Category Archives: rage at the system

So you care about Sochi? Here’s some other shit to care about

I’ve been seeing a lot of people concerned about the Sochi Olympics, what with Russia’s frankly disgusting attitude towards LGBT rights. Many of these are the sort of people who I don’t usually see doing much for LGBT rights–or indeed broader human rights. And so I feel it’s necessary to point a few things out.

I’ll start with doing something I haven’t done in a while–quoting MediocreDave, who has managed to condense the issue very neatly:

Where is the outcry on these deportations of LGBT people–as I write, Jacqueline Nantumbwe faces deportation to Uganda, where there is a life sentence for being queer and corrective rapes are common. And she is not the first to be victimised in this fashion. Dave has succinctly put why this may be:

There are two things you need to think about when criticising Sochi without a broader analysis. First is that most nations are shitty towards LGBT folk. Their laws may pay lip service to LGBT rights–same sex marriage, anti-hate crime legislation and so forth, but that doesn’t mean their citizens are very good. Let’s look beyond the UK’s attitude towards deporting queers, and to a pile of other hideousness. This is a country where the national press can merrily print transmisogyny with impunity, and with little attention paid to this because the media just don’t give a fuck. This is a country where queer people are mass arrested before large spectacles. This is a country where heaps of unending bullshit are faced by bisexuals, and even the leading lobbying group for queer rights completely ignore and erase trans people. If you’re not furious about how things are here, then I am seriously side-eyeing your intentions as you tweet another fucking petition about sponsors of the fucking Sochi Olympics.

As an aside, if you’re the sort of person who is sharing things about how TOTALLY HOMOEROTIC Putin is, or how KINDA GAY sports are, to “highlight hypocrisy” or whatever the fuck you’re trying to do, congratulations, you’re a homophobic pisshole.

The second thing you need to be pissed off about is the Olympics on the whole. Bluntly put, they’re not a very nice thing to happen to a city. In London, a lot of people lost their homes in order to build a park they’d never be able to afford to visit. Some of those who kept their homes had missiles put on their roofs. And during the opening ceremony, almost 200 people were arrested for riding bikes. And was the world watching aghast, threatening to boycott as this happened to London–or any other city which has hosted the Olympics and faced similar problems? Not really, no. This is a world, after all, that doesn’t freak the fuck out when a country with more than two million people locked up in prison hosts the Olympics.

I’m not saying don’t be pissed off about Sochi and Russia. I’m saying, be more pissed off. Be critical of everything. Stand with LGBT folk closer to home, or further away. Stand against these games which form an excuse for gentrification and human rights abuses. Use your anger at Russia as a spark, and ignite the flames for a greater understanding of broader struggles.

And for fuck’s sake, I’m not going to sign your fucking petition.


Jacqueline Nantumbwe must stay!

Jacqueline Nantumbwe is a lesbian woman from Uganda, where being queer is a criminal offence. In Uganda, politicians and religious leaders actively campaigned for the death penalty for homosexuality, and there is currently a life sentence for existing while gay. While in Uganda, Jacqueline and her girlfriend at the time, Rose, were caught, and as punishment, Jacqueline was imprisoned, tortured and raped to “correct” her. Her girlfriend was not heard from again.

Jacqueline is seeking asylum in the UK, and has faced horrific treatment from the Home Office over the last year. In order to have asylum granted, Jacqueline must “prove” that she and her partner are in a lesbian relationship. On 26th January, the Home Office transferred Jacqueline to Yarl’s Wood, the detention centre famous for abusing its inmates. She may face deportation.

The Home Office has a track record of appalling treatment of queer women from Uganda. Last month, Prossie N, a seriously ill lesbian from Uganda was deported back to a life of rape and persecution.

Jacqueline Nantumbwe needs our help. We need to apply pressure to protect her from the horrors she faces if deported. Jacqueline Nantumbwe must stay. Here are some things you can do.

  • Sign the petition to the Home Office.
  • Write to Jacqueline’s MP, Gerald Kaufman, asking for his support. You can find a model letter here. You may also send that letter to your own MP asking them to make a statement of support.
  • Get in touch with Jacqueline and tell her you support her. You can find out more here.
  • Finally, and most importantly, share her story. Talk about Jacqueline Nantumbwe. Make as much noise as you can.

