My Favourite Books of 2012 (Some Spoilers)


I know that everyone does this and blah, blah, blah but I genuinely don’t care. I recommend books to everyone, even if they don’t actually read books [or pseudo-intellectualise by parroting reviews from the Times Literary Supplement which some men might want to remember is not only available on subscription to those middle aged white dudes with penises. The rest of us can read it too. Just saying].

So, these are my favourite books of 2012:

Lisa O’Donnell’s The Death of Bees: It is triggering since it covers the systemic violence against women, particularly against those young girls who aren’t considered “proper” victims but it is also beautiful, funny and full of hope.  It is the story of two sisters, Marnie and Nelly, struggling to survive in  a Glasgow housing estate without their parents, who they’ve just buried in a shallow grave in the backyard. They are victimised and revictimised in every manner possible and left to self-destruct by a welfare state that doesn’t give a shit about poor kids from the housing estates. After all, when school is only “a convenient way for all of us to congregate in one place”, it is obvious that these are the kids no one cares about (p.47). But, it’s more than a litany of abuse. It’s about surviving, friendships, the meaning of sisterhood and what really makes a family.

Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Axt of Esme Lennox : It’s about families and betrayal and the destruction of generations after one malicious act. It’s heart-breaking but beautiful. No redemption but the importance of hearing when someone speaks, even if it seems something innocuous like a nickname.

Julia Long’s Anti-Porn: The Resurgence of Anti-Porn FeminismIt’s both a critical analysis of the representations of anti-porn feminism, pro-porn feminism and the pro-porn campaign within the media and culture; as well as a history of the anti-porn movement within Britain. Most importantly, it is a radical feminist critique of the debates surrounding pornography [and prostitution]. Far too often the “debates” on porn within the media focus on porn as an empowering tool for women [conveniently ignoring the fact that men are the ones getting rich from porn] and porn as an expression of human sexuality [and ignoring just how much porn dictates a hegemonic, heterosexual, racist sexuality which, in and of itself, is incredibly limited]. Long traces the feminist activism against pornography and illustrates some of the more successful feminist activist anti-porn campaign. Long has given a voice to both the survivors of the porn industries and the grassroots activists fighting against pornographication. She has contextualised the anti-porn feminist movement in the UK within diverse factions of feminism.

Emma Donoghue’s The Sealed Letter
Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues
Helena Kennedy’s Eve was Framed: Women and British Justice
Maya Angelou’s The Heart of a Woman

Maya Angelou’s A Song Flung up to Heaven
Maya Angelou’s All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes
Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou’s Gather Together in My Name
Maya Angelou’s Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Thing Around Your Neck
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Half a Yellow Sun
Marilyn French’s A Woman’s Room 
Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse
Joumana Haddad’s I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman 
Isabelle Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea
Ngoni Achebe’s Onaedo: The Blacksmith’s Daughter

Isabel Ashdown’s Glasshopper and Hurry Up and Wait

I read Isabel Ashdown’s Hurry Up and Wait first. It was one of those multiple-narrator-exposing-a-secret books which I generally enjoy. I wasn’t very sure about this one though. I’m never very fond of books which use school reunions as a plot device. It’s too tired a plot device and, unfortunately, the secret far too obvious from the beginning. I wouldn’t have bothered reading her other books had I not been stuck in the car and Glasshopper was the only book downloaded on my kindle app. It was Glasshopper. Glasshopper was just wrong; in many ways.  Unlike Hurry Up and Wait, Glasshopper had a male protagonist and that made the problem with Ashdown’s books obvious.

Ashdown really doesn’t like the women characters in her books. All of the characters are flawed but Ashdown seems to blame the women for not being able to deal psychologically with their trauma whilst the men are forgiven. In Glasshopper’, male violence isn’t even considered a reason worthy of exploring when the real problem is male violence. I would have snarled and then ignored had I not come across this blurb for Hurry Up and Wait which appears on Ashdown’s website:

In her eagerly anticipated second novel Mail on Sunday Novel Competition winner Isabel Ashdown explores the treacherous territory of adolescent friendships, and traces across the decades the repercussions of a dangerous relationship.

There was no “dangerous relationship”.  A violent sexual predator targeting teenagers does not enter into a “relationship” with them. He was a rapist. He targeted young, vulnerable girls. And, he raped them. The moment people start using phrases like “dangerous relationships” is the moment we start obfuscating child rape. Ashdown has done for child rape what Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife did for domestic violence.

