The media frenzy on so-called “honour killing” …

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed did not kill her for “honour” but because domestic violence “transcends culture, class, race, and religion.”

This as the conclusion of the leading investigating officer – so why are our newspapers full of bold headlines and in-depth discussion about “honour killing”?

As far as I can tell –and I’m happy to be corrected – it is the media that has made the link between Shafilea’s parents’ excuse for murder and “honour” not the police or the judge.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Superintendent Geraint Jones, who led the inquiry for Cheshire Police, said: “Over the years, many people have asked me – is this a so-called honour killing? For me, it’s a simple case of murder.

“This is a case of domestic abuse by two parents towards their children. Domestic abuse is, sadly, something which the police have to deal with too often. “

The judge, when sentencing her parents for murder, told them: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child” but didn’t use the term “honour killing” – a term put in speech marks by most domestic violence charities and those newspapers not accepting it wholesale.

Women’s Aid says that with domestic violence: “’Blaming the victim’ is something that abusers will often do to make excuses for their behaviour, and quite often they manage to convince their victims that the abuse is indeed their fault.

“This is part of the pattern and is in itself abusive. Blaming their behaviour on someone else, or on the relationship, their childhood, their ill health, or their alcohol or drug addiction is one way in which many abusers try to avoid personal responsibility for their behaviour.”

The charity defines domestic violence as, “physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and so-called ‘honour crimes’. Domestic violence may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently ‘violent’.”

While “honour-based” violence, according to Domestic Violence London, “can exist in any culture or community where males are in position to establish and enforce women’s conduct.

“Males can also be victims, sometimes as a consequence of a relationship which is deemed to be inappropriate, if they are gay, have a disability or if they have assisted a victim.”

So why, if shame, honour, embarrassment and doing things wrong – or your favourite football team losing – are common excuses for domestic abuse, has the UK media whipped itself into a frenzy about “honour killing” rather than reeling in horror at domestic violence?

Women’s Aid:

  •  1 in 4 will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime – many of these on a number of occasions
  • 1 incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute
  • on average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.

Meanwhile, in the US a white, middle class Christian couple killed their black adopted daughter. As with police in the UK, “investigators found the Washington state couple adhered to a harsh child-rearing regimen prescribed by a controversial Christian parenting book, the prosecutor said earlier this month that religion was not relevant to the criminal case.”

Another couple were charged with murdering their child who they believed had the devil inside her and God told them to stick a rose down her throat. While their status as “immigrant” is seen as significant here – their religion isn’t further discussed.

There are, of course, more intellectual approaches than that of the Daily Mail – aren’t there always? The New Statesman, for example, states that “the left cannot remain silent over honour killings” and refers them as an “epidemic of abuse and violence” – so “honour” is being accepted as the distinguishing feature in this case – not domestic violence as outlined by the police.

The Guardian though produces a piece on a charity supporting women at risk of forced marriage and “honour” crimes: because many charities including Refuge campaign against domestic violence as a whole when supporting victims of “sexual violence, forced marriage, honour-based violence, female genital mutilation, prostitution, trafficking and stalking”.

It is clear that no one would suggest that Shafilea’s case shouldn’t be discussed in a wider context or that “honour” isn’t used as an excuse for violence against women and men.

One could suggest, though, that this violence be discussed in a more rational manner: perhaps we would benefit from the UK taking a calmer, less emotionally-charged and academic approach to domestic violence rather than a knee-jerk response to “honour” killing.

If you look to the news now the discussion of “honour killing” has become white noise and – if you dare to look at comments on articles – is being used for further attacks on Islam: one could almost think all Muslim condoned violence against women.

Perhaps some journalists still lucky enough to be in paid employment could report more on the experiences and understanding of those dealing with domestic violence across all cultures on a daily basis; it could look to the nuclear family as a constant in domestic violence; investigate the links between mental ill-health, such as stress, and domestic violence; or consider the role of the patriarchy across many cultures when “honour” is used as justification for domestic violence.

