Blocking fat people and smokers from accessing healthcare hits our most scapegoated punchbags

Content note: this post discusses gatekeeping healthcare, and structural oppressions

Various NHS commissioning groups have decided to cut costs by blocking access to surgery for people deemed to be obese, and smokers. To the terminally naive, this can be considered an intuitive, common-sense solution, which would encourage people to make better healthcare choices. To the rest of us, we know that choice is, for the most part, an illusion, and that such bans to healthcare access affect certain groups disproportionately–coincidentally, the same groups who make for convenient scapegoats.

First, let’s look at who’s more likely to smoke. LGBT people are much more likely to smoke than straights, and less likely to try to quit. People with mental illness are also far more likely to smoke–up to 2 in 5 cigarettes smoked will be by a mentally ill person. And of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive, with LGBT people at a higher risk of mental illness. Also, poor people are more likely to smoke, and deprivation makes it harder to stop.

When it comes to obesity, let’s first have a look at what’s deemed obese: some CCGs are using the BMI of 30 as a cut-off, which is an absolutely terrible idea. BMI is a nonsense statistic, particularly when applied to how calculating fat an individual is. A substantial portion of Olympic athletes, upon returning after their heroes’ welcome and perhaps needing an operation on injuries, would be turned away by the NHS, because their body weight is too “obese” for surgery–among other issues, BMI does not distinguish between muscle and fat. It’s also particularly statistically dodgy when someone is particularly tall or short, so Usain Bolt and Simone Biles should be glad they’re not going to find themselves at the mercy of the NHS.

As well as the muscular and the all-round encouraged under usual circumstances, who else is likely to be considered obese? Certain minority ethnic groups are more likely to have BMIs over 30–in the UK, particularly Black Caribbean, Black African, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Irish people. Again, mentally ill people are more likely to be at risk, both as a result of their illness itself, or as a result of medication side effects. And once again, poor people are more likely to be considered obese. People with physical disabilities are also more likely to be obese. Incidentally, one of the surgeries “obese” people are blocked from accessing is hip or knee replacements–exactly how the NHS expects them to exercise to lose weight while unable to move, they have not yet explained.

So, NHS trusts with these policies will be disproportionately picking on groups who have been historically and currently disproportionately picked on and blamed for their own misfortune. It is yet another manifestation of the general state approach to behaviour change, which goes like this:

Step 1: Deprive marginalised people of a basic need
Step 2: ??????
Step 3: BEHAVIOUR CHANGE!

Unsurprisingly, there’s no evidence that this works, but it’s a nice little bedtime story for fascists-in-denial to tell themselves, that people are being refused healthcare because they made poor life choices.

At this point, the terminally naive might pipe up that obese people and smokers are at a greater risk of surgical complications than non-smokers or thin people. Yes. That’s true. However, there are also lots of other groups who are at greater risk of surgical complications. Like the elderly. Or the very young. Or malnutrition. Or even drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Or being a bit cold around the time of your operation. Think of the billions that could be saved if they stopped operating on moderate drinkers: suddenly, there’d be barely any operations, especially if they also stopped operating on kids!

Of course that would be absurd: another myth in play here is that healthcare needs to be rationed at all. The NHS is in crisis, but this crisis isn’t caused by obese people, or smokers, or immigrants, or striking junior doctors, or whichever scapegoat you want to pick. This crisis has been manufactured by years of butchering the NHS. Hospitals are not given enough money to function, and given unrealistic targets to meet on these shoestring budgets, along with a hefty dose of bloated private sector provider inefficiency. In truth, with adequate money, the NHS could happily accommodate everyone who needed treatment.

Given that the government would be perfectly happy for the NHS to go tits-up so the private sector could further cannibalise it, that’s unlikely to happen–that harm comes to the most marginalised people is simply a welcome bonus.