I would like back the 3 hours it took me to read both books and the 20 minutes I spent writing this. 

Femen Redux: I’m not even sure what to say anymore

It’s farking Femen. Again. This time they are protesting the very brutal gang-rape of a young woman in India who committed suicide rather than being pushed into marrying her rapist. This is the statement from the Facebook page to accompany the image above: 

FEMEN shares the world sorrow of 17-year-old Indian girl, victim of a brutal rape. According to the newspaper La Figaro, the victim took the fatal dose of poison, in response to demands by Indian police to withdraw his statement and to marry one of the rapists!
late on November 13 was raped by two men on their way to a religious festival in the city of Punjab. Within two weeks the police refused to accept the statement about rape.
Unfortunately, the facts of genocide against women in India have become known worldwide only after the case of brutal gang rape the girls in the New Daley on December 16, that shakes all India.
FEMEN has long pointed to the Indian authorities ‘ official policy-misogynistic, religious and caste wildness against women. FEMEN women’s movement demands immediate international intervention in the plight of Indian women, subjected to daily physical and mental abuse, suffering from some pointless authorities, corrupt policemen etc. .In February 2012, the activist of FEMEN dismantled the India flag from the roof of the Indian Embassy, protest against visa rule by chauvinist Indian authorities towards young women from Ukraine. For protection of the rights of Ukrainians before the official Daily on four participants of protest was filed 5 criminal cases, litigation that lasts to this day.

A little bit of self-reflection wouldn’t go amiss with these people. Honestly, do they not get the problem with their imperialist campaigns which alienate the very women they claim to be fighting for? 

I could rant for hours on their hypocrisy but I think Sara Salem’s article Femen’s Neocolonial Feminism: When Nudity Becomes Uniform says it much better than I can. 

The Mumsnet Secret Santa: Thanking Those Women Who Have Changed Our Lives


The Mumsnet Secret Santa has been going for several years now. It was started by members as a way of thanking others who had helped them but also as a way helping others. Along with a Mile for Maude and the MN Woolly Hugs, it is the real side of Mumsnet: women supporting women. It is the real meaning of sisterhood. 

I was honoured this year by being nominated. It is such an incredible feeling to be nominated; to be thanked for helping someone else. It is a beautiful feeling. 
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of nominating other women who have supported me through my PND and my crisis of confidence following some rather misogynistic twaddle with my career. I am so lucky to be surrounded by some amazing women. 

We need to start telling each other how amazing we are.

We need to start doing so publicly and loudly. 

This year, my Secret Santa sent me an Amazon giftcard. I spent several happy hours downloading some amazing books onto my kindle. Obviously only books written by women:

Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Carol Shield’s The Stone Diaries
Andrea Levy’s Fruit of the Lemon
Andrea Levy’s Never Far From Nowhere
Aminatta Forna’s The Ancestor Stones
Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows

Thank you My Secret Nominator. 

Thank you to my Secret Santa.

And, thank you to all the amazing women in my life. 🙂

In Defence of Megan Fox.


Until today, the only thing I knew about Megan Fox was that she starred in the first two Transformer movies and that she may or may not have been fired from the third for calling the director Micheal Bay a misogynist. It’s hard to say if she walked or was fired as Fox is keeping a dignified silence whilst Bay, and her former co-star Shia LeBoeuf, are bad-mouthing her at every opportunity. Whatever actually happened, Fox is clearly a better person than either Bay or LeBoeuf; although that isn’t the best compliment since I’ve eaten carrots that had more empathy than Bay. Suffice it to say, I’m on Team Fox.

Today, I learned that Fox is now married and has a very new baby. 

I learned about Fox’s new baby from an op-ed piece in the Independent which effectively accuses Fox, but not her husband, of child neglect for hiring a night nurse. I have no idea who the writer Susan Elkin actually is, above her very basic biography attached to the article, but it’s been a while since I’ve read a piece written by a woman who so clearly hates other women. 

Because, there is no excuse for what Elkin has written. 

There is no excuse for the Independent to have published the op-ed piece. 

But, you know what, I would like to thank Megan Fox for publicly acknowledging that she has hired a night nurse. 

Because what really pisses me off is the culture of “motherhood” that requires “celebrity” women to pretend that they do everything all by themselves after having a baby. That is what is harmful to all women: the idea that a woman who has just given birth must immediately lose all their baby weight, baking 250 cupcakes for the school fete, going back to work full-time at 6 weeks whilst simultaneously looking immaculate in their immaculate house. Celebrity women who try to exist outside this narrow and punitive construction of mother are punished by the likes of Perez Hilton calling them fat and Hello mag making snide remarks about their lack of make-up.

