Owen Smith is a misogynist masterpost

Content note: this post discusses misogyny and domestic violence

I am going to start this post with some disclaimers:

  • I’m writing this because dudes keep asking me for “evidence” that Owen Smith is a misogynist
  • Just because I think Owen Smith is a bellend doesn’t mean I support Jeremy Corbyn
  • Just because I’m pointing out the misogyny of Owen Smith doesn’t mean some of Corbyn’s supporters aren’t misogynists
  • I didn’t think Angela Eagle was all that either
  • Basically, the Labour Party is a wretched hive of scum and villainy
  • This is not an invitation to honk like a sea lion “debating” whether this stuff is misogyny or not. It’s misogyny. If you don’t think so, you don’t care. And also, I don’t care what you think.
  • I cannot believe The Discourse™ has got so puerile that I need to say any of this

Right, all that out of the way, let’s get on with why Owen Smith is a misogynist.

He opposes mandatory all-woman shortlists

All-woman shortlists are the weak, milky tea of feminism. If your feminism wants women in elected positions (as opposed to the abolition of this hierarchical system), they’re a way of addressing the structural misogyny and ensure a woman ends up in place. Recently, Owen Smith committed to using all-woman shortlists in targeted seats. The qualifier “targeted” here is potentially pretty important, in the context of his previous comments on all-woman shortlists. See, Owen believes (and as far as I can see, has not retracted), that local Labour parties should be able to veto all-woman shortlists if they want to. If a local party doesn’t want an all-woman shortlist, Owen reckons, they shouldn’t have to have one.

Let’s assume that the misogynist Momentum CLP infiltrators exist for the purpose of this. Under Owen Smith’s own assertions, if such woman-hating entryists take against the idea of an all-woman shortlist and kick up a stink, they don’t have to have one. 

His “normal” life

Let’s remember that within the last fortnight, Owen Smith wasn’t just running against Corbyn, but also Angela Eagle, who is a lesbian. When asked if he was normal, Owen decided to explain that of course he’s normal, he has a wife and three children. Perhaps he was taking aim at Corbyn with this comment, simply forgetting about Eagle’s own domestic situation (a wife, no children). However, under patriarchy, it’s women who are hit hardest by this suggestion that they’re weird for not having children. Hell, just a week before Owen Smith made these comments, Theresa May’s leadership contender Andrea Leadsom was rightly called up on her internalised misogyny for having a pop at May for never having had children.

It’s 2016. Some women aren’t just ambulatory baby factories. Deal with it, Owen. It’s the new normal.

The leader of a political party only gets on TV because she’s a woman

Plaid Cymru is one of the major political parties in Wales. It’s led by a woman called Leanne Wood, who is, being the leader of a major political party in her country, on telly a fair amount. Owen Smith felt a little bit bitter about this, and was recorded sulkily saying she got on Question Time instead of him. Wood rather fairly pointed out that maybe this was to do with party balance, to which Owen Smith replied “I think your gender helps as well.

This is a pretty classic case of sexist sulking. When women get more visible, men feel like the women are only getting these opportunities because of political correctness gorn mad, not because of, say, the kind of merit that got you elected leader of your party. Mediocre men think the sun shines out of their special snowflake bottoms, and do not realise that a lot of the time, there is a better woman there.

I recommend watching the short 30 second video in the link above, and listening to the tone he adopts as he says “I think your gender helps as well”. It oozes bitterness, and he spits the word “gender” as though it tastes bad to him.

“That was called a joke, Susanna”

Apologies for another video, but I find watching a man interact with women is one of the greatest indications of how he feels about women. In Owen Smith’s case, his behaviour appears to communicate disdain and contempt. This short video features Owen on a breakfast TV show recently, being asked if he ever took Viagra while working at Pfizer (let’s be honest, you don’t exactly go into the hard-hitting stuff at 6.30 in the morning). After giving an evasive first answer, the woman host, Susanna Reid suggests a more straightforward answer would have been “no”. Once again, Owen’s mask slips, as his tone goes from attempting to get people to like him, to your bog standard sexist creep. “That was called a joke, Susanna,” he says coldly, then immediately slips back into warmer tones as co-host Piers Morgan takes over in the questioning.

Again, this video is worth a watch, even as the dismissive “it’s a joke” defence, as though women have never heard of the concept of humour, will be painfully familiar to all of us.

The domestic violence reference

Owen Smith reckoned the Coalition government was like an abusive relationship, and decided to articulate this in the most flippantly insensitive way he could: “Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

At the time, women’s groups called him up on it, and he backed away from his comments. However, he doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson as just this week, he decided to bring out imagery involving violence against women once again.

