Editor’s note: This blog post was originally posted at The Privy Counsel at Halloween 2018, and this edited version has been reposted here with grateful thanks.
It increasingly seems to me that the greatest horrors are not constituted by decomposing corpses; murderous, flesh-eating zombies; or even an onslaught of manic, sugar-hyped children knocking on one’s door in the dark. The greatest horrors are the atrocities happening around us every day, and which are considered normal.
Swedish Rape Statistics
Ponder, for instance, the fact that in Sweden, a country with a population of roughly ten million, it is estimated that 100 rapes take place every day. Ponder the fact that only a small percentage of these are reported to the police. Then ponder the fact that of the cases reported, only a small percentage lead to prosecution. Then ponder the fact that rape is a hard crime to prove legally (there are usually no witnesses, it is one person’s word against another, etc), and that only a minority of cases lead to a conviction. Ponder the fact that this very common crime, mostly committed by men against women, is usually entirely consequence-free for the perpetrator. Ponder the fact that many people still blame the victim, asking what she was wearing, drinking, and saying, and in fact questioning whether she is telling the truth. (It is commonly asserted that a woman accusing a man of rape has a lot to gain from lying. I can’t personally think of anything she might gain, but can think of a few things the accused man can gain from lying about what happened, like for example not being sentenced to prison.)
Of the circa 6,700 rapes that were reported to police in Sweden in 2014, around 90% were committed against a woman or girl. Breaking down that percentage into categories, among rapes committed against children under the age of 15 during the year 2014, 90% were committed against girls. Within the age span 15-17 years, the percentage of rapes committed against girls was 97%, and among rapes committed against persons over the age of 18, 96% were committed against women. 85% of these crimes were committed indoors. The suspects were, in 98% of the cases, men.
When small children are subjected to sexual violence, the perpetrator is most often an adult family member or relative. For the age span 12-14 years, the perpetrator is most often a friend or acquaintance. For adults, the perpetrator is most often a current or previous partner, or an acquaintance.
Out of these cases of rape reported to Swedish police in 2014, 21% led to prosecution. However, Brå estimates that only a minority of rapes are reported. In Nationella trygghetsundersökningen (“National safety survey”), a Brå publication from 2014, it is estimated that a total of 223,000 sexual violence crimes were committed, against an estimated 62,000 individuals, in Sweden in 2012. Out of these, an estimated 10% were reported to police. (In the latest survey, published in 2018, no similar estimation was offered.) And this is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, where the proportion of reported rapes compared to actual rapes is one of the least bad anywhere.
Men Murdering Female Partners
What is clear from this onslaught of statistics is that a vast number of sexual violence crimes are committed by male persons, against female persons. If only that were the end of it. However, a terrifying (I am not using the word lightly) number of men murder women. In Sweden, an estimated 17 women are murdered by a current or previous partner each year. According to Nationella trygghetsundersökningen from 2018, of those subjected to violent assault, 40% of women reported being assaulted by a partner, whereas only 3% of men who had been subjected to violent assault reported being assaulted by a partner. It is against this backdrop of violence that we must view the murders: around 90 persons are murdered in Sweden each year, of whom a third are women, of whom roughly half were murdered by a current or previous partner (source for this section: Brott i nära relationer, en nationell kartläggning (2014)). The woman is commonly subjected to threats and abuse before being murdered. The majority of these murders happen in the home, with no witnesses. Are you able to ponder these facts without feeling chilled to the bone?
A common question that people ask, in relation to domestic violence, is, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” There are many answers to that question, but the main one is perhaps that the most common time for a woman to be murdered by her abusive partner is when she is trying to leave him. Sweden is a country with a well-developed social security system, where women are expected to work and not be economically dependent on a man, where there are women’s shelters and a national domestic violence hotline. And still 17 women are murdered by their partners every year.
Why is the question so seldom, “Why does he abuse her?” Why is the question so seldom, “How come this is happening in our midst and we see nothing?”
Let’s look at statistics from some other countries.
It is estimated that two women are killed every week in England by a current or former partner. In Britain, “nine in ten women killed during 2016 were killed by someone they knew, 78 women were killed by their current or former intimate partner, 65 of which were killed at their own home or the home they shared with the perpetrator”, according to Women’s Aid. At the same time, the government continues cutting funding to refuges.
