#RadFem2012 Redux: Manchester’s Women Up North Conference

Two days ago, I blogged about the (successful) campaign to prevent Sheila Jeffreys from speaking at the #RadFem2012 conference. The campaign itself was unpleasant with some very serious threats made against the conference as well as an unnecessary amount of misogynistic abuse levelled at the women organising the conference. Here’s a hint: if you want me to take you seriously as a Feminist, you do not call other women cunts. Ever. That term is nothing but misogynistic. It can not be reclaimed to be used as a term of abuse.

I was so very sad to hear that the venue, Conway Hall, had ceded to the demands of a vocal minority of aggressive people and banned Sheila Jeffreys. I do not see the need to have inclusive to everyone feminist conferences all the time. If the activists were so concerned about the silencing of transwomen from the conference, they could have organised a simultaneous conference. Or, gone for peaceful counter-protest. Violent threats and silencing tactics help no one. They only serve to cause ructions within the Feminist movement which is what the Patriarchy wants.

Today, the first thing that came up on my Facebook feed was this blog stating that the activists who have silenced the women from RadFem2012 are now targeting Manchester Feminist Network’s Women Up North conference because it is holding one session closed for FAAB survivors of sexual violence. The conference is trans-inclusive except for this one session so I am not sure why it would be targeted. It also has a space for Black-women only and I don’t see anyone campaigning against that deliberately excluding people.

This is the response by the Manchester Feminist Network to a question as to whether or not the conference is trans-inclusive:

We don’t see it as transphobic to have some seperate space for born women. Some of the women in our group are vocal advocates of trans-women’s rights. Some of us advocate for trans-women’s human rights but still want to be in born woman space sometimes and don’t see the 2 as mutually exclusive. Many of us have trans-women as family members, friends and work colleagues. As a feminist network of different women we struggle with these differences and yet try to still work together. The compropmise that we came to for Women Up North was that it would generally be open to trans-women but that the sexual abuse survivors and sexuality workshops could be designated born women only as the facilitators requested this. 

The vast majority of sexual abuse is committed on women by men. Most women seek out women only services for support and recovery e.g. rape crisis centres, survivors groups or women counsellors. This doesnt mean that all male counsellors or support services are rapists, but that unfortunately under patriarchy women are understandably sometimes fearful of and uncomfortable around men (just think how differently it impacts on women when having a man or woman walking behind them when alone out at night). Sadly, some of us would not feel as safe/uninhibited in the presence of people who have lived some of their lives as men, however those individuals feel/see themselves and whether they too are survivors of sexual violence. Blame patriarchy for this, not feminist survivors of abuse. Please work with us seperately when requested, and together at all other times to challenge male violence and patriarchy. We have alot of common ground and alot of work to do! Some of us like this article by Jenny Roberts, a trans-woman who used to run the lesbian bookshop and arts festival Libertas http://www.annelawrence.com/buildingbridges.html 

This is our response on the matter and we are unlikely to respond to individual comments, apologies.

It makes me very sad when women’s voices are silence because of political lobbying. As I said in my other blogpost, all women [whether they be FAAB or transwomen] have the right to safe spaces to discuss issues which are personal. Lesbian women should not have to discuss domestic violence with heterosexual women if they don’t want. Transgendered people have the right to close spaces so they discuss issues of “passing” or surgery without feeling the need to “educate” an audience with no personal experience on the issue. In this, a little bit of kindness and listening to the needs of others wouldn’t go remiss. Personally, I think the obvious compromise is to run a second session on sexual violence which is trans-inclusive for those who choose to attend it.


I’ve been writing this blogpost for a few days now and, as ever, I’m behind the times since Sheila Jeffreys has now been banned from the conference venue for “promoting hatred”. I find this incredibly disappointing and it makes me so very angry that women’s voices are once again being silenced because of a concerted attack by a group of activists who use shameful bullying tacts to silence any opposition. The Guardian article is here.

