Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Should Men's Violence Against Women in the UK be understood as Hate Crime?

image is from here

As someone who I consider to be one of two UK correspondents here at A.R.P. , Jennifer Drew, has noted to me many times, "men" is almost always left out of expressions like "violence against women". Now, granted, do we really think "ending violence against women" means, for example, "ending women's violence against women" or "children's violence against women"? No. (Unless you consider men to be children.) But it is part of the master plan Master's Plan is to invisibilise the perpetrators of oppressor-crime, whether they be rich, white, globally Western, globally Northern, non-Indigenous, het, or male. So, we are left with this question, one which I have asked myself many, many times in reference to North America. I am pretty much on the same page as Julie, here. If a crime is misogynistic, it is, by definition, a hate crime, although not in the legal sense... yet. Another issue fought for by feminist activists is to have the effects of violence be what determines their categorisation, over and beyond the intentions of the perpetrators.Because, as we all know, men claim to do violence to women for all kinds of reasons--most especially because the men "love" the women, and also because those women asked for it, consented to it, didn't run out of the house after the first incident, didn't call the police, didn't say "NO!" enough times, etc.

Any understandings made legal, which highlight the reality of male supremacy as a social-political form of terrorism by men against women and others seen as womanly, is socially beneficial, humane, and in the service to liberation for this oppressed group as long as such laws name male supremacy or patriarchy as one of several social conditions in which women live and die. I very much appreciate Julie Long's discussion below.

I'll state that I'm opposed to non-survivors of female genital cutting using the term female g*n*t*l m*t*l*t**n--without the asterisks, as, to my understanding, it is not appreciated or welcomed by many survivors of involuntary female genital cutting/surgery. The term, in the white, white West, conjures a kind of practice that only "they" do--those darker people from darker continents or countries (or whatever they are*). This is not only inaccurate, but it perpetuates a white supremacist mythology about the "barbarism" of darker-skinned people that is not evidenced if we look at who commits the most barbaric acts against women and girls across race, ethnicity, and region. Overwhelmingly, historically and cross-culturally, in the last 500 years, anyway, that group is Western/white heterosexual men. That this is rarely-to-never specified when discussing global violence is yet another example of how perpetrating groups, particularly when Western, male, white, and heterosexual, are protected in speech, through social custom, by religion, and also in law.

*Western whites, for an allegedly and self-identified well-educated group, remain speciously ignorant about what constitutes a country and a continent, unless it is dominated and occupied by whites. I'll do a separate post on this.

Warning: graphic descriptions of men's violence against women are contained in the article below. It is one of those really disturbing articles that feels to me to be a bit sensationalistic and exploitive of the victims, but that's probably because Western white male supremacy notoriously sensationalises and exploits any and all violence against women, especially men's. That said, I find it a compelling piece of political analytic writing.

Should violence against women in the UK be seen as hate crime?


Woman-hating continues to occupy a central and too-often unrecognised and unchallenged position within our culture. Julia Long argues that approaches to stop such violence will fail unless they also address issues of endemic cultural misogyny

About the author
Dr Julia Long is a feminist activist and academic. She is active with the London Feminist Network, co-organising the annual national UK ‘Reclaim the Night’ march, and with OBJECT, a UK-based group which campaigns against sex object culture

On 25 February 2008, Levi Bellfield was convicted in the British courts of the murders of two young women, Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange, and the attempted murder of a third, Kate Sheedy, whom he had run over repeatedly, leaving her with extensive and horrific injuries. Prior to these convictions, Bellfield had faced other charges of abduction, false imprisonment and attempted murder of women, and in 2010 he was charged with the abduction and murder of thirteen-year-old Amanda Dowler. Police believe that he may be linked to a dozen further crimes against women in West London, and former partners testify to being beaten and raped by Bellfield.

Following his trial and conviction, police and media reports spoke of Bellfield’s ‘hatred’ and ‘intense loathing’ of women; a former girlfriend described how he had confessed that he would wait in alleyways wanting to "hurt, kill, stab or rape women" and told of how she had discovered pornographic pictures on which Bellfield had slashed the faces of blonde models. Bellfield had a reputation for sexually harassing under-age girls, pestering them from a van with blacked-out windows in which he kept a mattress, blankets and a baseball bat.

If Bellfield’s hate-motivated violence had been directed at victims on the basis of their perceived race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity, his crimes would clearly have been recognised as hate crimes. However, under UK legislation, women as a group are not recognised as a ‘hate crime’ identity category. What are the implications of this? And would it be desirable for violence against women to be recognised as a form of hate crime?

