Things I read this week that I found interesting

Here’s the weekly round-up of things I read, some of which wasn’t even written this week. Please feel free to drop more things I might find interesting into the comments.

A Million Caesars: Phillida Lloyd’s Julius Caesar (There Is No Alternative)- A review of the all-woman production of Julius Caesar, which I really really want to see now.

Creepy White Guys– Creepy messages received by Asian women from white guys on a dating site. This post by Jolene Tan, written before the Tumblr even existed, outlines exoticisation of Asian women.

Same Sex Marriage Bill: transgender implications (AuntySarah)- Sarah outlines the implications of the same sex marriage legislation for trans people. Short story: it’s not very good

(towards modern lovers) (Sociopathetic Semaphores)- A love poem, calling for direct action against the fairly assimilationist Stonewall.

Justice (Pierce Penniless)- A summary of the Alfie Meadows case. Important read, and please come and support Alfie in court on Monday.

And finally, my Dear Nadine Dorries project has been reinvigorated with six new letters this week. Go and read tales of uterine mirth, woe and anger.

Same sex marriage and heterosexism in the UK

Later today, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will have its crucial second reading. This legislation would give same sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

I’ve written before about why I find same sex marriage to be an inherently conservative demand, and I suspect this bill will ultimately go through precisely because of this. It doesn’t make any structural changes to the existing social order, rewards gay couples for behaving in a way which society deems palatable, and manages to appear progressive. It’s a win all round for the powerful.

Despite this, antediluvian bigotry still exists: up to 180 Tories may vote against the bill later today. There’s no good reason for doing this, given the benefits the Tories can reap from bringing in same-sex marriage. It’s just plain homophobia, dressed up in concern about the meaning of marriage and other such nonsense. This tripe from Philip “porn throne” Blond and Roger “cockend” Scruton exemplifies some of the best intellectual argument against same sex marriage from the right, and it’s just circular rubbish, because it’s not a rational position. It’s also telling that the party has decided to make the vote on this bill a free vote: this way they can have it both ways. They can appeal to the bigots while still appearing to be the heroes of gay rights. It’s a smart move, politically. The whole thing has been expertly stage-managed.

I will be watching the debate with interest, though. Despite the stage management, this bigotry is still very real, and I would like to get the measure of exactly who it is so set in archaic prejudice that they cannot even vote through this piss-weak bit of legislation. Every single one of the fuckers who votes against this is nothing more than a common-or-garden bigot, worthy only of contempt and a shower of glitter.

When the bill passes, though, it is not a sign that heterosexism is dead in the UK, and that we can dance until we expire in an ecstasy of celebration. Far from it. This symbolic piece of legislation is merely cheap wallpaper pasted onto rubble of a house that had fell down years ago. Heterosexism is alive and well in the UK, we’d just rather not think about its victims.

Take, for instance, this story from yesterday. The UK Border Agency demands proof of sexual orientation from asylum seekers fleeing persecution for being gay. Because of this, asylum seekers are feeling like they have to film themselves having sex to prove that they are gay. And if they’re unable to prove it, they are sent right back off to face violence and persecution. In fact, there’s actually no evidence to suggest that even the sex tapes are considered adequate proof of sexual orientation, and it’s entirely possible that these people, too, were sent away. This system, by the way, is seen as an improvement on how it was three years ago, where gay asylum seekers were sent off and told to “behave with discretion”.

The entire thing is inhumane, and absolutely steeped in heterosexism. The assumption that there’s an objective proof that you’re not “normal”. The probing, invasive ways of trying to find out what it is that makes these people different. The idea that there’s a way of being “properly” gay in the first place. The implications for those sent back, after having been submitted to a “gay test”. It’s humiliating, degrading, and I’m finding it hard to articulate exactly how disgusted I am by the fact that this is still ongoing. I find myself wondering if they’ve thought at all about this policy, and I don’t know if it’s better or worse if they have.

Yet because this heterosexism intersects with racism and the violence of the state, we’re not hearing a peep about it from the mainstream charities who ostensibly campaign for gay rights. It’s just a lot easier for privileged people to give a shit about other privileged people getting married than it is to think about intersecting oppressions.

Stories like this are far from uncommon, but they don’t happen to the nice, presentable face of the movement, so it’s easy to forget how utterly broken the whole stinking heteroheap of society is. Scratch the surface, and oppression is still rife. All the gay weddings in the world aren’t going to fix that.

So you’ll forgive me for not having the champagne on ice, ready for when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill gets a little closer to being passed later today. It just reminds me of how much further we have to go before we’re free.

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I learned the word “heteroheap” here, and I recommend you watch this deliciously queer extravaganza as a perfect antidote to my general parade-pissing today.

Poly means many: The art of the apology

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com

Let me start by saying I’m delighted to be joining the Poly Means Many blogging project. This month’s topic is communication, something which we poly folk have to try to be good at by virtue of having so many people in our lives. The downside to having so many people in our lives, though, is there’s more scope to slip up when we communicate poorly. There’s more scope to hurt others, through carelessness, or through forgetfulness, or sometimes, just sometimes, by actually being a bit of a dick. There’s also a lot of scope for conflict, and while The Ethical Slut might have taught us to try to have our arguments calmly and constructively, that’s not always possible, because emotions are emotions and sometimes they’re incredibly powerful.

Basically, you’re going to mess up sometimes, and you’re going to hurt a person who you love when you do it. In these situations, it’s time for an apology.

