Thank you: on train stations, sea lions, and gratitude

Several years ago, I took my daughter to a feminist conference in Newcastle. We had a lovely time. Right up until the very last minute. We were booked on the last train home on the Sunday night. Unfortunately, there was a huge kerfuffle due to an error on the notice boards, which had the last train to London and the last train to Edinburgh leaving at the same time from the same platform. Mistakes happen, but people were very stressed and there was a lot of pushing and shoving from adults. A little girl, no more than 5, standing to the right of me was pushed off the platform under the train that had pulled up. It was one of those moments where time stood still. Every second felt like a million minutes. I froze. The man, who was directly behind my daughter and better in a crisis, knocked my daughter over so he could grab the little girl.

He saved her life.

He also apologised to me for knocking my daughter over.

I caught the apology as I was dealing with my daughter who was in distress. I hope I said something along the lines of ‘don’t worry’ or thank you. I can’t guarantee it though as I was trying to get my kid, our luggage, and help the other mother with her luggage onto the train. I don’t remember if she said thank you to him either. She definitely said thank you once we were all on the train, but the man who saved the little girl wasn’t in the carriage and everyone who was told her not to apologise.

Usually, this memory only comes up when we’re at the Newcastle train station and my travel anxiety levels explode. What kicked off the memory this time is an incident in Canada where a little girl was pulled off a dock by a seal lion. There is some debate as to who was responsible: the child’s guardians for letting her get to close to a wild animal or the people who were feeding the sea lions (which may or may not have been a family member of the little girl). What caught my eye was a media article that quoted a complaint from an eye witness who claimed that the family members didn’t thank those who intervened to rescue the little girl, which seemed rather beside the point. Granted, this could be the media making a mountain out of a molehill or deliberately misrepresenting a comment. Equally, this statement could have been from an eyewitness in shock babbling – certainly it’s the kind of babble I have come out with in difficult situations where my mouth bypasses my brain. And, obviously, it would have been good if the family had said thank you, but none of us really know how we would act in an emergency. Would we rush into help? Phone an ambulance? Provide emergency first aid? Panic?

When did our cultural empathy get permanently lost? – that we worry more about the performance of good manners than actually being kind. Why do we refuse to recognise how different people react to trauma? Why don’t we accept that it’s okay to be so distraught in a moment that we don’t see what is happening in our immediate vicinity; that there is nothing wrong with focusing on an injured, frightened, and wet child to the detriment of having ‘good’ manners. I suspect my reaction would be similar to the family, who left immediately with the child. Because I would be embarrassed and my anxiety response to everything is to hide. Having been severely bullied at school for years and dealing with an emotionally abusive stepparent, I know my trauma reactions in difficult situations (and that feeling in my stomach writing that down). I know that some people have lived lives free from such issues have different reactions. I’m just not sure how we’ve arrived at a place where the performance of perfection is more important than giving people the space to process events.

If this story is as stated in the media and you agree with the bystander’s main complaint that a frightened person should have expressed sufficient gratitude, you probably want to review your priorities. A little bit of kindness goes a long way.


“reflections on writing ‘self’…while free-falling through words and memories” by @MaraiLarasi

Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future by Naomi Alderman

Thousands of domestic violence victims withdraw support for charges against abusers after Government cuts by Harriet Agerholm

No country for women, on death row for self-defence in the UAE via @WritersofColour

The Radical Feminist Aesthetic Of “The Handmaid’s Tale” via @annehelen

If ‘inclusivity’ is a priority, let men make their washrooms ‘gender-neutral’  via @FeministCurrent

Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History via @lithub

What’s the point of a literature festival? | Bare Lit 2017  via @WritersofColour

The Thing about Toilets at Not the News in Brief

BBC Continues its policies of minimising child rape

I’ve complained a number of times to the BBC about their insistence on placing stories of child rape perpetrated by celebrities under the topic of “Arts & Entertainment”. This is their newest excuse letter:

Reference CAS-2728613-MKGSSH

 Thanks for contacting us regarding the article ‘Rolf Harris trial: Entertainer denies ‘ludicrous’ assault claims’.

 Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we’re sorry you have had to wait on this occasion.

 I understand you were concerned that the report was featured under the heading of ‘Entertainment’.

 Stories about abuse are written by our main UK news desk and published on a story page that simply says “News – UK.”

 However, because they may have some relevance or significance to audiences coming to the site for Arts and Entertainment coverage we also place those stories on the Arts and Entertainments section in much the same way as we might place a story about a child sex abuse internet ring in our Technology section as well as in the main news section.

 Thank you again for contacting us. All complaints are sent to senior management and our news teams every morning and we included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future output.

 Kind Regards

Because placing an article on child rape in the “Arts & Entertainment” section is exactly the same as placing an article of online child sexual exploitation and abuse under technology.

I’ve started a petition to get the BBC to change their policy. Please sign and share it!


BBC thinks ‘Entertainment’ is the correct category for child sexual violence

This is the BBC’s response to my complaint about them publishing the trials of Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall and Freddie Starr under the category of ‘entertainment’.

Dear Ms Pennington
Reference CAS-2694650-BMFJZY

Thank you for contacting us regarding BBC News Online.
We understand you feel the entertainment news section of the BBC website shouldn’t have included a report on Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall and Freddie Starr.

While we appreciate your concern the fact is they have all been broadcasters or affiliated with the entertainment industry and as such is connected with the entertainment industry. It’s therefore entirely appropriate to publish the content is this section.

We’d like to assure you that we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is an internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily and is available for viewing by all our staff. This includes all programme makers, along with our senior management. It ensures that your points, along with all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards


BBC Complaints

Comedians are some of the best political commentators: a response to Helen Lewis

I’ve been rather open with my distaste at Russell Brand being invited to guest edit the New Statesman, and by distaste I mean horrified. It’s safe to say I have no respect whatsoever for Brand; a man who has “joke” called a rape crisis line during a show, phoned the grandparent of a woman to publicly and sexually shame his granddaughter live with Jonathon Ross and once sexually harassed a member of staff on his film set into displaying her breasts before he would do any work. None of these examples are of any comedic value. They are a clear pattern of misogynistic behaviour from a man who cares little about 50% of the population of the planet.

I objected to Russell Brand because of his behaviour, not because of his employment history. I objected because I like the New Statesman. They have some great women writers, including Sarah Ditum and Glosswitch. The New Statesman is one mainstream publication that I do read consistently and I objected to Brand because I do hold it to a higher standard than other media. Brand is the kind of commentator I expect on Sky News, not a magazine which has such a high standard of writing. The NS isn’t perfect and it does get stuff wrong; Brand being an obvious example.

This is why I was surprised to read Helen Lewis’s tumblr about the reaction to Brand as a guest-editor. It seems a rather lot of people objected to Brand because he’s a ‘comedian’. I have to say I find this utterly bizarre as an objection. Many of our great political commentators throughout history have used satire, irony and humour to make their point; even The Great Man himself: Shakespeare.* The entirety of the comedy panel shows produced in the UK are based on comedians making political points. And, you know: the Daily Show with John Stewart, This Hour has 22 Minutes and the Royal Canadian AirFarce: all of which are comedians fronting programs about politics.

Chris Rock is a comedian and a great political commentator. His tweets leading up to the last American election were fucking brilliant and, whilst I am unamused by his comments on the Kardashian sisters which are clearly based on sexism, he is far more qualified than Brand to guest edit the NS.  

There are so many great women comedians who are equally important political commentators: Roseanne Barr, Kate Smurthwaite and Ruby Wax spring to mind. 

I’m all for Brand being accidentally misplaced on another planet because of his behaviour. I am, however, equally bored of people dismissing ‘comedians’ as political commentators as if they only people who are entitled to have opinions are Oxbridge educated white dudes with trust funds.

Comedians have always made some of the  best political commentators. We just need to support the ones who do so without being misogynists like Brand [or racist, homophobic, disablist, classist etc.]

I would love to see the New Statesman guest-edited by some of the brilliant women comedians based in the UK; after all a number of their best writers use humour to make political points and how is that any different to a stand-up comedian using humour to make a political point? 

