Originally published: 31.12.17
Content Note for rape
This is a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and the construction of consent in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Content Note for rape
This is a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and the construction of consent in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Lisa Dando recently wrote in the Guardian about the closure of counselling services with histories of abuse, poverty and addiction.
“We supported women with complex needs. What will they do now?”
“One woman told me: “It was great to be in a safe environment and able to say things I wouldn’t normally feel able to voice, and to be heard in a completely non-judgmental way.’’ Another said it “helped to see that I wasn’t the problem. To recognise who I was and who I am. To break free and not be broken. To value myself in my future.””
This reminded me of an article I co-authored in 2011, which was published in Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, Australia.
It seems that women’s services continue to be under threat, and not only in Australia. Sadly this article is as relevant in 2018 as it was in 2011.
MairiVoice (Edit): I am an Australian radical feminist. I have had my blog for over a year now and write mostly about feminist political issues in Australia.I also run a feminist facebook page giving voice to radical feminism by sharing articles and interesting news. I have been a feminist for over 30 years and have been an activist around issues such as child sexual abuse, domestic violence and family law issues. I also love to read women’s books – both fiction and non-fiction – interested in feminist theory – and sometimes write about the books I am reading on my blog
This is the text of a keynote (and the inaugural Lincoln Lecture) delivered at the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies conference in Loughborough on June 12th 2018.
I am speaking today about sexual harassment and violence. It is difficult to speak about sexual harassment and violence; these are traumatic experiences, and survivors are subject to many forms of silencing. This is why ‘speaking out’ is crucial. We speak our truths publicly because problems need to be named, to be dealt with: and putting our trauma ‘out there’ is a way to avoid being consumed by it ‘in here’. But speech in this area is also vexed. Because of where and how we are able to speak our truths, because of how these truths constitute us as subjects and objects of discourse, and because of how our disclosures can be co-opted. We are also caught in a number of binaries and backlashes which position us or which we have to position against. There are binaries between men and women, between perpetrators and victims, which often map directly on to each other. There is a misogynistic, racist backlash from the so-called ‘alt’-right, and on the left what Sara Ahmed calls ‘progressive sexism’, which gives cover to sexual harassment and violence through critiques of neoliberalism and concerns about ‘moral panic.’ This is the context in which I share my thoughts about how sexual harassment and violence are ‘reckoned up’ in institutional and cultural economies. …
Alison Phipps: Genders, bodies, politics
The title of this post summarizes my thoughts whenever I have a discussion with men who seem to proudly display their ignorance about the constant attacks on women and girls. One should not have to pull heart strings in order for one side to have any feelings or even care about the subject at hand. It never forces men to have empathy for women and girls, it just reinforces the idea that men’s “damaged property” (female loved ones) should be the only reason why they should be against rape.
We hear this over and over and over again. Every single time a male actor, athlete, musician, artist, politician, chef (and the list goes on) are alleged to be perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and abuse, the refrain is “oh, everyone knew”.
‘Everyone knew’ about the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; allegations that go back decades. Yet, no one (read men) in positions of power followed even the most basic protection regulations and laws around sexual harassment.
Everyone also ‘knew’ about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour to children and women. Despite multiple allegations made to numerous people supposedly responsible for child protection and multiple reports to police, the media still didn’t want to publish the clear evidence of Savile’s sexually predatory behaviour even after he died. Everyone knew; no one talked.
Emily Maitlis recently spoke of her distress and frustration at the Criminal Justice System response to over 20 years of being stalked and I was asked to discuss the issue on BBC Radio 4’s PM Show.
The concept of the ‘good-enough’ mother, introduced by Winnicott (1965), is still in common use today in family law, and in health and social services. However, it is often misused to blame women for falling below expected standards of parenting rather using it in its intended context. It is often not understood that the concept of the good-enough mother was embedded in another concept: that of ‘the nursing triad’. Winnicott acknowledged that support for mothers is necessary to mothering. The author did not have an expectation that mothers could be ‘good-enough’ without the support of either the child’s father, or another supportive adult. On the contrary, Winnicott acknowledged that mothering would be very difficult without support: this was a concept that he applied to all mothers.
