Author Archives: stavvers

Things I read this week that I found interesting

I read things, and I share them. Here are some things I read this week that I found interesting.

From safe spaces to court summons, how did it get here? (Chimene Suleyman)- One of the best analyses of the campaign against Bahar Mustafa I’ve read.

Bahar Mustafa’s charge shows why feminism shouldn’t respect the law (Robyn Sands)- A great piece on feminism, respectability and the law.

Why geek movie franchises have a director problem (Gavia Baker-Whitelaw)- Examining an enormous issue plaguing geek movies.

Why I protested with Sisters Uncut at the Suffragette premiere (Sarah Kwei)- An activist explains why the protest happened.

The loneliness of a Black non-binary soul (Jacq Applebee)- On how whiteness is centred in the nb scene.

Why It’s So Difficult to Diagnose Autism in Girls (Somer Bishop)- Looking at fuckups from medical science.

And finally, oh look, it’s another kittycam!

If you support free speech, support Bahar Mustafa

For once, it is no exaggeration to say that free speech is under attack. A young woman has been charged and faces court for a tweet, because a historically oversensitive group has taken offence.

Bahar Mustafa faces charges for “sending a communication conveying a threatening message” and “sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network” for tweeting the hashtag “#killallwhitemen”.

Let’s put aside the fact that despite repeatedly asking, I could not find a single white man who actually felt threatened by the message (indeed, when I asked, this demographic who are usually falling over themselves to stick their oar in when peculiarly coy). Let’s also put aside the fact that white men do not face any structural oppression on the basis of being white men. Let’s put aside whether or not you’re offended by what Bahar said (remember Voltaire!). Let’s even put aside looking at how nakedly obvious the police have shown who they want to “protect”. Let’s instead look at what this means for free speech and censorship.

The sort of person who usually gets most gobby about free speech and censorship is the sort of person who understands least what free speech and censorship actually means. Both free speech and censorship necessarily involve the state. The state is the only body, really, with the power to censor and the power to quash free speech.

Usually, when people complain about their free speech quashed, what they mean is they can’t spout any old bigoted crap they like without people telling them they’re terrible bigots. Usually when people complain about being censored, what they mean is that someone didn’t invite them to speak somewhere. They’re wrong.

Last time this popped up, I explained the difference between no platforming and censorship thusly:

Censorship is something that comes from the top down: it’s done by the government or the media, those with the power to control who speaks in the public domain. The aim of censorship is to quash dissent, to silence voices speaking out against their aims, and to maintain the status quo. Censorship can only be enacted by those who are capable of doing so: those who have the means of blocking webpages, redacting documents, editing what gets published, and so forth. Censorship is an expression of power.

Let’s compare this to no platforming. No-platforming, in contrast, is bottom up. Those who organise events can democratically and transparently decide who to invite, and who not to. Likewise, people can suggest to organisers that perhaps it is inappropriate to invite a certain person to speak, and democratically and transparently apply pressure to disinvite people. The aim of no platforming is to avoid giving someone who is known to be an active contributor to oppressive power structures any further airing, and to maintain a safer space. It’s a refusal of complicity in oppression. No platforming is enacted by ordinary people: trade unions, pressure groups, activists, and just the regular everyday sibling on the street. It’s a tool we can use because, unlike the government and the media, we have no direct control over public discourse: all we can do is choose who to listen to. It’s important to note that this is an aspect of free speech often overlooked: the power to not listen, and the power to challenge. No platforming is an expression of free speech and democracy.


This is applicable, too, to most free speech discourse. Organising boycotts of, say, comedians telling rape jokes isn’t censorship (but the government banning rape jokes would be). Criticising people who are paid to spout bigotry is not an attack on free speech (but if the government locked Katie Hopkins up, it would be). A group asking people not to use particular words isn’t censorship (but the government banning use of these words would be). Moderating a comment thread isn’t suppressing anyone’s free speech–they can go and say something elsewhere on their own blogs (but if the government decided to vet all communications and nuke them off the internet, it would be). Someone being forced to resign over comments the public took umbrage to isn’t censorship (but the government imprisoning someone for making such comments would be).

What’s happening to Bahar is a genuine, bona fide attack on free speech. The state have decided to step in and threaten someone for speaking up.

White men are often quick to wheel out that Voltaire quote when it comes to defending racism, misogyny or any other form of structural oppression. But there is a strange silence from these quarters–as well as from the likes of Julie Bindel, who has instead found her time better spent in complaining about how she is being censored because University of Manchester Student’s Union cancelled a speech of hers because her bigotry against trans women violated their safer spaces policy.

It seems that those who shout the loudest about free speech when it doesn’t matter are completely unwilling to step up about free speech when it does. 