Remember other excuses – accepted by UK police in confronting domestic violence – include football teams losing during Euro 2012 and the World Cup.

The video below made by Refuge – a charity providing safe houses – highlights how hidden domestic violence can be in the UK as women hide their bruises, take responsibility and make excuses for the damage done at the hands of their abusers.

We need to discuss domestic violence as an experience across cultures and classes. Isolated incidents – however horrific – are examples of domestic violence within families not of broken cultures.

Because domestic violence is a terrifying and very real problem for many people in our country which “transcends culture, class, race, and religion”.


Jobcentre Plus new Q&A revealed …

Some intense investigative reporting on my part has resulted in my having something to do other than play string with Chaplin – and in unearthing the latest questionnaire used by Jobcentre Plus advisers.

This Q&A will be used at each and every interview unemployed workers attend in the hope that they will finally collapse, demoralised and exhausted, and choose to sign off rather than face the repetitive, humiliating process over and over again. What happens to them then is of no concern.

A Jobcentre Plus unofficial, completely imaginary, spokesperson said: “When addressing the needs of customers facing deferred success and cashflow challenges, it sometimes makes sense to clarify your process using a flowchart.

“Using a customer service process flow chart can help advisers deal with customers in a way that represents Jobcentre Plus’ overall customer service outlook while, at the same time, avoiding customer intimacy or, heaven forbid, making eye contact with the employment-challenged.

“Going forward we hope that they will finally collapse, demoralised and exhausted, and choose to sign off rather than face this repetitive, humiliating process over and over again.

“What happens to them then is of no concern to us and any discussion about the validity of this flowchart will result in our effective, and government-backed, use of blamestorming.”

  • If you’re due to sign on remember this is how they think – even if the more wily ones don’t follow the Q&A openly …

Blame Bingo … a new game for all the family!

Are you unemployed? Do you spend a lot of time watching the news and listening to excuse after excuse from the Coalition? Then you’ll love Blame Bingo©!

Are you a single mum? Immigrant worker? Trade unionist? Or disabled? Then you’ll love Blame Bingo© – and seeing just how you are to blame for the state of the economy.

Blame Bingo© – it’s the game even Labour Party members can enjoy!*

Blame Bingo© is free so won’t eat into your meagre benefits or ever-dwindling wages. It’s easy, fun and contains many real excuses used by the Coalition. Just tick them off as you hear them until you get a full house – which will happen in no time!

Play Blame Bingo© today – and you won’t earn a thing even if you do it all day long! Just as the Coalition likes it!

*Liberal Democrats are advised not to play Blame Bingo© but instead to walk away from the Coalition so that we can have an election.

Blame Bingo© proof that being bored and stuck on the dole makes you entrepreneurial!

London 2012 ..?

Rain splashes hard onto the pavement as a woman rushes home from work, her head aching with worry at not being able to make ends meet or, worse still, losing her job and not being entitled to benefits. She fears she will have to leave the capital despite knowing more work is available here.

She knows that the economy – having been through a long period of growth – has slumped and the increasing population – with people moving to the capital from foreign countries and other British cities – means jobs are scarce so many scramble for anything available. She works two jobs and has little to live on, struggling to feed and clothe herself and her children.

She’s not an unusual sight as she walks, her head down against the wind, worry etched in her face. Wages for the few jobs available are low – and shrinking – many are desperate to live near to where work is available but this is almost impossible. So available housing is scarce and increasingly costly, often resulting in overcrowded conditions, particularly for the lowest paid, foreign workers.

‘In big, once handsome houses […] people of all ages may inhabit a single room’,* Meanwhile, landlords make healthy profits from the demand on homes.

She read a speech by an MP and was stunned by his limited understanding of the way she lives.

