05 December 2011

Her and Her Boyfriend Defeated Norsefire. What the Fuck Have You Achieved?

So obviously, as No Shave Movember started, a load of tossers on twitter started squeaking that it's not for ladies lololololol. And then obviously body hair and its removal became a hot discussion topic in the sections where people have half a brain between them. Some people are firmly in the pro-body-hair camp. One of them rhetorically asked what men who like shaved women see in it. And whether it was "the prepubescent look". This is a bit silly.

Aside from the potentially very interesting alleyway of how we don't bat an eyelid if men shave the post-pubescent hair off their faces, I've blogged before about how narrow and restrictive definitions of Proper Heterosexual Manlitude are. What I failed to mention was how these restrictions on masculinity, specifically men's tastes, are used to police women and their bodies. In my experience, with hair and breast size, particularly.

The thing is, not everybody grows hair the same way in the same places. And some adult women naturally don't have pubic hair. I mention breast size because hair-down-there is a symbol of adult womanhood, and its removal is associated with artificial immaturity and paedophilia in a very similar way to flat-chestedness. We're very keen to attach a moral dimension to this. Flat, hairless women are infantilised, their thinness a product of anorexia (simultaneously a mortal sin and a martyred affliction) and designed to keep women too frail to run away. In fact, it's so important for Real Women to have curves that flat-chested women have to have curves photoshopped onto them.

Most people are dimly aware that this restrictiveness isn't exactly nice to women. People with eating disorders are expected to look the part [Edit]. Violetta Crisis writes beautifully about what it's like not having a full crop of hair. Charlotte Roche's Feuchtgebiete/Wetlands (highly recommended) has a heartbreaking passage about the flat-chested protagonist's desperation to swap with her best friend Corinna. And tumblr always has a knack of being succinct.

But men are also involved in this. What hypothetical lads' mag readers do or don't prefer is used to tell women what kind of body they should have. The earnestly faked concern and frowny-faced moralisations, in turn, tell men what kind of consenting adults we should and shouldn't fancy. It's a really odd implication that sleeping with an adult woman in any way makes you gay or a paedophile, but even worse is the implication in turn that if you have alopecia, A-cups or a history of eating disorders, not only are you a failure as a woman and an adult, but only deviants, closet poofs and controlling misogynists will ever love you. And it's daft. I've always fancied bald-headed, small-titted, pretty shrieking genius Skin from Skunk Anansie and, frankly, if she's not a "woman", then "women" are just shite.

I get it that paedophilia is bad, I really do. I understand that eating disorders have the highest fatality rate of any mental illness and those that look like they might have one need some sense shamed into them. But we're piggybacking on these taboos to wrongbody grown women and wag our fingers at consensual adult sex. Our culture has more than a little trouble working out the difference between sex you don't want and sex you're not supposed to want. And frankly, I think you're seriously missing the point if your main problem with paedophiles is their breast and pubic hair preferences rather than the bit where they rape children.

In fact, and this is perhaps an extreme position, but, I actually think it's preferable if, rather than engaging in horrific and traumatising acts of sexual abuse, a paedophile enters into a mutually respectful, consensual relationship with an adult who happens to look enough like a child to satisfy them. This might even be a good thing in a way, I don't know.

But the bottom line is this: Women's bodies vary. This is slightly distinct from patriarchy and child abuse. For fuck's sake get over it.

01 December 2011

A Short Typology of Rape Jokes

Ok, I've already done a short thing on types of offensive humour, but I'm gearing up for a pretty long thing on rape jokes and metaphors, and so I'd more than welcome any feedback on the models I'm going to use for it. I'm not going to give examples of actual rape jokes here, as you probably didn't come here to read that sort of thing, and if you comment I'd ask you to do the same or give fair warning.

I count two ways of looking at humour. The first I'm going to call the Chuck-Flav Model: There are serious statements and there are silly ones. The purpose of the silly ones is to lighten the mood after a serious statement. Famous users include, of course, Public Enemy, but also classical Greek literature and when Johann Hari puts in a godawful pun before a serious, leg-stroking sentimental assertion. The second is the Isn't-Žižek-Clever Model. Very clever philosopher Slavoj Žižek tells a joke, but that joke, by drawing attention to absurdity, is a serious philosophical statement as well. Famous users include Woody Allen, Sigmund Freud, Stephen Moffat and Bertolt Brecht. Possibly also Jesus and the Babylonian Talmud.

I'm a firm believer in the second model, and these are the four types of offensive jokes I'm working with:
  • The Unspeakably Sick Joke: It's absurd to say it but it's ok to think it.
    E.g. women, eh? Eh? Amirite?
  • The Unthinkably Sick Joke: It's absurd to say it because it's absurd to think it.
    E.g. leave the ladder where it is and just turn your wrist. You can change it on your own now.
  • The Unreasonably Sick Joke: It's absurd to say it as some kind of rational opinion, even though it perfectly describes common behaviour.
    E.g. most of the jokes where a dog (Wilfred, Brian, Dean Spanley) describes doggy thought processes.
  • The Unfunny Sick Joke: It's absurd to say it because it's not funny. It's absurd to even think it's funny. So why am I laughing?
    E.g. Orange you glad I didn't say banana.
I also count four levels of rape jokes. They don't really get better or worse with depth, just, er, deeper:
  1. The Rape!-LOL! Rape Joke: This is the simplest one. Rape is a taboo subject. So just saying the word is enough of a taboo-break to get a laugh. While this looks like Unspeakable humour, it’s more Unthinkable/Unfunny. It is absurd to think rape is funny, therefore to joke about it is absurd, and absurd is funny. Not that this lets this kind of joke off the hook: rape is sex as well as violence, and so is quite often taboo for the wrong reasons.
  2. The Ridiculous Idea Rape Joke: An Unthinkable or Unreasonable claim about rape, which is funny because it’s ridiculous. When feminists use irony, sarcasm or any other kind of humour, for example running a reductio ad absurdum on victim blaming, this is the joke they're telling. Of course, what ideas about rape you find absurd enough to laugh at say an awful lot about how you see it, and it this kind of joke is also an excellent medium for being an arsehole.
  3. The Going-Too-Far Rape Joke: The trouble is, not all ridiculous statements are ridiculous because you think the ideas they’re based on are ridiculous. I’m sure any feminists reading are well aware of the heinous crime of taking things too far, and that the people taking a stand against it are usually all for equality in principle. What’s Unthinkable with this kind of joke isn’t our basic cultural assumptions about rape, but failure to impose a limit on following them through, and failing to keep it reasonable and centrist. It has less to do with challenging ideas to do with rape than it does with staying comfortably close to the status quo. It resists movements in either direction, but suffice to say feminists won’t get much use out of this kind of rape joke.
  4. The Rape Joke In Front of a Feminist Rape Joke: Now this really is Going Too Far. Your statement about rape isn’t Unthinkable or Unreasonable, and isn’t obviously different enough from your real opinion to even seem like a joke, ruling out Unfunny. But if it’s obvious a feminist is listening, expressing this kind of opinion is Unspeakable, because they will call the thought police or get you sacked for sexual harassment or turn you into a newt or whatever it is they do. Of course, once she’s gone, this opinion is no longer Unspeakable and the opinion you just expressed is no longer laughable. You know when you go on a woman’s blog comments section and explain exactly what should be done to her? This is the joke you’re attempting to make. If you were a bit scared when these jokers found your home or work address, it obviously went over your head.

