Friday, 30 December 2011

Top people of 2011

After the 'pandagate' row the other day, I thought about putting a list together of my top people of 2011. Then I realised that would be hard and would potentially lead to more arguing, so I didn't.

However, there are some really ace people who I would like to pay a bit of tribute to, and those are the people I met off Twitter this past year, whom you should all follow. There's quite a few to get through, so I might miss someone out. Let me know if I do and I'll rectify it straight away.

Without further ado...

The first person I met from Twitter was @juliet_mcr. A wonderful woman, who was maligned by the Daily Mail and took them to court. As a result of this, now a law student. That same day I met @RopesToInfinity. Sarky but loveable git who writes No Sleep Til Brooklands, a great Mail-fisking blog, when he can be bothered to update it. Boyfriend of @other_red, who is awesome. Now, in order to make sense of things, I'm going to break the rest of the people up into categories...

People I have been out for drinks with:

@cpoffers - My most frequent drinking buddy in That London. Wonderfully acerbic sense of humour and a great source of cat pictures when I'm feeling down.

@stavvers@mediocredave@jedweightman@seanjohalloran@a_y_alex@marxroadrunner - very funny, fiercely intelligent people who are often found plotting the demise of the Tories, of which I wholeheartedly approve.

@ludditewebdev@iamminihorse@karen_hackett - along with some others mentioned above, got me drunk on shots and kidnapped me at Victoria Station. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Had a great time with them and they're a pleasure to follow.

@scriptrix@LosTheSkald - Classics-loving couple. Always have an interesting angle on politics and teach me a lot with their tweets.

@sonniesedge - one of my favourite people ever. Hilariously funny, totally on the ball and one of the best people to watch Doctor Who when hungover with (and one of the best people to get drunk with in the first place).

@scattermoon - great woman - gave me a much-needed place to stay after London Slutwalk and got me a job (even if it didn't work out!)

@JulietJacques@ParisLees - fantastic Graun-writing trans* rights activists.

@QOFE@sandyd68 - my wonderful Brighton-based Twitteraunties - if you could get kettled with your aunties then go get hammered with them while you scream obscenities at Question Time.

@nautilusinred - Trade Union activist who always has something good to say.

@voqo - very clever lady. Great fun to be around.

@Puffles2010 - or rather, Puffles' bestest-buddy. Offers an interesting perspective from inside the Whitehall jungle.

@interama - very nice person. Incredibly intelligent and knows her baking.

@ruthiedee@clogmuso - Labour party members I didn't want to fight - a rare occurrence. Lovely Bristol-based people.

@heyhayley - now housemate of mine - her fault I moved to Bristol. Thankfully :)

@commuterist@amipepper - fab couple. Commuterist has taught me a lot about economics through his tweets.

@BookElfLeeds - great tweeter on the subjects of Marxist feminism, libraries and literacy. Can handle obscenely strong strawberry cider that's served from a box on the end of the bar very well.

@bolli_bolshevik - very funny radical feminist and organiser of Leeds Reclaim The Night.

@Stebax - very talented media blogger at Enemies of Reason and at the New Statesman.

@DocHackenbush - comic genius and awesome at captioning images. Made my Facebook profile picture. Totally worth getting lost for two hours trying to meet him and Hackenbush Jr.

@kit_withnail - the man for whom the phrase 'fiercely intelligent' was invented.

@jaykayell_ - helped me avoid the Royal Wedding in London. Deserves a medal just for that.

@5ChinCrack - brilliantly hilarious author of Five Chinese Crackers - gives out the not-coveted 'Tabloid Bullshit of the Month' award.

@Trishie_D - laugh-out-loud funny American ex-pat. Always willing to help people. Me in 20 years time, without the being funny or American or nice.

@JenClone@pitandpendulum@Oddtwang@SuperRetroid - one of the funniest groups I've ever had the fortune to meet. All great tweeters, and introduced me to a story I can neither erase from my memory nor tell anyone about.

@jdthndr - lovely student of Proper Journalism (it can be done!) and great person to have around. Cheered me up many a time.

@atomicspin - brilliant science and media blogger at Atomic Spin. Moved countries just after we managed to have a pint together. These two events may or may not be related.

Bristol Feminists:

@sianushka@annifrangipani - awesomely dedicated co-founders of Bristol Feminist Network. Tireless campaigners and organisers of Bristol Reclaim The Night. Sian blogs at Sian and Crooked Rib and has just published a feminist anthology titled The Light Bulb Moment.

@NimkoAli - another woman who seemingly never gets tired. Co-founder of anti-FGM groups Daughters of Eve and CLIT-ROCK.

@marstrina - awesome radical feminist. Blogs at Not a Zero Sum Game.

@madamjmo - writes a great feminist blog with an emphasis on book reviews at Madam J-Mo. Once saved me from being stranded in Birmingham.

People I've met at demos and similar places:

@kateosgreatos@toivoperson@andyhaden@sinisterpics@ayiasophia@bristolnoborder@nynyflower@iaincollins@latentexistence@penners_@seancourt@mortari@catalyst45@anonymoosh. Special mention in this category goes to @SallyBercow, who took a picture of my chest at London Slutwalk and sent it to Guido Fawkes, who then put me in the 'top protest totty' section on his blog. Cheers for that Sally.

Super-special mention:

@Pani_Bufetowa and @NeverFadingWood - who I am sure would be the most awesome drinking buddies ever if they didn't insist on living in Poland. Wonderful, caring, brilliant, funny couple. Definitely top of my 'to meet in 2012' list.

Last but not least, my lovely boyfriend @Chris_GLS, who I started talking to about this time last year on Twitter and started dating in March. There's not much I can say here that won't make people vomit, but he's proper awesome and really helps me out all the time.

There you have it, my favourite people from 2011. Meeting all of you has made this year so much fun,  and compiling this list has also made me realise how many more people off Twitter I'm absolutely desperate to meet. So... how's everyone's diary looking for 2012?

Monday, 19 December 2011

Crowdfunding for INTERSECT

INTERSECT is a one-day conference taking place in Bristol on the 19th May 2012. It will feature speakers from several minority groups who are fighting for women's rights and give them a platform to present their organisations and aims and to inform attendees how they may get involved. 

This conference was borne from the idea that many members of the groups invited to take part feel that they are not included or catered for within what may be termed 'mainstream' feminism, and the conference aims to make some way towards solving this problem. The conference will hopefully conclude with an open debate titled "How do we create a more inclusive feminism?".

Invited groups include anti-FGM campaigners, trans* rights activists, disabled women's rights activists, female refugee/asylum seeker's rights activists, female prisoner's rights activists and groups involved with advocating the inclusion of women in foreign political systems. We are also in talks with a prominent feminist comedian to chair the event.

Website, Facebook and Twitter accounts will be live by 5/1/12. For more information before then contact @TheNatFantastic on Twitter or

Right, here comes the begging part:

I could really do with some sponsorship for this event. It's as simple as that. All donations will go solely to the conference for things like securing a venue and helping pay speaker's expenses.

This plea would have hopefully gone on a crowdfunding site (and hopefully will when technology stops being horrible to me), but I've been trying with two for over an hour now and can only conclude that I am at the centre of some kind of conspiracy because they keep going wrong.

Anyway, here's some incentives to whet your appetite:

Every single donation will get you thanks given on the website when it goes live (and in person!).

Donations over £10 will receive a mention of them or their group in the event programme (as long as the group abides by the ideals of the conference - you will be offered a refund if the group you wish to mention is considered unsuitable).

Donations over £25 will receive a quarter-page advert in the event programme (if they wish and the group advertises abides by the ideals of the conference - you will be offered a refund if your advert is considered unsuitable).

