Mary Kellett: When you don’t have the law on your side, when you don’t have the facts on your side, bang your fist on the defence table as loud as you can.

“The qualities of a good prosecutor are as elusive and as impossible to define as those which mark a gentleman. And those who need to be told would not understand it anyway. A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.” Robert H. Jackson (U.S. Attorney General at the time of the quote (1940-1941), went on to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 1941-1954)

Not so much the defence table, but one likes to stay true to the quote as much as one can.

Mary Kellett was a prosecutor in Hancock, Maine up until late last year. She was not retained after the elections for her office installed a new District Attorney.

Back in 2007, Kellett prosecuted a case against Vladek Filler in which allegations of gross sexual assault and assault were led, which led to a conviction. This case was prosecuted at the same time that Filler and his wife were divorcing.

During the trial, some issues had emerged. Firstly, the prosecution and police had withheld certain documents that the defence were seeking, despite having a right to access those documents. Secondly, Filler had sought at the trial to lead evidence that the allegations had been made to advance his wife’s position in custody proceedings. Kellett had objected to the evidence, on the grounds that it would confuse the jury on what it is that they were prosecuting, and the objection was upheld. Whilst Filler was allowed to make the claim during his own testimony, other evidence on the point was not allowed to be led. This would probably have been all well and good, however during Kellett’s closing, she criticised Filler’s claim, on the grounds that there was no evidence. One wonders why.

Filler appealed, arguing that these, amongst other grounds, had caused it to be an unfair trial, to which the judge agreed and declared a mistrial. Kellett appealed this decision, but it was upheld by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, who said that evidence of the custody dispute was relevant and should have been able to lead, and that further to this, Kellett’s closing had added to the prejudice against Filler.

At the retrial, Paul Cavanaugh replaced Kellett as the prosecutor. At this trial, Filler was acquitted on the gross sexual assault charge, and one of the assault charges. Filler was found guilty of the remaining misdemeanour assault charge, and sentenced to 21 days in prison. His appeal on this sentence was not upheld.  Despite these proceedings, Filler was granted custody of his sons.

Due to Kellett’s behaviour during the first trials, Filler made a complaint to the Maine Bar Association which was heard in 2012-2013. She originally denied that her conduct amounted to professional misconduct, but after the Board had conducted its investigation and recommended her suspension for breaching the following grounds:

  1. engaging in conduct unworthy of an attorney in violation of M. Bar R. 3.1(a);
  2. engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of M. Bar R. 3.2(f)(4);
  3. failing to employ reasonable skill and care, in violation of M. Bar R. 3.6(a);
  4. failing to make timely disclosure of the existence of evidence that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense or reduce the punishment in violation of M. Bar R. 3.7(i)(2);
  5. suppressing evidence that the lawyer had a legal obligation to produce in violation of M. Bar R. 3.7(i)(2)
  6. assisting the State of Maine to violate the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure and the court’s Order in violation of M. Bar R. 3.6(d); and
  7. employing means that were inconsistent with truth and seeking to mislead the jury in violation of M. Bar R. 3.7 (e)(1)(i)

she admitted that they breached the rules. She received a suspended thirty day suspension of her license, subject to undertaking ethics training.

The full text of the decision can be found here.

Had this been all, Kellett’s inclusion here would be inappropriate – it could simply have been an honest mistake as she claimed; as honest a mistake as one can make that results in professional censure.

We now look to a 2011 case involving Keovilaisack Sayasane. He was accused of criminally threatening, terrorizing and assaulting his wife, Michelle Sayasane. There was however a bit of a problem – his wife was going to be giving evidence for the defence.

Two days before the trial, Kellett contacted Michelle with regard to the case, and told her that Keovilaisack had a prior manslaughter conviction, of which she was aware. She had believed the victim to have been another Vietnamese man. Kellett however told her that the victim of this had been his first wife, information which she said had been provided to her by the head of the Attorney General’s Office’s criminal division, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes. Further, according to Michelle, Kellett went on to say that Child Protective Services may have to be involved if Michelle continued to allow her children contact with Keovilaisack.

Michelle would go on to testify against Sayasane, despite her earlier intentions (edit: I had originally used “convictions” but realised in the context it was open to misinterpretation). When questioned by Toothaker (Keovilaisack’s lawyer) about whether the information she had been provided had impacted on her current testimony (at the time, he was still confirming that the information was in fact wrong, having only been made aware of them on the morning of the trial), she said that the information had changed her opinion of her husband. The issue became murkier when Michelle said that Keovilaisack had phoned her the night before the trial and (to quote from the news article):

“She said that Sayasane had encouraged her not to show up to testify at his trial, according to the transcript. If she didn’t, he would take care of her and they could live happily together, she said. If she did testify, Sayasane allegedly told her, his attorney would make her look like a bad mother and their children would be taken from her.”

Which of course on the face of it may be tampering with a witness. Keovilaisack was charged later with tampering with a witness, but I am unable to find any later news stories about a conviction on it. Interestingly, the DA office didn’t seem to believe that Kellett’s actions also constitute tampering with a witness.

Either way, this caused an issue – this information had been provided while the jury was in the room whereas the questioning about the provision of the false information had been done in the absence of the jury. As such (at least from what I’m getting from the piece) for the trial to be fair, the jury would also have to be allowed to hear about the false information issue, which then leads to the issue of prejudice from having to lead evidence about prior convictions, a situation which was only made necessary due to the conduct of Kellett. Kellett then argued that this was irrelevant, as knowing the gender could not impact the current allegations, but oddly enough this argument was not accepted, and the judge declared a mistrial. I am unable to find any articles on a retrial, and as such assume the matter is essentially dropped.

Michelle, in 2013, wrote a post about her experience during this case, and in it she details the reason for her decision to testify in his defence. The post is certainly worth a read. In it, she admits that he was prone to violence and had a drinking problem, however she also contextualises it. Her husband had grown up during the war in Vietnam. Both his parents were killed during the fighting, and while living with his grand mother, would occasionally have to flee and hide from Vietnamese soldiers. When he moved to America, he did not know English. In the manslaughter incident above, he has maintained that he was acting in self-defence. He says he was attacked by a Vietnamese man, and combining that with his history in Vietnam, he reacted in a panicked state. For some reason (I’m not certain about whether translators are required in American courts, and if so when those policies were instituted), he was not provided with a translator, and found himself unable to present his case. He plead guilty, and served 15 years in prison.

Michelle believed that prison would not be useful for her husbands problem; he needed counselling. This isn’t to say her husbands violence was ok, just that it can be better dealt with by being helped than convicted.

Whether or not you agree with Michelle’s conclusion is, to me, irrelevant. What is important is that she made a choice, not based on emotional attachment, not because she was trapped with him, but from a position which objectively can justify her conclusion. She analysed the problem, and made a choice on how best to get a resolution. And because that choice didn’t suit Kellett, she was put under emotional distress both by being lead to believe her husband had killed a former wife, and that her children would be taken away unless she acceded.

Furthermore, the information was wrong. Kellett said the information had come from the Attorney General’s Office, but when asked about the incident, that office said that they had searched and provided the summary of the case they had on file, which very clearly said the victim was a 21 year old man. Michelle had not initially accepted Kellett’s word on the case; a key factor was being told it was not from her, but from a government office.

As mentioned at the beginning, Kellett no longer works in the office after not having been retained in her position after the election. In fact, most of the office is changing. Cavanaugh and another attorney, Bill Entwisle are leaving to go to other District Attorney’s Offices. Mary Kellett is reportedly now in private practice.

Bobbitt and Beyond

The case of John and Lorena Bobbitt was sensational news when it occurred back in 1993, and even today occasionally gets brought up in the news.

