Dear Unilad: An open letter to @Uniladmag (because their enquiries email mysteriously stopped working)

Dear Unilad,

What the fuck is wrong with you? Seriously, I wanted to start of this open letter eloquently, but all I can do is wonder what is so wrong with you that you repeatedly promote rape.

You appeared on my radar last week when you posted an article advocating rape. I suspect the author of the piece thought he was being ever so funny by suggesting that the number of unreported rapes could play to a man’s advantage. Obviously you probably experienced quite a degree of backlash to this, because you quietly took it down. It’s still screencapped though, Unilad. People know what you did.

Then there’s this T-shirt, which manages to simultaneously advocate rape while implying that the wearer of the T-shirt suffers from premature ejaculation. Again, you quietly took it down, but forgot to remove it from your Facebook page. So we know what you did.

Your attitude to being called out on your behaviour is appalling. Tweeter @sazza_jay pointed out that what you were doing is wrong, and received misogynistic and homophobic abuse. Following your characteristic pattern, you then quietly took down the tweet, but we all saw it. It’s screencapped, Unilad. These days, nothing just disappears.

Your reaction to the controversy suggests that deep down you have some semblance of a clue that what you are doing is wrong, and here’s why: what you are doing is reinforcing a culture which facilitates rape. Your professed “banter” is dangerous: you are repeating rape myths which are often subscribed to by rapists. On university campuses, the area your laughable attempt at a “magazine” attempts to cater to, as many as one in four women will be raped.

Do you find this funny? Is it somehow amusing that up to a quarter of the women you might encounter (admittedly, most women will run a mile from any dickhead wearing your T-shirts) could be victims of a horrific crime?

If you don’t, it’s time to own up to your mistakes and apologise. Not some mealy-mouthed “sorry you got offended”, but a proper owning of your mistakes. You owe your followers an explanation, and help in participating in building a world without rape.

You are at a crossroads right now. Will you continue to be part of the problem, part of the culture which allows women to be raped while dribbling fools belch stale lager laughter over violations? Or will you apologise?

Here’s hoping you choose the right path.

Update: Unilad have issued an apology, but it fails on several fronts: (1) It has a “sorry you were offended” tone. (2) It’s only posted on Twitpic, not their main site. (3) It fails to show any understanding of why their behaviour is wrong. As I said, Unilad need to explain what is so wrong about rape jokes and work to challenging rape culture, not reinforcing it.

Update 2: A second semi-apology from Unilad, over on their Facebook page. They still haven’t explained why what they did was wrong. There are also an awful lot of vile, triggering comments making light of rape and threatening violence against those who got offended. While Unilad have apologised for those comments from their “fans”, such comments will continue to happen. This is exactly why rape culture needs challenging and why a site like Unilad needs to explain to its readers exactly why it will no longer be participating in a climate of violence: Unilad is trying to absolve itself of responsibility, when it is in fact responsible for these views. I screencapped the apology (and the first four ghastly comments) because I’m now wise to Unilad’s habit of taking things down

Update 3: Unilad’s website is now down, with the same semi-apology as on the Facebook group. Honestly. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to own their mistakes? A cynic might think they’re trying to cover their tracks and remove all traces of what they have done. When they relaunch, I’ll be watching…

In which I bite: Brendan O’Neill can’t read (and is a weeping syphilitic chode)

It took me a while to bite, but eventually curiosity got the better of me. I had been sent something which appeared so thoroughly awful, I’d thought I might duck it. @TheNatFantastic had alerted me to the existence of a piece by weeping syphilitic chode Brendan O’Neill entitled “A Marxist defence of Page 3 girls“.

And it was so thoroughly stupid, and worse than expected I ended up biting.

I had imagined that perhaps O’Neill’s “Marxist” defence of Page 3 would pertain to liberating the proletarian Page 3 models by providing them with a platform to articulate their views

O’Neill lacks even the basic intellect to pursue this reasoning, and instead falls back on the truly wearisome weeping syphilitic chode line: crying about imaginary Victorian women and vehemently defending his perceived right to look at tits. Marx barely gets a look-in, save for a bit of selective quoting:

“You cannot enjoy the advantages of a free press without putting up with its inconveniences,” he said. He went on: “You cannot pluck the rose without its thorns!” – meaning that even when you pick a beautiful flower you’ll frequently end up with a little prick. It’s the same with the press – there’s some good stuff out there, well worth reading, and there are a lot of pricks, too. That is in the nature of having a free, open press.

