Women’s Services in the Twenty-First Century: Where are We Heading?, at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: http://mairivoice.femininebyte.org/?p=745
Originally published: 23.05.18

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.

Women’s Services in the Twenty-First Century: Where are We Heading?


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

The Blood on My Hands by Shannon O’Leary, a review via @Durre_Shahwar

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 26.07.16

“Set in 1960s and ‘70s Australia, The Blood on My Hands is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years, growing up with an abusive father, who was also a serial killer. No one, not even the authorities, would help O’Leary and her family. The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reached out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives were afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemned the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevented the police from interfering unless someone was killed. “



The Blood on My Hands is a gripping read, with underlying tension throughout the book, right from the beginning. Every recollection is detailed and concise, be it the author’s memories of her pets and animals or her days at school. It is full of rich descriptions of the characters and the hot Australian setting. The book has a structured, chronological timeline of events, which works without losing the storytelling/memoir feel.

Yet this is not for the weak-hearted. The story is gruelling and traumatic, not for the shock effect, but because this is a story that needs to be told, and the detailed account is an evidence of that. It could be argued that it didn’t need to be so detailed and horrific, and the more traumatising recollections could have been toned down. However, while as a reader, I see the reason why others may feel this way, but as a human, there is credit to be given to Shannon for being so honest and vulnerable on the page.  ….


The full text is here. 

HerStory (Durre Shahwar)I’m a writer, a book reviewer, and an MA Creative Writing graduate. As a South Asian female, I’ve identified as a feminist, since a teen and to this day, I’m writing about what that means and trying to put my experiences into words. My blog was named ‘Herstory’ after my research into Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own during my degree. The term has been the driving factor behind my writing. We all have stories to tell, voices that need to be heard, especially from women of colour, and I hope to be one of them. On my blog, I write book reviews and other content related to the craft of writing and sometimes, academia. I’m interested in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, mental health, intersectional feminism, gender, religion, art, yoga – though not always in that order or mixture! I’m slowly getting my writing published, and trying to review more book by women/women of colour, for which, I am happy to be contacted for via my blog or on Twitter: @Durre_Shahwar.


Everyone Knew: Male Violence & Celebrity Culture, by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Everyone Knew
Originally published: 30.11.17

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 07.41.08

Everyone knew.

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.

Read more Everyone Knew: Male Violence & Celebrity Culture, by @LK_Pennington

Emily Maitlis, stalking victims and systemic failures

Cross-posted from: Rachel Horman
Originally published: 23.01.18

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.

She was particularly upset at the fact that he had been able to contact her whilst imprisoned for breach of the restraining order and the lack of treatment programmes available for perpetrators of stalking. Edward Vines who she had met at university had breached the restraining order on a number of occasions and each time he was released from custody he went on to breach the order again.Unfortunately this is not unusual and is the nature of stalking. Stalking is characterised by obsession and fixation which is why it is so important to take immediate robust action to attempt to stem the cycle of abuse before it becomes entrenched.

Read more Emily Maitlis, stalking victims and systemic failures

Of Ducks and Drakes: Male Violence Across Species, by @terristrange

Cross-posted from: The Arctic Feminist
Originally published: 17.12.17

Mothers Day, several years ago, I went with a friend to feed the ducks (and possibly nutria) at a local park. It was supposed to be a pleasant excursion to take my friend’s mind off of troubles with her own kids and to see some animals. It ended up being a sad and clarifying outing.

The nutria did not come out which was unfortunate as they’re really incredible creatures to interact with. We were flooded with ducks and geese grabbing our treats. After we ran out of goodies for the birds we sat talking and let everyone get back to their routines. It didn’t take long before we witnessed a horrific scene on the water of several drakes gang-raping a duck, her screaming out in pain and fear. We shouted at them and threw rocks into the water in the hopes of scaring them off but could only do so much to frighten them. They did let up soon after they were interrupted by us but it was too late, she was already hurt and violated.
Read more Of Ducks and Drakes: Male Violence Across Species, by @terristrange

#MeToo: A Hard Freedom To Bear, by @God_loves_women

Cross-posted from: God Loves Women
Originally published: 18.10.17

I’ve been working out if or how to write about #metoo.  The hashtag was started over ten years ago by Tarana Burke to enable women in underprivileged communities who did not have access to rape crisis centers or counseling, to be able to share their stories of having been subjected to sexual assault.  In the wake of the New Yorker publishing details of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault of women across Hollywood (over a number of decades), actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to tweet their stories of sexual harassment.  A million people have tweeted using the hashtag in the last few days, with many people also using it on Facebook.