Now, I should say up front that I am not going to say what Lorena did counts as feminist abuse. Their story is somewhat complex; there is evidence of physical abuse (in the form of friends seeing her bruised) and it seems he probably both committed infidelity and flaunted it. She alleged he has tried to rape her, however he was acquitted of an accusation of this in 1993. There’s also some evidence that she was exceedingly jealous, and some (though from Bobbitt’s own family) that she herself was violent.

Some of these are proven, some of these aren’t and are the normal he said she said. I would hope that we can agree that the “appropriate” response isn’t cutting off a guys penis. I put appropriate in “” as we do have to factor in that Lorena probably wasn’t in her right mind; temporary insanity was essentially what was found at the time. As such, even if it was not appropriate, that does not necessarily lead to culpability.

As such, I’m not going to come to a conclusion with regard specifically to the incident. What I am going to come to a conclusion on is those who sought to use this for their own purposes, of which there are a few incidents.

In early 1994, the National Feminist Association of Ecuador contacted several news outlets, threatening to cut off 100 American men’s penises if Lorena was imprisoned for the case. Because terrorism is a viable political strategy, especially when trying to influence a judicial matter.

Segue time!

It may come as a shock that there is actually historical evidence of a defence for battered women from over a hundred years ago. Professor Ramsey wrote an article in 2010 looking at cases in the American West and Australia in which she finds that men were routinely prosecuted for domestic violence, and would indeed often suffer very harsh penalties for spousal murder, whereas women would generally get much more lenient sentences if sentenced at all. The courts considered male violence towards women wrong and to be punished accordingly, but were also aware that their attempts to civilise wife batterer’s were ineffective, and were aware that many of those women were attacking a batterer. Furthermore, they would often look not simply to the immediate situation, but would look at the history of the relationship in deciding guilt.

In a later article, she suggests that the reason the law began to reduce it’s sympathy was due to the widening of opportunities for women, and so the question of “Why didn’t she leave?” began to actually be a question. When women can’t leave due to social norms and legal rules, that is a fundamentally stupid question, but with divorce laws and expanded employment opportunities of some form which would be at least self-sustaining, that question comes in to play. However, we did not know as much then as we do today; legal rules and social norms aren’t the only things which influence people. We aren’t just robots bobbing along until we malfunction. There are psychological and emotional reasons, as well as the fact that just because someone isn’t allowed to interact with you doesn’t really mean that they don’t. All of these can interact, and I’ve probably missed some other relevant ones, to make the availability of a choice not really a real choice at all.

I’d like to here link to two articles I recently read. The first is about a disabled man whose bipolar wife attempted to strangle him for the second day in a row; the second time being stopped by a Sainsbury driver, and the second is a wife who attempted to have her husband killed by a hitman to cash in on his $400,000 life insurance, as it was easier than divorce.

In both cases, the women were sentenced (in the first, an indefinite stay at a hospital – a form of order in which whilst we accept the person was acting from mental issues, we also accept they are a danger, and in the second, to the minimum amount of time despite no suggestion of abuse). However, both men have stayed with, and spoken publicly in their wives defence. The first, in which he is identified as a “devoted husband”, said she shouldn’t have been prosecuted, as NHS shouldn’t have let her leave in the first place. He still describes her as “as gentle as a lamb”. The second described his wife as a “godly woman” who “has been nothing but a great mother to [their children]” and begged for leniency.

I hope I’m not alone in thinking something is terribly wrong with both of these stances, especially the second. The first has some defence in that it is a legitimate mental health problem, but how is he meant to defend himself against that again? Why is he wilfully remaining in a relationship which is so dangerous to him, given that as much as we might like, our health systems won’t always catch these situations before they occur.  Why does he think she should not have been tried?

In the second, this woman tried to order a hit on him, and there is no suggestion from anyone of any abuse – it was for the money. She tried to deprive her children of their father for money. She tried to kill someone because it was easier than divorce. She decided to kill him, she went out looking for a hitman, she found the hitman and arranged to meet him, she got into his car, and she had a casual conversation in which she contracted the death of the father of her children. Godly?

Calling bullshit

But funnily enough, once she was caught, she showed remorse.  Oh how great it was that those men saved her from the consequences of her own plan.

If the genders were reversed, would we react differently? My point here is that whilst different, it has to be patently clear that there are psychological and emotional pressures which keep men in marriages despite clear evidence they are in danger. These were extreme examples, but in a society in which we are happy to tell a guy who is stabbed that really, he’s the problem (the first of the links at the bottom), surely we have to recognise that something is a little off.

End of Segue!

I don’t really feel that anything has to be said about the threat other than a general recommendation – if you think threatening a group of people is a good way to get your view across, you may want to have a bit of a look at yourself.

The next issue: the protests surrounding it. I have no problem with protesters. It’s perfectly legitimate for people to take issue with things and to voice those issues.

I do have a problem when your protest is designed around mocking someone for a traumatic incident, especially when we don’t really know what was going on. “Lorena Bobbitt for Surgeon General” paraphernalia was being sold outside the court (and can still be purchased today), along with many other hilarious sayings. Some drink called “Slice” and hotdogs with tomato sauce were available. Her act was hailed as a bold and courageous act of feminist self-defence; an innovative resistance against gender oppression everywhere; (in fairness, I should mention the person said it shouldn’t be the first choice).

Apparently, the idea that it was wrong but understandable just wasn’t good enough. It needed to be right.  

The utter ridiculousness and tragedy of this line of thinking can be seen when we move to a more recent event – Katherine Kieu. She also cut off her partners penis, because he had the audacity to file for divorce. She was found guilty and sentenced. By the way, she was not the only one in the intervening time to have done this. That particular google search is not particularly enjoyable.

On a show called The Talk, this incident was discussed. This incident of a woman performing extreme domestic violence against her partner with no justification was discussed and laughed at by both the hosts and the audience (“That’ll teach him. Hahahahaha. Comedy GOLD). One of the hosts, realising the callousness (how would you feel about men laughing about domestic violence to women? And if you’re answer is “it’s different”, I’d like you to provide a justification why that difference makes one serious and the other not; one laughable and the other not. Just because there is a difference doesn’t mean the difference is relevant) said “it is a little bit sexist. If somebody cut a woman’s breast off, nobody would be sitting laughing.” To which, another replied “It’s different”.

Despite the host and the audience’s own apparent joviality, with some minor pondering on whether it was appropriate or not, there was a large contingent of people who probably weren’t ok with people making light of unjustified violence. It’s telling that the hosts weren’t able to bring themselves to simply apologise for it, instead to point out that it’s hard being on a reality TV show, and sometimes you say the wrong thing, or to clarify that they don’t condone genital mutilation (for which she was thanked by the other hosts for “speaking from her heart” (the laugh at the beginning really made it feel heartfelt)) and a round of applause from the audience (whose own ethical judgment isn’t exactly a good barometer). Because that is of course the issue; whether or not genital mutiliation is condoned. Not the fact that a man’s suffering of having his penis cut off and then put through a garbage disposal unit to make it irrecoverable was made light of on national television, and possibly international given they often sell the rights. And wasn’t it interesting how what was apologised for was couched in either ungendered or gender neutral terms.

This can of course be rather interestingly juxtaposed with Ellen Goodman’s comment back during the Bobbitt case. Oh how far we’ve come. At least they weren’t actively advocating it though.  Oh, and don’t worry about those pesky Ecuadorians.  They don’t really matter.

One final note on the issues surrounding the Bobbitt case. There were also reports that the wife of the doctor who had done the surgery was harassed by women who were angry that her husband’s surgery had succeeded.

I want to let that sink in for a moment.

Women were harassing the wife of a doctor for successfully performing an emergency surgery.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather that our doctors not decide whether a person is morally good enough for surgery before performing. Seriously, what the fuck.

That’s as much as I can stomache for today.

Hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year.

