Dear @mehdirhasan

Dear Mehdi Hasan,

I literally don’t know where to begin with the torrent of how wrong you were in your piece about being anti-choice and left-wing. I say anti-choice, because I noticed you said you didn’t like the labels pro-choice and pro-life, and anti-choice reflects better what you really are.

I guess we’ll start with the piece. Now, I really think the first thing you should do is read this from Vagina Dentata who explains eloquently why you’re completely and utterly wrong about how it’s possible to be a lefty and anti-choice. Make sure you read the whole thing, but this is the crux of the matter:

So no, you cannot be left-wing and pro-life. You cannot be left wing and “progressive” if you think half of the world’s population can hang-on or sacrifice or just stop being so bourgeois for demanding that they are treated as equals. To fight for equality is at the very least, to acknowledge the biological difference that keeps women oppressed and fight to overcome that. Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are part of our struggle for survival and will not be trivialised or ignored by men who claim to fight for equality.

A few more points on your piece. I’m very disappointed in you, seeing you repeating the anti-choice porky pie that France and Germany have a 12-week limit, so the UK should too. What these countries actually have is a law which allows abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, i.e. you go up to a doctor, say “I’d like an abortion”, then you have your abortion. After the 12 weeks, the legal situation resembles that of the UK: you have to jump through hoops, provide reasons, see more than one doctor.

The rest of your argument, I’m afraid to say, is a hot mess of appeals to authority. You’ve just listed the few people who agree with you who aren’t thoroughly objectionable, many of whom died centuries ago. I’m also rather baffled by the fact that you’re not ashamed to agree with Jeremy Hunt, a man who has what I like to call the Copro-Midas Touch. Literally everything that man touches turns to shit. Are you genuinely comfortable with agreeing with a man who hides in trees to avoid being seen by journalists?

You’re also repeating the tiresome “it’s a baby” myth. Again, I’m going to refer you to one of my sisters, because pretty much everyone’s already said what I want to say, but please read this heartbreaking post from Fearlessknits about life at 25 weeks gestation.

I’m also rather concerned about you believing bodily autonomy to be “selfish and individualistic”. Mehdi, I hate to say it, but you’re really edging into fascist rhetoric here, constructing reproduction as some sort of common good. There’s good arguments in favour of the anti-choice position itself being inherently fascist, and I find your appeal to collectivism as an excuse to invade women’s bodies rather a good example of this.

Now let’s talk about your reaction to the whole thing, Mehdi. Now, I’ve noticed you’ve been whinging rather a lot about being called sexist for your views. The short answer is, that’s because you are being very sexist, Mehdi. Appallingly so. Once again, I’m going to refer you to a sister for this, as Reni Eddo-Lodge has explained beautifully why you’re a sexist.

Here’s why Hasan’s piece is anti-woman. He attempts to reframe the debate on his terms, snatching it out of the hands of people who can get pregnant, insisting on the premise of ‘ethics’ rather than women’s rights, and consequentially betraying his male privilege and over inflated sense of entitlement.

When he ponders which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb, he takes women out of the equation, completely; women’s thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our aims and our goals—which may or may not include children.

You see, Mehdi, you’re silencing women. You’re telling us our rights don’t matter, our views don’t matter. Don’t think we haven’t noticed that the vast majority of supportive tweets you retweeted were from men. Don’t think we haven’t noticed you playing the time-honoured dog-whistle “reverse sexism” card. Your views are sexist, no matter how much you love your wife and daughters.

I will give you a bit of praise, for coming up with one of the most risible defences of sexist views I have ever seen. I’ll admit I laughed long and hard, because I’ve never seen anything quite so silly. You said:

This is indeed a “women’s issue”, yes, but is it ONLY a women’s issue? No wider ethical implications? (Oh, and no male foetuses??)

Mehdi, what about that meatsock incubator that’s holding the male foetus? That meatsock incubator is almost always a woman (sometimes it is a man, and these men can get a say about abortion too, as they’re affected by it). Ultimately, people with uteruses don’t like to be thought of as meatsock incubators, but your view constructs us as such.

