Some people are fuckwits. Don’t get over it.

Floundering fuckwit Boris Johnson has, ostensibly, heroically swept in and “banned” adverts from a Christian group advertising some sort of cure for homosexuality (which probably largely consists of praying and repression). Obviously, the ads are completely out of order and silly, and Boris Johnson has probably scored a fair few points in banning them.

More salient, though, is a thoroughly fuckwitted reaction in the Guardian’s Comment Is Free today, in which the commentator concludes that the existence of the homophobic Christian ads is the fault of Stonewall for being a little bit too provocative in their own campaigns.

Yes, really.

Now, apparently, according to professional fuckwit David Shariatmadari, Stonewall’s famous “SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT!” campaign is entirely to blame for the Christian campaign (which somewhat plagiarised the wording). David takes umbrage at Stonewall’s campaign, at great, tedious repetitive length. David doesn’t like not understanding who the campaign is aimed at. David doesn’t think there’s a necessity to point out homophobia is uncceptable. David thinks it’s all a bit provocative. David is really, really distressed by the use of an exclamation mark in the slogan.

On the whole, it is a thoroughly stupid article, and none of the points he makes fit together coherently. The nonsense piled upon nonsense leads to this conclusion:

Instead, Core Issues and Anglican Mainstream have won a dollop of free publicity and can portray themselves as victims of persecution and censorship. Gay people have been pointlessly reminded, not that homophobia is unacceptable, but that there exist organised groups that detest them. Defenders of free speech have had their hackles raised and Boris laughs all the way to City Hall.

Stonewall: what were you thinking?

Now, I am not sure whether dear David is straight, gay or queer, and this does make a slight bit of difference to how I would respond. If he is somewhere on the queer spectrum, I think I’d start by shaking him and saying, “Mate. Please stop with the Uncle Tomming.” If he is heterosexual, then he can fuck off out of our struggle, thank you very much, and I shall chase him away with torches, pitchforks and intimidating lesbian paraphernalia.

Whatever his orientation, David speaks from a position of privilege. This is particularly apparent where he acknowledges the existence of homophobia, in particular in schools. He even acknowledges that Stonewall’s GET OVER IT slogan was developed with the help of school-age people, some of whom would have experienced homophobic bullying. Despite this, he still wishes they’d gone with something a bit nicer, a bit fluffier, a bit friendlier.

While the “GET OVER IT” slogan is a mantra for the bullied kids, a phrase to throw back at their bullies, David would prefer they went with something a little more subservient, and rather than standing up to oppression, perhaps they should just be reminded that it’ll all get better in the end.

The GET OVER IT slogan is head and shoulders above the rest of Stonewall’s work of late, which largely consists of being an utter disappointment and using the kind of nicey-nicey-zoo-zoo approach which David Shariatmadari would probably appreciate. Stonewall the charity is a far cry from its namesake, yet despite this their slogan seems to be treated in the same way as some behave in the aftermath of a riot. David’s privilege shows again: he clearly has no idea why any queer person may feel angry or confrontational.

There is the blaming. The denouncement of tactics, and saying they have spoilt their own argument by not kneeling down and kissing their chains.

It is a reluctance to be provocative, and an embracing of conservative values, which has caused the fight for queer liberation to stagnate. We need to be more angry, not less, and we need to call obstructive fuckwits out where we see them.

London, Cairo, Wisconsin: tears in rain

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

A little over a year ago, there was a feeling of momentum within what can loosely be termed as “the protest movement”. It was global, it seemed. The winds were blowing in our favour, and perhaps the underdog would finally have its day.

As we marched through London, we expressed this sentiment with a chant:

London, Cairo, Wisconsin! We will fight them, we will win!

At the time, we looked gladly towards our friends in far-flung countries. We allowed hope to rise in our hearts over the seeming revolution in Egypt, having watched the people struggle to overthrow a tyrannical government and succeed. We felt joy as we watched protesters occupy the Wisconsin State Capitol, thousands of people in a mass mobilisation against right-wing economic policy.

We felt solidarity. If we channelled Cairo and Wisconsin, perhaps we, too, could win.

A year later, how the tides have turned.

Egypt is a military dictatorship, with elections on the way which are unsatisfactory to many. Things are getting worse for many, particularly women who are subjected to “virginity tests”; regressive attitudes towards gender are on the rise. There’s still some fight in the women, thankfully, but these are battles they should no longer need to fight.

