While a chode syphilitically weeps

Brendan O’Neill is a weeping syphilitic chode, and it’s getting to the point where I wonder if he was invented specifically to piss me off.

This time, O’Neill has decided that Topman should be selling misogynistic T-shirts, and that feminists have no sense of humour. To answer the second charge first, here is a joke:

What’s the difference between Brendan O’Neill and a weeping syphilitic chode?

Nothing.

It might need some work, but it’s a damn sight funnier than the T-shirts in question, and that’s already one joke more than O’Neill’s opinion piece had.

Of the Topman T-shirts in question, one uses dehumanising language, and the other refers to male-on-female intimate partner violence. O’Neill doesn’t even bother talking about the dehumanising T-shirt, despite the fact that use of dehumanising language is pretty fucking dangerous, with real-world implications, and is literally just hate speech. To defend the other T-shirt, O’Neill attempts to wiggle about with semantics:

A young man could just as easily say the words “I’m sorry but I was drunk” to another young man, after an argument or a fight or something.

That could happen. But the whole “joke” of the T-shirt is that it refers to beating women. Without the stereotype it primes, it is no longer a controversial joke, and it simply becomes a checklist. Which is a fairly pointless T-shirt, all things considered. Consider, for example, a T-shirt that is laid out similarly that says “I hate you because… [] You run fast [] You eat a lot of fried chicken [] You always die first in movies”. Would this T-shirt be considered racist? I’d say so, but according to Brendan O’Neill, that T-shirt is fine and dandy.

O’Neill’s article also demonstrates that while a weeping syphilitic chode can write–presumably, with infected pus dripping from chancre to keyboard–a weeping syphilitic chode cannot read. O’Neill denies that there can possibly be any cultural explanation for violence. Now, while the extent to which the media influences violence is equivocal, what is clear is that there is some link. Discussion should focus on what action is acceptable to take, rather than whether the link exists at all. That’s where O’Neill really falls flat. He is so interested in flatly denying any link  he does not discuss this at all. And it’s an issue that warrants discussion–should Topman have pulled those T-shirts?

There are a number of issues which could have been discussed were O’Neill up for talking about Topman T-shirts, rather than working out his issues with feminists in a public domain (in general, he’s not keen on feminists, because they think he’s a prick). O’Neill touches on class, completely wrongly:

That’s because they are driven by the elitist belief that there are some people out there (whisper it: working-class lads) who cannot distinguish right from wrong and therefore must have their eyes and ears protected from poisonous words.

Now, here, O’Neill is wrong on several counts–and he can’t help it, seeing as he is a penis that is wider than it is long, infected with The Great Pox to the extent that he oozes unpleasant fluids. Topman is not a shop for working class people: its goods are far too expensive for that. Furthermore, those T-shirts are indicative of hipster irony, a subculture which once again is not associated with working class people. This analysis is completely off.

Capitalism could legitimately be brought into this discussion: ultimately, these T-shirts were pulled not because of feminist censorship, but because of good old-fashioned brand damage. Topman didn’t want to lose customers, so they decided to pull the T-shirts, as they realised the products were somewhat controversial in the sort of way that could lose them a lot of money. Essentially, it was not the feminists who censored free speech. It was Topman making a decision in their corporate interests.

For what it’s worth, I want people to be free to wear this sort of T-shirt. It is a nice little at-a-glance indicator that the person wearing the T-shirt is an interminable cuntspanner. I would like them to do, as O’Neill suggests, a “blokestrut” wearing such T-shirts. One thing I would change? The name.

I think a “chodeweep” is much more fitting.

 

When ‘shutting down debate’ is nothing of the kind

Following my post about a thoroughly misguided lawsuit against LSE, the comments thread devolved into a display of off-topic nonsense, wherein the issues I highlighted and the questions I wished to highlight were not discussed adequately, in favour of what three commenters felt more comfortable talking about.

I took action, as the thread deviated from relevance. And, of course, I was met with the traditional cry. I was ‘shutting down debate’.

Those who have spent more than five minutes on the internet will be familiar with this charge. Those who have seen it in action will also be well aware that often, when it is employed, it is hardly as a reaction to Stalinist censorship. Indeed, it usually comes when someone becomes sick of banging their head against a wall, or wishes to get away from a troll firing personal attacks, or even when someone expresses the desire to have an on-topic conversation.

When used like this, it is a red herring. Usually, it’s a very effective red herring; it rings with implications of totalitarianism. The target becomes The Party, or Norsefire. It’s like invoking Godwin’s Law without having to mention Nazis at all. When the howl of ‘you’re shutting down debate’ goes up, what is usually meant is ‘let me say whatever I want, you big smelly Hitler! I want to look like I’m winning’.