Erin Pizzey: That awkward moment when you open a battered women’s shelter and then get run out of the country by feminists. Oh, and some comments on explanation vs justification.

Sorry for how long this one took – Christmas interruptions (fuck baubles (I should probably stop saying that soon)), as well as a lot of reading. On with the show!

Erin Pizzey has not had a terribly easy life. I won’t be covering a complete history here, but it’s not too hard to find. Links will be provided below for a more complete picture. One of her main achievements is having started one of the first domestic violence shelters.

She grew up in what I guess would be called a dysfunctional home. Both her mother and father were abusive, which did impact on the children. According to her, her mother hated her, which at least meant she always knew where she stood.

Her history with feminism is somewhat checkered. Her original contact with it was based on a desire to interact with other women, but she was somewhat disquieted by the messages being sold by the group she came in contact with. It all came to a head when she threatened to (and did) contact the police about a plan to bomb the retail store Biba. This chain of events led to her leaving/being forced out of the movement, and then starting the shelter.

She started the shelter in an empty home; legally, they were squatting (at least as far as I can tell – I can’t seem to find the full text of the Simmons v Pizzey (1979) case). But the house was there, the house was not being used, and there was a group of people who needed a house. Sensible, if not strictly legal, reasoning prevailed. She was regularly praised by parliamentarians for her pioneering work (see below for links to her mentions in the UK Hansard).

(Edit: Having read/listened to things a bit more carefully, I’m not certain this is entirely accurate.  It seems the issue was more overcrowding, though I guess by and large the point still remains with regard to practicality vs strict legality.  It was the refuges after this one, made necessary due to sheer numbers, that were squatting)

Pizzey also wrote one of the first books on domestic violence (Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear) which had for many women a profound affect (effect? You decide!) – even credited as being the inspiration for another woman starting similar programmes in Alaska (and possibly generally, but I can only remember having read that – I can’t find the source, and it’s wouldn’t be the first time I’ve conflated bits of information accidentally).

However, Pizzey made a fatal mistake – she asked questions. She asked the women coming through about their personal lives, and found that some of them, in fact most of the early ones, were violent to their partners as well. It is true that there were women who experienced violence but were not violent themselves, but there were more who were in mutually violent relationships. And she told people about it. Quelle horreur!

Note: I should here indicate that most of what I say regarding what will follow is sourced from Pizzey’s own comments on this period. I have applied for a library card which will hopefully allow me to do a search of newspapers during the period to see if they wrote about it (being from 30 or more years ago, they don’t tend to show up on a google search), but given both that there are stories of other people who made similar comments receiving similar threats, and that I have not seen an actual refutation, I feel comfortable mentioning it here.

For this, Pizzey and her family had to put up with protests if she was speaking at places, being put under police guard, receiving death threats and bomb threats, culminating in the receipt of a package which caused the police to want all her mail diverted to them to be examined.

After this, Pizzey and her husband decided to leave England for her and her families safety, heading to Sante Fe. She would here again help women trying to escape hostile homes.

Today, she is back in England, where she still advocates for solutions to domestic violence, based on proper research. It is her belief, which from what I can tell, much of the literature seems to back up, that the predominant cause of domestic violence isn’t gender (there are some, but it is not most), it is a host of factors such as substance abuse and/or personal family histories of violence. As well this, she is raising awareness of male victims, some of whom are in the same position as the non-violent battered women (the article linked to below by Maurice Vaughan has a story of his own personal experience of having a male victim; the relevant bit is summarised better below. I’m not certain of if I can quote it, as I had to pay to access it, so instead I ask that you trust that I’m not making it up).

This of course dovetails nicely into some comments on sociology, and the difference between justification and expectation explanation (noticed this mistake like 7 days after – woops!). How convenient!

Historically, the only centrally controlled way to try and change societal norms was the law and religion, which were pretty incestuous at the time for us Westerners. Why was there strict liability for controlling a fire many years ago, even if a gust of wind is what caused it to destroy property? Because they didn’t have a very efficient fire brigade, so the best hope was simply to frighten the bejesus out of people with “if that fire fucks up and burns down the street, guess who’s paying the bill? Fire responsibly.” Why were innkeepers strictly liable for the theft of possessions of their guests? Because it was unbelievably difficult to track down the thief, who likely absconded into the night, and because the innkeepers a) were the ones who could improve security, and b) could increase their fee to accommodate the costs (A Historical Introduction to the Law of Obligations, Ibbetson, D, 2002; though I’m fairly sure I’m also using some articles and or the lecturer’s comments during the course it was used in).  Naturally, this didn’t stop either, but it was the best they could do with the (by today’s standards) limited tools that they had.

For more social issues though, the law is notoriously bad at actually affecting social change, or at least its (and only its) intended social change, which can often lead to horrible consequences. For a more mild version of this, see the first post – separating a wife’s property from her husbands lead to a complete revising of the theory behind income taxation (some 40-50 years later). For a more tragic version, we can look at abortion laws. When abortion is illegal, some women may be diverted from it, but some will also simply be forced to use unsafe spaces or try to do it themselves, obviously drastically increasing the risks of permanent injury or death. Furthermore, you then have the courts acting as a Sword of Damocles over any doctors who are just trying to do their job in looking after their patients; can she get through this pregnancy? Is an abortion necessary for her own health? And the question every doctor loves to have to think about, “will the law agree, or is it going to do unpleasant things to me the writing of which would be indelicate?”

Making abortion illegal has all of these unintended consequences, and if you try to make it more subtle (ergo, add in more words and clauses and exceptions and exceptions to exceptions and exceptions to exceptions to exceptions (we need to go deeper) it also becomes more difficult to work, and the unintended consequences can become even worse. The law is a mace, not a surgeon’s scalpel.  The subtlest it tends to get is when it hits you from behind.

Furthermore, when you’re talking law, you’re talking justification. You’re talking about rights and wrongs, and how far one person’s rights should go before they become a wrong. Aspects of blame and fault and innocence are a necessary aspect permeating laws. You can’t really step back from that; after all, if you’re using the law the result is going to be usually either forking over money (if civil) or some form of “punishment” or mandated process (if criminal) if someone doesn’t follow it, so rights are and have to be fundamental to any revision.

But this comes at the expense of simply an explanation. If a fight happens, the law wants to know who started it, who used what force, did they need to use that for their own defence, and so on and so forth. It may ask why it happened, but that’s just so they know if one of them is provoked or something. It doesn’t care about the why for itself, just in so far as it helps with their judgment of fault; in so far as it impacts on the justification.

So now we come to the difference between explanation and justification. Explanation is simply why something happens. Nothing more, nothing less. Just finding out why. Justification is about whether it is right. It wants someone who has performed a prima facie wrong to make it a just thing to do. Lets look at three examples within the context of one situation: someone hitting someone else. The person who did the hitting is asked about why afterwards.

Answer A: I hit him because of the sound of the number purple.

Answer B: I hit him because he looked at me funny.

Answer C: I hit him because he was beating up his wife and I knew I could stop it.

Answer A is neither a justification nor an explanation. It simply doesn’t make sense; the reason provides us with no understanding of why the event happened. It is repugnant to our sense of reason.

Answer B is an explanation but not a justification. Whereas the first one would leave us looking at the person bewildered, this one would have us facepalming. Yes, we can see that someone might hit someone in that context (it explains the event) but it does not justify it. That said, in knowing the reason why, on top of whatever punishment goes along with it, maybe we should also get the person into anger management.

Answer C is both an explanation and a justification. We can see that someone in such a situation would likely hit someone else, and we can also see that it is right that it be done. Unless the person used excessive force, we wouldn’t punish the person, and we wouldn’t think the person needs some form of counselling.

