Another open letter to Russell Brand (this one’s shorter and not shit)

Dear Russell,

You’ve no doubt seen the tl;dr open letter to you, which the Indy rather bafflingly described as hilarious and the best thing I’d read today. It’s a cartoonish parody of a city worker, about as funny as a smear test and ranks only slightly lower than the HTML template I had to find an error in in terms of things I read today. Let’s be honest. We both know that pigshit helps you, precisely because the protagonist comes across so thoroughly unsympathetic and concerned about his fucking lunch. I half-wondered if you wrote it yourself: parts of it were reminiscent of your book in its tendency to ramble and repeat itself and kind of skirt around a point without ever making one.

But anyway. On to my points. First of all, let’s talk about you, Russell. I’m hardly the only one who’s sick of seeing your face leering everywhere, like Nigel Farage with unbrushed hair and an orange juice instead of a pint. You’ve rather successfully made vast swathes of movement all about you (in much the same vein that Farage has made vast swathes of different movements all about him). I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but I think you’re quite an intelligent man, Russell, so you must know that when you turn up somewhere, the meaning and the cause will be lost in a rush to photograph you. If I were in that situation, I’d stop turning up places, take on a more supportive role. I’d publicise, promote and signal boost, making the words of those I wanted to support clear rather than making it about myself. Or fuck it, if I really wanted to be there, I’d wear a mask, and slip into anonymity. You’re not doing this: you’re eclipsing the work of ordinary people organising with your fame.

It’s beginning to look rather a lot like you’re simply profiting from the hard work of others. You’ve published your booky-wook, and I hear you’re now working on a film. It’s sad, because there’s so much thought coming out from the people who are knee-deep in this, for whom the stakes are high. You could have used your connections to get them published. Hell, you could have fronted some money for printing zines. You could make this work more visible.

More broadly speaking, Russell, you’re a bit of a sticking point at the moment. See, you’ve never really let yourself be held accountable for the sexism or the racism you perpetrated in your past. You’ll notice that your supporters are predominately straight white men. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of us who would rather you weren’t around. I’m neither the only queer nor the only woman who would really rather you buggered off. Your hanging around like a bad smell is alienating: your revolution is not our revolution. Your supporters insist on unity, and for some reason that manifests as unifying around you rather than unifying against yet another rich white straight dude who fancies centring the world on himself.

I’ve read portions of your book. I know you think rapist Julian Assange is hard done by, a slap in the face for the vast number of survivors shafted by capitalism. I know you think that deep down we can all get along with homophobes like the Westboro Baptist Church, which is something most of us queers know isn’t possible. I know you still think it’s acceptable to manhandle women: I saw the way you grabbed that woman during that whole business where you were confronted by that journalist about your housing arrangements.

Basically, Russell, I’m asking you very nicely to sort your shit out or fuck the fuck off. I suspect the former might be a challenge, but I’m willing to keep an eye on you and make sure you do your stuff. Likewise, if you choose the latter, I have a very nice bin in which you can be placed.

Anyway, been nice chatting to you. Toodle-pip. xoxo

P.S. In writing this, I bet the shop I get my lunch from has sold out of hot food. And nice food.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Hi everyone. I read things and make linkdumps. Here are some things I read this week that I found interesting.

#ThisTweetCalledMyBack- Black and NDN women are striking from social media. Read their statement here.

Our die-in was about solidarity with black people suffering police brutality (London Black Revolutionaries)- Statement about the Westfield die-in which led to 76 arrests.

Being a cop showed me just how racist and violent the police are. There’s only one fix. (Redditt Hudson)- A former St Louis cop explains everything that’s wrong with his old profession.

9 Strategies For Non-Oppressive Polyamory (Janani Balasubramanian)- Poly folk, read this, and apply it.

“Some of the worst racist tragedies in history have been perfectly legal”: Kimberlé Crenshaw on Eric Garner, Broken Windows and police impunity (Kimberlé Crenshaw)- Really important analysis.

