Dude, I have the Internet

Dude, I have the Internet is now my new favourite phrase.

It is from the article Kids Won’t Listen: Why I’m sick of think pieces about teenage girls written by grown-up men at RookieMag:

When you applaud or critique a young girl’s taste based on how well or badly it aligns with yours, you are suggesting that your taste = THE RIGHT TASTE, because you are the one IN THE KNOW. I sometimes rate movies on the websiteMubi, and I can’t count the number of times an older male cinephile has urged me to rewatch a film I’ve given a low score to, because obviously I “didn’t understand it” the first time around. “How do you even know about this?” I often get asked. “You weren’t even born when this movie came out.” Dude: I have the internet.

Men should just be banned from writing about women at all. It is almost inevitably patronising twaddle and assumes that every single one of our opinions are formed whilst we are vacating in Care-a-Lot and, as such, lack validity.

Dude, I have the Internet: totally the way forward.

Welcome to rape culture where we gender toys but not sexual violence

These two tweets were posted in response to Radio 4s coverage of the “If only someone had listened”: Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups report which was published in November 2013. I screen capped these tweets because, well, they are brilliant demonstration of the hypocrisy of gendering children.
I’m going to share them every single time some dingbat tells me girls like pink because of berries and boys can’t have toy kitchens or they’ll lose their penis or something equally stupid.
If we’re going to live in a culture where globes are made pink for girls so their poor ickle brains don’t implode with all the blue on a normal globe, then we can damn well start naming the sex of perpetrators of sexual violence.



Architecture, History, Ani DiFranco, and White Privilege

The first time I heard about the protests surrounding Ani DeFranco’s decision to host a ‘Righteous Retreat” for artists at a former plantation in New Orleans was an article in Salon by Brittney Cooper. I read the article and immediately jumped to “what was DiFranco thinking holding a retreat in a former plantation and that apology. Honestly”.  I made all the appropriate noises suggesting that I would never be so callous as to engage in replicating the white supremacy in such an egregious manner.

It turns out I was engaged in some deeply hypocritical self-delusions.

I have to be brutally honest: I have never thought about plantations other than architecturally beautiful buildings. In DiFranco’s position, it would never have occurred to me that it was a problem. I have that ‘romantic’ view of plantations as beautiful; much in the same way that I view estates like Chatsworth in England or the city of Liverpool which was basically built from the profits of the Slave trade even after slavery was declared illegal in the UK.

I’m a historian by training. I know the history of slavery. I know that plantations were built on the profits of the brutal kidnapping, torture and murder of African peoples. I know that the beautiful buildings I love to see in Liverpool, and a large number of other cities, were built on the profits of the brutal kidnapping, torture and murder of African peoples. I know this and yet I remove the buildings, which I admire, from their historical context.  As much as I would like to pretend I would have been more aware than DiFranco, it is only a delusion based on the theory that I can’t possibly be personally responsible for replicating the White Supremacy.

I attended a conference on Holocaust Studies in Krakow many, many moons ago. Part of the conference was a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau given by women survivors. Auschwitz is the general name given to a large complex which includes 3 large concentration camps: Auschwitz 1 for men, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) which functioned as the women’s concentration camp and a death camp, and Auschwitz III (Monowitz) which was the slave labour camp. Auschwitz was surrounded by over a hundred smaller satellite slave labour camps in which conditions differed. As part of the tour, we were allowed access to areas of Birkenau which are generally closed to the public, including the brothel. To say the tour was harrowing would be a gross understatement. Whilst I was there, a school group of Polish children around 12-13 were also touring the facility. Their tour ended with a group photo in front of the Polish Martyrs wall, where Polish fighters were executed. The children were pushing and shoving and laughing. The photo itself involved the children sticking out their tongues, doing bunny ears and attempting to pose like rappers. It was completely inappropriate and made Birkenau feel like an amusement park rather than the mass grave of more than one million people.

So, why do I feel that plantations are different? Hundreds of thousands of slaves were tortured, torn from their families, subject to inhumane physical and sexual abuse and were murdered in them (and because of them). Yet, because I class the buildings as architecturally significant and beautiful, somehow they are exempt of representing the mass graves of slaves.

Obviously, this comes down to my unexamined white privilege but it’s made me think of all the historical sites I love visiting whose histories are rooted in violence, racism and xenophobia that I don’t even think about. Although, I did once have a spectacular tantrum in the Tower of London who have managed to neglect to mention the whole issue of opium in the “Chinese Wars of the 1850s” in which Britain fought China to open it up to international trade for tea without mentioning pesky issues like colonialisation, racism or morphine addiction. By the time we got to the “Hammer of the Scots” being referred to as an excellent general with no mention of mass murder, I was set for spontaneous combustion. This memory is vivid only because it’s the first time I’ve ever questioned the value of visiting sites of extreme violence.

In Ani DiFranco’s place, I doubt it would have occurred to me that a former plantation was an inappropriate place for a retreat. I would hope that my apology for being called on this would have been less, shall we say, whiny but would it?

I’m left with some incredibly uncomfortable feelings about how I view history and historical sites.

My Christmas Books for #ReadingOnlyBooksWrittenByWomen

I’ve moved my monthly archive of the books I have read as part of #ReadingOnlyBooksWrittenbyWomen to my other blog louisepennington.org. I just couldn’t resist blogging the books I received for my birthday and for Christmas. As ever, I’m always looking for more recommendations for inspiring books written by women especially fiction and women’s history!

Maggie O’Farrell’s the distance between us

Maggie O’Farrell’s After you’d gone

Maggie O’Farrell’s my lover’s lover

Joumana Haddad’s Superman is an Arab

Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses

Marina Warner’s The Leto Bundle

Carol Birch’s the Naming of Eliza Quinn

Sophie Hannah’s little face

Tendai Huchu’s The Hairdresser of Harare

Linda Porter’s Katherine the Queen

Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead

Jenny Uglow’s The Pinecone

Joanne Harris’ The Evil Seed

Maya Angelou’s A Letter to my Daughter

Judith Jesch’s Women in the Viking Age

Essie Fox’s Elijah’s Mermaid

Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Sexual Politics

You can order the books online from News from Nowhere Radical & Community Bookshop

Fab Feminists to Follow on Twitter in 2014:

I was going to tweet out my list of feminists to follow for New Years but I decided I wanted to make the list more permanent. The following feminists include personal friends, Mumsnetters, activists, and journalists. They represent a full spectrum of feminism and they fundamentally disagree on issues like pornography and prostitution. They inspire and enrage me with equal measure but life would be far more dull without their voices.



































































































@Planet Cath

































‏ @strand_camilla