So, power to Megan Fox for being honest about something that was going to result in her being bullied. How freaking brave is she?

And, that shit about whether or not Fox breastfeeds, well that’s none of our business. The culture which pushes formula feeding unnecessarily onto new mothers and which sexualises women’s breasts to the point that women can not breastfeed publicly without feeling uncomfortable is the problem. The culture which believes that women’s bodies belong to their husbands and that a man’s rights to access his possession’s breasts are more important than a new infant is the problem. The culture which defines any woman who has given birth  as unfuckable until they lose all their “baby weight” is the problem. That is what we need to address.

We won’t create a breast-feeding friendly culture when women write shit like this:

Babies are born to women – whether some feminists like it or not and wish it otherwise – and nature provides the baby’s food in the form of breast milk. That milk, and suckling it from the mother’s breast, is the child’s entitlement. Direct access to its mother’s breast milk is, in my book, every child’s human right. 

That doesn’t mean extracting it with a pump and handing it over to someone else to pour into the child either. It means proper tactile feeding from the breast and all the bonding which goes with that. Everyone knows that there is nothing better than breast milk for a baby’s health and, there are benefits for the mother too – not least, it is much easier to lose the baby weight if you breast feed than if you don’t. It is also considerable less hassle – at a time when you’re tired and maybe stressed – than fiddling about with bottles which have to be sterilised. And you have it with you, on tap as it were, wherever you and the child happen to be. 

If you hire a night nurse the child may be losing out on part of this and I regard that as a form of neglect.

Now, I get that Elkin is clearly trying to flog some book that no one actually wants to read but, unless you are actually stupid, no one would think the above was going to increase the number of women breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months. It just isn’t. All it does is make women feel like failures if they don’t. As for the hyperbole of child neglect, well, I’d suggest that Elkin wasn’t the most effective teacher on the planet if that’s her definition of child neglect.

Plus, Elkin doesn’t actually understand the mechanics of breast-feeding. It’s not the breast-feeding which changes the shape of women’s breasts. That’s the result of the weight gain during pregnancy and the subsequent loss of weight thereafter. Not breastfeeding will do nothing to prevent a woman’s breasts from changing. Pregnancy changes women’s breasts.

And women shouldn’t be policing other women’s bodies. We should be standing up for other women being forced by Patriarchal structures into making “choices” they do no want for fear of reprisal. 

In many ways, this article is just spiteful. It’s just the kind of spiteful that the Patriarchy loves: pitting women against women. Normally, I’d veer on the side of ignoring, however insulting a woman who has just given birth and making her personally responsible for the decisions of a thousand other women isn’t kind. 

Megan Fox may be a very privileged woman but she is still a woman. She doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment. 

Megan Fox is just a woman trying to survive in the Patriarchy; just like the rest of us. 

Proud to be a Man-hater


My lovely friend Frothy Dragon wrote this on FB yesterday:

So… The past few days has had me thinking about the “man hating feminist” trope. Funnily enough, I hear this cliche from liberal feminists more than I hear it from men themselves… But we all know men lie at the heart of the liberal feminist movement, along with the demand they are included at every turn. 

Women have to do so little to be declared “man haters”. All we have to do is name male violence for what it is. It is at this point the patriarchally minded step in and throw the “man hating” cliche into the mix. But in doing so, what men have done to women is forgotten, brushed under the carpet, ushered into the corner with candy with the hope it’ll be forgotten. 

But for a man to be declared a “woman hater” he has to do so much more. Even when men abuse, rape, prostitute and kill women, they’re excused… His victim’s actions are looked for as if his hatred was a logical reaction to her own actions. 

The liberals forget how ingrained woman hating is… from that moment a baby is killed for being female, to the child’s growth, through adulthood- womanhood is something to be despised, to be destroyed. Women are hated freely and easily. Men become the untouchables… we are not allowed to criticise them, lest we be labelled men haters.

But if all it takes to be labelled a man hater is to speak out unrelentlessly against male violence, to despise the violence done to my sisters, then I’ll wear that label… I’ll write it myself, and I’ll scream it from the rooftops. I’d rather be a man hater than stop addressing male violence for what it is.

Frothy speaks a lot of sense, non? Why are women who want to hold men accountable for their violence man-haters, when men who rape, torture and murder women aren’t considered women-haters?

