Patreon’s awful new fee policy and an alternative

Update 14/12/17 Patreon altered the fee policy. I am still gratefully accepting patrons on my Patreon. Well done for kicking up a fuss, folks!

Some of you might be aware that Patreon have recently launched a new fee policy which forces the brunt of fees onto patrons. This is a huge problem for small creators like me, who ask for small contributions, but more importantly, it affects those lovely people who like to give a small amount to creators.

Here’s a little bit of maths from @niquaeli to show how the new system affects you (and me):

If you want more detailed information about how awful the new Patreon charges are for small pledges, check out this thread from @FoldableHuman.

Basically, it’s screwing us. With that in mind, I’m looking at alternatives. Kickstarter Drip is still in invite-only beta, and I’m not yet sure as to whether it’s a superior option to Patreon, so in the meantime, I’ve made a liberapay account, with a view to closing my Patreon if they don’t back down on the fees soon.

https://liberapay.com/stavvers

Liberapay is made by a European non-profit, and helps those of you who choose to give small amounts to one, or many creators. The upside is you don’t pay so much in fees. You can give under a pseudonym, protecting your privacy. Also, it pays in Euros, which is nice for everyone, and you don’t have to give whole-euro amounts. It’s weekly, so if you wanted to support me by paying 1 Euro a month, you could pay 25 cents weekly.

The main downside is that when you make an account, you have to pay at least 15 Euros into your “wallet”, and I understand this might be a little steep as an upfront payment for some of you. You don’t have to spend it all at once, you can just set it up to pay your favourite creators the small amount, and it’ll email you when you need to top up your wallet. Bit of a faff, maybe, but it might work for you.

If you’re interested, here’s my liberapay again…

https://liberapay.com/stavvers

Of course, if you just want to make a one-off tip, there’s always my paypal

Thanks for reading, and I’m so sorry about Patreon. If they don’t change their fee policy, screw them, and screw them hard. I bear grudges, and they are currently right up on my naughty list.

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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On Bookfair and that terrible Guardian/Observer piece

Content note: this post discusses transmisogyny, transphobia, sexual violence, racism and disablism

On Sunday the Guardian Actually It’s An Observer Article™ ran a godawful article, mourning the death of the London Anarchist Bookfair because those pesky trans activists shut it down. As regular as clockwork, the usual transmisogynistic bigots jumped on the bandwagon about what a Terrible Loss this was. The criticism draws a kind of bitter laughter, given how obvious it was that everyone sticking their oar in had never been to bookfair, and would have (rightly) found their jolyonic arses chased out of there if they ever turned up, and the “news” is about as stale as a mince pie in July. Further, it shows a devastating lack of research–which, I am fairly sure was deliberate; anything to get that all important fib about trans people out there.

I’ve made a few twitter threads about this (1, 2, 3) and the purpose of this post is, I hope, to ensure that I don;t have to make any more.

I think we can all agree that the Guardian article is in bad faith. It becomes evident that this is the case as it deploys a scattergun approach, conflating three stories: the bookfair, a complaint about a transmisogynistic bigot in the Women’s Equality Party (definitely not anarchists), and Labour Party activist Lily Madigan and the bigots fixated on her (definitely not anarchists). Bookfair has never been anything that most mainstream journalists have cared about, and given the time gap, I cannot help but think these people have been hunched at their desks, scanning every obscure little Facebook group, every tiny community event and every church newsletter for a story involving trans people that they could blow out of all proportion. When the Fordwich Village Fete proved fruitless, they finally alighted on bookfair.

And, of course, the article is absolute bullshit, because while the incident was perhaps a last straw, there had been numerous criticisms of bookfair, every goddamn year. That’s why the demands, which the Guardian didn’t even deign to share, are broad. I suggest reading the whole letter for full context and the wide range of signatories (hint: it’s not just trans activists!), but here are the demands, which I have annotated briefly for the skim readers.