Same message; just a different medium.

*Actually, I find the obsession with Shakespeare being the greatest writer who ever lived classist, sexist and evidence of some serious issues with imperialism and racism.

OK Magazine: Still Hates Woman

OK Magazine: continuing it’s policy of woman-shaming.

I’m not surprised OK Magazine ran this cover. 

I’m angry. Sad. Depressed. Mostly angry. How dare they treat a woman like this. It doesn’t matter what woman because none of us deserve this.

I am surprised at how many people seem shocked by OK Mag running this as their cover. It’s not like OK Mag ever write anything positive about women.  All of their articles are about women being too fat fat, too skinny, too promiscuous, too orange, too stupid, too smart, too woman. Just like most women’s magazines.

Women’s magazines make their money making women feel insecure. They don’t care about women’s health or happiness: just the money.

We need to boycott them all.

We need to start developing magazines aimed at women which don’t engage in women-blaming and women-hating. 

No woman should ever be shamed for her body. Ever.

Dear Hackney Gazette, Why the sudden change?

You have suddenly changed the text of your article about a conviction for gang-rape which occurred in 2007. I have both articles reproduced below. The first states that the judge gave a reduced statement because of the amount of time which had passed since the crime. The second article removes that statement. If the judge actually made that statement, then I would like to report the crime to the Attorney General.

It’s a rather huge leap between the two articles. Why have you changed the article so drastically and why not say so online?

Emad Mohamed, 23, attacked the woman after she asked a group of men for directions at a bus stop in Clapton following a night out with colleagues.

She was taken to a flat where she was stripped naked, imprisoned and raped.
The 21-year-old former reporter said later: “Sometimes I feel like my whole personality has changed from a confident and outgoing young woman to a paranoid and reclusive person.”
It was not until 2011 that jobless Mohamed, of Canterbury Road, Beckton, who has since had two sons, was linked to the horrifying attack, and pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault.
The woman’s nightmare began on October 4 2007 when she left her friends in central London to buy cigarettes, and later phoned them to say she was going home.
But she took the wrong bus and ended up in Clapton, where the men promised to help her find a taxi, but instead led her to a squalid flat.
She remembers being naked raped by one man, who left his condom inside her body.
Mohamed then lay on top of her and sexually assaulted her.
She escaped the flat the following day, but was unable to locate it afterwards, and most of those responsible have never been traced.
Last Wednesday at the Old Bailey Judge Anthony Morris jailed Mohamed for just two years, saying he took into account his guilty plea and the fact several years had passed since the incident.
Finding it hard to cope after the rape, the victim gave up her job and moved in with her mother, and is still undergoing counselling.

The Second Article
The woman boarded the wrong bus home following a night out in October 2007 and ended up in Clapton where a group of men at a bus stop promised to help find her a taxi after she asked them for help.
But instead they led her to a squalid flat, stripped her naked and raped her – in an attack which the victim said had “devastated” her life.
The woman tried to escape the flat from a bathroom window after her ordeal but it was locked and she was forced to stay in there overnight.
She escaped the following morning and managed to get to Kings Cross where she reported the incident to police – but could not find the location of the flat afterwards and most of those responsible have never been traced.
But in 2011 Somalian immigrant Emad Mohamed, 23, was linked to the attack and was last week jailed for two years.
The Old Bailey heard how he had laid on top of her and carried out a sexual assault after she was raped by another man in the group.
The victim, who is still undergoing counselling more than five years on, said in a statement: “Sometimes I feel like my whole personality has changed from a confident and outgoing young woman to a paranoid and reclusive person.”
Judge Anthony Morris said: “At the time she was a happy outgoing woman but after the rape she found it difficult to cope.
“She had to resign from the newspaper and was out of work for several months. She finds leaving the house very traumatic and difficult to deal with.”
Mohamed, of Canterbury Road, Beckton, admitted one charge of sexual assault.