Author’s Note: whilst I’ve made it gender neutral now I wanted to mention something interesting that happened while writing this. Despite using “person” and not specifying the gender in the scenarios for the subject, in the extended comments on B and C, I immediately jumped to using male pronouns for the person; furthermore, in Answer A, I did not stipulate genders. But sexism against men totally doesn’t exist, amiright? No preconceived notions at all. Certainly not in that third scenario.

A justification always builds off of an explanation, but an explanation does not always lead to a justification. The laws questions need to be asked – we need to know who should bear responsibility. But they are not the only important questions. Now we come to sociology.

Sociology doesn’t care about justifications. In fact, a sign of a bad sociologist is one who cannot separate themselves from their own ethical judgments (sufficiently). It only cares about the why. It sought to fill in a gap – the law and those who wrote it would often just use their own understandings of incidents, or just make one up, and then base the system of it. Sociology said no, we don’t actually know this, but we now have the methods and the technology to find out, or at the very least make our knowledge better.

In other words, sociology is just about the explanation. Why do people behave in the way they do? What causes them to behave in that way? How do those systems and behaviours arise?

Let’s have a look at a particular (and not entirely unbiased (but that is for another time (can you tell I like parentheses?))) situation of this. A stronger male and weaker female, who are both aggressive. I’m willing to bet that no matter how much counselling you give a guy, if he goes back to a relationship where he is being hit, or some other form of domestic abuse is occuring, and the counselling he’s received hasn’t been based on this type of a situation, he’ll probably fall back into old behaviours eventually. Again, this isn’t to say that it is right, it’s just saying that it is. Would you rather sit back moralising about who is to blame or actually get the shit to stop? If the latter, then, upon the assumption that the man’s behaviour is (non-ethically and/or legally) influenced by the woman’s actions and her own anger management, then they both should get some help. To reiterate, the man was still at fault, and the woman is by and large innocent (in this particular scenario, and assuming the man is not similarly injured by her (or injured at all I should say)), but in order to get the violence to stop, they both need some help. This is true even if the two people separate – you still don’t want them to end up in other relationships doing the same thing.

There are few things which frustrate me more than society’s incessant refusal to look beyond the ethical judgment and realise it needs to behave otherwise if it wants the situation to get better. This stupidity is all the worse when it is applied to inherently private situations, cause guess what? All it does is make the situation worse. Now, the person also needs to make sure they aren’t found out, which I’m willing to bet pretty much always makes things worse. But hey, at least we all get to feel good about ourselves in the mean time.

It becomes even worse when we begin criticising positing a fact and/or argument grounded in at least some research, not on the ground that the fact or argument is wrong, but because they “might hurt someone” or are “problematic”, or might make someone feel like they are being judged, or can’t come forward. These arguments have no place here. If these are problems, then the appropriate response is not to criticise raising the point at all, it is to work to get people to understand that they need to stop with the moralising bullshit and let society just try and understand the problem, so we can work on making everything better. Hiding the truth, or making it impossible to discuss, simply makes things worse.

Some Research on or related to Domestic Violence:

Domestic Violence, Gender, and Counselling: Toward a More Gender-Inclusive Understanding by Nathan Beel (2013)

Well worth a read, but some quotes nonetheless:

“If Johnson (2011) is correct that males are over-represented as intimate terrorists, it begs the question why domestic violence is framed as gendered violence without qualifiers in spite of his admission that intimate terrorism ‘probably represents a small part of all the violence that takes place between partners in intimate relationships’ (p. 290). This is in contrast to situational couple violence, which is ‘by far the most common form of couple violence, and… is roughly gender-symmetric in terms of perpetration’ (Johnson, 2011, p. 290). Framing the entire issue based on the exceptions is misleading.”

And the one which caused me to have to leave the computer for a few minutes:

“She stabbed me with a knife, and I didn’t even defend myself, and after I got out of the hospital two weeks later, the court tells me to go to a group they say is for victims. It turns out to be for batterers and I am expected to admit to being an abuser and talk about what I did to deserve getting stabbed” (Hines, et al., 2007)

Sex Differences in Aggression Between Heterosexual Partners: A Meta-Analytic Review by John Archer (2000)

Rethinking Domestic Violence by Dr. Donald Dutton (a book)

Dr Donald Dutton’s Website

Dutton, D.G. & Corvo, K. (2006) Transforming a Flawed Policy: A call to revive psychology and science in domestic violence research and practice.  Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11(5), 457-483 [Full Text Version]

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s Wikipedia page, for a summary of his works relating to violence and army training; interesting as it relates to male violence.

Critiques: Erin Pizzey and the Forbidden Narratives About Domestic Violence by Maurice Vaughan

Mainly just for a story from the Author of his response to a male victim who was a client of his; didn’t feel it was urgent, didn’t go through all the resources and legal rights available; accepted the man when he said it was under control. Also was the link through to most of the other articles.

Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence in Australia by the AIC

News/commentary on some research:

How Common is Female Domestic Violence Against Men?

Research Findings on Domestic Abuse Offenders Revealed – Hampshire Constabulary Domestic Abuse Project Reduces Reoffending

Sources about Erin Pizzey’s life:

A Fighter in Exile by Brian Deer 1986

Domestic Violence Can’t Be a Gender Issue by Dina Rabinovitch

When Andrew Marr Accused Me of Being a Terrorist it was like a Bomb Going Off in my Chest by Antonia Hoyle

Our Male Victimizing Myths Live On by Barbara Kay

Children Who Witness Abuse ‘More Likely’ to Suffer as Adults

Meet Alaska’s Pioneer Woman

My Interview with Erin Pizzey at JudgyBitch

On Domestic Violence No One Wants to Hear the Truth

Meet Erin Pizzey: Founder of the First Domestic Violence Shelter at AboveTopSecret

Erin Pizzey’s Website(s):

ErinPizzey.com

“Revelations with Erin Pizzey”

Some Pieces by Erin Pizzey

Why I Loathe Feminism… and Believe it will Ultimately Destroy the Family

The Situation for Womens Refuges is Desperate but We Need to Start Admitting Men Too

To Say Emotional Abuse is as Bad as Violence Insults Every Battered Wife

Note: Whilst I personally don’t agree that in fact it is not worse, I do think we have to think about the issues with bringing the law into this. Private matters have always been the scourge of our legal system, so whether it can even fairly deal with these types of cases in any way which preserves justice is a real question. Other methods which don’t come with so much historical and technical baggage may provide better and more manageable solutions in practice.

Some Pieces which Quote Erin Pizzey
David Cameron Criticised After Attacking ‘Runaway Dads’ by the BBC

Pioneering Domestic Violence Advocate Who Refused to Discriminate Leaves Lasting Legacy by PR Newswire

Why do Men Find it so Hard to Admit They are Being Abused by Their Partners by The Independent

Erin Pizzey in the Hansard:

Battered Wives July 1973

Battered Wives and Children July 1974

Battered Wives Right to Possession July 1975

Domestic Violence Bill February 1976

Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech November 1976

Disruptive Children and Young Persons June 1977

Voluntary Organisations Wolfenden Report January 1978

The Family May 1978

Violence in the Family June 1978

Active Citizenship May 1989

Women’s Refugees March 1992

Domestic Violence July 1993

Women’s Refugees July 1995

Family Law Bill Lords March 1996

Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Bill December 2003

Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Bill June 2004

Elder Abuse July 2004

Changing Attitudes within the English Parliament:

Some comments in 1996

Some comments in 2014

Christmas Musings: Fuck baubles and Other Thoughts

Fuck baubles

I bought my first Christmas tree this week. I don’t much like shopping malls during Christmas, but Christmas decorations were always a part of my life growing up, and I’m beginning to like doing up the house. Naturally, in a renting environment, one can’t stick a multitude of thumb tacks into the roof, so tinseling it up (to the max­) was out, but I could at least do the Christmas tree. So I bought one and a bunch of baubles and some tinsel to put on it.

