Bored now: Communiques from the Vampire Castle

I don’t doubt that many of you who follow “left” politics will have come across Mark Fisher’s essay “Exiting the Vampire Castle“. I would like to say how grateful I am to Fisher for writing it. His analysis is so far off the mark throughout that it manages to lay bare major problems which plague our organising, and  has empowered those whose analysis serves to justify these problems to make themselves known. It shows us a movement which is desperate for leaders, any leaders, who must be above criticism. It shows us a movement where any woman who asks to be treated as a human must be bourgeois, even as a millionaire white man somehow qualifies as authentically working class. It shows us a movement which uses pseudotheory to validate threatened entitlement and maintain a status quo. I could at this point compare this shambling, dated mess intent on cannibalising class solidarity to the point it only extends to white men to a zombie; I shan’t because this debate is already saturated with mythical beasts.

At any rate, some good writing highlighting the myriad problems has emerged. I have little to add to this discourse, so will link to the critiques. I will add more as I find them. All of these are worth reading, as this analysis is so poor that there are many facets to critique.

B-grade politics and reaction (Angela Mitropoulos)

K-Punk and the Vampire’s Castle (Not Just The Minutiae)

Brocialism (Recording Surface)

All hail the vampire-archy: what Mark Fisher gets wrong in ‘Exiting the vampire castle’ (Ray Filar)

Vampires aren’t actually real, though. Class is: a reply to Mark Fisher’s castle of bollocks (Cautiously Pessmistic)

Damn these vampires (synthetic_zero)

A neo-anarchist vampire bites back: Mark Fisher and neoconservative leftism (Automatic Writing)

Gothic Politics: A Reply to Mark Fisher (Matthijs Krul)

I’m bored and I’m tired

Let me tell you something about me. I let you see the flashes of rage, incandescent anger which invigorates me. It comes, it builds, it explodes like an orgasm and I collapse into momentary catharsis. It’s not a good feeling but it’s better than the alternative.

Most of the time I’m bored. I’m bored and I’m tired. It is grindingly wearing simply existing in oh so many spaces. It’s exhausting and tedious having the same fucking arguments time and time again, not managing to chip away at the immovable force.

It happens a lot in anarchist and radical spaces. The men don’t like it when you challenge their supremacy. A few weeks ago, all of this happened, and it was dismissed as nothing. Now we’re being told we should listen to some sort of TV celebrity because he made some vaguely supportive noises on some issues. From microaggressions to outright misogyny, it goes and goes and goes and it repeats and it repeats and it’s just fucking tiresome.

Social justice circles are no better. Too many feminists think they can get away with kicking down, not up and we’re expected not to challenge this because they’re making some vaguely supportive noises on some issues.

It’s a sinkhole of solidarity, that’s what it is. Unidirectional. I will pour my solidarity behind their causes and yet, do they ever have my fucking back? No. I am a trouble-maker, I am a monster, I am a liar.

There are so many privilege metaphors I could think of. I am Ginger Rogers, backwards in high heels and I want to kick off my shoes and sit down. I am being told the game is easy by someone who is playing it on easy mode and I want to throw my controller at their fucking stupid smug head. I am being attacked by an evil invisible zombie horde who are all armed with chainsaws and also invisibility lasers and I am too tired to make up a metaphor which actually makes sense.

I have goals in common with a lot of awful human beings. Why should I be expected to dash myself against the rocks repeatedly to support them while they would never do a thing for me? Why is it that I am expected to undertake so much thankless emotional labour, and if I don’t then I am the unreasonable one? Why is it me who has to do the heavy lifting?

And I know I’m better off than some. At least I’m white. At least I’m cis. At least my disability isn’t too bad. At least I have a livable income. And I try to do what I can to help with the heavy lifting in the struggles of those who get more shit than me. And for some reason, I have more energy for this than I do with the banal struggles of my own. It’s easier to direct my own limited resources into people who need my solidarity rather than the solidarity-suckers with all of their privilege.