Smashing Theresa May on her heels

I’ve seen defences of the phrase “smash her back on her heels”, and none of them sufficient. Some say it’s a common turn of phrase, but it sounds like something someone says on Catchphrase just before being told “it’s good, but it’s not quite right”. Apparently it’s so common that a google of it simply brings you Owen Smith’s comments. Here’s the thing: Theresa May is pretty famous for wearing heels (and her choice of footwear is an endless source of fascination for misogynists). Here’s another thing: it’s generally not considered good form to express a desire to “smash” a woman. And here’s one more thing: this wasn’t an off-the-cuff malapropism. This was a phrase in a prepared speech Owen Smith gave. A speech about equality. Evoking images of violence against women.

But don’t worry! Owen has an excuse. It’s just rhetoricIs this the new political “just banter”?

__

I’ll likely add examples to this post as I see them. Also, heed the disclaimer. This really isn’t an invitation for debate.


Things I read recently that I found interesting

Greetings and welcome to the link round-up, as the world burns. This is a bumper edition because a lot has happened recently.

Open Letter: The BBC must stop uncritical coverage of fascists (Media Diversified)- A call for responsible broadcasting.

Amid the bitter divisions we must unite against racist and fascist abuse (Chimene Suleyman)- Wise words which must be heeded.

Here’s How We Fight Racism Now That Brexit Has Won (Wail Qasim)- A necessary look forward.

Brexit has echoes of the breakup of Yugoslavia (Catherine Baker)- A terrifying look at parallels with the situation in the 90s.

Isolated Incidents (Nikesh Shukla)- The devastating impact of hate attacks, and how they accumulate.

Euthanasia as a Dutch neoliberal success story (Flazia Dzodan)- Examining how right-to-die works under neoliberalism, to frightening effect.

We have the wrong idea about males, females and sex (David Robson)- Looking at evidence which challenges traditional myths.

The Dangers Of Dating Faux-Feminist Men (Kate Sloan)- How men use feminist rhetoric to manipulate, abuse and coerce. Sadly, this resonated a lot with me.

Warning: Pokemon GO is a Death Sentence if you are a Black Man. (Omari Akil)- Why, due to white supremacy, this game isn’t for everyone.

Evidence (Sara Ahmed)- Critically examining what evidence means, to whom and how.

Black Lives Matter more than a police float (Nora Loreto)- Setting out some necessary priorities.

My Brother Died In Police Custody – Here’s What Black Lives Matter Means To Me (Marcia Rigg)- As Britain’s burgeoning BLM movement begins to gather momentum, the sister of a young man killed by police talks why it’s so important.

I Have My Anger Back (Jendella Benson)- A black woman writes to her son.

Westeros is Poorly Designed (Lyman Stone)- A gloriously nerdy look at the world from Game of Thrones and how it makes no goddamn sense on a population scale. You’ll learn lots about human geography and economics.

Employment Must Not Be the Aim of Mental Health Treatment (Dr Jay Watts)- Why were therapists protesting? Because they care about patients.

Abolish the Police. Instead, Let’s Have Full Social, Economic, and Political Equality. (Mychal Denzel Smith)- Envisioning a world without police and examining who the police protect.

On Coming Out and Existing; or, Resentments to the theme of Materiality (AB Silvera)- Thoughtful meditations, responding to an article on never coming out.

Why I’m Nonbinary But Don’t Use ‘They/Them’ (Ashleigh Shackelford)- A personal story of a black nonbinary person who also identifies with black womanhood.

The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek (Rosa Lyster)- A fun new game for us all.

Blerd Girl Magic: The MD and Black Girl Nerds’ Founders Interview– Two incredible black women who formed media platforms explain their vital work.

What Can We Learn About Prime Minister Theresa May from Her Time as Home Secretary? (Wail Qasim)- A close examination of the new PM’s track record.

Blowing the Whistle on Oppressive Policing and Surveillance (NetPol)- Launching a whistleblowing service on police and state surveillance. This is very necessary work, follow it closely.

And finally, have a video of some otters playing the keyboard. You deserve it.


At best, treating misogyny as a hate crime won’t make any difference

Content note: this post discusses misogyny, sexual violence and police

Earlier this week, it was excitedly trumpeted that Nottinghamshire Police will now be recognising and treating misogyny as a hate crime. As Chief Parade Pisser, it is my sad duty to inform you that this probably won’t make much difference, and if it does, it’ll be to the worse.

