The Right to Abortion on Demand

Yesterday was the International Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion. Whilst abortion is legal in the UK, it is not available on demand.* Abortion can only be carried out in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors agree that “abortion would cause less damage to a woman’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy”. That’s only if you’re lucky enough to live on the mainland. Abortion isn’t available in Northern Ireland. There are some obvious exceptions to the 24 week rule involving saving the life of the mother or preventing grave or serious injury to her; as well as the more difficult issue of aborting a fetus due to disability.** 

I find any limits on abortion problematic. I think all women should have access to abortion when they want it without having to faff about finding two doctors who agree to the procedure. Having to find two doctors just extends the unwanted pregnancy unnecessarily causing added stress. The right to decide what does and does not happen to one’s own body is a fundamental issue of self-determination. I believe that women have the right to abortion at any point in their pregnancy; after all 91% of abortions in 2011 were before 13 weeks. There are very, very few abortions after the 24 week point and, no, the Sarah Catt case isn’t representative of anything. She was denied an abortion and therefore chose to self-abort. Catt was also not convicted under the abortion laws; instead she was found guilty of an archaic law from the mid 19th century. Women are perfectly capable of deciding if and when they need an abortion without having to discuss it with two doctors; doctors who may or may not be anti-choicers.

The language around accessing abortion itself infantilises women. We can only have an abortion if someone else tells us we can. Not because we want one. Not because we need one. But, because someone else deems it medically necessary. Abortion should be available to women at any point in the pregnancy because the woman deems it necessary and not because someone else gave her permission to do so. I also dislike the rhetoric around “good” abortions for victims of rape versus “bad” abortions for women who have had the temerity to have consensual sex without wanting to get pregnant. Any attempts to create a hierarchy of acceptable reasons for women to have abortions just limits women’s choices. It is the heart of woman-hating. This is without getting into the fact that many women have to access abortions for financial reasons. It’s hardly a choice if you are having an abortion because you can not afford to feed a child. That is why we have a welfare state [or did before the ConDems destroyed it]. Limiting access to abortion gives others rights over women’s bodies. It serves only as a punishment for the crime of being born with a vagina.

Whilst the anti-abortion movement in the US is far more frightening than in the UK, we are at a point where our reproductive rights are under attack. Jeremy Hunt, the new Secretary of State for Health, has voted to decrease the abortion limit from 24 to 12 weeks [and not actually explained how this will work whilst still requiring two doctors to sign off on the abortion]. Several members of the anti-abortion group Abort67 have been found not guilty of public order offences in Brighton despite their clear tactics of harassment and intimidation of women entering the BUPAS clinic. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children have been holding protests across the UK [and roundly counter-protested under the banner SPUC OFF]. This is nothing more than a War on Women.

Today, there are rolling protests across the UK demanding:

  • The right to abortion on demand 
  • The decriminalisation of abortion
  • Access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland 
  • The global decriminalisation of abortion
There are protests in: 
  • Dundee from 2-4 pm on Reform Street
  • Dublin: 2 pm on O’Connell Street
  • London: 2 pm at Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament
I’m going to protest today. I hope other women join us.

* This bit is fairly obvious if you live in the UK so feel free to skip it.

** Access to abortion on demand needs to be accompanied by real sexual health education in schools, increased availability of birth control and a welfare state to assist those who choose to continue with their pregnancy.

Apparently, Feminists Can Only Concentrate On One Thing at a Time

At least, Sarah O’Meara seems to be implying that Feminists are incapable of being worried about more than one thing at a time in her article Give Me Page Three Models Over “Celebrity News” Any Day in the Huffington Post; a newspaper well-known for its refusal to to publish news about “celebrity culture”. Of course, the article is really nothing more than one of those self-serving defences of porn in which anyone who even thinks about the harm caused to individuals within the porn industry and its wider effects on human sexuality in general is immediately anti-sex. We can’t possibly have taken the time to think about how harmful it is for young teenagers to learn about their sexuality and healthy relationships from the pornography freely available on the internet. We can’t possibly have thought about how restrictive the sexuality porn dictates is. We can’t possibly have thought about the how much damage is caused by the rape and torture of vulnerable women’s [and children] bodies. Not only that, we can only concentrate on one thing at a time so either we tackle page 3 OR celebrity culture. But not both.

