Kat Burdon-Manley argues Roosh V the unsavoury face of a much bigger problem with structural and institutional racism and sexism
Bang, Day Bang, 30 Bangs, Bang Poland, Bang Iceland, Bang Estonia, Bang Lithuania, Don’t Bang Denmark, and Bang Ukraine are just some of the titles of Roosh V’s books, and pretty much sum up his character in a nutshell.
Daryush Valizadeh, also known as Roosh V, is a self-proclaimed expert at seducing and ‘banging’ women and an advocate for the legalisation of rape on private property. The misogynist click-bait website Return of Kings organised meetups across the globe with Roosh V on the 6 February, but these were officially cancelled because of supposed fears for the men’s safety.
Women took to social media to warn their friends to be vigilant when heading out on the same evening as these men, and counter-rallies were organised by women and men who were rightfully disgusted by such blatant sexism. Even the Conservative Home Office Minister Karen Bradley has criticised Roosh V’s views as ‘repulsive’ and said they have no place in British society.
However, is Roosh V an isolated problem, or the symptom of a much more dangerous phenomenon? We may be able to chase Roosh V and his ‘neomasculine’ brothers off our streets, but will this prevent the closure of countless domestic violence centres across the UK as a result of policies sanctioned by Karen Bradley’s own government? Will criticism of Roosh V and his masculinist men put an end to rape when 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped every year in England and Wales? It is worth bearing in mind that he has only managed to attract a few dozen men to his meetings, even when he is hosting them himself.
If Roosh V were the only problem, we would not need campaign groups such as Sisters Uncut organising ‘funeral marches’ to protest against government policy. Roosh V is the pantomime villain, the unsavoury face of a much bigger problem with structural and institutional racism and sexism. The government’s austerity programme is harming and killing women: countless women are turned away from refuges on a daily basis due to over-demand and under-spending, and up to 30 refuges have closed since 2010 as a direct result of cuts.
Only 35% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police, and as many as 1 in 3 women will experience violence from a male partner globally during their lifetime. On average, a woman is assaulted by a partner 35 times before her first call to the police.
Since 2010, funding has been slashed from vital services such as women’s refuges and specialist services for BME communities, and services are increasingly expected to do more for less. Providers are under pressure to reduce the level of their service, endangering holistic approaches to service provision and putting more women in danger. In practice, this means services are providing the bare minimum to service-users, such as social housing and a very basic level of psychological support, while closing creches which enable women to attend group counselling sessions, and stopping outreach programmes, which are often a lifeline to people living in BME communities and rural areas.
While we are seeing an increase in the number of domestic violence cases reported and referred to the CPS and the number of defendants prosecuted, the number of survivors who choose to report sexual violence offences to the police is still only 15% of those who experience these offences, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales. The majority of the most serious sexual offences are not reported to the police; 57% of people tell someone about the incident, but not the police, and 28% of people do not tell anyone about the offence.
The majority of the most serious sexual offences are committed by a partner, so it’s no wonder the likes of Roosh V argue that the legalisation of rape on private property will decrease rape, because rape on private property is our biggest problem. According to Roosh V, these unwanted experiences will force women to be better at choosing men, which reminds me of the time a feminist friend of mine responded to my concerns about my choice in men by saying, “you act like you have a choice, but if you toss your glass out the window you have a 1 in 2 chance of hitting a dickhead, and on a rugby day, a 1 in 1 chance”. Their point was that sexism is socialised into all of us, and concentrated into ‘masculine’ identities, so no matter who we choose to go out with or love, we will still experience sexism and it will remain a struggle until sexism is eradicated.
As if that wasn’t enough, our government’s complicity in the abuse of women runs deeper than the cuts to women’s services. Women detained in the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre have spoken out about the sexual abuse and harassment they have experienced at the hands of members of staff at the facility. When the UN’s rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo was refused entry into the facility to investigate how the UK deal with violence against women, she censured the UK government for preventing her from carrying out a thorough investigation. This suggests that the government has already taken a leaf out of Roosh V’s book, allowing violence against women to occur on private property; in this case, a private corporation’s property.
Lindy West put it best in an article about Roosh V in the Guardian: “He was already a buffoon caterwauling on the fringe. That the whole world knows it now doesn’t change that fact. What matters is that we recognize that Roosh and his repellent worldview don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re an extreme crystallization of attitudes with real roots in our real lives”. Sexism takes many forms, so while it’s important women hit the streets as they did in Cardiff to protest against the neo-masculinist ‘tribesmen’, in London and in Manchester, we still need our sisters outside Yarl’s Wood in solidarity with women detainees, whose only crime was to seek refuge in the UK. We need women on the ‘funeral marches’ protesting against cuts to women’s services and fighting the sexism within our government.