This is why men can’t be feminists:

This is a comment left on  A Room of our Own: A Feminist/ Womanist Network in response to my paper for the Women’s Spaces and Feminist Politics; yesterday, today and tomorrow conference.

This is why men can’t be feminists: because they write patronising drivel:

Dear Author:

I was looking for an email address on your website to contact the owner of this site and the lady who made this speech. I am a 25 year old male, and a women’s studies grad at UcLa. I originally chose this major because it seemed like an easier gateway entering law school, but it actually ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made. I totally respect and understand your desire to have a forum only for women, but what I found out through my 4 years of study was that men, especially young women, often feel disinterested in feminism and misogyny because they get this “we hate men” vibe. When I first started at ucla, a lot of young women raised an eyebrow at me in classes and didn’t know what my intentions were in terms of why I chose this major. But the truth is that there are a lot of men who are absolutely interested in healthy discussions about feminism and gender problems. I believe that it is absolutely essential for men to be involved in order to make positive changes. If only women talk about these problems and men are left out of the circle, it’s only repeating what has been going on for the last 3-4 decades. I hope that you offer men the opportunity to discuss these issues in a healthy and supportive environment, and I apologize for any abuse you have endured from men online. Thanks for your time and best of luck to you.

Yeah, that “we hate men” vibe is such a problem for feminists what with the whole insisting rapists be held criminally liable and fathers financially responsible for their children. Seriously, if this what 4 years of Women’s Studies taught this dude, we’re fucked.

(Re)Creating and (Re)Defining Sisterhood Online: The Mumsnet Phenomenon

This is the extended version of a conference paper I gave at the FWSA (UK & Northern Ireland) conference: Rethinking Sisterhood: The Affective Politics of Women’s Relationships’

 

Mumsnet – we’ve all heard the name. It pops up frequently in the press as either an object of derision as that place full middle class Yummy Mummies who once harassed Gordon Brown about his favourite biscuit brand during a political webchat[i] or that “nest of vipers”[ii] who viciously bully any woman who doesn’t meet their “standards”.

Yet neither of these stereotypes addresses the popularity of Mumsnet with women across the UK and the world. Why is Mumsnet so popular with women across all classes, ethnicities, faith, sexuality and gendered identities if it is a space full of ‘bullies’? What draws women – a significant number of whom do not have children – to what is ostensibly a parenting site? How does Mumsnet get 60 million page hits a month if only women who care about biscuits or are bullies populate it?

The founding of Mumsnet [iii] is a well-told story across the media. Justine Roberts and Carrie Longton created it in 2000 after Roberts had a disastrous holiday abroad with infant twins. It was conceived as a way for mothers to share information about everything from holidays to infant feeding, car seats, and fashion. Since then the business has grown from a small organisation to a staff of 80[iv] with Talk boards which cover everything from current events, to domestic and sexual violence and abuse, feminism, caring for children with disabilities, purchasing a car and caring for fish. The webchats hosted by Mumsnet have involved everyone from Gordon Brown and the infamous biscuit question to Jamie Oliver, Nigel Farage, William Hague, Dawn French and Gok Wan.[v]

Mumsnet’s popularity is not because of the quality of information on the site but rather the members themselves who have registered for the free chat boards – a feature only added to the website by chance. It is the relationships developed amongst the women and how this has changed both the brand of Mumsnet but also how the women involved have (re)developed the theory of sisterhood, particularly outwith feminist discourse that I will discuss. This “sisterhood” is contested and challenged from a variety of sources – the members themselves, men’s rights extremists and trolls. Equally, many members would not recognise Mumsnet as a place of sisterhood – many would also not define themselves as feminists, further contesting the boundaries. The construction of sisterhood is both intersectional, as defined by Kimberle Crenshawe,[vi] but also anti-intersectional in that racism, disablism, classism, homophobia and misogyny are common across the boards. Mumsnet is certainly not unusual as a true cross-section of women will always involve both the negative and positive.

This paper is based on my personal experiences as a member of Mumsnet. I joined in 2007 following the birth of my second child. I had several interviews with a number of current and former Mumsnetters, whom I have chosen to keep anonymous in this paper. I then posted a request on my public Facebook account, in which I am friends with numerous Mumsnetters, asking for their responses to the issue of trolling. This self-selecting response is the first stage in a much larger piece of research which will include further interviews, as well as a large-scale survey of members of Mumsnet – as well as other online parenting websites.

Mumsnet both (re)creates and (re)defines 21st century constructions of the term “sisterhood”. The power of relationships developed by women whose only contact is online and through pseudonyms is surprising only to those who have never been isolated from their extended family and wider community. It complicates the division between “real life” and “online life” and how this division is based on fallacious assumptions of how women construct support networks, friendships, and the longevity of these relationships. We live in a culture where women are taught that other women are their worst enemy and one where competing with each other is considered normal. This is designed to erases male responsibility for violence but also ensures that women’s energy and work is directed at supporting men, rather than other women.

