Top Ten Most Read Articles of 2017

How do they know who to kill?, by @marstrina  

“However. Here’s what I think anyone pushing the “sex is a social construct and therefore it is up to me to decide if my reproductive organs are male or female” has an absolute moral duty to account for: if sex is not a “real” and meaningful political or economic category, on what basis did the parents of the hundreds of millions of women and girls lost to femicide know who to kill? This is not state mandated, low-resolution social engineering: each individual family, each individual father, and sometimes mother, has made a decision to abort this baby, but not that baby. Each individual village midwife or grandmother or mother in law in a village somewhere has decided to take this child and leave them by the side of the road to die, but not that child. These people are not scientists and they are certainly not feminists. They didn’t get their decisions out of a Janice Raymond book, so give me a fucking break, use your educated-beyond-its-capability brain for a second and think about it: if sex doesn’t really exist, how do they know who to kill?”

 

The Thing about Toilets, at Not the News in Brief 

“The thing about toilets is that it’s not just about toilets. It’s about ALL the public spaces which could present a risk to women and/or children because of factors such as confined space, being locked in, restricted escape routes and being either explicitly or potentially in a state of partial/complete undress. These spaces include public toilets (no, not your private one at home, stupid), changing rooms in shops, gymns, leisure centres etc, prisons, rape crisis centres, dormitories, shelters and more.”

 

The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist.  by @ClaireShrugged

Screenshot_20170315-144208“…what’s a shorter non-essentialist way to refer to ‘people who have a uterus and all that stuff’?” In many ways, Laurie Penny’s quest to find a term describing biologically female people without ever actually using the word woman typifies the greatest challenge within ongoing feminist discourse. The tension between women acknowledging and erasing the role of biology in structural analysis of our oppression has developed into a fault line (MacKay, 2015) within the feminist movement. Contradictions arise when feminists simultaneously attempt to address how women’s biology shapes our oppression under patriarchal society whilst denying that our oppression is material in basis. At points, rigorous structural analysis and inclusivity make uneasy bedfellows.”

 

‘Men, shut up for your rights!’, by @wordspinster

“If you haven’t spent the last decade living on another planet, I’m sure you will recognise the following sequence of events:

A powerful man says something egregiously sexist, either in a public forum or in a private conversation which is subsequently leaked.

There is an outpouring of indignation on social media.

The mainstream media take up the story and the criticism gets amplified.

The powerful man announces that he is stepping down.

His critics claim this as a victory and the media move on—until another powerful man says another egregiously sexist thing, at which point the cycle begins again.

The most recent high-profile target for this ritual shaming was David Bonderman, a billionaire venture capitalist and member of Uber’s board of directors. It’s no secret that Uber has a serious sexism problem. Following a number of discrimination and harassment claims from former employees, the company commissioned what turned out to be a damning report on its corporate culture. At a meeting called to discuss the report, Arianna Huffington (who at the time was Uber’s only female director) cited research which suggested that putting one woman on a board increased the likelihood that more women would join. At which point Bonderman interjected: ‘actually what it shows is that it’s likely to be more talking’.

 

Include me out. How ‘inclusion’ is killing feminism, by Sister Hex 

“The problem with this modern obsession for ‘inclusion’, especially for university societies, is that it’s not only killing the soul of feminism or lesbian/gay rights but it’s basically devoid of any common sense.

The reason we’ve always had separation in activism has never been particularly about exclusion specifically, but for reasons of focus, empowerment, allowing an oppressed voice space to speak and sharing experience. This, in turn, lead to clear analysis and particular campaigning. Separation in activism is both common and successful and has been used in anything from civil to gay rights.”

The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism, by @GappyTales ‏ 

… At the root of women’s oppression lies an unassailable biological reality. Women are denied reproductive rights, paid less than men for doing the same job, and carry out the vast bulk of unpaid labour in the home, for no other reason than we are biologically female. As a woman I don’t get to opt out of this reality. I don’t, for instance, get to say to my employer that today I’m identifying as male so will be expecting a pay rise commensurate with that fact. Gender on the other hand is imposed and performative, so I can present as feminine in make up and heels, or I can choose to shave my head and wear masculine clothing. Either way my biology and the discrimination I suffer as a result of it remains a fact, not a privilege. …”

The Sex Delusion by @GappyTales 

“We live in an age of alternative facts.

And so this article will begin with the premise that there are knowable truths, separate from our personal perspectives and belief systems. Water is wet, for example. Whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, water is never dry. With this in mind, here are some long agreed upon and universally recognised word definitions: 

1. Woman: An adult human female.

2. Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilised by male gametes.

