My formal complaint to @ecotricity re: support for rape culture

This post was originally published on Everyday Victim Blaming.

We’re not entirely sure when ecotricity – an energy company – became experts in international criminal law but they’ve certainly come out in support of rape culture by suggesting that men who are under investigation for sexual assault should be allowed to dictate the parameters of the investigation AND international law.Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 18.49.53

I suppose in the current economic climate all corporations need to diversify. We await with bated breath N-Power’s diversification into training competitive figure skaters.

MY EMAIL:

This tweet was posted on your official twitter feed on Friday February 5. We would like assurances that this tweet does not represent company policy on allegations of rape and sexual assault. If supporting an accused rapist who is hiding in an embassy in an attempt to wait out the statute of limitations on a serious criminal investigation is company policy, then it should be the subject of an official statement so that customers can make an informed decision whether or not they will continue to support your company. If this is not official policy, then a public apology and a donation to a rape crisis service would be  an appropriate response.

RESPONSE TO EMAIL FROM ECOTRICITY:

Dear Louise

The tweet very clearly relates to efforts by the USA to extradite Mr Assange from Sweden to the US, it also very clearly does not take a position on the merits of the allegations themselves.

We don’t believe he is hiding from these allegations as Mr Assange has made it clear he would willingly go to Sweden to face the allegations, if Sweden guaranteed they would not extradite him to the US. Please be assured that is the point of the tweet.  We believe it is very clear.

Regards,

Stuart Brennan

 

ACTIVISM: Ecotricity’s contact details are here for those who would like to express their displeasure.

Violence against women, domestic violence and the problem of gender identity

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Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Sisters Uncut are a great example of grassroots feminist activism. Their protest at the premier of the film Suffrage helped raise awareness of the consequences of the decimation of specialist support services for women. However, their campaign is specifically about the importance of specialist domestic violence services, which is why I was disappointed to read a piece in the Independent by a member which uses the term domestic violence and violence against women interchangeably.

* See Michael P Johnson’s Typology of Domestic Violence

** The report into this was recently released and I have not yet had a chance to read it.

What about the other children? – on racism and classism in schools

Mother Jones has published an extremely problematic article on integration in schools, which talks of the benefits to middle and upper class children, without once recognising the impact on Black and Latino children. These are the 3 outcomes which ‘prove’ that integrated schools are better for white children:

1. White students’ test scores don’t drop when they go to schools with large numbers of black and Latino students.

2. Diverse classrooms teach some of the most important 21st-century skills, which matter more than test scores.

3. Graduates of socioeconomically diverse schools are more effective in the workplace and global markets.

The second and third point state that it is better for white children to be exposed to Black and Latino children and those living in poverty because it will make middle and upper class white children to be better and more successful people. Apparently, raising children to be kind, compassionate and responsible is no longer necessary. Now, we just need to teach them how to talk to Black and Latina kids so they will feel more comfortable being their boss in twenty years.

Comparisons between race and gender make me deeply uncomfortable as they are inevitably comparing Black men to white women – completely erasing Black women’s experiences of misogyny and racism. In this case, there is a valid comparison to be made about the rhetoric of single sex schools.

Evidence suggests that girls perform better at single sex schools. These tend to be private schools and, in the UK, tend to be predominantly white and wealthy, which does impact on attainments. Boys do better in mixed sex schools.* The argument for mixed schools requires girls in order to socialise boys and improve their academic records. The implicit message here is that the education of boys is more important than girls so it’s okay to force girls to deal with sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour from male students. Boys aren’t held accountable for their own behaviour; parents aren’t held accountable for raising entitled sons with serious behavioural problems;** and schools aren’t held accountable for their misogynistic practises. Girls are treated as nothing more than tools in the education of boys; no different from computers and chalk.

This article published by Mother Jones treats Black and Latino children as teaching tools for white, middle class children. There is no real mention of the academic achievement of these students and the impact caused by the daily micro-aggressions of a white supremacist, capitalist-patriarchy. It ignores the systemic racism and classism in American culture which sees schools in lower economic areas and those with predominately Black and Latino students receiving less funding. There’s no mention of cuts to arts and music that disproportionately impact ‘bad’ schools – cuts that have serious negative impacts on children’s academic achievements and emotional health. It ignores the number of children going to school hungry because of economic policies which punish families who don’t have trust funds. And aren’t white.