The very basis of Mumsnet’s success is women supporting other women and the power of women’s friendships online. This is why the media backlash to Mumsnet is both so obvious and so vicious. Denigrating Mumsnet as that place where women talk about shoes and biscuits erases the very conversations which make it a radical space. These conversations include pregnancy, miscarriage, infertility, bereavement, domestic violence, rape and sexual violence, child-rearing, caring for children or other family members with disabilities, education, healthcare and current events. These conversations – the sharing of information and support – give women a power denied to them by a culture that privileges men’s needs and desires above all else. It also develops women’s confidences in their own skills, as well as encouraging women to move outwith their comfort zones learning new skills, teaching these skills to other women and entering the public sphere.

There is a multitude of ways in which the women of Mumsnet support one another. One of the most powerful sections is the relationships board which features long-term support threads for women with a history of substance misuse, those who were raised by toxic parents, women currently living with domestic violence and survivors, and women surviving rape and other forms of sexual violence. This unconditional support offered by women contrasts with women who are apologists for male behaviour – those who are currently living with violence and not in a position to label it and those who believe in anti-woman myths propagated by men’s rights extremists. In order to offer unconditional support, women must start from the radical basis that women do not lie about male violence. As those working in the field of violence against women and girls are aware, believing women is a radical step towards sisterhood. It is a feminist position and there are contested spaces on the relationships boards where women who do not take the label feminist come into conflict with those who do even when offering similar advice. There are numerous occasions when women who believe feminism is bad for women define radical feminist positions on male violence as “common sense”. What is interesting is the ways in which these contested definitions of feminism, domestic violence and perpetrator responsibility have given women previously denied a voice a space where there words are considered worthy of response. For many women, this is a privilege denied daily.

This contested space is best demonstrated by threads about access and violent fathers – the feminist position on Mumsnet is that children do not need violent fathers. On the relationships board, children are classed as needing fathers but their mothers deserve protection from further control and coercion. Debates wage on whose needs should be prioritised: the mother or the children. Fragile relationships fall apart as participants tend to be in a place where personal experiences trump theoretical knowledge. Building sisterhood in such a contested space is difficult but women manage it – despite fears of their own situation, fears over giving another woman advice or support that might hurt her. Women on these threads are so very vulnerable and yet they reach outwith the limited time and energy they have to help women they have never met and likely never will.

The first thread I read on the relationships board involved a woman driving two hours in the middle of the night to collect another woman – a complete stranger – who need the space away from her abusive husband. This is not as uncommon a situation as you would think. We can all think of a million things which could have gone wrong here but the very success of the relationships board is that type of help: a woman dropping everything to help a complete stranger. More commonly, we see women sitting up all night with other women who are in fear of a violent partner, or whose child is missing, women who are miscarrying much wanted babies and women who have taken a pill to induce abortion. Historically, this type of support was common in many communities and it was a fundamental part of the second wave of feminism, but it is very different to online communities of women where the creation of a “perfect feminism” has created very rigid communities – some of which engage in abusive behaviour to other women as a way of defining themselves as “better” feminists. Online feminism is often hierarchical erasing the possibility of a sisterhood.

A section of the talk board for mothers caring for children with has similar stories of women supporting women. In many ways, we expect this of women living in these situations – the selflessness of the mother with a severely disabled child is a trope the mainstream media adores. We don’t consider the emotional involvement and time commitments these women put in to supporting other women. Women who are carers are far more likely to live in poverty than other women and have far more demands on their time, due to systemic failures to support them appropriately. Yet, these women give their time freely to support other women through a diagnosis of disability and then to negotiate the welfare system – a task which even professionals find difficult. These stories are replicated in sections for women who have had miscarriages, are dealing with infertility or suffered other bereavements.

Again, this idea of women supporting women is something we expect of women. Our welfare state is built on the unpaid labour of women caring for family members, volunteering in schools and hospitals, campaigning and fundraising for play parks and after school clubs. But, this labour is assumed to be done by ‘good’ women (that is to say white, heterosexual, middle class women) and there exists a hierarchy of women who do the labour and those women who are recipients of this labour. What makes the support offered by women of Mumsnet different is that there is no hierarchy: there are no women who do “good works” and women who must be “helped”. There are women who help women not because it is expected of them but because they want to.

This idea of a collective of women who have political power is very radical. Mumsnet The Business has built on the unpaid labour of its members to create an ethical, pro-woman brand. Mumsnet has successfully extended their brand beyond reviewing products to building a well-respected blogging network, a Mumsnet academy (although the classes are mostly London-based and expensive) and holding an annual award for family-friendly business nominated by its members.