“Many areas […] are blighted by fractured families, worklessness, educational failure, addictions, serious personal debt, anti-social behaviour and crime. Too many tenants find themselves […] where welfare dependency is a way of life, cut off from the job opportunities, social networks and wealth the rest of us enjoys.”

She knows of young people who have been turned out of home as their families are unable to support them. Living on their wits, stealing and fighting they seem a very real threat in a country where riots are becoming commonplace.

She thinks back to the speech.

“The lack of good male role models in many areas […] makes the next generation of boys susceptible to getting involved in anti-social and criminal behaviour. Family breakdown also makes girls much more vulnerable to early sex and teenage pregnancy, potentially repeating their mother’s life experience.”

She knows of families who desperately try to stay together often moving together – knowing the local council is now responsible to decide upon the amount of money available to the poor in need.

“Social justice can only be achieved in a society in which we each make the contribution we are capable of. Every household should be helped to achieve economic self-sufficiency, even if that can’t always be fully realised.”

Hand-outs are increasingly considered the wrong thing to do for the poor, with philanthropy and charity now seen as ways to help those in genuine need. The government is looking at ways to reduce money intended for the poor, to take beggars off the streets and to encourage poor people to look after themselves. She knows the poor are easy scapegoats, increasingly seen as feckless, lazy or drunks who are unwilling to work.

“Helping workless households move from dependency to independence must be a central objective in tackling poverty and advancing social justice. The back-to-work needs of workless households must be put at the centre of welfare provision.”

She has heard talk of the deserving poor of ‘anyone thrown out of work or into financial straits by events beyond his or her control — elimination of a job, illness or old age, etc’ being accepted in the short-term. And of those seen as ‘made up of that class of people who declined to work, and made a perceived effort to live off the county dole or by conning honest folk, or who were ill or disabled due to their own folly — such as by being a drunkard, or catching a social disease. Such people were not entitled to pity, or really much consideration at all’. ***

She knows that’s how many people see her as she passes by on her way home.

Some of this is from depictions of life in Victorian London and some from London today … I’ll leave you to decide which. The quotes in italics are courtesy of current Work and Pensions Secretary and eager welfare reformer Iain Duncan Smith.


*The Victorian Underworld, Kellow Chesney

***Those That Will Not Work, Henry Mayhew

Victorian Web

Victorian Guide toThose Who Will Not Work

Riots and Disorder

unemployed hack is back … differentiating arses from elbows

I went to sign on today. After six months of being a part-time lecturer – with a bit of journalism thrown in – I’m now an unemployment statistic once more.

I arrived for my 9.30am appointment, clutching my CV, and “hopped” on the job points before I could be told to. I searched for lecturer jobs, journalism jobs, PR, even had a quick look for something in libraries but found nothing near where I live. Although, Salford MP Hazel Blears is looking for a parliamentary assistant, should you be interested.

There were a few jobs nationally I could apply for but were I able to afford to relocate – to get on my proverbial bike – then I doubt I’d need Jobseekers’ Allowance in the first place.

I found a seat, waited, looking around the Job Centre. The haemorrhoid-inspired decor remains. The posters haven’t changed either: we’re still promised “the work you want, the help you need”, “yes, you can get a job” and “jobs for everyone” alongside pictures of men with drills and women cutting hair.

A man arrived with an Eastern European accent. He looked as fed up as me but more bewildered as I’m an old hand by now. I wondered whether he’d be considered a threat to British jobs or a dole sponger for having rode his own proverbial bike and tried but failed to find work elsewhere: I suppose it’d depend on which right-wing fool was judging him on which day. With almost 25 million unemployed in Europe you’d think it obvious he’s not to blame.

There was a woman in a smart business suit at the job points next to a man in a beanie hat and another woman in a shalwar kameez. One man printed off reams of jobs to go for and I suspected he was new to the process and that his enthusiasm will soon wane.

