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).
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
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
- Dundee from 2-4 pm on Reform Street
- Dublin: 2 pm on O’Connell Street
- London: 2 pm at Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament
* 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.
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.
I wasn’t going to write anymore about Slutwalk this week; especially after Slutwalk London came out on the side of rape apologists. Then, in the it never rains, but pours construction of life, I came across this piece of nincompoopery in the Huffington Post. Yes, Coco Khan claims to be aware of the criticisms surrounding Slutwalk and chose to attend in spite of her misgivings. But, I’m struggling to see how one can claim to be aware of the criticisms and support of Slutwalk and then write this:
I didn’t stay long, I was too angry, hurt and disappointed – it’s the same feeling as watching your underdog football team (Feminism FC) get all the way to cup finals and then crash and burn because they still hadn’t ironed out that formation problem from Round 1. It was the liberal and constant use of the word ‘victim’ that infuriated me, it was the speeches that assumed Assange did it, like a speech the year before assumed DSK did too.
It was the insipid use of facts such as ‘93% of rapists get away with it’ as though every single man accused was guilty. Feminism isn’t about assuming every accused man is a rapist. It’s about equality, and freedom, or specifically fair trials and fair treatment. I was equally upset to see a youthful crowd, a new generation of feminists whose interest had been piqued, being completely misdirected. It’s important to stand around and cheer, to raise our firsts in the air, to weep at the tales of the people we fight for and be inspired by them too. But it’s also important to get organised.
I mean, where do you even start? Yes, 93% [give or take a few percentage points] of men accused of rape are never convicted of rape but, that’s because we live in a rape culture where men are constructed as victims of lying whores. Thing is most men accused of rape are guilty of rape. They may not be found guilty in a court of law but that’s because the law’s an ass. Very few accusations of rape are false. Even the government and the FBI, neither of whom are hotbeds of radical feminism, agree with these statistics. So, why would any woman write anything so utterly ridiculous? Did Khan completely fail to see how offensive and arrogant that is to rape victims? Last time, I checked feminism was about the liberation of women from male violence and equality, fair trials and fair treatment for women [and children] who were raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. It is they who get unfair treatment in the criminal justice system. Not rapists. I genuinely can not express how unbelievably angry I am at that.
As for the references to Julian Assange and Domique Strauss-Khan, well, they were kind of obvious weren’t they? Imagine an anti-rape demonstration not mentioning the two most famous rape trials of the past two years? Two cases involving powerful, wealthy, white men where the men have been constructed as victims of some sort of evil feminist conspiracy because both self-define as liberals. It is the very rape myths surrounding these trials that Slutwalk is attempting to address. Yeah, I don’t agree with the way Slutwalk is addressing the issue by using the word slut, but, FFS, criticising an anti-rape demo for talking about rape cases is beyond stupid.
And, yes, I’m sure the speakers at the rally used the word victim constantly. Just as I’m sure some of them will have used the word survivor constantly. Women who were raped are more than within their rights to define themselves as victims or survivors as they see fit. There is debate within the feminist and other anti-rape movements about which word is more applicable but Khan doesn’t seem to be addressing this debate. She seems to be dismissing the idea that many women are victims and/or survivors of sexualised violence. It’s a very odd statement to make.
And, the “it’s time to get organised” bit, is, well, weird. Isn’t that exactly what Slutwalk was doing: organising a feminist demonstration. Giving women a place to share their stories
What Slutwalk has achieved can never be disregarded. It energized a growing and inexplicable discontent amongst women and directed it in a way that academia never could. It stopped preaching to the choir and took it the streets. For all its flaws in its punchy, explosive name, the reality is no one will come to a rally that sounds like an essay and Slutwalk should keep doing what they are doing. But this event is not enough to carry the bright flame of feminism single-handedly; two chapters in, the story has barely begun.
Yep, I’m a big supporter of the whole moving away from Slutwalk into more critical discussions of rape culture but I’d prefer to start by moving away from the premise that most women lie about rape and most men accused of rape are victims of an evil conspiracy. Could just be me though. Doing that whole over-thinking thing feminists are always being accused of.
I’m not a supporter of Slutwalk in general as I have already outlined here. I don’t think its possible to reclaim a word that the Patriarchy uses to oppress us. Despite my reservations, I am, however, supportive of the number of women who have stood up to be counted in the War on Women. I hope to see these women at Reclaim the Night and Million Women Rise. We can destroy the Patriarchy from within fighting simultaneously on various fronts but we can’t win the war when the very women supposedly standing up to defend women are supporting the silencing of rape victims who had the misfortune to be raped by left-wing men.
