Jacqueline Nantumbwe must stay!

Jacqueline Nantumbwe is a lesbian woman from Uganda, where being queer is a criminal offence. In Uganda, politicians and religious leaders actively campaigned for the death penalty for homosexuality, and there is currently a life sentence for existing while gay. While in Uganda, Jacqueline and her girlfriend at the time, Rose, were caught, and as punishment, Jacqueline was imprisoned, tortured and raped to “correct” her. Her girlfriend was not heard from again.

Jacqueline is seeking asylum in the UK, and has faced horrific treatment from the Home Office over the last year. In order to have asylum granted, Jacqueline must “prove” that she and her partner are in a lesbian relationship. On 26th January, the Home Office transferred Jacqueline to Yarl’s Wood, the detention centre famous for abusing its inmates. She may face deportation.

The Home Office has a track record of appalling treatment of queer women from Uganda. Last month, Prossie N, a seriously ill lesbian from Uganda was deported back to a life of rape and persecution.

Jacqueline Nantumbwe needs our help. We need to apply pressure to protect her from the horrors she faces if deported. Jacqueline Nantumbwe must stay. Here are some things you can do.

  • Sign the petition to the Home Office.
  • Write to Jacqueline’s MP, Gerald Kaufman, asking for his support. You can find a model letter here. You may also send that letter to your own MP asking them to make a statement of support.
  • Get in touch with Jacqueline and tell her you support her. You can find out more here.
  • Finally, and most importantly, share her story. Talk about Jacqueline Nantumbwe. Make as much noise as you can.

The Home Office get away with such gross violations because they can get away with it without much public knowledge. Show them that this isn’t the case.

A bra that springs open for true love? Nope.

Content note: this post discusses rape culture

Good afternoon. Have you felt like your day was devoid of pseudoscientific sexist bollocks? Well worry no more. Let me tell you about some fresh nonsense: a bra that will only spring open if the wearer is experiencing true love.

The promotional video opens by demonstrating the sort of men this product is supposed to protect us from, those awful gropey creeps. Fortunately for us, they will no longer have access to our norks, because this bra will not unhook for them–as demonstrated by footage of awful men trying to yank the thing open. You see, SCIENCE informs us that there is some sort of physiological marker for true love based on brain chemicals and heart rates and there’s a graph and everything, so we don’t need to worry that our baps will fly out every time we go for a run (not that the product looks like the sort of bra one should run in, ever). And so we can rest easy. Our tits will only pop out if we’re in love. Hopefully that won’t happen while in the middle of a date, because it would be profoundly awkward finding oneself suddenly topless in Nandos.

I’m going to pretend this is a real product, because the media are treating this as though it is, and even if it were just a conceptual joke, it’s still mostly fucked up for the exact same reasons.

Conceptually, this device is basically a high-tech chastity belt. The key is replaced by some pseudoscientific waffle, sure, but the principle remains the same: we can only be sexual when we are in love. Even the patronising protective language is the same as the underlying ethos of the chastity belt: rape and sex outside of “true love” are constructed as the same thing, and something that we must be defended from with a fortress.

I don’t think anyone needs to point out that a bra that won’t unhook for unwanted attention is hardly going to deter potential rapists, but it also probably won’t deter general creepers because, bluntly put, a guy harassing you in a bar probably isn’t expecting your bra to spring open and whap out your norks right there and then. The problem is more one of entitlement rather than keeping visibility of tits to a minimum. Like a chastity belt, the wearer is provided no means of getting out of the bra (although I reckon a cheeky wank would probably do the job). It subscribes to these two conflicting notions: that of an imaginary true love, but that we’re all sluts who cannot be trusted.

But let’s imagine for a second that we do live in this dystopic world wherein Fort Knox-style breast protection is required to deal with the hordes sacking all available boobies. This thing, as far as I can discern from the Highly Scientific graphs presented, pops open in response to a sustained elevated heart rate which is lower than that caused by exercise. Yes, that can be caused by pleasant social interactions, or being really turned on, or kind of getting giddy over someone. You know what else can cause it? Fear. Anxiety. The gut instinct telling you to get the fuck away from this creep as soon as you possibly can.

