Dear MET, you need to learn the definition of the word mistake.

I’ve just seen the appearance of Commander Graham McNulty (Specialist Crime Investigative Unit) on Channel 4 News. It was appalling.

You did not “make a mistake” in investigating the multiple rapes committed by John Worboys. Nor, are there any “complexities” in rape cases because they happen in private. Oddly, burglaries also happen in private places and we don’t think it’s “complex” to investigate them.

Your officers made a decision not to investigate rapes reported by women. They failed in their duty to investigate appropriately.  The High Court judgment awarding compensation to two victims of Worboys uses the word “systemic” when referencing your failure to investigate Worboys.

Frankly, McNulty’s appearance on Channel 4 News leaves me less faith in your organisation to support rape victims and investigate the crimes involving sexual violence.

You have a problem within your organisation and women don’t trust you. You need to recognise this and actually do something about it. Otherwise, I’m going to assume you still don’t care about women.

#DickheadDetox: Perez Hilton

Perez Hilton is a shitstain on the face of humanity. I’ve never added him to the #DickheadDetox because, frankly, I didn’t know where to start with his misogynistic body-shaming and victim blaming. He is cruel and spiteful and racist and classist.

Yesterday, he tweeted out this:

“Inside every gay man is a fierce black woman!”

This pretty much sums up everything which is wrong with Hilton in one sentence.

Not that this is shocking in any way shape or form since googling Hilton and racism brings up a veritable encyclopaedia of “How to be Racist”.

Welcome to the Patriarchy where dogs are more important than women

Welcome to the Patriarchy where the brutal murder of two women are insignificant in the face of the death of four dogs. At least, according to The Mirror who responded to the murders of  Christine Lee, 66, and daughter Lucy, 40,  with a chat to the RSPCA.

Granted the death of 4 dogs isn’t something to celebrate but I’m going to go ahead  and suggest that brutal murder of two women by a male member of their family is (a) not an isolated incident but rather part of systemic male violence against women and (b) more worrying than the death of four dogs. I’m sure I’m going to get a pile full of hate mail for this stance but I really don’t care.

Christine Lee and her daughter Lucy were brutally murdered.  Men who kill women who are known to them almost always have a history of domestic violence. Yes, John Lowe, 82, has a documented history of animal abuse and had been give a 5 year ban on breeding dogs by the local council but this is important because animal abuse can be a warning sign of domestic violence.

Lets focus on what is important here: another man violently killing women. A full history of his abuse of animals is not necessary. What is important is investigating whether or not he has a documented history of violence against women, which I’m fairly sure it will.

This is the story of the murder of Christine and Lucy.

Their family deserves our consideration and support.

Christine and Lucy deserve our collective will to end violence against women.

 

Thank you to Counting Dead Women for raising this disgraceful example of misogyny.

 

 

On Being a “Media Whore”

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this. It didn’t seem worth writing a response to something so full of hate: labelling women as “media whores” for trying surviving in a Capitalist-Patriarchy which hates women.

This isn’t a feminism I signed up for: attacking other women. Most of us are struggling to pay our bills. We are all doing the best we can and, yes, it’s fucking hard trying to make a living as a writer. I certainly don’t make a living as a writer. After all, everyone knows the Huffington Post doesn’t pay it’s bloggers. If they offered me a paying job would I take it? Absolutely! I’d write for the Daily Mail too. If it comes down to feeding my kids or writing for Brendan O’Neill, well, it’s not really a choice is it?. Having principles doesn’t feed your kids.

Having principles and refusing work because of them is only possible if you are financially secure due to family money or winning the lottery. It’s not practical for the vast majority of women living on the planet and it’s inherently anti-feminist to blame women for taking work to pay their rent or feed the kids. The assumption that women you’ve never met are in a financial position to turn down work is classist. It erases the experiences of working class women and those living in abject poverty.

I’ve been pretty open about being a disabled, single mother whose work possibilities are severely limited by both. If they world were fair, my dream job would a lecturer at a university teaching undergraduates women’s history and supervising postgraduates. But, the world is not fair and, short of winning the lottery, there is no way I will ever be able to afford the training to achieve my dream job.

This is why 3rd wave “choice” feminism is so dangerous: it allows people to make assumptions about women they have never met and genuinely know nothing about. It assumes all women have inherited money from their parents and are completely free of being held accountable for the consequences of their decisions. Anyone who thinks that women make choices without constraint is either a nincompoop or completely incapable of empathy.

The reality is that the world is a pretty shit place for many women: we live with sexual and domestic violence, unequal pay, inadequate housing,  and living in a country where the economy benefits from the unpaid work of women and then labels us lazy despite us doing the majority of the work which keeps the economy afloat.

