Dear suffering Mail journalists: get another job

This is a message for all the suffering journalists out there, writing hate speech or misogynistic fluff and feeling bad about it, like poor Sophie Brown or Thea de Gallier’s pals: just, don’t.

Yes, you have to make rent. So do we all, but of course, your job is to demonise any of the rest of us doing things to keep roofs over our heads like being on benefits, doing sex work, working service jobs, or working in the public sector. Have you considered that there are better uses to your skills?

For example, the skills you have as a journalist can be used in a comms role. Or a copywriting role. Or writing books. Don’t you think that’s a better use of your time than, say, discussing a celebrity’s visible c-section scar in a derogatory fashion?

I understand that being a journalist was your dream job. It sounds romantic, doesn’t it? The taste of noir, the plucky intrepid journalist getting to the bottom of the story and exposing the bad guys. But let’s be honest here, shall we? That’s not what the industry is any more, and it hasn’t been for a long time. You’re unlikely to ever be doing the cool investigative stuff.

Once you start down the road of combing through a teenager’s old tweets so you can smear all trans women on the basis of it, that’s going to be the rest of your career for the rest of your life.

It might hurt your feelings when people criticise what you’re doing, but you’re doing material damage to marginalised people. That’s worse. Sorry. It sounds harsh but it’s true. You want to not feel like an arsehole, but you are.

If your dream job involves inciting hate against marginalised people, get a new dream.

Stop crying, because nobody has any sympathy for you. You are accountable. You are complicit. Your feelings are absolutely trivial compared to the active harm you’re doing.

At one point in my life, I considered moving in the direction of journalism. See, I was changing careers, and there were two options that sprang out to me immediately, because they were two things I’m reasonably competent at and quite enjoy doing: sex work and journalism. I had a think to myself. I decided against sex work, because there’s an amount of personal grooming involved which, frankly, I cannot be bothered with. I decided against journalism because the thing one sells in journalism is utterly repugnant to me: one sells ones opinions and makes them marketable to a bigoted public, and in doing so, one also sells one’s principles. In the end, I chose neither course, and I’m all the happier for it.

I have no sympathy for those who choose to incite hatred.

The job market is appalling, but anything, anything is better than working for the Daily Mail or the Sun, being assigned to write 500 words of poison.

And here’s the thing: if you conscientiously object, publicly, more will follow you. If you refuse an assignment and get sacked, you’ll be supported. Take a stand, like the tube workers or the teachers. Take that loss of income for the benefit of yourself or others.

I am, of course, assuming that you are the good person you think you are. That you don’t really believe the racist, disablist, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic drivel you’re writing. There’s a chance that you are, in fact, the piece of shit that believes that stuff.

Either way, you’re not immune to criticism or accountability.

Fuck your feelings. Take a stand, or be the abominable prepuce that we all think you are anyway.

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OK, Matt Damon, let’s talk about the Hollywood men who aren’t abusers… and their role in enabling abuse.

Content note: this post discusses sexual abuse and sexual harassment

Latest in the string of awful opinions about Hollywood’s structural problems with sexual abuse and sexual harassment comes Matt Damon, who first spouted off about “degrees of abuse”, before being heroically taken down by Minnie Driver, and then continued talking, because nobody loves him enough to stop him, this time saying that we need to talk more about all those oh-so-lovely men who aren’t sexual predators.

Now, I’m not in the business of giving out cookies, but all right then, Matt, you want a conversation about the men who are not sexual predators? Here goes.

Any Hollywood man who is not personally an abuser, but remains silent, is complicit in sexual violence. He is enabling sexual violence. He is also, probably, benefitting from it.

Silence is violence, and what men need to be doing right now is nailing their colours to the mast in support of victims and survivors speaking out. They need to unequivocally side with those who have named their abusers. Those who do not are making it easier for abusers. The only words one of these lovely Hollywood non-predatory men need to say is “I believe her. I stand with her.” No more, and no less. We do not want to hear about your opinions of the accused. We do not need to hear about your opinion of what counts as sexual violence. And finally, we don’t want your silence.

The path to dismantling rape culture needs everyone to explicitly reject it. To stay silent is allowing the problem to continue: it allows abusers to feel like they will not be challenged, and discourages survivors from speaking out.

