Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Today, The Times reports on an FOI submitted to the Scottish Government.
Police Scotland said that if a rape or attempted rape was perpetrated by a “male who self-identifies as a woman . . . the male who self-identifies as a woman would be expected to be recorded as a female on relevant police systems.”
This is not news. This is simply confirmation.
This extraordinary assault on women's rights, without free consultation with us, or consideration of it's impact on us, is in our a view, a colossal dereliction of the Government's duty to women. A structural abandonment of women.
The resurgent women's movement (including but not limited to) #MeToo, The Femicide Census, the founding of The Women's Equality Party had the effect of raising women's voices. It placed male violence under the spotlight and demanded a response. It placed female disempowerment under the spotlight and demanded a response to that too.
But in doing so we triggered a response, a kick back at women's ability across the board to measure male violence, name male violence and therefor respond to male violence. A backlash straight from the pages of Susan Faludi.
Renaming rapists as women, inaccurately recording their crimes as crimes committed by women and forcing female prisoners to be incarcerated with violent male offenders (something even Victorians objected to) in terms of progress has taken us back in many respects, to our situation way before the gains of second wave feminism.
The move towards ending sex (male/female) as a material measure in favour of self identified sex/ gender identity places individual women at risk. It also perpetuates the sex hierarchy. Where male offenders can identify at a whim to identify as women for easier prison sentences, to conceal their name in the press, or have access to women's spaces women can not 'identify' out of their sex to avoid rape. A rapist will not stop if you tell him your vagina is male.
This is because sex is not an identity but a material reality and should be treated as such in law.
And no, we are not suggesting trans people are inherently dangerous. What we are saying is convicted and non-convicted male rapists are. Sex, not gender identity, has the biggest influence on criminal propensity for sexual and violent offences. #SexMatters and our ability as women (and as a society) to name Male Violence is key in safeguarding. Those listed here commit male pattern violence because they are male.
The debate around self-identifying sex also dampens our collective response as women. Asking questions has become an act of bravery. Any assertion of women's boundaries, that were previously labelled as anti-man or man-hating, are now framed as anti-trans or trans-phobic. A different decade, but the same mechanism of dehumanising, misrepresenting and silencing the female experience.
The chilling effect of this has led to a silence across our sector. The toxicity of abuse aimed at feminist voices has left previously excellent institutions caught in the MRA/TRA headlights. In the void filled with half-facts, poor application of the law, little oversight and very bad policymaking.
The women’s sector as a whole, was a radical and revolutionary response to male violence. It provided not only services and refuge, but it provided a personal and structural analysis. An analysis that gave women the tools to understand the nature of the abuse they faced and to understand both the personal and structural nature of male violence.
Consequently the women’s sector became a powerful agent of change. As much as it was informed by political thought and activism, so it gave birth to more.
Women's services fought for the personal, they also fought for the political. Lobbying legislators, policy makers, commissioners. Compiling data, reports, representing test cases in court. Whilst many women's groups such as Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Women's Justice and The Women's Resource centre have been unswerving in their dedication to the work.
However, many like WEP and The Fawcett Society have fallen by the way side. The cultural and economic climate became too scary. The political became TOO political for them. The backlash worked.
Once our women's services were independent voices advocating for women. They spoke truth to power. Now our voice is now gagged by funding streams and marketability. The response to male violence becomes neither personal nor political.
Current funding streams disadvantage groups with a feminist analysis and understanding of the need for single-sex spaces. In addition generic housing associations are enabled by Council's and commissioners to undercut specialist service providers. Refuges and refuge provision now seen by Council's and commissioners as nothing more than a housing issue.
'Market Warming Events' for the VAWG sector are the norm. Where once we were seen as a demographic in need of support, now we are seen as a market place. Once we were referred to as service users, now we are referred to as customers. Never was this more so than in Brighton.
In March, RISE, Brighton’s provider of integrated specialist domestic abuse services and refuge was de-funded and services were consequently fragmented. The commissioners went with a generic, non specialist housing association. It has little experience in this type of provision and has a shameful sex-pay gap of 20% . In fact,even in its Equality Policy Document it fails to mention women and fails in its statutory duty to list the protected characteristics correctly. Where commissioning scrutiny failed, it fell to service users (aka customers) to raise the alarm.
We are not shocked. After all, this is what 'by men for women' looks like. It means a cultural shift away from the accompanying specialist analysis. It s a removal of specialist over sight and the down grading of safeguarding. It was after all policy makers such as paedophile Gordon Pike who led the way in MoJ policy placing male rapists and violent offenders into the female prison estate.
With every step we take away from women-led services we take a step backwards from addressing and resolving the structural problem that is violence against women and girls. We enable the structural subjugation (like pay inequality, a lack of safe spaces, a lack of female voice) that both encourages and enables violence against us.
Lets return to the data and today's news. What happens when suddenly ‘women rapists’ start showing up in the stats? What happens when our data is non con-sensually screwed? What happens when male violent offenders are put in women's prisons because we have lost our analysis of male violence? Not All Men!! Women rape too eh! Even the data says it.
What happens when our specialist organisations and advocates are either gagged via funding, gagged because of mission drift, or are now non existent? How can we respond to male violence and protect women from it when our Government refuses to collate accurate data and defunds our services on a structural level?
Well for starters we shouldn’t be shocked. This is after all what structural misogyny looks like.
What we mustn’t be is SILENT.
Our silence will not protect us.