Mumsnet has also given its members a political platform. The success of the brand and the support of the women for other women increased their membership dramatically. This mostly women-only space full of women supporting other women has radicalised large numbers who otherwise felt disenfranchised. These members have started the political campaigns for which Mumsnet has become famous: the Let Girls be Girls campaign[vii] which targeted shops selling a sexualised vision of girlhood which included Tesco’ selling a pole dancing kit for 7 year olds.[viii] Mumsnet has also campaigned for a miscarriage code of practise to be implemented across the NHS because of serious failures in the care of women (and in one rather frightening story, a member on Mumsnet diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy in a woman who had been to A&E twice with bleeding and serious abdominal pain).

The success of these campaigns is built on the relationships among the women on the talk boards. This is best exemplified in the “We Believe You” campaign. This campaign started on the feminism/ woman’s rights board following numerous discussions of what constituted sexual assault. Women were invited to post their stories of “small scale sexual assaults” that they had not reported. This very quickly turned into a thread full of women talking about being raped, sexually assaulted as children and groomed. Many of the women had never shared their experiences before and some did not know that their experience met the legal definition of rape. This mass testimony of sexual violence was only possible because of the way in which women’s relationships exist on Mumsnet. In the end, there were thousands of testimonies made and one member made an informal survey to show the breadth of women’s experiences. At the behest of members, Mumsnet started the “We Believe You”[ix] campaign challenging rape myths in the media. They took professional advice from Rape Crisis and built a formal survey. The campaign coincided with the arrest of footballer Ched Evans for rape and the hashtag #ibelieveher followed. This campaign could not have started nor succeeded without the relationship between members, which was essential after the media started reporting on the campaign using women’s testimonies without permission. Mumsnet HQ came into conflict with members with the business brand of Mumsnet leaving members who had shared stories feeling misused. We Believe You brought a lot of publicity to Mumsnet, something that was not a positive experience for some women.

There are a number of campaigns started by members, which are not associated with the brand of Mumsnet. The Let Toys be Toys[x] campaign challenges gendered stereotyping of toys and has had success in forcing companies to remove gendered labels and the “pink/ blue” divide of toys commonly seen in places like Toys R Us. There is now a spin-off campaign called Let Books be Books[xi]. There are annual charity runs raising money for numerous causes. There is even a Christmas secret santa which started as a way of helping out members in financial difficulties but was extended to members who helped others. This was originally run by members but grew so large that Mumsnet HQ was forced to take over. The financial generosity of Mumsnetters rivals the emotional support and time they donate to other women.

By far, the most colourful example of the way in which sisterhood is created within the space of Mumsnet is Woolly Hugs.[xii] Woolly Hugs started out as a group of women knitting a blanket for a recently bereaved Mumsnetter. It has expanded rapidly to include knitted blankets for children in hospital, children and parents who are recently bereaved, and has links with a charity working with children with cancer overseas. Some of these women learned to knit, crochet and sew in order to participate in this piece of collective feminist sisterhood. This transmission of skills builds on a long history of women’s sewing circles and communal quilting as a way of building friendships outwith the male gaze.

The above does not mean that Mumsnet is a completely safe space for women. The open registration policy of the Talk Board means anyone can join and Mumsnet has endured numerous invasions of male rights extremists – Fathers 4 Justice being a repeat offender going as far as attempting to publish a libellous advertisement because of Mumsnet’s “gender bias”. The fact that women still do a disproportionate amount of childcare and housework[xiii] and that many of the members of Fathers 4 Justice have histories of domestic violence isn’t something their membership was willing to discuss. The male rights extremists tend to stick to certain topics: feminism/woman’s rights, parenting, and the relationships board where the revel in telling women living in violent relationships that they are over-reacting – the team of Edd and Bob being rather infamous in their anti-woman propaganda. Mumsnet’s hands-off approach to moderating the Talk Boards resulted in these anti-women posters being allowed to remain far longer than they should.

Larrygrills, a male member who remains despite his constant misogyny and gaslighting, does so because he posts just within the guidelines for the Talk Board. This allows Larry to suggest that women who have suffered birth trauma are over-reacting because he’s seen his wife give birth twice and she was fine. It is classed as “opinion” rather than gaslighting. Larry’s full posting history contains numerous statements minimising domestic and sexual violence and abuse and suggesting women are over-reacting to all manner of trauma. His posts do not include personal attacks and are viewed as fine. Larry is not by any means the only male poster to use Mumsnet to voice his anti-women rhetoric but he does appear to be the most dedicated. Conversations occur over and around Larry as women seek to minimise the harm he causes others but, again, this puts the onus on women to expend valuable energy pointing out the misogyny and gaslighting.

There is also the issue of what is commonly called “emotional vampires”, which are people who literally drain the energy out of you by coercing you to focus solely on their needs at the expense of your own.[xiv] Mumsnet’s reputation as a source of support for women – regardless of whether or not they are mothers – makes it a very visible target for people who engage in this behaviour. Due to the demographics of Mumsnet, the majority of “emotional vampires” are female.

The poster who used the pseudonym EthanChristopher claimed to be a teenage single parent who was trying to graduate in order to attend university. Many posters, including myself, gave up hours of our time helping EthanChristopher negotiate the welfare system, childcare, and student loans. She turned out be a woman in her mid 40s who was “bored”.