Ultimately, the analysis is as Marxist as O’Neill’s online rag “Spiked” and its predecessor “Living Marxism”, that is, about as Marxist as the distended anus of the bourgeoisie unrelentingly shitting into the screaming mouths of the proletariat.  Marx’s name is used, and that is about all. In fact, what Marx said was:

For the time being, leaving aside the moral consequences, bear in mind that you cannot enjoy the advantages of a free press without putting up with its inconveniences. You cannot pluck the rose without its thorns!

While Marx’s argument is indeed in favour of the free press, it is hardly surprising that O’Neill left out the mention of moral consequences while quoting Marx, given that O’Neill’s entire article is about how Unutterably Evil those who point out the possibility of the moral consequences of Page 3.

It is also questionable as to whether the Sun and is Page 3 genuinely represent the idea of a free press, particularly the free press to which Marx was referring in the article. Marx himself said:

The primary freedom of the press lies in not being a trade. The writer who degrades the press into being a material means deserves as punishment for this internal unfreedom the external unfreedom of censorship, or rather his very existence is his punishment.

The Sun, the Murdoch press and mainstream commercial media on the whole are a capitalist endeavour. They exist for two reasons: to make money, and to push a political agenda which will allow those who control the means of production to make even more money. The tiny opinion pieces on Page 3 strictly adhere to the editorial line, its contributors unable to write freely: this is congruous with Marx’s views on a censored press:

Inseparable from it is the most powerful vice, hypocrisy, and from this, its basic vice, come all its other defects, which lack even the rudiments of virtue, and its vice of passivity, loathsome even from the aesthetic point of view. The government hears only its own voice, it knows that it hears only its own voice, yet it harbours the illusion that it hears the voice of the people, and it demands that the people, too, should itself harbour this illusion. For its part, therefore, the people sinks partly into political superstition, partly into political disbelief, or, completely turning away from political life, becomes a rabble of private individuals.

Marx’s arguments about a free press may have been pertinent to a specific dispute in 1840s Prussia, but the climate has changed substantially since then. For O’Neill to argue otherwise is sheer intellectual laziness. I will be charitable and suggest that Brendan O’Neill did not read the whole Marx article, which is forgivable as Marx writes in an unremittingly dense fashion and it must be difficult for poor Brendan to read out of his one pus-crusted urethral eye.

Either way, it seems relevant to end on a quote falsely attributed to Marx, yet actually pronounced by Sweary Wollstonecraft:

Brendan O’Neill is a weeping syphilitic chode.

People I won’t have sex with, ever.

The stereotype of the sex-hating feminist fails to hold up to a cursory glance, let alone any degree of scrutiny. There are, however, some people I will never have sex with, ever…

The festering frothing anuses at askmen have been at it again. Last spotted providing pick-up lines to demonstrate dickhead status, this time they think they have happened upon some feminist demands women secretly want to be ignored.

Askmen rather like the feminist struggle, they claim, because it means that there is finally the prospect of the holy grail of relationships: “the non-clingy girlfriend”. I’m assuming these dripping bellends would be lucky to have any girlfriend, clingy or otherwise, given that their attitude towards spending time with women is a grating display of tedious benevolent sexism.

Apparently, women secretly want men to carry their bags for them, pay for meals out, make decisions for them and get married, no matter how feminist they proclaim to be. Also, Askmen reckon that we women love to be objectified. Thank you for speaking for we little fragile women, Askmen.

Now, Askmen seem to have a little bit of a hang-up about what they call “chivalry”, but is more accurately termed benevolent sexism, with a plethora of articles with tips for demonstrating “gentlemanliness” and defending chivalry against those big nasty feminists. They seem to believe it’s the way into a woman’s knickers. It isn’t.

I have been on dates with “chivalrous” men, and it has rarely ended up in the bedroom, as it is irksome to be treated like a cross between a sickly pensioner and a small child. I have a cunt. That isn’t a disability. I am also, unsurprisingly, hugely turned off by people propping up oppressive systems. When called out on their behaviour, the chivalrous types invariably mansplain (they are always men) to me why it is all right, and mansplaining is about as sexy as mankinis.

