Category Archives: rage at the system

Guest blog from 2020: RIP Labour Party

Well, that was the election result I have been expecting since 2015: even worse electoral wipeout than five years ago, under Ed Miliband. They haven’t even managed to control the constituency of the recently-terraformed Moon, where the Predictamatic 3000 was certain in the exit Readings that they’d win by a landslide!

And so the circle of blame that I expected to happen, happened. I think this tweet–note for new readers: Twitter was a primitive social network in 2015. They communicated by typing what they wanted to say. It kind of worked like Gl0bal except without the neural interface and… oh, it’s hard to explain–anyway, this tweet kind of summed up the mindset of the party back in 2015.

FireShot Capture - Ellie Cumbo on Twitte_ - https___twitter.com_EllieCumbo_status_634281783408881668

See, Labour in 2015 was already a cesspit of blame. They blamed left-wing people for losing them the 2015 election by not voting for a party that had endorsed austerity politics. During their leadership contest later that year, a left-wing candidate gained prominence. The left-wing candidate appeared as though he might do the unthinkable, and win back left-wing voters to the party. People joined in droves–people who had been profoundly critical of the Labour Party under its contemporary direction, and saw an opening for it to become something different. They were ejected from the party and denied a vote in the leadership race. They were called “registered supporters”.

That’s right. The Labour Party literally kicked a bunch of people off of their register of supporters for being critical of certain policies, and for feeling unrepresented. The Labour Party literally told supporters “we don’t want your support”.

They told a bunch of people who said, “I’d vote for you if…” to get stuffed.

And now we see the same voices complaining about the wipeout being the fault of left-wing people who didn’t vote for them. Again.

The thing is, of course nobody voted for them. What did they provide people to vote for? Anyone who wanted austerity voted for the Tories, because the Tories present themselves far more credibly as the party of austerity. And those who didn’t voted for smaller parties–or didn’t vote at all, because what’s the fucking point? Labour didn’t create a niche for themselves. They had the opportunity to, and the blew it by telling those who suggested that the niche they could occupy could be opposing the party of government.

Labour lost the 2015 election because of this, and then they lost this year’s election because they were too damn pointless to try to create any kind of reason to vote for them at all.

I’m fucking delighted tbh. I never voted Labour in my life and couldn’t wait to dance on their grave.

I turned 18 in 2003, which was the same year Labour decided to invade Iraq (dubiously legally). I was fucking livid. So I didn’t vote for them in my first general election.

I voted Lib Dem in 2010. That was a terrible idea as it happened, but at that point I’d kind of swallowed the kool-aid on the “austerity is necessary” line, and I’d have rather voted for the party that hadn’t had a horrible track record on civil liberties, invaded another country, and didn’t have a leader who looked like what back then we thought badly-glitching androids would look like every time he smiled. I then discovered a lot more about what austerity really meant, and the absolute scale of the destruction and my politics took a quick turn for the better.

In 2015, the then-Labour leader carved the words “TOUGH ON IMMIGRATION” into stone, and for some reason they thought they lost the election because they weren’t right-wing enough. They went on to help the Tory government to whom they’d handed a majority by legitimising their rhetoric to scale up welfare cuts, rather than making it difficult for them. And the last five years has just been more and more of legitimising the kind of rhetoric which kills, in their position which is less of an opposition and more of outright complicity.

I was relieved when the left-wing candidate didn’t win, because I was concerned he might slow down the party’s inevitable demise, when my whole adult life I’ve felt nothing but a sense of betrayal from them. I am as happy about their death as I was when Thatcher died (I’m so glad she snuffed it before cryogenics became a thing, imagine if they’d resurrected her!). At the end of the day, they would not have made a lick of difference, except they’d wear red ties rather than blue.