Blaming women for surviving is neither fair nor kind. It’s precisely the same type of abusive behaviour that women experience from men on a daily basis. The patriarchy already tries to divide women into categories of “good” and “bad”; we need to stop replicating that and stop demanding perfection from women.

We also need to learn to express our anger and hurt without trashing, denigrating or libelling other women. It is never acceptable to call another woman a whore. It is never acceptable to attack any woman using misogynistic language and it is certainly anti-feminist to police other women’s friendships, acquaintances or work colleagues.

You have no idea whats going on in the lives of complete strangers online and it’s time to stop pretending that we do. And, it’s time to stop excusing abusive behaviour because of “anger” or “hurt”. Anger is understandable. Abusive language and behaviour is not.

The New Turns Feminism Conference and the no-platforming of Julie Bindel

Last November, I was asked to speak at the New Turns: Feminism in the 21st Century Conference on the panel on Feminism and Capitalism. When I was invited, there were already a number of high profile women attached to the event like Prof Liz Kelly, blogger Glosswitch, Kat Banyard, Julie Bindel and Sarah Brown. I accepted the invitation because it was a great line-up with some fabulous panels planned.

I did not know until I arrived that the journalist and campaigner Julie Bindel had been no-platformed. She was originally scheduled to appear on a panel on transgenderism and feminism with Sarah Brown, a transwoman, who is a city councillor in the city of Cambridge. When I was invited in November it was with the impression that Bindel and Brown would both be appearing on the panel on transgenderism and feminism.

I do not know the exact timeline of what happened next but this is what I have gathered from various conversations on the day and on Twitter after the conference.

  • Brown objected to being on a panel with Bindel and said so on twitter on several occasions.
  • A number of people began campaigning to have Bindel no-platformed because of “transphobia” and “Islamaphobia”
  • The NUS have/had a no-platform policy for Bindel and QME ran a petition to have Bindel banned on this
  • The New Turn organisers then tried to have Bindel moved to the panel on Violence against Women due to her long career of activism on the issue.
  • This was not deemed acceptable and the boycott was not rescinded
  • There was also a sustained campaign of harassment against the organisers, specifically a female organiser not the men which in and of itself is misogyny.
  • In the end, the entire panel on transgenderism and feminism was cancelled and the other two panelists, including Sarah Brown, were disinvited.

As I said, the were numerous conversations about the situation on the day; I cannot say for certain what happened and when because I was not involved. I do think the conference organisers were placed in an untenable situation in which they are dependent on                                            NUS support and effectively had no choice. Responsibility for the no-platforming of Bindel lies squarely with the NUS, QME and those engaged in the sustained campaign of harassment. During the conference, numerous panel members made it very clear that they fundamentally disapprove of no-platforming any women. A statement at the end of the conference by the organisers also made it very clear that Bindel’s work on violence against women is important and dismissing this work is simply inappropriate.

During the conference, I heard a number of people say that Bindel was no-platformed for transphobia and that they ‘knew’ she was transphobic, yet none of them had read Bindel’s work. They also didn’t know who Sarah Brown is. Many others didn’t know there was supposed to be a panel on transgenderism and feminism or that anyone was uninvited. I have to wonder how many people demanding that Bindel be no-platformed are familiar with her work.

It was certainly depressing being at a feminist conference with women suggesting that it was ok to no-platform Bindel despite knowing nothing about her or her work. Considering the frequency with which women have been silenced through harassment, libellous statements and abuse from men, I would hope that feminists, at the very least, would personally investigate before demanding women be no-platformed. Frankly, I find it utterly hypocritical to demand the silencing of women you’ve never heard of.

This has become the state of feminist politics: we cannot simply disagree with one another. Instead, it appears that feminism is about silencing women you disagree with: preventing them from speaking by having them no-platformed and if that doesn’t work going with harassment and violent threats. And, now demanding women you’ve never heard of be no-platformed because someone else told you that they heard that the person did/said something you are now required to disagree with.

The New Turns conference should have been brilliant. All of the panels has a wide variety of speakers covering a spectrum of feminist political beliefs. My panel on feminism and capitalism included an investment banker, a Marxist-feminist and me on the incompatibility of radical feminism and capitalism. The panel called “Generation Y” had Liz Kelly and Viv Regan, the managing editor of Spiked, on it. I can assure you that I fundamentally disagree with absolutely everything Regan had to say about the state of modern feminism, the reality of rape culture and “victim” feminism. Regan represents everything I find offensive about liberal feminist discourse and I still believe that it was important that Regan spoke at the conference (if only to hear the brilliant Rosa from the new online magazine Bad Housekeeping demolish Regan’s arguments.)