What I need is something that I cannot foresee happening. I need for what I am fighting for to be understood. I need to be able to move freely, not to be constantly hampered by the same petty squabbles over what should be a tiny amount of ground. I need those with the capacity to take up the heavy lifting, I need support and to know that others have my back when I challenge the terrible or even just the mundane.

We need a revolution, but before that happens, we need to clean out the shit in our own back garden, because if it’s a tiresome struggle to simply exist amid fellow revolutionaries then it’s not my revolution.

So please, please can we start with the banal, before we expand to the grand? I am aware that for a lot of people, this will be unpleasant, and will require taking on a higher degree of emotional labour than they have ever tried before. But this is how so many of us live day to day, simply to negotiate spaces. It is this dynamic that needs to change, needs a complete inversion.

I know this can happen, because those who I can trust do so. There are some who fight at my side who are supportive and make the fight feel winnable. These few who have my back are unquantifiably precious.

I have seen so many people fall  from sheer exhaustion, from being hounded out of spaces. Voices silenced and bodies taken out of the fight because some would rather maintain and replicate hegemonic power structures within spaces rather than challenge them. I haven’t succumbed yet, mostly because I’m fucking stubborn and I don’t want to let the bastards win. But it hurts. It hurts my soul and it hurts my body, and I’m bored and I’m tired.

Further reading:

Activist Burnout Part I and II by Alice B. Reckless

Time to pick a side

I see a lot of fence-sitting, and it pisses me the fuck off. I see so many so-called comrades refusing to challenge the multi-layered oppressions within our own communities.

Time and time again, I see feminists proudly declaring that they want to be neutral to various issues. In its latest manifestation, this has been a complete apathy towards a payday loans lawyer with a history of harassing women and actively siding with homophobic organisations in her quest to make the lives of marginalised young women hell. However, this attitude frequently comes up when women of colour report racism, when trans women report cissexism, when disabled women report disablism, and so forth.

I see it happen repeatedly within anti-fascist, anti-capitalist and anti-state networks. A deliberate neutrality towards sexism and racism among white men, too often escalating to the point where women reporting sexual violence from comrades are disbelieved. The other day, my friends and I tried to challenge it. So many comrades just stood by and did nothing.

This sort of shit happens everywhere. Intersecting liberation struggles are treated as nothing more than a petty spat, a minor intellectual difference. Instead of solidarity, there is only apathy. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told “I really agree with everything you do, you’re wrong about [really important issue], but I can ignore that.” How in the name of ever-loving fuck can you willfully look away from something so integrally connected?

This position of self-proclaimed neutrality is not some sort of moral high ground. It is actively harmful. Yes, you may not be actively perpetrating violence, but your inaction allows the perpetrators to keep on doing what they do. Think of the murder of Kitty Genovese. A young woman attacked and brutally murdered, while many heard her screams and did absolutely nothing. Kitty Genovese could have been saved, but the inaction of her neighbours left her to die in terrifying circumstances. The decades of subsequent research have revealed that people have a remarkable capacity for justifying their own inaction when someone is being harmed. I don’t doubt that the comments will swell with a sea of self-deception as people try to validate their own apathy, and do you know what? I’m not going to fucking approve any of it, because I’ve heard it all before.

If you don’t take a stand against oppression, you are helping it happen. You are helping the bigots and the rapists, the murderers and the fascists. You are helping the powerful exert their power and making them ever stronger.

It might make your life easier, but it also makes the task of the oppressor far, far easier. When solidarity is diffuse because so many just stand around doing nothing, it is easier to abuse and harass and murder. You are not neutral, no matter how much you like to think you are. You are helping all of this happen. You are not neutral, you are listening to the abuser’s account and deciding you like it better.

So let us dispose of any notion of neutrality. Let us open up our eyes and let in the full picture of the raging injustices. Let it disgust us, and develop our understanding of what is really happening, to actually look at the direction in which the power flows and everything connects together. Let us look at the consequences of our past apathy and strive end victimisation. Let us challenge oppression wherever it appears: within and outside our own communities. Let us nail our colours to the mast and rise up against these abusive structures.

