Pussy Riot:

The Pussy Riot “trial” of Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina started yesterday. It was the farce everyone expected it to be; with no real defence allowed. We all know they weren’t arrested for hooliganism but because of their [feminist] challenges to the Russian government. Their protests are brilliant; and far more feminist than the Ukrainian Femen has managed:

Amnesty International have now declared Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina prisoners of conscience, whilst those lurvely left-wing Dudes are lining up to defend the women [although I don’t see any evidence of helping to pay for their defence. Running about Moscow in a Free Pussy Riot t-shirt isn’t exactly a difficult thing for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to do. To be fair, they apparently wrote letters of support too, but, really, ponying up some cash would have been helpful too]. This is the Amnesty International Campaign:

Text ACTION7 and your full name to 88080 

I am writing to you to ask you to drop the charges of hooliganism against Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and immediately and unconditionally release them.
I believe that Maria, Ekaterina and Nadezhda have been detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and as such are prisoners of conscience. It is your duty to respect free speech and comply with international human rights law by releasing them immediately and unconditionally.
I also request that you promptly, fully and impartially investigate the allegations that the three arrested women have been pressured by members of the Centre of the Fight with Extremism and other officials.

Top Ten Feminist Friendly Movies All Kids Should See

The Huffington Post’s Puff-Piece du Jour is the Top Ten Movies Kids Should See Before They’re 10. Some of them are pretty good movies but most are the usual misogynistic twaddle; 4 of which are by Disney. Now, Disney makes some great films but most of them are documentaries about animals made over 30 years ago and are not available on DVD.

10. Up: I haven’t seen this so can’t really comment but, let’s face it, the two main characters have penises. Like every other fucking movie ever made. It needs to be dumped. I’d replace this with Racing Stripes. Now, I need to go on record here and say I fucking hate this film. Every time I see it, I want to cry. However, it’s a great film for young girls because it really is about a girl defying all forms of patriarchal conformity and doing exactly what she knows she can do despite being told she can’t do it.

9. Matilda: I’d keep Matilda. Okay, it has some problematic portrayals of mother and headteacher but it’s a little girl who defends herself and her friends by being intelligent, resourceful and kind. These are characteristics that we need to be teaching ALL children.

8. The Never Ending Story: I love this movie so it’s staying in. Should have starred a girl but still a brilliant film.

7. Wizard of Oz: I have never understood the fascination with this film. It stars an adult woman trussed up like a child complete with bound breasts. There are some seriously creepy subtexts about sexuality and misogyny in the film. I can’t think of a musical that I would replace it with since the whole genre is riddled with misogyny. I’d replace it with Hoodwinked since it has two great female characters; one of whom is a snow-boarding, cookie baking grandmother.

6. Mary Poppins: I love this film and I don’t care how bad Dick Van Dyke’s accent really was. It’s a film about suffragettes, male stupidity and questions patriarchal conformity. What’s not to like?

5. The Jungle Book: The soundtrack to this film is utterly brilliant but the film itself should only be watched whilst questioning gender conformity and racism. 

4. Labyrinth: A film starring a teenage girl where she doesn’t get naked, give blow jobs or is clinically stupid. That alone makes it a worthy feminist film. The fact that she’s also brave, intelligent, and kind is just an added bonus. It stars Jennifer Connelly who is a brilliant and criminally under-used actress. I’ve never entirely understood the fascination with Bowie but he’s a great creep.

3. Home Alone: This must have been nominated by people who hate their children because I can’t imagine why anyone would force their offspring to watch this. Kiki’s Delivery Service is an utterly brilliant film about a young girl coming of age, making friends, and learning to take responsibility for herself and not a whiny self-involved child surrounded by whiny self-involved adults who don’t listen to one another.

2. Lion King: The Lion King was a piece of misogynistic twaddle about a couple of whiny, self-involved men ruining everything for everyone else. That’s without the not-so-subtle subtext of racism. I’d dump it in favour of the Wild Thornberries which is another great film about a young girl coming of age and learning to take responsibility for others. It’s about relationships between sisters and parents and caring for one another without losing yourself.