This is my post, not quite finished [or edited] since I meant it for tomorrow but I would rather it be read now:

I’ve been trying to write this blogpost since the vitriol against #RadFem2012 started trending on twitter. I’ve been horrified by the level of violence and hate speech that has accompanied the announcement of the Radical Feminist conference in London. This might reflect entirely who I follow on Twitter and Facebook, but the vast majority of insults, especially those which threaten violence, have been by a few transactivists against radical feminists. After all, I didn’t see anyone who self-identified as Radical Feminist suggesting that people who disagreed with them were “scum” like those Transactivists using the hashtag: #radscum2012. I’ve not seen any Radical Feminsts using words like “cunt” to dismiss and belittle Transactivists. There is even a Resist RadFem2012 blog set-up. I won’t be attending #RadFem2012 this summer but that’s for financial reasons and not because I don’t want to be there. I missed the Go Feminism conference in February for the same reason. If I had the financial resources, I would spend my life traipsing up and down the UK on a train attending Feminist conferences and festivals. Being surrounded by Feminists of all persuasions is a beautiful thing; even if we don’t agree on all points just being with people who are critical of our capitalist-patriarchy is inspiring.

I am, however, really struggling to understand the vitriol targeting the Radical Feminist conference. I genuinely do not see why people are so angry about one conference for women-born only. It is not like there is a dearth of Feminist conferences and activities in the UK right now. If anything, we are at the beginning of a major Feminist activist revival. There should be opportunities for everyone to participate in Feminist activism without denigrating or deriding attempts by others to engage in activism and consciousness-raising.


There are many forms of oppression and discrimination that women born women have to deal with which is different from the discrimination faced by Transgender people. I think it would be equally disrespectful for me to assert my “right” to attend a conference which is for transgender women only. Indeed, the Philadelphia Trans-Health conference includes closed sessions for Transgendered people only. I think it is inhumane and utterly arrogant for me to assume that I should be allowed into this space because there are issues of discrimination faced by transgendered people that I, as a FAAB, have never experienced and do not have the ability to offer anything constructive other than sympathy. Transgender people don’t need a straight, FAAB sitting in the corner offering sympathy. They need a space where they can discuss their lived experiences without worrying about whether or not an audience is present [or worrying if the audience is sympathetic] just like FAAB deserve.

It is as equally disrespectful for me to assert my “right” to attend a conference for Black Feminist women-only based on an assumption of “shared experience” because of our biological sex. Or, and this term sets my teeth on edge, my “right” to attend a Black-women only event in order to “educate” myself about the specific structural oppression faced by Black women due to misogyny and racism. If I were truly interested in “educating” myself about the multiple oppressions experienced by “Othered” women, I would read books, articles and, increasingly, blogs written by these women. Hell, Twitter and Facebook offer opportunities to learn without being rude. Demanding access to their space would be asserting a White Privilege that I do not deserve. Black women have the personal need and the political right to close their space to white women. I have neither the personal need nor the political right to demand access to that space.

Transgender people do experience serious oppression and discrimination in our capitalist-Patriarchy. Anyone suggesting differently is either deliberately minimising the level of sexual violence and harassment transgendered people receive or has not yet considered it. I have never heard a Feminist argue that Transgender people do not experience violence [sexual and otherwise]. I have heard Feminists argue that the violence experienced by Transgendered people originates in the same Patriarchal constructs as misogyny BUT that the violence and oppression of women is both experientially and structurally different. That is not to say that one individual has it “worse” than another or that the specific experience of one individual can be used as representative of all, whether they be women or transgender but, rather that, the specific oppressions experienced by FAAB is qualitatively different to that experienced by transgendered people. It is also infinitely more likely for women to experience gender-based violence.

FAAB should also have the right to get together to support, mourn and celebrate their experiences of oppression because of misogyny. FAAB should be allowed to discuss issues like amenorrhea, pregnancy, childbirth, infertility, abortion, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape and other sex-based socially constructed forms of discrimination without an audience. Women, as a sex, are entitled to a safe space to talk. Denying women the right to do so is basic misogynistic oppression. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas of Feminism where women and transgender people can’t come together to engage in activism. It just means it doesn’t have to be every time. To quote Beachcomber on MN: “This is a political issue, an issue of social groups and hierarchy – it is not an issue of individual circumstance or reality”. Everyone is entitled to a space in which to contemplate and critique their experiences within their own social group.

Personal Reflections:

I suppose its important here to note where I started my journey as a feminist. I grew up in an area of Canada with a very high population of First Nations people. Whilst I can write a catalogue of the institutionalised sexism and misogyny I experienced, it is nothing like the experience of First Nations women who suffered under the dual oppressions of racism and misogyny. My statistical risk of being rape was exponentially smaller than that of First Nations women; as was my statistical chance of being a victim of gendered murder. I experienced similar “smaller” sexual assaults to First Nations women but, again, not in the numbers experienced by First Nations women. The treatment of First Nations women in Canada is a national disgrace that is frequently elided from the public sphere. My first feminist “activism” was a protest against the public support a white rapist received because his victim had to be “lying” because she was First Nations and therefore supposedly sexually available to all white men.