It is a terrifying task, taking a stand, because the powerful just want to swat us down. They cannot do this if we stand together in solidarity with one another: there are too many of us. Let us ally our struggles and end this oppressive facade of neutrality.

Red flags

There are some things that people say that immediately ring the alarm bells, and I know that pretty swiftly they’re going to come out with something awful. These little conversational red flags could, hypothetically, possibly lead to something not terrible, but I’ve never seen that happen in action. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of red flags, the things which set off the Shitlord Klaxon. If you say any of these things, chances are I will jump to the worst possible conclusion, and it’s your responsibility to prove me otherwise. Feel free to pop into the comments and add more of your own red flags!

“Females” TERFs and MRAs alike really love referring to women as females. In the case of the former, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. In the case of the latter, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. Either way, anyone who says “females” doesn’t respect women or see us as human.

“But… but the false accusation rate for rape…” Never appropriate unless the conversation is actually about the false accusation rate for rape, you derailing rape apologist dickmelon.

“I was just trying to play devil’s advocate” Don’t. Seriously. Don’t pretend you just sent me a big long diatribe as some sort of intellectual exercise.

“I’m just trying to debate this” See above. Liberation and oppression are not abstract intellectual exercises.

“I don’t have privilege because [insert something here]” Go away, be quiet, and learn how sometimes you can have privilege over someone else, even when your life sucks.

[wears V mask] Sorry, mate, but you’re probably a rape apologist with pisspoor politics.

“Explain to me exactly why this was an oppressive statement” I’m not your fucking nursemaid. Also, if this is the first thing you say upon being called out rather than an apology, you’re probably a groaning shitbagel.

“You’re being irrational. Let’s be objective” You know what’s really irrational? Clinging to myths which have persisted since time immemorial. Clinging uncritically to your favourite cherry-picked research. Thinking that research is somehow magically neutral. So stop it.


When #ibelieveher goes out of the window

Content note: This post discusses rape, transphobia, apologism and the effect of not being believed when reporting one’s experiences.

We are seeing a slow shift how we think about survivors, guided by the phrase “I believe her*”. It inverts the status quo; politically siding with survivors, a statement of undoing the way things are by believing the story of a person who we are socialised into not believing. Disbelief in the accounts of survivors of rape, of domestic violence, of child abuse creates the conditions of silence necessary for such abuse to continue. Fear of not being believed is a weapon, wielded by our culture to keep our lips sealed and prevent anything being done about it. It is an attempt to create a safer space.

It is gaining momentum, this culture of believing survivors, and has been broadly adopted by many groups striving for social change. Sadly, while the ethos of believing survivors is perhaps becoming increasingly accepted, the practice itself is often not. We have seen this, for example, too often amid left-wing groups who will happily say they believe survivors until it turns out one of their mates might be a perpetrator, and cognitive somersaults begin in order to justify what is going on.

We see it too when people talk about their experiences of microaggressions. While it’s easy to believe when women talk about gendered microaggressions, those times when we are made to feel less than human by something which is often dismissed as trivial by patriarchal society, this is not extended to women experiencing intersecting oppressions. We see, for example, trans women talking of feeling invalidated and attacked by high-profile cis women to a reboant chorus of dismissal. Far from being believed in these scenarios, trans women end up being on the receiving end of the same old apologist tropes: the victim blaming, the trivialisation, the gaslighting and the flat-out denials. We see similar things happening to women of colour, to disabled women, to sex workers and queer women. Suddenly, it’s not “I believe her”. It’s a demand for a case laid out, meticulous documentation of “evidence”. If evidence is produced, it is thrown as an overreaction or not really evidence at all. Or perhaps everything is explained at the survivor having somehow “brought it on herself” by not behaving exactly according to some unwritten, unknowable, ever-shifting code.

It’s the same tune played on a different instrument. Whatever happened to “I believe her” in these situations?

As a cis white woman, sometimes I find it difficult to recognise where exactly the problem lies. I am not sensitive to some microaggressions, because I am not subjected to them day after day after fucking day. I am never on the receiving end of cissexism or racism, and, as such, sometimes I fail to recognise very veiled abuse. Which is precisely why, when a woman of colour or a trans woman says it is happening, I believe her.