The Home Office get away with such gross violations because they can get away with it without much public knowledge. Show them that this isn’t the case.


Of course the police are more interested in rude tweets than violence against women

Content note: this post discusses violence against women 

In news that is pissing me off today, the Twitter is inherently abusive line is out in the media again. This time the victim is Stan Collymore, who was sent racist and threatening tweets. The police are, of course, interested and investigating.

Now, of course, it is unacceptable to send racist and threatening tweets to anyone, but I’m getting a little concerned about how much of an interest they are showing in rude tweets. This isn’t the first time they’ve swooped in to help out Stan Collymore: late in 2012, a man was arrested for sending a racist tweet to Stan Collymore. Indeed, arresting people for tweets seems to be a new top policing priority, in sharp contrast with how they deal with violence against women.

Let’s look at Stan Collymore’s record. He violently attacked one woman, including kicking her in the head three times. As far as I can discern, the police didn’t get involved at all. He then went on to threaten to kill his wife and burn down her parents’ home. This time the police took the matter slightly more seriously, and charged him for a threat to destroy property, because apparently the structural integrity of a building is the most important thing here.

So why are the police far more gung-ho in going after internet trolls than perpetrators of domestic violence? Ultimately, it boils down to two things.

Firstly, they don’t really give a flying fuck about violence against women. This is why so few of us report our rapes. This is why we don’t trust the police to keep our violent partners away from us. We’ve seen their record, and we know that they’ll violate any trust we put in them. And many women, particularly marginalised women, have themselves been victims of violence perpetrated by police, because that’s their job: to beat us into submission. The role of the police is to keep everything as it is–and this includes protecting a structure which enables violence against women.

Put more charitably, the police are a product of a broken society, born and raised in it, and then paid to enforce this broken society. Is it any surprise that they reflect and enforce patriarchal control of women?

And secondly, democratised communication scares the shit out of the establishment. It is a way people can get messages out, outside of the controlled circumstances in which we may usually have a platform. Things get out that threaten the system, and that frightens them. Of course they will instrumentalise the very real experiences of misogyny and racism in order to try to clamp down on their own real enemy: their critics. It is important to remember, when thinking of police interventions into online abuse, to remember this. Twitter was blamed for the riots, while simultaneously lauded for causing the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These are the same mechanisms at work in both cases, and basically the state would rather keep such uprisings further away from home.

It is hardly a surprise that tweets will be policed more heavily than kicking a woman in the head. It is an inevitable reflection of how things are.


An anticipatory obituary for the SWP

The SWP have appeared dead in the water for months, since the revelations of sexual violence and attempts at cover-up like an inept, less popular and worse-dressed Catholic Church. And yet, like cockroaches, they have survived.

The latest horror to come to light is a phrase uttered to applause at their conference:

We aren’t rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth – and guess what, some women and children lie

At best, this statement can be interpreted as unabashed, unapologetic rape apologism. At worst, one wonders why they’re laying the groundwork for smearing children who have survived sexual violence as liars, and what else may emerge.

Following this statement, the SWP has once again haemorrhaged members, and some are once again celebrating the death of the party. I hope this is true, but sadly I suspect that we’ll be seeing this gang of misogynists shambling on, long outstaying their welcome. After all, they’ve survived this long.

Part of the problem is the SWP are everywhere. As well as their folding tables and newspaper salesmen, and the chap who shows up with a legion of placards screaming the SWP branding, you’ll find them in other places. They get themselves elected into positions on trade unions. They have a number of front organisations, including Unite Against Fascism, Unite The Resistance and Right To Work.

There’s a lot we can do to hasten the demise of the SWP. First and foremost, we absolutely must not organise with these fuckers. We must not organise with the SWP itself, and we must not organise with the front groups. This is harder than it sounds, given they have attempted to monopolise resistance, but it’s absolutely crucial if we are to take a stand against sexual violence.

We must make sure that they are completely and utterly unwelcome in our spaces. Wherever there is a SWPper, have the words “misogynist” and “rape apologist” ringing in their ears, as anyone with principles left long ago. Vote them from elected positions, and scream at them in the streets. If they do not leave, direct action may be necessary. Be critical not just of the SWP, but those who try to defend them, like the AWL did.