The argument for diverse schools works only if we treat ALL children as worthy of an education and emotional health. Sending white children to predominantly Black and Latino schools to make white children ‘better’ people is racism. It erases Black and Latino children as people; just as the rhetoric around mixed schools holds girls accountable for the behaviour of boys.

We need greater investment in schools to support all children; not use them as specimens in petrie dishes to promote the welfare and entitlement of white, wealthy children at the expense of everyone else.

*I’ve not seen research on this which accounts for class and race in attainment since teachers are not immune from white supremacist thinking and it is clear that many teachers expect better results from white children and mark poor children and children of colour lower than white, wealthy children.

** This point is about neurologically typical children and not a reference to children with additional support needs who find schools difficult spaces to navigate.

Emma Watson did not ‘exploit’ Alan Rickman. This is just victim blaming.

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News.mic engaged in some fantabulous victim blaming of Emma Watson this week for daring to point out that Alan Rickman supported feminism. Apparently talking about a man you’ve known personally for a significant chunk of your life and recognising the importance of activism in his life is a ‘gross and flagrant misstep’. Oddly, no one is saying this about those who have spoken publicly about Rickman’s support of Palestine.

These are the tweets that news.mic used to support their ‘gross and flagrant misstep’ argument:

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The responses to Watson are misogyny 101: both the trolls abusing her and news.mic. Dismissing Rickman’s support of feminism is all about silencing women – the fact that it also erases Rickman is completely irrelevant to misogynists. They don’t actually give a shit who Watson was mourning – they are only in this for the opportunity to abuse women. After all, more people are angry with Watson for recognising Rickman’s commitment to feminism than they are with David Bowie for committing child sexual exploitation and rape.

And, now, news.mic has blamed Watson for the abuse and harassment she has received. This just shows what news.mic thinks of feminism and women’s rights to live a life free from male violence – they could do with checking out Rickman’s actual statements on the subject, but blaming and shaming women gets more hits from misogynists than reporting the truth.

Frank Maloney is not a ‘butterfly’. He is a violent man.

Frank Maloney has a history of domestic violence. Quite a few people seem keen to forget this fact in their rush to deify him since transitioning. Today’s erasure of male violence comes from Polly Toynbee in her article ‘Here’s why feminism must embrace transpeople’:

there was also the jolt of a macho boxing promoter emerging like a butterfly as Kellie Maloney.

Granted, anyone who refers to political disagreements between women as ‘catfights’ isn’t exactly practising feminism, but completely erasing Maloney’s history of violence is inherently anti-woman. Transitioning does not magically make one a better person. And, it helps no one to pretend it does.

 

Leonardo DiCaprio did not “win the internet” with Golden Globes speech.

According to Salon, Leonardo DiCaprio “won the internet” for his Golden Globes speech because he spoke out in support of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It’s incredibly important for people in positions of power to speak in support of marginalised communities (as opposed to speaking for them), but this does not make them ‘good men’ or awesome human beings. It is the basic requirement of not being an asshole. Leonardo_DiCaprio_GoldenGlobes_2016

As Alice Walker says, ‘activism is the rent (we) pay for living on the planet’. A 30 second snippet from a man worth more than $200 million in US is not good enough. DiCaprio does have a history of environmental activism, which is commendable. He also has a history of misogyny. One does not wipe out the other. If DiCaprio is truly concerned about the plight of Indigenous Peoples, he can start by reaching out to communities and offering financial support. Funding services for Indigenous women who have experienced sexual and domestic violence at the hands of white men could be a start, particularly since a legal loophole preventing Indigenous communities in the US from prosecuting white men for domestic violence has only just been overturned. Or, DiCaprio could build on his environmental activism by recognising that Indigenous women are most at risk due to climate change. Funding grassroots women’s groups would be the mark of a good man.

Words, though, don’t count. Not unless they are backed up by activism. And, “winning the internet” is not activism.

“What’s real is not scary”

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Listen Sister is one of my favourite songs from Dene artist Leela Gilday. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a video of her performing this song, but please click on the link as it’s such a beautiful song on sisterhood. The album Calling all Warriors is available on i Tunes.

Sister, we are stronger than we know.

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Listen sister, you know how I feel.

And, what’s real is not scary.

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David Bowie was a musical genius. He was also involved in child sexual exploitation.