  1. To change the date of the LABF in future years so it does not clash with the United Friends & Family Campaign Annual Demonstration and to actively promote attendance at the annual UFFC March. –UFFC is a group who have lost a loved one to police violence. It has been contentious, over the years, that bookfair frequently clashes with their march, thus meaning that fewer anarchists go out to show solidarity with the campaign.
  2. A clear statement outlining the politics the LABF is committed to, what kinds of behaviour and views are unacceptable and unwelcome at the Bookfair, and what action will be taken by organisers if these boundaries of acceptable behaviour are ignored by attendees or speakers. -Transparency is crucial. Alas, bookfair’s general way of dealing with, e.g. men yelling into megaphones about how Julian Assange is a real victim and all women are liars, has been to tell survivors to deal with it themselves.
  3. A clear statement of political values that reflect the above boundaries and that speakers, those hosting meetings, and those with stalls must clearly commit to in order to be able to participate. -It’s no good having a statement of politics if those platformed fail to meet them!
  4. A commitment to incorporating anti-racist and decolonial struggle into the program of the Bookfair by providing space for workshops and meetings and actively seeking out local black, brown and people of colour led groups to work with and run these meetings. -The bookfair’s meetings are usually a sea of white faces, with little effort made to reach out to the wider community.
  5. A commitment to incorporating queer and trans struggle into the program of the Bookfair by providing space for workshops and meetings and actively seeking out queer and trans lead groups to work with and run these meetings. -Same, but for queers. It’s a pretty straight space.
  6. A commitment to physical accessibility in all its forms. Firstly, by making sure that workshops and meeting spaces are able to be physically entered by people using wheelchair or mobility devices and that movement through and around the buildings is not reliant on having to wait for an organiser to open a door or operate a lift. Secondly, by incorporating into the program workshops relating to accessibility and disability struggles led by those directly affected by these issues. -This is so basic, and was still a failure.
  7. A commitment to continue the “no cameras” and “no filming” rule without exception given. -Rightly. a lot of anarchists don’t want to be photographed or filmed. Bookfair made little effort to ensure this was not possible, besides putting up a couple of signs.

These are the bare minimal standards for organising a functional community event: respecting consent and ensuring that the whole community can access the space. And believe me, it did not arise in a vacuum.

I stopped going to bookfair a few years back. I mentioned a man with a megaphone as an example above. This was something that actually happened to me. And do you know what, I dealt with it in precisely the way the organisers say they’d prefer us to: I stood next to that man, yelling “RAPE APOLOGIST RAPE APOLOGIST” like a shrill car alarm, exercising my free speech. Others joined me. Then it got nasty, a little bit physical. After bookfair, me and others tried to put forward to organisers that they needed to knock the proponents of sexual violence on the head, that they needed to maintain a space in which survivors can exist. I got death threats for that, and I stopped going to bookfair.

I’m hardly alone in this trajectory. There have always been a lot of awful people turning up at bookfair. The “Anarchist Christmas” moniker was always accurate for all the wrong reasons: you end up in a building with a lot of horrible people and are powerless to challenge them on their nasty shit. There’s racists, antisemites, actual rapists and the men who love them, transmisogynists and homophobes, and every time anyone in the community makes an effort to deal with the problems, we were shot down. You encounter men who have abused you, you encounter racists who have called you vile slurs, and, if you’re disabled, you’re pretty much trapped in a crowd. It’s horrible, bookfair was a horrible space, and if they didn’t want to improve it, I’m fucking glad it’s dead.

I digress, I have a lot of bitterness, as do almost all of the people that I love, because it was made perfectly clear to all of us that bookfair is not a place for people like us.

There’s been a lot building up over the years, and each year, there’s been another flashpoint. It seems, this year, that bookfair organisers finally decided that they couldn’t be bothered with the criticism from marginalised members of our community any further. Maybe they even decided to make it all about transphobia, knowing that if, for whatever reason, the news found its way to the media, the media would side with them. But it isn’t about transphobia, and many of us know precisely what an unmitigated shitshow the whole affair was.

And with the knowledge of just how bad bookfair truly was, it becomes abundantly clear how little the transmisogynistic bigots really care about women’s safety, that excuse they perpetually use for excluding trans people from public life. Bookfair was a fundamentally unsafe space for many women, not because trans women exist, but because of all the rapists and the misogynists present. I don’t expect the Guardian, fed a quote from their friendly neighbourhood transmisogynistic bigot to know this (though I would have expected at least some cursory research from an outlet that self-identifies as Quality Journalism™), but I definitely would expect this of the transmisogynistic bigots within our community. That they chose to spread lies about trans women rather than deal with the very real threat of violent men shows exactly how little they are interested in keeping women safe. They do not care about survivors, they only want to spread hate.