I am also disabled but I wasn’t born disabled. Nor do I have a disability which is “visible”. I have never been stared at or insulted in the street for looking “different”. I can “pass” as non-disabled. I’ve never struggled on the London Underground [except when carrying heavy luggage]. I’ve never had to stand at a bus stop and watch a bus driver refuse to allow me on because I am in a wheelchair. These oppressions and discriminatory practises are different and everyone should have the right to gather to discuss issues personal to them without having to worry about whether or not they will be attacked for them.

Constructing Gender:

I also have both white privilege and class privilege. Neither of these negate my oppression as a woman. They do make more privileged than Black women and poor women. As a feminist, I want to see the eradication of the gender binary hierarchy and the destruction of the systemic and institutionalised oppression of women in the capitalist-patriarchy. I believe that sex is biology but gender is a social construct designed to oppress women. Gender can be “performed” but it is inherently a destructive and reductive social construct. Performing it only serves to reinforce that destructive and reductive social construct and further oppress women. I think it is telling that for MtF transgender people in the UK to be allowed surgery on the NHS, they have to “live” for two years performing femininity: not gender but femininity by wearing dresses, make up and high heels. If this were how women were identified, I would know very few FAAB who would pass. I do not believe women will ever be “free” until we have destroyed the Patriarchy which also requires destroying capitalism. The Patriarchy predates capitalism but it now functions in symbiosis with capitalism so that we can not destroy one without the other. The capitalist-Patriarchy is harmful for everyone. Yes, there is an intersectionality of oppressions that privilege certain groups of women over other women [and over other men in terms of poverty]. I do not understand how we can destroy the Patriarchy if we are reinforcing the gender binary hierarchy.

The Right to Protest?

I am quite concerned about the threats of intimidation and violence being levied at the women who will be attending the Radical Feminist conference; particularly the not-quite-ironic threats by certain transactivists using the same language of oppression as MRAs. They are agitating for protests outside the conference which are reminiscent of those held by anti-choice arseholes outside abortion clinics. I can not believe people who self-identify as Feminists don’t see how hypocritical that stance is. I remember attending a Holocaust Memorial Day viewing of the film The Pianist which ended in with a question and answer session with Holocaust survivors derailed by Palestinian activists. Whilst I support the aims of Palestinian activists in fighting the human rights violations committed by the Israeli government, targeting vulnerable, elderly Holocaust survivors was rude, mean-spirited and unlikely to convert me to their cause. I feel the same about those specific Transactivists threatening and intimidating women wanting to attend this Radical Feminist conference. It only serves to alienate me from their cause.

I also think its quite problematic to be protesting outside an event that will be attended by vulnerable women; particularly women who have experienced male violence within their personal relationships or experienced violence as prostituted women. Agitating outside a venue is very different to peaceful protest. Whilst I’m not entirely fond of the suggestion that people will be outside picketing with signs, the thought that people will be deliberately attending to shout abuse and denigrate the women attending makes me really quite sad. Have we genuinely got to the point where a group of women can’t get together to discuss issues relevant to them without being abused or insulted?

In many ways, this feels like the same debate around Reclaim the Night when men, who weren’t going to attend anyways, get all uppity about not being allowed to attend. Or, what annoys me even more, men are then invited to attend RTN’s which immediately excludes vulnerable women and then the men don’t bother to show up. I have to wonder how much of the hate speech on Twitter under the #radscum2012 and #radfem2012 hashtags are genuinely by people interested in radical feminism and transgender rights and how many are only using it as a way of unleashing their bigotry. This is the kind of abuse radical feminists receive via their blogs and twitter. The number of times “cunt” is used as an insult is telling.

I think it’s worth noting that this conference is predicated on a number of issues which MRAs find problematic. It takes as its starting point the theory that the “sex industry” is inherently misogynistic and that the idea of “sex-positive” feminism is an anachronism which privileges male sexuality and reduces women only to objects. It assumes that porn is violent women-hating and that prostitution amounts to nothing more than the rape of vulnerable women.