And now imagine, when you’re in this horrible situation, that your bra just pops open, and everyone in the room cheers because you’ve found your true love, the key to emancipating your mammaries.

As I said earlier, I have no idea if it is a real product or a satire which perfectly fits in with capitalist patriarchy. It feels somehow inevitable, nonetheless.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Good morning everyone. I am of course hungover. But I read some things this week and I found them interesting. Perhaps you will too.

10 seriously easy things cis people can do… (CN Lester)- A must-read for all cis people.

The politics of skin lightening (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- Excellent analysis of a current feminist issue not getting enough attention.

Imaginary Funerals (Joe McDaldno and others)- This project is super-cool, talking about games and immersion and queer stuff. It’s less than a week old, but it’s already stuffed with awesome.

All I want for Christmas is an abortion (Grounded Parents)- A perspective often missing in abortion discourse: actually really wanting an abortion.

Outlawing Sex Behind Bars (Feminista Jones)- An examination of the politics of sex in prison.

A Step By Step Guide through Jared Leto’s Trans Ignorance. (transhollywood)- Jared Leto is getting praised a lot, but here’s why he has been ignorant.

Why the Term ‘Psychopath’ is Racist and Ableist (Lydia Brown)- A lot of us use this word, and we shouldn’t.

Whiteness as social disease and ableism (Flavia Dzodan)- Flavia also tackles this topic.

Here’s what’s wrong with hijab tourism and your cutesy “modesty experiments” (The Hijabinist)- Why women who aren’t Muslims but wear hijab for a bit to “see what it’s like” will never get it.

CeCe McDonald on her time in prison: “I felt like they wanted me to hate myself as a trans woman” (Salon)- CeCe is out of prison. Hear what she has to say.

The Self-Esteem Myth (or “why it’s the fatphobia not my outlook on life, asshole”) (Virgie Tovar)- On locating structural fatphobia as a problem of individual self-esteem.

Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show (The Onion)- I think a lot of us can relate to this.

Gang Rape and Consent; An open letter to Mary Honeyball (sometimes it’s just a cigar)- On consent and sex work.

Interview with Roz Kaveney (The Heroines of My Life)- Roz is a truly amazing woman.

Beyoncé’s ***Flawless Feminism: A Womanist Perspective (Gradient Lair)- Thorough analysis. The Ur-Post on this.

Within and Against (Kitty Stryker)- Really good post on what ethical porn means.

Playing Around (Charlie Hale)- A short introduction to BDSM for the curious, available as a free e-book.

And finally, I’m going to go ahead and declare 2014 the year of the capybara. Proof and more proof.

[catchy muff pun title]

Apparently this is the Year of the Bush, or something, which is interminably awful as it means the media will be mostly debating bush, from such nuanced viewpoints as “muff is great” and bizarre advertorials for laser hair removal with bonus fat-shaming and comparing pubic hair to the Gaza Strip. There is an awkward word looming over much of this debate, and it is a word which ought to immediately be purged from any discussion of anything anyone does to their bodies: “should”.

Ideally, we should be free to do what we want with our carpetry. Both the dangers of hair removal and the uncleanliness of keeping hair have been massively overstated: from a pubic health perspective, whatever you do with it is probably relatively benign. Paying money to make modifications to your body is hardly a manifestation of evil: hell, it’s cool that we live in a world where we can use tools–or even lasers–to change what nature gave us. I had my eyes fixed with a laser and it was awesome. Spending time to make modifications to what God gave you isn’t bad, either. There is nothing inherently gross about any quantity of hair: Renaissance smoothness is just as hot as an Age of Aquarius full bush if the person rocking it feels sexy as all fuck. 

Pubic hair should be nobody’s business but the individual who is holding it in their pants. It shouldn’t be political or a subject of hot debate. It should just be a thing, like haircuts.

Except it isn’t. (And neither, actually are haircuts, which come with a whole mess of political implications themselves)

Pubes are politicised by millennia of social conditioning, and in recent times patriarchy, white supremacy, cissexism and capitalism hooked up in a ghastly orgy and found themselves a cash cow in selling the motive and the means to remove body hair. It is not a free choice, what we do with our fanny fluff, because we are not making this choice in a vacuum. We’re making these choices amid a blitz of marketing and social pressure and all of this teaches us that there’s One True Way, and that is to nuke the short and curlies.