While we’re talking about the men in Hollywood who are not, personally, sexual predators, we might as well also talk about how all men benefit from a culture of sexual violence. Yes, all men.

Let’s take Hollywood as an example, since that’s what Matt Damon wants to talk about. Sexual harassment is rife there, and many women have found themselves party to sexual coercion. This affects women in numerous ways. Firstly, it tells women that they must make themselves sexually available in order to work, and that they must not reject men, or they will face serious consequences. This benefits abusers, but this mindset forced upon women benefits all men who seek sexual access to women. Outside of sex, the threat of sexual violence also seeps into women’s general attitudes towards everything, and they are less willing to rock the boat in any way, lest it damages them–which means Hollywood remains horribly unequal. Relationally, many heterosexual women think a man who is not a complete piece of shit rapist is therefore a good man. It lowers the bar. “He treats me well” translates to “he isn’t physically or sexually violent towards me”. Professionally “this is a good job” translates to “well, he didn’t sexually harass me, even if I am being paid significantly less than my male co-star.”

So yes. Let us talk about the men in Hollywood who are not predators. They shoulder guilt and complicity, too.

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JK Rowling is complicit in domestic abuse

Content note: This post discusses domestic violence, VAW and sexual harassment

JK Rowling has finally addressed the elephant in the room: that the kids’ movies going out in her name star a domestic abuser. And her response isn’t good. In fact, it’s the very opposite of good.

Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.

Rowling says. “Genuinely happy”.

However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected.

Take the words Amber Heard said about wanting to put the violence she experienced out of your mouth, JK. A survivor wants to move on. And that’s what Amber Heard is: she documented the violence she experienced, and was dragged through the mud for it. Is it any wonder she wants it behind her? Meanwhile, let’s think about the motivations for a man who has been physically and verbally violent towards a woman might want to put it behind him. It’s a little different, isn’t it?

I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee.

This is a line as old as time. The mob! The mob!

Meanwhile, David Yates, who Rowling name-checks in her article, and seems to imply agreement with, said this:

With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.

“Took a pop”. Well, that’s not feeding “lying bitch” narratives at all. And nice that a man thinks an abuser is all sweetness and light, that’s something we’ve never seen before.

JK Rowling is complicit in domestic violence. There, I said it.

I am not alleging she has personally been violent. I am alleging that her choices and her words will, at best, not reduce any violence against women. At worst, they may perhaps expose more women to violence.

See, JK Rowling is in a position of great power. She has an army of young people following her, young people who listen to her views, and young people who will be influenced by these views. The message that we need to send to young people is that domestic violence, and violence against women on the whole, is completely unacceptable.

That message was finally starting to come out, as women speaking out against gendered abuse is becoming more and more visible. The #MeToo movement opened up an unprecedented door for abusers to finally face consequences for their actions. Those speaking out against abuse have been named Time’s Person Of The Year. Finally, is the tide turning?

Of course it isn’t. With movement comes utterly predictable backlash, from perpetrators and those who enable them. There’s been rather a lot of pearl-clutching over those poor abusers who have lost jobs. JK Rowling has nailed her colours to the mast and become part of this backlash, telling young people that actually, she’s “genuinely happy” to have a wife-beater starring in her cash cow. That she doesn’t think abusers should have to face consequences, and it’s all gone a little too far.

Rowling likes to pretend that she’s objective, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: this pervades much of the politics she has communicated. In reality, you’re always picking a side. And in this instance, the side she’s picked is the side of the abusers. She can use all of the excuses in the world, but this is the meat of it. With her weasel words, she’s laid it all out, that she believes domestic violence to be acceptable under certain circumstances.

I cannot emphasise enough how potentially dangerous this message is to send to her young audience, just beginning to see that domestic violence is unacceptable, and then seeing a person they respect saying “actually, no, it isn’t.”

I hope this film is a fucking flop. I really do. I hope audiences are wiser than JK Rowling, and will not accept a film showcasing a washed-up perpetrator of domestic violence. I hope that Johnny Depp becomes the cinematic equivalent of the coconut Quality Street. I hope that JK Rowling is wrong, and that all the fuss about him isn’t a gobby few spoilsports, and that more of us think his casting is inappropriate than I fear.

Sadly, we’re up against a lot. We’re up against power, and had a brief little window in which to speak truth to it. I believe that JK Rowling, in her “I hear your concerns and I couldn’t give a shit” statement, may have kicked that window shut, and all who speak with it.

