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Erin Pizzey's work with Refuges

(293 Posts)
ParsleyTheLioness Tue 10-Apr-12 08:40:50

Talking about this on the Relationships board. Does anyone remember this woman from the 60's/70's who set up an early(?) refuge? Are her work and writings still valid today, or discredited at all, anyone have any knowledge? I may not be spelling correctly.

ecclesvet Tue 10-Apr-12 08:51:06

Columbia999 Tue 10-Apr-12 08:53:59

As far as I know, she set up one of the first, if not the first refuge in the UK in 1971, in Chiswick. She wrote a book called "Scream Quietly or the neighbours will hear", and seems to be just as active in her work now.
Sadly, I looked up Refuge, the organisation that arose from her work at Chiswick, and there is no mention of her on their website, which seems sad, since they wouldn't exist without her.

ParsleyTheLioness Tue 10-Apr-12 08:59:20

Thanks Eccles I should have done that first...any thoughts?

ParsleyTheLioness Tue 10-Apr-12 09:00:11

And Columbia cross post...yes, that does seem sad.

SardineQueen Tue 10-Apr-12 09:02:23

I have read a lot about her on this section but can't remember the details.

I think she was part of a group who set up the first one, but got most well known. And that she eventually decided that women are just as violent and abusive as men, which you can imagine did not endear her to many feminists. And that people who don't like feminists like to use her in conversations about DV to "prove" that women are just as violent as men because look this famous feminist says so.

Ragwort Tue 10-Apr-12 09:02:49

Yes, I remember her work well and she inspired a bunch of us to set up a women's refuge in Yorkshire in the 1970s. The original hostels were actually called 'Battered Wives hostels' sad. We all belonged to some sort of organisation and had conferences etc.

Anyone remember 'Spare Rib' magazine - does that still exist?

AbigailAdams Tue 10-Apr-12 09:03:25

There are a couple of people in this board who know more about her than me. But from what I know if her she helped set up the first refuges. However she then got into the victim blaming malarkey and so in that respect you could say she was discredited. She doesn't strike me as pro-women though.

SardineQueen Tue 10-Apr-12 09:05:16

If you search her name in the fem section you will find some stuff about her.

One post

"Erin Pizzey was NOT a founder of Women's Aid. At the meeting in 1975 where Women's Aid was formed as a federation, Erin Pizzey flounced out in a huff because she was not automatically made the leader (there was no leader - it was a federation) and has spent the last 37 years pouting about lesbians 'stealing' 'her' movement.

Erin has also spent the time in-between spreading deliberate misinformation about domestic violence. When she claims that, in her experience, women are as violent as men she is including self-harm. In other words, she claims that a woman who is beaten by her male partner and then attempts suicide, is as violent as the man who beat her."

Finallygotaroundtoit Tue 10-Apr-12 09:07:43

I think she pointed out the complex nature of abusive relationships and why women don't just leave.

She observed how 'battered wives' (as they were called then) would profess to love their husband - and keep going back.

It didn't endear her to those who wanted to take a simplistic 'victim who needs rescusing from brute' stance

SardineQueen Tue 10-Apr-12 09:10:28

That's interesting.

I don't know any feminists who would disagree that abusive relationships are complex.

SardineQueen Tue 10-Apr-12 09:12:45

If you read the threads in relationships on here where there are so many women with abusive partners, so many feel unable to act, let alone leave, for such a wide variety of reasons. The number of posts "oh but he's a good man really" it's just so sad.

SardineQueen Tue 10-Apr-12 09:13:40

Surely there are some cases where the women are victims? Your post reads as if you think not.

Finallygotaroundtoit Tue 10-Apr-12 09:31:39

Yes of course they are victims.

I know little about Erin herself but as a geriatric MNer I was commenting on 'society view' of early refuges at the time.

It was thought that once the abuse was uncovered, the woman (no understanding then that men could also be victims) could simply be taken to a refuge and all would be well. The fact that victims voluntarily went back and often 'chose' abusive partners again and again could not be comprehended back then.

There was little understanding that abuse was a deeper problem in society and the abusers were also victims of their own neglectful, abusive upbringing.

Finallygotaroundtoit Tue 10-Apr-12 09:47:19

<And that she eventually decided that women are just as violent and abusive as men, which you can imagine did not endear her to many feminists.>

Perhaps she wasn't popular for pointing out that some people are violent towards each other - it's how they were brought up to deal with conflict.

The sort of feminist who believes that all men are rapists would perhaps prefer to believe DA is simply about male oppression

KRITIQ Tue 10-Apr-12 09:54:02

I knew people who worked alongside her when the Chiswick refuge was founded. It wasn't necessarily the first refuge, but she was able to attract media attention and had the positive impact of bringing the problem of domestic abuse into the light.

However, as stated above, unfortunately her personal ambition and need to be recognised eclipsed her contribution to the advancement of women's safety and rights.