This is precisely how feminism should operate: giving all women a chance to speak, hearing them and making informed decisions based on your analysis of information received and not just what someone said to you based on something someone else said one time.

Feminism doesn’t require us to all agree on everything all the time. It’s actually one of the things which used to make feminism a powerful movement: that we disagreed and argued and fell out. This is normal. As Liz Kelly said during the Generation Y panel: feminism is a movement, not a political party. There is no party line that we *have* to follow. Yet, we appear to have arrived at a situation where feminism is a hierarchy with a strict party line where the loudest and most abusive shout and silence others.

Threatening other women with violence, demanding they be no-platformed for not agreeing with you, and publicly trashing other women isn’t feminism and we’ve got to stop pretending it is.

We are silenced, harassed and ignored by men on a daily basis. They don’t read our writings, listen to our music or watch films which star women who are fully clothed. We should not be silencing each other.

We don’t have to agree. Hell, we don’t even have to like one another but we shouldn’t be silencing the voices of other women. Call them out if you disagree but don’t silence.

And, conferences like this are organised by unpaid volunteers. If you don’t like how they are running a conference, do your own. Don’t abuse the organisers.

 

 

Women are not possessions: fighting rape culture with misogyny

Every time I hear someone say  to a man ” You should call out rape apology because what if the woman was your mother or sister or aunt or daughter”, I wince. It’s one of those statements that men who think they’re helping make without recognising that it actually reinforces rape culture.

Rape culture depends on creating a dichotomy between “good” and “bad” women.  This is the basis of patriarchy: women as possessions of men who are controlled and oppressed through (violent) social structures which reinforce the construction of women as possessions. Implying that men should not rape in case someone else rapes their mother or sister or daughter is not helping to dismantle rape culture. It merely reinforces the belief that some women are unrapeable because they are not a possession of a man. If we want to end rape culture, we need to say rape is a crime committed against women, children and men; not because they are possessions of a powerful man but because they are human and are entitled to bodily autonomy and safety.

I understand that many people use the expression “what if it were your daughter or mother” because they are trying to help. We just need to be careful that the language we use does not accidentally reinforce the very structures we are trying to dismantle.

The “Die in a Fire” Meme: Making this Positive Feminist Activism

This week I received more of these “die in a fire” tweets. Normally I ignore these types of abusive messages insofar as I have no interest in acknowledging abusive trolls. However, as these trolls are well aware, my sister recently suffered a catastrophic house fire. The fire marshall has made it clear that if my nieces and nephews were in their rooms, they would have died. Many other women have similar stories of losing family and friends in a fire. This is without acknowledging the history of burning women as punishment: from the witch hunts to suttee to the murder of women and children by violent men.

The “die in a fire” meme is misogyny.

It is used to silence women, control and punish women.

Any woman using this phrase or suggesting that it’s excusable is not a feminist. They are abusers.

Rather than wasting time trying to explain why “die in a fire” is misogyny to abusers, let’s turn this into a positive piece of feminist activism and donate to Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid in the names of women who have been brutally assaulted and murdered through the use of fire.

The Creation of Patriarchy, the Reality of Women’s Oppression and Infertility.

Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy is an absolutely fabulous text and I highly recommend it. Lerner’s thesis is based on the belief that women’s oppression is based on both women’s potential reproductive ability and their potential as sex objects which occurred before the creation of private property and a class society. This is then institutionalised in practise through the creation of slavery, the codification of laws and the creation of monotheism. Lerner’s thesis is, obviously, far more complex than that brief sentence and her work deserves more thought than I’ve written.

A conversation earlier today on twitter had me thinking in a different direction. The conversation was about recognising women’s oppression as a class due to potential reproductive capacity without excluding those women who are infertile. This is all completely speculative and I’ve done no research and am quite open to being completely wrong on the following (and would love suggestions for books which either prove or disprove my musings).

I agree with Lerner’s thesis: women are oppressed because of reproductive and sexual capacities but I have been thinking about the role of infertile women in the creation of patriarchy. Women’s safety depended on their relationships to men with power. This would have put infertile women in very precarious positions. If they could not bear their husband that much vaunted male heir, how would it impact their safety? Yet, an infertile sister might be of economic boon to their brother’s household if she was deemed unmarriageable (or replaced by another woman).

So, what was the impact of being infertile for women across cultures and history?

  • Would women who are infertile be more likely to be used for sexual slavery?  At certain points, their infertility could be classed as a positive since the lack of offspring would prevent questions about dynasty, inheritance and power.
  • The infertility of first wives could give space for other women to carve themselves a place of safety by bearing a child for a powerful man.
  • With the high rate of maternal mortality, the labour of infertile women in childrearing, caring, housework and estate management must have been of economic benefit.
  • How often were infertile women used as “bogeymen” as a warning for women to behave lest they too become infertile.

