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Guest blog: Jon Cruddas, on men's role in ending violence against women

(74 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Mar-13 08:12:52

This week's guest blog is by Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham. He's writing about violence against women and girls - and what government, society, and men themselves can do to stop it.

Do have a look, and tell us what you think of his assessment of the issues, and the plans he outlines. Are his proposals a step in the right direction? If not, what do you think can be done to make violence against women and girls culturally and socially unacceptable?

If you post on this topic, don't forget to add your URL to the thread.

1) make it illegal and heavily sanction 'buying' sex. decriminalise the victims and prosecute the perps - pimps and johns.

2) the pornography issue has to be tackled. violent, demeaning, abusive porn is the mainstream now and one click away for free for any internet user.

3) get rid of page 3, get rid of half naked women on the covers on magazines, do something about the constant sexual objectification of women.

4) ban airbrushing - it makes women into 'things' - plastic dollies for fucking and hurting who have no real flesh or vulnerability.

5) hand out decent sentences to rapists and child abusers.

6) uphold the age of consent PROPERLY. we need to recognise this as statutory rape and hand out tough sentences to those who have sex with children instead of fucked up judges saying 'well she was willing' about even 9 year olds. we need to publicly dismiss several judges whose judgements and statements have been literally appalling.

7) force facebook and other social networking sites to take seriously images and pages depicting sexual violence against women, sexualising children ('teen sluts' etc) and to remove such content and ban users rather than saying oh it's humour and we dont' believe in censorship. apply the same attitudes to misogyny as we do to racism.

etc etc etc etc we could go on and on and on.

and yes it's good you acknowledged this is a 'male' problem but then all the women and men must work together seemed to undermine that. and government can do more than 'a bit'. we wouldn't have gotten to where we are today with racism if the government had only done 'a bit'.

Abitwobblynow Sat 02-Mar-13 08:55:58

Hissy: before making sweeping statements, do a bit of research. What is the most vulnerable period in human development? ADOLESCENCE. We need to believe our teenagers' posturing of adulthood less, and protect them from themselves and eachother (peer group pressure) more.

Assumptions! Just because the progressives of the 60s decreed that mixed schooling was good, does this make it an inherent good???

Open you mind and do a bit of reading before you speak. Read Dr Leonard Saxs on gender development.

Then you can say something useful.

I tend to agree with Hissy

aufaniae Sat 02-Mar-13 09:18:28

I agree totally that we need to educate DCs and teenagers about what makes a healthy and unhealthy relationship, and for more support to be available.

I've only realised since being on mumsnet how many abusers follow "the script", and just how prevalent it is. I was in an abusive relationship myself before. Would I have got out sooner if I'd already been familiar with "the script", better able to recognise the abuse early on and have known where to get help? Possibly. I missed several red flags and didn't recognise the abuse for what it was until I was in really deep, and by that point it was hard to get out. (I did eventually!)

Healthy relationships should be something both girls and boys are taught about int school IMO. Not just once, but as an ongoing thing throughout school, especially when they get to the age they are starting to have relationships themselves.

Also there should be much better funding for support services. The Women's Aid line for example, should not be difficult to get through to, nor should they be cash-strapped. That it is and they are shows that as a society we're just not taking DV seriously.

aufaniae Sat 02-Mar-13 09:36:16

Abitwobblynow speaking from my own personal experience - anecdotal I know, but FWIW, here goes: I went to both a girls' secondary and then a mixed secondary.

At the girls' school, we idolised boys. Any boys who were half decent, as we didn't know any or ever get to spend time with them, other than rare meetings of our friends' brothers and their friends. Boys were a big deal! We spent a lot of time talking about them, and obsessing about them.

Then, when I moved to the mixed school, I found the attitude of girls to boys was totally different. They certainly weren't adored or idolised. They were treated like other classmates. Certainly nothing special just because of their gender. We knew them as mere mortals, warts and all. Some were even very annoying IIRC! Girls simply did not obsess about boys in the same way as the single sex school, not in the slightest.

