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.


Rape-enablers getting whacked round the head with baseball bats is fine. Sorry not sorry.

Content note: this post discusses rape culture, rape apologism and physical violence

In case you didn’t know, a woman called Tabitha Brubaker is in jail for having taken action against a man who, day after day, for months, stood around holding a sign encouraging rape. You can donate to her legal fees for taking this drastic action, because she should not be punished for this.

Predictably, men who have been conspicuously silent on other men encouraging and enabling rape, have suddenly gone all pacifist and think that hitting people is wrong. 

Well yes. Hitting people is wrong. But do you know what else is wrong? Encouraging rape. Threatening to rape. Enabling rape.

Holding up a sign saying “You deserve rape” is a direct threat to all women. A physical intervention is not just an act of self-defence, but an act to defend all women.

I’d honestly rather we lived in a world where nobody smacked anybody with a baseball bat. Unfortunately, we do not yet live in this world. Rape is a fact of life. It is something that happens to far too many women, and something all other women fear. It is frighteningly common, and so entirely ingrained that men can literally hold placards stating their intention to rape while other men leap to their defence. A man encouraging rape is not even seen as inciting violence, but that is exactly what is happening. Rape is an act of violence, and yet defending oneself against it is the violence that men get their knickers in a twist over.

If you don’t want to see a man threatening rape getting whacked with a baseball bat, there is an incredibly simple solution: stop his violence. Intervene before it gets to that point. Make it so that his threat of violence, his encouragement of rape, is so completely acceptable that he fucks off. Snatch his sign from his hands and shout and scream over him. Involve the auth-

Oh wait. When hate speech happens, the law tends to sit around with its thumb right up its arse. When men make violent threats, the law does not give a tiny little rabbit dropping. Is it any surprise, then, that those affected are having to take matters into their own hands?

The law, completely and utterly disinterested when a man is helping out rapists, suddenly comes to life when a victim of his violences takes defensive action. The law protects rapists at the expense of those who think rape is wrong. This is why it is so imperative that we help this brave woman with her legal fees: the state would sooner help out men who would rape.

None of this needed to happen, if men were anywhere near as offended by rape and rape enablers than they are by one getting hit. There is no moral high ground when we have already been dragged down so low. The only way to prevent rape enablers getting beaten with baseball bats is to prevent rape enablers themselves.

Donate to Tabitha Brubaker’s legal fund.


Shit I cannot believe needs saying: Your mate might be nice, but is an abuser

Content note: this post discusses domestic violence and abuse, and apologism

When a rich, powerful white man is accused of perpetrating violence against women, a dance begins. It is the world’s worst dance, making Agadoo look like the Bolshoi Ballet. In this well-choreographed dance, everybody rallies around the abuser. They support the abuser, claiming that he is the best guy in the world, and couldn’t have possibly done it. They leap over the evidence presented by the survivor, all in step. Nothing can dent their pal’s Nice Guy status.

It probably doesn’t even matter who the abuser is, or how well they truly know him. This dance is political: it is a way of protecting all abusers across the globe by showing survivors what happens if they speak out.

Let us pretend, for a moment, that some of what is being said is true. Let’s imagine a chap called Johnny Blepp, who has been accused of beating up his wife. Let’s imagine some washed-up pals of his, who we’ll call Paul Gettany and Dickey Rourke and Vanessa Cara–oh fuck it, we all know who we’re talking about here, don’t we?

I believe that Johnny Depp beat Amber Heard. I would believe this even without the sheer level of evidence that Amber Heard showed, the sheer level of evidence which was sufficient to get a restraining order granted.

And, to be perfectly honest, I’d believe Amber Heard even if I was BFFs with Johnny Depp, because I know something which has apparently escaped the notice of those who are seeking attention by leaping to his defence: even if a man is nice to you that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of harming anyone. 

If Paul Bettany had given things a moment’s thought, perhaps he would consider how he has never shared a house, a room, a bed with Johnny Depp, so probably can’t have the first clue what his pal’s like behind closed doors. If Mickey Rourke had had a little think before opening his gob, maybe he would have considered that just because he had never been hit by his mate, doesn’t mean his mate has never hit anyone. If Vanessa Paradis had taken a few seconds, maybe she would have remembered she hasn’t lived with her ex husband in at least four years, and a lot has happened in those four years, so perhaps so has her ex’s temper.

