Author Archives: stavvers

Your especial dislike of Diane Abbott is irrational (and probably racist)

Diane Abbott has once again been The Worst™, having done something a lot of other politicians do and… actually I’m not 100% sure what it was this time, but I think it was a bad TV interview. And, from all sides of the political spectrum, there’s scaremongering about the fact that there’s a possibility she could become Home Secretary.

Some people are openly misogynoiristic about Abbott, and that’s grim. But at least it’s honest. The rest, who like to think of themselves as Nice People™ leap through hoops to try to justify their dislike of this politician, and their irrational opposition to a black woman occupying one of the great offices of state.

It starts with “but she’s not qualified to be Home Secretary!”. That’s an interesting assertion to make. Taking less than thirty seconds on google reveals that her CV presents her as more qualified than most previous Home Secretaries or shadows. Abbott’s career before politics included two very notable roles. She was a civil servant in the Home Office–which is significantly more direct experience of working in the Home Office than most of the others who have held the office. Later, she worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties, which is again a crucial home affairs role. As an MP, Abbott has served on committees pertinent to home affairs. And her track record is reasonably good: even the goddamn Spectator recognised her speech opposing the New Labour government on civil liberties issues with an award for speech of the year! Her voting record on home affairs is all right, and if you’re a Lib Dem who wants to root for a party with a chance of getting into government, she’d probably be your best bet for Home Secretary, because she’s not bad at all on the civil liberties front.

Like I said, this took me all of thirty seconds on google to find. So ask yourself, why didn’t you take those thirty seconds to check? Why did you just assume Abbott was unqualified for the role?

Rather than interrogating themselves at this juncture, usually the goalposts get shifted to “but Diane Abbott isn’t great at TV interviews.” This one is particularly nonsensical coming from Tory voters, in the midst of a campaign riddled with Tory car crash TV interviews, and Lib Dems, whose leader has done a pisspoor job of portraying himself as Not A Homophobe. It’s also not like Labour are particularly excellent at TV interviews either. In short, this is because the TV interview format is generally not designed to make the politician look good. Nobody’s above the car crash interview, and when it’s a politician you like, you’ll generally either ignore it, or claim that it’s media bias. Funnily, such defences never seem to come for Abbott, and it’s assumed she’s given a harder time because she deserves it, because apparently the media and journalists are always flying above racism and misogyny.

This, incidentally, is the same sort of thing that happens with the equally-irrational “but she sent her kids to private school!” Yes, she did. So have other politicians. She’s not even the only one on the Labour front bench who has. Is it good? No. Is she alone in that? Of course not.

So, once we’ve hit the unfair singling out, shit starts to get abstract, and what we usually end up with is a mumbled, vague “her manner isn’t good.” If we interrogate this, it’s almost always one of a few things. Which are almost always rooted in racist stereotypes.

“She’s angry!” Such a common misogynoiristic stereotype, it’s got its own wikipedia page.

“She plays the race card too much!” Again, a pretty common racist stereotype, and not evidenced, considering she’d been an MP for 30 years before she finally spoke out about personal abuse she’d received.

“She doesn’t look like a politician!” Ask yourself. What does a politician look like to you? The answer is, invariably, a possibly-shinyfaced pigfucking public school boy. A white man in a suit. You might extend your vision of a politician to a white man out of a suit. Or a white woman in a suit. Or a black man in a suit. But for some reason, the black woman doesn’t look like a politician to you, with her wig and her black skin, her tendency to sound like she’s black and from London, as opposed to Rodean. Abbott isn’t the only black woman MP to “not look like a politician”. Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, and a black woman, was once mistaken for a cleaner by a fellow MP. And remember how you just assumed Abbott wasn’t qualified for the job?

“I… I just don’t like her.” Fair enough. Maybe you grew up in a vacuum, and your brain just irrationally fixated on this particular MP with your especial dislike.

We’re bombarded with messaging, daily, about what a politician should look like and be like. We’re also bombarded with negative messaging about black women. It sinks in. And it sinks in, even, to people who don’t think of themselves as racist, don’t think of themselves as carrying misogynoir within themselves. But that’s impossibly unlikely, and you’ll only unlearn and unpick it if you start from the statistically-likely assumption that it’s there, in yourself and in other people.

The truth is, Diane Abbott isn’t any less competent than any other politician–in fact, she’s more competent than many. She’s no more awful than any other politician–all of whom are a bad bunch, and she’s one of the ones I have least of an axe to grind with. She’s not bringing the negative media attention on herself, it’s that the media themselves have an issue with a black woman in a position of power; don’t forget they’re very much owned by racist white men. Ask yourself: why are your expectations of Diane Abbott higher than they are for any of your white male politicians? It’s not Diane Abbott rubbing you up the wrong way, it’s that you’re rubbing yourself.

