, and belittled beyond tolerance before they snap.

Humans are the deadliest creatures on the planet, and when one has nothing to lose or fear, they are at their worst. As a society, we have to ask what things we can do to prevent other humans being made to feel like this, because until we stop, these situations will continue to haunt us.

Obviously we can’t stop all extreme actions of individuals, but if this is a case of a man being abused by Social Services, as part of the Family Law systems, then it need to be made public. Questions need asking and some accountability and lessons learnt need to be made.

Regards

Leigh

Rffj Admin Team”

Sheila // Posted 14 July 2010 at 6:51 pm

Hello, me again. Maybe you’ve stopped posting on this thread. I’ve just heard back from Nicola Harwin, CEO of Women’s Aid that they are taking action to have the Facebook page removed. Also you’ll have seen we have an unlikely friend in the shape of David Cameron who has condemned the Facebook page in PM’s question time and moreover the Beeb have picked it up as lead story, which is great.

Josie // Posted 14 July 2010 at 8:48 pm

Thanks Sheila – that was indeed speedy! I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds their response really quite chilling, especially this bit – ‘we all have to ask what flip this mans switch’.

Hmmmm….. thinking of anyone in particular, RFFJ???? How foul and insensitive

Shell // Posted 15 July 2010 at 12:53 am

‘It’s too easy to blame the individual.’

If she’s a woman. If it was a woman who beat her husband and killed the woman he cheated with, she’d be held up as evil in flesh. There’d be no words for her.

As it is, it’s a man, so we all have to hear about his mother. And somehow the woman who he beat and then tried to murder is held as the culprit. Of course!

Lauran // Posted 16 July 2010 at 12:00 am

I agree with Shell. I believe the way he has been perceived by some of the public is down to gender. Ed Balls just made the point on This Week in regards to the Raoul Moat facebook page that he is being framed as a wronged man but if he had been a woman he would have been framed as a mad, evil, jealous harpy.

Rose // Posted 17 July 2010 at 1:55 pm

I like the idea that it’s a ‘testimony to the resolve to most fathers…’ that this doesn’t happen more often.

What a great achievement it is to not go on a killing spree!

Any man that can be ‘pushed’ to that behaviour probably shouldn’t be allowed near children, (no one pushes buttons like kids!)

Really glad that this is covered here, my father (off course, with a history of domestic violence), was showing a whole load of sympathy for the ‘poor man so mistreated by the system’.

Why is it that abusers always seem to excuse themselves by excusing others?

Jayne // Posted 20 July 2010 at 8:59 pm

I was so angered when I heard of the facebook sites that portrayed Moat at the victim. Benjamin Barton’s comments are just as bad. The fact that some people are trying to depict Moat as a victim is totally ludicrous! Totally agree with Jilly – too many people assume their hideous violence can be excused if they were ‘wound up’

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