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Situations where it’s OK for men to talk to women they don’t know

Content note: this post discusses a form of street harassment

The tantrum crops up time and time again. This time it’s because there was backlash from women towards an article teaching men how to chat up women who are wearing headphones. When women say they’d rather be left alone, men tend to completely lose their shit. Apparently it will cause the poor babies anxiety:

It’s funny how it’s almost always men pushing this nobody-ever-talks-to-each-other dystopia, while for women it actually sounds like it might alleviate anxiety somewhat, what with not having to worry about whether the latest man coming up to us wants to murder us, or merely rape us.

This is the thing men never understand, in pushing their imaginary world wherein men striking up conversation with strange women is polite, romantic, or otherwise not unpleasant: maybe you’re not a rapist murderer, but you could be. And even if a woman isn’t afraid, your advances may still be unwelcome, because sometimes people just want to ride the tube in peace, walk home in peace, drink a cup of mediocre coffee in peace.

So, men, let’s start from the assumption that your attempt to start a conversation with a complete stranger is more likely to be unwelcome than it is to be welcome. Yes, even if she does respond to you, that’s pretty likely to be out of a conditioned sense of politeness rather than any genuine desire to hear about your opinion of the book she’s trying to read.

Going from this assumption, there are few scenarios wherein it is acceptable for men to talk to women they don’t know in public places:

  • If she’s in mortal peril and you need to rescue her. Maybe a time-travelling robot is trying to kill her. Or maybe the peril is more banal, and she has a long trail of bog roll stuck to her shoe, or she dropped her keys. At these points, it’s perfectly polite to say “You dropped this,” or “Come with me if you want to live.”
  • If you’re a benefactor who is bestowing a completely non-conditional gift on her, such as handing her £50, or a gigantic diamond. It is then socially acceptable to say “excuse me, have this money,” hand it over, and then let her be on her way.
  • If she’s doing a job, wearing a t-shirt saying “Ask me about mortgages”, or something similar. Please note, in this scenario, it is only acceptable to ask her about mortgages.
  • Literally no other reason.

If you’re concerned that this might lead to you never getting to speak to a woman again, consider this: you’re probably an obnoxious tit. Get out and meet women in situations where you’re likely to have something in common with them: develop a hobby, get a bloody job in a non-misogynistic industry, &c., &c.

And meanwhile, leave women alone to just move about in the world without being bothered.

 


Things I read

Welcome to the exceptionally-late round up. Here are some articles.

Black Lives Matter: Why we #Shutdown Heathrow Airport this morning (Wail Qasim)- A report on the action. Follow UK Black Lives Matter. Twitter FB Vital work.

My feminism will be capitalist, appropriative and bullshit merchandise (Flavia Dzodan)- Flavia coined a very popular feminist slogan, but it’s been appropriated and profited from.

10 things about BDSM and 10 things about better kinky sex (Queer Anarchism)- An exceptionally good short critique of the problems of BDSM, and a move towards solutions.

For Poly Folks Who Desperately Need Autonomy (brute reason)- This meditation on relationship needs, contrary to the title, is probably a must-read for everyone, not just poly people.

Outing gay men on Grindr isn’t journalism. It’s homophobic and dangerous (Huw Lemmey)- A resplendently furious, comprehensive and sadly necessary response.

Hollywood Has Ruined Method Acting (Angelica Jade Bastien)- How the Hollywood style of method acting is absolutely awful.

Why I now stand with Caster Semenya (Madeleine Pape)- An athlete explains how she came round to supporting one of the greatest runners in the world.

A Peek Inside Berlin’s Queer Club Scene Before Hitler Destroyed It (Clayton J. Whisnant)- A little bit of forgotten history.

The Spoon Theory Gave People the Wrong Idea About My Illness (Jennie Smales)- The spoon theory helps some people explain their disabilities, but abled people still get the wrong end of the stick.

Getting Rid Of Clothes I Hated Helped Me Love My Body (Arianna Rebolini)- I did this myself, and for me it worked a hell of a lot better than losing weight.

No Human is Illegal: Immigration raids that treat migrants as criminals are a disgrace (Maya Goodfellow)- Examining the wider context to Byron’s egregious behaviour–hope you’re still boycotting those rip-off burgers though!