On the top left of the blog is a Paypal button which can be used (until I can get a separate account sorted later tonight) to make donations to INTERSECT. If you'd like to give anything you can to help this conference go ahead, please, please do. (This is currently my personal Paypal account, the balance pre-publishing is £0.00, so as soon as I set up a new account I will immediately transfer all funds to it and create a separate button)

Friday, 16 December 2011

On underage sex, bad science and pearl-clutching

Batten down the hatches folks, we're in for a good ol' fashioned moral panic!

This week the NHS published the results from their annual Health Survey for England, which is a study that looks at general health among the population. Usually this would pass by without much of a fuss, other than the predictable sneering from some sectors of the media about rising obesity levels, but this year they decided to take a break from that and focus on the fact that teenagers are having sex.

I know, right? Unbelievable, isn't it? Teenagers. Having sex. With each other. Someone best pop over to the grave of Mary Whitehouse with some chalk and a silver dagger because this is some big shit.

What the survey actually found is that 22% of men and 27% of women aged 16-24 were aged under 16 when they first had sex. Cue the media exploding, both left and right, to use these statistics to promote their personal agendas.

The survey seems to have some problems with it (the methods used for gathering data may be seen here). Firstly, this is a self-report study. This means that the researchers have no idea whether someone is telling the truth or not. The obvious problem with this is that when people answer questions about their sex life, they might give what are known as socially desirable answers - for an example of this, see the fact that men in the study reported a mean of 9.3 sexual partners and women only 4.7 - who are all the men fucking?

A second, linked problem with this study is that there is no satisfactory definition of sex. I mean, yes, there's the very heteronormative idea that sex occurs when a man puts his winkie in a lady's vajayjay - but I can think of several lesbians I know who would be both insulted and confused by the insinuation that they'd never actually had sex, contrary to what they thought they'd been doing. Sex really isn't that simple - last night on Twitter, @interarma linked to this great flowchart from Autostraddle:

Other problems I have with this survey directly relate to the under-16s figures, and they are that the report doesn't tell us how much sex these teens are having - they might have had four partners but only slept with each one once, or they might have had one partner but spent the best part of a year holed up fucking away like demons. Also, the survey didn't ask these teenagers their reasons for having sex - which is why newspapers have been able to sell us their pet peeves as explanations. 

So, first into the dock is the Guardian, who use an article titled "Quarter of UK women had underage sex, report finds" to blame their bĂȘte du jour - the 'pornification' of society for these statistics. Here's a fun fact: if you search for 'pornification' on the Graun's site, you get 42 results. It's not even a real fucking word. 

Right, so here's my problems with the Guardian story:

  1. The focus on underage female sexuality only. If I told you that 27% of 15 year old women and 22% of 15 year old men had eaten chocolate cake, would your response be to say "those greedy bitches!"? 
  2. That no emphasis is put on the fact that in the same survey 26% of women and 32% of men aged 16-24 said that they'd NEVER had sex.
  3. It doesn't mention that the reason for the disparity between the male and female results may (if it exists, which there is reason to doubt) be explained by the fact that in heterosexual relationships, it is seen as normal for the man to be older than the woman, and aberrant for the woman to be older than the man. So a 15 year old girl may be sleeping with a 17 year old boy, but it is unlikely for the reverse to occur.
  4. That bloody 'pornification' explanation, which I am now going to prattle on about at length. 
Diane Abbott MP is quoted as saying:
"The underlying cause must be the 'pornification' of the culture and the increasing sexualisation of pre-adolescent girls. Too many young girls are absorbing from the popular culture around them that they only have value as sex objects. Inevitably, they act this notion out."
May I be the first to say: Bullshit. Get a damn history book. I hate this 'female sexuality is always weak and passive' narrative. It's just another side of your bog-standard misogynist 'women don't have a sex drive and only fuck men to get things' drivel. Seriously - broadband and access to high-speed internet porn has been around for what, about ten years now? Yeah, and teenage pregnancies only started happening a decade ago too. Oh wait except they didn't, because they always have done, regardless of the availability of porn. Get this - teenage girls usually have sex because it feels nice. I mean, goddamn. I went to an all-girl high school which was essentially a holding-pen for hormones. We were very interested in the whole 'fucking' malarkey. Has Diane Abbott really not realised the correlation between the discovery that playing with your bits can be fun, that other people playing with your bits can be even more fun and teenage sex? Or does she seriously think that all teenage girls would be nuns if it weren't for this damned pornography?

As I have said before, I do not like mainstream pornography*. Really not a fan. But not because I think that it encourages people who aren't ready for sex to have sex, but because it a) gives people who are not having sex an unrealistic idea of sex and of women's bodies and b) because it doesn't teach how to have good sex. (*Before anyone starts a flame-war about how awesome homemade queer porn is and how I'm a total prude blah blah blah please bear in mind I'm talking about Flynt-esque 'Busty Babez 4' types of porn.)

Anyway, the longer the Guardian and Diane Abbott pursue this pearl-clutching 'all young women are victims' shite, the worse things will be, since as we can also see in the results, 12% of all women and 9% of all men have been diagnosed with an STI. Which to me suggests that just suggesting to women that they don't have sex doesn't work and we need some fucking better sex education in schools. We don't need to tell people not to fuck, we need to tell them to only fuck if they are totally sure they want to, how to make sure the other person is totally sure they want to fuck, and how to use (and make sure their partner uses) a barrier method to prevent STIs. As I mentioned quite forcefully above, sex feels good. Once people realise this, telling them not to have sex is not going to stop them having sex. (I know that most of this polemic has ignored asexual people. I believe firmly that it is also important to teach teenagers both about the existence of asexual people and to make sure that asexual teenagers are able to actualise their feelings in the best way possible for them without stupid societal pressures.)

Next, the Daily Mail tried to stoke the fires of ignorance with a charming piece titled "Promiscuous Britain: one in four young women admit they had underage sex - more than twice as many as their mothers' generation" (direct link). As well as the recreation of all the Guardian's mistakes, here's the problems with this article:

  1. It doesn't mention men and their rates of underage sex until the ninth paragraph
  2. It sensationally claims that "nearly 60% of women 'don't always' use contraception", then says "40% of men said they always used contraception". In other words, about the same bloody levels. But y'know, women are all harpies and sluts or something.
  3. It quotes critics who "say that the rise in promiscuity over the generations is linked to increased sex education in schools that has 'broken down the natural inhibitions of children with regard to sexual conduct'". I'm just going to come out and say that the guy who said this is really fucking stupid. Have you ever seen a kid in a jacuzzi? I don't want to spell this out graphically but they're really big fans of sitting right over where the bubbles come out. (I'll come back onto the sex education part of the quote in a bit)
  4. The box that looks at sex education 'throughout the ages' seems to conflate 5 year olds knowing the names for the parts of their body they wee out of with actual 'this is how you have sex' education. It also claims lessons were 'explicit'. Now, I fall into the 16-24 bracket and first had penetrative sex under the age of 16 (yeah, fuck you Daily Mail), but I don't ever recall my teachers getting us to make a big 'FUCKING IS FUN' banner to hang up on the wall next to our drawings of bugs. In fact, I went to a Catholic school where they taught us the biological stuff under duress then stressed our likelihood of going to hell if we ever practically utilised the information. WE STILL HAD SEX BECAUSE IT FELT GOOD AND WE WANTED TO.
  5. They claim that 'one in seven women aged 16-24 who lost their virginity underage had contracted an STI'. You may note above that I point out that the survey showed that 12% of all women had had an STI. My maths is pretty dodgy, but isn't one in seven only around 14%? Also, people aged 16-24 are more likely to take the responsible measure of having themselves tested, which is how diagnoses occur.
  6. They refuse to EVEN ENTERTAIN THE NOTION that the reason that self reported incidents of underage sex from women seem higher could possibly be because female sexuality is no longer viewed as an abhorrence, which would seem likely given that TEENAGE PREGNANCY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A THING.
  7. They concede that teenage pregnancy rates went down by 7.5% between 2008-2009 (despite the horrific and borderline abusive sex education that is taught nowadays), but still manage to have a big fit and moan about underage abortion rates (which haven't changed, so the number of teenagers getting pregnant really is dropping) and our 'increasingly sexualised society'. While 20 out of 34 stories on their sidebar involve gratuitous perving at 'clingy' and 'revealing' clothing.
However, none of that could compare with the most stupid part of all, which I am now going to go on a very sweary rant about in order to draw together and reinforce all the other points that I've been making.