See, oddly, I think that both the Sun’s soft-porn Page 3 and the obsession with celebrities help perpetuate rape culture. They are both part of the pornographication of society; the celebration of vapidity and the objectification of women’s bodies.  I think they are destroying our children. I think that the people who buy celebrity magazines are culpable in perpetuating extremely damaging and narrow misogynistic constructions of sex and gender. I think the obsession with reality television, whether it be X-Factor or the Kardashians, serves only to function as nothing more than the 21st century version of the 19th century freak show. They are both harmful.

But, you know what, I can campaign against Page 3 and celebrity culture. At the same time. Shocking, I know. So, when other women write things like this:

However, this tired, out-dated crusade against Page Three comes at a time when the rest of mainstream media is actively conquering and exploiting a far more insidious form of female objectification. … 

While feminists feebly fight the Sun, the online titillation monster grows daily, snatching bite-sized chunks of celebrity bikinis from the hands of news publications and serving them up to whomever types ‘Kim Kardashian’ and ‘bikini’ into Google. … 

Instead of fretting over the Sun, let’s start being a little more honest about how the media is really warping men’s minds towards women.

I have to wonder about their motivation. Why are they belittling a campaign against objectification in one specific area by claiming that feminists don’t see the harm caused in other areas? I’ve never met a feminist who didn’t think reality TV and celebrity culture were toxic. I’ve never met a feminist who wasn’t campaigning about several things on several fronts ALL at the same time. I find myself increasingly bored by this assumption that feminists are too stupid to do more than one thing at once. This is the kind of misogynistic twaddle I expect from men like Neil Wallis. Not other women.

Zach Braff: Yet Another Right-On Dude.

Because, obviously, there can never be enough left-wing dudes supporting the Patriarchy. Chris Brown is apparently busy this week so Zack Braff has donned his Patriarchal Chain Mail in order to ensure that women understand that we are nothing but liars who like to be sexually harassed. Because, if we weren’t told at least twice a day, we might get confused and think we have opinions. Or, even more shockingly, believe we are human. I am so glad Braff took time out of his busy life as a misogynist in order to remind me that, as a woman, I am nothing more than the punchline. 

I mean I don’t actually expect Braff to not be sexist. I’ve seen Scrubs. It was a serious pile of misogynistic twaddle dressed up as humour; you know, that excuse that all sexist bucketheads use as a reason for being arseholes. I still have nightmares about the episode where all the characters go off to some beach for a wedding and everyone makes fun of Carla for being “mumsy” and not sexy enough. She was pregnant with a young infant AND had serious post-natal depression but an entire episode was built around her being unfuckable because she wouldn’t wear a bikini. But, it all ended okay because Carla put on that bikini to service her man. So, Braff, has always been on my list of misogynistic arseholes. 

But, really, does he have to use twitter to reinforce the whole women as liars trope. Since @weekwoman (among others) challenged him last night, Braff has deleted some of the more offensive tweets like: 

@zachbraff“Ugh, I hate it when men look at my ass on the Stairmaster”- #WomenLies 

He did leave up: 

 @zachbraff “I just want a nice guy with zero drama.” – #WomenLies @zachbraff “We just made out a little, nothing else happened.” – #WomenLies

And, yeah, he did join in with the #MenLies hashtag making asinine comments about porn, but, seriously, reinforcing male stereotypes is harmful but it does not have the same toxic support of rape culture that insisting all women are liars does. 

Oh, and before someone brings up the issue of “Free Speech”, free speech is about the right to criticise governments and political structures without censure or punishment. It is NOT the right to be an offensive jackass just for the sake of it. 

So, Mike Tyson is a “Wrongly- Convicted” Rapist”

At least, one of the organisers of Mike Tyson’s latest money-making event is claiming that he’s a “wrongly convicted rapist” in a phone conversation with a local resident Kim Graham who is concerned about the hero-worshipping of a convicted rapist. Tyson, you know, the convicted rapist, is now a “motivational speaker” and has been invited to speak at a dinner event in Gorleston, Norfolk. Quite why anyone would pay to hear a convicted rapist claim not to be a rapist is beyond me. Mostly, Tyson makes me equally nauseous and angry. He continues to minimise his violent behaviour and his conviction for rape [not to mention those pesky domestic violence rumours he likes to pretend aren’t true]. Yet, people still pay to hear him deny his violence. He’s even got Spike Lee to direct him in a one-man play. And, people claim we don’t live in a society that hates women. 

Carl Moore, who is sponsoring the event with EBF Boxing [I’ve never heard of either of them but have duly noted their names under the heading of arsehole misogynists] is the man responsible for this “wrongly-convicted” malarkey. Other venues have canceled Tyson’s “motivational speeches” after a public outcry. We need to make it clear that convicted rapists aren’t heroes. Men who violently rape 18 year olds aren’t misunderstood or deserving of sympathy. They deserve our condemnation.

