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.


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.

A tip for the guys: don’t be the guy who records consent

Content note: this post discusses rape

Today in “here’s a bloke who totally doesn’t understand how consent works” we have this chap, who was “falsely accused” of rape, and now makes recordings of consent before he has sex:

It has taken me a really long time to be intimate with another women and if and when that situation does arise I tend to ensure that I have recorded full consent before anything takes place.

I would ask questions like “What is your name? Are you comfortable in being here?” Just to make sure that I have proof that everything and anything that had happened, was fully consensual by both of us.

Yes. Seriously. That’s what he thinks is OK. And the BBC seem to have run his top tip completely uncritically. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a bad idea and not actually seeking consent, but lest any young men try to imitate this, here’s why it’s absolutely not a decent way of seeking consent:

  1. Consent isn’t this magical switch which, when switched on, means you consent to absolutely everything that happens afterwards. It’s a process. It can be withdrawn at any point. So just because someone says “yes” at first doesn’t mean it’s going to be a “yes” all night, to absolutely everything that happens thereafter. It’s important to keep on checking, over and over.
  2. A recording can be coerced. Think about how most hostages say they are being “treated well”. Do you believe they are truly being treated well?
  3. A recording can be tricked. Is it going to cover absolutely anything? Probably not. This is probably just a general gesture of “consent” rather than what you are actually consenting to.
  4. Basically, the whole thing sounds like a rapist’s get out of jail free card. It misses how consent works in favour of legally covering bases. Knowledge that

Women, if a man whips out his phone and insists on recording your consent, I strongly urge you to run the fuck away. Maybe he is just a decent chap who doesn’t get it. But he is behaving like a predator by doing this. And he is behaving like a predator for wondering how he can avoid prosecution rather than being sure the person he is having sex with is enjoying it.

As an aside, it’s also worth avoiding men who say they were falsely accused of rape like the plague. Statistically, it’s more likely that they did it and got away with it.

For young men, consent isn’t actually difficult. It might result in you not getting laid exactly whenever you want. But what it does do is ensure you’re not a rapist. And isn’t that the most important thing in the world?

Things I read

Hi everyone. I read things. Perhaps you may find them interesting?

Do You Know About Action T4? The Erasure Of Disabled People From The Holocaust Narrative, And Why It Matters Today (Granite and Sunlight)- This is a very important bit of history, and we must remember it.

How likely is an all-male speakers list, statistically speaking? A mathematician weighs in. (Lauren Bacon/Greg Martin)- This is a beautiful little bit of maths, and confirms what a lot of us suspected.

I am not here to inspire you. (stars & spirals)- Following a post that went viral, Becca examines being seen as an inspirational disabled person.

From #BlackLivesMatter to Anti-Austerity: Women of Colour and the Politics of Solidarity (Akwugo Emejulu)- What women of colour are doing, and how they are shut down in white-dominated spaces.

Black Girl Down… and Up (Prison Culture)- Concise piece on the violence Black girls face.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics, The Most Popular Physics Book Ever Written, Now Completely Online (Open Culture)- Free seminal physics, everyone!!!!!!

Why I call my son ‘he’, against my better judgement (Dorian Stripe)- On the difficulties of raising a child outside of societal obsession with assigned sex.

I don’t need fire safety talks (Barty Bantbrose)- A humorous take on the whole George Lawlor thing.

 If Germaine Greer’s views were radical, this transgender woman wouldn’t have been sent to a men’s prison (Ella Griffiths)- Shit that shouldn’t need saying, said well.

And finally, even though it isn’t Halloween any more, have a bat cat.

#ISeeTara: Support Tara Hudson

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


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. 

Things I read this week that I found interesting

It’s link round-up time again!

Feminist Consciousness (Sara Ahmed)- Amazing essay, exploring how we as feminists reassemble how we see the world.

‘When I Needed A Neighbour Were You There?’: Addressing Racism In Britain, The Elephant In The Room (Siana Bangura)- How white people completely failed to intervene to stop a hate crime.

Why I glued myself to a ticket barrier and shut down the Eurostar (Tatiana Garavito)- A report from and the story behind some important direct action.

pinkwashed: are young gays selling out to capitalism? (Sean Faye)- Excellent essay from Sean, exploring how far we have to go.

To be real: On trans aesthetics and authenticity (Sean Faye)- Sean’s been on fire this week, cracking out these must-reads.

Why I won’t date another ‘male feminist’ (Kate Iselin)- One of those pieces where I just nodded along and was like yes to this all the way through.

The Thai Women Behind the First Bar Run Entirely by a Sex Workers’ Collective (Charlotte England)- Great read on sex workers organising together and building something for themselves.

I Photograph Black Shelter Cats Because They’re The Last To Get Adopted And Are Often Euthanized (Casey)- The title covers the important stuff, but also look, it’s really cute black cats.