*clears throat*

The same dude quoted at (3), Norman Wells from the Family Education Trust (who sent out a fire and brimstone pamphlet to all secondary schools last year warning teenagers that premarital sex led to a 'lifetime of regret and misery'), is further quoted as saying: 

‘Over recent years we have witnessed the systematic removal of every restraint which in previous generations served as a disincentive to underage sexual activity. 
‘Sex education in many schools has had the effect of breaking down the natural inhibitions of children with regard to sexual conduct, and the age of consent is rarely enforced, so young people no longer have any fear of legal proceedings.
‘On top of that, the ready availability of contraception means that a girl’s fear of pregnancy is no longer considered a good enough reason for rejecting her boyfriend’s advances, and confidentiality policies mean that a girl need not worry about what her parents would think about her being sexually active, obtaining contraception, being treated for a sexually transmitted infection or even having an abortion, because they don’t have to be told.’

This is where I nearly put my head through the wall. As I said before, this guy is fucking stupid. He's just another hypocritical, evidence-denying misogynist bastard with a chip on his shoulder about those nasty dirty women doing their dirty dirty sex. Aside from what he said before, he should know that it's always been the case that if two 15 year olds fuck each other it won't be prosecuted because you'd have to prosecute them both for the same crime against each other, and how is it actually in the public interest to spend money going through the court system to punish two people for a consensual activity which, as long as they used an appropriate barrier method will have no further consequence than a vague feeling of disappointment? But oh no, he doesn't want them to be taught about barrier methods or contraception because nasty nasty dirty sex ew. Going further, he actually considers pregnancy an adequate 'punishment' for teenage harlots. And despite all the evidence showing that abstinence-based sex education DOESN'T WORK, this moron wants to stick his fingers in his ears and pretend like teenagers would never get those damn funny feelings in their groin if they never heard the word sex. Because, as I have said before, nasty filthy dirty biological urges yuck.

I am now going to reiterate the main point of this post in big letters:



Saturday, 10 December 2011

Shocking News! Rapists live in the same society as we do!

This week, the internet has been abuzz with a press release from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey which posits the question "Are sex offenders and lads' mags using the same language?". The study seems to show that:

  1. Lads' mags use the same way to describe women and female sexuality as convicted sex offenders do in interviews.
  2. This is to the extent that participants in the study could not accurately tell where the quotes originated from.
  3. A lot of men who took part identified with the statements expressed by the convicted sex offenders.
In other news, the sky is blue, grass is green and we live in a goddamn rape culture.

Jezebel got a list of some of the quotes used by the researchers - see if you can tell the difference (answers at the bottom):

1. There's a certain way you can tell that a girl wants to have sex . . . The way they dress, they flaunt themselves.
2. Some girls walk around in short-shorts . . . showing their body off . . . It just starts a man thinking that if he gets something like that, what can he do with it?
3. A girl may like anal sex because it makes her feel incredibly naughty and she likes feeling like a dirty slut. If this is the case, you can try all sorts of humiliating acts to help live out her filthy fantasy.
4. Mascara running down the cheeks means they've just been crying, and it was probably your fault . . . but you can cheer up the miserable beauty with a bit of the old in and out.
5. What burns me up sometimes about girls is dick-teasers. They lead a man on and then shut him off right there.
6. Filthy talk can be such a turn on for a girl . . . no one wants to be shagged by a mouse . . . A few compliments won't do any harm either . . . ‘I bet you want it from behind you dirty whore' . . .
7. You know girls in general are all right. But some of them are bitches . . . The bitches are the type that . . . need to have it stuffed to them hard and heavy.
8. Escorts . . . they know exactly how to turn a man on. I've given up on girlfriends. They don't know how to satisfy me, but escorts do.
9. You'll find most girls will be reluctant about going to bed with somebody or crawling in the back seat of a car . . . But you can usually seduce them, and they'll do it willingly.
10. There's nothing quite like a woman standing in the dock accused of murder in a sex game gone wrong . . . The possibility of murder does bring a certain frisson to the bedroom.
11. Girls ask for it by wearing these mini-skirts and hotpants . . . they're just displaying their body . . . Whether they realise it or not they're saying, ‘Hey, I've got a beautiful body, and it's yours if you want it.'
12. You do not want to be caught red-handed . . . go and smash her on a park bench. That used to be my trick.
13. Some women are domineering, but I think it's more or less the man who should put his foot down. The man is supposed to be the man. If he acts the man, the woman won't be domineering.
14. I think if a law is passed, there should be a dress code . . . When girls dress in those short skirts and things like that, they're just asking for it.
15. Girls love being tied up . . . it gives them the chance to be the helpless victim.
16. I think girls are like plasticine, if you warm them up you can do anything you want with them.

Right, now that I have got the formalities out of the way, time for a small rant about bad science...

I have seen a number of people, including some prominent feminists telling us that this study 'proves' that lads' mags 'cause' rape. It does not. It shows us the depressing reality that we live in a society where talking like this about women and female sexuality is normal, and is used by some people to 'justify' rape. While it may lend credence to other arguments that rape jokes and victim blaming 'normalise' rape in some people's minds, this study doesn't 'prove' it.

We don't full know the methodology used yet, and we don't really know what the samples were like (although this very good article in the Guardian explores the research and the results in the most detail I could find). As I scream at the TV whenever a right-winger appears, correlation does not imply causation! As @SciencePunk said yesterday
"How can you possibly infer lads' mags normalise rape unless you show that how rapists talk about women is different from general discourse?... Couldn't I just as easily say "people couldn't differentiate pictures of schoolteachers from those of rapists ergo teachers = rapists"?"
The only thing this study reliably shows (and is bloody useful to point to, please don't think I'm knocking it) is that rapists talk the same way about women and female sexuality in the same way that most other people talk about women and female sexuality. It shows us that rapists are not the slavering beasts of myth who grab virgins in broad daylight and drag them down dark alleys, and any other rapist isn't really a rapist because those sluts knew what they were doing. It shows us that there's no point in telling women not to walk alone after dark to escape the clutches of a rapey-bogeyman when most victims of sexual violence know their attacker. It shows us that we live in a world where 'non-rape-rape' (i.e. fair maiden dragged off by hairy-knuckled dribbling stereotype) is so bloody prevalent that women in the US military are more likely to be raped by their 'brothers in arms' than killed by enemy fire. It shows us that a startling number of people believe the same victim-blaming, rape-justifying excuses of convicted sex offenders - as the infamous Amnesty International survey of 2005 showed us all too clearly. It shows us rapists don't have a big fucking neon sign above their head saying 'Watch out! Rapist about!', but instead look and act like most other people

To reiterate: this is a bloody useful tool to make people remember that the public's attitude to victims of rape totally fucking sucks, and that 'othering' rapists is pointless and futile.

