Things I read this week that I found interesting

A bumper round-up this week–fortnight?–I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did.

Not another death: Black Lives Matter (Wail Qasim)- This won’t take you long to read so you have no excuse not to.

The Results Are in Open Letter (The people of Ferguson)- Read the words of protesters in Ferguson to see what they’re calling for.

Tamir Rice: Not a boy with a toy in a park, but a black male with a gun (Nick O’Malley)- On the fuckery surrounding the killing of Tamir Rice.

So You Can Fuck Us; What’s Next? Going Beyond Sex With Trans Women (Luna)- A must-read for cis partners of trans women and, indeed, all cis people.

Bill Cosby and the rape accusers: stop looking away and start believing women (Roxane Gay)- Shit that shouldn’t need to be said, said well.

Sartorial Misogyny, Feminist Concern Trolling, and the “Little Things” in Science and Everywhere (Melissa McEwan)- A good explanation of why a misogynistic shirt warn during the landing of a comet matters.

‘We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off’ (Al Jazeera)- Africans explain what’s so offensie about Band Aid.

Why I had to turn down Band Aid (Fuse ODG)- A black artist explains why he couldn’t be involved.

Trans people have 99 problems, and Facebook is just one (Emmagene Cronin)- On the problems with Facebook’s real name policy.

Why I will never make love, not porn. (Sometimes It’s Just A Cigar)- Excellent article from Jem on performance and sex and BDSM.

Sam Harris and “New Atheists” aren’t new, aren’t even atheists (Reza Aslan)- Exploring the history of the ideologies of Dawkins et al.

Everything I Know About Relationships I Learned From Computer Games (Kitty Stryker)- Touchingly geeky.

I believe all victims of racism (Sam Ambreen)- Sam reflects on the Linda Henry case.

Unable to speak. (Sometimes Its Just A Cigar)- A second article this round-up from Jem. This one examines how survivors often have difficulty speaking out at the time, and how that must not be seen as evidence of lying.

And finally, this golden retriever is my patronus.

I believe Shia LaBeouf (and Piers Morgan is a rape apologist rat turd)

Content note: This post discusses rape and rape apologism, as well as mental health stigma

Actor Shia LaBeouf said in an interview recently that during a piece of performance art, he had been raped by a woman. I believe him. I believe when people say they have been raped, that they have been raped. I believe survivors.

To tackle rape culture, this is a position from which we must all start. Unfortunately, there are too many with a vested interest in keeping rape culture alive to see an outpouring of support for Shia LaBeouf. Instead, what we see is a gleeful rush of dismissal and disbelief, focusing on how LaBeouf wasn’t acting as they thought a survivor should, that he must be making it up for attention, that je seems kind of crazy, that it’s impossible for a woman to rape a man. Tired old tropes, the lot of them.

What is particularly sickening is the glee with which Shia LaBeouf’s story is dismissed. It’s like rape apologists have finally been presented with a target for the vile thoughts bubbling up within them, knowing that they’re no longer “allowed” to say these things about women because of the evil SJW conspiracy, but not realising that what they believe is truly repulsive, regardless of the gender of its target.

Last night, the rape apologist agenda was given validation in the form of a high-profile backer, as Piers Morgan told his millions of followers not to believe LaBeouf:

Piers Morgan  @piersmorgan    Twitter

You’ll see here that leaking shitcanoe Morgan is focusing on some tiresome and long-discredited tropes: that LaBeouf didn’t report to the police and that he didn’t follow the Good Survivor™ script that we must all follow in order to be believed. While a gratifyingly large number of decent people called him out, there was a worrisomely large proportion of men cheering him on.

It’s absolutely abominable that somebody can dictate to millions the reasons not to believe a survivor. I had thought Piers Morgan to be an unwanted fart in a small room before, but now I see that he is something far more dangerous: he is a man who wants rapists to be able to continue raping.

The whole response to LaBeouf has laid bare the faces of rape culture. Each undue focus on how LaBeouf acts weird and crazy so shouldn’t be believed makes life easier for rapists: people with mental health problems are more likely to be raped precisely because they are less likely to be believed. Each repetition of the myth that someone with a vagina cannot rape someone with a penis is a complete nonsense, and makes it easier for rapists to thrive. Each cry that LaBeouf did not report to the police is a slap in the face of the vast majority of survivors who also did not report.