Does Marge have friends? (Raphael Bob-Waksberg)- A short twitter poem that made me cry.

A Closed Loop: Sex Work, Violence and Criminalisation (Molly Smith)- Looking at community violence against sex workers, and how it interacts with criminalising the job.

Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates (Julia Serano)- An exceptionally handy guide to what’s really going on.

And finally, have an accidental broadcast of Aziz Ansari subtitles over a nature show, it made me cackle.


Dear Sussex University, remove Lee Salter

Update: Sussex University now say Salter is no longer employed by the university. Good.

Content note: this post discusses violence against women and institutional misogyny

This letter has been sent by email to information@sussex.ac.uk, and to the Vice Chancellor vc@sussex.ac.uk, with the subject line “Lee Salter”

Dear Sussex University,

Sack Lee Salter, effective immediately.

The urgency of this situation calls for a directness some may find uncomfortable.

In your employ is a lecturer named Lee Salter. He has been convicted of beating a woman, a former student. You kept him on, knowing this. You say that he has been suspended from teaching duties, but you have not confirmed this in writing. Can you confirm that he will not be teaching at your institution?

I ask because induction week is fast approaching, and Salter picked his last victim out at an induction day. Will you be taking steps to ensure that Salter will not be able to make contact with any young, vulnerable women during the induction process?

You see, I don’t trust you to take this predator very seriously. You smiled and nodded and advised Salter to be discreet when you learned of his relationship with a student. The woman Salter beat felt as though she had received no support from you. You can’t undo the harms you have already allowed to happen, but you can take steps to preventing them ever happening again.

I believe in rehabilitation, but I believe that the need for women to be safety takes precedence. I have also seen no evidence whatsoever that Salter is in any way rehabilitated: he thinks he has done so little wrong that he is appealing his sentence.

A man who manipulates, coerces and beats woman students over whom he is in a position of power is not someone who should be anywhere near woman students. So it’s really important that we see some evidence that you are taking steps to keep him away from anyone he could possibly victimise. Personally, I think sacking him is the best possible step, since beating a woman shouldn’t be a ticket to indefinite paid holiday time.

I see you, Sussex. We see you. You cannot hide this any longer. Please provide reassurances that you will never put Lee Salter in a position where he can abuse again.


The Great Pussy Bake Off: Cunt Sourdough vs Regular Sourdough

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I’ve been continuing with my experimental baking, and decided to compare a freshly-made sourdough starter containing a sample of my vaginal flora with a control starter that didn’t contain any vaginal yeast. One of them performed really well, and the other… didn’t.

The full report will be published on this blog on September 4th, but if you’re desperate to find out whether vaginal yeast improves sourdough, or makes it inedibly gross, you can read it on my Patreon page–it’s patrons only, but you can access it by pledging as little as $1. Also included in the post is a recipe for quick, simple crumpets!

Read: The Great Pussy Bake Off.


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.


Owen Smith is a misogynist masterpost

Content note: this post discusses misogyny and domestic violence

I am going to start this post with some disclaimers:

  • I’m writing this because dudes keep asking me for “evidence” that Owen Smith is a misogynist
  • Just because I think Owen Smith is a bellend doesn’t mean I support Jeremy Corbyn
  • Just because I’m pointing out the misogyny of Owen Smith doesn’t mean some of Corbyn’s supporters aren’t misogynists
  • I didn’t think Angela Eagle was all that either
  • Basically, the Labour Party is a wretched hive of scum and villainy
  • This is not an invitation to honk like a sea lion “debating” whether this stuff is misogyny or not. It’s misogyny. If you don’t think so, you don’t care. And also, I don’t care what you think.
  • I cannot believe The Discourse™ has got so puerile that I need to say any of this

Right, all that out of the way, let’s get on with why Owen Smith is a misogynist.

