Vice is now reduced to recycling plots from Kevin Smith films

And, it’s not even one of the good Kevin Smith films. It’s Mallrats.

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A film whose claim to fame is a running joke about having sex in an “uncomfortable” place: not the backseat of the volkswagon that every character suggests, but anal sex. This particular subplot focuses on “Trish the Dish”:  a 15 year old girl who has been given a huge advance to write a book about the male sex drive. Trish the Dish’s research involves rating men’s sexual talent. The only real reference to Trish’s age is when the villain – a man who is only the villain, played by Ben Affleck, because he hates slackers who hang out in malls (this is the 1990s after all) – is sent to prison for child rape. One of the final images in the film is of Affleck about to be raped in prison; a theme used over and over and over again in American media.

As a movie, it’s rather trite and predictable. Adult men behaving like entitled children isn’t exactly all that exciting: men living in their parent’s basement because they won’t get a job; men who have jobs thinking they are awesome; men who whine all day. This is pretty much the dating pool for women in their 20s now as it was then. And, really, the ‘hero’ of the film insists his girlfriend climb out a window than meet his parents. How pathetic is that?

Emily Reynold’s article in Vice magazine* on her spreadsheet of sexual partners isn’t exactly a new idea: see the entire series of Sex in the City. Sending a survey out to your former partners for feedback on your sexual repertoire isn’t a new idea either. Certainly, punting stories of your sexual history to the media is about as predictable as kitten gifs on twitter. For evidence: see every interview Anthony Kiedis has ever given.

I expect we’re supposed to be shocked and titillated by a young woman talking candidly about her sex life in the media. Mostly, I read it thinking that she was 20 years too late for this to be something fresh (or whatever the word for cool is now).

I wonder what Kevin Smith is up to now and what plot lines will be Vice be stealing from him in 20 years.

*clean link

 

Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings

Earlier this week, I was asked to put a trigger warning on an article I published on A Room of Our Own. The request wasn’t to include a trigger warning about domestic violence or self-harm or rape or the consequences of limited options of women living in a patriarchy. It wasn’t about the reality of male violence. I was asked to include a trigger warning on a post written by a woman who regrets having an abortion. Apparently, a feminist space which includes a very personal post by a woman who regrets her abortion – an abortion she was effectively forced into – isn’t a ‘safe space’. The violence this women experienced did not require a trigger warning, but regretting an abortion does.

A Room of Our Own started in December 2013. Since then, I have published articles on rape, domestic violence, murder, infant loss, post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, racism, homophobia and all forms of violence against women and girls. The very first request for a trigger warning was on an article where a woman expressed regret about an abortion – an abortion that was a direct consequence of male violence. Seemingly, this one article where a feminist spoke of her regret was enough to invalidate the entirety of the blogging network.

AROOO was never intended to be a ‘safe space’. It was created to combat cultural femicide by building a space where a full gamut of feminist and womanist thoughts, musings, anger and reality was explored. It was never intended to be a space where everyone agrees with everyone else. And, this is the problem with the current rhetoric around ‘safe space’. It isn’t about ensuring that women have a place to discuss without experiencing male violence or silencing.

Currently, ‘safe space’ means a space in which no one disagrees with one another ever. There is no room for discussion or questioning. We see campaigns to have women no-platformed for daring to criticise the sex industry as criticism might hurt the feelings of women who work in it. The feelings of the many women who have survived prostitution don’t count in the rhetoric. Instead, we see sex workers referring to abolitionists with abusive names – a member of the sex-worker open university used the name ‘Rachel Whoran’ on their twitter account for ages. Former prostituted women who talk openly about their experiences of rape and abuse are mocked, insulted and harassed by supporters of the sex industry (including members of the Sex Worker Open University). Where is the safe space for women to talk about their negative experiences? Why aren’t they entitled to the same right to a safe space?

There are attempts to prevent university student unions from saying anything critical about the sex industry because it makes it an “unsafe space” for students working in it without giving a thought to the fact that many of their students working in it are actually unsafe. The motions put forward by some students unions would effectively bar their officers from supporting a woman leaving prostitution if she so chose because it wouldn’t be a ‘safe space’ for women who want to remain in it. How does this make universities safe for female students?

The answer is pretty clear: it doesn’t and it isn’t intended to make them safe. Young women on campus experience high levels of sexual harassment and violence and it is now individuals which criticise the sex industry that are blamed for making them ‘unsafe’. It isn’t the fault of the rapists on campus or the university management who collude with rapists, but feminists criticising pole dancing as ’empowerment’ for women (and until I see someone suggest that members of the UN take up pole dancing to empower themselves, I’m going to keep believing it is nothing more than a misogynistic attempt to limit women’s choices through perforative constructions of their sexuality).

