Shitbrained media bollocks about polyamory: Julie Bindel edition

Beginning to wonder if I ought to perhaps set up a regular “tear apart ill-informed media shitfoolery about polyamory” section. A mere week after risible media “discussion” of polyamory, Julie Bindel has rocked up to the party with her own brand of piss-awful nonsense.

Bindel asserts that “rebranding polyamory does women no favours” in a confused piece which I find it difficult to work out where to start.

I suppose let’s start with her utter insistence on conflating polyamory and patriarchal polygamy. Now, Bindel asserts that there is such a thing as ethical non-monogamy, which was invented by 1970s lesbian feminists, the factual basis of which I seriously question. I’ll concede that maybe they practiced it, but this has been going on for far longer than a couple of decades. Anyway, according to Bindel, there’s stuff that her mates did in the 1970s, and then there’s polygamy.

As for the rest of the piece, it’s all the standard compulsory lesbian bollocks, with a smattering of cheery erasure of vast swathes of people who practice polyamory. It’s actually kind of impressing how much she manages to miss the point, and fails to critique anything worth critiquing while attempting to shame women who don’t behave exactly as she says.

Patriarchy has historically attempted to control women’s sexual behaviour. We’re madonnas, we’re whores, we’re sluts if we fuck and bitches if we don’t. This keeps us in our place. I note parallels with the compulsory monosexuality which is enshrined in ideologies from Bindel and her ilk: again, we are told what we are and are not supposed to be doing in our bedrooms. The root causes of these are, of course, different: the former is a product of patriarchy; the latter a woefully misguided attempt to bypass these power structures. Convergent evolution has produced similar effects from both sides of this pincer manoeuvre.

The three step solution proposed by Bindel et al goes like this:
(1) Stop fucking men
(2) ???
(3) Revolution

My scepticism about Bindel is not about being really into fucking men or slutty, and I wish good luck to those in monosexual relationships, for love, sex or whatever, with five, six or 20 other folk. But let’s not pretend that rebranding control of women’s behaviour will bring on the revolution any time soon.  A true sexual revolution will have happened when there is liberation, which is a far bigger beast than who has sex with whom. Until then, Julie Bindel is simply another manifestation of a system which gives far bigger weight to those with staff columns who chat nonsense.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Good morning. I have so many links this week that my tab-anxiety is working in overdrive and I’ll try and round them all up before I panic-close everything because it’s all a bit much. Give me more links, you sexy beasts.

Things women say that you hate hearing all the time (Ramona’s blog)- Naming a manarchist problem, wittily.

Manarchism, or, how to hurt a man’s feelings. (itisiwhowillit)- Continuing to name that manarchist problem, wittily.

“the CPU is not made for this motherboard” (Helen G)- Really good primer on Chelsea Manning.

Living in truth: Chelsea Manning in prison (a paper bird)- Context to Chelsea Manning’s story and how gay activists ignore trans women. Note: last time I read it there was some spotty misgendering of Chelsea which the author will clean up.

Some thoughts about sexual normativity in food writing (Flavia Dzodan)- Very readable analysis, articulating an issue I’d never given much thought.

The Road to Roe (Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell)- On the role of women of colour in abortion rights struggles in the US, a group notably erased and instrumentalised.

Someone else’s story: on sexual questions (halfabear)- Hilarious response to a really common question a woman with paraplegia gets a lot.

The Problem with Individualistic Knowledge (BoldlyGo)- On Fry, Dawkins and a load of Kant.

Law cannot determine whether Assange is guilty of sexual assault (Sarah Keenan)- Excellent analysis of a derailing tactic used by AssAngels.

how not to treat mental illness. (itisiwhowillit)- Really excellent short post on two mistakes people make when talking about mental health.

It’s only words: psychosis, ‘evil’, & (self-)stigma (zedkat)- Why the association of “evil” with psychosis needs to die.

“Apology accepted” and other things I’ll never get to say to my former diet counselors (Lesley)- A look at the diet industry and how vile it is.

Shoreditch’s curious people (This Day)- On the violence of UKBA raids.