Last summer, I went swimming for the first time since I grew my bush back. I was terrified. Cascading curls of cunt-fur poked from the sides of my bikini, and I expected it would only be a matter of time until the villagers were out in force with the torches and pitchforks and silver bullets. But it was a hot day and I wanted a swim, and so I swallowed my nerves and quite literally jumped in at the deep end. I started to forget the nerves. I wandered around and I ate an ice cream. And not once did anyone say anything. Not once did I notice a side-eye. Not once did anyone try and bury me at the crossroads. It turns out, people don’t actually make a habit of staring at one another’s crotches in public spaces.

Feeling that fear was the first time I’d really understood the power of the social conditioning. In my own arrogance, I’d thought myself as above it; being a feminist, I was too enlightened to care what people thought about my muff. I wasn’t, and I don’t think any of us are, because we’ve all lived our whole lives under capitalist patriarchy.

I’d grown my muff as an act of rebellion, and started to love it as a little pet. I swelled with pride when I plucked out a pube and measured it, and it was just shy of an inch and a half long. I shampoo it as part of my beauty regime, sometimes adding conditioner on special occasions. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I stroke it absent-mindedly because I like the softness of it. And even loving my rug so much wasn’t enough for me not to feel anxious about wearing a bikini in public, because I had been bombarded with the same messages as everyone else: visible bush is hideous, a punchline at best.

It’s interesting because so much of the pubic hair debate hinges on personal preference, locating individual opinions in their relationship with the ideals we are sold. The conclusions drawn on either side are fairly facile: making peace with it and losing the fuzz because it makes you feel better, or defying it by growing in a veritable furry forest. We need to go further than this individual choice: the problem is structural, and so the structure must be torn down.

And unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot more than the individual choices we make to tear this thing down. There will be no critical mass of pubic hair to generate revolution. The reality is a more tedious slog than that, the bitter resistance of fighting multiple fronts at once. The politicisation of bush is a symptom of this system, not a cause. Just like a Brazilian wax, we need to rip it all out at the roots.

Of course the police are more interested in rude tweets than violence against women

Content note: this post discusses violence against women 

In news that is pissing me off today, the Twitter is inherently abusive line is out in the media again. This time the victim is Stan Collymore, who was sent racist and threatening tweets. The police are, of course, interested and investigating.

Now, of course, it is unacceptable to send racist and threatening tweets to anyone, but I’m getting a little concerned about how much of an interest they are showing in rude tweets. This isn’t the first time they’ve swooped in to help out Stan Collymore: late in 2012, a man was arrested for sending a racist tweet to Stan Collymore. Indeed, arresting people for tweets seems to be a new top policing priority, in sharp contrast with how they deal with violence against women.

Let’s look at Stan Collymore’s record. He violently attacked one woman, including kicking her in the head three times. As far as I can discern, the police didn’t get involved at all. He then went on to threaten to kill his wife and burn down her parents’ home. This time the police took the matter slightly more seriously, and charged him for a threat to destroy property, because apparently the structural integrity of a building is the most important thing here.

So why are the police far more gung-ho in going after internet trolls than perpetrators of domestic violence? Ultimately, it boils down to two things.

Firstly, they don’t really give a flying fuck about violence against women. This is why so few of us report our rapes. This is why we don’t trust the police to keep our violent partners away from us. We’ve seen their record, and we know that they’ll violate any trust we put in them. And many women, particularly marginalised women, have themselves been victims of violence perpetrated by police, because that’s their job: to beat us into submission. The role of the police is to keep everything as it is–and this includes protecting a structure which enables violence against women.

Put more charitably, the police are a product of a broken society, born and raised in it, and then paid to enforce this broken society. Is it any surprise that they reflect and enforce patriarchal control of women?

And secondly, democratised communication scares the shit out of the establishment. It is a way people can get messages out, outside of the controlled circumstances in which we may usually have a platform. Things get out that threaten the system, and that frightens them. Of course they will instrumentalise the very real experiences of misogyny and racism in order to try to clamp down on their own real enemy: their critics. It is important to remember, when thinking of police interventions into online abuse, to remember this. Twitter was blamed for the riots, while simultaneously lauded for causing the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These are the same mechanisms at work in both cases, and basically the state would rather keep such uprisings further away from home.

