Category Archives: acab

#ISeeTara: Support Tara Hudson

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny, sexual violence and prison


Tara Hudson is a young woman who made a mistake. She is being punished by being sent to a men’s prison, because she is transgender.

Prisons are violent institutions at the very best of times. I would like to see them abolished completely. However, there is an urgency to Tara’s case which requires immediate action on her behalf.

Tara Hudson is a young woman in a men’s prison. Sexual violence is ingrained in the prison system, and a young woman locked up with men enhances the threat that Tara will be a victim of sexual violence enormously. Tara has already said she is being sexually harassed. Physical violence, too, is ingrained in the prison system, and as a young woman locked up with men the threat that Tara will be a victim grows. Even outside of prison, Tara Hudson is more likely to face physical or sexual violence because she is a transgender woman. The threats inflate as she is locked in a prison with cisgender men.

Urgent action is necessary on Tara’s behalf. Here are some things you can do:

Attend a support rally today. There is one in London at the Ministry of Justice, and one in Bristol to support Tara at her appeal hearing today.

Sign the petition. At time of writing, almost 127,000 people have signed to support Tara and demand she is not locked up among men.

Make a lot of fucking noise. Share news stories about Tara Hudson: there’s some but make them more visible. Tweet using the hashtag #ISeeTara. The system would rather Tara was invisible. Make it impossible to ignore her plight.

If our actions are sufficient, and we save Tara from the cruel and unusual punishment she faces, keep on fighting in her name: she will likely not be the first, nor the last trans woman to face detention in a men’s prison. Attack transmisogyny. Attack prisons. And perhaps one day no more people will have to suffer as Tara suffers now.

Update: Tara has now been moved to a women’s prison. However, it’s frighteningly likely we’ll see more cases like Tara’s so keep this fury at injustices against trans women alive. 

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.

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.

A guide for men who want to avoid getting their lives ruined

Content note: This post discusses rape

At the time of writing, we see another MP add his voice to Nigel “drunken overfamiliarity” Evans (whose own defence argued he was “just” a creep who preyed on much younger men) in making life easier for rapists. Mark Pritchard, who was accused of rape and predictably cleared by policemen, suggests a “review” of anonymity, not making it clear whether he wants anonymity for defendants (stops victims coming forward in cases of repeat offenders) or to end anonymity for victims (I don’t think I need to explain to you how awful an idea this is). The rationale for this defence of rapists? Poor little diddums feels like his life has been ruined. Meanwhile, a chorus of men are continuing to bleat that unless Ched Evans gets to continue an illustrious football career his poor darling life has been ruined forever.

Apparently, being accused of rape ruins men’s lives. So, I present to men a two-word guide in how not to rape.

Don’t rape.

It’s really, really simple. If you don’t want to be accused of rape, don’t rape people.

Unfortunately, even this advice seems too complex for men, whose precious little manbrains cannot seem to comprehend this very basic advice, so allow me to break it down for you.

1. If she’s drunk, don’t have sex with her. Alcohol affects consent. If she’s been drinking a lot, she won’t be able to consent, so having sex with her is rape. Even if she seems like she wants to, hold off. If she’s really into you, she’ll still want to have sex with you when she’s sober. If you don’t think you can get laid unless she’s drunk, the problem lies squarely with you. Yes, you. Sort out your fucking self-esteem and only have sex with sober women.

2. Accept she can change her mind. Sometimes you might have got down to it and you’re really horny and then she changes her mind. Stop. She doesn’t consent to anything else happening. If you continue, that’s rape. And if you can’t control yourself once you’ve got a boner, at best you’re a pretty terrible shag. At worst, you’re a rapist.

3. Consent to one thing isn’t consent to others. So, you’re doing some fun sex things and you’re both enjoying yourselves. That’s great. But wait! You want to do something else, but she isn’t all that keen. Don’t do it, then. If you do, that could be rape. She’s consented to something, but not this other thing. Respect that. Go back to doing the mutually fun sex things.

4. Talking makes you a better lover. “What would you like to do?” is a hot question. It’s also a fucking mandatory question. Ask and listen, lots. This will make you a better lay, and also stop you from raping someone.

5. If in doubt, don’t. If you have the slightest doubt in your mind that she is consenting willingly and completely, don’t have sex. Sex is not a basic human right, not an entitlement. You can do without it. Fucking do without it. The consequences of not doing are far smaller than the consequences of going ahead. I hear it could ruin a man’s life…

2014 in review

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence and police violence

And so we reach the end of the year, and despite promising myself I wouldn’t do this, I am doing one of those icky “look back over the past year” kind of things, I’m doing it anyway (I was also meant to stop smoking this year, and I didn’t).