I’m surprised–and disappointed–that there aren’t more people outraged about all of this. It seems, once again, that it’s only feminists talking about it. Is it really true that we are the only ones who care about dismantling rape culture? I hope not, with all of my heart, but I fear that this may be the case.

Why I’m not brimming with confidence over Theresa May’s plans to criminalise emotional abuse

Content note: This post discusses emotional abuse

In the latest in a string of policies which sound good and are incredibly cheap to implement, Theresa May will announce plans to put emotional abuse on a par with physical domestic violence. This sounds like nothing to object to, a long-awaited recognition of the seriousness of the coercive dynamics which so often sustain abusive relationships and hit survivors hard.

There is a catch, though, and it’s a catch which means I severely doubt that any perpetrators will find themselves prosecuted for something they have blatantly done: the whole thing hinges on telling the police.

The way the police tend to work is through talking about what happened. You list specific incidents. This happened, and then this happened, and then that happened. Imagine having to do this as a survivor of emotional abuse!

The very clever thing about emotional abuse, the thing that really helps abusers keep things going is how petty it sounds if you recount a blow-by-blow history of what happened to you. I’ve never gone into detail about what I experienced in an emotionally abusive relationship, because under the flicker of gaslight, it all sounds rather ridiculous. I could tell you all about some drama involving a duvet or how I needed to watch what my face was doing during sex, but to be quite honest, I’m embarrassed to speak about these things, because everything would require so much detailed explanation of the entire context, and when boiled down to a story it still all sounds quite trivial.

Emotional abuse is a pattern which is hard to explain, and reinforced by abusers making you feel like everything is silly and you’re overreacting.

I wouldn’t explain what happened to me in an incident-specific format to a friend. Hell, it took a lot of time for me to open up about these things to a therapist because they sounded so probably-nothing to me. So why the fuck would I want to speak to a hostile police officer about all of this? The police are known to suck at talking to vulnerable women at the best of times, and this is a situation which is so intrinsically delicate that I cannot imagine any survivors wanting to take the leap and report to the cops. The effects and mechanisms of emotional abuse just present too much of a barrier to this happening.

What would actually help survivors of emotional abuse a lot more is one of the strongest weapons against abusers: knowledge for everyone. Emotional abuse is so little-understood, and that needs to change. An informed populace, with the level of knowledge about what emotional abuse is and the understanding that sometimes what sounds trivial and petty is anything but, could join forces with survivors against abusers. It would be so much easier to fight emotional abuse if we started from a position of supporting and believing survivors, knowing that what might sound like nothing is probably something, especially if she’s taken the step of speaking out.

It would all be so much easier if we could see the difference between little squabbles and emotional abuse, but the problem is that our culture normalises coercive control in relationships to the point that these things are indistinguishable to us. Survivors know the difference, and we should listen to them.

I don’t expect the government to get working on tackling emotional abuse in a way that would actually work, any more than they tackle other forms of violence against women. I have no faith in them; they’re not the route. So we must hack around them, supporting survivors in the way that they want us to.

On Ched Evans, rehabilitation and my total lack of pity

Content warning: this post discusses rape

Ched Evans has finally been dropped from training with Sheffield United, about a month too late. Current scientific instruments cannot measure my pity for him, but it is estimated that I do not give a single solitary femtofuck about his career prospects.

Defenders of the rapist found themselves turning into bleeding-heart liberals, suddenly caring about the rehabilitation of Ched Evans, a strange sight from some of the most deeply conservative shitbags I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. However, it is obvious that these statements were made in bad faith: all these squawking rape-fans want is for Evans to slip back into his high-profile career unscathed. Rehabilitation–actual rehabilitation–does not even feature on their agendas.

What does rehabilitation look like, then? First things first, let us note that our justice system is not exactly set up for a justice surrounding rehabilitation, it operates at mostly a retributive level. We brand prisons as a place for rehabilitation, but that is merely PR, and any rehabilitation that happens within their walls is purely an accident. Rehabilitation itself begins with something very important: the acceptance that you did something wrong.

The rapist Ched Evans has not done this. He continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong. He continues to throw money at futile appeals while his lawyers laugh all the way to the bank. He leads an army of rape apologist trolls, and remains tight-lipped in challenging them on their harassment of women, and the rape threats they make. Ched Evans hasn’t changed a bit. He’d probably do it again if he had the chance. He has learned precisely nothing.