But it does not "show us that lad's mags cause rape". So please don't say it does. Misusing science in this way just leads to getting bogged down in arguments about what a study 'might' show rather than giving us the fuel to tackle what it does show.

Answers. 1. Rapist, 2. Rapist, 3. Lad mag, 4. Lad mag, 5. Rapist, 6. Lad mag, 7. Rapist, 8. Lad mag, 9. Rapist, 10. Lad mag, 11. Rapist, 12. Lad mag, 13. Rapist, 14. Rapist, 15. Lad mag, 16. Lad mag

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

In Defence of "SCUM Having Fun"...

(Note: No, I can't bloody believe I'm doing this either)

In Sweden, a group of female theatre students are putting on a production based on Valerie Solanas' SCUM Manifesto. In order to advertise this, they have released a short video on Youtube. The video shows a young woman giggling and shooting a dozing man. Her friends then run over and the group start dancing. A screen appears saying 'Do your part', then another with details of the production. Finally, the camera returns to the women who are laughing and licking blood from the man's head wounds. The whole thing is little more than a minute long.

So, the extremist hypocrite misogynist shitheels in the MRA movement have decided to offer $1000 bounties for the personal information about the women in this video, a la Redwatch. They want their names, addresses, phone numbers, places of work etc. Several have also made personal threats to the women, saying that they would like to hunt them down. David Furtrelle has covered this disgusting saga over at Manboobz.

If you have never encountered it, the SCUM Manifesto is a pamphlet written by Valerie Solanas in 1967, which argues that
"men have fouled up the world, are no longer necessary (even biologically), and should be completely destroyed, preferably by criminal means such as sabotage and murder .... [t]he quicker, the better" (Robert Marmorstein)
The SCUM Manifesto can be read in full here. It begins:
"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex."
In short, it's not exactly cosy suppertime reading for your committed MRA gyno-supremacist conspiracy theorist, who seem to believe that every feminist ever takes it as gospel. However, in the Manboobz article, I also noticed Furtrelle and the commenters all trying to distance themselves from it - Furtrelle even refused to embed the video in the post. He says:
"Every feminist I know who has seen the video has been appalled by it. I’m appalled by it. It’s hateful, and it’s wrong."
Now, at the risk of exposing myself to the festering arse-pustule of the internet that is the ardent MRA trolls, I have to ask why this is being said?

These people are doing a theatre production based on the SCUM Manifesto.  Having them not include killing men would be a bit like asking Quentin Tarantino to only depict the Basterds having a nice cup of tea and a chat with the Nazis. (Did I just Godwin myself? I don't think so, but it is probably always safest to check...)

Yes, it's fairly distasteful, but it's done as part of a theatre production. I'm pretty sure they're not actually advocating it. Like I'm fairly sure Tom Six doesn't advocate kidnapping people and stitching them arse-to-mouth. Nor do I believe Gyorgy Palfi advocates practicing taxidermy on oneself, or shooting fire out of one's penis... well, you get the picture. Basically, what I'm saying is that MRAs are hypocritical fuckheads who only have a problem with violence in films where it's women being violent to men, and people should point this out instead of pandering to the faux-offended little lambs. Call them out on this. For all they whinge about women somehow 'running the world', and feminism being 'a hate movement', as far as I'm aware, no feminist ever tried to hunt down the actors from Deadgirl, and that film sucked.

As for the SCUM Manifesto itself... well, there's several theories about that.  The most common of these is what I like to term the Occam's razor approach - that it literally advocates the violent abolition of men. However, it can also be read as satire or parody of the Freudian approach - especially when Solanas talks about 'pussy envy'. Many of the arguments she espouses against men have either actually been used by men against women, or represent similar arguments. Further arguments state that for Solanas
"the plan for creating a women's world was largely nonviolent, being based on women's nonparticipation in the current economy and having nothing to do with any men, thereby overwhelming police and military forces, and, if solidarity among women was insufficient, under the plan some women could take jobs and "'unwork'", causing systemic collapse.
 Oh, and just to stop anyone trying to argue this - SCUM is not a bloody acronym.

Whatever your opinion on the pamphlet as either a literary device or as a violent call to arms, the fact remains that it's been forty-four years now, and men are still here. I guess the stupid fucks at 'A Voice for Men' can sleep easy, although I wish they wouldn't. I wish them only a bed full of crumbs and nightmares about vagina dentata. Not because they're men, but because they're hateful, hypocritical arseholes who wouldn't recognise a logical argument even if it were dressed in a sexy robocutie suit and holding up a sign saying 'no fallacies here!'

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Telling Channel 4 To Do One

This is a guest post by my younger sister

Channel 4 have decided that the new year should bring a new programme titled 'Make Bradford British'. It will be a Big Brother style TV show where contestants from different ethnic minorities are forced to live together for a 'radical social experiment'. 

Apart from stating that they chose Bradford because it is one of the most 'racially segregated cities in Europe' (massive overexagerration), it has also chosen some of its contestants from the group of people who did not pass the standard criteria test (ratings!).

All I can see this doing is stirring up tension where we need it least. This programme is playing straight into the hands of racists.

Many people, myself included, feel that Bradford has moved on from times of the riots, and yes we do have areas of a certain minority here, but what city doesn't? Chinatown in London? Chapeltown in Leeds?

Oh wait, those cities don't have a very volatile recent past do they? That's what brings the money in, I forgot!

This show has been chosen to air by some ninny down south, who doesn't know what its like living here, who thinks they can decide how people feel, and as soon as it all goes tits up and the racist views re-surface, can just scarper back down there.

I've emailed the show telling them what I think, and I'm asking you all to do the same. It takes 5 minutes, and you get a reply too. 

What happened to seeing if social minorities can live together by LEAVING THEM TO IT?
So please, lets try stop this rancid show being aired just to cause trouble.

Channel 4, DO ONE.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

On Romance, Proposals and Pressure

Today I had the grave misfortune of witnessing something no one should ever have to see. Just to observe it made me feel so unclean that I wanted to peel my skin off and soak it in bleach. I'm talking about this: 

(apologies for me being shit at HTML and not being able to embed it at the correct size)

If you can't watch it, I don't blame you. This was my face when I saw it:

The story goes like this - some poor, innocent woman is on her way home on a London Overground train. She is minding her own business, and then some twat starts singing. He is joined by several more twats. OH NOES! IT'S A FLASHCHOIR, HOW EMBARRASSING. Poor, innocent woman carries on sitting around in a bemused fashion while they do their little piece. The relief in the carriage is palpable when they look like they're about to stop... surprisingly no one has pulled the emergency brake and done a barrel roll out of the nearest window... THEY'VE STOPPED! Finally! Oh wait, what's this? Oh god... oh... no. NO. It's poor innocent woman's boyfriend, wielding a ring. He proposes, she cries, a nation vomits.

It's things like this that make me certain that there's no god. Any benevolent deity would have smited this bloke into next week before the idea had even crossed his mind.

I understand that this couple are happy, in their own special little way, and that's great for them. I'm genuinely pleased that two people who like that atrocious song have found each other and have decided to publicly declare that they don't want to knob other people. Honestly, I am. But it worries me.

The thing about proposals of this ilk, is that apart from being so toe-curlingly mortifying that kittens spontaneously combust whenever they are mentioned, they are pretty fucking creepy and demeaning.

This schmaltzy crap annoys the fuck out of me. All I can think when I watch it is "but what if she wanted to say no?"

