Author Archives: stavvers

An open letter to Rape Crisis South London from a devastated survivor

Content note: This post discusses rape and transmisogyny

Dear Rape Crisis South London,

I’m at work today. I’m supposed to be working, but I can’t. My hands are shaking, and a knot in my guts twists about itself as I veer on the edge of vomiting. My head is full of thoughts of things my rapist said and thought, things I’d worked hard to believe aren’t true about me, things that aren’t true about anyone–or at least shouldn’t be.

Some years ago, you helped me get on top of the violent chattering in my mind and the sickness pervading my body. You were there for me, and you helped it stop hitting me like this.

So it’s horrifically ironic that it’s you, Rape Crisis South London, who are responsible for throwing me right back into this state.

You hit me with a blindside–it feels like it was hours ago, days ago, weeks ago, like I’ve always been like this–a mere half hour ago:

RapeCrisis SthLondon on Twitter   @stavvers Hi Zoe. Have you considered choosing to apologise for this  You can hold yr point   rage   also respect for survivors speaking out

It was in response to a string of tweets of mine from a few days ago. A deeply transmisogynistic article had come out, and I’d spoken out against it as a survivor. I said:

Storify link

After demanding an apology from me, Rape Crisis South London, you decided to pretend like both sides were in the wrong.

RapeCrisis SthLondon on Twitter   @stavvers Hold onto your rage and your point Zoe. Both are important. But all survivors deserve respect. You   Rachel. You have a choice.

Yet I don’t see you going after Rachel Hewitt. I don’t see you demanding an apology from someone who thinks in the same way as my rapist. I only see you going after me, the Bad Survivor.

You’ve made it clear, Rape Crisis South London, who you prioritise in your help, and it’s not women like me. Women like me can be thrown to the wolves to protect the hurt feelings of bigots and transmisogynists. You don’t mind rage of survivors, as long as it’s rage directed at vulnerable women, rather than rage directed at those who exhibit exactly the same pattern of logic as rapists.

I feel myself growing stronger as I write this, because a lot of survivors, trans women and trans women who are survivors (which is a fucking big overlap, if you’ve done your research) have got in touch with me, and they feel the same as me. And the way I deal is I take their pain with mine and I scream and shout about the lies you’re supporting in demanding an apology for me.

Rape is not something that springs into being due to the presence of a penis. It’s a choice a rapist makes. In supporting the transmisogyistic line that a penis is some sort of magically-guided rape missile, you’re letting rapists get away with it. My rapist claimed he couldn’t help it, and you taught me that yes, yes he could. It’s devastating to see you taking a U-turn on this.

Genitals don’t matter, it’s obsessing over others’ genitals that’s creepy. My rapist viewed me as a walking pussy. A lot of other survivors I’ve spoken to have had the same experience. So I find it really disturbing that you are implicitly supporting the transmisogynistic line that genitals should dictate who should and shouldn’t be allowed in women’s space. I don’t want to be around people who are thinking about what’s in my pants. I find it terrifying that you would prioritise having creeps who do in survivors’ spaces over women who are more likely to experience rape and sexual assault.

Our trans sisters need our help. Let’s fucking give it to them if we’re serious about tackling male violence.

Survivors shouldn’t have to apologise for anything. Once again, you taught me this, when I felt bad about feeling angry and upset at seeing my rapist’s reasoning everywhere and reacting to it. Pretending a valid emotional reaction to someone reducing you down to your genitals is something to apologise for is…yep, you’ve guessed it, something my rapist did. So yes, it fucking hurts like fuck to see you turning around on this.

I say these things so they will sink in to me and I can believe them too, after the huge setback you provoked this morning. I know them to be true, and I know they will break through and become truths to me once again as this triggered feeling passes.

Meanwhile, I want something positive to come from this destruction of me this morning. I offer my hand, sincerely, in helping you to avoid hurting survivors in this way again, because it’s not just me who feels this way. I will come in and talk to you, I will work with you on these topics. I offer my hand in friendship, because I feel like you were integral to helping me recover, and I don’t want to see you slip under and become an organisation that does more harm than good.

Before that can happen, I need to know that you’ve read this and understood it. I need to know that you’ve realised you’ve fucked up quite seriously. From there, perhaps we can heal. I’d like for that to happen, because it would help me heal, too.