He opposes mandatory all-woman shortlists

All-woman shortlists are the weak, milky tea of feminism. If your feminism wants women in elected positions (as opposed to the abolition of this hierarchical system), they’re a way of addressing the structural misogyny and ensure a woman ends up in place. Recently, Owen Smith committed to using all-woman shortlists in targeted seats. The qualifier “targeted” here is potentially pretty important, in the context of his previous comments on all-woman shortlists. See, Owen believes (and as far as I can see, has not retracted), that local Labour parties should be able to veto all-woman shortlists if they want to. If a local party doesn’t want an all-woman shortlist, Owen reckons, they shouldn’t have to have one.

Let’s assume that the misogynist Momentum CLP infiltrators exist for the purpose of this. Under Owen Smith’s own assertions, if such woman-hating entryists take against the idea of an all-woman shortlist and kick up a stink, they don’t have to have one. 

His “normal” life

Let’s remember that within the last fortnight, Owen Smith wasn’t just running against Corbyn, but also Angela Eagle, who is a lesbian. When asked if he was normal, Owen decided to explain that of course he’s normal, he has a wife and three children. Perhaps he was taking aim at Corbyn with this comment, simply forgetting about Eagle’s own domestic situation (a wife, no children). However, under patriarchy, it’s women who are hit hardest by this suggestion that they’re weird for not having children. Hell, just a week before Owen Smith made these comments, Theresa May’s leadership contender Andrea Leadsom was rightly called up on her internalised misogyny for having a pop at May for never having had children.

It’s 2016. Some women aren’t just ambulatory baby factories. Deal with it, Owen. It’s the new normal.

The leader of a political party only gets on TV because she’s a woman

Plaid Cymru is one of the major political parties in Wales. It’s led by a woman called Leanne Wood, who is, being the leader of a major political party in her country, on telly a fair amount. Owen Smith felt a little bit bitter about this, and was recorded sulkily saying she got on Question Time instead of him. Wood rather fairly pointed out that maybe this was to do with party balance, to which Owen Smith replied “I think your gender helps as well.

This is a pretty classic case of sexist sulking. When women get more visible, men feel like the women are only getting these opportunities because of political correctness gorn mad, not because of, say, the kind of merit that got you elected leader of your party. Mediocre men think the sun shines out of their special snowflake bottoms, and do not realise that a lot of the time, there is a better woman there.

I recommend watching the short 30 second video in the link above, and listening to the tone he adopts as he says “I think your gender helps as well”. It oozes bitterness, and he spits the word “gender” as though it tastes bad to him.

“That was called a joke, Susanna”

Apologies for another video, but I find watching a man interact with women is one of the greatest indications of how he feels about women. In Owen Smith’s case, his behaviour appears to communicate disdain and contempt. This short video features Owen on a breakfast TV show recently, being asked if he ever took Viagra while working at Pfizer (let’s be honest, you don’t exactly go into the hard-hitting stuff at 6.30 in the morning). After giving an evasive first answer, the woman host, Susanna Reid suggests a more straightforward answer would have been “no”. Once again, Owen’s mask slips, as his tone goes from attempting to get people to like him, to your bog standard sexist creep. “That was called a joke, Susanna,” he says coldly, then immediately slips back into warmer tones as co-host Piers Morgan takes over in the questioning.

Again, this video is worth a watch, even as the dismissive “it’s a joke” defence, as though women have never heard of the concept of humour, will be painfully familiar to all of us.

The domestic violence reference

Owen Smith reckoned the Coalition government was like an abusive relationship, and decided to articulate this in the most flippantly insensitive way he could: “Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

At the time, women’s groups called him up on it, and he backed away from his comments. However, he doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson as just this week, he decided to bring out imagery involving violence against women once again.

Smashing Theresa May on her heels

I’ve seen defences of the phrase “smash her back on her heels”, and none of them sufficient. Some say it’s a common turn of phrase, but it sounds like something someone says on Catchphrase just before being told “it’s good, but it’s not quite right”. Apparently it’s so common that a google of it simply brings you Owen Smith’s comments. Here’s the thing: Theresa May is pretty famous for wearing heels (and her choice of footwear is an endless source of fascination for misogynists). Here’s another thing: it’s generally not considered good form to express a desire to “smash” a woman. And here’s one more thing: this wasn’t an off-the-cuff malapropism. This was a phrase in a prepared speech Owen Smith gave. A speech about equality. Evoking images of violence against women.

