The cops can strip women in the streets.

Trigger warning for humiliation and forced undressing.

Sometimes, you see things which are almost too chilling to put into words.

In this video, a young woman protester wearing a tent as a costume is surrounded by police. We cannot see much of what happens; we see what appears to be a knife being passed along and the woman shouting “this is not consensual, don’t take my clothes off”. She is then left in her underwear, clearly distressed, sitting on the grass.

It is a genuinely horrifying scene. A woman is forcibly stripped and humiliated in public by people with more power than her. Most people who watch this video will surely be disgusted and appalled by such behaviour; it appears to be such flagrant abuse.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture where victims of such abuse are blamed for what happened to them. People are frightened of the notion that the police are not exactly a benevolent protective force, people are frightened that they might find themselves victims of humiliation or abuse. And so the circus of victim-blaming for this woman began.

A local news article is careful to point out that the police asked her politely to undress first. This is hardly surprising coming from a Murdoch-owned rag, yet it is mild compared to the bile that came from self-professed feminists. Apparently she should have worn more than just underwear under her costume. Apparently she was “entrapping police”. The poor police cannot be to blame for forcibly stripping a woman in public.

No. What the police are doing here is utterly unacceptable. Any feminist should understand that it is never acceptable for some powerful people to strip a woman in public. Any supporter of the police should know that police guidelines involve them not making people strip in public. There is no justification for this whatsoever. It’s abuse, plain and simple.

I don’t want to live in a world where the police can forcibly tear my clothes of if they think my outfit is a bit silly. I don’t want to live in a world where people seek to justify that in any way.

This is wrong, thoroughly wrong. It must never happen again.

Thanks to @alxsm for linking me to the story and @Orbsan for the local news article.

The Tories, marriage and families: why are they removing choice?

“Choice” is a word beloved by our not-exactly-elected masters in Westminster. Almost always, when it is trotted out it means anything but choice. It means we are forced to eat a punnet of warm turds because it’s better than the wheelbarrow of kebab-chunder that’s also on the menu. This behaviour is hardly limited to the pantomime we’re told we voted for: society often forces certain default options upon us.

It is becoming abundantly clear, though, that the Tories are determined to remove all semblance of choice from the decision to marry, and we shall all have to marry whether we like it or not. It’s hard to identify exactly where it started, as so much policy in the last year and a half has been directed towards getting people married and forcing them to stay in marriages.

There are the carrots. The government has declared that it will bring in full same-sex marriage, meaning gay monogamous couples can be as married as heterosexual monogamous couples and therefore marriage statistics will jump up. They brought in a tax break for married couples, a little deal-sweetener to put a ring on it. This tax break cost around £550-600 million: which, coincidentally is identical to the figure which was cut from Educational Maintenance Allowance. The tax cut is a clear statement of priorities: fuck the future of our young people, let’s keep people married.

Then there are the sticks. Separating couples will be forced to pay to use the Child Support Agency, a stealth “tax” on divorce. In combination with cuts to Legal Aid, leaving a marriage suddenly becomes an expense which many cannot afford.

Finally, there is this: teaching children about “the nature of marriage and its importance to family life” has been written into the curriculum for free schools and academies. Very little is compulsory in free school curricula: they have to teach the general English, maths, science and RE, but the rest is supposedly completely open for the schools to decide (which is problematic in and of itself, and there are myriad  problems with free schools and academies, but that’s another issue for another day). Marriage, however, has been plopped firmly and prominently on the agenda. Not any other form of relationship, just marriage. Rather ironically, this provision is called Clause 28, a clear parallel with the last time the Tories decided to impose  control on how people had relationships.

Put all of these threads together and a picture emerges: this government is obsessed with trapping people in an antediluvian social arrangement. Even before he was elected, David Cameron was farting on about “family values” and how they would somehow magically solve all of the problems in the world.    These family values translate as something very simple indeed: the classic nuclear family with a breadwinner daddy and a nurturing mummy raising a generation of fresh young Tories. The cuts are hitting women disproportionately, forcing them into greater dependence on spouses. It is hard to believe that this was not by design. Marriage, as has been identified by many before me, serves to reinforce the conservative social order.

So why frenzied drive to remove any choice about how to build a family?

Perhaps it is to do with perceived scarcity: the mythical pot of money which is empty to all unless they are a friend of the Tories. Consider the perpetual bile directed at single mothers, who, if the media and politicians are to be believed, are almost wholly responsible for a financial crisis and are stealing All Of The Money to feed their crack habits. These are women who, for whatever reason, have chosen to raise their children outside of the approved model for a family and are vilified for doing it. It scares the conservative system, and so they are scapegoated.

