Category Archives: rage at the system

Guest post: The Fuck Off Fund–all right for some

Content warning: this post discusses domestic violence

This is a guest post from an anonymous woman. It is a response to the article A Story of a Fuck Off Fund, which has been widely shared and praised by middle-class white feminists. This guest writer has written a response to the article. 

Sometimes the mother and the feminist in me find themselves at odds. It shouldn’t happen but it does. As a feminist I want to tell my daughter to wear what the fuck she likes, say what the fuck she likes to do what the fuck she likes, but the mother wants to counsel her against the risks of getting too drunk or wearing shoes that mean she can’t run fast, or walking alone late at night in dark deserted places.

This is what it means to be a woman in this world -this constant battle between what should be our right and what is safe.

For this reason I can see why this article has been such a hit with some people. This is the advice I would give to give my daughter, before she goes out into the world. To be careful, not to take risks, not to be too trusting. To always have a get out plan. In an ideal world we would all always have a get out plan, but we don’t live in an ideal world.

Let me share something with you that I haven’t told many people yet. On Boxing Day I fled an abusive relationship, I took the children and we crept quietly out, in the dark of the night. We took little more than the clothes we were standing up in and we ran.

As it happens I did have some money saved, and I have many supportive friends, and my parents have been great and most importantly I have a secure place to live within my community and every day I am thankful for these things and more -that I was able to buy a washing machine (because of course we don’t have many clothes right now) that I could afford to pay for a bunk bed so they have somewhere to sleep, that there were school places available in the local schools. I know how incredibly lucky I have been and yet still it hasn’t been easy.

When I read the article I started crying. It is true that I’m emotional these days and it doesn’t take much to trigger a round of tears, but I haven’t stopped all day. I am horrified to realise that there are people in the world can write this shit or share it without appreciating the wider implications of what is actually being said. It is sensible to always have something saved in case of an emergency, to not max out your credit cards or take out loans, of course I agree, who wouldn’t agree? But to say that with no awareness that sometimes we are forced to this, to get through christmas, to pay the colossal gas bill that always comes in spring, to replace the broken laptop so your children can do their homework or to find the money for the school trip.

I live in the UK, and despite being one of the richest countries in the world it is a place where the majority of under 30’s are spending more than 50% of their income, not on halterneck dresses, but on paying rent to private landlords. Where visits to food banks are routine. Where until the government redefined what it meant to live in poverty more than half of all children lived below this line.

Britain is a country where some of us have to choose between feeding our kids and switching the heating on at night. I might have had a fuck off fund a few weeks ago, but I certainly haven’t got one now, and unless some kind of miracle happens I won’t be replenishing it any time soon.

Arguably financial independence is a good thing to strive towards, a good thing to teach your kids, I get that. But having savings is simply not an option for a large proportion of the world’s population. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to pull themselves up by their boot straps, many people but more commonly women don’t do jobs that are valued enough by this patriarchal capitalist society to make any more than just getting by a possibility. Being able to put a little aside every month is not something everyone can do. That doesn’t make them feckless and short-sighted, that makes them victims of an unforgiving world.


A short rant on communication and all girls’ schools

Doing the rounds today has been a headteacher of a mixed-sex private school trying to promote his school by saying that girls who go to single-sex schools don’t learn to communicate with men in the real world.

I went to an all girls’ school and I’d query that massively. I had a short rant, which I’ll collate here.

(though, to be fair to the lesbian drama, it was significantly superior to the hetero drama at sixth form)

 

Adding to this, at my current workplace, it’s mostly women. It’s a great place to work because I never get men talking over me, and I can make my points and get on with my fucking job.

 

The reason I used “much” here is because it’s not completely absent. Yes, you won’t have teachers calling on the boys more than the girls. Yes, you won’t be a direct witness to patriarchy in action among your peers. However, you’re still living and growing up in a patriarchal society so it’s kind of still coming in.

A “bitch” here clearly defined as “a woman who pisses off men”, by doing Terrible things such as not quietly standing there and nodding while he speaks, not accepting everything he says as right, arguing, talking back, saying no, etc etc.

If anyone can get hold of the paywalled article, please do send it my way. I believe it was in the January 2012 issue of Science, although I didn’t actually have much to go on: all the headteacher said was it was an article in that magazine, never specifying a date, or anything.

 

 

This bears repeating again and again. Single sex schools are fucking shit for a lot of kids. They’re probably not the best thing for anyone, really, in an ideal world. Nonetheless, do they make it harder for women to communicate with men? Yes, probably. But only because men are entitled pigs.


Let’s stop using the term “revenge porn”. Please.

Content warning: this post discusses abusive behaviour, victim blaming and misogyny

Every time I see the phrase “revenge porn” it hits a kind of berserk button inside me. I am writing this post to save myself having to have the same bloody rant every time it pops up: automating my own fury as it were, because I doubt the phrase is going to go away any time soon.

Revenge porn is not, as the name would suggest, like Kill Bill but naked. It’s the name the media like to give to distributing sexual images or videos (usually of women) without the consent of the person featured in them, usually to humiliate them. I’m not sure who came up with the name–it may have been men attempting to trivialise the violence they are enacting, or it may have been those well-meaning but ultimately harmful anti-porn feminists who have decided to have a pop at pornography. Either way, it’s a gross name for it, and as feminists we must be deeply critical of it.

Revenge porn is neither revenge, nor porn.

“Revenge” is inherently victim-blaming. It suggests that there is something that ought to be avenged: something that the victim did to warrant such treatment. There isn’t. Intimate images and videos aren’t released to avenge, they’re released to intimidate, to control, to humiliate. It’s probable that the perpetrator thinks he’s enacting revenge for perceived slight on the part of the victim, but that’s not what’s really happening, and it is not all right to keep on using the language that abusers will likely prefer.