The mixed school fostered much more healthy relations between the sexes. Some of the boys became my best friends, and my closest friends as a nearly 40-year old include three men who I became friends with as a teen. (Never a relationship, actual friends). This wouldn't have been possible at the girls school. My friendship group as an adult consists of both men and women and our lives are richer for it. I think it's a shame that there are so many adults only have real friends of the their own sex, basically because of lack of opportunity to meet the opposite sex on an equal footing when they were young. It fosters this whole "When Harry Met Sally" bollocks that men and women can't be friends. Total rot, and very unhealthy IMO.

Hissy Sat 02-Mar-13 10:11:01

Wobbly, thanks for that. confused

When you have been where I've been, lived what I've lived, seen what I've seen, no amount of words on wood pulp will disprove what society itself IS.

How can segregation enable integration? How did that work in 1950s USA, or Apartheid SA? Or the middle east today? Hmm?

The only way of understanding others, encouraging mutual respect is by supporting education, integration, and open discussion of things that are unacceptable/unfair.

DyeInTheEar Sat 02-Mar-13 10:32:49

Apologies if someone's made comment about this t shirt elsewhere on MN. I've not been able to spend much time on here recently so there could be a thread somewhere tackling this.

But my friend drew my attention to this t shirt found on Amazon. I'm so depressed by the casual misogyny allowed in our society. Why is it not illegal? To incite racial violence is. To attack someone because of their sexuality is. Why can't we stop this on the ground of gender intolerance?

should not be sold anywhere

Hissy Sat 02-Mar-13 12:04:40

Wobbly, thanks for that. confused

When you have been where I've been, lived what I've lived, seen what I've seen, no amount of words on wood pulp will disprove what society itself IS.

How can segregation enable integration? How did that work in 1950s USA, or Apartheid SA? Or the middle east today? Hmm?

I'd also suggest that 'selective gender' schooling may be, in some small part responsible for thw woeful mishandling of decisions related to DV by Judges and politicians.

The only way of understanding others, encouraging mutual respect is by supporting education, integration, and open discussion of things that are unacceptable/unfair.

Perhaps the conversations ought to be conducted at times to a single gender audience, but the ultimate goal is to create a single, equal society.

Nothing less.

Jon Cruddas, well done for bringing this up.

Personally I agree with a lot of what you say. I think pornography is a huge issue and I worry when we try and tackle all forms of pornography at the same time, because then the end result is that nothing changes. Violent pornography and degrading images of women needs to be got rid of and limited first and then other things can be tacked, in my humble opinion, and at the same time we need to tackle domestic violence and sexualisation of girls (and children generally) and also all the other things mentioned.

What will make politicians take notice and act, what will get the general population aware. I understand that foot binding, a horrible tradition in China, was stopped within a relatively short space of time because of education. Education, I think, also includes popular culture. Popular culture needs to change.

That's a good point, Italian, but it's more than education. If you educate people there's always the 'cultural' excuse: well, I was smacked around by my husband for 40 years but he loved me, so if my daughter's husband witholds the housekeeping and yells at her, she should just work harder at her marriage!" - No amount of education can reach that attitude and change it. But legislation can.

In China, foot-binding was stopped in a short amount of time, properly stopped rather than just sliding out of fashion slowly - because it was made illegal and people who did it were prosecuted and prosecuted and prosecuted until it simply wasn't worth doing any more.

The analogy I've heard is comparing foot binding to FGM. People say "ooh it's cultural, it's hard to change cultural attitudes, we must be sensitive" - but foot binding was stopped because of LEGISLATION and ENFORCEMENT, not education and sensitivity. So I think legislation needs to be followed up with rigorous enforcement, because sometimes social attitudes change and the law catches up (maybe gay marriage is an example here) but most often the law changes and social attitude catches up (racial equality in the American south in the 60s, chinese footbinding).

borninastorm Sat 02-Mar-13 16:35:45

Here is an incredible American photojournalist's almost accidental account of domestic violence in words and pictures that shows the reality of domestic values and opens the doors to the hidden-ness of violence against women in their own homes. It is shocking and it is eye opening. And it is very powerful and thought provoking.

lightbox.time.com/2013/02/27/photographer-as-witness-a-portrait-of-domestic-violence/#1

Instead of blogging today I just reblogged the above post.

