Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Tale of Three Articles

I spent a lot of time on the bus yesterday and as I didn't have a book with me I picked up the free newspapers. I guess I should have known better. Three stories left me banging my head against the windows/hand rails/emergency exit door. Firstly the amazing case of the disappearing wife-killer...
Here we have a victim and a "cause" in the headline but no perpetrator. What happened to "man kills wife"? Or even "Wife-killer claims...". Phrasing it that way is step one on a slippery slope to victim-blaming. Also - is anyone else sensing that contrary to the spirit of the headline "not being a virgin" isn't actually a legitimate reason for murder? I know there are quote marks round it, but that IS the headline and that appears to be the reason for publishing the story - to let people know that for some at least that is a reasonable thing to do. But most importantly - there is a real story here, totally buried. The daughter of the couple concerned had asked the clinic where the murderer was being treated for depression to keep him in. And they refused, discharged him, and he went on to murder his wife and then commit suicide. The story should be about NHS provision of mental health care for people at risk. Instead it reads like a warning of retribution to women planning to marry in white!

Secondly - justification for the above behaviour from the animal world...You should be able to read the article by just clicking on it. Anyway it's about a probably rather interesting subject - the sex life of the cricket. Apparently scientists with too much time on their hands (presumably AIDS and cancer have already been cured) have discovered the male crickets smell out females who have mated less with other males and allocate more sperm to them. They're wrong (according to Mr Cru) when they say this is the first time a species has been discovered to sniff out and react to competitors sperm, but let's overlook that. The thing is the whole set up of the article seems to be saying that this applies to humans and justifies a social revulsion of promiscuous women.

The opening paragraph explains that human women are viewed as "sluts" if they sleep around, "whereas men doing the same are hailed as studs". This may be true in their strange out-of-date world but in mine women who sleep around are defiant feminist mavericks and men who sleep around are just assholes... Then the article explains "now it seems this type of chauvinism may serve an evolutionary purpose - in crickets anyway".

Except that (a) The actual report in no way suggests that the findings have any relevance to human reproductive strategies. (b) In terms of sperm distribution it would make sense for humans to have exactly the opposite of the cricket pattern. Human females can produce at most around one infant per year so for a woman with only one partner there is no great urgency to impregnation - one sperm will do the job and if the man is unsuccessful this month, he can try again next month. Whereas a woman with many partners is likely to be pregnant soon, so there is an incentive to provide as much sperm as possible as quickly as possible - so more frequent sex and more sperm each time. Mr Cru tells me he has read studies suggesting that this happens. (c) A biological reaction does not always come with a corresponding social reaction. Men may subconsciously seek out fertile women based on smell and hip shape but I've never found "I'm not on the pill and I don't use condoms" works as a chat-up line. Guys are not consciously trying to help their sperm out. And (d) So what! So what if men's sperm count were to react to the
smell of other men's sperm? Does that justify treating promiscuous women as second class citizens? And why should women be judged on the basis of the reaction they engender in men? Lets measure women by who's the smartest and who's the best at singing, weight-lifting and playing the didgeridoo (not all at the same time)!

Thirdly - over in the London Paper. And this one makes me the angriest (those of a sensitive disposition please do not read on)...
The crime itself is so horrible, it's hard to discuss other aspects of it. A mentally disabled woman gang-raped by ten men, who then burned her with caustic soda. And by the way this was on page four - the front page was reserved for "Madonna Gets Divorced". The prosecutor - Rosina Cottage - who is supposed to be representing the interests of the victim is (apparently) saying the victim "may have been raped because she had recently slept with three men known to the gang". And the paper is copying that verbatim as though it were a reasonable thing to say. Now there is an issue already about how exactly a 16-year-old with a mental age of eight was able to give meaningful consent to the three men listed. And of course the other issue is how anyone could dare to imply that she brought the gang-rape or the agonising assault upon herself.

When are these awful sub-gutter press publications going to understand that a woman who chooses to have sex outside of marriage does not deserve scorn, hatred, gang-rape, serious assault or murder? When we see these sorts of attitudes in other parts of the world we react with quite justified disgust, but every day free copies of these hate-promoting, murder-and-rape-justifying newspapers are handed out to thousands of Londoners. Anyone want to go picket something? Let me know, I'm there!



It is definitely open season on women and those vile free newspapers - newspapers? have nothing better to do than show how not to report news.

But there - we must not mention those taboo words the gender of male perpetrators must we. Instead we are subjected to tenuous science wherein once again (yawn) male animals or in this instance male crickets are supposedly so much superior to female animals or insects. There is a word this nonsense and it is biological essentalism. Reducing women to their biological nature.

Crickets do not have 'sex' they mate. Count me in for a protest because these pseudo newspapers are promoting women hatred.