In trying to write this, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs. These are a selection of some I’ve been reading over the past week:

Radical Pro-Feminist

Gender Trender

Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues




How Trans Women Challenge Feminism


Mumsnet Thread

Update with More Resources:

Fact Check Me on Cotton Ceilings

Pleasure and Possibilities Workshop

Gender Trender

Dinosaurs and Janice Raymond

Born Genderless

Resist RadFem

Building Bridges

Lap Dancing Clubs Increase Sexual violence

The knowledge that lap dancing clubs lead to an increase in sexual violence is hardly a surprise to anyone whose actually bothered to read any of the research into the links between increased sexual violence and the sex industry. This, however, is the first time I’ve heard a senior police officer discuss lap dancing clubs in such terms. Inspector Ian Drummond-Smith, the police chief in the “resort” of Newquay wrote an official letter objecting to the town council licensing a lap dancing club. Drummond-Smith claimed that the lap dancing clubs had already “contributed” to 14 rapes and 34 other sexual assaults in the area within the last two years. Okay, I’m not entirely comfortable with this bit:

“It is of concern that sexual entertainment would take place in such proximity to dwellings and vulnerable persons, and those leaving the premises, having been subject to highly sexualised performances, may be at greater risk of committing sexual offences. The combination of factors above, in particular the vulnerable groups identified, have contributed to the sex crimes.”

Since, it seems to imply that men who commit sexual offences after participating in the objectification and abuse of women in lap dancing clubs are “vulnerable”; as if men are so controlled by their penises that they can’t help but rape women after hanging out in a lap dancing club. That pisses me off. Women are vulnerable because of the increase in sexual violence. Men are at an increased risk of committing a criminal offence; that does not make them vulnerable.

But, I am pleased to hear a senior police officer making the national press whilst arguing against the provision of lap dancing clubs and I am incredibly grateful to the campaigners at Object who fought to have lap dancing clubs rezoned as “sex entertainment venues” (in England and Wales) so that the general public has an opportunity to campaign against their existence. I hope the Scottish government has the gumption to do the same.

Some resources:

Julie Bindel and Liz Kelly, A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries: Victoria, Australia; Ireland; the Netherlands and Sweden, (London Metroplitan University, 2003)

Jennifer Hayashi Danns with Sandrine Leveque, Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing, (Claireview, 2011)

Gail Dines, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, (Beacon Press, 2010)

Kelly Holsoppe, Stripclubs According to Strippers: Exposing Workplace Sexual Violence, (Metropolitan Coalition Against Prostitution, 1998)

Robert Jensen, Pornography and the End of Masculinity, (South End Press, 2007)

Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, (Pocket Books, 2005)

Melinda Tankard Reist, Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, (Spinifex, 2009)

Dr Meagan Tyler, Prof Sheila Jeffries, et al. Not Just Harmless Fun: The Strip Club Industry in Victoria, Australia. (Coalition Against Trafficking Women, 2010)

Natasha Walter, Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, (Virago, 2010)

Turns out the BBC was a bit confused about Harlots, Housewives and Heroines

Turns out the BBC was a bit confused about Harlots, Housewives and Heroines. I complained about it here yesterday because the trailer claimed to be about the history of “girls” in the 17th century. Turns out whichever dipstick at the BBC who wrote the review hadn’t actually bothered to watch the program since it was clearly about WOMEN; as in those people running about the planet with vaginas who are over the age 18. Women not girls. Dr. Lucy Worsley, the presenter [and currently Chief curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces] uses the word women over and over again. It’s unfortunate that the BBC felt they had to advertise the program in such a pathetic, hyper-sexualised manner. It devalues the work of Dr. Lucy Worsley and cheapens the very real history of women. This documentary didn’t need “sexing” up. It was intriguing on its own merits. That’s not to say it wasn’t problematic. As a dear friend pointed out on Twitter: “What she [Worsley] does with the subject is good but choice to focus on elite & mistresses sets it up on patriarchal terms” but any program that starts with the question: “Was this female empowerment or just a new form of exploitation?” is worth watching.

The BBC needs to stop demeaning and belittling the intelligence of its audience and just get back to advertising documentaries as documentaries not soft-porn. I only watched the program to see if it was as dire as the trailer. If I hadn’t been so annoyed [and there was nothing else on television], I would have missed something that I really enjoyed.

Harlots, Houswives and Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls?

Apparently, there were only 3 categories of “girls” in the 17th century. God only knows what they did with women but “girls” got to be either a harlot, housewife or heroine. Probably, they could have had more options if they got to be women but, the BBC is pretty sure they were all “girls”. I would have gritted my teeth, ignored the sexism and just watched the program but the first time I came across it was an advertisement featuring a woman’s breasts. That she was powdering. Seriously.