I have, a few times, had sex with the bag-carrying, door-opening dinner buyers. Every time, the sex has been rubbish, as I’m not entirely sure they view women as people, but rather projects with a strict protocol.

So, for this outstanding contribution to furthering the cause of infuriating behaviour, Askmen, I am never going to have sex with you.


Anyone clicking this next link requires a trigger warning. This little shitbag advocates rape. The writer  seems to believe he has written a humourous piece on “sexual mathematics“. He “mathematically” suggests that it is worth trying it on with a woman after a date, as 75% of women are likely to put out on the first date. He concludes with what will inevitably be defended as a “joke”, pointing out that 85% of rapes go unreported, implying that these are worthwhile odds to take.

This is yet another tired example of rape culture, albeit even closer to an outright suggestion of rape than usual. As an aside, it is also terribly written and thoroughly unreferenced, which leads me to question how this seeping bellend managed to get to university in the first place.

Remember that rapists are more likely to subscribe to rape myths, and the contribution to rape culture is a dangerous, dangerous thing. Having sex with those who trivialise and laugh at rape is ultimately never a good idea: to such individuals, consent is optional. For Unilad and his ilk, the chances of sex should be no more than zero.

The Activists

Touched upon in yesterday’s post on consensual power, BDSM and anarchism, tedious fuckwits The Activists think that sex is a waste of time.

Fuck that shit.

Brendan O’Neill

I think I may have mentioned this before, but Brendan O’Neill is a weeping syphilitic chode, a misogynist and all-round awful human being. He is the tiny infected penile avatar of rape culture, reeking of stale beer and a longing for the 90s. He hasn’t even done anything to specifically piss me off today, but it bears repeating and reminding every day.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Brendan O’Neill is a weeping syphilitic chode.

The Dorries abstinence bill: not dead yet

Uterine enthusiast Nadine Dorries has faced something of a setback today. With a frisson of schadenfreude, it is pleasing to report that her bill on bringing in abstinence education for girls in schools has been withdrawn.

Many are claiming this as a victory, but it isn’t quite that. In fact, Dorries withdrew the bill because there wasn’t enough time to read it that day as the Commons were busy devising other ways of fucking us over. The bill is still hanging over us, a veritable chastity belt of Damocles, waiting for a more prudent time before Dorries makes her next desperate bid for ultimate power over women’s reproductive systems. If Dorries times it well enough, it could well pass due to sheer inattention, like it did last time.

So now is not a time for celebration, it is a time to maintain the pressure and keep talking about why Dorries’s harebrained scheme would be thoroughly awful for everyone.

First of all, abstinence education does not work [sadly paywalled]. It just doesn’t. It’s like teaching people to do a rain dance in order to influence coal production. Young people might want to fuck, and it’s probably best if they learn how to do it safely. The good news is, this bill would not teach abstinence at the expense of decent sex education. The bad news is, it would still entail vast quantities of money being poured into teaching something which is of absolutely no benefit save to make a womb-obsessed God-botherer feel a bit happy.

Perhaps more crucially is the dangerous idea of teaching abstinence only to girls. There is no reason for this but simple sexism. It buys into the notion that boys want sex and girls are the “gatekeepers”, a theory promulgated repeatedly by misogynists. Sex doesn’t work that way. It never has. It is merely a societal construct, one which is crumbling and requires complete demolition.

So keep fighting. Keep the pressure up. Hold on to autonomy over women’s bodies. Dorries won’t rest in her counter crusade, and we must not either.

Anarchy. You use that word a lot. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The word “anarchy” is a much-maligned. In the popular media, anarchy is often used to describe rioting and other affairs outside of the judicial system. The conflation of anarchy with lawlessness is common, even though the crucial differences were patiently explained by Emma Goldman over a century ago.

The general popular understanding of anarchy is low, and allows all sorts of ridiculousness to be carried out in its name: TV Tropes explore some of the bollocks associated with anarchy. The latest on my anarchist shit-list is Lynx. In their latest offering, “ANARCHY IS COMING”, a man in a red and black balaclava steals something from a jewellery shop, and is chased by a policewoman. As our anarchist protagonist applies his Lynx, some clothes come off from both him and his pursuer. They meet in an alley, and embrace.