Feminist understandings of violence against women

Unlike the murders carried out by Bellfield, most acts of violence against women are perpetrated by men known to the victim. According to the End Violence Against Women Coalition: ‘Each year across the UK 3 million women experience violence, and there are many more living with the legacies of abuse experienced in the past. In the UK it includes: domestic violence, rape and sexual violence, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, crimes in the name of honour, trafficking and sexual exploitation. It is mostly committed by men that women know or are in a close relationship with’. Of the 1,000 women who are subjected to rape or attempted rape each week, most are attacked by men they know, whether as partners, friends or acquaintances. One in four UK women have been affected by domestic violence and according to the Department of Health two women are killed each week by a violent male partner or ex-partner.

Recognition of violence against women as a widespread and serious issue is attributable to four decades of feminist activism, research and scholarship. Feminist campaigns have put violence against women on the political agenda; activists have set up services for victims and brought about important changes in how the criminal justice system deals with violence against women. One of the most important achievements of feminism has been to locate patriarchal power, gender inequality and misogyny at the heart of all forms of violence against women. Feminists make connections between individual acts of rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence and femicide, the broader context of women’s ongoing inequality, and a culture which variously normalises, trivialises or glamorises violence against women. In making these connections, second wave, radical feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and Susan Brownmiller [*] argued that violence against women occurs within a misogynistic culture, underpinned, enabled and sustained by patriarchal power relations.

However, the struggle for these insights to influence mainstream debates and attitudes to violence against women is ongoing. Within mainstream culture, media, politics and the legal system, violence against women continues to be viewed primarily as a personal, individualised issue. Incidents of violence tend to be seen as either the actions of ‘monsters’ or ‘psychopaths’ (as in the case of Bellfield); the result of unfortunate domestic disputes or choice of spouse; or as attributable to negligence on the part of the woman herself - her clothing, her location, her behaviour, whether she had consumed alcohol. In the UK, considerations of patriarchy only tend to enter mainstream debates when the violence is perpetrated within minority ethnic communities, where it is then seen as evidence of ‘backward’ cultural attitudes to women.

Given that violence against women, in spite of its pervasiveness, continues to be constructed within mainstream discourses as a mainly individualised issue, it is pertinent to consider how feminist insights might best be brought to bear in order to transform debates on violence against women. Would including women as a category protected under hate crime legislation help to bring about a recognition of the systematic and generalised nature of violence against women, and highlight the crucial role of structural power relations between women and men?

Implications of UK hate crime legislation
  • Hate crime is recognised as ‘different’ to other crime within the UK criminal justice system. According to the UK Home Office, it is ‘different’ because: hate crime targets people because of their identity. It is a form of discrimination that infringes human rights and keeps people from enjoying the full benefits of our society
  • research has shown that hate crimes cause greater psychological harm than similar crimes without a motivation of prejudice
  • hate crime creates fear in victims, groups and communities and encourages communities to turn on each other.
The nature and effects of hate crime means that it is seen as particularly serious: Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 imposes a duty on courts to increase the sentence for any offence aggravated by hostility based on the victim's sexual orientation or disability. Evidence of hostility based on disability, sexual orientation or presumed sexual orientation must be seen as something that makes the offence more serious. Similar provisions already exist in relation to race, resulting from The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry which also resulted in the imposition of minimum tariffs in relation to the sentencing of murderers motivated by hostility.

Violence against women as hate crime?


The British Home Office description of hate crime would seem to fit very well with crimes of violence against women, as is demonstrated by replacing ‘hate crime’ with ‘violence against women’ in the bullet points above: the resulting description neatly encapsulates several of the key feminist insights regarding the systematic nature and structural effects of violence against women. Similarly, a recognition of the particularly serious nature of these crimes when it comes to sentencing would also seem appropriate and desirable.

However, feminist campaigners have expressed reservations regarding the desirability of utilising a ‘hate crime’ approach. Firstly, hate crime legislation is generally designed to deal with ‘stranger’ or ‘outsider’ violence: violence from a person outside of one’s personal and social circles. Whilst this would obviously apply in cases like Bellfield described above, it is less useful in dealing with the majority of incidents of violence against women, where the perpetrator is likely to be a partner, ex-partner, acquaintance or friend. Campaigners believe that women victims would be unlikely to perceive these acts of violence as motivated by hate or prejudice. Activist Hilary McCollum doubts that defining violence against women and girls as hate crime would help its victims access services and redress: ‘Many people covered by the existing hate crime definition don’t readily identify their experiences with the term – ‘hate’ can feel too big a word, especially for crimes committed by people known to the victim’.

