Category Archives: acab

At best, treating misogyny as a hate crime won’t make any difference

Content note: this post discusses misogyny, sexual violence and police

Earlier this week, it was excitedly trumpeted that Nottinghamshire Police will now be recognising and treating misogyny as a hate crime. As Chief Parade Pisser, it is my sad duty to inform you that this probably won’t make much difference, and if it does, it’ll be to the worse.

What falls under the umbrella of misogyny as a hate crime includes:

  • unwanted or uninvited sexual advances
  • physical or verbal assault
  • unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact or engagement
  • use of mobile phones to send unwanted or uninvited messages
  • or take photographs without consent.

You may recognise most of these things as being illegal anyway, albeit being incredibly difficult to get the police to give a crap about in the first place, with many of the crimes being forms of sexual violence or harassment. The police could already intervene in any of these incidents, but they usually don’t.

Unfortunately, treating these instances as hate crimes is likely to just kick matters further into the long grass. The police are not exactly well-known for handling hate crimes very well, and hate crime laws add an additional barrier to prosecuting them: when police investigate a hate crime, they have to find evidence of prejudice or hostility. Do you really trust the police to see prejudice and hostility? I know I don’t. What scant statistics are available suggests that many reported hate crimes (>40,000 in 2013) do not result in prosecution (just over 6000 prosecutions in that same year).

At best, the police treating misogyny as a hate crime isn’t going to help the women reporting it. At worst, things could get a lot worse for a lot of people.

Carceral solutions to structural problems have a tendency to have the most negative consequences for more marginalised people. They also tend to help marginalised people the least. This is why Black people are overrepresented in prisons, for example, and on the flip side young Black men are far less likely to report crimes they’ve experienced and far less happy with their experiences with the police.

What we are very likely to see with treating misogyny as a hate crime is that there could well be more arrests and prosecutions, but only under particular circumstances: when a Nice White Lady™ is victimised by a Nasty Black Or Brown Man™. As things stand, it’s vanishingly unlikely that the police would care any more to investigate, say, a university rowing team groping a cleaner, or an elderly white man spitting on a woman in hijab, or the politician sending escalatingly creepy texts.

It’s a repeated pattern in carceral solutions, and means that help will not go to the women who need it most because the police would rather come down hard on people that they already despise.

At the end of the day, the solution to misogyny is the same boring old thing that is the solution to everything else: societal change, starting with ourselves. Challenge it where you find it and nurture and embody alternatives, and support and believe survivors. The police are not, and have never been, the magic bullet for solving problems that they cannot even begin to solve.

Misogyny is misogyny, and the police have never been our salvation.


An open letter to the Belfast abortion snitches

Content warning: this post discusses abortion and police, and mentions domestic violence and suicide.

Dear snitches,

I read your piece of remarkable self-justification for the unforgivable in the Belfast Telegraph and I am shaking with fury. Your housemate was just 19 years old, so young and in a difficult situation. She was forced to buy pills from the internet to induce an abortion, because she couldn’t afford to hop on a boat or plane across to the rest of the country, where she could have accessed the medical care she needed. Because of your actions, she is a convicted criminal who could be sent to prison on a whim of any old judge with an axe to grind.

You know this, of course, and you chose to do this to punish her, because you are horrible people.

There, I said it.

Sorry, there’s nothing about this situation that doesn’t make you horrible people. In trying to explain why you did it, you’ve just made it even more obvious that you are horrible people, outright admitting that you did it because she didn’t show adequate remorse, and you have feelings about abortion which basically translate to you don’t think access medical care is something which should always be available to someone with a uterus.

You go on in sensationalist detail about how very traumatic you found your housemate’s abortion. Maybe that’s true. Abortion is not always a tidy business. However, I suspect your account is at least part fictitious: your description of the foetus does not match with what the physical evidence found was a 10-12 week foetus. Unless you have frankly microscopic eyesight you’re not going to be seeing it in the detail you describe. And furthermore, in another statement, one of you said that it was about four inches long: more than twice the length of a foetus at that point of gestation.