This is not a ban. It is simply standing up.

And finally, we need to create a climate wherein misogyny and rape apologism are thoroughly unwelcome in all of our organising spaces. It’s not enough to challenge it when it comes from the SWP–after all, everyone hates them. We need to put the necessity of safer spaces front and centre in all that we do.

I look forward to the demise of the SWP. I look forward to the demise of misogyny in my organising spaces even more.

Further reading:

I heard you have an SWP problem (thenameoflove)

Kill the SWP inside your head (me)


Lucifer, literally. Or, yes, I am jealous. Yes, I do want to drag you down.

Content note: this post discusses rape, transphobia, disablism, racism and abuse. 

There are a lot of women who I can say make me feel jealous. And there are a lot of women who I would like to drag down to my level of misery.

I envy the women who think a few tweets with four-letter words in them telling them they’re wrong is abuse. I know abuse, both online and offline. Online, even the death and rape threats, the sustained harassment and the attempted doxxings fade into insignificance next to what has happened to me in the meatspace. There’s only one thing that happened to me that I “count” as rape, because it was violent and it involved the word “no” being ignored a lot, but I wonder if internalised rape culture myths have left me discounting other very coercive sexual experiences. There was the emotionally abusive relationship wherein my head was being so fucked with I couldn’t even consent. There were the attempts to somehow correct me. I’ve been manipulated into sex I didn’t necessarily want more times than I can count.

And beyond the physical stuff, there’s all the verbal assaults, the slutbitchdyke stuff which is supposed to keep me in my place, and keep me down. I am simultaneously frigid and fucking too much. These slurs based on my sexuality and on my femininity serve to support and enable the sexual violence.

So yes. I’m deeply jealous of anyone who thinks that a couple of rude words on the internet are in any way comparable with all of this.

I envy the women who believe certain oppressions cannot possibly exist. The ones who believe biphobia isn’t real, so can’t possibly hurt. The ones who believe that I cannot possibly have a disability because I have a job and am capable of articulating my opinions, blissfully ignorant of the fact that if I didn’t have the former I’d starve and die, and if I didn’t do the latter the silence would gnaw away at my soul, and that I’d rather be able to focus on taking care of myself than grind away to survive and defend myself.

I envy those who think transphobia isn’t a real thing, or those who think it’s just a little intellectual squabble, a petty parlour game. I have held someone I love in my arms more times than I care to count, comforting against the vicious assaults. I have dried tears of people I care about as their very existence is questioned, and spent long hours reiterating that mere existence does not make one scum, or a rapist.

I find myself in similar situations with my sisters of colour, talking through racism that has been too often denied, providing support where I can, because there’s a lot of lucky women out there who believe that the only manifestation of white supremacy is a KKK hood or an EDL flag.

I find myself wishing I could be like those other women, the ones who don’t have to see this, the ones who can sit comfortably and believe that nothing is wrong. It must be so nice, having so little to worry about. It must be lovely, not having to check oneself at all, with no knowledge of one’s own complicity in this oppressive power structure. It must be absolutely fucking brilliant, being able to feel like they can actually do things and achieve things because the magnitude of the problem is largely invisible.

And it makes me angry, and it makes me want for them to see what I see. It makes me want to prop open their eyes with matchsticks and scream “LOOK AT IT. FUCKING LOOK AT ALL OF THIS.” It is a miserable thing, seeing all of this, and I want them to be down on my level of misery so we can actually begin to maybe solve these problems.

I am Lucifer, literally. The light bearer, illuminating the injustices that they do not see. And it’s not just me, it is all of us who see it, all of us who have had enough and want to point it out. We shine a light in the direction of just how deep the rot goes, and just how much of a battle we have left to fight.

And of course, this is not a popular position. Nobody wants to see it. I sure as shit wish I couldn’t, but because I do, the only option left open to me is to oppose it, fight it, hope that perhaps one day it will shift and do all that I can to help this on my way.

I want you to see what I see. I know it will hurt. But you need to see it to destroy it.

__

Thank you,  @veidtlemania, for calling me Lucifer. <3


Ira must stay.

Irina Putilova is a Russian LGBTQ activist. She fled the country and sought asylum here in the UK because the persecution of queer people and activists in Russia put her in danger.