Apparently, “my politics” are the problem: Mumsnet, Vagenda and Feminism

I’ve been struggling to write a proper response to Holly Baxter’s guest blog for Mumsnet. I remain incredibly saddened that Mumsnet chose to run this particular blogpost by Holly Baxter from Vagenda as part of the 16 Days of Activism on VAW.* I am unhappy that they linked my bloghop, which I intended to be a celebration of women’s voices, with a blog post which erases women from the feminist movement. I am annoyed that they locked the thread on the blog post where many of us were raising our concerns. I am disappointed that they dismissed our concerns as irrelevant to the point where they locked a thread and did not return to it. But, mostly, I am hurt that my concerns have been dismissed because of “my politics”, as if my “politics” make me incapable of rational thought. I am hurt that the concerns of other women are also being dismissed. As Lynn Schreiber said when commenting on a draft of this piece “if it is your politics, then it is our politics, as we were just as dismayed and angered by the reaction of Mumsnet.”

There really is so much wrong with Baxter’s post that it’s difficult to know where to start. At best, Baxter’s post was extremely naive but, to be honest, I think I am being over-kind with that description. Using the violent murder of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 to start a debate about the role of men within the feminist movement is, simply, offensive. There are valid debates to be had about the role of men in the feminist movement. This was neither the time nor the place.

Baxter compounds this offence by failing to name the 14 women who were murdered.

Geneviève Bergeron, aged 21;
Hélène Colgan, 23;
Nathalie Croteau, 23;
Barbara Daigneault, 22;
Anne-Marie Edward, 21;
Maud Haviernick, 29;
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31;
Maryse Leclair, 23;
Annie St.-Arneault, 23;
Michèle Richard, 21;
Maryse Laganière, 25;
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22;
Sonia Pelletier, 28; and
Annie Turcotte, aged 21. 

And, that is what is wrong with Holly Baxter’s blog. She makes it about the man rather than the women who were murdered. This isn’t unusual since this is precisely what the mainstream media does when violent men murder women. But, this isn’t a feminist position. It has never been a feminist position. Feminism is a woman-centred movement. 

What Baxter seems to miss is that the man who murdered 14 women for being ‘feminists’ was never going to be a part of the feminist movement. He was never going to understand that the reason he didn’t get into the Canadian airforce or the Ecole Polytechnique was because of his personal failings. Men like that don’t respond to reason or constructive discourse. The men who do, the men we want involved in the feminist movement, don’t need to be told what to do or have to be in charge. They are already involved although sometimes their ‘help’ can be of questionable value as seen in the ‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’ marches. The point is we don’t have to make a special effort to involve those men. If they want to be involved, they will be. Yet, Baxter seems to be implying that if feminists spent more time worrying about the involvement of men in the feminist movement, then men would be less likely to kill us. So, really it’s our fault that violent, anti-feminist men kill women they identify as feminists because we aren’t nice enough. It’s just another form of victim-blaming. 

Frankly, I struggle to take any self-defined feminist who says this seriously: 

But it’s important to remember that feminism is about destroying patriarchal assumptions (which, incidentally, include the assumptions that men are naturally aggressive, animalistic and hypersexual – insulting, to say in the least.) It’s not about destroying men, or holding innocent men to account for the actions of people who share nothing in common with them except a penis. That’s just biblical.

Feminists are already aware that feminism is about destroying patriarchal assumptions. The thing is feminists aren’t the ones labelling men as “naturally aggressive, animalistic and hypersexual”. That is the position the Patriarchy takes in its efforts to minimise and excuse male behaviour. Jack Layton, one of the co-founders of the White Ribbon Movement in 1991, has been explicit that he was talking about male violence against women. The fact that the White Ribbon Campaign has become gender-neutral is testimony more to the power of those who want to ignore the issue of male violence than it is to men’s interest in the feminist movement. The men I know, who support the feminist movement, are more than aware that the vast majority of violence committed against women and children is by men. They know that the vast majority of violence committed against men is by other men. 


Marc Lepine was not an isolated “madman“. To imply that ignores the lived realities of billions of women across the world. If Lepine were one isolated man, millions of women each year would not by murdered by men. If Marc Lepine was an “isolated” madman, then we have an epidemic of “isolated” madmen causing devastation and mass murder on an almost daily basis. Or, we could start discussing the reality of male violence and start expecting men to take responsibility for male violence, particularly since there are already men willing to address this issue.
The Massacre at the Polytechnique in Montreal was Canada’s Dunblane. This is something that we will never forget. It is something that has changed us all. To conflate it with the issue of men’s participation in the feminist movement is, simply, disrespectful. There are very valid discussions to be had about the involvement of men but this isn’t the time and it is most certainly not the ‘hook’ to use to make a cheap political point.