The thing is, sometimes ‘shutting down debate’ is the only way that a debate can actually happen. It’s pretty hard to discuss, say, the perfect burrito, when someone keeps cropping up and shouting that we should be talking about quesadillas instead. Quesadillas are great. But we’re talking about burritos here. It’s also not possible to have the burrito conversation if someone is loudly calling everyone a cunt for liking burritos.

Far from shutting down debate, silencing Captain Quesadilla is sometimes the only way the conversation can be had. The aim is not to develop a burrito-based echo chamber, but, rather, to discuss a focused topic. If a passionate, yet polite, row breaks out over the merits of refried versus black beans, it’s relevant.

Before writing this post, I googled the term ‘shutting down debate’, to see if anyone had written a piece like this. Maybe they have. I didn’t make it past the first two pages, where I saw charges of shutting down debate levelled at gay people, Jews, black people and the nebulous, miscellaneous ‘left’. It made me wonder, why is this phrase so ubiquitous?

I’m not saying that all instances of the phrase ‘you’re shutting down debate’ are used so that somebody can continue shitting all over the world with prejudice, as it’s not true in many instances; only those of hate speech.

In the remaining instances, it is usually a reaction to being told to focus. We all have our pet causes and things which interest us, things we feel more comfortable discussing. These things are not always relevant. And we do not need to opine at every given instance, when our opinions are irrelevant. For example, I don’t typically spend family meals articulating the merits of anarcho-syndicalism, as it’s not relevant to my mum’s holiday photos. My mum is not shutting down debate. She’s showing me her holiday snaps.

There are times, of course, when debate is shut down. It does not usually look like someone closing a comment thread on a blogpost, nor does it look like moderating out off-topic comments, nor a block on Twitter.

Shutting down debate looks like Trafigura’s super-injunction which prevented discussion even in Parliament. Shutting down debate looks like the Prime Minister’s desire to regulate social networking. Shutting down debate looks like the attempt to ban Nick Griffin from Question Time; he’s welcome to his silly, wrong opinions.

Griffin on Question Time is a prime example: the episode was dedicated to immigration, so it was all right that he was perpetually farting on about immigration. Had the topic changed to, say, recycling, though, and he still kept banging on about immigration, he’d be off topic. I’d hope he’d be told to shut the fuck up. And he’d likely howl about shutting down debate when nothing of the kind had happened.

Fear not the charges of shutting down debate. Often one is ensuring the debate can happen at all.

Suing LSE for discrimination against men is silly and wrong

I am sure many of you will have seen the press about a man suing LSE as he believes their Masters course in Gender Studies discriminates against men because the taught materials do not focus enough on men’s issues. Unsurprisingly, I think this case is completely silly.

There are a number of issues that make this case thoroughly ridiculous. The notion that a man is complaining about a woman-heavy focus in a gender studies course has been covered well elsewhere, and I do not have much to add to this issue. Another very noteworthy point is that it is hard to see how this is actually “discrimination”. LSE point out that as men and women had equal access to both the course and the key readings, no direct gender discrimination took place. This point is expanded here.

Many have already covered the important points, so I would like to add something from my own perspective. Basically, I wonder, what the fuck did Tom Martin expect from a Masters degree? From everything he has said on the matter, it would appear that what he wants is for a course to spoon-feed him information, for every lecture and seminar to provide a constant drip of knowledge with absolutely no independent study. The source of his complaint appears to be that the reading list did not consist of articles and theory that he wanted to read.

Well, Tom Martin, here’s some big news: that’s not how Masters degrees work. They’re hard work, because you’re supposed to read around the issues. The taught components of Masters degrees–lectures, seminars, reading lists–are a suggestion: a possible starting point. Everything else is entirely up to the student. In my Masters, I ended up conducting my research project and dissertation on a topic we had not been taught at all, nor had it been in any of the reading lists. But am I suing UCL for discrimination against the Implicit Association Test? Of course not. That would just be silly.

A solution to Martin’s problem is simple, and what is generally expected of a Master’s question. If Martin believes that there is some sort of systemic bias against men, or that the gender studies literature is lacking in its discussion of men’s issues, he should write his dissertation about it. Essentially, that’s what academia is all about: one reads, one identifies gaps in the literature, one researches, one plugs the gap. The dissertation Martin didn’t write could have been really interesting. It could have been worthwhile. It could have been brilliant.