As a cis white woman, it’s not my place to explain that something isn’t racist or cissexist, because I don’t get to define what these things are, and what is crossing a line and what is not. So, when I listen to a survivor, I believe her.

I feel like this is the least I can do. I’ve had experience with not being believed, I’ve had experience of being on the wrong end of victim blaming, I’ve been gaslit and dismissed when I talk about horrible things which have happened to me. I know how awful it can be, that sense that either the world will end or you will, that you’re mad and you’re wrong and you’re twisted and disgusting. I also know that feeling of the light coming in as you hear the magic words “I believe you”. Not being believed hurts like fuck, and being believed makes the pain more bearable, like you might just be able to get through it. It’s helpful when someone else sees the gas go down, too, even if they don’t quite understand it as well as you do.

And so these are the principles I use. I believe those who talk about microaggressive abuse. I believe those who talk about rape. I believe survivors. I believe her.


*This is not to say abuse does not happen to people who use male and non-binary pronouns. Of course it does, and the sense of belief ought to be extended to anyone reporting such experiences. However, this short phrase also encapsulates the gendered nature of such abuse.

“What are you doing, except snarking on Twitter?”: Ableism and activism

This has been pissing me off for a while, and it continues to piss me off. When receiving criticism, an altogether-too-popular retort is “Well what have you done lately? You’re just sitting there snarking on the internet.” From the dick-swinging manarchists deflecting from sexism, to the liberals upset that you criticised their precious petition, the war-cry is howled across digital space with alarming regularity. And there is not one thing about this silly little statement that is OK.

Let’s deal with the fact that it is an obvious deflection first. Rather than an attempt to address any criticism of tactics or ideology, asking “well, what have you done?” is a clumsy sidestep, an admission of having no actual answer or will to engage, and about as strong an answer as “I know you are, you said you are, but what am I?”

Secondly, and I cannot stress this enough, it makes you sound like an undercover cop. If you ask someone to list their activist credentials, I find it very difficult to believe that you are not attempting to gather intelligence and will add any answers to a dossier. In its own clumsy way, it is a fairly decent tactic for the undercover cop to employ, the request to produce an inventory of personal involvement in activism being such a ubiquitous demand. It can goad people into divulging information that it is not necessarily safe to divulge in a climate of surveillance and a hard line against anyone who dares to oppose the murky forces of the state.

And, to further the comparisons with the police, saying “what are you doing, except snarking on Twitter” is ableist as all fuck. The advent of social media was a boon for a lot of people, finally broadening the possibility of involvement to people who had been excluded from many more traditional channels of engagement. The fact of the matter is that for some, it is only possible or safe to get involved through social media. And is that a problem? No, not at all. As this case study from Zedkat shows, Twitter feminism has real, tangible results.

And the intangibles are just as important too. What is dismissed as snark is something which too many privileged people fear: criticism. Social media allows for instant accountability, which is one of its strengths. Unfortunately, a lot of privileged people don’t really like this instant accountability, which leads them to be so dismissive in such an ableist way. Yet it is criticism which makes us stronger, and criticism which means that we can get our theory and our tactics in order. We absolutely should discuss the problems with what we are doing, and criticisms which come from those whose voices have been silenced are perhaps the most important. The voices of the people who are “only on Twitter” are ones which have seldom been heeded throughout history, and now is the time to listen.

We are facing a seemingly insurmountable enemy, a hydra with many heads, and ultimately our struggles all intersect. The class struggle is bound to other oppressions, and every liberation struggle is connected. As such, we need a diversity of tactics. But this does not mean we should be uncritical of tactics used: far from it. We need to be open to criticism, rather than dismissive. What is thrown away as an irrelevance is crucial. It is essential our revolution is done without pissing on those already pissed on by this vile state of affairs. And for that, once again, we need to listen to this criticism. If your response to criticism is this flavour of ableism, you’re probably a bit of a bellend, and you should try not being a bit of a bellend.

And so, let’s stop hearing this risible demand, this feeble deflection bound up in ableism. We should be better than that.