In Australia, it is estimated that a woman is murdered every week by a current or former partner. “One in 6 Australian women and 1 in 16 men have been subjected, since the age of 15, to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner”, according to the government report Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018.
In the United States, an estimated three women are murdered every day by a current or former partner. “When men murder women, 93% are killed by someone they know” is another stark piece of statistic, from the Violence Policy Center.
It seems clear, from a survey of the statistics regarding violence against women, that women exist in a world that is hostile to their very existence, where one very common crime (rape) is widely committed by men against women with few or no consequences, and where a large amount of women are murdered simply for being women. (I am not even going to go into other related horrors like prostitution and trafficking.) It is a world where not only are women commonly subjected to sexual violence and harassment in public spaces, but frequently in their very homes, where they should be safe.
“Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime,” according to the World Health Organization, which also states that “Men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms including attitudes accepting of violence, and a sense of entitlement over women”. This leads us to our next area of survey: male entitlement.
Men’s Rights Activists
While women across the world are literally dying from male violence, and feminists and women’s organisations are frantically working to procure funding and resources to help women who are being subjected to violence, a not insignificant number of men, commonly known as Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s), are spending their time harassing and threatening the women who are trying to help other women.
A common argument used to try to shut women up is the “Stop complaining, it’s much worse in Saudi Arabia” trope. Feminists are reminded of the privilege they supposedly enjoy, compared to women in many other countries. However, the plausibility of this argument fades into irrelevance when one considers that a) this supposed privilege involves a substantial risk of being subjected to violence by the category of person making the argument (men), and that b) the category of person making the argument (MRA’s) has yet to show one instance of a constructive action they have themselves taken to help or support anyone, anywhere, whether male or female, living in the West or living in Saudi Arabia. (If you have a record of any such activity, I would be delighted to hear about it.)
A woman in Britain might be considered privileged compared to a woman in Saudi Arabia, true, but on the other hand she still runs a significant risk of being raped or murdered by a man. Furthermore, no feminist is obliged to travel to another country to support women there. Indeed, the fight for equal rights is best conducted in the form of grassroots action firmly rooted in the local soil.
Rather than supporting women, MRA’s seem to make it their mission to vilify and abuse women. Research shows that a significant number of men and boys are subjected to sexual violence (the perpetrator, irrespective of the victim’s sex, is nearly always a man). Feminists point to patriarchal notions of subjugation and domination as an explanation for this phenomenon, and are usually eager advocates of anyone subjected to violence, whether male or female.
The fact remains, however, that running a domestic violence shelter or a support group for rape victims takes a lot of time, energy, and money. These resources being scant, most feminists tend to focus on supporting women. It’s not that feminists don’t want men to receive support, it’s that they are exhausted from just trying to keep women alive.
MRA’s are prone to accuse women of favouring women, to the detriment of men. Men in general, and MRA’s in particular, are of course welcome to start refuges and rape crisis centres of their own, and would perhaps have an easier time collecting money for such an endeavour than women do. However, we have yet to hear of an MRA working long, thankless hours for no remuneration, to support victims of rape or domestic violence, whether male or female. (Again, if you have a record of any such activity, I would be delighted to hear about it.)
MRA’s in the trans lobby
In recent years, the trans lobby has pushed a change in discourse, from describing the human race in terms of biological sex, to describing it in terms of of gender, which is believed to be innate. This appears to us to be a subversion of the long-established feminist assumption that gender is a social construct based on biological sex, and is designed to keep most women and certain men subjugated to male authority. Gender roles, according to feminist theory, vary over time and over different cultures, but commonly they present women as “weak”, “irrational”, “gossiping”, “vain”, etc, while presenting men as “strong”, “rational”, and “logical”. In most societies, for a man to be effeminate (that is, “like a woman”) is to be regarded as weak, even immoral. The gender roles imprisoning both men and women have often traditionally been explained with divine authority or natural law; for instance, it might be claimed that God intended women to stay in the home and care for the children, or that men are naturally stronger and therefore more suited to pursuits in the public sphere than women, who should remain in the domestic sphere.