In truth, it’s been a little difficult to write this because there’s been a huge split between the personal and the political for me in 2014. In my personal life, 2014 has been brilliant. I love, and am loved. I have some financial security for the first time in my life. I managed to get quite a lot of my novel written. Everything’s coming up stavvers. It wasn’t all brilliant, of course. I wounded my fanny and got stalked by trolls.

However, 2014 has been pretty uniformly dire outside of my own personal little bubble, and I’ve had a lot to be pissed off about. Each week since the killing of Michael Brown, US cops have taken another Black life. The situation is also bad in the UK: the same pattern of killing and then lying keeps on and our pigs find ways of murdering without even having to carry guns. I haven’t commented on this much, because it’s not my place as a white woman, but I’ve almost weekly shared some content in my post round-ups which I thoroughly recommend you read. All of it. Take an afternoon.

In the UK, our political situation is looking pretty terrible, and it’s unlikely to change in the near future. With a general election looming in 2015, things are going to become completely insufferable. It’s the media’s fault, of course. The media has a fascination with leaders and white men, so we’ve been presented with two ghastly choices: do want Nigel Farage and fascism, or Russell Brand and the curse of left misogyny, God and some really badly-developed thought? One cannot move without tripping over either of these clowns. Of course, this is a false dichotomy: there’s heaps of possibilities, but a media owned by white men cannot conceptualise something which doesn’t involve dreadful white men flapping their awful mouths off.

The awful people who are already in government are making a right fucking hash of things too. We have Theresa May, determined to murder every single migrant, starting with the most vulnerable, like LGBT women. We have Iain Duncan Smith, who is trying to murder the poor through violently stopping their means of subsistence. They’ve been as nasty as ever this year, but come 2015 we’re unlikely to see any improvement even if the red party get elected.

Meanwhile, men who have been in government are emerging as paedophiles and rapists. A constantly-stalling investigation is ongoing into the child abuse rings at Westminster. Unfortunately, because cops and politicians are in each other’s pockets, corruption keeps cropping up and things grind to a halt again as yet more coverups come to light. I’m also a little concerned about the men who are still in Westminster. Nigel Evans, although cleared, was ruled even by the judge to be a complete fucking creep and were it not for his status, I suspect they may have thrown the book at him.

This has been, overall, a pretty good year for violent misogynists. Rapist Ched Evans waltzed out of prison, and, while Sheffield United chose to do the right thing (eventually) and drop him like the turd he is, it’s still entirely possible he may get to continue his illustrious career at another club, all the while continually proving he has learned nothing about consent. Shia LaBeouf spoke out about his experience of rape… to a near-universal chorus of disbelief from men. These were the sort of men who love to bring up “but men get raped too” when women talk about rape, but nonetheless failed to show any support to a male survivor. We also saw misogynist Elliot Rodger go on a killing spree while men tried to downplay the fact this was directly motivated by misogyny. Meanwhile popular left rag The Morning Star spike an article about violent misogynist Steve Hedley, because the left still hasn’t got its affairs in order there.

2014 has been very bad indeed for those of us with uteruses. In Ireland, many of us heard with horror the story of a dead woman whose body was kept on life support while her family were forced to watch her decompose because she had had the misfortune of dying while pregnant. This ghoulish act of violence was a direct result of Ireland’s absurdly restrictive abortion rights, and the judge only ruled that life support could be turned off because the foetus had no chance of surviving. Meanwhile in the UK, the situation is better, but last month our abortion rights were restricted further as sex-selective abortions were banned.

It was also a pretty bad year for sex workers, with momentum growing for the “Swedish model” which does not do anything to make the lives of sex workers safer, and many sex workers say will make things worse. Transmisogyny, too, continues to run rife, with transmisogynists turning up to picket lesbian pride parades and disrupt feminist conferences.

Alas, feminist movement and resistance is spotty at best. I am hoping, perhaps, that we can get our affairs in order in 2015, because we’re going to need to fight all the harder. For this to happen, we need to drop a lot of the crap we’ve been pulling. We need to inventory ourselves, honestly assessing what we may be doing wrong and where we are complicit in kyriarchical violence. We need to challenge violent thought where we see it, so that we may stand shoulder to shoulder with sisters of all colours, all genders, with our disabled sisters and our queer sisters and our trans sisters. Together, we are many, and we must overcome these divisions in 2015 if we are to stand a chance of winning.

Why I’m not brimming with confidence over Theresa May’s plans to criminalise emotional abuse

Content note: This post discusses emotional abuse

In the latest in a string of policies which sound good and are incredibly cheap to implement, Theresa May will announce plans to put emotional abuse on a par with physical domestic violence. This sounds like nothing to object to, a long-awaited recognition of the seriousness of the coercive dynamics which so often sustain abusive relationships and hit survivors hard.