I don’t doubt that by writing this piece I will draw the ire of the “women are lying bitches” crowd. I accept that, because I know that they’re afraid that one day, they’ll feel the consequences of violence against women becoming unacceptable, too.

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Two alternatives to #WomenBoycottTwitter that don’t rely on women’s silencing

After Twitter extending their risible “abuse” policy to a suspension of a celebrity white woman speaking out against sexual violence, the problems in their model have been laid bare, and to my pleasant surprise, people are talking about taking action (I’d been pessimistic about this).

Unfortunately, it’s entirely the wrong kind of action: a women’s boycott. This is a problem, because once again, it forces us to do the heavy lifting. And once again, it forces us to silence ourselves: the very opposite of what we should be doing.

So, here’s two things that can be done. One is an activity for men who consider themselves allies. The other is for all of us. Especially women.

#AmplifyWomen

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This is a very simple thing for men to do: shut up and use their reach to amplify women’s voices. Not just on the day of the boycott (though I will be side-eyeing you if you aren’t), but every day. Twitter’s problem is not that women aren’t refusing to use their broken website; it’s that they aren’t being heard. Men, this is your chance to do something positive and useful. Don’t talk. Don’t reply telling us we’re special. Don’t slip into our DMs. Don’t white-knight for us. Simply amplify women’s voices. We’re saying all the things you wanted us to say, if only you’d listen.

In particular, amplify the voices of marginalised women: black women, trans women, queer women, disabled women, women of colour. These are the voices that need to be heard.

As well as being highly beneficial for women, you men might learn something. It’s a habit worth trying to form, and the results may surprise you.

Delete your data

A lot of Twitter’s money comes from your data: selling information about you to advertisers, placing ads at you, and so forth. Instead of boycotting Twitter, hit them where it hurts, in the moneymaker. Here’s some tips for doing this.

  1. Use an adblocker. They know you’re doing it. It hurts the advertisers’ feelings. Also, you should be using an adblocker anyway.
  2. Turn off personalised ads. Hit “disable all” here. While they’re still collecting your information, they can’t use it, which pisses them off.
  3. Edit your data. Twitter makes guesses at your age and gender for advertisers. You can change them here. My gender is “communist”, and I’m age 13-54.
  4. Turn off location. Again, it’s data about you, don’t let them have it.
  5. Delete your interests. Twitter likes guessing at your interests for all the marketing. There’s a list here, and you can delete all of them.
  6. Block your “tailored audiences”. This dovetails with the personalised ad settings. You’ll find, here, that you’re a member of some personalised audiences. You can request the data. Do it. They’ll send you an email. Block every single account on it. Note: this may take a while and is a bit of a faff. They send the data as a pdf, which you’ll need to convert into a csv–it requires a bit of annoying copy pasting. Next, upload your new block list by going here and selecting “Import a list” from the advanced options menu. Follow the steps and bingo! You’ve blocked your tailored audiences, which is bad for Twitter’s business model. (ETA 14/10/17- the bulk block feature seems to no longer work. Oh well. Do the rest, and if you’re really committed, do please manually block as many of those accounts as possible. And remember to block every advertiser you see!)
  7. Make your content unprofitable. Twitter owns a pretty broad copyright licence on what you’re posting there. Drop a few f-bombs into your tweets. Append silly gifs to everything. Hate white men, hate Nazis, loudly and proudly. Tweet a lot about how shit Twitter’s policies are. If you have 280 characters, tweet in 140, and use the other 140 to append stuff about how appalling their policy is to every goddamn tweet. 

ETA: Here’s another one. Love your block button x

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We shouldn’t be silencing ourselves. We mustn’t silence ourselves. Instead, it’s time to retake Twitter.

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TERFs are using Nazi tactics. Don’t let it work.

Content note: this post discusses transmisogynistic bigots and Nazis

There was a hoo-ha last night, where a horde of trans women allegedly surrounded a transmisogynist gathering and one of the transmisogynistic bigots got punched.