Read more Winnicott’s ‘good-enough’ mother
Roll up roll up … according to Twitter today, having a smear test is quick, easy, and nothing to be embarrassed about.
Apparently research has shown that women are too embarrassed to go for a smear test. This is being tweeted about today under the hashtag #SmearForSmear – a campaign which encourages women to post selfies of themselves with smeared lipstick on. Its to highlight that the number of women going for their routine cervical screen testing is falling.
The hashtag has been trending all morning, and all you have to do is have a quick look to see the mass consensus – that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, it doesn’t matter what your ‘lady garden’ looks like or doesn’t look like, that its quick, that it could save your life, that the nurse has seen it all before, that its worth it and so on.
Read more Smear Tests and being a survivor – #SmearForSmear @helen_a15
Whenever sexual harassment is discussed, someone will always pipe up “but they don’t mind it if the bloke’s good-looking!” as if that proves – what? That sexual harassment is a deeply unfair concept, designed to unjustly prevent unattractive men from exercising their natural right to grope their female colleagues and friends whenever they want? That women are inconsistent and “want it both ways”, i.e.: want to have friendships and love affairs and personal relationships with some members of the opposite sex, without being obliged to extend their personal relationships to every single other member of the opposite sex who might fancy a relationship with them – just like men do?
How galling must it be, to be treated with civility and politeness every day, instead of being treated to what you are entitled to: bantering, flirting, joshing around and the occasional knee-stroke during the working day. How outrageous is it, that a woman might connect with another male colleague more than she does with you, finding him wittier, more congenial and more interesting than you and therefore treating him with a level of friendliness and companionship that will never be extended to you because … well, er, just because she doesn’t like you as much.
Read more Yes we do want it both ways. Because we’re human. Just like men, by @Herbeatittude
This morning on the Today program I listened to a very interesting segment regarding deaths of children and young people in the criminal justic system. You can read more about it here:
The charity Inquest has worked with the Prison Reform Trust to produce a report
(called Fatally Flawed, can be found here) regarding deaths in custody, specifically those of children and young people under the age of 24. They report that in the past ten years 163 children and young people have died in the care of the state, mostly as a result of suicide (although there are cases where the cause of death was a result of, for example, the types of restraint used against them). Of those who died, two thirds of those under 18 and almost a third of those between 18 and 24 were being actively monitored for self harm and/or suicidal behaviour. Today’s coverage is as we await an announcement from the prisons minister, Jeremy Wright as to whether he will acquiesce to the charities’ request to hold a full independent enquiry. He has previously refused such calls, but has agreed to look at the request again.
Read more Why don’t women matter?, by @FeministBorgia
A flurry of internet indignation from rapey types has greeted the announcement of new guidelines for dealing with rape. New Guidelines
The guidelines advise that rape suspects who claim that the sex they had with a woman alleging rape was consensual, should be asked questions about how they ensured that the person alleging rape was actually consenting to that sex. Just as a man accused of burglary who said “no, guv, I didn’t do it” would be asked further questions to find out if he might be lying, a man accused of rape will be treated in exactly the same way.
This is considered extremely unfair by some sections of the internet, who appear to believe that rape suspects should be treated differently from any other crime suspect. “Off you go then mate” is apparently the correct response, followed by a no-crime report. By and large that’s exactly how it’s always been done and is one of the reasons our rape conviction rate has stood at round about 6-7% for the last few years: because police don’t bother to ask further questions in the way they do of other crime suspects. Now the DPP have issued guidelines to ensure that the police at least go through the basics of crime investigation when an allegation of rape is made, you would think that it means the presumption of innocence has been dumped.
Read more Wah! How am I supposed to know if someone consents to sex?, by @Herbeatittude
Hull City Council has recently published a Domestic Homicide Review[i] (DHR) into the murder of Christina Spillane, also known as Christina Randell. The conclusion in the Executive Summary of the full report stated ‘Nothing has come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’
On 5th December 2013, Christina Spillane had phoned the police and in the course of describing threatening and aggressive behaviour from Deland Allman, her partner of over 20 years, she told them that he was going to kill her. The claim that nothing suggested her murder could have been predicted is not just wrong, it is doing one of the things that DHRs are supposed to avoid: writing the voice of the victim out of her own narrative. Christina had herself predicted that Allman was going to kill her and she told this to the police the first time there was any recorded contact between her and them. Also, women are more likely to underestimate the risk they face from a violent partner than overestimate it. Her fears should not have been ignored whilst she was still alive, let alone after she had been killed.