I’m not saying you’re lying maliciously (although you’re such horrible people, maybe you are). Human memory is a funny thing. It can be very easily modified without you ever knowing it’s happened. If you’re the sort of person who hates other people having control over their own uteruses, you’re probably quite a fan of anti-choice propaganda, where they like to show pictures of foetuses far later in gestation. Those little pieces of misdirection probably wormed their way into your subconscious and you thought that was what you’d seen on the night your housemate was driven to take drastic action and end her own pregnancy due to archaic laws in your part of the country. And I don’t know, maybe your boyfriend is a small-dicked liar which is why you said four inches when in reality it should be no more than two.

Anyway, because of the excesses in your descriptions of what you saw, I don’t believe a word you say about what happened that night.

Maybe you really were traumatised. It can be traumatic when someone you’re close to has a health emergency. I have epilepsy and I am achingly aware of how much worse my seizures are for other people who witness them than they are for me, because at least I have the luxury of being unconscious at the time. Thing is, your situation is different. You have absolutely no empathy for your housemate. None whatsoever. You didn’t help her in her time of need, because you felt she was to blame for what was happening. However traumatised you are about what you think you saw, it would have been much more traumatic for her: desperate and unable to seek medical help for something which needs to be done under medical supervision. If you’re traumatised by what you think you saw, imagine how much more traumatic it must be when that is happening to your own body. Oh wait, you can’t. Because you have no empathy. Because you’re horrible people.

What you did next is beyond cruel. You called the police on your housemate, because you didn’t like something you saw in the bin. Once, a (thankfully former) housemate of mine put some gone-off taramasalata in the bin. When I took the bag out, it split and pungent off-pink fish goo went all over my bare feet. It was gross and upsetting, and I cursed her name and that of all of her ancestors. I was absolutely furious. I didn’t call the fucking cops over it though.

No matter how pissed off you are at something someone else has done, no matter how much you disagree with it, you do not call the police on people. (There may be exceptions to this rule, e.g. in a domestic violence situation or if someone is about to kill themselves. Many people find police intervention even in these situations to be somewhere between useless to actively harmful, and a lot of the time an ambulance is a better bet)

Calling the police shows exactly what you are: horrible people with a desire to punish.

Your housemate made a terrible mistake. Not in self-inducing her abortion, but in trusting you enough to tell you what she was doing. Perhaps she was reaching out, and she didn’t want to suffer alone. Perhaps you had a good relationship before it. I don’t know why she would have trusted you enough to let you know, but I know if she hadn’t, she would not be considered a convicted criminal. Her options were essentially to go through the whole thing alone, or to trust others enough to talk to them. You betrayed her trust, her confidence. You threw it back in her face.

You know that in your part of the country, abortion is illegal and those who need it can face imprisonment. You know that your part of the country has laws which contravene basic human rights–and indeed, basic human decency. You know that Northern Ireland abortion laws are not designed to help, but rather to punish. Rather than feeling disgusted by that, you decided to take advantage of that fact and use this state of affairs to get revenge on a young woman who who made a dire decision.

There are no other words for it. You’re horrible people.

Seeing the anger within and outside your part of the country at what you set in motion gives me hope that perhaps soon these laws will not exist. And perhaps, up and down Northern Ireland, people realise just how important it is to not betray their friends. If someone has an abortion, they’ll show basic solidarity and keep their fucking gobs shut, no matter how much they disagree with a pal’s decision. Maybe they’ll go beyond that and offer help, support and empathy until your horrific abortion laws disintegrate. I hope you are the only people who are as nasty as to dob someone in to the police over something that in no way concerns them.

I wrote a much longer letter to you than I thought I would, but I am furious. I am angry at you, I am angry at your part of the country’s laws and I am absolutely livid that you would choose to throw someone at the mercy of those laws.

You, dear Belfast abortion snitches, are horrible people.

Fuck you,

stavvers

P.S. Anyone reading this may want to donate to Abortion Support Network’s Cover Her Costs campaign, giving people who need abortions in Northern Ireland the financial means to travel to where it’s legal for their care.