Who comes up with this twaddle? And, who, seriously, is the intended audience of this program? Because the historian in me is pretty pissed about this. Harlots, Houswives and Heroines is supposed to be an historical program examining the role of women in Restoration England. Yet, it’s being advertised with breasts; not a woman’s body. Just a woman’s breasts. Do we really need to advertise academic programs with soft-porn? Using women’s breasts to flog a show whose audience base will be women with an interest in women’s history and not soft-porn is stupid; regardless of what Hugh Hefner thinks. Does the BBC genuinely think its audience is incapable of watching a program about women without focussing on their breasts?

This is the official BBC write-up:

In this new three-part series historian and Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces Dr Lucy Worsley immerses herself in the world of Restoration England, exploring the captivating lives of the women of the period. 

The years after the Civil War and the Restoration of Charles II marked the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the modern age. These were exciting times for women, some of whom displayed remarkably modern attitudes and ambitions, achieving wealth, celebrity and power in ways that still look outstanding by 21st century standards. But these women also faced a world that was predominantly male, misogynistic and medieval in its outlook.

In the first episode Lucy investigates the lives of women at the top: the King’s mistresses at the Royal Court. When Charles and his entourage returned from exile they came back with a host of continental ideas, and as a result some of the women at court rose to prominence as never before, gaining unprecedented political influence and independence. 

Amongst a fascinating cast of female characters, the most astonishing were Charles II’s own mistresses: the Royalist, Barbara Villiers, the French spy Louise de Keroualle and the infamous Cockney actress, Nell Gwynn. 

Lucy examines the lives of these women, discovering how their fortunes were shaped by the Restoration and how their stories reflect the atmosphere of these extraordinary years. As she discovers, these women were key Restoration players, but as mistresses were truly in charge of their own destinies – or simply part of the world’s oldest profession?

Where the frig do we start with this? Because it made me #facepalm. Ignoring the teleology and the idea that we somehow live in a non-misogynistic society now which is, erm, somewhat goofy. It may have been “exciting times” for some rich women but the Restoration of Charles II didn’t lead to exciting changes in the lives of most women who remained, for the most part, illiterate and poor with no real legal rights. Using the case studies of a few women, whose lives were simply not within the norms of the period, doesn’t make it “exciting for women”. Hell, it doesn’t even make it exciting for those substrata of wealthy women who managed to carve, for themselves, newish forms of power. And, let’s be crystal clear about this, using your body and sexuality isn’t a new “power” for women. Manipulating sexuality is frequently the only way women can carve themselves a safe space. Being a mistress didn’t make one powerful; nor, really, did being a wife. Mistresses, as with wives, were still dependent on the goodwill of the Patriarchy to survive. They could quite easily be dismissed and destroyed. Indeed, many were.

And, FFS, can we stop with this “the world’s oldest profession” bullshit. Prostitution is a violent, degrading act forced on women’s bodies because of the structural inequalities within the capitalist-patriarchy. It is not a “profession”. It is the abuse of women and children who have no other option. It is about poverty and constructing women’s bodies as less-human. The women in this documentary may have wielded power in a structurally constrained way but they did not hold “power”. That remained with men.

I am still going to watch the program, what with the whole being a history nerd thing. I’m just going to be cross whilst doing so. There will, no doubt, be angry tweeting tonight.

What Men can do to destroy the Patriarchy

I am rather bored by all the men who claim that the only way to be feminists is to be allowed into every possible women-only space and mansplain’ where feminists went wrong. It’s an unbelievably obnoxious silencing technique and an amazing display of white, male privilege. [Yeah, I’m looking at that sub-section of whiny-arsed men on Mumsnet who insist on telling women that birth trauma doesn’t exist because they’ve seen their wives give birth and it was all fine.]

This is a partial list of organisations that men can be involved with to help defeat the patriarchy, either through activism or financial support:

The White Ribbon Campaign: run by men to end male violence against women.. They organise marches on December 6th to raise awareness of violence against women. I notice the whiners who demand the right to march on women-organised Reclaim the Night marches are never committed to helping organise men-only marches. Too much like hard work?

Object: runs campaigns against the sexual objectification of women. They fought to have lap dancing clubs rezoned under English law as sex establishments and not cafes. They are currently running campaigns to end Page 3 in the Sun and challenging the demand for prostitution which is, basically, rape.