Update 11.13am 2/3/15: RASASC_London have offered to engage by telephone. I’ve replied that this isn’t possible for me, and asked them to send me an email. I await their response.

13.30 2/3/15: RASASC and I have arranged to discuss this issue this evening by email. I will keep you abreast as to how it goes.

18.30 2/3/15: I was emailed by the tweeter from RASASC opening the lines of communication. She offered a heartfelt apology which I accept. Right now, I’m holding off replying fully because I want my thinking to be clear. I’m also aware I have decentred the issue of transmisogyny in support provision onto myself, and I want to talk to trans women about the problem and what you want to happen. If you’re a trans woman survivor, please email me with your thoughts. Thank you, everyone.

3/3/15, 10.30: I received another email from RASASC which makes me less optimistic, reiterating their demand that I apologise. RASASC also tweeted the text of yesterday’s email, again publicly demanding that I apologise. I have storified my response in tweets to this. I am very disappointed that this has happened, especially given how positive I felt yesterday. I am still clinging on to hope that this can be resolved, and that resolution must include justice for trans women survivors.


Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

I do mean to do these round-ups weekly, you know. Anyway, I have some excellent links for you, so sit down and enjoy.

Sex redefined (Claire Ainsworth)- Nature examines the science of biological sex. Read this article and bookmark it for when someone is chatting crap.

It’s Time To Talk About Why Our Young People Turn Against Their Country (Chimene Suleyman)- Addressing the issues the white media have been completely ignoring or spinning through a lens of racism.

I Dated Christian Grey: How Women Are Groomed For Abuse (Samantha Field)- Explaining neatly why 50SOG is so dangerous.

You are oppressing us! (Sara Ahmed)- Truly amazing article about free speech and those who shriek about it.

Freedom of speech: not what you think it is (Eve Livingston)- A student feminist explains no platforms.

Real work (Sometimes it’s just a cigar)- A quick overview of the absurd argument put forward that online activism isn’t “real”.

Excluding Transgender People Doesn’t Make Anything Safer For Anybody (Sarah Thomasin)-  Very good piece on “female-only spaces”.

Chelsea racists are a distraction from a much bigger problem (Sam Ambreen)- Sam talks about the face of British racism.

‘Latin American women in the UK need this domestic violence refuge. Why are we facing closure?’ (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- The only refuge run for and by Latin American women faces closure. Read about why it’s so important.

Want more sex crime? Send more kids to jail (Lorraine Atkinson)- Important read on the evidence surrounding young people in prisons.

Transgender Elders Show Us the Meaning of Survival- A beautiful set of portraits.

Honoured bodies- In memory of Leonard Nimoy, here’s some of his photographs of fat women, which are gorgeous.

And finally, here’s some cats teaching tiny versions of themselves how to cat.


The Bruce amendment is dead… for now.

Fiona Bruce’s “Trojan horse” amendment has been shot down. I am filled with gush of relief which rushes through me after the latest immediate threat to my reproductive rights is disabled, but, as always, it is edged with fear about what will happen next. What happened yesterday wasn’t a victory, but rather holding the pitiful patch of ground we have staked out.

201 elected representatives voted in favour of restricting abortion rights. That’s a substantial chunk of the House of Commons, and their triumph was only thwarted by the hard work of Abortion Rights in mobilising a resistance and getting enough MPs to show up and vote against it.

Those who voted against it read like a rogue’s gallery of The Worst. The scumbags, the shitweasels, and the repeat uterus-botherers. Nadine Dorries voted for it gleefully, of course. That horrid UKIP cocknozzle who just got himself elected voted for it. Dominic Grieve, Christopher Chode Chope, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Oliver Letwin, Mark Harper, arseholes all. More chillingly perhaps, the health minister Jeremy Hunt wanted to exercise greater control over reproductive rights. Theresa May, the racist Home Secretary also unsurprisingly voted for something which would have ultimately turned out to be racist in its execution. Noted creep Nigel Evans is also on there, presumably he cannot resist barging his way into other people’s bodies. And of course, David Blunkett, who I hope is feeling really sad. The full list is here–is your worthless fuck of an MP on it?