__

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip.


Things I read this month that I found interesting

Bloody hell, has it really been so long since I did a round-up?

Our collective unconscious of violence: on networks and discipline (Flavia Dzodan)- This is fucking great. Just… read it.

Don’t Go to the Doctor (Karma Nalbusi)- Perhaps even more vital to read after the Manchester attacks. The unmitigated disaster of the Prevent strategy.

The engine of irrationality inside the rationalists (Ketan Joshi)- How self-identified rationalists lose all of their sceptical principles when they get a chance to attack women.

My Father Spent 30 Years In Prison. Now He’s Out. (Ashley C. Ford)- A daughter reconnects with her father.

An illustrated taxonomy of queerness and mental illness in film (Ruby Tandoh and Kelly Wroten)- This is one for keeping in your bookmarks and referring to every time the same old representations come out.

The hierarchy polyamorous people don’t talk enough about (Lola Phoenix)- On friendship and relationships.

Malvolia in Yellow: Reflecting on National Theatre’s Twelfth Night (Catherine Baker)- I saw this production a few weeks ago, and my feelings are mostly the same. Malvolia as the queer art of failure.

Heineken’s New Ad Is A Terrifying Sham — And I’ve Lived It Many Times Over (Ruchika Tulshyan)- Cracking open a cold one with fash… doesn’t usually work.

JK Rowling Can Dream of Wizards But Not of a Better Future (Megan Nolan)- The bestselling novellist shows a devastating lack of imagination.

Sex Work Is Inherently Traumatic… (Kit Snicket)- Where the real trauma in sex work lies.

And finally, have some amusing spacing errors.


Sourdough pancakes/blinis… which can be made vegan! (fannycakes?)

If you just want the recipe without the incredibly annoying formatting and story section here, it’s available for patrons!

Content note: this post talks about food 

On a conceptual level, I fucking love pancakes. However, there are numerous things which, when it comes down to it, make me unhappy. They’re a pain in the arse to make, with all the elbow-hurting whisking. You can’t just whip them up when you feel like you want pancakes, because you’re supposed to leave the batter to set for arcane breakfast-mancer reasons. They taste a little bit eggy, and I fucking hate eggs.

Before you leave a comment saying “actually, my pancakes don’t taste eggy”… they probably do, you just don’t hate that kind of eggy flavour like I do.

Luckily, following a little bit of experimentation, I have found a way of turning sourdough starter into delicious, light fluffy pancakes without any of the annoying bullshit outlined above, and I’m going to share the good news with you. The recipe does appear in this post, but if you want to just read the recipe without any of my crap, you’ll find it over on my patreon, where you can also access other cool, exclusive content, with more to come.

Now, sourdough starter is pretty cool, because you can do lots of things with it that aren’t bread–although the bread is tasty as hell. As you probably know, I got into sourdough starter when I made one with a dash of vaginal yeast. It started out as a joke, but I kept the starter going and I’m still using it loads. Not just for bread, but also for more exciting things. Like pancakes.

One of the particularly awesome things about sourdough starter is it’s slightly acidic. This means that it has quite a culinarily-useful chemical reaction when mixed with something alkaline like bicarbonate of soda. I’ve used it, instead of trying to find buttermilk in small metro supermarkets, to make soda bread. I’ve also used the reaction in making crumpets. And, it turns out, really good pancakes without having to resort to eggs. You can have pancakes within five minutes of having decided you fancy them.

I suppose we’d better address the elephant in the room at this juncture. Yes, my sourdough starter is that one. Well, all right, it’s actually a second batch, which also may or may not contain vaginal yeast (I still can’t tell if my yeast did anything, though it certainly performs ever so slightly better than a control, cunt-free starter). I hope the starter will outlive me if it’s well looked-after.

Sourdough starter needs using up regularly between feeds, so this recipe is ideal for when you need to use up 3/4 of a cup of starter. It’s also a great recipe if you’re vegan. While I used goat milk, you can also use any of your favourite milk substitute–I imagine almond milk would be delicious if you wanted your pancakes with a sweet topping–I suppose you could also use regular cow milk, if you’re that way inclined and/or a Nazi.