No serious scientific study has yet shown that any such inherent differences between men and women exist; rather, the scientific consensus seems to be that, when it comes to brain structure, personality, etc, the differences between members of the same sex are greater than the differences between the sexes (for a review of the science, see for instance Angela Saini’s excellent book Inferior). Feminists want to rid the world of gender stereotypes, enabling each person to reach their full potential irrespective of sex.
Indeed, one of the proudest achievements of feminism is the demolition of the essentialist idea that men and women have certain innate characteristics which are based on sex, such as the notion that women are more naturally nurturing, or that men are better at reading maps. This achievement is the result of centuries of relentless work. Trans activists would have us reject the ideal of a meritocratic society, and regress to one where certain characteristics and personality traits are innate and can’t be changed
According to recent trans ideology, gender doesn’t always match one’s biological body. Thus a man might be a woman, trapped in a body with a penis. If a man says that he is a woman, it is abusive, according to trans ideology, to say that he isn’t. The basis of the claim is the person’s feeling; apparently you can know you are a woman if you feel like one. It is not explained how you can feel like a certain sex; however, it is assumed that if a man enjoys things traditionally regarded as feminine, such as dresses, or make-up, or even the colour pink, then he is a woman. It is vehemently declared that a man who identifies as a woman, is a woman. The favoured slogan is “Trans women are women”.
Many people understand the issue of not feeling at home in their body. Especially among teenagers, who have only recently started the process of figuring out who they are in relation to the – still prevalent, rampant, and harmful – gender stereotypes that we all grapple with, bodies can be a source of confusion. The step to believing that you are in the wrong body is, for some, a small one. Gender dysphoria is a distressing condition, and of course requires medical attention. However, while more research needs to be done, it seems clear that in the case of girls believing that they are, or wanting to be, boys, society’s unrealistic and often sadistic expectations of what a woman’s body ought to look like are not an irrelevant factor. There is an as-yet unexplained link between the desire to undergo transition surgery and autism, and transition regret is a real problem that needs addressing.
Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter what you wear, how you express your identity, or what pronouns you prefer. The problems appear when you consider the statistics outlined above. Men rape women. Men abuse women. Men kill women.
Any feminist worth their salt would defend everyone’s right to wear, act and be whatever they want. When it turns out that the agenda isn’t defending human rights, however, but robbing women of their rights and their precarious safety, feminists rightly protest. Part of the trans lobby agenda appears to be to eliminate women-only spaces. It is argued that trans people are vulnerable to abuse and that women need to include them in their safe spaces. So in a world where women are extremely vulnerable to male violence, and where a women-only public toilet, for instance, is an effective means of keeping women safe from opportunistic abusers, women are expected to open this previously safe space to any man who says he is a woman.
This move to eliminate safe spaces for women has been efficient in for example Sweden, where sex-separated toilets appear to be quietly vanishing, to be replaced by “unisex” toilets. This means that a woman – and remember that a majority of women have a lifetime of experience of sexual violence and harassment from men – is expected to share an intimate space with men she doesn’t know and the threat level of whom she can’t gauge until it is too late. It is not necessarily the trans women who are the issue here, it is the men that women are forced to let into their safe spaces if a man can claim to be a woman on the basis of a feeling. (Since trans men generally don’t constitute a threat to either men or women, the debate regarding single-sex spaces has been focused on trans women.)
There are already examples of abusive men gaining access to women by claiming to be female, for instance transgender person Karen White, who sexually assaulted two women in a female-only prison ward. It is clear that women have a lot to lose from giving up women-only spaces. As far as I can tell, however, the only people who gain anything from forcing women to give up their safe spaces are abusive men.
As far as I understand, transwomen are at risk from violence in for instance men’s toilets. What I don’t understand is why trans activists don’t work towards 1) combatting male chauvinism and its attendant homophobia and transphobia, and 2) creating trans spaces, where trans people can feel safe without threatening women’s safety.
Rather like MRA’s, many trans activists seem prone to vilify and abuse women, especially women who don’t agree with trans ideology. Rather than going, “trans people are subjected to abuse, mostly by men. Perhaps those hard-working feminists can give us advice on how to help trans women”, many trans activists seem to spend their time threatening women who don’t accept their doctrine. This hardly seems helpful.