Sexism from “the left”: why it has to stop

A spectre is haunting the left. The spectre of feminism.

I expect nobody is as annoyed by that opening line as me, but it got stuck in my head and I had to write it down somewhere, and here’s as good a place as any. I’m sorry.

I’m writing this in a fit of fury at the latest manifestation of left sexism, having spent two days in an argument with a left-wing man and a lot of his left-wing mostly male followers where they have been absolutely refusing to see the point I’ve been trying to make. Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last unless something absolutely spectacular gives right at this moment. As I can’t hear the sweet sound of kyriarchy falling over and smashing into dust, I can only assume that all of this is going to happen again in due course.

Sexism on the left comes in forms as diverse as the beliefs of those who are lumped under the umbrella term of “the left”. The most overt form, perhaps, is outright sexist language (bitch, etc), and rape apologism (e.g. George Galloway, the SWP), but that’s the tip of a very sexist iceberg. Among the liberals, it often comes as a backlash against calling out sexism and pleas for unity. For some, sexism is a problem to be solved later, and we should, at present, fight the perceived “real enemy”.  Then there’s the manarchists, swinging their dicks as they ignore their female comrades. There’s also those who can say all of the right words, and then their behaviour doesn’t match up at all, and they will defend their behaviour using theory that they learned and are apparently incapable of applying to themselves. Others still think that they’re doing more than enough already to combat sexism. Then there’s the ones who insist that intersectionality is somehow equivalent to identity politics, proving that they are ignorant about what at least one of these things is. This is hardly an exhaustive list. Left sexism manifests in so many ways.

It all has one thing in common: that self-assurance that they are completely right which comes with male privilege.

The impact of sexism from those who are ostensibly on my side is different to that which comes from those who are unequivocally not on my side. While I’ve written about my “oderint dum metuant, fuckers” mentality when it comes to dealing with abuse, it’s much harder when it’s the insidious sexism of the left. It’s more wearing by far, as these are men who genuinely believe they don’t hate women so definitely aren’t sexist, who think they’re doing their bit to fight sexism. So they react defensively when it is called out, and are backed up by other men, who I can only assume are terrified of the creeping feminist threat coming to get them too. It doesn’t help that society–and indeed, the way we organise–immediately constructs “saying something sexist” as “being a bad person who needs to be purged”. This means it’s very difficult to call out dodgy behaviour without it turning into a massive attempt at denial to avoid being lumbered with the identity of “sexist pigdog”.

Let it be known, male comrades, that I’ll probably only think you’re a sexist pigdog if you react badly once the problem’s been called to your attention. Privilege blinds the privileged to its presence, and ignorance is forgivable. Once the curtain has been opened and you have an opportunity to reflect upon your own unexamined privilege, it’s your responsibility to do this.

I tend to be politer when I encounter left sexism than usual, and this is largely because I often have to organise with at least some of these people (although I refuse to organise with some of the worst). It turns out that when I’m polite, it has an incredibly devastating effect on my emotional wellbeing. As you may have noticed, I shout and swear. It’s kind of cathartic for me, rudeness. When I bottle it up, the anger turns inward, leaving me anxious and close to tears with frustration. I dwell, and it’s fucking horrible for me. I’m not quite silenced, but restrained, and it eats away at me.

And often, because of this, I don’t bother challenging it at all, because I know exactly how awful it would be for me. There, I am effectively silenced.

This is exacerbated, at least in part, by a prevalent belief that everything is a matter for debate. This debate ought to be held cordially and civilly, ending with either agreement, or at least by politely agreeing to disagree. For the privileged, it is perfectly easy to view oppressions as a sort of intellectual game and little more than a topic to agree to disagree on. For those who experience these oppressions, it’s not that simple and it’s not a fucking game. And so we’re branded as over-emotional about things which we don’t have the luxury of turning off our emotions on. It’s a thing we face every day, and its very existence is being denied and defended by those who claim to be on our side.