Putting up the tree was fine; took a bit to work it out, but got that up pretty easy. Tinsel is a no brainer, so that went fine. The only problem was the baubles.

Fuck baubles.

I’d bought some cheap stuff cause the tree was already costing a packet, just plain coloured shiny spheres. I opened up the first box, picked one up and went to put it on the tree when I discovered where my afternoon was going.

They didn’t have their strings attached. The strings were at the bottom of the boxes, and had to be attached manually. They were in a state of unstringedness which could only be rectified through one’s own application of labour.

I had bought 96 baubles. Oh the joy.

Well 6 hours to be precise (but it felt that long), the tree was up and ready to go. Or not go. You know what I mean.

Naturally, during 6 hours of threading thread and knotting knots, one has some time to think. About Christmas, about ones health, about what to have for dinner that night, about the meaning of life and all its questions, about ex-ter-minate. Whoops, that was the frustration speaking. But one thing that I spent most of my time thinking about was essentially the old idea of Women’s Work.

You see, even though it took me 6 hours to do, I most certainly would not have paid someone to do it. Not at my pay rate, not even at the minimum wage. I could certainly afford to do so, but I simply didn’t think it was worth it. And yet, I still did it. Even though I didn’t think it was worth 6 hours of a nationally mandated minimum wage which is considered barely sufficient with which to provide for a few people, I still valued it enough to do it myself.

I pondered this trying to work out why I was compelled to do such a thing. Was it just nostalgia, a little bit of home now that I’m away from home. Am I perhaps a masochist, and derived some perverse pleasure from this self inflicted torment. Whilst it was some of the first (and none of the later, thank you very much), I believe it was also for another reason – non-monetary value.

I put the tree up myself, so there was no community element, though I admit part of it is to make the house better. I want a tree, and I hope my flatmate likes it as well; it distinguishes this time of year from other times of year. Every time I (or hopefully we) walk past it, I’ll think about what I’ve achieved this year, how happy I am at where I am in my life, as well as memories of Christmases past. It sets the tone; the end of one year, and the start of the next. Joy in both completion, and in starting a new.

You see, whilst none of this is worth spending $50 to $100 on depending on the minimum wage where you are (and adjust signs and values as appropriate), it still has sentimental value/emotional value/ to an extent, psychological value. Just not monetary value. Does this mean it’s worth less? Of course not. It just means that I (and I hope most) would find it wrong to try and stick a dollar value on how much we value it.

This naturally got me thinking, given the task I’ve set myself, about the traditional “Women’s Work” and how it was unnoticed and unvalued; seemingly because it didn’t come with a dollar value or a career path. Cleaning the house, cooking meals, raising the kids, as well as a vast array of community work (which will be covered in more depth later). In thinking about it, I can’t really agree that this work was either unnoticed or unvalued.

Cooking meals probably shouldn’t even be there; how often have we heard “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” which makes it pretty obvious they valued the food. (Note: even though I corrected myself, seeing as these are in part meant to be ramblings, I figured it better to keep it).

Cleaning is a bit less clear. After all, there have been those messages reminding husbands to thank their wives for the work they do. This leads on a bit from the last personal post; I honestly think men don’t notice – we notice when things are particularly messy (or rather when the mess is intrusive to our intended purpose); it’s difficult to notice the absence of something. I’m reminded of a conversation with my father about sound desk people at performances. You know they’re doing a good job when you don’t notice them at all. It’s when you do notice them (sound is unbalanced; can’t hear the singer; something stuffs up) that something has gone wrong. Now, this is a bit tough on the sound people, but what it means is the people who should be going up and thanking them (ergo, recognising their work) are the performers. It wasn’t only their performance that made it good; it was the sound guys and gals getting everything right as well.

This of course is where it gets harder for wives who clean; their audience is also the benefactor. As such, I believe that it was appropriate for men to be reminded that hey, you should probably notice the fact that this place is constantly clean – someone had to do that. Yeah, they benefited from it arguably more than you did, but you still benefited by never having to deal with those interfering piles of mess that were kept at bay by someone making that their task. It shouldn’t be done in the expectation of thanks, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be thanked.

The thing is, I think that the issue here wasn’t that men didn’t value it, or simply assumed it would be done, it was just a miscommunication. As above, firstly, guys have a tendency to have a difficulty noticing an absence, unless that absence is something they were particularly looking for.

It’s not malicious or dismissive; it’s just hard to notice these things from the male perspective. As such, non-accusatory reminders that there is actually this thing called dust was the good way to go about it. It widened the men’s field of view beyond what was there to what wasn’t there, and why it wasn’t. Of course, deep down men knew women were doing that work; why else was there that vacuum thing they’d bought; it’s just that men tend to need things to be brought to attention.

(We interupt regular programming for this unnecessary line, brought to you by not letting me split these paragraphs properly)
Raising the kids though, and the idea that men didn’t value it, is where the reasoning goes utterly off the rails. Of course men valued raising kids. In the study linked to in the last personal post, one thing that the authors noted was that men had indicated a desire to do less work hours if they could spend that time with the kids. I’m willing to bet that didn’t pop up over night. Why else would there be “bring your kid to work” days? Why do men plaster their spaces (if they have them) with family photos and their kids drawings? I personally believe most men always wanted to be part of raising the kids, but due to circumstances (a few hundred years ago out of necessity, in the past fifty to a hundred out of tradition and a society that was only taking baby steps towards realising men could work less and things wouldn’t collapse) they simply couldn’t.

Men valued raising children so much that they created legal systems and social structures which meant that those people who pretty much had to raise the children (ie, women. They were the ones with the uterus’ and mammary glands; no man could replace either of those, formula and breast pumps weren’t around, and the vast, vast majority of families couldn’t afford a nanny to do the job) were both provided for and protected, with no hope of monetary recompense to the men. They valued raising children so much, they were willing to take on the sole economic responsibility at the expense of their own capacity to raise them, simply to ensure that they would be raised. Not only that, but there were many technological advances to mitigate the degree to which women would spend on household tasks, allowing women to spend more time with the children.

Were there some mistakes? Of course there were, and some of them were not simply bad, they were horrific. But they did the best they could with what they had, and seeing as there’s an awful lot of us here today, it probably wasn’t too bad of a job.

Now community work. My understanding is that women have always taken on either the lead, or at least major roles in the success of community. Church gatherings, events and fundraisers; holiday celebrations; general social gatherings; more recently, school fetes – many if not most of these are and were essentially run by some very competent women. Baking, crafting, organising, manning the stalls. All unpaid. If the church event had had to pay all of the people who worked on it, do you think it would have even been possible? I’m betting no. Even if it were still profitable, the more funds which went to it, the better it would have been for the community (at least in theory). In other words, the monetary value of these events would have been negligible at best if the work was paid; business wise, a bad investment. But it was still valued. It was valued so much that these women were willing to work for it for free, rather than stay at home. I believe, because of community. Yes, there would have been a social pressure aspect, but I don’t believe that was all. It was partially if not mostly because a) as the children grew up, women had more time, b) they recognised the value of these events; for some it would be raising funds for the church or charity, for others just in terms of creating and maintaining a healthy community.

Good point, taco or burrito girl.

My mother, back when we lived in the town we used to live in, was a powerhouse. She raised my brothers and I, and worked as a teacher part time. Once we were all in school, she became prolific in the community. She run a local yearly culture event; her and a committee – all women. People from the town, and from other towns in the region would all come to compete in the event.

When funding for the event (which was held in the main performance centre of the town, by the way) was too low, Mum would be the one phoning all the local businesses, selling them on how important this event was for the community, how great it was, oh, and how many people attended and would of course happen to see the sign advertising the business. It was Mum who when one of the funders got a bit ahead of themselves, wanting the best spot (which naturally went to the primary funder) kindly pointed out how much more they would have to contribute if they wanted that spot (oh, you want it put over there instead? That would work wonderfully.  Thank you for your support).

