Jess Phillips is the Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley. Jess was formerly a business development manager for Women’s Aid in the West Midlands. She was selected as a Labour Party candidate via an all-women shortlist.
Jess has a strange form of attentional blindness that means that violence perpetrated against men and boys is invisible to her, as is violence perpetrated by women against either sex. The end of December was a particularly bad time to promote her form of selective vision and only the Guardian would have been daft enough to print the interview below. Like so many Guardian journalists, the interviewer, Jessica Murray, is an English Literature Graduate – yet another one to add to my growing list (see blogpost Lit Crit Femsplainers).
December 2020 was a bad month to talk about violence to women and girls, as if boys do not matter, because two cases of child abuse and murder perpetrated by women had rocked the headlines. Indeed, child murder is predominantly a female crime. However, some feminists aim to ensure that male malfeasance and female victimhood are always in the foreground so cases that do not fit that narrative are quickly forgotten.
Six year old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was tortured and murdered by Emma Tustin, her fathers new partner. Arthurs biological mother was not around because she had murdered her partner Gary Cunningham by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife. Arthur was forced to stand in cold hallway for up to fourteen hours, he was forced to eat salt, he was starved and finally he suffered an unsurvivable injury when Emma Tustin repeatedly banged his head against a hard surface. For the full detailed and harrowing account see here.
On 22nd September 2020 Star Hobson was beaten to death. In December 2021, Star’s mother, Frankie was jailed for seven years and her female partner Savanah Brockhurst was jailed for 25 years. At autopsy Star was found to have multiple old injuries including brain contusions, and fractures to the skull, ribs and shinbone. The couple even posted videos on social media, of an exhausted and weakened Star falling from her high chair. Possessive Savanah Brockhill went so far as label herself psycho in a snapchat video.
Frankie Smith and Savanah Brockhurst who inflicted sustained abuse onto Star Hobson.
In general, the murder of children seems to be inflicted on boys and girls equally and mothers are slightly more likely to be perpetrators. Just don’t expect Jess Phillips to point that out.
2021 was also the year when one of Jess Phillips’ work colleagues, David Amess MP, was murdered while going about his duties. Jess covered this matter in a newspaper column in characteristic style with a paragraph about David Amess then onto Jo Cox who had been murdered in 2016 and then on Jess’s favourite subject – herself. Jess was criticised for this self absorbed approach to the murder of one of her male colleagues see here.
Perhaps there is more to Jess Phillips’ problem than attentional blindness. Take the case of Phoenix Netts, a 28 year woman who lived in her constituency in a women’s refuge. On the 12th may 2020 the burnt dismembered remains of Pheonix were found crammed into two suitcases in the Forest of Dean. Jess tweeted as follows…
Subsequently, it emerged that Phoenix was not murdered by a man but by Gareeca Conita Gordan who happens to be a woman who was also living in a women only refuge licensed by the Labour run Birmingham City Council. Jess promptly deleted her tweets and has never mentioned the case again. It gets worse. When, in a parliamentary speech, Jess read out the names of women who had been murdered that year, she omitted the name of of one of her own constituents, Phoenix Netts. That murder didn’t fit the Jess Phillips narrative and Phoenix was erased from the record. That is more, much more, than a blind-spot.
Almost the day after the Jess Phillips interview was reproduced in the Guardian, came the horrific report from London of 30 teenagers killed in London in 2020. Twenty seven of them were stabbed, two were shot and one died in an arson attack. What was not mentioned in the BBC accounts is that they were all boys and in one case the victim was led to his fate by a female accomplice. Their lives do not fit into the Jess Phillips’ narrative and their names will not be read out in Parliament. There have been no all-night vigils and the reports often don’t even make it out of local media into the national press.
Perhaps Jess Phillips has form of wilful rather than attentional blindness, but I can’t think of a good name for that – yet.