Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

Hi, everyone. I read things, and then I link the things I found interesting. Perhaps you will also find them interesting.

The Price of Shame (Monica Lewinsky)- Video of Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk, a must-watch.

A short guide for the inclusion of trans, intersex and gender non-conforming youth in the classroom (Assigned Male)- A really helpful guide, in comic format.

Benefit sanctions: the 10 trivial breaches and administrative errors (Patrick Butler)- Fucking devastating.

Having The Option: Alissa Afonina/Sasha Mizaree On Her Case And Being A Disabled Sex Worker- Interview with a disabled sex worker, explaining why sex work is a far better option for a lot of disabled women.

The Mother and the Whore (Juniper Fitzgerald)- Exploring the intersections of sex work and motherhood.

iCare: Facebook and the Business of Suicide Prevention (Aiden Rowe & Robert Stephens)- A conversation about social media methods for suicide prevention.

What about the menz? (sometimes it’s just a cigar)- Exploring what a feminism actually concerned with sex workers’ rights would look like.

Rape victims with petty convictions denied compensation (Frankie Mullin)- This is a fucking travesty.

Getting to the bottom of anal evolution (Andreas Hejnol and Jose M. Martin-Duran)- Ever wondered why are buttholes? Here is the science. Plain language summary here.

Clarkson Agonistes (Tom Ewing)- Analysing the mindset of the Clarkson fan.

And finally, if you miss a good fandom wank, why not join every argument about Buffy ever?


Can we please stop giving JK Rowling cookies over Dumbledore

I have been a Harry Potter fan for more than half my life. Like most Harry Potter fans, I am largely annoyed by the paucities of the source material and have spent probably longer than I should reading and writing fanfic which addresses these huge gaps. And, like most fandom types, I have a tendency of casting a queer eye over the source material and concluding that pretty much everyone is enjoying rampant same-sex relations.

I was surprised, then, when Rowling announced, after the bestselling series was complete, that twinkly-eyed headmaster and creepy child-groomer Albus Dumbledore was the gay character and that obviously he had been in a relationship with naughty miniboss wizard Grindelwald. Really? He was low down on my list of characters who were probably LGBT. There was nary a hint of homosexuality going on in canon. One would have thought, at the very least, Rita Skeeter might have luridly made innuendoes in her scurrilous The Life And Lies Of Albus Dumbledore. 

Rowling has been in the media eating the plates of cookies handed to her over her dealing with a fan who said they couldn’t see Dumbledore as gay. Her response? A variant on the old “gay people are just people” trope. While on the surface this is true, it’s often a cop-out for hetero authors who completely failed to pull off writing a queer character.

Rowling went wrong in numerous places in her portrayal of Dumbledore as a gay character, not least because there is not even a hint of it in the actual series she wrote. It is not sufficient to out a character through word of god after you’ve made your bajillions on the series, when it’s too late for the homophobes to boycott. And when a straight person writes a queer character as “just a person” they are drawing on their own hetero views of what constitutes “just a person”–which is invariably straighter than a Roman road.

The Harry Potter universe is brimming with parts where people’s heterosexual love affects the story. Take, for example, Snape, who did everything he did because he really wanted to bone Harry’s mum but she wasn’t into him because he was a magical racist. Take Voldemort’s parents and the wizard mind-control rape that happened because of a hetero crush. Or how about all the dramatic tensions surrounding Hermione Granger’s love life? Rowling clearly knows how love can drive characters to develop, and propel a plot forward.

And yet all of this is completely absent with Dumbledore. Which is a crying shame, because a gay Dumbledore could have added so many interesting dimensions to the story. How would Harry react to discovering his idol was gay? I’d guess he’d probably be a bit homophobic at first due to his upbringing in suburbia with small-minded types, and then get over it which would be interesting to see. Did Dumbledore and Grindelwald wear their hearts on their sleeves, since the wizarding world is apparently so inclusive according to Ms Rowling, or did they keep their relationship a secret? How did that affect what went down between them? How did Dumbledore feel when his beloved turned evil? Surely that must have hurt his heart, especially when he ultimately had to fight the man he loved. Did Dumbledore ever love again?

Instead, all we get is the same old chate wise magic dude, in the same vein as Obi Wan Kenobi or Gandalf. Canonically, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin appear to have more of a homosexual relationship, because at least they sent Harry a joint present together.

JK Rowling failed at bringing queer content to Hogwarts, and we should stop giving her cookies for this completely invisible representation. For queer content, we’ll have to stick to fandom. I don’t see Dumbledore as gay–because JK Rowling completely failed to write it.


I believe Eleanor de Freitas

Content note: This post discusses rape and suicide

Eleanor de Freitas was just 23 years old when she took her life.

Her story started like far too many others. She reported a rape to the police, and the police said there was insufficient evidence. It’s a script as tired as time: inconsistencies, blah blah blah. Unlike most other cases, though, it deviated radically from the script.

The man accused took out a private prosecution against Eleanor de Freitas. He must have been a rich, powerful man to do this. Her solicitors asked the CPS to stop this spiteful action, but the CPS decided to take it up for reasons which are currently completely unclear.

