Jezebel reminds us that its absolutely HILARIOUS to publicly humiliate a distressed woman

I’ve been busy all week so I missed this truly spectacular piece of humanity in action. I’m not surprised people think this is funny; after all Bradley Wiggins thought it was oh-so-hilarious to suggest someone “suck me off” at a Barnado’s charity dinner. I’m hardly shocked some entitled fool on Twitter thought it was hysterically funny to harass an already distressed woman trapped with him on a plane. I’d like to say I’m shocked and surprised that Jezebel thought it was funny enough to link but I’m not. Participating in the public humiliation of women being an anti-feminist act has somehow passed them by completely. Jezebel has moments of absolute brilliance but they frequently resort to lazy stereotypes about women – and that’s without getting into the whole hiring the obviously abusive Hugo Schwyzer.

Jezebel supporting a man publicly humiliating and sexually harassing a woman who was upset is disgraceful.

What Elan Gale did was not funny and it wasn’t clever. It was the exact same manipulative and abusive behaviour women experience from men on a daily basis. Sending a woman alcohol when they are trapped on a plane with you isn’t a compliment at the best of times; sending a woman, who is in distress, alcohol to wind her up is shitty behaviour. Naming her, taking photos of her seat and then tweeting out a description of her is frightening behaviour. Telling a woman to “eat your dick” is sexual harassment. Frankly, if I were in this situation, I would assume the man was a sexual predator and I would be scared shitless on the plane. Gale’s “defence” of his behaviour, by suggesting it’s the woman’s fault for being annoying, is classic deflection and victim-blaming. It’s precisely the defence I would expect of a man with a history of violence against women.

It’s obvious the woman on the flight was upset and distressed at missing Thanksgiving. And, come on, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been distressed, angry or whatever and taken it out on someone who didn’t deserve. It’s not acceptable but it happens. And, yeah, as a teenage single mother, I’ve been in those dead-end jobs where people shout at you for things which are neither your fault nor something you have control over. I still remember being 15 and working in an in-store bakery in a huge grocery chain and a woman yelling at me for 20 minutes because our hot cross buns didn’t taste like her grandmothers. Did it make me feel like crap? Yup. Hell, if it didn’t, I probably wouldn’t remember it. It’s also the least abusive shit I’ve had to put up with at work (try being a teenage girl in a bakery for constant sexual harassment from customers who think they are the first person EVER to make a joke about buns and your ass).

A passenger on a plane being in distress and annoying the flight attendants (and other passengers) isn’t uncommon. It’s the number one reason why I believe alcohol should be prohibited on planes and trains. But, no matter how inappropriately someone behaves through distress, it is never acceptable to publicly humiliate, abuse and sexually harass them.

What Elan Gale did was clearly abusive. He targeted a women in distress and harassed her. Repeatedly. He made a threat of sexual violence and then he followed her off the plane to harass her further. The flight attendants were complicit in allowing him to further abuse this woman. She was a victim and the male flight attendant supported the abuser.

This isn’t funny. It’s male violence.

Shame on the flight attendants who colluded in helping a male passenger abuse a distressed woman.

Shame on Jezebel for claiming that the abuse of women is hilarious.

And, shame on Elan Gale for being an abusive asshole.

Comments: My policy on comments is here. If you get deleted for abusive or offensive comments, you lose the right to have any comments kept on this blog.

Pembroke College’s [Oxford] Rugby are still confused about sexual harassment.

Pembroke College’s rugby team made news last week with their “free pussy” social inviting players to bring two bottles of alcohol to be given to an “unsuspecting” woman. The team has now been banned from playing “first round of the season, and relegated them to the third division of the competition”. I suppose we should be excited that the Oxford rugby union has decided that threatening to spike the drinks of women is wrong, I’m just not entirely sure that members of the team understand the exact nature of the criminal acts they were advocating.

Granted, the team’s captain has stepped down and Woo Kim, the “social secretary” who sent the “free pussy” email has apologised. The problem is that Kim doesn’t seem to understand that the email itself was sexual harassment.  The Independent quotes this statement from Kim:

I want to clarify that the club had no intentions of sexual harassment,” he added. “We were not planning on spiking drinks.