To make it a bit clearer through mild equivalents, the Rape!-LOL! Rape Joke is sort of equivalent to shouting “BUMS!” The Ridiculous Idea Rape Joke is sort of like saying that, just because they sound the same, a door is a jar. The Going Too Far Joke is sort of like how Jeremy Clarkson wants striking workers to be executed except he doesn't really and a far milder punishment would suffice. The Rape Joke In Front of a Feminist Rape Joke is like shouting “BUMS!” in front of a vicar or a maiden aunt.

Anyway, suggestions/additions/criticisms most welcome in the comments. Being a dick less so.

29 November 2011

Public Transport Racists: Spot the Difference

Right, I'm sure we've all seen Racist Tram Woman and her amazing Tram Racism. If not, she's here:

But I wonder if we've seen Racist Tube Lady and her amazing Tube Racism. She gets off at Liverpool St, by the way.

You might be wondering why one racist woman got her own personal twitstorm and a visit from the Old Bill and the other didn't. After all, they're both whining about forruns to anyone that'll listen. But they're whining in very different voices. While Racist Tube Lady is careful to pronounce all her 't's and 'l's, Racist Tram Woman is all glottal stops and syllabic 'w's. And they both swear, but one of them is at least middle-class enough to apologise for it and would most likely never say F-U-C-K if there were impressionable wee kiddy-winkies present.

Let's not pretend we don't, as a society, have a slight problem with racism. When I twat about this yesterday, Puffles drew attention to hidden discrimination. You can't see the racism, but you know it's happened somewhere along the line or they'd be far more Black and Brown people in the Houses of Parliament. Obviously sometimes, you can see the racism, like in the aftermath of the England riots - where our first reflex was to blame Black people, even where White people were involved. We were so quick to see the riots in terms of Black stereotypes like gangs or BOBGC, and believe the Met's lies about Mark Duggan being armed, despite neither of them being true. And that's just our home-grown racial punching bags. While we like to pretend locking foreigners up solely for being here looks like this, it's usually a bit more like this.

What Racist Tram Woman was kind enough to do was to give us a scapegoat for our racism. We bang up some gobby fuckwit with a working-class accent for her racism, and suddenly we've proven to everyone that we care ever so much about fighting racism. And I'd even scratch my chin a bit that this all happened at the same time as the Stephen Lawrence trial, where we're getting a painful reminder of the murderous, mendacious racism that goes from top to bottom in our society.

But she's also done us another favour. By finding an unpleasant member of the dolecriminal underclasses to scapegoat for our society's racism, we can go on pretending that Nazis are inebriated plebs who look like this and not Cambridge Blues who look like this. We can pretend that our society's racism is not a systematic component of the UK which enriches the private sector while driving innocent men to suicide, and pretend it's just a proletarian faux-pas like baseball caps, putting the milk in first or ordering Stella Artois.

And this is, of course, total and utter fucking horseshit. The way to fight racism is this, and it's a lot harder than just this.

08 November 2011

How I Memorised My Bust Card

Ok, ahead of the student demo tomorrow, here's my mnemonics for the numbers on your bust card. Please comment with any ways you have and I'll stick them up here as well if I like them:

Bindmans Solicitors

02078 33 44 33

Ok, so this is a company, which means it has two things:
  1. A fixed landline number, in London
  2. One of those deliberately catchy numbers with doubles and stuff
The other thing you notice is they're greedy lawyers and as such want to have it both ways: The two area codes in London are 0207 and 0208. They have both, though at least they have them in order: 02078

And obviously they like numbers that are next to each other, because the rest is 3s and 4s, doubled up, and going up first then down: 33 44 33.

Green and Black Cross

07946 541 511

Bit harder this one, but not much. This isn't a company, so if you can't remember which is the landline, it's not this one.

Ok, loads of mobiles go 0794 or 0796. This one, like those greedy solicitors, has both, and, again, they're in order: 07946

Then, you've got two sets of three numbers, going down. 5-4=1, and 511, like 911 but different because
  1. the last thing you want is more police
  2. That's the American number anyway and we're not in Kansas any more, Dorothy
This is possibly the rambliest, silliest thing I've blogged, and obviously you can always write it up your arm, but it works for me and it passes the time when I'm walking.

ANYWAY, you could do it with Live and Kicking, you can do it for this. Good luck!

27 October 2011

That Funny Picture

I think we've all seen it. Hahaha Occupy Wall Street. You twats:

Now, I'm not 100% sure, but it seems to be listing things that are made either by corporations or out of capitalism, with the implication that opposing any action by corporations or under capitalism while using these things makes you some kind of ghastly hypocrite. Especially coffee. God help you if you drink coffee. So I'm just going to do a quick rundown of who some of these things are actually made by:
  • Social Networking - programmers.
  • Smartphones - engineers, programmers and factory workers.
  • Wireless carriers - engineers, technicians and programmers.
  • Clothes - designers, weavers and sewing-machine operators.
  • Cameras - engineers, programmers and factory workers.
  • Cars - engineers and factory workers.
  • Buses - engineers and factory workers, driven by bus drivers.
  • Bicycles - engineers and factory workers.
  • Shoes - factory workers.
  • Starbucks coffee - Baristas (famously).

