Category Archives: not angry just disappointed

Mad Max > Game of Thrones IDST

Content warning: This post discusses rape and violence against women, and contains spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road and Game Of Thrones S05E06.

Why yes, this is the second post in a week about what Mad Max: Fury Road is doing right, so right. Or, at least, more right that a hell of a lot of the shite that’s on our screens these days.

Readers of this blog will likely be aware that the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “Unbroken, Unbowed, Unbent”, featured a rape scene which was not in the books and seemed to serve little purpose (although I’d argue it did serve a function, and a fucking horrid one at that). Defenders of the scene, and defenders of the show’s attitude towards rape in general tend to follow a similar line. “But it’s accurate that in a medieval setting, women would get raped!” “Would you rather they just ignored the issue?”

First of all, the historical accuracy argument is fucking bullshit in a show where dragons and zombies gad about doing dragon and zombie stuff, the climate produces seasons that last for decades, and everybody has a full smile of straight white teeth. Let’s see it instead for what it is: a fantasy setting where, along with all of the above things which didn’t really happen in medieval Europe, it’s also a dystopian world where women are treated as chattel and therefore rape and violence against women is commonplace. Here, the “would you rather they just ignored the issue” argument has slightly more traction.

The thing is, if that is indeed a conscious part of the world that has been built and is being explored in the show, the writers and producers are still doing a fucking terrible job of pulling it off. If they want to explore these issues and show this horrible world they’ve created, they can look to Fury Road to see how it’s done.

Fury Road takes a look at violence against women in a dystopian world, and it does this without a single rape scene–hell, there’s probably only a few seconds of screen time dedicated to showing any violence against women. Instead, they explore it through competent writing, realising that we do not need to be shown these things to appreciate that they are bad and that they are a very real problem for the victims. Instead of being shown women being victimised, we are shown the impact it has on them, their desire to get away. We see instead their feelings, scrawled in paint across the room in which they were kept. We see them angry, we see them sad. We see its perpetrator, and we despise him without having to have every little detail of his violence rubbed in our faces.

It is entirely possible to address and discuss these issues on screen without subjecting the audience to the horrors. In fact, it’s easy to write a blow-by-blow rape scene. It is perhaps more challenging, but infinitely more rewarding for the audience to use some fucking subtlety and actually delve into what this means rather than what happened. Fury Road went to the length of employing a feminist to consult on the handling of violence against women, and it shows, because what emerged was a far better and more nuanced exploration of a world rife with gendered violence than much else.

We live in a ridiculous world full of dreadful writing if I have to call a fucking Mad Max film subtle and nuanced.


No, Helen Mirren, Thatcher wasn’t an “incredible role model”

Helen Mirren has said that Margaret Thatcher was a role model to young girls, because “she was a role model for a little-three-year old girl [to think] that she could become the Prime Minister of England.”

I was a little girl under Thatcher. And let it be known that I never thought that. From a very young age, Thatcher instilled me with a sense of disgust at mainstream politics, a persistent sense that they were out to ruin my life and take things from me. Thatcher took away my ability to believe I could be anything, she took away my hope of ever living stably. It’s what she did to my generation of little girls. It’s what she did to kids of all genders who grew up under her.

Us millennials are often criticised for our apathy, but we grew up thinking nothing was worth it in the face of an all-powerful system intent on keeping us in poverty or shit jobs (and all too often, both), living precariously. That was Thatcher’s fault. She started it, and we watched it metastatise as we got older. She empowered some, it’s true: those determined to destroy the lives of others. The rich, the bigots, they’re probably quite happy.

So she wasn’t so much a role model as somebody who crushed a whole host of kids like me into thinking we could never become anything, let alone Prime Minister. And even if we had dreams, what were these dreams? We could no longer be Britain’s first woman PM, because Thatcher had stolen that chance, too. We’d live in her shadow, constantly compared, and have to rebuild what was ruined, or be complicit in her destruction.

There’s a pervasive thought, and one which is absolute bollocks on scrutiny: that when a woman occupies a position of power, she is automatically doing good by being inspirational. It is an absolute nonsense. Thatcher could have been of any gender, and she still would have been a force of evil. There is little inspirational to the people who need to be inspired about seeing someone who happens to be the same gender as them ruthlessly slicing up the present and grinding the future into dust.

Young girls are not just malleable lumps of clay, ready to be shaped by whatever rose-tinted vision is plonked in front of them. Young girls think critically. We see monsters for the monsters that we are. Little girls are cleverer than you think, and most of us drew little positive from Thatcher.


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.


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


The Green Party need to drop Rupert Read by, like, yesterday: An open letter to the Green Party

Content note: This post discusses transmisogyny

Dear Green Party,

Look, I’m an anarchist, and voting isn’t something I do any more. But sometimes, I look at the Green Party and think “they look like they might stand a chance and they’d probably be the least terrible. Maybe I’ll vote for them.” It was growing inside me, the knowledge that you, at least, might make things tolerable rather than terrible. All that’s gone now, because you’ve made yourselves look no different to the others.