On race, feminism and activism- my speech for UK Feminsta Summer School 2013 (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- Blisteringly brilliant.

And finally, what memes would cats produce if they ran the internet? Also, since I’m feeling generous, hipster Jon Snow.

 

 

Signal boost: Cissexism in the National Curriculum

The Department for Education has sneakily removed trans* children from its inclusion statement in the National Curriculum. Compare and contrast drafts.

It’s a complete hot mess. The government have given a really unsatisfying response.

Here are some actions you can take, with analysis from a trans activist.

I’ve also taken the liberty of setting up a petition, because while petitions are complete bollocks, they can be a useful means for increasing visibility of an issue.

Please make a lot of noise about this issue. We can’t let this instance of blatant and illegal cissexism go unchallenged. This could have a devastating impact on the lives of trans* children.

UPDATE 22/8: The DfE have said they will reinstate gender identity and the whole thing was a “drafting error“. To me, this is an unsatisfactory response. How on earth did they manage to forget about an entire group of people due to an accidental typo? How many people saw the drafts and missed this? Whatever happened, the cause must be cissexism. I have altered the petition accordingly, focusing on a demand for an explanation and I am looking forward to seeing the results of the FoI request, even as it is likely to be a fob-off.

“Journalistic” bollocks of the day: “polyamory” edition

A lot of people just don’t get polyamory. Unfortunately, a lot of these people not getting polyamory also happen to be “journalists” who write ill-informed “articles” about it while “talking out of their arses”.

The latest in this stream of bollocks comes from one “Adam Sherwin”, who appears to have found a jar of scare quotes at the back of the fridge, and, realising they were close to their sell-by date, decided to throw them all over his regurgitation of a BBC press release. Here is a sample of phrases “Adam” “Sherwin” felt were scare-quotable:

“polyamorous”: are we a made-up word? (it’s scare-quoted throughout)
“feminist and a liberal”: also imaginary concepts, apparently.
“open relationships”: seriously, motherfucker, what the fuck is wrong with you?
“date”: OH LOOK THEY THINK THEY’RE PEOPLE.

Then there’s a load of bollocks, such as an obsessive focus on it all being about sex. I know for a fact that in at least one of the cases reported it definitely isn’t as I actually happen to know the people in that relationship. Even if I didn’t, it’s fairly obvious that it isn’t all about sex, when the actual quote from Charlie clearly points out that it’s a long-haul relationship rather than “wife-swapping”. It’s worth noting here, that “wife swapping” was one of the few phrases not scare-quoted by “Adam ‘Sherwin'”, by the way, which is pretty fucking charming and rather betrays the moral judgment he has made there.

Then there’s “Adam’s” vague pearl-clutching at the end here:

Another participant, Alice, interviewed for the programme, says she would be happy to leave her male partner to look after the children while she goes out seeking casual sex.

Excuse me while I put my monocle back in so I can side-eye this fucker. Yes, “Adam”. Sometimes women don’t stay at home looking after the kids. Again, note the lack of scare quotes.

It’s a perfect piss-storm, this piece of shit, and it represents the collision of two execrable fronts: society being awful, and journalism being mostly awful.

There is a societal tendency to circle the wagons around the institution of monogamy, expressing horror at the idea that anyone could happily live outside of this. Those who do are often stigmatised, portrayed as somehow broken as people. On top of this is the general negativity towards women’s sexuality: we’re not supposed to have sexual agency, and if we do we are somehow broken as people.

On top of this, journalists often aren’t particularly well-informed on issues. They regurgitate press-releases rather than research. It is kind of obvious that “Adam Sherwin” knew about as much about polyamory as Jon Snow does about survival in the snow, sex, and general Wildling politics. Even the scare quotes seem to be a product of ignorance, a kind of admission that he has never heard these words before and therefore stuck them in quotes in case they weren’t real.

Put together, all you get is more stigma coming from sources which are seen as credible. “What” “a” “load” “of” “pigshit”.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

I read a lot of things this week, and found them interesting. Perhaps you will, too.