Stop Porn Culture: Make Love, Not Porn

UK Feminista: A Movement of Ordinary Women and Men campaigning for Gender Equality

SCASE: Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation

Fawcett Society

Organisations that men can help financially support to destroy the Patriarchy:

Rape Crisis (England/Wales)

Rape Crisis (Scotland)
Women’s Aid (Scotland)
Womankind Worldwide

Women’s Environmental Network
Or, and this here is just a wee suggestion, men can stop raping women, physically assaulting women, raping prostitutes and using porn. Challenge any misogynistic, racist, disabilist and homophobic language. All of which will help to destroy the patriarchy.

The Story the Media isn’t covering: The Scottish Cup Final

Today is the Scottish Cup Final. Apparently, it’s the Hibs and the Hearts playing. I don’t follow football and I actually don’t care all that much. At least, I don’t care about who actually wins the Scottish Cup. What I do care about is the consequences of the game on women. All sporting events bring an increase in domestic violence, rape and the abuse and trafficking of prostitutes. In 2010, the Association of Chief Police Officers made public warnings about the increase in domestic violence during the World Cup. The Washington Post covered the increased risk of sex trafficking during the Super Bowl. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics was accompanied by the highly successful “Buying Sex is not a Sport” campaign. There is very real media coverage of the increase in violence but it isn’t targeting that group of men who will use their victory/defeat as an excuse to hurt women. We need more athletes, especially professional footballers, to stand up and start taking responsibility for the consequences of the hyper-masculine culture which they inhabit. After all, I didn’t see huge swathes of footballers calling Ched Evans a rapist, even after he was convicted. It isn’t just athletes who can stop violence against women. Everyone needs to step up and take responsibility for the safety of women around them.

These are the statistics on domestic violence in “normal” situations:
  • A victim can suffer from 35 attacks before the abuse is reported to the police.
  • In the UK on average two women per week are killed by a current or former male partner.
  • Domestic abuse accounts for 15 per cent of all violent incidents.
  • One in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime with women at greater risk of repeat victimisation and serious injury.
  • 89 per cent of those suffering four or more incidents are women.
  • One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute
The 2006 World Cup campaign saw an average increase of 25% in terms of domestic violence calls. By 2010, research by Manchester police was suggesting an average of 30% higher than normal; this research was confirmed by the Home Office. That is for domestic violence alone.  It does not cover rape, sexual violence or the abuse of prostitutes. 

Dr Catherine Palmer, of Durham University, was tasked with reviewing all the literature which could demonstrate a link between violence against women and sport after the World Cup in 2010. The report is available here via the End Violence Against Women Coalition. These are the themes raised in the report: 

• there are clear links between expressions and enactments of masculinity and sport- related violence against women;
• sport-related violence against women occurs in a range of settings and contexts, including homes, pubs and clubs, hotel rooms, brothels, the street and other public spaces;
• sport-related violence against women is perpetrated by both male athletes and by male fans or consumers of sport and sporting events, as well as by coaches of female athletes;
• human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation remains difficult to quantify, with the research evidence frequently being contradictory, but literature suggests that events such as London 2012 may well provide a context in which women and girls could be trafficked;
• the literature suggests that the influx of tourists, site workers and contractors, the media, and indeed the athletes themselves, at major sporting events creates a particular environment that may have an impact on women’s safety;
• the literature suggests the increased population in the UK for the Olympic Games and Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games may create a greater demand for on and off street prostitution;
• events such as the 2010 World Cup have highlighted the connections between sports spectatorship and intimate partner violence, and the need for police, authorities and services to be aware of this when planning sporting events;
• excessive alcohol consumption is a contributing factor in the above;
• the literature suggests that there is sufficient evidence for agencies and authorities to be concerned about a potential increase in trafficking, prostitution, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and harassment, and intimate partner violence. There is a need to act now in order to respond to and prepare for London 2012, Glasgow 2014 and other major sporting events.

These statistics are horrifying and we, as a society, are simply not taking the responsibility for changing the patriarchal structures which consider it normal to abuse women’s bodies as a reaction to how their team performed. 

Today, everyone needs to take responsibility for the safety of women. 
Witnessing violence without phoning the police is condoning violence.
Men who “buy” prostitutes are committing sexual violence.
Sex trafficking includes moving women within a city.

Dial 999


Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247
Rape Crisis Scotland: 08088 010 302 

Breastfeeding, SIDS and Women-Blaming Culture

This article published in The Australian is currently doing the rounds on Facebook. Basically, a research and advocacy group called sids and kids has added breastfeeding to the list of things which statistically decrease the chances of an infant dying of SIDS. This isn’t new research and the links between SIDS and breastfeeding have been reported here previously. Scientific research has demonstrated time and time again that breast milk is best for babies and the World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then up to 2 years. I posted a link on my FB wall. The first two comments suggested that the publication of the research was designed specifically to make women feel like shit.

