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.

Harrod’s “Degenders”: In the Stupidest Way Possible.

I’m not actually sure why the Guardian ran this piece since its basically an unpaid advertisement for Harrods. And, even then, it’s not a very good advertisement; after all it’s not really degendering to ‘theme’ rooms whilst still dressing employees in pink and blue. Apparently, staff can “choose” to wear the colour of the opposite sex because the colours were only “chosen” because they are “pretty”. But, they are cut “differently” which, I assume, means blue t-shirts on a woman will make them look like aliens and the men wearing pink will turn immediately into fluffy bunnies or something equally heinous. Or, Harrods staff think their customers are really, really stupid. I’m leaning towards the really, really stupid bit.

I nearly fell of the chair laughing when I read this bit:

“We felt it was a bit of a risk, when that formula traditionally works, to turn around and break the mould,” said David Miller, director of Harrods Home, who said the store was aiming to create “retail theatre” and attract the customers of the future.

Dude, in no way shape or form, is pink fairies and blue trains a ‘risky’ business decision. It’s the same old shite just packaged slightly differently. Frankly, you’d have to have been raised on a cave on Pluto not to get the pink fairies = girls and blue trains = boys. And, you aren’t “trail-blazing” in making this decision. Feminists have been banging on for years about how dangerous the colour-coding of children actually is. All Harrods are trying to do is capitalise on the work of Peggy Orenstein and Pink Stinks. Plagiarising the work of women isn’t a new thing for men. After all, D.H Lawrence, Thomas Hardy and William Wordsworth weren’t pioneers of the cultural femicide either. If you don’t believe me, you should read Dale Spender’s The Writing or the Sex?

I loathe being patronised by companies who assume that I lack all critical literacy skills. It’s a marketing gimmick based entirely on the concerns of parents and activists. It isn’t new or clever. Lying about your geniusness just pisses me off. And, it makes me want to boycott you even more for lying about degendering. I prefer my misogyny straight up. The pretence of the “we aren’t misogynists, we’re just giving customers what they want” makes me nauseous. I’d rather buy from Toys R’ US who, while utterly horrendous patriarchal indoctrinators don’t try to pretend they are anything but.

The gendering of children is a harmful cultural practise and should be treated as such. The Guardian is a news organisation. They shouldn’t be running such utterly stupid free advertising for over-priced toys which harm children.

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.

@BBCSuffolk : Misogyny or Hack? They Still Need to Work on Their Apologies

So, @BBCSuffolk has found themselves tweeting this little gem: “The Weirder Rihanna’s tattoos get the less I blame Chris Brown”. Now, I just assumed that they have some misogynistic nincompoop in their employ. After all, there isn’t exactly a world shortage of misogynistic nincompoops and the BBC does have a tendency to hire them. I give you Niall Ferguson as a prime example. So, when the tweet hit and the Feminist smackdown ensued; I just retweeted. Because, misogyny is endemic and the BBC is hardly immune. But, turns out that @BBCSuffolk could have been hacked or something called a meme [but I couldn’t tell you what one of those is].

I’m going to reserve judgement on whether or not they’ve got a misogynist working for them in light of the possible hack evidence; although I have no problem with the misogynist theory what the whole if it quacks like a duck theory of the universe. Where I do think @BBCSuffolk needs some work is with their apology for the somewhat unfortunate booboo. As a general rule of thumb, the phrase “Apologies, it appears something is up with our feed. Thanks to those who pointed it out to us” is not the way to apologise. As apologies go, its pretty piss-poor and lacking some serious awareness of the power of social media and misogynistic discourse. A simple “Our twitter feed appears to have been hacked. We apologise unreservedly for offence caused due to the previous tweet” and then a what actually happened tweet either giving evidence of the hack or stating that an internal inquiry would happen [and the employee responsible suspended pending investigation in my universe where misogynists get punished immediately as opposed to being given standing ovations for Oscars like Roman Polanski].

So, here’s a big hint @BBCSuffolk, whatever turns out to be the cause of the gaffe, do take 10 minutes to give your employees a quick less on apologising tomorrow. It will make the rest of us less cranky.

