The Bruce amendment is dead… for now.

Fiona Bruce’s “Trojan horse” amendment has been shot down. I am filled with gush of relief which rushes through me after the latest immediate threat to my reproductive rights is disabled, but, as always, it is edged with fear about what will happen next. What happened yesterday wasn’t a victory, but rather holding the pitiful patch of ground we have staked out.

201 elected representatives voted in favour of restricting abortion rights. That’s a substantial chunk of the House of Commons, and their triumph was only thwarted by the hard work of Abortion Rights in mobilising a resistance and getting enough MPs to show up and vote against it.

Those who voted against it read like a rogue’s gallery of The Worst. The scumbags, the shitweasels, and the repeat uterus-botherers. Nadine Dorries voted for it gleefully, of course. That horrid UKIP cocknozzle who just got himself elected voted for it. Dominic Grieve, Christopher Chode Chope, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Oliver Letwin, Mark Harper, arseholes all. More chillingly perhaps, the health minister Jeremy Hunt wanted to exercise greater control over reproductive rights. Theresa May, the racist Home Secretary also unsurprisingly voted for something which would have ultimately turned out to be racist in its execution. Noted creep Nigel Evans is also on there, presumably he cannot resist barging his way into other people’s bodies. And of course, David Blunkett, who I hope is feeling really sad. The full list is here–is your worthless fuck of an MP on it?

A lot of those in favour of uterus-peeking are repeat offenders, those who seek to gain control over our bodies by any means necessary. However,it could have gone a lot worse. This amendment was framed as a way of saving women, playing upon a white saviour complex. It almost sucked a lot of people in. Fiona MacTaggart, who was well into this narrative until people started talking about how this was a terrible idea shed light on the situation in the debate:

I speak as one of the 13 MPs who co-sponsored the original ten-minute rule Bill of the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). I did that because I think she was right to make people aware that sex selective abortion is illegal, and I thought her Bill was a powerful and good tactic to do that. However, I feel a bit as though I have been pulled along by a Trojan horse because, as the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) said, the new clause confers the status of an unborn child on the foetus, and that radically changes our abortion laws in a way I believe is dangerous.

As I said in an earlier intervention, clauses 73 and 74, which deal with coercive behaviour, contain a powerful tool that we should use to prevent the kind of coercion to which the hon. Member for Congleton referred. In those references she quoted extensively from an organisation based in my constituency, but personal experience of how that organisation has failed to help individual constituents has led me to the conclusion that it is not possible to depend on the accuracy of what it says. I am therefore concerned that we are using anecdote from an unreliable source to make legislation on the hoof.

Having supported the hon. Lady’s original ten-minute rule Bill, I have since read something from an organisation in America that is closely linked to the all-party pro-life group that she chairs. The head of that group stated:

“I propose that we—the pro-life movement—adopt as our next goal the banning of sex…selective abortion. By formally protecting all female fetuses from abortion on the ground of their sex, we would plant in the law the proposition that the developing child is a being whose claims on us should not depend on their sex…This sense of contradiction will be further heightened among radical feminists—”

I think he means people like me—

“the shock troops of the abortion movement. They may believe that the right to abortion is fundamental to women’s emancipation, but many will recoil at the thought of aborting their unborn sisters.”

Now, MacTaggart has a track record for wanting to rescue women, with her views on sex work leading to attempts to bring the dangerous Swedish model into law (in fact, she attempted to sneak her horrible views in using exactly the same strategy as Fiona Bruce: by tacking it in as an amendment to a bill), as well as co-sponsoring another effort to criminalise reproductive freedoms in collaboration with Bruce.

What we can draw from the affair is this: it’s incredibly easy for the right to seduce with a narrative of saving women. It’s very easy to become carried away with it. This seems to be a new tactic for those who seek to invade our bodies and it is potentially a very powerful one. I will be wary and vigilant at all times.


Captive audiences and borrowing publicity tactics from a shitty film nobody wanted to watch

Content warning: This post discusses transmisogyny and whorephobia, as well as mentioning some well-known perpetrators of these forms of oppression

Yesterday’s Observer carried a letter, signed by over a hundred people, complaining about the use of no platforms and generally questioning authority. The letter was full of myths and misdirection, which Sarah Brown has dispelled, and it’s shameful that the Guardian-Observer decided to publish without even the most basic fact-checking.