I feel like I’ve written my fingers to the bone on how we really need to get all of the shit out of our back garden before we can get things done, and I can’t believe I’m having to do it again and again. All of this oppression is connected, and all of it needs to be challenged. This time I’m aiming this same argument I’ve put forward a dozen times before at the men on the left who exhibit sexism.

If you want unity on the left, then listen to those you’re (probably inadvertently) shitting all over. Listen up and be an ally. It makes me sad when I feel a bounce of pathetic gratitude when I talk to men who Get It and behave as good allies. That should be the norm, not the exception. That it isn’t is alienating for many, and nothing ruptures a movement more than (probably inadvertently) pissing off more than half of the population.

Men on the left, try to be better. Feminist struggle is not an add-on to class struggle, and sexism is not a small problem, because all of this is intimately connected. If your revolution is one-dimensional, I want no part in it. Be open to being wrong, and be open to being corrected. It will strengthen us, not weaken us. Be reflective and thoughtful, acknowledge and abolish your own blind spots.

I want men on my side who I am proud to call my comrades, and there are far too few of these. I want to see better, and I want you to be better. We have a world to win, and I’d like to be comfortable organising with you. I’m one of those who feels able to say this, yet there are many who cannot, silenced against sexisms on all sides.

In truth, there’s no such thing as doing enough to work against sexism. It’s a vast, structural issue, and, as such, requires vast efforts to bring this system down. I’m not doing enough myself. No matter what anyone is doing, as an individual, it isn’t enough. If you’re a male ally, accept that you won’t be getting pats on the head for your good work, and if you’re doing any of this to get a pat on the head in the first place, fuck right off.

We really, really can win these interconnected battles, though, if only we recognise the connected nature and start to challenge our own privileges and prejudices in the most important place: within ourselves.


Note on terminology: I have come to despise the term “the left”, signifying a diverse range of beliefs and ideologies which share almost nothing but a few common enemies. Often, it feels like I’m not on the same side at all as a lot of those who profess to share enemies with me, since I disagree with many about issues such as tactics, the role of the state and intersectionality. While I don’t feel that “the left” is a particularly meaningful category, I use it here as shorthand for that umbrella term of those opposed to those who definitely aren’t on my side, who are themselves classed as “the right”.

Also, obviously I’m oversimplifying when I say “men” and “women”. These problems also manifest in the form of cissexism and bad assumptions about gender, something which I, as the most cis woman on the planet, am occasionally guilty and am receptive to being called out on. “Men” can be read as “cis men”, and “women” to be “those who they oppress, who are often, due to statistics, cis women, but also covers trans people, intersex folks, genderqueer and non-binary identified”. Come to think of it, women is a terrible term, but I’m leaving the cis privilege I exhibited when writing this intact as I’m crap at rephrasing things effectively. Help appeciated in the comments 🙂

The value of trigger warnings

Oh dear, Vagenda. This week, one of the authors has come out against trigger warnings. Her reasoning? She had PTSD, and doesn’t like them because she prefers to confront her problems, and also the internet isn’t a safe space.

For the first point, good for her. Seriously, good for Rhiannon, and I’m glad that she’s fairly on top of her mental health problems and has found a way to live with them and deal with them. She’s one of the fortunate ones: many others are not in this position. There are many who would rather avoid seeing things which remind them of trauma, many who would like to be able to close the tab and get on with their day, instead of inadvertently reliving horrors.

And it’s these people who I’m thinking about when I put trigger warnings at the top of things I have written. If I’ve helped even one person avoid pain, then I am glad. It’s a little thing for me to do, which can make the all the difference for some people.

Trigger warnings are not for yourself; they’re for others. And if Rhiannon from Vagenda prefers not to avoid things, she can use the trigger warnings to seek out content to expose herself to as part of her own personal healing.

Rhiannon uses the metaphor of epilepsy to illustrate her point that the internet isn’t a safe space: that, for all the warnings about strobe lights, epilepsy can be triggered by light flickering through the trees. It’s worth noting here only a very small fraction of people with epilepsy are triggered by strobing effects. I’m not, and I’ve had several hours of being hooked up to gooey electrodes staring into a flashing light to prove it. When I was younger and newly-diagnosed, I used to hate that they would put the “epilepsy warning” up before films and plays and so forth, because I had epilepsy and didn’t have a problem with flashing lights. It annoyed the fuck out of me. Then I started thinking of other people, and I realised these warnings weren’t for me, but were hugely valuable for others. The same is true of trigger warnings.

