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!)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Why Tories Want To Scrap The Human Rights Act

Last night, a friend asked me why the Tories are so keen to get rid of the Human Rights Act, and what effect replacing it with a Bill Of Rights would have. I thought it might be useful to people if I re-posted the email I sent him here:

(N.B. This was done off the top of my head in quite a short time, and I don't have access to my beloved legal textbooks at the moment, so it doesn't go in to great detail, but I will update this post when I have got them back to provide more references and detail and generally clear it up a bit.)

Right, I don't know how much you know about the Human Rights Act, so I'll start from the beginning:

The main task of the HRA is to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. This is a condition of accession to the EU - all new member states must sign up for it. The HRA can be used against any public body, and section 3 provides that all legislation of the UK must be drafted and interpreted with the HRA in mind to make sure it complies - the UK can face sanctions from the ECtHR if it fails to re-do legislation that it has been advised does not comply - see prisoner voting.

Even if we didn't have the HRA, we would still be a signatory to the ECHR, and it's very difficult to see how they would get around this, but one effect of scrapping the HRA would be that the only way HR breaches could be remedied would be by the European Court of Human Rights - and this is a remedy that is very time and labour consuming - not to mention way too intimidating for most pro-bono/legal aid lawyers, who usually take breaches to the UK courts (with the ECtHR being at the top of the appeals process).

The Tories talk a lot about replacing it with a 'Bill of Rights'. This is a smokescreen - the ECHR is universal and applies to all public bodies. A BOR could exclude situations (i.e. 'this right does not apply if the person concerned is suspected of breaking a law'), people (i.e. 'this right applies only to full citizens of the UK') or public bodies (i.e. 'the police force of the UK are not bound to uphold these rules'). This is my main concern. 

There's a bit more to it than that, but that's the basic overview.

Hope this is helpful to anyone who was a bit confused. Like I say, will post properly on the matter in a couple of weeks, but after Theresa May's horrific speech yesterday, I thought the basics could do with being stated now.