Dizzymare was a woman who claimed to be pregnant with twins with a young toddler. Much of her posting was about money with one of the more widely read threads on the subject of her “silly brother” only buying her a double stroller rather than a triple stroller. There was a clear demand for money and suggestions of how to manage 3 small children with only a double buggy were ignored. Dizzymare’s postings became more emotionally charged with stories of the miscarriage of both twins. Many bereaved mothers supported Dizzymare through her bereavement but she too turned out not to be real. Dizzymare has used the similar story across a number of other parenting platforms, including Bliss, leaving very distressed women in her wake; women who had literally sat up all night with Dizzy when she claimed to be miscarrying. The time and the emotional involvement in supporting Dizzymare was done by women who believed that sisterhood was essential – even if they would not have used that word.

You cannot tell if the person you are supporting is real or trolling and sometimes it is necessary to write a post for those reading it without commenting rather than the original poster – ensuring that accurate information about domestic violence, victim blaming or legal matters is posted. This is an easy statement to say but difficult in practise due to the emotional responses women have to other women in distress. SassySusan, who also trolled under alternative pseudonyms like WashWithCare, was a fairly vitriolic emotional vampire. She attacked women directly rather than the more passive-aggressive posts of Dizzymare. Perhaps the best example is a thread SassySusan started which, among other issues, suggested that women who don’t breastfeed deserve to get breast cancer and die. Infant feeding is a source of great stress for new mothers with both breast and bottle feeders feeling judged and unsupported. As such, it is an excellent source of entertainment for emotional vampires and other trolls. Yet, SassySusan was different to other emotional vampires as she had lost her only child to chicken pox. It is difficult to tell if SassySusan started trolling before or after the loss of her child but the simple fact is she was both a woman in need of support and a woman deliberately and maliciously harming others.

How should Mumsnet HQ respond to a deeply traumatized woman who viciously attacks other vulnerable women? Where is the line between troll and trauma? Do organisations like Mumsnet, whose reputation is based entirely on the women of the Talk Board sharing and supporting one another, have a duty of care to women like SassySusan despite their extremely abusive behaviour? Mumsnet made the difficult decision to ban SassySusan after she stalked and publicly doxxed another member off-board. Whether her behaviour was a response to trauma or a psychological condition is impossible to say but SassySusan remains one of many women who have joined Mumsnet with a view to causing trouble and who have revelled in the pain of other women.

Mumsnet may be an important place online for women but it can never be a completely safe space – and this is without discussing issues of racism, homophobia, misogyny, classism, and disablism of the members themselves. No site with open membership can ever be free of these harmful constructs. Where Mumsnet fails is that it depends on its members to educate others. At what point does a mother with a child with autism no longer need to defend her child to a poster insisting that children with disabilities do not belong in mainstream schools. How often do posts about golliwogs appear with people insisting they are harmless fun? How many times are there threads about applying for schools which completely ignore the fact that women living in poverty in estates with only one school have no choice. How often should lesbian mothers be expected to tolerate homophobia (the answer for one member of Mumsnet was several years of lesbophobic abuse before the other woman was finally banned).

The reality is that Mumsnetters who invest the time and emotional support for other women are dependent on Mumsnet being a safe space even though this safe space can never actually exist. The women who have used and built the virtual space and made friends within that space may not be representative of the women reading the posts on the site. It is also very easy to fall into friendship groups that feel exclusionary to newcomers. Mumsnet suffers the same problems with other women-only spaces not founded on feminist principles (and even then these are not always safe).

Equally, the way in which Mumsnetters have used this accidental space has changed the definition of sisterhood from women who meet in real life and have similar political goals – as seen in second wave feminism’s consciousness raising groups. – to a much broader definition. This definition is predicated on support for other women – with contested theories of friendship and sisterhood coming into conflict. In many ways Mumsnet has become a consciousness raising group, particularly for those women who cannot do “real life”. Coming together for campaigning does not necessarily result in the same friendships developed by women with small children. Both can be temporary friendships based on need at the point in the women’s lives but there is also a questioning of what sisterhood fundamentally means: is it unconditional support or passionate support as espoused by Liz Kelly. How do women negotiate online friendships, many using pseudonyms where it is possible to share everything without worrying about your next door neightbour finding out, when we are taught that women’s friendships aren’t “real” and that they are predicated on competition and hierarchies? How can we protect these safe spaces from trolls and men’s rights extremists without making it difficult for other women to find the support? How do we protect that sisterhood when it is under constant attack due to a patriarchal backlash? After all, much of the media stories on Mumsnet are about how horrible the women are – even the women knitting those beautiful blankets for children at York hospital with terminal illnesses.