* I am not going to address the personal attack made by Holly Baxter on Dr. Julia Long. Dr. Long has addressed the issue here. What I will say is that Baxter owes Dr. Long an apology and it’s telling that despite being factually wrong, Baxter has made no public statement retracting her personal attack.

The Problem is Male Violence:

We need to start naming this problem. Until we have the courage to talk about the cult of masculinity and their glorification of male violence, we will continue to grieve for innocent lives lost and families destroyed. We can attempt to obfuscate the issue by diagnosing perpetrators as “mentally ill” all we want but we all know it isn’t true. The men who commit these crimes aren’t “mentally ill”, unless you want to define our entire culture as ill. It is a convenient lie designed to ignore the real issue: male violence.


Because that is the only thing the perpetrators of these types of crimes have in common: they are male and, in the case of mass shootings, are exclusively white men. The vast majority of violent crimes are committed by men. 

Until we name the problem, we won’t be able to address it. Gun control is only part of the solution. But, guns only make it easier for violent men to kill. Violent men kill women and children in a myriad of ways on a daily basis without guns. So, whilst gun control legislation is essential, male violence will not stop until we start holding men accountable for their violence.

We need to hold individual men accountable for domestic violence.

We need to hold individual men accountable for sexualised violence.

We need to hold individual men accountable for violence.

Then, we need to hold all men accountable for helping to perpetuate the myths that men are inherently violent or that there is always a cause for male violence.

We need to stop blaming victims for being victims of male violence.

We need to stop making excuses for male violence.

If you haven’t already read it, Crates & Ribbons has written an important piece on the issue of gender in the mass murder of 27 women and children in Newtown, Connecticut. Mother Jones has written a survey on mass shootings in the US. Aviva Shen’s Timeline of Mass Shootings since Columbine is a list of male perpetrators. William Hamby’s Connecticut shooting, white males and Mass Murder is based on Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel’s  Suicide by Mass Murder: Masculinity, Aggrieved Entitlement and Rampage School Shootings. All should be required reading today. Kathleen Barry’s Unmaking War and Remaking Men and Susan Faludi’s Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man and The Terror Dream are all searing indictments of the cult of hyper-masculinity.

We owe it to those who have lost their lives or whose families have been destroyed by male violence to name it.

We owe it to those who have lost their lives or whose families have been destroyed by male violence to hold individual men accountable for their crimes.

These are the innocent victims of the Newtown mass shooting. Lest we forget:

Children:
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Aviele Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6

Adults:
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Rachel Davino, 29
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27

Circus Freak Shows: Bullying Culture, Mass Media and Personal Responsibility

This past Halloween, I watched the film Monster House with my children. It is one of the unnecessary DVDs that we own but one that I had not actively watched before. It is a childrens film about a haunted house. I expected puerile jokes and unnecessary references to films that no one cares about anymore. I was wrong.

The basic plot of Monster House is that a house is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman, Constance, who steals children’s toys, which land on the grass around it. Before being rescued by the man she marries, Constance had spent her life as an unwilling freak show act in a circus where children paid money to laugh, belittle and humiliate her. Constance dies falling into the foundations of the house she was building with her rescuer-husband, after, once again, being belittled by a group of small children, and the house thus becomes both Constances grave and her avenger.

Possessed by the spirit of the abused Constance, the house is portrayed as insane, evil and violent. There is no discussion of whether or not she was justified in her paranoia following years of intense bullying. The house is angry and frightened because Constance was angry and frightened. But, no one listened when Constance was alive and no one listened when she died. Instead, the climax of the film is the complete destruction of Constance.

It is easy to dismiss Monster House as just another poorly executed childrens movie but this film is simply a reflection of our culture. We may no longer have circus freak shows designed to bully and humiliate those who do not fit our gendered dichotomy of human bodies, but our bullying culture still exists in the form of reality television, shock-jock radio programs, the ubiquity of  lifestyle and celebrity magazines, and mass media coverage of news. Much of our entertainmentnow rests on the same constructions as the circus freak show, we are simply unwilling to acknowledge our own personal responsibility in consuming these forms of entertainment and the harm that they cause.