 

If anyone has suggestions for research which has addressed these issues, please get in touch!

Gender vs Biological Essentialism

“I will never understand how you square biological essentialism with gender is a social construct. “

I’ve seen this statement tweeted out a few times today and, frankly, it  boggles that people don’t understand it. Human biology is an actual thing. Humans compromise of two sexes: male and female. It is not pretend or made up or whatever postmodern drivel people are spouting to defend the idea that it doesn’t exist.

Human reproduction is based in the reality of male and female bodies. Human babies have, for millennia, been produced via male sperm inserted into female bodies. It is not “biological essentialism” to point out that male sperm and a female egg are required in order to produce a human baby. Yes, technology has exploded in the past few decades allowing for the conception of babies via IVF (which has a low success rate), surrogacy (which comes with a whole host of issues surrounding the colonisation of women’s bodies), and we all know that it is technically possible to create a human baby using only women’s eggs (although clearly not accepted practise since it makes men irrelevant and they hate that).

All this technology has proved is that human reproduction still basically requires male sperm and a female egg (because, let’s be honest here, babies made from two women will never be acceptable whilst we live in a patriarchy even if we do technically have the science to do so).

Biology is an actual scientifically verifiable thing. Humans are compromised of two sexes with a very small number of people who are classed as intersex.

Sex is a real category.

Gender is not real. It is a harmful social construct that has been deliberately created in order to ensure male control over property, which includes women. What we perceive as “gendered” traits are human traits imposed on male or female bodies. This is patently obvious if one takes ten minutes to google what traits are considered male/female across the world. Many cultures have very different understanding of what male/ female traits are and these have certainly not been static throughout history. To assume that there are specific traits which are identifiably male or female is to ignore the entirety of human history and to assume that Western White Supremacist Patriarchal culture is the only culture which is relevant.

Gender is harmful and destructive.

It is gender which dictates that masculinity requires men to be aggressive and violent.

It is gender which prohibits women from positions of political and economic power.

It is gender which assumes that women only have two purposes in life: bearing children and sexual slavery. This is biological essentialism.

Radical feminism is not based on “biological essentialism”. It is yet another harmful myth created to rubbish radical feminist theory. Radical feminism argues that biological essentialism is the source of women’s oppression.  Radical feminism argues that gender, and gender identity, are based entirely in biological essentialism. Gender only exists in order to maintain current political, social and cultural systems in order to keep power and money in the hands of a select few white men.

 Sex is a biological category.

Gender is a social construct.

Sex becomes a problem when gender is applied to sex categories with a view to controlling and oppressing one sex at the expense of another.

We need to eradicate gender.

Why shouldn’t feminists be angry?

I don’t want to be one of those angry feminists.

I hear this a lot. It’s inevitably followed by “I don’t want to be one of those man-hating feminists.”

Heck, I’ve said it myself on numerous occasions. As Glosswitch so eloquently wrote, online feminism has become a frightening place. Any deviation from what is considered “acceptable” results in abuse; any questions deemed inappropriate result in threats.

We preface our statements with “I’m not one of those” as a desperate attempt to prevent ourselves from being targeted for abuse from women who claim to be feminists; from being attacked, harassed and violated by violent men. We hide our anger and we hide our fear lest we be the next target.

Glosswitch wrote about a feminism free of fear: the ability to change our minds, to question, to debate without worrying about the response from abusers.

I want a feminism where we don’t have to apologise for our anger.

I want a feminism where we are proud of anger.

A feminism where we can stand up and shout.

A feminism where rage  is considered a gift.

We live in a world where 1 in 5 women between the ages of 16 – 59 have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Where 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence.

Where street harassment is a daily experience for women.

Where rape jokes are considered normal.

Where 2 women a week are murdered by their current or former partners.

We live in a world where our girls aren’t safe in school from male violence perpetrated by their classmates and their teachers.

We live in a world where women get thousands of rape and death threats for believing that the Bank of England should be held accountable to government legislation.

We live in a world where harassment and stalking is considered “activism” for women who don’t toe the party line.

I’m proud to be an Angry Feminist.

I’m proud to be an Angry Feminist who knows the difference between righteous anger and personal attacks.

Because this is the problem: far too many confuse personal attacks with righteous anger which frightens others into keeping silent and hiding their anger.

Anger can be a truly beautiful thing when directed at the right target.

We need to be proud of anger but we also need to stop confusing harassment and abuse with anger.