Having checked out Tom Martin’s Twitter feed, @sexismbusters, an interesting picture emerges. Martin does not seem to be engaging in debate: rather, if someone tweets at him with a point with which he disagrees, he will generally respond with the cerebral argument of “if you hate equality, go to Yemen”, or requests to donate to his legal fund. There is no actual discussion of points–valid points, which should be addressed. Likewise, Martin wrote an article in the Guardian’s CIF, which he claims to show that there is systemic male bias, particularly in LSE’s Gender Studies course.

Unfortunately, the piece has all the intellectual rigor of a toasted tea cake. Martin falls prey to accidentally turning his whole argument fallacious by declaring texts “never” discuss misandry–which can be neatly popped by just one academic article about misandry (of which, of course, there are loads). Martin also makes repeated unreferenced assertions about things “the research” allegedly shows. When a reference finally appears, it is to a video on Youtube uploaded by a user called TheHappyMisogynist. The video appears to be based on a single academic paper, which Martin himself was clearly unable to critically appraise: he claims the paper shows that women are more likely to be violent against men in an intimate partner situation. What is actually shows is that this is the case in a certain type of violence among a certain population group, assessed by self report, is more commonly initiated by women.

With an ability to construct an argument like that, Martin probably should be suing LSE. Their teaching of academic skills appears to be deeply flawed if a few “if you like it so much, why don’t you go and live there” tweets and a very shonky, short article are all one of their former students is capable of doing.

It is hardly surprising, then, that rather than take the intellectual route and write a simply blinding, groundbreaking dissertation on gender dynamics in gender studies courses, Tom Martin has decided to hide behind the skirts of litigation. I don’t think there’s much else he can do.

Polyamory: the solution to literally everything!

Warning: This post will contain spoilers for True Blood up to the end of season 4, the most recent episode of Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica and Caprica.  The spoilers do not pertain to anything crucial to the content of the shows, but some people are incredibly spoiler-averse. Also, most of the links in this piece will lead to TV Tropes, so here’s a courtesy warning that if you click any links, you might lose an afternoon.

Sometimes, I shout at the TV. Scratch that. When I am watching TV, I am usually shouting at it at some point. Often it’s at characters waving around an idiot ball or a plot hole I could drive a bus through (and I’m terrible at driving) or a particularly egregious lack of research which leads to ridiculously bad made up science and nothing making a tiny ounce of goddamn sense.

I do not suffer fools gladly. Despite this, a lot of my shouting tends to be loudly offering solutions to a problem.

This week, I watched two TV shows which made me think. The first was Doctor Who, which featured two copies of Amy, one who, due to some magic timey-wimey that I tend to forgive Doctor Who for, happened to be forty years older. At one point, it looked like older Amy would be travelling with our regular characters, and Amy’s husband Rory was struggling to come to terms with having two wives. The choice was rendered moot by said timey-wimey magic. The second was the season 4 finale of True Blood, which saw the love triangle between Sookie, Eric and Bill come to a head. Throughout the season, there had been an exploration of the idea that Sookie was in love with both Eric and Bill, and both Eric and Bill were in love with Sookie. There was even a dream sequence in which the three worked out ways to make this relationship work. Unfortunately, this plot was not resolved in this way. Instead, Sookie decided, rather boringly, to choose neither of the buff, hunky vampires.

Both of these plotlines had something in common: polyamory was explored as a genuine solution to the issues at hand. In Doctor Who, Rory took the idea that he would have two copies of the same wife in his stride, and seemed fairly comfortable with the situation. It was only temporal paradoxes that forced him to make the choice. In True Blood, Sookie’s dream sequence displayed how happy she would be with the idea, and in a later scene in the finale, both Eric and Bill seemed fairly comfortable with feeding from Sookie at the same time.

Of course, mainstream TV is never going to actually propose that polyamory can be a good solution for these plotlines, despite the fact that it is. Being poly is, sadly, still a marginalised way of being, so it is still largely invisible in the mass media.

I can think of one TV programme I have watched in which poly characters are represented. In Caprica, Sister Clarice lives in a group marriage with several husbands and wives, in a house full of children from various combinations of the family. She sleeps in a large bed with some of her spouses. It seems idyllic, until it turns out they’re all crazy religious terrorists.

What we have is TV representing largely heteronormative relationships, and almost exclusively monogamous relationships. Tropes abound from this: characters having to “choose” which potential suitor they want, characters breaking up and making up to allow various permutations of the cast to hook up, cheating lover drama, and the nightmarish love triangle scenario. Drama springs from allowing shows to remain monotonously uniform in their portrayal of the default option of monogamy.

