2014 in review

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence and police violence

And so we reach the end of the year, and despite promising myself I wouldn’t do this, I am doing one of those icky “look back over the past year” kind of things, I’m doing it anyway (I was also meant to stop smoking this year, and I didn’t).

In truth, it’s been a little difficult to write this because there’s been a huge split between the personal and the political for me in 2014. In my personal life, 2014 has been brilliant. I love, and am loved. I have some financial security for the first time in my life. I managed to get quite a lot of my novel written. Everything’s coming up stavvers. It wasn’t all brilliant, of course. I wounded my fanny and got stalked by trolls.

However, 2014 has been pretty uniformly dire outside of my own personal little bubble, and I’ve had a lot to be pissed off about. Each week since the killing of Michael Brown, US cops have taken another Black life. The situation is also bad in the UK: the same pattern of killing and then lying keeps on and our pigs find ways of murdering without even having to carry guns. I haven’t commented on this much, because it’s not my place as a white woman, but I’ve almost weekly shared some content in my post round-ups which I thoroughly recommend you read. All of it. Take an afternoon.

In the UK, our political situation is looking pretty terrible, and it’s unlikely to change in the near future. With a general election looming in 2015, things are going to become completely insufferable. It’s the media’s fault, of course. The media has a fascination with leaders and white men, so we’ve been presented with two ghastly choices: do want Nigel Farage and fascism, or Russell Brand and the curse of left misogyny, God and some really badly-developed thought? One cannot move without tripping over either of these clowns. Of course, this is a false dichotomy: there’s heaps of possibilities, but a media owned by white men cannot conceptualise something which doesn’t involve dreadful white men flapping their awful mouths off.

The awful people who are already in government are making a right fucking hash of things too. We have Theresa May, determined to murder every single migrant, starting with the most vulnerable, like LGBT women. We have Iain Duncan Smith, who is trying to murder the poor through violently stopping their means of subsistence. They’ve been as nasty as ever this year, but come 2015 we’re unlikely to see any improvement even if the red party get elected.

Meanwhile, men who have been in government are emerging as paedophiles and rapists. A constantly-stalling investigation is ongoing into the child abuse rings at Westminster. Unfortunately, because cops and politicians are in each other’s pockets, corruption keeps cropping up and things grind to a halt again as yet more coverups come to light. I’m also a little concerned about the men who are still in Westminster. Nigel Evans, although cleared, was ruled even by the judge to be a complete fucking creep and were it not for his status, I suspect they may have thrown the book at him.

This has been, overall, a pretty good year for violent misogynists. Rapist Ched Evans waltzed out of prison, and, while Sheffield United chose to do the right thing (eventually) and drop him like the turd he is, it’s still entirely possible he may get to continue his illustrious career at another club, all the while continually proving he has learned nothing about consent. Shia LaBeouf spoke out about his experience of rape… to a near-universal chorus of disbelief from men. These were the sort of men who love to bring up “but men get raped too” when women talk about rape, but nonetheless failed to show any support to a male survivor. We also saw misogynist Elliot Rodger go on a killing spree while men tried to downplay the fact this was directly motivated by misogyny. Meanwhile popular left rag The Morning Star spike an article about violent misogynist Steve Hedley, because the left still hasn’t got its affairs in order there.

2014 has been very bad indeed for those of us with uteruses. In Ireland, many of us heard with horror the story of a dead woman whose body was kept on life support while her family were forced to watch her decompose because she had had the misfortune of dying while pregnant. This ghoulish act of violence was a direct result of Ireland’s absurdly restrictive abortion rights, and the judge only ruled that life support could be turned off because the foetus had no chance of surviving. Meanwhile in the UK, the situation is better, but last month our abortion rights were restricted further as sex-selective abortions were banned.

It was also a pretty bad year for sex workers, with momentum growing for the “Swedish model” which does not do anything to make the lives of sex workers safer, and many sex workers say will make things worse. Transmisogyny, too, continues to run rife, with transmisogynists turning up to picket lesbian pride parades and disrupt feminist conferences.

Alas, feminist movement and resistance is spotty at best. I am hoping, perhaps, that we can get our affairs in order in 2015, because we’re going to need to fight all the harder. For this to happen, we need to drop a lot of the crap we’ve been pulling. We need to inventory ourselves, honestly assessing what we may be doing wrong and where we are complicit in kyriarchical violence. We need to challenge violent thought where we see it, so that we may stand shoulder to shoulder with sisters of all colours, all genders, with our disabled sisters and our queer sisters and our trans sisters. Together, we are many, and we must overcome these divisions in 2015 if we are to stand a chance of winning.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Hi everyone. It’s nearly Christmas. Also, I read things and share them. Perhaps you will also find them interesting.