Meanwhile, the occupation we so admired in Wisconsin has now become a brand. We do not occupy space, we Occupy™ a tucked-away corner in a tent. As this happens, politicians pass laws signing away protections for vulnerable workers: Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act was quietly repealed with barely a peep.

And what of London? A lot has changed in a year. The summer riots were capitalised upon to expand the state’s ability to use violence. London is being carved up and plunged into an authoritarian nightmare in the name of a sporting event. Not a day goes past without news of another callous act by the government, so many that sometimes they will cover up one callous act with another, slightly lesser callous act.

London, Cairo, Wisconsin… all is lost.

We seem to have reached the Despair Event Horizon, and will continue to fall forever.

If we were a work of fiction, it would be at this point that a ragtag band of misfits would gang together and make a valiant last stand, and, against the odds, succeed. The music would swell, and the credits would roll as we all hugged each other, ecstatic tears streaming down our faces in slow motion.

In the stark reality of things, everything is as likely to end in tears, but probably not the slow-mo huggy kind. If we’re lucky, we’ll just be crying in frustration. We are confronted by the utter futility of our actions, dashing ourselves against the sheer walls of the cruel system. If history remembers us at all, it will be as a mote of dust causing a mildly irritating squeak in an otherwise slick machine.

Last year is currently remembered in a talismanic fashion: all of these magical things happening all over the world, and if only we could regain some of that vigour. The more savoury aspects are performed in a bid to cargo-cult a revolution that will never come. One by one, these little bubbles will burst until it’s all gone.

Despite all this, I have been conditioned by fiction. My heart still holds out hope for that rag tag band of misfits in our glorious final battle. Surely there must be some way to defeat the beast once and for all?

And perhaps there is. What it isn’t is a tired repetition of parts of the near or distant past. It will be something new entirely, this intangible soaring hope.

London, Cairo, Wisconsin. We are all the same.


Abstinence education: better than nothing (with bonus bullshit from the anti-choicers)

Anti-choice news-bender Life News has trumpeted proudly that abstinence education totally works, yo. Using the language of science–and some fancy-looking footnotes (which actually lead to, among other things, a book published by a Mormon abstinence education “research centre”)–Life News claims that abstinence education works.

Well, they’re sort of right. It does work. If taught as an intensive programme compared to reading a few textbooks that are also about abstinence. When tested in a study as full of holes as a colander [not paywalled, and published in a journal I hadn’t heard of].

The participants in the study were ninth-grade pupils in schools in Georgia, a state where abstinence education is already the norm. I’m sure this is a wholly unrelated point, but Georgia also has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the US. Six schools were selected, and parents were asked for consent for their children to participate. Less than 40% of pupils were allowed to participate in the study; among the sample, girls and African Americans were overrepresented demographically. On top of this minor issue is the fact that this means that participants were aware that they were participating in a research study, and had an awareness of whether they were in the intervention or control group. When this happens, results of studies tend to skew somewhat, inflating the positive effect of the intervention.

I am going to give some credit to the authors of the study: they actually made a brave attempt at using a theory to evaluate the intervention: you’d be surprised how many behavioural interventions are atheoretical clusterfucks with a mishmash of things the authors like chucked about willy nilly. Unfortunately, they picked the Theory of Planned Behaviour, which is rather simplistic. And they didn’t even use it that well: they forgot to measure one of the key theoretical constructs (perceived behavioural norms), and threw in a bunch of other measures of things like “hopefulness” which have absolutely nothing to do with the theory.

Perhaps most vitally, though, the authors failed to measure some very important behavioural measures. Sexual behaviour was measured entirely by asking on the questionnaire if participants had “gone all the way” (using those exact words). So there is no way of knowing whether they had been enjoying all of the other rainbow of sexual experience, and whether the participants chose to define what they were doing in such euphemistic terms. Secondly, the authors report that they were not able to measure whether the sex participants were having was safe: this was due to the politics of obtaining participants for the study.