It was Mum who held her choirs to a meticulous standard regardless of where they were performing, because it didn’t matter where it was, you should always be proud of it. It was Mum who was asked to lead a choir when the olympic relay went through. It was Mum who berated the people at the school fete who had dared to sell the cakes she had baked for far below cost price (by the way, even with the price rise, they had all sold out before the fete even happened the next year). It was Mum who played at a state funeral, who was a personal friend of the local member for parliament (keep in mind she wasn’t from the town originally), who played at church masses for years and would invariably be thanked almost every week for her contribution to the church, contributing to turning mass from that weekly obligation those Catholics had into a real mass (I myself am now an athiest, but even I can recognise the importance of knowing how to play for a mass, and knowing that it is not at all similar to a normal performance).

And did my father not notice this tireless work? Did the community think it was just that thing to keep the women occupied? Of course not. The community had truckloads of respect for my mother; thanks for providing the children of this outback region an opportunity at a quality cultural competition to show their talents, for providing the community with quality amateur entertainment, for being part of bringing every one together and making it a community.

Her profession? Part time teacher. Was she paid for any of this other work? Nope. But if you think that means it wasn’t valued, I’d suggest you might want to take off your captain capitalist hat and see that there is more to life than dollar value.

You see, men were what allowed us to, you know, simply continue, and to some degree progress. But it was women who made life worth living; made it so we had something to look forward to the next week, or fortnight. Some event, where we could all get together and have a great time as a community; where we could help our community and make our lives more exciting and enjoyable, rather than just a monotony of blah. In keeping with the season, it’s thanks to women that Christmas is what it is.

So, personally, as the year finishes, I’d like to thank the men of yore for getting us all here relatively unscathed, and I’d like to thank the women who brought us together and made it into a journey.

P.S. Seriously, fuck baubles.

Valerie Solanas: “She also shot the artist Andy Warhol, but we all have our moments.”

Julie Bindle for the above quote

She shot Mario Amaya as well Ms Bindle. You know, just throwing that out there.

Any discussion of feminist abuse has to have somewhere near the beginning what is widely recognised as the start of the worst of it – Valerie Solanas.

Valerie Solanas was a writer and actor. She had wrote some works, but for the purposes of this post, two of them are key – The play “Up Your Ass” (which had to be advertised as Up Your A$$ when it finally got a run after the turn of the century) and of course the S.C.U.M. manifesto. In case you were wondering what the acronym is – Society for Cutting Up Men. Lovely.

As it is more relevant to the incident, we’ll start with the play.

If you’d like to read a review of the play, you can do so here.

Needless to say it is rather … visceral.

In terms of the story though, the play is more of a catalyst. Valerie was affiliated with Andy Warhol; she had done some acting in some of his works. Valerie however aspired for more. In 1967, 2 years after she had written it, she submitted it to Andy Warhol in the hopes he would help produce it. To be fair, based on reports Andy was something of a dick to her. “Did you type this all by yourself?” Classy, Andy.

What happened after that though is a bit more confused. According to some Andy Warhol thought the play so obscene that it must be a police trap. Dr. Desiree Rowe suggests otherwise, painting a picture of a disdainful Andy losing Valerie’s work for no greater reason than apathy. Either way, everyone agrees the work was lost. When Valerie tried to get it back, she had to be informed that it couldn’t be returned, as it couldn’t be found. She asked for payment for it, instead she was offered a role in an upcoming work of Andy’s for which she would be paid.

In 1968, on the fateful day, Valerie would seek to get her play published again, this time through Margo Feiden. Margo declined to produce it. To this Valerie declared “Oh, yes you will, because I’m going to shoot Andy Warhol.” And shoot him she did, along with Mario Amaya. She later turned herself in, saying she’d done it as Andy had too much control in her life. This is of course where another layer of confusion emerges. Dr. Rowe suggests that the copy she gave to Andy was the only copy. Yet Margo seems to have a copy as well, given to her in 1968, at least if my understanding is correct. I have to admit, I’m not really sure what is going on. The Margo Feiden article was released in 2009, yet the journal article by Dr. Rowe was released in 2013. Maybe Valerie rewrote the entire thing after she found out it was lost? I’ll leave what you think, or if you even think it’s important, up to you.

Valerie was admitted to Bellevue hospital, where she was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. By June of 1969, she was found fit to stand trial, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 3 years in prison for reckless assault with intent to harm.

Another point of interest in Valerie’s story is of course the SCUM manifesto. Ironically, even this was not free of a publishers capitalist claws. Both Margo (with personal knowledge) and Dr Breanne Fahs conclude that Valerie never went to the publishers on the day of the shooting, though the publisher certainly claimed it. Fahs concludes that this was something of a marketing ploy. Either way, it should be mentioned that the SCUM manifesto had a significant readership in its day, and can still be purchased. Personally, I haven’t read it, and don’t really want to; what I’ve read about it doesn’t make it sound like something I’d particularly like to read. Either way, it is credited as the origin of radical feminism, despite the attempts of some feminist organisations to distance themselves from her, and what seems to be either her own distancing (or indeed disdain) of them.

Valerie’s whole story is, as everything always is, more complex than it seems. Her life is the subject of a fairly recent biography by Dr. Breanne Fahs, aptly called Valerie Solanas. I’m sure it is an interesting look at her life, but as always, keep in mind perspective.

P.S. It seems that it is possible that Valerie left her own commentary on the published version of the SCUM Manifesto.

P.S.S. Some further sites I looked at while writing this are below. Naturally there are many, many more.

http://www.villagevoice.com/2000-01-11/news/solanas-lost-and-found/

http://www.warholstars.org/valerie_solanas_17.html

My Disillusionment with the current state of Feminism

I’d imagine it’s possible some people may wonder why, as a gay person, I would be taking issue with feminism, and siding with the MRAs, beyond simply freedom of speech issues. My first response would be that I’m trying not to take sides, but rather correct an imbalance. My time studying really only taught me one thing – no body knows as much as they think they know. Which is why it is of fundamental importance to allow a variety of views. I’ve only just been introduced to the MRM, so I’m not going to make that decision yet.

However we are still left of course with my disillusionment with feminism, which I readily own. My response to this has two core parts which I will address – the rational, and the emotional. I believe in the greek school of thought that both rationality and emotionality lead the mind, and that we both should and must be guided by both of them. I will deal with the rational side first.

Feminism often represents itself as about equality – the equality of the sexes. We must first recognise that this is not a mathematical form of equality, in which women actually are less than men and must be raised up to them. I would dearly hope no feminist would truly and honestly hold that a stay at home mother is worth less to society than a working mother (and if they do, I would kindly ask them to speak to criminologists, education theorists, and child psychologists about whether there are any benefits associated with having a parent stay at home). Ultimately, the only real difference between them is how they contribute to society; both options have gains and losses, and it is up to families to make the appropriate decision for their particular situation. Furthermore, given that feminism is about the equality of the sexes, then a working woman is no better than, nor worse than, a working man simply because of the respective genders. It is only those matters relevant to their work that determine who is better and who is not. For those with any knowledge of logic, they will realise the conclusion I am heading towards.

A stay at home mother is just as good for society as a working man. If (A) is the same as (B), and (B) is the same as (C), then (A) is the same as (C). For the moment, I would like people to simply hold this in their mind. Now, we turn to the personal.