Unfortunately, UKBA do not want Ira to be safe from imprisonment, from raids and state harassment, from attacks. Yesterday, she was taken to Yarl’s Wood–the detention centre which deported a witness to institutional sexual abuse. She risks deportation within days, and it is very likely that she will be imprisoned indefinitely if she is sent back to Russia.

Ira’s case is complex, and it is thoroughly inappropriate to fast-track sending her back into danger, even by the standard of the skewed and violent rules created by abusive xenophobes.

There are some things you can do which could help Ira and persuade the government not to send a queer person into a situation which could endanger her life. Please share her story, and make sure it is visible. Ask journalists to cover what is happening. You can also write to your MP asking them to make a statement in support of Ira–there’s a model letter here, and you can get your MP’s contact details here. Tomorrow–the 8th–there will be a solidarity demo at 6pm outside the UKBA offices at London Bridge, which you might like to attend.

And finally, remember that what is happening to Ira is sadly far from unusual. The immigration system is racist, and exploits intersecting oppressions. You might like to become active in “No Borders” work to try to end this system once and for all.

No person is illegal. Ira must stay.

Edit 9/12/13: Ira has been released! This is brilliant news, and shows how much showing support for asylum seekers can achieve.


Bored now: Communiques from the Vampire Castle

I don’t doubt that many of you who follow “left” politics will have come across Mark Fisher’s essay “Exiting the Vampire Castle“. I would like to say how grateful I am to Fisher for writing it. His analysis is so far off the mark throughout that it manages to lay bare major problems which plague our organising, and  has empowered those whose analysis serves to justify these problems to make themselves known. It shows us a movement which is desperate for leaders, any leaders, who must be above criticism. It shows us a movement where any woman who asks to be treated as a human must be bourgeois, even as a millionaire white man somehow qualifies as authentically working class. It shows us a movement which uses pseudotheory to validate threatened entitlement and maintain a status quo. I could at this point compare this shambling, dated mess intent on cannibalising class solidarity to the point it only extends to white men to a zombie; I shan’t because this debate is already saturated with mythical beasts.

At any rate, some good writing highlighting the myriad problems has emerged. I have little to add to this discourse, so will link to the critiques. I will add more as I find them. All of these are worth reading, as this analysis is so poor that there are many facets to critique.

B-grade politics and reaction (Angela Mitropoulos)

K-Punk and the Vampire’s Castle (Not Just The Minutiae)

Brocialism (Recording Surface)

All hail the vampire-archy: what Mark Fisher gets wrong in ‘Exiting the vampire castle’ (Ray Filar)

Vampires aren’t actually real, though. Class is: a reply to Mark Fisher’s castle of bollocks (Cautiously Pessmistic)

Damn these vampires (synthetic_zero)

A neo-anarchist vampire bites back: Mark Fisher and neoconservative leftism (Automatic Writing)

Gothic Politics: A Reply to Mark Fisher (Matthijs Krul)


Happy International Men’s Day!

It’s that time of year again! That’s right, it’s International Men’s Day. Yes, you read that right. No, it’s not new. It’s been around for a while. Yes, I’ve had those arguments on International Women’s Day, too.

Anyway, I’ll stop with my derailing, because today is all about celebrating the achievements of men and lauding their contribution to society. The fact is, we don’t do that often enough. We as feminists fail to pay enough attention to what men have done for us, and it’s time to appreciate that. In honour of International Men’s Day, let’s talk about men, and only men. Today, gents, just to balance the scales, it’s all about you. 

Men are doing excellent things in the workplace. By any measure, they are being rewarded for what they do by getting themselves paid more than women. Bravo, men. You deserve that. The stats say you’re worth it: even when we account for the fact women are more likely work part time, or be on maternity pay, you’re still getting more. We all know why that is. It’s because you’re worth it. After all, you built this system where people have to work and very few reap the benefits, with the vast majority of us completely alienated from the fruit of our labours. It’s only fair you’re getting something back for your contribution to this.

Let’s celebrate the fact that men are keeping the rape statistics–a feminist staple which we couldn’t do without–booming. Up to 99% of perpetrators of rape are men. That’s right. Up to 99% of you! Once again, might I just say how impressed I am by your hard work. You’re also doing pretty well on other violent crimes: props to you for covering, for example, 92% of domestic violence cases, and dominating the physical violence in particular!