Spiking women’s drinks is NOT sexual harassment. It’s assault. If they then touch the women, it is sexual assault or rape. But, the act of deliberately giving a woman a substance without her consent is assault. It is a violent crime in and of itself. 

The email constituted sexual harassment. 

Threatening to spike women’s drinks, even in ‘jest’, is sexual harassment.

Spiking women’s drinks is assault.

It’s unfortunate that Oxford Rugby Union doesn’t seem to understand this.

#DickheadDetox : Jeremy Clarkson for being his usual odious self

Jeremy Clarkson is a hideous, odious misogynist with the usual side order of racism,  homophobia, disablism, classism and the list goes on. This isn’t even a particularly egregious example of his misogyny. It’s just Clarkson blithering on about shit he knows nothing about. Why the fuck anyone listens to this pompous windbag and his environmentally destructive shite which passes for TV is beyond me. 

He’s on the #DickheadDetox just for existing.

#DickheadDetox : Eminem for a Career based on Violence against Women

Eminem is a misogynist. His hatred towards women is well-documented starting with rapping about killing his ex-wife. I was going to write one of my usual #DickheadDetox rants but in researching his violence I came across some brilliant takedowns of his misogyny.

The popularity of Eminem’s music is symptomatic of our culture which hates women. After all, if women were truly considered human would Eminem be anywhere but jail for threats of violence?

#DickheadDetox : James Franco for perpetuating rape culture

James Franco has been on my #DickheadDetox list for months. I just haven’t quite had the time to research all the shit he’s done over the years which are misogynistic.

Today,  I read a review Franco wrote of the movie 12 Years a Slave. The review includes this phrase:

“she is fully aware of the affair he carries with his slave, Patsy”

Franco might want to ask for a refund from his grossly over-priced Ivy League education since he is clearly too stupid to understand the difference between rape and an “affair”. At least, I’m going to pretend he’s too stupid since an intelligent, well-educated man who isn’t a rapist couldn’t possibly mistake rape for consensual sex.

Plus, there is that slight problem with racism in his review of the film but he’s a rich white dude so I’m sure that’s not really a problem or anything.

So, James France joins the #DickheadDetox for reinforcing rape culture.

Oh, Misogyny, How I have missed thee!

I genuinely don’t know how I get out of bed in the morning without you to control my thoughts and actions. Today, I learned that the only appropriate “revenge” against a husband for cheating on you is to win an Oscar for best actress and for writing! 

Had I not seen this amazing article in the Telegraph this morning about Kenneth Branagh’s inability to control where he puts his penis, I would have had no idea that it was déclassé for women to speak publicly about their hurt and anger at the man they married being a dickhead.

I would never have known that women expressing their own feelings constituted “revenge”. I would never have known that “revenge” was something only men get to do. That women were never ever entitled to speak publicly about their anger or hurt; that women aren’t allowed to feel angry or hurt at their husband being a dickhead.

So, thank you Telegraph for telling all women that the ONLY way to respond to your husband’s infidelity is to keep quiet about it for 20 years and win yourself 2 Oscars. 

Thank you, once again, for pointing out that men can do whatever they want without consequence, but a woman speaking about anything is evidence she’s a bitch.

Thank you for telling women that their feelings are irrelevant.

Thank you for telling men that it’s justifiable for them to kill their wife if she has an affair.

Thank you for telling women that they aren’t allowed to comment whatsoever on their husband’s affair because it’s mean and pathetic. Who knew that Jennifer Aniston and Jo Wood were just giant cry-babies for objecting to their husband’s affairs?

Misogyny, I don’t know how I manage to get through my life thinking that men are responsible for where they put their penises. 

After all, I don’t see the Telegraph suggesting that Branagh’s behaviour was at fault here.

If you think breastfeeding Nazis exist, you are a nincompoop.

There are no such thing as breastfeeding Nazis. At no point in history has there ever been women who breastfeed joining fascist parties for the sole purpose of committing the mass genocide of women who do not breastfeed.  Using the term “Nazi” to refer to anything but the actual Nazi government of Germany or any far-right fascist group makes you sound like an ahistorical buckethead with no understanding of genocide. 

Comparing women who are pro-breastfeeding (regardless of whether or not they are rude) is disgraceful. It makes a mockery of the murder of millions of innocent people. It’s an asinine hyperbole.