Not to mention all the farmers, miners, riggers, factory workers and so on that provided the raw materials, and the builders, cleaners, caretakers and handymen that maintain the places where they're built. Oh, and put your hands up if you shuddered a little bit when you got to the bit about clothes.

Now, I don't want to go down the "corporations are people" route, but corporations are people, ok? Or rather, all of the work that corporations do is actually done by people. All those brilliant ideas were thought up by people. Your iPhone wasn't made by a fruit, or a trademarked name, or a picture of a healthy half-eaten snack, or even by Steve Jobs himself. It was made by people. All "Apple" did was give them money for it. Sometimes even a reasonable amount. This is how branding works. When we look at our iPhone, we see the Apple name and the Apple logo which we associate with a pretty sound, endearingly hippyish guy called Steve, and we think "Apple made this". They didn't. Labour made it. Labourers made it.

Before capitalism, cleaners still cleaned, farmers still farmed, people still mixed hot water with ground-up beans and gave it to other people to drink. People would still be able to write code or operate machinery or design trainers if they weren't employed by corporations. And a lot of these people, especially the farmers and factory workers, might be a little better off if corporations didn't get the credit for their work and the wealth it generated, and if capitalism didn't enable that situation. Maybe they wouldn't. That's the debate we should be having.

10 October 2011

Love and Mates, Ducks and Foxes, Tender and Gentle Bumming

Confession: Whenever I hear a woman complaining about being called "love" or "darling" by strangers, one of my first thoughts is "what about the mens?". But yeah, what about the mens?

If you've lived in Britain for any length of time, you'll have noticed the weird thing we do with pretending to be your bestest buddy evar when we've actually never met you. Sometimes, like if we're selling something, it's transparently mercenary, but at others it's, perhaps even more disturbingly, just our way of being polite. Where I come from, the address is "me duck", for both men and women, and you'll hear "pal", "darling", "chuck" and all kinds of others, but the most common seems to be "mate" or "love", and it tends to be a more working-class turn of phrase. I'd like to say it's because the usual formal politeness sounds too icy and snobbish, but then there's the clipped middle-class "mate", with the overpronounced 't' and dripping with sarcasm and veiled aggression. It's not so much the use of "darling" that's sexist, it's the social act of using this address.

The thing is you see, the word isn't gendered. I've been called "love". I've heard women casually use "love" to address both men and women. Which is why I wonder what about the mens. The only usage of "love" or "darling" that is properly taboo is a man using it for a man. Even two gay men can get away with it as we can, in these matters, legally assign them woman status. Women can hug men, men can hug women, women can hug women without any kind of over-enthusiastic backslapping necessary. Anyone in modern Western society can wear trousers, t-shirts, jackets and ties, but a man has to be very, very Scottish to get away with a skirt. All manner of progressives might have put a lot of effort into lifting social restrictions on women and gay men, but in the meantime, we straight men were restricting ourselves more and more.

We, as a society, are fine with women loving each other. You go round with a bottle of wine, cookie dough ice cream and a Sex and the City box-set when her boyfriend dumps her. We've managed to get our heads round men and women loving each other as friends without wanting to fuck, and it's especially easy if only the woman is straight. Obviously if two gay men want to do fully-clothed emotional closeness together in the privacy of their own homes, we're even fine with that. But straight men don't love. There are only three ways for straight men to directly express affection for each other: as a joke, if we're drunk and therefore joking, and in a gay way possibly as a joke.

It's easy to treat this odd little tendency as homophobic, but that doesn't quite cover it. We've all got fairly used to the idea of two gay men having sex with each other, but two straight men at it either freaks us the fuck out or makes a charming punchline. Speaking of which, flick through this fifty-minute compendium of gay jokes in Friends. The first thing you see is, contrary to what I've said before, how much the three men, especially Joey and Chandler, love each other. The second thing you notice is that a lot of the jokes aren't about homosexuals, but about straight men being afraid of their own potential gayness, especially when they're expressing this love.

What this actually is is bi-phobia. When a straight man gingerly slides his hand down the front of another straight man's trousers, they're not deviating from societal norms but from their own. We can make an exception to the golden rule of Man Goes With Woman, but only for recognised permutations such as quirky sitcom lesbians, Katy Perry and those adorable pet gays you can take shoe-shopping. Heterosexuality isn't about fucking women, it's about not fucking men - though naturally you might have to fuck some women to prove you're not secretly gay.

And oh look, Liam Fox has got a really good friend who he really seems to care about. As with when William Hague shared a room with that man, this obviously means they're buggering together. Not to say that there's anything wrong with that, just that it's scientifically impossible for them to be that close any other way. As I've said before, we're so threatened by the idea of two men just being really good friends that we'd rather imagine Andrew Werrity sweating, grunting and grasping Liam Fox's throbbing manhood as he spurts his hot seed into his quivering arse than ever picture them hugging, saying "I do love you sometimes you know" and then sitting down without tongue-kissing. Not only that, we're so utterly bamboozled by the idea of heterosexual man-love that two happily married men fucking seems more likely, compared to two prominent Tories attempting to make money, consolidate power and expand their personal sphere of interest. What is it about the thought of two straight men together that makes our brains go so downright silly?

29 September 2011

Schrödinger's Punching Bag

Odd how in the past couple of years the two minutes' hate has slowly shifted from refugees and asylum seekers to those awful disabled bastards. Difficult to say who has it worse - today's hate has to be shared with Muslims and bankers and the Greeks, but then what with the recession there's much more to go around. Also difficult to say who deserves it more - on the one hand we actually have to pay the disableds enough money to live on and even fund their wheelsticks or whatever, but on the other they do at least have the common decency to be British.