Because of this, he simply cannot be held up as a role model. Sheffield United made the right decision in dropping him (eventually). I do not pity this rapist for losing a prestigious job; it’s what’s best for the community at large. It shows that unrepentant rapists are unacceptable. We’d probably be having a radically different conversation had Evans just owned what he did, speak out about how disgusting raping women who are too drunk to consent is, apologised and showed some change. Evidence of rehabilitation might, perhaps, mean it could be appropriate for him to continue in a high-profile career.

I don’t pity Ched Evans at all for losing this opportunity. His downfall was entirely of his own making. He chose to shut down and tell a generation of young men that he doesn’t think raping a woman who is too drunk to consent is really rape. He chose to protest his innocence when he is patently guilty as sin. And, most importantly, he made a choice to rape. 

So I wish Ched Evans a lifetime of mediocrity, a footnote whose name is inherently associated with being a rapist. I wish him nothing, humdrum tedium as the world forgets him. I wish him luck at kickabouts in the park with middle-aged dads. I wish him a dull but regular job. I wish him complete unremarkability, with no influence on anyone.

Ched Evans deserves no pity. He was never hard-done-by: if anything, he had it all too easy.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Is it Sunday already? It’s Sunday, isn’t it. Guess what? I read some things, and I found them interesting and now I’m sharing them because perhaps you’ll find them interesting too.

On Pins and Needles: Stylist Turns Ancient Hairdo Debate on Its Head (WSJ)- Read the story of a hairdresser who succeeded where archaeologists failed, and then watch her videos so you can recreate ancient hairstyles.

An open letter to Turn off the red light. (everyday whorephobia)- Challenging a very dangerous meme. I have signed this letter in agreement.

Dear Parent: About THAT kid… (Miss Night’s Marbles)- Moving article from a teacher who clearly cares about her children.

Kim Kardashian: The Butt of an Old Racial Joke (Blue Telusma)- Examining the context of Kim Kardashian’s photoshoot.

Gabrielle Union’s response to Leaked Nude Photos (Gabrielle Union)- A very powerful piece about when 4Chan stole images.

The Case Of Pansexuality 101 And The Sea Of Biphobia And Gender Erasure. (Consider The Tea Cosy)- Challenging biphobia from the pansexual community.

A-Z of dealing with and recognising abuse. (It Is I Who Will It)- A very useful, go-to resource.

How we tried to prevent incidents at a hacker camp, why we expected not to succeed, and how we failed. (DrCable)- A reflective post on safer spaces policy, what worked, and what didn’t. These are the sort of challenges we can build from.

American Horror Story’s Mat Fraser won’t star in your “inspiration porn” (AV Club)- A disabled actor talks representation.

Why I Stood Up To A Sexual Predator “Pick-Up Artist” and How We Took Him Down (Jennifer Li)- Excellent activism.

On misogyny in the gay community (Nicole Froio)- A personal account of something a lot of women may recognise.

How did the first world war actually end? (Paul Mason)- A history lesson in workers’ struggle.

GamerGate’s Perception of Women (Katherine Cross)- A series of tweets hitting the nail on the head.

And finally, look! It’s a little otter having its playtime! And it’s making little squeaky baby otter noises. And playing. And if this doesn’t make you happy, you have a heart of stone.

Sheffield United need to listen up: rape is not acceptable

Content note: this post discusses rape and rape apologism

At the time of writing, Sheffield United are still refusing to make a definitive statement on whether they will re-sign the rapist Ched Evans to the club. This decision is looking more bizarre by the day, as a scramble to disassociate from the enterprise begins. It started with patron Charlie Webster, and then two others followed. Shirt sponsors soon joined, and now Jessica Ennis-Hill, who has a stand named after her at Bramall Lane, wants her name removed if the rapist is re-signed. It seems bizarre, therefore, that United haven’t come out and distanced themselves to a different country than Evans.

There is likely a certain level of cynicism, at least among some of those pulling away from Sheffield United: a fear of negative publicity for their brand rather than a genuine commitment to ending rape culture. No business wants to be known as “that rape company” upon their logo being proudly displayed on the shirt of a convicted rapist. However, some seem to be putting across good messages, like Charlie Webster, who explained:

There can be no doubt that Evans is influencing a young generation of men who are still developing their opinions on how to treat women. They develop these opinions and morals based on the role models they see around them, the role models that we give them. I cannot publicly support a club that presents a convicted rapist as a role model.