The conclusion of the executive summary of the DHR, contrary to several examples given in the body of the report, states ‘There is nothing to indicate there were any barriers to reporting and advice and information was given to [Christina] regarding services but these were not taken up.’ This belies any understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and almost 1 in 10 will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Most women will never make any sort of formal report, to the police or any other service, statutory or otherwise, but most of them would be able to explain why they haven’t, exactly because of the multitude of barriers to doing so: shame, feeling it’s your own fault, not wanting to admit there’s a problem, feeling knackered enough and demoralised by the abuse and not being able to face telling a stranger about it, feeling judged, feeling more afraid of the unknown future than the known present or past. These are just a few examples from a much longer list of possibilities. On one occasion that the police were called to respond to Allman’s violence against Christina, their adult child had told the police that their mother, Christina ‘was too scared to call the police.’ That the panel of people assembled for the domestic homicide review panel declined to identify this, or any other significant barriers to reporting in the report’s conclusion, is a shockingly bad omission.
Research published in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 95% of women using women’s services preferred to receive them from a women only-organisation. Another report ‘Islands in the Stream’ by London Metropolitan University also stressed the importance of independent organisations. The domestic violence and abuse service in Hull is provided by Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, a multi-agency response within the council’s community safety function. This is not an independent woman-only organisation. It is remiss that the DHR report does not consider whether this might be a barrier to reporting. Indeed it only reinforces the suggestion that too many statutory commissioners are happy to ignore what women tell us about the services they most value and furthermore, that independent women’s organisations are often undervalued and their importance side-lined.
For Christina there were additional problems: she had problematic substance use and a long history of involvement in prostitution. The review details that she had a criminal record including ‘prostitute loitering and prostitute soliciting’ but does not consider even in passing that this may have affected her behaviour, choices, beliefs about herself or relationship with ‘the authorities’. By failing to look at this, the inclusion of this information in the review risks merely inviting judgment of her character, the expectation of which is itself a barrier to accessing support. Indeed a report by nia found that prostitution-specific criminal records have a profound and specific negative impact on women, massively influencing how they expect to be viewed by others. Additionally, involvement in prostitution itself is a homicide risk factor. The Femicide Census found that of women who were involved in prostitution and killed between 2009 and 2015, almost 20% had been killed by a current or former partner, suggesting prostitution must be recognised as not just a risk factor for or form of male violence, but also as a risk factor for intimate partner violence including homicide. There is no indication in the DHR that anyone on the review panel had an expertise in understanding the impacts of prostitution upon women and considered this a barrier.
On 1st February 2015, almost two years and two months after telling the police that she feared Allman would kill her, Christina Spillane was found dead. Allman had stabbed her three times and strangled her in an assault of such force that the blade had snapped. She was 51. Far from there being ‘Nothing [that had] come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’ as concluded in the executive summary, there had been a number of indicators of serious risk: escalating violence, threats to kill, reports of strangulation, separation, expression of suicidal thoughts by Allman, and male entitlement/possessiveness indicated by Allman’s belief that Christina was ‘having an affair’. Christina had spoken to the police, her GP, her drugs support agency, a support provider for women offenders and A&E between calling the police in December 2013 and her murder on the eve of 1st February 2015. It is simply incorrect to state that support ‘was not taken up’. Another interpretation is that Christina Spillane was desperately afraid and made multiple disclosures as she sought to find a route to safety, was facing multiple barriers to accessing specialist services and was failed by those that may have been able to help.
Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA, a charity set up to support families of victims of domestic homicide in memory of his sister and nephew who were murdered by their husband/father, says that the “victim’s perspective should permeate these reviews throughout”. The DHR in to the murder of Christina Spillane sorely failed to achieve this aim
No-one but the perpetrator, Deland Allman, bears responsibility for killing Christina. It is not the purpose of a DHR to redirect blame from violent killers (usually men) who make choices to end (usually women’s) lives. But if DHRs are to fulfil the functions of contributing to a better understanding and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, they cannot be a hand-washing exercise. They need to ask big questions, there needs to be a robust challenge to victim blaming and they must endeavour to see things from a victim’s (usually woman’s) perspective. If we want them to be part of what makes a difference, we need to make sure that we hear what victims of violence tell us, rather than use them as a means of absolving us from taking responsibility for the differences that we might have been able to make.
[i] Since 2001, local authorities have been required to undertake and usually publish reports on Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) where the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a relative, household member or someone they have been in an intimate relationship with. The purposes of the reviews, which should be chaired by an independent person with relevant expertise, include establishing and applying what lessons are to be learned from the ways that agencies work to safeguard victims and also, to contribute to a better understanding of and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse.
Sitting in the pub smiling,talking, living.
Aware of the next table, of being glared at,
by those that say they know you, never having met;
but you know someone told them this and crap.
What are they saying; they cant say that!
Don’t you go and correct them, sit down,
don’t go giving them my pain; laying it bare like a carcass bleeding,
let them think what they think,
let them imagine my stink, my crime,
my dishonour, my mystique.
For I’m just The Cunt with a cunt
with poor excuses,
not the decent hard working guy.
Expose the truth, leave it out in the air,
baked bare in the bright moonlight,forever seen unseen; they will still call it lie.
Why? Because I’m just a Cunt with a cunt, not a hard working guy
Today I bent and kissed my Granddaughter
goodbye at the gates of learning
and I whispered, be a good girl; as the sound was leaving my lips
I wanted to grab them and shove them back down my throat, swallowing hard
so that I’ll never say them again.
Digesting all the injustice,
the pain the anger,
the shock the disapointment
the shame, the disgust the hate,
the distrust the paranoia the fear, the anger, the lies, the saddness
the anger the fear the confusion. The confusion.
Better to be a Cunt with a cunt
than the eternal Good Girl, bending so hard
that the spine permenantly cracks
and the pages, sliding fall out;
he wanted me to burn my pages.
Burn all those Daddys little girl t-shirts;
destroy the Big day, say no to that guy.
Smile and be polite, its in their eyes even if they dont say it. Don’t explain; your
truth isn’t meant for their gossip,
even though they desire it.
be the Cunt with a cunt, they wont like it;
they dont understand it.
They want it;
ownership of your story, to tell it their way,
the guy’s way.
Superglue your tearducts and vasaline that smile.
Fix the spine.
Rearrange the pages, set the title, tell the story,
living, talking,being the Cunt with a cunt
with the angry eye, with the knowing look
Smiling the Good Girl smile, they don’t believe it;
the good girl smile, but then you don’t either.
Your the Cunt with a cunt not the decent hardworking guy.
PonderingLif: My blog is a mixture of feminist thought on events in my life as well as comments on recent events. It also includes short stories. I’m not sure what specific category you would include me under if you chose to do so. @PonderingLif, also on facebook.
I have been cross-posting my writing on The Huffington Post Blog for a while, but until recently, no one had commented on any of my pieces. That changed last month, when The HP posted my story about rape. All of sudden, dozens of comments piled up at the bottom of this one essay.
Almost all of the responses were supportive and empathetic, and many people shared their own stories. Some commenters, however, used the space to express their belief that girls and women have a duty to protect themselves. They argued that “predators pray [sic] on easy targets,” and that there are certain situations “where even ‘no’ has no meaning.”
The Not Me : In school, my art work was about the construction of gender, conflicting female identities, fairy tales, and cognitive dissonance (images at francescamilliken.com).
On Saturday January 21st the Women’s March on Washington took place in order to protest the potential effects the election of president Donald Trump would have on women’s rights in the USA. Conceived of by women, organised by women, networked and shared by women and overwhelmingly attended by women, the Women’s March became a chance for women worldwide to join in solidarity with their American sisters, and march for women’s rights in towns and cities all over the world. And this is what women did, in large numbers and in many places.