Anyway, this presents us with a problem. Victimising people just for fleeing persecution makes you seem a bit of an arsehole, but verbally abusing people for not being able to walk or see as well as you seems even worse. Yet it's obviously very important to us as a nation to keep doing it. Luckily, arseholes are full of surprises and there is a way you can do it. And it's brilliant.


Now, even with a system so skewed against your potential victims that 20% of failed bids for asylum and 70% of fit-for-work declarations being overturned on appeal, this may still seem too limiting. But don't worry. The thing with bogus asylum seekers and faking wheelchair-people is that nobody knows who's genuine and who isn't. This effectively means they're all bogus fakers.

Now, obviously we don't mind the genuine refugees and ESA recipients sponging off the taxpayer like the lazy scroungers they are, but the idea that anyone can just waltz in acting gay or carrying a walking stick and get what they want, well, it's just not cricket. And it's not like spiteful resentment of vulnerable members of society is easy to aim. So we have to hate the whole bloody pack of them. [Edit] We don't hate the ones who are faking. We hate the ones who could be faking. The ambiguity lets us have our cake, eat it and nick theirs. [/Edit] Although we couldn't possibly hate and resent people in genuine need [pats a special-needs affectionately on the head, hugs a black man], have you ever tried nuanced scapegoating? It's fucking impossible.

Besides, what is it they say? Better kill a hundred innocents than let one guilty man get a penny in state handouts. And I've been saving this dog dirt for a really deserving letterbox.

16 September 2011

Angry Young Alex: A Personal Apology

I’ve written so many articles over the years laying bare and polemicising against the errors and idiocies of other people. This time, I am writing an article laying bare and polemicising against the errors and idiocies of myself. If you give it out, you have to take it. If you demand high standards of others, you have to be just as damning when you fail to uphold them yourself.

I did two wrong and stupid things. The first concerns some people I interviewed over the years. When I recorded and typed up any conversation, I found something odd: points that sounded perfectly clear when you heard them being spoken often don’t translate to the page. They can be quite confusing and unclear. When this happened, if the interviewee had made a similar point in their writing (or, much more rarely, when they were speaking to somebody else), I would use those words instead. At the time, I justified this to myself by saying I was giving the clearest possible representation of what the interviewee thought, in their most considered and clear words.

But I was wrong. An interview isn’t an X-ray of a person’s finest thoughts. It’s a report of an encounter. If you want to add material from elsewhere, there are conventions that let you do that. You write “she has said,” instead of “she says”. You write “as she told the New York Times” or “as she says in her book”, instead of just replacing the garbled chunk she said with the clear chunk she wrote or said elsewhere. If I had asked the many experienced colleagues I have here at The Independent – who have always been very generous with their time – they would have told me that, and they would have explained just how wrong I was. It was arrogant and stupid of me not to ask.

The other thing I did wrong was that several years ago I started to notice some things I didn’t like in the Wikipedia entry about me, so I took them out. To do that, I created a user-name that wasn’t my own. Using that user-name, I continued to edit my own Wikipedia entry and some other people’s too. I took out nasty passages about people I admire – like James Iha, David Attenborough, the drummer from Hole and that kid who translated a Harry Potter book into French in two days. I factually corrected some other entries about other people. But in a few instances, I edited the entries of people I had clashed with in ways that were juvenile or malicious: I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk. I am mortified to have done this, because it breaches the most basic ethical rule: don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. I apologise to the latter group unreservedly and totally.

If it was the other way round – if a journalist I disapprove of had done something analogous – I’d be withering. I’d say, it’s not hard: get your quotes right, and don’t be mean about other people in a way you find painful when it’s directed at you. Spare me the self-pitying excuses. Plenty of people have your problems and pressures and none of your privileges, and they don’t do anything half as awful.

After it emerged that I had done this, some defenders of the powerful people I had taken on over the years for their wrongdoing saw an opportunity to try to discredit what I had written about them. Amid legitimate criticism of what I had done wrong, there were lots of untrue statements, but I’m hardly in a position to complain that some people saw it as an opportunity to take a free kick.

In 2007, I travelled through Market Harborough to report on the fact Oadby and Wigston Council had been bombing the borough. An anonymous claim was made that I had exaggerated the extent of the Oadby and Wigston bombing, and that I had fabricated a quote from an Oadby soldier on the ground. Two representatives of the NGO that I travelled with came forward to The Independent’s investigation into my journalism and they said my description of the bombing damage was entirely accurate, and that they have photographs of it. They also explained that they witnessed me speaking to several Wigston soldiers when the person making these charges was otherwise occupied.

The worst part of this for me has been thinking about two sets of people. The first are all the readers over the years who have come up to me and told me they like my articles and believe in the causes and the people I’ve been championing. I hate to think of those people feeling let down, because those causes urgently need people to stand up for them, and they need their defenders. The second are the people here at The Independent, whom I have watched for the past eight years working phenomenally hard to get their stories right and to produce world-class journalism. I am horrified to think that what I have done has detracted from the way they get it right every day. I am sorry.

But offering words of apology is not enough. Christopher Hitchens once wrote: “If you don’t want to sound like the Pope, who apologises for everything and for nothing, then your apology should cost you something.” I agree. So first, even though I stand by the articles which won the George Orwell Prize, I am returning it as an act of contrition for the errors I made elsewhere, in my interviews. But this isn’t much, since it has been reported that they are minded to take it away anyway. (I apologise to them for the time they’ve had to spend on this.) So second, I am going to take an unpaid leave of absence from The Independent until 2012, and at my own expense I will be undertaking a programme of journalism training. (I rose very fast in journalism straight from university.) And third, when I return, I will footnote all my articles online and post the audio online of any on-the-record conversations so that everyone can hear them and verify they were said directly to me.

In my work, I’ve spent a lot of time dragging other people’s flaws into the light. I did it because I believe that every time you point out that somebody is going wrong, you give them a chance to get it right next time and so reduce the amount of wrongdoing in the world. That’s why, although it has been a really painful process and will surely continue to be for some time, I think in the end I’ll be grateful my flaws have also been dragged into the light in this way. I would like to apologise again to my readers, my colleagues and the people hurt by my actions. I know that some of you have lost faith in my work. I will do everything I can now to regain it. I hope, after a period of retraining, you will give me the chance.