I was disappointed to read of @SlutwalkLondon’s tweet from yesterday via Stavvers. Their statement of support for Women Against Rape’s perplexing stand on the Assange rape case is full of fallacious statements, complete misunderstandings of the Swedish justice system and some seriously problematic rape myths:
We support Women Against Rape. We think Assange should be prosecuted, just that he should not be extradited to Sweden because it is likely he will then be extradited to the US and treated the same as Bradley Manning. We are not saying the women lied or that they should not get justice. But we think he should stand trial here. It is pretty clear the authorities are not pursuing Assange because of the rape allegations. Look at how the authorities treat rape victims – they don’t give a damn. 93 out of every 100 reported rapists go free. Also, look at how the UK acted when Spain requested that Pinochet be extradited. Pinochet (a Chilean dictator) was responsible for the death, rape and torture of thousands of people, crimes far greater than Assange’s. But the UK government denied Spain’s extradition request and let Pinochet go free – because they didn’t care about the people who died because of Pinochet just as they do not care about these women. The pursuit of Assange is not about protecting rape victims or anyone else. They want him to be extradited to the US to face trial and be imprisoned there so he can’t expose what the US government does anymore. We can’t let this happen because the things Wikileaks exposed will help stop wars and the rape and murder they bring happen in future. Let him stand trial here.
I can’t even begin to comprehend how they think Assange could be tried in Britain for a crime committed in Sweden or the naivety that Wikileaks has in anyway helped stopped wars. Assange himself has been fairly instrumental in outing sources who’ve then disappeared so how he gets to be the Defender of Democracy boggles my mind. Yes, the authorities don’t seem to give a shit about rape and the British government’s refusal to extradite Pinochet was wrong [I don’t care how ill he was. He should have stood trial and then we could discuss sentencing for elderly, ill men. But, not before they get convicted for their crimes.] The whole Bradley Manning bit is utter bollocks. Manning was a serving member of the military when arrested. He has been charged under military law; not criminal law. The treatment Manning is receiving is despicable and I think its fairly note-worthy that the same Dudes running about supporting Pussy Riot’s free speech haven’t been half as vocal on the issue of Manning. Even if Sweden deported Assange, he would be tried under civilian criminal law and, really, the chances of Sweden deporting Assange are so much less likely than the UK who have form for deporting British citizens to the US.
How the fuck whoever tweeted this garbage thinks the two women will get justice whilst supposed feminists are running about claiming Assange is too important to go stand trial for rape is beyond me. The umbrella organisation Slutwalk Britain have already denounced this tweet but the damage has already been done. Rich, white guy can’t possibly be a rapist because he’s anti-government. This is precisely the language that the Occupy movement used when excusing the rapists preying on women in their camps across the world.
UPDATE: Anastasia Richardson has apologised for the statements she made using the official Slutwalk London Twitter account:
The recent views expressed regarding the extradition of Julian Assange were my own rather than those of SlutWalk London. I apologise for using this platform to express these views and hope they do not deter from the purpose of SlutWalk, which is to send the message that there is never any excuse for rape and to demand protection and justice for all rape survivors.
Otherwise entitled: Reason 347 why I don’t follow men on twitter: unrelenting levels of nincompoopery. Really, no one should be bothering to read anything written by a man so dense but, unfortunately, Neil Wallis is also a former deputy editor of the Sun. You know, one of those aresholes responsible for the Page 3 phenomenon. Suffice it say that I had never heard of Wallis until I read his self-righteous, utterly narcissistic defence of the Page 3 in the Huffington Post complete with unbearably smug quotes of tweets which make him sound like a Hugh Hefner wannabe
Normally, I wouldn’t even bother responding to the whinging twaddle of misogynists being called on their misogyny but this is such a brilliant piece of mansplainin’ twaddle helpfully called: “Why the Self-Serving Wimmin Who Want to Ban Page 3 Are So Wrong”. Anytime a man uses the term “wimmin”, you know he’s going to be a misogynistic areswipe. When men use words like “hysteria” and “shrill” to describe women they disagree with, you know they are misogynists.
Anytime a man suggests there is something more important in the world for feminists be focusing on, you know he’s a misogynist. And stupid to boot. Apparently, Wallis is unaware of campaigns on FGM, white slavery
It is important that we know this. Also, that Salma Yaqoob is very, very slight. As in the perfect example of femininity. Just in case we got confused about what is actually important and its not that she was the leader of a political party who RESIGNED IN PROTEST because of some seriously offensive rape apologist bullshit on the part of another member of the party: George Galloway. Nope, we must remember at all times that Yaqoob is a girl and knows how to behave like one.