All of these people are outsiders. None of them are party to the knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors. So why on earth do they presume that they know so much that they can confidently accuse a woman of perjury?  That is, after all, what they are doing when a woman has gone to court, told her story (and been granted a restraining order), and they accuse her of having made it up.

I understand that it can sometimes feel implausible that your friend might do horrible things, but this is why it is important to remember that you have no way of knowing how they treat others. You have no way of knowing what it’s like when they go home. Abusers are manipulative people, and have you considered that you are being played?

Again, I get why people may be resistant to that question: nobody likes to feel like a fool. Nonetheless, Depp’s friends, coming out in support of him, are serving not just their mate, but abusers everywhere. They’re helpful little pawns, parroting a line which keeps survivors silent, showing survivors that nobody will believe them. Their intervention isn’t even particularly helpful to their friend: after all, nothing happens to rich white abusers. Look at Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, for example.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. You’re not being objective in the slightest when you knee-jerk defend your friend based on your complete lack of knowledge. You don’t need to say anything at all: if you don’t believe the survivor, keep your gob shut, because you’re mostly basing your disbelief on misogynistic tropes you’ve been fed since birth. If you truly want to keep an open mind, you need to keep your mouth shut, and give what a survivor has said equal weighting to your pal’s denial.

All we know about our friends is they are nice to us. It is peculiarly childish to extend their niceness to us into an assumption that they are nice to everyone.

One day, I hope the dance will falter. I admire the courage of every woman who comes forward despite the power of the man who abused her, and despite the fact that surely she must know that everyone will close ranks with tedious predictability.

I believe Amber Heard. I cannot believe I need to say this, when it ought to go without saying. I believe that Johnny Depp attacked and beat his wife, and I believe Amber Heard.


Things I read recently that I found interesting

It’s round-up day!

Statement from the organisers of the #PredatoryPeacekeepers petition and campaign– If you’ve not been following this enormously important campaign, here’s a good place to start.

The Past Hundred Years Of Gender-Segregated Public Restrooms (Shannon Keating)- A brief history of single-sex toilets in their context as a site of misogyny.

Racism and misogyny explains why there are so few black women in politics (Bridget Minamore)- Misogynoir is rife in politics, and this short article shows neatly how it manifests.

Azealia Banks’ Twitter Ban Reminds Us Freedom Of Speech Is For Whites Only (Carol Hood)- White people who say similar–and worse–things to Banks don’t get banned… why?

If The Avengers Had Basic Emotional Skills (Alex Gabriel)- How Civil War should have gone down.

My Friends and I Beat Up My Rapist, And I Will Never Apologize for Getting Revenge (Emily Eveland)- It’s almost taboo to talk about vengeful urges, and this honest piece talks frankly about putting them into action.

When the white gaze is automatically seen as informed opinion (Shane Thomas)- How the political and comment system believe in a bizarre myth of white people knowing it all.

The UK Home Office has just officially banned access to social media and instant messaging to people in immigration detention centres (Ruth Hennell)- An in-depth look at an important but overlooked freedom of speech issue.

Why Wear Masks? (Merseyside AFN)- How to protect yourself against police surveillance.

The Gendered Language of Harry Potter (s.e. smith)- A look at how women are described in Harry Potter, as compared to men.

Dear “Skeptics,” Bash Homeopathy and Bigfoot Less, Mammograms and War More (John Horgan)- Examining the bizarre pseudoscientific beliefs many skeptics/new atheists hold. Note: the paragraph on psychiatric drugs falls into the exact trap the author outlines others as falling into.

The Gendered Implications of the Word “Manipulative” (Kitty Stryker)- “Manipulative” is a loaded term, often thrown on women who talk about their needs. Exploring the what and why.

The First Line Of Every Fan Fiction I Have Started Writing Once I Found Out Emma Watson Was Named In The Panama Papers (Mallory Ortberg)- Sharing this because Ortberg is an incredible writer, and I’m gutted that The Toast is closing imminently, because content like this is incredible.

And finally, I am in love. Specifically, with this man and the tiny kitten he rescued that chose him. My heart, it bursts.


Shit I cannot believe needs saying: don’t blame women for men being crap at sex.