3. Gender: The state of being male or female, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behaviour.

So a knowable truth gleaned from these definitions would be that sex is a biological reality, and gender a more malleable social construct. Let’s consider then, the medical condition of gender dysphoria, experienced by individuals as a distressing mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. Let’s imagine it on a spectrum. How many people do we know with no mismatch at all between their biological sex and the stereotypically gendered traits and behaviours associated with it? The truth is very few humans fit perfectly into pink and blue boxes meaning, surely, that we can dispense with any ideas of an existing gender binary. ”

 

Dress Rules for Women over 40 by @JumpMag   

“Another summer, another list of rules for women on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From the ‘how to get a bikini body’ articles (top tip – buy a bikini, put it on your body, done!) to this incredibly stupid list of rules for women over 40 years.

Here are my dress rules for women over 40.”

Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice 

Maria Mies:   Patriarchy and the Accumulation on a World Scale

This book provides a most important analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Maria Mies’ thesis is that patriarchy is at the core of capitalism, and in fact, capitalism would not have had its success in its accumulation of capital without patriarchal ideals and practices.

She builds on Federici’s analysis of the witch hunts, which were instrumental in the early developments of capitalism and argues, convincingly and in-depth, that the exploitation and oppression of women allowed for its successful domination of the world.  …

A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster 

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 11.48.11

In New York City in 1999, I heard a talk in which Riki Anne Wilchins (self-styled ‘transexual menace’, and described in the Gender Variance Who’s Who as ‘one of the iconic transgender persons of the 1990s’) declared that feminists had no theory of gender. I thought: ‘what is she talking about? Surely feminists invented the concept of gender!’

Fast forward ten years to 2009, when I went to a bookfair in Edinburgh to speak about The Trouble & Strife Reader, a collection of writing from a feminist magazine I’d been involved with since the 1980s. Afterwards, two young women came up to chat. Interesting book, they said, but why is there nothing in it about gender? …

 

How do they know who to kill?

Cross-posted from: Not a Zero Sum Game
Originally published: 17.02.17

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 09.20.22A video is doing the rounds, in which a white person with a lifetime of male socialisation behind them – in other words, someone at the apex of human privilege –  gives great fanfare to the banal observation that science is an activity rather than a phenomenon and that classification is the imposition of more-or-less imperfect linguistic concepts on a more-or-less well understood underlying physical reality. On the basis of this stoned undergrad level of profundity, this person now exhorts us to lay aside our childish attachment to the classifications “male” and “female” and admit that, given that sex is a “social construct”, then it’s just frankly not real, and our attachment to those categories is an old fashioned piece of bigotry that oppresses the minority who wish it to be known that their sex tracks their gender.


Read more How do they know who to kill?

The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 25.05.17

Manchester 16

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. Links between men who perpetrate violence against women  and terrorism are being identified and mass killersincluding school shooters, are almost always male.
Read more The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls by @K_IngalaSmith

When a Man Kills a Woman by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 27.11.16

Across everything that divides societies, we share in common that men’s violence against women is normalised, tolerated, justified – and hidden in plain sight.

Credit: Counting Dead Women project

… Responses to men’s violence against women which focus almost exclusively on  ‘healthy relationships’, supporting victim-survivors  and reforming the criminal justice system simply do not go far enough. Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of sex inequality between women and men.  The objectification of women, the sex trade, socially constructed gender, unequal pay, unequal distribution of caring responsibility are all  simultaneously symptomatic of structural inequality whilst maintaining a conducive context for men’s violence against women. Feminists know this and have been telling us for decades.

One of feminism’s important achievements is getting men’s violence against women into the mainstream and onto policy agendas.  One of the threats to these achievements 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.  State initiatives which are not nested within policies on equality between women and men will fail to reduce men’s violence against women.  Failing to even name the agent – men’s use of violence – is failure at the first hurdle. …


Read more When a Man Kills a Woman by @K_IngalaSmith

Even after death

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 03.11.16

I’ve often written about the case of William Burke Kirwan on this blog. His was the case that caused me to pursue a different path in life. Since 2010 I’ve been researching his murder of his wife and it’s lead me back to university and in directions I never dreamed of and there’s plenty more to do. So at this stage I’m a little bit proprietorial. My friends know this about me and tend to point out interesting nuggets about the case they stumble upon. In Dublin, after all, it’s a very well know case indeed. You can still argue about it if you take the boat out to Ireland’s Eye from Howth.

