Dapper Jack

Sian Norris had a Twitter exchange with the PR guy for the shiny new Jack the Ripper museum in east London the other day.

Today, on Twitter, the museum’s PR representative attempted to defend the tourist attraction from charges that Jack the Ripper’s murders were sexually violent. In a clumsy attempt to prove that the museum was not condoning sexual violence, he instead denied that the murders had anything to do with sexual violence at all.

When I suggested that he was wrong to ignore the sexually violent aspect of these murders, he accused me of “sensationalising” – arguing that it isn’t known what Jack the Ripper’s motives were.

Disregard the fact that the victims were all prostitutes. It would be sensationalistic to draw any conclusions from that.

It’s true that there are many things we don’t know about Jack the Ripper. We don’t know his name and, on some level, we don’t know his reasons for killing women. However, the one thing we do know is that he targeted women in prostitution and that after he cut their throats he deliberately ripped out their wombs. From those facts, we can make a pretty good guess at at least one of his motivations. He was a man who hated women. He was a misogynistic killer who targeted women’s bodies in a highly gendered way.

My, what a sensationalistic thing to say. Feminists are so dramatic.

The Ripper Museum, and the defence of its existence, would perhaps matter less if such crimes were confined to the past. But the simple truth is that male violence against women is not a historical curiosity. It is not a mystery to be explored via an audio tour and a few exhibition boards. It is happening to women today all over the UK and all over the world.

In the UK, between January and August this year, an estimated 85 women have been killed by men. That’s one woman every 2.8 days. Many of these women will have been killed by current or former partners – in fact, on average, two every week. At the same time as the Ripper museum opens its doors, government cuts mean the refuges which save women’s lives are closing theirs.

But we don’t know that they are killed because they’re women. Maybe it’s because they burned the potatoes.

When the museum’s PR tries to deny that sexual violence had a part to play in these murders, when newspapers look to the nagging or cheating wife in spousal homicide cases, they are ignoring the stark and frightening reality of male violence against women. As a society we are all too quick to ignore the fact that Jack the Ripper, and violent men throughout history, choose to abuse and kill women. In Jack’s case, our decision to ignore that has led to him becoming a cult figure who exerts a grotesque fascination over the public imagination.

On the museum’s merchandise, Jack the Cult Figure stands tall and menacing under the lamppost.

The women he killed are reduced to a smudge of blood at his feet.

Really? So I clicked on the link, and saw how the “museum” is advertising their lad Jack.

That is one very romanticized image. He looks Byronic and dashing. His victims? Oh nobody wants to look at them, they were poor and lumpen and female and whorey.

I just read some of the autopsy reports. They’re not very glamorous.

Updating to add:

I forgot to point out the ad copy on the page for the Jack the Ripper shot glass £6.00.

We can neither confirm nor deny that Jack The Ripper did shots. But if he did, he probably had a neat looking shot glass.

Isn’t that just adorable?

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