What falls under the umbrella of misogyny as a hate crime includes:

  • unwanted or uninvited sexual advances
  • physical or verbal assault
  • unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact or engagement
  • use of mobile phones to send unwanted or uninvited messages
  • or take photographs without consent.

You may recognise most of these things as being illegal anyway, albeit being incredibly difficult to get the police to give a crap about in the first place, with many of the crimes being forms of sexual violence or harassment. The police could already intervene in any of these incidents, but they usually don’t.

Unfortunately, treating these instances as hate crimes is likely to just kick matters further into the long grass. The police are not exactly well-known for handling hate crimes very well, and hate crime laws add an additional barrier to prosecuting them: when police investigate a hate crime, they have to find evidence of prejudice or hostility. Do you really trust the police to see prejudice and hostility? I know I don’t. What scant statistics are available suggests that many reported hate crimes (>40,000 in 2013) do not result in prosecution (just over 6000 prosecutions in that same year).

At best, the police treating misogyny as a hate crime isn’t going to help the women reporting it. At worst, things could get a lot worse for a lot of people.

Carceral solutions to structural problems have a tendency to have the most negative consequences for more marginalised people. They also tend to help marginalised people the least. This is why Black people are overrepresented in prisons, for example, and on the flip side young Black men are far less likely to report crimes they’ve experienced and far less happy with their experiences with the police.

What we are very likely to see with treating misogyny as a hate crime is that there could well be more arrests and prosecutions, but only under particular circumstances: when a Nice White Lady™ is victimised by a Nasty Black Or Brown Man™. As things stand, it’s vanishingly unlikely that the police would care any more to investigate, say, a university rowing team groping a cleaner, or an elderly white man spitting on a woman in hijab, or the politician sending escalatingly creepy texts.

It’s a repeated pattern in carceral solutions, and means that help will not go to the women who need it most because the police would rather come down hard on people that they already despise.

At the end of the day, the solution to misogyny is the same boring old thing that is the solution to everything else: societal change, starting with ourselves. Challenge it where you find it and nurture and embody alternatives, and support and believe survivors. The police are not, and have never been, the magic bullet for solving problems that they cannot even begin to solve.

Misogyny is misogyny, and the police have never been our salvation.


Theresa May as Prime Minister would be a disaster for women

Content note: this post discusses border violence, benefits violence, rape, violence against women

It is looking remarkably like Theresa May might be the next Prime Minister, elected by the approximately 0.3% of the population that are members of the Tory party. I would have expected widespread terror at this option, but apparently most liberal white feminists simply seem excited that there might be A Lady in power: Suzanne Moore, for example, is excited:

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The pathetic scope of the media feminism has never been more apparent. Theresa May as PM would be bad news for pretty much every woman in this country, and all that would trickle down from her would be death and despair. Let’s have a little look at some of the terrible things she’s done which are harmful towards women.

Yarl’s Wood

While Theresa May cannot be given full responsibility for having opened the place–that honour goes to Tony Blair–May has certainly done her damndest to keep the place open and silence any news coming out of it. Yarl’s Wood is a detention centre for women, where they are held, usually before they’re deported. That in and of itself is violence against women: innocent women are imprisoned against their will simply for where they were born. However, Yarl’s Wood manages to double up as a hotbed of rape and abuse. Women are sent there to be raped.

Theresa May, rather than dealing with the problem, allowed it, and now chooses to cover it up. She blocked information about the scale of the issue coming to light, because it might damage the commercial interests of the private sector company running this repulsive place.

Humiliating vulnerable LGBT women

Let’s get one thing straight: Theresa May. May has a history of voting in a homophobic direction, such as against repealing Section 28, and against lesbian couples having fertility rights. That’s long in the past, though, and from her position as Home Secretary, she’s developed new ways of attacking LGBT people.

Take, for example, the institutional humiliation of LGBT asylum seekers. One case study here is Aderonke Apata, a lesbian woman from Nigeria who sought asylum in the UK because she faces the death penalty for her activism. Theresa May’s Home Office wanted evidence of Aderonke’s sexual orientation. This included a sex tape of Aderonke with her girlfriend. And even after this humiliating treatment, Theresa May ruled her “not lesbian enough”. Another lesbian woman was ruled “not lesbian enough” for wearing lipstick to court.

Her stance on human rights

Theresa May absolutely fucking hates the Human Rights Act. A lot of this is likely to do with the fact it presents a great big humane obstacle to her deporting whoever the hell she likes, whenever the hell she likes. She’s been a consistent opponent of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights; with her last call to ditch human rights coming just weeks before the referendum.