The grating sexism of the Lynx marketing line of “women are unable to resist the stench of a 14 year old boy’s P.E. kit” is still present, and it adds in utter nonsense about anarchy. Firstly, anarchism is not all about robbing jewellery shops. Secondly, even if an anarchist did rob a jewellery shop, he sure as fuck wouldn’t be doing it alone wearing such a distinctive balaclava. Thirdly, the very presence of a police denotes that this is not anarchy, as having a police force tends to imply some sort of degree of having a fucking state. As an aside, the whole piece suggest a tragic misunderstanding of what is meant by the phrase “fuck the police”.

It transpires that this ad is part of Lynx’s latest marketing campaign, which involves a graphic novel about anarchy, which, from the previews, seems to imply that anarchy consists solely of scantily clad women running around in leather. In truth, very little of anarchism involves scantily clad women running around in leather.

Are we doomed, then, to a popular culture completely devoid of any decent anarchist content? Not quite. The first thing that springs to mind is, strangely, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is the only film I can think of that uses the phrase “anarcho-syndicalism” twice and manages to slip in a detailed explanation of how an autonomous collective could be organised. We also get to hold on to V for Vendetta, if we only accept the book and reject the watered-down film.

The Mad Max trilogy also presents, when viewed together, a surprisingly coherent view of anarchy. The first film shows the death throes of the current order; the second the Verwirrung phase; and the third, order emerging. Beyond the Thunderdome shows us two societies. In the one, there is an ongoing power struggle between Tina Turner and a midget riding a gimp. The phrase “TWO MEN ENTER ONE MAN LEAVES” is mic-checked, providing a chilling warning to the Occupy movement to make sure their collective decision-making is in order, as otherwise they will be left entirely up to the whims of Tina Turner and her punishment-wheel. The other society is a group of children with no leader. Unsurprisingly, the ones who end the film better off are the non-hierarchical lot.

For the most part, though, anarchy is widely misunderstood. As John Henry Mackay wrote,

“Wreck of all order,” cry the multitude,
“Art thou, & war & murder’s endless rage.”

0, let them cry. To them that ne’er have striven
The ‘truth that lies behind a word to find,

To them the word’s right meaning was not given.
They shall continue blind among the blind.

One day, perhaps, the truth will become widely known. In the meantime, there’s always Mad Max. 

“Blue” feminism: a disaster for social justice

Blue feminism is the latest Big Thing. We see women like Louise Mensch and Nadine Dorries strutting around proudly declaring themselves to be feminists, and discussion as to whether Margaret Thatcher was a feminist icon. Of course, the answer to the later is a resounding, echoing, unequivocal no; and Mensch and Dorries are about as feminist as pink Lego.

The brand of alleged feminism promulgated by these sorts has very little in common with feminism. For a good introduction to blue feminism, I would strongly recommend reading this deconstruction from Boudledidge: ultimately, feminism for the blue team equates to little more than “having a cunt and having a good job”.

This construction of feminism falls flat on the social justice front repeatedly. I was originally going to term it “probably having a cunt and having a good job”, but I realised fairly swiftly that the blue feminists appear silent on whether trans women are included in their construction of women. I suspect none of them have given these women a second thought.

The notion that career success is the ultimate goal of blue feminism is also woefully misguided and denotes a complete lack of consideration of any women but the most privileged. Having a successful career and becoming rich is only an option for those who are already in a position to pursue this course: for those who can afford the university degree, the unpaid labour of internship and the right connections in the first place. One can only pull oneself up by the bootstraps if one is wearing boots in the first place. Practicalities aside, it is also somewhat jarring that career success is seen as the goal rather than the ability for women to lead a fulfilling, happy life. What of the people who are not made happy by making a lot of money?

The focus of blue feminism taken in combination with the notion gaining traction is disastrous for social justice-driven feminism. There is a complete blindness to intersectionality, and to actually making things better for everyone. To the blue feminist, feminism is an individualistic quest towards getting rich and famous while kicking away the opposition. It is hardly feminism, a means of societal change: it is a mode of justification for the selfishness of the lucky few. Blue feminism is a problem, not a solution.