23 August 2011

A Few Obvious Statements Following the Riots

Ok, so this is going to be a long one, but there are quite a few things to discuss, all of which are fairly obvious in their own ways. The political meaning of the riots, our general attitude to victimhood, the "Black community" and gun crime, the effectiveness of a law-and-order response, the overall conclusionary significance and a predictably common phenomenon in the language of the riots.

1) Different Events Are Different
I don't know why I need to point this out, but Michael Gove is right. Stealing a plasma TV is not a political act. It's also, though this might go over his head, an entirely separate action to the political protest that sparked the riots, to the riots themselves, and to every other theft that went on around the same time. Different things happen for different reasons. Likewise different things are articulate to different levels, which is why, no, burning down an EMI warehouse is not a concerned and carefully-worded musing over the disappeareform* of EMA. So let's not make the mistake of assuming the riots and the looting and the 26th March Anti-Cuts Rally all have to mean the same thing.

As Laurie Penny rather nicely points out:
Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis[...]People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all.
Obviously the protest outside the police station meant what it claimed to mean - "what the fuck, Metropolitan Police Force?" And obviously the looting generally meant "that's a nice crate of water, I'll 'ave that" and nothing much more. And obviously the looting was at least partly made possible by the police being occupied or blocked by rioters, in turn made more rioting feasible, if you can even draw a fine line between "looting" and "rioting". But the riots meant something. Every riot means roughly the same thing: "I AM ANGRY TO THE POINT WHERE I SMASH SHIT UP AND BURN SHIT DOWN".

Now, we can only speculate as to what the rioters might be angry about, but I reckon it is possible to speculate quite efficiently as to that, and without even having to condone them first. I think some of the 16-18 year-olds might have been angry about their disappearing EMA. I suspect that some of the suspicious-looking and/or Afro-Caribbean ones might have been angry at their bumf-drawer being full up with stop-and-search receipts. I suspect some of the poor ones might have been angry at poverty. Maybe some of the more chivalrous ones were angry hearing about a teenage girl get beaten up. Who knows. Like I said we can only speculate, but anyway, shorter non-psychotic Left:

"The fact that they were wrong to express their anger that way doesn't mean they weren't right to be angry".

*I'm coining this mother-lover

2) Victims: Bollocks to The Twats, Really
This might not seem that obvious initially and it's a bit of a tangent, but I'm going to come back to it later. Since Millie Dowler's phone got hacked, since Anthony Walker's mother unforgivably offered to forgive his murderers and made us all feel uncomfortable, since we really got into blaming raped sluts for failing to prevent crime against themselves, it's starting to look like we don't care about victims quite so much as we like to tell ourselves.

Fact is, we hate criminals. We hate criminals because they do awful things, they attack our precious concepts of law and order and respect for our fellow man. We're right to. Rapists, murderers, muggers, they're cunts. Massive cunts. But it feels a little unsavoury when our hatred of criminals overshadows or even contradicts our concern and respect for their victims.

Frankly, I'd say first and foremost among "victims' rights" is the right not to share your victim status with every sadistic ghoul who read about it in The Sun and felt affronted. Closely followed by the right not to be used as a pathetic pretext for tabloid to wank out their perverse revenge fantasies about dismembering paedos. In short, to be seen as human beings who've had their lives ruined in ways most of us could never imagine, as opposed to spokesmen and -women for the penny dreadful industry. If that wasn't obvious, it bloody should have been.

3) Black-on-Black Gun Crime Cuts Both Ways
Funny how we never see JFK or John Lennon as victims of White-on-White gun crime. Or Leon Trotsky as of Marxist-on-Marxist ice-pick crime. You never read about Kristallnacht as "a sad case of German-on-German brick crime", or Max Brod's refusal to posthumously burn Franz Kafka's oeuvre as "member-of-a-Prague-circle-of-German-speaking-Jewish-writers-on-member-of-a-Prague-circle-of-German-speaking-Jewish-writers legacy-betrayal crime", or MOAPCOGSJWOMOAPCOGSJWLBC for short, but there's obviously something I'm missing in how we define these categories.

Anyway, I heard some self-important white cock on the radio a few days after, you know, who thinks he'll always be spokesmen for the working man because a comfortable salary, leafy suburban house and pitiful bourgeois sense of paranoia can always be cancelled out by an affected estuary accent? Him. Anyway, he said, roughly, that
The fact that there's a whole police operation to deal with Black-on-Black gun crime, what does that say about the Black community?
Well, two things: Firstly, the Black community seems to be prone to committing gun crime. (A scientician would tell you that the gun-crime gene is carried on the same chromosome as cool dancing, rap-hop, calling people "blud" and forgetting to say 'is').

But Black-on-Black gun crime is a two-parter. This can be logically inferred from the fact that the word "black" occurs twice. Black Britons seem to be more likely to be victims of gun crime. If we assume a victim-to-perpetrator ratio of 1:1, then the very worst we can say about this community and gun crime is that it breaks even. If we then think about how the danger of gun crime might push impressionable and frightened young people into getting guns themselves and at least seeming ready to use them, and that if their bluff gets called then whatever happens they've basically thrown their life away, it suddenly becomes harder to see BOBGC as a crime by The Black Community against decency, values and anyone that has to read about it in the paper.

The job of Operation Trident, as much as anything, should be to keep young Black men safe from gun crime. When we see a young Black man with a hoodie and South London accent, we should think "that guy is potentially at risk of being gunned down" at least once for every time we wonder where he's stashed his piece. But we don't. We police poor, fairly black communities where we should be protecting them in equal measure. We police them for fear that their crime will spill over into affluent, mostly not-black communities. And we just learned how much we really care about victims.

Ok, so it's patently obvious this approach is daft. For all the desperate, vengeful squealing for ELECTRIC TEAR GAS! FLAMING WATER CANNONS! SHOOT ON SIGHT WITH ATOMIC BATON ROUNDS THEN DEPORT THEIR BENEFITS! it only takes a minute or two to work out this won't even work.