UPDATE: As I wrote this, @BBCSuffolk tweeted this: The recent offensive tweet has been deleted. It was unsanctioned by BBC Suffolk and in no way condoned. Sincere apologies . That would be an apology. Not the previous twattishness.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: @BittyLabs “Reclaim Your Wife” Awfulness

It’s a company that sells baby bottles by telling men that women’s breast belong to men. Because, God forbid, a woman use her breasts to feed her child. You know, like every other freaking mammal does. Nope, even in the first few precious months [or years!] women are expected to remain nothing more than fucktoys for their husbands. It’s the one time in your life that you should feel proud and beautiful about your body which gestated a child for 40 odd weeks and then birthed that baby. No women should be made to feel worthless for not passing the Patriarchal Fuckability Test but targeting a new mother is just pathetic.

Alright, it was “just” a twitter campaign, but, come on, who actually thinks this shit is appropriate? Who thinks men are this stupid? And, if you do happen to run into a man who thinks this is funny, you probably shouldn’t be reproducing with him. Jealous, infantile arsewipes do not make good men. Nor do they make good fathers. I can pretty much guarantee you any man that finds this funny will be out the door within a few years, won’t pay any maintenance but will feel the need to ruin your child’s life by pissing about with access visits.

These are the actual tweets Bitty Labs sent out:
New Baby? Reclaim Your wife. Meet BARE.

Feeling like you're competing with your newborn for mommy's attention? Meet BARE

Just in case you’ve missed the obvious “women are nothing more than fucktoys” reference in the first tweet, they conveniently sent out a second one to appeal to that subsection of extremely stupid arsewipes. This is such an epic social media failure that I genuinely can’t get up the energy to email them to complain. Anyone who can tweet this wouldn’t be bright enough to understand my critique of the capitalist-patriarchal anti-woman bullshit they are propogating.

So,they’ve made a half-hearted attempt at an apology but, let’s face it, this is still a piece of misogynistic twaddle:

Ladies, We’re really sorry about the twitter campaign run last week. It was a huge miss understood [sic] and resulted in offensive messages. It was taken down yesterday. The messages had nothing to do with putting a husband needs before the baby’s needs, it was more about having a little extra time for the rest of the family. Obviously the whole campaign was poorly executed. We apologize deeply for this miss understanding and assure you, from now on the campaigns will be closely monitored before they go out. Thank you for a second chance.

Really, if you aren’t going to bother apologising properly, there’s really no point in bothering. It just makes you look like an even bigger nincompoop.

Oh, and not to put to fine a point on it, but the name Bitty Lab itself is pretty much the definition of misogynistic nastiness.

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.

Why Am I Not Surprised? Further Evidence of Sexism in the Olympics

According to the Guardian, both Japan and Australia have gone with old-school sexism and sent some of their male teams in Business class whilst the women flew economy. Japan sent its women’s football team in economy despite them being considered a better team internationally [I know nothing about sport in general so I couldn’t comment]. Australia did the same with it’s basketball teams. I’d like to say I’m shocked but that would be a lie. This is same level of sexist nincompoopery that women athletes have to put up with all the time. They are paid less, they get less sponsorship and they very rarely get similar media coverage. Gymnastics and figure skating are possibly the two sports where women get more television coverage; at least that’s my impression but they are the only two sports I actually watch so it’s kind of a skewed survey.

I don’t tend to watch sports in general but we need to start making an effort to support women athletes. And, this means watching only sports played by women [although I do plan on boycotting the Olympics on principle]. It means writing to the BBC and Sky to complain about the lack of coverage of women’s sports and boycotting televised coverage of men’s sports.

And, since I can’t resist, this is my favourite piece of ice dancing and not just because Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz are Canadian:

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.

It would be nice if just one film directed at children didn’t include threats of violence and gender stereotyping. Is that really so much to ask? Is Hollywood so lacking in imagination that they can’t imagine a world where people don’t run about threatening to punch anyone who disagrees with them or denigrating those who don’t fit Patriarchal Constructions of Fuckability?