French burqa ban

French police detain veil protesters – the Guardian

So glad French women can no longer be oppressed by being forced to wear veils and burqas. Yup, it seems by simply banning a piece of clothing the French government has managed to eradicate all sexism and patriarchy from French Muslim communities! Of course there are some who would say that sexism is deeply entrenched and complicated and that Muslim women are more concerned about things like domestic violence, divorce rights, and the right to work and own property, than about head-coverings. Some people would even argue that the burqa ban is more about marginalizing an already-marginalized minority group and expressing the dominance of French culture over immigrant cultures rather than about promoting womens’ rights. But, pshaw.

It should be noted that while French women will be protected from burqa-oppression, they will not be protected from police-officers-stopping-you-in-the-street-and-violently-arresting-you-because-they-don’t-like-your-clothes-or-your-culture-oppression. So, swings and roundabouts.

Hey come to think of it, these lucky French Muslim women are being oppressed by two separate patriarchies AT THE SAME TIME, how completely mind-boggling. Only both patriarchies see what they are doing as being liberation, not oppression. Anyway the two oppressions cancel out, according to the rules of OPPRESSION MATH! (It’s just like real math, except it’s complete bullshit).

I’m looking forward to the next logical step of compulsory high heels, lipstick and mini-skirts for all women and girls between 12 and 90. BRING ON THE LIBERATION!!! Oh yeah.


Open Source Swift Kick to the Balls Project (OSSKBP)

I’ve just discovered the Open Source Swift Kick to the Balls Project and I can’t even find the words to describe how awesome this is.

The basic premise is that all men are presumed to be open to receiving a swift kick to the balls at any time. If any particular man doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of a swift kick to the balls, it is his responsibility to inform the prospective ball-kicker of his preference.

Yes it is a metaphor.

Pathetic attempt to participate in pathetic representative democracy

I wrote to my stupid MP about the stupid amendment that would force women to get counseling before they get an abortion.

I actually stopped writing to MP’s years ago, because it was just so blatantly obvious that MP’s do whatever they were going to do anyway and don’t give a fuck about whether constituents write them letters or not. The replies you get are most often form letters. I once got an actual reply, apparently written by the actual MP and not by his secretary, and it basically went “I am going to completely ignore your letter and do exactly what I was going to do anyway, but thank you for sending me such a lovely letters and thereby participating in the democratic process! I hope that you will write me some more lovely letters in future so I can completely ignore those as well!” Not exactly in those words, but not far off either. So I stopped writing letters to MP’s years ago because it is basically just something you do to make yourself feel better, and it gives our so-called Democracy a gloss of legitimacy it doesn’t deserve.

Also, everything sucks. But I’m drunk. If I had any real moral courage I would probably be outside smashing windows and setting fire to stuff. Anyway, I wrote a letter to my MP, I’m pasting it below:

Dear XXX,

I’m writing to express the horror and disgust I feel at hearing that an amendment has been added to Health and Social Care Bill 2010-11, which would require any woman needing an abortion to undergo COMPULSORY counselling.

It would be wonderful if OPTIONAL counselling was provided to women needing an abortion. However to make the counselling compulsory is a violation of human rights, since it amounts to treating women as if they were children or mental patients, unable to make their decisions about their own health. This kind of blatant sexism has not been seen in the UK since the Victorian era.

People can only be forced to undergo psychiatric treatment against their will if they are psychotic and have a “mental disorder” which puts either themselves or the public at risk, under the Mental Health Act 1983 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It is very, very wrong to treat women who require an abortion as if they were psychotic.

Furthermore, it is obvious that COMPULSORY counselling would not have any good effect on the patient, since any psychotherapist or personal counsellor could tell you that counselling only works when there is trust between the patient and counsellor. This trust obviously cannot exist when a patient is forced to undergo counselling against her will.

Please let me know what steps you are taking to prevent this sexist and amoral amendment from becoming law.



Excellent anti-cuts placard

Not saying “no” is a very, very long way from saying “yes”

I had a total “of course, I GET it now” moment when I read this:

Mythcommunication: It’s Not That They Don’t Understand, They Just Don’t Like The Answer

It basically asks two questions:

1. Why do some people find it impossible to say “no”, even if they really really mean “no”? And,

2. It frequently happens that a man rapes a woman, but she didn’t say “no”. Many feminists would say that it was rape if she didn’t say “yes”, but some other people maintain that if she didn’t say “no” then it wasn’t really rape.* What’s up with that?

I’ve known all my adult life that it is sometimes extremely hard to say “no”. I’ve been in situations where the combination of total shock and total terror I felt made it impossible for me to make a noise: it’s like my throat was frozen shut.

