Category Archives: not angry just disappointed

“I don’t know, let me find out”: learn this phrase. Use it.

I’ve hit the end of my tether with this fucking election. It’s driving me right up the wall, daily doses of bullshit. Today, it’s one politician making what the Jolyons treat as the worst boo-boo ever. Tomorrow, it’ll be another.

The boo-boo in question is not knowing some numbers off the top of your head, as though politics were no more than an end-of-the-pier mentalism show. The politician–who will always be The Absolute Worst, unless they are a shiny member of the pigfucking class and therefore more palatable to news outlet owners–will generally respond in one of two ways. They will give a wrong figure, presented with confidence, which is Bad. Or they will admit that they do not know off the top of their head. This is Worse.

The latter is Worse because it does not fit in with macho politics, which, of course, reflects some of the worst trappings of masculinity. The phenomenon is related to mansplaining, blurting out any old guff without any expertise, yet with all the confidence in the world. To say “I don’t know, let me find out,” is to back down, admit weakness.

For myself, it was a difficult journey getting myself in the position where I could admit that I was not a computer, able to immediately spit out the right data on request. As a woman in STEM, it’s one of the worst things you can say (despite the entirety of science being built on identifying what we don’t know, and finding out!). As a girl surrounded by boys, you’re considered a thick bimbo. In schools, your teachers will tut when you’re put on the spot and can’t perform. It’s an age-old valued skill, and I suspect it dates back to antiquity, the orators droning things out from their head.

But it’s a bullshit skill, demonstrating only your ability to be spoonfed and regurgitate. It smacks of public school, the political and media class being steeped in its values.

“I don’t know, let me check” is a beautiful phrase. It is honest, and you emerge smarter from the act of checking. You have learned something that you didn’t know. You have proved yourself aware of the limits of your knowledge, and willing to grow, in a very slight way.

I have more respect, any day, for someone who can do this.

The transition from awkward to liberated, for me, was a little slow, but I forced myself to keep saying “I don’t know, let me find out”, when I didn’t know and needed to find out. People would look at me like I was stupid, but you know what? I emerge knowing a little bit more, every time I check. And I realised just how little that others are growing.

I want to see more value placed on self-awareness and willingness to learn, replacing the value placed on false confidence and spurting bollocks. I want to see a sign of weakness turned into a sign of strength: someone who will grow rather than stagnate.

And yet I feel, in the macho shitshow that is the world, this is likely doomed to fail. But I don’t know that for sure–and I’d like to find out by trying.

 

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The Twitter etiquette that matters: A brief guide to not being annoying in our mentions

Twitter’s recent new (hideous) interface has, rather vexingly, made it easier for trolls and well-meaning people alike to commit some behaviours which are, at best, terribly annoying and at worst, thoroughly rude. Now, I can tell that some people don’t mean to be this bothersome, so this post is for you. Try to avoid doing these things, and perhaps my mentions will no longer have to RIP.

@ people out

I cannot emphasise this enough. If someone who is @-ed in to a group conversation isn’t responding or engaging (by favouriting, for example), maybe @ them out. Otherwise their mentions will be clogged up with a conversation which doesn’t interest them. Consider @-ing them out once it’s hit about five tweets in the conversation that they haven’t engaged with.

The new interface has made @-ing out/untagging harder, because it draws attention away from how many people are in the conversation. Be mindful of this. Also, follow this easy-peasy guide to untagging.

(basically, if this isn’t loading for you, click the usernames above the tweet you’re replying to and untick the people you’re untagging. I include the graphic because some people prefer visuals)

Now, I’ve been the dick who hasn’t @-ed people out, and it’s annoyed them. So if it hits the point where they ask to be @-ed out, consider apologising… without @-ing everyone else in!

Use “reply all” functions sparingly

Again, Twitter’s new interface defaults to “reply all”, which increases your chances of spamming up someone’s timeline. Think about who you want to talk to. If you’ve seen a good tweet where several people are tagged, do you want to say “good stuff” to all of them? Or just the person who said the good tweet? Use the tagging-out protocol above, because Twitter will automatically reply all. And, again, in a group conversation, remember to tag people out once they stop engaging.

Try not to spam people with things you want them to see… and definitely don’t spam multiple people at once!

I have a fair amount of followers, so often get “please RT”-type tweets, or someone showing me a bad news story, or someone sharing a blog they wrote. I don’t necessarily mind this, although I will point out that I might not see your tweet, especially if my notifications are all spammed up by people doing the things I’m asking for a bit of etiquette in.

What is annoying, though, is when you tag in multiple people into you tweet. Now, this is annoying for a lot of reasons, primarily among them being half the time at least one of the other high-profile many-followers accounts is someone with whom I have mortal beef. Just because you enjoy following someone, doesn’t mean I want to be added into the conversation. If you’d like me to see something, send it to me, personally, not me and every dimly feminist celebrity or journalist you can think of. If we follow each other, a DM might even be more appropriate.