Racism is… (Shane Thomas)- Explaining everyday racism.

Mapping the intangible (Stars and Spirals)- Deeply personal, beautiful writing exploring mood.

Fan artist retells the whole story of ‘Mad Max’ in Egyptian hieroglyphs (Aja Romano)- Introducing Takumi Kanehara’s incredible interpretation of the story.

Ban dangerous legal high Cake.– I don’t usually share petitions but this one is important.

Meet the Rapper Keeping #BlackLivesMatter Alive By Releasing Music From Prison (Tom Barnes)- Richie Reseda is releasing music from prison with a crucial message.

The Hoverboard Scene In Back To The Future 2 Nearly Killed A Stuntwoman (Charlie Jane Anders)- This is a story of men not listening to a woman.

And finally, the Australian cast of The Lion King sing on a plane and it’s fucking lovely.

Guest post: ‘What’s he done now?’ Abuse in the IS Network!

Content warning: this post reports sexual violence, physical and emotional abuse, and rape apologism in detail, mentions CSA

This is a statement from “Harriet”, an anonymous former member of the International Socialist Network. She contacted me asking for help in getting her experience out there. Please be warned that her statement describes in detail what happened to her, so please make sure you do what you can to keep yourself safe. Harriet would like her story to be heard.


‘What’s he done now?’ Abuse in the IS Network!

The following piece is about the physical and emotional abuse I experienced in the IS Network, the organisation that split with the SWP because of the rape of a young woman by the secretary of the SWP. I am writing under an alias to protect my mother from the truth about the abuse I experienced as a child. I may talk to her about this in time, but that’s my decision. The man who did this to me was the secretary of the IS Network at the time he sexually assaulted me. He is currently active on the left and within the unions. His name is Tim.

I’ve just ordered another 2 cans of 13 Guns, I do this often now, numb myself. I like the feeling of my body relaxing, knowing that I don’t have to deal with reality until my subconscious procures my senses and I see what this man did to me in my dreams.

Alcohol releases the intensity of anger. I am on anti-depressants for the first time. The booze and the drugs feel good, calming and replaces the tears and pain with a lightness, allowing me to cope. I want my life back, I want to feel innocent and trusting like I used to, but I know too much to go back.

I realise now, that what we think of as choice is not always so, it’s often forced upon us. If I had a choice I wouldn’t write this piece, because I don’t like hurting anyone, but I don’t have a choice. I have to write this because it’s the right thing to do. I am afraid of writing this article, because I have tried to speak out before but I was called a liar, and messages I wrote to this man were published on my Facebook page, which were taken out of context. I was an organiser in the IS Network and he was a powerful influence within the organisation. He was taken seriously. If I wanted the IS Network to survive I had to forgive him. I had to get him to take me seriously. But he never did.

When I met him I was taken in by his stand against abuse in the SWP, because of this I thought he was different. I have lost count of how many times I have been harassed and sexually assaulted in my life, but I know it started at age 6 and from this age I was a survivor.

Tim was one of the Facebook 4, kicked out of the SWP for standing up against sexism. This is part of the reason I trusted him. But Tim has emotionally abused me for years and from the moment he met me he has targeted me as a sexual object of his desire.

I know now that he is a bully. I remember when he started shaming comrades in his publications on the IS Network website. His writing was provocative, intentionally hostile and defensive but I wanted him to like me so I didn’t say anything. Sometimes I had to compromise what I knew was the right thing to do intuitively. But If I did I would be out of the clique. A group of comrade from the IS Network would organise separately to the official IS Network Facebook group and when I realised this was a group of people bantering at best and using it to bully other comrades outside of the clique at worst I left. This was raised by other younger comrades in the IS Network as an issue after I left the group, but dealt with antagonistically by members of the clique.

At times I have felt particularly angered so I have stood up to Tim’s bullying of others, such as when he ridiculed a comrade on Facebook for posting selfies. This was obviously gendered because I only ever saw him ridicule selfies taken by men. But the fact of the matter is that Tim does not like being challenged for his behaviour so he complained to the steering committee that I was ‘abusing’ him on Facebook because I was standing up for a comrade he was clearly bullying.

I often felt that his behaviour towards others on the left was bullying, ridiculing their comments and pictures.

I knew I was healthily challenging his behaviour but I bowed to the pressure, apologised and left the group he was organising, even though I had just carried hundreds of leaflets for them for miles and hurt myself doing so, only to arrive back to the flat with the box of flyers, to more piss taking on Facebook. But we couldn’t lose another exceptional talent.

When we first met he said I was different and he wanted to go out with me. I wasn’t sure who he was comparing me to, but I was flattered. I was feeling good in myself, my hair had mostly grown back and my weight was good, I wasn’t too thin and even though I wasn’t feeling great about what had happened in the SWP, I was generally healthy. I certainly didn’t drink every day like I do now, drinking came later.