First things first, you have to water down the sourdough starter somewhat. I keep my starter at 50% hydration, so it’s quite thick, because it doesn’t need feeding as often, and I find it easier to work with. I know a lot of people prefer it runnier at the 100% hydration. If your starter is thick, like mine, you’ll likely need about half a cup of your chosen milky liquid, but if it’s runnier, a third of a cup should work. I chose goat milk, because I like it and it sits better on me than cow milk. It’s also got a nice goaty flavour to it, which makes the pancakes slightly savoury: I ate them with beetroot and quark. Whisk it together until nice and smooth. Luckily, you shouldn’t need to whisk it all that much.

Then it’s time to thicken it up again, by whisking in about a heaped tablespoon of wholemeal flour. Again, this doesn’t take long at all, and is significantly less faff than beating eggs and whatnot. By this point, you’ll have a smooth batter, no matter how hungover you are. I wasn’t hungover when I invented this recipe, but I think it’ll probably turn out to be perfect for hangover breakfasts when only 30 pancakes really quickly will suffice.

At this point, I left the batter for a bit, because I wanted to go for a shower. This step is completely optional, and if you don’t fancy a shower, you can go right ahead and start heating the frying pan.

By the way, I just want to apologise for this profoundly annoying format of this recipe. I have slouched through far too many baking blogs that do this, and I’ve picked up the style. You probably just want the fucking recipe. Well, so far you’ve had most of it: proportions for three of the four ingredients, and the first two steps from a five step method. If it’s pissing you off a lot, I’ll remind you that patrons get just the recipe with a list of ingredients and how to make some fucking pancakes, without this guff. Honestly, I could do with a few more patrons, because I’m quite broke at the moment, and I am planning some cool patron-only stuff that will include bullshit-free recipes, but also very likely, short stories.

Now your batter is mostly made, get the pan on the heat. The reason for this is that the chemical reaction, when you add just half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the batter, is very quick. You’ll want your pan oiled or buttered up and ready to receive pancakes when you whisk in the bicarb. Incidentally, I used goat’s butter for frying. I’d bought it out of curiosity, and it’s delicious. Warning: it does make your sweat smell faintly of goats afterwards, though.

As soon as you whisk the bicarb in, you’ll see your batter turn bubbly. It doesn’t fizz up like a salted slug, but you’ll see those bubbles coming in almost immediately. This means it’s ready. Put small flat blobs of your batter into the pan. In a largish frying pan, I found it possible to do four pancakes at once. They take about thirty seconds each side.

And that’s it. Once you’ve fried up your pancakes, stack them up (or fold them like blinis) and eat with whatever topping you like. They taste almost exactly Scotch pancakes, although they’re a bit lighter, so you can have more than you’d usually have. The texture is also lighter and fluffier. I was genuinely surprised to discover how much they tasted like Scotch pancakes, although without any egginess. As I said earlier, I had mine with beetroot and quark, and tried to eat them like blinis, which was reasonably successful, although it looked somewhat like I’d committed a grisly murder afterwards. I didn’t eat all 30 of them myself, I shared.

Try it for yourself. I promise, it’s really fucking easy and quick.

__

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip.


Things I read

It’s link round-up time!

The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black (Ijeoma Oluo)- This longread is all you need to read about Dolezal, and we never need to hear about her again. It’s also a masterclass in critical interviewing.

The Hostile Environment: turning the UK into a nation of border cops (Corporate Watch)- A comprehensive report on the fucking state of things.

Breastfeeding Is A Beautiful, Terrible Scam (Khadijah Costley White)- A political and personal exploration of the side of breastfeeding often not discussed.

British feminists we need to talk…. (Eleanor White)- Irish abortion restrictions also exist in Northern Ireland. This is a problem we must work together to solve.

Surviving Rape Apologists in the Classroom (Anon)- The impact of rape culture on educators.

Who’s listening? (purplepersuasion)- A story, showing the absurd state of mental health services, and critiquing simple “Time To Talk” rhetoric.

How academia uses poverty, oppression, and pain for intellectual masturbation (Clelia O. Rodríguez)- The problem, and where to go next.

Freida Pinto’s casting as the only lead female character in Guerilla erases women from the history of Black Power (Wail Qasim)- As always with Wail, this is the piece you need to read on the issue.

In Full Sight: ‘The pimp lobby’ at the Amnesty AGM (Frankie Mullin)- Report on a debate at Amnesty AGM, and the abuse hurled at sex workers for their support of safer policy.

And finally, this piece on 2000’s Thong Song is quite something. Straight out of Pseud’s Corner, it also solves the riddle of what “dumps like a truck” truly are.


Tim Farron’s homophobic and anti-choice voting history, in easily-shareable format

Some of my followers asked for this, finding it difficult to share twitter threads or my wider post on why you shouldn’t be fooled into voting Lib Dem.