1. Toy Story: Oh look, another movie by Pixar/ Disney where Only Those Who are Three Dimensional Characters Get To Have Adventures. Otherwise known as: Only Toys with Penises Count. None of the Pixar Films are feminist-friendly and I don’t want to hear about the freaking Incredibles. Mrs. Incredible covers up for her useless husband’s abusive, self-destructive behaviour whilst wandering about wondering if her ass is fat. Teenage Incredible’s special power is invisibility: which makes her exactly the same as every other teenage girl with low self-esteem. Hardly, what I aspire for my daughters.

Mulan is way better: a young woman defies gender constructions, the Patriarchy and kicks arse saving her “man”, the Emperor and the rest of China. She’s also brave, resourceful, intelligent and doesn’t take shit from anyone.

And, every child should be given a copy of Miss Representation.

A Bunch of Men Got Together to Pretend that Domestic Violence Rates are Falling

And, guess what, they were lying through the teeth. Or, are complete nincompoops with no understanding of statistics which seems a bit far-fetched considering their various academic credentials. Now, when I read Alan Travis’s article in the Guardian, I did think the whole thing smelled fishy. I haven’t actually read the Office for National Statistics report but the idea that domestic violence is decreasing would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. I had planned to read the report myself to discover just how wrong the Guardian report is but, helpfully, the Liberal Conspiracy has already done that for me.

I was right. There has been some rather loosey-goosey playing with statistics to come up with the theory that domestic violence is decreasing. As Ally Fogg writes in her blog:

The whopping great mistake in all these reports (which may or may not originate with the ONS themselves) is to include ‘friends and acquaintances’ as domestic violence casualties. They’re not. Many of these ‘acquaintances’ may be rival drug dealers, for example. In fact, in 2010/11, the “friends and acquaintances” category was by far the largest subset of the group, accounting for 204 murders – more than twice as many as female DV victims. Every previous year shows the same pattern. The full category also includes children killed by parents; parents (including elderly relatives) killed by their children; sibling murders; husbands killed by wives and various ‘other’ combinations. Rather than accounting for over two thirds of murders as Cohen claims, in 2010/11 only 17% of homicides were women being murdered by their partners.

Now, I’m not big into conspiracy theories but I do have ask how a number of highly intelligent men could misread the statistics so appalling. I’d also like to know just what they think domestic violence is because I think the rest of us are working off entirely different definitions of DV. I’m rather fond of the Nia project’s definition since it concise, intelligent and doesn’t confuse acquaintance murder with systemic VAW:

Domestic/intimate partner violence – a pattern of coercive control, which includes combinations of physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse by a current or former partner. In extreme cases this includes murder.

I notice none of the articles I’ve seen on this “trend” reference any organisations working in the field of VAW, like Nia or Women’s Aid.

As lovely as the thought is, domestic violence isn’t decreasing. It remains a constant statistic with the serious long-term consequences for families. Apparently, services dealing with domestic violence cost England 5.5 billion a year. The Scottish government suggests that domestic violence costs us 2.3 billion a year. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d suggest that the government is deliberately running a campaign to pretend domestic violence is decreasing in order to justify their massive, debilitating cuts to services for women.

But, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I just don’t think a lot of people care very much about domestic violence and VAW in general. If they did, journalists wouldn’t be writing such poorly researched flights of stupidity.

Sensationalising Male Violence for Entertainment

I’ve been debating writing this blogpost because I genuinely believe that the men who commit these crimes want the publicity and that that publicity is the last thing we should be giving them; as Helen Lewis points out in this article in the New Statesman. I dislike how the names of these violent men become part of the cultural landscape whilst their victims names are erased; only to be mourned by close family. At the same time, I find the media intrusion into the families of the victims to be utterly horrifying. I’m not entirely sure how we can ensure that the names of the victims become more important than remembering the name of their murderer without some intrusion into their privacy.

However, I can not believe it is legal for the media to start interviewing people who have just witnessed violence without even giving them a chance to breathe. I find the the jamming of microphones into the faces of injured people utterly hateful. I find camping on the lawns of extended family members distateful. This isn’t about “reporting” a “newsworthy” story. It’s about causing more hurt to an already distressed family. As long as we make violence our entertainment, we will continue to prey upon people who deserve our compassion; not our ignorance.

