Jan 18 2014

A quick update on moderation policy

There’s something that I’ve had to take action on several occasions in recent weeks. It is something which I personally consider very serious and I thought I should spell it out.

I will not tolerate references to someone’s (supposed) mental health status as an ad hominem attack.

I’m particularly thinking of things like

  • References to people being on or off their meds.
  • Descriptions of people as ‘mad’ ‘nutters’ or ‘looneys’

In general, I’d ask you to think twice before using words like that at all, but in general I’m not that fussed when people describe ideas, concepts or arguments as ‘nuts’, ‘crazy’ etc, and I certainly don’t have a problem with phrases which clearly refer to ideological and political positions (eg wingnuts, whackadoodles or whatever)  - but a direct assertion of mental illness against other commenters is strictly off limits.

Why? Two reasons. The first is that there is a fair possibility that some of the people reading your comments at any given time do indeed have mental health problems and comments like those could quite reasonably make them feel excluded or alienated.

The second is that many of the people I know who have mental health issues – including some that have quite serious psychiatric diagnoses – are highly intelligent and/or educated  people with experiences, opinions and viewpoints that are vastly better thought-out and informed and vastly more intelligent than most so-called ‘sane’ people.

This type of comment is extremely stigmatising and harmful and will not be tolerated here.

You are welcome to discuss this issue below, but I’ll tell you now, this decision is final.

Please take this opportunity to let me know of any other issues you have with moderation here.

Thanks all for your co-operation.


Jan 11 2014

I’m only writing this to get laid. Or am I?

Let me tell you about a stupid thing people often say to me. They’ve been saying it to me for years, and I have never written about it before, mostly because it is so full of stupid it feels almost unfair to pick it up and rattle it until all the stupid falls out – like squeezing a puppy until it poops itself or something.

It should be said, this particular little puppy is not just stupid. It is stupid, and insulting and deepy, deeply offensive, specifically to men. I know some people are suspicious of the word misandry but hey, it’s a thing, and the topic of our discussion today is absolutely rotten with loathing and contempt for the male gender.

So what is this rancid little snotbubble of idiocy? It’s the tedious cliche that says any man who says or writes something which could be perceived to be sympathetic to women or feminism must only be doing so in the hope of getting a shag.

Most of the time, the peddlers of this misandrist puppy-poop are men themselves, usually anti-feminist commentators and MRAs. Here’s a typical example from A Voice For Men

However they are not the only culprits. Last week I found myself unexpectedly whelmed by a torrent of antipathy from the radical feminists of Twitter. It began with a group who simply don’t like me, don’t like my thinking, and don’t like my writing. That’s fair enough, the feeling is pretty much mutual. Along the way, I was treated to this little diagnosis of my motivations.


So far, so yawn. However as the torrent turned into a tsunami, one of my detractors dug out an old tweet of mine,  referring to the vile and abusive trans-exclusionary radfem (TERF) cabal of Cathy Brennan and pals, in which I’d said that radfems like those are thankfully a dying breed. This opened up a whole new subplot, including this gem


This is really world-class offensiveness. You would have to look long and far to find a message that manages to squeeze in so much transphobia, homophobia and misandry into 140 little characters.

So what is my issue with this cliche? Let’s start with the stupid.

I’m a 47 year-old father of two, who has been settled in a monogamish relationship for almost exactly 20 years now. If I want to get laid I catch up on the Hoovering and scrub the toilets, pack the kids off to their grandparents for the weekend, make my best curry (with extra ginger) make sure the cats are fed and the dog is walked and we’ve thrown enough coffee down our necks that we don’t fall asleep in front of Celebrity Knitting on Ice, which let’s be honest, we probably will. I don’t argue on the internet about feminism in order to have sex. I argue on the internet about feminism precisely because I’m not having sex, you doofuses.

At this point I was about to go into a predictable rant about how speaking or writing about feminism is an utterly abject approach to getting laid anyway. Buy a guitar or clean under your fingernails instead. Then I realised that, actually, it may not be true.