Tyson is due to speak at the Ocean Rooms in Gorleston on October 12th. There is a petition available here. This is the text of the petition: 
Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist who served three years of a six year sentence for raping an 18 year old woman. He has been completely unrepentant.
We see fewer than 6% of rapists convicted of their crimes, and even in the result of a conviction, survivors and victims struggle to be believed. By providing an event that celebrates a convicted rapist, we send the message out that rapists are role models; a harmful message for both survivors and for young people. 
The idea of giving a convicted rapist a “hero’s welcome” is both deeply offensive and damaging.
You can also contact the venue directly

Ocean Rooms
Pier Gardens
Gorleston, Norfolk
NR31 6PP
Phone: 01493 667890


Kim Graham has added this to the text of the petition: 
I had the “pleasure” of speaking to Carl Moore, the organiser of the event earlier this evening. When I asked Moore why he felt having a convicted rapist was a suitable speaker at an event, he tried to tell me that Tyson (who pleaded guilty at his trial) was wrongly convicted, that Tyson had been told he’d walk free were he to plead guilty. 
We already see a situation where most rapists walk free, through being found “not guilty” due to a failing legal system. Sadly, in the rare situations where rapists are convicted of their crimes, where they even plead guilty, we’re still faced with a situation where the survivor of the crime isn’t believed.  
Words, such as Moore’s, are an insult to rape survivors, and a mockery of those who finally see a conviction. This event cannot continue.

Publishing Nude Photos Without Consent is Sexualised Violence

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll be saying it again shortly: Publishing nude photos of someone without their consent is sexualised violence. It doesn’t matter if its Prince Harry, Kate Middleton or Paris Hilton. This is an issue of consent not free speechFreedom of speech is not the right to be a jackass. It is not the right to do something just because you can. We need to stop buying into the discourse that free speech is more important than anything else. Supporting free speech in this manner only serves to perpetuate rape culture. 

This is what I wrote when this same discussion came up several weeks ago but with Prince Harry as the object:

Publishing photos of people either naked or in other sexually compromising positions is sexualised violence. This should apply as equally to bucketheaded princes as it does to vulnerable 17 year olds. And, the media aren’t the only ones responsible for perpetuating this sexualised violence. Every time ordinary people google these images, they are buying into and feeding the sexual exploitation industry and helping to increase the number of sexually exploited people. The whole reality television and “celeb” magazines industry need to die. Today. People need to stop financially supporting the sexualised violence of others. This serves only to feed rape culture.

Whilst I think Prince Harry was a victim of sexualised violence, I do think there is something qualitatively different about publishing the photos of Kate Middleton’s breasts. We live in a rape culture which objectifies women’s bodies as fucktoys. Prince Harry’s photos were celebrated as evidence of his cheekiness. Kate Middleton is already been blamed for having the temerity of taking off her shirt in private [and this thread on Mumsnet is disgraceful. Such vicious victim-blaming horseshit]. Publishing nude photos of a woman without their consent just reinforces the very specific gendered vulnerability of women. It just demonstrates how little value women really have in rape culture.

The people who take these images are perpetuating rape culture.

The magazines which publish these photos are perpetuating rape culture.

The people who buy these celebrity magazines are perpetuating rape culture.

The people who google these images are perpetuating rape culture.

The people who think it’s part of being a celebrity are perpetuating rape culture.

Kate Middleton married a man. She didn’t sign up to be sexually assaulted. Her wedding vows did not include the end to her privacy. The person who took the photo should be prosecuted. The magazine that published the photo should be prosecuted. 

As much as I dislike the Royal Family, I hope they sue.

Naomi Wolf: The One Where I Wear A Tin Hat

I have already written about Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina three times now; despite not actually having read the book. Well, technically, two blogs were about Vagina; the other was about Wolf’s utterly hypocritical and perplexing stance on Assange. But, that’s not quite the point. Normally, I’d be the first to yell “foul” at a critic who hasn’t actually read the book they are critiquing but there are always exceptions to the rules. And, Vagina is one of them. There have been some excellent analyses of the book published recently, notably by Ariel Levy in The New Yorker. Others have veered into unnecessary sexist discourse; there are enough problems with the book that need to be addressed, Wolf’s physical appearance isn’t one of them. 

