I believe that the presentation of women in the press and the recent spate of murders are linked. Let’s look at what we’ve got now.
We’ve got a scourge of papers talking about “Vice Girls”. The wording is very important there – look.
“Vice”. The connotations of that are tricky. Vice is bad, for sure but we aren’t sure whose vice we’re talking about now- the johns or the prostitutes? The fact is, it’s not made clear at all. We take what we will. Men, and us women to an extent, see vice as something regrettable but not really all avoidable or too tragic. There is a connotation of accommodation here – the “girls” are accommodating something for the men. In this case a sex transaction. They are receptacles for the overflowing vice that inevitably comes out. Of course.
And yet this is problematic for us cultured and civilised patriarchy loving citizens.
After all patriarchy teaches men to value ownership and women to value being owned; hence expressions like “my girl”, “my woman”- the possessive always in front of the subject to make clear what is important in the relationship. But we don’t like the object (the woman) to be simply lending her body- she has to be fully owned. That is a large part of the constant virgin fetish.
A woman must at the very least be completely besotted by the man and heartbroken when he leaves. If one is familiar with ancient myths and legends she will hopefully consider herself void and null once the transaction is terminated and commit suicide. We, as a culture, love the scorned woman who can’t get over her One True Love. (Meanwhile the One True Love is spilling his seed somewhere else.)
And whilst there is a transaction and the prostitute’s body is owned for a time bought, once that is over she moves on. She stops belonging to him and she’s really not torn up about never seeing him again. Another day’s work. And that, to many men, is inexcusable.
The problem with prostitution, to them, isn’t that it’s badly regulated, dangerous and physically and mentally very often degrading work. It’s that the woman doesn’t massage his ego all the time. That he knows she’s being paid for it and that he knows that she’ll do it to someone else. He has ownership but it’s not in full.
That is one of the reasons why women who work as prostitutes are often considered the lowest- they don’t work by the rules of relationships that men feel entitled to (maybe they expect them to be there in the morning cooking breakfast- Goodness knows!)
A woman who takes part in “Vice” is obviously a very, very bad woman.
Let’s look at the second part. “Girls”.
None of the women murdered were under 18. They are “women” not “girls”. Why is this important? Because a girl is young. A girl is naive. A girl needs taking care of. Or maybe a slap on the wrist. Girls don’t know how to think for themselves. People need to look out for girls but don’t need to take them seriously.
Whilst there’s something about girls that we like to think of as sweet- there is nothing “sweet” about prostitution. That is a perversion of girl and by combining the two there is a manifold effect. The nefarious effect of prostitution on those women is lessened to make the men seem less seedy and at the same time, the women are portrayed as disobeying and incapable. Stupid.
No one takes a “girl” seriously.
And these girls did something bad; Maybe the worst thing in the patriarchy (apart from being completely independent). So they deserve a punishment. Since they are only girls – and passive bad “vice girl” receptacles at that- it stands to reason that they are terminated for it.
And look- a “Ripper” did it. A divine dispenser of justice. Not a man. Not an entitled arsehole. A “Ripper”. How archaic. How quaint and full of Victoriana. A kind of cultural heritage. Aren’t we proud of it?
Personally I’m not.
But it stands to reason that following the completely twisted logic of the system the news reports are not sympathetic. The “girls” had it coming after all. So there is much tongue wagging but not much empathy. After all us “real women” play by the rules they decided. We make mature decisions that they approve of. We’re complete tools but we are “women” because they decide we are and we obey them. We are respectable.
More importantly we don’t want to imagine that we could have anything in common with those who are considered fair game for men’s violence. Not even our gender.
If you don’t think this is a gendered distinction replace “girl” with “boy” in the headlines. It just doesn’t seem to work or be seen much does it?
So they are neutered girls. Not women. A woman is your Mother. Your sister, your teacher. You respect women. But girls are things that you should have control over and should discipline.
We call them vice girls so they are treated like it, and they refer to it like that when they report it in the papers. It continues. Until these are no longer girls but women in their full proud stature and authority, men will continue believing they are allowed to “discipline”. Whether that discipline is a slap, a word or a murder.
This growth needs to continue in not only lexis but attitude. The two define each other.
It’s difficult to take a “Vice Girl” seriously.
But we are Women. They are Women. And this is something we are dead serious about. Because if we aren’t we’re just dead.