And more annoying still is when someone tagged decides to reply all when saying “I’ll retweet this” or whatever. Please do not do this.

Unfortunately, Twitter’s new interface makes spamming even easier. Now, spammers are not constrained by character limits so can @ infinite people into one tweet. For goodness sake, don’t do this.

Don’t snitch

Sometimes, people on Twitter will be snarking about a horrible celebrity. And this’ll happen by the medium of subtweeting. And then someone comes along and is all like “Yeah! @KTHopkins is a massive turd.” Congratulations, you fucking snitch. You just drew attention of a high-profile celebrity and could expose everyone to a torrent of abuse. Please, for god’s sake, if you want to tell a celebrity they’re a dickhead, don’t have other people tagged into the conversation. Celebrities are horrid, vain people, many of whom will merrily weaponise their followers.

Incidentally, this is why a lot of people who have experienced abusive Twitter shitstorms may use asterisks to mask a celebrity’s name, because celebs namesearch too. So if you’re replying when somebody has masked a celeb’s name, join them in doing so. Don’t snitch.

tl;dr

Tagging is something you should think carefully about. It’s also something which Twitter has made harder to think carefully about. Keep it on your mind, and try not to be the spammer.

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A short twitter thread on “fake news” and how the media created it

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I have revised my opinion of Wikileaks: it’s trash

Content note: this post discusses prison, suicide, transmisogyny, rape and violence against women

A little over five years ago, I wrote an article titled “I think Julian Assange is a rapist. I still like Wikileaks.” As per the disclaimer on my site, my views have evolved. I now think Julian Assange is a rapist and I also think Wikileaks is absolute trash.

Today, it was announced that Chelsea Manning–who was responsible for the leaks which made Wikileaks a household name–faces indefinite solitary confinement or a harsher prison, almost a decade added to her sentence, and she may lose her parole. She faces this as punishment for already having had such a horrible time in a men’s prison that she attempted to take her own life. And of course, she is only in prison in the first place because Wikileaks failed to protect her, despite all their branding suggesting that they would. (AssAngels will at this point go on like she confessed and blabbed to a man Wikileaks already identified as a threat, because I think this is the Assange-approved talking point. OK. Say that’s true. Wikileaks should’ve definitely at the very least briefed her on basic advice: “don’t tell anyone else, and if arrested, don’t confess.” That they didn’t even do this reflects horribly on them).

One would think that a woman facing torture would be a subject which Wikileaks might deem worthy of comment, even if they weren’t responsible for her being in the hands of the torturers in the first place. One would think.

The news broke this morning, and there has not been a peep on the topic from Wikileaks, although their social media accounts and website have been active.

No. Instead, Wikileaks have been focusing on some pretty uninteresting emails showing that political campaigners squabble among themselves and get mean to media outlets–something which a seven year old could have told you. Also, this leak may or may not have been orchestrated by Putin. But don’t worry. This week, Wikileaks have also been leaking information from a country undergoing severe political turmoil! Yeah, like leaking the details of millions of Turkish women at a time when their government is about to aggressively crack down.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that Wikileaks has an agenda, and it isn’t a very nice agenda. It’s a classic, bog-standard, right wing misogynist agenda, much like the governments they claim to oppose.

I should stop using “they” for Wikileaks, to be honest. I’m not convinced Wikileaks consists of anyone else but rat-faced probably rapist Julian Assange these days.

So anyway, mea culpa. I once liked Wikileaks. I now realise it is utter trash. Wikileaks appear to have thoroughly forgotten Chelsea Manning as much as the state who wish to kill her wish the rest of us would.


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.


Shit I cannot believe needs saying: Your mate might be nice, but is an abuser

Content note: this post discusses domestic violence and abuse, and apologism

When a rich, powerful white man is accused of perpetrating violence against women, a dance begins. It is the world’s worst dance, making Agadoo look like the Bolshoi Ballet. In this well-choreographed dance, everybody rallies around the abuser. They support the abuser, claiming that he is the best guy in the world, and couldn’t have possibly done it. They leap over the evidence presented by the survivor, all in step. Nothing can dent their pal’s Nice Guy status.

It probably doesn’t even matter who the abuser is, or how well they truly know him. This dance is political: it is a way of protecting all abusers across the globe by showing survivors what happens if they speak out.

Let us pretend, for a moment, that some of what is being said is true. Let’s imagine a chap called Johnny Blepp, who has been accused of beating up his wife. Let’s imagine some washed-up pals of his, who we’ll call Paul Gettany and Dickey Rourke and Vanessa Cara–oh fuck it, we all know who we’re talking about here, don’t we?