Eleanor de Freitas was a vulnerable woman, with bipolar disorder. She had been receiving counselling for rape. As soon as the summons came, this support was snatched away. Her mental health grew worse, and her psychiatrist deemed her not fit to stand trial.

Three days before the trial was due to start, Eleanor de Freitas took her life.

Her family would like the CPS to address the questions that they have, although so far this request is being blocked. Why did the CPS think it in the public interest to prosecute a sick young woman? Why didn’t they put a stop to the private prosecution that was quite literally killing her, despite its duty to think these things through? Why did they allow her vital counselling to be withdrawn?

The CPS need to address these questions, and their silence speaks volumes. There is something fishy going on.

I am inclined to believe Eleanor de Freitas, knowing what I know about rape and rape culture. I know that the police are fucking terrible at dealing with survivors coming forward, and don’t understand how the stress from trauma can lead to statements they deem “inconsistent”, because that’s how human brains work. I know that men falsely denying having committed rape is vastly more common than women making up false allegations. I know that society is far more inclined to give the men making denials the benefit of the doubt. I know that women with mental health problems are more likely to be disbelieved, thought to be mad.

I believe Eleanor de Freitas, and I want to know why the CPS helped a man to kill her.

__

Update 24/3/15: Men keep leaving comments explaining why one shouldn’t believe Eleanor de Freitas. I’ve not approved them because men get platforms to spout rubbish in all sorts of other places. Anyway, all of their comments make me believe Eleanor de Freitas even more. Their comments boil down to three threads:

  1. Eleanor’s mental health: as discussed earlier, women with mental health problems are less likely to be believed.
  2. Some CCTV evidence or other showing her in the company of the accused after the alleged rape: so? A lot of survivors end up spending time with their rapists. It’s really fucking common. Read this
  3. They are saying Eleanor de Freitas was a sex worker: again, so fucking what? Whether this is true or not, sex workers can also be raped. In fact, sex workers are another group less likely to be believed. 

In short, these comments remind me of Ched Evans supporters. And we all know Ched Evans did it. Every time I see rape apologism crop up, I believe Eleanor de Freitas even more.


Cyril Smith: Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True

Content note: This post discusses child abuse

The MP for Rochdale raped children. He was aided and assisted by men of his race. He and his paedophile ring procured children from care homes and raped them at parties.

The police were aware of what the MP for Rochdale was doing. They watched the paedophile ring raping children through secret cameras. They gathered a substantial amount of evidence about this paedophile ring, and who was involved, and what they were doing. And yet the police did nothing–worse than nothing. They shelved the investigation, and they threatened police officers who wanted to talk about this paedophile ring into silence.

It is only decades later that we are beginning to hear about this paedophile ring, and the Met are now investigating themselves to see whether they covered it up.

Cyril Smith, former MP for Rochdale and child rapist, was a white man. His gang of fellow child rapists were also white men. Most of the police force are white men, and they exist to protect the interests of white men.

This is hardly the first predominantly white paeodophile ring we’ve heard about, either. Take, for example, the Catholic Church sexual abuse. Most of those embroiled were white. The higher-ups at the Catholic Church are mostly white. And, as with Cyril Smith, we don’t know anywhere near as much as we should about what happened, and how it was allowed to happen, because the authorities are more than happy to cover it up.

We don’t talk about the race of the perpetrators in these paedophile rings because of white supremacy. White supremacy also drives the police to help rather than stop the abusers by keeping a lid on everything. You can’t say anything anymore.

There are things in white culture that help men rape children. White people are instilled with a sense of entitlement from birth, the feeling that if they want something, they can take it. White people are taught to look after their own, to keep each other away from accountability. White people blame anyone but themselves. White people feel as though they can get away with anything–and this is rarely a delusion.

We don’t talk about cases like Cyril Smith in the terms of his race, because this is usually shut down due to white supremacy. The privilege white skin bestows silences these discussions, because white skin is treated as simply “normal”. And yet at least in part, Cyril Smith’s whiteness let him get away with all his life. Same with Jimmy Savile.

White supremacy won’t allow us to associate whiteness with paedophilia, but it’s time we noticed that it is, so we can start to expose the horrors going on that the perpetrators and their chums would rather we didn’t.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

Hi everyone. Let me begin with a PSA. Don’t, for the love of god, drink pina colada. Ever. It’s like an evil scientist tried to create a drink that tastes exactly the same on the way back up as it does to drink. This is why the round-up has come so much later in the day than usual.

Anyway, let’s get on with some links.

Casual Love (Carsie Blanton)- This article articulates so many feelings I’ve had about love and romance which I haven’t been able to articulate and it’s excellent.

Boring (Robot Hugs)- Cute comic about how lovely negotiation is.

The Bad Blood: My Life With Sickle Cell Anaemia (Sara Bivigou)- Beautiful, heartbreaking piece about life with sickle cell.

HIV-Positive LGBT Women Are Discounted, Miscounted, and Uncounted (Jeff Krehely and Tari Hanneman)- Important article about a largely-invisible group.

