Monthly Archives: June 2013

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Yeah, that. (oh god I have a hangover oh god oh god)

MLH On Racism (Lauryn Hill)- Everything you ever need to read about racism.

Left for dead (Automnia)- On why the left is dead. Uncomfortably brilliant analysis.

You’ve had your anti-hipster fun, now get organised. (bidrohi blog)- Yeah, we were all grossed out by an egregious example of hipster gentrification. Now do things.

History Lesson: what happened when Canada enacted a feminist anti-porn law? (Glasgow Sex Worker)- Bad things. Bad things happened. Remember.

Why is sterilisation still being forced on transgender people? (Marie le Conte)- A reminder of a generally shitty situation for trans people.

The Equal Marriage Act and transgender rights. The prejudice below. (image not available)- Another reminder.

Your Body Is A Market (gaelick)- On why Dublin Pride is quite, quite terrible.

Sex work and stigma (Laura’s Diary)- On the stigma associated with sex work.

Pride (anonymous)- A heartbreaking first-person account of exactly what that stigma can do to a person.

The WHO stats tell us the extent of violence against women. Now what are we going to do about it? (sian and crooked rib)- VAWG. Still shockingly, but unsurprisingly prevalent.

Call things by their proper names (zetkin)- Everything you need to read on feminism and porn.

And finally, here’s a really angry baby genet and a possibly-murderous baby quoll.


We need to talk about rape, “deception” and trans people

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence and systematic transphobia

The Court of Appeal has codified into UK law that trans people who do not disclose their trans status could be considered sex offenders. For full commentary and exploration of this ruling I urge you to read this whole post on Complicity, but to summarise:

The judgement goes on at length beyond this and is also concerned with the accuracy of legal advice given, but there appears to have been some doubt as to how aware M was about the gender situation. Given they were both teenagers, possibly confused about sexuality and on one side gender, this perhaps isn’t surprising.

Essentially it goes on to say that although the burden of proof is with the prosecution, if you’re trans and out yourself to someone prior to any sort of sexual act – even touching – then it would be best if you can prove it, in case they (or their parents) later try to prosecute. A Gender Recognition Certificate would, I hope, be a defense – but having read the judgement, I’m not certain.

Quite how you prove you told a partner without outing yourself to all and sundry, putting yourself at risk of physical violence, loss of employment, homelessness etc is not addressed in the judgement.

As zoeimogen points out on Complicity, similar precedents do not exist for not disclosing, for example, marital status. They do not even exist for not disclosing whether or not one has HIV. It is a really, really bad ruling with potentially horrifying implications for the trans community. It creates a climate of fear, a hostile environment. Ultimately, it means that if a trans person is raped by a cis person, the cis rapist could turn the tables and declare that actually their survivor was the rapist for not disclosing.

If you think this is some kind of exaggeration, I invite you to look around the world to see other examples of how legislation has been set up to stop trans people from being able to seek justice through legal channels, and cis people claiming trans people are rapists. In Singapore, in the US, in Sweden, in India where they recently rewrote their rape laws so only cis women could be raped. They are legislating away the possibility of a group of people–already more vulnerable to rape–to be raped.

This is common, and this is systemic. It grows from a combination of factors making it sadly inevitable. The general attitude of dehumanisation towards trans people. The notion that it is genitals that are gender. That “trans panic” is considered a valid defence. The insistence that trans people are some sort of intruder and deceiver, sneakily infiltrating the dominant cis supremacist order. And yes, we cis feminists are complicit in this. When trying to make change, we sometimes forget our trans sisters, accidentally throwing them under the bus. Then there’s the actively bigoted feminists, who want to see this happen. It’s not just feminists, generally social justice activists are very poor on remembering that trans people exist, and bigoted when they do.

Tomorrow, the Pride celebrations are going on in London. Ostensibly a celebration our pride in being LGBT, the whole thing is built on a history of throwing trans people under the bus. The role of trans women in kicking off the Pride movement is all but erased from memory, and tomorrow we shall be celebrating the passage of the UK same sex marriage law which throws trans people under the bus.

We look away, far too often, but for trans people the option of looking away is not there. And if we are to make things right, we must not look away. We must look and talk about these horrors, because our silence has allowed them to grow and grow. We must address cissexism, within ourselves and within society. We need to talk about this ruling, because it is an entirely logical extension of a system that many of us have unwittingly contributed to. We must look, and we must work to unpick every thread which wove this vile cloth.

We need to talk about all of this, because it is not OK.

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Thanks to @metalmujer for the links to worldwide instances of similar cases.