I believe that Johnny Depp beat Amber Heard. I would believe this even without the sheer level of evidence that Amber Heard showed, the sheer level of evidence which was sufficient to get a restraining order granted.

And, to be perfectly honest, I’d believe Amber Heard even if I was BFFs with Johnny Depp, because I know something which has apparently escaped the notice of those who are seeking attention by leaping to his defence: even if a man is nice to you that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of harming anyone. 

If Paul Bettany had given things a moment’s thought, perhaps he would consider how he has never shared a house, a room, a bed with Johnny Depp, so probably can’t have the first clue what his pal’s like behind closed doors. If Mickey Rourke had had a little think before opening his gob, maybe he would have considered that just because he had never been hit by his mate, doesn’t mean his mate has never hit anyone. If Vanessa Paradis had taken a few seconds, maybe she would have remembered she hasn’t lived with her ex husband in at least four years, and a lot has happened in those four years, so perhaps so has her ex’s temper.

All of these people are outsiders. None of them are party to the knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors. So why on earth do they presume that they know so much that they can confidently accuse a woman of perjury?  That is, after all, what they are doing when a woman has gone to court, told her story (and been granted a restraining order), and they accuse her of having made it up.

I understand that it can sometimes feel implausible that your friend might do horrible things, but this is why it is important to remember that you have no way of knowing how they treat others. You have no way of knowing what it’s like when they go home. Abusers are manipulative people, and have you considered that you are being played?

Again, I get why people may be resistant to that question: nobody likes to feel like a fool. Nonetheless, Depp’s friends, coming out in support of him, are serving not just their mate, but abusers everywhere. They’re helpful little pawns, parroting a line which keeps survivors silent, showing survivors that nobody will believe them. Their intervention isn’t even particularly helpful to their friend: after all, nothing happens to rich white abusers. Look at Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, for example.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. You’re not being objective in the slightest when you knee-jerk defend your friend based on your complete lack of knowledge. You don’t need to say anything at all: if you don’t believe the survivor, keep your gob shut, because you’re mostly basing your disbelief on misogynistic tropes you’ve been fed since birth. If you truly want to keep an open mind, you need to keep your mouth shut, and give what a survivor has said equal weighting to your pal’s denial.

All we know about our friends is they are nice to us. It is peculiarly childish to extend their niceness to us into an assumption that they are nice to everyone.

One day, I hope the dance will falter. I admire the courage of every woman who comes forward despite the power of the man who abused her, and despite the fact that surely she must know that everyone will close ranks with tedious predictability.

I believe Amber Heard. I cannot believe I need to say this, when it ought to go without saying. I believe that Johnny Depp attacked and beat his wife, and I believe Amber Heard.


If 38 Degrees were even mildly competent, their Kuenssberg campaign would’ve been effective

Content note: discusses misogynistic abuse

Yesterday, I discussed misogyny and dead cat politics: a tendency for media and political narratives to use the very real problem of misogynists being dicks to distract away from their own wrongdoing. I concluded that the best defence against this tactic is probably to avoid being misogynists. Today, I offer a more constructive, practical example on this topic, and will provide campaign site 38 Degrees with some free advice to avoid another incident like the current Laura Kuenssberg clusterfuck. If they want any further advice, they can bloody well pay me, god knows they rake in enough.

A little background to the current hot mess: a lot of people are quite concerned about the questionable impartiality exhibited by the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, and do not think it is befitting for a political editor of a publicly-funded news outlet to display bias towards certain political parties and against others. A petition went up on their website, and garnered over 35,000 signatures, but thrown into this mix was a hive of seething misogyny. This handily provided those who might benefit from the direction of bias at the BBC with a distraction from actually having to respond to the issues raised. The petition was taken down, and the organisation’s CEO, David Babbs, donned a hair shirt.

None of this needed to happen, had 38 Degrees displayed even an iota of competence and understanding of issues of misogyny. A great degree of the abject failure of this campaign can be chalked up to failures from 38 Degrees themselves. It could have all been avoided if they’d have just taken some proactive measures.

1. Moderate your own online spaces properly

38 Degrees is primarily an online campaigning forum, and it is startling that they failed so much to moderate their own online spaces on which they rely: comment threads, and Facebook. If they had removed misogynistic comments in their own spaces over which they have direct control, a rally of terrible people probably wouldn’t have picked up the same level of steam as it did. An organisation the size of 38 Degrees ought to have ample resources to put towards moderating out misogyny, and that they did not is probably their biggest failure.