The pressure faced by people who are subject to this kind of overblown public gesture is immense, and worrying. Check out this video, where the woman says no:

Even from a few seconds in, strangers are shouting at her to "SAY YES!". When she eventually runs away, everyone starts calling her 'brutal'. Which, you know, I consider a bit fucking harsh. The suggested videos all tell the same story too, with titles such as "Poor guy gets rejected".

It's like people want these women to just say yes just to please them. The woman has no decision - the man she ostensibly loves has gone to all this effort and spent all this money to make a big, ridiculous, over-the-top gesture. Who is she to say no after that?

I don't even believe that it is done for the benefit of the proposee. It's done, as with other big romantic gestures, so the guy looks like a hero. Look how much work he did! Isn't he awesome?!

Romance shouldn't be about one flash gimmick designed to make people who don't know you think you're cool. It shouldn't cost the earth and require all your efforts. It shouldn't be a cliche from a film, it should be something personal between the people involved. One of the nicest things my boyfriend has ever done for me was to get a pizza delivered to my house when I was too hungover to move. That, my friends, is real love.

Friday, 4 November 2011

On Free Speech and THAT NS Article

As you may or may not know, I recently contributed to this article in the New Statesman, titled '"You should have your tongue ripped out": the reality of sexist abuse online', where I and several other female bloggers discussed the abuse we suffer for being that most disgusting of creatures - Women With Opinions On The Internet.

There was... somewhat of a mixed reaction in the comments (109 of them at the time of writing). These mainly fall into four categories:

  1. Women agreeing and sympathising with what we'd written and sharing their stories.
  2. Men sympathising with us and saying they hadn't even been aware how bad the problem was for women.
  3. Men telling us it was our own fault and we shouldn't be so whiny, threatening to rape someone to death isn't even gendered abuse anyway! Are you bitches crazy or something? You are WAAAAY too sensitive, you must be PMSing or something. I mean, this is the internet! Whatever happened to free speech anyway? You stupid whores just want the moon on a stick. Given to you by a man.
  4. You cannot be fucking serious.

I'm going to address category 4 first, because fuck me, they are funny. First up, we have 'Hermaphrodite', who ventures that:

For all we know many of these rape threats were made by misandristic feminists trying to portray men in a bad light - there's no way of knowing with the internet

SHIT. They're on to us. In Hermaphrodite's world, there is no financial crisis brought on by the world's banks, the poor did it to make the innocent bankers look bad. There is no prejudice against travellers, just lying gyppos. Dogs never attack anyone, it's just cats in disguise. Personally, I love this argument. Next time I fuck up, I'm going to pick a minority group and blame it on them trying to make me look like a shit because CONSPIRACY THEORY, YO.

What Hermaphrodite fails to realise is that none of the women involved have ever experienced any kind of abuse, ever. In reality, we have hordes of Man-Slaves who bring us bonbons while we scratch out our hateful misandrist missives. We only claim to get rape and death threats because, frankly, it's HILARIOUS.

Next up, we have a man calling himself 'Me'. He has written two comments, one of which is easily over 1500 words of sheer 'what-the-fuck?-ery'. I feel like this guy should be thrown a parade by the protagonists of manboobz. In his comment, he manages to assert that:

  • Saying that we receive misogynist abuse is unfairly labelling misogynist abusers and, as such, we are awful bullies
  • All women ever do is get fat and ugly and then harass men for leaving them
  • Men are now no longer allowed to swear ever because if they do, women will have them shunned by all society
  • Workplaces should be separate so men can prosper and women can fail because they're shit and maybe then they'd know their place
  • No one should ever discuss problematic issues, they should get out there and DO SOMETHING (apart from him, apparently)
  • Threatening to rape someone is basically like telling them that they're shit, but a bit more extreme

My favourite part, however, is this little gem:
Can you not understand that the phrase I want to rape you might mean something quite different depending on who said it and where they come from? That it might not mean what you think it does? Did you consider that?
That loud noise you just heard was your head exploding.

I get it! It's all so simple now! I should have seen it all along - women have all the power ever (along with all other 'minorities'), and we use it just to oppress straight white cis men because... well, just BECAUSE.

 Someone call the WWF, I just found a new endangered species.

Anyway, that's enough of them. I want to move on to category 3. 

There seems to be a hell of a lot of bro-dudes in this thread shrieking "BUT FREE SPEECH!!!!!". Now guys, before I do anything, I'm going to post a picture of a kitten for you to look at if what follows below gets a bit to much for your AWESOME MANLITUDE to have to cope with.

Kitteh says: "THE STUPID! IT BURNS!"

There now follows a small rant about free speech:

Free speech is great, but you are arseholes. In much the same way food is great, but mushrooms are shit. I DO NOT HAVE TO EAT YOUR MUSHROOMS. You have the whole goddamn INTERNET to be  a wanker in, asking you to not be a wanker to me is not endangering your free speech in any way. I will not come to your house and gaffer tape your mouth shut so you can't sit there spluttering your inane froth. To borrow a phrase, "this is not about free speech, this is about being a goddamn decent human being".

I mean sweet unicycling baby jesus, what the shit is wrong with you people?! Is it REALLY that hard to see a website written by a woman and not go storming in, waving your dick about and shouting abuse? So much so that to ask you not to do it is actively harming you? GET HELP.

And for all you smart fucks that are like "Well, you know, this is just how the internet is. If you're too much of a pussy to deal with it, GO BACK TO THE KITCHEN LOLOLOL". Now, in telling me to shut the fuck up and not have opinions so that you can make your rape threats in peace, guess who is stifling who's free speech? OH YEAH. 

To conclude:



Monday, 17 October 2011

Occupations, Safe Spaces and The Privilege Denying Left

TRIGGER WARNING: The nature of this post means that it will contain very triggering language for all minority groups.

A Story on Occupations

I spent last Saturday at Occupy Bristol, a camp set up on College Green as part of the wider occupation movement that has spread across the globe. I don't think that this camp will change the world, but what I did find to be an extremely positive part of the occupation was that many people from different strands of the left were able to get together and discuss thoughts, issues and ideas, and to share their knowledge. I became part of a group comprised of myself, an old-guard radical feminist and two male socialists who talked about everything under the sun for about six hours. It was wonderful, people would join and leave the discussion, contributing their own experiences and opinions and it was a very nice place to be.

But something else happened that night. The occupiers had discussed whether or not it would be appropriate to have a fire. Obviously, people wanted to be warm, and people wanted to have a nice atmosphere, but the land we were camped on is owned by the cathedral. They had told us they were happy to have us, and supported the movement - asking only that we not make a mess, ruin the grass or play music on the sound-system during services. So, the majority voted against a fire. 

At this point, a group of people who I can only describe as being the protest equivalent of "up the punx" decided that, fuck us, they were going to have a fire and a party and that was that. So the group split (I know, I know), with them taking it upon themselves to move about twenty feet away from the main group and start a fire. 

I got very pissed off at this show, and went over to tell them that their refusal to listen in consensus-based discussions (they had been heckling people telling their personal stories earlier in the day too) was risking jeopardising the whole camp, and that I thought they were being very selfish. They responded by calling me a "bitch" and a "cunt" and shouting me down.

Later that night, I regaled this tale to two men I was talking to, using it to illustrate my point about intersectionality in left movements, and how men will use gendered slurs to silence women. They asked me if I had possibly been over-aggressive with them (gaslighting, much?) and to consider that they were probably just on the defensive. I pointed out that telling everyone in the camp to go fuck themselves, declaring themselves more 'radical' than any of us and then starting a fire was a teeny bit aggressive in itself. I also said that even if they were on the defensive, it does not excuse insulting me as a woman to shut me up. The chaps then told me that they "don't believe" in politically-correct language, and that if a minority group is offended by an insult based on their disadvantaged position in society, that is "their choice to be offended". 