Perhaps we should now turn to a little bit of male history, since that’s something which rarely gets taught in schools. Who shall we discuss? Shall we think about the colonialists, the architects of genocide, the rapists, and the murderers and the tyrants? Maybe we’d like to think about all of the wars which men started, in which men died. There’s just so much male history to teach, and I cannot believe that they don’t teach male history in our schools!

I must applaud the tenacity of men. When you men are in the room, women speak less, and I’m sure that’s because you have loads of interesting stuff to say. How we’d cope without valuable insights such as “You’re pretty” and “But not all men…” and rephrasing what we’ve just said, I really don’t know. I’m glad you’re tearing through this culture of silence.

But most of all, I feel it’s essential to bear in mind that it is men who have contributed the most to build this world. Certainly, it’s western bourgeois white cis men who’ve done the heavy lifting, but you’re the most underrepresented group of them all. I’m glad your achievements are being recognised not just by International Men’s Day, but also White History Month.

I really don’t feel like you can see all that you’ve created, men. So perhaps on this day, of all days, think about your role in making the world like it is, and keeping it that way.


Naming the problem

Content note: This post discusses transphobia, transmisogyny with particular focus on a known perpetrator.

I suppose in the past I’ve avoided, for the most part, discussing specific perpetrators of transphobia and transmisogyny. My reasoning for this has been that this shit is structural: one perpetrator does not a system make, and bringing the fucker down won’t heal anything without deep change. I prefer to discuss things more broadly, as a nod to the systemic nature of these problems.

So let’s talk about the problem named Cathy Brennan. I doubt I need to introduce her to you. The first Google hit for her name gives a precis on what she’s like. For more, it’s really worth looking at the work the trans community has done on collating the abuse she has perpetrated and the heartbreaking personal accounts of what she’s done.

Brennan is one of the most virulent of the TERfs. This is perhaps due to her class privilege: Brennan works as a lawyer for payday lenders and is fucking raking it in. Despite this, she has a hell of a lot of time on her hands. This time, she uses to harass and abuse trans women. She researches their dead names, finds pictures, and then puts them on her websites next to pictures of rapists. If she can, she contacts employers. These are trans women, simply existing as trans women, smeared and outed because Brennan doesn’t think they should exist.

Brennan uses her lesbian feminism as a veil for this behaviour. It is nothing more than that: a veil. Brennan will gladly side with homophobic organisations if they will get her what she wants–that is, making life more dangerous for trans women.

And this is not a petty intellectual difference. What Cathy Brennan does endangers the lives of women. Outing trans women can starve them out of a job, it can socially isolate them, it can put them at risk of acts of violence–the very male violence that Brennan pretends to oppose. Furthermore, her rhetoric trivialises rape and abuse: morally equating the existence of trans women with these horrors does nobody any favours except the bigots.

As feminists, we must stand against this. We must reject Brennan entirely. We need to stand against these repeated incitements to violence, and back up our trans sisters who are victims of her work.

Yet cis feminism does too little. We stay quiet in the face of this, because the perpetrator is a cis woman and the excuse of sisterhood keeps us quiet. Brennan has a small but loyal army of enablers who police any criticism, who cry division and silencing whenever anyone dares to point out that putting women in danger is hardly a feminist act. The whole thing creates a climate wherein it is hard to speak out.

My own reasoning for refraining from writing about Cathy Brennan specifically rings hollow in my ears. On reflection, that’s been rather a double standard on my part: I’ll gladly write reams about perpetrators like Julian Assange. Even I, Attacker Of Women, have perhaps gone somewhat easy on a perpetrator, because even I, Attacker Of Women, have internalised some of the cisterhood bollocks which shuts down and silences these discussions.

It has taken me this long to fully nail my colours to the mast. Fuck Cathy Brennan. I hope that every time she cooks pasta, it comes out slightly overdone or slightly underdone. I hope she steps on upturned plugs every morning. I wish stale biscuits and unripe bananas on her.

Calling out this one person will not fix a broken system, but it is vital that we do so. It is vital that we draw attention to the abuse she perpetrates, and reject her brand of feminism entirely. It is vital that we support her victims. It is vital that we question her enablers. We need to unite against hate and violence within feminism, and Cathy Brennan is one of the best places to start. As cis feminists, she is our mess, and we need to help clean it up.