The numerous, daily examples of male violence are elided from the media in favour of sensationalist stories which make folk heroes of other violent men. We need to start acknowledging the systemic and endemic violence perpetrated by men against their partners, children, extended family, acquaintances and strangers. But, we need to start tackling this issue without glamourising the violence or using the pain of the victims for our collective entertainment.

The current media representations of the mass shooting in Aurora have been the same old sensationalist shite designed to cause further hurt rather than any attempt to deal with the social, political, and cultural reasons as to why mass shootings are increasing. That is the real story; not one in which the murderer becomes more important than those he hurt. We need to hold the media more accountable for sensationalising pain. However, those who consume these stories are just as guilty as those who write them.

We need to start boycotting all forms of media which sensationalise violence in society. We need to start making formal complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. We need to start getting our media coverage from sources interested in justice rather than profit.

Family Annnihilators: Victim Blaming at its Most Offensive [TRIGGER WARNING]

I was saddened to hear of yet another family devastated by the murder of 3 innocent children. I am firmly of the opinion that in these cases the families deserve the right to privacy. I’m not sure quite how to articulate my criticisms of how these cases are portrayed in the media without participating in the same media frenzy around the family. The family deserves privacy and the right to grieve without the BBC writing ridiculous articles like this one.

As a feminist, I find the police and media language around this case, and others of a similar nature, to be extremely insensitive and, effectively, minimising violence against women. The murder of women by their male partners is frequently dismissed as “isolated” incidents despite their being 2 women a week murdered by their partners or ex partners. That isn’t an isolated incident. It’s systemic violence against women; just as domestic violence and rape. The murder of children by their fathers, and its generally fathers who kill their children and then themselves in order to punish their ex partner for some perceived slight, are referred to as “tragic family situations” or “isolated incidents” by the police; catch phrases which the media repeats without any attempt at political analysis. These aren’t “tragedies“; that implies an accident. These are the deliberate murder of children. The perpetrators have clear histories of controlling or violent behaviour and they are preventable.

The reporting of these cases, known as family annihilators, in the media always imply that there was something the mother did to “push” the father into killing his children and then himself. The assumption that the mother brought the crime on herself by having an affair or leaving her husband is constant in news reports. Or, the poor father was stressed at losing his job that he couldn’t bear the “dishonour” of public knowledge and therefore had to kill his children and wife as well. It’s this kind of victim-blaming which makes it hard for women to seek help in leaving violent or controlling partners. It’s this kind of victim-blaming which minimises male violence and further punishes women. We need to start changing the language around how we report these stories. We need to stop blaming the victims and putting the blame squarely where it belongs: on those fathers who think they have the right to kill their children and/or current or former partners. We need to stop pretending these men have histories of mental illness because they don’t. They have histories of domestic violence and controlling behaviour but those aren’t signs of mental illness and its incredibly offensive to those who suffer from mental illness to pretend otherwise.

My friend Kritique is far more eloquent on this issue than I. This is her response to the case on this Mumsnet thread.

Family annihilators don’t always have a history of mental illness. Many have been abusive towards their partners or at least have had quite “controlling” tendencies related to their families. Sometimes, they have careers where they are required to compete and/or are in positions of power and status. Conversely, they are in jobs of a lower status, but play out their need for power and control in the domestic sphere. 

It seems they are most likely to kill if they feel their control over their partner and family is at risk. For example, they might have lost their job or been convicted of a crime or something else that means they feel they can no longer be the “provider.” Most commonly, however, it happens when the relationship is breaking down or has ended, which signals to them that they are losing control of their family. Some will kill the children as the ultimate punishment for an ex partner, but it has also been suggested that those who kill their children and not their ex partner may do so simply because it is easier to get the opportunity to do so. 

Once their family are dead, the man then literally has no purpose in life, if his obsession in life was to control them, so that’s when he commits or attempts suicide. Basically, the phenomenon seems to stem from a belief in male entitlement taken to an extreme. Although there are often signs that something could happen (e.g. man with history of abuse and/or control, experiences sudden change in his position and/or end of relationship, etc.) which agencies could pick up on, they are rarely noticed until after the incident. Even where the woman, a relative or friend reports concerns to the police, these concerns are rarely acted upon. Lives could be saved if there was greater awareness of the problem and a commitment to intervention to protect women and children at risk.