I’m talking, of course, about your Cambridge candidate, Rupert Read. It turns out he’s a really, really nasty piece of work. The clues came when he tweeted the sort of dogwhistle comment which alerts the wise to transmisogyny: he went for the old “don’t call me cis” type bollocks. Digging deeper it turns out that yes, he’s a transmisogynist, and wrote a dreadful, pompous diatribe defending Julie Burchill and transmisogyny within feminism. It’s strange, because while he self-identifies as a “male feminist” (a phrase which makes my skin crawl and sets off numerous red flags at the best of times), he opposed representation quotas for women in the party, claiming, in a popular misogynistic refrain that women already lead the party. Oh, and he’s also enormously UKIPpy about immigration. Oh, and the whole thing started because he used a disablist slur.

So, he’s generally, up and down, pretty godawful and doesn’t embody Green Party ideals–as I understood the Party’s ideals, anyway. He did the old politicians’ apology and made the whole thing significantly worse. As I understand, an apology ought to include some distance from the unpleasant beliefs for which one is apologising, but Rupert Read’s… well, it really, really didn’t. Indeed, he restated a bunch of transmisogynistic ideology, adding that he wasn’t sure if trans women should be allowed to use women’s toilets. More broadly, he showed a devastating lack of understanding of how the world works these days, like a fucking dinosaur. He framed himself as a victim because of one or two four-letter words on Twitter. He moaned that it’s so hard to represent oneself on Twitter (which hardly fills one with confidence about his ability to represent his views in Parliament!). He made it clear–achingly clear–that he prefers debates to happen in the academy. The man is quite patently out of touch with the year 2015. I’d be a little embarrassed for him if he wasn’t such a thoroughly dreadful human.

I wondered why the Greens would select a candidate who is so at odds with the Party’s beliefs, and reeks of the kind of public school privilege of any other politician when a big part of your image is you’re different from the rest. He was the only candidate who put himself forward for the Cambridge seat, it’s true, but I know how political parties work, and I know if you didn’t want him, you would have dragged someone else up to stand against him. It’s pretty clear why you didn’t do that. He’s quite a big donor to the Green Party. He’s in the top 10 biggest donors to the party of all time. Last summer, he was the fourth biggest donor.

It might all be a coincidence, Green Party, but you can’t deny this looks very bad indeed. You’re running a candidate who not only holds absolutely terrible beliefs, but also gave you a lot of money. It looks a lot like he bought his selection. It looks a lot like the Green Party is no different from all of the others.

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I like you, Green Party. Despite most of my instincts, I don’t want you to be destroyed by this. Rupert Read claims that most of the criticism is coming from people who want to see the Green Party burn, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of us who are angry are exactly the kind of people who would vote for you.

This is why I’m giving you some friendly advice: drop Rupert Read. Drop him like a burning turd. It’s Rupert Read himself who will harm you. He has to go. You need to take a strong stand against bigotry, and distance yourselves from him. I want you to do all right, and you can’t with a pompous transmisogynistic, sexist, racist conservative shitweasel like Rupert Read dragging you down.

So please drop him. Pretty please.

Love Zoe xoxo

Further reading:

On “Male TERFs” (Sarah Brown)
My view of Green Party candidate Rupert Read’s “apology”. (UnCommon Sense)
Green MP candidate for Cambridge makes transphobic statements (Get Real Cambridge)
An open letter to Rupert Read (Loz Webb, Action for Trans Health)

Update 24/1/15: A second apology has now been issued. This one is significantly better, though only addresses the transmisogyny. Furthermore, Read and the Cambridge Green Party have refused to take donations from violent transmisogynistic hate group Gender Identity Watch and have condemned them [1] [2].

However, in light of the donations and the other awful stuff still left unaddressed, I still do not believe that it is appropriate for Rupert Read to stand.


And they’ve replaced Page 3 with something far worse.

VICTORY FOR FEMINISM. The Sun appears to have dropped the topless model on Page 3. The No More Page 3 campaign is dizzy with joy, retweeting every ounce of praise for them winning this campaign.

The problem the NMP3 campaign had all along was with the presence of nipples, which is one of the very many reasons I had misgivings about it. By their own campaign goals, if it’s true and the Sun has indeed dropped the topless model on Page 3, then they’ve won. No more bare boobs over breakfast.

Personally, I’m a little more sceptical. I have a tendency to flick though the Sun if there’s a copy nearby, for the same morbid reasons as I sometimes subject myself to Question Time or click on New Statesman links. What I’ve noticed in my perusal of things that make me annoyed is that when they don’t have a posed picture of a model on the third page, they tend to have a candid photo of a celebrity. I’d been hoping–being a perpetual optimist who is repeatedly bitterly disappointed–that the Sun would switch to posed photos of models who have covered their breasts, if they’re getting rid of the topless shots. Indeed, last night, it looked like that was the way the wind was blowing, and I felt genuinely relieved that it wasn’t going to be more candid shots.