 

[i]Brown takes break in biscuit quiz, BBC News Online. 17.10.2009 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8312215.stm) Acc. 10.9.14

[ii] Nick Duerden, “Why has Mumsnet developed such an awkward reputation?” The Independent 12.5.2013 (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/why-has-mumsnet-developed-such-an-awkward-reputation-8607914.html)

[iii] Mumsnet: About Us. http://www.mumsnet.com/info/aboutus. Acc. 10.9.14

[iv] Lucy, Kellaway, Justine Roberts of Mumsnet. 20.12.2013. FT Magazine (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/aa1f78ea-66af-11e3-8675-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3DQ1ADIK7) Acc. 10.9.14

[v]Mumsnet Webchats (http://www.mumsnet.com/onlinechats)

[vi]Kimberle Crenshaw, Mapping the Margins, Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Colour, Stanford Law Review, (http://socialdifference.columbia.edu/files/socialdiff/projects/Article__Mapping_the_Margins_by_Kimblere_Crenshaw.pdf)

[vii]Let Girls be Girls Campaign. (http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/let-girls-be-girls ) Launched 2010.

[viii] Tesco’s “Toy” Pole Dancing Kit. Mirror. 23.10.2006 (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tescos-toy-pole-dance-kit-646625)

[ix]We Believe You Rape Awareness Campaign (http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/we-believe-you-mumsnet-rape-awareness-campaign)

[x]Let Toys be Toys campaign (http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/)

[xi] Let Books be Books (http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/letbooksbebooks/)

[xii] Woolly Hugs (http://beta.woollyhugs.com)

[xiii] Susan Maushart,Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women, (Bloomsbury, 2003)

Arlie Russell Hochschild with Anne Machung, The Second Shift, (Penguin Books, 1989)

[xiv] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201101/whos-the-emotional-vampire-in-your-life

Some brief thoughts on Emma Watson UN Speech on #HeForShe  

I was interviewed by BBC Radio Tees this morning on whether feminism is necessary following Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. I spoke with a male journalist (who clearly doesn’t like feminists) and Angela Epstein who has made a career out of belittling feminism. These are the notes I wrote just before the interview:

Reasons for Feminism:

General:

  1. 2 women a week are murdered by current or former partners – this does not include homicides perpetrated by extended family members including fathers and brothers.
  2. 40 women an hour are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  3. Women and children are the vast majority of victims and refugees of war yet are very rarely represented at national and international peace agreements.
  4. 150 women a day are turned away from refuges in the UK due to lack of space.
  5. Women are more likely to suffer ill health and death due to male violence than they are to die from cancer, heart disease and car accidents.
  6. Women still earn less than men for the same work – this gap is wider for Women of Colour.
  7. Last year, a 13 year old girl was labelled “sexually predatory” in all her actions by the attorney responsible for prosecuting her perpetrator of sexual assault – an appalling breach of her human rights which only got national attention due to the work of Ending Victimisation and Blame
  8. 1400 girls were sexually abused, raped and trafficked in Rotherham whilst the police, social services, CPS, and schools did nothing. The media has reported this as if it was a one-off event rather than simply an exemplar of what is happening to girls across the UK every day in places like Nottingham, York and Sheffield
  9. Jimmy Savile was allowed to continue sexually assaulting and raping hundreds of young girls and boys whilst working for the BBC and engaged in “charity work”. He was given his own rooms in hospitals. Staff everywhere knew and no one stepped up to support the children.

More obviously, feminism is important because a young woman stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. For this, she has had threats of sexual violence through the theft and release of private images and all manner of abuse. This is why feminism is necessary – because women have no right to an opinion in the public sphere.

Reasons for feminism pertaining directly to Emma Watson:

  1. The threat to release of photos of Watson nude which have been stolen and then released publicly: this is sexual violence
  2. Count down clock to Watson being “legal”
  3. the fact that the Daily Mail published an article on her outfit rather than the speech

 

My issues with Watson’s speech:

  • no practical advise on how to change,
  • very little structural analysis: remains embedded in neoliberal discourse on choice
  • the word feminism is important. There is a reason why that word is derided and insulted – it’s because the word has power. It makes it clear why women are trapped in continuing cycles of poverty, male violence and child-bearing and rearing,
  • Watson calls for men’s inclusion but ignores why men do not want to support women’s rights as it challenges their power,
  • real male allies do not need to be coaxed into clicking a button on a website. They are already doing the work by reading and listening to feminists and then putting their knowledge into practise by supporting women’s liberation,
  • We need to stop stroking men’s egos and worrying about their feelings. We’ve had 10 000 years of human history where women have been raped, tortured and murdered. Men have the power to change this and have chosen not too. We need to stop focusing on being inclusive to men and start actively challenging them,
  • This statement is odd: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled”
    • Women aren’t compelled to be submissive, they have no choice. Men do have a choice to be controlling and they make the choice to engage in this behaviour within the home and within the public sphere. Men absolutely do suffer because of gendered stereotypes but we need to be clear that men who use violence are making a choice to do so – if we think otherwise, we insult all the men who make the choice to act like a decent human being.

