An open letter to all men

Content note: this post discusses violence against women and misogyny

Dear men,

I’m addressing every single one of you. If you think this isn’t for you, it probably is. If you’re itching to complain that I’m making generalisations, this is definitely for you. Sit down, shut up, and maybe try not to prove me right.

It’s been in the news that Elliot Rodger murdered six people because women weren’t giving him the time of day. I’ve seen you struggling to make sense of this, putting what he did down to mental illness, or neurodiversity, or being mixed race, or even being a repressed gay man. You’ve been twisting the truth to make it seem like he’s not like you, that he’s a deviant.

You’re wrong. Elliot Rodger murdered six people because of a feeling that all men are taught to feel. Elliot Rodger murdered six people because he felt entitled to sex and emotional labour from women. Elliot Rodger murdered six people because, like all men, he was taught he had every right to feel angry at not getting his own way.

We were all born and raised under patriarchy. These beliefs about men and women are prevalent. You can trace a direct line between that sense of entitlement and Elliot Rodger murdering six people. You can also trace this direct line between that sense of entitlement and much of the other violence men inflict upon women: the rapes, the beatings, the random acts of street harassment.

By now, your fingers are probably twitching with the urge to scream NOT ALL MEN ARE LIKE THIS. I can almost feel your agitation, and your desire to say this. Guess what? That desire to burst in and announce NOT ALL MEN is tied in to that self-same sense of entitlement. You say it because you feel entitled to my time and attention. You say it because it horrifies you that I might feel negatively to you and you want to show off what a nice guy you really are.

Last night, I talked about this on Twitter, and was deluged with men screaming NOT ALL MEN. Take a look at your brothers. Take a look at the level of misogyny seeping from all men who screech NOT ALL MEN.

It’s easier to say that not all men think like Elliot Rodger, because that stops you having to worry about structural misogyny. You can pretend to yourself that you’re a special snowflake who is above all of that. The truth is frightening: sure, you probably haven’t murdered anyone, but that doesn’t mean that you have a hell of a lot in common with that mass murderer. Instead of trying to distance yourself from Elliot Rodger, you need to take a long and hard inventory of the things that make you alike. Only then can you kill the Elliot Rodger inside your head.

I’m sick of you men whinging that you’re not all like this. Every time you do, it makes you seem all the more similar to me, a writhing mass of entitled misogyny. You need to accept this problem that you have and solve it rather than continuing along this path. End your complicity now.

NOTE ON COMMENTS: I’ve not been moderating comments like I usually do, because they all kind of prove me right. Content note for misogyny, racism and disablism because men are pigs.

Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

So, I didn’t do a round-up last week, because it was my birthday. This is hardly a bumper issue of round-up either, because I have some good life news: I have a job for the next few months. And as part of my job, I’m going to encourage you all to get angry about who owns the media: the power is horribly concentrated among a few very rich people, which is why it all sucks so hard. You can read about the full extent of the problem here, and if it pisses you off, sign and share this petition to get the issue on the agenda in Europe.

Back to your regularly scheduled link round-up of some things I read.

I was arrested 75 times: how violent policing destroys mental health (Emily Apple)- Must-read article on a sadly all-too-common policing tactic.

Why Ed Miliband (and almost everyone else) defended Nigel Farage as “not-racist” (justinthelibsoc)- A reminder of the general structural racism of politics.

Anti-Fascism One Year On From The Lee Rigby Murder (South London Anti Fascists)- A short examination of the current state of affairs, and what we need to respond to.

Not All Men, a Villanelle (Ideology)- Basically says what we’re all thinking, jauntily.

Strategic misogyny– Initiative collating stories of sexism in academia.

Please don’t describe my work as ‘eloquent’ (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- Reni explains the racism and classism underlying the word “eloquent”.

The Dangers of a Single Book Cover: The Acacia Tree Meme and “African literature” (Africa is a Country)- I hadn’t noticed this racist trope until this article put it across really neatly.

On bell, Beyonce’, and Bullshit (Crunk Feminist Collective)- This post nails it and you should read it.

