Some time ago I wrote an article about intersectional feminism. With that, we have an overarching term for the fight against all the injustice that is done to women on a daily basis. And that injustice is immense. From subtle injustice to matters of life and death. I want to describe all the different forms of injustice against women and the solutions to them in different articles. Today I’ll write about one of the heaviest subjects when it comes to that: femicide. Killing women for the fact that they are women.
Yes, there’s a specific term for this horrendous crime. And that says everything. We don’t have a term for the killing of men for the fact that they are men. That’s just what we call murder. Women are specifically killed for the fact that they’re women, and this is what we call femicide. The official definition that I found is this one:
‘Femicide: the killing of females by males because they are female’.
The term was invented by Diana E. H. Russell in 1976.
Numbers on femicide
Femicide is a really serious problem. You might not have thought that it exists in the first place, because not many people do. But that is weird, because femicide takes place on a massive scale. The latest numbers on femicide we have are from 2021. In 2021, 81,000 women globally were killed in an act of femicide. That’s 137 women each day. And many sources say that the actual number is higher, because a big number of femicides are not reported. I have no words for that statistic. What I do want to say is: this is a global problem. Don’t think that this only happens in conservative countires. The numbers in my home country, The Netherlands, are just as insane. In The Netherlands approximately 43 women are killed in an act of femicide each year. That’s one women every 8 days.
Who kills women?
The numbers about what causes femicide, or better said, who causes femicide, are shocking too. I’ll give you the numbers for The Netherlands, from 2018. 76% of the women who are killed in an act of femicide, are killed by their partner or ex-partner. 76%. It’s a direct consequence of domestic violence, the culture we have in The Netherlands and globally. Most women who are killed due to femicide are murdered at the moment they want to leave their abusive partner. Some men consider their partner as their property. When the girlfriend/wife wants to get out of the horrific situation of domestic violence, they are murdered. So, who kills women? Men do.
Not the usual story
But what I describe above is not the story I grew up with. When we think of men murdering women, we think of creepy men in the bushes, grabbing women from their bikes and then (usually raping) and murdering that woman. That’s why we as women are always told to text someone when we get home, to always carry a weapon (or an alarm in my case), to follow self-defense classes and the list goes on. Not only is this victim blaming by not addressing the real problem, but this story of the creepy man in the bushes is usually false. As the statics show, it’s not that creepy stranger in the bushes we should be scared of. Instead, we should be scared of the men in our surroundings. The partners we pick and the friends we surround ourselves with. We should be scared of our patriarchal norms and values. And our culture. Not the creepy man in the bushes.
Note: I do not want to downplay the fact that some women are killed actually by strangers. That is a serious problem as well. But my point is that that should not be the main focus in our fight.
I am no expert on this subject, but I think the solution lies in all aspects of intersectional feminism. Until men and women have 100% equal rights, femicide will not vanish. They pay gap needs to vanish, the amount of men and women in powerful positions should be equal, the division of gender in politics and in any form of media should be equal, sexists jokes have to vanish and the list goes on. Our culture needs to change. And in my opinion that starts with the smallest actions. One very helpful photo is the pyramid that explains rape culture:
The normalization of ‘smaller’ acts of injustice, like catcalling and locker room banter (which is broadcasted on tv a lot in The Netherlands), eventually leads to crimes like femicide. The situation is unbearable in The Netherlands. Most kids at school are not even taught anything about consent. Nor do they learn to speak out against catcalling. A recent study in The Netherlands even found that 13% of boys think that beating their girlfriend is an acceptable way to earn respect. Ugh, the rage I feel right now is very high. But you get my point.
Who needs to change
Something else I want to point out is the fact that most men are not actively challenging our culture. Men are the ones who kill women because they are female. And so, it’s men who need to change. However, it’s always women who are fighting for equality. It’s women who are attending women’s marches. And it’s women who educate kids about consent. Women are the ones who call themselves intersectional feminists. It’s because we have to. We have no choice but to fight for a better world, because we are the victims here. Men don’t face this severe inequality. But if you think about it, who’s the one who should be taking responsibility? Men.