This is my 'are you fucking serious?!' face. I have to use it a lot.

I was a bit gobsmacked at this, and it was left to one of the other blokes I'd been talking to to try and explain to this white, cis, straight, well-educated, healthy young man why what he'd said was so daft that my head was about to explode and cover him in chunks of brain which would then remember what he had said and explode into smaller chunks, which would then continue to explode into smaller and smaller chunks until they were just atoms and that could potentially cause the end of the universe.

I left at that point.

So What?

It is not the first time I have seen attitudes like this, and sadly, I doubt it will be the last. Now, I expect privilege-denying rubbish like this from the right wing because, well, they're the right wing. But I like to think that the left is a bit nicer. So I ask you now: If we have a movement that excludes and alienates certain minority groups that are also being fucked over because we cannot acknowledge our privileges, then what is the fucking point of having a movement at all?


So, let me count the ways in which I am privileged. I am a white, western, cisgendered, healthy person. I pass as straight, and I have an education to university level. This makes me lucky. However, I am also working-class, unable to continue my studies above undergraduate level, unemployed and a woman with mild mental health issues. This is what is known as relative privilege, and we all experience it to some degree. 

Being privileged does not make you a bad person. No one can help how they were born, their upbringing or their opportunities. Refusing to acknowledge your privilege is the problem. Let's talk about some privileges, and how the privilege-denyers on the left have been busy alienating the groups without those privileges.

So, You're White: Recently, the Slutwalk movement has been shrouded by infighting after a white woman turned up at the NYC Slutwalk holding a placard saying "Woman is the nigger of the world". Now, instead of listening to the women of colour who were rightly very offended by this, some slutwalkers have been excusing it and telling them that they shouldn't be offended. Which, in itself is VERY BLOODY OFFENSIVE, as Flavia Dzodan points out very well in "MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT". 

So, You're A Man: This weekend, Occupy LSX invited Julian Assange to speak. You know, the man who's own lawyers admit is a rapist. This has made women who want to be part of the occupations very uncomfortable, and has led them to question whether there is a place for us in the movement

So, You're Cisgendered: What better way to celebrate LGBT Pride than by abusing trans* people?  Or, if you're cisgendered alleged super-feminist Caitlin Moran, why not make jokes about 'trannies' on Twitter then block anyone who tries to tell you it's an offensive term? As Ray Filar points out, You Can't Smash Patriarchy With Transphobia. (By the way, white trans* people, you have some privileges too, and don't forget it.)

So, You're Straight: If I hear you describing something you don't like as 'gay' one more time, I will set you on fire. Consider that a warning.

So, You're Relatively Wealthy: The fastest way to alienate less economically privileged people from your group is by staging demonstrations that only people with certain amounts of disposable income will be able to attend, or feel wanted at. I am looking at you, Fawcett Society. Sady Doyle has written about the left and the class issue here.

So, You've Had A Good Education (aka So You Read Some Books): If someone does not know about Montesquieu's theory of Separation Of Powers, this does not mean that they oppose it, or that I am any better than them because I do know about it. Likewise, sneering at people who have not read the obscure Hungarian anarcho-syndicalist philosopher who wrote about macro-economic models in prehistoric Somalia that you have achieves the precise sum of fuck all. They might believe the exact same things as you, but just not know the academic terms for their beliefs. Try explaining, instead of patronising.

So, You're Able-Bodied: How many of you ever think to make sure the place you want to hold your demo is accessible to those using wheelchairs before someone asks you to? Just saying on your press release that the venue has two stairs or that a ramp can be made available can make the world of difference and let people know that they are wanted at your event.

So, You Have No Mental Health Issues: You know what's hilarious? Calling Melanie Philips 'Mad Mel'! It's funny because she doesn't believe the same things as us and she tortures logic to make a point, so she must be fucking crazy! Yes, bloody hilarious to those of us who actually are crazy. See also: nutter, mentalist, headcase, etc.

So, You Don't Have Learning Difficulties: My late Aunt, Maureen, had Down's Syndrome. She was not 'Down's'. She did not 'suffer from', nor was she a 'victim of' Down's Syndrome. She most absolutely emphatically was not a mong, a mongol, a retard, a spastic, a spacker, a window-licker or any other horrible word like that. She was a person. Here is a guide to language specifically relating to Down's Syndrome. Making jokes using words like that is in such incredibly poor taste that it makes me want to punch a hamster in the face, because even that would be better.

So, You're Thin: While I can offer no links to back this up, I have been told by more than one person that several fat-phobic jokes were made by the comedians at UKUncut's 'Block The Bridge' action. So you can guess how welcome some people felt.

This is obviously just a list of some privileges and some ways I have witnessed people with those privileges alienating those who do not have them.

I Am Not Asking For The Moon On A Stick

All I ask is that people are aware of their privilege and try to make sure that their actions do not harm others. Consider other people. Think before you open your mouth. And seriously, if someone from a minority group tells you that your actions have personally harmed or offended them because they are a member of that group, do not tell them that they should not be offended and that you know better.

COMMENTS POLICY: In exploring this issue, I hope to raise awareness of some sections of the left alienating others. If you do not do these things, then great! I'm not addressing my points to you! So don't leave me comments saying "Oh Ehm Gee! I can't believe you said all anarchists hate blind people!", because I didn't, and your comment will be deleted. Do not derail, for your comment will be deleted. Do not use triggering language without warning, or your comment will be deleted. Do not use insulting language, or your comment will be deleted. And I swear to Mary Wollstonecraft, if you dare to try and deny that any of these issues exist, not only will your comment be deleted, but I will also come to your house and wee on your carpets.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Pro-Porn Bullshit Strikes Again

Today in the Guardian's Comment Is Free section, Anna Arrowsmith (better known as pornographer Anna Span) argues that Porn Is Good For Society. Now, I've written before about why I oppose the porn industry, so I won't be going into too much detail about the issue as a whole - I just have several points to make about Arrowsmith's article.

Firstly, the whole article seems to rest on that most ridiculous of fallacies - that pro-porn = pro-sex, and anti-porn = anti-sex. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that it's bullshit. I am proof that it is not the case.

Secondly, Arrowsmith links to an article by Brooke Magnanti (AKA Belle De Jour) which argues against a scheme to allow 'opt-in only' access to pornography, with ISP-blocking coming as the default. This serves to drive home her first fallacy ("Look! Both us women love sex and pornography!" - without mentioning that  they are both very lucky women to a) not have been personally harmed in their chosen industries and b) make lots of money in the industry, when 99% will not have had those experiences) and also to introduce a new fallacy - all people who are anti-porn are pro-censorship. Again, bullshit. I'm opposed to censorship in any form, but censorship of the internet is particularly bad. It's unenforceable, and will surely be used to block other things. For instance, o2's opt-out default childlock blocks some feminist websites, because the technology is not sophisticated enough to differentiate between porn and talking about porn, or sex, or bodies. One of my friends wrote this very moving but hilarious piece about how a 'pornblock' would have affected her life as a trans* teenager.

Arrowsmith's only piece of actual linked research is to a paper [PDF] which claims that as porn use went up, rape went down in certain US states. The only problem is, that's not what actually happened. The paper measured how when internet use went up, rape went down. And that's... well, that's a very different thing. When this piece of bullshit research first came around in August, Sianushka wrote about it brilliantly, so I won't dwell on the matter.