This idea that universities must become ‘safe spaces’ free of dissent or discussion is infantilising an entire generation of students. Staff put content notes on lectures which some students might find difficult, but you cannot study history without learning about genocide, mass rape and religious wars. There is no literature, in any language, which is free from racism, homophobia, classism, and misogyny. Science is not free from these structures. You can put a content note on a lecture which discusses Sapphire’s Push, but that note isn’t about supporting the students who are living with child sexual abuse. It’s a clause that allows students to refuse to engage with material that they might find challenging. How many times have I heard students refuse to read about the Holocaust because the thought of it upsets them? And, those who want learn about the V2 rockets because machines are cool and not the thousands of slave-labourers who died building them because it made them sad.

We absolutely do need to make universities safer for female students – not by preventing discussions on difficult topics but by actually tackling rape culture on campus appropriately. Today’s tweet from the National Union Students Women’s Group asking the audience at their event to stop clapping as it “triggers anxiety” demonstrates the failure of universities and students unions to understand the difference between a space free from male violence and a space free from anxiety.

I suffer anxiety in these kinds of situations. I can fake it now but social situations make me incredibly anxious and I do not like loud noises, like prolonged clapping. My daughter still hates the sounds of hand dryers in public toilets and the flushing mechanism on trains and planes. The noise makes her visibly upset. Equally, the use of ‘jazz hands’ isn’t new. It’s common in BSL and is used with children who have auditory sensitivities. It is a way of managing specific situations where clapping would not be appropriate.

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Women who have survived sexual and domestic violence and abuse can be triggered by a million sounds: police sirens, stomping, whistling, a name. We cannot stop every single thing that might potentially trigger a student – we can help them access appropriate support and help them find ways to manage their anxiety, but we can’t pretend away the very things which caused their anxiety or PTSD in the first place.

NUS Women’s Group tweet requesting delegates not clap demonstrates the fundamental need for immediate, specialist training of all students unions officers and all staff on campuses in trauma awareness, as well as male violence. This type of suggestion doesn’t read as though it comes from someone with an in depth understanding of trauma, but rather from someone performing what they assume is social justice – as was the request for me to put a trigger warning on an article about women’s abortion regret.

This is the reality of discussions around safe spaces and triggers warnings now – its all about the performance and not actually making spaces free from rape and other forms of male violence.

 

 

Feminism is about liberating women; not who your friends are

On Friday morning, between getting myself ready for work and my child ready for school, I was tweeted an article on the BBC about a report from the Home Affairs Select Committee which recommended anonymity for rapists. I was horrified. Anonymity for rape suspects is incredibly dangerous for all sorts of reasons – starting with the fact that rapists have a huge rate of recidivism and a very low rate of conviction. Because of misogyny. Rapists commit rape knowing that the general public, the media and the police will label their victims a liar or insist she was partly responsible for the rape for the crime of being born a girl.

I was so angry, I started a petition. Whilst I was writing it, I saw a tweet with a press release from the End Violence Against Women coalition so I added their quotes into the text of the petition.

I started the petition because I was angry. I assumed other women would be angry too. I was a bit surprised at the low numbers of people signing the petition, but I hoped it would be a slow-burner with the lack of signatures due to starting the petition during a solar eclipse.

I was really shocked and hurt to discover on Saturday morning that the reason the petition wasn’t being shared publicly was because a high profile media feminist refused to sign and share it because she doesn’t like me. It’s a petition asking the Home Affairs Select Committee review their recommendation on anonymity for suspects in rape cases – a recommendation made with no research-based evidence, just vague worries about the reputation of rapists. It never occurred to me that there would be anything so controversial about this petition that people wouldn’t share it because they don’t like me.

Yet, this is what happened. The petition wasn’t shared by a high-profile feminist because she doesn’t like me. When questioned, the answer changed to “because it’s not well-written”. I wrote the petition in 15 minutes as that’s all the time I had on Friday to do so. I’m a single disabled mother – my time is limited due to caring responsibilities and my disability. I wanted to get it out as soon as possible to challenge the inevitable media coverage of men feeling sad for being accused of rape – as though the real problem in rape was the rapist’s feelings rather than the fact that a woman was raped.

Now, I’m hearing others say the same thing: they can’t sign because the petition “wasn’t written well” – an answer that smacks of classism and disablism. Under this argument, only women who have Russell group university education will be allowed to engage in public activism. After all, a rogue comma could destroy the feminist movement completely since bad grammar is a bigger sin that anonymity for rape victims.

As a disabled woman who has written at length on my experiences dealing with the brain fog associated with fibromyalgia, I find this idea that women refuse to sign my petition as its “poorly written” humiliating. I know that my illness has affected my writing and my ability to talk coherently (especially when tired as I start to lose words or use the wrong ones). I’ve been really open about how hard it is as someone who loves writing to be unable to put my thoughts out coherently: that what ends up on the paper isn’t what was in my head because of the way the fibromyalgia has effected the ability of my brain to communicate clearly. It’s also effected my ability to speak since I lose words and have huge pauses in between words (that I don’t realise is happening). I also find it difficult to process what is being said to me when tired: I know people are talking but I can’t hear the actual words and, even when I can hear some of the words, my brain can’t actually process the message. When it’s this bad, the only thing I can do is nap. This isn’t exactly conducive to mothering or being a writer.