The way blue feminists talk of life is in terms of perpetually scrambling up a greasy pole until finally smashing your way through the glass ceiling with your Louboutin stiletto. All blue feminism will ever achieve will be the occasional leg-up to raise a person inches up the pole. In contrast, those of us who strive for social justice would prefer to see that greasy pole replaced with a nice wide staircase from which we can collectively smash the glass ceiling with hammers.

Blue feminism is system justification. Blue feminism is not a neutral force, but actively harmful for almost all but the already-privileged. Blue feminism is an idea that needs to die.

A brief round-up of some regular wankers

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that certain individuals find themselves in my sights from time to time, to the point where I consider some of them to have been made up specifically to piss me off. Today, they’re still being vastly irksome to me.

Nadine Dorries is still fascinated with women’s bodies

Nadine Dorries is better known for her obsession with uteruses, which resulted in me and others writing to her about their wombs last September. Her fixation on women’s bodies does not end at the uterus, though, and her other interests include what young women are doing with their cunts, her desire for control manifesting in a crusade to teach young women to Never Have Sex.

While the attack on choice was mercifully aborted, Dorries’s attempts to drag in mandatory abstinence education for only young women rumbles on. Fortunately, there is resistance to this. On 20th January, people will be gathering to protest this bill. If you can make this, please do.

Brendan O’Neill is still a weeping syphilitic chode

Brendan O’Neill, weeping syphilitic chode and alleged journalist has branched out from repeated, nasty sexism with a sideline in wishing abuse victims would shut the fuck up into declaring racism to be fine and dandy.  He reckons that yelling out racist words during a football match is “undiluted passion” and that political correctness is ruining football.  His conclusion? “I suggest we set about the urgent task of kicking these ‘anti-racists’ out of football,” he seeps.

I am getting quite a good insight into that chode’s psyche, and basically he seems terrified of two things: 1) that we live in a society where being a vile little shitbag is becoming increasingly less tolerated and 2) Victorian women. Seriously. His posts always include Victorian women running around suggesting he stops being such an unpleasant bellend.

While not strictly Victorian, I should very much like to set an irate Mary Wollstonecraft on him.

Stephen Moffat thinks anyone calling him out on sexism is a criminal

Now, I quite like Stephen Moffat’s work, despite the fact that he is rather sexist. The Moff himself, on the other hand, has added himself to my menagerie of nemeses by giving the following reaction to criticisms of sexism in his work.

“I think it’s one thing to criticise a programme and another thing to invent motives out of amateur psychology for the writer and then accuse him of having those feelings,” he said.

“I think that was beyond the pale and strayed from criticism to a defamation act.

“I’m certainly not a sexist, a misogynist and it was wrong.

“It’s not true and in terms of the character Sherlock Holmes, it is interesting. He has been referred to as being a bit misogynist.

“He’s not; the fact is one of the lovely threads of the original Sherlock Holmes is whatever he says, he cannot abide anyone being cruel to women – he actually becomes incensed and full of rage.”

Yes. Expressing concerns that Moffat might be a little bit sexist due to his creation of inherently problematic characters and saying some rather sexist things about a woman actor in Doctor Who is apparently defamation. It hardly helps his case that his conception of anti-sexism is a manifestation of benevolent sexism: getting angry because a fragile little woman has been attacked is hardly progressive, instead it merely reinforces the binary.

Like Brendan O’Neill, Moffat appears to consider calling someone out on sexism worse than actually being sexist, and this is just a dick move pulled by tossers.

Moffat, I think you’re a sexist. If you want to do me for defamation, bring it on.

The Iron Lady: A Portrait of the Arsehole as an Old Bat

I saw The Iron Lady. To my surprise, I didn’t completely hate it.

I had seen the film criticised for being too soft on Thatcher, or lionising her, and completely glossing over some incredibly salient issues during her stint as Chief Dickhead, most important being the miners’ strike. It did indeed have these flaws, yet I read the film differently.

The narrative is framed around an elderly Thatcher in the present day reflecting on her life. In the present day segments, Thatcher is portrayed as deep in the throes of dementia, hallucinating her dead husband and swilling rum. The first time we see the character is her hand snatching milk, having wandered away from home. Past and present repeatedly collide for the frail old tyrant and we are treated to a brief history of Margaret Thatcher shown through the eyes of Margaret Thatcher.