In retrospect, I remember he always had a lot to say to men, but he hardly spoke to me. He generally wanted sex and quickly. I remember on one occasion at a party with IS Network comrades he asked me to go upstairs and he would follow, mocking me to get my attention. He always wanted to get me into bed so quickly. It always came out of nothing too. He took advantage of the fact I liked him, even though we established we were only going to be friends.

He dumped me after the second time sleeping together, this was before the time above actually, and in fact literally straight after sleeping together, but even though it hurt, I took it well and told him that I would be happy to be friends with him. But he could never do friendship, this became obvious over the next couple of years. He had a hold over me, and I am sure he was well aware of this.

Then came the assault when he was the secretary of the IS Network, the splinter group of the SWP. The group that left the SWP because of the abusive secretary of the SWP.

This is the statement I wrote but is remains unpublished until now:

I have been angry with Tim for a long time – his sister was right in pointing this out, however, my anger towards him was never directed at her, I was angry with her because she never challenged his behaviour and would hate people on the basis that they upset Tim. The reason I was angry with Tim and still am is because of the way he treated me.
I never got to tell Tim why and how he hurt me, because he always refused to listen. The reason I emailed him to tell him it was over after the night of his birthday party wasn’t just because of my feelings for him or not wanting to get hurt, it was because he had already hurt me. Tim pressured me into having sexual relations with him, which he should have realised I didn’t want, because I repeatedly made that clear to him.

The incident I refer to occurred after I was persuaded to go to his birthday party in Bristol a day before the IS Network conference in Sheffield. The invite came at the last minute after it was implied only certain people from the Facebook invitation group would be welcome, and I felt a bit uncomfortable going because every time I saw Tim in person he would try it on with me, we would end up having consensual sexual relations and then he would ignore me afterwards, which made it really difficult working as an organiser in the IS Network.

The night in question was the same as usual, he came on to me and I reciprocated. As usual, we hadn’t spoken much that evening before he asked me to sit on the sofa and then kissed me hard as soon as another comrade walked out of the room – everyone else had gone home or gone to bed. I was very aware when this was going on that I was on my period, so when he said he wanted to fuck me hard I tried to pretend he didn’t say ‘hard’ and responded ‘you want to fuck me?’, he said yes but hard.

At this point I told him I was on my period so I couldn’t, but he persisted and asked me to go to the bathroom with him so we could have some privacy. As soon as we were in the bathroom and he started kissing me I pulled away and told him I didn’t want to do this and I was very cold, at which point he got the message and went downstairs and I told him I was going to the toilet, and then he walked in on me when I was on the toilet and I had to tell him to leave – he apologised and left.

I went back downstairs, but another comrade had taken the sofa and Tim the only other chair, at this point I was tired and just wanted to fall asleep in his arms. I climbed onto the sofa with him. Tim said he thought he was taking advantage of me and that he liked to have sex with beautiful and intelligent women. At this point I felt used and pressured and felt as if I should be pleasing him.

I didn’t want to do anything but we started kissing and he asked if I would get naked with him, I didn’t want to do anything while I was on my period, our comrade was on the next sofa and I was tired and cold, so I told him I was cold and he said he would warm me up. I felt the pressure so I took off my top, at which point he grabbed my hand and took me back upstairs to the bathroom. In the bathroom he immediately went down on me, I was not turned on at all, but was more concerned about being on my period and kept pulling his right hand up to check it for blood. I forgot to bring a change of sanitary products with me so was feeling particularly vulnerable.

Tim realised I wasn’t getting wet and turned on, at which point he told me he liked it when I was wet and he licked me, implying that he didn’t like that I wasn’t wet. Tim then moved on to sucking and then biting my left nipple, and carried on after I told him that it was hurting me, but he kept saying he couldn’t hear me, even though I kept on crying it out and he carried on biting my nipple until he bit it red raw and hurt me so badly that I had to physically pull him away, but he ignored me and continued to bite my nipple. I remember very little after this.

The next day after conference I felt awful. When I took my bra off that evening the skin on my left nipple came away and I started bleeding. I felt used and abused and like I didn’t want him near me again. I emailed Tim that week to say we couldn’t do that again. This was the only time sexual relations with him felt like sexual assault so I confided in a friend not very long after the incident and she advised me that consent boundaries were crossed.

We argued often after this incident and I felt he was always angry with me and tried to control me.

Then I confided in the women’s caucus about being abused when I was 6 years old. I confided to the women’s caucus in confidence, to explain why I had been so upset with dealing with the subject of the SWP being allowed on campus. I ended up getting into an argument with a woman in the caucus, which we realised afterwards was a complete misunderstanding, but in order to prove what had happened in the caucus she said that she would publish it in the main group. This was a private argument, which included confidential information about me. I was worried this information was going to be published in the main group with both genders, so I said if it was I was going to make complaint.

