Shit I cannot believe needs saying: Your mate might be nice, but is an abuser

Content note: this post discusses domestic violence and abuse, and apologism

When a rich, powerful white man is accused of perpetrating violence against women, a dance begins. It is the world’s worst dance, making Agadoo look like the Bolshoi Ballet. In this well-choreographed dance, everybody rallies around the abuser. They support the abuser, claiming that he is the best guy in the world, and couldn’t have possibly done it. They leap over the evidence presented by the survivor, all in step. Nothing can dent their pal’s Nice Guy status.

It probably doesn’t even matter who the abuser is, or how well they truly know him. This dance is political: it is a way of protecting all abusers across the globe by showing survivors what happens if they speak out.

Let us pretend, for a moment, that some of what is being said is true. Let’s imagine a chap called Johnny Blepp, who has been accused of beating up his wife. Let’s imagine some washed-up pals of his, who we’ll call Paul Gettany and Dickey Rourke and Vanessa Cara–oh fuck it, we all know who we’re talking about here, don’t we?

I believe that Johnny Depp beat Amber Heard. I would believe this even without the sheer level of evidence that Amber Heard showed, the sheer level of evidence which was sufficient to get a restraining order granted.

And, to be perfectly honest, I’d believe Amber Heard even if I was BFFs with Johnny Depp, because I know something which has apparently escaped the notice of those who are seeking attention by leaping to his defence: even if a man is nice to you that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of harming anyone. 

If Paul Bettany had given things a moment’s thought, perhaps he would consider how he has never shared a house, a room, a bed with Johnny Depp, so probably can’t have the first clue what his pal’s like behind closed doors. If Mickey Rourke had had a little think before opening his gob, maybe he would have considered that just because he had never been hit by his mate, doesn’t mean his mate has never hit anyone. If Vanessa Paradis had taken a few seconds, maybe she would have remembered she hasn’t lived with her ex husband in at least four years, and a lot has happened in those four years, so perhaps so has her ex’s temper.

All of these people are outsiders. None of them are party to the knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors. So why on earth do they presume that they know so much that they can confidently accuse a woman of perjury?  That is, after all, what they are doing when a woman has gone to court, told her story (and been granted a restraining order), and they accuse her of having made it up.

I understand that it can sometimes feel implausible that your friend might do horrible things, but this is why it is important to remember that you have no way of knowing how they treat others. You have no way of knowing what it’s like when they go home. Abusers are manipulative people, and have you considered that you are being played?

Again, I get why people may be resistant to that question: nobody likes to feel like a fool. Nonetheless, Depp’s friends, coming out in support of him, are serving not just their mate, but abusers everywhere. They’re helpful little pawns, parroting a line which keeps survivors silent, showing survivors that nobody will believe them. Their intervention isn’t even particularly helpful to their friend: after all, nothing happens to rich white abusers. Look at Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, for example.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. You’re not being objective in the slightest when you knee-jerk defend your friend based on your complete lack of knowledge. You don’t need to say anything at all: if you don’t believe the survivor, keep your gob shut, because you’re mostly basing your disbelief on misogynistic tropes you’ve been fed since birth. If you truly want to keep an open mind, you need to keep your mouth shut, and give what a survivor has said equal weighting to your pal’s denial.

All we know about our friends is they are nice to us. It is peculiarly childish to extend their niceness to us into an assumption that they are nice to everyone.

One day, I hope the dance will falter. I admire the courage of every woman who comes forward despite the power of the man who abused her, and despite the fact that surely she must know that everyone will close ranks with tedious predictability.

I believe Amber Heard. I cannot believe I need to say this, when it ought to go without saying. I believe that Johnny Depp attacked and beat his wife, and I believe Amber Heard.

Kiddle: a search engine which endangers children

Content note: this post discusses child abuse, homophobia and transphobia

A new search engine for kids has been launched, and my goodness, it’s terrifying. 