Sadly, I do not expect any of those who have supped on the media lies to read this, for none truly care about an anarchist event: they only want to feed upon anti-trans propaganda while feeling like an objective clever person. But they are not, they never were.

Nonetheless, I write it down. This is the context to bookfair. These were the demands made to bookfair. This is the truth.

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A little announcement

Hello sweeties, I have a little announcement for you, so I’ll fucking well do it. I’m going to be attempting NaNoWriMo this November, so I’ll probably be quieter than usual for the next few weeks.

Luckily, if all goes well, I’ll be posting excerpts over on my Patreon for patrons to peruse. Here is a short, but non-exhaustive list of things I’ve been researching so far:

  • Greek Orthodox monastic life
  • Nuclear EMPs
  • Venetian dogal elections
  • “Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant”
  • John Deere tractor licensing
  • The inner workings of steampunk airships
  • This map
  • Railguns and frickin lasers
  • BBC Radio 4 listings
  • Brain-computer interfacing

So. If you want to watch me try to weave all this stuff into something coherent, then head on over to patronise me. I say this all the pissing time, but I truly do appreciate it if you just give me $1USD a month. Wish me luck!

The Abortion Act is 50 today. Where next?

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act (1967) receiving royal assent and passing into law.

We have a tendency of treating this law as having legalised abortion completely, resting complacently on our safe and legal access to abortion, but this is not the case.

Abortion is still a criminal offence. Not just in Northern Ireland, but in the rest of the UK. All the abortion act does is decriminalise abortion under a few very specific circumstances.

The specific circumstances, in practice, are box-checking exercises. Two doctors must agree that the pregnancy is less than 24 weeks, and that continuing the pregnancy would cause greater harm to physical or mental health than terminating it. In practice, therefore, there’s usually few hurdles as pretty much any doctor will agree that not being pregnant is a bit better for your physical health than being pregnant, and that not having a pregnancy you don’t want is a bit better for your mental health than having a pregnancy you don’t want.

Nonetheless, there is this spectre of illegality of abortion, with the same criminal sanctions, from a law that is over 150 years old, that apply in Northern Ireland also applying in the rest of the UK outside of these very specific circumstances.

Fifty years on, surely it’s time for change. We need Northern Ireland to have the same access to ending pregnancies that exist in the rest of the country.  And for all of us, all of the criminal sanctions need to go–just as penalties for gay sex were repealed, surely those for abortion need to disappear.

What we need is precisely what the womb-botherers accuse us of wanting: abortion on demand. I’ve written about this before: it’s not a bad idea–it’s a good one. Abortion available, without reason, at any point a person wishes to end a pregnancy. No criminal sanctions for anyone ending a pregnancy. No requirement of two doctors–indeed, in many instances, a nurse would be suitable.

Instead of laws restricting, let us have laws that protect abortion: laws ensuring the safety of the procedure, and laws ensuring that anybody who wants an abortion is able to access one.

Another thing we need, fifty years on, is to think more about the way that we talk about pregnancy and abortion. You probably didn’t even notice that I never said “pregnant woman” throughout. This is because it’s not just more precise to point out that not everybody who gets knocked up is a woman, but also because it really is very easy to not use gendered language. Legal protections are for anyone who wants an embryo or foetus out of their uterus. Let’s move towards inclusive language when talking about pregnancy and abortion, because abortion and trans rights are allied struggles: both for bodily autonomy and liberation from a biological essentialist views that a woman is defined by reproductive role alone.

In its time, the Abortion Act was radical legislation and has no doubt improved lives–and more than likely saved a few. But the world is moving on, and it’s time to move with it. We must never be afraid to demand more, because we all deserve more.

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Witch hunt.

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence, rape apologism and historical femicides

Picture a witch. The worst, wickedest witch you can. The kind of witch who causes crops to fail, floats in water due to Satan’s power, and all-round causes trouble for men.