Why we can’t have nice things: A Gender Week post-mortem (Roz Kaveney)- Roz looks at what went wrong.

Breaking Barriers: Why I’m Just Not Angry at HIV+ Porn (Kitty Stryker)- An excellent post on porn and stigma and STIs.

My speech for the Manchester IDAHOBIT vigil (Jen Tumblring)- Always worth remembering biphobia exists.

While Writing for ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ I Realized I Am Gay (Lauren Morelli)- Rather touching coming-out story.

Brain studies find that concern for justice and equality is linked to logic, not emotion. (Lisa Wade)- Short overview of the science. Worth noting that even if it had turned out this was driven by emotion it wouldn’t make it any less valid.

And finally, a livestream of some kittens named after Douglas Adams characters. Look at their tiny noses!

Not that bollocks about trigger warnings again

That argument about trigger warnings has popped up again, and I feel compelled to write about it again.

This time, the nexus of nonsense seems to be around putting trigger warnings on classic books, with university students asking for this concession to be made. It seems like a reasonable and trivial request, but this hasn’t stopped the commentariat nonsensically screaming censorship.

Let’s start with the obvious: warning that a book contains content likely to cause trauma is not the same as censorship. Do these hacks sit in the cinema, harrumphing about Big Brother when the BBFC certificate pops up and announces that the film will contain scenes of violence? Do they switch off their TV in a rage and write a column about censorship when the announcer points out that there will be an abuse storyline in the next episode of Hollyoaks? How does one even live like this? The only way one can make an argument that content warnings are akin to censorship is if one doesn’t know what censorship is.

And of course, every time this argument rears its head, we see the same ridicule thrown around by privileged journalists. They are mocking people who have survived trauma. They are mocking people who live with mental illness. They are mocking a strategy which helps people to stay alive. That’s the crux of it: putting a trigger warning on something takes only ten seconds of your time, and can mean the world to other people.

I have yet to see a compelling argument against trigger warnings/content warnings that isn’t nonsensical and, at its heart, completely and utterly disablist. It’s selfish and puerile to kick against them, and largely makes you look like a complete bellend. I applaud the widening of the application of trigger warnings: it’s about time they hit the mainstream.

In which I write something for Mental Health Awareness Week

I suppose it’s a great irony that I’ve been having trouble writing something for Mental Health Awareness Week because I’ve been a bit too mental. For most of the week I’ve been bumming around, oscillating between numbness and pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist which helped significantly. Now I’m trying to write something around the theme of anxiety–this year’s theme–and I am niggled by gnawing worries that what I have to say is probably somewhat fraudulent, that I’m hardly an authority to talk on this, that I’m probably just pretending and and and and

I think it’s safe to say that I get anxiety, and it’s fucking awful. It used to manifest as a collection of largely somatic symptoms in combination with the odd fleeting sensation of “Oh fuck, I’m doomed”. This was particularly bad around the time I quit my PhD. I’d puke. A lot. Even when I wasn’t puking, I could always feel it there, in my guts, twisting them about. I’d also get weirder stuff. Once, every memorable mosquito bite I’d ever had decided to rise back up on my body. It was itchy as all fuck. I remember someone being annoyed by it and handing me an antihistamine. The things went back down before the tablet had even hit my stomach. That was good, I suppose, though it kind of proved to me just how powerful my mind was.

This stopped after I had some mindfulness therapy. I learned, through meditation, to climb into my guts and untie them. Since I had that treatment, the somatic problems mostly went away. Unfortunately, things got worse in other places, because six sessions is nowhere near enough to fix everything.

The symptoms shifted to my mind. Quitting my PhD alleviated some of the problem, because I didn’t have that big horrible insurmountable thing hanging over me any more, but I still have a lot of things to validly feel “oh fuck, I’m doomed” about. And my god, I do. I sometimes wake up far too early, worrying about how I know waking up far too early is really bad for my epilepsy. A lot of the time, a reminder of how economically fucked I am will pop into my head and I’ll end up having every negative thought it’s possible to have all at once. There’s little things people will do that remind me of other things nasty people who did bad things to me did that can ruin my day. I find myself making sure I do things in even numbers because odd numbers make me feel funny and bad.