So when the Irish Times featured the case as part of their series of stories from their archives, quite a few Irish friends sent me the link and asked me what I thought. Now I’ll say again that this is a case that is very special to me so I’m apt to be a touch judgemental but in this case the article in question raised my hackles both as a historical scholar and as a court reporter. 
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Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny

Cross-posted from: Young Crone
Originally published: 05.10.16

On Sunday night, I watched the Louis Theroux documentary ‘Savile’, which investigated why he (and by extension, others) hadn’t realised who and what the thankfully deceased serial rapist and abuser Jimmy Savile was, back when he interviewed him in 2000. In it, Theroux recognises and acknowledges that he missed certain signs, etc., as did so many others, but at the end, when he finally concludes that we will probably never truly know how Savile got away with so much for so long, he is completely mistaken. Because it’s totally obvious why he did – misogyny. And Theroux, for all his soul-searching, for all his sense of guilt and shame, for all his willingness to research the topic and hear difficult things from victims, including insulting things about his own past involvement with Savile, never stops to analyse the most obvious reason for why he also failed to spot the truth – his own misogyny. As a liberal, lefty guy, he probably doesn’t think he’s sexist at all, and I imagine that if you met him, he probably would come across as very nice and less sexist than a lot of men. Like so many men, because he’s not an out-and-out leering chauvinist pig who thinks women should only exist to attract and service him, he thinks he’s not sexist. BUT. BUT. His misogyny and male entitlement and participation in patriarchy are glaringly obvious in the documentary.
Read more Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny

Femicide – Men’s Fatal Violence Against Women Goes Beyond Domestic Violence by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 18.05.15

I wrote this piece for Women’s Aid’s magazine Safe:

The Office for National Statistics released findings from the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales on 12 February. Men continue to be more likely to be killed than women, there were 343 male victims compared to 183 female victims (of all ages including children and babies). Court proceedings had concluded for 355 (55%) of 649 suspects relating to 536 homicides.  For those suspects where proceedings had concluded, 90% (338 suspects) were male and 10% were female (38 suspects). Men are more likely to be killed, but their killers are overwhelmingly men. Women are less likely to be killed, when they are, they are overwhelmingly killed by a man.  When we’re talking about fatal violence, we are almost always talking about men’s violence.
Read more Femicide – Men’s Fatal Violence Against Women Goes Beyond Domestic Violence by @K_IngalaSmith

November 25 is the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women – not White Ribbon Day

Cross-posted from: Louise Pennington
Originally published: 25.11.15

November 25th was first chosen as the date for an annual day of protest of male violence in 1981. This occurred at the first Feminist Conference for Latin American and Caribbean Women in Bogota. It was chosen in memory of Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel.

The Mirabel sisters were political activists who fought the fascist government of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. They stood up to a genocidal regime that used torture, rape and kidnapping and they were murdered for it. This is why November 25th was chosen as an international day of activism that “denounced all forms men’s violence against women from domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners.”

November 25th received official recognition as an international day to raise awareness of violence against women from United Nations on December 17, 1999.

None of this information is out with the public realm. Even Wikipedia, not known for its accuracy, manages to get the facts right. Yet, November 25th is rarely referred to as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women anymore. Instead, it is called White Ribbon day after a campaign started by men in Canada. 
Read more November 25 is the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women – not White Ribbon Day

Women and the Drug Traffickers by @andrews_Cath

Cross-posted from: Hiding under the bed is not the answer
Originally published: 26.05.12

Women’s participation in drug trafficking has recently made the headlines thanks to Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo, 2011) a Mexican film about a beauty pageant wannabe who is kidnapped and forced to become a drug runner for a gang of traffickers in Tijuana, received critical acclaim at Cannes last year. The screen play is loosely based on a real life incident in 2008 in which beauty queen Laura Zuñiga was arrested aboard a lorry full of explosives along with drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Similarly, La Reina del Sur(The Queen of the South), was one of this year’s most popular soap operas produced by television network Telemundo (USA) in conjunction with the Antena 3 network (Spain) and RTI Producciones (Colombia). The script was based on a novel by Spanish author Arturo Pérez Reverte and depicts the rise of Teresa Mendoza, a young woman from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, who becomes the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain. It seems likely that Mendoza is based on the example of Sandra Ávila Beltrón, alias the Queen of the Pacific, ex member of the Sinaloa cartel, who is currently in a Mexican prison waiting extradition to the US.

While undoubtedly showing how some women have become involved in drug gangs, neither screenplay could be said to accurately portray the complex realities of women’s experience in drug trafficking. Unsurprisingly, women’s participation in trafficking imitates their roles in other, more licit activities and clearly reflects Mexico’s dominant cultural attitudes towards them.


Read more Women and the Drug Traffickers by @andrews_Cath

Those twitching net curtains again

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 27.01.15

“Because they should know better…”

That’s what I was told when, as a young journalist, I asked why it was always bigger news when a crime was committed by someone in a white collar job. I never liked that answer. Let’s leave aside the fact that it assumes that anyone from a less privileged position in society doesn’t or can’t know that committing a crime is wrong, I just don’t think it’s the whole story.
Read more Those twitching net curtains again