It is in fact hard to see how devoting time and energy to abusing women for simply stating the scientific fact that “a woman is an adult human female” helps anyone, whether trans or not. The inevitable conclusion is that many trans activists are concerned not with supporting trans people but with telling women to shut up, for instance by endlessly harping on about women’s “cis privilege”. Sound familiar? It is, indeed, the very tried-and-tested tactic used by MRA’s – attempting to silence women by telling them they are privileged whenever they try to defend their rights or protest male violence.
There is a trend to make not only statistics, but the very terms used to discuss men’s violence against women, gender neutral. Despite the fact that women are subjected to violence by men on an enormous scale for which there is no female-on-male equivalency, the term “domestic violence” is in many contexts preferred to “men’s violence against women”. Indeed, if you look at the website of the Office for National Statistics, and read the report entitled “Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2017“, the language is almost entirely gender-neutral. “An estimated 1.9 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year,” it says, for instance. One can easily get the impression that domestic violence affects men and women in equal measure, and that the categories “man” and “woman” are, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant when it comes to describing violence.
Remember the onslaught of statistics at the beginning of this blog post? Statistics like these are a vital tool in the feminist struggle to create a society where a person’s worth isn’t determined by sex. By gathering statistics showing that women as a sex are at risk from violence by the male sex, feminists have been able to procure funding for things like women’s shelters, that save the lives of women and children. There are plenty of people out there who are of the opinion that “feminism has gone too far”, and would like to return to an era where women were economically dependent on men and thus forced into subservience, but even these people are obliged to contribute to the cost of maintaining women’s shelters and rape crisis centres with their tax money. All thanks to statistics, and decades of relentless work by feminists.
In the light of this, it should come as no surprise that women might be unwilling to give up the scientifically sound sex categories “male” and “female”. Freedom of expression is a beautiful thing, and people should be free to call themselves trans, or non-binary, or a unicorn, if they find that a helpful way of dealing with the relentless pressures of gender stereotypes. Denying other people their freedom of expression, however, and pushing a misogynist, homophobic ideology on others, is abusive.
The categories “man” and “woman” aren’t sexist in themselves. However, we live in a sexist, misogynist world, where women are having to fight every day for their very survival. Pretending that it isn’t so doesn’t solve the problem. Believe me I, and every woman I know, would absolutely fucking love to live in a world where sharing a public toilet with an unknown man, or going for a walk on a dark night, or existing in a public place, wasn’t dangerous. Since that is not the case, however, is is vital for women to record reality as it is, for instance using statistics. Describing things as they really are isn’t abusive. Stating that men’s violence against women is a problem isn’t abusive. Stating that a woman is an adult human female isn’t abusive.
No woman is obliged to include men in her safe spaces. No feminist is obliged to include men or trans people in her movement.
If you haven’t had enough horror for one day, try pondering several thousand years of violent patriarchy, for instance by reading Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy. I bid you good evening.
The Women Count website
The Counting Dead Women project
The War Is Over (If You Want It), Feminism and Men, blog post by Rebecca Solnit
Inferior, book by Angela Saini
“Evil Womxn”: The Silencing Of Biological Reality And The Technology Of Obfuscation, article in Forbes by Julian Vigo
Transgender Ideology Does Not Support Women, blog post by Miranda Yardley
Transwomen Are Not Women, blog post by Miranda Yardley
Who Are the Rich, White Men Institutionalizing Gender Ideology? article in The Federalist by Jennifer Bilek
We Need to Call Breast-Binding What It Really Is, blog post by Glosswitch
Gender is not a spectrum, article by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper in Spectrum
Changing the concept of “woman” will cause unintended harms, article by Kathleen Stock in The Economist
On feeling like a woman, article by Amy Eileen Hamm in Feminist Current
A Mum’s Voyage Through Transtopia, blog post by Lily Maynard
A Gentleman in the Ladies, blog post by Jean Hatchet
Are You Being Abused? …..Again?, blog post by Jean Hatchet
Actually, just read all of Jean Hatchet’s blog
(If you have money to spare, consider donating to Jean Hatchet’s fundraiser for women’s shelters)
Also, read everything by intersex spokesperson Mrkhrtk2 on Twitter
Stop asking me “what about men?”, blog post by Jessica Eaton
The Transgender Trend website
The Gail Dines website