McCollum also voices concern at what she sees as the inadequacies of current hate crime legislation in addressing issues of intersectionality, and the depoliticising tendencies of the term ‘hate’. Without a full consideration and integration of power relations, McCollum argues, ‘hate crimes can be depoliticised as motivated by irrational prejudice, rather than domination, exclusion and control’. Other feminist campaigners express concerns that if violence against women was included alongside other hate crime categories, recognition of its specificities, scale and prevalence could be lost, and funding might consequently be jeopardised.

‘Hate crime’: a useful concept?

The reservations of feminist campaigners with regard to hate crime approaches highlight important inadequacies in the way that such approaches frame acts of violence based on structural inequalities. However, I would argue that the concept of hate crime does at least bring considerations of discrimination and the generalised effects of violence into the picture. The notion of hate crime facilitates and supports a recognition that inequalities and discrimination experienced by certain groups exist on a spectrum that ranges from racist, homophobic and disablist language, through discrimination in employment, goods and services, and ultimately to acts of violence and murder. So whilst the term has its problems, it does at least serve to make links between cultural attitudes, discrimination and acts of violence. What is necessary is a further re-framing of the issue in order to recognise that power and control are key motivations for violence against women and girls, and that individual acts of violence are supported by a context of structural inequality and cultural misogyny.

Returning to the Bellfield case mentioned at the beginning of this article, it should be noted that just three days prior to Bellfield’s conviction, two other men had been found guilty of murder. Steve Wright had murdered five young women in Ipswich, East Anglia, and Mark Dixie was convicted of murdering an eighteen year old woman, and then raping her while she was dead or dying. Both men had previous histories of violence against women. Speaking of all three cases, Kira Cochrane observed in The Guardian:

In each case, what comes through most strongly is just how open, violent and persistent the killer’s misogyny was, and how they were allowed to indulge it, and even boast of it, for years. The reports paint a picture of a society in which misogyny is taken as a given.
Whether violence against women is viewed as hate crime or not, it is evident that woman-hating continues to occupy a central and too-often unrecognised and unchallenged position within our culture, and that approaches to stop such violence will fail unless they also address issues of endemic cultural misogyny.



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[*] Julian's note: those two are white U.S. feminists. Many second wave radical feminists of color, of many ethnic backgrounds, from many regions around the world, have argued this as well, but in far more intersectionally responsible ways than has Brownmiller. Dworkin's work is more responsible in this regard. Radical feminist women of color more aptly note how white supremacy and capitalism, along with patriarchy, are key systems perpetrating violence against women, including by fueling and funding white men's violence against women of color. Susan Brownmiller's work, as far as I am concerned, is irresponsibly white supremacist and racist. This is not to say that her work is unimportant or ought not be read and respected for what it offers us by way of deep insights into men's violence against women as systemic and terroristic. It is to say she misuses racist stereotypes to make some of her points, particularly with regard to the myth of Black men raping white women and by disregarding the role Black women had in anti-lynching activism. For more on this, please see Angela Davis's work, *here*.
This blog exists to de-center the whiteness and redress the racism that typically permeates white historical analysis both of feminism and of men's violence against women. This blogger favors understanding, appreciating, and promoting the critical roles radical feminist women of color, and many other Asian, Black, Brown, and Indigenous have played in all justice movements, including against genocide, gynocide, and ecocide, while also honoring the many white women who have done amazing work to help us collectively understand and confront male supremacist atrocities and cultures.

4 comments:

JENNIFER DREW said...

'Would including women as a category protected under hate crime legislation help to bring about a recognition of the systematic and generalised nature of (male) violence against women, and highlight the crucial role of (unequal) structural power relations between women and men.'

Short answer is yes because this is demonstrated by UK laws criminalising racism and homophobia.

Making racism a criminal offence has served to bring to Josephine and Joe Public's attention the fact racism is indeed promotion of hatred and contempt for a certain group of women and men who are not the same ethnic/racial group as the ones promoting such hatred. Same applies with regards to homophobia - but and this is a big but - individuals who are subjected to racism and/or homophobia contain both women and men (very important that word men) within these groups, whereas centuries old male hatred and male contempt for women is directed at a group of individuals who are not male. That is why male hatred for women is not seen as a 'hate crime' and why men's unending violence and all too often lethal violence against women of whatever ethnicity/race is supposedly yet another instance of isolated, individual acts committed it is claimed by a man who was provoked; suffered temporary insanity or just didn't like the non-human (sic) woman/girl.