People riot when they think they can temporarily overpower the police. They carry on when they think they can outmanoeuvre and evade the police/army/SAS/cybernetic beefeaters/whatever you want to throw at them. People loot when the police can be evaded or distracted long enough for you to grab stuff through the broken window. The Big Society Vigilante Service is all well and good if you live on a street of arse-kicking Sikhs and massive-balled Turks and Kurds, but it's basically only useful for protecting the Big Society Vigilantes' own areas. However strong, vicious, vindictive or downright spectacular your repressive measures are, they won't work where they aren't. It doesn't take a genius to work out that lawlessness happens where the law isn't, not where it's so hampered by PC Gone Mad it can't even slaughter them all with jagged cyanide-axes.

The second half of this though, is justice. Justice is essential to law and order, and not just because criminals need punishing. For all the bellowing and table-thumping for reprisals, it's just as important for deterrents that innocent men get to go back to their unimmolated homes. That you aren't evicted from your home because your brother committed a crime. That you don't get splattered with indelible ink from a water cannon aimed at the crowd of looters you're rubbernecking or accidentally stumbled into. That you don't get banged up for six months for rubbernecking outside Argos. If you can be punished not for rioting but for the riots themselves, if you can be punished for anything other than your own actions, then the punishment is obviously no incentive to change them.

This is one way the disproportionate use of stop and search might have contributed to the violence. People are left feeling that they could be harassed because of the way they speak, dress or produce skin pigmentation, not whether they're actually doing anything. Just look at this letter to the Evening Standard (Wednesday 10th August 2011, David Gilbertson):
Junior Officers claim that the youths involved are largely the same youths they stop and search on a daily basis but who are "always" dealt with leniently by the courts or cautioned. As a result they consider themselves invincible.
Or even, thanks to meddling liberals, allowed to walk free simply because they hadn't done anything this time. No wonder people might feel they won't affect their guilt, let alone their treatment by the police, by their behaviour.

This is why polite, middle-class suburbanites don't torch panda cars. We see the police as allies, for good or ill. Sure, they may bang our kids up for youthful indiscretions such as entering an upmarket department store with intent to sit down and shout, they may harass anarchists or God-fearing motorists and homophobes, but overall we know they're necessary to protect us, or property and our social position. If you're left feeling that law and order isn't there to protect you, just to limit your lawful and unlawful activities alike, law and order becomes an adversary, and it's a lot harder to take the police's constant misbehaviour lying down.

5) Some Obvious Conclusions on Obviousness
Ok, so overall it's silly to say "these kids have no stake in society". Most of the things they own, use or eat are made using division of labour. Their streets get swept and maintained and their jobbies flushed away. But they didn't torch a sewage works. A riot is a rebellion against a specific aspect of society - law and order. And if the values of law and order and respecting property that is someone's livelihood are not ones you benefit from, you have nothing to gain from upholding them if there's a free TV going.

We're too quick to use these riots to hate on more criminals, especially the criminal underclass. The underclass, criminal and law-abiding, just had their neighbourhoods wrecked. The council house evictions, the squealing about stopping their benefits, the general sentiment that they should be punished extra for being poor and ungrateful shows how we still don't want to quite drop all our venom for the chavvy victims just because they've had a little bad luck. Instead, we just them to draw a line round the Bad People, point at it, and tut at how bad they are.

Ok, so a lot of this stuff isn't obvious. But it should be. And the fact that it's not is a lot of the reason the riots happened and similar things will happen again.

6) A Brief Musing on the Naming of the Phenomenon
I should like to use a song lyric, maybe the Smiths, for the title. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

30 July 2011

Button My Collar Down, Flip It and Reverse It

Well this is odd. A slimy little city-boy gets turned away from a fashionable London club for being overdressed. The lightning rod seems to have been the tie. And the Evening Standard says this
The club chain was accused of inverted snobbery after sending out warnings to members to be "cool not school".
Broker Howard Wheeldon also calls it "reverse snobbery to keep City suits out of the club".

Now doesn't this strike you as odd? Being denied entry to a club for not wearing a tie, or wearing jeans or trainers or anything too chavvy - this is a matter of course. This kind of non-inverted, non-reverse, dog-bites-man snobbery is fine - so fine it's taken as a fact of life. Wheeldon is also rather preoccupied with the class-ridden concepts of "standards" and "respectability".

This story is basically a club imposing a dress code and reserving the right to refuse entry. The implication of any kind of outrage, of even bothering to report it outside of the and-finallies, is that this snobbery is wrong because it's inverted and reversed, because it inconveniences the powerful and not the uncouth. "Snobbery" is still fair game, provided it's the right-way up and the right-way round. Just don't be so naive as to try and fuck with the rich guys in suits.

Extra thing I thought of in the shower: Inverted snobbery, reverse racism, misandry, heterophobia - all of these are interesting. When you hate on gays, you kick down the pecking order. When those bad feminists hate men, they hate up. Downwards, having whole systems of privilege and institutional discrimination behind it, is far more dangerous. Upwards, however, is far, far more noticeable because the established prejudices blend into the natural order of things with the skill of Nazi stick-insects. So when some pathetic little minority rails against you for swinging your big, white, woman-liking cock that you were born with round your expensive house, just remember you're only noticing it because it's harmless.

09 July 2011

Porridge Pots Within Porridge Pots

Imagine you're a climate scientist, working on climate change. One day in early August, you give a paper at a prestigious conference at Oxford University, and spend the afternoon relaxing in the college grounds. As you unwrap your summer salad under a cloudless sky, a man approaches you. It's James Delingpole. You make small talk, and your field of study is mentioned in passing. He notices the umbrella protruding from your bag. Suddenly he's all accusations. You obviously have no faith in your own science. You expect rain every day in Britain, even on a glorious day like this, despite all the so-called evidence you put forward that it's getting sunnier. You try to explain that you carry an umbrella “just in case”, but for all it's worth you might as well tell a golden retriever that the mean man is still holding the stick.