If you can find someone adequately alluring, who finds you adequately alluring in turn, and you discover a shared interest in the early writings of Shulamith Firestone, then for all I know the erotic sparks will be pinging by midnight. Go for it.  To the best of my knowledge, OK Cupid is not teeming with het-up and horny young guys and gals eager to debate Nussbaum’s theory of objectification, but if two such meteors crash on a shared stellar orbit, then good fucking luck to you both.

The much more important point is that to fall back on this lazy trope implies that the only motivation a man could have to say or do anything is to get sex. Could it be this guy has spent a long time thinking about the moral and political ramifications of various ideological positions and made a conscious (or emotional) decision to adopt certain positions as a matter of principle? Don’t be ridiculous, he’s a man, fnurr fnurr, he can only ever think with his dick, it’s what all men do, innit?

Fuck that shit, once and for all.

I don’t expect any of the radical feminists quoted above to be reading this blog, and even if they did I very much doubt they would care. The plain fact is that most of them actually do hold men in contempt and disdain, quite proudly so. They actually believe shit like this, so they are probably beyond hope.

I expect better of male readers, particularly those who fancy themselves as men’s activists or campaigners against misandry. Perhaps you believe you only think with your dick yourselves, and are holding the rest of us to your standards? Or more probably,  you just don’t have the wit or imagination to come up with rational arguments against the men you target, so fall back on hoary old misandrist cliches? Whatever your excuse, catch yourselves on. Next time it happens I’m pointing the offenders straight to this blog. You’re part of the problem.

Jan 10 2014

Where’s the power? Some thoughts on Emer O’Toole’s feminist flowchart

I turned my back on the Guardian’s Comment is Free page for about five minutes on Thursday afternoon, and when I turned back around there was a piece by Emer O’Toole on men and feminism that had already reaped around 1300 comments.

I clicked, expecting some provocative outrage above the line and a savage feeding-frenzy below. It wasn’t really the case. The comments, by the standard of CIF feminism, included an unusually high proportion of interesting and astute points and constructive exchanges. The article itself centred on a flowchart designed to test whether or not a man (although I see no reason why it should be restricted to men) can be classified as a feminist or not.

Copyright  Emer O'Toole / The Guardian

Copyright Emer O’Toole / The Guardian

Although she’s too polite to say so, the post is really a demolition of the facile yet almost ubiquitous trope that goes “Do you believe men and women should be equal? Congratulations, you’re a feminist.” A lot of the controversy and dispute in the comments spiralled around a couple of points that I have made myself in the past and broadly agree with. The first is that feminism is (and should be) a woman’s movement, led by women, for women and with women’s rights, welfare and issues at its heart. Feminism is not a broader movement for social justice and equality of all sorts (including issues which primarily affects men). That’s not to say feminism cannot or should not sit alongside other social justice movements (including those which do focus on men) – simply that it is not feminism’s job.

The second point of agreement is that whether or not someone should be described as a feminist is not necessarily that big a deal.

You don’t have to be a feminist. There are plenty of ways to be awesome without working towards equal rights for women. For example, if you answered “Who do you think is more disadvantaged by gender inequality?” with “Women, but I’m still more interested in talking about men,” that’s fine.

Leaving aside the use of the phrase “be awesome” (cringe), and the fact that Emer goes on to pick out the Good Men Project as an example of said awesomeness (GMP and I have history) – I think this is pretty much spot on. There is no obligation to be feminist, and not being so doesn’t necessarily make you personally or politically bad.

It would be an interesting experiment to stop 100 random women in the street and take them through the flowchart. My guess is it would go a long way to answering the question which so often vexes mainstream liberal feminism, as to why a large majority of women choose not to identify as feminists.

That said, I do have a few issues with the analysis here. The first is the point of identification. This kind of reified, mechanistic approach removes any real personal choice from the question of whether or not someone is a feminist. It becomes a matter of pathological diagnosis instead (like “congratulations! You have syphilis!”) To me this misses one of the most important elements to the equation. I know several people who have made a conscious and conscientious decision to opt out of the label ‘feminism’ out of frustration, disgust or despair at the way the feminist mainstream deals with issues of concern to them – for example, white privilege and racism; sex worker rights or male victims of domestic and sexual abuse. It seems egregious to assume the authority to impose the label on people who may not wish to accept it, and arrogant to assume that everyone would want to be so defined.