I think it was in 1974 that there was a gathering of representatives from the many refuges set up across the country where they decided to form a Federation. They agreed a set of principles that all would agree to. One of them (to paraphrase) was a recognition that domestic violence occurs as the result of the inferior status of women in society. All the representatives agree this, except Pizzey. She flatly refused to accept that domestic abuse was as we would call now a "gendered crime," and left the meeting. In the months and years that followed, she lobbied hard to prevent local authorities from funding refuges that weren't "her" refuge, but thankfully, this had little impact.

One could argue that the chip on her shoulder arising from this initial "snub" has grown over the ensuing decades. She has peddled a very dangerous view of the causes and effects of domestic abuse which of course is very popular amongst the tabloid press and apologists for men's violence because her theories remove responsibility for men and place it in the shoulders of women.

She has also ranted continuously about how horrid it is that feminists and marxists have taken over the refuge movement (she did an article called "How Feminists Tried to Destroy the Family"), particularly to the detriment of men and children. It's hardly surprising that she's a poster girl for the MRA's. She frequently argues that changes in legislation and policy designed to make it easier for women and children to escape abusive relationships tip too far in favour of women and demonise men for just being men.

She's based alot of her "evidence" that many women are "prone to violence" on her observations from Chiswick Women's Aid (as it was called then) and evidence from widely discredited proponents of the Conflict Tactics Scale model for "measuring" incidence of domestic abuse (look up any study based on CTS or done by Strauss, Murray, Gelles or Steinmetz on DV and you'll find figures showing equal proportions of violence perpetrated by men and women, or more often, that women are MORE violent than men.)

In her book "Prone to Violence," she says she believed 60 of the first 100 women to come into Chiswick Refuge were as violent or more violent than the men they left, that's "proof" that it's not a gender-based problem.

For those interested, one of her books "Prone to Violence" is available in full text on line if you do a search for it.

It's perfectly understandable why the charity Refuge is careful about their description of her involvement in founding of the organisation, as the philosophy she advocates is the diametric opposite of the mission, aims and values of the charity.

KRITIQ Tue 10-Apr-12 10:12:47

Finally, just to point out - I don't think there was ever any question that feminists who were involved in founding of women's refuges across the country (including those who worked alongside her that I knew, who were dubious about her style and interpretations of things even in those early days,) believed domestic abuse to be a complex phenomenon. They weren't naive enough to believe that an overcrowded, smelly, cramped refuge would mean the solution to every abused woman's problems. If anything, it was Pizzey who insisted the problem was "simple" (i.e. that some people are just prone to violence and you've got to sort them out as best you can to keep the world peaceful,) rather than complex as those in Women's Aid did (i.e. that it's a function of a society that values women less than men, thereby granting men the privilege of controlling women, even at times by use of emotional, sexual and physical abuse.)

Yes, she marked that women who'd been subject to horrific abuse often still professed to love their husbands and often went back and left several times. But, she didn't recognise this as the result of a complex range of social, economic, political factors and internalised oppression and low self-esteem on the part of the woman. No, for her the answer was simple. The women were "prone to violence," and got a "buzz" out of being abused. They "needed" the adrenaline hit that came from being abused, and this was also her pat explanation for why women sometimes leave violent relationships and enter into relationships that turn out to be abusive as well.

Dangerous, dangerous stuff.

DoomCatsofCognitiveDissonance Tue 10-Apr-12 10:16:28

She had a truly terrible childhood, from what I understand. I'm not trying to excuse what she said about women and violence because I think it's inexcusable, btw, but just adding another point.

BasilFoulEggs Tue 10-Apr-12 10:45:54

there aren't any feminists who believe all men are rapists, finally, the only people who believe that are rapists themselves and rape apologists.

TheSmallClanger Tue 10-Apr-12 10:51:44

I remember reading something she wrote about why women went back to their abusers, and serially dated abusers, which had the same gist as KRITIQ's last paragraph. It made me very angry.

Nyac Tue 10-Apr-12 11:23:43

She took tea with a man who had brutally sexually tortured his wife and said what a nice man he was. She was less complementary about his victim however.

She had a man (her partner) in their refuge and also used to invite abusers in to confront their female victims there. She seemed to think this was important. It's all outlined in a book she wrote about it.

She also hates feminists and has written about that in the Daily Mail.

Nyac Tue 10-Apr-12 11:27:02

There was a thread about her here, which contains some quotes from her book:

ParsleyTheLioness Tue 10-Apr-12 17:06:14

Thanks all. will follow up the reading. Rag yes, I remember Spare Rib. Don't know if its still going...

AyeRobot Tue 10-Apr-12 17:48:23

Didn't she grace us with her presence on here once? Or someone claiming to be her?

AliceHurled Tue 10-Apr-12 18:07:52

Don't think spare rib is still going, but they have back copies in the women's library

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