And here’s the thing: I’d rather do without all that drama. I do without that drama in my day to day life, and frankly, I’m sick of seeing all this “you must choose between him or me” bollocks on TV, when it’s perfectly easily resolved by applying poly principles and working out some easy way for everyone to be happy and loved up. I don’t want to see Buffy moping over whether she should choose the sensible, good bloke or the rakish bad boy. I want to see her killing monsters. I don’t want to see some sort of horrible quadrangle sexual musical chairs eclipsing all the cool blowing up robots in space.

For an example of how much better things would be if polyamory was actually visible on TV, I will rewrite part of the third season of Battlestar Galactica, in which two married couples, Lee and Dee, and Starbuck and Sam spent much of the season taking up vital screen time with their affairs.

SCENE: Officer’s quarters

LEE: Dee, I love you very much, but right now I am suffering from some serious unresolved sexual tension with Starbuck. You know that we’ve sort of been flirting for a while, but we never got down to it because she was engaged to my dead brother.

DEE: I feel a little bit upset by this, because I love you very much.

LEE: And I love you very much, Dee. Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.

STARBUCK: Damn right. I’m madly in love with my husband Sam, but I am also subject to this attraction with Lee. I think I’ve noticed Sam checking you out, Dee, because you’re very beautiful. By the way, even though I’m passionate about Lee, I have to say it’s nice how happy he is with you.

DEE: Thank you. Sam, is this true?

SAM: Yes. I am dull and uncharismatic, but I am also hot. I think your attraction to me is probably physical.

STARBUCK: I love you, honey.

SAM: Blah blah meh, I am so dull and uncharismatic, but I love you.

LEE: Let’s not forget that I’m a really annoying character.

DEE: Oh no! DRADIS says we have incoming Cylon raiders in half an hour!

STARBUCK: Are you psychically connected to DRADIS or something?

DEE: Yes. That doesn’t matter. In about half an hour, we’re going to have a huge epic space-battle.

LEE & STARBUCK: AWESOME!

SAM: Half an hour, you say? Time for a quick orgy!

END SCENE, CHARACTERS NAKED AND RUTTING

And that would have completely improved season three if all of the characters had just been honest rather than having an interminable few months of whinging about their marriages.

Of course, I do not expect to see any positive portrayals of poly relationships on my television in the near future. Consider how long it took for anything close to positive portrayals of queer people and relationships to appear: this 50-minute video showcases just some of the homophobic jokes that popped up in Friends over its run. For the time being, any poly relationship is doomed to fail: the mainstream media lags behind society, and society is only just beginning to learn of the possibility of loving and fucking more than one person.

For now, we’re stuck with monogamous TV, and all the rubbish tropes it brings with it.

In which I defend Nadine Dorries ever so slightly

You might have noticed, I am not the biggest fan of Nadine Dorries. I really, really wish that she will get raptured and piss off and leave the rest of us alone. When I saw this, though, even I felt a little bit sorry for her.

In the clip above, Dorries asks a question at Prime Minister’s Questions. It is a silly question, a rather standard PMQs jeer jeer guffaw pantomime piece attacking the government from the right. Cameron’s response–and the response of much of the rest of the House of Commons is far nastier than Dorrie’s unpleasant question.

Cameron declares, with a schoolboy grin on his face, that he knows Dorries must be “extremely frustrated”. The House hoots like gibbons and claps like seals. HO HO HO! THE LADY ISN’T GETTING ENOUGH WILLIES UP FANNY!

This is hardly the first time Cameron and his cronies have displayed casual sexism in the House of Commons: he has a previous record of telling a woman MP to “calm down, dear“, to great honks of laughter from his regressive boys’ club buddies.

Not in the clip is Dorries storming out of the House following this.

What is shown is fairly interesting: Dorries’s immediate reaction. The face she pulls is a classic: I’ve done it, and I’ve seen it a thousand times before. The expression that says “that’s totally fucking not on, but I don’t want to look like a cunt by expressing anger, so if I just laugh sweetly, maybe they’ll like me.” Presumably after this, Dorries had her “fuck this shit” moment and stormed out.

And I’m with Dorries. It’s totally fucking not on, and fuck that shit. That sort of behaviour in a place of work is never acceptable. That sort of behaviour is never acceptable anywhere. To laugh at a person because of presumed amount of sex they are getting is not on.

The last time I received street harassment, I got told I “need a good length” when I failed to react to the “hey baby, wanna party” with the good grace the beery bastard wanted me to. This is a fairly standard response, based on some kind of notion that women are only pissed off because they are not receiving the adequate dose of cock. A similar situation takes place with men: consider the insult “sad wanker”. The implication here is that oodles of heterosex is the only thing stopping people from becoming a cavalcade of miserable gits.