Of course, Wolf isn’t exactly helping herself with her appearance on Mumsnet or with this article in the Guardian [deconstructed by Glosswatch here]. In general, I have serious problems with Wolf’s research and I think evolutionary psychology is just a bunch of teleological horseshit pretending to be academic. It’s not. It’s just bupkis. But, increasingly, I am beginning to feel that Naomi Wolf is the American academic version of Liz Jones: ostensibly the quintessential handmaiden. Like Jones, I think Wolf is being deliberately set up as an object of mockery. The attacks on Wolf as a person, rather than on the book itself, are simply further evidence of woman-blaming culture. Yes, the book itself deserves ridicule for trying to pass off a personal story as science but the fault for that doesn’t lie with Wolf alone, although her obvious inability to see outwith her own very narrow definition of truth is quite distressing.

If Vagina were an academic text, it would have been peer-reviewed. Any academic publisher with an ounce of sense would have sent proofs to academics involved in research in the field of neuroscience [and evolutionary psychology but I think they make it up as they go along so I wouldn’t have put too much credence into their stance]. The problem is that Vagina isn’t an academic text even though Wolf herself is an academic [yes, one without a PhD but that’s hardly shocking considering the misogyny which inhabits academia; technically, I could class myself as an academic despite not having a PhD so I’m hardly going to hold that against Wolf]. Vagina wasn’t properly peer-reviewed because for the publishers a text by Naomi Wolf isn’t valuable for its scholarship so much as for its eccentricity; she is marketable not as a serious female academic but rather as a somewhat out-there celebrity woman. In other words, they knew they would sell more copies of the book by setting her up for ridicule than they would by presenting it as an academic text on emerging research into neuroscience, sex, sexuality and gender. Wolf is known as a celebrity, not as an academic. Her reputation is that of someone eccentric; a little bit off of centre. She is the acceptable face of feminism in the Patriarchy: kooky and apologetic. But, she’s also a middle aged woman and middle aged women are supposed to be invisible and frigid simultaneously. We aren’t supposed to be talking about our vaginas. Wolf’s publishers went for pulp fiction under the disguise of academic research because they knew it would sell and not because they were interested in changing discourse around sexuality and feminism. They published it because it was a middle aged white woman talking about her vagina. Not just any white woman though. A celebrity. They published it because of Wolf’s celebrity but also to spite it.

And, this is the problem. Vagina is being given consideration as if it were an academic publication when, in reality, it is within the self-help genre of literature. Alright, I dislike the self-help genre but that’s a personal thing. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with self-help books unless they perpetuate victim-blaming myths and misogyny; like that ridiculous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “no one can make you feel inferiour without your consent”. Instead, Vagina is being advertised as blurring the boundaries between self-help and academic books. This isn’t to say that academic books are morally superiour. I’ve read some seriously awful misogynistic and racist shite published by academics. Academia doesn’t have the best reputation for supporting research about non-white, non-dead men written by non-white men. Really, in terms of hypocrisy, academic texts are frequently in a class all to themselves. The problem with the blurring in this case is that it has taken something subjective and insisted on objectivity. Most academics understand that objectivity isn’t exactly an achievable goal. So, why does Vagina claim it is?

Vagina is only a feminist text in the way that Caitlyn Moran’s How To Be A Woman is one. That is to say they were both advertised as feminist texts when they were really memoirs that also discuss feminism. They are books written by celebrities about being celebrities. They occupy that weird position between celebrity and news. But, they aren’t feminist texts and, therefore, aren’t really worthy of the scrutiny they have been given as feminist texts. It’s rather like taking the biography of Victoria Beckham as representative of the experience of all mothers in their 30s.* 

The real strength in Moran’s book is the discussions it spawned rather than its feminist analysis. Sometimes the conversations spawned are more important than the text which spawned them. I think Vagina is one of those texts because the discussions around women’s sexuality, reputation, race, neuroscience and feminist theory have already kicked off. It’s just incredibly sad that Naomi Wolf’s reputation is being ground into the dust. I think this is where we should have seen real feminist sister solidarity: most women would talk their friends out of publishing such a book without being more aware of the science behind it. A real sister would have counselled against taking a personal experience and universalising it as truth. A real sister would have asked questions about the cult of celebrity and ask why the Patriarchy would publish a book like this to such fanfare.

But, that’s the real answer. The Patriarchy wouldn’t want a serious book on neuroscience, sex, gender and sexuality published which questioned PIV, pornography and heterosexuality. Because, as white and heteronormative as Wolf is, she has challenged the pornography industry in a way that many other feminists haven’t just by dint of her celebrity status.** Whether or not, we manage to change the conversation away from Wolf’s yoni and into a more mainstream critique of porn remains to be seen. I may buy the book for that reason alone, although the evo psych/yoni crap will annoy me. There are important discussions to be had about this text, in spite of all its failings. But, we need to get out of the trap of insulting Wolf because of her actual vagina.

