WIJ member Katharine Quarmby on women, power and violence

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“I pitched this idea of writing my third long-form article for the online science magazine, mosaicscience.com, published by the Wellcome Trust, on women and violence. I wanted to look at women who commit acts of violence and abuse (whilst setting those who do so in the far larger context of male violence). It is accompanied by two shorter pieces – one on whether so many women should be in prison per se and the second on women who work with female offenders. I also wrote a more personal blog about my own interest in the subject.
Although the article itself has taken me about six months of work, on and off, I’ve been thinking about this idea for far longer, as I explain in my blog. I’m interested in the ways in which male power and violence are valorised – whilst female power and violence are rarely legitimised and women who are powerful or violent are often cruelly stereotyped. The theme of legitimate female power was discussed at a WiJ panel forum which I attended and although there wasn’t space for it in the main piece in the end, I didn’t want to lose it and I wrote about in my blog.
The article was published on the same day that two women were convicted of murdering a two year old boy in their care, Liam Fee, despite repeated warnings that they were abusing and harming him. We have to discuss female violence more openly. If we do not do so – if we deny its possibility because of outdated notions such as biological essentialism – we can end up failing others – children, disabled people, older people who can be targeted by a small number of women in intimate settings. This is difficult for us to accept as women. Perhaps, however, it is time.”

Katharine Quarmby

Royal Literary Fund Fellow, London School of Economics
Author, Yokki and the Parno Gry; Ossiri and the Bala Mengro (Child’s Play, 2016, forthcoming)
Author, ‘Becoming English’, in A Country of Refuge, ed Lucy Popescu, (Unbound, 2016, forthcoming)
Facebook: Katharine Quarmby Writer
Twitter: @katharineq
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