Owen Jones, Feminism and the difference between criticism and trashing

I only read Owen Jones’ article on the austerity cuts and violence against women late tonight.  I tweeted out that I wished a woman had written it but that’s my standard response to any topic involving women’s lives. Cultural femicide is a real thing and a young, white male writing about the effects of austerity cuts on the reality of violence against women is covered under that umbrella.

Violence against women, as Jones’ states, is a national crisis but it is one in which the perpetrator is consistently erased. It is women’s campaigning and research which led to the development of women’s services. It is women who have consistently supported other women whilst being threatened, denigrated and treated like shit for doing. We need to insist that women’s work in the field of VAW is kept centred in our development of public policy.

Jones’ writes about violence against women and the effects of the austerity cuts without once talking about the perpetrator.  It is absolutely essential to talk about male violence against women and children. It is men who  assault, rape, torture, and kill women and children. It is men who refuse to pay child maintenance preferring instead to allow their children to live in poverty. The reason we need refuges and rape crisis centres is because of male violence. Talking about the effect of cuts to women’s services without naming the reason we need them is to ignore the root of the problem. Domestic violence costs the UK economy approximately 23 BILLION POUNDS a year. Men cost our economy 23 billion pounds a year and instead of tackling this issue properly, the government decides to “save” money by punishing the victims of male violence.

When I tweeted out my disappointment in Jones writing this article, I did so not realising it was his weekly column spot. I still wish a woman had written it but I more concerned about the failure to name the perpetrator. I’m also surprised at how many reacted to the discussions around Jones’ article. I’m not sure when wanting a woman to have written the piece became confused with trashing. Or, why a valid feminist concern about naming perpetrators has become an example of feminists being big stinky meanie-pants.

The thing is I only read Jones’ article because I like his work.  He’s one of the few male journalists that I bother reading anymore. He’s written some brilliant pieces and he’s written some things I fundamentally disagree with, which, oddly, is pretty much how I feel about every single writer whose work I like. I don’t expect to agree with anyone 100% of the time and it’s absolutely sycophantic for people to claim they do this. Having a different opinion to another person is not trashing. Disagreeing with someone’s work isn’t ‘trashing’

Criticism is a valid and valuable tool. We need to be able to have these discussions. We need to have a space where women who agree and disagree with Jones (or who don’t give a shit either way) can share those opinions – and the reasons for them – without worrying about being attacked or subtweeted about.

It’s okay for women to disagree with each other and to disagree with men. It’s not ok to tell women that they are shit feminists for disagreeing with you.

How Many Of The Greatest Books By Women Have You Read?

I love lists of “Greatest Books”. They are almost always written by white men, regardless of who has compiled the list. Some list books that no one has bothered to read: E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class is notorious in academia for how many people own the book without ever reading it. I love these kinds of lists because so many are clearly ridiculous.

Buzzfeed’s Greatest Books by Women has some absolute corkers in it!  In  between “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley are:

  • Bossypants” by Tina Fey
  • “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
  • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  • “How To Be A Woman” by Caitlin Moran

Now, I loved Harry Potter but greatest book written by a woman? And, Caitlin Moran? Funny – absolutely. Lots of women read them: check.

But none of the above deserve to be on the “Greatest Books Written by Women” list. I’ve only read 23 of the books and those that I’ve read (excluding Rowling & Collins which I didn’t like) all are my list of favourite books written by women. This is by far one of the best lists of great books I’ve ever read (and my Amazon wish list is currently in the realm of ridiculous).  More importantly, many of the books on that list I hadn’t heard of which is what makes these kinds of list, with mind-bogglingly bizarre inclusions, so much fun!