Is it that they don’t actually believe in free speech, but rather feel a deep, pervasive sense of entitlement for everyone to listen to their special snowflake words? Because that’s sure as shit what it looks like.

Back in 2010, a young man called Paul Chambers tweeted:

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!

He faced the same charges as Bahar does now.

People dealt with the state’s reaction to Chambers’s tweet by being horrified that the state could try to criminalise these words. People tweeted the words themselves, accompanied by the hashtag #IAmSpartacus. People understood it was an attack on free speech when Chambers was initially convicted, and cheered that things made sense when the conviction was eventually overturned after a second High Court appeal.

Once again, we face a threat to free speech, the state deciding to try to shut someone up for a tweet. We should be seeing those who claim to defend free speech up in arms, showing solidarity with Bahar. Perhaps we should see a new wave of #IAmSpartacus, with #killallwhitemen trending high on twitter–you may not agree with the sentiment, but surely you defend to the death Bahar’s right to say it?

A young woman faces being branded a criminal for saying some words that offended powerful people. This is a real attack on free speech. If you truly, really care about free speech, you must stand with Bahar Mustafa.

Dear liberals: please stop derailing things about protest by ~condemning the violence~

Apparently someone gobbed at a journalist yesterday. And a Tory got some egg on him.

Oh, and there was a protest where 60,000 people protested the Tory choices which are literally killing people.

One would think that that would be the thing to focus on, really, but apparently it’s more important to discuss that there was some saliva in a bloke’s hair. And condemn it.

Falling over themselves to show off how respectable they are, liberals have surged to bang on about how it’s Very Bad That There Was Violence, because that means It’s All That Anyone Will Talk About And The Messages Will Be Lost. And they’re partially right. The messages are being lost. Precisely because liberals are rushing to distance themselves from a very minor incident.

We could talk about how things are so bad the UN is investigating Britain’s treatment of disabled people, that fitness to work assessments have been linked to at least one suicide, that benefit sanctions are linked to people dying. We could talk about how austerity is a purely ideological choice and has been picked because our government has decided that some lives are worth more than others. We could talk about how under austerity, even the survivors are barely living. But no. Instead there are a lot of people who probably have the best of intentions, playing directly into the media’s hands by tossing away the key issues in favour of denouncing a fucking egg.

Who cares about this, when people are dying?

That’s the message we should be going for. It’s the only message that matters really.

The media, let’s remember, are on the side of the murderers. Almost every single newspaper in the UK encouraged its readers to vote for the party with the documented track record of killing people. One of the two that didn’t, the Guardian, then went on to decry Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity politics during the Labour leadership election. The media has no interest in ending a policy that kills. Therefore, they’re never going to be particularly sympathetic for those who do take a stance against austerity.

Yesterday in Manchester, everyone could have filed from A to B with pleasant, inoffensive placards, chanting “pretty please, can we renegotiate austerity because it’s a little too much”, and the media still would have found something to bitch about them for, because they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

So, liberals, I implore you: whenever something happens and you’re worried the media might use it against the protesters, ignore it. Just redouble your efforts to get the message out there. Nobody cares what you think about a tiny bit of spittle, and it’s detracting from the fact that people are dying. 

People are being killed. That’s the thing that matters. Not your respectability, nor your hot takes on political violence. The blood on the hands of the government is the thing that matters.

The media can only hijack the message if you let them. If you participate in their hijacking of the message. Don’t give them that. Don’t serve their agenda. It doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of gob, or some scum gets called scum to his scummy face, or something gets set on fire, or the Duchess of Cornwall gets poked with a stick. If you care about the message being lost, make sure the message isn’t lost by focusing on the message.

So, the take-home message of this post? The Tories are killing people, and that’s the thing that matters most.

Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

I am going to try to make these weekly again, because the more time passes the more unwieldy these round-ups become. Anyway, here’s some things I read recently that I found interesting. You might find them interesting too.

From Cecil the Lion to a Pig’s Head: Why rich white men do what they do (Chimene Suleyman)- Very good article on that time the Prime Minister fucked a pig and how unsurprising it is in a world where rich white men get a free pass.

Crowdfunder: Translate “Porn, Whores and Feminists” to English (Petra Östergren)- Porn, Whores and Feminists is an in-depth independent analysis of Sweden’s policy on sex work (read more here). Please contribute to translating this vital text so that English-speakers can understand the truth about the Nordic Model.

The Limits of Trans Liberalism (Nat Raha)- A 101 on radical transfeminism, covering topics discussed in Juliet Jacques’s memoir Trans. (I read Trans and I loved it)

How corporates co-opted the art of mindfulness to make us bear the unbearable (Zoe Krupka)- This is such a good idea and resonates a lot with my own experience of mindfulness therapy through an occupational health department.