“Porn” is perhaps harder to define, but most definitions tend to include that it is produced for the purposes of sexual arousal to distinguish porn from other reasons people might be naked in representations. Again, “revenge porn” does not fit this purpose. In a lot of instances, perhaps, the images or video were created because the people involved found it erotic at the time, but the public distribution of them did not have titillation in mind. The purpose was to intimidate, to control, to humiliate.

The usage of “porn” here is much the same as in the equally ghastly phrase “child porn” to describe images or video of the sexual abuse of children (and we should stop using that phrase too).

Put together, what we have in the term “revenge porn” is something which trivialises the violence being enacted, while simultaneously rooting for the perpetrators.

As feminists, it’s important we question everything, but it’s not difficult to see why, in a culture which helps abusers at the expense of survivors, the phrase “revenge porn” grew so popular.

So what to use instead of “revenge porn”? Instead of the euphemisms, I suggest we call it what it is, and here are a few suggestions:

  • Abuse
  • Humiliation
  • Sexual shaming
  • Violence against women
  • Non-consensual distribution of sexual images or video

You’ll note at least two of those are shorter than “revenge porn”.

 


Trans Day of Remembrance: even one death is too many

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny, suicide, murder and prison

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and this year we are remembering 271 trans people who were murdered. Read the list of their names.

Of the victims, the overwhelming majority were trans women of colour. They were killed in brutal, vicious ways: stabbings, stonings, beheadings. We live in a violent world, and trans women of colour are more at risk of visceral violences than many others.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn them, and each year we hope that the list will be shorter in the future.

The list only counts those who were directly murdered by the hand of another. This means that many other deaths are not counted: trans people are at a high risk of suicide, as well as HIV, addiction, and many other factors which cause one to die young, far far too young. It is perhaps not even possible to count these deaths.

One sticks out though. The day before TDoR, a news story broke. Vicky Thompson, a trans woman, was sent to a men’s prison. She had said she would kill herself if this happened. A week ago today, she was found dead in a men’s prison. Vicky Thompson’s death comes mere weeks after advocacy and action helped get Tara Hudson moved to a women’s prison. Vicky Thompson was just 21 years old.

The justice system have Vicky Thompson’s blood on her hands. Ministers Michael Gove and Andrew Selous have Vicky Thompson’s blood on their hands. The judges who sent Vicky Thompson to a men’s prison have her blood on their hands. Those who argue that a woman belongs in a men’s prison have Vicky Thompson’s blood on their hands.

Vicky Thompson’s death was as good as a murder. Vicky Thompson did not need to die. Vicky Thompson could have been easily saved, but there are too many who would rather see her dead than lift a finger to ensure that nobody ever dies like her again.

There is a culture of violence against trans women, and it is propped up and enacted by our government. Transphobia and transmisogyny demonstrably kill, and these bigoted, murderous views must die. It is not just words, just an opinion. Transphobic views kill, and they help the murderers get away with it.

Each Transgender Day of Remembrance, I boil with anger and sorrow. Even one death is too many, and trans women are killed in droves. The violence must end.


I don’t wear poppies, and this image perfectly encapsulates why

Content warning: this post discusses death and war

The Royal British Legion tweeted this image of a fundraising event. Look at it.

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In the image, four children aged around twelve stand, holding gigantic plastic poppies. Three of the children wear t-shirts saying “Future Soldier”.

The poppy was once a symbol to remind us of the senseless massacre of millions upon millions of people in muddy fields far away from home. The poppy was supposed to say never again to the horrors of a spat between politicians murdering a generation. What it is now is a symbol of militarism, and standard used to recruit children to don a uniform and go off and get themselves killed. It means the opposite of what it is supposed to.

I admit I’d stopped wearing the red poppy about six or seven years ago. I am not sure if it was because my eyes opened to what it symbolises these days, or whether it was because the poppy itself had become twisted into a mark of jingoism. The trend certainly seems to have grown stronger in recent years.

Policing of wearing the poppy has grown absurd: public figures face attacks, all the way up to death threats, for not wearing one. There are fucking poppies all over everything, from buses, to a big fuckoff wearable poppy costume. GCHQ are taking a break from peeking at our internets and turning themselves into a humongous poppy, and looking a lot like budget Doctor Who villains in the process.

Meanwhile, opinion pieces glorifying the deaths in the First World War seem to be on the rise, with pundits and politicians alike acting as though it was anything other than a meaningless mass killing that fucked up the world for generations.

And now it all becomes clearer than ever. They want us to forget what happened and pretend–as they did a hundred years ago–as though wars are nothing more than a jolly good lark. They brainwash children: not to mourn, but to strive to emulate. I cannot stop looking at that picture. It makes my gorge rise. These are children, and yet in a few years’ time, if they follow the naive dream they are being steered towards, we could be seeing them shipped back in coffins.

Instead of the symbols, the reminders, we should focus on actually remembering. On remembering, one sees the brutal senselessness of this slaughter. With a symbol, it is all too easy to simply radicalise children into militarism.

I don’t really know how to finish them, so we’ll end with Wilfred Owen, who saw this coming almost a century ago.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

If there’s an afterlife, I imagine Owen is very, very angry right now.

Further reading:

MY NAME IS LEGION – The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance (Ron Tweedy)- An in-depth look at remembrance and the RBL, covering similar themes to this post, but far more extensively.


#ISeeTara: Support Tara Hudson

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

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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.


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