These young men are standing by their hero, showing him unwavering solidarity and support, without actually understanding or really thinking about what Evans has done. But we are the ones who set Evans up an influencer. We are the ones presenting a convicted rapist a role model to our young people. Is that ok?

This is the crux of the matter. Every second United delay sending a clear message that they have no intention of re-signing Evans allows yet more young men think that they can rape someone, and, on the very unlikely chance they get caught, it will present little more than a small blip in an otherwise glamorous career.

Given that on the current landscape, signing a convicted rapist makes terrible business sense, one can only assume that this is exactly the game Sheffield United are playing. It’s becoming abundantly clear that this is what they want, to nurture the next generation of young rapists into comfortable , well-paid lives.

A common myth among rape apologists is that an accusation of rape can ruin a man’s life. Nowhere is this shown more obviously to be false than when we look to Ched Evans. This man is a convicted rapist, and his club have bent over backwards to accommodate him, against the forces of general business acumen. Evans still enjoys an army of loyal defenders of rape, willing to trumpet that even though he was convicted of rape it wasn’t really rape. I do not think this whole affair has taught Ched Evans nothing. It’s taught him and the men that he influences that yes, you really can get away with it.

Fortunately, there are enough people out there who don’t want this to happen, and can see these ramifications as clear as day. Our voices are growing louder, and it looks as though this time, it might just be winnable. Surely Sheffield United must know by now that if they don’t kick that convicted rapist soon, they’ll go down with him?

If they haven’t realised it by now, I’ll gladly watch them burn.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Welp. Here we are again. You know the drill.

The Backlash Against White Supremacy (Sam Ambreen)- Sam walks us through the current state of play.

An Open Letter To People Calling For “Neutrality” (Quinnspiracy)- Zoe Quinn points out what ‘neutrality’ means in the ongoing GG fiasco.

Why criminalising gender abortions is sinister and wrong (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- This should be required reading.

On Lena Dunham and Consent (Melissa McEwan)- An excellent and nuanced read.

Work Programme adviser: ‘Almost every day one of my clients mentioned feeling suicidal’ (Melissa Viney)- The horrible situation going on in the Work Programme, particularly for disabled people, exposed.

Women of Colour and Media: Stereotypes, Controlling Images and Structural Violence (Gradient Lair)- Short, digestible read naming the problem.

And finally, cat pictures. Fuckloads of fucking cat pictures.

On Lena Dunham

Content note: this post discusses child sexual abuse and quotes an account from the perspective of an abuser

Over the last few days, a right wing news site published something readers of Lena Dunham’s book “Not That Kind Of Girl” with better politics probably should have noticed: in her essays, Dunham describes some incidents which could potentially amount to her sexually abusing her baby sister. This includes bribing the child in order to gain some sort of gratification:

“three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds . . . anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”

Inspecting her genitals in a way which goes beyond general child curiosity (and I question whether a one year old baby has the manual dexterity to perform this “prank”; it’s possible that maybe by “vagina” Dunham means “vulva” here):

“One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.

My mother came running. “Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!”

My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.”

Dunham also describes masturbating in bed beside the child, who would have been pre-pubescent if Dunham was 17 years old at the time. From Dunham’s own words, incidents like this were ongoing and took place over years.

It is important to note that these quotes were not fabricated by some shadowy right wing conspiracy, but, rather, came from Lena Dunham herself. On some level, Dunham must have known the behaviour was inappropriate, since she herself compared it to a sexual predator.

Defenders of Dunham–and Dunham herself–have rejected claims that these behaviours were in any way abusing, using a two-pronged method. First, they are focusing on the source of the first media outlet to pick up on how concerning the behaviour Dunham confessed to was. They behave as though this is merely a right-wing issue, and these are the only people criticising Dunham, when in fact the vast majority of what I have seen has come from feminists, women, survivors. All these complaints are being erased, swept under the rug to form a narrative that it’s only bad people who have a problem with what Dunham said. That is categorically untrue.