But don’t worry! Owen has an excuse. It’s just rhetoricIs this the new political “just banter”?

He downplays the achievements of Black women (added 4th August)

Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes in the world, full stop. Her achievements resonate even more among Black women, because Serena is a shining example of Black women’s excellence.

What does Owen Smith think about her achievements? He reckons it’s unpatriotic to celebrate the sucess of this outstanding black woman athlete, especially because it detracted from giving cookies to a white man. He reckons it’s ~metropolitan~ to celebrate a Black woman dominating at a sport historically dominated by white people and men. Well, Owen, maybe if you stay away from any city ever, or indeed anywhere with a population of more than one, you too might avoid ever meeting anyone who is inspired by a Black woman sporting idol.

A gobstopper for Nicola Sturgeon (added 2nd September)

Continuing with his theme of wanting women leaders to just shut up, Owen himself tweeted this back in April:

Owen’s defence? The misogo classic of “just a joke”.

 

I also query just what in the name of fuck he means by “slice”.

He uses classic sexist defences (added 5th September; updated 6th September)

It’s finally hitting the point where Owen Smith’s misogyny is attracting attention. As well as using the “just banter” defence for his Sturgeon comments, Owen’s pulled the old “I’m not sexist, I hire women.” Yes, really. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Donald Trump say similar, and it was just as fucking feeble and pathetic then.

Thankfully, Owen seems to be being taken to task about his general sexism problem, with a woman challenging him on it publicly at a hustings event. His response was basically a checklist of the classic misogynist’s responses to being called out:

-Focusing on his own feelings, rather than the feelings of those who may have been hurt. Smith described his own experience of hearing the accusations as “the most mortifying experience for me”.
-Mansplaining how his comments aren’t sexist at all.
-“I’ve never suggested that women should be seen and not heard, which is how some of the other things I’ve said have been interpreted,”. This excuse puts the blame on women for misinterpreting, rather than him for screwing up.
-“painted as sexist” “portray me as being a sexist”: this is related to the above, except has started to imply some sort of murky ulterior motive as opposed to just being all hysterical.
-“decontextualised”. There is pretty much one situation in which words can be taken out of context to sound misogynistic, and that is in sentences such as “Alan said Bertha is a bitch, so I punched Alan,” being trimmed to “Bertha is a bitch”. Having the receipts for Owen’s misogynistic comments, they were not decontextualised in this way.
-“repeatedly apologised”. So fucking what? Saying sorry doesn’t magically undo the fact you made these comments. You need to win back trust by not keeping on bloody well doing it. Which seems like a big ask for Owen, and certainly not one he’s doing well at. Also, he hasn’t exactly apologised adequately: a textbook sorry-you-got-offended: “All I can do is apologise for any offence that’s been caused by any of the things I’ve said.”

He just clearly, obviously doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get why women are pissed off at him, and he doesn’t seem to want to get it. Owen Smith’s reaction here is a perfect guide in How Not To Respond To Being Challenged And Apologise.

He won his wife in a playground fight?! (added 10th September)

In a Mirror interview where Owen Smith was attempting to make people like him, and also go on like he’s credible, Smith claimed to have “fought off” hundreds of “lads”, saying, “1,200 boys, three girls and I pulled Liz. So I must have something going on. That must be leadership.”

Ignoring the possible improbabilities with their being any girls at his school while he was there, since the sixth form only became coeducational in 1993 (when Owen would have been 22), this is yet another comment which is just skin-crawlingly sexist. As @keewa put it: “Owen Smith won his wife in a playground fight like she’s a fucking conker”.

Once again, we see him putting his virility front and centre. From the 29 inch penis comments to his insistence on not needing viagra, Owen Smith is pretty keen to show off that he is the manliest of all men. 

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I’ll likely add examples to this post as I see them. Also, heed the disclaimer. This really isn’t an invitation for debate.

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