Tim publicly humiliated me in the IS Network Facebook group and tried to obstruct my complaint. His sister, who was a member of the complaints group, liked Tim’s comment obstructing my complaint on Facebook. This was a clear conflict of interest and should have been immediately picked up by the complaints group and she should have stepped down from her position of authority on this case. Instead she used her position to further marginalise me and undermine my legitimate concerns about confidentiality and abuse.

The abuse that took place in my neighbour’s house at the age of 6 was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, I convinced myself at the time that I was dying, I started losing my hair and became increasingly distant from those around me.

It had taken me 20 years to admit the abuse I went through as a child to my sister and thought I could trust the women in the women’s caucus but no one apart from 2 women stood by me in the IS Network Facebook group that day. I was completely alone and ended up with severe depression and months off work. I still tried to keep the ISN going, but with very little support from anyone around me.

Then when I approached Tim to discuss these issues he decided to go and tell all of our Bristol comrades that I have a mental illness. I was stupidly still trying to see some good in him. Hoping he would apologise for how he treated me. The constant emotional abuse and the physical abuse. I never wanted to go public with this, because I never wanted to forget the goodness I saw in him, the person who I see others love. I never wanted to take that away from them.

I want an apology for what Tim did to me. I want to join a political group without being told I am problematic. I want my old self back, the person who used to trust and laugh, the woman who loved her comrades and friends and always welled up when I spent time with my comrades, because they made me so proud to know such principled people who would always stand up and fight. I want to not feel broken anymore. And I want to love again like I used to. In order to realise all these things I needed to write this piece.

Always, Harriet Casey


Supporting statement from Kaff

I have witnessed Tim’s behaviour towards Harriet and fully support her above statement. I was present at a gathering of ISN comrades in Bristol and I was worried about his behaviour. He was being very overt in his sexual advances and Harriet looked uncomfortable. I would have been very uncomfortable in that situation also. I also remember that Harriet seemed to want to stay with us all where we were sat, in the dining room, but Tim was very much focussed on going upstairs with her and I remember a conversation that involved his sister saying that Harriet shouldn’t be getting involved with Tim because she was still living with a previous partner under complicated circumstances. I thought that was very odd because she didn’t once appear to be advancing on Tim sexually, he was the one making sexual advances on her. I had no preconceptions about anyone at this gathering at that point because I was still very new to politics and had only met Tim briefly before. Following this night, Tim’s responses to Harriet’s comments on Facebook posts were very unpleasant and he was bullying her. She received very little support from anyone and we all let her down. The reason I am writing this is because I don’t want her to be alone in this anymore, she needs all of our full support. by Kaff

Do women oppose fracking because we aren’t educated in science? Fuck no.

Today in internalising misogyny for a nice fat paycheque, Professor Averil Macdonald has declared that women are more opposed to fracking than men because we just don’t understand the science behind it. Hoping to make the statement a little less misogynistic, and remembering she sits on a committee to encourage women into STEM, she adds that it’s probably due to women having less of an education in science.

First of all, let me say this: what Professor Macdonald is saying is thoroughly unsubstantiated. She cites research from the University of Nottingham into public support for fracking which does show a gender difference, although the ongoing programme of research also shows a steady decline in public support for the technique (presumably because it’s fucking terrible for the environment and we ought to stop relying on fossil fuels). Where Professor Macdonald has got it into her head that it’s to do with persuasion by scientific facts, I do not know: the Nottingham research was a descriptive survey rather than an experiment into methods of persuasion. There’s no evidence to show that gender differences in support for fracking are down to men being more swayed by scientific arguments. What’s being reported is simply Professor Macdonald’s personal feelings–and given she’s the chair of an oil company, a sceptical mind ought to consider why she may have that opinion.

However, I’m all for thought experiments, so let’s pretend that Professor Macdonald was citing some robust research showing that men are more receptive to scientific arguments in favour of fracking than women, and that the causative factor here is their better science education.

Here, I would suggest that men are more likely to be influenced by whatever the hell is dressed up as scientific fact purely because of higher levels of science education. You see, a science education doesn’t necessarily teach you very useful skills. In fact, it teaches you to be uncritical regarding science. It teaches you to produce whatever your funders want to hear, and not to particularly question who’s funding what. It teaches you that shaky evidence is evidence, and therefore it’s good and build on that and continue going in the direction you’re going in, no matter how actually incorrect it is. It teaches you to appeal to authority. It teaches you not to be reflexive, to be convinced that you are being objective.

I should know. I had a science education, to a pretty high level. And I was once the sort of person to swallow with a bit of “scientific evidence” as fact.

So, Professor Macdonald is wrong. And even if she’s right, she’s still wrong.


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