__

Note, added approximately an hour after publication: A friend has pointed out that a lack of empathy doesn’t always equal horrible person. I’d just like to echo and elevate this point, and apologise to neurodiverse people for the implication in my phrasing. What I used “empathy” to mean here was “compassion” or “kindness” or “caring about another human being’s welfare”–“empathy” is a loaded term and not necessarily the appropriate one. However, these Belfast abortion snitches are horrible people.


Bernard Hogan-Howe probably would have let Rolf Harris get away with it

Content warning: this post discusses child sexual abuse, sexual violence and police

It was reported today that Rolf Harris will be charged with seven counts of indecent assault, with one of the seven complainants being just 12 years old at the time the offence occurred. This follows his conviction in 2014 for twelve counts of indecent assault, with one of the survivors being just eight at the time it happened. Rolf Harris is a predator. A convicted paedophile. So, why is it that one of this country’s top police officers would have let him get away with it?

A few days ago, Bernard Hogan Howe, head of the Metropolitan Police, wrote an article outlining what he reckons should be done about sexual abuse investigations (warning: if you click this link it contains discussion of CSA and sexual violence and is absolutely viciously infuriating). Hogan-Howe advocates a two-stranded approach which will have a devastating effect on encouraging survivors–particularly survivors of historic sexual abuse–to come forward:

  1. Making it clear to survivors that they will not be automatically believed if they report to the police.
  2. Offering anonymity to those accused.

Both of these affect reporting sexual violence to the police. A lot of survivors don’t report because they’re scared of not being believed anyway. The man in charge of the capital’s police force making it explicit that the police might not believe you isn’t exactly going to alleviate these concerns.

Anonymity for the accused sounds nice and fair in theory, but it, too, has an impact on reporting, particularly for serial rapists and abusers. We see the pattern again and again: one or two survivors stick their head above the parapet and speak out about what happened to them, and it encourages more and more survivors to follow, knowing that they’re not alone. It happened with Savile (although, unfortunately, after he died, so he was never brought to justice). It happened with Bill Cosby. It happened with Greville Janner (although, again, he died before being brought to justice). And yes, it happened with Rolf Harris, which is presumably why further charges are being brought 18 months after he was convicted.

In his nasty article, Bernard Hogan-Howe describes what happened after Savile as “a dam burst[ing]”, as though it’s a bad thing that more survivors come forward. He acts as though a senior police officer telling historic abuse survivors, “Come forward, we will believe you,” is a bad thing. It isn’t and it wasn’t.

So why has Bernard Hogan-Howe laid out a roadmap for helping serial rapists and abusers like Rolf Harris get away with it? Again, Hogan-Howe is kind of clear about this in his article: it’s been more than a little inconvenient for some powerful men who have been accused, but there isn’t enough evidence to bring charges.

The right-wing media have been all over Hogan-Howe, baying for his blood. Not because Hogan-Howe is proposing measures that will help serial child abusers like Rolf Harris get away with it, but rather the opposite: a high-up army man and a Tory peer got accused and weren’t charged because of insufficient evidence. Lord Bramall’s case is getting ugly, with him calling for an investigation into his accuser, and today’s Sun front page headline outright calling the accuser “a serial liar“. Meanwhile, Lord Brittan was implicated in dossiers on the Westminster paedophile ring  being ignored, allowing child sexual abuse to go on.

I have no opinion as to whether Brittan or Bramall committed the crimes they were accused of or not. It’s worth noting at this juncture that a lot of historic abuse cases are dismissed because there’s not enough evidence. Even in recent cases of sexual violence, there’s often not much of the sort of evidence which will likely secure a conviction through the courts. With historic abuse, the case may be investigated over 40 years after the incident took place. In a way, it surprises me that there have been any convictions of historic sexual abuse at all, especially ones for abuse which happened decades ago. Again, I am not saying that Bramall or Brittan raped anyone. Rather, the point I would like to make here is that what helps these convictions take place is more victims coming forward. Indeed, one of the things which contributed to the lack of evidence against Bramall–and indeed the media frenzy over how unfair it was to investigate him–was it was based on only one complainant’s testimony.