As I have mentioned, I am gay. Personality wise, in the context of relationships, I am submissive (but not BDSM submissive; all power to you guys and gals, but it’s just not for me). I have no desire to take the lead in a relationship on a long term basis. I’m perfectly happy to split costs (so long as the guy keeps in mind I’m not made of money), and I like giving gifts as much as the next guy, but in terms of major decisions, I would rather be in a relationship with someone who is willing to take on the burden of that decision, which I will follow so long as I have the right to give advice. Naturally, were it to become obvious such decisions were not being made in at least the hope of our mutual benefit (focusing on intentionality, rather than consequence) I would have issues which may lead to my leaving the relationship, but that is an extreme case. I feel that the role I am suited best to is providing and maintaining a safe space for that person to be happy, helping as needed, advising when I believe it necessary, and ultimately trusting him to make the right decision, or to at least to try to make the right decision, and to support him in those decisions.

In other words, I’d make a kick ass 1950’s house wife. Boo yeah.

This leads to a realisation. Sometimes, at least in academic feminism, there seems to be a suggestion that marriage and its roles were about oppressing women. The worst form of this I have heard was institutionalising the rape of women. But based on the passage above, I cannot in good conscience support this.

If I, a guy who was raised to think I need to have a career, and plan to earn a bucket load of cash, and provide can still find myself with the mind set above, then I simply cannot accept the academic feminist view of marriage. Regardless of whether it is nature or nurture, chances are, due to how women used to be raised, many if not most would be in a situation similar to mine – supporting someone, and trusting someone, and doing what we can to make their life easier out of a place of love is the life that would be most fulfilling, and the life they would most like to lead. Ergo, not oppression.

Now, in case anyone decides to decry me as thinking the woman’s place in the home, that simply is not the case. The way in which people were raised, and the societal structures which dictated it are to me wrong. By virtue of the fact that I, a male, find myself in the position I am, it is pretty much necessarily the case that there were women who would like to wear the pants in their relationships and their life. And yet under the systems of the day, they were oppressed; held back from the life they wished to lead for no better reason than vagina. We needed (and need) feminism to point out to society that that was (and is) completely and utterly stupid and it needed (and needs) to get over itself. Women are just as good as men, and the only jobs which should have a gender based barrier are those for which gender is actually important (such as cleaning gendered toilets, particularly in a busy location (eg. a mall). I’d imagine neither women nor men would particularly like a male cleaner in the female toilets or a female cleaner in the male toilets. Gender is appropriate in such a situation).

However this was not the only mandate of feminism, and this is where we bring back in the logic at the beginning. Stay at home mums are not necessarily better than nor worse than working women, who are not necessarily better than nor worse than working men. But there is something missing from this chain, isn’t there?

What about stay at home husbands.

I would find it interesting to note how people would have responded to the paragraph on my personality if I were straight. I’m willing to bet that most people who were squeamish at it in it’s current form were also squeamish at my being gay. But I’m also willing to bet that had I been straight most people simpliciter would have been a bit taken aback at my writing such a paragraph. I’m certainly willing to bet that many if not most women, especially if we limit it to those working, would find such a man unappealing, even if they objectively thought such men should exist.

This is where I feel feminism has failed, and failed in a serious way. Ultimately, feminism is about balance. Balancing the number of women in the work place to give them an equal chance to pursue their dreams. This needed to happen first of course – if feminism had tried to start with getting men into the home more, it would have lead to an economically untenable position. However, even if women aren’t at entirely equal parity, the strides made have certainly been great, and there are certainly women out there now who can afford to finance a family as either a sole working parent, or as the primary breadwinner supplemented by their partner, and letting their partners take on a greater role in the home.

Instead of focusing on this, what do we hear the most about today? STEM. Not even all of university, not even the majority of its fields. Just STEM. The one area where the benefit to society of the female perspective as being different to the male is likely minimised as the fields are the most objective we have. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, 2+2 will always equal 4. Should there be more women in there? You bet. If a woman is being held back from it because vagina, that’s a shitty place for society to be in. However, we also need to prioritise. STEM makes up only a part of the university fields of study and workforce, which already only sees a minority of people going through it. Take the number of people in it (STEM), divide that by 2, and subtract away the number of women currently there, and bam: You have the number of people for whom we’re trying to make this a national and international priority.

I’m willing to bet the number of fathers out there eclipses many times over the number of women we would like to see in STEM who aren’t. And yet all they get is lip service. Feminism is about men too, feminism will let men feel, just please dear god don’t ask us to lead this charge.

Some may say that in that case a fathers group should pop up to make that argument, but that’s nothing more than a cop out. Upon the logic of feminism above, and my understanding of it, feminism is about balance. Increasing the number of women in the work place to balance it with respect to men. Which as far as I’m concerned means that feminism is also mandated to, in the sense that it simply does not have the option not to whilst maintaining its current attempted messages, increase the number of men in the home, to balance that with respect to women. A task at which feminism is monumentally failing.

Further more, and where my disillusionment turns into anger, feminism seems to be doing whatever it can to try and make people believe it is not responsible for changing this. How many times have you heard that you can’t be sexist towards men? How many have heard of the “patriarchy”, in which marriage is male oppression, with an implication that really, it’s men’s own fault they aren’t in the home more. Rather than put on their big girl pants and get to work letting men take on a greater role in the home (not simply doing more chores, but actually having a say in the standard to which such chores should be done), feminism (or academic feminism at least) instead played the role of politician – “it’s not my fault, it’s someone else’s fault, you should blame them”. How very progressive.

When I was growing up, I lived in a large town. Large town or small city; I’m not sure which. It was large enough that you wouldn’t know everyone, but small enough that you’d often bump into those people that you did know. Neither of my parents were from the town; they were both from different capital cities, and had both moved there for their work life. They met at church, they got married, bought a house, and raised a family.

My mother told me a story a few years ago about a mothers group she joined after the birth of her first child. She’d heard about them through church I think; I don’t really remember. What I do remember is when she told me that she arrived there for the first morning, and they were all talking. About their children? Nope. About how hard it was to raise children? Nope again. About their long term aspirations? Nada. About how difficult it was being a woman in this patriarchal world and how things needed to change? Not quite.

They were all talking about how competent (or incompetent, as the case may be) their husbands were in bed.

My mother never went back to that mothers group.

Given how often such or similar stories are on TV, I don’t think this was an isolated incident.

Imagine you are a stay at home father, looking for a support group while living this gender paradigm breaking life style. Imagine that you went to such a group, and had to hear a bunch of women talk about how incompetent their husbands were as lovers. Don’t you think you’d feel uncomfortable about that type of conversation? Don’t you think you’d feel silenced; unable to point out it was neither appropriate, and was making you feel uncomfortable? Does anyone honestly think that were he to do that, the group would realise how utterly inappropriate they were behaving to be raising a private matter which involves another person, presumably without their consent?

Where the fuck is feminism on that shit?

I read a study the other day about the distribution of work at home. I’d read some blog at the Huffington post about it or a similar study, in which the author railed against men who both worked less than and did less house work than their female partners. Naturally, the study wasn’t linked to. God forbid the author should make it possible for people to read this study for themselves. Anywho, I put the relevant search terms and year into google, and found a study which seemed to fit; either it was the study, or it was confirming the study in one respect.