Sure, she’s reversed her opposition to human rights now she has a sniff of power, but given how consistent and single-minded she’s been in this crusade, can we really trust her?

Repealing the Human Rights Act and/or leaving the European Convention on Human Rights would have devastating consequences, because women are humans. Thanks to the Human Rights Act, the police must act in cases of domestic violence or rape (if the survivor wants that), privacy must be respected–and it protects the human rights of marginalised women. So, forgive me if I’m concerned about the disproportionate impact abolishing human rights might have on women.

Austerity

Speaking of disproportionate impact on women, do you know what’s had an absolutely devastating impact on women? Austerity.

Austerity has had a horrifying impact on women: rape crisis services closing, women being forced to stay with violent partners due to a lack of services and having nowhere to go, limiting family size… the list goes on and on and on and on. It’s widening the general gender equality gap, and, of course, hitting women who have intersecting oppressions even harder.

Every step of the way, Theresa May has voted these violences against women through. May’s hands are soaked in the blood of women.

Do you want to see her position on migrant women rolled out to all women?

In her current position, Theresa May can only abuse migrant women. She can only humiliate migrant women, tear apart their families, and incite violence against them. Having seen her viciousness for six years, I’d like nothing more than to immure her, hide her away where she can harm nobody.

The violences she has already enacted are enough for a thousand lifetimes, and I cannot believe there are those who would seek to give her more power. However, if you’re the kind of white heterosexual middle-class abled woman who has a media platform, you’ll probably be fine. She’ll probably look out for you, while destroying everybody else.


Things I read this month that I found interesting

Apologies for how long it’s taken for the roundup to come, but frankly everything is terrible and seems to be getting worse.

The Immortal Myths About Online Abuse (Anil Dash)- These myths allow abuse to thrive and stop any practical measures being taken.

Speaking Out (Sara Ahmed)- Sara recently resigned from her position at Goldsmith’s over a failure to counter sexual harassment. She explains what needs to happen next and how resignation is resistance.

Breaking up is necessary to do (Lola Phoenix)- Why a rising divorce rate isn’t necessarily A Bad Thing.

“NO CONDOM, NO PUSSY”: Housework is Real Work. Sex Work is Real Work. Under Capitalism All Work is Shit. (Bahar Mustafa)- An overview of some glorious acts of resistance from women.

The First Woman To Put Her Face On Packaging Got Trolled Like Crazy– A little bit of history about how nothing has changed.

Why I stormed the Tate Modern in protest against violent men (Liv Wynter)- Explaining the protests at the Tate Modern and questioning why the work of the man who killed Ana Mendieta is displayed there.

How to Politicise a Murder (Cameron De Chi)- Exploring how the conservative media twisted Jo Cox’s murder to suit their own ends.

Orange is the New Black is Trauma Porn Written for White People (Ashleigh Shackelford)- This is a great response to the latest season, and what came before.

And finally, the eerily perfect every TED talk ever.


Brexit was an enormous game of Chicken that we all lost.

I hate being right. It’s only been hours since the UK voted, by a very narrow margin to leave the EU, and everything has already gone to shit. In fact, it’s gone so much to shit that I can’t even be particularly happy that the Shinyfaced Pigfucker has finally fucked off.

I am fairly sure that a lot of leave voters did not quite understand what they were voting for. It was sold to them, everything was sold to them, as a bargaining chip. They did not necessarily think that it would actually happen.

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It happened. They shat the bed and now we all have to lie in it.

I am also unsure as to whether there has ever been an exit strategy. David Cameron has performed the political equivalent of dropping an eggy fart in a room and then swanning on out. It will be up to the Brexit faction to pick up the pieces and try to deliver the Garden of Eden that they promised. And they will not be able to do that, because it was not possible, and it never will be possible, and curbing immigration isn’t exactly going to help when the economy has tanked, businesses have ragequit, nobody will trade with the UK, Scotland secedes, university research collapses and on and on and on.

David Cameron’s successor, whichever godawful dingleberry it is, is likely going to find themselves as the least popular Prime Minister ever. Yes, perhaps even less popular than Shinyfaced Pigfucker Who Absolutely Ruined The Country himself. After all, they will be completely unelected, and utterly failing to deliver on any of the lofty snake oil promised before they took us to the polls. Again, I wish I could gloat over this: if it were a TV show, it would certainly be a gripping plot.