Arrowsmith chucks out a few more canards in her quest to paint everyone who is anti-porn as anti-sex, claiming that

Women's rights are far stronger in societies with liberal attitudes to sex – think of conservative countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen or China, and the place of women there. And yet, anti-porn campaigners neglect such issues entirely

which manages to ignore both the fact that liberal attitudes to sex do not equal love of porn and that, be they  anti-porn or not, feminists are usually the very people campaigning for stronger women's rights in those places. I have been involved with both issues.

Arrowsmith also argues that

Likewise, porn keeps many marriages going. How many couples do you know whose partners have identically matched libidos? Not many. Porn is an outlet for the sexual pressure built up in such relationships and also for (mostly) men who feel that communicating or finding a woman to have sex with is very difficult to achieve.
Which seems a bit... well frankly, a bit silly. If you can't even talk to the person you've married about your sex life, I don't see how watching 'Busty Babez 3' will suddenly magically solve this.

Then Arrowsmith brings out the big guns, claiming

One man wrote to me recently saying that he had suffered cancer of the face, which left him heavily scarred and almost completely without confidence after a subsequent divorce. He said that chatting to webcam porn stars kept him from suicide.
Which is a bit like David Cameron's "I met a black man who supported my anti-immigration rhetoric!" and Nadine Dorries' "Honest, loads of people have told me the same things as I believe. No, of course I can't say who." But, you know what? Someone once emailed me to tell me about how kicking an orphaned kitten with a broken leg right in the fucking adorable face caused his backache to go away. So I propose a programme of kitten-booting for all with chronic back problems. On a serious note though, of course I feel sorry for this man - but I would suggest that anyone talking to him in a pleasant manner and appearing to care about him would have lifted his self esteem. It seems a bit ridiculous to insist that them having their tits out must have actually been what did it.

So, that's basically it. The rest of it is "Of course the industry wants access to be stricter!" (which we then find out is so they can make more money from it).

But I'm sick of this bullshit. These pro-porn arguments are always selfish and immediately debunk-able. Arrowsmith wants to make money. The people who will cite Arrowsmith in an argument want quick and simple access to mainstream porn without consideration for the impacts it has on other people and societal interactions and oppressions. And frankly, it's boring. I'd have a lot more respect for someone who said "Yes. I accept the pornography industry is a horrible thing that treats people in it appalingly, is done to make the most money possible and doesn't care about who it damages in the long run, but I've thought about it and decided my 'right' to look at stuff while I masturbate is greater" rather than "Oh but no! Porn is the best! If I have children, that's what I want them to do. It's all gumdrops and rainbows and everyone is just super-awesome!". Because at least the first person wouldn't be a fucking selfish liar.

EDIT: I've been trying to post this as a response to Sian and Alex's comments yesterday, but my blog won't let me (yeah, if anyone can explain that, let me know), so just sticking it in here. Will respond to other comments tomorrow:

I wrote this comment after Sian's and Alex's comments yesterday, but couldn't post it. I'll try respond to the rest of you tomorrow:

Sian - I completely agree, and great post as usual. I think this sums up the Mothers' Union argument perfectly:


Alex - also, great points as ever. There's a real problem with defining porn (which is one of the many reasons why a filter wouldn't work). I tend to make a distinction between stuff done for profit (mainstream stuff to make money and/or amateur stuff done for the purpose of breaking into the professional type) and stuff done not-for-profit, which is usually where you'll find the stuff that's women-positive and isn't as transphobic, sexist, racist or whatever as the mainstream (i.e. stuff done for the love of making pictures of yourself fucking etc.). Obviously the second type requires a certain amount of profit to keep going, but that's not the main motive.

I've got no problem with people wanking or what they wank to (obviously within limits), I have a problem with the mainstream industry.

I also second your point about people being able to indulge in whatever practices they want without being 'degraded' - and also second your coughmumble. There's a good post here about submission in BDSM and how it can be positive if that's what you enjoy:

But I think it boils down to choice. I'd have no problem with my partner cracking one out over my face if it were my choice - and that choice would exist in a vacuum if I were just as free to do the same to him and it didn't have any effect on the rest of our interactions. Those obviously don't apply to your average porn actress/porn film.

Sorry if this was a bit rambly, I'll try and clear any issues up if I didn't make sense!

Monday, 10 October 2011

On The Pub Industry

I grew up in a small village in Bradford. It's a great place, with a wonderful sense of community where everyone looks out for one another and you know all your neighbours. When I was growing up, as well as his regular office job, my dad always worked in one of the three local pubs for a few hours a week in order to have a bit of extra money coming in to the house. Consequently, I spent a fair bit of time in them myself as a child. Five years ago, the project my dad worked for was winding up. At the same time, the landlord of the pub he worked in was looking to sell the place. The stars aligned and at the end of October 2006, we took it on.

My dad took to it like a duck to water. We all did. As well as my dad and his wife, my cousin and I lived there too, all pitching in and trying our damndest to make a real success of it. It's bloody hard work, running a pub - you get up at 9.30 in the morning and don't get to bed until about 3 the next morning, and there's always stuff to be done. I've done it on my own for up to a week at a time and felt like a zombie for the whole week afterwards. I don't know how my dad's done it, but he always has.

At first, we made a great go of it. Profits tripled thanks to us working our arses off, putting on events, getting real ales into the pub and always wanting to do more.

At this point in the story I'll break off and explain how most pubs work. A PubCo (in our case, Enterprise Inns) own the building and lease it to the landlord. As a condition of the lease, the landlord has to buy certain products from the PubCo or its affiliates. This is called a 'tie'. We were reasonably lucky in that our tie was only for lagers, bitters, ciders and one real ale (out of 3 real ale pumps) - basically anything that comes out of a tap. The wine, spirits and bottles we could source ourselves. Now,  the reason for the tie is that anything you buy from the PubCo will be around 50-100% more expensive than getting it from, say, the cash and carry. It's essentially a racket - and some pubs have to get everything from the PubCo, which is something the Competition Commission have been interested in for some time, but multi-billion pound corporations have a surprising way of making these things be ignored.

Anyway, after about three years of us being in the pub, everything was still looking rosy. My cousin and I had moved out. I continued working there, and my dad loved it and poured his heart and soul into the place. Trade had slowed a bit due to the recession, but we were still in the 'safe zone'. Then it came time for the Rent Review - every long-term lease has a clause that allows the rent to be changed after a certain period of time. We got a letter from Enterprise saying that because we'd been doing so well, they wanted to double our rent and give us a full tie. Considering that we were already paying £26,000 per year in rent alone to them, we thought this was a tad unfair. Eventually I read through the lease (all 400 pages) and found out that doubling the rent was not allowed under it. We threatened them with going through arbitration at the local courts. They kept piling on the pressure and making veiled threats about the 'massive legal bills' we'd face if we lost. Considering we had a pretty airtight case, we held firm and eventually, the day before we went to court, we received a letter saying "Actually, keep the tie as it is, we just want a 20% rent increase". I can't help but think that was their plan all along - say something so ridiculous that anything sounds reasonable afterwards.

So we started paying over £32,000 in rent to Enterprise per year. As this happened, the Tories came to power and people started losing their jobs left, right and centre. Everyone was skinter. People who'd come to the pub twice a week started only coming in once. Some people had to stop coming all together. Still we were being cock-hammered by Enterprise because of the halcyon days. Now my dad can't afford it any more. He's told me he's been hemorrhaging money, but will never tell me how much debt this has left him in. He's leaving on the 30th October, exactly five years after starting his dream job.