We live in a climate where apologising is seen as a bad thing: if you apologise, you’ve somehow lost the argument while simultaneously confessing to be a bad, evil person who should go and live in Satan’s anus immediately. While poly folk tend to reject a lot of society’s conditioning, we were all born and live in this environment and as a result have internalised this negativity surrounding apologies. In fact, sometimes, due to living outside societal norms, we’re a little worse on this sort of thing: “I’m not going to apologise for who I am” can sometimes translate as “I’m never going to apologise for anything, ever”. I’ve had partners who were of this mindset. Needless to say, the relationships didn’t last very long.

Yet the apology is a necessary, essential component of being able to get along comfortably with others, a vital part of healthy communication. Whether you’re poly or not, we all need to get better at apologising.

The first thing we need to get good at thinking about is the fact that sometimes we may be wrong. Our brains aren’t exactly set up for being particularly good at accepting this, as the same brain that thought something wrong in the first place is having to process that it may be wrong, relying only on external clues, such as someone saying “You’re wrong”. On top of this, we’re conditioned with the idea that there is some sort of objective correctness, and by bringing out the correct amount of “proof”, you will somehow win the argument. In most cases, this simply isn’t true, and it’s a pretty unpleasant way of arguing as it tends to manifest as a litany of perceived faults.

Being aware of this conditioning is difficult, but being ready to accept that you’re wrong will absolutely revolutionise your life. Far from losing anything, you begin to win at life.

From this, you can move into being ready and willing to apologise where necessary. Obviously, you’ll need to apologise when you’re wrong, and if you’ve come to the understanding as to why you’re wrong, show an awareness of this. However, there’s also other situations when an apology is appropriate: most notably, when you have upset someone. Even if you’re in one of those incredibly rare situations where you are 100% objectively correct, or you have no intention of actually changing your behaviour, if you have upset a person you love, it’s good to apologise. Apologies in these situations denote that you understand that their feelings are valid, that you don’t think they’re unreasonable and irrational, and you understand that they are feeling bad and it’s something to do with you. Even if you’re right, it’s still not nice to make someone feel bad.

If things go well, maybe the other person will also apologise. And, while an apology does not necessarily constitute conflict resolution in and of itself, it’s a good place to start.

Being ready and willing to apologise and understand that you’re not always right is, obviously, a vital skill for negotiating and social environment; I’ve written about arguing and apologies before, from a political perspective, but this was always greatly informed by the way I live and love. When you’re poly, I feel it’s absolutely essential given the depth of the emotions involved. If you accept that love is a fluid, beautiful thing, ever-changing and ever-shifting, you’ve got no business being stubborn in your interactions with those partners, lovers and metamours who enrich your life.

We’ve all got a lot of things to unlearn that we’ve been bombarded with since birth, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of if you own your mistakes.

Shout-out: Help Freedom Bookshop

Freedom–the oldest anarchist bookshop in London–was firebombed in the early hours of yesterday morning. It’s believed that fascists were responsible; this is not the first time the bookshop has been attacked by the far right.  The need help to repair the damage done. You can find details for how to donate money to them on their website.

I went down there today to help with the cleanup, as did many other members of the community. I could rhapsodise about the romance of people coming together to help, but in truth it was just a bunch of people doing a sad task that shouldn’t have ever needed doing in the first place. There is something uniquely distressing about sorting through a vast pile of books, performing triage on what can be saved and what cannot.

The good news is, many of the books were salvageable, and the building has not been structurally damaged in the attack. However, Freedom still need help. Please donate what you can, or perhaps consider getting in touch with the bookshop and organising a fundraising event of your own.

Freedom can recover from this attack, but they need a bit of help to do so. Can you help, just  a little bit?

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Is it Friday already? It’s Friday, isn’t it? Here’s a round-up of some things I read this week that I found interesting or important, and you might be interested in reading them too. Please leave me any more things I might like to see.

The problem with polynormativity (Sex Geek)- I cannot recommend this exploration of the normativity of the type of poly relationship which is presented to us in the media. It’s a long read, but thoroughly discusses problems that can arise from the couple-form. A must-read, I think, even if you’re not poly, as it challenges a lot of expectations.

I’m sorry if you’re offended (stillicides)- Stillicides writes about the art of the “fauxpology” and how it differs from an apology.

Ableism and apologies (Laurie Penny)- Laurie Penny slipped up and said something ableist. Rather than a week-long Twitter storm, she apologised in this heartfelt post. This should be the norm, not a refreshing exception–at least until we’ve smashed kyriarchy.

An open letter to the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers’ Party from union activists (assorted comrades)- An open letter, urging the SWP Central Committee to work on their terrible approach to gendered sexual violence.

Your rights and mobile fingerprinting (Netpol)- The police have been given the power of mobile fingerprinting during stop and search, and being the police, they’ll probably abuse this power a lot. Please read through this guide to learn your rights if they attempt to do this to you.

It’s time to talk about trigger warnings again, apparently (verasteine)- Good response to the Vagenda nonsense on trigger warnings earlier this week.

Policing Fanguage (Jonnie Marbles)- Poor Jonnie. He loves leaving boxes of snakes lying around, and there’s some mean people who are making him label his venomous snakes.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Blogger Impassioned – Why Do “Angry Women” Scare People So Much? (Carey Purcell)- An exploration of angry women and why we terrify people (particularly men. And patriarchy).

Causes of rape: A statistical analysis (Flightrisker)- An excellent and informative infographic.