Am I pro-breasfeeding? Yup.

Do I have a problem with the government’s latest attempt to increase breastfeeding rates by offering new mothers up to £200 in shopping vouchers? Absolutely. 

It’s a ridiculous policy which does nothing to target the real reasons why women “fail” or chose not to breastfeed. It doesn’t target the phenomenal number of myths about breastfeeding peddled by formula manufacturers. It ignores the very practical realities which result in women choosing not to breastfeed [or the emotionally, abusive behaviour of partners which has resulted in a not insignificant number of women being unable to breastfeed]. It ignores the physiological reasons why women cannot breastfeed.

It ignores the chronic underfunding of NHS maternity services which have resulted in inadequate numbers of midwives available to support women. It ignores the lack of training midwives receive to support breastfeeding. It ignores the lack of qualified support workers to help women once they have left the hospital. It ignores the failure to diagnose tongue-tie which results in women being able to breastfeed. 

It ignores the myths propagated by the media that women’s breasts are only for sex and that breastfeeding ruins your body. Hell, it ignores media doctors like Christian Jessen who seem to actually believe that breastfeeding ruins your breast [here’s a hint: rapid weight gain in pregnancy fundamentally changes your body. It doesn’t “ruin” your body. It just changes your body].

This policy ignores the amount of advertising from formula manufacturers who are big fans of the “most women can’t breastfeed” myths because it increases their revenues. 

Increasing breastfeeding rates in this country requires the following:
  • a complete ban on formula advertising
  • more investment in midwives
  • more investment in breastfeeding support workers
  • prosecuting and fining formula companies for their aggressive [and frequently misleading] formula advertisements
  • it requires a fundamental cultural shift wherein breasts are no longer viewed as sex objects 
  • it requires a culture which understands the reasons why women chose not to or cannot breastfeed.
And, it requires women showing other women some kindness. We are all judged for the choices we make. It doesn’t matter if we breastfeed or formula feed, there will always be someone who judges us negatively for them. We need to learn to be more confident with the decisions we make. 

We also need to start understanding that analysing the conditions in which women make the “choice” to breastfeed or not is not a personal attack on an individual women but political analysis. A woman who “chooses” a different way isn’t doing so with the express purpose of hurting your feelings.

And, if someone is rude about the “choices” you have made, tell them so. Ask them if they meant to be that rude. Or, walk away. Using the behaviour or language of one person who is being rude to dismiss the “choices” of the entire group of people who made that “choice” is also ridiculous.

£200 worth of shopping vouchers won’t help anyone actually breastfeed. It won’t make up for poor maternity care, lack of support or an abusive partner who thinks breastfeeding is “gross”. We already know what will actually help women who choose to breastfeed to do so successfully without making women who choose not to feel like shit. How about we actually finance those programs?

And, if you do come across someone who is so pro-breastfeeding that they are rude to you, don’t call them the breastfeeding nazis or gestapo or mafia. That’s ahistorical nincompoopery.

#DickheadDetox : Terry Wogan for being a whiny-arse misogynist

There is a never ending parade of old, white dudes too stupid to understand their privilege. Terry Wogan is just one of a huge pile of dickheads who’ve got their arses shoved so far up their arse that they genuinely believe their own bullshit.
I could rant for hours on old, white dudes whining but Frances Ryan got there first. The following are from her great piece in the New Statesman:
There seems to be an epidemic in television of middle-aged to elderly men thinking that they have important thoughts on women on television and that those thoughts aren’t the rantings of a sexist berk. If it isn’t John Inverdale, it’s Alan Titchmarsh talking about women “whingeing” when their careers get cut short once they hit 40. Women, such moaners! They really should take being dumped because their skin isn’t tight as it used to be with more decorum. Anyway, as Wogan helpfully reminded us, they’re happy enough to use their looks to their advantage when they still have them.
I wonder though, according to men like Wogan, what exactly are women in television meant to do? If they stick their head in a paper bag during their twenties or make sure they look like they’ve been eating some pies, are they allowed to complain when they get pushed out at forty? It’s just the ones that looked attractive at the start of their career that can’t complain when they’re later dumped for no longer being attractive, right? Because they’ve “used” their looks to get them where they wanted to be.
Women in television, much like those out it, are in a no win situation. They have to be slim and glossy to get and stay in work. If they’re slim and glossy they’re accused of only getting work because of their looks – and find themselves signing up to and perpetuating the culture that’ll throw them out the door when it all starts to sag.
Wogan unwittingly says it all when he speaks of presenting Children in Need with his “lovelies” (a.k.a grown women Tess Daly and Fearn Cotton). TV is still content with a particular set-up: the aged man (generally over 70) and the pretty young co-presenter (half his age and painted into a distracting dress). As long as that culture exists, women who want to work will have to go along with it. And wait for elderly, still-successful men to tell them they brought their short careers on themselves.
Let’s be totally honest here: if men were held to the same standard of physical beauty as women, Wogan would never have made it as a DJ; never mind the jump to television. Wogan’s career is because he is a white dude who reinforces patriarchal norms in both his actions and words.
Daly and Cotton are surviving in a capitalist-patriarchy which hates women. I blame the men who perpetuate it; not the women trying to survive.