Content note: this post discusses sex and sex shaming

It’s a fashionable linkbait topic which comes up every now and then, and so I shan’t be actually linking to the latest incarnation of this terrible trope. Here is its title–and yes, that completely adequately reflects the content:

A screenshot of a headline from the Huffington Post, reading: "Here’s What Happens When Women Refuse to Be Masturbation Sleeves" by Jenny Block.

Women who consent to penis-in-vagina sex are “masturbation sleeves”, apparently. Take a moment to consider just how profoundly misogynistic that statement is. “Masturbation sleeve” sounds like something a pickup artist might call a woman. Surely Jenny Block is just saying what men think? Nope. She makes it abundantly clear that she thinks that of women who consent to PiV, and blames them for everyone else having shit sex.

"The language might sound harsh. But the message couldn’t be any more important. Woman have to stop allowing themselves to be penetrated by men who think that putting their penises into a vagina constitutes sex, let alone pleasurable sex for both parties."

Yes. We need to stop “allowing” it. Like a cock in your cunt? Tough titties, that makes you a sex scab. You’re making sex terrible for everyone else.

The reason I’m not linking to the article is it’s a blatant play for clicks, and it’s also cissexist as all hell. Jenny Block does not understand that vagina does not equal woman: again, much like a misogynist.

What follows in Jenny Block’s article is a peculiar mash of a complete failure to understand basic biology.

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What Block describes here is, quite literally, a vaginal orgasm. An orgasm which comes from stimulating the vagina. Yes, it involves the clitoris, but, specifically, the bits of the clitoris which hang out in the vagina. Going unmentioned are the other bits packed up a vagina which are also incredibly fun to poke and prod, such as the vaginal prostate (g-spot). The vaginal prostate and the internal clitoris can only be accessed by stimulating the vagina, and some people with vaginas can orgasm from this type of stimulation alone, because it’s not just an empty tube, but stuffed with bits and bobs which would have had a reproductive function had the in-utero hormone balance been different, and without a purpose purely exist for funsies.

Do you know who thinks vaginas are simply unpleasurable masturbation sleeves? Misogynists.

Block seems to think it’s a lesbian thing, this rejection of any vaginal pleasure. I beg to differ.

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Ultimately, it’s absurd to be so prescriptive about sex, and what women should and should not do in the bedroom, because we are all built differently and into different things. For example, this thread, from a friend with syringomyelia, who experiences both hypersensitivity and a lack of sensitivity which can affect sex, explains exactly where Jenny Block is going wrong. Likewise, some people choose to have sex for others’ pleasure:

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And, of course, sex shouldn’t just be about orgasms, and framing it as being simply a matter of chasing the orgasm, like Jenny Block does, does no good for people who cannot orgasms, do not orgasm, and enjoy sex nonetheless. Sex is about a lot more than orgasms: it can be about intimacy, about scratching an itch, about working yourself until you’re exhausted. The orgasm is nice, but not essential.

Does Jenny Block think I should stop eating pussy, for example? After all, my mouth contains fewer nerve endings than a clitoris, and I’m not going to orgasm from it. Exactly what sex does Jenny Block recommend, from which everyone can orgasm at once, but nothing goes into a vagina? I can think of maybe three things: 69s, circlejerking and scissoring–none of which I’d really include on my desert island sex list (the first two, I find throw me off my game in both giving and receiving pleasure; the latter I find comically awkward and distinctly Not For Me). So, no thanks, Jenny. I’ll stick with what works for me.

Ultimately, what works for some people in the bedroom doesn’t work for others, and it does nobody any good to stick with the positively medieval notion that the vagina is some empty vessel that is incapable of pleasure. I know for a fact that my own vagina is capable of producing an orgasm with the right stimulation, and that these orgasms are qualitatively different from external clitoral stimulation alone–and I also know that I’m not the only person with a pussy who feels this.

There is no right or wrong way to have sex as long as everyone involved is consenting, and being prescriptive about it does nobody any favours.

Yes, there is undeniably a problem among cis men that too many of them seem to believe a cock in a cunt is enough for pleasure (or the many who don’t even care at all about their partner’s pleasure). However, this is not the fault of those who consent to penis-in-vagina sex: it’s the fault of men being shit at sex, and nobody telling them otherwise. Blaming women for this, as Jenny Block does, gives men a pass. It exacerbates the problem. It does nothing to teach men that every woman they have sex with is going to enjoy different things, and they must learn what’s good for their partner if they are to be passable lovers.

And this goes for everyone–including Jenny Block herself.


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