Stop Protecting Abusive Academic Men

A powerful post.

In the last two weeks, we have seen gender, higher education and celebrity revolving around one issue our news feeds. No, I am not referring to Angelina Jolie-Pitt’s appointment as Visiting Professor at the LSE, but rather the series of revelations relating to violence against women in academia and the celebrity-verse. First, on 20th May, Buzzfeed broke the story about two allegations against renowned Yale professor Thomas Pogge for sexual misconduct. Then, on 28th May, global news outlets reported that the Los Angeles Superior Court had issued Johnny Depp with a restraining order in response to his wife Amber Heard’s evidence of a history of domestic violence during their relationship. Finally, on 30th May, one of the world’s best-known feminist scholars, Sara Ahmed, resigned from her professorship at Goldsmiths University due to the institution’s failure to tackle sexual harassment. Brought side by side, three separate events speak volumes about how the obsession with male genius and creativity continues to sustain rape culture.

Refuge’s Christmas present list for women and children in safe houses

I generally struggle to come up with genuine answers to the question, “what would you like for Christmas?” This year, no problem: if anyone asks, I’m going to say I’d like something bought on my behalf from Refuge’s Christmas list (and maybe also a chocolate bar).

Refuge is a UK charity that (among other things) provides safe havens for woman and children escaping domestic violence. Their appeal aims to ensure that everyone in their shelters at Christmas has a present to unwrap. It’s simple enough to contribute: you go to John Lewis’s gift list page, enter the gift list number 609505, and select and buy a present or two. They range in price from £4.50 to £25.

Clarifying ‘sexual violence’

There are many forms of sexual and gender based violence. Some of them have only come to light in more recent history, and some we still tend, collectively, to fail to understand. However, the University of Michigan’s (otherwise seemingly wonderful) initiative to prevent and more effectively respond to domestic and intimate partner violence, has offered a very worrying example of sexual violence. The site reads:

Examples of sexual violence include: discounting the partner’s feelings regarding sex; criticizing the partner sexually; touching the partner sexually in inappropriate and uncomfortable ways; withholding sex and affection; always demanding sex; forcing partner to strip as a form of humiliation (maybe in front of children), to witness sexual acts, to participate in uncomfortable sex or sex after an episode of violence, to have sex with other people; and using objects and/or weapons to hurt during sex or threats to back up demands for sex.

Withholding sex and affection is not a form of sexual violence. Rather, too often, claims of failing to be sexually available and affectionate enough have historically been used to justify mistreatment of (and sometimes violence towards) partners–just think of the offensive (and mythical) stereotype of the ‘frigid wife,’ and the various ways in which it has been employed.

A first for domestic abuse victims seeking asylum in the U.S.

From the NYT:

The nation’s highest immigration court has found for the first time that women who are victims of severe domestic violence in their home countries can be eligible for asylum in the United States.

The decision on Tuesday by the Board of Immigration Appeals in the case of a battered wife from Guatemala resolved nearly two decades of hard-fought legal battles over whether such women could be considered victims of persecution. The ruling could slow the pace of deportations from the Southwest border, because it creates new legal grounds for women from Central America caught entering the country illegally in the surge this summer in their fight to remain here.

The board reached its decision after the Obama administration changed a longstanding position by the federal government and agreed that the woman, Aminta Cifuentes, could qualify for asylum.

Sharing missing persons pics on facebook

Anyone on Facebook will have seen posts asking people if they have seen a missing person, and appealing for help in finding them. Like me, you might feel you’re helping to reunite lost family members by passing on the info and sharing the photos. But it turns out this might not be the best thing to do. A man recently made a heart-rending plea, asking for help to find his missing children. Kind-hearted folks shared the photos and eventually, someone recognised them and told him where to find them. What no-one sharing the photos realised was that his ex-partner was living under a secret identity after leaving the man, and this information allowed him to find her. She subsequently had to move to a women’s shelter. You can read more here.

Query from a reader: Domestic Violence Research

I’m looking for a piece of research that (I’m sure) I’ve read in a feminist philosophy text. However, I can’t find it anymore and wanted to ask your readers for help.

I recall reading about social scientists (in the US, I think) who were trying to measure the occurrence of domestic violence. When the researchers asked women if they were suffering from domestic violence, they found that the rates of domestic violence reported were extremely low (to non-existent). This prompted the scientists to alter their approach. They subsequently asked much more refined and detailed questions, and got very different results. The detailed questions included: (e.g.) whether one’s husband is (in some sense) controlling, and whether he sometimes twists the woman’s arm so that she sustains bruises and injuries. Those who reported not suffering from domestic violence went on to report being subject to these kinds of behaviours. Does someone know where this study is discussed, or its reference?

Nigella Lawson and Domestic Violence

So Charles Saatchi attacked Nigella Lawson at a posh restaurant. And though lots of people took photos, and some apparently contacted the police, nobody intervened. [Expletives deleted] It is, however, provoking some useful discussion (yes, amazingly, from the Telegraph):

So class or status is irrelevant, but we persist in our naivety. It’s a defence mechanism, of course; we’re desperate to find a cast-iron reason that will distance us from the miserable fate suffered by someone unnervingly similar to our comfortable little selves – because we don’t want to believe that it could happen to us. We cannot tolerate the thought that we are not safe. And from this weaselly position of “I’d never get myself into that situation”, it’s a short, shameful step to blaming the victim: why does she stay with him? Why does she put up with it?

Thanks, C!