The most wonderful Vicky Walker has written over at Premier “Harvey Weinstein isn’t just Hollywood. Men like him exist in our churches too”.  Vicky’s piece, which included her own personal experiences of having been subjected to harassment by Christian men, has been commented on by a number of men.  Peter tells us that, I am concerned that this article is actually approaching the whole issue from the wrong perspective.” (What wisdom Paul has…)  Whilst Paul tells us that, Plenty of conjecture and personal anecdote but nowhere near enough sources to properly level the claim with credibility.”  (I’m hoping Paul is going to commission a nationwide survey on harassment in churches to help us get the data he thinks is acceptable.)

Read more #MeToo: A Hard Freedom To Bear, by @God_loves_women

Why don’t women matter?, by @FeministBorgia

Cross-posted from: Feminist Borgia
Originally published: 06.02.14

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

Writing women’s lived reality out of the narrative of their death

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 14.07.17

8 Christina Randall

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.


Karen Ingala Smith: Blogs (mainly) about men’s violence against women, feminism, inequality, infertility.  Twitter @K_IngalaSmith


50 billion shades of feminism by Rahila Gupta for @Strifejournal

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 06.07.13

The brutal gang-rape that took place on a bus in Delhi in December 2012 galvanized feminists both in India and around the world. Among them there were differing views on what this horrific incident meant and what should be done about it; but those differences did not stop women from taking united action. Rahila Gupta argues that if we keep our larger goals in sight, while also acknowledging that different contexts call for different political responses, the many shades of feminism can merge into one strong, vibrant colour*.  

It’s become fashionable, after the meteoric rise of that mediocre book, to refer to 50 shades of everything. When it’s applied to feminism, however, I worry that it underlines our divisions whilst appearing to celebrate our diversity. At the level of discussion, it’s important to tease out our differences; but at the level of action, we’re trying to build bridges and coalitions by keeping the bigger goals in sight.

Shades of opinion are not just about women squabbling among themselves about the best way forward, but about different contexts giving rise to different demands. With that in mind, I want to talk about the brutal gang rape on a bus of a 23 year-old woman who was left for dead in Delhi last December. Different shades of opinion emerged in the solidarity actions that took place in the UK, but they did not prevent a common platform of action.
Read more 50 billion shades of feminism by Rahila Gupta for @Strifejournal

The Women’s March Washington: The Speeches by Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Angela Davis’s Women’s March Speech via @ElleMagazine

“At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans-people, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.

“We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.

“The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.” …

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Gloria Steinem’s Historic Women’s March Speech  via @MarieClaire

“Friends, sisters and brothers, all of you who are before me today and in 370 marches in every state in this country and on six continents and those who will be communing with us in one at 1 [p.m.] in a silent minute for equality in offices, in kitchens, in factories, in prisons, all over the world. I thank each of you, and I especially want to thank the hardworking visionary organizers of this women-led, inclusive march, one of whom managed to give birth while she was organizing this march. Who else can say that?

Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams.

I think that because I and my beloved co-chairs, the Golden oldies right?–Harry Belafonte, Dolores Huerta, LaDonna Harris–all these great people, we may be the oldest marchers here today, so I’ve been thinking about the uses of a long life, and one of them is you remember when things were worse. …

Socialist Resistance and Sisterhood by K_IngalaSmith

Last year I wrote a piece for Socialist Resistance.  I talked about my work for a feminist women’s charity working with women who have experienced men’s violence in the context of some of my thoughts about feminism and social class.

I have asked Socialist Resistance to take the piece down following their behaviour towards another feminist, Glosswitch.  You can read about what happened – and the piece that she was asked to write –  here.