Policing is a Dirty Job, But Nobody’s Gotta Do It: 6 Ideas for a Cop-Free World (Jose Martin)- Envisaging a world without police and how that could work.

The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told (Clare Sambrook)- Horrible, but worth reading and sharing for how much these racist murderers walking free stinks.

Remembering Jimmy Mubenga & the International Day of Migrants (LCAPSV)- Dec 18th was International Day Of Migrants and this is what we remembered.

The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings (Lisa Hajjar)- A lesson about the history and the present.

My Son Is Black. With Autism. And I’m Scared Of What The Police Will Do To Him. (David Dennis Jr)- Heartbreaking fears of a parent.

Custard Creams Are Cheaper Than Cous Cous, But You Can’t Expect A Fucking Baroness To Know That (johnny void)- An excellent, angry piece on food and poverty.

Living The Bi Life (The Artsy Artichoke)- This comic about unicorn hunters made me chuckle.

Social Media, Online Dating and Twitter Pals: In Defence of the Internet (That Pesky Feminist)- The side of online relationships that doesn’t show up in the news very much.

#transathogwarts (storify by Scattermoon)- A collection of tweets showing how easy it would have been for JK Rowling to do representation.

We Must Stop Police Abuse of Black Men (Eric L Adams)- Another former police officer who has seen the light and knows the way forward.

4 Lies About School Dress Codes That Cover Up Their Oppressive Effects (Ellen Friedrichs)- Covers the problems with school dress codes/uniforms well.

A Brief History of Pubic Hair in Art (Chelsea G Summers)- A little history lesson.

On depression, briefly (piercepenniless)- Short, political reflections.

One Black Trans Sex Worker’s December 17th (A. Passion)- Important examination of the intersections.

10 Tips For Surviving Your First Family Holiday After Coming Out (Mari Brighe)- Useful advice for queer and trans folk on getting through the holidays, not just for the newly-out.

Halfway Out of the Dark– Signal boosting this lovely project: a blog for those of us who may need a little extra support over the holidays.

And finally, what if real life was like The Sims?

Another open letter to Russell Brand (this one’s shorter and not shit)

Dear Russell,

You’ve no doubt seen the tl;dr open letter to you, which the Indy rather bafflingly described as hilarious and the best thing I’d read today. It’s a cartoonish parody of a city worker, about as funny as a smear test and ranks only slightly lower than the HTML template I had to find an error in in terms of things I read today. Let’s be honest. We both know that pigshit helps you, precisely because the protagonist comes across so thoroughly unsympathetic and concerned about his fucking lunch. I half-wondered if you wrote it yourself: parts of it were reminiscent of your book in its tendency to ramble and repeat itself and kind of skirt around a point without ever making one.

But anyway. On to my points. First of all, let’s talk about you, Russell. I’m hardly the only one who’s sick of seeing your face leering everywhere, like Nigel Farage with unbrushed hair and an orange juice instead of a pint. You’ve rather successfully made vast swathes of movement all about you (in much the same vein that Farage has made vast swathes of different movements all about him). I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but I think you’re quite an intelligent man, Russell, so you must know that when you turn up somewhere, the meaning and the cause will be lost in a rush to photograph you. If I were in that situation, I’d stop turning up places, take on a more supportive role. I’d publicise, promote and signal boost, making the words of those I wanted to support clear rather than making it about myself. Or fuck it, if I really wanted to be there, I’d wear a mask, and slip into anonymity. You’re not doing this: you’re eclipsing the work of ordinary people organising with your fame.

It’s beginning to look rather a lot like you’re simply profiting from the hard work of others. You’ve published your booky-wook, and I hear you’re now working on a film. It’s sad, because there’s so much thought coming out from the people who are knee-deep in this, for whom the stakes are high. You could have used your connections to get them published. Hell, you could have fronted some money for printing zines. You could make this work more visible.

More broadly speaking, Russell, you’re a bit of a sticking point at the moment. See, you’ve never really let yourself be held accountable for the sexism or the racism you perpetrated in your past. You’ll notice that your supporters are predominately straight white men. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of us who would rather you weren’t around. I’m neither the only queer nor the only woman who would really rather you buggered off. Your hanging around like a bad smell is alienating: your revolution is not our revolution. Your supporters insist on unity, and for some reason that manifests as unifying around you rather than unifying against yet another rich white straight dude who fancies centring the world on himself.