A lot of those in favour of uterus-peeking are repeat offenders, those who seek to gain control over our bodies by any means necessary. However,it could have gone a lot worse. This amendment was framed as a way of saving women, playing upon a white saviour complex. It almost sucked a lot of people in. Fiona MacTaggart, who was well into this narrative until people started talking about how this was a terrible idea shed light on the situation in the debate:

I speak as one of the 13 MPs who co-sponsored the original ten-minute rule Bill of the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). I did that because I think she was right to make people aware that sex selective abortion is illegal, and I thought her Bill was a powerful and good tactic to do that. However, I feel a bit as though I have been pulled along by a Trojan horse because, as the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) said, the new clause confers the status of an unborn child on the foetus, and that radically changes our abortion laws in a way I believe is dangerous.

As I said in an earlier intervention, clauses 73 and 74, which deal with coercive behaviour, contain a powerful tool that we should use to prevent the kind of coercion to which the hon. Member for Congleton referred. In those references she quoted extensively from an organisation based in my constituency, but personal experience of how that organisation has failed to help individual constituents has led me to the conclusion that it is not possible to depend on the accuracy of what it says. I am therefore concerned that we are using anecdote from an unreliable source to make legislation on the hoof.

Having supported the hon. Lady’s original ten-minute rule Bill, I have since read something from an organisation in America that is closely linked to the all-party pro-life group that she chairs. The head of that group stated:

“I propose that we—the pro-life movement—adopt as our next goal the banning of sex…selective abortion. By formally protecting all female fetuses from abortion on the ground of their sex, we would plant in the law the proposition that the developing child is a being whose claims on us should not depend on their sex…This sense of contradiction will be further heightened among radical feminists—”

I think he means people like me—

“the shock troops of the abortion movement. They may believe that the right to abortion is fundamental to women’s emancipation, but many will recoil at the thought of aborting their unborn sisters.”

Now, MacTaggart has a track record for wanting to rescue women, with her views on sex work leading to attempts to bring the dangerous Swedish model into law (in fact, she attempted to sneak her horrible views in using exactly the same strategy as Fiona Bruce: by tacking it in as an amendment to a bill), as well as co-sponsoring another effort to criminalise reproductive freedoms in collaboration with Bruce.

What we can draw from the affair is this: it’s incredibly easy for the right to seduce with a narrative of saving women. It’s very easy to become carried away with it. This seems to be a new tactic for those who seek to invade our bodies and it is potentially a very powerful one. I will be wary and vigilant at all times.


Captive audiences and borrowing publicity tactics from a shitty film nobody wanted to watch

Content warning: This post discusses transmisogyny and whorephobia, as well as mentioning some well-known perpetrators of these forms of oppression

Yesterday’s Observer carried a letter, signed by over a hundred people, complaining about the use of no platforms and generally questioning authority. The letter was full of myths and misdirection, which Sarah Brown has dispelled, and it’s shameful that the Guardian-Observer decided to publish without even the most basic fact-checking.

The letter, and the politics behind it, have been thoroughly demolished by Sara Ahmed, and I strongly recommend you read her article in its entirety, because she’s taken it down so completely that I don’t need to repeat much here. I wish simply to add some things that have struck me about the letter and its signatories.

I find myself repeatedly drifting back to the publicity surrounding the film The Interview. The film looked awful, and therefore there was little interest in it, right up until Sony announced they were pulling it because of some nebulous reasoning surrounding North Korea. At this, people who had shown no interest in a film they hadn’t seen sprung into action, screaming FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Shortly after, the film was released, and made available on Netflix, turning a certain flop into a cash cow.

We know that Kate Smurthwaite’s show was similarly cancelled largely due to poor ticket sales: Goldsmith’s Comedy Society said only eight people had booked to see the show. Since the cancellation of the show, Smurthwaite has been on Newsnight bemoaning her plight, and columns have been written, and connections have been forged among the media class. Had the show gone ahead, Smurthwaite might have mildly amused eight people for an evening. Its cancellation, on the other hand, has made her a star because FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

Likewise, two of the signatories who are well known for being violent transmisogynistic bigots* have been publicising an event they are putting on off the back of this letter. And guess what the theme is? How no-platforms are evil and bad.

