Erin Pizzey awarded CBE in New Years Honours list

Image above: Erin Pizzey

Erin Pizzey set up the first refuge for women in Chiswick in 1971

Erin Pizzey, who set up the first women’s refuge in Chiswick in 1971 has been awarded a CBE for her work as a campaigner and activist for victims of domestic abuse. She said she was “flabbergasted” to have been included.

The initial refuge for women fleeing domestic violence, Chiswick Women’s Aid, later became known as Refuge and became the largest UK charity providing specialist support for women and children. On any given day, Refuge’s services supports thousands of women and children.

The BBC interviewed Erin in November 2021 about the early days of the refuge in Chiswick, the total lack of provision for women trying to escape their abusive husbands then, and the attitudes of the time. She told them she had herself been abused by her parents.

READ ALSO: BBC profile interview with Erin Pizzey

She now describes herself as an ex-feminist, having parting company with the feminist movement in the 1980s because she thought it was anti-men. She attracted controversy when she said women were as likely to commit domestic violence as men, (her own personal experience) which prompted a backlash from feminist organisations and academics.

According to a study cited by Women’s Aid, men are significantly more likely to be repeat perpetrators and significantly more likely than women to use physical violence, threats, and harassment.

‘Over the three-year period April 2016 to March 2019, a total of 222 women were killed by a partner or ex-partner. The majority of suspects were male (218, 98%). This means that during this time period, an average of three women every fortnight were murdered by their male partner or ex-partner.’

News of CBE left Pizzey “in shock”

Erin Pizzey, now 84, went on to become a novelist, publishing eight books of non-fiction beginning with: Scream quietly or the neighbours will hear, (1974), up to her most recent biography: This way to the revolution: a memoir (2011), and ten novels, including The Wicked World of Women.

In 2013 she joined the editorial and advisory board of the men’s rights organisation A Voice for Men, serving as an Editor and DV Policy Advisor

She said she did not know why she had been made a CBE or have any idea who recommended her for it. She plans to attend the investiture with several female family members, who were as “flabbergasted” at the honour as she was, and said:

“I just think four generations of women [attending the ceremony] is a really powerful message to other women, that you can do it.

“I was in total shock, I never in my years expected it. if you look at my history I was not exactly uncontroversial, was I?

“Most people who know me wouldn’t dream of it. I’m not exactly leading a quiet lifestyle – I drink too much, I eat too much – I’ve still not recovered (from the news of the CBE).”

Many feminists revolted against her when she claimed women were more likely to be domestically violent than men, she said.

She said they were like “hyenas” and added:

“That was enough to piss them off, I used to have pickets that said ‘Pizzey by name, pissy by nature’.

“I was at a luncheon in the Savoy, and there was this huge picket outside with all these banners saying ‘Pizzey condones male violence’. When we went outside they would all march around with their banners.”

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