I support Bahar Mustafa

Content warning: this post discusses harassment

Goldsmiths Welfare and Diversity Officer, Bahar Mustafa, has upset the right wing press. Her evil crime? Suggesting that women and non-binary people of colour should organise in their own autonomous spaces. The media outlets–coincidentally, owned and run by white men who like to yell over everyone else–are freaking the fuck out over not being welcome everywhere. And, of course, white cis men with “free thinker” in their twitter bios are tediously predictably jumping on the bandwagon that media barons want them to be aboard.

I could go from top to tail about why they’re wrong, but other writers have already said it, and better than I could. I recommend reading these articles by Sam Ambreen and Lola Olufemi, as well as the open letter from Goldsmiths students. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of foolishness coming from Bahar’s detractors.

There is one point I would like to add to the above. Bahar’s detractors are fixated on her ethnicity as a Turkish Cypriot, and keep churning out burbled nonsense about how this makes her the oppressor in Cyprus (and personally responsible for the Armenian genocide). As a Greek Cypriot, let me just say this is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard, and they are mixing up Turkish Cypriots–a Turkish speaking ethnic group who’ve lived on the island for centuries, and the state of Turkey (which perpetrated the Armenian genocide and invaded Cyprus). So, as a Greek Cypriot, these shitbrains really need to stop using me and mine as a shield in their risible crusade against a young woman of colour.

Bahar has done nothing wrong, and everything right. Every screech coming from her detractors strengthens the case that white people must be excluded from BME safe spaces, and men must be excluded from women’s spaces, and that cis white men should basically be excluded from life generally. As a little experiment, tweet the hashtag #supportbaharmustafa, offering your support, and see how many white men reply to you with their absolutely ignorant opinions about what racism is, and their demands to be educated, and the boring and wrong shit about Bahar’s ethnicity, and their #GamerGate hashtagged profiles.

Imagine these people being in the spaces they demand access to, yelling over the real conversation. At best, they’d be demanding to be spoonfed 101 information they could easily google, like squawking gannets. These are people who want everything to be all about them, all the time. They should–and must–be excluded from spaces so that actual organising can be done.

Join me in supporting Bahar Mustafa, for her strong stance on how organising should work. And hear every single detractor proving her more and more right.

P.S. Yep, I’m white. That space isn’t for me. It’s still important, because unlike the pissbabies, I know the world doesn’t revolve around me.


Mad Max > Game of Thrones IDST

Content warning: This post discusses rape and violence against women, and contains spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road and Game Of Thrones S05E06.

Why yes, this is the second post in a week about what Mad Max: Fury Road is doing right, so right. Or, at least, more right that a hell of a lot of the shite that’s on our screens these days.

Readers of this blog will likely be aware that the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “Unbroken, Unbowed, Unbent”, featured a rape scene which was not in the books and seemed to serve little purpose (although I’d argue it did serve a function, and a fucking horrid one at that). Defenders of the scene, and defenders of the show’s attitude towards rape in general tend to follow a similar line. “But it’s accurate that in a medieval setting, women would get raped!” “Would you rather they just ignored the issue?”

First of all, the historical accuracy argument is fucking bullshit in a show where dragons and zombies gad about doing dragon and zombie stuff, the climate produces seasons that last for decades, and everybody has a full smile of straight white teeth. Let’s see it instead for what it is: a fantasy setting where, along with all of the above things which didn’t really happen in medieval Europe, it’s also a dystopian world where women are treated as chattel and therefore rape and violence against women is commonplace. Here, the “would you rather they just ignored the issue” argument has slightly more traction.

The thing is, if that is indeed a conscious part of the world that has been built and is being explored in the show, the writers and producers are still doing a fucking terrible job of pulling it off. If they want to explore these issues and show this horrible world they’ve created, they can look to Fury Road to see how it’s done.