As a working-class woman, my sex-class is as important to me as my socio-economic class. Women’s oppression is biologically based and reinforced by socially constructed gender.  Though not the same, there are similarities to the way that access or lack of access to material resources is reinforced and reproduced by the different life chances and opportunities afforded to a person on the basis of social class.
I will not turn my back on my sister.
The piece I wrote for Socialist Resistance, which was written in the format of an interview, appears below for anyone who is interested in the challenges of balancing feminist activism and work in the women’s sector.

Read more Socialist Resistance and Sisterhood 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

Why talking about male violence matters by @SarahDitum

(Cross-posted from Sarah Ditum’s Paperhous)

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is also the international day of tediously explaining why violence against women needs to be discussed as a category. November 25 is the day when you will be reminded that two thirds of homicide victims in England and Wales are male, and that (according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales) men are twice as likely as women to have been victims of violence. November 25 is the day of being reminded that women commit violence too. Last year, I was at an End Violence Against Women event in Bristol where a man had bought a ticket solely so he could stand up in the middle of the discussion and shout, “What about Joanna Dennehy?” (Dennehy became the first woman subject to a whole life tariff in February this year, when she was convicted of the murders of three men). What about Joanna Dennehy, then? After all, it’s true that women are also implicated in violence:

Yes, women are violent too. But the traffic of violence is overwhelmingly from men, and disproportionately to women. As a class, men are the bearers of violence. As a class, women are its victims. And this is why feminists talk about male violence: not for lack of concern about the violence perpetrated by women, but because as a demographic phenomenon, violence is masculine. For this reason, we can draw connections between the patterns of violence and other areas of male domination. What about the fact that women are more likely to live in poverty than men? The fact that the UK has a pay gap of 19.7% in favour of men? The fact that women make up just 23% of MPs? What about the fact that purchasers of sex are exclusively men – is that relevant here? All of these inequalities exist in an environment shaped by that traffic of violence: from men, to women. All of them must be addressed in the acknowledgement of that context, if they are to be addressed at all.
Read more Why talking about male violence matters by @SarahDitum

Finding Our Voices by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 17.06.14

In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions become strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences.

Audre Lorde

I’ve been pushing the urge to blog to the back of my mind.

It was inevitable for a couple of reasons.

The first is finding myself in a state of permanent rage over the multitude of injustices which girls and women in Uganda on the continent and globally, have faced historically and still suffer on a daily basis. Hardly a day goes by, not even an hour, without a report: man rapes woman, wife beaten, man kills woman, girl raped by father, soldiers rape women, and so on.

In the era of widely touted Millennium Development Goals, Uganda is in the lead or close to the top when it comes to incidence of child marriagesexual abuse of childrenteenage pregnancy, sexual harassment and assault (rape is hardly reported; on record is mostly that by LRA insurgents during the war in northern Uganda), intimate partner violencematernal mortality, and deaths from complications arising from unsafe abortions. The horrors are endless to the point that many have become desensitized to the real suffering, in real time, of real people.

Human-beings. Girls. Women.
Read more Finding Our Voices by @EstellaMz

Sex-differences and ‘domestic violence murders’ by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 14.03.15
What could we do if we wanted to hide the reality of men’s violence against women?

Firstly, we might have  a ‘gender neutral’ definition of domestic violence.  Maybe like the UK government which uses the following definition:

“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial [and] emotional.”

Not only treating ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as the same thing, this definition erases sex differences.  It includes the phrase ‘regardless of gender’ when in reality men – as a biological sex-class – are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, and women – as a biological sex-class – are overwhelming the victims of ‘domestic violence’ (more on the differences between male and female victims of intimate partner violence here).  It is also broad, including violence  and abuse committed between any family members.  Whilst this can be useful, for example allowing service provision to be made available for those experiencing violence and abuse from any  family member, sometimes it is important to focus on ‘intimate-partner violence’, including that committed by former intimate partners.
Read more Sex-differences and ‘domestic violence murders’ by @K_IngalaSmith

Why Morality Is Not Arbitrary Or Trivial

(Cross-posted from Equinox Until Solstice)


[Trigger warning: murder, death, loss/grief]

First up, let’s get us to all agree that there are experiences which are objectively good (pleasant), and those that are objectively bad (unpleasant). You all with me there?

Next. Take murder for example: murder is objectively bad* because everyone has, to a degree, an innate drive to continue living, to survive. One cannot assume that another individual does not have this basic “will to live” – it has to be assumed to be there by default. It’s nature.