ETA: some shit I’ve cocked up on. Link to what I did wrong. Unedited post in the interest of honesty and transparency.


All undercover cops are a special kind of bastard

All over the news today is the revelation that undercover police were instructed to infiltrate and smear the family and supporters of murder victim Stephen Lawrence in order to discredit them. It seems the porcine party had a precarious problem: everyone had noticed they were massive fucking racists for completely failing to investigate a racially-motivated murder. Rather than deal with the increasing mound of excreta accumulating in their lair, they felt it might be somewhat easier to try to ruin the lives of a grieving family in the hope that they’d shut up, or the public would stop listening to them.

Of course, this putrid plan failed to work out as well as the cops would have liked, but thanks to all sorts of other dicking around and failing to do anything, it still took the best part of two decades to achieve anything resembling justice (and even that was inadequate). This heel-dragging is par for the course, an attempt to make people forget just how awful they are.

Undercover policing in a particularly vicious and especially bastardly category of policing. While most policing relies on the use of physical force–or threats of physical force–to coerce, undercover policing is a more insidious beast, an emotional violation. The undercover cop slips in, distorting reality around himself, fucking shit up from the inside and selling the secrets of those whose trust he stole.*

It is not just grieving families these bastards decide to worm into. It is absolutely anyone who stands against the social order the state would prefer to silence. Eight activist women from various projects are currently taking legal action against the police as undercover police slipped in and insinuated their way into a position of trust by engaging in romantic relationships with them. They were tricked into sex, into pregnancy by liars who were tasked with gaining information on them and their friends.

All of this was found out after it had happened, after it had been happening for years. Who knows how many other women were abused in this fashion? Who knows how many other groups of people who made the terrible error of dissenting the status quo have been infiltrated in such a fashion?

And the effect of knowing all this has an impact, and it is one which I don’t doubt that the police had hoped for. Sometimes it makes us paranoid. Sometimes there’s a little shadow of concern, it becomes a little harder to trust our comrades, just in case they, too, are police spies. It can make activist circles exclusionary and cliquey, because of rightful safety concerns. Undercover policing is a violation which ripples throughout a community.

Make no mistake. This has not stopped, and it will not stop in the near future. If you listen closely, you can hear the echoes from the future of all of this happening again and again. We don’t hear about it very often, because they hide it well. It’s rare the covers get blown. We must just be vigilant, and not let the bastards keep getting away with it. Let the face of every undercover cop discovered be distributed far and wide so they cannot abuse again. Support campaigns like that for women victims of undercover police.  Be critical of the police as an institution, and the role that they serve; not just undercover, but in all they do. And never, never let them get away with it.

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*Using he/him pronouns here because in all the cases that came to light, those were the pronouns used. Also, the pigs still have a massive gender problem because they’re an oppressive institution.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

You know what this post is about. I have a hangover.

Finite Human Resources (The Year of Living Precariously)- On that bollocks about having to smile at work, except actually much more than that.

The fruits of our Labour? Resisting health and education privatisation in the UK (Peter Pannier and Brixtonite)- Articulate explanation of why the Labour Party are shit and it’s a waste of time to try to reclaim it. Send it to your Labour friends, if you’re still friends with any of them.

Keir Starmer’s Obscene Solution (ObscenityLawyer)- Really important read on some new guidelines which could ultimately make sending a direct message about bondage illegal.

It’s not about me (Sam Ambreen)- Another fab one from our Sam.

Are straight actors in gay roles the new blackface? (Christopher Kelly)- Ignore the title, it doesn’t actually argue that, although blackface comparisons are always problematic as hell. Thought-provoking piece on the hollowness of casting straight actors in gay roles.

Schizophrenia, forced treatment, and gender (The Fementalists)- A discussion of why gender needs to be factored in to mental health care.

And finally, what the inside of my head looks like.


Kickstarter and accountability

You know how Kickstarter were hosting funding for that godawful book which amounted to “how to be, at best, a vile creepy misogynist”? Social media was ablaze with ire, because, well, it was really fucking wrong.

Kickstarter has finally acknowledged this and published a fairly detailed apology aptly entitled “We were wrong“. Because they were, and they know it. And that knowledge was thanks to every single person who called them on this bullshit. Kickstarter have decided to change their policy on the basis of the negative reaction to their hosting this project, and will now no longer host those things which the vile creepy misogynists like to call “seduction guides”. Although the money has all already been transferred from some vile creepy misogynists to other vile creepy misogynists, Kickstarter have decided to donate $25000 to a rape support charity as a gesture of “holy fuck, we fucked up here.”