Intersectionality is not a label. (Latoya Peterson)- Has intersectionality lost its punch? This critique of how it is used today is well worth the read.

A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That Are Not Your Own (Carl Zimmer)- If you carry a XY foetus, you end up with XY cells all over your body. An interesting one for the Biological Sex Is A Social Construct folder.

To some cunt on twitter (Ideology)- Gloriously bitter poem about anti-gentrification protests.

What is a Family? (Dorian/Beyond The Binary)- Dorian introduces their queer family, and it’s very very heartwarming.

This Obscure Tumblr Sexuality Saved My Life (Bitty Navarro)- A woman’s quest to find a name for her demisexual identity.

The Reason This “Racist Soap Dispenser” Doesn’t Work on Black Skin (Max Plenke)- On technological racism and the things white engineers just don’t think about.

An Olive Leaf (Robert Kazandjian)- A poem filled with generational trauma from genocide.

The Recompiler– A new technology magazine focusing on the work of marginalised groups.

These 4 Behaviors That Fictional Media Tells Us Are Romantic Are Actually Really Harmful (Ashley Truong)- Busting some myths of things we’re told are romantic.

Study: White people react to evidence of white privilege by claiming greater personal hardships (David Edwards)- Sounds like an Onion headline, but actually legit. Scientific citation for what most of us already know.

“I respect trans people, but I would never date one.” (JensGender)- Exploring a really common trope among cis people who claim to be allies but still immediately rule the group they claim to support out of the dating pool.

And finally, have a cute comic about how a cat got a fabric fetish.

Walking home alone: a manifesto for preventing rape

Content note: this post discusses rape and victim blaming

It’s “common sense” which is still trotted out repeatedly that to “stay safe” (meaning: don’t get yourself raped), women shouldn’t walk home alone. It’s the sort of thing that I consider a dead horse, and then I see it in the wild yet again because patriarchy still hasn’t got bored of pointing blame at survivors. The latest in this very long and very tedious string comes from Essex Police, who have launched a campaign under the banner of safety.

It’s victim blaming, plain and simple, telling women not to walk home alone.

Defenders of the “don’t walk home alone” position will cry out that it’s a safety precaution, and therefore isn’t victim blaming. Thing is, it’s bollocks that it’s a safety precaution, because it could actually expose us to further danger.

If you want a safety precaution, here’s one: walk home alone. 

Your rapist is more likely to be the male friend or acquaintance who kindly offers to walk you home than he is to be some random stranger in an alley.

In four out of five rapes, the perpetrator is already known to the survivor.

If a man offers to see you home safely, say no. Kick him in the nuts, pepper spray his eyes, and run as fast as you can to get away from him. Statistically speaking, if you’re going to get raped following a night out, it is four times as likely it’ll be the guy who wants to escort you than someone you don’t know.

There’s a safety precaution right there, and it’s rooted in stats, unlike the repeated assertions to go home accompanied by someone. Walk home alone.

Of course, this safety precaution is, at the end of the day, as nonsensical as any exhortation to get yourself escorted home, because it’s still moving the responsibility for rape prevention away from where it lies: with the rapist. What’s really needed is a mass structural change, demolishing the culture that facilitates rapists. But until then, when the concern trolls bleat about “safety precautions”, remind them who the rapist is truly likely to be.

Please stop asking me to donate blood. They won’t let me.

Content note: this post discusses structural homophobia

I’m an ideal blood donor. I have a blood type which is fairly common, and can be received by 83% of recipients. I don’t tend to get faint, and I have no qualms about needles. I’m not on any medications. I’m Cypriot, which is a useful ethnic group to belong to in terms of blood donation, because people from Cyprus are more likely to live with a genetic disease called thalassaemia which requires regular blood transfusions, and if you’re receiving regular blood transfusions you need more closely matched blood–there are more antibodies in blood than the simple ABO +/- blood types, which don’t matter in a one-off transfusion, but do for frequent transfusions; people from similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have them. I have my little bronze card from my regular donating, 3-4 times a year.

But I haven’t been able to give blood recently. According to regulations, my blood is tainted with gay. I have had sex with men who have sex with men. One of my current partners is a man who has sex with men. Basically, I need to stop boning my partner for a year if I’m to give blood again, a position which is pretty damn undesirable because we have really good sex, and the sex we have is pretty much of no concern to the blood services.

For the record, unlike a lot of straight people who are allowed to give blood, my partner and I practice safer sex–together and with others–to the point of paranoia. Unlike a lot of straight people who are allowed to give blood, my partner and I are aware of our status for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis: hell, we’re actually vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Both of us were toddlers during the epidemic, and became sexually active long after it was a thing.

Yet the blood service don’t want my blood (or his).