It is hardly a surprise that tweets will be policed more heavily than kicking a woman in the head. It is an inevitable reflection of how things are.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Considering renaming this “hungover Stavvers says hi and dumps some links”.

The Names They Gave Me (Tasbeeh Herwees)- Deeply moving. I challenge you to read this without shedding a tear.

Is It OK for a Journalist to Reveal the Birth Gender of a Trans Person? (Paris Lees)- Paris explains a big pile of nope nope and fope.

Rare color film shows what London looked like in 1927 (deathandtaxes)- This video is really fucking cool.

Don’t Judge Me Because I Smell: my own piece of privilege checking (lucybottomface)- An important piece on hygiene and disability.

Why does the man behind ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Sherlock’ still have a job? (Aia Romano)- Upon reading this, the only sensible answer is “fuck knows”.

Play requires consent (Mary Hamilton)- Applying principles of consent culture to tabletop gaming.

5 Things More Likely To Happen To You Than Being Falsely Accused Of Rape (charlesclymer)- Some numbers for you.

“Unpacking Gossip” – a Public Conversation (Flavia Dzodan)- A discussion of sexism in constructions of gossip.

Is Sadness Shaming A Thing? I Just Want People To Stop… (Pia Glenn)- Things not to say to people with depression.

Russell Brand’s hollow conversion from sexist to feminist (Brooke Magnanti)- Brooke ain’t buying it either.

An open letter to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: like it or not, the niqab ban is racist  (Lifting The Veil)- Really really important reading for any would-be white saviours.

And finally, have a comic about pussy.

Russell Brand deserves no praise or gratitude

Regular readers will be aware I’m no fan of either Russell Brand (misogynist turdbagel) or No More Page 3 (too liberal to function). So, when I saw this tweet, I felt like I needed gloves to handle the sheer quantities of ewwww that it generated.

Twitter   rustyrockets  And finally, through the love ...

 

It’s hard to work out where to begin with this, so maybe I’ll counterintuitively start at the end with the reaction. It’s been rather gross to see feminists falling over themselves to praise Russell Brand for taking a free t-shirt and tweeting a picture of himself with it. That’s hardly a conversion, or a redemption narrative. That’s taking a t-shirt and not even bothering to wear it. 

I somehow doubt that Russell Brand has slain his internal sexism. It would take rather a lot of work to get over such unpleasant behaviour as bragging to a woman’s grandfather about her sexual behaviour, or prank calling a rape hotline. Frankly, I don’t think an expression of support for one small thing in any way makes up for what he did, and in order to move forward, first he must show understanding of his past sexism and hold himself to account for this.

Of course, that’s a moot point, when the very tweet in which he ostensibly renounces sexism is dripping with benevolent sexism. It was not winning the argument that brought Russell Brand round. It was a sexy lady with her magic lovely lady powers. It is only in thinking about where he could put his dick that Russell Brand was persuaded to take a photo of himself holding a t-shirt. He admitted this himself. And something murky lurks beneath this “good woman” narrative–none of the other women were good enough. No other women in Russell Brand’s life are apparently worthy to convince him that women are actually human. No wonder he treated Katy Perry so appallingly–she wasn’t good enough. It has handed the fedora brigade an excuse for sexism: if women won’t have sex with them, how can they learn not to be sexist dickwaggles?

It is only the good that can change the hearts and minds of sexists through having sex with them, says Russell Brand, to rapturous applause from liberal feminists.

And who was this good woman who managed to change Russell Brand’s mind? None other than Jemima Khan, who posted bail for Julian Assange. Forgive me for becoming even more pessimistic.

Russell Brand deserves no praise or gratitude for his participation in a blatant publicity stunt to get the heat off him a bit. He knows by now that women think he is a sexist bellend and has made a rather pisspoor effort at trying to deflect this criticism. Whether you support No More Page 3 or not, there is no reason to fawn over Russell Brand for this tweet. Let time be the judge of whether he has changed or not.