(Still with me? Good. No? Feel free to comment below explaining why.)

Even so, the above only takes into account the victim as an individual. It is far more likely than not that a murdered individual would have family and friends who love and care about them, and would be deeply saddened by their death. Murder would undoubtly cause suffering to them. The grief of losing a loved one is an undeniably terrible emotion.

Really. Experiences like physical pain, sadness, fear, etc. etc. are objectively bad. They just are. That isn’t something that’s up for debate.

*Alright, at this point I guess gotta clarify the asterisk. I am not working with the definition that bad = wrong. The former is objective reality, the latter is a human idea. Morality is what connects the two. I am simply explaining the framework under which the concept of morality is built upon, which happens to be material reality. If, objectively speaking, there is no such thing as right or wrong, then sure, causing harm isn’t objectively wrong, but it is objectivelybad.

Okay, we’ve reached the point I want to talk about: harm. What if we live in a world withoutharm? I mean, if suffering and destruction do not exist, then what good is morality for? The entire concept of morality would be obsolete, wholly inapplicable, if no harm could be done, wouldn’t it?

Time to get our heads in the clouds back to the ground, because we do not live in such a perfect fantasy paradise world. We live in a world where committing harm is always possible. That isn’t up for debate either.

It’s also why morality is going to be relevant, as long as human existence is.

(Again, these are just my two cents. Seriously, comment if you happen to disagree. Hopefully not with the points that just ~really~ aren’t up for debate, though.)


Equinox Until Solstice: A young Asian Australian feminist sharing her artwork and writing. Sometimes I blog about philosophy and politics.

“Je Suis Charlie”: The Lives We Value, The Lives We Don’t by @VABVOX

The morning of January 7, three gunmen, brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi, 32 and 34 and Hamyd Mourad, 18, stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris. The Kouachi brothers are alleged to have carried out what are described as point-blank executions of ten of the newspaper’s staff of journalists, including four cartoonists, as well as two police officers. Mourad, who turned himself in to police, was the getaway driver.

All three men are native-born Frenchmen. The Kouachi brothers have a history with police. Chérif had allegedly planned attacks on French Jews and both men have been linked to al Qaeda.

In addition to the 12 dead, 11 others were wounded. The death toll is expected to rise.

The assault on the paper and the massive number of casualties brought immediate responses worldwide, from journalists and editorial cartoonists who decried the attack as an assault on free speech, to political leaders–France’s President Hollande, America’s President Obama, the UK’s Prime Minister Cameron. Every response was in agreement–this was an attack on freedom and freedom of speech, an attack on the civilized world by those who are uncivilized.

US Secretary of State John Kerry–who speaks fluent French–put it succinctly when he said of the murders that they “are part of a larger confrontation, not between civilizations–no–but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world.

A “civilized world.”

That is not the world in which I live–as a woman, as a lesbian, in the poorest big city in America where nearly one in two of us lives at or below the poverty level and which has more rapes and murders than any of the top ten largest cities. My life is under threat every day–the real threats that come from being a woman in a crime-ridden poverty-stricken urban environment and the sort promulgated on social media where one never knows if the anonymous person on the other end of a tweet may actually rape you or stab you or toss a lit match to your gasoline-drenched body as they propose doing in a public forum for all to see, unchallenged.

The world in which I and the majority of women live is the one in which a third of us–more than one billion women–will be a victim of male violence.

Just as the 12 people murdered at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper were.

Male violence is the out-of-control pandemic we refuse to name. We cite each new event of catastrophic violence as if it happens in a vacuum: the Paris massacre, the Sydney siege, the mass murder of a family in Pennsylvania by a former veteran, the shooting of two police officers in New York City by a man who had already shot his former girlfriend, the shootings of unarmed black men and women by police, and on and on and on.

We talk about the perpetrators of these acts and their victims in various linguistic constructs–some are deemed terrorists, some deemed mentally ill, some criminals, some just doing their jobs.