Letter from a Former Gamergater (Space Channel 6)- One guy realised the movement was full of shit. Refreshing.

on so-called radical progressive dudebros and revolution. (ashoncrawley)- If you don’t recognise who’s being talked about here, it might be you.

Police Unreality (Sam Kriss)- On the myths about cops.

Zoella Isn’t Bad for Young Girls, But Branding Her Vacuous for Liking Make Up Is (Tilly Grove)- Absolutely the best thing I’ve read about the Zoella thing.

And finally, KITTENS!

How to be a bitch this Christmas (and forever)

The festive season is upon us, which means we’re also going to get the inevitable bombardment of “safety advice” (remain indoors, ladies!), combined with an upswing of creepy men being creepy. Funnily enough, the safety advice never really focuses on this most immediate threat, the creepy men you have to spend time with, presumably because patriarchy has a vested interest in forcing women and femmefolk to remain unboundaried around these horrid creatures. To even out the balance, ever so slightly, I therefore present a safety guide that might actually help around this festive season as well as over the rest of the year.

It’s OK to be a bitch

“Bitch” is a word that is thrown at women and femmefolk when we’re not behaving as we should. We’re made to feel that being a bitch is the worst thing in the world, but as a matter of fact, it isn’t. It’s just articulating and enforcing boundaries. If you’ve made your boundaries nice and clear, chances are this will upset entitled men. They’ll call you a bitch. This is a compliment to you: you’ve put the message across to them, and now they understand it, and they hate you for it. When you get called a bitch, you’ve won. They’ve realised they’re not going to wheedle themselves into the gift of your company, and that’s a good thing.

Wear the label “bitch” with pride. Each time you hear it, absorb the power. It will make you stronger and stronger. Feel the ancient power of the bitch coursing through your veins, and let it infuse you with the strength to upset more creepy men.

Trust no man

It’s by no means unfamiliar to most of us that the man who rapes you is unlikely to be a stranger on a darkened street, but someone you know. The same also goes for any violation of boundaries. We are taught that we should trust men that we know, or else we’re bitches. We’re also taught to assume good intentions from men, or else we’re bitches. Both of these beliefs only help rapists and creeps.

I can count on one hand the number of men I trust, and all of them have only proved it over a very long time and a number of trying circumstances. The thing, I think, that allows me to trust them is knowing full well that they know that I will revoke this trust within the space of fucking seconds, never to trust them again, if they fuck up in any way.

The way we’re told to do things is all wrong. When it comes to men, start from a position of suspicion and an assumption of bad faith. Let them prove themselves. And if they hold it against you, they’ve shown themselves to definitely not be worthy of your trust.

Trust your instincts

Sometimes we feel uncomfortable around certain men, and can’t put our fingers on why. There’s just a barely tangible vibe of something not being quite right, and we just want to be as far away from that dude as possible.

Trust that instinct. I spent a very long time trying to suppress it, and each time, I was proved that my instincts were correct. If you think there’s something off about a man, you are in no way obliged to be in his company, or be alone with him, or whatever it is that doesn’t feel right to you.

If anything happens, it’s not your fault

This is a very, very important thing that cannot be said enough: when a man crosses one of your boundaries, it’s never your fault. If he rapes you, it’s not your fault. If he gropes you, it’s not your fault. If he gives you a double instead of a single, it’s not your fault. If he stands too close, and you don’t tell him to back the fuck off but it makes you uncomfortable, it’s not your fault. If he crosses a boundary you never knew you had, it’s not your fault.

When men cross lines, it’s their fault, not yours. They should have the basic responsibility to check, and not to use social circumstances to coerce. And, of course, the basic respect to stay with your boundaries.

This knowledge makes you a bitch, because you’re supposed to feel guilty and ashamed, to shift the blame on to yourself rather than on to the true perpetrator in those situations.

It’s OK to be this bitch. It’s healthy for you, it will help you heal. Be a bitch, and be a proud, strong bitch, every day of the year.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

It’s that time of the week again! Here’s a round-up of some things I read this week that I found interesting.

My Great-Great-Aunt Discovered Francium. And It Killed Her. (Veronique Greenwood)- Really interesting longread about women in science in the early twentieth century.