I don’t think anyone can argue with the research but what comes up, time and time again, is the idea that somehow promoting this research is done only to “punish” women who formula feed. Now, I’m usually at the head of the queue at the woman-blaming culture protests and am a firm believer that the Patriarchy deliberately and maliciously sets women up to police other women’s behaviour to the detriment of all women. The Patriarchy punishes women in a million and one ways. I just don’t think the issue of breastfeeding and SIDS is about women-blaming culture or, at least, it shouldn’t be. It should be about what has the best outcomes for infants and mothers. Breastfeeding has health benefits for both the mother and the infant and very few women are physically incapable of breastfeeding. Statistically, the number of women who physically can’t breastfeed is insignificant in the face of the number of women who “can’t” for cultural reasons. The reason many women “can’t” breastfeed is because of structural inequalities in employment and home life, lack of support, and the constant misinformation spouted by so-called professionals like Dr. Christian Jessen and Gina Ford. Ford, at least, has the excuse of not being a medical doctor. Dr. Christian is just a misogynistic tool.

Breast-feeding is normal. This doesn’t mean that women who choose not to or who can’t breast feed are bad mothers. It simply means that breast milk fits the needs of babies in terms of their immune systems and long-term health as a result of millions of years of evolution. What we need to do is separate the emotion from the science. Breast feeding, like putting a baby on their back to sleep, statistically decreases the chance of an infant dying of SIDS. It doesn’t prevent SIDS nor does it mean a mother who loses a child to SIDS and who didn’t breastfeed is responsible for her child dying. That would be women-blaming [not to mention vile, disgusting, evil and utterly lacking in humanity]. It is totally reasonable to kick anyone who said such a despicable thing viciously in the shins.

We need to support women who want to breastfeed better and we need to tackle the misinformation about formula which actively puts babies at risk: like how to prepare formula properly. We also need to challenge the myths of breastfeeding like the fact that breastfeeding doesn’t change the shape of your breasts: pregnancy does that. And, really, who the fuck cares that your breasts have changed shape because of pregnancy? Bodies change. That doesn’t change who you are; nor does it make you less sexual if you do. Frankly, if your partner finds you less sexy because your body has changed shaped after birthing his child, then you need to kick his pathetic, judgemental, whiny-arse to the curb. Because real men don’t think like that.

We need to ensure that every woman has access to real information about breastfeeding and formula feeding in order for each woman to make the best choice for herself and her child. We need to respect the decision of each individual woman whilst exploring the structural inequalities which force women to make “choices” which are not appropriate for them. What we can not do is refuse to publish information that might make some women upset because they did not breastfeed. Preventing all women from accessing real information because a few women might get upset is precisely how the Patriarchy victimises women: by withholding information and pitting women against women.

Dear Dunfermline Abbey: Racism isn’t the best way to advertise

So, this has nothing to do with feminism or women. But, it fucked me off as a historian. It’s racist, ahistorical and just all kinds of stupid.

Dunfermline Abbey, in it’s official, tourist description says this:

Having only around 200 hundred years of history of their own, Americans and Australians find it particularly hard to grasp that just by going through the door of the Church into the Nave, they are travelling back from 1818 when the new Church was begun to 1072 when Queen Margaret`s Church was begun.

And, yes, I had to read that at least three times to understand that which ever tool wrote that blurb and the other nincompoops who approved it don’t believe that North America or Australia have a history more than 200 years old. Even if you were so unbelievably stupid and you went with the White Supremacists version of history, white people have been running about the North American continent continuously since the 1490’s. Hell, the first public school opened in Boston in 1635 which is just slightly more than 200 years old. There is even evidence of a Norse settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland Canada which dates to about 1000 A.D. But, that’s only if you’re a white supremacist and stupid.

Those of us that aren’t clinically stupid may have heard of these people called the Indigenous Americans, the Inuit, Inuvialuit and numerous First Nations people who have definitely been strolling about North America for roughly 10 000 years. Australia too, funnily enough, was inhabited by non-white people for a rather longer period of time than white people have been there. I don’t know who wrote that blurb but they shouldn’t be allowed to write such racist shite. It’s embarrassing , arrogant and unrelentingly stupid. FFS, a semi-literate 6 year old with access to google could tell them they were wrong. How a group of adults got together and decided that was okay to print boggles my mind.