What we don’t say, what we never say is, “Yet another brutal incident of male violence.” Yet the common denominator is not white or black, Muslim or Christian, mentally ill or not. The common denominator is that these killers are men. At some point we have to strip away all the isms and races, ethnicities and religions and realize male entitlement promotes and excuses male violence and a male-run and orchestrated media refuses to acknowledge that incontovertible common denominator.

Within hours of the Paris attack, social media was pulsing with comments, many in solidarity with the French, others darkly accusatory of Muslims and Islam, all ignoring male violence. A range of hashtags trended on Twitter, the most viral of which was #JeSuisCharlie (I Am Charlie). The most disturbing hash tag was #KillAllMuslims–proudly started by a man.

As evening fell across France, vigils with massive numbers of people flooded the streets and boulevards of Paris and other French cities holding signs that read Je Suis Charlie and Pas Peur (Not Afraid). Similar vigils sprang up in other places around the world.

As an American who used to live and work in New York City and for whom 9/11 still resonates deeply, all such violence unsettles me. I don’t pretend to understand the killing of innocent people. It’s incomprehensible to me.

I don’t understand what drives male violence.

As a journalist, any attack on journalists or freedom of speech concerns me. Without journalists there quite simply is no truth. Those of us who are reporters bring the news to the rest of the world and often risk–or even lose–our lives in the process.

So the attack on a newspaper that used satire to address political and social issues in France and abroad was highly inflammatory and meant to send a message of silencing and fear.

While the massacre in Paris was being carried out, paramedics were clearing the scene of a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen. In that attack, staged outside a police academy where students were lined up and waiting to enroll, 37 people were killed and 66 wounded. As in Paris, the death toll was expected to rise.

But while the world converged to decry the violence of the Paris attack, the attack in Sanaa didn’t even make it through the full day’s news cycle. By mid-day it was off the BBC crawl, which meant it was old news.

Which meant, again, that those lives were meaningless to the West, even though Yemen is third on the list of most-bombed sites by American drones, after Afghanistan and Pakistan.

No president spoke out against the loss of life. Not even Yemen’s president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. There were no rallies. No tweets of solidarity. No hashtags.

Silence. Because that is how the majority of male violence is met: With silence.


In 2014, when ISIS was beheading journalists every few weeks, there were three beheadings of women in and around London. Two were categorized as “domestic” as the Muslim women were killed by their husbands and the third, of 82 year old Palmira Silva, while she was gardening, was considered a random act by a man who was described as mentally ill.

Two weeks after the beheading of Silva, two women were beheaded in their Oklahoma workplace in the US by a male co-worker who was also described as mentally ill. Another beheading of a woman a month later was listed as a domestic incident and her husband charged.

None of these beheadings of women was categorized as terrorism.

As those beheadings made brief, if dismissive, headlines, dozens of women and girls were beheaded by ISIS and a dozen more were beheaded by the government of Saudi Arabia–a close ally to both the US and UK. Those killings went unremarked, unlike those of the journalists which were decried by Obama and Cameron.

The perpetrators of every one of these beheadings–whether individual acts of violence in the West, or state-sponsored or ISIS-sponsored in the Middle East–was perpetrated by men but once again that fact was never a headline.

May never be a headline. Because we expect male violence. It’s incorporated into our view of the world. No one ever questions the sex of a murderer–that a killer would be other than male is anomalous.

We know who the perpetrators are.


As I navigated social media after the Paris killings, I found myself in a deeply emotional state that I could not articulate. I am not Muslim. There are no Muslims in my family. And while I do have Muslim friends and live in a neighborhood with a large Muslim population and a mosque only three blocks from my house, I am a Catholic and half my family are Jewish. There was no real link for me to the Muslim community.

Except perhaps that affinity the marginalized have toward each other in times of crisis.

I felt solidarity with the French–I knew this act of violence shocked them to their core because of its blatant brutality. And then, of course, there is the silencing of editorial voices–that can never be excused. As a journalist who has worked in daily newspapers my entire adult life, mostly working on stories that wouldn’t have been told without me, I know how precious the editorial voice is. Also, I have  friends and colleagues who are editorial cartoonists. Their pictures are often worth the proverbial thousand words.

And yet as the day wore on, I felt discomfitted and struggled to articulate why, even to myself, even as I cried watching the news footage of the massive rallies of mourners throughout France and beyond.