 

In the 1970s, David Bowie, along with Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger and others, were part of the ‘Baby Groupies’ scene in LA. The ‘Baby Groupies’ were 13 and 14 year old girls who were raped by male rock stars. The names of these girls are easily searchable online but I will not share them here as all victims of rape deserve anonymity.

The ‘Baby Groupie‘ scene was about young girls being prepared for sexual exploitation (commonly refereed to as grooming) and then sexually assaulted and raped. Even articles which make it clear that the music industry ” ignor(ed), and worse enabl(ed), a culture that still allows powerful men to target young girls” celebrate that culture and minimise the choices of adult men to rape children and those who chose to look away. This is what male entitlement to sexual access to the bodies of female children and adults looks like. It is rape culture.

David Bowie is listed publicly as the man that one 13 year old girl ‘lost her virginity’ too.

We need to be absolutely clear about this, adult men do not ‘have sex’ with 13 and 14 year old girls. It is child rape. Children cannot consent to sex with adult men – even famous rock stars. Suggesting this is due to the ‘context’ of 70s LA culture is to wilfully ignore the history of children being sexually exploited by powerful men. The only difference to the context here was that the men were musicians and not politicians, religious leaders, or fathers.

David Bowie was an incredible musician who inspired generations. He also participated in a culture where children were sexually exploited and raped. This is as much a part of his legacy as his music.

Helen Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History

UnknownI was disappointed by Castor’s Joan of Arc but only because I had not realised what it was Castor was writing. I wanted to read a biography of Joan and chose Castor’s book simply because I absolutely adored Helen Castor’s She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth. It was historically accurate, as well as imaginative. There is so very little writing left by the women Castor profiled that any biography would be contingent on teasing out finely spun threads within the misogynist writings of those around them.

Castor’s Joan of Arc is the contextualisation of Joan within the history of Europe. It is about the France that existed in Joan’s beliefsIt contains little of Joan’s own dictated letters or chunks of testimony from the trials. As I wanted to read more of Joan, I chose to read The Virgin Warrior: The Life and Death of Joan of Arc by Larrissa Juliet Taylor next. The Virgin Warrior contained more direct testimony of Joan but engaged in the hero-worship that Castor was arguing against. Equally, without having read Castor’s book I would not have been in a position to understand the historical context in which Joan was living. I knew the basics of the 100 years war and the various Henrys running about, but not enough about the political situation. Taylor’s text in focussing more on Joan does not contextualise her life and accomplishments within the greater political scene.

I suppose what I really wanted was a history of Joan of Arc that traced the myths as well as the history – rather like Bettany Hughes utterly brilliant Helen of Troy. Whilst I haven’t found that (and I’m always open to recommendations). Castor’s text Unknownis a well worth the read. She’s funny, sarcastic, and accurate – a skill set not many historians have. I love the way Castor challenges historical orthodoxy whilst making it clear that how we interpret history actually erases the lived experiences of those we are writing –  making Joan a “legend, icon and saint” but no longer a young girl. Instead, we label Joan schizophrenic without recognising the reality of faith during Joan’s life where talking to saints was considered a gift – not a curse. Castor made Joan real – and that is an essential rewriting of history.

 

And, because there is never a moment when Horrible Histories isn’t a good plan:

Lisa O’Donnell’s The Death of Bees

This is the best book I’ve read in ages and I’ve read some pretty freaking brilliant books lately. The Death of Bees was one of my random choices from the Edinburgh Book Festival. I always buy a few books by authors I’ve never heard of but this is the best one by far. It is triggering since it covers the systemic violence against women, particularly against those young girls who aren’t considered “proper” victims but it is also beautiful, funny and full of hope.  It is the story of two sisters, Marnie and Nelly, struggling to survive in  a Glasgow housing estate without their parents, who they’ve just buried in a shallow grave in the backyard. They are victimised and revictimised in every manner possible and left to self-destruct by a welfare state that doesn’t give a shit about poor kids from the housing estates. After all, when school is only “a convenient way for all of us to congregate in one place”, it is obvious that these are the kids no one cares about (p.47). But, it’s more than a litany of abuse. It’s about surviving, friendships, the meaning of sisterhood and what really makes a family.  I don’t tend to rate books but if I did, this one would have 5 stars. It’s beautiful (as I said when I bored Twitter senseless whilst reading it).