Now, there are reasons to doubt their side of the events, reason to believe that the punch was in self-defence and major inconsistencies all across what they are claiming happened, and reasons to wonder why the police didn’t arrest anyone when they’re in the habit of nicking trans people for holding banners that hurt their feelings, let alone an alleged major assault. But I’m not going to talk about that. (update: seems as if it was an unequivocal act of self-defence (pics here) (witness statement here), which I can’t say I didn’t expect)

What I want to point out is the similarity in tactics between the transmisogynists’ narrative, and tactics deployed successfully by Nazis. Our current face of Nazism–the alt right, neo-Nazis, the far right, whatever your style guide demands you call them–rather like to play the victim. When Richard Spencer got punched (lol) the Nazis were very keen to whine about it. When anti-fascist protesters come out to defend their communities, the Nazis, and their chum Donald Trump, are falling over themselves to denounce violence “on both sides”. Centrists are always eager to back up these narratives, because they love a good middle ground almost as much as they love pretending they’re not enablers of fascism.

This, of course, serves a purpose. It drags discussion away from “Nazis are bad, how can we stop them?” to “punching is bad”. It has been a Nazi tactic since Nazis were invented; Hitler rather liked to claim that he and his were victims of unprovoked violence from the people they wanted wiped out.

Now, transmisogynistic bigots have rather a lot in common with Nazis already. They both share an unhealthy fascination with trans people’s genitalia, where trans people pee, concern trolling about safety, and a general desire to see trans people eliminated entirely. They have been known to work together on certain projects, in particular surrounding “bathroom bills”. It seems, in their cosy discussion groups about how to ban trans people from public life, the transmisogynistic bigots and the Nazis have also been exchanging tactics.

What the transmisogynists want more than anything in the world right now is to stop talking about their repulsive ideology and their repugnant tactics, and talk about the merits and drawbacks of political violence. They want to draw sympathy from the gullible centre, who uncritically lap up victim-playing rhetoric, because centrists dislike impoliteness far more than they reject hate.

Let’s not let them.

Let us stay focused on why there was a protest in the first place.

A few days ago, it was noticed that New Cross People’s Library was hosting an event headlined by one Dr Julia Long, a long-time harasser of trans women who picketed a lesbian pride parade. Those of us who aren’t exactly keen on hate crimes gave the venue a ring and asked them to cancel. The venue did.

Transmisogynists have a lot of access to money though. Bigotry is lucrative. This meant that they could move their little two hours’ hate to a private members’ club.

These are all things we could be talking about: the fact that there are rich bigots who have a proven track record of harassing trans women. But this is indefensible, so they’d rather we talked about something else. If not an alleged assault, it would have certainly been the old freeze peach complaint–again, a page straight out of the Nazi playbook.

So let us not play into their hands with endless, fruitless discussions of violence. Let us stay on topic: these are nasty people who do nasty, indefensible things with their money. Let’s not let this Nazi tactic work, but instead let’s think about everything these people have been doing. That they actively campaign to remove healthcare from people. That they join hands with Nazis to prevent trans people from leaving the house. That they have a visceral obsession with the genitals of little children. That they do everything in their considerable power to smear and harass women who are just trying to exist.

This is what they don’t want us talking about. And this is what we must keep talking about.

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Usually this is the point where I link to my Patreon. I’m not doing that today. Instead, I ask you to make a donation, big or small, to Action For Trans Health.

Opposing fascists makes us better than them

Content note: this post discusses nazis, violence, murder

The emboldened far right across the pond are now at the point of marching in the streets with their swastikas and literally killing people who oppose them. Most of us–and many of us who are reading this–told you this would happen. There was resistance: the Charlottesville community did not let neo-Nazis go unopposed. They stood together, and did what they could to stop those fuckers from passing and show that they utterly reject the far right ideology. Symbolic, perhaps, but utterly necessary.

Standing against literal fucking Nazis is the most basic fucking resistance, and one which it perpetually surprises me remains controversial. Sure, the fash hate it, and that’s to be expected. But there are also pockets of liberals who are utterly disgusted by any squeak of resistance. They would rather not see opposition, but are wedded to us all sitting down with people who would like to see us dead, and having a nice debate. To do anything other than chum up and be nice to Nazis makes us as bad as them. 

Hating Nazis is bigotry.

Hating racism is hateful and bad.

Expressing horror at Nazis is intolerant and stepping on their free speech.

Physically preventing Nazis from operating and organising is the worst kind of violence.

Any squeak of opposition to fascism, in this jolyonic mindset, makes us just as bad as the Nazis.

