Men, women and prison: A study in gender

A couple of weeks ago, an episode of Ed Miliband’s podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful, was devoted to penal policy and prison reform. It features a fascinating interview with Nils Öberg, director general of the Swedish prison and probation service who makes a string of important observations about the Nordic approach to imprisonment. In a nutshell, in Sweden prison is only ever used as a last resort, is focused upon rehabilitation, particularly addressing social, educational, psychological and addiction problems of prisoners. The Swedish reoffending rate is around 30% after three years post-release.  In the UK it is 46% after just one year, and that is despite Swedish prisons being disproportionately filled with the most damaged, violent and recidivist offenders in their system. [Read more…]

How BBC Question Time let down the victims of rape and the wrongly accused alike

Watching BBC Question Time last night was a depressing experience. Yes, watching BBC Question Time is always a depressing experience, but on this occasion more so than ever, as a significant portion of the show was given over to a question about rape prosecutions.

The context is the high-profile collapse of several rape & sexual offence trials amid apparently systematic failures by limbs of the justice system to properly collect, handle and disclose evidence.

“Given recent revelations about a string of innocent men being accused of rape and almost losing their liberty, is it time to name and shame false accusers?”

I will come on to why this question was profoundly and offensively ill-chosen, but the really dispiriting element to this was the widespread misunderstandings of the nature of sexual assault prosecutions and false allegations among the audience and – with a couple of notable exceptions – the panel, so it seems worthwhile to revisit a few of the problems with the myths and the discourse. [Read more…]

Tampa: Can we convey the truth of child abuse through fiction?

This is a guest post, submitted by longtime regular HetPat comment box warrior ThatGuy.

Ally writes: I haven’t read this book and not sure I want to, but do recall the coverage of the Lafave case which inspired it. Just a few weeks ago the Daily Mail ran a highly sympathetic profile of her, sparked by a new biography by a self-described ‘friend.’ It is worth noting that the Mail piece described her conviction as a “sex scandal” and her crimes as “indiscretions.” You will notice the words “criminal” “paedophile” “child sexual abuse” or for that matter any kind of “abuse” are entirely absent. I think this makes ThatGuy’s case all the more relevant and compelling.]

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Invisible sons revisited: How boys got forgotten in a debate about boys

Last week, Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, (for whom I have a lot of time and respect, incidentally) gave an interview to the Spectator magazine about the underperformance of white working class boys in education. It was a bit of a dog’s breakfast, to be blunt, for reasons I have spelled out in a piece over on politics.co.uk.

Do please go have a read, but in summary, she got off on the wrong foot by implying the underachievement of boys was a consequence of a focus on girls and ethnic minorities, as if it were a zero sum game, which is a divisive and inaccurate way to think about the issue. It’s also politically clumsy and counter-productive, as it invites a reactionary response from government of purporting to help (white) boys by cutting back on support to girls and BME kids. Marginalised boys and their advocates need all the friends they can get, and it is really not helpful to suggest that providing them with greater support and attention is contrary to the interests of marginalised girls or BME communities. Recognising this is gender-inclusive politics in a nutshell.  [Read more…]

Masculinity: the personal, the political and the economic

There’s an unusually well-balanced feature about the politics and practice of masculinity in the Independent today by Oliver Bennett. Most writing on men’s issues and masculinities takes either an individualist or a political approach. Bennett’s piece is smart enough to recognise that the issues are connected & inseparable.

The article put me in mind of something I wrote a few weeks ago, when I was speaking on a panel at the ESRC academic conference on masculinities & was asked to introduce myself with a few words to set out where I was coming from. What follows is a (hopefully) readable edit of the notes I made for that address.

———-     [Read more…]

School shootings and the brutalisation of boys

A few years ago I wrote here about how school shooters and spree killers are made.

Much has been written and said about the role of masculine conditioning and patriarchal beliefs in cases like Eliott Rodger and the role misogyny plays in charging and inspiring their crimes.