Risky Date (Robot Hugs)- Explaining the risk calculations we make before meeting men.

The UK’s sexist new pornography restrictions aren’t just an act of state censorship, but could be the first step towards something even worse (Myles Jackman)- Excellent deconstruction of the new regulations from a lawyer specialising in obscenity.

I write letters (Melissa McEwan)- On the importance of belief, with reference to a Rolling Stone article on campus rape.

Heterocopulative Syndrome: Clinico-Pathologic Correlation in 260 Cases (Michael Scarce)- I like heteros. Some of my best friends are straight. But they need to know the dangers of their lifestyle.

He may have unravelled DNA, but James Watson deserves to be shunned (Adam Rutherford)- On why horrible sexist racist Watson should piss off.

The Deadly Self-Pity Of The Police (Samir Chopra)- A hypothesis about how the police are how they are.

Men in makeup: lawyer by day, glamour puss by night (Sean Faye)- Refreshing to see something on queerness and masculinity in the Graun.

No, Kevin D. Williamson, sex is not a biological reality (Samantha Allen)- Shit that really shouldn’t need saying.

And finally, learn how to get internet-sexy, 1997-style.

The new online porn regulations and how they disproportionately affect women

Content note: this post discusses consensual BDSM

Today, new regulations have come into force which bans vast swathes of online porn. Fisting’s on the list, obviously, because someone at the CPS has an enormous fetish for showing juries fisting porn. So is hard impact play, simulated non-consent, urination, facesitting, and female ejaculation, among other things. The justification is that this is an attempt to bring online video under the same regulations as would apply to porn DVDs.

Which is all very well and good until you notice that these regulations are ridiculous when applied to porn DVDs too.

If we look at the list again, we see some strange things. It’s worth noting that facefucking–an activity which, when shown in porn often involves a man putting his penis in a woman’s mouth hard and fast (so basically, exactly how it sounds)–a staple of mainstream heterosexual (and often deeply misogynistic) porn isn’t on the list. It’s fine to be there on DVDs, and it’s fine online. Meanwhile, facesitting–which usually involves a woman sitting on a man’s face–is banned. So, a representation of female dominance is banned, while a representation of male dominance is perfectly legal.

Furthermore, the new guidelines explicitly say that actual consent of the performers is immaterial. What matters is how it appears. I’ve written before about the major concerns I have when dismissing real consent in porn. The consent of all involved should be a central concern, but once again, it isn’t.

It’s been pointed out that a lot of people who were, until recently, doing pretty well in the online marketplace, are femdoms, dominatrixes and dommes. These women have been independently producing their own porn, and profiting from this work, without having to rely on the male-ruled world of the mainstream porn industry and porn production. What this legislation does is strip businesswomen of their livelihood, while letting the men get on with making their commercial ventures.

If this doesn’t convince you that these guidelines are terrible, note that even female pleasure is banned under these new regulations. Female ejaculation is banned, because it is considered indistinct from urination: something anyone who has ever squirted will laugh out of town.

So, ultimately, what these new regulations have done is rip away a space for women to express alternatives to the models of sexuality we are sold, and replace all this with what a bunch of men behind closed doors have decided it’s appropriate for us to see. Unsurprisingly, what they don’t want us to be looking at or producing is us stepping out of our patriarchy-approved gender roles and onto a pair of stretched-out balls.

Update: Myles Jackman has provided a full list of what’s allowed and what isn’t. It’s worse than I thought! For example, swallowing semen is allowed, but swallowing or consuming ejaculate from a vulva isn’t!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Things I read this week that I found interesting

A bumper round-up this week–fortnight?–I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did.

Not another death: Black Lives Matter (Wail Qasim)- This won’t take you long to read so you have no excuse not to.

The Results Are in Open Letter (The people of Ferguson)- Read the words of protesters in Ferguson to see what they’re calling for.

Tamir Rice: Not a boy with a toy in a park, but a black male with a gun (Nick O’Malley)- On the fuckery surrounding the killing of Tamir Rice.