My other theoretical issue with the post is that it positions feminism purely around matters of equality. As one persistent commenter rightly pointed out repeatedly below the line, the assumptions underpinning the question would be rejected out of hand by bell hooks, for starters, who would surely react by asking “equal with which men?”

Emer insists that to quibble over definitions of equality is enough to send you straight to the ‘Not a feminist’ box. Really? Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking of the kind of religious traditionalist who says things like “I believe Our Lord made men and women equal, which is why he decided that men should have the important job of going outside and earning money while women should have the equally important job of staying home, raising her family and keeping herself and her home all clean and purdey.” Is that a feminist belief?

As most feminists identified decades ago, the central issue is not about simple equality, but about personal, political and economic power and their distribution at the micro and macro levels. That is precisely why feminism began talking less about equal rights for women, and more about patriarchy. They are not the same issues.

I suppose we could start the flowchart with the question “Do you wish to challenge social, cultural and political structures which curtail and prescribe gender roles which systematically entrench disproportionate power relations between men and women within the context of a hegemonic capitalist system that is sustained by interlinked networks of oppression?” but I accept you would struggle to squeeze it into a little box on a flowchart.

Jan 02 2014

Louise Mensch and the grotesque spectacle of white privilege

I have been trying to keep quiet on the ongoing schisms within feminism, and in particular the flare-ups between mainstream or ‘white’ feminism and those broadly grouped under the intersectional banner on social media. I’ve actually written and abandoned a couple of posts, realising they were going to help nobody and risked further hurting some who are already hurting.

Tonight a line was crossed and I can bite my tongue no longer.

On New Year’s Eve, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Caroline Criado-Perez appeared on BBC Women’s Hour as part of a review of the year. Along the way there was an exchange about intersectionality, transcribed here. Reni blogged her account of the experience. Caroline offered an apology. I declined to comment.

In the messy aftermath of the programme, Professor Liz Kelly, whom we might call a doyenne of British radical feminism, tweeted the most ill-advised hashtag I’ve ever seen in support of CCP – #reclaimintersectionalityin2014. I declined to comment.

Tonight, just as I sensed the passions and fury beginning to wane on both sides, Louise Mensch decided to march in with her hobnailed Christian Louboutin stilettos. In an astonishing series of tweets, the former Tory MP firstly accused Reni of bullying:

Reni was wrong and Caroline was wrong to give into her bullying. I wouldn’t have. #feminism

She then went on to describe Reni’s arguments as “rubbish” and “disgraceful” and accused her of trying to ‘silence’ other women.
I make it a personal policy these days to try not to march into debates between feminists, as it generally doesn’t help either side and it certainly doesn’t win me any friends. But this is not about feminism. This is about an embarrassingly privileged white person with wealth, fame, influence and platform on her side, stomping all over a young black person for having the temerity to offer ideas above her station.

The first point to make is that of all the people I know on the broad media left, Reni Eddo-Lodge is about the least prone to bullying and silencing others you could imagine. It is simply not her style. She does not smear others or troll opponents, she does not pick personal fights or call on people to check their privilege. Her blogs and tweets, though politically radical, are measured, studious and impeccably temperate. For what it is worth (and it is not especially relevant) they each contain more wisdom, insight and intelligence than Mensch could summon in a lifetime. I can only conclude that Mensch believes that simply by calling attention to racial dynamics within feminism, Reni is bullying and silencing… who? Well, racists, I guess. The alternative explanation is less flattering but perhaps more credible – that Mensch cannot be bothered distinguishing between one ‘intersectional’ woman and the next, and she was mixing up Reni Eddo-Lodge with some other woman. Do they all look the same to Louise?

We should bear in mind that Mensch has form on this. A few months ago, there was a polite exchange between Laurie Penny and Ava Vidal on Twitter. Laurie had advised ignoring a racist troll, Ava suggested that it wasn’t a white person’s place to decide how we should respond to racism. Laurie agreed, apologised and retracted. All would have been fine until Mensch decided this was some craven submission and wrote an article attacking intersectional feminism that was so ill-informed, ill-advised and ignorant it made your cortex bleed.

Many people are unsure how white privilege looks and is played out in modern society. This is it. This insistence that the racial dynamics structuring our society are the natural order of things and must be beyond challenge. This belief that any black person who does challenge existing systems is a disgraceful bully – however polite, educated and articulate she may be – and must be stamped on at the first opportunity. This is a grotesque spectacle of white privilege raised to an artform.

This week I’ve seen others within feminism ask why intersectional feminists and women of colour must be so mean, so intemperate, so rude. When we see how some in the white establishment treats those who are impeccably polite and mannered, I’m astonished they remain so restrained.

Dec 18 2013

Trollololol, BMJ

So, it is pretty funny that the British Medical Journal is trolling us.


Participants, setting, and design

To be eligible participants had to be part of a couple and willing to take part in the study. We carried out a parallel trial with one man and one woman in their own home. It was decided without consultation that the female participant would prefer to be right and the male, being somewhat passive, would prefer to be happy.

The male was informed of the intervention while the female participant was not (this form of pre-randomisation is known as the Zelen method2). The female participant was blind to the hypothesis being tested, other than being asked to record her quality of life.


The results of this trial show that the availability of unbridled power adversely affects the quality of life of those on the receiving end.

Strengths and weaknesses

The study has some limitations. There was no trial registration, no ethics committee approval, no informed consent, no proper randomisation, no validated test instrument, and questionable statistical assessment. We used the eyeball technique for single patient trials which, as Sackett says, “more closely matches the way we think as clinicians.”3


Many people in the world live as couples, and we believe that it could be harmful for one partner to always have to agree with the other. However, more research is needed to see whether our results hold if it is the male who is always right.


It’s even funnier that the science correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, the Huffington Post and Medical Daily fell for it hook, line and sinker and, inevitably, Men’s Rights Activists are up in arms. 

Trollololol. Season’s Greetings, friends.

Dec 09 2013

Just dropping by

Hi there.

Just a quick fly-by to say I’m doing some contract work at the moment, generally up to my eyeballs, and haven’t had time to blog.

If any regular readers are in London, you might like to know that I’m in Hackney on Thursday night, at the near-legendary BBC Question Time Watchalong  night. I’m doing an In conversation with… type thing alongside Laurie Penny and that’s about as much as I know, other than comedian Kate Smurthwaite is also doing a turn, and there will be beer. It should be light-hearted, friendly and fun. At least if I have my way. And then after 10.30 we all shout abuse at the big telly for an hour.

A few things round and about that have caught my eye of late. Of all the deserved tributes and moving commentary around the death of Nelson Mandela, I’m one of those bitter lefties of a certain age who cannot easily forgive those who were fiercely, furiously resisting sanctions, solidarity and other forms of activism to secure Mandela’s release and bring about an end to apartheid. When I was at university, our student union Conservative group campaigned for new members with Hang Nelson Mandela posters at the freshers’ fair.  Mark Steel captures my feelings pretty well.  

On my more familiar territory, this story about a father who still cannot see his daughter despite 82 court judgments in his favour is a pretty damning indictment of the failures of our family courts to impose any authority.

Finally, for those with an interest in the cutting and occasionally downright bleeding edge of feminist theory, I’m mulling over this post on intersectionality, which makes some really interesting points. I have the luxury (or privilege) of being able to consider it purely on an intellectual basis, I have no dog in the fight, but I do think it is a really good argument.

Any thoughts on these, or anything else?

What’s caught your eye of late, my friends?

Dec 03 2013

Courts must not rule on circumcision, even in Israel

It is difficult to decide what is most shocking about the decisions made by Israeli Rabbinical courts last month. First there is the simple outrage that a mother could be fined for refusing to allow her son to be circumcised, with an additional 500 shekels (around £90) levied for every day she refuses to submit to the ruling. There is no secular law mandating circumcision in Israel, but the case arose as part of a divorce hearing, ruled upon by a religious tribunal, which also has the power to impose fines on plaintiffs.

