Commentary. Introducing “The Body of the Crime,” our special edition on violence against women.

Why do men kill women?

It was back in March 1976 when over 2,000 women, from 40 countries, created the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women, at the Royal Palace in Brussels. Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “For the first time, women from all over the world will realize the scandal of their condition.”

And for the first time, a new word in criminology was coined to identify the murder of women for sexual reasons. It was called “femicide” or as said today, “feminicide.”

After 40 years, the awareness has traveled the long road of emancipation and liberation of women, revealing along its way the old and new forms of violence that still strike us down anywhere in the world, regardless of creed and class.

Reading the news of more deaths is a double agony. Because the violence of males is always more brutal (often the woman is burned alive, as in the times of the witches), and because it describes the ordeal of beatings and abuse, followed by often futile complaints, like dramatic pleas for help.

We have learned to recognize the violence, but not to the point of being able to save lives. Its investigation requires a hard self-analysis, which was an invaluable tool of feminism in the 1970s, when we began to understand and react. All together, to break the loneliness and isolation within the family, between partners and in the workplace.

So, now we know that sudden male outbursts do not exist: The crimes are hatched, prepared, organized, pursued against the autonomy and independence of women in the relationship, against the decision to terminate the relationship with the husband, lover, father and brother.

It is in the family unit and in its surroundings that the blood of feminicide flows. In the most open and democratic societies, as well as in the most closed and despotic countries, in secular cultures as well as in obscurantist ones, the gruesome annihilation fantasy knows no bounds: child brides, genital mutilation, murder and penalties for the unruly, women burned. It is a catalog of horror that surrounds the lives of millions of us. As if the wound that feminism has inflicted on male power could only be healed somehow with blood, with the very life of the dangerous female subjectivity.

Of course, also the most quiet and subdued women are raped and even killed, but the evolution of the female condition seems to add fuel to the fire. The corporal legal tools help society to gain awareness.

Since its beginnings, the feminist movement has always fought against violence. From clandestine abortion to sexual abuse, as well as against those repressed within themselves and often backfired unto themselves. The awareness and spread of words has never stopped.

A movement of support and reception centers for affected women and their children was born; the institutions have moved to create laws in support of the victims; there are many working groups, both male and female, in the field; the ideas, analysis, stories and new legal tools help society’s general consciousness. All these contribute, first of all, to understand what’s at the bottom of the pit of male violence.

For this reason — in Italy, you can find our special insert on femicide on newsstands — those males who are able to stand in front of the mirror of ill manhood take a stand. In order to produce this insert, we went to listen to what the men in prison say or how the school kids talk. And we have expanded our outlook from Italy to the rest of the world, trying to understand how the poison of chauvinism enters into society, what language feeds it in today’s communication, without neglecting the roots planted in the cradle of Western civilization.

But this is only one step in a long journey that must have more and more women in the role of protagonists and architects of their own destiny.

“The Body of the Crime,” in newsstands across Italy, from il manifesto.


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