I do have criticisms of Watson’s speech but more importantly, I am dancing with joy that she stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. As a mother of members of the Harry Potter generation, I am ecstatic by this speech. As a feminist, I am happy that Watson stood up and defended women. I do have concerns about her speech, particularly the idea that we don’t need the word feminism, but I am so fucking glad she made it.

Here’s a great post from Clementine Ford on Watson’s speech.

The New York Times thinks the People of Scotland are Stupid

After the response to my previous post on the Scottish Referendum, I swore I wasn’t going to speak publicly about it again. Being called a neo-Nazi for voting no somewhat pissed me off. Then, I found this piece of unmitigated, offensive drivel in my tabs and remembered that I was pissed off with the New York Times

They start with this:

Scotland has been England’s junior partner in the United Kingdom since 1707. But three centuries is no time at all in the view of many Scots, who regularly re-enact 14th century sword battles they had with the English and have insisted on self-determination, on and off, ever since. That prospect is now nearer than ever. Scottish voters will decide on Thursday whether to become independent once again.

Some of you, like say the New York Times, might be surprised to lean that re-enactment is a huge industry in the US. In fact, you can’t turn on an American detective show without at least one episode dedicated to some dude shooting some other dude with a converted civil war rifle. This is without getting into the issue of people prancing about in civil war uniforms pretending the civil war was all about battles without mentioning the teensy-tiny side issue of slavery. People dressed up in historical costumes, prancing about and arguing about the exact second at which a cannon was fired is hardly confined to the Scots. Googling American Civil War reenactment found a German group which enjoys it – although quite how one reenacts a war on a totally different continent is beyond me (or why anyone would get up in the middle of night to stand about in badly fitted clothing waiting for someone else to shoot a gun).

All of this is the type of ridiculous drivel one expects from a media which has skipped facts for salacious coverage and desperation. But then, they said this:

One might expect the referendum to be a question of national identity, of men in skirts and whiskey and “Braveheart” nostalgia, but hard economics have dominated the debate: What currency will Scotland use? How will revenue from North Sea oil reserves be divided (or will it)? Who will shoulder the burden of public debt?

Yep, that’s the New York Times expressing shock at the ability of Scottish people to like think and have opinions and stuff. They’ve pretty much stated that they assumed Scottish people were too dim to think about important stuff like the economy. Nope, we’re just a nation of men in skirts, drunk on Whiskey who get over-excited about historically inaccurate Mel Gibson films.

This is our mainstream “respected” media: expressing shock that people who live in other countries aren’t stupid.

Voting No : As the least bad options (plus, my list of demands)

I voted no to independence because it was the least bad option (and my friend voted yes because she thought it was the least bad option).

I voted no because Holyrood already has devolved power over education, healthcare, law, social work and housing and has had the ability to make a real difference in terms of poverty and the health and wellbeing of its citizens. It has never chosen to use any of those devolved powers to make a real difference for the lives of its citizens and I don’t believe independence would change that. Far too many children in Scotland live in poverty and the long-term health outcomes for our children is awful. Our children deserve better than this – they deserve better than either Holyrood or Westminster.

Our children deserve to be educated in buildings which are water-tight, properly insulated and with access to good quality resources like libraries, gyms, art rooms, music, specialist math and language teachers and proper, clean toilets. They deserve to be appropriately supported according to their individual needs. They deserve to have playgrounds big enough to run about it and local councils should be legally prohibited from selling off playgrounds to build housing.

All people, regardless if they own their homes, rent or live in social and council accommodation deserve the right to live in water-tight, fit-for-purpose housing which exceeds the minimum standards set out by the European Union (a standard which the vast majority of Edinburgh council properties have not met until recent legal requirements). Our children deserve to grow up in houses without mould, asbestos and inadequate sanitation.

I voted no because prisoners in Scotland had to go to the EU human rights court to have basic access to a toilet – losing immediate EU membership and the right to access that court is what turned my vote despite my belief in the right of self-determination.

I voted no because Edinburgh city council didn’t bother to invest money in housing until it was legally forced to do so by the EU.

I voted no because a child in Edinburgh was killed this year after an internal school wall fell  on her.

I voted no because Edinburgh city council knew in December 2013 that Duncan Place Resource Centre required an immediate intensive survey of its safety following a brief survey of all assets belonging to dept. of children and families and that this survey wasn’t undertaken until September and only then because the council happened to be surveying a different building. Duncan Place Resource Centre has now been closed and is awaiting a survey for asbestos before any repairs (or replacement) of facilities could happen. But, it was completely acceptable for children to be in a building with a potential asbestos problem.

I voted no because the Scottish Parliament was built using labour from illegal immigrants who were paid well-below the minimum wage and lived in substandard accommodation but no wants to talk about that.

I voted no because Alex Salmond had the power to over-turn the democratic process to sell land to Donald Trump to build a golf card that the actual residents voted against (again and again).

