Things I read this week that I found interesting

Beloved followers, I am still covered in sweat and glitter from a lovely night, so please do forgive me if I make no sense in the round up of some things what I read.

Harassment in the Online Sphere: On “Civility”, “Censorship”, and Solutions (Kate Hache)- Much better post than mine on internet harassment and abuse and stuff.

No platform for Billy Bragg (Dan Hancox)- Excellent stuff on 80s protest nostalgia.

Black, LGBT, American (Darnell L. Moore)- On the intersecting oppressions faced by this group.

Why bisexuals stay in the closet (Emily Alpert)- Some may relate to these sad truths.

EDL, rape threats, pseudo-feminism and obvious sexual inadequacy. (itisiwhowillit)- You should all read this about the EDL’s terrible gender politics.

Talking About Porn (Squeaking Truth To Power)- A fun piece, with a good message, involving Die Hard.

On touch and consent (inkiebird)- Non-sexual touching ought to require consent.

Transphobic logic (A Widdershins Girl)- A short post getting neatly to the root of a problem.

Is Gender-Flipping The Most Important Meme Ever? (Caitlin Welsh)- A meme with a subversive potential, featuring excellent pictures.

Fuck the master’s tools (sunili)- Blisteringly angry. Read this.

And finally, have some challenging wank material by the medium of German teletext porn.

Against a Twitter “report abuse” button

Apparently the latest thing that people want to campaign for is a “report abuse” button for Twitter. Once again, it is my sad duty to say that while I agree with the principles, the idea itself is actually quite silly and might make things worse. To be honest, I’m considering automating my blog, so often do I come to this conclusion. The same piece, over and over again, just inserting the name of whatever liberal feminist campaign du jour is about.

But I digress. What could possibly be wrong with a button to make it easier to report abuse on Twitter, and automate suspensions of abusers? Rather a lot, actually. I can foresee, within seconds of it happening, that I would disappear off of the face of Twitter, for starters.

See, I have a habit of being pretty fucking rude to people who behave oppressively. I use rude words and tell people to choke on various bodily secretions. I don’t let things drop. I hold people to account, sometimes seriously and sometimes by gleefully engaging in some pure, unadulterated puerile trolling. I subtweet shade, leaving it where it can be found by the vanity searchers, and I’m not afraid to call out the racists, the misogynists, the transphobes and homophobes and ableists of the world. That would get me banned pretty fucking quickly, only taking a few powerful people to get pissed off at me. And my goodness, I piss off the powerful.

But surely any new measures would have differentiation between abuse and a good old-fashioned flaming targeted at an utter dicklord? Probably not. Already, I have seen good feminists and anti-racists suspended from Twitter for hurting the precious feelings of the poor misogynists and racists. This goes through the current Twitter abuse channels. A “report abuse” button would speed up this process considerably, allowing for an ever-greater greater quantity of marginalised voices to be silenced completely, to be left unable to fight back. Making reporting abuse easier will just create a larger volume of tweets which must be sifted through, making it take more not less time to weed out the abuse from the vexatious complaints.

The problem is, a lot of the supporters of this seem to consider anything other than utmost deference and politeness to be “trolling”. Take, for example, Caitlin fucking Moran, who has been exceptionally vocal in this, and with good reason: people are often cross with her for saying really fucking horrible shit. She disingenuously pretends that this instant accountability afforded by the Twitter age is somehow an orchestrated campaign of silencing and abuse. She wants to continue being able to flaunt her privilege and announce to the world that she’s kind of racist, kind of classist, kind of ableist and kind of transphobic. She wants to do all of this without ever being called out on it.

The thing with politeness is that it’s a rule of communication which is inherently slanted in favour of the white, economically-privileged person with the luxury of considering other people’s problems a purely academic question. It’s easy to be polite if you are questioning someone’s very existence, and not so easy when it cuts the other way. When I see misogyny, I don’t want to be fucking polite. It’s not a matter for fucking debate. And the same goes for any injustice I perceive. We’re never going to get fucking anywhere if we continually defer to our oppressors.

But because of their position of power, they see our questioning their role as the oppressor as abuse, and they will gladly use any new measures to silence those who have found the voice to question the status quo. Any new abuse policy Twitter would implement would have to accept the difference between calling out and abuse, and I don’t think it would ever do that, as to acknowledge the direction in which power is directed is far beyond far too many people. These people focus on “equality”, and “equality” is precisely how white people declare anti-racism campaigns to be racist against white people, and misogynists cry MISANDRY whenever a woman challenges them. Imagine the outcry if Twitter did the right thing here: we would be drowning in white male tears, and Twitter would back down before one could finish typing “your a dick” and sending it to a well-known evolutionary biologist. Furthermore, abuse can be polite. Indeed, the polite stuff is often the most insidious, given that that the privileged who insist on politeness at all times fail to recognise it as abuse. It remains an enormous problem.

