You know what I’d love to see instead of the #TamponTax

Cross-posted from: Kim Graham

You know what I’d love to see? Rather than the tampon tax being used to fund women’s services (eg, refuges, etc): Be warned, this may be a long list.

1. The abolition of men’s violence against women. You know, a day when the work of amazing feminists such as Karen Ingala Smith (Counting Dead Women – recording the deaths of women killed by men) , Louise Sgm PenningtonJo Costello and the rest of the wonderful team behind Ending Victimisation and Blame: Everyday Victim Blaming, and Sarah Jane Learmonth of CRASAC (to name just a few) is no longer needed. As it stands, we have so many women dedicated to the cause. So many women who campaign and lobby relentlessly to bring about changes. So many women who carry out work that SHOULDN’T be needed. Yet, in 2015, it’s not only needed, but under threat. Not even a month ago, we lost one charity that was dedicated to the abolition of violence against women, EAVES. We’ll lose more. It’s the harsh reality of what the past five and a half years of Tory rule has brought us. 

2. A change in the way that we view violence against women in general. We need to stop ‘othering’ it. We need to stop blaming the victim, and if you claim you’ve never done it, just ask yourself if you’ve ever uttered the words “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”, “She’s an idiot for going back to him,” or “She must have provoked him.” So many of you have, whether you realise it or not. Even I have, and I say that as a survivor of domestic violence. I say that as someone who now knows the reason someone doesn’t just up and leave. The view needs to shift from “why doesn’t she…” to “why does he…”. We need to start addressing a culture that excuses men’s violence against women with “but he was drunk,” as if all men are incapable of controlling themselves after a few pints. We need to stop removing the responsibility of violence from the perpetrator, and we need to cut this culture of labelling men who abuse ‘monsters’. We need to stop appropriating it to other races. We need to stop claiming that Islam is a culture that promotes violence against women as if domestic violence has always been so heavily frowned upon within Christianity. And we need to stop this narrative of treating family annihilators – men who kill their wives and/or their children, and then themselves – as tragic tales. No more tributes to men who have shot their wives before turning the gun on themselves. No more claiming that the men who murder their children before killing themselves were doing so as the result of a justice system that hates fathers. I’m seeing a close friend struggle with the justice system at the moment, trying to protect her daughter from an abusive father. I’ve seen mothers forced to give abusive fathers access. I’ve remained forever thankful that Jamie has never chased for access where Darrell is concerned. I’ve lead campaigns to support survivors of rape after they’ve been demonised by the friends and family of the rapist, and I’ve seen such campaigns turn to spaces where rape survivors come forward to speak about their experiences, or ask where they can go for support, for the first time. It’s 2015. People shouldn’t have to turn to anonymous strangers on the internet, not knowing who’s behind the screen, for help and support when it comes to rape. Women shouldn’t still be needing to talk of how the police have made them feel like they’re to blame when they’ve been the victims of violence.

3. We need a change in the way violence against women is handled by the legal system. And I mean a major change. Sentencing around rape and domestic violence is laden with myths and victim blaming. And the handling of domestic violence is a complete mess. Women can be told that assaults older than six months old won’t be brought against their abuser, yet find that social services will turn up with a record of every contact they’ve had with the police. I’ve seen women lose custody of their children because neither the police nor social services know how to handle domestic abuse. I’ve had the police phone me, after having my fiancé at the time arrested for assault, the next morning, to explain how remorseful he is, and how it was a mistake, and would I mind if he came home. I’ve had friends lose custody of their children to their abusers. And this is before I get to the shoddy handling of domestic abuse and rape by the court system. We need to stop sending abusers on ‘anger management’ courses and start acknowledging that so many of these abusive men only have so-called anger management issues where people they perceive to be weaker than them are concerned. We need to stop only taking abuse within the last six months into consideration in court cases, and stop bringing the charge of ‘common assault’ against men who have carried out sustained abuse against their victims. We need to readily acknowledge that, on average, victims of domestic abuse experience 33 incidents of abuse before seeking help and that physical abuse so often occurs after long periods of emotional, psychological, financial and sexual abuse. To treat each incident of physical violence that an abuser carries out against their victim as an individual crime does nothing but sweep the problem under the rug. It’s a lie that claims the abuse was a one off, when in reality, the woman who spent an hour going over details with the police most likely has suffered for months – often years. It ignores that often we’ll claim it was the first time, out of fear we’ll get the line “why didn’t you report it sooner?”. Out of fear we won’t be believed. Out of fear that – if we are believed – that we’ll be blamed. And we need to do away with mediocre sentencing for violence against women. We need to stop giving men suspended sentences. We need to stop offering them community service with “time off if they take on certain courses.”

4. We need to stop treating violence against women as if it is a women’s problem, whilst acknowledging that it’s a women’s issue. Domestic Violence does affect women, disproportionately. As does rape. This is not to say it never affects men. But I shouldn’t need to add this qualifier. What I mean by this is that the vast majority of domestic abuse carried out is male violence against women. This makes it a women’s issue. But it remains a societal problem, in that it is widespread. It can’t be contained by asking women to confront the issue if women are not the ones who carry out the acts of violence on a regular basis. It should not fall solely upon women to fund organisations that save the lives of women – be it Rape Crisis (which, at present, receives NO government funding – whether they would be remembered under Osborne’s plans remains to be seen), Women’s Aid, or the various organisations that help women exiting prostitution.Yes, the umbrella of women’s organisations is a diverse one, but at the same time, so many of them are closely linked by that running theme of violence against women. What Osborne is doing by claiming that the ‘Tampon Tax’ should be used to fund such services is removing any fiscal responsibility from men. Women, you use these services. You pay. We’re going to ignore the fact that MEN are – in the majority of cases – the reason that you use these services. Funding for these services is needed, but it should not be a sex-selective funding that penalises women twice over – once for menstruating, and once for the fact that they have over a 25% chance of being a victim of men’s violence within their lifetime.

Women, this plan says, should pay for having the privilege to bleed, and the privilege to live a life free from the fear of gender based violence.

The irony of this post? Osborne’s announcement, along with this rant, comes on November 25th. A day that means so little to many people. A month until Christmas, right? Or, amongst feminist circles, November 25th: International Day of Ending Violence Against Women. The first day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. And Osborne has just announced his most anti-woman plan yet.