I’ve read portions of your book. I know you think rapist Julian Assange is hard done by, a slap in the face for the vast number of survivors shafted by capitalism. I know you think that deep down we can all get along with homophobes like the Westboro Baptist Church, which is something most of us queers know isn’t possible. I know you still think it’s acceptable to manhandle women: I saw the way you grabbed that woman during that whole business where you were confronted by that journalist about your housing arrangements.

Basically, Russell, I’m asking you very nicely to sort your shit out or fuck the fuck off. I suspect the former might be a challenge, but I’m willing to keep an eye on you and make sure you do your stuff. Likewise, if you choose the latter, I have a very nice bin in which you can be placed.

Anyway, been nice chatting to you. Toodle-pip. xoxo

P.S. In writing this, I bet the shop I get my lunch from has sold out of hot food. And nice food.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Hi everyone. I read things and make linkdumps. Here are some things I read this week that I found interesting.

#ThisTweetCalledMyBack– Black and NDN women are striking from social media. Read their statement here.

Our die-in was about solidarity with black people suffering police brutality (London Black Revolutionaries)- Statement about the Westfield die-in which led to 76 arrests.

Being a cop showed me just how racist and violent the police are. There’s only one fix. (Redditt Hudson)- A former St Louis cop explains everything that’s wrong with his old profession.

9 Strategies For Non-Oppressive Polyamory (Janani Balasubramanian)- Poly folk, read this, and apply it.

“Some of the worst racist tragedies in history have been perfectly legal”: Kimberlé Crenshaw on Eric Garner, Broken Windows and police impunity (Kimberlé Crenshaw)- Really important analysis.

Letter from a Former Gamergater (Space Channel 6)- One guy realised the movement was full of shit. Refreshing.

on so-called radical progressive dudebros and revolution. (ashoncrawley)- If you don’t recognise who’s being talked about here, it might be you.

Police Unreality (Sam Kriss)- On the myths about cops.

Zoella Isn’t Bad for Young Girls, But Branding Her Vacuous for Liking Make Up Is (Tilly Grove)- Absolutely the best thing I’ve read about the Zoella thing.

And finally, KITTENS!

How to be a bitch this Christmas (and forever)

The festive season is upon us, which means we’re also going to get the inevitable bombardment of “safety advice” (remain indoors, ladies!), combined with an upswing of creepy men being creepy. Funnily enough, the safety advice never really focuses on this most immediate threat, the creepy men you have to spend time with, presumably because patriarchy has a vested interest in forcing women and femmefolk to remain unboundaried around these horrid creatures. To even out the balance, ever so slightly, I therefore present a safety guide that might actually help around this festive season as well as over the rest of the year.

It’s OK to be a bitch

“Bitch” is a word that is thrown at women and femmefolk when we’re not behaving as we should. We’re made to feel that being a bitch is the worst thing in the world, but as a matter of fact, it isn’t. It’s just articulating and enforcing boundaries. If you’ve made your boundaries nice and clear, chances are this will upset entitled men. They’ll call you a bitch. This is a compliment to you: you’ve put the message across to them, and now they understand it, and they hate you for it. When you get called a bitch, you’ve won. They’ve realised they’re not going to wheedle themselves into the gift of your company, and that’s a good thing.

Wear the label “bitch” with pride. Each time you hear it, absorb the power. It will make you stronger and stronger. Feel the ancient power of the bitch coursing through your veins, and let it infuse you with the strength to upset more creepy men.

Trust no man

It’s by no means unfamiliar to most of us that the man who rapes you is unlikely to be a stranger on a darkened street, but someone you know. The same also goes for any violation of boundaries. We are taught that we should trust men that we know, or else we’re bitches. We’re also taught to assume good intentions from men, or else we’re bitches. Both of these beliefs only help rapists and creeps.

I can count on one hand the number of men I trust, and all of them have only proved it over a very long time and a number of trying circumstances. The thing, I think, that allows me to trust them is knowing full well that they know that I will revoke this trust within the space of fucking seconds, never to trust them again, if they fuck up in any way.

The way we’re told to do things is all wrong. When it comes to men, start from a position of suspicion and an assumption of bad faith. Let them prove themselves. And if they hold it against you, they’ve shown themselves to definitely not be worthy of your trust.

Trust your instincts

Sometimes we feel uncomfortable around certain men, and can’t put our fingers on why. There’s just a barely tangible vibe of something not being quite right, and we just want to be as far away from that dude as possible.

Trust that instinct. I spent a very long time trying to suppress it, and each time, I was proved that my instincts were correct. If you think there’s something off about a man, you are in no way obliged to be in his company, or be alone with him, or whatever it is that doesn’t feel right to you.