So instead we’d be stuck with what I’ll call the “silence marginalised voice that hurt your privileged fee-fees button”. And I can’t get behind that, because there are a lot of good voices who will be further silenced by those with the power and the platform.

What can be done, instead? After all, oppressive abuse does still run rampant in the online environment. The thing is, that is a reflection of the general oppressive and abusive culture we inhabit. And therefore, the same measures need to be taken. We need fucking solidarity. Stand with people fighting oppression, and support their struggles. Offer help when someone is getting shit, and chase the fuckers off. Accept your own role in oppression, and strive to mitigate it, accepting that you will likely be told off from time to time for fucking up, and that it’s not going to be polite. Kick up, don’t kick down. Don’t work within the system: tear it down and salt the earth beneath it. Show compassion for those who are having a hard time.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where people want quick fixes, no matter how inadequate they are. We live in an age where people will gladly forge a weapon which may be used against them. And then there are some who would seek to punish anyone who criticises them, and are salivating at the consequences of this measure.

The good news is, a lot of them will be sulking off of Twitter on August 4th. The commentariat Cult of Nice will be “boycotting” Twitter that day, displaying that they don’t really know what a boycott is. That day will be a good day for marginalised voices. No longer will they be silenced and drowned out by those who like to talk over everyone and silence the voices that we should be hearing. That day, Twitter will be ours. I propose we spend the day listening to one another, building solidarity and laying the groundwork for changing the world. We have a day unpoliced by oppressors. Let’s use it.

Not that porn-blocking bollocks again

Once again, the politicians have decided to enter into the “WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!” pissing contest over a race to block as much porn as possible in order to… do something involving children. The language of both sets of press quotes seems to conflate a hell of a lot of things with each other, so it’s kind of complicated unpicking exactly why they want to do each of the things they’re planning on doing.

In the blue corner, David Cameron wants ISPs to set up filters which automatically block porn, block certain search terms and have more power to shut down file-sharing networks, as well as banning “porn depicting rape”. In the red corner, Labour want to do kind of exactly the same thing, but vaguely say that the government aren’t going far enough (despite them doing exactly the same as Labour want) and that they “know it works” in reference to porn-filtering.

It’s hard to know where to start with this bollocks, so let’s start with all of the things that are being conflated here. Labour and the Tories alike have hit cross-party consensus in conflating images of child abuse, rape porn (where it sounds like they are throwing in the consensual stuff along with actual images of actual rapes, which are actually illegal anyway) and children seeing porn. These are all very different things, but it’s easy to see why they have lumped all of these things together. Start with the hideous, move on to raising the spectre of something that a lot of people find disgusting, and then finally park in raising concerns over just general, vanilla internet porn, because what if a child sees? It’s a clever way of gaining support for actions which will achieve very little on a social level, while granting politicians a world to win with increased internet controls.

Let’s talk about the specifics of some of the proposals here, and how woefully ineffectual they’re likely to be. Now, I for one am not a fan of letting providers put content locks on the internet. if you’re on O2, might I take this opportunity to say you smell of a dog turd on a hot day and you’re a suppurating dickmelon? It’s OK, I can say that as if you’re on O2, you’re almost certainly not reading this blog because apparently it’s porn and you’d have to pay your mobile provider in order to “verify your age” and get to see what I’ve written. Now, you might notice that my blog is not porn. I’d wager you’d have a hard time cracking one out to this blog, and even if you do, your kink is not my kink, but your kink is OK.

Obviously, it’s not all about me, and there’s a lot of stuff which gets blocked by mobile content locks, such as sexual health sites and LGBT sites. In short, things that definitely aren’t porn and information that young people ought to be able to access. A lot of social justice websites also disappear under content locks as many of us are talking about sex and rape and all that stuff which apparently young people ought to be kept completely unaware of, leaving them to learn about sex and sexuality and consent through the medium of terrible fanfiction.

It gets worse when you add in the possibility of blocking certain search terms. Sometimes, any given search term will be used by a survivor in order to make sense of what happened to them, in order to find support from people who have been through similar. By just flat-out blocking these search terms, access to vital support could well be blocked. Yes, David Cameron seems to think this can be safeguarded by blocking results and instead sticking up a helpline number, but sometimes a helpline is not what survivors want. Sometimes it’s a search for a community, sometimes merely an indication that what happened to them was wrong. This move could well prove to be dangerous.

As for throwing in rape porn, I’ve made my views on this matter perfectly clear. A ban isn’t the solution. What could solve these problems is hard, far too hard for a media-friendly quick fix, the appearance of something being done.

