Homophobia, misogyny and hypocrisy

3:37 pm - October 16th 2009

by Laurie Penny    

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The death of gay popstar Stephen Gately from pulmonary oedema this week was “unnatural”, not by virtue of foul play but because of his sexuality, according to frothing baghack Jan Moir of the Daily Mail .

More unnatural than the death of 38-year old Siobhan Kearney, whose former husband this week lost his appeal to be acquitted of her murder.

The judge confirmed that in 2006, Brian Kearney strangled Siobhan in her room then used a Dyson Vacuum cleaner flex as a ligature before trying to hoist her over the en-suite door in her bedroom in an attempt to make it look like a suicide. He then left the house, leaving their three-year-old son alone downstairs whilst his mother’s body slowly cooled.

More unnatural than the death of Kate Ellerbeck, who rowed with her mutually unfaithful husband and asked for a divorce, attacking him in a rage when he refused.

HSBC investment banker Neil Ellerbeck, who was this week convicted of manslaughter, told police that restrained his wife “forcefully”, pinning her to the ground with his entire 15stone bulk until she stopped “wriggling and kicking”, and left her corpse in the hallway. He then texted his lover, bought a lottery ticket, and went to pick up the couple’s ten-year-old daughter from school, telling her “Mummy’s not here because she’s gone shopping”.

And definitely more unnatural than the death of Sally Sinclair, 40, a top business executive at Vodafone. A jury heard this week that when Sally confessed her affair to her husband Alaisdair Sinclair, he attacked her with a kitchen knife, stabbing her more than thirty times as she fell to the ground and sawing at her with a serrated breadknife as their children stood by, screaming. Alaisdair denies murder: the trial continues.

The Daily Heil has not neglected to report all these stories, bundling them all up together in an article whose main thrust is how ‘a worrying proportion of violence within relationships is perpetrated by women’.

The article veers away from discussing the actual trials taking place this week (including one in which a woman is accused of murdering her husband, to which the bulk of the article is devoted) to remind us that some serial killers, such as Mary Cotton in the 1860s, have been female; that Vanessa George is a paedophile; and that up to 10% of violent crime is committed by women: “in contrast to the traditional gentle female image, the figures who lurk in these pages are savage matriarchs or brutal mothers, their menace all the more terrifying because of their gender.”

The fact that two women a week are murdered by their partners or former partners, the fact that three men were in front of judges this week in the UK alone for the savage slaughter of their wives, does not pass muster.

At the Labour Party Conference I watched Tim Montgomerie of Conservative home tell delegates that “studies show that there is something very, very special about marriage”.

Tell that to Sally Sinclair, Kate Ellerbeck and Siobhan Kearney. No wait, you can’t! This “specialness” was given as justification for tax breaks for married couples after the encroaching Torygeddon and cementing of public prejudice against queer couples, unmarried partners and single parents.

I suggest that before we start signing up to the drooling Tory family fetish, we all have a good, hard think about what a ‘traditional, stable’ family really looks like – and interrogate just what we mean by “natural”.

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About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
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Reader comments

Much as those are terrible examples, the argument you make is kinda anecdotal. How many unmarried heterosexual partnerships end in murder/attempted murder compared to married partnerships would be a more appropriate question to ask. Has there been a study?

This article is unashamedly heterophobic.

Great post. @1I don’t think the argument is that heterosexual partnerships are more likely to end in murder/attempted murder but that it is awful and plain wrong to imply that homosexual partnerships/murders are more likely to end in murder/attempted murder? (Don’t want to put words in your mouth Pennie but I assume that’s what your argument is?)
Anyone know where Stephen Gately got married btw? Civil partnership doesn’t exist yet in Ireland (they have introduced a bill, but I don’t think it’s in effect yet, and in any case it does not go far enough)

4. the a&e charge nurse

No, I don’t think that’s the point here, Nick [1] – civil partnership as an institution has been tainted by Stephen Gately’s death according to Moir’s, aherm, ‘analysis’.