It is not enough to say that Cathy Brennan isn’t a feminist, because she wears that label. We need to actively challenge her, to make it known that we see what she does and we reject it entirely.

Further reading:
#dearcisfeminism- A very enlightening hashtag, unfortunately marred by a few TERf attempts at detrailing
You Can’t Ignore the Bug (GenderTerror)
Abuse is still abuse (Sam Ambreen)
Transphobia has no place in feminism (me)
Time to pick a side (also me; both of these pieces kind of talked around the issue without naming the problem explicitly)


I’m bored and I’m tired

Let me tell you something about me. I let you see the flashes of rage, incandescent anger which invigorates me. It comes, it builds, it explodes like an orgasm and I collapse into momentary catharsis. It’s not a good feeling but it’s better than the alternative.

Most of the time I’m bored. I’m bored and I’m tired. It is grindingly wearing simply existing in oh so many spaces. It’s exhausting and tedious having the same fucking arguments time and time again, not managing to chip away at the immovable force.

It happens a lot in anarchist and radical spaces. The men don’t like it when you challenge their supremacy. A few weeks ago, all of this happened, and it was dismissed as nothing. Now we’re being told we should listen to some sort of TV celebrity because he made some vaguely supportive noises on some issues. From microaggressions to outright misogyny, it goes and goes and goes and it repeats and it repeats and it’s just fucking tiresome.

Social justice circles are no better. Too many feminists think they can get away with kicking down, not up and we’re expected not to challenge this because they’re making some vaguely supportive noises on some issues.

It’s a sinkhole of solidarity, that’s what it is. Unidirectional. I will pour my solidarity behind their causes and yet, do they ever have my fucking back? No. I am a trouble-maker, I am a monster, I am a liar.

There are so many privilege metaphors I could think of. I am Ginger Rogers, backwards in high heels and I want to kick off my shoes and sit down. I am being told the game is easy by someone who is playing it on easy mode and I want to throw my controller at their fucking stupid smug head. I am being attacked by an evil invisible zombie horde who are all armed with chainsaws and also invisibility lasers and I am too tired to make up a metaphor which actually makes sense.

I have goals in common with a lot of awful human beings. Why should I be expected to dash myself against the rocks repeatedly to support them while they would never do a thing for me? Why is it that I am expected to undertake so much thankless emotional labour, and if I don’t then I am the unreasonable one? Why is it me who has to do the heavy lifting?

And I know I’m better off than some. At least I’m white. At least I’m cis. At least my disability isn’t too bad. At least I have a livable income. And I try to do what I can to help with the heavy lifting in the struggles of those who get more shit than me. And for some reason, I have more energy for this than I do with the banal struggles of my own. It’s easier to direct my own limited resources into people who need my solidarity rather than the solidarity-suckers with all of their privilege.

What I need is something that I cannot foresee happening. I need for what I am fighting for to be understood. I need to be able to move freely, not to be constantly hampered by the same petty squabbles over what should be a tiny amount of ground. I need those with the capacity to take up the heavy lifting, I need support and to know that others have my back when I challenge the terrible or even just the mundane.

We need a revolution, but before that happens, we need to clean out the shit in our own back garden, because if it’s a tiresome struggle to simply exist amid fellow revolutionaries then it’s not my revolution.

So please, please can we start with the banal, before we expand to the grand? I am aware that for a lot of people, this will be unpleasant, and will require taking on a higher degree of emotional labour than they have ever tried before. But this is how so many of us live day to day, simply to negotiate spaces. It is this dynamic that needs to change, needs a complete inversion.

I know this can happen, because those who I can trust do so. There are some who fight at my side who are supportive and make the fight feel winnable. These few who have my back are unquantifiably precious.

I have seen so many people fall  from sheer exhaustion, from being hounded out of spaces. Voices silenced and bodies taken out of the fight because some would rather maintain and replicate hegemonic power structures within spaces rather than challenge them. I haven’t succumbed yet, mostly because I’m fucking stubborn and I don’t want to let the bastards win. But it hurts. It hurts my soul and it hurts my body, and I’m bored and I’m tired.

Further reading:

Activist Burnout Part I and II by Alice B. Reckless


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