I suspect this lack of moderation was due to two problems inherent to the organisation: their brand, and a desire for engagement. First, the brand: 38 Degrees goes on like it’s open-for-all, and so on–so of course they’ll let dreadful misogynists have their special snowflake say. As for a desire for engagement, in today’s digital world, the more “engagement” you have, the more money you end up making at the end of the day. Engagement can be good, bad, or ugly: a comment is a comment, and the more the better, because that’ll likely result in more clicks, more signs, more email addresses collected, more donations… it doesn’t matter what they’re saying, because they’re engaging. Sadly for them, they’re probably losing potential supporters through not moderating out misogyny: it makes their spaces less welcoming to half the population, and therefore half the population is actually less likely to give them that engagement cash cow.

2. Have a moderation policy

A moderation policy is a powerful tool. It easily and accessibly helps those who moderate the spaces, spelling out what they should delete or not, rather than simply leaving them to make up their mind. It’s also great when your moderation policy is transparent, not just because transparency is good, but because it clearly states what is and is not acceptable in the community. It’s the sort of thing 38 Degrees should have clearly in places where you can leave comments: a link to it above places to leave comments, a pinned post on Facebook.

38 Degrees did not have any such policy that I could find, which in combination with the Kuenssberg mess makes me suspect they never had one in the first place. Maybe they didn’t do one because it was too hard. Building and publicising moderation policy inevitably pisses off a fair few awful people who will squawk their war cry of FREEZE PEACH. If 38 Degrees are worried about losing the vital whiney wankstain demographic, then they oughtn’t to–if they go, they were probably never particularly valuable supporters in the first place; if they stay, then hoo-fucking-ray. Whatever the reason they don’t have a comment policy, if they want to recover after this trash fire, they’re going to need to sort one out, stat.

So, that’s the online spaces 38 Degrees have control over sorted in two easy steps. But what about the spaces they don’t control? After all, wasn’t at least some of the problem down to people sharing it?

3. Control the message, and control the share text

I cannot fucking believe that an organisation as big as 38 Degrees never thought about how the message itself was presented, and how maybe, just maybe, that might attract misogynists like flies to shit. The petition screeched the name Laura Kuenssberg–a very feminine name–and had a big honking picture of her at the top. This was all there whenever anyone shared the petition on social media sites. Any godawful man who just hates women will see this as “petition to fucking destroy this harpy”. Ultimately, like those who have something to hide and play dead cat politics with misogyny, misogynists do not care about the message either: they just hate women.

The goal of this petition was to raise concerns about bias from a senior figure at the BBC. Why not lead with that, then? Why not title the petition “Sack the biased BBC Political Editor” or “End bias at the BBC”, or “The BBC Political Editor should be impartial”. I honestly did not even know the BBC Political Editor was called Laura Kuenssberg until this–for all I knew, she might have been some reporter who doorstepped a politician aggressively, or a someone who works in the BBC canteen and wrote “Jeremy Corbyn is a poo” in the foam on a latte. Referring to the job title is much clearer. It’s also not necessary to use a picture of the person as the image that will pop up whenever it gets shared. Why use that, when you could use some sort of simple visual graphic presenting facts about bias at the BBC, if it really is such a problem.

Some may argue that if the Beeb’s political editor was a man, a “Sack Bob McDickface” petition name with a picture of him looking like a prick would be fine. And yes, that’s true. What’s also true, though, is that we live in a patriarchal culture, and in a patriarchal culture, different reactions happen because of women than because of men. A picture of a man probably isn’t going to cause discussions of how hideously ugly he is where it is shared, for example. Focus on the role, not the woman, if the subject of your campaign is a woman.

38 Degrees have control over this when it comes to sharing. They write and edit the campaign copy, and they choose the images and accompanying share text. Had they given the climate they were releasing this campaign into five minutes of thought, they probably could have staved off the catastrophe that ensued.

4. Challenge any remaining misogynists

Even with all of this, there’s still likely to be the odd misogynist pop up with their misogyny. For a big organisation that doesn’t want their new brand to be Enablers Of Misogyny™, even at this juncture there is something that can be done. Challenge that shit. Say “You are sharing this petition calling the subject a bitch. That’s misogynistic and unacceptable.”

It’s not like 38 Degrees don’t have the resources to see who is sharing their campaigns, and what they’re saying about it. It is also not like they don’t have the resources to challenge this with their own social media channels. If there’s a large amount of misogynists sharing your campaign, put out a statement clarifying that you do not condone their behaviour, that it is putrid, and send it to them. Hell, 38 Degrees will likely have access their email addresses: send them an email telling them they’re being a prick, because nothing puts off a horrible flamer like tearing off their comfortable veil of anonymity. Send an email round to everyone who signed, addressing the issue with misogyny and making how the campaign should be shared clear.

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These four simple steps are well within the realms of 38 Degrees’s capacity, and if they want to recover from this, they’ll need to think about implementing this in the future, or giving themselves over to just being a hive of misogynists.

The best way to avoid dead cat politics is to keep all nearby cats alive and well. When you are a large campaigning organisation, this becomes all the more important.

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