Of course, that wasn’t to last. Today’s page 3 of the Sun is… candid shots. Of some women who were in a soap opera. Enjoying a beach holiday. Being photographed without their consent.

This is the major problem with candid shots. They’re infinitely worse than posed photos. What does a photograph snapped without a woman’s knowledge or blessing say about our attitude towards consent? Paparazzi shots are invasive and, crucially, completely non-consensual. Fame, according to the paparazzi model, gives men the right to stalk women, to watch them through telescopic lenses while they think they are alone, to watch and wait for a moment deemed suitably titillating or humiliating. If a woman is famous, she loses every right to privacy, and must live her life in a state of perpetual camera-readiness, because she knows that one bad shot where she’s bending and her stomach looks ever so slightly off a completely flat plane will be splashed across the media with gleeful laughter, trying to shame the witch with her rounded witch abdomen. I can only imagine how hellish it must be to be stalked with your harassment encouraged by the national media organisations. In contrast, the topless model, during a shoot, knows exactly what is happening, when the shots are coming. She can portray herself as she wants, and then go home to her privacy.

Another key difference between candid shots and posed photos is who gets paid. Models, of course, get paid for their work. They might not get paid much, but they’re paid for the labour of maintaining their bodies, of being able to work with a camera. With the candids, the subject is not reimbursed for her troubles. Photographers grow rich, they are incentivised to continue their misogynist stalking. Meanwhile, their victims must go through all sorts of affective labour to avoid the cameras, or to at least try to look “attractive” every time they go outside in case there’s a paparazzo hiding in the bushes.

The notion of women getting paid for what we do is, unfortunately, quite alien under patriarchy. It’s a big part of the reason why the paparazzi model flourishes. Women are expected to look good all the time, with no thought given to the sheer amount of effort this labour takes. It’s broadly similar to how demands such as wages for housework remain a niche interest rather than a major feminist campaign. Our work is not considered work. Also related, here, is the general sneering at women who do glamour modelling (as well, of course, as other forms of sex work). It’s not seen as a “real” job, despite the phenomenal amount of devalued labour that goes into it. The No More Page 3 campaign have been just as guilt of this as the misogynists they claim to be fighting. I note that Page 3 is continuing online, behind a paywall, and I hope the models continue to be fairly reimbursed for their work: I’d hate to see a feminist campaign that threw women into poverty!

What was on Page 3 has been replaced by a far nastier flavour of misogyny, born out of a sense of entitlement and a complete disregard for women’s consent. Paparazzi intrusion has ruined lives, even killed women. That anybody could think that replacing a photo which was taken with a woman’s knowledge (and she was paid for) with candid photos is baffling.

I’d honestly rather see a pair of nipples as I eat my beans on toast than this horrifying form of misogyny any day.


Channel 4’s diversity policy won’t work

Channel 4 have produced new diversity guidelines, and get your martini glasses ready because they’ll likely make the rich cis straight white abled men media class start sobbing. Women, PoC, LGBT and disabled people must now be given leading roles in new shows, and characters must also reflect this diversity.

It sounds good on paper, but it won’t fucking change much. The big problem here is that Channel 4 haven’t hit the issue where it matters: the showrunners. The thing about rich cis straight white abled men is they’re not very good at writing diverse characters. They write tokens rather than rounded characters. They write fucking rubbish, because they can’t step outside of their own very limited life experience. Without a change to who is running shows, we’re not likely to see much interesting new content, just a rehash of the same old tired tropes that happen when characters are viewed through the eyes of the rich cis straight white abled man. Channel 4 could have attacked this problem at the very root, and drastically cut the quantity of shows commissioned that are run by this demographic so it reflects population level.

Saying that, even if they did that, I expect what we’d see was a sudden rise in shows run by rich cis gay white abled men.

There’s also a lot of bullshit which falls into compliance with Channel 4’s self-imposed guidelines which won’t help anything. Take, for example, Dr Christian’s pharmacopoeia of nastiness: he’s a gay man (TICK!) and he’s making shows which feature disabled people (TICK!). The fact that these shows generally take the tone of “HEY LOOK AT THIS FREAK WANNA FIND OUT HOW SHE FUCKS?” doesn’t factor into these diversity guidelines. Representation is representation is representation. It doesn’t matter how people are represented, just that they are there.

On the character side of things, I anticipate a little bit of change, maybe. I expect to see less queer-coding villains and more overtly queer, deviant villains. I foresee an enormous rise in racist tropes, with magical negroes leading the white heroes on their quests while at least getting to be in the opening credits for once. And oh! So much naughty, after hours shows with physical comedy about rimming because everybody knows gays can’t go on before the watershed. But worst of all, I predict a rise of the freak show formula. It’s done Channel 4 well so far, and it’ll only serve it better.

Channel 4 has taken a step, but it’s a pretty useless step. I only hope the amount of discomfort it causes the rich cis straight white abled men media class outweighs the negatives.


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