<even if I’m unlikely to be able to read some of them because they aren’t available in our local library.>

Celebrate Mother’s Day by Helping Other Mothers

We don’t celebrate Mother’s Day. It was not something we celebrated when I was growing up when fractured family relationships made it an ironic holiday and I never started celebrating it when I gave birth to my first child as a “teenage mother” – mostly because I didn’t have the money to buy myself chocolate.  I have identified as a feminist since I was a teenager but it wasn’t until I joined Mumsnet (who, for all the shit they get, probably saved my life when I had PTSD) that I began to celebrate International Women’s Day instead.

I love International Women’s Day which recognises the work of all women in securing a safe world for our children. I would not have the academic qualifications I have now if it were not for the women without children around me who helped me raise my daughter and who made me a better mother. Without Vanessa, Maria and Catharine, I would not be the woman I am today. They gave me the gift of love and friendship which is so much more powerful than a box of chocolates can ever say.

This year for Mother’s Day, I urge women to support other mothers the way I was supported:

This is just a brief list of the organisations helping mothers. There are so many others working with little money supporting increasing numbers of mothers. Please make a even a small donation today so that all mothers have a chance to mother their children safely and securely.

Marlborough College is now running a school for “wives”

For the bargain basement price of £32, 280 per annum*, you to can send your daughter to Marlborough college to learn how to be a “supportive wife”. Yep, that’s what Jonathan Leigh, the Master of Marlborough’s response to the Telegraph’s deeply stupid questions about a “school for wives”:

 “It is a unique situation of which we’re quietly proud – a rather happy coalescence has led to this group of able and powerful, supportive women.”

Yep. He’s not proud that his school has educated women to the best of their ability and he’s not proud of their personal successes. He’s excited because Prince William and David Cameron married Marlborough’s female students.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that any school that thinks a woman’s best role is as a “supportive wife” isn’t worth paying in toilet paper. It’s certainly not worth 30 grand a year.

Really, I’m hoping this is just piss-poor reporting from the Telegraph because, frankly, referencing pillow talk as a woman’s power is so beyond offensive that I don’t even know where to start.  I mean this is the biggest pile of misogynistic wankery I’ve seen from a woman in a long time:

So the girls who are standing by their man – while reminding him that they are his equal, and that running the country does not mean he gets out of children’s bath times – can draw strength from their old school motto: Deus Dat Incrementum, “God gives growth”. A call, the school says, to put back what has been gained, to serve in whatever way you can with dignity.

“Standing by their man” is the same rhetoric which forces women to remain in abusive marriages. It’s the same language which blames women for divorcing a man whose been fucking his way around the planet since the day after they stood at the altar. Training girls to stand by their man is misogyny.

This entire article is misogyny. It erases the entire lives of women like Samantha Cameron and reduces them to nothing more than a possession. If this is what Marlborough is teaching girls, it needs to shut down. Women’s ‘power’ isn’t in their role as a possession of a man. It is in their existence. The fact that men can’t see this is patriarchal bullshit.

 

*Of course, this number isn’t accurate if your child has learning difficulties. In which case, you are charged £58 per hour for support. The phrase red flag comes to mind here and I have to wonder whether Marlborough lets in any children who would have statements for support in state schools. I’m guessing no.

The Prison Service is Banning Books.

Actually, the situation is far more complicated than the Guardian article describing the new petition by Mark Haddon makes clear. Prison services aren’t actually banning books. They are, however, preventing families from receiving small packages from families and friends which could contain books. This is part of their rewards and incentives program which “encourages” good behaviour from prisoners.

Regardless of the hyperbole involved with the “banning books” headlines, the idea just stinks. Books should never be used as a punishment or reward.

I don’t support the prison system in general as it is simply not fit for purpose. It does not offer “justice” nor “rehabilitation”. It is also deeply misogynistic and racist; one only has to look at the crimes for which women and Black men are incarcerated for and compare them with the crimes of white middle class men.