Beyond Indian Wells: Serena Williams has been consistently disrespected for her entire career (Jenée Desmond-Harris)- Overview of misgynoir aimed at the tennis star.

Queen Sabrina, Flawless Mother (Hugh Ryan)- Biography of a remarkable LGBT hero.

How the Home Office keeps getting it wrong on LGBTQ asylum seekers (Ray Filar)- On the homophobic mess that is the Home Office.

And finally, my friend Elaine is doing a very exciting challenge. She’s visiting every embassy in London while dressed as Carmen Sandiego to raise money for people for whom borders aren’t so easy to cross. Read more and sponsor her here.


In the news this week: cis white men are awful, water is wet

This week has been a week of complete non-surprises.

Today, we’ve seen shocking revelations that Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, is a massive racist who thinks protections against racism should be scrapped. I use the word “shocking” because that’s the word Labour’s press officer used, apparently having not paid any attention to thing this opposition politician has said until today. I doubt anyone who has been following Farage and didn’t learn politics from late night talk radio will be particularly surprised that the leader of the most respectable fascist party is a racist, but the way the media are going on is certainly acting as though this is news.

In other dreadful bigots, Jeremy Clarkson’s been having a less-than-brilliant week. It turns out that a man who has made his fortune saying ghastly bigoted nonsense is a bit of a spoilt brat who punched a producer over not getting a sirloin steak and fondant potatoes (whatever that is) for his tea. Nonetheless, humourless men have been getting their knickers in a twist about his employer’s decision to suspend him, believing a rich man’s right to fondant potatoes to be absolute. I suggest, out of solidarity, they all go and punch their own colleagues in a temper tantrum over dinner.

These two clowns were the obvious awful men, but a special mention goes to Tim Lott, who joins the ranks of Clarkson and Farage in a persecution complex of the dreadful bigot who has noticed the world has moved on past him. Poor Tim is sad because people challenge him when he spouts crap. Poor Tim is so silenced that he is continuing to be paid for parping out the same column for a decade, because ten years ago you also couldn’t be racist about Muslims.

These men are representative of a breed which is, hopefully, dying. They growl and whine that you can’t say anything any more when implicit in their words is the acknowledgement that the world moved on without them. They self-identify as a silent majority, when in fact it’s a small circle of wankers getting paid to be wankers, with a small army of sockpuppets barking like sealions. I am surprised at how few people signed Clarkson’s petition or will vote UKIP, given how this lot seem to imagine themselves as representative of a population.

They’re not, that’s why. They’re a gobby little minority who feel threatened as they awaken to a world that doesn’t want them any more. And that can only be a good thing. I hope it terrifies them.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

Today is International Women’s Day, which means this blog is celebrating its fourth birthday, because I like making things easy for myself. Yay me. Yay women across the world. I’ve changed a lot over the last four years, having learned a lot from reading excellent stuff by brilliant people, so what better way to celebrate this double special day by doing my weekly linkdump?

Living a Lesbian Life (Sara Ahmed)- On lesbian feminism, and why it needs a revival [note: Sara Ahmed isn’t a transmisogynist, therefore this is actual lesbian feminism, not that bullshit trotted out by TERfs]

Someone Tell Me That I’ll Live: On Murder, Media, and Being a Trans Woman in 2015 (Kai Cheng Thom)- This is a heartbreaking read, but very important.

Why Americans Don’t Care About Prison Rape (Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig)- Upsetting article about the magnitude of the problem.

Rape culture: would prison abolition help women? (Josh Kitto)- Exploring issues surrounding prisons and sexual violence.

‘Not a lesbian’: Aderonke Apata and the impossibly high threshold for asylum claims based on sexuality (Jennifer Blair)- Overview of Aderonke’s case, read and share.

Police Surveillance in Britain (piercepenniless)- This is an enormous problem, here’s why.

Power to the people; A post for International Sex Workers Rights Day (Sometimes it’s just a cigar)- ISWRD was also this week, and here’s why it’s important.

Celibacy Challenge (GLAAD)- Fun campaign video against homophobic blood donation regulations, starring the delightful Alan Cumming.

#DearMe: A Letter to My 15 Year Old Self (That Pesky Feminist)- This is cute, touching, and one of my favourites along this meme I’ve seen.

#ThisIsLuv: A Black Bisexual Manifesto (Crystal Fleming)- Touching, passionate and articulating the problems Black bisexuals face.

Who’s Afraid of Call Out Culture? Jerks, Mostly. (Kitty Stryker)- Kitty points out bad faith in a lot of articles about “toxic call out culture”.

The Logic of Whiteness (Ronald A. Kuykendall)- On white constructions of criminality.

Are We Mistaking Feelings for Politics? (Sarah Jaffe)- On the rise of “feelings journalism”.

#blackoutday (Amadi Talks)- Beautiful piece on the necessity of initiatives like #blackoutday.

And finally, my friend Elaine is doing a really cool challenge. She’s going to visit all 170 embassies in London dressed as Carmen Sandiego. She’ll be raising money for refugees and migrants, who can’t travel the world so easily. Donate to this really brilliant project.


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