Now imagine you're a feminist, trying to talk about the potential threat of rape to Pete Hague, who opens his polemic at 22m46s with this
Over the years, I have genuinely tried to be sympathetic to the feminist movement.
You can tell it's going to be good, can't you? As we quickly discover (and as I've previously pointed out), Hague's two favourite words to use in his section are “rational”, to refer to himself and feminists who agree with him, and “silliness”, to refer to feminist opinions he does not share. If one was a man-hating harpy with fuzzy armpits and a chip on her shoulder about phallogocentrism, one might be inclined to find that condescending, even mildly misogynistic, in the old-fashioned hysteria-and-emotion-and-that-time-of-the-month fashion. Despite his frankly enormous rationality, Hague's own weakness is exceptionally poor reading comprehension, and I shall be repeatedly and often tediously belittling him for it as the post goes on, while referring to my own arguments as “I get it Pete, but you'd understand this much better if you spoke six languages”.

We first see these reading skills in action when a nasty feminist says “Men still have no idea what 'no' means”, which Hague seems to interpret as meaning the same as “are rapists”. This doesn't just apply to perpetrators, but to judges, juries, prosecutors and random punters reading about it in the newspaper. Even a lot of women. Society has a confused understanding of what counts as consent. Many people think it can be expressed through some kind of weird thigh-and-cleavage semaphore (hence SlutWalks). Pete hasn't really thought about that.

Speaking of victim blaming, he doesn't seem too happy with Rebecca Watson either
She made a video in which she mentioned in passing that this was a creepy way to approach her, and this seems to have kicked off a bit of a shitstorm, far beyond what the original incident, or Watson's comment on it, would seem to warrant.
The 'this' seems to refer to her making the video, which implies that it was her innocuously, friendly and downright fucking useful advice that caused the shitstorm and not, say, an arrogant know-it all bursting in, swinging his massive cock and balls all over the place and
belittling Watson's experience, in the context of the suffering women have to endure in less developed countries.
Again, he's also misread Dawkins. Dawkins refers quite specifically to Muslims, including Muslims in the West who live in households “dominated by Muslim men”. Perhaps he wants to make Dawkins sound less aggressive towards Muslims and more sympathetic towards poor people, perhaps he'd just understand this better if he spoke six languages. Either way, he's misrepresented the very man he was trying to defend
He was bitingly sarcastic, but I think he had a point.
Yes, he was. Bitingly if not that artfully. But Hague assumes all the bloody feminists are angry about is the sarcasm, rather than, say, the biting contempt for women, Muslims and especially Muslim women.
The Feminists disagreed though, and hit back hard, often citing Dawkins' privilege, race, wealth and gender
I don't think he's quite got the point of “privilege”. Being alone in an enclosed space with a strange man isn't a threat to Dawkins, because he's a man. It might be a bit more for a woman. He has no more personal, lived experience of this than I do, and this may or may not affect his ability to understand Watson's point. Many feminists are white and privileged themselves. It's not an expression of hatred, and Hague is missing the point by calling them “ad hominem” attacks.

Possibly my favourite bit is where he tries to explain it in Anglo-American “cultural differences”, because their rate of sexual assaults is 2% higher than ours, and because all feminists are Americans and look like this.

I do agree with him that it's unfair to label him a sexual predator when, from the story, all we know is that he was blithely inconsiderate. But I can't help wondering if half the time they weren't talking about “predatory behaviour” rather than labelling him
The apex of this silliness was reached by Amanda Marcotte, who claimed that any approach made by a man in a confined space is a conscious decision to use the threat of rape to increase the chances of getting a positive response. This absurd idea claims [...] an insight into the mind of every man on the planet
What she actually said was: “In sum, men who corner women know what they're doing. And yes, they are relying on the fear of rape to grease the wheels towards getting laid”. This doesn't refer to “every man on the planet” but those who “corner” women, who understand that they are doing so. What she says about fear of rape is not that they consciously use it, but that they benefit from it, knowingly or not. It's not only very different in substance, but he has drastically, changed the tone – not just to make himself sound more serious, but to make this sound like a calm, considered, theory-heavy argument from academic literature, rather than a simplified, throwaway clarification.

This he links to
something that many men have always feared about feminism: the “thought police” aspect. Again, like man-hating, I had always assumed this was a thing reactionaries made up about feminists.
This is where he really reveals himself. Pete Hague is saying absolutely nothing new. He's regurgitating the same old and tired anti-feminist goatwank that people with reading skills have refuted time and time again. He just modernises it by opening with“I really want to support them and believe they're not all man-hating mind-Nazis”, which is at least a more nuanced version of “I'm all for women's lib, but...”.

Then he gets onto Schrödinger's Rapist, and his English teacher starts to have serious concerns and contacts his parents. The post
treats unknown men as wave functions, with the potential to collapse into either a rapist or a non-rapist state.
Straight up, he's missed the idea that it might refer to the cat metaphor, as opposed to the actual physics.
A nice little solipsist metaphor that completely disregards the notion that men might have any intention or agency of their own.
He doesn't really get that the thing about the cat is that we don't know if it's dead or not. He seems to think that the “all men are potential rapists” means that as x% of men commit rape, there is an x% chance that you, as an individual man, will commit rape RIGHT NOW. If he spoke six languages, he'd probably realise that it just meant there's an x% chance of this complete stranger being one of the ones that rapes people. Complex, I know.
The bad astronomer described this situation as a “potential sexual assault” without any proof at all that this man had any such intentions.
This is the very interesting part. Largely, I think, because he's misunderstood it as being about the specific man, and partly because of his paranoid fantasies about the Thought Police, he sees the entire situation purely in terms of the man. The idea that the woman's perception and interpretation might be equally important, equally valid and, yes, equally rational doesn't even cross his mind. A friendly chat about privilege before recording could have set him straight before he started being all bullish and condescending about it.

He then pulls out the “what if you said this about a black person?” argument, thinking, genuinely I believe, that this will end the argument once and for all. I find this argument initially quite alluring, so I'm going to tell you another story or two:

You're a man. You get on a late-night tube, going to a not-particularly-interesting area of London. The only passengers in your carriage are you and another white man. At the next stop, he gets off and a gentleman of colour takes his place. To pass the time on the tube, you usually play with your Very Expensive SmartPhone. You know people who've been mugged for these, so you're naturally a little wary about being alone with strangers at night. But only a little.