This week in Missing the Point Completely: Maria Miller and the WBC

According to the Guardian, Maria Miller has come up with yet another completely pointless but expensive program to deal with The Problem of Girls. This time she’s got the Women’s Business Council, which was only set up last year, making recommendations which demonstrate just how out of touch they all are with the reality of the lives of girls who aren’t white and born to wealthy, well-educated parents. Miller is going to produce information packs to teach parents of girls how to bring up “aspirational” daughters. You see, the only reason that the number of women in the upper echelons of management and on FTSE 100 boards is because girls lack “aspiration”.

It has absolutely nothing to do with systemic oppression which privileges boys over girls from the start of their lives. 

It has nothing to do with educational practise which favours boys.

It has nothing to do with girls being socialised to defer to boys their whole lives.

It has nothing to do with girls being taught that having an opinion or being intelligent doesn’t count unless they pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test.

It has nothing to do with sexist hiring practises. 

It has nothing to do with the fact that women are penalised for being mothers before actually being mothers [and the assumption that all women want to be mothers].

It has nothing to do with poverty or class or race or disability. 

The Fawcett Society has clearly been blithering on about absolutely nothing for years.

The only problem girls have is a lack of aspiration. We know this because a bunch of well-educated, mostly white women who are very privileged have gotten together to say so.

I could rant for hours about Miller’s complete lack of understanding of the reality of the lives of most girls in the UK. Government policies to encourage FTSE 100 companies to have a minimum of 25% women on their boards won’t change anything if the vast majority of girls in the UK are being left behind for no other reason than not being born to privileged parents.

There are two things that will increase girls “aspirations”:

1. The Welfare State
2. Feminism

That is it. We need a fully functioning welfare state which supports everyone. We need universal and affordable child care. We need a social care network which helps care for family members who are disabled or elderly. We need a culture where men do 50% of the childcare and the housework. We need a culture where women’s choices are supported and not used as a stick to beat them with.

We don’t need information packs to teach parents how to raise “aspirational girls”. Our girls are already aspirational. We need nothing less than a complete destruction of the capitalist-patriarchy so that our girls can grow up to be who they want to be without being pilloried, insulted and denigrated.

Deborah Orr: Ignoring the Obvious to Perpetuate Myths about Violence

I’m not sure quite what to write about Deborah Orr’s recent piece in the Guardian. Orr seems to have completely ignored all of the research into mental illness and propensity to violence to write one of the most ridiculous pieces of “poor ickle menz” I have read in ages. Orr uses the murder of April Jones and the recent spate of detective TV series, with female leads, to claim that men who commit violence must be clearly ill. She conveniently ignores 50 years of detective programs and 150 years of detective novels with male leads and entirely male casts who  investigate male violence to come up with this clearly ridiculous point. 

This is the conclusion of the piece:
I can’t help wondering what it’s like to be a man, tainted by association with the tiny minority of men who do such things. I can’t help wondering, also, if the widespread male defensiveness that such an ever-present prejudice seems understandably to induce is an integral part of the ongoing problem. Women are against violence. We even have a campaigning group called Women Against Violence. Unfortunately, all this also suggests is that men are in favour of violence, and if not violent themselves, then guilty by association. A leading neuroscientist, Kathleen Taylor, this week suggested that in years to come Islamic fundamentalism might be seen as a mental illness. It seems to me that lack of mental health, not gender, is the defining motivation of all violence. The problem isn’t men, it’s alienation. And believing that men are the problem may be alienating men on a massive scale.

Now, I haven’t taken a survey of men but my partner has watched every single program Orr mentions and he doesn’t feel insulted about their portrayal of men. Using Orr’s understanding of statistics, I’m going to assume that his reaction is what all men think.*

Orr can write as many myths as she would like but it won’t change the fact that she is just wrong about two points: 1) almost all violence is committed by men; and 2) having a mental illness drastically increases a person’s chance of being a victim of violence. It does not dramatically increase their chances of committing violence against themselves or others; regardless of how many episodes of Law & Order featuring violent schizophrenics you’ve watched. 

Men are responsible for majority of violence committed. 