The baby boy at the centre of the case did not have the traditional Jewish brit milah at eight days old, due to health concerns. By the time he was healthy, his mother had second thoughts. “I realized that I couldn’t do that to my son,” she was quoted as saying in Haaretz. “He’s perfect just as he is.”  Although the dispute between the issue of the circumcision is said not to be a factor in the divorce, establishing which parent has the authority to make such a decision has proved to be a point of bitter contention.

The district Rabbinical court of Sharon disagreed, ruling that “The Jewish people have always seen the circumcision as an act of repairing and completing the Creation.” Last week the High Rabbinical Court refused to overturn the original ruling. The woman now plans to appeal to the national supreme court.

Perhaps even more disturbing, the rabbis making the original judgement were quite clear that there was a political angle to their ruling. They noted a growing global trend against acceptance of infant circumcision, and were quite explicit that they were not going to tolerate a similar debate in Israel, stating:

“What will the world say if here too the matter of circumcision will be subject to the consideration of every person according to his perceptions? It is unthinkable that the matter of performing or failing to perform the circumcision will be taken away from Jewish scholars and be subject to the consideration of a civil court, when each one has his own opinions and worldview – this will not happen in Israel, God forbid.”

I hope what the world will say is that it unthinkable that such decisions might be ruled upon anywhere but in a civil court. In a state that so often proclaims its democratic credentials in contrast to its corrupt, totalitarian and theocratic neighbours, it is grotesque that theological interpretations should trump secular law.

Contrary to widespread perceptions, there is not uniform agreement on circumcision even among Jewish people. Both in Israel and around the world there is a small but growing movement of Jews who consider the practice anachronistic and barbaric.and who call for reform of the tradition. Without getting into Jewish theology, it is clearly essential to democracy and free civil society that people can explore and discuss such beliefs and live their lives in accordance with their own conscience, especially if their conscience is turning them away from harming others.

While the details of this case may be unique to Israel, in every country and culture where circumcision is practised, there will be families riven apart by the precise same argument – to cut or not to cut. Such disputes are likely to become more common as awareness grows of the risks of adverse consequences and complications, as religious devotion slides and appreciation of individual human rights to bodily integrity grows, and as claims for health benefits from routine ritual circumcision are increasingly shown to be arguable, if not downright spurious. Circumcision is a topic that divides opinions and divides communities so it is hardly surprising that it sometimes divides families.

Where such disputes arise, there can be only one humane judgement. When a child grows old enough to decide he would prefer to be circumcised – for whatever reason – he can make that choice. Once a foreskin is removed, it is gone forever.

Those who advocate the rights of parents to circumcise infants generally fall back on an argument of free choice and lifestyle. It is morally questionable, to say the least, that parents should have the right to irreparably mutilate a baby who is too young to dissent. The idea that a religious court should make such a decision, against the wishes of at least one parent, must be considered reprehensible.

Nov 26 2013

Instant reflections on the Natsal survey on sexual coercion

Today saw the publication of the new edition of the Lancet journal, which is largely devoted to Britain’s largest survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyle: Natsal

Much media attention was devoted to the findings on rape and sexual coercion, or as the researchers call it, non-volitional sex.

To the best of my knowledge, it is the first time a UK-based survey of this size has asked men and women the exact same question in the same context about their experience of non-consensual sex. After looking at many studies from around the world which have found surprisingly high response rates among men when questioned on the issue, it is worth noting that this survey is more in line with expectations. Here’s the full description from the methodology:

“We asked women and men about their experience of sex against their will since the age of 13 years, in the computer-assisted self-interview section of the questionnaire, in which heterosexual sex was defined as including “vaginal, oral, or anal” and same-sex sex as including “oral (or, for men only, anal) sex or any other contact involving the genital area”. Only participants who reported having had heterosexual intercourse or sex with someone of the same sex since 13 years of age were routed to these questions. The first question was worded “Has anyone tried to make you have sex with them, against your will?” Participants who responded “yes” were defined as having experienced “attempted non-volitional sex”, and were then asked “Has anyone actually made you have sex with them, against your will?”, which was used to define the experience of “completed non-volitional sex”.


the results were that 9.8% of women and 1.4% of men reported having been the victim of non-volitional sex. For easy comparison, that would mean that for every eight rapes, seven were of women and one was of a man.