One colleague of mine helped me articulate what I could not. Signe Wilkinson, the editorial cartoonist from the daily newspaper where I was a reporter and columnist for years was on the local TV news repeatedly over the course of the day talking about the Charlie Hebdo killings and her own work as a satirist. Wilkinson was the first woman editorial cartoonist to win the Pulitzer Prize and her work is phenomenal. One of her previous cartoons was all over Twitter as it depicted Mohammed and some of his prophets laughing at a book of satirical cartoons. The message was Mohammed had a sense of humor even if his followers did not.

Wilkinson said she was not afraid and she also said people needed to understand that “a cartoon can’t hurt anyone.”

Except, actually, it can. A cartoon can promulgate an immeasurable amount of hate.

That was the clarifying moment for me.

I had supplemented my tweets of #JeSuisCharlie almost immediately with #JeSuisMusulman (I Am Muslim). I had added this before it was an actual hash tag because I felt some inchoate need to do so–and because I actually felt uncomfortable with #JeSuisCharlie. Not because I didn’t feel that solidarity with slain journalists; I absolutely did.

But because I knew the work of Charlie Hebdo–everyone in newspapers did. And I was, frankly, appalled by it.

I could only embrace #JeSuisCharlie in as much as I am a journalist and revere free speech. I tweeted #JeSuisCharlie because  I find violence both abhorrent and inhuman and these journalists had been slaughtered in their desk chairs. None had left their homes that morning knowing the next hours would be their last.

Because they were men–white men with privilege–they never considered male violence to be a threat to them.

Despite the solidarity I felt with the victims in the face of such brutality, what I was not, and am still not, is accepting of the kind of work Charlie Hebdo produced. And I am not fully convinced that such work is a useful or necessary editorial tool.

Two mornings before the Paris massacre I had seen a tweet on a close friend’s timeline that made my stomach churn–a quote attributed to Voltaire, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

Accompanying the quote was a cartoon of a giant hand crushing a plethora of people. But added to the original cartoon–which has a plain, unadorned  sleeve–was the Judenstar, the Star of David that Jews in concentration camps were forced to wear.

I was horrified. Horrified at the image and horrified to find it amongst my friend’s tweets. I replied to it–it was a retweet from a prominent Green Party politician in London–saying I found the anti-Semitism offensive and noted the Nazi connection.

Both my friend and the Green Party man apologized. They actually hadn’t noticed. They had both thought of the quote and image as anti-Tory. The original tweeter deleted it. But I left Twitter for the day thoroughly  unsettled by what had happened. The Hitlerian propaganda of the “vast Zionist conspiracy” had propelled the Holocaust and sent members of my own family to the death camps and others fleeing for their lives.

Throughout the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, it was editorial cartoons–depictions of hook-nosed Jews with tallis and long beards counting money while blond-haired Aryans stood by starving–that had bolstered the perception of Jews as the ruination of Germany, the source of the economic disruption that was actually caused by restrictions imposed by America and Britain after the end of WWI.

In the US, editorial cartoons of slack-jawed blacks with shuffling gaits and vacant stares bolstered the racism that permeated the country blatantly for two centuries. A casual foray to any white supremacist website in the US today  will find more of these anti-Semitic and anti-black cartoons–as if it were still 1815, not 2015.

You will find regrettably similar cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, the shuffling blacks from America’s most shameful racism replaced by a drooling, googly-eyed Mohamed stumbling through the desert with a camel. The hook-nosed Jews of 1930s Berlin can also be found there.

I can be a proponent of free speech and not  want to be party to that kind of editorializing. A friend said people needed to have a sense of humor about cartoons. But the people who say this all seem to be white, Western and almost wholly male. They are neither Muslims nor Jews. They are the people who if they are killed, get worldwide headlines and hashtags and a day of mourning. They are not the people whose names are never known. They are not the French Jews dragged out of their  houses in the center of Paris and put on cattle cars to Mauthausen concentration camp after having been informed upon by their Christian neighbors, nor are they the French-born Muslims shunted into banlieues–the Parisian slums where France hides her jobless refugees from French colonialism in North Africa.