So, the way things are set up, for historic abuse claims to stand a chance of seeing the inside of a courtroom, plenty of survivors need to come forward. It’s probable that if just one person had come forward to accuse Rolf Harris, he would have got away with it. It’s probable that if other survivors didn’t know an investigation was taking place, they wouldn’t have come forward. It’s probable that nobody would have come forward to accuse Rolf Harris if they’d felt they might not be believed.

Bernard Hogan-Howe would have let Rolf Harris get away with sexual abuse of children and adults alike if he’d decided to say what he said a couple of years ago. In pandering to right-wing media outcry over the poor powerful old white men, Hogan-Howe has achieved only one thing: making it easier for rapists and paedophiles to never be brought to justice.

The media are of course complicit in this, and I am sure they know exactly who they’re helping and who they’re hurting.

I’m sure it’s incredibly inconvenient for the police to be investigating powerful old white men, but this doesn’t mean they should try to discourage reports that they have to investigate. I don’t know, maybe if they stopped harassing BME people using stop and search powers, they’d free up some resources to investigate complaints.

The fact is, under Bernard Hogan-Howe’s ideas, Rolf Harris would have got off scot-free. Think about what when talking about how historic abuse investigations are handled, rather than Bramall and Brittan.

This post was made possible by the continuing support of my patrons. My patrons give me the strength to keep on writing. Please consider becoming a patron on my Patreon

 


Disclosing women’s details to the police won’t keep them safe

Content warning: this post discusses rape and police?

A man in York who a court didn’t find guilty of rape has a “sexual risk order” on him, requiring him to notify police 24 hours before he has sex with any women. He must provide police with their full names, addresses and dates of birth. Somehow, this is supposed to keep women safe.

Except it won’t. It can’t and it won’t.

At best, this will do fuck all. At worst, it exposes women to far more risk than they were at before.

Everything is the wrong way round. The court have clearly acknowledged that this man is a danger to women in imposing the order, and yet rather than take measures that would actually keep women safe, they’ve chosen to hand him the tools to rape with impunity. If this man chooses a victim, all he needs to do is log her details at the cop shop 24 hours in advance, and then what he does may well be taken as consent. This is perhaps a doomsday scenario, but it is not impossible: after all, it looks as though it’s acknowledged that this man is a danger to women.

So why are they telling him he has to gather a vast amount of personal data from women to pass along to the cops, if he’s such a danger to women? Without the order, he wouldn’t necessarily have access to that much information: on a one-night stand, even a last name might not be exchanged, let alone full address and date of birth. Why are they so sure that this man can be trusted with this information?

And furthermore, can the police really be trusted with such information about women who have done literally nothing wrong? What exactly are they going to do with such information? I can’t think of many women who would willingly consent to the police holding their personal data.

It’s like anti-VAW policy from a parallel universe where up is down, left is right, cats are dogs, and keeping women safe means endangering them further.

Keeping women safe is absolutely not about filing a request to fuck involving full personal details. It’s about awareness, knowledge. What women need is to know who this man is, to be able to make decisions. Under rape culture, this cannot happen, because it is about protecting and enabling rapists above all else. We cannot be told who the man is, only be on our guard if a man says, “not tonight, but I’ll get in touch tomorrow. Can I have your number, full address, full name… oh, and date of birth?” (if, of course, he doesn’t just nick your passport to get those details).

I shouldn’t be surprised that there are feminists backing this policy–you can get someone who self-identifies as a feminist to give any quote supporting anything awful that you like–but I am disappointed to see End Violence Against Women’s Sarah Green providing a supportive quote in the Indy. I hope she just didn’t know the full extent of it. I’d hate to think that the head of an organisation dedicated to ending violence against women is backing something which could abet violence against women.

Solutions involving the police don’t work, which has been shown time and time and time again. This case unequivocally shows just how godawful they can be.


#ISeeTara: Support Tara Hudson

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

tarar2

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.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31,990 other followers