Author Archives: stavvers

Things I read

Welcome to the exceptionally-late round up. Here are some articles.

Black Lives Matter: Why we #Shutdown Heathrow Airport this morning (Wail Qasim)- A report on the action. Follow UK Black Lives Matter. Twitter FB Vital work.

My feminism will be capitalist, appropriative and bullshit merchandise (Flavia Dzodan)- Flavia coined a very popular feminist slogan, but it’s been appropriated and profited from.

10 things about BDSM and 10 things about better kinky sex (Queer Anarchism)- An exceptionally good short critique of the problems of BDSM, and a move towards solutions.

For Poly Folks Who Desperately Need Autonomy (brute reason)- This meditation on relationship needs, contrary to the title, is probably a must-read for everyone, not just poly people.

Outing gay men on Grindr isn’t journalism. It’s homophobic and dangerous (Huw Lemmey)- A resplendently furious, comprehensive and sadly necessary response.

Hollywood Has Ruined Method Acting (Angelica Jade Bastien)- How the Hollywood style of method acting is absolutely awful.

Why I now stand with Caster Semenya (Madeleine Pape)- An athlete explains how she came round to supporting one of the greatest runners in the world.

A Peek Inside Berlin’s Queer Club Scene Before Hitler Destroyed It (Clayton J. Whisnant)- A little bit of forgotten history.

The Spoon Theory Gave People the Wrong Idea About My Illness (Jennie Smales)- The spoon theory helps some people explain their disabilities, but abled people still get the wrong end of the stick.

Getting Rid Of Clothes I Hated Helped Me Love My Body (Arianna Rebolini)- I did this myself, and for me it worked a hell of a lot better than losing weight.

No Human is Illegal: Immigration raids that treat migrants as criminals are a disgrace (Maya Goodfellow)- Examining the wider context to Byron’s egregious behaviour–hope you’re still boycotting those rip-off burgers though!

Does Marge have friends? (Raphael Bob-Waksberg)- A short twitter poem that made me cry.

A Closed Loop: Sex Work, Violence and Criminalisation (Molly Smith)- Looking at community violence against sex workers, and how it interacts with criminalising the job.

Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates (Julia Serano)- An exceptionally handy guide to what’s really going on.

And finally, have an accidental broadcast of Aziz Ansari subtitles over a nature show, it made me cackle.


Dear Sussex University, remove Lee Salter

Update: Sussex University now say Salter is no longer employed by the university. Good.

Content note: this post discusses violence against women and institutional misogyny

This letter has been sent by email to information@sussex.ac.uk, and to the Vice Chancellor vc@sussex.ac.uk, with the subject line “Lee Salter”

Dear Sussex University,

Sack Lee Salter, effective immediately.

The urgency of this situation calls for a directness some may find uncomfortable.

In your employ is a lecturer named Lee Salter. He has been convicted of beating a woman, a former student. You kept him on, knowing this. You say that he has been suspended from teaching duties, but you have not confirmed this in writing. Can you confirm that he will not be teaching at your institution?

I ask because induction week is fast approaching, and Salter picked his last victim out at an induction day. Will you be taking steps to ensure that Salter will not be able to make contact with any young, vulnerable women during the induction process?

You see, I don’t trust you to take this predator very seriously. You smiled and nodded and advised Salter to be discreet when you learned of his relationship with a student. The woman Salter beat felt as though she had received no support from you. You can’t undo the harms you have already allowed to happen, but you can take steps to preventing them ever happening again.

I believe in rehabilitation, but I believe that the need for women to be safety takes precedence. I have also seen no evidence whatsoever that Salter is in any way rehabilitated: he thinks he has done so little wrong that he is appealing his sentence.

A man who manipulates, coerces and beats woman students over whom he is in a position of power is not someone who should be anywhere near woman students. So it’s really important that we see some evidence that you are taking steps to keep him away from anyone he could possibly victimise. Personally, I think sacking him is the best possible step, since beating a woman shouldn’t be a ticket to indefinite paid holiday time.

I see you, Sussex. We see you. You cannot hide this any longer. Please provide reassurances that you will never put Lee Salter in a position where he can abuse again.


The Great Pussy Bake Off: Cunt Sourdough vs Regular Sourdough

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I’ve been continuing with my experimental baking, and decided to compare a freshly-made sourdough starter containing a sample of my vaginal flora with a control starter that didn’t contain any vaginal yeast. One of them performed really well, and the other… didn’t.

The full report will be published on this blog on September 4th, but if you’re desperate to find out whether vaginal yeast improves sourdough, or makes it inedibly gross, you can read it on my Patreon page–it’s patrons only, but you can access it by pledging as little as $1. Also included in the post is a recipe for quick, simple crumpets!

Read: The Great Pussy Bake Off.


I have revised my opinion of Wikileaks: it’s trash

Content note: this post discusses prison, suicide, transmisogyny, rape and violence against women

A little over five years ago, I wrote an article titled “I think Julian Assange is a rapist. I still like Wikileaks.” As per the disclaimer on my site, my views have evolved. I now think Julian Assange is a rapist and I also think Wikileaks is absolute trash.

Today, it was announced that Chelsea Manning–who was responsible for the leaks which made Wikileaks a household name–faces indefinite solitary confinement or a harsher prison, almost a decade added to her sentence, and she may lose her parole. She faces this as punishment for already having had such a horrible time in a men’s prison that she attempted to take her own life. And of course, she is only in prison in the first place because Wikileaks failed to protect her, despite all their branding suggesting that they would. (AssAngels will at this point go on like she confessed and blabbed to a man Wikileaks already identified as a threat, because I think this is the Assange-approved talking point. OK. Say that’s true. Wikileaks should’ve definitely at the very least briefed her on basic advice: “don’t tell anyone else, and if arrested, don’t confess.” That they didn’t even do this reflects horribly on them).

One would think that a woman facing torture would be a subject which Wikileaks might deem worthy of comment, even if they weren’t responsible for her being in the hands of the torturers in the first place. One would think.

The news broke this morning, and there has not been a peep on the topic from Wikileaks, although their social media accounts and website have been active.

No. Instead, Wikileaks have been focusing on some pretty uninteresting emails showing that political campaigners squabble among themselves and get mean to media outlets–something which a seven year old could have told you. Also, this leak may or may not have been orchestrated by Putin. But don’t worry. This week, Wikileaks have also been leaking information from a country undergoing severe political turmoil! Yeah, like leaking the details of millions of Turkish women at a time when their government is about to aggressively crack down.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that Wikileaks has an agenda, and it isn’t a very nice agenda. It’s a classic, bog-standard, right wing misogynist agenda, much like the governments they claim to oppose.

I should stop using “they” for Wikileaks, to be honest. I’m not convinced Wikileaks consists of anyone else but rat-faced probably rapist Julian Assange these days.

So anyway, mea culpa. I once liked Wikileaks. I now realise it is utter trash. Wikileaks appear to have thoroughly forgotten Chelsea Manning as much as the state who wish to kill her wish the rest of us would.


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”?

He downplays the achievements of Black women (added 4th August)

Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes in the world, full stop. Her achievements resonate even more among Black women, because Serena is a shining example of Black women’s excellence.

What does Owen Smith think about her achievements? He reckons it’s unpatriotic to celebrate the sucess of this outstanding black woman athlete, especially because it detracted from giving cookies to a white man. He reckons it’s ~metropolitan~ to celebrate a Black woman dominating at a sport historically dominated by white people and men. Well, Owen, maybe if you stay away from any city ever, or indeed anywhere with a population of more than one, you too might avoid ever meeting anyone who is inspired by a Black woman sporting idol.

__

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.


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