But there’s something even harder to explain: I’ve been in situations where something was done to me that shocked and horrified me, but I didn’t scream and I didn’t freeze either. I just went incredibly passive. In my head I was screaming at the person who was hurting me: “Why don’t you stop, can’t you see how terrible this is for me?” But I wasn’t able to make myself say that out loud. I just lay still and waited for it to be over. Afterwards I was utterly depressed and confused, I didn’t understand my own behaviour, the only thing I knew was that I hated myself and that everything that had happened was my fault. Because I didn’t say “no”.

The study found something that had never occured to me, but which made me say “Yes of course!” as soon as I read it: people just don’t say “no”. To anything. Ever. It’s something we are trained not to do and which we have no experience of doing. When someone says “would you like to go for coffee with me” or “could you babysit my kid tomorrow evening” or “a bunch of us are going to the pub, are you coming”, we don’t say “no” – if we did it would seem rude and aggressive. Instead we say “maybe” or “I’ll see” or “I’ll have to think about it” or “I’ll have to check if I’m free” or “sorry, I’m busy then, maybe some other time”.

This shows that the requirement for women to say “no” to unwanted sex amounts to requiring women to use vocabulary that is completely alien. It’s as if women were told that if we don’t want sex we have to stand on one leg and say “please don’t rape me” in fluent Hungarian.

Self-defense trainers know how difficult saying “no” is. The first thing I learned when I took a self-defense course was how to shout “NO!”, and the trainer didn’t just tell us to do that once, we practiced it over and over. At first none of us could bring ourselves to shout and so instead we said “no” quietly and self-consciously and then collapsed into nervous laughter. We needed practice and encouragement in order to overcome our inhibitions against saying the word “no”.

One thing I learned in self-defense class is that in a high-adrenaline situation you aren’t able to think clearly and logically about what the best course of action might be, instead your brain shuts down and you just instinctively do whatever you have trained to do, that is, you do whatever it is you have done over and over to the point that you can do it on autopilot. So for instance when we were taking turns pretending to attack our partner with a rubber knife, we didn’t hand the knife to our partner, because if we did that in training we might do it in an emergency situation as well. The instructor told us a story about a martial artist who got attacked while walking through a park: the martial artist expertly took the knife from the attacker and then handed it back to him, since that was what he’d done over and over in his training. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that since we never say “no” in our day-to-day lives, it would be difficult or impossible for us to say it in a high-stress situation. For many people the default behaviour in a situation such as rape is to freeze or go passive, since we have not had any training or practise in how to deal with this situation.

Realizing all of this was a big deal to me because for the first time I can tell myself, “it’s not my fault that I didn’t say no”, and I can back this up with solid research. (And then I think, it’s pathetic that I, a grown woman, need to reassure myself that it’s not my fault I was assaulted, but whatever.) It’s more clear to me than ever that the definition of rape must not include a requirement for saying “no”. Of course “no means no” still applies, but we need to go further than that and make it clear that sex without enthusiastic consent is rape.

The study went on to ask the question: given that we never give a clear “no” and instead give softer, vaguer answers, are people able to tell when the person they asked to do something doesn’t want to do it? The answer is a definite yes, we are actually very good at understanding when someone doesn’t want to do something. This points to the ugly truth which I and probably everyone else already knew: there are lots of men (a minority of men overall, but still lots of them, and they get around) who are happy to fuck women who they know perfectly well don’t want to be fucked. They do this because they know they can get away with it. They know it will not be called “rape”, they know that if the victim dares to speak up she will be called hysterical or unreasonable or confused or vengeful or people will say she has a reputation or is slutty or is an undercover agent for the CIA**. They know that if she talks to the police she will not be taken seriously. They know that most likely the victim won’t speak up at all, instead she’ll blame herself, become more at risk for depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and suicide, spend 6 months or two years or five years just trying to get her head straight again, she’ll get lower grades at school or drop out of school entirely or if she’s working she’ll find it harder to concentrate at work, and she might have to take time off and she might get passed over for promotions because of this, but she’ll do all this QUIETLY. The rapists know this. That’s why it’s so important, so crucial, to switch to a definition of rape to include all sex where there is not active, enthusiastic consent.

*But if someone was robbed or beaten up the cops wouldn’t ask them if they said “no please don’t rob or beat me.” Rape is the only crime where you have to explicitly say “no” or else it doesn’t count.

**Not even hyperbole, this is what people said about the two women who accused Julian Assange of rape and sexual assault. Google it.

Anti-choice misogynistic fuckery comes to the UK, or, Shadenfreude turns sour

A lot of the feminist blogs I read are based in the US, which means I have read quite a lot about various forms of anti-choice legislation that are going through there, always with a vaguely smug ‘Oh those poor Americans, they are so fucked, I’m so glad I live in England’ kind of feeling.

The smugness has been waning of late as our Coalition Government of Terrifying Evilness prepares to break our National Health Service into little tiny chunks which will then be sold off to private companies which have no experience of acting as health care providers, in the name of “efficiency”. And now this:

MPs launch cross-party bid to tighten abortion laws and make counselling compulsory

(I’d advise against reading the article, since it is completely disgusting and the title tells you everything you need to know.)