The standard feminist theory (most popularly expressed by Michael Kimmel in books like Angry White Men) is that these young men – and they are almost if not quite always young men – are the extreme fringes of toxic masculinity and ‘aggrieved entitlement.’ Basically they are overcome by anger at not getting access to all the rewards, such as sex, respect and status, that they feel they deserve for their role as white men at the top of the social hierarchy. They then take that frustration out on their peers, on the world in a murderous explosion of rage.   [Read more…]

#MeToo or #MenToo? How men can talk about abuse

Guys, gather round. I get it. I understand. You care about sexual abuse, sexual violence, sexual harassment.

In fact, you really, really care because unlike some we could mention, you care about all victims, not just the women, am I right?

You probably know the stats already. Wherever women and girls are victimised in sexual, intimate or gendered crimes, men and boys are victimised too. Pick a statistic – one in eight victims here, one in three there, one in four of this and one in ten of that.

Even on an issue like workplace sexual harassment, which is about as gender-tilted as these things get, you can still find plenty of men with their own stories of being bullied, harassed, coerced and victimised by male or female colleagues or bosses.

What’s more, the victimisation experienced by those men is not neatly isolated by gender. More often than not it will intersect with issues around sexuality or gender identity, racial stereotyping and racial fetishization, mental health and neurotypicality, social exclusion and vulnerability etc, etc.

Those issues are real. The pain and suffering of those involved must be acknowledged and we need to talk about those issues, develop solutions to help prevent it happening and to support those survivors who need help or access to justice.

If you agree with me, if you care about those men, if you want to help those men and prevent others suffering in the future, here is what we need to do right here, right now:

Support women. [Read more…]

Harvey Weinstein and the authoritarianism of violence

As the revelations about Harvey Weinstein grow ever more miserable and appalling, so too does the state of commentary on the case.

Whether firing off a 140-character tweet or 800 words of editorial, the main game in town seems to be finding someone to blame. A vast army of Twitter dullards seem determined to blame the women who are speaking out now for not speaking out sooner. Fleet Street Fox wants to blame the men. Piers Morgan, for reasons best known to himself, is determined to blame Meryl Streep. Almost no one seems to have noticed that this blizzard of finger-pointing and recrimination is doing a marvellous job of diverting responsibility and blame from where it belongs, four square on the head of Harvey Weinstein, holed up in some Alpine clinic and begging for “a second chance.”

[Read more…]

Young men’s minds: Looking beyond mood and feelings

Last week the latest UK suicide statistics reminded us of the grim reality of the depths of teenage despair. Out of every 100,000 boys aged 15 to 19, more than seven took their own lives last year. The equivalent figure for girls was less than half that, at 2.9.

With that in mind, perhaps there should be no surprise that a government-funded study into mental health in teenagers has concluded that

Policy makers should take into account the differences between boys and girls in their experiences of mental ill-health at different ages.

And so say all of us. The only issue is that the very same recommendation continues like this:

Policy makers should take into account the differences between boys and girls in their experiences of mental ill-health at different ages. The report shows that between the ages of 11 and 14 girls are significantly more likely than boys to experience poor mental health.    [Read more…]

Yes, child grooming scandals are a hate crime and here’s why

The past few weekends have seen Labour MPs engaged in a pretty unseemly ideological schism over child grooming scandals in (most recently) Newcastle, and before that Rotherham, Rochdale and elsewhere.

It was kicked off by Sarah Champion who wrote an irredeemably dreadful piece for the Sun that spoke in such clumsily broad-brush terms about ‘Pakistani men’ that it was perceived (rightly or wrongly) as outright racism and this cost her a frontbench role as shadow Equalities minister.  Any thoughts that she’d been misrepresented or misquoted by the sleazy tabloid were dispelled a week later when she gave an interview to the Times that saw her digging deeper into the same trench.

On Saturday, the constituency MP for Newcastle upon Tyne, Chi Onwurah, responded directly with a piece in the Guardian that was uncompromising in its assertion that race has nothing to do with the grooming gangs, whose members are motivated by misogyny, not racism, she wrote.

If my Twitter feed was anything to go by, her piece was not exactly well received, even by left-leaning liberals who might have been minded to agree with her general stance. Her opening sentence in particular was unfathomably crass and ill-advised, asking: “What’s worse, rape or racism?”

The arguments around it put me in mind of a rambling chat we had in the comments section of another post here, about the meaning and definition of hate crime, and I thought it might be worth unpicking how I see all of this.   [Read more…]