1 in 2 and 77.7p – some numbers (zedkat)- zedkat presents some stark statistics on women with disabilities. Well worth reading and discussing.

Identity Politics and Shared Humanity (quite irregular)- Jem smashes the classic red herrings of “I believe in equality” and blah blah identity politics blah.

Everything you know about drugs is wrong (Tessie Swope Castillo)- Examining the racism in drug policy.

Redefining Feminism: Overcoming the Legacy of Exclusion (Sarah Salem)- Important piece questioning white supremacy in feminism.

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen: women of color’s issue with digital feminism (Mikki Kendal)- By far the best thing I’ve seen on this in the mainstream media.

We Need to Talk About Hugo, Race, and Feminism (Bitch Magazine)- A handy round-up of recent conversations.

Dear Men (Shakesville)- On ownership and the “not all like that” myth.

“I felt so bad, so violated …” (Scot Pep)- Accounts from workers who were recent victims of sauna raids in Edinburgh.

Government to “get to grips” with Rape-Porn (Obscenity Lawyer)- Thorough overview of the hot mess that is the government’s plans.

i was a misogynist (to a fault)- A reflective piece, confronting internalised misogyny.

Developing a better call-out culture (Queste Desmarais)- Thoughtful piece on call out culture, abuse, and the importance of starting with ourselves.

You’re probably more racist and sexist than you think (Oliver Burkeman)- I’ve been banging on about this since forever, but it’s nice to see the Guardian join the party.

Dear 50 Shades fan: BDSM doesn’t need or want your defense. (Jenny Trout)- Excellent piece on BDSM and abuse, with one of the best opening lines I’ve seen in a long time,

And finally, fuck it, here’s a livestream of some kittens. At time of writing, they’re asleep in a little furry pile.

Safer spaces within feminism

In these last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about safer spaces within feminism, as so many women seem to have been saying that they feel unsafe.

At least in part, this came from the ongoing attempts of one Hugo Schwyzer to dominate feminism and make it all about him. Rather than hold Schwyzer accountable for abuses he perpetrated and his behaviour towards women of colour, he was excused by an army of white feminist enablers who insisted we should focus on his mental health problems. Meanwhile, others blamed Schwyzer’s mental health problems for the abuses he perpetrated. This storm has led to women of colour and women with mental health problems feeling unsafe.

(as an aside, it ought to be entirely possible to have this conversation about Schwyzer without taking an ableist position. Both positions are inherently ableist: the latter buying into the “evil crazy person” stigma, while removing responsibility from the perpetrator; the former acting as though people with mental health problems are feeble beings, utterly irresponsible for their own actions and in dire need of protection from the big bad world, which is pretty fucking patronising. Any diagnoses of mental illness or personality disorders ought not shield a person from accountability for their actions, but likewise Schwyzer did not do what he did because of any diagnoses of mental illness or personality disorders. Flavia Dzodan also points out how it is problematic to centre this discussion around Schwyzer’s mental health rather than the mental health of the women he abused)

A hashtag has sprung up in the last few days, at least in part as a response to white feminism’s shielding of an abuser. #solidarityisforwhitewomen has created a space for women of colour to articulate the white supremacy which is ingrained in mainstream feminism. I wholly recommend reading it: as a white woman, it was a short sharp shock as to the breadth of the problem, as to the sheer quantity of women for whom feminism has done nothing and has, quite possibly, made things worse. And of course, into the hashtag waded white feminists, attempting to derail and redirect the conversation into something more palatable than the hard truth, and along came Hugo fucking Schwyzer himself.

All the while, the Twitter abuse debate has been rumbling on, and once again it is notable that it is white, cis feminists who have placed themselves at the centre of this conversation. All the while, trans women, disabled women, women of colour, working class women, women with mental health problems, queer women are receiving perpetual harassment. And yet there is no big high-profile media discussion of how people like to collect images of trans women and put them together to encourage potential doxxing; there is no big high-profile media discussion of how continued harassment interacts with existing mental health problems; there is no big high-profile media discussion of the sheer prevalence of racist abuse.