Dear BBC, Khloe Abrams was killed by her father.

Liam Culverhouse, of Northamptonshire, pled guilty in a Nottingham Crown Court to the charge of causing or allowing the death of his daughter.

Khloe Abrams died at the age of 19 months from a serious trauma following a brutal assault by her father Liam. Khloe died from her injuries 18 months after her father assaulted her. Khloe was an infant and her father caused her such serious trauma that she spent the last 18 months of her life in a hospice in Loughborough, Leicestershire.

This is the story of Khloe’s brutal murder at the hands of the one man who should have protected her but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the BBC’s coverage of the casehere

There are 333 words in the BBC article.

Exactly 37 words refer to Khloe.

Exactly 36 words refer to the criminal case and plea from Liam Culverhouse.

A further 34 words refer to the case refer to Khloe’s mother Clare Abrams.

In article of 333 words, only 107 words refer to the actual death of a baby at the hands of her father.

The BBC devoted the other 226 words to coverage of Liam Culverhouse’s career as a soldier in Afghanistan.

The death of a baby at the hands of her father isn’t considered as important as her father’s career as a soldier.

Liam Culverhouse survived an attack in Helmand province in 2009 that resulted in the death of 5 other soldiers. It is possible that the trauma Culverhouse suffered was directly linked to his violent behaviour which resulted in a brutal attack on his 7 week old daughter. But, this isn’t what the BBC wrote about. 

There is an actual discussion that needs to be had over the increased violence and self-harm perpetrated by returning soldiers who have PTSD. We all know soldiers are more likely to commit suicide, they have higher rates of violence against partners and children and they have higher rates of substance misuse. The failure to support returning troops and the subsequent impact on their families and friends is a disgrace to our nation. This is an important story to tell.

It is entirely possible that the violent assault on Khloe by her father was caused by PTSD. It is also possible that Culverhouse was simply a violent man.

The BBC doesn’t even bother to investigate these issues; instead it has written an entire article on the death of a baby by glorifying the military career of her killer.

We need to have a real conversation about PTSD in returning soldiers. We need to talk about self-harm and domestic violence. We need to talk about sexual violence. We need to talk about why our government still has no real programs in place to deal with PTSD and male violence within the Armed Forces.

We need to have these conversations honestly. Erasing the crime committed by a man who happened to experience a traumatic event is not an honest conversation. It is just another example of a man’s responsibility for violence being eradicated.

Khloe Abrams was brutally assaulted at the age of 7 weeks. Her death is the fault of her father. This is the story the BBC should have reported.

[Thank you to EVB_Now for bringing this case to my attention]

#DickheadDetox : Joss Whedon for Telling Women How to be Feminists

I want Whedon to be a proper feminist ally. He uttered the phrase that so many people miss: feminism is about believing women are people too. That’s the basic definition of feminism regardless of where you fall on the spectrum: from socialist to radical to sex positive. We may fundamentally disagree on some very large points but we all start from the premise that women are human too.

The idea that women are human too is so very radical and so very few take the opportunity to think about what it actually means to treat women as if they are human too. And, this is my problem with Whedon: he talks the talk but I don’t think he walks the walk yet. I’m not even sure if he’s noticed there is a walk to walk. 

