An open letter to Owen Jones: What will you do?
I want to share my appreciation for your column about male violence against women and the impact of the cuts to services for women. In your column you referred to male violence as domestic violence/abuse. I’m aware that Karen Ingala-Smith discussed with you the issue of erasing male violence with the umbrella term “domestic violence”. It is vital that we name the problem – male violence against women.
I value any contributions that highlight the pervasive and entrenched culture of male violence against women. In the UK alone, 139 women were killed through suspected male violence in 2013. 1 in 3 women will experience male violence at some point in their lives. This is an abhorrence that needs to be highlighted everywhere, by everyone, at all times. However, it is not enough to just write about it. As a man who cares about male violence against women, you need to tell us what YOU are going to do to make this stop.
Much is discussed and written about allyship. To be an ally is an act, not a label. I am taking a leap here, but it seems to me that the levels of challenge you are receiving are not down to the fact that you are highlighting male violence and the cuts to women’s services, but that it is all you are doing. Many women, such as Karen – who is the CEO of nia and a campaigner, and such as survivors like myself write constantly about the impact of male violence and the desire to ensure that it remains in the public consciousness. The truth is, we are saying this all of the time. Yet we are only heard by a few. It is clear that men’s views on male violence are more widely shared and this is of great concern. As I know you are aware, women are being erased: our voices, our experiences, our lives. We need those with male privilege to recognise this and share their platform. It is our voices that need to be heard. It is true that the impact of the ConDem cuts to vital services are affecting women who experience male violence. And highlighting this is vital as we need to effect changes to governmental policy. We need to make them hear us. But this is not going to stop male violence. And this is what we need from you. From men.
This post is more than just a letter to you. This is a request. To maybe think differently when writing about an issue that oppresses a group you do not belong to. It is not enough for you to write that male violence exists. You need to do something about it. The role of men who care deeply about the violence that men as a class perpetrate against women is to not only highlight it but change it. If I read a media column written by someone who is middle-class, it is nowhere near enough for them to be writing about classism. There are many working class columnists who can do just that. What I want to see from middle-class columnists is not a mere analysis but a plan of action. HOW are they going to contribute to challenging their own classism and that of their social group?
Personally, I value your writing, your voice, your passion for social justice. I hope that you continue to use your column to highlight issues that affect women. But what I want is for that column to be meaningful. When it comes to male violence, we need you to do more than name the problem, we need you to do something about it. What are you and your class going to do about male violence, Owen?