Prison must be about rehabilitation. Yes, there are violent men who should not be released but denying them access to books and other extreme forms of punishment do not make prisons safe for other inmates or the staff. Books are the one thing that all prisoners should have access to at all times. There are obvious provisos here: obviously no one should have a copy of Mein Kampf and how-to manuals for torture porn. There should also be limits on the number of library books an inmate can have in their cell at any one time but preventing families from sending in new books is nonsensical.

There are better ways to reward and incentivise prisoners good behaviour but those require a fundamental overhaul of our justice system and a recognition that incarceration should be reserved only for violent crimes. But, as long as we are stuck with the system we have, preventing new books from entering prisons is an inappropriate punishment which does nothing to help with rehabilitation (frankly, some actual programs for drug misuse might be a start).

I have linked the petition below but in a climate where library services are being cut across the UK perhaps a more effective response would be for everyone to start donating books they don’t want or need to public libraries, schools and local prisons.

Petition

Bidisha wrote a brilliant blog on the power of books in prisons here.

The responses from men to my Ally Fogg post.

These are just two of the comments from men to my post on Ally Fogg’s disgraceful article on penis size, which insults the victim of child sexual violence in the Max Clifford trial:

ALLEGEDLY RAPE you stupid cunt.
And no, I don’t give a shit if I offended your stupid hysterical ass or if you ban me.

and

They want a pat on the back for being an indecent human being, because that what it takes to be a feminist ally. I would have thought cookies and blowjobs were a small price to pay for corrupting a soul.

This is why Ally Fogg is dangerous. His work gives men’s rights extremists like the two above a veneer of social acceptability. His work minimises male responsibility for violence against women and girls whilst simultaneously suggesting that women are over-reacting to threats. Fogg makes violent men the victims of a patriarchal culture. Men’s lives are constrained within the patriarchy but it is not enough to talk about hegemonic masculinity . Men still have to talk personal responsibility for choosing to be violent: for committing rape, domestic violence, assault, torture and murder. Our culture may be violent but it is the choice of individual men to commit that violence within the family. It is the choice of individual men to follow the path of violence.

These types of comments are what women who write online receive every single day. It is men like Ally Fogg who make excuses for men’s violence.

Ally Fogg: Just doesn’t give a shit about women.

Ally Fogg has managed to write an entire piece* celebrating his penis at the expense of the child victim of rape in the Max Clifford rape trial. Granted, Fogg doesn’t actually mention Clifford in the piece but we all know what the article is about Clifford’s trial and the fact that the jury was sent out of the room for behaving like pathetic teenage boys at a discussion of the size of Clifford’s penis.

Everything about the Max Clifford trial has been a disgraceful example of the pretence at justice in a rape culture.  Clifford is on trial for 11 counts of indecent assault against women and girls. Since the beginning, this case has been nothing but click-bait for a media obsessed with celebrities at the expense of women and children who are raped, tortured, and assaulted on a daily basis by violent men. The fact that a jury thought comments about the size of a penis of a man on trial for sexual assault was giggle-inducing is clear evidence that they simply aren’t competent to make a judgment on the case.

This is what rape culture is: a jury who think penis size is oh-so-hilarious that they are sent from the room to compose themselves like mothers do with small over-excited children. I’d have thought a jury this incapable of acting like adults when listening to a survivor of child sexual abuse would have been an immediate call for mistrial. But, no. They are just sent on a time-out. This is the state of our criminal justice system: men rape and sexually assault women and children with impunity because juries are too stupid to understand they are listening to testimony of a serious offence not an episode of The Family Guy.

But, it isn’t enough to treat a victim of child sexual abuse as a joke. Nope, Ally Fogg has to write a whole article about his penis and just how much he loves it. I’m not actually surprised that Fogg wrote it since he’s misogyny is well-documented. His hatred of women spews from his pores. As friend(s) said earlier today: He is the acceptable face of white men’s rights extremism who “earns money with his smug, sly, patronising ‘what about the mens’ crap” and “gives MRA a faux-intellectualism while sneering at women left, right and centre.”