It is quite clear from the pictures that this was a women’s event, though it was by no means exclusionary – anyone could attend, but the focus was on women. In the UK for example there were many feminist and women’s groups represented:
Read more The Women’s March and the Erasure of Women by @helensaxby11
The Guardian recently published leaked documents of hundreds of pages of abuse and sexual assault of women and children on Nauru’s off-shore refugee detention centre. Much of this abuse appears to have been at the hands of the Wilson’s security guards at the facility.
There have been articles since condemning the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers and its blatant disregard of these abuses, such as that written by Jennifer Wilson.
The Immigration Minister, Mr. Peter Dutton’s response to the publication of the leaked files was:
“some people do have a motivation to make a false complaint”…”I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault,”
Whilst our focus must be on stopping our government for perpetuating such abuse on women and children, women and children who are fleeing from horrific wars and violence in their own countries, it is also important to put this in the context of the patriarchal world that we live in.
Read more Same Old Patriarchal Crap: Abuse and violence against refugee women and children.
I won’t go too deeply into my past traumas except to say that I have been at the receiving end of sexual abuse on more than one occasion. As a 13 year old I was molested by a friend of the family of people I stayed with whilst my parents cared for my hospitalised sister. As a pregnant 21 year old I was sexually assaulted by my sister’s friend. As a 26 year old I was raped by my friend. These are not the only times I have experienced sexual violence.
I don’t want to cause anyone harm by recounting the details of these experiences, and to be honest, I couldn’t if I wanted to. I keep these memories locked in a box, and I do my best to keep the lid on. Sometimes I don’t succeed, and at those times I’m knocked down in a violent onslaught. On one such occasion my husband came up to me and tried to gently place his arms around me to hug me. That lead to the lid bursting off. I don’t remember all that happened. It was as if I blacked out. All I really know is that, when it was over, I was sat on the floor, rocking and shaking, with my face swollen by tears and mucus in my hair. On the ground, all around me, were shards of smashed pottery. I had broken every plate. The kitchen looked as if a bomb had hit it.
Read more On trigger warnings, PTSD, and Stephen Fry (TW-non-graphic refs to rape & SH)
I’m beginning to think that men shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion on the sex trade, let alone be in charge of deciding the legislation around it. In the last few weeks we have found out that Keith Vaz is a punter, that the Lib Dems are happy with the idea of prostitution being on the careers curriculum at school, and that Jeremy Corbyn just doesn’t care that much:
“Most important the figure of the witch…in this volume is placed at the center-stage, as the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy; the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeha woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” (p.1)
I have just finished reading this fascinating and excellent work.
I am avid enthusiast of the need for the reclaiming of women’s history and the necessity to document and learn about women’s past roles in our history. So it was with excitement that I came across this important work.
Federici gave me an interesting perspective on women’s history as she claims that it is not just about reclaiming women’s hidden history but understanding how women are often at the centre of historical events but their role has been diminished by historical accounts.
Read more Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – a review at Mairi Voice
It’s that time again, when the liberal left pretends to be totally outraged by some heinous act of sexism which they’d ordinarily condone. Perhaps I should feel relieved. Perhaps I should think “well, at least one sexist out of the many millions is getting his comeuppance.” But instead I feel tremendously depressed. I don’t believe the outrage over Donald Trump. Yet again it’s feminism being used for anything but the purpose of liberating women.
So the GOP has chosen Trump’s “lewd” admissions of grabbing women “by the pussy,” caught on tape, as the excuse to distance themselves from him. Fair enough. They’ve known about the creepiness, the misogyny, the rape accusations, for long enough, but better late than never. They could of course have drawn the line over some other form of discrimination – one which, as many liberal commentators have helpfully suggested, affects actual people, such as men – but you can’t have everything. Hey, at least a trivial issue such as sexual assault is being used for the greater good.
I don’t believe anyone is actually outraged, though. Not women, nor men, either, and not merely because this is “what they’re all really like.” It’s just another of these increasingly false dawns, a cleansing ritual of sorts, whereby everyone gets to performatively express horror at one man’s sexism and by doing so absolve themselves of guilt. Take our sins upon you, oh tiny-handed one, that we may once again be pure (and not have to liberate women in any meaningful, practical way, which might cost us time, money and our precious ‘rights’).
Read more I don’t believe the outrage over Donald Trump by @glosswitch