The letter, and the politics behind it, have been thoroughly demolished by Sara Ahmed, and I strongly recommend you read her article in its entirety, because she’s taken it down so completely that I don’t need to repeat much here. I wish simply to add some things that have struck me about the letter and its signatories.

I find myself repeatedly drifting back to the publicity surrounding the film The Interview. The film looked awful, and therefore there was little interest in it, right up until Sony announced they were pulling it because of some nebulous reasoning surrounding North Korea. At this, people who had shown no interest in a film they hadn’t seen sprung into action, screaming FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Shortly after, the film was released, and made available on Netflix, turning a certain flop into a cash cow.

We know that Kate Smurthwaite’s show was similarly cancelled largely due to poor ticket sales: Goldsmith’s Comedy Society said only eight people had booked to see the show. Since the cancellation of the show, Smurthwaite has been on Newsnight bemoaning her plight, and columns have been written, and connections have been forged among the media class. Had the show gone ahead, Smurthwaite might have mildly amused eight people for an evening. Its cancellation, on the other hand, has made her a star because FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

Likewise, two of the signatories who are well known for being violent transmisogynistic bigots* have been publicising an event they are putting on off the back of this letter. And guess what the theme is? How no-platforms are evil and bad.

Bluntly put, crying CENSORSHIP and framing issues as a precious FREEDOM OF SPEECH concern can be fairly good publicity, as it means that contrarians will be more likely to go and see something objectively crap to spite a shadowy conspiracy of possibly-imaginary enemies. I predict that Bindel and Yardley will do a fake-out cancellation of their event at some point before it takes place because the lure of this tactic is so strong.

The other point I noticed about the signatories is their roles. The signatories fall under three broad strands of career: academics, paid campaigners and journalists. All of these careers are fairly used to what I would call a captive audience. The journalists write their columns and it’s there, it’s published, and if you’re reading the newspaper it’s in, you’re probably going to have to read it, or if you’re clicking through the website, it’ll be right there on the front page. The only power we have to avoid this is to skip over the page, a quiet and solitary act of dissent. A similar thing is true of paid campaigners: they’re the ones approached for quotes; their relationship with the journalists is symbiotic. Meanwhile, academics lecture from their comfy platforms, safe in the knowledge that if their students skip out, they’ll probably fail the degree they’re paying a lot of money to do.

People who occupy these platforms are not used to being told “no, I don’t want to hear you”, because the way that their platform is structured means that usually this is not an option. It must instill them with an enormous sense of entitlement, as it does for anyone who is not used to hearing the word “no”.

The means for event organisers–young grassroots feminists, for the most part–to control who enters their environment must feel like a threat to those with this sense of entitlement. Of course they lash out; they are used to captive audiences, not those who express a choice as to whether to listen to them or not. Grassroots feminism got stronger, got more capable of enforcing its own boundaries and those who believe that everyone should listen to them are furious. 

I’m really proud to see the hard work being done by young grassroots feminism with no-platforming and speaking out against nastiness. I hope they are not put off by the roar of a dinosaur that has just noticed the vast meteor hurtling towards it, threatened by the possibility of losing the ability to preach to a captive audience and make money off them. Feminism is moving forwards, and the Observer letter has provided us with a handy list of baggage to leave behind.

__

*Apparently “TERf” is a slur, so I’m trying something a little bit different.


Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

Missed the round-up last week because I was at Disneyland. Anyway, I’m sure you’re all thirsty for stavvers-curated links, of which I have some, but not many. Enjoy.

Radical (Robot Hugs)- Seriously good comic outlining rape culture.

I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle’s war was not my war (Garrett Reppenhagen)- Moving piece on the dangerous nonsense that is American Sniper.

Take the Red Pill: The Truth Behind the Biology of Sex (Luz Delfondo)- Interesting takedown of “biological sex”.

Questions I Have About The Harper Lee Editor Interview (Mallory Ortberg)- Because of all of these issues, explained well here, I don’t think I can buy the new book.

There’s a Big Problem With Polyamory That Nobody’s Talking About (Kaitlyn Mitchell)- Excellent article on the whiteness of polyamory.