Of course, you might dismiss my views as I’m a woman, and therefore, in your book, a selfish and individualistic babykiller. So just in case, here’s a really good piece by a man, Jonnie Marbles. Make sure you digest every word of this.

Anyway, I’ve spent rather a long time engaging with your arguments, and this is because what you’re saying is fucking dangerous and terrifying, an attempt to shift the Overton window further into our uteruses. However, a part of me thinks you were given the platform to espouse those worrying views, poorly argued, because the New Statesman are trolling for links. It works so well for the Daily Mail, and I can thoroughly understand why the NS might want a slice of the linkbait pie. That’s why I never linked your article, Mehdi. I don’t want to encourage anyone to continue publishing articles like yours.

Hope you’ve learned something from this, and will keep your opinions out of our wombs in future.

Stavvers xoxo

What is the optimal level of clothing to avoid prison?

In shit-I-can’t-believe-I-need-to-say-in-20-fucking-12, people shouldn’t be sent to prison for the clothes they choose to wear. Or not wear. But yet, apparently I need to say this shit because apparently the legal system doesn’t fucking get it, and neither do various cheerleaders for the legal system.

First there’s the “naked rambler”, who, as his title suggests, rambles while naked. It’s a completely desexualised nudity. It’s just a naked bloke walking through the countryside. Who keeps getting sent to prison, because apparently the law doesn’t like it when people walk around naked.

Then there’s the young woman who was arrested for refusing to remove a scarf at the culmination of a campaign of police intimidation. Ellen Yianni was cleared, and the judge was quite, quite horrified by the state of the police testimony.

Then there’s  the case of Barry Thew, who went to prison for wearing a T-shirt. The T-shirt in question was somewhat distasteful and very crudely made, saying something about killing police. He has been sentenced to an eight-month prison sentence, of which he’ll serve at least four.

The thing is, the mainstream media has reported the whole thing very badly, making out like he made the T-shirt upon hearing that some police officers had died and just went around trolling the world for no goddamn reason whatsoever.

In fact, a more detailed local news report reveals the truth to be far more complicated than that.

He was wearing the t-shirt before the incident. The T-shirt went from being “somewhat distasteful” to “highly fucking distasteful” because he happened to be wearing it on a day that some police officers were killed. On any other day, he would have gone out in that T-shirt and yes, people would have been offended, but he probably wouldn’t have gone to prison. A coincidence contextualised the T-shirt into being more offensive than it otherwise would have been.

And so, if context is pertinent, i.e. that he was wearing the T-shirt on a day some police officers died, then it’s important to look at other context to the story. Like the fact that Barry Thew had mental health problems, and was taking medication. The judge didn’t think this was relevant, instead opting for swivel-eyed retribution.

Or another piece of crucial context, unremarked upon by most of the mainstream stories: three years ago, Barry Thew’s son was killed by police.

Now, I’m not surprised the media didn’t bother mentioning this. They have a cosy relationship with the police, and it’s in everyone’s interest to make out like it’s inexplicable and Barry Thew was merely some sort of funeral-picketing monster. Mentioning these important details might have the effect of generating a degree of understanding and thus increasing outcry against the sentence.

Which, by the way, would still be ridiculous if Barry Thew had just quickly knocked up a T-shirt about dead cops upon hearing the news, with no prior grudges against the police, just to troll the fuck out of the world.

What one wears or does not wear should not be a matter for the police, the legal system or prison.  To use the state to crack down on the garments people wear is absurd, and hardly fitting for any country that calls itself democratic. They might call a flapping dick on a rambler obscene, but what’s really obscene is that they’re using their disproportionate power to regulate what people wear.

The Met make a rudimentary effort to tackle rape culture. Poorly.

The Met have finally noticed they have a terrible problem with rape, spotting it as figures for people reporting rape to the police have taken a dive recently. So they appointed a shiny new head of their Sapphire unit, and in an interview with the Guardian he has announced the changes he will make.