Similar misdirected aggression is thrown at immigrants, who are apparently stealing all the jobs and all the benefits. Once again, this is nothing more than scapegoating: they are the Jews poisoning the wells, the reds under the beds. The scapegoating is down to nothing more than xenophobia. This is accompanied by hidden, dog-whistle racism from the tabloids, screaming loudly about the number of immigrants and how “British identity” is disappearing. Somehow “family values” are tied in Britishness, as though only certain people may ever breed in certain ways.

I find my lizard brain recoiling at all of this. The rampant scapegoating, the insistence on regressive family values; it reminds me of something utterly terrifying. Rising right-wing ideology has been linked to a perception of scarcity, and these are the times in which we live. Most people believe that there isn’t enough to go round. It is unclear whether the politicians likewise agree, but their social policy and rhetoric certainly seem to be rooted in the “scarcity” line. The great irony is, there is plenty for everyone if only it were distributed fairly. Instead of pursuing this, society is moulded into a shape which suits those in charge.

The policy towards marriage is all about control and removal of choice, whatever its function. It is about the tentacles of the state wrapping themselves around any relationships, choking love until it is a mere legal contract. If we are lucky, it is nothing more than a perverted Tory fascination with how people live and love. If we are not lucky, this is only the beginning.

Jeremy Clarkson is not funny

Yesterday, millions of public sector workers went on strike. There was remarkable support for the industrial action–even the Daily Mail was polling 84% support. Most people, it would seem, are behind the idea that we should treat our public sector workers as human beings.

Enter Jeremy Clarkson, professional troll who is largely famous for driving cars and being a dripping fuckstain. Clarkson is not one of the vast majority who support the strikes. Quite the opposite, in fact. On never-watched light entertainment The One Show, he declared that strikers should be shot. He clarified with “they should be executed in front of their families.”

Naturally, the tosser brigade have leapt to Clarkson’s defence, declaring that it must be a joke, that he was being somehow “funny”, and the outcry was down to pearl-clutching from humourless hummus-munchers. It’s the last resort of the dribbling wanker, declaring that anyone who is not amused by a brazen display of utter dickery must be boring.

Rest assured, any hummus munchers who are not tickled by Clarkson’s “joke”. You are neither boring, nor humourless. The fact is, what Clarkson proposed flies in the face of what is actually counted as humour.

The truth is, we’re not entirely sure why (most) humans have a sense of humour and laugh at jokes. Evolutionary psychology suggests it’s because it gets us laid. Others suggest it’s a natural reaction to fear being relieved. Perhaps the theory with most research associated, though, is Incongruity Theory.

Incongruity Theory started with philosophy superhero Immanuel Kant, though has since continued into a rich body of research with many offshoots. It proposes that humour is the state of realising incongruity between a concept in a certain situation and the real objects which are thought to be related to the concept. To demonstrate, here are two potentially funny scenarios:

1. Jeremy Clarkson dies in a horrible car crash

2. Jeremy Clarkson is found dead following a tragic wanking accident with three quarters of a bicycle lodged into his rectum.

Chances are, you found the bicycle-bumming scenario far funnier than the car crash scenario. This is because the likelihood of Clarkson going near a bike, let alone incorporating it into an experimental wank, is highly improbable. It is incongruous, and the theory proposes that this is where humour comes from. Humour, according to this theory, can only happen when there is something unexpected, something surreal, something bizarre, something different from reality.

Clarkson’s declaration that strikers should be shot is not particularly incongruous with reality. History and the present are riddled with stories of people taking industrial action and ending up murdered by the forces in power, in precisely the way Clarkson lays out in his “joke”. In the present day UK, the likelihood of shooting strikers is becoming frighteningly more plausible. The police are already being authorised to use weapons of greater lethality in public order situations. Following the riots, a third of British people were baying for the use of live ammunition. Last winter, the police smugly backpatted themselves for not shooting student protesters. Shooting strikers is worryingly congruous with reality, and therefore thoroughly unfunny.

Of course, the joke may still amuse some. It will amuse those whose schema of reality cannot possibly perceive use of violence by the state to attack dissenters as a remotely plausible threat. It will amuse those whose minds are anaesthetised by endless rolling Sky News, growing fat on the lies fed to them by a dangerous system. It will amuse those with a vested interest in maintaining a system from which they benefit, counting wealth gained from forcing workers into ever worse conditions. It will amuse Clarkson himself, paid millions of public pounds, who will never have to face the terrifying possibility of ageing in poverty.

To most of us, though, this joke is not funny. It is a bleak vision of our future.