Kiddle is supposed to help kids navigate the internet safely, using a combination of human editors and Google’s Safe Search. However, it’s also been criticised for blocking searches relating to LGBT issues.

Last night, when I had a bit of a fiddle with it, it seemed to have a bit of a double standard regarding what it just wouldn’t provide results for, and what it decided was Bad:

Before you ask, it wasn’t down to what’s known as The Scunthorpe Problem, a product of automatic filtering which causes innocent words to be blocked.

However, more has changed since last night. While last night, a search using Kiddle for “transgender” returned some results, today it’s been deemed A Bad Word, with the judgmental robot wagging his metallic finger.

Blocking searches pertaining to LGBT issues is dangerous. It keeps young people from accessing resources to help them better understand themselves. Telling them words they’ve heard that they feel might apply to them are bad is more dangerous still: it feeds guilt and shame.

Kiddle’s solution to some (but not all) LGBT-related searches is woefully inadequate and, again, could turn out to be dangerous. Instead of just not returning any results, it now tells children to ask their parents.

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Eagle-eyed readers may spot an issue here: a young person is using the internet to seek answers, they’re probably not in a position to ask their parents the questions they have. Asking could, in fact, put children at risk of violence–physical violence, emotional violence, conversion therapy.

It’s not just LGBT-related searches that are blocked, though. Dr Jill McDevitt tried some common queries that children and young people may have, and found that information about puberty, is-my-body-normal type questions, searches related to menstruation, and searches about abuse were also blocked, sometimes with the Bad Words robot appearing.

The Bad Words robot appears on a search where anything judgmental definitely shouldn’t appear.

When dealing with child abuse, a sensitive approach is necessary. Children are likely to feel shame and guilt, and being told off for using bad words is hardly going to alleviate this.

It gets worse. Say an abused child was looking for contact details of someone who could help. Too bad.

Apparently other helplines and services are similarly blocked, the stern robot repeating over and over that these are bad words that should not be used.

This site is an abusive, controlling parent’s dream, barring their child from access to any possible sources of help. If, by accident, something useful does slip through the net, parents can request blocking a search. I assume that this is what happened within the last 24 hours to the search term “transgender”, which returned results last night, but is A Bad Word today.

So who actually owns Kiddle? In truth, we don’t know. All we know is that it isn’t Google–which is hardly helpful information considering more than 7 billion people on this planet aren’t Google. It’s all very fishy. There’s no transparency on who owns the site, or who’s involved in editing it. Do they know that they are enabling child abuse? Would they be mortified if they did know, or is it their goal all along? For all we know, Kiddle could be run by a paedophile ring hoping to keep kids blissfully ignorant that what’s happening to them is not OK.

In theory, a child-friendly search engine using safe searches and human moderation is a good one, but it cannot and must not block things which parents find unsavoury. Instead, if a child searches for information about sexuality, they should be able to access it. If they want to know about what’s all right and what isn’t, they should damn well be able to access it. Keeping children ignorant only opens them up to abuse. Question why parents (or perhaps just the owners of Kiddle) don’t want children to access information about being queer, or resources for child abuse.

The view of parents as an all-powerful authority over their children, able to control what they see and do not see is a dangerous one in and of itself, but sadly all too prevalent. The only source of hope we can perhaps draw with this Kiddle incident is maybe they won’t be supervising their children online so much, so young people can go about being more digitally-savvy than their parents and find the information they need online themselves.

Guest post: The Fuck Off Fund–all right for some

Content warning: this post discusses domestic violence

This is a guest post from an anonymous woman. It is a response to the article A Story of a Fuck Off Fund, which has been widely shared and praised by middle-class white feminists. This guest writer has written a response to the article. 

Sometimes the mother and the feminist in me find themselves at odds. It shouldn’t happen but it does. As a feminist I want to tell my daughter to wear what the fuck she likes, say what the fuck she likes to do what the fuck she likes, but the mother wants to counsel her against the risks of getting too drunk or wearing shoes that mean she can’t run fast, or walking alone late at night in dark deserted places.