It’s a gratifying case study in call-out culture, with a few interesting points to note. Firstly, the project wasn’t pulled due to time restrictions. While social media permits instant accountability, unfortunately we are often up against organisations with the turning circle of the Titanic. This does not mean we should go easy on them for being glacial in their response, it just means that we shouldn’t expect instant results. Which a lot of us don’t anyway. Hell, a lot of us don’t expect any sort of fucking result. This means that damage cannot necessarily be instantly undone. Again, this is less our problem and more those who we hold accountable.

It does suck that this vile creepy misogynistic project got itself funded, due to the way that Kickstarter is structured. It sucks a lot. On the plus side, due to the vast negative publicity–a book so vile and creepy and misogynistic that it forced Kickstarter to change its policy–that it may not do as well as it should have. Certainly, I can see some vile creepy misogynists trying to buy the book to make some sort of point about WAAAH CENSORSHIP (spoiler warning: it’s not censorship. It’s good business sense), but for the most part, I can’t see distributors touching this fucking thing with a bargepole now.

Overall, I think Kickstarter have reacted well to the criticism levelled at them, although I’m sure they’ll forgive me for keeping an extra sharp eye on them to check if they really have changed. They’ve acknowledged the errors of the past, understood what it was they did that was wrong, and taken steps to ensuring it happens again.

I’ll be honest. It’s put me in such a good mood I’m even being charitable to all the vile creepy misogynist backers, and am therefore not calling them “wannabe rapists”.


Dick of the day: Roy Greenslade (and his apologist ilk)

I’ve been fairly quiet on the pictures of Charles Saatchi assaulting Nigella Lawson for a number of reasons. I feel like it’s a grotesque invasion of privacy, and that Nigella’s silence on the matter indicates that she probably doesn’t want these details of her life and marriage being discussed everywhere.

However, a lot of journalists haven’t been anywhere near so cautious, nor respectful. Our Ur-bellend here is some Guardian hack named Roy Greenslade, who yesterday decided to shit on an iPad and call it a column. Dear Roy urged us caution in interpreting what had happened, that we shouldn’t “rush to judgment”, as a picture of a man with his hands around a crying woman’s throat could have a number of different explanations (none of which Roy actually bothered providing). Oh, and also it’s totally OK to print those pictures because after all, it happened in public so it’s not, like, breaking any laws or anything. Then, to back up his non-argument, Roy edited the piece to include some quotes from the Evening Standard who, for some reason, thought it appropriate to run an interview with Saatchi letting him explain away what happened as a harmless tiff.

Self-satisfied, and throwing away a semen-encrusted sock, Roy declared that the whole incident must have been so embarrassing.

Less than a day later, Roy looked like even more of a dickhead than he had previously shown himself to be, and taught us all a cautionary tale in why in stories like this “keeping an open mind” is synonymous with “siding with an abuser”. See, contrary to Roy’s assertion that the police were uninterested in the event, Charles Saatchi was given a caution, which is a thing lawyers tell you to accept when you’ve really fucked up and probably don’t stand a chance in defending yourself in court.

So Roy pulled down his pants and began straining over the iPad again. Apparently his denial of the possibility of abuse was not that, and people had just interpreted it as such! Apparently–oh, ho, ho!–rather than Saatchi and Nigella being embarrassed, he should be! Apparently he only dismissed the idea of abuse because he is Nigella’s friend! Apparently up is down and left is right and there’s a few Vikings riding round on dinosaurs outside which is probably definitely not a portent of anything!

And of course, Roy isn’t the only dickish commentator to have denied or trivialised abuse. Most of the press has excitedly splattered the Evening Standard’s interview with Saatchi everywhere. A lot of commentators have articulated similar views to Roy. They’re all wrong, and they’re all thorough dickwhistles.

Yet this whole cycle of bullshit was woefully inevitable, precisely because this idea of “keeping an open mind” when it comes to violence against women and girls means that survivors are not believed. That it is apparently reasonable to doubt that men are capable of perpetrating this, despite the fact that it is hideously common. That the voice of the perpetrator is the one that we ought to hear and believe unquestioningly as it backs up our prejudices, backs up our bedtime story that violence against women and girls is something which is rare.

So of course the reaction has been shit, and I doubt it will get any better. Perhaps it will swing to a paternalistic, cloying form of pity which is steeped in benevolent sexism. Perhaps it will rumble on in its current form. What will not happen is precisely the thing which should happen–respect for what Nigella Lawson wants, and unconditional support if that is what she needs.