Given men are the only default human beings then obviously there cannot be 'hate crimes' against women because we are not human in men's opinion.

‘Many people covered by the existing hate crime definition don’t readily identify their experiences with the term – ‘hate’ can feel too big a word, especially for crimes committed by people known to the victim.'

Yes many women (note it is women never people) refuse to accept the fact that their male partner/ex male partner/boyfriend/ex boyfriend/father/brother/male work colleague committed violence against then because these men hate women. But that does not alter the fact many men do commit violence against women/girls they profess to respect and sometimes even 'love.' These crimes are 'hate crimes' because these men all commit similar acts of male violence and this negates the claim they are 'isolated incidents.'

It is very hard for many women to even begin to realise the reality they have been taught is a lie and instead is male supremacist propaganda. Men do not routinely respect/accord women humanity - that is reserved for men only. Women who have had their trust abused by known men such as fathers/brothers/lovers/husbands/partners etc. find it very hard to understand why the male(s) committed these terrible acts against them. Far easier to believe such men are 'abberant' rather than that they rigidly adhere to male supremacy and misogyny concerning women. Male violence against women is a 'hate crime' but UK's male supremacist system will not accept this - far easier to claim 'violent people' sic - code word for men, are abberations not normal, respectable men determined to maintain their power and control over women and girls at any cost.

If we cannot name the sex of those who oppress women then we cannot possibly begin to challenge what is deliberately rendered invisible - namely male domination over women.

vluk said...

Violence against women should be a hate crime. The fact that it is not and that we are only discussing it at this level proves just how anti female the white male dominated UK is.

However the probability of this actually taking place is very unlikely. Those white males who rule the UK have no desire to waist their precious money on such an unimportant issues such as violent against women.

See link to news article on spending cuts the UK is facing.

http://newsfrombrighton.co.uk/brighton-politics/green-party/spending-cuts-to-increase-violence-against-women-say-greens/

But even if violence against women in the UK did become a hate crime, would it really do that much good?
Women of colour in the UK still face violence, not just because they are women, but often because they are women of colour. And their trouble does not stop their. Reporting these crimes to a white male dominated police force can be very daunting.

To end violence against women of any colour requires the removal of white male supremacy and privilege.
Maybe when white males get treated the way they have been and are treating everyone else then they will finally realise what it is like been on the wrong end of white male supremacy and actually start treating people with respect.

kristen said...

I truly enjoyed reading your post. I am a U.S. citizen, and have been doing some research to find out if there are any groups out there that are proposing that violence against women should be seen as a hate crime. Having grown up around many cases of violence against women, is just so disheartening to see that a woman's value and respect in this country is only further diminishing.

Young women starving for attention seem to only perpetuate this matter, as men have shown me free pornographic videos that they access online of women being raped. These women may have only acted, but it was done to look like an actual rape. I am just so incredibly disturbed that so many men have access to these videos, and are becoming increasingly turned on by violence.

It seems that love has gone completely out of the picture, and has been replaced by the domination of women. I do believe that we need to implement legislature against these acts of violence towards women, and perhaps turn this violence into a hate crime. The attention brought to these acts will help in the fight against this hatred. I just feel so strongly about this.

Julian Real said...

Welcome, kristen.

Your comment is very moving and powerful to me.

Thank you for your honesty in self-expression. Thank you for speaking a truth about something that truly ought to be collectively self-evident, socially: systematic abuse of women, institutionalised domination of women, interpersonal terrorism and control, industrial strength misogynist violence ought to be a violation of girls' and women's human rights, of girls' and women's civil rights. And women ought to have access to legal and social resources to hold perpetrators, pimps, procurers, batterers, and rapists accountable. With the full support of society, with no obstructionism from criminal justice and judicial systems. Most women will never have access to a lawyer and court of law, but I support human rights reinforcement, and civil rights legislation to empower women to take action against men who harm them.

If you find out about any place that does, in fact, recognise rape, battery, prostitution, men's use of pornography against girls and women, men's enslavement and trafficking of girls and women, men's incest and child molestation against girls--of any or all of that as "hate crime", please let me know.

In case you haven't read this post, I offer it in support to what you state here.

http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-men-using-porn-actually-is-and.html