Be Mine, And Hers, And His: The Requisite Valentine’s Themed Post On Polyamory (Jetta Rae DoubleCakes)- Super-sweet article about non-normative poly.

Fact and Fiction (English Collective of Prostitutes)- Busting some common myths about sex work.

Your Fave Fantasy is Problematic. (Kitty Stryker)- An uncomfortable read in places, but worthwhile.

‘Gifting’ council houses is a breathtakingly stupid idea (Dawn Foster)- Take down of IDS’s latest dreadful idea.

Why Vaccination Refusal Is a White Privilege Problem (Elizabeth Broadbent)- This is who is responsible for the measles breakouts.

And finally, it seems rather fashionable for zoos to do their security drills in the most delightful way possible in Asia.

 


Why criticising no platforms is rooted in misogyny

Once again, liberal feminism is up in arms about a no-platform, and according to abuse apologist liberal feminism, if a woman gets no-platformed, that’s sexism.

This is one of those lines which focuses largely on the feelings of the oppressor rather than who has actually made no-platforming decisions. And who does make no-platforming decisions? A lot of the case it’s women: feminist societies, feminist collectives, groups of women collectively organising towards a goal.

These women are working hard to carve out a little safe space in an unsafe world, which is difficult where there is so much social violence going on. They’re doing their best and have few tools at their disposal. No-platforming is one of those, and it’s a powerful one. It’s a statement of what women think is helpful, and what is harmful. It’s a statement and an enforcement of boundaries. It’s a gesture of free speech, and one of the few freedoms we have.

Under patriarchy, women are expected not to have boundaries. We’re expected to allow anyone access to our spaces, both personal and physical. We’re expected to accept it even when it hurts us. So when we actually state what we will allow near us and what we will not, when we band together in solidarity against the few women who do like attacking women, it’s considered an outrage. Women are not supposed to do that. We’re behaving like bad girls by having and showing our boundaries, by exercising one of the meagre instruments available to us.

Women are not above bigotry, and are not above actively harming other women. It can be seen in transmisogynistic stances, in anti-sex-worker stances, in racism and disablism. Many of us now band together in solidarity around marginalised women, and this is the position from which no-platforms come. This increased solidarity and sisterhood is only a positive thing, building an ever-stronger movement. Unfortunately, this still meets resistance, because the idea of all women united is an idea which terrifies those who benefit most from patriarchy.

I support no-platforming. I support women’s collective organising. I am opposed to the misogynistic beliefs that underpin the anti-no-platforming stance. I am appalled by the level of obfuscation which always surrounds no-platforming decisions, and furious that once again I have to explain something which should be absolutely basic.

Related: Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: no platforming and censorship are different


Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

Hi everyone. Forgot to do the post round-up last week, didn’t I? Anyway, it’s here now. Enjoy. Lots and lots and lots of links.

How to Respectfully Love a Trans Woman: Navigating Transmisogyny in Your Romantic Relationship (Kaylee Jakubowski)- Very sweet, touching and also helpful article.

Why there’s no point telling me to lose weight (Emma Lewis)- Excellent explanation of how doctors don’t need to tell fat people to lose weight, published in the BMJ where they might actually see it.

No, you’re the racist (Sam Ambreen)- This sort of thing really oughtn’t need saying, but Sam says it very well indeed and you should read.

There’s no pride in domestic abuse- Broken Rainbow’s helpline for LGBT domestic violence victims faces closure. Please give what you can to keep it alive.

In the Name of Love (Miya Tokumitsu)- Blisteringly good piece on the capitalist mantra of “do what you love”.

Undox.Me- Signal boosting this very helpful resource for taking down information shared about you.

Are You Using Your Boobs Correctly? (That Pesky Feminist)- You probably aren’t, you know.

Adam Curtis in the emperor’s new clothes (Dan Hancox)- Neat takedown of how Curtis has gone to shit.

Next On “Black Mirror” (Mallory Ortberg)- It just felt fitting to put this link under the one above.

Using hidden smartphone apps to spy on your partner has to be wrong, even if they say they don’t mind (Abi Wilkinson)- File under Shit That Shouldn’t Need Saying, Said Well.

Party Funding- A searchable database of party donors. It’s very handy–this was where I got the info about bigot Green Party PPC Rupert Read having donated large sums of money to the Green Party.