Needless to say Moir has no feelings for the bereaved family since she seems hell bent on pushing her entirely predictable little-england agenda (safe in the knowledge that most of the Fail’s frightened readership will lap up her every melodramatic utterance).

Having said that I think family IS the most important social institution, but what constitutes ‘family’ should not be shoe-horned into some kind of ancient biblical formulation that Moir and her ilk seem so attached to.

Nick, prattory, can you not just give it a rest, just this once?

Wow, the article by David Wilson is a shocker! And he’s a Professor at Birmingham University no less. Academic standards are slipping in the West Midlands! Someone should write to the Daily Mail about it…

“I suggest that before we start signing up to the drooling Tory family fetish, we all have a good, hard think about what a ‘traditional, stable’ family really looks like – and interrogate just what we mean by “natural”.”

Well, speaking from experience all my local friends grew up in the 80s and 90s in married two-parent families. No violence, deaths etc. Only one divorce. Personally I’m glad I have two married parents who have been together since before I was born. Horribly old-fashioned of me I know but I’ve done rather well out of the arrangement.

@1 @2 I’m not trying to make an argument that more violence occurs in heterosexual, married partnerships. I’m merely pointing out that where two instances of tragic early death, painful but without violence, are apparently enough to tar the entire institution of civil partnership, the institution of marriage is beyond reproach, even though two violent domestic murders happen in this country every week, on average.

And Richard, I’m sure your family life was lovely. Mine was alright, too, and my parents were married for most of it – although my sisters and I are happier now they are divorced. Neither of our experiences, however, have any bearing on the actual point I was actually trying to make.

Statistically speaking, most people still have experience of being part of a married, heterosexual family, either as children themselves or as adults. This will also mean, statistically speaking, that numerically more people have both good AND experiences within heterosexual, married families.

I always knew the Daily Mail was a pile of scribble. Use it for your chips and give me the Guardian any day!

I once drank twenty eight pints of best bitter and half a bottle of whiskey, I ended up in hospital in ICU as the doctor said I was drowning in fluids.

He is reported to have been pissed out of his skull and died,

Bloody hell some people can make a story out of anything

Sorry, but by the end of this post you descend into exactly the kind of overblown hyperbole that you complain about at the beginning. How is “Tell that to Sally Sinclair, Kate Ellerbeck and Siobhan Kearney. No wait, you can’t!” any less emotive and hyperbolic than the Daily Mail article you link to? Or, for that matter, describing Tim Montgomerie as having a “drooling Tory family fetish”?

Obviously, your general view is more ‘to each their own’ than the tone of this post suggests. I think that’s most people’s general view. In fact, it’s almost definitely Tim Montgomerie’s view. Had you said that, no problem. But you didn’t, you decided that the best way to combat a horrible homophobic rant was to fire back exactly the same kind of emotive and baseless nonsense, and that’s really disappointing.

@12 Stu
But it can’t escape you (well, it looks like it did…) that Laurie is simply underlying a paradox – showing what emotive, prejudiced and baseless nonsense looks like – so she’s offering an example (and very effectively, in my opinon) of how nonsensical it would be like if thrown in the other direction.

finally, a post on mysoginy that i can whole heartedly agree with. Great article laurie.

I think those criticising lauries more annecdotal tendencies here, and the emotional element, are ignoring that this is a criticism of the claim that marriages are a huge good while positive civil partnerships are a myth.

View this post as it’s intended, an indictment of those that ignore the bad eggs in the ‘traditional’ family while, not only just over exemplifying those bad in civil partnerships or single parent families as proof of their total lack of worth, but also actively distorting tragedies in to a sick untruth to ‘prove’ their bigoted prejudices.

bah, misogyny i meant. Damn phone dictionary fail

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  1. Vesselina T. Plesser

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  2. Vesselina T. Plesser

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  3. Twitted by VesselinaTP

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    Homophobia, misogyny and hypocrisy by Laurie Penny

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