I grew up watching Degrassi Junior High. I’m Canadian; ask any kid of my generation living in an area with access to TV and they will be able to tell you all about Spike’s pregnancy, Wheel’s drunk driving and Joey’s hats. It was more real than any other TV program aimed at teenagers covering topics like divorce, suicide, drug addiction, poverty, disablism, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and shitty teenage friendships. It wasn’t feminism but it was real.

Then along came Buffy. Well, actually along came Beverly Hills 90210 and Saved by the Bell with the arrival of cable television. To this day, I cannot understand how a school in Beverly Hills could have a school paper and another school five miles down the road didn’t have enough money to buy textbooks for their kids. Seriously, as real as Degrassi was, at least they had fucking textbooks. The American school system boggles my mind. 

Buffy was like Degrassi but fun (plus, I had access to cable TV and I cannot emphasise enough how cool this was!). Buffy was everything I wanted to be, and she could go outside all year round without a parka and never had to worry about frostbite or outdoor PE at -30. I adored Buffy for her wardrobe because I was a teenager and totally self-absorbed. I also loved Buffy for falling for the bad boys.

And, this is where Buffy goes all wrong as a feminist program (and I cannot tell you how much I wish it were feminist). Angel was controlling and creepy before he became Angelus. There was nothing romantic about their relationship. Everyone carries on about Edward from Twilight being super-stalkery. I’m not sure Angel was all that different. Spike certainly wasn’t ever a dude you would want to reproduce with, even if he could. The male characters were all problematic: from inventing “sexbots” to stalking to general arsehattery. 

The relationship between Willow and Buffy was great. If that had been the focus of the show (and no love affair between a seriously old creepy vampire and a teenager) then Buffy would have been pretty damn cool. It still would have been a rather depressing example of white supremacy in action but it would have been marginally better.

And, this is where so much of Hollywood, Whedon included, fails. Does anyone seriously believe a public high school in California had an entirely white student body? I certainly never noticed there was a problem with Buffy having an almost entirely white cast as a teenager. There were only a few TV programs when I was a kid which had non-white characters: The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  The effect of the erasure of people of colour from mainstream culture has had a detrimental effect on us all. Buffy contributed to this. 

And, this is why I’m struggling with Whedon the Super-Feminist narrative. Whedon implies he both understands racism and feminism in his speech but doesn’t acknowledge the fact that his programs have rarely featured non-white cast members. Whedon doesn’t discuss the fact that almost all his female characters are young, thin and pass the patriarchal fuckability test. He doesn’t mention his use of rape as a trope. In fact, the attempted rape of Buffy by Spike somehow gets written out of subsequent episodes and Spike’s appearance in season 5 of Angel. Rape is something that women fear daily. Using it to prove that a vampire is “bad” is a ridiculous and offensive use of rape-as-a-trope.

If it’s true that Whedon “unemployed” Charisma Carpenter from Angel because she was pregnant which resulted in a plot line so heinous that Angel was canceled, then Whedon really doesn’t get to call himself a feminist.

I used to think men could be feminists too. But, now, I mostly think men who call themselves feminists haven’t got a freaking clue. I know men who want to learn (and who shut up and listen) and I know men who are amazing feminist allies because they got that learning about feminism was something they had to do rather than demanding women educate them about it. (and, for the love of Pete, someone save us from “the reasonable man”).

Here’s what feminism doesn’t need and never has: rich, white dudes telling women they are doing feminism wrong. I may not agree with Katy Perry’s understanding of feminism but the person who has no right to call Perry out: rich, white dudes like Whedon.

Feminism is fundamentally about acknowledging that women are human too. It’s really not that difficult to do: you start by not attacking women for not being to succeed in an industry which punishes women for acting out with their prescribed gender roles as fucktoys. Katy Perry may not call herself a feminist and I certainly don’t like her videos or her music but she is a woman trying to survive. A rich, white dude like Whedon [even when poor and unpublished] will never understand what it is like to be a woman in a culture which hates us. 

He needs to do a whole lot more listening and a whole lot less yapping before we can even begin to discuss the term feminist ally.

Here are two excellent responses to the problems with the Whedon-The-Feminist narrative:

Why i can’t with the Whedon Bandwagon at Our Feminist Playschool

What Joss Whedon gets wrong with the word Feminist at The Atlantic