Rape porn: a ban is not the answer

Content note: This post discusses rape

There have been a fair few debates about rape porn since campaigners have called for it to be banned. It is a thorny topic, and one where, unfortunately, a lot of people are saying some dodgy shit.

One of the biggest problems with this conversation is everyone seems to be talking at cross-purposes about what rape porn actually is. As far as I can unpick from the original statements, the campaigners have been talking about porn with simulated rape scenes, rather than filmed images of rape and abuse. The latter is already highly illegal, and I cannot in good conscience refer to what that is as “rape porn”, much as I wouldn’t refer to images and video of child abuse as “child porn”. To do otherwise completely elides the nature of what it really is: a cinematic trophy of a violation. There is nothing defensible about such double vi0lations: the rape, and then the publicising it.

Rape porn, the simulated stuff, is distinct from this, as it can be consensual. I am not saying it always is, as goodness knows there can be a terrible attitude towards workers’ rights in the porn industry which is something that needs tackling (and cannot be tackled with stigma towards the work that they do. When it is not consensual, it falls under the category above). However, it can be consensual. In private life, people explore rape fantasies fully consensually. In porn, this fantasy is also explored, and porn performers are perfectly capable of consenting to the work they do, about as much as anyone is capable of consenting to anything under capitalist patriarchy.

But what of the audience? As Emily Rose points out, it’s not just rapists who get off on rape porn. And does rape porn really contribute to a culture of normalising rape more than anything else? I am not so sure: part of the way rape porn is packaged is often with the hook that this is wrong, and this is taboo, and that is what is supposed to make it sexy. And yes, of course, our culture is steeped in rape, a background drone of violence and a dismissal that any of it is a problem. I am not sure why the focus of this campaign is on porn with simulated rape: why single this out when one cannot turn on the TV without seeing rape everywhere, when one cannot load up the internet without seeing jokes about rape, when one cannot walk through Bloomsbury without seeing posters advertising a conference organised by rape apologists? I do not see why there is more of an objection to people getting off on fantasies about rape rather than laughing about it, rather than trivialising it, rather than dismissing it as an entirely normal part of sex. Sexual violence is fundamentally about an expression of power rather than the sex itself.

I am not suggesting we should ban all of these things along with rape porn. Sadly, things will never be as easy as a simple demand to ban this or that. It changes nothing, it just pushes it out of sight. Furthermore, bans on specific types of porn do little to actually stop it from happening. The first porn I ever saw, when I was wee and the internet was a newfangled thing to have in one’s house, was of a man having sex with a cow. This is illegal in the UK, but it was quite literally the first thing I stumbled upon when I went looking for porn. The way that the bans are deployed to often as a weapon against people society doesn’t much like anyway. The queers and the  kinksters and the porn performers themselves. For a fine example of this, look no further than the recent fisting trials. So I am highly dubious that a ban would do anything to solve the problem of cultural acceptance as rape, and, if anything, may exacerbate problems for those who society would rather look the other way from anyway.

So what might work instead? My ultimate solution is the same as ever, and the one which is unpopular among liberals: we need that fucking revolution. Capitalism, rape culture, patriarchy, they all need to go. I understand that this might take a while, so I also have a transitional demand.

When people play with power dynamics, negotiation is utterly crucial. A conversation beforehand about what everyone involved wants, what their boundaries are, a safeword when “no” and “stop” are to be ignored. These are measures which are vital for safety of everyone playing, but they are also pivotal in helping everyone involved enjoy the scene as such negotiation ensures that people are getting what they want. Often, BDSM porn features an interview with the participants before and after, talking about what they want and what they enjoyed about the scene. Sometimes, the process of negotiation is shown.

Showing this process of negotiation would go far to mitigate some of the problems within porn. And not just in the edgy BDSM porn, but to extend this practice to vanilla porn. To normalise the process of negotiation and enthusiastic consent by embedding it in the porn we watch. For the stuff wherein non-consent is the fantasy, this can go at the beginning. And in vanilla porn, wouldn’t it be nice to see the ongoing process of enthusiastic consent through communication during sex? The performers could decide what they would and would not like to do, and we would all be party to this dialogue and begin to use it ourselves.

And then we smash everything, because that revolution still needs to happen.

Further reading:

Rape Porn: Rapists by Proxy? (Musings of a Rose)
Is the rape porn cultural harm argument another rape myth? (Obscenity Lawyer)
Why I can’t support the “ban rape porn” campaign (TheSazzaJay)