Fury Road takes a look at violence against women in a dystopian world, and it does this without a single rape scene–hell, there’s probably only a few seconds of screen time dedicated to showing any violence against women. Instead, they explore it through competent writing, realising that we do not need to be shown these things to appreciate that they are bad and that they are a very real problem for the victims. Instead of being shown women being victimised, we are shown the impact it has on them, their desire to get away. We see instead their feelings, scrawled in paint across the room in which they were kept. We see them angry, we see them sad. We see its perpetrator, and we despise him without having to have every little detail of his violence rubbed in our faces.

It is entirely possible to address and discuss these issues on screen without subjecting the audience to the horrors. In fact, it’s easy to write a blow-by-blow rape scene. It is perhaps more challenging, but infinitely more rewarding for the audience to use some fucking subtlety and actually delve into what this means rather than what happened. Fury Road went to the length of employing a feminist to consult on the handling of violence against women, and it shows, because what emerged was a far better and more nuanced exploration of a world rife with gendered violence than much else.

We live in a ridiculous world full of dreadful writing if I have to call a fucking Mad Max film subtle and nuanced.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

I read things. I find them interesting. I share them.

10 Things the Left Should See the Back of Right Now (Isla Williams)- I do not have enough YES TO THIS to articulate how important this is.

My Birth Story, The Bipolar Birth Plan Was Bullshit and The Stigma Of Mentalist Mums (The Secret Life Of A Manic Depressive)- Honest account of birth and postnatal care for a mother with bipolar. With bonus pictures of an adorable babby.

I stand with Bahar Mustafa – Reverse racism isn’t real (Sam Ambreen)- Sam knocks it out of the park, and like Bahar, has upset a lot of white men. Good.

Sex Workers Don’t Owe You Any Answers (Alana Massey)- Shit that shouldn’t need to be said, said well.

Shit White Feminists Need To Stop Doing (Fernanda Toro)- Ditto. Read, take heed.

It did not start with Stonewall – Black lesbian elders tell their herstories.

A Rare And Remarkable Glimpse Into The Lives Of Trans Women In 1960s Paris– Photographs of the glamorous trans women sex workers in Paris.

The Underground Art of the Insult (Anna Holmes)- A brief history of throwing shade.

Congrats, you have an all male panel!– Shaming the all-too-common all-male panels.

Positive Behaviour S&M (Mark Neary)- This is what schools are doing to autistic children and it’s fucking horrible.

Workfare, Forced Labour and the new ‘Business and Community Wardens’. (Pete the Temp)- Exposing the forced labour in a “voluntary” role.

Mad Max: Fury Road Director George Miller: “I Can’t Help but Be a Feminist” (Vanity Fair)- What Miller describes here as he talks about his creative process is the bare minimum any fucking director should do, and yet they aren’t. Do a George Miller, and make an actually fucking good film.

And finally, the best of the hipster cop meme. Fuck that guy.


Mad Max: Fury Road- not exactly feminist cinema, but an exemplar action flick

Content warning: this post discusses reproductive violence and disablism. It also contains spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road

I am a huge fan of the Mad Max franchise, so I will confess I was planning on going to see Fury Road anyway. I began vibrating with excitement when I found out that not only were pretty much all the reviews positive, but that it had really pissed off the blubbering misogo manchildren. So was this the feminist propaganda the MRAs thought it to be? Absolutely not, but my goodness, it was fucking fun.

Fury Road is one of the finest action films I have ever seen. It’s big, it’s loud and it is absolutely and completely preposterous. Like the other Mad Max films, it doesn’t tell us much about what’s going on, giving us space to interpret what’s going on how we like. My own personal read of the franchise has always been “this is what fucking happens when you let men run things and build things”, and Fury Road certainly fits in well here. And it manages to do all this with a series of incredible action sequences, and as a cherry on the top, gives us some female characters to root for.

Let’s talk about the action first, because it’s a step away from the fashion in action films at present, with their shakycams and their blurriness and their cartoonish CGI physics. Fury Road knows what you came to see: you paid to see massive, ludicrous fucking cars engaged in battle and by god you’re going to get it. It knows that you want to see these absurd vehicle fights rather than a headache-inducing, impossible-to-follow swirl of colours and fire and shit flying about like it weights absolutely nothing. The action is clear and coherent, even as it is silly and larger-than-life. Everything happens for a reason, and you get a good look at what’s going on. This is great, because it means you can actually settle down to watch muscle cars with tank caterpillars fighting with heavily-modded oil tankers and enjoy every second of it. The person-on-person fights, too, have a feel of actual humans performing stunts rather than someone alone, awkwardly hopping up and down in front of a green screen while looking at a tennis ball on a stick.