I’m not even convinced that Nigel Farage actually wanted to win this referendum. His strength lies in opposing, and now he’s got what he said he wants, he will become obsolete. He has even reversed on a key campaign promise–an extra £350million a week to the NHS–within minutes of the result coming out.  There was no strategy beyond “leave the EU”, and he has nothing to offer now that the decision is made.

What happened in this referendum was a massive game of Chicken. It was posturing, bravado, a game the right thought they could use to make their position stronger. Among the politicians, their victory could only be in apparent defeat. But the thing about playing Chicken is that sometimes you get run over.

It was treated almost like a game among politicians, and perhaps even many voters. Some, like mass killer Iain Duncan Smith, thought it was “fun”.

It was a gamble with devastating consequences.

I wish over the next few days, weeks, months, years, I could take comfort in the downfall of the terrible people who engineered this. I wish I could laugh at the regret on the facts of those who were taken in, looking no further than their own sense of xenophobia. I wish I could take a detached sigh as they have nobody left to blame for the absolute mess, with immigration down and the EU no longer something to point at.

I wish I could watch from a distance as the right wing drown in the slurry they created. But I cannot, because these drowning men will drag us all down.

They played a game, and we all lost.

 


I don’t love the EU, but I’m voting remain out of apathy and spite

I could make sensible appeals based on fact to vote to remain in the EU: that it will likely destroy an economy already circling the drain. I could counter some of the lies being fed to the populace, like the comical assertion that Turkey are joining the EU soon, or that the EU is somehow responsible for destroying the NHS. I could even point to my friends and family, EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens working in EU countries, and say that I don’t want life to get harder for them.

But honestly, all of this has been said before, over and over. And it’s not like the Remain campaign has done a job that is in any way competent in making either a case against the right wing rhetoric of shower of bastards in the Leave camp, or stirring up any interest in the EU.

And furthermore, I actually don’t care all that much: I veer between antipathy and apathy to the political process, and this is definitely my feeling towards the EU.

And that’s why I’m voting Remain.

The EU isn’t great. It kind of sits there, a mostly-neutral force which doesn’t do much (despite what the Leave lot would have you believe). It’s nice to be able to travel through Europe without having to faff about with passports, and I like that so many of my pals live in various European cities where they can work freely and I can go and visit them. At the end of the day, that’s about the long and short of my own personal feelings towards the EU: lukewarm.

This all-powerful bureaucracy of the EU is pretty much a myth, and one which was largely engineered by Boris Johnson, who, in his own words was given “a weird sense of power” for doing it. I know that the EU doesn’t really do much, and certainly isn’t responsible for the failings of capitalism, and a government driven by violent ideology.

Nonetheless, I like the things that the EU is blamed for. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to implement xenophobic immigration policy. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to turn every job into a Sports Direct-style sweatshop. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to force everyone in a city to breathe polluted air. I like that it makes life harder for those who want to abuse the marginalised.

Basically, the EU makes life a little harder for some horrible people who want to do horrible things. I don’t even know the extent to which it does or does not actually tie them up, but since they’re blaming the EU for all this I’ll give the EU a bit of credit for it.

A vote to leave is essentially a victory for some terrible people with terrible ideas. There is no left Brexit, and almost all of its prominent supporters aren’t singing any more. There is only empowerment for the right–and potential disaster.

We are balanced on a knife edge, and I am thoroughly unconvinced by the right’s repeated assurances that leaving the EU wouldn’t completely tank the economy, which would have devastating consequences for those like me who are precariously employed. What absolutely will happen–because they’ve promised this and banged on and on about it–would be a crackdown on movement of people, and I don’t want to see any victory for those who dehumanise refugees and immigrants alike.

I don’t want horrible people who treat fellow humans like animals to emerge triumphant.

The Remain campaign has failed miserably in its aims, mostly pandering to the right wing rhetoric of the Leave camp and agreeing with them that human beings are a problem to be solved. One of the few exceptions was Jo Cox, and she’s dead now, probably killed for that.

The Remain camp don’t really deserve to win this referendum, having exhibited a willful incompetence of opposing the far right.

And yet, the far right deserve to win less.

And ultimately, that’s why I’m voting Remain. Out of spite. Out of spite to those who would willingly tank the economy and turn their country into a petty, lonely island, simply because they don’t like the fact that sometimes people have brown skin or speak Polish. Out of spite to those who believe human rights to be a problem, rather than an absolutely necessary protection. Out of spite to exploitative bosses and bigots alike.

Fuck them. Vote Remain.


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