After a 30-minute wait I was called to see an advisor. Some details were taken then I was asked to return in two hours for a second appointment with a different advisor. I then signed by Jobseekers’ Agreement and next week I’ll attend another interview with another advisor … at least there’s job creation at Job Centre Plus because it takes fewer people to make a Subway sandwich.

Conflicting information given led one man to raise his voice at an advisor – resulting immediately in colleagues checking “all was okay”. While I can’t condemn the support of colleagues watching each other’s backs – I can entirely understand the man’s frustrations. I was told by one advisor that I can’t claim Housing Benefit at Job Centre Plus but have to go to the library to do so. This made no sense to me but I was repeatedly told it was the case. So, I checked my local council website and the information provided there was the complete opposite. I asked again – at my second interview – and was told an application is made automatically when applying for Jobseekers’ Allowance. An inability to differentiate arses from elbows crossed my mind.

But rather than be undermined by the bureaucracy I’ve made a promise to myself not to let it get me down. I don’t want to lose sleep the night before I sign on then collapse in a stressed heap the moment I’ve done it. I don’t want to be demoralised by the thinly veiled put downs, the suggestions I play down my qualifications and experience or the looks of contempt as soon as you look like your unemployment could be a long-term reality.

And I still refuse to shoulder the blame for mass unemployment experienced by millions of workers across the globe and the 20,546 people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in my city alone.

I also refuse to buy into the idea that it is somehow heroic, stoic, noble to take a job on National Minimum Wage rather than claim benefits. Of course Tories will cry “get a job, any job” and act as if supermarkets employ an infinite amount of shelf-stackers … ignoring the fact that someone with a degree taking that job means someone else is going without while further ignoring the fact that thanks to Workfare and money-grubbing supermarkets those “jobs” aren’t jobs but “work for benefits”.

I would ask that, if you are thinking of responding to me with the romantic notion that all workers will find a job just so long as they’re willing or that people choose to live on benefits, please read this article about people whose benefits are being withdrawn. You know you wouldn’t choose to live like that so why imagine anyone else would?

All in all not a great day but I was made to feel better knowing it could be worse – I could work for the Job Centre and, like any prison warden, spend my life in a place most people try to avoid.

The only thing to do now is to be more politically active … as brutal Tory cuts radicalise a lot of angry workers I’ll be campaigning with them.

Job to apply for: Part-time post 60 miles away from where I live so unlikely I’ll be able to afford travel expenses

Top Tops for Journos claiming JSA: Make notes in shorthand during the interviews – it freaks them out

Why they hate the unemployed …

Unemployedhack has taken time out to conduct extensive research into the attitude towards the jobless, the increasing contempt towards those who have lost their jobs and are seeking work.

The armchair analysis accessing settee-based statistics has revealed that those condemning the unemployed are full of hot air, terrified out of their wits or too unintelligent to recognise they could be next.

As the unemployed – young, old; black, white; men, women – are scapegoated this research intends to help those making crass judgements question their own stupidity.

What the research reveals.

What they say:                                          What they mean:

Get a job!                                                  Please prove there is work available.  I’m scared.

Unpaid work experience is good!             I will pretend all unemployed are inexperienced.

Don’t be a job snob!                                 I’ll pretend my qualifications will keep me in work.

You did the wrong course!                        My qualifications won’t change while others  do.

You’re in the wrong industry!                    My industry won’t change while others do.

Stop being lazy!                                        As a go-getter I’ll just go-get. I will! Won’t I?

You’re wasting time on dole!                     I secretly resent that you don’t work where I do.

You’re enjoying the dole.                          I hate my job and love afternoon telly.

Be self-employed!                                    I have no understanding of casual work at all.

Stop demanding job security!                  I’m sure I’m indispensable. I’ll always have a job.

Do any job available!                                I won’t have to do any job. I’m important at work.

My taxes pay for your hiatus!                   I’ll feel smug while I can because I fear I’m next.

You’re a failure!                                         Blame individuals – don’t question the system!