Charlize Theron was rightly billed equal first with Tom Hardy in the opening credits. This is just as much a film about Imperator Furiosa as it is about the eponymous Max. Furiosa is more than your cut-out action girl: she is a woman who cares deeply about her sisters and is willing to go all the way to ensure their safety. She is a woman who gets shit done, without being the robot that the film industry usually seems insistent on making competent women. She’s aware of her own strengths, but also her own limitations. Her role is rounded in the sort of way that would make me wonder if the role was originally written for a man but Theron was just so goddamn good that they cast her instead–this usually being the only way that decent woman characters are born from male writers.

However, I know that this isn’t true, because I know that Fury Road actually had a go at trying to get things right, hiring a feminist to consult. Unfortunately, that feminist was Eve Ensler, so the film is fucking white as hell. It is also fairly problematic in terms of its portrayal of disability, with your standard disablism surrounding the villains being ugly and disabled and evil. This article from Madame Thursday goes deeper into the problematics in its portrayal of disabled and fat characters, and it’s well worth a read.

The motivation for escaping the baddies stems from their reproductive violence. Women are kept by the male villain to breed, and to produce breast milk. This is treated as A Bad Thing, of course, because it would be a completely shit film if it wasn’t. However, treating something as bad when it is indeed objectively bad does not make a feminist film. If you want a feminist text about reproductive violence in a post-apocalyptic world, you’re still going to have to read The Handmaid’s Tale. 

Nonetheless, there’s still some good stuff going on. What is refreshing in Fury Road, though, is that the victims themselves organise their own liberation and resistance, rather than just needing to be rescued. Max himself is a decent role model for white men in how to be an ally: he does what the community needs, knows when to step aside to let women who are the experts to do things for themselves, and is capable of following instructions and fucking off and not demanding cookies. This is, of course, not inconsistent with his characterisation in the earlier Mad Max films. So, men, please watch the entire franchise, and attempt to emulate the way Max acts when trying to provide support. It’s possible we might just let you drive awesome big rigs if you do.

I mentioned earlier that Fury Road chooses to show us things rather than exposit them, and that this is great because we can interpret what we want. It is therefore entirely possible to see a critique of power and manufactured scarcity in a gigantic fucking battle rig which is literally dedicated to providing a someone with a space to play a double-headed guitar which doubles as a flamethrower. If petrol is really so precious, would they really want to waste resources on that? Likewise, you can come up with all sorts of psychoanalytic interpretations of the significance of bodily fluids, or nod sagely at the importance of elder women in actually sorting shit out.

At its heart, Fury Road is something I want every director and writer of action films to sit down and learn from. It shows that it is completely possible to not do women badly, as well as how to make action scenes which are enjoyable to watch. It’s a film to be built upon–making films like this but more feminist will only make them even better. It’s two hours of unmitigated joy, and one of the few films I’ve been to where the audience has applauded. I pity the MRA pissbabies who are boycotting Fury Road because fucking hell, they are really missing out.


Things I read this period of time that I found interesting

Well, apparently it’s been a month since I’ve done one of these round-ups and things have changed and everything’s definitely shit. Anyway, have some links.

Against “Choice Feminism”: four new suggested topics (A Glasgow Sex Worker)- Here’s some discussion questions on which feminists must reflect.

#blacklivesmatter How three friends turned a spontaneous Facebook post into a global phenomenon (Jamilah King)- Meet the Black women who started a hugely important movement.

Why hasn’t Britain wiped out lgbt hate crime? (Sean Faye)- On the magnitude of the problem.

Neoliberalism and the commodification of experience (Alison Phipps)- How neoliberalism has shaped the discourse and what needs t change.

“A life on benefits is frankly no life at all.” (A Latent Existence)- Digging into David Cameron’s attitude towards disabled people.