Feminists know some lives matter more than others, because the lives of women are under constant threat worldwide and no one cares. Feminists know that theirs is the one political philosophy that has never killed anyone. Feminists know that if men didn’t respond with violence to everything, be it an editorial cartoon or a dinner not to a husband’s liking, the world would be a better, more livable place. Feminists know that until and unless we face the destructive, pandemic force that is male violence, there will always be lives that matter and lives that do not. We will know the names of white French men victims and never know the names of Muslim Yemeni women victims–even if they are killed for the same reasons.

We may say “pas peur” in solidarity, but it is a solidarity that if illusory and doesn’t actually include us. For women, for Muslims, for Jews, for anyone who comes from a marginalized group or class, “pas peur” can never be true. Those of us who are the real targets of violence–which is not the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, who are actually anomalous victims–are in fact, afraid. We are afraid precisely because we know our lives have little worth in the global hierarchy. We know there will never be massive vigils held for us or hash tags created to memorialize us.

The Paris shooting unsettled the world precisely because its victims were not the victims we usually see–and dismiss. And that is perhaps the saddest sidebar to this tragedy: that the violence will not end because we will never call it by its real name.

Feminists know the source of the all these brutal killings.When will the rest of the world catch up?


Victoria A. Brownworth is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer and the author and editor of nearly 30 books. She has won the NLGJA and the Society of Professional Journalists awards, the Lambda Literary Award and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She won the 2013 SPJ Award for Enterprise Reporting in May 2014. She is a regular contributor to The Advocate and SheWired, a blogger for Huffington Post and a columnist and contributing editor for Curve magazine and Lambda Literary Review. Her reporting and commentary has appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. Her book, From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth won the 2012 Moonbeam Award for cultural&historical fiction. Her novel, Ordinary Mayhem, will be published in February 2015. Her book Erasure: Silencing Lesbians, will be published in June 2015. @VABVOX


The Power of Derailing Political Discussions about Male Violence by @EVB_Now

(cross-posted from Ending Victimisation and Blame)

This morning we received a link to a Jezebel article entitled “Woman Shot and Killed After Refusing to Give Man Her Phone Number” from . 27-year old Mary “Unique” Spears was shot to death for refusing to give out her phone number to a man. The unnamed (as of yet) suspect shot Spears three times and then injured 4 other people as they left an American Legion following the funeral of a family member.

The comments below the article are full of women sharing their stories of a man refusing to respect their boundaries, continuing to harass them and then the subsequent victim-blaming when the incident changed from a man refusing to accept the word no to violence. We recommend that all our male supporters read through the comments to understand the reality of male violence that women live with everyday.

One comment, in particular, stuck out:

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 07.44.41Following an article where a woman was brutally murdered by an entitled man who did not believe she had the right to personal & bodily autonomy, one man felt the need to include the caveat “certain men”. This is a derailing tactic. Women understand that only certain men perpetrate misogynistic violence – whether this be domestic & sexual violence and abuse, street harassment, or fatal violence. Women cannot tell, just be looking, which men  will perpetrate violence so women take precautions. We tell men, as Mary Spears did, that we “belong” to another man (in this case she was out with her fiancé); we give false phone numbers, and sometimes we acquiesce to the unwanted social interaction because of fear of being killed. These fears aren’t unreasonable or paranoid.

When men derail women’s conversations about their experiences of male violence to say “not all men” or “certain men”, they are telling women their individual experiences aren’t important. It is a silencing tactic which suggests that men’s feelings are more important than women’s safety. This leads to blaming women for experiencing male violence: if only she was nicer to him, made it clearer she wasn’t interested, said no “properly”.

This derailment is part of victim blaming culture and it needs to stop. Women are allowed to say no – without fear of consequence and men need to understand that women sharing their personal stories about male violence do not need the conversation derailed. This isn’t about one man who doesn’t perpetrate male violence having his feelings hurt – it’s about women being killed for saying no. It is about male entitlement – and – trying to derail a conversation about male violence is male entitlement.

Mary Spears was brutally murdered by a man who refused to take the word no as an answer. The conversation should be about Spears – and all the other women who have experienced violence in similar situations.