Yes, Blackcurrants a very good point and I totally agree with you.

I think I was rather thinking of one angle of foot binding, which was, I think, that mothers of sons pledged their sons would not marry girls whose feet had been bound, and I felt that this was a really good powerful message, which helped people who were undecided to sway in the right direction, a kind of 'nudge' in the modern way of talking but 100% agree that legislation is needed to make it happen.

It is hard. It seems to be chicken and egg, do we change the law and hope people will catch up to it socially? I would say yes, but I would also see that sometimes even getting to the point where the law is changed needs a certain swell of the population to go in that direction. IYSWI.

The reason I mentioned foot binding was because it struck me as a kind of advert thing, where the message was passed on, on one site I saw (which I can't now find) it said the message was written on fans!

Wickipdeia credits the start of the demise of foot biding it to some extent to 60 Christian women in Xiamen who called for an end of the practice.

One site I looked at had this quote...

"Footbinding stopped because it became such a powerful symbol of national shame"

- TV Documentary, China: the Wild East (1995)"

www.circumstitions.com/Foot.html

(Not advocating or agreeing with this site, I have not read this whole site and it compares foot binding to male circumcision and on other sites I have seen foot binding has been compared to Female genital mutilation, which used to be refered to as female 'circumcision'.)

I don't know if that is true that it was the shame that affected China or not but wouldn't it be wonderful if violence against women stopped in all nations around the world as it became realised how truly shameful it is!

I say this in total agreement to the idea of legislation, I guess I am saying both legislation and education (including social pop culture/peer pressure the whole kit and kaboodle).

doorkeeper Sat 02-Mar-13 17:32:11

I have to say, the first thing that comes to mind today is to make sure that prominent men in education, who set the agenda and shape the values passed onto our kids, don't themselves hold dinosaur attitudes.

This message brought to you from someone who still can't believe that Toby Young's considered, public response to the allegations of sexual harrassment by a senior politician was "If Lord Rennard looked like George Clooney, would there have been so many complaints?" (He said this yesterday on BBC Radio 4.)

I am so glad that my son isn't going to the WLFS. I'd hate for him to learn his values at a place where the Chair of the Governors has this attitude to sexual harrassment.

borninastorm that is a terribly saddening and horrific link but also amazing that it tells in such a short space the story of possibly many women's lives all over the world. It is incredible in one sense that that terrible night did not end more tragically.

There is one line that is so chilling "...that she could choose between getting beaten in the kitchen, or going with him to the basement..."

There is another line that stands out so much for me of hope, when Maggie says of her daughter "I want her to know that it's not okay for someone to treat you that way, that you don't ever deserve to be treated that way,"

Thank you for posting it borninastorm.

doorkeeper, yes I heard that Lord Rennard comment. What a stupid and crap thing to say.

grumpyoldbookworm Sat 02-Mar-13 20:15:37

If any violence is domestic, this should be a specific aggravating category in the court sentencing guidelines. It isn't now. I think it should be.
Also, as the mother of sons, boys should be taught not to misread the behaviour of drunk girls as consent.

HilaryBurrage Sat 02-Mar-13 21:34:52

It seems unbelievable now, but as a child in the mid-1950s I actually met Gladys Aylward who did so much to stop foot-binding in China, and I still have both a doll and a book which she gave to us.

The book of her story makes it clear that Gladys' role, with the encouragement of the regional officials, was as an Inspector: she was the non-partisan, female implementer of the 'no foot-binding' edict from the national powers-that-be which ensured that girls were not thus incapacitated.

The equivalent for FGM: Female Genital Mutilation would be medical inspection of children to ensure that they have not been mutilated.

Such inspection does occur, eg in France; and I would say we need it here as well (with, of course, a parent in attendance). But the Government disagrees, and says British people would not tolerate it.

What do others think?

Would you agree routinely to let your child be discretely inspected (with of course you present) if it helped protect other more vulnerable children?

welshdragon1 Sat 02-Mar-13 21:35:59

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

welshdragon1 Sat 02-Mar-13 21:38:21

PS - how strange I also as a child showing my age met Gladys Aylward - she championed the rights of the child and women....