Who knows where next. We need to up our own game–as with the last ten years, we need to organise to stop people being killed by the vicious government who want them dead. We need to escalate our efforts in destroying these institutions that allow the message to be broadcast to all that some people deserve to starve. We need to resist, to make it hard for them. And we know this cannot come from within parliament, that the power they have is the power over life and death. So we need to build towards their destruction too. It’s a tough fucking road, and we’re all exhausted, but our survival alone is an act of defiance and spite against them.

Incidentally, the Moon said no to austerity, so maybe we can take a leaf out of a particular Ursula Le Guin book and all go and live there in communal anarchy?

Moon aside, we have options. We always have options, and we need to make the most of them. I suggest we-

Under what powers?

No, that section only applies to-

No, I do not consent to come with you.

[scream, end transmission]


In which I review a book that I read: Trans, by Juliet Jacques

Content warning: this post mentions transmisogyny and misogyny

I was recently sent a copy of a book I’ve been itching to read: Trans, a memoir written by Juliet Jacques, a journalist and all-round interesting person who I’ve had the privilege of meeting a couple of times, and always found myself wishing I knew her better. Now, in a way, I do.

It’s hard to explain what sort of book Trans is, because at face value it’s a memoir of her life before and during transition, in reality it’s far more than that. Trans is a book about art and music and football and journalism. Trans is a political exposition of the prospect of a life of shit jobs and no money, the path that our generation find ourselves treading. Trans is an exploration of the intersections of class and misogyny and transphobia, the political springing from the personal. Trans is a reflective examination of the benefits and pitfall that come with having a platform. Trans is a critique of its own form.

The thing that makes Trans such a brilliant book is that it whets the appetite, leaving the reader with a desire to know more, and gently signposting where you can find it. I have found my reading list for trans and feminist theory grow enormously, as well a whole bunch of films I just need to watch, and a playlist of bands I should probably listen to.

Perhaps because of this constant state of piqued interest, I found myself disappointed when the book ended: it ends abruptly, a pointed choice on the part of the author, for as she says in the epilogue (a conversation with author Sheila Heti), “it really was that anticlimactic” to be discharged from the Gender Identity Clinic to go back to work at an admin job in the same hospital. Yet this is entirely consistent with the style of the book: glimpses of moments, a continuity emerging from a discontinuity. Nothing is sudden, and yet everything is sudden.

I could write loads on this, but Juliet says everything much better than I ever could, so I’ll just say this: read this book. There’s something in it for everyone, and it explains complex political issues accessibly. Juliet writes vibrantly and engagingly, and highly evocatively. I said at the start that she’s an interesting person, and this comes through in her writing. She’s cool, with great taste in music and art–although I’m not so sure about her choice of football club! Everything is presented in bite-sized chunks, making such a deep book nonetheless the kind of thing you can dip into during a short bus journey or on the toilet, or tear through during your commute or on holiday. So, read it. I guarantee you’ll like it.

 


I won’t be going to Pride tomorrow

Content note: this post discusses homophobia, transphobia and biphobia

Tomorrow sees London’s Pride parade, supposedly a celebration of how brilliant things are. Each year, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth, because things are not great. They really, really aren’t, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who yell over the voices that should be heard and dominate our movement.

On a personal level, I wouldn’t feel safe attending the event with either of my partners. For a supposedly inclusive space, Pride in London is peculiarly intolerant of anybody but monosexuals and cis people. Marchers yell “breeders” at bi people, with many overtly expressing that they thing bi people shouldn’t be there.

And then there’s the transphobia, which they say they’ve cleared up, but it doesn’t look like it has. Perhaps “toiletgate”–transmisogyistic barring of trans women from accessing toilet facilities–has been cleared up. but a lot of the trans women I know don’t want to be the guinea pigs in finding this out.

So, even if I went, my friends and partners wouldn’t be there, so what’s the fucking point?

It seems as though a schism is becoming more visible than ever in our community. On one side are the marginalised, the oppressed. On the other are those who don’t give a fuck. This issue was perhaps exemplified in this week’s intervention by Jennicet Gutierrez, and the reaction to it.