Your witch doesn’t look like a powerful white man accused of sexual violence, does she?

So why is it, then, that whenever a powerful white man is accused of sexual violence, his defenders rally around and decry the whole thing as a witch hunt?

In the early modern period, many Europeans were killed in witch hunts. Up to 90% of these people were women (ETA I HAVE BEEN CALLED OUT ON THIS AND I AM WRONG. Read this thread. I have erased trans women in this article. READ THIS THREAD. I just want to clarify my stance that of COURSE when I use the term “women” I am including trans women. Every time. But I can do a lot more to be clear about this. I also always welcome call-outs. I’m trying, but I’m still capable of being wrong. I unconditionally apologise for any harm I caused by blarting my cluelessly cis opinions.)These so-called witches were denounced, blamed and ultimately tortured and killed.

The sort of person who cries “witch hunt!” are devoid of any analysis of what actually occurred in the witch hunts and witch trials. Yes, members of the community would accuse the perceived witch. That’s where the similarities end. See, witchcraft and consorting with the devil is bullshit. Sexual violence is not. Sexual violence is frighteningly common, and a lot of men are very willing to admit to having raped someone if the r-word is never used. When a man is accused of sexual violence by one woman, statistically it’s far more likely than not that he did it. When he is accused by multiple women, it becomes a near-certainty. Contrast that with the likelihood that a gobby woman caused a prize calf to come out looking a bit weird by casting a spell.

The profile of the witch was a working-class woman known for a “quarrelsome and aggressive nature“. When men were accused, they, too, were typically working class. Witch hunts were undeniably gendered, with perhaps a class component involved too. It is a very different kettle of fish to accusations of sexual violence levelled at men powerful enough to believe themselves able to do what they want.

It is not hysteria, nor a moral panic, to level true allegations. And, indeed, it’s well-documented that survivors speaking out encourage more survivors to come forward.

For a powerful white man who is also a creep, perhaps survivors coming forward can feel a little like a witch hunt. I’ve written before, on the topic of trigger warnings, that white boys are wrapped in cotton wool their whole life. The same applies here. These men have not experienced true adversity in their lives. They are pampered and protected from ever feeling even vaguely uncomfortable; thinking about how their behaviour might affect other people, and how other people might be experiencing considerably harder lives, is an alien concept. They project their discomfort onto everyone else, blissfully unaware that for the rest of us, it’s not about feelings, but about material circumstances–because, for them, it’s all about his own feelings.

For a powerful white man who has escaped accountability for his actions all of his life, accountability must feel like persecution. And the threat of being held accountable may feel like a witch hunt for men who are aware that they, too, could be held accountable for the exact same thing.

But it is not the same thing, and it never was. These are people who cannot grasp the facts about what a witch hunt actually constituted. They centre themselves in a massive-scale historical femicide, because they are incapable of imagining the world not revolving around them.

So. Powerful white men are not the victims of a witch hunt when sexual violence allegations surface. But nonetheless, there usually is a witch hunt around this time: of survivors.

A moral panic tends to surface, and a round of denunciations comes. The victims of this witch hunt fit the historical profile: they are women speaking out of turn. If you want to see a witch hunt around allegations of sexual violence, look no further than the survivors speaking out.

Every time, it is the same. The survivors’ behaviour is scrutinised, they are smeared, they are accused of all sorts of horrific acts, they are vilified as “grotesque”. All of it, just like shagging Satan helps you kill fields of wheat, is fictitious. It happens in the media, and I have witnessed it too many times to count in networks I occupy when survivors have attempted to speak out against abusers. The function of this is likely much the same as the function of the historical witch hunts: to keep women in their place and to protect power.

That is what a witch hunt looks like; not survivors finally coming forward about mass abusers.

I write this article, partially because once again a rich and powerful white man has been accused by multiple women, and the old media narratives have emerged. But I also write this, fully in the knowledge that the next time a rich and powerful white man is accused, the exact same thing will happen once again. I don’t believe I’ll break the cycle in writing this down, but it saves me having to comment to the exact same effect on every damn time it pops up.

The real witch hunt is never, and has never been, about the men accused. It’s always been the survivors who have been hunted.

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