Now, Tim Farron has done a sterling job of masking his tendencies in his voting record, and votes against the interests of LGBT people, or anyone with a uterus, in a rather sneaky fashion. It doesn’t show up on those basic “this MP is in favour of equality” aggregators, because he covers it up by making himself scarce during key votes, or by voting on amendments. It took a bit of digging to pull the receipts here, and there may be some things I’ve missed. If you think I have, please leave a comment!

During the marriage equality programme back in 2013, Tim Farron voted for several homophobic amendments.

That last one, incidentally, is not dissimilar to a vote back in 2008, where Tim Farron voted to protect homophobic hate as “freedom of speech“. The list of things Tim wanted protected looked incredibly similar to the list of tactics religious homophobes like to use.

Now, let’s have a look at where Tim makes himself scarce. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act brought reproductive and fertility rights to people in same-sex relationships. Tim Farron mostly stayed well away from this, although we know he wasn’t on holiday or in a coma throughout the process, because he voted against laying out a timetable for the bill.

Tim Farron’s general policy towards abortion has been to make himself scarce and abstain or not turn up at all. That’s probably wise, because when he does vote, he votes for reducing the time limit.

So. Be very critical when you see journalists claiming his voting record is fine. They clearly haven’t bothered researching the topic adequately. Tim Farron did a reasonably good job in covering his tracks; to the extent that a follower of mine notes searches for “Farron” and “amendment” has hidden results under the right to be forgotten. Nonetheless, it’s there. And now you have the receipts.

Edit 22/4/17: Beth Granter has assembled a list, containing, more thoroughly, further evidence of anti-abortion and homophobic voting, including pre-abortion “counselling”, and yet more protections for homophobes. Oh, and documents his conspicuous absences on a lot of votes on women’s issues.

__

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip.


Shit I cannot believe needs saying: don’t vote Lib Dem. They caused this mess

Today, I have mostly been wondering if I have slipped into an alternative timeline wherein 2010-2015 never happened, and it seems like a good idea to vote Lib Dem. For pity’s sake, don’t. There are a lot of reasons why this is foolhardy, and I’m going to try to explain it all as non-judgmentally as possible. Unfortunately, because I fell for the Lib Dem crap back in 2010, I’m probably not going to do a very good job.

Before I start, please note that telling you not to vote Lib Dem is not an exhortation to vote Labour. They might be the least harmful option on the table, and you might want to do that for harm reduction, but honestly, if you think “don’t vote for this party” means “vote for this other party”, you desperately need to develop a political imagination.

This general election is not a referendum on Brexit, in the same way that the Leave vote was not a referendum on immigration.

It’s nice to think of general elections as single-issue, but they aren’t. It would be a lovely little bedtime story if voting for the right people stopped the one big bad causing all the other big bads, but that’s not how things work. Brexit, just like immigration, is not the sole cause of every problem in the country.

Would a hard Brexit make things worse? Yes, probably. But this is because the safety net is being stripped away, bit by bit. This was a process that started in 2010, abetted by the Lib Dems. And it is for this reason that another economic crash would hit so many vulnerable people so hard. When jobs disappear, people will have no access to welfare. When the NHS gets worse because of losing staff, it will collapse harder because the Lib Dems opened the door to privatisation. There will be a skills shortage due to a double whammy of escalating border policy already in place, and education being wholly boned. Things are already bad, and without rebuilding what was lost, we will be well and truly fucked. This would happen with or without Brexit: Brexit would only speed it up a bit.

So don’t let yourself be tricked into thinking that Brexit is the only problem facing the country. It isn’t. Think bigger. Much bigger. Think of what will keep us alive to weather this storm, because…

Brexit can’t be stopped, and even if the Lib Dems could stop it, they probably wouldn’t.

The Brexit genie is well and truly out of the bottle. It was a foregone conclusion from June 24th precisely because of media narratives about the will of the people and their curious boner for Nigel Farage. Regardless of who voted for it in the public or in parliament, it would have happened. Triggering Article 50 was simply turning off the life support.

This election is not about whether or not Brexit will happen. It is going to happen. It’s about who will be in charge of the negotiations.

