28 February 2021

HIMPATHY: empathy for men who kill women

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In this article by Julie Bindel the reasons why in every case of feminicide, the one always empathically looks for the 'reasons' that can somehow justify the murderer (even better said: you go looking for a way to give him some reason). It was depressed, unemployed, distressed, exhausted, blinded by jealousy. Exasperated. So he killed her. Of course, he shouldn't have done it: but that's why he did it.

The media do this constantly and methodically: they look for 'reasons'.They try to explain, they rummage around in search of details that might arouse empathy in the reader. In the background, the idea that killing a woman for a man is basically 'natural'.even if it is now pursued by law. Well, this search for "reasons", in addition to exercising afurther violence against the victim, is a perfectly useless job. Why the 'reason' is always and only oneand it is called domain. Men kill women when women follow the thread of their own freedom by escaping their domination (in the coda to Julie Bindel's article, analysis of two typical feminicide reports)


The case of Anthony Williams, jailed for just five years for the manslaughter of his wife Ruth last week, has led parliamentarians and feminist activists to call for an increase in his sentence, saying such leniency sends men the message that killing one's wife is not a serious crime. Williams stated that he was not fully responsible for his actions when he strangled his wife to death and that the pandemic had exacerbated his anxiety and depression. The case, though shocking, is representative of a much larger problem. Every three days in England and Wales a woman is killed by an ex- or current male partner. (the same numbers in Italy, ed.). I call it 'feminicide', a term coined by feminists in the 1970s to describe the killing of a woman by a man precisely because she is a woman.

Research published last week by the Centre for Women's Justice, Women who Kill: How the State Criminalises Women We Might Otherwise Be Buryingfound that while hundreds of women victims of violence and abuse were killed by their partners, the vast majority of those few women who have killed men have been driven to do so after being abused by them. Domestic violence costs many lives: between 2008 and 2018, 840 women were killed by boyfriends or ex-partners. And throughout the pandemic, cases of domestic violence against women, and consequently feminicides, have increased.

Criminology expert and professor Jane Monckton-Smith, author of In Control: Dangerous Relationships and How They End in MurderIt identifies eight distinct stages leading to the killing of women by men, including increased use of control and threats of suicide if the victim does not do as ordered. "Covid or lockdown is the occasional cause of homicides" says Monckton-Smith. "It's bringing some dangerous abusers out of the shadows, and this is different." In 1990 I co-founded the feminist campaign group Justice for Women to lobby on behalf of women convicted of killing their attacker, and also to highlight cases where men free themselves from a murder charge by claiming that their victim had 'tormented' them or been unfaithful.

On the rare occasions when a woman kills an abusive man, she is asked, "If the violence was so bad, why didn't you leave?" Men who claim to have killed their wives because they were 'nagged' or betrayed are never asked such questions. Why has so little changed about the deaths caused by domestic violence despite many decades of feminist campaigns? I remember the 1991 case of Joseph Mcgrail, who kicked his wife to death because he was 'tormented' by the fact that he had received a non-custodial sentence.

A decade later, Les Humes was sentenced to just seven years for the manslaughter of his wife. The reason he 'snapped'? She was planning to leave him. In his book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, Kate Manne introduces the term "himpathy'. to describe the disproportionate compassion towards men who commit acts of domestic and sexual violence against women and girls. L'himpathy can work in many ways, for example painting men who kill women as victims of a tragedy, which in turn means blaming the victim for what happened to her.

Karen Ingala Smith has been keeping track of victims of feminicide since 2012 and is founder of Counting Dead Women. Ingala Smith found that over the course of nearly a decade there has been no real change in the rates at which women are killed by men, and that is not the only thing that has changed little. "We still hear the same excuses. says Ingala Smith: provocation by the victim, concern about the financial situation, rapture, concern about her future without him, deprivation of virility for her achievements." Compassion towards men who kill women is costing lives. When Phil Spector - who killed Lana Clarkson in 2003 - died this year, the headline of a BBC article described him as "a talented but imperfect producer". ISpector's 'defect' was that he had killed a woman and had a long history of abuse. against his neighbour. Spector had previously pointed a gun at four other women out of anger because they allegedly 'rejected' him.

As research shows Women Who Kill, battered women like Sally Challen are unfairly punished and treated as cold-blooded murderers while men make excuses for their acts of murderous rage against women. The rates of feminicide should prompt an urgent government enquiry into the institutionalised sexism that causes it. The time has come for all of us to speak out against male violence. Women's lives depend on it.

Julie Bindel (original article here)

translation by Giorgia Garda


A news agency reports a feminicide-suicide in the eastern suburbs of Milan. A 65-year-old man stabs his wife to death and then kills himself. "Illness", writes the reporter, "heart operations and a severe state of depression: U.P., a retired tailor, had entered a tunnel from which he was never able to get out, if not killing his wife and then taking his own life."

What could the poor man do? if not killing the wife? He is the real victim; her death is an unfortunate but inevitable consequence. It is only natural that this should be the case.

One obsessively pokes around in the life of the Francavilla woman-killer-suicide - who, after pushing his wife out of the window, threw his ten-year-old daughter off the motorway overpass, prevented her from being rescued for seven hours by threatening to jump herself and finally jumped - to see if there was any reason for the extermination. As if feminicide could have any plausible reason, apart from the exercise of dominance.

Was he depressed? Did he have problems at work? Was he on drugs? Did his mother die? Was he sick? Either way: what he could do, if not try to put its pieces back together in an act of terminal dominance?

It is, every time, about the idea of being able to rediscover 'their own identity lost in an act of extreme male supremacy'.

At Corriere della Sera many complaints from readers about an article on the martyrdom of Pamela Mastropietro (the 18-year-old Roman girl whose body was torn to pieces by her killer Innocent Oseghale and found in two suitcases)

It tells of one of the last people to see the girl alivea man who took advantage of his state of loneliness and need, sit in exchange for fifty euros. "And now Who knows what a heavy weight this 45-year-old has on his heart? in red mechanic's overalls and Franciscan sandals. Despite the intense cold he is not wearing socks."

The gaze is on his loneliness, on his troubled heart, on the modesty of his condition. - is a mechanic -, on bare feet in 'Franciscan' sandals". The thought nags at him that if he could only have imagined the horrible end that awaited Pamela, he would surely have changed her fate. "It's atrocious, atrocious" is all he can say. "Do you think I don't think about it? Please don't blaspheme..."

So sand had he known that the girl was alone, defenceless, with drug problems and at high risk of getting into trouble, he would not have taken sexual advantage of her for fifty euros.

But the fact that the girl was lonely, defenceless, with drug problems and at high risk of getting into trouble was more than obvious, it was a necessary precondition for the sex-money exchange. Otherwise, she would never have agreed to offer herself for a couple of coins.

So is completely natural for a man - even a good and 'Franciscan' man - to use for his own sexual satisfaction the body of a lonely and needy little girl, object on the market at the disposal of the highest bidder or the most overbearing. A reflection stronger than anything: more than pity, tenderness, any paternal feeling, simple human solidarity.

There is nothing natural about this at all. It is not natural for a man to dominate, exploit and rape a woman. This is just the first brick in the patriarchal construction that 'poisons all life'. For a woman to be free: that is natural. Let her be free to put her original wisdom, her mastery, her ability to govern things to work - every man knows very well what I am talking about: that is natural.

(from Marina Terragni, Men steal everything from us, Sonzogno 2016)


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