With women, though, a double standard applies. We can use Dorries as an example here, too. For a short while, Dorries was dating a married man. She was met with scorn for this, and a lot of the response to it looked like slut-shaming. Certainly, there is a legitimate criticism of hypocrisy when Dorries claims to believe in abstinence and the sanctity of marriage, but is it really acceptable to attack her for the sexual behaviour alone? Of course not.

Dorries manages to be both a slut and a sexually-frustrated harpy. The attacks come from both critics and her own allies. And that isn’t fair, and I do not think that this should have to happen to anyone.

My sympathy to Dorries stretches as far as this. However, on the same day Dorries encountered sexism in Parliament, she pushed her own sexist agenda and tried to shove through an amendment which would pave the way for biased abortion counselling. She also voted to begin the destruction of the NHS that same day.

In terms of basic human rights, I have Nadine Dorries’s back, and do not think she deserves some of the shit she gets, because nobody does. As a politician, though, I sincerely hope that come the revolution she finds herself at the back of a human centipede. Nobody deserves oppression, but, equally, people must not pursue oppressive policy.

Fuck the lot of them

This post is more of a rant than any of the others I have written. I am absolutely livid.

Yesterday, MPs voted to start the steady, barely perceptible dismantling of the most precious of British institutions: the NHS. In a bill which is worded so bafflingly, with so many amendments, many of the MPs barely knew what they voted for. They voted for the beginning of the end, a means to sneak in privatisation of the biggest employer in the UK, and one of the best healthcare systems in the world. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Because, of course, our ruling class want to give their rich mates a slice of the fucking pie.

And what was done to prevent this travesty? Fuck all, that’s what.

Part of the problem was that it was hard to explain exactly what was going on. Our rulers have been smart enough to obfuscate their evil scheme in language which is thoroughly inaccessible. We say that they are bringing in privatisation, and they can deny it: they opened a back door so the vultures can get in.

At any rate, there were months of notice. Fucking months. I wrote to my useless shit of an MP twice. I marched. I did street theatre. I did all I could to raise awareness of what the Tories were plotting. My useless shit of an MP never replied. The marching and street theatre happened too early. Everything calmed down before the third reading of the bill. I still agitated. I talked whenever I could.

On the day of the vote, the TUC pulled out the big guns. They had been planning something for months. They had a fantastic idea for activism. They were going to save the NHS with a brave move as courageous as this paragraph is sarcastic. They held a fucking candlelit vigil.

On the day the government voted to start to destroy the best thing about Britain, all our fucking trade unions–our means for organisation–could pull out of the bag was a funeral before the vote had even taken place. A funeral attended by less than 200 people, because it was not publicised. The TUC are useless, toothless bastards. They had the power to do so much. They could have organised industrial action. They could have put thousands on the streets. Instead, they mourned.

In the Commons, probably unaware of the pointless vigil outside, Parliament signed the death warrant for our NHS. Nye Bevan span in his grave. The slow destruction of the welfare state shifted gear, speeding up imperceptibly. Few people gave a shit.

This is the thing. They are cutting the means of support for vulnerable people: the sick, the disabled, single parents, the homeless, the poor. They are taking away homes, vital financial support, basic fucking healthcare. They sell lies to the media and the majority swallow these fibs. There should be rioting on the streets over this. There will be rioting on the streets when people find out how much they have been fooled.

I have a theory–somewhat facetious–that perhaps our government does not really hate the abjected. Perhaps they have discovered that the force generated by Nye Bevan spinning in his grave turns out to be a brilliant power source! A clean, green energy that could end world hunger! An energy source that could revolutionise the way the world works, the end of scarcity!

The thing is, even if that turned out to be true, the repulsive swinging dicks in Westminster would sell of NyePower to the highest bidder. Instead of humanitarian uses, that power would be used for profit. They are greedy: profit is king.

And so we feel powerless. Those of us who care feel betrayed by our government, betrayed by those who are supposedly on our side. We did what we could, but it was not enough.

Imagine if we had tried. Imagine if the message had got out and the people had mobilised. Rioting in the streets, and every single person whose life has ever been touched by the NHS standing outside Parliament, daring the fuckers to vote the wrong way. Imagine if the fuckers voted the wrong way, then.

Imagine if we did without the fuckers entirely. Democracy is rule of the people. Democracy is power. Democracy is not trusting some crooked bastard who throws your letters into the shredder to somehow represent your interests. We could have saved the NHS. There’s a remote possibility we still can.

The power is ours. We just need to use it.

 

Implicit prejudice: the “everyone’s a little bit racist” test

I’m slightly racist and moderately sexist. I’m probably also a little bit ableist and weightist and goodness knows what else, but I didn’t have time to try the tests. How about you?