And yes, they’re imperfect. Everything is, at the moment. I’ve sat in meetings riddled with manarchists complaining about the need for safer spaces policies, because there’s no such thing as a safe space.

No. There isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we should use that as an excuse to stop trying and stop using these interim measures which do help.

If you read the comments on the Vagenda piece, you will see people who find trigger warnings a vastly helpful resource in mitigating effects of mental health problems and being able to make decisions. These are the people I am thinking about when I defend trigger warnings, even as my own personal abuse triggers are never covered in trigger warnings.

The Vagenda piece begins with a dog-whistle complaint about people being mean to Julie Bindel and Suzanne Moore, who joked about trigger warnings after both of them exhibited startling levels of transphobia. In the last paragraph is another point:

 Often, it is coupled with a sense of passive aggressive glee (“um. You should have put a trigger warning on that”).

This, perhaps, betrays more of the backlash from the privileged over being called out, and I do wonder how much of it was the motivating factor behind the commissioning, writing and existence of the piece. Trigger warnings are hardly complicated. Think of common scenarios that might fuck someone up, and if you write about it, stick a line at the top that you’ll be talking about this. If you’ve missed something which is triggering and someone says so, you lose nothing by doing popping in that simple little line.

It astounds me that people are kicking and screaming against something so simple which can make the difference between suffering and being all right. It astounds me that some are being flippant about it, laughing and joking over something which is easy, yet so important.

Yes, trigger warnings aren’t the magic bullet. But they’re an interim demand which can help make many feel ever so slightly safer in a fundamentally unsafe world.

Happy National Mansplaining Week!

Just kidding. Every week is National Mansplaining Week. This week I’ve just noticed it a bit more than usual.

The first example that pissed me the fuck off came from Graham Linehan, which was fairly disappointed as I’m a big fan of Black Books and Father Ted. Now, Graham reckons that sexism and misogyny aren’t the same thing, and it really gets his goat that people use them interchangeably. Now, I called him up on this, pointing out that he wasn’t quite right, and he got a bit arsey.


Despite my better instincts, I did engage on his terms, and dictionary definitions of the two were sent his way, but strangely he didn’t reply after even on his own terms he was pointed out to be wrong. And then he decided that his own opinion was far more important anyway, and blogged this, where he decided to use very cropped definitions of the words which meant what he’d decided they meant, and–literally–said Page 3 couldn’t be misogynistic because the people who like it must like women.


Our second instance of mansplaining this week comes from columnist Martin Robbins, who wrote about the No More Page Three campaign. The vexing part of this is that in places, Robbins was completely right, and to save time I’ll quote those bits.

The most disturbing thing about Page 3 isn’t the fact that there are naked breasts on it; it’s that every pair of naked breasts looks the same, expresses the same opinions, and exists in a context where the owners of naked breasts are casually belittled and dehumanised.

Personally I can’t stand Page 3, but I say the answer is more nudity in newspapers, not less. Put more boobs on Page 3, and add some cocks too. Show people of every size, shape, colour, gender and sexuality; let them speak in their own voice, and celebrate them all. That, rather than self-censorship of adult-oriented content, would be a progressive tabloid revolution worth fighting for.

For what it’s worth, I have similar reservations about the campaign, and would also like to propose that it might be nice to just get rid of The Sun entirely.

But the rest of Robbins’s article has the supercilious tone of “explaining things to the ladies” and telling us how to fight our own battles. It seethes with privilege. And had a similar argument been put across by women, it would have been much, much better. I don’t see why the New Statesman didn’t ask a woman to write about it. They’ve got a fair few on staff.

Now, I expect in the comments I’ll get a lot of men mansplaining to me why I’m wrong about mansplaining because this has happened rather a lot in the last few days. So I’m not going to let those comments out of the moderation queue, and they can scream into the void about censorship.