I voted no because we need membership of the EU to ensure that all our citizens are treated as humans.

I voted no because I don’t believe Holyrood is a better proposition than Westminster. They are equally bad options – and independence requires either a sound economic base or the desire to fundamentally reshape society. Neither side could promise either.

 

What I want to see immediately:

  • extending the right to vote to 16 & 17 year olds in all local elections
  • free fruit and milk to all primary aged children
  • extending free school meals to include children whose parents receive working tax credits
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in school assets, particularly buildings which are rated “c” or “d”
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in all community buildings
  • immediate ring-fenced investment in local parks
  • immediate investment in mental health services via the NHS and through departments of education, children and families and social services.
  • immediate investment in health and wellness clinics for women and babies
  • increased funding to dental health care
  • increased funding to the NHS – particularly in regards to mental health and life-limiting illnesses
  • investment in care homes for the elderly or people living with disabilities
  • better funding for programs in the violence against women and girls sector
  • more community, preemptive policing working with young people as opposed to criminalising them
  • a complete overhaul of the legal system as it pertains to domestic and sexual violence and abuse – including mandatory specialist training for all attorneys, judges, police, politicians, teachers and social workers.
  • a ban on the use of rape myths as a defence
  • a named support worker for all victims of violence going through the court process – especially in sexual violence and domestic abuse

And, this is just to start.

#DickheadDetox : The Entire Cast of the Expendables 3

I knew about Mel Gibson’s history of misogyny and racism. Hell, who hasn’t heard the video tape of Gibson shouting racist vitriol at a police officer several years ago.  I had absolutely no idea that most of the male main cast of the Expendables have histories of domestic violence.  – not until I read Kate Harding’s article in Dame Magazine:

The Expendables 3, featuring Mel Gibson, is currently in theaters. The successful movie franchise has also starred Mickey Rourke, who was charged with spousal abuse in 1994; Wesley Snipes, who allegedly beat one of his girlfriends until she was mostly deaf in one ear; Sylvester Stallone, whose late half-sister accused him of abuse; Stone Cold Steve Austin, accused more than once of assaulting an intimate partner; Eric Roberts, ditto; Jean-Claude Van Damme, whose third wife charged him with spousal abuse; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, as governor of California, repeatedly blocked spending on domestic-violence programs and shelters. Just in case you were tempted to think of Gibson as some kind of anomaly.

As Harding says, it doesn’t matter what they’ve done. We will ignore it and keep celebrating these “great” men.

Ray Rice, Domestic Violence and the Importance of Specialist Refuge Services

American footballer Ray Rice has been fired from the Baltimore Ravens following gossip-site TMZ’s release of the video of Rice punching his then partner (now wife) Janay Palmer unconscious and dragging her from the lift of a hotel by the hair. This “altercation”, as the media then labelled it, was covered by mainstream press with photographic stills from the CCTV in the hotel. Yet, in the 24 hours since TMZ has released the full footage of the assault, the media and a number of pundits have chosen to proclaim their total surprise at just how violent the assault committed by Rice was. And, people are watching the video as if its part of the WWE Saturday night showcase.

Let’s be very clear here: Rice was arrested directly after the incident. It was very clear in the media reports that Palmer was punched so hard as to render her unconscious and then she dragged from the lift by her hair. Almost every article was accompanied by a still taken from the video.The police investigating arrested both Rice and Palmer.

This is the reality of domestic violence: a victim is held as responsible as the perpetrator even when the victim is knocked unconscious.  People are blithely claiming shock and surprise about a violent altercation in which all the details were made public months ago. What is the difference between watching a video and reading the words “punched unconscious and dragged from a lift by her hair”. Do people genuinely not understand those words or the images that accompanied them that they needed the video to understand the full brutality of the attack?

The Baltimore Ravens certainly seem to claim so since they waited until today to fire Ray Rice. The police and prosecutor certainly didn’t, since Rice just ended up on some domestic violence awareness program. And, the NFL certainly are pretending ignorance since they only suspended Rice for two games. The fact that the NFL had to change their policy on players involved in domestic violence in August because of protests about Rice’s lenient sentence is evidence that claims of little to no knowledge are utter horseshit – although, it’s pretty telling that many of the complaints taken seriously were about players being given longer sentences for drug use than for violence. The NFL’s policy change isn’t so much about their stance on domestic violence than it is on their stance on illegal steroid use.

This is why our specialist refuge services are so very important and must be saved. When even the police arrest women for being a victim of domestic violence, we cannot depend on the system to protect women. We need these safe spaces so that women can live free from domestic violence within a supportive environment with qualified, professional staff who understand the coercive control which is the basis of domestic violence. Giving the contract to run refuges to non-specialised services like housing associations puts the lives of women and children at risk.

We need to do better to protect victims of domestic violence and this needs to start with saving our refuges.:

PETITION

Help us save refuges, save lives

 Our world leading national network of refuges is facing an urgent crisis. Across England, more and more specialist refuges are experiencing massive funding cuts and being closed down. This crisis will cost lives.