The Implicit Association Test

These tests are called the Implicit Association Test (IAT), and have been used for a variety of purposes, including assessing unconscious favouritism towards one’s own group and bias against people outside one’s own group. It measures unconscious associations, for example, associating typically Muslim names with bad concepts such as hate and war. In the first test I took, I first had to sort Muslim names from non-Muslim names by pressing two buttons on a keyboard. Then I had to sort “good” concepts such as love and peace from “bad” concepts. After this, it got a little harder: “good” shared a button with Muslim names, and “bad” with non-Muslim names. Then the keys switch around, so “bad” and Muslim names share a button, while “good” and non-Muslim share the other. All the while, the computer measured my reaction times. I was quicker at sorting “bad” and Muslim names when they shared a button, and slower when Muslim names shared a button with “good”.

In the second test, where I discovered I’m also a little bit sexist, I had to sort men’s and women’s names, and words pertaining to either career or family. I was a little faster when women’s names and family words shared a button, indicating that unconsciously I associate women with family.

If you try one of the tests, you’ll likely discover that you display unconscious biases against marginalised groups. Almost everyone does, and it’s very difficult to fake the test and appear unbiased.

Ingroup and outgroup favouritism

The IAT taps into a psychological mechanism which we all display to some extent or another: we display favouritism towards people in our own group. This is why, when a white person takes the IAT, they will be more likely to favour “white” names. Even if a person is assigned to a group where they do not know any of the other members and do not have a strong preference for the factor which unites them all, these biases are apparent [paywalled]. Even in minimal groups, people favour the ingroup.

The exception to this rule is for people in marginalised groups [paywalled]. While some people in marginalised groups will show the usual pattern and show ingroup favouritism, other times the pattern will be reversed. They will show a more positive implicit attitude towards the “outgroup” and a more negative implicit attitude to their own group–for example, a black person might be quicker to associate black names with “bad” concepts. This is thought to be a form of system justification: a cognitive loop-the-loop so that disadvantaged people can believe that the world is fair and just.

Is it really prejudice?

Are these unconscious associations genuinely prejudice? There is some evidence [paywalled] to suggest that it may be due to familiarity rather than a bias towards one’s ingroup: when participants had to sort insects (typically something that they have a negative attitude towards) and non-words in an IAT task, they showed a more negative implicit attitude towards the non-words. Because of this effect of familiarity, the effect could be due to absorption of societal beliefs–it measures cultural knowledge rather than prejudice. Perhaps, therefore, I associate women with home and family more readily than with career because I am more familiar with this idea as I am bombarded on a daily basis with media and other people’s attitudes which express this sentiment.

Although the evidence that IAT scores equal prejudice is equivocal, IAT scores do predict behaviour [paywalled]: generally, this behaviour is non-verbal. For example, a person with a high negative implicit attitude towards black people is more likely to sit further away from a black person and less likely to smile at them. Implicit attitudes can also affect voting behaviour and performance on exams. There are real-world implications to unconscious associations. Whether implicit attitudes are genuine prejudice or a result of familiarity with stereotypes, they can affect behaviour.

Can implicit attitudes be changed?

The good news is, implicit attitudes are malleable. In one study [paywalled], implicit prejudice towards black people was reduced through reduced through education, particularly if participants liked the (black) educator. Likewise, familiarity seems to be a factor: after presenting people with familiar faces of admired black people (such as Michael Jordan), negative implicit attitudes towards black people were lower. Taking the IAT may also influence implicit attitudes itself [paywalled]: it may cause participants to build associations. Therefore, by modifying the IAT, it can function as a tool to change implicit prejudice.

By having an awareness of one’s own implicit prejudices, one can work towards changing them and breaking a habit. My area of research–behaviour change–often uses the IAT to measure implicit attitudes towards a habitual behaviour such as smoking, as this is precisely what a habit is: an unconscious association. With awareness of the habit, the habit can be broken. Just as it is possible to stop smoking, it is possible to stop being prejudiced.

Limitations of the IAT

One of the biggest problems with the IAT is that it can only measure binaries: for example, men and women, black and white, Asian or not Asian. Because of this, it is limited in its scope. It is not possible to study prejudice against several different races at once using the IAT; nor is it possible to explore beyond binary notions of gender.

Despite this weakness, though, it is a fairly robust measure: more than a decade of study has established that it is very reliable and difficult to fake results. Put simply, it is currently the best that we have.

So what if I’m racist?

Acknowledgment of one’s own unconscious prejudices is crucial. It does not make you a bad person. My own results were enlightening and show me where there is work to be done. I am angry that I have absorbed some of the messages I see daily, and it gives me the resolve to fight all the harder. It is possible to choose to change.