And, of course, there is no big high-profile media discussion of how sometimes white cis feminists can be the aggressors. Last week, I wrote about how the principles of #ibelieveher are too often utterly defenestrated when women talk about microaggressions they have experienced at the hands of of white cis feminists.

Jackie Wang discusses the conditions which give rise to this in her essay Against Innocence: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Safety, pointing to a state of an ideal victim who is, of course, white. Wang eloquently challenges the white supremacy within the politics of safer spaces in dominant feminist discourse. She explains how this can put a stopper on militancy, which is something which is sorely needed. Basically, I recommend you take a bit of time out to read the whole thing, as it is a blindingly good essay which has informed my thinking on this topic a hell of a lot.

And we do see the language of safety deployed when women are challenged on their own oppressive behaviour. This is at least in part because it’s really fucking uncomfortable when you come to realise that you are actually part of the problem. In part, too, it stems from the insistence on engaging in only a manner which is palatable to those feminists with privilege: the dreaded beast they call politeness, with a smattering of their own requirement that everything be treated as a topic for debate, an abstract intellectual difference. It produces conditions wherein the most privileged women are unchallengeable, even as they are the aggressors.

We see it perhaps most starkly when transphobic feminists declare that they want to exclude trans women, using the language of safety as a veil for their own rank bigotry. We also see it where white cis feminists nominate themselves victims after being called out on their own oppressive behaviour. These conditions are pervasive within feminism and while they may create a safer space for some women, they create a fundamentally unsafe space for many more.

And so is it any surprise when so many women reject the label “feminism” as it is just the same old shit, branded differently? We like to say that feminism is a broad set of ideologies and that we do not always agree with one another, but when so many women see unsafe behaviour going completely unchallenged–indeed, frequently actively enabled–how can there possibly be anything in this community for them?

Even the very notion of “inclusion” is alienating for a lot of women. I have been told that saying that something is, for example, trans inclusive, positions cis women as gatekeepers of feminism. There are so many things within are language that do nothing to make many women safer, and contribute to actively feeling less safe.

So what is to be done? Is it even possible for a feminism which does not leave the women who get more shit from the kyriarchy on a daily basis feeling just as unsafe? Perhaps, but it will be a slow revolution, met with resistance from those with most to lose from the abolition of oppressive hierarchies.

To help it on its way, we must hold ourselves and others accountable. We must believe the accounts from women who have been harmed by the dominant white supremacist, cissexist, ableist, classist feminism. We must stand in solidarity, and we must fight all of these battles on all of these fronts, because they are all our struggle. We must let go of a notion of safety which protects abusers and aggressors and perpetrators and put survivors at the centre. We must unthink and unlearn, and kill the oppressors inside our heads. We must talk about these issues and not let them be swept under the carpet due to some nominated “real enemy”. We must look at the margins and the intersections and listen, and learn. And we must accept that many of these women who do not trust feminism may never trust feminism, and yet perpetually persevere in attempting to win this trust.

It’s a fucking thankless task, being against the world, yet is this not what feminism is ultimately about? Do we not want to overturn the dominant social order?

If so, we must overturn it, rather than continuing to replicate these power structures.

Further reading on Schwyzer

Yes, this is about race (Flavia Dzodan)
On Hugo Schwyzer: Accountability, not silencing dissent (Grace)
Why do some feminist spaces tolerate male abusers? (Global Comment)

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Things. Read. Not much really this week, actually.

The Problem With Male Feminists (quiteirregular)- Fucking nails it.

Monsters (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)- Have you ever experienced this kind of shutting down?

We have to talk about Hugo (sometimes, it’s just a cigar)- A caveat.

Black, LGBT, American (Laverne Cox)- A look at the intersections.

on bus stops, boundaries, and bad things i learn late at night (a can opener in a worm factory)- On rape culture, harassment and boundaries.

Why do activists reject Russian LGBT strategy for Olympics? (Colin Stewart)- Overview of Russian and global activists’ strategy for the Russian Olympics.

And finally… I don’t even