Of course the biography is sanitised, therefore. The story is shown to us entirely through an unreliable narrator. Our designated protagonist is reflecting on her life from a position of fragile mental health and a memory-impeding condition. It is hardly surprising, then, that all of Thatcher’s orations are accompanied by stirring orchestral swells, and she is seen as a lone crusader battling against all odds. Her memories culminate in her leaving Downing Street to rose-petal strewn floors, surrounded by adoring fans rather than the more familiar crying woman in a car. The narrative is sanitised, as the narrator has sanitised it.

Yet reality creeps in. The film makes use of newsreel footage, which shows us the poll tax riots, the public sector strikes and the sinking of the Belgrano. At one point our designated protagonist is told “you can’t just close down conversation that isn’t what you want to hear”. In the next scene, she is shown turning off a television just before a newscaster describes the criticisms laid against Thatcher. This, ultimately, is what the film is about: a fallen tyrant deep in denial about her wrongs.

More interestingly, even in Thatcher’s favourable memories of herself, she is still a complete and utter raving bellend spouting dangerous neoliberal nonsense. No amount of swelling strings can cover it. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the writing draws attention to parallels between Thatcher and the current government, choosing to emphasis public sector strikes over the miners and discussing the deficit. To the informed viewer, this film draws a clear line from Thatcher to Blair to David Cameron, demonstrating how one can play with words to hide the hideous truth.

While some have compared The Iron Lady to Downfall in its humanising of a seemingly inhuman target, I feel it is closer to Lolita. What appears to be sympathy is in fact a desperate bid from an unreliable narrator to cast themselves as a much-maligned hero. Thatcher is Humbert Humbert, and Britain is an unfortunate pubescent girl. If only the film were an iota as good as Nabokov or Kubrick.

I went into the film expecting to despise it. I went in expecting conservative propaganda, a Forrest Gump for this generation, and what I got was something more interesting and complex. It was a poor film about Thatcherism, but I left feeling uplifted. Maybe, just maybe, Thatcherism itself will end up sad and alone, marooned at the top of the stairs without even an imaginary husband for company.

On the obscenity of everyday life

Today in the UK, a person stands trial for distributing allegedly “obscene” DVDs. These DVDs contain scenes of fisting, watersports and some fairly hardcore BDSM activities, which are considered to be “obscene”. Now, these activities are perfectly legal to watch if you happen to be in the same room as the participants with their consent, but it is, for some strange reason, possibly illegal under British law to represent them on film. The outcome of the trial will therefore be very interesting–if the DVDs are deemed “not obscene”, this opens up an avenue for porn to contain such activities.

What is deemed “obscene” and “not obscene” is a thorny issue, and appears to be defined arbitrarily. In the current obscenity trial, one of the contentious issues is that the “four finger” rule was violated–usually, porn sticks to insertion of only four fingers to avoid the legal trouble full fisting entails. Likewise, the British Board of Film Classification has deemed films depicting female ejaculation to be problematic, ludicrously believing that squirting is the same as urine and is therefore subject to the same censorship as watersports.

It is curious to note that what is considered to be prosecutable under the Obscene Publications Act appears to be entirely content of a sexual nature. ObscenityLawyer lists the following:

·“sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury”
 ·“torture with instruments”
 ·“bondage (especially where gags are used with no apparent means of withdrawing consent)”
 ·“activities involving perversion or degradation (such as drinking urine, urination[…] on to the body…)”

This demonstrates our peculiar hang-up about sex. If one literally interprets the word “obscene“, it can be taken to mean “repulsive by reason of crass disregard of moral and ethical principles” or “disgusting to the senses”.

Here, I can count dozens of instances of things which I perceive to be obscene: indeed, half of day-to-day life appears obscene. There is the egregious the egregious, such as newspapers running a vast colour photograph of Gaddafi’s bloody corpse on their front page or triggering videos advising women not to get into an unbooked minicab or they will be raped horribly. Then there’s the low-level, less visible stuff which is dictionary-definition obscene nonetheless: consider that we have a government whose goal appears to be to tear the welfare state to pieces and redistribute the shreds to their rich mates. Consider rape culture, street harassment, the trivialising of violence against women. All crassly disregard moral and ethical principles, and all are utterly repugnant.