Not to mention, the whole insulting your customers isn’t the best way to encourage business. But, mostly, I’m pissed about the racism. And, before I get any white supremacist apologists leaving stupid comments, erasing the very real history and culture of First Nations is racism.
UPDATE: Dunfermline Abbey seems to have changed the link. Here is a link to the original post:
The full text is here:The tomb of King Robert the Bruce with many other royal and historical associations attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The Abbey Shop has a fine selection of Scottish visitor collectables.Each year approximately 30,000 to 35,000 visitors make their way into the Abbey Church and there are a variety of reasons why they do so.

Some visitors come to ask about the history of the Church and its connection with St Margaret, some are keen to know about Robert the Bruce or one of the other seven Kings of Scotland who are buried in the Abbey.

Having only around 200 hundred years of history of their own, Americans and Australians find it particularly hard to grasp that just by going through the door of the Church into the Nave, they are travelling back from 1818 when the new Church was begun to 1072 when Queen Margaret`s Church was begun.

Visitors who are especially interested in stained glass also come to admire the magnificent windows, each by a different artist and from different dates. Each window has a story or a little secret hidden in it, remember to look for the tiny Bruce spider and try to find the Crown of Scotland hidden in a half open cupboard. Should you come to look at them remember to bring binoculars and you will be amazed at what you see.

The pulpit is a wonderful example of the craftsman`s art and it is much admired. Visitors marvel at the story that it tells and the quality of the workmanship. It is hard to believe that it cost £270 in 1889. Every once in a while a visitor can be found wandering around it looking longingly up – we can now tell when a visitor is a Minister nine times out of ten.

Occasionally, the interest is in the graveyard helping someone to look for a member of their family and it is wonderful when they are successful in locating a headstone or a plaque in the memorial chapel to someone they know. In 2008 visitors contributed to our Church the sum of £4,500 via the donation boxes and this is excluding the money they spend in the shop.

We always try to give our visitors a warm welcome to the Abbey Church and regularly the same people return and bring their families with them, even from as far as Australia.


The original wording is still listed here: http://www.exploringscotland.co.uk/printer_friendly.php?id=3685

Why Legalising Prostitution Does NOT Protect Women: Greece Arrests and Publicly Shames HIV+ Prostitutes

I first heard of this case via @AlexpolisTigers. Frankly, it’s exactly why I think “legalising” prostitution is nothing more than a pretence at caring about women and is really just about protecting men’s rights and access to women’s bodies whenever and wherever they want. This particular case covers the whole gamut of abuse of women’s bodily autonomy, right to privacy and basic human rights. These 17 women have been accused of “intentionally causing serious bodily harm;” 12 of these women suffered the further indignity of having their names and photographs published on the Greek Police website. What is that if not a disbelief in the basic humanity of women? It is not yet clear that these women even knew they were HIV+ before being arrested. It’s also pretty clear that this “crackdown” on the possible transmission sources due to the increase in HIV infection in Greece is only targeting the “bad”: that would be female prostitutes and IV drug users. Who, precisely, the Athens police think are infecting these women with HIV is clearly open to debate since it’s obviously not the misogynists who believe they are entitled to purchase women’s bodies to abuse. It’s also not in the least bit surprising that the women being arrested are women from Eastern Europe, most of whom will have been victims of sex trafficking [no doubt by the same criminal organisation responsible for the availability of illegal narcotics]. It’s that lovely combination of race, sex and class rearing its head. Again.

I am not sure what we can do to help these particular women but this is precisely why we need to fight against the normalisation and legalisation of prostitution. Legalisation does not “help” the women involved; it does not increase their protection and, frankly, it just ignores the structural inequalities of poverty, physical and sexual abuse, substance misuse and mental health problems that result in women ending up prostitution. After all, prostitution is legal in Greece and these 17 women were all arrested working in “illegal brothels” which far outweigh the number of “legal brothels”. If we gave a shit about these women, we wouldn’t be legalising prostitution. We would be building a real safety net to protect all vulnerable people: like the one the lying, despicable ConDems have just eradicated. 

Prostitution is torture and we need to stop pretending it isn’t.


Some resources on the harm caused by prostitution:

Rebecca Mott: The Men Inside of Me

Not For Sale: Survivors in Revolt Blog

Our Voices Matter Blog

Feminism in London Website

Helena Kennedy: Eve Was Framed’s Women and British Justice [2005, 1992]

Christine Stark & Rebecca Whisnant’s Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography [2004]

Trine Rogg Korsvik & Ane Sto’s The Nordic Approach [2011]