Male Violence effects us all by @terristrange

(Cross-posted from the Arctic Feminist)

There’s been a lot of interesting news on twitter today.  Its started my wheels spinning.  Ian Watkins (lostprophets) has pleaded guilty to 11 counts of attempted rape of an infant girl.  Nigella Lawson’s attacker Charles Saatchi has been given license in the British media to slander her character despite the fact that he was photographically documented brutally assaulting her.  Oh and of course Karen Ingala Smith’s project “Counting Dead Women” has been taking off and been at the forefront of my mind.

Whats become even more clear to me is if a woman like Nigella Lawson, who is famous and successful, consistently in the public eye and many women in similar positions are subject to not only the threat of male violence, but to male violence itself, where does that leave women like you and me?  We become numbers added to body counts that only exist because some crazy feminist out there thinks our lives matter enough to count.

Its also amazing that we still have people under the impression that being a child rapist is a “sexuality” and that we should all feel sympathy for men who brutalize children.  Erasing yet again the damage inflicted upon those who are raped in childhood.

Why do we hesitate to see male violence and the male sex caste for what they are?  Why do we not see that there is a war being waged against the female sex that has been going steady for thousands of years and that we are losing, badly?  Why do we not see that all women, no matter what they achieve are always under the threat of some man getting to define them (as victim) forever?  We desperately need to build communities that function away from men.  Refuges for our refugees.  We need to stop acting as if all of this is just a misunderstanding and get serious about putting an end to male violence, for good.


The Arctic Feminist: I lazily blog about whatever I want. Always from a radical feminist perspective

When Women and Girls Are Attacked by Men, We Blame Everything Except Male Violence by @CratesNRibbons

(Cross-posted from Crates & Ribbons)

Last Tuesday night, two teenage girls from India went out into the fields, looking for a place to relieve themselves, due to the lack of toilets in their village. On their way, they were brutally attacked by a group of men, gang-raped, and murdered. Their bodies were found the next day hanging from a tree, in a sickening display of complacence that speaks volumes not only about the men’s arrogance and lack of shame, but also their sense of entitlement to female bodies. Activists in India have rallied in protest against the problem of sexual violence in the country, and villagers have condemned police inaction relating to the incident.

Yesterday, an article appeared in The Guardian, citing the lack of basic sanitation as the main reason for the death of the girls. It was the lack of toilets in their village, the article suggests, that resulted in the attack, never mind the perpetrators themselves, never mind the global ideal of masculinity that accepts, even encourages, violence in men, never mind the global culture of misogyny that normalises violence against women.

Don’t get me wrong — I do believe that basic sanitation is crucial. It is of the utmost importance for reasons of hygiene, leading to cleaner surroundings, safer food and water, lower rates of diarrhoea and illnesslower risk of snake bites, and lower mortality rates. Access to toilets provides privacy and dignity, and having a toilet in schools can encourage girls to continue with their schooling after hitting puberty. And with around 2.7 billion people around the world without access to basic sanitation, the problem is a pressing one.

Neither do I deny the fact that many men choose to attack women when they are seeking a secluded spot in the fields to relieve themselves. Yet, to focus exclusively on the circumstances surrounding the attack, while ignoring the main source of the attack (the perpetrators), fits into a pattern that feminists have been decrying for decades — society’s propensity to treat male violence as an accepted fact of life, to make allowances for it, to try to avoid it, and to attempt to redirect it. None of these can keep women safe.

Around the world, men have been raping and murdering women in every conceivable situation. They have carried out violence against women in their own homes, on the street, in clubs, atpartiesin hostels on a school trip, on public buses, in school toilets, in high school hallways, atconcerts, while camping, during piano lessons, in taxis, during a football game, the list goes on. Women can avoid going to dark and secluded areas, we can stay at home, we can take all the precautions we have been told to take. No wearing short skirts, no going out alone at night, no getting drunk in public, no trusting a strange man. But as long as men continue their violent behaviour, as long as they continue to rape and murder women, then — naturally — women will continue to be raped and murdered. They will be raped and murdered no matter where they are, no matter what they happen to be doing at the time.

The global epidemic of male violence against women must end, but we will never end it by refusing to place our finger on the key issue at hand, the link between socialised masculinity and violence. If we continue to ignore this, then the only world where men no longer attack women will be a world where women and girls do not exist at all.


Crates&Ribbons:  A feminist analysis of society [@CratesNRibbons]