You might think I’m being harsh, or that I’m picking the wrong targets, or that I clearly haven’t read this one thing written by a man that explains why I’m wrong, or that there’s things far more important than calling out mansplaining to do. But do you know what? Every time a man decides to tell women what their experience is, to patronise about women’s issues from a position of relative ignorance, a woman is silenced.

No matter how much men think they’re on our side or being good allies, if they can’t pull back and say “You know what? You’re right, I don’t actually know anything about this”, they are perpetuating patriarchy.


Thanks for @FunnyGrrrl for the cap!

Safe spaces in the #occupy movement: My piece for The Occupied Times

Last week, I was privileged enough to be asked to write a piece for @OccupiedTimes, the newspaper for the London Occupy camps. I wrote about the need for safe spaces for women and how to build these. I’ve cross-posted the article here for anyone who can’t get down to the camp to pick up a copy of this brilliant paper. 

What are we doing here? Are we building a new society, or are we merely the latest incarnation of a wave of indignant protest? I hope we are the former: the beginning of something special.

If that is so, we are currently building our new society in the image of its predecessor, albeit with more tents and banners. In our camps, we see the same kinds of oppression as we do in the unoccupied old world.

In the outside, a beast called patriarchy rules the social domain. In our camps, the situation is little better. Many women do not feel safe camping overnight. Perhaps it is not safe for us to stay.

Over the last week I have heard accounts of women who have been sexually harassed in the camps, usually by drunken men. There has been gendered name-calling and dismissal of the opinions of women. There have been rapes: one in Occupy Cleveland, the other in Occupy Glasgow. Women face the same kinds of oppression in occupied spaces as they do outside. While rape is an issue which can affect people of any gender, it is most commonly men raping women. The system which allows this to happen thrives upon silencing other kinds of sexual violence.

Meanwhile, Occupy Baltimore has included in its security statement on rape the promise to provide abusers with “counselling resources to deal with their issues”, as though a rapist is a victim too. In Anoynmous’s document providing guidance for living in a revolution, they suggest the solution to prevent rape is to “NEVER PROVOKE”, as though rape is the victim’s fault. At Occupy LSX, when we discussed banning alcohol, a topic that often came up was whether this would solve the problem of lagered-up harassment.

These solutions do not attack the root of the problem and some present somewhat dangerous thinking, tangled up in the language of the outside world. To build a new society, we must all work together to make our camps a safe space for women. First our occupied spaces, then the world. This is what we can do.

· DON’T RAPE PEOPLE. Rape is never the fault of the victim, always that of the rapist. To stop rape completely, don’t rape.

· LEARN ABOUT FEMINISM. We’re here to learn from each other. Feminism provides the solution to taking sexism out of life, and provides us with a language to discuss such issues. Read books, read blogs, talk to feminists.

· ADOPT A ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY ON SEXISM. We say we have this. Let us show we have this. Do not let an instance of sexism—be it a gendered slur, a pat on the arse, or an “ironically” sexist joke—go unchallenged. Call it out. Something as seemingly harmless as a joke reflects and legitimises sexist beliefs in wider society.

· If a woman has a complaint, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. It is a myth that a lot of rapes are falsely reported. Statistically, it’s very likely the allegation will be true. The same goes when a woman talks about experience of sexism or sexual harassment. She’s probably not overreacting.

· WOMEN-ONLY SPACES. Until we have stamped out all instances of sexism in our camps, women will need somewhere safe to be. Many women find it a lot easier to deal with problems without men present.

· If any of the above seems unreasonable, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough not to experience sexism in your life and don’t see why you should have to do anything to help others as you’ve never experienced any of the problems yourself. This does not mean the problems don’t exist. Not having experienced these problems is what feminists call “privilege”. It doesn’t make you a bad person, but it means you need to learn more.

· Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, DON’T RAPE.

What are we doing here? Are we building a new society, together as a community? It will be hard work to overcome sexism yet to grow this movement and rebuild from the bottom up, it is a matter of urgency that we begin to create a safe space. Women are 50% of the 99% after all.