Gutierrez is a trans woman and undocumented migrant. At a White House dinner, set up to circlejerk about how very good on LGBT rights Barack Obama is, Gutierrez shouted out truths. She pointed out the violences occurring against LGBT migrants, how they were being detained and deported, facing sexual and physical violence, by Obama’s very own administration. As reward, she was shouted down by the hypocrite she was trying to address, and hauled away by the Secret Service. The audience, who were ostensibly comprised of LGBT people, booed her and showed happiness at her silencing.

Here’s what Gutierrez wanted to say. Read her words, and digest them.

We have little to celebrate, all things considered. Yes, we can get married, and yes, in the US a breakthrough was made where now openly gay people can be killed in combat. Yet these are hardly victories when our siblings are homeless, facing violence, in poverty, in fear.

London’s Pride events ignore all of this. London’s Pride events actively march perpetrators of the violences we face through our streets. There was protest about UKIP marching, but so many more of the marchers are our enemies. The police, Tories, and countless corporations. If you can’t see why it’s inappropriate that they’re there, then you are out of touch with the very real violences which face a lot of us.

We have a lot of work to do, and the Pride parade is like a rainbow flag pinned to a wall covered in cracks. The issues are still there, but it distracts from them, giving the cishet population a feeling of warm fuzzies. Too many LGB people are complicit in distracting from the fights yet to be won: the fights which are barely being fought.

So no, I’m not going, because I know there’s nothing to celebrate, and nothing to be won by being there.


We’re fucked. Now is the time for solidarity.

We could talk about this election until the whole country falls into the sea as it rightly deserves, but there are more pressing things to address.

I hate to go all Sorting Hat on you, but things are probably going to get very bad, and we need to pull together. What we’re going to need is a lot of fucking solidarity to get through the next five years.

The real politics isn’t in the murderers at Westminster, but it’s the little things close to home, the things we need to do to survive, the things we shouldn’t have to.

Check in regularly with vulnerable people: those of us who are disabled, those who are migrants, the young and the elderly, those who find the means of survival ripped away. Resist, loudly, the lies and the blame thrown towards those of us who find ourselves suddenly much more open to attack. Help those around you to survive as much as you can, and do not be afraid to ask for help yourself.

Let’s try to recentre the discourse, and challenge the narratives that got us here. Let’s build our own power outside of Westminster, in our communities, in our homes, and yes, out on the streets, too.

They succeeded because they made their victims into scapegoats. It is absolutely crucial that we reverse this by any means necessary.

Under the Tories, our very survival is a radical act. Each breath we draw is an affront to them, and each sound we make chips away a little more.


In the news this week: cis white men are awful, water is wet

This week has been a week of complete non-surprises.

Today, we’ve seen shocking revelations that Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, is a massive racist who thinks protections against racism should be scrapped. I use the word “shocking” because that’s the word Labour’s press officer used, apparently having not paid any attention to thing this opposition politician has said until today. I doubt anyone who has been following Farage and didn’t learn politics from late night talk radio will be particularly surprised that the leader of the most respectable fascist party is a racist, but the way the media are going on is certainly acting as though this is news.

In other dreadful bigots, Jeremy Clarkson’s been having a less-than-brilliant week. It turns out that a man who has made his fortune saying ghastly bigoted nonsense is a bit of a spoilt brat who punched a producer over not getting a sirloin steak and fondant potatoes (whatever that is) for his tea. Nonetheless, humourless men have been getting their knickers in a twist about his employer’s decision to suspend him, believing a rich man’s right to fondant potatoes to be absolute. I suggest, out of solidarity, they all go and punch their own colleagues in a temper tantrum over dinner.

These two clowns were the obvious awful men, but a special mention goes to Tim Lott, who joins the ranks of Clarkson and Farage in a persecution complex of the dreadful bigot who has noticed the world has moved on past him. Poor Tim is sad because people challenge him when he spouts crap. Poor Tim is so silenced that he is continuing to be paid for parping out the same column for a decade, because ten years ago you also couldn’t be racist about Muslims.

