Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Beer Police

This week Amazon were hosting this product. A product you can see is imported by Orion Costumes. It is distributed by Simply Fancy Dress.

This is funny. Apparently. This is because men who drink a particular brand of lager .... vaguely depicted by the outfit .....have a tendency to drink too much, lose control of themselves and attack a woman. Maybe regularly. Maybe to death.

What's not to laugh at according to the 3 companies above?

I've had the familiar derailing arguments directed at me this week for objecting to this product.

"You've lost your sense of humour. You never had a sense of humour. You should be objecting to something more important like FGM and Saudi Arabia. (I'm never sure why all feminism has to begin in Saudi Arabia ... and apparently end there. There is no need to ever object to anything outside Saudi Arabia. I blame the camels.) Not all men beat women. Not all men drink lager. You're a lesbian. You eat carpets. You should be bothering rapists about their raping not wittering on about halloween costumes (yes....that always goes so well for me...)

On and on the men go. Presumably these men are angry because they want to drink lager, beat women and enjoy Halloween. All at the same time. Why shouldn't they? "WHY CAN"T I DRINK LAGER, BEAT WOMEN AND HAVE A LAUGH WHILST I SEE OUT OCTOBER. WHY???? "

I wonder what happened to knocking on a door, not hitting the woman who answered it in the face, and then running away laughing.

Beyond that why am I so angry about the fact that this costume was conceived as funny, distributed as hilarious and hosted as side-splitting by the three businesses involved?

Anecdotally, most of the times I was thumped hard that particular brand of lager had started the evening. Not anecdotally.... men who abuse women are sometimes drunk. More than that men who stop drinking alcohol can significantly lower their perpetrating of violence against women.

This Life In Recovery survey by Sheffield Hallam University, analysed the results of 800 respondents in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs and yielded the following startling results.....

This was echoed by the Life In Recovery survey in Australia also conducted by Professor David Best of Sheffield Hallam University. Figures were even more stark with half the respondents in recovery from addiction to alcohol and or drugs reporting living in a family/household where domestic violence was perpetrated or suffered. Again this dropped sharply to less that 10% when in established recovery. The statistics are not gendered. I wish they were. I would like to see the level of male violence more distinctly highlighted.

Even without a gendered study we can assume that the men who beat women do it more often after drinking.

Some of those women die.

In 2014 ...149 women were suspected to have been killed by a current or former partner. That is more than 2 a week. (Statistics recorded by Karen Ingala Smith )

Linking the two things  - it isn't difficult to assume that some of those dead women are dead because men had been drinking. If men aren't using alcohol or drugs they are less likely to beat women. I'm not afraid to say that the main perpetrators of domestic violence are men and the main victims are women. Enough studies bear that out. In cases where women are perpetrators the reasons, incidence and reporting conditions are very different.

So...... a costume which laughs at either of these sets of statistics is incredibly damaging. The costume itself worries me as does the trend established in the 1990's of blaming the brand of lager and not the man with the lager in his fist (which he subsequently used to batter a woman). At some point he put the lager down and it sat impotent on a table or floor. The man however perpetrated the violence on the woman. He is not absolved of that in my mind whether dependent or not. That would be far too easy. This would mean men could deny their agency in violent acts against women.

Going back to anecdote. I know that virtually every time a man hit me that man had been drinking. Sometimes the build up to the violence was before a drink. Sometimes the beginnings of the incidence of violence would flicker during the drinking. At the end of the drinking the man would either be unconscious or he would be abusing me physically or emotionally.

I learned to police beer. I was ever alert. I knew how much alcohol lay around the house and how quickly it was being consumed. I knew by every movement and facial gesture of that man exactly how much alcohol had been consumed before he reached the house. I knew to look for the signs that he was slipping into unconsciousness and I knew to try to retreat silently to bed at this point. I knew to sleep lightly and listen for doors. I think I knew the fridge door had opened at 3am before the automatic fridge light did.

I learned to cull alcohol. I spent years hiding it from him. I'd slip out a bottle of wine into the washing machine under the clothes. I'd take 3 cans of beer and pop them at the bottom of the shoe cupboard. I would pour a couple away.

If I wasn't successful or if I'd become relaxed or distracted and probably had a drink myself and wasn't spotting the signs,  then things would quickly slap me in the face. A gentle slur would quickly become a snarl. A conversation swiftly slam into a shouting match between one slurp and another. A smirk slip into a scowl at the whoosh of a ring pull.

At this time there is no retreat. There is no culling. There is no way to pull back the tide of drink that fuels that man and washes over you. He is coming for you and your children and your belongings and he will swallow them all in his cruelty.

Drink does not excuse this. Drink does not make his behaviour irrelevant or excusable. Violent men are responsible for violent behaviour.

I am glad however, that studies like the one at Sheffield Hallam University show a hope. If SOME men can stop drinking then SOME women can have better lives free of violence. Some men will kill women whether they have been drinking or not and we cannot forget that for a moment.

Amazon saw sense over this vile product and took it down after many complaints and lots of pressure from feminists. Well done to @SueVeneer on Twitter who led on highlighting this.

They still host many other vile products though. It is time they had a good look through what they unacceptable agree to host.

The company Simply Fancy Dress can be contacted here.....

Their Twitter is @SimplyFD

Orion Costumes can be emailed here ....

The Life in Recovery Survey is ongoing and the team behind it include Dr Jamie Irving who is @JgiSHUcriminolg on Twitter and Professor David Best who is @DavidBe13551581 on Twitter.

Laughing at women who are abused and or killed by men is never going to be funny and no mention of Saudi Arabia will make me forget that.

Happy Weekend women, stay safe...

JH x