This is what it means to be a woman in this world -this constant battle between what should be our right and what is safe.

For this reason I can see why this article has been such a hit with some people. This is the advice I would give to give my daughter, before she goes out into the world. To be careful, not to take risks, not to be too trusting. To always have a get out plan. In an ideal world we would all always have a get out plan, but we don’t live in an ideal world.

Let me share something with you that I haven’t told many people yet. On Boxing Day I fled an abusive relationship, I took the children and we crept quietly out, in the dark of the night. We took little more than the clothes we were standing up in and we ran.

As it happens I did have some money saved, and I have many supportive friends, and my parents have been great and most importantly I have a secure place to live within my community and every day I am thankful for these things and more -that I was able to buy a washing machine (because of course we don’t have many clothes right now) that I could afford to pay for a bunk bed so they have somewhere to sleep, that there were school places available in the local schools. I know how incredibly lucky I have been and yet still it hasn’t been easy.

When I read the article I started crying. It is true that I’m emotional these days and it doesn’t take much to trigger a round of tears, but I haven’t stopped all day. I am horrified to realise that there are people in the world can write this shit or share it without appreciating the wider implications of what is actually being said. It is sensible to always have something saved in case of an emergency, to not max out your credit cards or take out loans, of course I agree, who wouldn’t agree? But to say that with no awareness that sometimes we are forced to this, to get through christmas, to pay the colossal gas bill that always comes in spring, to replace the broken laptop so your children can do their homework or to find the money for the school trip.

I live in the UK, and despite being one of the richest countries in the world it is a place where the majority of under 30’s are spending more than 50% of their income, not on halterneck dresses, but on paying rent to private landlords. Where visits to food banks are routine. Where until the government redefined what it meant to live in poverty more than half of all children lived below this line.

Britain is a country where some of us have to choose between feeding our kids and switching the heating on at night. I might have had a fuck off fund a few weeks ago, but I certainly haven’t got one now, and unless some kind of miracle happens I won’t be replenishing it any time soon.

Arguably financial independence is a good thing to strive towards, a good thing to teach your kids, I get that. But having savings is simply not an option for a large proportion of the world’s population. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to pull themselves up by their boot straps, many people but more commonly women don’t do jobs that are valued enough by this patriarchal capitalist society to make any more than just getting by a possibility. Being able to put a little aside every month is not something everyone can do. That doesn’t make them feckless and short-sighted, that makes them victims of an unforgiving world.

A short rant on communication and all girls’ schools

Doing the rounds today has been a headteacher of a mixed-sex private school trying to promote his school by saying that girls who go to single-sex schools don’t learn to communicate with men in the real world.

I went to an all girls’ school and I’d query that massively. I had a short rant, which I’ll collate here.

(though, to be fair to the lesbian drama, it was significantly superior to the hetero drama at sixth form)

 

Adding to this, at my current workplace, it’s mostly women. It’s a great place to work because I never get men talking over me, and I can make my points and get on with my fucking job.

 

The reason I used “much” here is because it’s not completely absent. Yes, you won’t have teachers calling on the boys more than the girls. Yes, you won’t be a direct witness to patriarchy in action among your peers. However, you’re still living and growing up in a patriarchal society so it’s kind of still coming in.

A “bitch” here clearly defined as “a woman who pisses off men”, by doing Terrible things such as not quietly standing there and nodding while he speaks, not accepting everything he says as right, arguing, talking back, saying no, etc etc.

If anyone can get hold of the paywalled article, please do send it my way. I believe it was in the January 2012 issue of Science, although I didn’t actually have much to go on: all the headteacher said was it was an article in that magazine, never specifying a date, or anything.

 

 

This bears repeating again and again. Single sex schools are fucking shit for a lot of kids. They’re probably not the best thing for anyone, really, in an ideal world. Nonetheless, do they make it harder for women to communicate with men? Yes, probably. But only because men are entitled pigs.