When You Create A Safe Space, It’s Safe For All People (ideatrash)- How we can build safer spaces and who they are for.

Negligence, Symphysiotomy and Past Harm. (Mairead Enright)- On recognition and justice for symphysiotomy victims

These 8 Characters Are Definitely Going To Die (Julia Lepetit)- Hollywood and TV are nothing if not predictable.

Scottish Grindr users on the 2015 general election (machotrouts)- Here’s a poll the pundits missed and it’s far more accurate than most.

All Bodies Count (Meredith Bland)- On attitudes towards disabled bodies.

As a Native Actor, I Applaud Those Who Walked off the Set of Adam Sandler’s Racist Movie (Tyson Houseman)- Challenging a strong vein of racism in the US.

Ban Men from Literary Readings (Josephine Livingstone)- A very strong case, well made.

Nonviolence as Compliance (Ta-Nehisi Coates)- Focused on the situation in Baltimore, but pertinent everywhere.

The Focus On Property Over Black Lives Is Also State Violence (Gradient Lair)- Hitting the fucking nail on the head.

10 Theories About How Lesbians Have Sex From Straight People In History (Carolyn)- Spoiler: they’re all fucking bizarre.

And finally, Comment Is Weird which basically I can’t even explain.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In which I review a book that I read: Tiny Pieces of Skull

Content note: This post touches on transmisogyny, rape and sex work, and contains spoilers for Tiny Pieces of Skull.

Roz Kaveney’s at-least-partially-autobiographical novel, Tiny Pieces Of Skull: Or, A Lesson In Manners, was a long time coming. It was mostly written close to the time it was set, in the late 70s, but did not see the light of day until now. Its publication in the present day, perhaps, marks a shift in attitudes creating the social conditions where such a book actually can be published.

Tiny Pieces Of Skull follows Annabelle, a recently-transitioned trans woman, through a pretty eventful period of her life in London and Chicago, including surgery, sex work, rape, drugs and crimes. With themes like this, one would expect a moralistic lecture, or at the very least a misery memoir, yet the book is anything but.

At its heart, Tiny Pieces Of Skull is a book about women and their complex inner lives. It is a story of learning and growth, and a tale of community, the little spaces carved out by the characters in a world that is against them. Terrible things happen to the characters, and it is made all the more shocking by how completely normal this is treated. Annabelle quickly understands the daily battle of survival, and it swiftly becomes almost like background noise. The title quite adequately portrays the content of the novel: Tiny Pieces Of Skull is a starkly violent phrase reflecting the 70s Chicago underground, while A Lesson In Manners describes Annabelle’s coping strategy: using her wits and charm.

Each event in the novel could form fifty thousand words in and of itself, and yet TPoS tears through everything at an alarming pace. We are barely given time to react to and process one thing, when something else happens. Blink, and you might miss something deeply important. Like the protagonist, we must adapt quickly and never get too comfortable.

While TPoS may be mostly thirty years old, I was struck by how much is still relevant to discussions happening today. Its unflinching yet non-judgmental attitudes towards being trans and being a sex worker is a masterclass in writing trans and sex worker characters: their circumstances are important, and yet it is not these things that define them–they are rounded people outside of this. While the word “trans” does not even feature in the novel, it is abundantly apparent that this shapes the characters’ experiences. Instead, the word “sister” is used, because that’s what TPoS is about: sisterhood.

Like with blood sisters, there are bonds between the women, even when they absolutely detest each other. They gossip, they bitch, they cut up faces and yet they are united against external threats: cis men–rapists and the police. They come through for one another in the face of fundamentalist Christians and men who prey on vulnerable women.

While many of the specifics in TPoS have changed over time: the spectre of the AIDS epidemic had yet to rear its head at the time it is set, so it is therefore not a threat to the characters, for example, it is still highly relevant to all women. The villains–cis men with power–remain the same to women of all circumstances even today, yet we must acknowledge that still trans women and sex workers are more at risk from this brutality.

It’s the sort of short novel you can tear through in an afternoon, but it will stay with you. Personally, I’m planning on reading it again pretty damn soon.


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