All in all, I’m not convinced mindfulness worked very well for me, and certainly not in the paltry six sessions I was given.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. This is all ongoing as I manage the best I can to keep on living. My friends know to offer me two biscuits rather than one. I’m able to do certain things that distract myself: things that require lots of concentration, or things that are fun, or, ideally both. I like to be around people I know as much as I can: if not physically, then digitally. Talking to people about any old rubbish is significantly better than listening to the chattering within my brain.

I suppose if there’s any sort of take-home message, it’s this: anxiety really fucking sucks. It blows. It’s kind of a thing which a lot of people get, often in tandem with other problems too, and the way it affected me is the way it affects some others. The way we talk about mental health often has a requirement to end with the “and then I did this and it got better”, except for a lot of people it doesn’t. It gets tolerable. You find ways to function. You choreograph a dance with your own problems and counter its steps with your own things that work. And I have found mine, sort of.

Things I read last week that I found interesting

A little late on the weekly round-up and also I didn’t read much so here’s a picture of me in a fedora to make up for it.




Fatphobia: A Guide for the Disbeliever (Kitty Stryker)- A comprehensive, go-to guide on what fatphobia is.

Everyone is an expert on Nigeria now (Audiophile Life)- On white Western people and #BringBackOurGirls

So… farewell then, Jessie J (Louise Carolin)- Good piece on Jessie J and bisexuality.

#everyBODYisflawless (GabiFresh)- Gorgeous body positivity.

Fast tracking Mental Health Social Work (Fighting Monsters)- Pretty thorough explanation as to why the government fucked up.

Notes From A Queer Engineer: Can Inanimate Objects Be Sexist? (Laura Mandanas)- Really cool piece on how inanimate objects can favour certain bodies and brains.

And finally, ever wondered what the neo-Maoist Posadist view of the Chuckle Brothers is? Wonder no more.



Poly Means Many: From within

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 This month’s topic is misconceptions and judgments

One of the main reasons I write about my love life on a monthly basis is because I’m aware by society’s standards it’s a little on the unusual side, and I sort of want to demystify it. This month, the Poly Means Many project is revisiting the idea of misconceptions and judgments that people tend to make. Last time, I wrote about the overlap between this and biphobia.

This time, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the stuff that goes on within our own community and the gross oversimplifications that often pop out of our mouths when we’re defending ourselves, and the side of our community that is presented to the public.

Polynormativity” was a term I found really useful when I learned it: an umbrella term for the media-sanctioned brand of polyamory that you’ll generally see in the lifestyle sections of the paper. It’s the kind straight-man-bi-women arrangement with built-in hierarchies, where everyone’s cute and white and it’s definitely not all about the sex because they are going to have babies and a nice house. When your average non-poly person thinks of poly, this is kind of thing that springs to mind, and it’s a nice thing to present because very few people are going to have much of a problem with it, as it maps on to the generally socially-accepted life trajectories.

Now, it’s not like these relationships don’t exist. Hell, they do, in buckets. And it’s why a lot of the time I don’t get on well with poly men, who will often want to crowbar me, sooner or later, into that sort of arrangement. This isn’t necessarily just how poly relationships are presented, this is how a lot of people expect and want them to work, and because it’s so normalised, it’s sometimes not even negotiated. That is absolutely and categorically not OK. We as a community need to just as aware–if not more so–as mainstream mono society of the dangers of assumptions and avoid making them. 

I definitely feel like sometimes I get judged from within the community for my rejection of a lot of polynormative values. As I wrote last month, I reject the relationship escalator, which means the babies and the nice house are something to which I definitely do not aspire. And for me, a lot of it is about the sex. I am a powerfully sexual person. I like sex. I love sex. I love having sex with lots of beautiful and amazing people, sometimes all at the same time. I have literally been accused of commitment phobia from poly people for how I conduct my relationships.

