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.