The media tend to be very, very coy in describing incidents where women are killed by their partners. Quite frequently it will be something very brief like, “A man and a woman in their mid 30’s were found dead in Acacia Avenue this morning. The incident is being regarded as unexplained but no one else is being sought in connection with the killings.” If you aren’t paying attention and don’t read between the lines, you won’t “get” that it was probably a man who killed his partner then himself. While tabloids will splash lurid headlines about murder and violence, particularly where the perpetrators fit the model of “villain” quite neatly, it’s as though hacks are afraid to frighten the horses if they more than whisper that a man has killed his partner in cold blood. 

But, sometimes the stories break big, particularly where there are children killed. Then something of a “formula” is followed for reporting. Lots of photos of cute children, children smiling with their dad and happy family shots. Statements from friends, neighbours, teachers, etc. about how happy/pretty/clever the children were. Statements from co-workers, neighbours, friends about what a loving/caring/hardworking/committed father the killer was, with much hand wringing about what would “drive” him to do this. Comments about him being under pressure/depressed/stressed/worried generally follow.

Then there are almost always insinuations about the dead woman. She left him/was threatening to leave/was restricting access to the children/was having an affair/he thought she was having an affair/he was worried she would have an affair/she was demanding/she spent too much money, etc. Dead women tell no tales but there are always plenty of people willing to tell tales about them, whether there is any truth or not.

The goal of such reports really seems to tug the heartstrings over the loss of “innocent” children’s lives, attempts to excuse or justify the man’s actions and efforts to demonise the dead woman. If they succeed in this goal, then we can swiftly forget that women are far more at risk of being killed by a partner than a stranger. This stops us worrying about the inequity in many male / female relationships and the serious risks many women face from their partners.
It’s late and I don’t have time to look up more links, but most of the literature suggests that women who kill their children are more likely to have a previously diagnosed mental illness than men who kill their children. Women very, very rarely kill their partners then kill or attempt to kill themselves.

We owe it to the children who are murdered and their mothers who have to live with the grief to start taking this crime seriously. We need to stop blaming the victims of violence and place the blame squarely where it belongs: on the men who perpetrate domestic violence or who decide to kill their children.

Some links to research and news reports on Family Annihilators:

This 2008 report on murder-suicides in the US, found that only about 5% of murder victims of murder-suicides are male and 74% were murdered by an intimate partner (who then committed suicide.)

This File on 4 programme from March of this year discusses similar features of cases where men kill their families and then themselves.

BBC: What Drives a Father to Kill His Children?

Newsweek: Inside the Minds of Family Annihilators

Guardian: Leave the Children Out of It

Marie Claire: Why Men Kill Their Own Children

The Lorax: Interesting Environmental Message Served With a Side of Sexism

I took small to see The Muppet Movie; an experience which was ruined by the inclusion of the utterly misogynistic Aquafresh Nurdle World ad. And, then we saw an add for the new Dr. Seuss film The Lorax. It looks brilliant fun; a film about being yourself, questioning authority and respecting/ caring for the environment. That would be brilliant fun right up until the point where there was a lurvely ‘joke’ about gender and violence.

It was the same tired old joke about not threatening violence against women unless they don’t ‘look’ like women: that is too say fat. Because, it’s just totally okay for children’s films to reinforce the same tired old stereotypes about women only having value if they are skinny and pretty. Or, that women can only ‘look’ like women if they are skinny. Or something.

Free Speech: The Right to be a Jackass?

Free speech is a fallacious construct which is designed to keep the masses in denial of their lack of power.

It doesn’t actually exist. It never has, but, if it did, it wouldn’t be the right to be a jackass.