Yet none of this considered obscene, at least not by law. The law–and I again thank ObscenityLawyer’s brilliant post on the issue for this–states that the material must be likely to “deprave or corrupt”. This ambiguous definition is steeped in society’s aversion to sex but not violence. Therefore, a picture of a murdered man may be run on the front page of a newspaper where a big dripping cunt may not. Therefore, Michael Gove may cheerfully quietly privatise state education  and the papers will report it as though he is doing good humanitarian work, while had he had a fist up his bottom most people would cry obscenity.

Yet the low-level stuff, the morally and ethical disregard can and does deprave and corrupt. It seeps into our vocabulary: suddenly “choice” becomes anything but, and basic right for every person to live in dignity becomes seen as a dirty word. It cannot be prosecuted because the legal system is a part of the same obscenity: for example, is it not obscene that it took 18 years to convict two (of more murderers) for a racially-motivated crime, while children participating in poverty riots were convicted in days?

The system looks at obscenity in porn through the lens of the acts itself, but here is nothing inherently obscene about consenting adults fucking on film, no matter what kinds of sex to which they are consenting. Yet we may critique things which are obscene–is there coercion and a lack of consent in some porn? Does some porn convey misogynistic attitudes? These instances are real obscenities.

So much of society is riddled with genuinely repugnant content, everywhere we look. And it’s far worse than a bit of fisting.

“It’s just a show, I should really just relax”

After the post where I pointed out some sexism in a TV show, I found myself being chided with the MST3K mantra: I was told it was just TV, and I didn’t need to worry about the ins and outs of it all. Some claimed that they were “embarrassed” to be women and/or feminists because I had pointed out some sexism in a TV show–the feeling here is mutual, and I am thoroughly embarrassed to share an identity with people lacking such a capacity for critical thinking.

It’s just a show, they told me. I should really just relax, they said.

And they’re wrong. I fail to see why one should not criticise something in the mass media for displaying problematic content. It does not mean one needs to disregard the entire thing because it is utter crap: this post at Social Justice League provides a handy guide to being a fan of things which are problematic. In short (though you should really read the whole thing, as it’s brilliant), one needs to acknowledge the problems and not make excuses for them; not gloss over issues or derail conversations about problematic content; and acknowledge other, less favourable interpretations of media you like.

After all, there are very few films, TV shows or books which are completely unproblematic. It is all produced within an oppressive system wherein racism, sexism and ableism prevail and therefore seep into popular culture. Cracked hit the nail on the head with their deconstruction of “Five Old-Timey Prejudices That Still Show Up In Every Movie“, and there are heaps more on top of this.

Should we therefore “really just relax” when we see something on the screen that we would never stand for in real life? Of course not. As for the defenders of sexism on screen, are they perhaps as willing to let oppression slide in the meatspace? I suspect that they may, and that worries me greatly, and strengthens my resolve to call bullshit where I see it.

The function of critiquing and drawing attention to oppression in mass media is made clear by MediocreDave (again, you should read the whole article, as it’s great):

My only answer is of course it’s ok to seek escapism, to watch things for pleasure without composing a political response. But that’s why we need to force improvements of our popular entertainment, so that it’s possible to watch them without having to confront the tiresome and horrific inequalities that define our daily lives. Art can only ever be so far ahead of the society that produced it, and is likely to be a fair way behind, and as such will always be riddled with problems which, in our ignorance and privilege, we may only be dimly aware of. If we attempt to deny ourselves and each other, explicitly or implicitly, the act of critical analysis of the art that we consume, be it by claiming that the work doesn’t warrant so sophisticated a reading or by declaring that offence taken is somehow not valid, we leave ourselves disenfranchised. If we value our ability to watch a television program unchallenged as higher than someone else’s ability to watch it uninsulted then we have probably picked the wrong side in a long established relationship of privilege and degradation. We may choose to sit quietly through the objectionable bits of a work of art, from time to time, even when it offends us, but we can’t expect other people to do so with us (even on Christmas day) and we must be prepared to acknowledge it when the things we like problematically contain things we have to hate.

 Be angry if you feel angry. Listen to others’ anger. Perhaps, then, we will finally have shows where we can really just relax.