In the middle of what could have been a decent article in the Guardian, Yaqoob’s feminine performativity is reinforced over and over again culminating in this piece of twaddle:
Yaqoob, 41, is, in person, even slighter than she seems on television – she has long, thin arms and a face miraculously unlined by a decade spent raising three boys, working as a councillor in Birmingham (she resigned for reasons of ill-health last year), running a part-time psychotherapy practice – oh, and leading a new political party. She has just had a new kitchen fitted, and the backyard of her home in the Moseley area of Birmingham is piled with cardboard boxes. The ceilings are high, and the rooms full of light. On the kitchen table sits a straw basket of chapatis she has been baking.
Obviously, if Yaqoob hadn’t been baking then we would have forgotten she didn’t have a penis. I mean, seriously, how is this even relevant? Who cares what she looks like or does? She’s a politician; one with actual morals. How many can claim that? But, still, we minimise her accomplishments by babbling on about her appearance.
Even more obnoxiously, that paragraph was shoved in between the reporter asking about Galloway’s “Assange is just guilty of bad sex” theory and Yaqoob’s answer. This is her answer:
“I’ve always admired George’s anti-imperialist stances and I don’t regret, for a second, standing side by side on those issues. But for me, to have to make a choice between that and standing up for the rights of women was a false choice. I thought it was a blurring of something that didn’t need to be blurred. It’s not that complicated – you can hold two ideas at the same time.” Of course, “we’re all human, we can’t always make perfectly worded and crafted sentences – I really hoped a clarification would sort that out.” She published a statement setting out her own position, but then, as she describes it, things escalated. Although she says Galloway never got directly in contact – and still hasn’t – she felt she was being personally maligned; that “under the guise of different names there were personal attacks”.
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:
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.
These are the details for this year’s London Slutwalk. As with the Edinburgh Slutwalk in July, I won’t be attending because I find the concept of Slutwalks deeply problematic. However, Slutwalk has ignited debate about victim-blaming and sexualised violence. It has also created a safe space for women to share their stories. There is no greater gift. So, whilst I stand by what I wrote in July about the Slutwalk Edinburgh, I also have to give props to the women attending. The Patriarchy must be destroyed. We’re just destroying it from different angles.
This is what I wrote about Slutwalk Edinburgh:
I would have marched in the original in Toronto because that had a specific purpose: to raise awareness of the misogynistic discourse normalised within the police as it manifested in that specific incident. The worldwide movement to reclaim the word “slut” bothers me. There seems to have been little real political analysis of the word and its specific connotations for different groups of women due to race, class, and ethnicity. Personally, I don’t believe it is possible to re-appropriate the words of your oppressors. I also think its incredibly odd to try to reclaim the word “slut” in order to demonstrate that rape isn’t about being a “slut”.
Violence against women is endemic and systemic. It is everywhere and it is excused a thousand times a day in a million different ways. Slutwalk doesn’t address or even attempt to analyse VAW. It only attempts to address one facet of rape myths without questioning the rape culture in which those myths are perpetuated and perpetrated. Rape isn’t just about controlling women’s sexuality as Slutwalk seems to imply. The act of rape [and the fear of the act of rape] are about controlling every facet of women’s lives. Rape isn’t about how women dress [or don’t dress]. Rape is the practise of misogyny. It is misogyny that we need to eradicate but we need to do this by attacking every facet of VAW. Slutwalk privileges the lived experiences of middle class, white women. It merely reinforces the racist constructions about the sexuality of Black and Ethnic Minority women. It ignores the structural oppressions of poverty. It ignores how the structural oppressions of poverty specifically target Black and Ethnic Minority women.
I want the eradication of the patriarchal-capitalist structures which oppress women. I don’t want to reclaim or re-appropriate the words of my oppressors. I want them gone.
I wish my sisters luck [and sunshine] for Slutwalk Edinburgh. I won’t be on the march but, if Slutwalk becomes the catalyst which destroys the Patriarchy, I will be the first one to apologise.
Some interesting blogs and articles on Slutwalk:
Amplify Your Voice: In Context: Criticisms of the Slutwalk
People of Colour Organize: Four Brief Critiques of Slutwalk’s Whiteness, Privilege and Unexamined Power Dynamics
Black Women’s Blueprint: An Open Letter From Black Women to the Slutwalk
The Crunk Feminist Collective: I Saw the Sign but Did We Really Need the Sign? Slutwalk and Racism
Gail Dines & Wendy J Murphy: Slutwalk is not Sexual Liberation
Alternatives to Slutwalk:
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.
Phone: 01493 667890
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.