 

Me and my menstrual cup

I decided to experiment with a menstrual cup. It was mostly motivated by a somewhat puerile desire to send an angry letter to a politician written in menstrual blood, but I decided against that plan as it was a bit of a silly idea. The desire to send blood-stained missives to politicians obsessed with my uterus was only one reason, though. I was also sick of spending money on tampons.

When I unpacked my shiny new menstrual cup, I had a good look at it. It looked like a very fancy rubbery egg cup, possibly procured from the kind of shop I am usually priced out of. It was the same size and shape as an egg cup, though made of a squidgy, rubbery material. A rubber stem protruded from the base of the cup, and inside the cup were volume markings, like the world’s stingiest shot glass.

After boiling the cup for a few minutes to sterilise it, it was time to insert it. As per the instructions, I folded it in half, then in half again, rendering it approximately the width of a large tampon. I squatted slightly, and began to push the cup inside me. . It was going well. In it went. “I’m doing it!” I thought to myself with joyous rapture. “I’m actually doing- oh.”

Perhaps a salient aspect to this story is that I do not have the best coordination. I was in special needs for my early years at school on account of the fact that I could barely hold a pencil. These days, “Stavving it” is a simile for buffling something in a comical fashion.

And I totally Stavved my first insertion of a menstrual cup. The thing sprang open aproximately half of the way in. With a sigh, I practiced my first removal. It was probably a good practice run seeing as it was not completely inserted.

As per the instructions, I squeezed the cup. There was a hiss of air as the seal broke; for some reason I was reminded of the explosive bolts in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I folded the cup again. This time it went in.

For the next two hours, I kept checking. I could not believe that a rubbery little egg cup stuffed up my cunt could possibly be up to the task, yet there was no leaking. Despite the lack of leakage, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to take it out.

With grim determination, I re-read the instruction booklet. I slightly squatted, fingers poised at cunt. I squeezed the cup. I pulled the stem. And nothing happened. “Oh fuck,” I thought to myself. “I have an egg cup stuck up my fanny.”

I tried every angle I could think of, performing a gymnastic display all over my bathroom floor. In the end, the original position, a semi-squat proved to be The One, in conjunction with a little bit of Kegeling (a push then a squeeze). I looked at the contents. Over two hours, I had barely filled the bottom of the cup. I was nowhere near the 6ml marker, the first of the volume markers. I felt disappointed. My uterus was clearly not up to the task of filling a little cunt-cup.

My first night of sleeping with a menstrual cup exceeded my expectations. I had heard that some women experience a little leakage due to rolling around in their sleep, but this did not happen to me. It actually functioned better than a tampon. I was pleasantly surprised.

Over the next few days, I became familiar with a few quirks of the cup. First, I discovered that sometimes after I went for a wee, it would leak slightly. It was not a leakage problem with the cup; it was something to do with the relaxation of my pelvic floor muscles while pissing.

I also became familiar with the noises the thing made on removal, and eventually learned to stop giggling like a four year old. You see, when something with a rubber seal is removed from a cunt, it makes a noise that is a cross between an airlock opening and the meatiest queef imaginable. It is absolutely hilarious, a loud fffPARP which I am sure was probably audible for miles around. If not, my laughter certainly was.

I had two minor incidents with the cup during my use of it, and both were attitubutable to human error. The first was removing the thing while drunk, with the hiccups. Hiccups, as it happen, affect the pelvic floor, making the task slightly more difficult: each time I had a good grip, I would hiccup and the cup would move itself back up again. With some good timing, I finally managed to get it out, and *hic*! The jolt caused a minor spillage.

The other incident was a morning removal. The cup had worked its way slightly further up than usual, and I Kegeled away. I may have Kegeled a little overenthusiastically, and it slipped out quicker than expected, cheerfully spilling an entire night’s contents of menses all over the floor, causing a scene reminiscent of one of those terrible torture-porn films.

Even after these accidents, though, I did not end up with blood on my hands. The cup does a brilliant job of catching everything, and the seal means that everything is inside the cup and nothing outside, on the bits that you touch. As long as one is not too squeamish about the sight of a small cup of blood, it is absolutely clean.

Will I use a cup again?

On the whole, absolutely. The minor accidents aside, it was very convenient. I often forget to bring tampons out with me, so end up spending a fortune on back up supplies. With a cup, there is no such issue here: it’s inside, and all it needs is emptying once in a while. It also seems to have a better capacity than tampons, and I have not seen anything about a risk of toxic shock.

