Radical Feminism • And I want one day of respite, one day off, one day in which no new bodies are piled up, one day in which no new agony is added to the old, and I am asking you to give it to me. And how could I ask you for less--it is so little. And how could you offer me less: it is so little. Even in wars, there are days of truce. Go and organize a truce. Stop your side for one day. I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape. (Dworkin, 1984)
Theory from Practice • Charlotte Bunch claimed that radical feminist theory ‘both grows out of and guides activism in a continuing spiralling process’ (1983: 251) • The ‘personal is political’ • Theory follows from practice and experience. • Catherine MacKinnon ‘first practice, then theory … Feminism was a practice long before it was a theory’ (1991: 13).
A good place to start - What is male violence against women?’ • Walby (1990:132) argued that ‘Male violence exists in a myriad of forms’: prostitution, pornography, rape, domestic violence, trafficking, female genital mutilation, purdah. • MacKinnon (1987:105) argues that women understand their own position by measuring themselves ‘against every rape case she ever heard about’.
Continuum of Violence • ‘Men whistle and call after us on the street. This is at the other extreme of the pleasure/danger continuum and is a more contradictory experience than the sheer terror of rape and mutilation ... Yet the daily control of women by sexual innuendo is not trivial’. Wilson (1983:12) • Further development of this helped to identify a continuum of violence (Kelly, 1988), placing ‘everyday’ violations (Stanko, 1990) within a structural context. • ‘They blamed drugs, alcohol and uncontrollable anger... abusive men will grasp at any excuse for their behaviour, and there are many half-baked theories of causation which give them ample scope’. Mullender (1996:36-7)
Police agree with RadFems • There is a general perception that the majority of rape offences are committed by a lone male against a female who is unlikely to be known to him. The reality is that this type of offence forms only a very small part of the overall total. (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, 2002:8)
Backlash or re-grouping? • Feminism ‘transforms perfectly stable women into hysterical, sobbing victims’ (Roiphe, 1993: 112). • Suggestion that radical feminism encouraged women to label ‘bad sex’ as rape and see themselves as victims (Paglia, 1992; Roiphe, 1993; Wolf, 1993).
RadFem – a history of critiquing itself • Bunch argued that some women became obsessed with their own personal experiences, wearing their victimisation as a ‘chip on the shoulder, a cross to bear, or a badge of honor’ (1975: 95). hooks has made similar criticisms of the victim model (hooks, 1984). • The 1990s backlash accusation of ‘victim feminism’ threatened the years of feminist research and services for women. • Jordan (2004: 4) argues that it should not be of surprise that ‘once the lid was lifted to expose the extent of sexual assault … there would be some in society who would want to clamp the lid firmly back on the pot’.
Truth and Denial • if there is any substantive truth in the statement that ‘women lie about rape’, it is most likely to be in underestimating the severity of what has happened, concealing the violation from those close to them, refusing to inform the police of its occurrence and colluding to protect the identity of the offender. (Jordan, 2004: 55) • ‘Societies dissociate their knowledge of trauma – massive injustice, torture, genocide – preferring to live in the ‘bleached present’ of conventional disbelief and logical denial’ (Wylie in Enns, 1996: 361).
Lived reality • Everything from the verbal assault on the street, to a ‘well meant’ sexist joke your husband tells, to the lower pay you get at work (for doing the same job a man would be paid more for), to television commercials, to rock song lyrics, to the pink or blue blanket they put on your infant in the hospital nursery, to speeches made by male ‘revolutionaries’ that reek of male supremacy – everything seems to barrage your aching brain which has fewer and fewer defenses to screen such things out. (Morgan, 1970:xviii)
1980s – 1990s - Campaigning • The 1980s saw the development of greater co-operation between feminists and other agencies, together with criticisms of policing (Hanmer and Saunders, 1984). Home Office Circular 69/86 Violence Against Women, was followed by a Home Office Circular (1990), which recommended police participation in multi-agency initiatives. • Lobbying on the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill resulted in a significant change in court procedure on rape regarding admission of the woman’s past sexual history and defendants were no longer allowed to cross-examine complainants themselves. • Sex Offences Review led to Setting the Boundaries, which set out a new legislative agenda for sexual offences and culminated in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Law is not enough • After being created in a blaze of glory, the Met's dedicated rape units have been left without the funding or manpower to do the job demanded of them … The burden on detectives is horrendous. On a murder or serious crime squad, senior detectives will have a team of detectives to delegate to, but in rape investigations each detective works mostly alone, responsible for every decision and every detail … Nobody wants to work on the rape units any more. Even the trainees ordered in are not at the end of their training. They'll say they will not be in charge of investigations, but they are. I've seen them overwhelmed; good people, burnt out before their careers have even begun. The Observer (1 May 2005)
A recent report on investigation and prosecution found ‘examples of lengthy delays’ (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, 2002:19), with women from ethnic minority groups having ‘particular difficulty in bringing offences against them to police notice’. Also ‘on some occasions, the social status of the victim, and/or the circumstances of the offence, determined the level of response’.
A continuing battle • these are not isolated crimes, these are parts of the fabric of women’s lives, and they all act to keep women, individually and collectively, under men’s control. (Cook, 1997:23)