Men who commit violence aren’t mentally ill. It’s erroneous and offensive to suggest otherwise. The vast majority of men who are violent are violent because they choose to be; not because they are ill. It is articles like this which perpetuate myths about people who are ill and allows men to deny responsibility for the violence they perpetrate. We have a serious problem with male violence and ignoring the evidence of who perpetrates violent crimes so that men don’t feel sad isn’t going to change that.

If men’s feelings are hurt at the thought of being part of the group of people most likely to commit violence, they need to step up and call out violent men. 

Men need to stop being violent: physically and sexually.

After all, men are just as likely to be victims of male violence as women. 

Let’s stop making excuses and start taking responsibility.

*Obviously, he isn’t representative of MREs but I’m fairly sure we can discount them. He’s also not representative of all men being white, well educated and middle class but I’m fairly sure he’s representative of the level of intelligence of most men since university education is most definitely not an indicator of common sense. 

More Reponses to the article:

Yes, Men of Sound Mind do Commit Murder by UK Feminist

A Little Ramble about Mental Illness and Crime by the Not So Quiet Feminist

My Name is Jemma and I have a personality disorder at POTsy not Potty

Mental Health, Violence and Me at Carregonnen

The New Statesman on the Feminist Borg & Why Rape Myths are Good Advice

I’ve read Martha Gill’s piece in the New Statesman three times now and I still don’t get it. The title itself is weird: “CAPITAL LETTERS, affectedly boisterous sex, little girl voice: internet feminists all write the same. This is a problem.” I mean, I know I occasionally use capital letters when angry but I’m fairly sure that’s not restricted to feminists since everyone online knows that capitals means shouting. It’s hardly a shocking revelation or evidence feminists write as the Borg.

Gill is really, really keen on this idea that feminists have the same writing style.  I’m sure if she gave actual names of feminist members of the Borg, we could discuss this but Gill went with the nameless smear rather than actual evidence technique. Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong feminists  but Caitlin Moran and Chitra Nagarajan don’t strike me as having similar writing styles, never mind similar theoretical understandings of feminism. I’ve definitely not read any blogs recently which give in depth descriptions of the various sexual practises of feminists but, going out on a limb here, I’d suggest the authors of Vagenda and Sisterhood is Powerful have very different stances on PIV and heteronormativity. This is, of course, ignoring the issue that some feminists are asexual. There is also that tiny issue of both Vagenda and Sisterhood is Powerful having multiple authors but since feminists write as the Borg this is probably irrelevant.

Normally, I’d ignore this article as just another
 tedious swipe at online feminism, which strikes me as a a bit odd since a number of the New Statesman bloggers are online feminists so it’s rather like attacking themselves. I would have ignored but the second half of the article has absolutely nothing to do with the first.  Well, except for the bit about being factually incorrect and lacking in evidentiary support of sweeping statements.

Gill doesn’t content herself with making unsubstantiated claims about feminist writers. She uses her pet theory to peddle a whole load of seriously damaging rape myths. Apparently, Gill thinks rape myths can protect all women from being raped by following ‘advice’ about stranger rapes. Gill conveniently neglects that tidbit about most rape victims knowing their rapists and that stranger rapes count for less than 20% of rapes.
How does Gill think a child can prevent their father from raping them? How can a woman prevent being raped by their partner on their own home? How can a woman prevent themselves from being raped by a stranger who broke into their own home? How can a woman protect themselves from being raped by their boss? Or, on their way home from work?

Statistically, women are safer from rape in the streets at 3 in the morning surrounding by complete strangers but that isn’t the advice Gill is peddling. She’s just joined an ever-increasing number publicly congratulating themselves on not being raped. The lack of empathy and intellectual engagement is astounding. 

I can not believe the New Statesman printed an article which promotes rape myths.

The only people responsible for rape are rapists.

It doesn’t matter what women wear or do or don’t do.

The ONLY risk factor for rape is being in the presence of rapists.

It’s lazy journalism to take a swipe at online feminism in order to peddle rape myths.

I expect better from the New Statesman.

After all, part of being a journalist is doing research and it’s not that hard to find information on rape myths since Rape Crisis England/ Wales have written a handy guide to them here