He has plans for environmental interventions to tackle rape, notably using licencing laws to get pubs and bars where rape and sexual assault are prevalent shut down, and increase surveillance of men who have never been charged with rape, but intelligence suggests they are perpetrators.

Neither of these measures strike me as particularly effective in dealing with rape culture. Are there pubs and clubs which are “rape-hotspots”, or is it more that the heterosexual “pulling” scene enables rape and sexual assault rather easily. Meanwhile, the covert policing tactics are creepy, immoral, and will increase a perception of perpetrators as “the real victims” of rape. Furthermore, how exactly will they be getting this information? What makes some men pre-predators in the Met’s book?

Basically, these are rather authoritarian and punitive measures for dealing with a problem which is societal.

The good news is, this probably won’t really be the focus of the Met’s new approach to rape, because the new chief is also going to focus on women, raising awareness about how they can “reduce vulnerability”. Yeah, so they’ve not changed at all in their stance towards victim blaming.

To sum up his approach, then, women should be a bit more careful, alcohol is definitely to blame, so maybe avoid going to pubs the Met don’t close down. Also, there’s some men who are predators, but the rest of them are probably all right.

Ineffectual, and fairly offensive.

What the Met should be doing (if they don’t go and live in the sewers and bother us no more) is looking at the shit in their own backyard. They contribute wholesale to rape culture. They’ve been implicated in huge failures to investigating rape, in ways which are criminally negligent. They have been implicated in rapes. When they actually bother investigating, it is half-arsed or downright invasive for the women.

And they just don’t understand rape and rape culture.

They have a lot of work to do themselves, but rather than focus on their own failings, they’re pointing to the nearest ghastly nightclub with a sticky floor and screaming “SHUT DOWN EVERYTHING.”

Society as a whole is fairly weak on its understanding of rape culture, and the police don’t help at all.

The war on choice and how they’ll win if we aren’t ready

I’ve written rather a lot about abortion in the last few days, from highlighting that women’s minister Maria Miller is no friend to women, to a demand for a complete removal of the abortion time limit, to a polite suggestion that Jeremy Hunt eats one of his own testicles. The reason it’s been on my mind so much is because I’m scared. It feels like it’s coming to a head, and I can see the grim future screaming towards me. I see what will happen with terrifying clarity.

Of course none of the rest of them will back Jeremy Hunt and his 12 week limit, next to it, Maria Miller’s 20 weeks looks fucking reasonable, and the Prime Minister himself backs it. Already, the conversation is about how much the limit should be scaled back, not whether it should be scaled back at all. And they’ll sit and they’ll vote; perhaps a private member’s bill, perhaps an amendment to another bill, and they’ll say “oh, isn’t Hunt a bit extreme, but let’s compromise and take it back to 20 weeks”. And nobody will be particularly outraged, because it could be a lot worse, and we’ll turn a blind eye to the women who have suddenly found themselves without an option, while the anti-choice lobby rally around what is certainly a victory, and shout for more cutting. One of them will suggest banning it altogether–maybe Dorries, or one of her ilk. And they’ll vote again and cut it back some more. All the while, the religious extremists will rise–remember, they have already been acquitted of harassing women by a legal system that does not support us. And people will start dying, going to prison, getting desperate.

It is entirely possible. The anti-choice lobby now control the discourse, and every conversation about this is entirely on their terms. It shouldn’t be a matter for debate, but they’ve made it that way. We need to be aware of this and take back the power.

It is not enough to be reactive and hold the line. We need to be proactive.

We need to demand better access to abortion: abortion on request, rather than having to fulfil various criteria. The UK is one of the few EU countries that does not allow for this. At present, women have to jump through hoops to prove they cannot afford a child, or their health will be aversely affected, to not just one, but two doctors. They then face waiting time on the NHS. These barriers must be removed. “I want an abortion” should be enough.