If the Lib Dems gain seats this election, what’s likely to happen is that they will form a coalition government with the Tories again. Let’s cast our minds back again to 2010, the year the Lib Dems don’t want you to mention. While in government, the Lib Dems couldn’t even manage to stop the government from tripling tuition fees. Do you think a party that was incapable of keeping an election promise in 2010 will somehow be able to keep one they made this year for stopping a runaway train? While in government, the Lib Dems shamelessly capitulated to literally everything the Tories wanted. This is why…

The Leave vote was partially caused by the Lib Dems

The Tories and Lib Dems spent five years collaboratively ruining lives and driving the country towards ruin with their “austerity” government. As social security and the NHS were stripped away, and as public services were wrenched into private hands, things got a lot worse for a lot of people. Fingers were pointed, not towards the culprit, but to migrants. If only we had tougher controls on borders, we would be in the land of milk and honey, the Lib Dems concurred with the Tories on (incidentally, the Lib Dem policy on immigration was aligned with the Tories’). The Lib Dems waved through every single austerity measure, impoverishing countless people, while lying to them about the cause of their poverty, and didn’t utter a peep in support of migrants while they were in government. Indeed, they helped Theresa May, as Home Secretary, impose further draconian border measures.

Every time they helped the Tories, they’d claim their naked collusion was political pragmatism.

The impact of austerity and xenophobia surrounding migrants are considered two of the key causes of the Leave vote. The Lib Dems never wanted to stop these major factors, simply to not give people a vote on it. This is because they were complicit with the Tories in creating the social circumstances that led to the Leave vote.

Tim Farron is fuckawful and him and May together would be like 2010 but WORSE. 

If you don’t care about the impact of Brexit (or, in a fantasyland, a land without Brexit where Tory cuts are still going strong), maybe you have a uterus or you’re LGBT.

Tim Farron is devoutly religious. He believes, and I quote, “Abortion is wrong.  Society has to climb down from the position that says there is nothing morally objectionable about abortion before a certain time. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong at any time.” When it comes to anti-abortion legislation, Tim usually makes himself scarce and abstains. I will leave it up to you, uterus-owners, to determine whether that, in any way, constitutes support.

Tim’s also not particularly on the side of LGBT folk. While much has been made of his abstaining on same-sex marriage, it goes beyond this. He teamed up with the more backbenchy, unpleasant Tories, to introduce amendments to same-sex marriage legislation to allow officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples on the basis of their own personal religious beliefs. You may recognise this as exactly the same kind of crap that religious conservatives are pulling in the states.

So, Tim Farron is fairly socially illiberal, and your vote for the Lib Dems would be putting him into coalition with the cartoonishly evil Theresa May. It will be worse than 2010, with Theresa May being granted carte blanche by a homophobe to begin eroding equalities… and pretend that’s political pragmatism.

Edit (20/4/17): I’ve compiled receipts for his homophobic and anti-choice voting record here. It was actually worse than I thought. He voted for many homophobic amendments, and mostly made himself scarce on abortion votes, except voting to reduce the time limit.

You’re not going to listen to me on this anyway, are you?

Look, I was a booby who voted Lib Dem in 2010. People pointed out how awful they were on crucial politics like welfare and immigration back then. I didn’t listen, because I thought of all the nice, shiny things Nick Clegg was emptily promising. So, I strongly suspect none of you will listen to me here, and that’s as much to be expected.

I hate to be a Cassandra here, but the Lib Dems aren’t going to fix jack diddly shit, as much as you’d like them to. They’d likely make things worse for a lot of us. What you will get with a Lib Dem vote is a tax haven Britain, at the expense of the poor: you may recognise this as basically the same as the Tory vision. Having or not having the social safety net is the issue which will hit real people harder than a Brexit of any degree of tumescence. So go against the dogma, and think bigger than Brexit. Despite what the news would have you believe, there’s a hell of a lot more pressing issues.

__

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

It’s round-up time again!

Waking into Dream (Roz Kaveney)- This collection of poems isn’t out yet, and you need to help make it happen. Roz is a gifted poet writing on art and love and transness and sex and death and queerness, and she’s excellent. Order your collection in advance, you won’t regret it, unless you don’t like nice things.

Anti-Trans ‘Free Speech Bus’ Tour Ends in Total Failure (It’s Going Down)- A report on how militant tactics won out in organising against bigotry.

Docs not Cops: New policy transforms NHS workers into border guards (Sara Mohtaseb)- Looking at what NHS workers have been reduced to, what’s being done to organise against this, and how you can help stop it.

Introducing: Teaching Resources (Against Borders for Children)- Resources for people who work with children and young people, for teaching about anti-racism and migration.

Dear Legislators, Gender Transitions Are Not One-Size-Fits-All (Lonna Dawson)- While trans care pathways are improving, there’s a lot to be done and a lot of assumptions being made. This article explains the issues.

Erika Moen, cuckolding, and the casualties of “Oh Joy Sex Toy” (Literal Shipley)- I’m not familiar with the specific context here, but this article hits upon many problems within sex-positive media, which urgently need addressing.

And finally, forget that broadcast interrupted by the talking head’s kids. This one is much better because it involves a cat.