Xenia Sat 02-Mar-13 22:02:43

Eradicate men? We only need a few as sperm donors really.

Also we were taught judo - our parents were keen we had self defence skills although I am sure that is not always going to work.

Also if women are financially independent they tend to be more free - eg if you are a girl in Pakistan with no education and income then killing yourself with chip pan fires may be what you think is your only route out of violence, whereas if you're earning more than your husband you tend to have more choices. Education for girls is therefore a good and bringing them up not to be housewives relying on men for money but outearning their other halves.

HilaryBurrage Sat 02-Mar-13 22:34:54

Xenia: Hope you won't mind if I share my recent thoughts *here*, in support of your comments about girls' education and financial independence....

BertieBotts Sun 03-Mar-13 00:10:17

I'm not sure I'd be happy for my (hypothetical) daughter to be examined for signs of FGM, although I think it's a good idea in theory for it to be monitored/checked in some way. Tough one.

BertieBotts Sun 03-Mar-13 00:36:56

Xenia I don't think education and financial security is enough. Women have a viable route out of violence in this country - Women's Aid and other charities might be stretched, but they exist and offer an extremely valuable service. There are also other supported routes for women to leave abusive relationships. The practical side isn't really a barrier for women in the UK (I am aware it must be elsewhere.)

In my experience the practical considerations or other tangible, easily understandable "barriers" such as fear of retaliation are quite often put up by women themselves because they don't want to face the fact that they do have a choice to leave and that they are making a choice to stay, for intensely complex, confusing and difficult reasons, none of which are their fault, none of which can be easily addressed by a support service. This is the stuff like traumatic bonding, stockholm syndrome, as well as women believing that the relationship (especially if there are DC involved) is her responsibility and that if it goes wrong she has failed, anger = passion beliefs, love = abuse, unhealthy relationship templates picked up from childhood, belief that this is as good as it gets, feeling that she should be grateful, believing that only some kinds of abuse are "real", an overhanging tendency to believe on some level that as a divorced woman or woman who already has children she is "worth" less, a myriad of other related and unrelated things.

This is the stuff that it's hard to change with things like policy - some of it goes back decades and isn't generally accepted as truth any more, but if enough of your friends and family believe something, most people don't challenge that, at least not for a long time, even if most of society is giving a different message (and in fact, it isn't - many of these messages ARE reflected in/supported by society in general.)

What would help in my opinion:

More understanding of how abuse works and where it comes from (ie the abusive mindset.) Understanding that physical abuse is a symptom and that ALL abuse is emotional abuse and that emotional abuse/control is at the heart of all abusive behaviours. Abusers don't think they're doing anything wrong, even when it's pointed out to them in black and white. They might know hitting, for example, is wrong, but they don't believe that it's wrong to prevent your girlfriend from going out with her friends. (So in absence of hitting they just fall to other, more subtle abuse techniques and continue to excuse PA as "I snapped - she pushed me to it. I had to.")

Abuse victims taken seriously, reports followed up, lines/dots joined up - rather than treating crimes/incidents/complaints as separate issues, why don't agencies get to look at the whole picture? Abusers don't just abuse once and then magically change and turn into good people, because they believe they are justified in their actions.

Protect children. The current system where unsupervised access is seen as a goal to work for is a joke. Non-abusive parents, of course, should be able to see and develop relationships with their children. Abusive parents should not be allowed to "work towards" unsupervised contact until the DC are old enough to express an opinion AT LEAST. Protect children and the next generation have much more chance of going on to form healthy and non-abusive relationships. It's a cycle.

General changing of attitudes within society towards women and men and VAW.

Women's Aid and the like are also exploited by people like my DHs ex. Think Tyrone's ex from Coronation St. These women REALLY do exist. I have a 20k solicitors bill to prove it.

Also DV figures are skewed. I reported my exH for harassment, i never received any blows but it was documented as domestic violence? Maybe I'm naive but harassment is not violence.

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