Sometimes the anti-choicers point to EU countries that have 12 week limits as proof that we should cut the abortion time limit. They’re being disingenuous. What actually happens in most of these countries is the 12 week limit is for abortion on request. After this, in many cases, the law shifts to being like UK law.

The time limit argument itself is something of a trap. It centres around viability, which automatically forces us to talk on anti-choice terms. The focus is on the foetus, not on the woman. It allows them to frame this thing inside a woman’s body as a person. We shouldn’t engage on this level at all. At the very least, we must hold firm on the current limit: a simple, dismissive “the legal limit is based on scientific evidence”, and then refuse to rise to non-scientific stories of foetuses punching their way out of the uterus or something they heard somewhere about a baby that was born at five weeks of gestation and grew up to win the Nobel Prize.

Better still, demand the complete removal of the abortion time limit. As long as it’s inside a woman’s body, it can be aborted. Point out it’s unlikely to result in a rise in abortions, because the vast majority are conducted fairly early on anyway, but that the benefits to women would far outweigh any harms.

And when the religious extremists our out on the streets, we need to be prepared to help escort women safely into clinics to access abortion, to physically stand in front of the extremists so they cannot be seen or heard. We need to go to their churches and express our disgust at what they are doing and hope this spurs the rest of their community into disowning these views.

They have controlled the debate for far too long already, and we cannot let them gain any ground. Instead, let us take ground for ourselves. Let us fight for women and for bodily autonomy. It’s a battle we can win, as long as we have the will to fight it.

Dear Jeremy Hunt

Trigger warning: frighteningly real risk of a return to back-alley abortions, coathangers and violence against women, and demi-castration fantasy.

Dear Jeremy Hunt,

I was really interested to read your opinions about lowering the abortion time limit to 12 weeks, based on scientific evidence that you didn’t bother citing, and I’d like to offer you a little bit of advice. This will help you a lot in the long run.

Basically, I feel like you should remove one of your testicles. Now, there’s a trick to this. What you need to do is take a bottle of your favourite alcohol–I’d recommend Buckfast, but that’s a personal preference–and smash the bottle. It needs to be a glass bottle, obviously. Now, take a shard. Take a shard that looks particularly pointy, and apply it to your scrotum. Feel the coldness of it. Do you feel that, Jeremy? Do you feel it?

I bet your penis is shrinking slightly at that vague chill. Don’t worry, that’s only natural. But I promise what I’m telling you will help you.

Now, this bit is going to be tricky, and I imagine it’ll probably hurt rather a lot. So to help with the pain, maybe drink the Buckfast before you break the bottle. Sorry, I should have told you that before. I forgot. I hope you’ve not been following my suggestions in real time. If you have, go to the shop, buy another bottle of Buckfast, chug that shit, then break the bottle and see if you can get hold of anything a bit pointier. Pointy is good.

It’ll probably also help if you can bite down on something.

Now, Jeremy, I don’t know what your dominant hand is, so I’m going to assume you’re right-handed like most people. Take your right testicle in your left hand. Hold the glass in your right. With your left hand, really feel where the ball is, feel that strange, squishy sensation. Hold your thumb just above the top of it, towards where it meets your cock. Now, holding the glass, cut just above where your thumb is.

It’s likely there’ll be a bit of blood at this point, but hold firm. This is for your own good, and there’s scientific evidence on my side. Loads and loads of medical evidence. I don’t need to cite it, just like you don’t need to cite yours when you’re telling me what to do with my body.

You’ll feel a pop as the skin breaks, a gentle pop as it gives. It’s a surprisingly thin layer of skin, really. If you’ve got the stomach, take a look. You might see something stringy inside. That’s your epididymis, Jeremy, and I’d like you to cut through it too. I have absolutely no idea how that’d feel. From diagrams, it looks like the glass could take it, but if it doesn’t, a pair of scissors will suffice. On the other side of the epididymis, there’ll be a bit more skin. Cut through that. You’ll be a pro at withstanding pain by this point, and that makes you strong.