Second, and more worryingly, Dunham’s defenders are trivialising this as something which is merely normal, healthy, childish exploration of bodies, and a normal, healthy way for children to interact with one another. Again, this is not true. Child-on-child sexual abuse exists, and some of what Dunham said, particularly pertaining to the bribery on a much younger child,can be described in this way. Ultimately, there is only one person who can say with any certainty whether she perceived this behaviour as abusive or not, and it is Grace Dunham herself–who, if she sees it this way, is a survivor of child-on-child sexual abuse. I do not expect her to come out against her famous sister, in front of worldwide media and out herself as a survivor: she seems to be a private person who objects to being a character in her sister’s soap operas (Grace once said “Without getting into specifics, most of our fights have revolved around my feeling like Lena took her approach to her own personal life and made my personal life her property.”)

However, it is very important that the abusive nature of this behaviour is not erased. While Grace Dunham may not see herself as a victim, a lot of people who have had similar experiences do. When Dunham’s defenders categorically state that it is impossible for this to be abuse, it is a slap in the face for survivors of child sexual abuse and child-on-child sexual abuse across the world. They will see it, and they will feel completely invalidated when they are already engaged in a daily struggle for recognition and acceptance of their own histories. Survivors’ stories will resemble this one, and they see it as abuse. The defences coming out for Dunham could very easily harm survivors, and lead to further pain and possibly even deaths.

It is therefore crucial that we do not deny that behaviours like this can ever be abusive. It is essential that throughout this storm we support survivors and do not act as though this is all a normal part of development. If any survivors have been negatively affected by what’s going on in the media over the last few days, here are some resources that might help you.

White feminism has a nasty history of rallying around abusers, and this needs to stop immediately. It’s so important that we listen to survivors and put their needs first.

Tomorrow, MPs will restrict your abortion rights

Tomorrow, MPs are voting on a bill to ban sex-selective abortion, and it looks very likely to go through. After all, this bill has certain mass appeal. Isn’t it terrible that baby girls are aborted? Isn’t it a feminist issue to stop that?

Of course it is, but not by whacking further restrictions on reproductive freedom. What we need to do is value girls. What we need to do is overturn patriarchy. What we need to do is a whole lot of fucking work, and it’s much easier for liberals to side with the womb-bothering creeps and restrict access to abortion.

The thing about abortion rights is we don’t need to agree with the choice being made. All we need to do is ensure that abortions happen safely, and this can only happen if the law allows it. Nobody should need to give a reason beyond “I don’t want to be pregnant any more, and I understand what this procedure entails”.

MPs are doing the exact opposite of this. They are playing on our racism to make it acceptable to restrict abortion rights for certain reasons.

If you have a little time today, try writing to or phoning your MP. Be loud about this in public, explain why you don’t agree with this invasive bill. Share links explaining why it is a bad idea. Make a lot of noise, because it’s our right to govern our own bodies freely that’s at stake here.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

I read things. I find them interesting. I hope you do too.

Against Carceral Feminism (Victoria Law)- Excellent long read on the state and violence against women.

The Connecting Threads (truthout)- Comic series illustrating links between the garment industry and the rescue industry.

Why thousands of satisfied racists are sharing that viral catcalling video (Lindy West)- On that video and why it’s popular among racists.

The claims against Jian Ghomeshi show we still need to talk about sexual consent (Kitty Stryker)- One of the best comment pieces on this whole sorry mess.

do you know about jian (Nothing In Winnipeg)- On dealing with predators.

Ending Gender Assignment at Birth Would Liberate all People (Daniel Borgen)- A compelling case for a very radical demand.

Learning difficulties, signing on for JSA and hoping for a merciful jobcentre adviser (Kate Belgrave)- A heartbreaking look at the current state of affairs.

(The long awaited) Polyamory and Activism theory (Angry For A Reason)- This is old, but still very, very relevant as the problems are ongoing.

Gender Neutral/Queer Titles (Gender Queeries)- Not sure how to address someone gender-neutrally? Here’s a handy guide.

Supporting Someone Through An Abortion (Because I’m A Woman)- A guide to actually being helpful.

Putting feet on the ground (kojothelibsoc)- On powerful solidarity with friends and families of victims of police violence.

Xbox Live Demands (Julia Lepetit)- How I want it to go down when men ask to be made a sandwich.

London’s Housing Boom (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- Reni summarises the housing situation in London.

And finally, shhh. This little hummingbird is asleep and omg the snoring.