It would be easier to be under the exclusion criteria did I not believe in how important it is to donate blood if you can. And I can, for every reason except for structural homophobia leading to bans based on who I fancy and who I love. I was perfectly eligible to give blood during a particularly dark time when I was having all manner of unsafe sex with very promiscuous men who were heterosexual (as far as I was aware). The guidelines for eligibility for blood donation are discriminatory.

I don’t have it in me to hate the blood service for these discriminatory rules though, to shout and scream at them like I usually do with organisations which discriminate against queer folk.

When I see ads–and I see a lot of ads–I just feel a stab of guilt that I can’t help out, doing something little that takes half an hour, could save a life and definitely leads to free coffee and biscuits.Because of shitty algorithm-ing, social media targeted ads like to tell me to give blood: sorry for fucking up your comms plan, NHSBT, but I can’t because you don’t want my blood. 

I realise that this is probably a futile cry, given my followerbase, but on the off chance you are healthy and not on meds, are not a current or former sex worker, have not been to Africa, and are neither a man who has sex with men, nor a person who has ever had sex with one, then go and give blood. It really is important. It really is important, and they really need to change the regulations so those of us who want to donate, can.

They take a calculated risk with heteros, so why not expand the calculated risk?

It’s time to end blanket banning, and accept that, like our blood types being more complex than you might think, there’s a lot more nuance than just queers carry bad blood.

SASS: I think you’re meant to fuck up your cunt with it.

It’s 2015, and I am fucking tired as shit of two things:

  1. Products which are designed to make your nethers less gross
  2. Twee fucking euphemisms while marketing such things

Lucky for me, today I learned of a product which does both of these things: SASS Intimate Skincare. A takedown of a lot of the issues has been posted by Jade Moulds (warning: contains cissexist language: of course, vaginas are not just the domain of women, although this product has clearly been marketed at cis women; I wish the author had acknowledged this): namely that this product increases shame surrounding vaginas, and that it’s not very good for you to be rubbing scented soaps into a mucous membrane.

To add to the critique of how bad it is for you to be putting scented soaps on your cunt, I’d like to add that a lot of SASS’s marketing focuses on “pH balance”. This is obvious marketing jargon: the term is bandied about with basically anything you put on your skin anyway, and I wonder if by applying this pseudoscientific twaddle to products you whack on your cunt it’s trying to imply that maybe it won’t throw things out of kilter so much as other products which you’re meant to de-gross your minge with. Let’s pretend for a second that this is actually true: that SASS Intimate Skincare products are the exact same pH as your vagina, and this will definitely negate all of the problems chemicals making contact with a very sensitive body part could cause. If that’s true, to what point of the cycle is SASS Intimate Skincare pH balanced? For most of the month, the vagina is about as acidic as orange juice, but during periods, it becomes closer to neutral as the acidic natural juices mix with the pretty-much-neutral blood. And for whom is it pH balanced? There’s some natural variance, with the off-period pH being somewhere between 3.5 and 4.5, depending on the individual.

The acidity of the vagina is useful, because it kills bacteria. It’s also fucking badass, and why sometimes it looks like you’ve bleached your black knickers–you have.

I looked at the SASS website to find out, but I couldn’t, because everything is completely fucking vague. The takedown I posted earlier is equally annoyed by the vagueness of language used, but I couldn’t even necessarily work out what body parts some of the products were for. The term “intimate use” and “the area” is used a lot on the site, and I am 95% sure it doesn’t always refer to the same place. Like, seriously, these people sell shaving gels as well as things to be used “in and around the area”. Maybe I’m weird as is every cunt I’ve ever had the joy of putting my face in, but as far as I’m aware the part that you shave and the part that’s “in” are completely different.

One of the products is so vaguely-described I have literally no idea where you’re meant to put it: the Intimate Protection Barrier Cream. During exercise, it’s meant to protect… something. Apparently “intense activity can take its toll on your intimate area” and it will “help reduce friction” during intense physical activity. Er, what? I’m genuinely struggling to work out what this does. Is it for stopping your upper thighs rubbing together? Is it for people who live in towns where all exercise gear is made of sandpaper glued right to your flaps? What sort of exercise do they mean?

Alas, I have neither the money, nor the disregard for my own vaginal wellbeing, to test this stuff out. It’s pricey, and I don’t want bacterial vaginosis, thank you very much. I would also be enormously alarmed if my cunt started smelling like anything other than my cunt: it would be like that fancy culinary trope where you cook something that looks like something but tastes like something else, and it’s kind of weird and personally I really don’t like having food expectations violated and it always makes me enjoy it less and–

Cunts are the perfect anarchist. If you leave them to it, they tend to get along just fine, cleaning up after themselves and doing their thing. This is exactly why we don’t need yet more expensive products profiting off of a manufactured need for them not to just do what they do.




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