Now, at this point, you’ll have two things: a disembodied testicle in your hand, and a bleeding wound between your legs. The priority, I suppose, is disposing of the disembodied testicle. Pop it into your mouth. Scientific evidence suggests Paul Burrell did very well at eating a kangaroo testicle, so I’m sure you’ll do well noshing down your own. Be careful for the bit where it bursts, and white fluid dribbles down your chin. I hope you’re not doing this in company.

As for the bleeding wound, try a chef’s blowtorch. It’ll hurt like bejesus, but it’ll cauterise the wound. Be careful not to singe your knob. That’d be a disaster.

So ultimately, thanks for your evidence-based concern about my uterus, Jeremy. I hope you appreciate mine, too. I only have your best interests at heart you understand.

Sincerely,

Stavvers xoxoxo

P.S. If you get someone pregnant following this usually-f0olproof procedure, I recommend repeating it for the right ball.

Related: Let’s scrap the abortion time limit altogether, me on abortion time limits in the NS.

For anyone who wants to send Jeremy Hunt a picture of their reproductive system, here’s how to photograph your cervix. Remember to CC in Maria Miller, as she’s also really interested!

Happy National Mansplaining Week!

Just kidding. Every week is National Mansplaining Week. This week I’ve just noticed it a bit more than usual.

The first example that pissed me the fuck off came from Graham Linehan, which was fairly disappointed as I’m a big fan of Black Books and Father Ted. Now, Graham reckons that sexism and misogyny aren’t the same thing, and it really gets his goat that people use them interchangeably. Now, I called him up on this, pointing out that he wasn’t quite right, and he got a bit arsey.

 

Despite my better instincts, I did engage on his terms, and dictionary definitions of the two were sent his way, but strangely he didn’t reply after even on his own terms he was pointed out to be wrong. And then he decided that his own opinion was far more important anyway, and blogged this, where he decided to use very cropped definitions of the words which meant what he’d decided they meant, and–literally–said Page 3 couldn’t be misogynistic because the people who like it must like women.

Seriously.

Our second instance of mansplaining this week comes from columnist Martin Robbins, who wrote about the No More Page Three campaign. The vexing part of this is that in places, Robbins was completely right, and to save time I’ll quote those bits.

The most disturbing thing about Page 3 isn’t the fact that there are naked breasts on it; it’s that every pair of naked breasts looks the same, expresses the same opinions, and exists in a context where the owners of naked breasts are casually belittled and dehumanised.

Personally I can’t stand Page 3, but I say the answer is more nudity in newspapers, not less. Put more boobs on Page 3, and add some cocks too. Show people of every size, shape, colour, gender and sexuality; let them speak in their own voice, and celebrate them all. That, rather than self-censorship of adult-oriented content, would be a progressive tabloid revolution worth fighting for.

For what it’s worth, I have similar reservations about the campaign, and would also like to propose that it might be nice to just get rid of The Sun entirely.

But the rest of Robbins’s article has the supercilious tone of “explaining things to the ladies” and telling us how to fight our own battles. It seethes with privilege. And had a similar argument been put across by women, it would have been much, much better. I don’t see why the New Statesman didn’t ask a woman to write about it. They’ve got a fair few on staff.

Now, I expect in the comments I’ll get a lot of men mansplaining to me why I’m wrong about mansplaining because this has happened rather a lot in the last few days. So I’m not going to let those comments out of the moderation queue, and they can scream into the void about censorship.

You might think I’m being harsh, or that I’m picking the wrong targets, or that I clearly haven’t read this one thing written by a man that explains why I’m wrong, or that there’s things far more important than calling out mansplaining to do. But do you know what? Every time a man decides to tell women what their experience is, to patronise about women’s issues from a position of relative ignorance, a woman is silenced.

No matter how much men think they’re on our side or being good allies, if they can’t pull back and say “You know what? You’re right, I don’t actually know anything about this”, they are perpetuating patriarchy.

_

Thanks for @FunnyGrrrl for the cap!