Bluntly put, crying CENSORSHIP and framing issues as a precious FREEDOM OF SPEECH concern can be fairly good publicity, as it means that contrarians will be more likely to go and see something objectively crap to spite a shadowy conspiracy of possibly-imaginary enemies. I predict that Bindel and Yardley will do a fake-out cancellation of their event at some point before it takes place because the lure of this tactic is so strong.

The other point I noticed about the signatories is their roles. The signatories fall under three broad strands of career: academics, paid campaigners and journalists. All of these careers are fairly used to what I would call a captive audience. The journalists write their columns and it’s there, it’s published, and if you’re reading the newspaper it’s in, you’re probably going to have to read it, or if you’re clicking through the website, it’ll be right there on the front page. The only power we have to avoid this is to skip over the page, a quiet and solitary act of dissent. A similar thing is true of paid campaigners: they’re the ones approached for quotes; their relationship with the journalists is symbiotic. Meanwhile, academics lecture from their comfy platforms, safe in the knowledge that if their students skip out, they’ll probably fail the degree they’re paying a lot of money to do.

People who occupy these platforms are not used to being told “no, I don’t want to hear you”, because the way that their platform is structured means that usually this is not an option. It must instill them with an enormous sense of entitlement, as it does for anyone who is not used to hearing the word “no”.

The means for event organisers–young grassroots feminists, for the most part–to control who enters their environment must feel like a threat to those with this sense of entitlement. Of course they lash out; they are used to captive audiences, not those who express a choice as to whether to listen to them or not. Grassroots feminism got stronger, got more capable of enforcing its own boundaries and those who believe that everyone should listen to them are furious. 

I’m really proud to see the hard work being done by young grassroots feminism with no-platforming and speaking out against nastiness. I hope they are not put off by the roar of a dinosaur that has just noticed the vast meteor hurtling towards it, threatened by the possibility of losing the ability to preach to a captive audience and make money off them. Feminism is moving forwards, and the Observer letter has provided us with a handy list of baggage to leave behind.

__

*Apparently “TERf” is a slur, so I’m trying something a little bit different.


Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

Missed the round-up last week because I was at Disneyland. Anyway, I’m sure you’re all thirsty for stavvers-curated links, of which I have some, but not many. Enjoy.

Radical (Robot Hugs)- Seriously good comic outlining rape culture.

I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle’s war was not my war (Garrett Reppenhagen)- Moving piece on the dangerous nonsense that is American Sniper.

Take the Red Pill: The Truth Behind the Biology of Sex (Luz Delfondo)- Interesting takedown of “biological sex”.

Questions I Have About The Harper Lee Editor Interview (Mallory Ortberg)- Because of all of these issues, explained well here, I don’t think I can buy the new book.

There’s a Big Problem With Polyamory That Nobody’s Talking About (Kaitlyn Mitchell)- Excellent article on the whiteness of polyamory.

Be Mine, And Hers, And His: The Requisite Valentine’s Themed Post On Polyamory (Jetta Rae DoubleCakes)- Super-sweet article about non-normative poly.

Fact and Fiction (English Collective of Prostitutes)- Busting some common myths about sex work.

Your Fave Fantasy is Problematic. (Kitty Stryker)- An uncomfortable read in places, but worthwhile.

‘Gifting’ council houses is a breathtakingly stupid idea (Dawn Foster)- Take down of IDS’s latest dreadful idea.

Why Vaccination Refusal Is a White Privilege Problem (Elizabeth Broadbent)- This is who is responsible for the measles breakouts.

And finally, it seems rather fashionable for zoos to do their security drills in the most delightful way possible in Asia.

 


Why criticising no platforms is rooted in misogyny

Once again, liberal feminism is up in arms about a no-platform, and according to abuse apologist liberal feminism, if a woman gets no-platformed, that’s sexism.

This is one of those lines which focuses largely on the feelings of the oppressor rather than who has actually made no-platforming decisions. And who does make no-platforming decisions? A lot of the case it’s women: feminist societies, feminist collectives, groups of women collectively organising towards a goal.

These women are working hard to carve out a little safe space in an unsafe world, which is difficult where there is so much social violence going on. They’re doing their best and have few tools at their disposal. No-platforming is one of those, and it’s a powerful one. It’s a statement of what women think is helpful, and what is harmful. It’s a statement and an enforcement of boundaries. It’s a gesture of free speech, and one of the few freedoms we have.