If anything happens, it’s not your fault

This is a very, very important thing that cannot be said enough: when a man crosses one of your boundaries, it’s never your fault. If he rapes you, it’s not your fault. If he gropes you, it’s not your fault. If he gives you a double instead of a single, it’s not your fault. If he stands too close, and you don’t tell him to back the fuck off but it makes you uncomfortable, it’s not your fault. If he crosses a boundary you never knew you had, it’s not your fault.

When men cross lines, it’s their fault, not yours. They should have the basic responsibility to check, and not to use social circumstances to coerce. And, of course, the basic respect to stay with your boundaries.

This knowledge makes you a bitch, because you’re supposed to feel guilty and ashamed, to shift the blame on to yourself rather than on to the true perpetrator in those situations.

It’s OK to be this bitch. It’s healthy for you, it will help you heal. Be a bitch, and be a proud, strong bitch, every day of the year.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

It’s that time of the week again! Here’s a round-up of some things I read this week that I found interesting.

My Great-Great-Aunt Discovered Francium. And It Killed Her. (Veronique Greenwood)- Really interesting longread about women in science in the early twentieth century.

Risky Date (Robot Hugs)- Explaining the risk calculations we make before meeting men.

The UK’s sexist new pornography restrictions aren’t just an act of state censorship, but could be the first step towards something even worse (Myles Jackman)- Excellent deconstruction of the new regulations from a lawyer specialising in obscenity.

I write letters (Melissa McEwan)- On the importance of belief, with reference to a Rolling Stone article on campus rape.

Heterocopulative Syndrome: Clinico-Pathologic Correlation in 260 Cases (Michael Scarce)- I like heteros. Some of my best friends are straight. But they need to know the dangers of their lifestyle.

He may have unravelled DNA, but James Watson deserves to be shunned (Adam Rutherford)- On why horrible sexist racist Watson should piss off.

The Deadly Self-Pity Of The Police (Samir Chopra)- A hypothesis about how the police are how they are.

Men in makeup: lawyer by day, glamour puss by night (Sean Faye)- Refreshing to see something on queerness and masculinity in the Graun.

No, Kevin D. Williamson, sex is not a biological reality (Samantha Allen)- Shit that really shouldn’t need saying.

And finally, learn how to get internet-sexy, 1997-style.

The new online porn regulations and how they disproportionately affect women

Content note: this post discusses consensual BDSM

Today, new regulations have come into force which bans vast swathes of online porn. Fisting’s on the list, obviously, because someone at the CPS has an enormous fetish for showing juries fisting porn. So is hard impact play, simulated non-consent, urination, facesitting, and female ejaculation, among other things. The justification is that this is an attempt to bring online video under the same regulations as would apply to porn DVDs.

Which is all very well and good until you notice that these regulations are ridiculous when applied to porn DVDs too.

If we look at the list again, we see some strange things. It’s worth noting that facefucking–an activity which, when shown in porn often involves a man putting his penis in a woman’s mouth hard and fast (so basically, exactly how it sounds)–a staple of mainstream heterosexual (and often deeply misogynistic) porn isn’t on the list. It’s fine to be there on DVDs, and it’s fine online. Meanwhile, facesitting–which usually involves a woman sitting on a man’s face–is banned. So, a representation of female dominance is banned, while a representation of male dominance is perfectly legal.

Furthermore, the new guidelines explicitly say that actual consent of the performers is immaterial. What matters is how it appears. I’ve written before about the major concerns I have when dismissing real consent in porn. The consent of all involved should be a central concern, but once again, it isn’t.

It’s been pointed out that a lot of people who were, until recently, doing pretty well in the online marketplace, are femdoms, dominatrixes and dommes. These women have been independently producing their own porn, and profiting from this work, without having to rely on the male-ruled world of the mainstream porn industry and porn production. What this legislation does is strip businesswomen of their livelihood, while letting the men get on with making their commercial ventures.

If this doesn’t convince you that these guidelines are terrible, note that even female pleasure is banned under these new regulations. Female ejaculation is banned, because it is considered indistinct from urination: something anyone who has ever squirted will laugh out of town.

So, ultimately, what these new regulations have done is rip away a space for women to express alternatives to the models of sexuality we are sold, and replace all this with what a bunch of men behind closed doors have decided it’s appropriate for us to see. Unsurprisingly, what they don’t want us to be looking at or producing is us stepping out of our patriarchy-approved gender roles and onto a pair of stretched-out balls.

Update: Myles Jackman has provided a full list of what’s allowed and what isn’t. It’s worse than I thought! For example, swallowing semen is allowed, but swallowing or consuming ejaculate from a vulva isn’t!!!!!!!!!!!!!