Some points to note. First, the  wording of the question used on this survey is stronger than in many of the studies I wrote about in the previous blog. There is little doubt that it describes rape, rather than what we might call ‘reluctant sex’ or gentle coercion. This might explain why the gender difference is wider than in some other surveys.

On the other hand, I continue to wonder if many male victims of female sexual aggression simply don’t think their experience counts when they are asked about this. I do wonder whether the response rate might have been a bit higher if the question had specified “has anyone, male or female, actually made you have sex with them, against your will?”

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

The other detail in the report which caught my attention, which I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere, was that among both male and female victims the median age for the last incidence (of non-volitional sex) was at a very early age – 16 for men, 18 for women. For men, there was no difference in this between different age cohorts, but for women, the youngest group (16-24) and the oldest group (65-74) had significantly lower incidence rates than other groups.

This would, I think, appear to shadow an effect that we have noted in the US before, but I’ve yet to see confirmed in the UK – which is that there was a large rise in the rate of rape of young women over the  1970s to the 1990s which has since gone into decline, which would, of course, be welcome news. It also highlights why estimates of lifetime risks of a crime like rape – the incidence of which is not evenly spread over a lifetime  - are fundamentally flawed. Claims like “1 in 5 women will be raped” “1 in 10 women will be raped” or any such calculation are fundamentally flawed. (Same goes for men, of course.)

I’m still going through other sections of the report, and shall update you if I find anything interesting.

Nov 25 2013

So how do we eliminate violence against women?

Today, November 25th, is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I’ve always liked the unequivocal absolutism of this demand – it’s not just a call for awareness, or even a reduction, but the total, final eradication of violence against women. As the Situationists used to say: Be reasonable – demand the impossible.

What I’m less clear about is what we are meant to do to achieve this aim. The day is also known to many as White Ribbon Day, when men around the world pledge never to use or tolerate violence against women and to actively work to end it. I’ll confess I’ve never been comfortable with this campaign. It may be unfair, but it always looks to me like the gentleman doth protest too much, it seems to say “look at me, I don’t beat or rape women!”  Whoop-de-fucking-do, well done you, have a ribbon.

It’s not that such campaigns do any harm. I don’t for a moment buy the argument that campaigns like this are misandrist, implying that all men are potential rapists and wife-beaters, that is paranoid poppycock. I just don’t think they offer any meaningful solution. I also have a deeper, philosophical problem with the politics behind the campaign. As with the slogan “Only men can stop rape” it places the power, the agency and the control of the phenomenon entirely within the gift of men. That is not necessarily entirely helpful – what men can grant, men can take away. I don’t think the use of violence (against anyone) should be an option. The natural right to live free from violence and exploitation is not anyone else’s to grant or rescind. I’m much more comfortable with the campaign slogan of Scottish Women’s Aid: “Together we can stop it” or perhaps the lyrics of Twisted Sister’s feminist classic (no, really) We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore.

There’s another reason why the White Ribbon campaign strikes me as inadequate. For any one person, violence is (usually) a choice made with free will and each of us has personal responsibility for our own actions and decisions. However those decisions are not made in an individualist bubble, but are steered, prompted and motivated by a lifetime of experience and social conditioning. The way I like to think of this is that if you lock a hundred people in a cool, calm, well-ventilated room for 24 hours, the chances of someone punching someone else might be fairly slim. If you switch off the air-con, let the temperature rise, play aggressive, edgy music ever more loudly, the chances of a punch being thrown increase considerably. Whoever threw the punch remains responsible for their own actions, but not in conditions of their own making. The way we mould society, through politics, culture and our own interactions, create the environment in which violence occurs.