Enterprise Inns (and all other PubCos) are robbing vulturecunts. Enterprise barely put a penny into the pub. When the smoking ban came in, they refused to even consider putting any money towards a smoking shelter - we paid for it. They are thieving property-developers who know nothing about the pub industry but just skim any profit a landlord might hope to make away. Pubs are closing at a rate of knots due to these bastards. And they don't give a shit. Here's the thing - when the good landlords leave, they install shitty temporary landlords at a fraction of the rent, and if they fuck up, it doesn't matter, because they can just sell the pub. Most pubs were bought at the beginning of the 90s and are now worth many times more than what was paid for them. Oh, and when they sell them, they insert a clause in the contract saying that the building can't be used as a pub for 25 years, to protect their other investments.

It's one of the ugliest faces of capitalism (not that it has a good side). This industry and countless landlords and their families are being throttled by a handful of companies, squeezed for every possible penny they could provide. And there's nothing you can do. Pubs that aren't owned by PubCos are as rare as rocking horse shit, and the people that have them won't give them up quickly.

PubCos don't give a fuck about anything other than the constant drive to make more and more money. They don't care about pubs being the hub of the local community. They don't care about all the good they do. It's just PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT. And the landlords can't take it any more.

I am going to miss that pub so much. When I go home for a few days tomorrow, I know that will be the last time I ever go there. By fuck we had some good times. But I will never pay a penny of my money over that bar to the management company that will be taking it from my dad.

And if I ever see Ted Tuppen, CEO of Enterprise and all round nasty shitehawking bastard, I'm going to set the utter shitprick on fire.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Another 'Hilarious' T-shirt

Wow, has it really been a whole MONTH since the Topman t-shirt shitstorm? You remember - they compared women to dogs and blamed them for being victims of abuse then hastily pulled the t-shirts and issued a swift "Oh, we're sorry you don't have a misogynist sense of humour"?

Oh, what's that? It's not even been a month?

Well fuckdamn, look what's on Chargrilled T-shirts' website!

In case you can't see that, or just don't believe your eyes (I didn't) then yes, that IS a t-shirt saying 'No + Rohypnol = Yes'. Charming, right? I bet ALL the cool guys want that t-shirt. I bet he's beating the women off with a shitty stick. Or not. Doesn't matter, he'll just do all the raping he wants instead!

So, now I want you all to go complain. Very noisily.

Their contact details are here. I've sent them an email and eagerly anticipate their offices opening back up  again on Monday morning so I can shout at someone in person.

Here's the email I sent. Feel free to use/adapt:

I am writing to express my utter disgust at a t-shirt offered for sale in your store. Your 'No + Rohypnol = Yes' t-shirt is so wildly offensive I am almost at a loss for words. Except these:

Rape is a CRIME. I would have thought that grown-ups who own a business would be aware of that fact, but apparently I expect too much of people in a civilised society. Here's another thing - take a look at section 44-46 of the Serious Crimes Act as well. Those would be the parts where encouraging the commission of a crime is also a criminal offence. Nice one, master criminals. 

I wanted to be civil in this email but seriously, fuck you. I mean yeah, rape's all a big fucking joke isn't it. Yeah. Huge pissing laugh. Until you're one of the 47,000 people raped in the UK each year. By my reckoning, that's 129 a day. Or, five an hour. Or two since I started writing this email

But well done you. Well done to the buyers, the designers and the stockists. You've really pushed the boundaries of comedy with this little number. Hi-shitting-larious.

Here's a post about why rape jokes aren't as hilarious as you chucklefucks in the t-shirt industry like to think:

"To all those men who don't think the rape jokes are a problem:

I get it—you're a decent guy. I can even believe it. You've never raped anybody. You would NEVER rape anybody. You're upset that all these feminists are trying to accuse you of doing something, or connect you to doing something, that, as far as you're concerned, you've never done and would never condone. 

And they've told you about triggers, and PTSD, and how one in six women is a survivor, and you get it. You do. But you can't let every time someone gets all upset get in the way of you having a good time, right? Especially when it doesn't mean anything. Rape jokes have never made YOU go out and rape someone. They never would; they never could. You just don't see how it matters.

I'm going to tell you how it does matter. And I tell you this because I genuinely believe you mean it when you say you don't want to hurt anybody, and that it's important to you to do your best to be a decent and good person, and that you don't see the harm. And I genuinely believe you when you say you would never associate with a rapist and you think rape really is a very bad thing. 

Here is why I refuse to take rape jokes sitting down…

Because 6% of college-aged men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word "rape" isn't used in the description of the act—and that's the conservative estimate. Other sources double that number (pdf). 

A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That's not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?

Rapists do. 

They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again. 

Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape. 

If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can't tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It's not like they announce themselves. 

But, here's the thing. It's very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another, someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn't mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed. 

Or maybe you didn't laugh. Maybe it just wasn't a very funny joke. So maybe you just didn't say anything at all. 

And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?

That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapistknew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades. 

You. The rapist's comrade. 

And if that doesn't make you feel sick to your stomach, if that doesn't make you want to throw up, if that doesn't disturb you or bother you or make you feel like maybe you should at least consider not participating in that kind of humor anymore, not abiding it in your presence, not greeting it with silence...

Well, maybe you aren't as opposed to rapists as you claim.

Oh, and I've attached a fact sheet about rape and rape convictions. Do be a love and read it next time you consider printing another 'funny' t-shirt.

The PDF I attached, from the Fawcett Society, can be found here. It has lots of stats about the prevalence of rape, rape conviction rates and attitudes towards rape, and lots of lovely citations.

Go forth and shout.


I received the copy and pasted email 'apology' from Chargrilled (see comments for full text) and note a few others have. Here's my response to them: 

Dear CharGrilled,

I'd like to thank you for taking all of four seconds to forward me your lying, half-arsed apology regarding your advocation of rape as a solution to being turned down for sex. Your apology would have been noted (not accepted, because I don't for one second believe your 'rogue designer' story), but there are two things that strike me as somewhat disingenuous about it. Firstly, I'm not sure how you can claim to 'not endorse rape or sexual violence in any form' whilst still stocking beauties like this (If you don't believe in oral sex, keep your mouth shut!) - Did you know that Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 includes forced oral sex in the definition of 'rape'? Here's a link. You'd do well to familiarise yourself with it:

Secondly, I note that on Twitter, your director has taken to calling people who ask him not to advocate rape and sexual violence 'ugly feminists' with no sense of humour. That's pretty shit PR right there. But what would I know? My vagina had rendered me good only for being fucked, not for having opinions and rights of my own, right?

Finally, not that I would judge a person's worth by their physical appearance (not being a complete and utter wanker with the emotional maturity of a banana), but someone ought to inform Mr Shiner about the saying about chucking stones if you live in a glass house.



If anyone wants to C&P that and forward it, please do. Hopefully they'll appreciate the irony.

****UPDATE 2****

In addition to emailing Chargrilled yesterday, I phoned their press office about Charlie Shiner's tweets. They didn't sound impressed at all - the woman I spoke to took my details and said she'd speak to the managing director. I haven't heard anything yet, but his Twitter account was deleted pretty much immediately. What a shame that we got screengrabs

Also, doing a bit more digging* reveals that these weren't the only rape advocating t-shirts:

@TheNatFantastic Got a screengrab on my phone. on Twitpic

Those links lead to "sorry, this product is no longer available" messages,  but the '9/10 people enjoy gang rape' t-shirt is still available on their Amazon store, where it's been since 2010 - rather blowing their  "rogue designer" story out of the water.

@TheNatFantastic Sure thing. on Twitpic

(*Googling 'Chargrilled tshirts rape'. I'm the second result!)