With the measures this royally cocked-up and run in some dodgy circumstances, what can be concluded from the study? Firstly, that there’s a short-term effect of the more intensive abstinence programme, but in the longer-term the effect diminishes. It should be noted that the “long-term” follow-up happened just after the summer holidays, while the “short-term” follow-up happened just before the holidays. So, the effect of a more intensive abstinence programme diminishes in the space of a couple of months. It is worth noting, once again, that this is in comparison to doing nothing different from usual.

With this in mind, it is highly disingenuous–or thoroughly scientifically illiterate–of Life News to dress this study up as evidence that abstinence works. It shows nothing of the kind. It shows that in a study which inherently favours a slightly more intensive approach to teaching abstinence, there’s a slight effect for more intensive teaching of abstince, but that effect fucks off in the space of a summer holiday. And that’s the best they’ve got.

Samantha Brick, attractiveness and missing the point entirely

Some textbook link-baiting trolling has been occurring over at Daily Mail towers these last few days. “Journalist” Samantha Brick has written a piece entitled “THERE ARE DOWNSIDES TO LOOKING THIS PRETTY: WHY WOMEN HATE ME FOR BEING BEAUTIFUL” [clean link]. In it, Brick describes at length how pretty she is, and how nicely the world treats her: she is the very embodiment of Hakim’s thesis that “the world smiles at attractive people, and they smile back“.

But wait! As I am sure the title signified, it is not all farting rainbow kittens when you look like Samantha Brick. See, other women hate her. They see her as a threat, a great big husband-stealing threat. Daily, Samantha Brick receives animosity, and it must all be because she’s pretty.

Well, no, not exactly. Firstly, it’s probable that at least some of the scorn she receives is due to the fact she’s a fucking Daily Mail journalist. While some people are fascist scum who enjoy reading poorly-written tabloids, many are not. Without even seeing a picture of a Mail journalist, I know that I probably hate them just a little bit, as their continued existence in their professional capacity makes the world a significantly worse place.

As for the rest, Brick seems to have missed the point entirely. There are two large problems she outlines, and neither are explored adequately as instead the piece consists of a repetitive litany of “I’m so pretty and they’re all so mean”. The first problem is benevolent sexism, which Brick receives frequently in the form of freebies from men. She is clearly moving in circles wherein benevolent sexism is more widely accepted, and does not see a problem with it. Unfortunately for Brick, it is a massive problem for her, creating a feedback loop where she can only be judged for the fact that she is a good-looking woman.

This problem can easily be solved by Samantha Brick living up to her name and throwing bricks at sexists.

The other problem Brick highlights is hegemonic heterosexuality. In Brick’s world, heterosexual monogamous relationships are the only possible way to be with people. “A catch” in this system becomes a scarce resource: if you’re lucky, you’ll get one partner; if you’re really lucky, they’ll be a good one. This feeds competition and jealousy, when everything could quite nicely be solved by everyone chucking their keys in a bowl and having a nice orgy over a selection of hummus dips.

Brick’s experience further ties in with the class structure we inhabit: she is reasonably well-off, and therefore can afford good clothes, good make-up, good self-presentation. This luxury may not be available to her neighbours. Again, in this kyriarchical minefield, envy rises and animosity is fuelled.

So, ultimately, all of Samantha Brick’s problems would be solved if she grabbed some bricks and effected a revolution.

Of course, this is not the course Brick chose to pursue. Today, another Mail article appeared: “THE I’M SO BEAUTIFUL BACKLASH… THE BILE JUST PROVES I’M RIGHT“. Er, no it doesn’t.

In this piece, Brick reiterates that women are just nasty, jealous bitches (for some reason, the criticism she received from men is ungendered: presumably this conflicts with her thesis that it’s just horrid, horrid women).

Once again, there are a few good points in the article, which Samantha Brick misses entirely. She is right to point out that much of the backlash levelled at her was “well, she’s not really that attractive”, and that is rather nasty. What she ignores, though, is that this is indicative of a system which is radically in need of bashing in with bricks, and that her looks should be completely irrelevant.

Samantha Brick is both a victim and a perpetrator in this system. Assuming what she has written encapsulates her true experience rather than sensationalist Daily Mail drivel, she has stumbled on a whole host of problems for which she chooses to lash out at her peers and shift the blame onto individuals. Yet it is not a problem of personal meanness, or spite. It is a cluster of symptoms of system which needs destroying.

Samantha Brick, live up to your name. Bring bricks. See you on the barricades.