Fogg uses any excuse to push his anti-woman agenda: even a traumatised victim of sexual violence.

 

*Link is a clean one via donotlink.

Josh Homme’s wife plays music.

The New Statesman is running an article today on the wife Josh Homme, he of Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal. It is very important that you know that Josh Homme has a wife who plays music, especially in an article about Her.

I mean, married to Josh Homme!

It’s not like she even needs a name: we can refer to Her forever as that “punk singer married to Josh Homme”! And, we can even make sure an article about Her references Homme’s music repeatedly. Because, Homme is way more important than Her.

For the record, Her name is Brody Dalle and she is a brilliant fucking musician.

No woman deserves misogynistic abuse.

I don’t know why this doesn’t constitute stating the freaking obvious but I’m becoming increasingly enraged by the assumption that it’s totally okay to abuse a group of women you disagree with or that to defend yourself from abuse, you have to list every single horrible thing that’s ever happened to you.

Well, fuck that shit.

No woman deserves abuse.

No woman deserves ridicule.

No woman deserves to be silenced.

And, NO ONE should be forced to disclose their personal traumas in order to defend themselves from personal attacks.

Nor is trauma an acceptable excuse others. Many women have experienced domestic and sexual violence. Most do not express their trauma by abusing, harassing and threatening other women. It is simply unacceptable and cruel to collude with a traumatised woman by telling them that it’s okay to abuse other women. What they are doing is replicating the same abuse which happened to them to others. It is not acceptable.

Nor are there are a hierarchy of women who are allowed to be upset at abuse directed at them. Suggesting that is unkind and anti-feminist.

Nor are there ‘acceptable’ types of abuse which can be directed at women you disagree with. Parody accounts are intended to cause harm to a woman’s work and reputation. They aren’t a ‘little thing’ or less important than other forms of abuse. They are very clear forms of harassment and intimidation.

Equally, no one has the right to tell another woman if, how and when she’s allowed to react to abusive behaviour. Every woman has the right to decide for themselves.

The above are all techniques that the patriarchy uses to create categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ women. I have no intention of enabling or colluding with abusive behaviour directed at other women. Nor do I have any interest in people telling me how I can and cannot react to abuse directed at me.

And yeah, the idea that there is always something ‘more important’ to worry about is an anti-feminist silencing tactic designed to isolate women. I’m not interested in playing that game either.

“Parody” accounts attacking women are a sign of the truly desperate and pathetic.

There has been a recent proliferation in the number of ‘parody’ accounts created with the deliberate intent of harassing, abusing and silencing women. These accounts directed at women who challenge heteronormativity, hyper-masculinity, and the objectification and pornification of culture are not ‘parodies’, nor are they satire. They are abusive and violent attacks on the work of individual women and the deliberate silencing of all women. These are not made by people who care about women’s safety and health. They are made by the utterly pathetic willing to sell out other women in a desperate attempt to get male approval.

If your ‘parody’ account uses racism, homophobia, classism, disablism or misogyny in order to attack a woman, you aren’t engaged in either satire or parody. What you are doing is replicating the same patriarchal, white supremacist structures which actively harm women. An excellent example of this is the utterly pathetic UK Feminist twitter account set up as a ‘parody’ of radical feminism by a group of deeply abusive people which included a tremendous amount of racist language and theory, including a rather vicious smear of the work of Kimberle Crenshawe and bell hooks. Now, they can whinge all they want that it was a ‘joke’ but ‘jokes’ which replicate white supremacist language are nothing of the sort. They are racism.

There is a huge difference between critical engagement with a woman’s politics and abusive behaviour. Setting up ‘parody’ accounts to insult and denigrate women you disagree with is abusive behaviour. It’s also sigh of how piss-poor your own politics are, if the only way you can think of to engage with a woman you disagree with is by being an asshole.

And, if you are too dim to decide for yourself what crosses the line between personal attack and satire, perhaps you may want to rethink your presence on social media.