The poly umbrella is a diverse community, and because of this, we need to avoid making judgments about how others within our community live. This can be hard: we are all, after all, unlearning all the wrong things we were taught about love and sex and relationships. And we’re getting good at how they apply to ourselves as individuals, but not so much when we meet someone who does things differently. The thing is, there’s enough judgment coming from outside our community. This is not the fault of those of us who fail to meet up to mainstream society’s definition of almost-normal.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone. I read things and I found them interesting, and I am showing you some links. Maybe you’ll find the interesting too. None of them are related to Star Wars.

Gender Performance: The TransAdvocate interviews Judith Butler (Cristan Williams)- Ever wondered what Judith Butler thinks of TERfs? Wonder no more.

Jeremy Clarkson, UKIP, and badges of honour. (Musa Okwonga)- Musa writes beautifully on the terms of debating racism in the UK.

17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex (Julianne Ross)- Very simple and excellent point-by-point piece.

7 Reasons ‘Radical’ Publishers are Getting OWNED by the Internet (James Butler)- Old publishing is fucked, and here’s why.

Race shatters the idea of a shared female experience (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- A light in the otherwise relentless shitfest of the Feminist Times’s #GenderWeek.

Class is to gender what a tube map is to London (Roz Kaveney)- The only other FT GenderWeek post worth reading.

Is the DOJ Forcing Banks to Terminate the Accounts of Porn Stars? (Mary O’Hara)- Something fishy seems to be going on in the US. Read all about it.

Elsa and Trans Iconography: The Snow Queen’s Gloves Come Off (aiofeschatology)- A very interesting reading of Disney’s Frozen.

And finally, more honest Daily Mail headlines.

On mother’s names and marriage certificates

Let me start by saying I don’t just have a problem with every feminist petition on change dot org. Heck, I’ve linked to a fair few in my time. I just have an issue with a certain streak of liberal feminism, the high-profile sound and noise which makes a big media impact because even if a campaign is won, nothing will change.

The latest of this ilk that has bothered me is a petition to put mothers’ names on marriage certificates as well as fathers’. As with much of this brand of feminism, on the face of it, it sounds perfectly reasonable, a step towards equality. However, what this all fails to understand is what marriage actually is. Historically, marriage is a political arrangement, to join bloodlines. It is a relic of a patrilineal society, and by existing, it continues to keep the old ways alive. It comes as no surprise, then, that it is only fathers on the marriage certificate, because it is only fathers who matter throughout the way we frame lineage. Lineage itself is very literally patriarchal.

Let us imagine for a second that this campaign was won–which seems plausible given it’s such a minor tweak to the system. The mother’s name now appears on a marriage certificate. But who’s name is the mother’s name? Odds are, it won’t be hers. If your mother married your father and took his name, then she has his name. If your mother has her “own” last name for any reason, that comes from her father or some other male ancestor. This is how lineage works: as women, almost all of us have names conferred on us by men, save for the very few who are awesome enough to carve out their own true names. Therefore, to put a mother’s name on a marriage certificate is simply to add more detail about the male line.

There are far better uses for our time. I ought to remind readers at this point that I am far more in favour of completely abolishing marriage than I am of reforming it to make it marginally more inclusive. I think we should solve the problems which require people to marry: to preserve immigration status, to confer next-of-kin status, and various tax and income perks. Make it easy to do these things without marriage, then grind the whole patriarchal institution into dust. Stop the state from dictating how we form families, and create something beautiful and new.

I realise I’m an idealist here, and so I also offer a more pragmatic solution to equality on marriage certificates: do away with naming parents entirely. It’s bizarre and dated that, in 2014, one still needs to mention who owned those getting married before a transfer of ownership. Why not get rid of this archaic requirement entirely?

This would have more benefits than adding a mother’s name. There are a lot of people who are estranged from their parents, for good reasons. Their parents are irrelevant to their lives, so why should there be any need to acknowledge their existence simply to get married? There are benefits for everyone in getting rid of parents’ names on marriage certificates: it chips away, ever so gently, at the patrilineal foundations of marriage itself. This is also just as easy a minor tweak to marriage as putting another name on the certificate.

And maybe after we’ve done that, we can abolish marriage completely?