Hence, the humiliation and hurt at being told that my petition isn’t shareable because it isn’t well-written. Because I have a disability that is slowly destroying my life. I know that it isn’t being shared because this particular woman doesn’t like me – not because of the writing style. But, it doesn’t make it less humiliating when people are being told it’s because it’s ‘poorly-written’.

Feminism is a political movement to liberate women. It isn’t about who your friends are or who is a good writer. It’s about changing the world to make it safer for women. That’s why I started my petition to the Home Affairs Select Committee. And, that’s why I hope everyone will sign it.

Anonymity for rape defendants is antithetical to our justice system

I started this petition because I’m incredibly worried about this recommendation for anonymity for rape defendants. It is a regressive policy predicated on the belief that all women lie about rape and that a man’s reputation is more important than justice.

PETITION 

Each year in England and Wales 85 000 women and 12 000 men are raped. We know that only 10 -15 % of victims report to the police due to “shame, prejudicial media reporting and mistrust in the criminal justice process”. We also know that rape trials have the lowest conviction rate of any crime because of systemic and institutional disbelief of victims. Our adversarial legal system is predicated on the belief that women and children routinely lie about sexual violence – despite false reports of rape being no higher than any other crime; despite the fact that many ‘false reports’ are due to misogyny within the police who routinely ‘no-crime’ rape without investigating.

We are extremely worried to see the Home Affairs Select Committee suggest that suspects being investigated for rape and other forms of sexual violence require anonymity until charged or police ‘needed’ to name them because of the potential damage to their ‘reputation’. Why is justice now about the reputation of the accused rather than upholding the law?

Would Jimmy Savile’s name been released as a serial sexual predator as he was never formally charged? Would we have seen the numerous inquiries held into the failures of police and the establishment to take child sexual abuse and exploitation seriously following the allegations about Savile? Would David Lee Travis, Rolf Harris, Max Clifford and Chris Denning have been investigated without the media reporting the sheer scale of the rape and sexual abuse committed by Jimmy Savile? Would John Worboys have been investigated and convicted without being named in the media following serious failures by the Sapphire Unit to believe a large number of women who reported him?[5]

The End Violence Against Women (EVAW) umbrella organization response to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s recommendation makes it clear that rape is

“…..a known repeat offence, and the police may need the discretion to name a suspect for investigative purposes. Decision-making on this should of course be clear and transparent.”

 and that it is:

“It is notable that this short report by the Home Affairs Select Committee makes little reference to the specific justice issues around sexual offences before making this serious recommendation on anonymity. These include very low reporting to the police rates, vulnerable witnesses, and the fact that rape is a known repeat offence.”

Sexual violence is the only crime where sympathy is with the perpetrator rather than the victim. It is the only crime where decisions and recommendations about the criminal justice response is based entirely on fallacious assumptions, myths and victim blaming. As EVAW also states the Home Affairs Select Committees report:

“…is also alarmingly incorrect about false allegations – recommending that those accused and not convicted should receive “acknowledgement that they were falsely accused” when such cases are not necessarily based on a false allegation.”

We call on the Home Affairs Select Committee to review their recommendation using evidence-based research on anonymity for perpetrators and not assumptions about ‘perpetrators feelings’. We call on all political parties and Members of Parliament to show their support for all victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence by insisting that suspects in cases of sexual violence are treated no differently than suspects in other crimes.

Anonymity for suspects in cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence is a dangerous precedent that puts women, children and men at risk.

PETITION 

 

Owen Jones, lesbians and transphobia

Owen Jones has only recently written his first article on transgenderism. Despite claiming to think transphobia is hateful, Owen Jones was so shocked by a lesbian woman asking him when he last preformed cunnilingus that he tweeted this:

 

Keeping in mind here that lesbian women are consistently called transphobic for refusing to have sex with pre-operative transwomen. Many feminists, including  heterosexual and bisexual women, who find the term ‘cotton ceiling’ – which was coined by transwomen to discuss why lesbian women were refusing to have sex with them – distressing are regularly told that its transphobic to say anything remotely critical about the term. Transwomen are women, even if they have a penis, and lesbian women are transphobic for refusing to have sex with transwomen.

I watched Owen Jones twitter feed after he posted this tweet and I only saw a few lesbian women asking why it didn’t count as transphobic since transmen have vulvas. Had a lesbian woman said ‘giving blow jobs’ wasn’t lesbian sex, their mentions would have been full of people calling them transphobic, threats of violence and wishes that they die.

Why is it transphobic for a lesbian woman to not want to have sex with a pre-op transwoman, but it’s completely fine for Owen Jones to refuse to have sex with a pre-op transman? Why is Owen Jones allowed to say that gay men do not preform cunnilingus when lesbians get death threats for saying that lesbian women don’t give blowjobs?

If it constitutes transphobia for lesbian women to refuse to have sex with transwomen, then Owen Jones is transphobic by being horrified at the thought of performing cunnilingus. If the first is transphobic, and Jones isn’t, well, that says a whole lot about the misogyny of the people spouting this level of hypocrisy. Either they are both transphobic or neither is transphobic. They both cannot be true.