7 heinous lies “American Sniper” is telling America (Ziad Jilani)- I have no intention of seeing that film and here’s why.

A few thoughts on the demise of page 3 (desiredxthings)- Really good analysis of last week’s issues with the Sun and p3.

The question isn’t if female ejaculation is real. It’s why you don’t trust women to tell you (Lux Alptraum)- This is a good article, although it’s a shame it keeps using ciscentric language.

Ethical Production in Portraiture: A Comparison (Dolores On The Dot)- Very cool analysis of art.

16 creepy ads from people on Craigslist who are offering “free” rooms (Us vs Th3m)- This is the sort of thing that I knew was a problem, but seeing it all together like this is just horrid.

One Week of Harassment on Twitter (Feminist Frequency)- Anita Sarkeesian collated all the harassment and abuse she received over a week and, again, put together it’s quite shocking.

It isn’t asking the question, it’s hearing the answer. (sometimes, it’s just a cigar)- Reflections on consent.

I write letters (Melissa McEwan)- Great letter to plonk in front of any man who gets all entitled.

Sex, Consent, and Game Mechanics (Gaming As Other)- Half-hour video discussion of games and issues of sex and consent.

And finally, it turns out if you put dril’s name on Richard Dawkins tweets, everything makes a lot more sense.


The Green Party need to drop Rupert Read by, like, yesterday: An open letter to the Green Party

Content note: This post discusses transmisogyny

Dear Green Party,

Look, I’m an anarchist, and voting isn’t something I do any more. But sometimes, I look at the Green Party and think “they look like they might stand a chance and they’d probably be the least terrible. Maybe I’ll vote for them.” It was growing inside me, the knowledge that you, at least, might make things tolerable rather than terrible. All that’s gone now, because you’ve made yourselves look no different to the others.

I’m talking, of course, about your Cambridge candidate, Rupert Read. It turns out he’s a really, really nasty piece of work. The clues came when he tweeted the sort of dogwhistle comment which alerts the wise to transmisogyny: he went for the old “don’t call me cis” type bollocks. Digging deeper it turns out that yes, he’s a transmisogynist, and wrote a dreadful, pompous diatribe defending Julie Burchill and transmisogyny within feminism. It’s strange, because while he self-identifies as a “male feminist” (a phrase which makes my skin crawl and sets off numerous red flags at the best of times), he opposed representation quotas for women in the party, claiming, in a popular misogynistic refrain that women already lead the party. Oh, and he’s also enormously UKIPpy about immigration. Oh, and the whole thing started because he used a disablist slur.

So, he’s generally, up and down, pretty godawful and doesn’t embody Green Party ideals–as I understood the Party’s ideals, anyway. He did the old politicians’ apology and made the whole thing significantly worse. As I understand, an apology ought to include some distance from the unpleasant beliefs for which one is apologising, but Rupert Read’s… well, it really, really didn’t. Indeed, he restated a bunch of transmisogynistic ideology, adding that he wasn’t sure if trans women should be allowed to use women’s toilets. More broadly, he showed a devastating lack of understanding of how the world works these days, like a fucking dinosaur. He framed himself as a victim because of one or two four-letter words on Twitter. He moaned that it’s so hard to represent oneself on Twitter (which hardly fills one with confidence about his ability to represent his views in Parliament!). He made it clear–achingly clear–that he prefers debates to happen in the academy. The man is quite patently out of touch with the year 2015. I’d be a little embarrassed for him if he wasn’t such a thoroughly dreadful human.

I wondered why the Greens would select a candidate who is so at odds with the Party’s beliefs, and reeks of the kind of public school privilege of any other politician when a big part of your image is you’re different from the rest. He was the only candidate who put himself forward for the Cambridge seat, it’s true, but I know how political parties work, and I know if you didn’t want him, you would have dragged someone else up to stand against him. It’s pretty clear why you didn’t do that. He’s quite a big donor to the Green Party. He’s in the top 10 biggest donors to the party of all time. Last summer, he was the fourth biggest donor.

It might all be a coincidence, Green Party, but you can’t deny this looks very bad indeed. You’re running a candidate who not only holds absolutely terrible beliefs, but also gave you a lot of money. It looks a lot like he bought his selection. It looks a lot like the Green Party is no different from all of the others.