So You Can Fuck Us; What’s Next? Going Beyond Sex With Trans Women (Luna)- A must-read for cis partners of trans women and, indeed, all cis people.

Bill Cosby and the rape accusers: stop looking away and start believing women (Roxane Gay)- Shit that shouldn’t need to be said, said well.

Sartorial Misogyny, Feminist Concern Trolling, and the “Little Things” in Science and Everywhere (Melissa McEwan)- A good explanation of why a misogynistic shirt warn during the landing of a comet matters.

‘We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off’ (Al Jazeera)- Africans explain what’s so offensie about Band Aid.

Why I had to turn down Band Aid (Fuse ODG)- A black artist explains why he couldn’t be involved.

Trans people have 99 problems, and Facebook is just one (Emmagene Cronin)- On the problems with Facebook’s real name policy.

Why I will never make love, not porn. (Sometimes It’s Just A Cigar)- Excellent article from Jem on performance and sex and BDSM.

Sam Harris and “New Atheists” aren’t new, aren’t even atheists (Reza Aslan)- Exploring the history of the ideologies of Dawkins et al.

Everything I Know About Relationships I Learned From Computer Games (Kitty Stryker)- Touchingly geeky.

I believe all victims of racism (Sam Ambreen)- Sam reflects on the Linda Henry case.

Unable to speak. (Sometimes Its Just A Cigar)- A second article this round-up from Jem. This one examines how survivors often have difficulty speaking out at the time, and how that must not be seen as evidence of lying.

And finally, this golden retriever is my patronus.

I believe Shia LaBeouf (and Piers Morgan is a rape apologist rat turd)

Content note: This post discusses rape and rape apologism, as well as mental health stigma

Actor Shia LaBeouf said in an interview recently that during a piece of performance art, he had been raped by a woman. I believe him. I believe when people say they have been raped, that they have been raped. I believe survivors.

To tackle rape culture, this is a position from which we must all start. Unfortunately, there are too many with a vested interest in keeping rape culture alive to see an outpouring of support for Shia LaBeouf. Instead, what we see is a gleeful rush of dismissal and disbelief, focusing on how LaBeouf wasn’t acting as they thought a survivor should, that he must be making it up for attention, that je seems kind of crazy, that it’s impossible for a woman to rape a man. Tired old tropes, the lot of them.

What is particularly sickening is the glee with which Shia LaBeouf’s story is dismissed. It’s like rape apologists have finally been presented with a target for the vile thoughts bubbling up within them, knowing that they’re no longer “allowed” to say these things about women because of the evil SJW conspiracy, but not realising that what they believe is truly repulsive, regardless of the gender of its target.

Last night, the rape apologist agenda was given validation in the form of a high-profile backer, as Piers Morgan told his millions of followers not to believe LaBeouf:

Piers Morgan  @piersmorgan    Twitter

You’ll see here that leaking shitcanoe Morgan is focusing on some tiresome and long-discredited tropes: that LaBeouf didn’t report to the police and that he didn’t follow the Good Survivor™ script that we must all follow in order to be believed. While a gratifyingly large number of decent people called him out, there was a worrisomely large proportion of men cheering him on.

It’s absolutely abominable that somebody can dictate to millions the reasons not to believe a survivor. I had thought Piers Morgan to be an unwanted fart in a small room before, but now I see that he is something far more dangerous: he is a man who wants rapists to be able to continue raping.

The whole response to LaBeouf has laid bare the faces of rape culture. Each undue focus on how LaBeouf acts weird and crazy so shouldn’t be believed makes life easier for rapists: people with mental health problems are more likely to be raped precisely because they are less likely to be believed. Each repetition of the myth that someone with a vagina cannot rape someone with a penis is a complete nonsense, and makes it easier for rapists to thrive. Each cry that LaBeouf did not report to the police is a slap in the face of the vast majority of survivors who also did not report.

I’m surprised–and disappointed–that there aren’t more people outraged about all of this. It seems, once again, that it’s only feminists talking about it. Is it really true that we are the only ones who care about dismantling rape culture? I hope not, with all of my heart, but I fear that this may be the case.


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