Let me tell you this: that’s bullshit. Hating and opposing Nazis makes us better than them. It means that we have the basest level of comprehension that this is a violent ideology that must be organised against and rejected. The lives of our friends, our family, our loved ones depend upon it. This is an ideology that would see so many people exterminated. They are already killing people. Not metaphorically, not indirectly through policy, but literally fucking running down people in cars. This is an ideology which, seventy years after a war which was ostensibly to stamp that shit out, is once again gaining ground.

Resistance is an ugly, messy business. It is real people opposing a real problem. Sometimes this resistance entails hurting a Nazi’s feelings. Sometimes it involves real people physically preventing fascists from assembling or marching (for the numpties at the back: go and learn what freedom of speech is if you think that’s violating any freedom of speech rights). Sometimes it will involve physical violence.

The kicker is, it probably wouldn’t have had to get to this point if more mainstream support–rhetorical and street-based–had been given to anti-fascist organising before large groups of swastika-waving fash felt ballsy enough to march around in the streets.

A lot of the people getting squeamish over any semblance of resistance to Nazis would be the first to say that yeah, they’d probably go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby. So why the pearl-clutching over some Nazis getting a smack in the face? Is it because their friends, family and loved ones are more likely to be fucking fash than the people who will be threatened by them? Is it because they just never bothered learning their history?

Either way, now is not a time for hand-wringing. It’s a time for opposition. It’s got too far already, and it cannot be allowed to get any further. Take a principled stand, in any way you can. Organise. Support organisation. State clearly that you oppose fascism in all forms. You don’t have to personally punch any Nazis, but stand with those who do.

I’m an optimist, so I feel like we are not truly fucked yet. We’re on a knife-edge, but we have a chance to prevent another rise of the Nazis. But to do that, we need the liberals to get over their distaste for any form of opposition.

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“I don’t know, let me find out”: learn this phrase. Use it.

I’ve hit the end of my tether with this fucking election. It’s driving me right up the wall, daily doses of bullshit. Today, it’s one politician making what the Jolyons treat as the worst boo-boo ever. Tomorrow, it’ll be another.

The boo-boo in question is not knowing some numbers off the top of your head, as though politics were no more than an end-of-the-pier mentalism show. The politician–who will always be The Absolute Worst, unless they are a shiny member of the pigfucking class and therefore more palatable to news outlet owners–will generally respond in one of two ways. They will give a wrong figure, presented with confidence, which is Bad. Or they will admit that they do not know off the top of their head. This is Worse.

The latter is Worse because it does not fit in with macho politics, which, of course, reflects some of the worst trappings of masculinity. The phenomenon is related to mansplaining, blurting out any old guff without any expertise, yet with all the confidence in the world. To say “I don’t know, let me find out,” is to back down, admit weakness.

For myself, it was a difficult journey getting myself in the position where I could admit that I was not a computer, able to immediately spit out the right data on request. As a woman in STEM, it’s one of the worst things you can say (despite the entirety of science being built on identifying what we don’t know, and finding out!). As a girl surrounded by boys, you’re considered a thick bimbo. In schools, your teachers will tut when you’re put on the spot and can’t perform. It’s an age-old valued skill, and I suspect it dates back to antiquity, the orators droning things out from their head.

But it’s a bullshit skill, demonstrating only your ability to be spoonfed and regurgitate. It smacks of public school, the political and media class being steeped in its values.

“I don’t know, let me check” is a beautiful phrase. It is honest, and you emerge smarter from the act of checking. You have learned something that you didn’t know. You have proved yourself aware of the limits of your knowledge, and willing to grow, in a very slight way.

I have more respect, any day, for someone who can do this.

The transition from awkward to liberated, for me, was a little slow, but I forced myself to keep saying “I don’t know, let me find out”, when I didn’t know and needed to find out. People would look at me like I was stupid, but you know what? I emerge knowing a little bit more, every time I check. And I realised just how little that others are growing.

I want to see more value placed on self-awareness and willingness to learn, replacing the value placed on false confidence and spurting bollocks. I want to see a sign of weakness turned into a sign of strength: someone who will grow rather than stagnate.

And yet I feel, in the macho shitshow that is the world, this is likely doomed to fail. But I don’t know that for sure–and I’d like to find out by trying.

 

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