There is a catch, though, and it’s a catch which means I severely doubt that any perpetrators will find themselves prosecuted for something they have blatantly done: the whole thing hinges on telling the police.

The way the police tend to work is through talking about what happened. You list specific incidents. This happened, and then this happened, and then that happened. Imagine having to do this as a survivor of emotional abuse!

The very clever thing about emotional abuse, the thing that really helps abusers keep things going is how petty it sounds if you recount a blow-by-blow history of what happened to you. I’ve never gone into detail about what I experienced in an emotionally abusive relationship, because under the flicker of gaslight, it all sounds rather ridiculous. I could tell you all about some drama involving a duvet or how I needed to watch what my face was doing during sex, but to be quite honest, I’m embarrassed to speak about these things, because everything would require so much detailed explanation of the entire context, and when boiled down to a story it still all sounds quite trivial.

Emotional abuse is a pattern which is hard to explain, and reinforced by abusers making you feel like everything is silly and you’re overreacting.

I wouldn’t explain what happened to me in an incident-specific format to a friend. Hell, it took a lot of time for me to open up about these things to a therapist because they sounded so probably-nothing to me. So why the fuck would I want to speak to a hostile police officer about all of this? The police are known to suck at talking to vulnerable women at the best of times, and this is a situation which is so intrinsically delicate that I cannot imagine any survivors wanting to take the leap and report to the cops. The effects and mechanisms of emotional abuse just present too much of a barrier to this happening.

What would actually help survivors of emotional abuse a lot more is one of the strongest weapons against abusers: knowledge for everyone. Emotional abuse is so little-understood, and that needs to change. An informed populace, with the level of knowledge about what emotional abuse is and the understanding that sometimes what sounds trivial and petty is anything but, could join forces with survivors against abusers. It would be so much easier to fight emotional abuse if we started from a position of supporting and believing survivors, knowing that what might sound like nothing is probably something, especially if she’s taken the step of speaking out.

It would all be so much easier if we could see the difference between little squabbles and emotional abuse, but the problem is that our culture normalises coercive control in relationships to the point that these things are indistinguishable to us. Survivors know the difference, and we should listen to them.

I don’t expect the government to get working on tackling emotional abuse in a way that would actually work, any more than they tackle other forms of violence against women. I have no faith in them; they’re not the route. So we must hack around them, supporting survivors in the way that they want us to.

Raping women is legal if it’s a policeman doing it

Content warning: this post discusses rape and police violence

The CPS today explained that they’ve decided it’s not illegal for policemen to pretend to be real people, insinuate themselves into the lives of women it’s literally their job to try and incarcerate, and trick them into sex and childbearing. Their full justification for this is pretty grim reading, riddled with rape apologism and a soupçon of cissexism, and you can read it here.

I cannot even begin to imagine the slap in the face this is for the survivors, who have worked hard to drag the violations they experienced into the light. It is revolting that what happened to them is not considered an act of violence, when it so patently is. The law, as always, is all backwards, set up to protect the powerful and allow them to perpetrate acts of violence against women with impunity.

The fact is, these men lied. They lied about who they were, about what they did, about what they believed. They built a castle of lies, and tricked women into building intimate relationships with them, for the purposes of information gathering. The endgame of this deception was to lock up these women, and everyone these women knew, to silence them and to stop them. There is probably not a woman alive who would actively consent to what these policemen had in mind. This is why we discuss what happened in terms of rape: because of the lack of consent. The legal system, for the most part, defines what is and isn’t rape around what they want their chums to get away with, so by their standards, of course it isn’t rape.

It’s not that the legal system isn’t fit for purpose, because it is. It’s just that the purpose it serves is not in our interests.

There’s a knock-on effect of all this, trickling down to women like me. Under rape culture, we’re paranoid about getting raped–and it’s a just paranoia, because it’s phenomenally likely to happen to a lot of us at some point. Under this state-sanctioned rape culture, there’s this additional retroactive paranoia for those of us who aren’t good girls, who make likely targets for a predatory cop. I find myself flicking through the comrades I have slept with, wondering desperately to myself if any of them were cops. There were those I let myself get close to, and then they disappeared. Were they undercover policemen, who got what they wanted and fucked off back to base?

To my knowledge, they were all just arseholes, and while all cops are bastards, all bastards aren’t cops. However, the niggling, wearing anxiety is still there, and I suspect this is precisely what the pigs want. Ultimately, they want us frightened and ground-down, as it positions us as unable to resist.

I’ve said before that being deeply critical of the police is a very important feminist position to hold, and I’ll say it again until I’m blue in the face. These men are a gang of perpetrators, who will gladly inflict sexual violence upon us to suit their needs. Never forget that.


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