There is no guarantee to free speech in the UK. There never has been. People who insist we do have free speech are confused or watch way too much American television. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America is technically the guarantee to free speech, you know, in the United States of which the UK is NOT a part [in case anyone remains confused about that tidbit]:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Originally, it only applied to laws enacted by Congress but this changed with the Gitlow v New York case wherein the Supreme Court of the US applied the First Amendment to all states via the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Obviously, this is only interesting if you’re a history nerd like me. The real point here is that the US, supposed protector of Free Speech, has enacted numerous laws which limit free speech. These are the obvious exceptions like child obscenity, incitement to hatred or violence and the much repeated axiom of not being allowed to shout fire in a crowded theatre. Limits to free speech exist because some people are simply arrogant arseholes lacking both empathy and intelligence.

Even if we had the legal right to “free speech”, [or believed that “free speech” actually existed] it doesn’t mean we should use it. The right to free speech isn’t the right to be a jerk. Free speech shouldn’t mean that people get to use misogynistic, racist, homophobic or disablist language because they want to without any consideration of the hurt caused to others. It doesn’t mean that comedians like Daniel Tosh should be allowed to make jokes about rape just because they can [and this is a brilliant critique of Tosh’s arrogance]. The right to free speech is the right to criticise and challenge. It is not the right to be a jackass because you want to be a jackass.

I have to say the only people I ever hear going on about the right to free speech are those privileged self-entitled nincompoops who want to silence the opinions of others. It’s the rape apologists who whine about the right to call rape victims liars who demand “free speech”. It’s the racists who insist on the right to use the words “Paki” and “Chink”. It’s the homophobes who think “Gay” should be an insult and those disablists who want the right to use “spaz” and “retard”. Those of us with empathy and critical literacy know that the theory of “free speech” is something that is the preserve of the powerful and the ignorant; we know that it is used to control the people.

Those of us who use the social construct of free speech in order to critique and challenge do so without behaving like a bunch of abusive nincompoops. That is the real challenge in a civilised society: using the theory of free speech whilst recognising that we will always need to limit it because of the arrogance and ignorance of a few. We will always need to limit “free speech” to prevent the abuse and objectification of vulnerable people. We always need to limit “free speech” when there are nincompoops like PETA running about.

Turns out, the real theory of “free speech” is just the preserve of the powerful who use it to silence those who demand basic human kindness.

Liz Jones: The Quintessential Handmaiden?

I don’t buy the Daily Fail for the usual reasons of it being utter hypocritical, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and disablist twaddle. Just seeing Liz Jones’ name makes me twitch. I consistently dislike what she writes as it is inevitably pro-patriarchal handmaideny nincompoopery. Problem is, I don’t think Jones is the quintessential handmaiden. I think she’s a very unhappy and angry woman who is [ab]used by the editors of the Daily Fail. She is a caricature of “woman” and, as such, is an object of mockery. We are supposed to hate Jones and everything she stands for, which, in Daily Fail terms, is pretty much anyone with a vagina. A responsible editor and friend wouldn’t allow someone they care about to make such a public spectacle of themselves but the Daily Fail sets Jones up weekly. And, we buy into this woman-blaming discourse by insulting and denigrating Jones at every opportunity.

Jones isn’t her own worst enemy; although she certainly seems to try very hard at doing this. The patriarchal arsehats who pay her to be publicly humiliated are her enemies. Like with Samantha Brick, it is those that give Jones the space to publicly humiliate herself who are the main problem. But, standing up to contribute to the vilification of Jones is also inherently unkind and perpetuates women-blaming culture. She is, at best, an unhappy woman whose self-loathing is played out daily in the press. We need to stop giving platform for anti-feminist diatribes written by women who are fundamentally unhappy with themselves. We need to stop reinforcing the women-blaming culture which gives a platform to women like Liz Jones who deserve our compassion and not our ridicule.

Yes, I get that Liz Jones writes a lot of stuff which is unbelievably unkind and hateful about other women. What she writes pisses me off [and I’ve not linked to any of her work because I don’t want to increase the Daily Fail’s advertising revenue]. However, Liz Jones is part of the 21st century version of the 19th century circus freak show. Like with all reality TV, from the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, Towie to X-Factor and the Voice, our society gets off on the public humiliation and denigration of those deemed “unworthy”. We are raising a generation of children who think they only have value for being a “celebrity” irrespective of how they become famous. How do we expect anyone to be happy in a culture that privileges humiliation over self-worth? Frankly, I think reality television meets the UN definition of a harmful cultural practise and all of it should be banned. We need to stop mocking those who are different and start celebrating those differences.