With all of this is the pervasive thread of, as the Labour press release said “we know this works”. But do they? Do they really? There is evidence supporting the idea that increased access to porn reduces the incidence of rape, and there is evidence for the other view. It’s not conclusive: pretty much all studies have used internet access as a proxy for looking at porn, and none have tested whether there is any impact of actually blocking porn. Indeed, it looks like what the politicians want is to produce is a major social experiment of this hypothesis, with the added benefit of being able to decrease access to anything else they find unpleasant.

And it is all for the sake of that media-friendly quick fix. The quick fix desire, the obsession with doing something shit with instant results, is pervasive throughout all of the political spectrum. This measure will no doubt garner the support of some feminists, feminists who have lost site of the fact that we need so much more than to push the things we do not want to see out of sight.

Banning and blocking will not stop abuse from happening, it will just drive it underground, making it easier to perpetrate. At all ages, we need better education about consent. And, as I have said before, we need better porn, ingraining consent as a process inherent in sex. We need to be better at looking out for communities, of responding to abuse that happens, rather than hoping it goes on in places we do not look. We need to make sure employment rights of porn performers are protected until capitalist patriarchy falls entirely. We need to destroy rape culture and grind it to dust.

And that all sounds hard, too hard for a lot of feminists who have lost sight of how deep the rot goes, preferring such inadequate quick fixes mediated entirely by a state with a vested interest in restricting internet access.

But it is only the hard work that can ever end rape of people of all ages; only the hard work which will eventually keep all generations safe. I see the appeal of the quick fix clearly, but we must continue to think, criticise and act. It is not better to do something untested with potential harms. It is not safe to trust the state with this task.

It may sound cliched, my repeated demands for a complete revolution across all facets of society, but this is what we need to address the real problem of rape and abuse. Creating a climate where we cannot speak openly about it is dangerous: these are the conversations that need to happen. Unfortunately, silencing these discussions is one likely outcome of the proposed measures, and let us not forget that the this outcome would only benefit those who profit from rape culture.

Further reading

Is the rape porn cultural harm argument another rape myth? (ObscenityLawyer) Exploration of the evidence base.

Family friendly content filters (Sometimes, it’s just a cigar) Pertinent questions

The proposed UK porn filter is a threat, not a safeguard (Dave I/O) Really detailed techie analysis of why the blocks won’t work, and what might happen.

Porn blocking – a survivor’s perspective (Milena Popova) Why a survivor thinks it’s a horrible idea.

Comment from Wokstation Exploring the technical issues of a porn block.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Yeah, I haven’t actually read much because I’ve basically become some sort of urban selkie and have been throwing myself into water whenever possible. It’s hard to read in water. Drop me links; I’m more likely to read things when the weather isn’t so glorious.

On the Pain of Violent Men, or, Why I’m not Sorry about Max and Montle (Linda Stupart)- Linda drew attention to some jokes about corrective rape coming from FHM South Africa writers. She got a lot of backlash, then wrote a this incredibly powerful and deeply personal piece.

Breaking news: the Greek trans community has had enough (Jane Fae)- A briefing on the horrifying situation in Greece, and how people are fighting back.

Singing the Lesbian Blues in 1920s Harlem (Collectors Weekly)- Overview of this subculture with stunning pictures.

50 Shades of Not White (Sam Ambreen)- Sam expresses her fears for the future of her two young nephews in a racist climate.

Other People’s Feelings (Meg Barker)- Very useful model of how feelings are interconnected.

And finally, Joe McDaldno, who wrote my very favourite game Monsterhearts, (which you should totally play if you grew up watching Buffy and wishing it was queerer) wants to come to the UK. Can you help him?

Fears for the future of queer liberation

So, we’ve done it. We’ve won. Everything is OK, let us cheer from the rooftops and celebrate.

Same sex marriage has been voted into UK law, and apparently I’m supposed to feel happy about this.

And yet it leaves a fairly bitter taste in my mouth, niggling anxieties about the future, a deep unease that far from this being better it may actually make things worse for a lot of us.

I get that some of you are delighted by this, and I’m happy for you. Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is OK. If that’s what you want to do, that’s fine. Just please think about the consequences, both concrete and mere possibilities.

First things first, let’s not call what passed into law “marriage equality”. It means that a relationship between two people of the same sex can be legally recognised as the same as a relationship between two people of the opposite sex. To some, this might sound like equality. These people are not recognising the vast and complex forms that human interaction may take, the sheer breadth of family structures that are possible (and, for many, a lived experience). Marriage is still as inaccessible today as it was yesterday to so many of us–and the resulting perks.

It gets even worse for some trans people. Included in the law is a clause which can spell disaster for trans people: the spousal veto. In order to have your gender legally recognised, you need permission of your spouse. These statistics from@zoejrobinson, via the Coalition For Equal Marriage should demonstrate why this is such a problem. Marriage requires signing over a basic human right to a spouse, and grants the spouse a power to deny you the right to legal recognition of your gender, if they don’t like it. And this problem only applies to a certain set of the population. Yet they are ignored and thrown under the bus, utterly erased by the complete misnomer of pretending this thing is “equal marriage”. No matter how many times they say it’s equal, it doesn’t become so.