These men are representative of a breed which is, hopefully, dying. They growl and whine that you can’t say anything any more when implicit in their words is the acknowledgement that the world moved on without them. They self-identify as a silent majority, when in fact it’s a small circle of wankers getting paid to be wankers, with a small army of sockpuppets barking like sealions. I am surprised at how few people signed Clarkson’s petition or will vote UKIP, given how this lot seem to imagine themselves as representative of a population.

They’re not, that’s why. They’re a gobby little minority who feel threatened as they awaken to a world that doesn’t want them any more. And that can only be a good thing. I hope it terrifies them.


Solidarity with Aderonke Apata

Content note: This post discusses lesbophobia and treatment of migrant women

Aderonke Apata is a lesbian woman who was born in Nigeria. There, she faced absolute horrors. She was tortured by police, three members of her family were murdered, her girlfriend of 20 years was murdered. Aderonke herself was sentenced to death by stoning by a Sharia court, and due to a homophobic law passed in Nigeria, she faces 14 years in prison if she returns. What happened to Aderonke–and what could happen to her–happened because she is a lesbian woman in a world that would rather lesbian women were dead.

Over here in the UK, the Home Office too would rather send Aderonke to face–at the very least–prison and the very real threat of being killed. They’ve refused to grant Aderonke asylum, a decision which Aderonke is challenging. They refused, even after Aderonke was forced into all sorts of degrading things to “prove” she is a lesbian, such as submitting a DVD and intimate photos of her sex life.

Their reason? Aderonke has children, and had previously been in heterosexual relationships. They are playing on lesbophobic tropes to try to send this vulnerable woman into danger, because they know that society at large thinks horrible things about queer women.

The issue of “provability” is in and of itself a lesbophobic trope. Under heterosexual patriarchy, sex doesn’t actually count unless a man is involved. In terms of “proving” that she is gay, Aderonke must fight a losing battle, because she is trying to battle against a world that doesn’t believe in lesbians anyway.

Aderonke’s relationships with men, many years ago, are unduly weighted as her “real” relationships, negating her true identity as a lesbian and devaluing her relationships with women.

Unfortunately, the definition of “lesbian” is kind of baffling to most people who aren’t queer women who have given this some thought. There is a demand for a “gold star”, for lesbian women to have never even kissed a man, let alone had sex with one. “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race,” said the barrister against Aderonke, summing up this ridiculous societal attitude pretty fucking well, by accident.

Under heterosexual patriarchy, women are expected to have sex with men. Wanting that is presented as a norm, a default. A hell of a lot of lesbians have had sex and relationships with men, simply because it is expected (and often, because men feel entitled). When there’s a norm presented, most people will at least have a pop at living the normative way. This is even the case in countries where homophobia is nominally, legally Not A Thing, the sort of countries where gays can marry.

The “gold star” drivel has sadly been internalised by some lesbians. It’s used to devalue lesbians and queer women who haven’t managed to figure it all out early, or those of us who are bi. The myth of the gold star is something we desperately need to destroy.

The other thing, of course, that needs smashing, is the idea lesbians are incapable of reproduction. That’s really not the case. A lesbian couple can reproduce all by themselves.

The sad thing in regard to Aderonke’s case is this is not abnormal for the Home Office. The Home Office is where misogyny, homophobia and racism come together to crush women like Aderonke. Ultimately, we’ll stop seeing cases like Aderonke’s only after we have ground that repulsive institution and the ideologies that underpin it into dust.

But in the meantime, there’s some things you can do to help and support Aderonke. You can sign a petition. You can follow the Facebook page for updates about actions in the meatspace and what’s going on with her case. And finally, there’s this beautiful photo project for queer women and femmes to show solidarity. Please help Aderonke, and help women like her by rejecting the structural lesbophobia and racism coming wafting out of the Home Office.