Mike Tyson: Convicted Rapist but Still a Hero. Apparently.

Yeah, I get that Mike Tyson is rich and famous and rich and famous people aren’t supposed to be rapists. Or, something equally stupid: see Ched Evan’s fans for the actual stupidity test required to believe this. Whatever rape apologists want to claim, Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist and we should not be celebrating his achievements. I’ve signed the petition but, now, more than ever, we need to stop supporting and canonising celebrities who perpetrate Violence Against Women. There is no excuse. Rape is a crime and rape victims deserve our support; not over-paid, self-entitled narcissists who don’t believe women deserve bodily autonomy.

This is the text of the petition:

Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist having served a sentence in 1992 for raping an 18yr old. Portsmouth was awarded White Ribbon status for ending violence against women in 2010. The Safer Portsmouth Partnership has listed domestic violence as one its top priorities for violent crime. By inviting a convicted rapist to speak at one of the leading venues in Portsmouth this goes against the hard work that has gone into the city for ensuring that survivors of rape feel valued, safe and believed. Aurora New Dawn are asking the Guildhall to cancel this event and show support to survivors of sexual violence rather than billing a convicted rapist as a hero in the city. Please sign this petition in recognition of all survivors of sexual violence and abuse. We can’t think of any other violent crime where a celebrity would be allowed to be celebrated in this way.

Please sign and pass it on via Twitter and Facebook. 

Femen: Not Quite Buying This as a Feminist Protest

I first heard of the Ukrainian Feminist group Femen on a news report. Whilst the male journalists discussing Femen were all congratulatory on this group of Ukrainian women for getting press attention, there was no mention as to what exactly Femen were protesting. I had to look that up on Wikipedia. Femen protests against sex tourism, the legalisation of prostitution, and the selling of “brides” internationally. I support everyone of their protest policies but not how they choose to protest. 

There is lots of media coverage of the women of Femen. This has more to do with how the women of Femen choose to protest than the male journalists being interested in Feminist protests. Femen protesters bare their breasts. That is the essence of their political engagement: baring their breasts to bring attention to the issue they are concerned about. Unfortunately, the media images uses of Femen are all of very young, tall, and extremely thin blond women with bare breasts.

Now, not all the protesters of Femen conform to the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. The problem is images like this aren’t the ones which garner media notice:

And, this is the very image that the media should be using because it is representative of *all* women’s bodies rather than that subsection of very young women who happen to be tall and slender. In using women’s bodies as a canvas of protest, Femen are conforming to the norms of Patriarchal objectification of women’s bodies. Their message is obscured by the medium of their protest because the medium conforms to the normalised construction of the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. What they are protesting is important and it deserves real media coverage and not what is effectively male journalists getting off on women’s bodies. 

Somehow, a picture of a Femen protestor managed to win an award in the 2012 the World Press Photo competition. The photo forms part of the World Press Photograph Exhibition which is currently on display at the Scottish Parliament. It is of a young woman with bare breasts with flowers in her hair. The only difference between this photograph and ones of Woodstock is the large cement buildings behind her. 

It’s a lovely photograph but it doesn’t match the political or social power of the other photos included in the exhibit. Walking through, it felt like this image was only included because it was of a half-naked beautiful woman rather than an image of political protest, particularly since the woman in this photo is neither carrying a placard nor covered in slogans. 

There have been a number of high profile feminist groups across Europe using their bodies as canvases for political protest, notably UK Feminista Muff March protest last December and the French group La Barbe‘s protests. The UK Feminista protest was raising awareness about the increase in labiaplasty in Europe and its relationship to the banned practise of Female Genital Mutilation. This involved a protest in Harley street with the women wearing merkins over their clothes. The women of La Barbe protest the exclusion of women in politics and culture by wearing beards. Both are protest art using the female body but they are inverting the construction of women as objects. Femen’s political protest is obscured by the patriarchal objectification of their bodies.