SOS women and children turned away

We risk losing this life-saving network of services if we do not act now.

We are calling on the government to Save Our Services by committing to preserving the national network of specialist refuges by exploring a new model of national refuge funding and commissioning.

What is happening to specialist refuges across England?

SOS specialist services

Specialist refuges are services which are designed to meet the needs specifically of women domestic violence survivors and their children. The specialist and woman-only nature of services ensures that women and children feel safe, secure and supported and removes any barriers to them finding a safe place when they are escaping domestic violence. Specialist refuges help women and children escape, cope and rebuild their lives after domestic violence.

Being in a refuge might be the first safe space that children and young people may have had in a long time. Specialist provision for children and young people from refuge staff is vital as it allows them to have their health and educational needs addressed individually. Children and young people can also explore the impact of the abuse they have experienced in an understanding environment, which can minimise long term negative cognitive, behavioural and emotional effects, enabling them to reach their potential. To find out more about what a refuge is like inside take a tour around our Virtual Refuge on The Hideout website.

Our national network of specialist domestic violence refuges is in crisis like never before:

• Between 2010 and 2014 (July) the number of specialist refuge services decreased from 187 to 155.

In England, according to Council of Europe recommendations, there is a shortfall of 1,727 refuge bedspaces (32%).

• In one day in 2013, 155 women and their 103 children were turned away from refuge because they could not be accommodated.

•  48% of 167 domestic violence services in England said that they were running services without funding. Six refuge services were being run without dedicated funding and using up their reserves to keep their services going.

• Between April and July 2014, ten specialist domestic violence services across England lost funding for services they were providing. All but one of these nine services lost their services to a non-specialist service provider.

• Our world leading national network of refuges is facing an urgent crisis. Please help us Save Our Services.

PETITION

#DickheadDetox XVALA for sexual violence

XVALA is apparently an “artist” – in the loosest possible definition of the word who has somehow managed to get himself a show at the Cory Allen Contemporary Art (CACA) in Florida. Personally, I’ve never heard of either of them but that’s because I prefer my artists not to engage in or perpetrate sexual violence.

Now, I’m sure XVALA (whoever or whatever that is) will be having absolute kittens about me suggesting they are engaged in sexual violence but his latest “show” (if you can call it that) is called Fear Google and will feature images of Jennifer Lawrence, stolen from iCloud  in the latest hacker crime, and Scarlett Johansonn, whose images were stolen several years ago. Supposedly showing life size images of women naked, taken without consent, is to demonstrate how people are “used”.

Let’s be perfectly clear here: taking images without consent is a violation of privacy. Stealing images (and not leaking FFS) of women naked or having sex is part of the spectrum of sexual violence. Selling or viewing these stolen images is sexual violence.

XVALA’s use of these images isn’t art. It’s participating and encouraging the sexual assault of women. He has no right to pretend the use of these images is art. He has no right to use these images. The gallery has no right to display these images. This is sexual exploitation.

Every single person who looks at these images is engaged in the sexual assault of the women.

XVALA is on the #DickheadDetox for participating in rape culture and sexual violence.

 

Ceelo Green: Still Fighting to be #1 on the #DickheadDetox

Ceelo Green’s been on the #DickheadDetox for a while now what with his history of violence against women and inability to take responsibility for his own actions.

His latest foray into proving he’s a violent asshole involves the following tweets:

ceelo-green CeeLo-Green-tweets

I can’t say anything new from what I’ve said before about Green’s perpetuation and perpetration of rape culture but I love the following graphic which I first saw via Ultraviolet

BwrVZeGCIAEtuGe

Jennifer Lawrence is a victim of sexual violence.

Jennifer Lawrence is a victim of sexual violence – so is every single person who has had a photograph or video of them naked or engaged in sex. This runs the gamut from Vanessa Hudgens, Prince Harry, and every single teenage girl who has had images of them passed about the internet.

This isn’t a subject open to debate or which has ‘nuances’: sharing these images is sexual assault. Viewing these images is sexual assault. As I’ve said many times before, publishing these types of images is sexual assault.

There have been some incredibly important blogs written on this “leak of images” today, all of which make it very clear that accessing images you are not given permission to see is, at the very least, immoral – and a crime if the images are used to humiliate, denigrate or abuse. Sharing, distributing or viewing images involving nudity or sex are a crime of sexual violence.

If you are looking at these images or sharing them, you are committing sexual assault. You are perpetrating rape culture. YOU are the problem – not the women in the photos.

Some reading:

Jennifer Lawrence Doesn’t Need to Laugh This One Off at The Daily Beast

Stealing Intimate Photos is a Sex Crime, and Should Be Treated As Such. at Belle Jar

Reports on ‘Leaked Nude Photos‘ — Just Another Form of Victim-Blaming at Crates & Ribbons