As for the ongoing rape case where multiple numbers of males have been charged with group rape and allegedly deliberately burning the rape survivor. Well, of course the female victim is partially to blame, since she went willingly with one of the alleged male perpetrators so she must have known what these alleged multiple rapists intended to do. Common sense is it not?

butterflywings said...

Count me in, too.

Ag. This is why I don't read the free papers.

Stan said...

Just goes to show "there aint no such thing as a free newspaper". You are exposing yourself to opinions that aren't considered worth paying for.

I guess the only meaningful protest is to support a proper newspaper by buying it.

Alex Brew said...

I'm in for some action around this. I started by leaving comments with the online sites but the most harmful articles often don't allow for reader comments. Even so I think it's important to try to leave comments because most of what's said in the comments section is also sexist.

Please tell me a daily newspaper that isn't sexist Stan because I haven't found one! And i certainly don't think buying a newspaper will solve the ingrained misogyny in the media. Consumer power's important but that's just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do I reckon.

Maybe a group of us could get together and plan something?

Alex Brew

Alex Brew said...

Kate, I'm putting together a zine on sexism for schools and it occurred to me reading your blog on news articles that it'd be amazing to have something in the zine about that. I don't know if you have the time but I've got a few people wanting to distribute it so I hope it'll be useful as a resource for teens.

My email's alexphotocontact at if you'd like more info.

I'm in Aberdeen at a conference for the next few days but I will try to pick up my email. My deadline's end Oct...yikes.

ps I'm the woman you met yesterday eve at Abortion rights demo.

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Stan said...

Well brewie, I'm a fan of the Guardian - it's imperfect and more than slightly-up-itself, but I'm imperfect and slightly up-myself, so it suits me fine. Undeniable less sexist than your average Wapping rag.

In a similar way surely the free papers are more likely to be reflecting the population's attitudes rather than driving them. A paper that upset everyone in the way it upsets Cru (and myself) would never thrive : obviously quite a lot of people out there relate to these views, otherwise they would be forced out of business.

To me you need to present an alternative view - unfortunately this is only currently available on blogs like Cru's. Not easy to stick under your arm at a bus-stop though.

butterflywings said...

"Apparently scientists with too much time on their hands (presumably AIDS and cancer have already been cured)"
I have to disagree with you here, though. I blame the media for totally misunderstanding and misreporting the research. I can assure you no real scientist would extrapolate from crickets to humans. I don't see why scientists shouldn't research anything they like; it all adds to human knowledge. Yes AIDS and cancer are important, but I do not agree that all research has to justify itself.

Cruella said...

Yes I agree really - i was being a bit sarcastic. I do wonder sometimes when I read these things in New Scientist that people have been researching really odd stuff, but in general I do agree science should push forward on all fronts. Often these things turn out to be useful later. I do make the point that the scientists are in no way suggesting the findings apply to humans - it is the article which makes that ridiculous leap!

Unknown said...

It seems as though you are trying to find misogyny where there is none. The article about the sexual reproduction of crickets is neither mysogynistic nor implies that the findings apply to homo sapiens. The journalist used a literary technique called juxtaposition, this is done for effect not comparison. Whether you care to acknowledge it or not the belief that women are perceived as "sluts" and men are seen as "studs" when promiscuous is axiomatic.

Regarding the other two articles: Newspapers report fact, every action has reason, every crime a motive. The headline "Wife of 46 years killed 'for not being a virgin'" clearly explains the motive behind the attack whereas the headline "Man kills wife of 46 years" really explains nothing at all. It is a sad fact that many people do kill their spouse, these incidents have been reported over and over again, the thing that makes this case different is the motive, this is why it took priority in the headline.
I find it quite bemusing when you say:
"And of course the other issue is how anyone could dare to imply that she brought the gang-rape or the agonising assault upon herself."

It was never implied in the text that the person "brought it upon herself", you are reading between the lines when there is nothing there. The article states that the motive behind the attack could have something to do with the girl's past sexual encounters with the men, it does not state that it is her fault nor even imply it. If I am burgled by someone I know does it make it my fault?

I support alot of feminist causes but I dislike attacks on people / the media under a feminist guise. Comments like these can only detract from he work of feminism with claims of mysogyny with absolutely no justification.

Kind Regards

Alex Brew said...

If you were burgled it's unlikely that anyone would say that it might be because you had a pretty fancy looking house. They're unlikely to remark that you earned quite a bit of money, had been seen in Habitat the week before and - silly you - had just had a new TV delivered. If only that did happen but under capitalism it's unlikely! Whether conscious or not, people order their world. People want to know that when it comes to male violence there are reasons for it that are 'valid'. The alternative is too unbearable and would probably lead to a very different society.

Alex Brew