Whilst it was true that men were doing less family work than women, the study also presented some of the reasons why.

a) Many of them didn’t “know” how, which I’m guessing was more like felt they didn’t know how. Vacuuming and mopping properly may seem easy, but if you’ve never done it before, and aren’t used to comprehensive cleaning rather than particular cleaning (pile of dust, meet trash can; as opposed to making the pile of dust) then it can be a bit daunting at first. An example of this is that gif floating around out there of a guy trying to get the lead out of a vacuum cleaner; he’s trying very very hard, but it keeps on getting retracted! He doesn’t realise he has his foot on the button which retracts the lead. That simple example should show that whilst these are things which come easy to many people, there are also those out there who haven’t learned how to do it; they haven’t learned what cleaning agents should be used when cleaning a bath as opposed to cleaning the floor. They need to be shown, and as arduous as it is ladies, given that more of you know what to do than most men, you need to be the ones to teach them.

b) Men are more likely to be willing to clean at an opportune time, whereas women were liable to want it cleaned right now. No, not in 5 minutes, clean it now. I don’t care if you’re watching something, the kitchen is filthy. I’m dramatising there of course, but you get the point. Personally, I can vouch for this. In my current living situation (myself and a male room mate), we only clean something immediately if it’s particularly noticeable; juice from fruit or blood from meat etc. Otherwise, we leave it for the weekly clean. The house gets vacuumed once a week, and I alternate between cleaning the benches/bathroom vanity/toilet one week, mopping the floors and cleaning the shower recess the other week. By and large, men aren’t as fussed about mess, and the mess is neither going anywhere, nor liable to explode if it isn’t dealt with right now dammit.

c) The woman decided the man hadn’t done the job well enough, and so did it herself. Again, I can use a personal example to show this. Along with the above, I clean my parents house once a week. My parents are more traditional, and mum decides the standard to which the house is cleaned. Vacuuming is very extensive, washing the floors similarly so, bathrooms and toilets are cleaned every week, bench tops, etc. Cleanliness is apart of my mothers standards, but so is image. She likes the house to be and look clean.

This isn’t necessarily wrong; I’m paid to do it. So as long as it doesn’t breach the agreement, I’ll clean it to the standard of the person paying. But when compared to my standard at home, it shows the difference – I don’t clean for image. I don’t care about how the house looks. My problem is dust and grime. In one week, x amount of dust and small stuff will “generate” in the house. If I wait two weeks to vacuum, there will be 2x dust. 3 weeks, 3x dust. Personally, I don’t like living in a house with 2x dust as I have some minor allergies and generally don’t like spending my days wiping my feet off to get rid of the stuff stuck on them from walking. So, I vacuum once a week. Problem solved.

The grime in the bathroom and on bench tops though is not so much of an issue for either myself or my room mate. It does get to be a problem though, and that takes about 2 weeks. Similarly, from coffee stains and just general other stuff, the floor being washed once every 2 weeks is sufficient for our purposes.

Put more simply, the standards to which I hold cleaning, and the standards to which my mother holds cleaning are vastly different.

So here we have it, three major reasons (this came from qualitative studies though, so their statistical generalisability is not necessarily a given) why men don’t do as much housework:

1. Not knowing or feeling like one doesn’t know how to.

2. Men are more willing to wait, whereas women more likely to decide it has to be done now.

3. Men having different standards to women.

Number 1 is I think readily solvable – show them what to do, rather than simply expecting it. It seems easy, but funny thing, just cause it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. Decide whether it’s more worthwhile to have him cleaning more, or more worthwhile to wait in silence and hope he works it out on his own. I know which I’d choose were I to give a shit.

Number 2 and 3 are a related beast though – Women holding different standards to men. I personally wonder how many of those couples had sat down with each other to have a good faith discussion about what they want with regard to cleanliness of their living space. What were they willing to put up with, what not. What compromises were they willing to make with each other. The blogger interpreted this as men not doing the work. I interpret this as at least possibly caused by women expecting to be the unanimous voice on the standard within the home, which is simply not feasible. If women want to have more of a public life in the form of the work force, which, as above, is both reasonable and right, then they have to be willing to give up some of their control of the private life. They need to be willing to see the home not just as their space to decide the standard of, but as the space of themselves and their partners, the standard of which will be decided by the agreement of them both.

Not really good at linking to conclusions, so just going to jump straight to the end.

Feminism has done much good for society, but it is well past time for it to focus on the other side of life it claims to represent. It needs to spearhead the movement that allows men to live a life other than being an income. It needs to allow men to have a partner who earns more than him, allow him to take care of the house and children, and maybe bring in an extra little bit of money for the family, while having a wife who is the provider, without being seen as pathetic, useless and worst, unmanly. Feminism needs to realise that it has this obligation, and the longer it goes without taking up the mantle of balancing all aspects of life for everyone, the less it will find people are willing to believe in it.

And to be entirely honest, these problems seem to be at least a part of the MRM’s problems with feminism.

P.S. For those interested in the study, I’m refering to: Men’s Engagement in Shared Care and Domestic Work in Australia by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Particularly the qualitative section; section 7.

https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/women/publications-articles/economic-independence/mens-engagement-in-shared-care-and-domestic-work-in-australia

Mr. and Mrs. Wilkes: DIY Tax Evasion

In 1912, the Milwaukee Journal reported a story from England regarding a Mr. and Mrs. Wilkes.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=5JQWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7CAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6049,712919&dq

Mrs. Wilkes was a suffragette who refused to pay her taxes. Under English law at the time, as under the Income Tax Act, the tax levied on a married woman’s income was liable to be paid by the husband. This was because, at the time of the income tax, married women had no independent income. Once married, her income was considered under the control of her husband. In 1870, this aspect of the law changed, with the introduction of the Married Women’s Property Act. Under this act, a married woman’s income was legally hers and hers alone.

Whether deliberately or by accident, Mrs Wilkes discovered the obvious consequence of the interplay between these two laws. If a married woman refused to pay the tax on her income, the husband was liable for the tax arising on it.

In this particular marriage, Mr Wilkes (as reported in the story) was a teacher. What it does not mention however is that Mrs Wilkes was a doctor. In fact, she was earning far in excess of her husband at the time.

The issue was compounded due to the fact that Mrs Wilkes was not legally obliged to reveal to Mr Wilkes what her income was; Mr Wilkes was unable to provide to the authorities information with which they could ascertain their claim. As such, they made an assessment without it. Regardless, on only a teachers wage, Mr Wilkes was unable to pay the tax. He was arrested, and sent to prison. Luckily, he was quietly released a short time later.

The harder issue was of course for the Parliament. On the 14th of October 1912, the matter was brought before Parliament to be addressed. Initially there was some confusion with how to address it. In a foretelling of the type of problem many jurisdictions face today, it was realised that this consequence was due to the interplay of two seperate statutes; indeed, it seems no one had realised that they could be abused in this fashion.

Whilst the problem may seem one that would be simple to solve (add a tax provision to either the Income Tax or the Married Women’s Property Act), the problems were indeed more complex, and pointed to a need for a complete re-imagining of the core tenets of the tax system – the taxing not of households (as it was under the old law) to the taxing of individuals.

Under the laws as they stood, for the purposes of income tax, the husband’s and wife’s respective incomes were added and considered as one person’s income (namely, the husband). This meant that the tax levied on married couples was levied at a higher rate (due to income tax brackets) than for co-habiting but unmarried couples.

And thus the problem was born – do we a) treat the incomes as separate but still add them together (dat coffer yo) or b) do we treat the incomes as completely separate in order to revert what was essentially a tax on marriage (and hence promoting “irregular couples” *gasp*), and forego the tax revenue.

Option (a) kept the sacred tax revenue, but was effectively an excess tax on married couples, option (b) would remove that tax, but would (unless further revisions of the tax system were completed) result in those poorer funding a higher percentage of the state. A pickle if ever there was one!

It seems that the issue of separate taxation was solved by 1914, however the money revenue question seems to have persisted for much longer.

For those interested, please see http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/acts/married-womens-property-act-1870

Pretty much every response during and after 1912, until at least 1919 (I stopped reading there, as the topic changed to beyond the scope of this post) is relevant.

If this was all you knew about feminism*, would you believe in it?

Does this event make all of feminism wrong?

*I should technically say the suffragettes, but seeing as feminists often like to proclaim they are only for the equal rights of women, and if you agree you are also a feminist, I believe that it is justifiable to include the suffragettes as feminists.