 


The Bruce amendment is dead… for now.

Fiona Bruce’s “Trojan horse” amendment has been shot down. I am filled with gush of relief which rushes through me after the latest immediate threat to my reproductive rights is disabled, but, as always, it is edged with fear about what will happen next. What happened yesterday wasn’t a victory, but rather holding the pitiful patch of ground we have staked out.

201 elected representatives voted in favour of restricting abortion rights. That’s a substantial chunk of the House of Commons, and their triumph was only thwarted by the hard work of Abortion Rights in mobilising a resistance and getting enough MPs to show up and vote against it.

Those who voted against it read like a rogue’s gallery of The Worst. The scumbags, the shitweasels, and the repeat uterus-botherers. Nadine Dorries voted for it gleefully, of course. That horrid UKIP cocknozzle who just got himself elected voted for it. Dominic Grieve, Christopher Chode Chope, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Oliver Letwin, Mark Harper, arseholes all. More chillingly perhaps, the health minister Jeremy Hunt wanted to exercise greater control over reproductive rights. Theresa May, the racist Home Secretary also unsurprisingly voted for something which would have ultimately turned out to be racist in its execution. Noted creep Nigel Evans is also on there, presumably he cannot resist barging his way into other people’s bodies. And of course, David Blunkett, who I hope is feeling really sad. The full list is here–is your worthless fuck of an MP on it?

A lot of those in favour of uterus-peeking are repeat offenders, those who seek to gain control over our bodies by any means necessary. However,it could have gone a lot worse. This amendment was framed as a way of saving women, playing upon a white saviour complex. It almost sucked a lot of people in. Fiona MacTaggart, who was well into this narrative until people started talking about how this was a terrible idea shed light on the situation in the debate:

I speak as one of the 13 MPs who co-sponsored the original ten-minute rule Bill of the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). I did that because I think she was right to make people aware that sex selective abortion is illegal, and I thought her Bill was a powerful and good tactic to do that. However, I feel a bit as though I have been pulled along by a Trojan horse because, as the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) said, the new clause confers the status of an unborn child on the foetus, and that radically changes our abortion laws in a way I believe is dangerous.

As I said in an earlier intervention, clauses 73 and 74, which deal with coercive behaviour, contain a powerful tool that we should use to prevent the kind of coercion to which the hon. Member for Congleton referred. In those references she quoted extensively from an organisation based in my constituency, but personal experience of how that organisation has failed to help individual constituents has led me to the conclusion that it is not possible to depend on the accuracy of what it says. I am therefore concerned that we are using anecdote from an unreliable source to make legislation on the hoof.

Having supported the hon. Lady’s original ten-minute rule Bill, I have since read something from an organisation in America that is closely linked to the all-party pro-life group that she chairs. The head of that group stated:

“I propose that we—the pro-life movement—adopt as our next goal the banning of sex…selective abortion. By formally protecting all female fetuses from abortion on the ground of their sex, we would plant in the law the proposition that the developing child is a being whose claims on us should not depend on their sex…This sense of contradiction will be further heightened among radical feminists—”

I think he means people like me—

“the shock troops of the abortion movement. They may believe that the right to abortion is fundamental to women’s emancipation, but many will recoil at the thought of aborting their unborn sisters.”

Now, MacTaggart has a track record for wanting to rescue women, with her views on sex work leading to attempts to bring the dangerous Swedish model into law (in fact, she attempted to sneak her horrible views in using exactly the same strategy as Fiona Bruce: by tacking it in as an amendment to a bill), as well as co-sponsoring another effort to criminalise reproductive freedoms in collaboration with Bruce.

What we can draw from the affair is this: it’s incredibly easy for the right to seduce with a narrative of saving women. It’s very easy to become carried away with it. This seems to be a new tactic for those who seek to invade our bodies and it is potentially a very powerful one. I will be wary and vigilant at all times.


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