I can’t even write a rebuttal to this because it’s too stupid. In order to rebut this I would have to write painfully obvious and earnest statements like ‘women are human beings’ and ‘women have the right to control their own bodies’ and ‘women are adults who are are capable of independent thought and decision-making’. But I would quickly realize that when you find yourself writing this painfully obvious and earnest stuff you have already lost because the people behind this know they don’t make any sense, they are not trying to make sense, their strategy is not to win through rational arguments. In fact it’s the opposite, their strategy is irrational, misogynistic hatred and deliberate stupidity. Just the fact that they have dragged the discussion of womens’ equality down to the level where we have to try to explain to them (in simple words) that women are grown-ups and not brain-damaged children who need to be told what to do for their own good, means that they have already won.

I no longer feel like the UK is superior to the US. This country is falling into just as fetid a sinkhole of reactionary misoginistic shitfuckery as the Americans are, it’s just that they are slightly further along.

Irony is over. I’m very sorry.

Once upon a time, many years ago, it was acceptable to be blatantly, nakedly racist, sexist, or homophobic. You didn’t have to hide it.

Times changed and naked bigotry ceased to be publicly acceptable. Authors, journalists, directors, and video game creators stopped creating works that were nakedly bigoted, because otherwise they would get fired.

But many members of the public still loved them some bigotry, and some of the writers and directors did as well. So they searched for ways to write bigoted stuff without having to admit that it was bigoted. One way was to tone down the bigotry. They didn’t say outright ‘women are objects’, they just wrote books or screenplays in which the female characters happened to behave like objects. They didn’t say ‘whites are superior’, they just wrote stories in which all the most heroic characters happened to be white. Etc. etc.

But for some the subtle approach didn’t really hit the spot. They wanted their bigotry thick and un-subtle. They wanted to wallow in it, to wriggle around in it, to squeeze big gobs of warm greasy hatred against their skin.

But they didn’t want to think of themselves as ‘bigots’ even though that’s what they were. They wanted to think of themselves as “artists”.

That’s where irony comes in. You can write something that is blatantly, gobsmackingly sexist or racist, as long as you add a layer of irony on top. Then it magically ceases to be hate speech and instead becomes “satire”. Whenever anyone complains you can just say, “Didn’t you realize that I was being ironic?”

This is one of those things where we see it so often that we stop being able to see it at all. A couple of examples come to mind, from things I happen to have seen recently (I focus on misogyny rather than other kinds of prejudice, because that’s the one that jumps out most for me):

Snakes in a plane
I only got through the first 5 minutes of this, I turned it off at the point where a sexy woman asks a rap star for an autograph, he (uninvited) gives her breast a squeeze, and she responds by giggling. Message: women just love being sexually assaulted!

The thing that really fills me with rage is that when I’ve tried to tell my friends how angry this makes me the response is always, ‘well OF COURSE it’s going to be that way, it’s just that kind of film, it’s not meant to be taken seriously’. No, actually, a pro-sexual-assault message is not OK ever, EVEN IF IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. Between 5% and 20% of British women will survive rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes, depending which statistics you believe, and even more than that survive other types of sexual assault. There is no situation in which it is OK to portray sexual assault in a positive way, ever. Fuck off. Really. FUCK OFF.

Duke Nukem (and, come to think of it, about 50 other video games)
There is a macho male hero and some sexy babe-objects who even when they wear armor, wear bikinis. Armor bikinis. But it isn’t sexist. OK, yeah, it is sexist, but, it’s not really sexist. It’s not intended to be taken that way. It’s ironic.

Bad Lieutenant
I got through about 30 minutes of this one. All the women in this film are walking-stereotype-beautiful-slut-babe-objects who give blow-jobs to not-particularly-attractive men they don’t know for no apparent reason.

The particularly angry-making thing here is that it’s by Werner Herzog, who is smart and has made lots of good films, and he clearly thinks his over-the-top misogyny is part of some both hilarious and intelligent critique of the action film genre. It isn’t. It’s just plain old misogynistic hatred, it isn’t even particularly clever.

Every Adam Sandler film ever made
I don’t think this needs any explanation.

In all of them the extreme misogyny is clearly intended to be understood as funny or ironic, but at the same time you can “appreciate” the misogyny in a totally straight up way, ignoring the thin and unconvincing veneer of irony. The irony is not really there to thoughtfully examine and criticize misogyny in society, it is just a pretense, a thin veneer whose only purpose is to excuse what lies beneath: a straight-up, old-fashioned, celebration of bigotry and stereotypes.

Well, I’m declaring the concept of irony to be over as of now. It used to be good, but somehow along the way it ceased to be a tool for genuinely sharp and clever criticism of society, and instead became twisted, debased, and evil. I’m very sorry. Many of us will miss irony, but we have to face the truth: it was already gone.

Also being taken out of service: “sarcasm”, “satire”, and “edgy humour”.