*I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Ms Beckham. I dislike the hysterical hatred which surrounds her. 

** For a better challenge to porn culture see: Gail Dines, Melinda Tankard-Reist, Robert Jensen, Rebecca Whisnant or here

This week I’ve Been Mostly Reading About Other Women’s Vaginas

Naomi Wolf’s got a new book out about her vagina. I’m not a fan of Wolf to begin with as I think she’s an essentialist who confuses sex and gender under the guise of “feminism”. And, that was even before she started in on the “Assange is the Second Coming and therefore can’t be a rapist” shite. The kindest thing I can think to say of Wolf is that she’s a great self-publicist; although having read her book on motherhood it’s not really a kind statement to make. But, how can you be nice about someone who writes a book about what its really like to give birth in the US but who doesn’t get that their experience as a privileged white woman WITH HEALTHCARE is completely different to huge swathes of American women. Wolf just doesn’t get how unrepresentative her experience is and doesn’t get how foolish she sounds when making up shite about archaeology and neuroscience. The fact that Esquire thinks she’s “out-of-touch” just demonstrates how utterly ridiculous Wolf is. Even the MRAs think she’s a joke.*

I haven’t even read Wolf’s book [and have no intention to as I still want back the 3 hours it took me to read Misconceptions] but this discussion about her vagina has come out at the same time as I’ve been reading Monique Roffey’s With the Kisses of His Mouth: A Memoir. I loved Roffey’s The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. I am not loving her memoir. It started off as a brilliant discussion of the destruction of her relationship following her partner’s affair and the beginning of her new life. I’m only half way through it and its veered off into support of tantric sex. This obsession with the male penis validating women’s sexuality is just depressing.

The vitriol with which Wolf is being attacked is partly because of the bad science but it’s also because the book is about female sexuality. If there is one thing the Patriarchy loathes, it’s women discussing their bodies and their sexuality [both in theory and practise]. Women having honest conversations with one another about how they achieve orgasm or whether or not they masturbate or even if they have ever had an orgasm shifts the Overton Window. It makes the pornographication of society more evident. We need more women speaking about sexuality, both personally and theoretically. Unfortunately, Wolf chooses to universalise her experience and try to validate it under some very suspect science. Roffey’s memoir is far more honest since it is her personal journey. I just wish her journey involved loving herself more than it does about finding sex. Or, maybe that’s what bothers me so much about it. I will finish Roffey’s With The Kisses Of His Mouth but first I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder. Sometimes, Atwood is the answer to every question. And, right now, I’m questioning a lot of things which I took as read even three months ago.

* Here, I am being maliciously unkind to a purpose. Actually, I think the very valid criticisms of Wolf’s book have been buried under a load of misogynistic twaddle but more about that later.

The Lorax: Would Have Been Funnier Without the Fat Jokes or the Misogyny

Took Small to see The Lorax this morning. It was actually pretty funny in places and less patronising than Ferngully with the whole destruction of the forest killing the planet story line. Thing is, The Lorax still felt obligated to go with two utterly stupid and dire tropes: the fat, stupid sidekick and the “it’s only okay to hit girls that aren’t pretty”. I know I complained about the trailer to The Lorax previously but it just annoyed me even more in the film. This is what I said about the trailer:

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?

The normalising of male violence is harmful for everyone. It teaches boys that they are nothing but violent thugs incapable of self-control and tells girls they are responsible for the violence because they aren’t pretty enough or nag too much. And, this is without going into the whole basis of the plot which is that boys only do dangerous and stupid things to get the attention of girls. Because, boys are never, ever responsible for their own bad decisions. Always has to be the fault of a woman, [and its worth pointing out that the young boy is being raised by a single mother whilst the man who caused the tree crisis was being raised by an emotionally abusive mother reinforcing the “woman are responsible for male behaviour trope on several levels].

The fat, slow, and dim sidekick in The Lorax was a bear; one who just couldn’t keep up either intellectually or physically. It didn’t anything to the story. It wasn’t funny. It was just the same old pick on the fat kid shit which is everywhere. It was the same demeaning behaviour as evidenced in most Hollywood comedies which are anything but. Being overweight doesn’t make one stupid and it’s unbelievably tedious to see this trope used over and over again. The Lorax could have been a brilliant film; instead in went for crass jokes and offensive stereotypes. Plus ca change and all that.