They didn’t bother to search his garage

Joan Smith on Peter Sutcliffe and misogyny:

I am so angry, all these years later. When I heard that this insignificant little man had died, more than four decades after he ruined the lives of so many women, the anger and hurt came rushing back. I remember it as though it were yesterday: the fear we lived with in the north of England, the suspicion about neighbours and colleagues, the sense that we couldn’t rely on the police to protect us.

We couldn’t even rely on them to catch him, even though Peter Sutcliffe was hardly anyone’s idea of a criminal mastermind. He spoke to the women he targeted, letting them hear his Yorkshire accent and see his face. Detectives visited him at home on nine occasions but didn’t bother to search his garage, where he kept the weapons he used to kill at least 13 women.

That sounds very Silence of the Lambs…which is not surprising, because those stories don’t come out of nowhere.

From the moment I moved to Manchester in 1978 to work as a journalist on a local radio station, I felt the fear that saturated big cities in the north of the country. Stay at home, the police told us. Don’t go out on your own at night. Did they actually know that women had jobs? Why were they telling us to observe a curfew?

She expanded on that point on Woman’s Hour: she regularly had to work a night shift at the paper, until 1:30 a.m. But oh hey stay home ladies; put bags over your heads.

Police and crime correspondents were nearly always men, and they didn’t much care what women thought. I was convinced that the killer’s motive was misogyny, pure and simple, but the police decided differently.

“He has made it clear that he hates prostitutes,” a senior West Yorkshire detective, Jim Hobson, told a press conference in 1979. Staggeringly, it even struck him, and others, as unremarkable. “Many people do … but the Ripper is now killing innocent girls. That indicates your mental state and that you are in urgent need of medical attention.”

Prostitutes, you see, are not “innocent” – so it’s forgivable to murder them.

Sutcliffe’s murders opened my eyes to a vein of misogyny that permeated everyday life – and still does. Why is it still so hard to prosecute violent men? Why has the rape prosecution rate fallen to the lowest level since records began? Victim-blaming is widespread, most recently visible in the so-called “rough sex” defence, which some killers have used to avoid a murder conviction.

That reminds me of a tweet I saw yesterday…

What is a “sadistic side”? Is it pure coincidence that here it’s a man who has it, while a woman has no “sadistic side” and oh also by the way no masochistic side – i.e. she experiences pain as pain, and tries to tolerate it for the sake of his “sadistic side.” We’re supposed to smile approvingly because this is “kink.” Fuck that noise.

5 Responses to “They didn’t bother to search his garage”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting