Category Archives: tory scum

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.

 


2014 in review

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence and police violence

And so we reach the end of the year, and despite promising myself I wouldn’t do this, I am doing one of those icky “look back over the past year” kind of things, I’m doing it anyway (I was also meant to stop smoking this year, and I didn’t).

In truth, it’s been a little difficult to write this because there’s been a huge split between the personal and the political for me in 2014. In my personal life, 2014 has been brilliant. I love, and am loved. I have some financial security for the first time in my life. I managed to get quite a lot of my novel written. Everything’s coming up stavvers. It wasn’t all brilliant, of course. I wounded my fanny and got stalked by trolls.

However, 2014 has been pretty uniformly dire outside of my own personal little bubble, and I’ve had a lot to be pissed off about. Each week since the killing of Michael Brown, US cops have taken another Black life. The situation is also bad in the UK: the same pattern of killing and then lying keeps on and our pigs find ways of murdering without even having to carry guns. I haven’t commented on this much, because it’s not my place as a white woman, but I’ve almost weekly shared some content in my post round-ups which I thoroughly recommend you read. All of it. Take an afternoon.

In the UK, our political situation is looking pretty terrible, and it’s unlikely to change in the near future. With a general election looming in 2015, things are going to become completely insufferable. It’s the media’s fault, of course. The media has a fascination with leaders and white men, so we’ve been presented with two ghastly choices: do want Nigel Farage and fascism, or Russell Brand and the curse of left misogyny, God and some really badly-developed thought? One cannot move without tripping over either of these clowns. Of course, this is a false dichotomy: there’s heaps of possibilities, but a media owned by white men cannot conceptualise something which doesn’t involve dreadful white men flapping their awful mouths off.

The awful people who are already in government are making a right fucking hash of things too. We have Theresa May, determined to murder every single migrant, starting with the most vulnerable, like LGBT women. We have Iain Duncan Smith, who is trying to murder the poor through violently stopping their means of subsistence. They’ve been as nasty as ever this year, but come 2015 we’re unlikely to see any improvement even if the red party get elected.

Meanwhile, men who have been in government are emerging as paedophiles and rapists. A constantly-stalling investigation is ongoing into the child abuse rings at Westminster. Unfortunately, because cops and politicians are in each other’s pockets, corruption keeps cropping up and things grind to a halt again as yet more coverups come to light. I’m also a little concerned about the men who are still in Westminster. Nigel Evans, although cleared, was ruled even by the judge to be a complete fucking creep and were it not for his status, I suspect they may have thrown the book at him.

This has been, overall, a pretty good year for violent misogynists. Rapist Ched Evans waltzed out of prison, and, while Sheffield United chose to do the right thing (eventually) and drop him like the turd he is, it’s still entirely possible he may get to continue his illustrious career at another club, all the while continually proving he has learned nothing about consent. Shia LaBeouf spoke out about his experience of rape… to a near-universal chorus of disbelief from men. These were the sort of men who love to bring up “but men get raped too” when women talk about rape, but nonetheless failed to show any support to a male survivor. We also saw misogynist Elliot Rodger go on a killing spree while men tried to downplay the fact this was directly motivated by misogyny. Meanwhile popular left rag The Morning Star spike an article about violent misogynist Steve Hedley, because the left still hasn’t got its affairs in order there.

2014 has been very bad indeed for those of us with uteruses. In Ireland, many of us heard with horror the story of a dead woman whose body was kept on life support while her family were forced to watch her decompose because she had had the misfortune of dying while pregnant. This ghoulish act of violence was a direct result of Ireland’s absurdly restrictive abortion rights, and the judge only ruled that life support could be turned off because the foetus had no chance of surviving. Meanwhile in the UK, the situation is better, but last month our abortion rights were restricted further as sex-selective abortions were banned.

It was also a pretty bad year for sex workers, with momentum growing for the “Swedish model” which does not do anything to make the lives of sex workers safer, and many sex workers say will make things worse. Transmisogyny, too, continues to run rife, with transmisogynists turning up to picket lesbian pride parades and disrupt feminist conferences.

Alas, feminist movement and resistance is spotty at best. I am hoping, perhaps, that we can get our affairs in order in 2015, because we’re going to need to fight all the harder. For this to happen, we need to drop a lot of the crap we’ve been pulling. We need to inventory ourselves, honestly assessing what we may be doing wrong and where we are complicit in kyriarchical violence. We need to challenge violent thought where we see it, so that we may stand shoulder to shoulder with sisters of all colours, all genders, with our disabled sisters and our queer sisters and our trans sisters. Together, we are many, and we must overcome these divisions in 2015 if we are to stand a chance of winning.


What the media isn’t telling you about the Heywood And Middleton and Clacton elections

On checking the news and Twitter this morning, I’d kind of expected the country to have been overrun by frog-eyed pint-swilling overlords to whom we must all bow. Now, I’m going to outright assume that nobody who reads this blog is particularly interested in having UKIP in charge because I have low expectations of pretty much everything, but they’re not that low, so I have good news for you: don’t panic. 

The media construct narratives surrounding elections. They do this because they need something to report in a 24 hour news cycle, and stories get blown up and spun, despite the fact they’re not really all that true. So, as they treat this as a storming victory for the petty little racists they’ve been building up over the last year or so, that’s not actually the case. Here’s a few things the media conveniently haven’t bothered mentioning much in their quest to create narratives.

UKIP are really bad news for the Tories and quite good news for Labour

Let’s take a look at the Heywood and Middleton results. I’ve made a little graph of vote share, comparing 2010 with this by-election. I’m only showing the parties that were in both elections.image

 

Now, the media are very fixated on the massive jump UKIP have made, but what interests me is what’s happened to the share of the vote for the other three parties. The Lib Dems and Tories have lost what is technically referred to as a massive fuckload of votes. This election is an unmitigated disaster for them (lol). See, they’ve had their go in government and haven’t satisfied anyone, so the right-wingers have decided to vote for this shiny new party instead. Meanwhile, Labour’s share of the vote has held. It’s even risen ever so slightly, for the first time since 1997. I have seen this election treated as TOTAL WIPEOUT for Labour, when in fact, it’s a perfectly cromulent outcome for them. You see, this is a quirk of our electoral system. It’s how first past the post works. You only get one vote. In 2010, the sort of people who don’t vote Labour spread their votes about, while in 2014 they’ve all gone for the same bunch. And this is at the expense of the Tories and Lib Dems, not at Labour’s expense.

Of course, the Labour Party will take this as an excuse to go further right and more authoritarian, but don’t let that fool you. They’re doing that because they want to, not because it makes electoral sense.

Of course people voted Douglas Carswell in Clacton

Douglas Carswell was the MP for Clacton. Douglas Carswell still is the MP for Clacton. For whatever reason, they like him as an MP. This would be a tedious non-story if he hadn’t changed parties. “MP gets re-elected” doesn’t exactly sell newspapers. In 2010, Carswell was elected as a Tory MP on a 53% share of the vote. In 2014, he was re-elected on a 59.7% share of the vote. Meanwhile, once again, we see the Tory share of the vote tumbling–it’s more than halved.

Usually by-elections happen when the incumbent isn’t there: maybe they’re dead (like in Heywood and Middleton), maybe they were forced to resign due to fiddling expenses, maybe they were just fucking done with politics. It’s very rare that they’re still around to contest their seat. Before Clacton, by-elections triggered to ratify an MP switching parties have only happened six times: Merton, Mitcham and Morden in 1982; Lincoln in 1973; Preston in 1929; Kingston-Upon-Hull in 1926; the Isle of Wight in 1904; and Orkney and Shetland in 1902. In five out of these six instances, the electorate voted for the incumbent MP. In the other case, MM&M, we saw a similar pattern to Heywood and Middleton: the vote was split between two similar parties (Labour and SDP; the incumbent had defected from the former to the latter) while the Conservative vote held allowing them to get in.

It just goes to show: people really do vote for the person rather than the party.

The media manufactured this whole thing

Our democracy is very much controlled by the media. The media pretty much invented UKIP, because at the moment UKIP can give media owners what they want. In 2010, we saw something similar with the Lib Dems. The more the media blart on about how UKIP are a credible party, the more credible they become. This is why people bothered voting for them at all. At present, UKIP best represent media owners: like media owners, they’re a bunch of terrible old rich white men. So of course the media has a peculiar hard-on for UKIP.

Furthermore, journalists are bored because elections are boring. To make them interesting, you need a narrative, and the novelty value of UKIP is currently very exciting to them, especially because UKIP love talking to journalists and mugging for the cameras. It makes journalists’ jobs easier, so of course they’ll regurgitate UKIP press releases.

Unlike the Lib Dems in 2010, though, we’re unlikely to see a Tory-UKIP coalition in our future, because UKIP are wiping them out at elections. Instead, I predict we’ll see destabilisation of Tory safe seats, which will likely guarantee a Labour government in 2015.

Representative democracy is a shambles

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably noticed that this whole system is flawed. Elections are easily influenced, and our first past the post voting system makes it even harder for the will of the people to truly be heard. These by-elections–and the media analysis thereof–lay this bare. If you believe in voting, you’re lumbered with the possibility of having to root for UKIP to keep the Tories out (it splits the vote, remember?). If you want to campaign for electoral reform, you might have an issue where suddenly small parties like UKIP do become a real problem, as well as the nice smaller parties like the Greens getting to have a go. There’s also the option of becoming an anarchist, which is working all right for me, except for the having to organise with some awful people sometimes. However you choose to navigate this territory, be aware: everything is broken. The rot is deep.

The thing we really need to worry about is not whether UKIP win any elections or not, but the fact that our society is so riddled with racism that all of the major parties are spouting nastiness similar to UKIP, and a lot of people seem to genuinely believe it. This is the root that we need to fight, and it won’t be won at the ballot boxes.


Louise Mensch’s “reality based feminism”: whose reality?

Oh dear. Louise Mensch has been at it again with the Tory feminism. This time, she’s upset about people telling her to check her privilege, displaying a profound lack of understanding of intersectional feminism and the notion of what privilege is and cissexism, all of which she has somehow managed to conflate together because she understands it so little. Also, I think she’s watched The Life of Brian recently. Anyway, for the most part it is the same tedious anti-intersectional twaddle which tends to come from high-profile people who have had their fingers burned by being challenged on some dingleberries they’ve been spouting and lack the basic level of self-reflection to learn from the experience.

However, Louise Mensch has a solution to the problem! She calls for a reality-based feminism, which is basically this:

American feminism gets organised. It sees where power lies, and it mobilises to achieve it. It gets its candidates elected. Feminism here is about running for office, founding a company, becoming COO of Facebook or Yahoo. It is power feminism that realises that actual empowerment for women means getting more money, since money and liberty often equate, and being able to legislate or influence. Hillary Clinton shifted from First Lady to Senator. Before that she was a powerful lawyer.

And by the way, reality-based feminism – where you achieve, try to earn lots of money, run for office, campaign for measurable goals like defeating Sen. Todd Akin – is not a province of Conservative feminism alone. When I think of a true feminist of the left that I admire I think of Stella Creasy MP and her campaign against payday loans. She’s doing something. She ran for office. She got involved in the Labour party. She matters immensely. She will change things.

This is apparently what feminism should be fighting for according to Louise Mensch. The tiny number of high-paid positions which are near-impossible to attain due to material and social circumstances. Forget fighting for not having to live in fucking fear every day, forget fighting to be recognised as a human being, forget fighting for survival. In Louise Mensch’s reality, feminism is about getting a well-paid job, and fighting only battles on the lowest difficulty setting with an easy win guaranteed.

And I suppose it’s good for her that this is the only thing that she needs. Good for her that most of her problem is that people say she’s privileged on the internet, because if that’s her problem, then she really is staggeringly privileged. This privilege has bestowed upon her a staggering lack of empathy and imagination, a lack of any ability to see how impossible her vision is for the vast amount of women.

Louise Mensch thinks that everything she did was entirely her own doing, a shocking degree of egocentrism which most people grow out of by the age of three. There is absolutely no consideration that perhaps she lucked out at the life lottery in order to get where she is. She believes it to be possible to anyone, concluding with a somewhat frightening peek at her ideal future.

The picture at the top is of me at school aged 14. Big glasses, nerdy, feminist, ambitious, idolising Thatcher, and determined to be famous, to be an author, and to be rich. I was at private school my parents couldn’t really afford because I bust my ass and won a 100% academic scholarship. I always believed in myself and I had and have no intention of checking my privilege for anyone. I earned it. I hope the next generation of young women feel the same.

Imagine this future, where women squabble like a flock of pigeons, pecking at the scraps patriarchy chooses to throw us. A future utterly devoid of any solidarity, just women kicking down our sisters, piling their limp forms into a ladder to get that executive position. Imagine a future where we no longer dream of better and hope for better, hope for a change to a society which is inherently oppressive, crying out for an end to capitalism and kyriarchy. We would compete to be the chosen ones and turn a blind eye to continuing violence and horrors, never looking back just ruthlessly making sure that it is never us who are victims. Better someone else. It would be Mad Max in shoulder pads.

And if we won, we would mistakenly believe that somehow we earned it all, which is far better than the truth: we got lucky. If we lost, we would be blamed for our misfortune, our inability to play the game correctly.

It would be quaint, Louise Mensch’s belief that there is a pure meritocracy and that circumstances do not affect it, were it not just the stick that is used to beat us again and again and again.

The current state of affairs has benefited Louise Mensch, and so she does not want to rock the boat and enact any sort of change to the system. This is why she wants to maintain her reality, stubbornly attempting to swat away anyone who reminds her that it a hefty heap of luck supplemented her hard work to get her where she is today. She decries those who are not rooted in her reality.

And yet, by insistent focus on how things cannot change, all she betrays is that she is stagnant, and set in her ways. She is disgusted by dreamers, those of us who see that the system is broken and should not survive, those of us who hope for better. We flow like a small mountain stream, clearer and brighter, while Mensch and her ilk are a set of foetid puddles, unmoving and separate. Will we one day roar into a river, we dreamers? I like to hope so, because I have something Louise Mensch does not: hope and a vision that things can be different.


Farewell, welfare

It is not an April Fool, no matter how much I wished it would be. Over the next month, we will see our fears unfurling. The bedroom tax, the benefit cap, the cuts to legal aid, council cuts, scrapping DLA, Universal Credit, the butchering of the NHS. It will all come this month.

And it will hit the most vulnerable the hardest: the sick and disabled, the poor, women, and especially those experiencing intersecting layers of oppression. It is clear why they are doing this: those who are the most vulnerable, they believe, are powerless to resist. They do not want a repeat of 2010. They do not want any sort of resistance, so they pick on those they believe to be least capable of doing so.

We will see deaths. We will see lives ruined, and mental and physical health declining as people struggle to survive in the immense stress the bastards in Westminster have forced upon them. It is bad now; it will get worse. They have made it that way.

And they expect people to quietly lie down and die, out of sight. All the while, they will slander those they have abused, saying they were undeserving of the means to survive. They will repeat the same fictions over and over, and credulous apologists will swallow these narratives wholesale.

Yet as it gets progressively worse, it will be harder to hide the lies, harder to hide this heinous violence the state are perpetrating. It will become clearer and clearer what they are doing.

And they have given us nothing to lose.

People are better than those who want to rule over others. We will face their attacks with solidarity, we will watch what they are doing and we will not allow the murders they commit to be hidden. We will observe, growing ever more furious.

And we will fight back. We are under attack, and we will defend ourselves from this onslaught. We will be avenge those killed by these bastards.

We know what they are doing.

And we are not as powerless as they like to think.


“The fatal decision to abide by the law”: Squatting criminalisation kills

Daniel Gauntlett needed a roof over his head to survive the freezing winter temperatures. But because of recent parliamentary machinations, it was illegal for Daniel Gauntlett to seek shelter inside an empty bungalow. The police were called when he tried to enter. So he froze to death on the veranda of the building which could have protected him.

In a local news report on the story, one particularly poignant line stands out, highlighting how this man’s death should have never happened:

And so Mr Gauntlett, had taken the fatal decision to abide by the law.

This is the corner into which the law–Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill–has pushed people. So many must now make a decision like Gauntlett’s: to freeze to death a law-abiding citizen, or to survive and swell the prison population of people punished for desiring a roof over their heads.

I wonder if this very human matter was given a second of thought by the politicians who passed this law, or whether their thoughts only went to the owners of property they wanted to leave empty and didn’t want it to become a home because it was theirs–the perceived real victims. Through lies and distortions, they shoved this legislation through. If you want to learn the truth about squatting, have a read through Squash Campaign’s resources.

And share this story–and these resources–with those that you know. The politicians decided to force vulnerable people to choose between death and prison, because an empty building staying empty means a world more to them.

Sign Squash’s petition, a government e-petition which could lead to a debate if it is signed enough. While I don’t feel petitions to be a particularly effective form of campaigning, I feel it’s only right for them to have to discuss the blood on their hands already, and how it will only get worse if they insist on pursuing this.

Nobody should have to make these fatal decisions like Daniel Gauntlett was forced to.Yet this is a natural consequence of a law criminalising people turning an empty space into a home.


Same sex marriage and heterosexism in the UK

Later today, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will have its crucial second reading. This legislation would give same sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

I’ve written before about why I find same sex marriage to be an inherently conservative demand, and I suspect this bill will ultimately go through precisely because of this. It doesn’t make any structural changes to the existing social order, rewards gay couples for behaving in a way which society deems palatable, and manages to appear progressive. It’s a win all round for the powerful.

Despite this, antediluvian bigotry still exists: up to 180 Tories may vote against the bill later today. There’s no good reason for doing this, given the benefits the Tories can reap from bringing in same-sex marriage. It’s just plain homophobia, dressed up in concern about the meaning of marriage and other such nonsense. This tripe from Philip “porn throne” Blond and Roger “cockend” Scruton exemplifies some of the best intellectual argument against same sex marriage from the right, and it’s just circular rubbish, because it’s not a rational position. It’s also telling that the party has decided to make the vote on this bill a free vote: this way they can have it both ways. They can appeal to the bigots while still appearing to be the heroes of gay rights. It’s a smart move, politically. The whole thing has been expertly stage-managed.

I will be watching the debate with interest, though. Despite the stage management, this bigotry is still very real, and I would like to get the measure of exactly who it is so set in archaic prejudice that they cannot even vote through this piss-weak bit of legislation. Every single one of the fuckers who votes against this is nothing more than a common-or-garden bigot, worthy only of contempt and a shower of glitter.

When the bill passes, though, it is not a sign that heterosexism is dead in the UK, and that we can dance until we expire in an ecstasy of celebration. Far from it. This symbolic piece of legislation is merely cheap wallpaper pasted onto rubble of a house that had fell down years ago. Heterosexism is alive and well in the UK, we’d just rather not think about its victims.

Take, for instance, this story from yesterday. The UK Border Agency demands proof of sexual orientation from asylum seekers fleeing persecution for being gay. Because of this, asylum seekers are feeling like they have to film themselves having sex to prove that they are gay. And if they’re unable to prove it, they are sent right back off to face violence and persecution. In fact, there’s actually no evidence to suggest that even the sex tapes are considered adequate proof of sexual orientation, and it’s entirely possible that these people, too, were sent away. This system, by the way, is seen as an improvement on how it was three years ago, where gay asylum seekers were sent off and told to “behave with discretion”.

The entire thing is inhumane, and absolutely steeped in heterosexism. The assumption that there’s an objective proof that you’re not “normal”. The probing, invasive ways of trying to find out what it is that makes these people different. The idea that there’s a way of being “properly” gay in the first place. The implications for those sent back, after having been submitted to a “gay test”. It’s humiliating, degrading, and I’m finding it hard to articulate exactly how disgusted I am by the fact that this is still ongoing. I find myself wondering if they’ve thought at all about this policy, and I don’t know if it’s better or worse if they have.

Yet because this heterosexism intersects with racism and the violence of the state, we’re not hearing a peep about it from the mainstream charities who ostensibly campaign for gay rights. It’s just a lot easier for privileged people to give a shit about other privileged people getting married than it is to think about intersecting oppressions.

Stories like this are far from uncommon, but they don’t happen to the nice, presentable face of the movement, so it’s easy to forget how utterly broken the whole stinking heteroheap of society is. Scratch the surface, and oppression is still rife. All the gay weddings in the world aren’t going to fix that.

So you’ll forgive me for not having the champagne on ice, ready for when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill gets a little closer to being passed later today. It just reminds me of how much further we have to go before we’re free.

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I learned the word “heteroheap” here, and I recommend you watch this deliciously queer extravaganza as a perfect antidote to my general parade-pissing today.


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