Every so often on twitter – actually, let’s be honest, most days on twitter – in response to a tweet of mine about how women are going to be particularly affected by some government policy or other, I will receive a reply along the lines of this one I received today from a user called “@BenNb20“:
That why there is so many homeless women then? Or women killing them self? or why women are going to prison all the time? Getting laid off from factory’s or because of military cuts etc. Absolutely mental
@BenNb20 was replying to my retweet of a Women for a People’s Vote tweet, which pointed out that women have borne the brunt of austerity. And, @BenNb20, rather than being “absolutely mental”, this is actually an utterly incontrovertible fact.
By contrast, the claims made by @BenNb20 were… well. Not. Nevertheless, they are claims that I come across so repeatedly I’ve decided it would be helpful to record a response for posterity that people can just link to next time they come across them, as the tweet thread I wrote in response will self-destruct in seven days.
So to take the claims one by one.
First: that there are very few or no homeless women. It is true that men are the most visible homeless people, the ones we tend to come across because they are sleeping on the street. But this doesn’t mean that women aren’t homeless. It means that women who are homeless tend to be homeless with their children, often having had to flee their home because their partner was abusing them or their children.
These women are the “hidden homeless” because they are variously couch-surfing or being exploited through “sex-for-rent” arrangements; the street, and homeless shelters, are no place for children (or women who are at high risk of sexual assault). It is no exaggeration to say this constitutes an epidemic.
Second: that women are not killing themselves. It is also true that men are more likely to succeed in killing themselves. But women are three times more likely to attempt suicide. Furthermore, the largest research into British young people’s health in 13 years found that a fifth of 17- 19-year-old girls, versus one in ten boys have self-harmed or tried to kill themselves.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one second saying that one in ten boys isn’t a shockingly high number. It is, and clearly, teenage boys need help. I’m simply saying that it is untrue to say that women and girls don’t attempt suicide and that this is a male problem. It manifestly is not.
Third: women don’t go to prison. Now, I have to admit, @BenNb20’s got me here. It is true that women make up less than 5 per cent of the British prison population.
The thing is, @BenNb20, well, how should I put this. That’s kind of because – awkward, I know – women aren’t committing crime at the same rates as men. Not by a long shot. In fact, 78 per cent of the perpetrators of violent crimes in England and Wales last year were men, and 99 per cent of rapists are men.
When women are imprisoned, it is overwhelmingly for non-violent crimes and all the research shows that imprisonment in these cases is almost always disproportionate and counter-productive, largely because women tend to be primary carers of children.
Four: women aren’t getting laid off. This one’s just flat-out wrong. In fact, British women are more likely to be unemployed than men. Women also dominate the ranks of the underemployed and the low-paid.
So there you have it. Four MRA-myths, busted.
None of which is to say there aren’t men suffering: of course there are. But this isn’t a zero-sum game. Men suffering doesn’t mean women aren’t suffering. And women being disproportionately hit by austerity doesn’t mean that men are all having a jolly old time of it (although actually some of them are – according to Women’s Budget Group analysis, men in the richest 50 per cent of households have benefited from tax and benefit changes since 2015).
To sum up: I’m bored of having to repeatedly fact-check the same bullshit time and again. So here are the facts, ready and waiting for any future man who trots out these tiresome lines as if they are a) true and b) somehow discount whatever facts you have taken objection to today. Thanks for reading (lol jk obvs you haven’t got to the end of this). Byeeeee!