Under patriarchy, women are expected not to have boundaries. We’re expected to allow anyone access to our spaces, both personal and physical. We’re expected to accept it even when it hurts us. So when we actually state what we will allow near us and what we will not, when we band together in solidarity against the few women who do like attacking women, it’s considered an outrage. Women are not supposed to do that. We’re behaving like bad girls by having and showing our boundaries, by exercising one of the meagre instruments available to us.

Women are not above bigotry, and are not above actively harming other women. It can be seen in transmisogynistic stances, in anti-sex-worker stances, in racism and disablism. Many of us now band together in solidarity around marginalised women, and this is the position from which no-platforms come. This increased solidarity and sisterhood is only a positive thing, building an ever-stronger movement. Unfortunately, this still meets resistance, because the idea of all women united is an idea which terrifies those who benefit most from patriarchy.

I support no-platforming. I support women’s collective organising. I am opposed to the misogynistic beliefs that underpin the anti-no-platforming stance. I am appalled by the level of obfuscation which always surrounds no-platforming decisions, and furious that once again I have to explain something which should be absolutely basic.

Related: Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: no platforming and censorship are different


Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

Hi everyone. Forgot to do the post round-up last week, didn’t I? Anyway, it’s here now. Enjoy. Lots and lots and lots of links.

How to Respectfully Love a Trans Woman: Navigating Transmisogyny in Your Romantic Relationship (Kaylee Jakubowski)- Very sweet, touching and also helpful article.

Why there’s no point telling me to lose weight (Emma Lewis)- Excellent explanation of how doctors don’t need to tell fat people to lose weight, published in the BMJ where they might actually see it.

No, you’re the racist (Sam Ambreen)- This sort of thing really oughtn’t need saying, but Sam says it very well indeed and you should read.

There’s no pride in domestic abuse- Broken Rainbow’s helpline for LGBT domestic violence victims faces closure. Please give what you can to keep it alive.

In the Name of Love (Miya Tokumitsu)- Blisteringly good piece on the capitalist mantra of “do what you love”.

Undox.Me- Signal boosting this very helpful resource for taking down information shared about you.

Are You Using Your Boobs Correctly? (That Pesky Feminist)- You probably aren’t, you know.

Adam Curtis in the emperor’s new clothes (Dan Hancox)- Neat takedown of how Curtis has gone to shit.

Next On “Black Mirror” (Mallory Ortberg)- It just felt fitting to put this link under the one above.

Using hidden smartphone apps to spy on your partner has to be wrong, even if they say they don’t mind (Abi Wilkinson)- File under Shit That Shouldn’t Need Saying, Said Well.

Party Funding- A searchable database of party donors. It’s very handy–this was where I got the info about bigot Green Party PPC Rupert Read having donated large sums of money to the Green Party.

7 heinous lies “American Sniper” is telling America (Ziad Jilani)- I have no intention of seeing that film and here’s why.

A few thoughts on the demise of page 3 (desiredxthings)- Really good analysis of last week’s issues with the Sun and p3.

The question isn’t if female ejaculation is real. It’s why you don’t trust women to tell you (Lux Alptraum)- This is a good article, although it’s a shame it keeps using ciscentric language.

Ethical Production in Portraiture: A Comparison (Dolores On The Dot)- Very cool analysis of art.

16 creepy ads from people on Craigslist who are offering “free” rooms (Us vs Th3m)- This is the sort of thing that I knew was a problem, but seeing it all together like this is just horrid.

One Week of Harassment on Twitter (Feminist Frequency)- Anita Sarkeesian collated all the harassment and abuse she received over a week and, again, put together it’s quite shocking.

It isn’t asking the question, it’s hearing the answer. (sometimes, it’s just a cigar)- Reflections on consent.

I write letters (Melissa McEwan)- Great letter to plonk in front of any man who gets all entitled.

Sex, Consent, and Game Mechanics (Gaming As Other)- Half-hour video discussion of games and issues of sex and consent.

And finally, it turns out if you put dril’s name on Richard Dawkins tweets, everything makes a lot more sense.


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