Yes, it’s fiddly, but isn’t everything? Towels require alignment and faffing about with stickers. Applicator tampons are quite possibly the most confusing thing I have ever tried to use. Non-applicator tampons are fine, but require a bit of practice. And so does the cup.

I would say, this is probably not for you if you have any problems with touching your own cunt. It requires a lot of intimate handling. It is also not for anyone who dislikes the sight of blood.

I would consider myself a cup-convert. With a little practice, I think I can avoid the accidents. And if I ever need to write letters to politicians in menstrual blood, I am ready.

Reasons to mistrust a judicial system #1376

I have a somewhat sceptical attitude towards judicial systems. In the last few months alone, I have seen a horrifying case where a woman was sent to prison for reporting a rape, draconian sentencing for rioting, and a close friend of mine sent to prison for a trifling issue–or, to be more precise, a pie-based issue, and much, much more to boot. As it stands, our system for dispensing justice is just another exhibit of societal prejudice, only differentiated from the bog-standard kind by the power it wields. A prejudiced person can only do so much damage. A prejudiced instrument of the state can harm many in much larger ways.

The rot is far from confined to the UK: take this recent, horrible case from the USA. A young gay man was murdered at his school by a fellow student. The jury has not been able to reach a verdict, and as such the trial was a mistrial and must be retried.

The defence does not rest upon the fact that the perpetrator did not shoot the victim: the defence freely admit to this fact. Instead, the defence rests upon “gay panic”–apparently, the victim “sexually harassed” the perpetrator, and he “just snapped” and managed to carry out an act of premeditated murder with a firearm.

Over eight weeks of testimony, the prosecution laid out a case of premeditated murder by McInerney, who prosecutor Maeve Fox described as a bright boy from a broken and violent home who knew what he was doing when he brought a .22-caliber gun to school.

McInerney was upset that King had come up to him at school the day before and said, “What’s up, baby?” Fox said.

He told a defense psychologist that he found King’s attentions “disgusting” and “humiliating” and that King would have to pay for it. He told a school friend that he was going to bring a gun to school the next day, and he did, Fox said.

Then, in a school computer lab, he shot King at point-blank range in the back of the head not once but twice before dropping the weapon and stalking out of the classroom.

Now, it’s never nice for someone to come on to you when you don’t want their attention. I have experienced this same kind of harassment myself, on a pretty much daily basis, every time I leave the fucking house. It can be disgusting and humiliating to experience this kind of harassment. The thing is, when it happens to me, I’m meant to take it as a compliment, because I am a woman and the people who ask me “what’s up, baby?” are men. The other thing is, when this happens to me, I don’t show up the next day at that same bus stop and blow the man’s brains out.

I haven’t even entertained the notion, though I was very interested by the game “Hey Baby“. In this game, you play a woman. Every time a man comes up to you and harasses you, you shoot him with a big fucking gun. It is a rather thought-provoking game–does street harassment really piss women off that much?–and it’s provocative as hell. It got people talking about street harassment, and much of the discourse surrounded how killing someone isn’t a very good comeback to street harassment because killing is wrong. I didn’t play the game very much for this reason: it was thoroughly divorced from my own worldview. Also, I am terrible at FPS games, and it’s not very fun looking up, looking down, rotating slightly, looking down, looking up, left, shoot the floor, look down when some cockbag NPC is telling me it wants to lick me all over.

The main point, though, is that killing is wrong, and people do not tend to snap and kill people after experiencing street harassment. Furthermore, if a young woman had bought a gun to school and murdered a man for saying “what’s up, baby?” I doubt a jury would have any trouble reaching a verdict. She would be found guilty as sin.

What is left, then, is an unpleasant stench of homophobia. What happened in this situation was a murder, a pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder. The jury should be able to easily reach a verdict.

Unfortunately, the whole case, from top to bottom, is steeped in prejudice. Prejudice was the drive for a defence that excused murder by claiming the perpetrator was grossed out by TEH GHEY. Prejudice was firmly in the minds of many jurors as the defence’s prejudice mingled with their own, justifying a violent crime. Prejudice played a part in the crime itself, the perpetrator’s disgust at another person’s sexual orientation a motive.

These prejudices, they leak into judicial systems. They allow victim-blaming to thrive in defences against rape, as these prejudices are so prevalent elsewhere. They are the reason that black people are disproportionately represented in prisons. They allow miscarriages of justice to happen.

Yet we still pretend that our judicial systems can dole out “justice”. Where is the justice in a murder case, when a jury cannot even identify a murder because their judgment is blurred by homophobia? The faith we have in courts is misplaced: they are not the best that we can get, they are a tradition which benefits those who are already blessed with most power. We can do better. We must do better.

Justice is not justice when it is so steeped in systemic hate.