And yet, there is a pervasive mentality that we’ve won. It is being treated by many as a glorious victory in the last great battle. For some, it is exactly this, and they are the lucky ones. I fear that we will lose momentum entirely now that same sex marriage is law, having lost these loud voices who have got what they wanted. I fear that there will be no further demands made with the level of resources that were poured into achieving this demand, which is on a par with getting a cat to shit in the litter tray: something which should have been happening all along.

I fear that any movement towards queer liberation will halt. Examine this tweet and image from charity Stonewall. Many prefer to call the organisation S’onewall, due to its complete erasure of trans people. Look at them eagerly thanking the lovely kind state for throwing them a pitiful scrap which they have climbed over a mountain of fellow queers to grasp at. Remember what they named themselves after, and laugh a bitter, hollow chuckle as you remember whose name they appropriated, whose history they all but deny.

There was once a time when we demanded liberation rather than equality. We demanded expression rather than assimilation. The chorus of celebration of same sex marriage rings loudly, and silences these demands that some of us still wish to make. I don’t want equality within a fundamentally flawed system. I want to be free. I want to be able to be myself, to live and love without constraints. I want to exist free from coercion into a certain living arrangement which does not suit me, one which the state is increasingly attempting to force me into. I want to live without fear.

I worry that same sex marriage may have devastating consequences for those of us who choose not to marry. There will be financial and material consequences: machinations are underway to further incentivise marriage with a carrot in among the sticks. There will likely also be social consequences. It is hardly news to people in marginalised groups that those who are able to assimilate are those who are most accepted. Legally speaking, there is now nothing standing in our way of riding the relationship escalator in exactly the same way as straight people. Will those of us who do not be penalised? I don’t doubt that we will, and it frightens me that I am one of these freaks of society, one of those who will not be grudgingly accepted by the heterosexist mainstream because I am not marching to the beat of their monotonous drum.

And I fear that many of my GLb comrades will no longer care about those that have been left behind in this relentless pursuit of assimilation at the expense of liberation. I fear a loss of solidarity, of being told to swallow what I was given because this was my choice just as countless bigots have told us before. Heterosexuals and gay people alike have, all along the way, policed my articulation of my concerns. I do not feel like they would support those of us who have been left behind in their journey. I fear that everything will stop, even as there is so much more to do both locally and globally.

I would love to be proved wrong. I would love for this to have been just a muster in a bid for liberation. Yet again and again history has proved that things do not happen like this. So I remain unrepentantly unhappy with this state of affairs, groping in the dark for comrades who will have my back. Plotting revolution, plotting freedom and fervently hoping that in this broken world that I stay safe and survive.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Ooh, I’ve had such a lovely week in the sun, but I still read some things. Perhaps you’ll find them interesting, too.

‘Open season on black boys after a verdict like this’ (Gary Younge)- A powerful response to the Zimmerman verdict, pulled from the Guardian’s CiF section.

Justice for Jasmine (sometimesitsjustacigar)- A raw and moving response to the murder of Jasmine.

Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child (Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern)- Witty challenge to sexism in an iconic Tiqqun piece, with a lot of good points about the feminisation of labour.

Two Key Points for 21st Century Marxism (There Is No Alternative)- Some questions we really need to address.

Kinky assumptions (Rebel’s Notes)- Analysis of assumptions made about kinky people.

Al Vernacchio: Sex needs a new metaphor. Here’s one … (TED Talks)- Discussion of US baseball metaphors for sex, and introducing a pizza metaphor for how we should be looking at sex.

Living Life By A Rape Schedule (Emmy Fisher)- On the dance we perform daily to avoid rape.

Changing The Creepy Guy Narrative (Chris Brecheen)- One man’s intervention against a creepy guy harassing a woman in public.

The Uterus Issue (Amber Trafficlight)- A timely discussion of where trans rights fit into reproductive justice.

Consent With Disabilities Introduction (Yes, that too)- Exploration of communication issues which should be considered with consent.

Body Politics and the Curious Case of the Page 3 Girl (jaythenerdkid)- One of the good things to have come out of the No More Page 3 nonsense is the quantity of good blogs explaining aspects of why it’s bollocks.

A personal look at Ramadan (tintinnytins)- Want to learn all about Ramadan? Tinny explains what it means to him.

You can’t just add-colour-and-stir to make a movement inclusive (Nishma Doshi)- A timely call to action.

And finally, meet Buttercup the duck, who had a poorly leg, then got a new leg and looked absurdly happy. As if that’s not heartburstingly lovely enough, there’s video of him walking for the first time and quacking with delight.