I agree with many feminists that, to some extent, male violence against women is informed by patriarchal gender roles – the idea that women should be subordinate to men and kept in line, that they are men’s chattel or playthings. This is true  in many parts of the world today, has historically been true in developed societies and, to a certain extent, still remains so. Challenging vestigial or active gender inequality and male cultural dominion are worthwhile ends in themselves, however this does not and cannot explain all violence, nor even all violence against women. To focus purely on violence rooted in patriarchal dominance is to leave the bulk of the problem unaddressed and therefore excluded from any solutions.

Violence takes many forms, has many meanings and many causes. Today, by coincidence I presume, Professor Murray Straus addresses the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Atlanta with a major and important new paper.  He used data from 15 different countries to demonstrate that university students who were spanked as children were significantly more likely to engage in criminal activity on each of nine different measures – six of which related to violence against others, including partner violence. The findings remained true even after controlling for background, parenting style in other respects and childhood misbehaviour (in other words, it wasn’t the case that children were beaten because they were already more naughty).   The effect was strongest where the child had been beaten by both a father and a mother.

Previous research by Straus has found that a child who grows up in a family where adults are violent to each other is almost three times as likely to display violent behaviour in adulthood. Another study found that a child subjected to physical abuse who also witnesses domestic violence is between five and nine times as likely to become an abusive adult. Over the past 40 years, the developed world has turned against corporal punishment, grown less tolerant of violence and bullying in the playground and physical and sexual abuse in the home. We have also seen precipitous drops in most forms of interpersonal crime and violence. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Ending violence against women will not and cannot be achieved in isolation. Male violence against women is one hub of a psychological and sociological network and is ultimately inseparable from men’s violence against men, women’s violence against women and men and, above all, adult violence against children. For good measure, we could probably add in the economic and social violence of inequality and political injustice.

Eliminating violence against women is a far-reaching ambition. To achieve it, we may need to reach much farther than anyone is prepared to acknowledge.


Nov 24 2013

How to lie with statistics, chapter whatever

Over the past few weeks a graph has been tweeted into my timeline several times, purporting to show that “Domestic Violence Crime has #climbed 31% since April 2010.”


The tweet was originally sent by an account called “EvidenceUK” which declares ‘The purpose of this account is to factually correct the errors and lies peddled by Tory Newspapers & MPs during the 2015 General Election Campaign.’ The graph is sourced to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, and the figures on the graph are accurate. The only inaccuracy is the detail of the tweet. The first bar does not show the data from April 2010. They actually show the data from the year before.

An accurate graph for domestic violence since April 2010 would look like this. (Note, I have taken these stats from the precise same data set linked to from the original. They are the same data)



They show not a 31% rise in domestic violence incidents – but a 3.3% fall in domestic violence since the Tory / coalition government came to power.

Now as regular readers will know, I rarely miss an opportunity to have a swipe at the Tory party and the current government, but I do also care about honesty and accuracy in media and reporting. There is a widespread myth that domestic violence has been increasing significantly since the last election, and there is not a shred of evidence that it is true.

To get an accurate understanding of what is happening with rates of domestic violence in this country, take a look at the graph over the past 20 years – again, drawn from the precise same data set linked to in the tweet above.


If you look closely you can see the historical low point of 2009-10, and a slight rise to the most recent quarterly update from July this year. However the long term trend is quite clear – domestic violence rates plummeted between the mid 90s and the mid 00s, and have been bobbing along fairly consistently ever since. Yes, they took a bit of a spike in the year to March 11, but immediately reverted the year after. In fact the ONS statisticians are quite clear that there has been no statistically significant change in the domestic violence figures, year on year, in more than a decade.

Someone looked at this whole data set to produce this graph, and must have known exactly what they were doing when they cherrypicked a statistical lowpoint to draw their comparisons. This type of statistical legerdemain is a source of constant annoyance and frustration, more so when it comes from people with whom I would like to be on board. There are plenty of reasons to despise the current government and plenty of genuine reasons to condemn their track record. Mischief like this simply makes me lose faith in those sharing the information, and that helps no one.



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