Deconstructing “male violence”

I know the statistics.

I know that when a woman is attacked, it’s often at the hands of a man. The same applies for when she is raped, or killed. And that goes doubly so for trans people. Our murderers tend to be, more often than not, men.

And it has an effect on some women, including myself. Try as I might, even though I know that most men mean me no harm, I can’t be comfortable around men the way I can be comfortable around women. It’s a fear that cripples many of us.

So why, then, do I feel so much wary about the term “male violence”?

Because there’s a well-accepted term for violence against women and girls, which recognises this gender balance, that has been used for decades. It’s “violence against women and girls”. And there’s only one group of people I see using the term “male violence”. It’s our old friends, the neoradical feminists, the TERFs. And of course, there’s a transphobic method in their madness.

One of the most famous websites to deal with the idea of “male violence” is Name the Problem, a website owned by our old friend and arch-TERF Cathy Brennan. And even the first couple of pages shows the real intent of the website: it collects not only stories about violence perpetrated by cisgender men, but also by trans women. And “violence” is interpreted very loosely. I was added to that blog for the crime of calling out Cathy Brennan. Along with one of the worst examples of outing I’ve seen, simply by dint of being absolutely lazy.

As well as perpetuating the “trans women are men” myth that transphobes love to throw out at every opportunity, there’s also a second reason for the trope of “male violence”: it conveniently glosses over the non-physical violence that they and their friends are responsible for. Not every hate crime is accompanied by bruises. When the same people are responsible for restricting our healthcare, our access to sheltered accommodation as abuse survivors, our continued oppression, it rings alarm bells. Some friends have had their professional lives destroyed, and others now have no professional prospects whatsoever. Men didn’t do this. It was done in the name of “feminism”. A distorted feminism that at its core wants to eliminate trans women and sex workers, and will happily do the work of homophobes and misogynists to further that goal.

Even worse, they claim that we’re “missing the boat” on male violence. Not every attack, rape, or death at the hands of transphobia is the result of a gunshot to the heart or a knife in the stomach. Every suicide as a result of not being able to access medical care, every bleed-out at the hands of paramedics who won’t even touch us, every hypothermia case because a rape survivor can’t get into her local shelter, those are also deaths at the altar of transphobia.

Name the problem? It’s Cathy Brennan. It’s Janice Raymond. It’s transphobia. It’s cis privilege.

And even worse, they can often buddy up with violent women. This weekend, I discovered Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of the Nia Project, a charity (which gets local government grants) that aims to cut down on male violence. Does it surprise anyone that she interacts with transphobes nearly all the time? One look at her twitter timeline shows her conversations with names we recognise as professional transphobes. She blew the dogwhistle of transphobia hard at RadFem 2013. It makes you ashamed to be a Yorkshirewoman, really.

And really, what call is there for Smith? She can’t even protect the most vulnerable classes of women from violence. When Julie Bindel started attacking Sarah Brown last year for comparing her to Rick Santorum (in 2008!) when it comes to transphobia, did Smith say anything? No. When Julie Burchill said that she’d like to “shove [trans women’s] bad wigs down their stupid throats” (a rather strange trope, I’d admit), did she call her out for incitement to hate crime, did Smith call her out? No. Indeed, she install called her a “vile creature”. You can shout about violence on the TV all you want, but, after all, character is what you are in the dark.

It’s a shame that this sort of bigotry is driving many women, young women, women of colour, trans women, sex workers, basically anyone who isn’t cis and middle class, from identifying with feminism. Why would they, when the lion’s share of the gains go to the most privileged women?

But I, for one, am not going to let feminism be taken away from me. As the old quote goes, this is what a feminist looks like. Not the millionaire lawyers. Not the bollinger-drinking journalists. Disadvantaged activists with the radical idea that women are people.

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