Just as we now blame Mel Greig and Michael Christian for the death of Jacintha Saldanha, we blame Constance for her actions without looking at the context. I do not want to minimize what Greig and Christian did, since anyone who is no longer 15 should know the potential consequences of pranks, but they are not the only ones who are guilty in the death of Saldanha. Focusing our blame on Greig and Christian is a convenient way to minimize our collective guilt as a society that actively encourages the same bullying experienced by Constance.

Greig and Christian would not have made the prank call if there was not an audience for it. We cannot simply blame the two, although their culpability is without doubt, we also need to examine our own behaviour. We need to take personal responsibility for perpetuating and perpetrating bullying culture. Without an audience of consumers buying magazines like Heat and Grazia or newspapers like the Sun and the Daily Mail or watching/listening to shock jocks like Howard Stern and Matthew Wright, there would be no financial incentive for these people to behave in a crass and offensive manner. Before we start blaming others, we need to check our own behaviour, examine our own privilege, and stop financially supporting an industry based on the abject humiliation of others. The harm caused to vulnerable people who participate in reality television is obvious, yet millions of people watch shows like Big Brother and X-Factor and laugh at the judges’ vile comments. Millions of people take to Twitter to insult the physical appearance of contestants.
We shouldn’t need the Leveson Inquiry to regulate the media. We should be holding the media accountable through our financial power. We can change print media simply by refusing to consume misogynistic, racist, disablist and homophobic stories. We can change talk radio by switching off Greig, Christian and Stern. We can change the culture of bullying traumatised families by refusing to purchase newspapers or watch television newscasts that show images of traumatised parents mourning the loss of their children. We can stop buying newspapers that doorstop grieving parents. We can stop consuming media that suggest that women and children are somehow responsible for their own deaths at the hands of violent men for just exisiting.

Monster House is a film, which uses the emotional and physical abuse experienced by a vulnerable woman and then blames the woman for her behavior, whilst excusing the children, and their parents, who bullied her during her life. In fact, the film never makes the direct correlation between the long-term abuse experienced by Constance and her quite justified paranoia. The blame is entirely Constances despite the fact that society had conspired against her for cheap entertainment.

Contemporary mass media from reality television to celebrity culture, from talk shows to shock jocks, together form a 21st century freak show, only now the phenomenon is 24/7 and shows no respect for private boundaries or personal space. We are invited to laugh and jeer at vulnerable people, like Constance, and we pay to financially support their exploitation. We continue to exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities for our entertainment: in reality television, in traditional and online media, in the music industry and in pornography.

Life isn’t a circus freak show. Lets just stop acting like it is.

What Leveson Didn’t Address Properly: On Male Violence, Media Ethics and Personal Responsibility

Today, 27 families are grieving.  A community has been broken. They deserve a chance to grieve. There are numerous debates that we need to have tomorrow. Today, we need to let them grieve in peace; without an audience. 

Tomorrow, we need to restart the obvious debate on gun control. But, this debate will be meaningless unless we all start to discuss the issue of hyper-masculinity and male violence within the Patriarchy. We can’t simply talk in general terms about who owns guns. We need to talk about who owns guns and who uses them to hurt and kill other people. We need to talk about male violence because it is mostly men who use guns to kill other people. It is mostly men who kill other men and women and children. We need to stop talking in gender neutral terms and start talking properly about male violence.

We need to talk about the military-industrial complex’s financial interest in perpetrating our culture of hyper-masculinity.

We also need to restart the debate on media accountability and ethics. Because, today, instead of giving a community a chance to grieve, the media has swooped in and is, at least according to twitter, interviewing children from the school in Newton, Connecticut. They are printing images of terrified families looking for their children. They are printing images of terrified children being taken to safety by police officers. They are showing images of families being ripped apart. Now, we can blame the media for doing this. We can blame individual journalists and evil media empires for their intrusion. But, we won’t look at our own behaviour.

Without an audience of people consuming these images, the media would have no financial incentive to doorstop grieving families. We need to stop blaming others for the failures within our culture and start looking at our own behaviour. If you are complaining about journalists interviewing children, ask yourself why you are watching it. Don’t just complain. Turn it off. Stop being part of the problem.

Tomorrow, we need to have some serious debates about male violence and gun control. Today, we need to stop intruding in a grieving community.

There is no point in the Leveson Inquiry holding the media accountable for some truly despicable behaviour if we do not hold ourselves accountable too. After all, the media would not exist without an audience of consumers