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I like you, Green Party. Despite most of my instincts, I don’t want you to be destroyed by this. Rupert Read claims that most of the criticism is coming from people who want to see the Green Party burn, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of us who are angry are exactly the kind of people who would vote for you.

This is why I’m giving you some friendly advice: drop Rupert Read. Drop him like a burning turd. It’s Rupert Read himself who will harm you. He has to go. You need to take a strong stand against bigotry, and distance yourselves from him. I want you to do all right, and you can’t with a pompous transmisogynistic, sexist, racist conservative shitweasel like Rupert Read dragging you down.

So please drop him. Pretty please.

Love Zoe xoxo

Further reading:

On “Male TERFs” (Sarah Brown)
My view of Green Party candidate Rupert Read’s “apology”. (UnCommon Sense)
Green MP candidate for Cambridge makes transphobic statements (Get Real Cambridge)
An open letter to Rupert Read (Loz Webb, Action for Trans Health)

Update 24/1/15: A second apology has now been issued. This one is significantly better, though only addresses the transmisogyny. Furthermore, Read and the Cambridge Green Party have refused to take donations from violent transmisogynistic hate group Gender Identity Watch and have condemned them [1] [2].

However, in light of the donations and the other awful stuff still left unaddressed, I still do not believe that it is appropriate for Rupert Read to stand.


Let’s talk about how the front page of The Sun is fucking terrible

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence

Rumours of Page 3’s demise have been premature. This is very good news for The Sun, because it means that everyone is furious about a photo of boobs on the third page, rather than what’s on the front cover. Indeed, most of the outrage over the front cover seems to be about poorly-constructed breast pun rather than the truly terrible thing. Allow me to draw your attention to the headline story–that’s the bit underneath the boob pun and to the right of the other boob pun.

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It might not look it, but that is a report about a woman who was kept as a slave and trafficked to rich and famous friends of her abuser between the ages of 15 and 18. New legal documents have been filed, with more detail, and this is how The Sun have chosen to report it: as a fun little royal romp.

What does this front page teach those who will see it about sexual violence, about abuse, about women? First and foremost, that it’s cheeky and fun. The way it’s presented, it seems as though these traumatic events occurred with a Benny Hill sax parping away merrily in the background. It seems almost glamorous, as well as sexy: orgies and a real live prince!

The word “rape” is unsurprisingly absence from what happened here, as is “coercion” or “trafficking”. A survivor’s search for justice has been turned into lurid, titillating revelations, and given exactly the same editorial treatment as the testimonials of the “kiss and tell girls”. It is calculated to arouse rather than to anger, to excite rather than outrage.

Alongside the frankly horrible article is a picture of the survivor. It’s hardly just The Sun that have violated her privacy, indeed, I commend them ever so slightly for not using her name right there on the front page like many of the headlines about this story have. Nonetheless, each instance that this happens contributes further to a culture wherein we are perfectly happy to parade women who speak out about sexual violence around, to suck away their anonymity.

I’ve spent more time than I ever cared to receiving vile tweets from fans of rapist footballer Ched Evans. They believe it’s perfectly fine to provide private details of rape survivors. They all, also, seem to be labouring under the false impression that sexual violence is sexy and glamorous. With the front page of a national newspaper sending out messages like this, of course they believe these things. It’s all part of the background radiation of rape culture. Headlines like this are not a meaningless bit of fun, they’re teaching people that rape isn’t so bad, and they’re showing the world how survivors should be treated.

It is not enough to remove nipples from the tabloids. The misogyny problem, the rot, goes far beyond that, to far worse places. Over the last week, The Sun has shown clearly its attitude towards consent, and it’s an attitude which matches the logic of many rapists. Sadly, I think they know they can get away with this, that Page 3 will draw the fire of the people who should really be destroying them for a front page like this.

Every single page of The Sun is nasty. The pitiful excuse for a newspaper reflects and magnifies every ugly bigoted thought. The whole rag needs to die; it becomes clear again and again that this is the only solution. Dismantling that foul rag piece by piece would be but a start, but a tiny step along the way, because all news sources contribute to the problem in the same way. So let us see The Sun in flames, and as we dance upon the ashes, let us turn to the other hacks and let it be clear to them that they’re next.


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