Journalists to get an Apprentice-style makeover – without the perks

I’m popping back – between marking assignments and exam papers – to rant about this now advertised on telly:

“ITV is set to broadcast a seven-part series in the second half of 2012 featuring aspiring journalists vying for a 12-month contract at Bauer Media’s magazine portfolio, which includes Heat, FHM, Closer, More! and Empire” (Media Week).

Yes, journalism now has its own Apprentice-style competition – ‘cept our six young workers aren’t likely to get a six figure salary or a day in a spa courtesy of Alan Sugar – in fact, they’re not even getting a job but a “12-month journalism contract”.

It looks like they’ll be in the losers’ greasy spoon because a short-term contract means they is unlikely to mean they are able to afford Apprentice-style living.

Even when journalists are asked to commit to such a money-making process they’re treated with contempt.

What makes the competition all the more sinister is research from Press Gazette published in May revealing that at least 242 local newspaper closed between 2005 and the end of 2011.

Now, instead of being trained on a weekly newspaper as has been tradition, Media Week explains: “The cameras will follow the trainee journalists as they hone their skills and are coached and mentored in interviewing, organising photo shoots and connecting with their readers.”

This used to be what real trainee journalists did, on the job, while paid without having to compete with other journalists for a job at the end – no doubt on all those newspapers which have closed.

The Drum quotes Abby Carvosso, managing director of Lifestyle & Advertising at Bauer Media, saying: “We’re on the hunt for a gutsy, fearless and talented individual who stands out from the crowd and we’re sure it will be a great watch!”

Since when has being “a good watch” been an essential skill for print journalists. I mean, whatever happened to the phrase “a face for radio and a voice for print?”

Competing on television is no way to start a journalism job: imagine a death-knock where they’re grieving and trying to place your face; a court appearance where the photographers outside recognise you so take a few snaps; conducting any serious interview where your ability to get people to talk is more important than your ability to get into some posh nightclub for free; or being asked for your autograph at the police station.

Bauer Media had a run-in around “journalism contracts” with the National Union of Journalists back in 2010 when there were protest against new contracts which they claimed removed copyright from contributors, as reported by It was reported at the time as ” a rights grab’ against freelance writers and photographers at Kerrang!, Mojo and Q magazines has been condemned by the NUJ as ‘vicious, venomous and vindictive’. The music division of  publishers Bauer Media is seeking to impose ‘all rights’ contracts on freelance contributors, and also to make them responsible for damages and costs in cases of legal action against the magazines.”

Now, as hundreds of newspapers face closure, making a genuine break into the industry much more difficult, Press Gazette reminds us of journalist Susy Macaulay who launched a new monthly newspaper for the Outer Hebrides called Island News and Advertiser in March. She says: “I would encourage any journalist out there who sees a gap in their local areas to give it a go. It can be done on a shoestring and your community will soon get behind you if you do it right.”

This is the right attitude to journalism. I’ve written my fair share of “my husband left me for the neighbour’s babysitters’ best friends’ cousin so I married my cat” and think it’s a form of entertainment – but I also want aspiring journalists to aspire to journalism.

It is also the sort of journalism produced by Manchester Mule, Salford Star, Stoke’s Pits ‘n’ Pots among others nationwide.

My own contracts will come to an end soon. I’ve no idea as yet whether more are to come. I hope so. The thought of going back in the dole makes me want to hide in Chaplin’s cardboard box with him. I’ve not forgotten counting my pennies and drinking tea to avoid hunger pangs – or, worse still, not having money for tea bags!

Watching young journalists being exploited in this way while I’m skint, stuck on the settee with Chaplin would be more than I could stand.

Update: Chaplin is doing well and currently sitting in the sun with what appears to be a grin on his face. I’m set to be skint this month, I think, as contracts haven’t materialised. I’ve lots of food in – but have run out of Harry Ramsden’s Mushy Peas. Onwards and upwards.