You're a lady-girl. You get into a carriage on a late-night tube, going to a not-particularly-interesting area of London. The only passengers in your carriage are you and another woman. At the next stop, she gets off and a gentleman takes her place. You have a vagina. You know people who've been raped, so you're naturally a little wary about being alone with strangers at night. Often more than a little.

Now, Pete, in the second scenario, while the woman is still unlikely to be harrassed or assaulted (very unlikely in fact – we're only potential rapists you know!), I'm sure you'd agree she is under more threat from the man than she was from the woman, even if it's only a rise to about 0.005%. This is for the following reasons:
  • If we take Kinsey's estimate that around 10% of people are less than entirely straight, this means this means the man is nine times more likely to want to have sex with her than the woman, even we completely disregard any possibility of bisexual or heteroflexible men.
  • Should the man wish to have sex with her, and should he also be willing to even without her consent, he is significantly more likely than the woman to be able to physically overpower her.
  • Even if she believes she could best him, a man is more likely to believe he can overpower her, and therefore more likely to try in the first place.
  • Cocks. Useful if not essential for rape, I've heard.
  • Due to social conventions about making the first move, a man is more likely to approach her, and so the risk of an aggressive reaction to a 'no' is a greater danger.
  • To my knowledge, lesbian sexual assault is not particularly prevalent, though this may be a grossly unfair myth.
So Pete, if you consider these situations at all analogous, which you do, this obviously means you believe it to be at least nine times more likely, though probably much more so, that a black person will steal your mobile that a white. Please tell me you didn't mean that, and that you'd just utterly failed to read Schrödinger's Rapist properly or think about the issues in any kind of depth.

Anyway, he blames the victim a little more and a little harder, and wags a token finger at Dawkins:
Watson reporting this was kind of tactless and, as some have suggested, it had an element of bragging to it, which didn't help. Dawkins probably shouldn't have made such a sarcastic comment. But this incident does need to be put into perspective with the horrors that women suffer around the world.
And then, for the first time in the podcast, with a sigh that would make Johann Hari proud, he manages to make me feel condescended to:
And feminists. If you want support from men, then please stop calling us rapists, or potential rapists, or anything else like that.
I am a man. I support feminists in an awful lot of things. Not only do I do this after reading Schrödinger's Rapist, I actually treated Schrödinger's Rapist as advice on chatting up strange women without scaring them, in the confidence that I'm not any kind of a rapist, nor had that been implied. The reason I can reconcile this with my penis is because
  1. I understand what a “potential rapist” is.
  2. I take the time to try and understand the feminist arguments that bamboozle me slightly or initially come across as a bit man-hatey.
  3. I speak six languages, and so am able to understand relatively simple concepts written in plain English.
  4. Through intense research, I can now even distinguish between a man (head, two legs, two arms, one winkle, usually) and a situation (location and set of circumstances, no winkle, usually).
So anyway, I think the moral of the story is to read once quickly for gist then again more slowly for details, that direct quotes are safest and indirect reported speech is for people with some vague comprehension skills, and that you should always make sure you actually vaguely get what a thing is about before you get all hot and bothered and 1970's retro-sexist about it.

Update: Comment off the man himself:

06 July 2011

Magic Porridge Pot

A lot has been said on this Dawkins thing. This is good and full of links if you missed it. But I think we're all focusing so much on the frantic, privileged screaming that we miss the extra reasons why you were right to hate Dawkins. Also why this Skepchick woman seems really sound and quite lovely. Firstly, watching her account of the situation (here, 4m30s-ish), you notice her tone and her attitude towards the guy who approached her. She didn't call him a rapist. Or a harasser. Not even a potential rapist or harasser. As she points out herself, her most vicious condemnation of his behaviour is "guys, don't do that". This is a woman who receives rape threats as a matter of course, and that's the most venom she can muster.

This is how to deal with privilege. Privilege is invisible to the privileged. The guy in question probably doesn't worry about being assaulted in lifts very much, so the idea of that kind of threat probably didn't cross his radar. The rule of "don't sexually proposition women in a confined space without exits" had crossed my mind, but not before reading Schroedinger's Rapist, and lifts had never come into it. Now I have*. Thanks Richard. I've learned. Calling out privilege isn't, and shouldn't be, about making someone feel uncomfortable about who they are and what they don't even know they don't know. It's about wondering if that person has ever considered this and saying, well, "guys, don't do that". Calling out privilege isn't an attack. It's a lesson. In this case, it's a lesson on how not to massively intimidate a woman you want to have sex with you.

So Richard Dawkins is basically attacking a woman for giving out really useful pulling advice. You'd have thought that'd satisfy the guy's daily quota of being an arrogant cockgraze, but no.
Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Note, first of all, that this Muslima (Richard Dawkins is frightfully clever and knows the Arabic for a Muslim lady. Let us not forget this) isn't a specific one or even from a specific country, she's more of a generic hodge-podge of all the things Islam does to women, and there's probably only one or two places in the world where you'd get all of them at once.

More importantly, note how the generic hodge-podge is of things Islam does to women. Women do not, for example, make up around fifty per cent of Islam, nor are they in any way important to its reproductive cycle. Richard Dawkins would like you to conveniently forget this person is a Muslim. So, Muslima, if you're listening: Richard Dawkins hates you. Richard Dawkins thinks you're a delusional, superstitious moron. He finds you revolting in your stupid fucking bin-liner. He thinks you're a "great evil". Obviously it's sad that you get cut and stoned and beaten, but the important thing right now is that a feminist gets put in her place.

I've seen this kind of solidarity before. You know the kind where the real victim is the pampered Western liberals. Richard Dawkins strikes a blow for women of colour, by grabbing one by the leg and beating a white feminist repeatedly on the tits with her.

Afterthought: Dawkins' later dismissal of the come-on as "only words" is just as thick. A major failing of language is to look at speaking and listening as one-way streets. You say what you mean, and if they understand it the wrong way, they fail. But the game is much more involved than that. When we speak, we constantly anticipate the other person's understanding based on conventions and context. We stick -ed on the end, safe in the knowledge that they'll interpret it as a past event, passive or hypothetical. We understand instinctively that saying "tea?" means more in a kitchen than in a swimming pool. We avoid big words around small children. If we fail to understand how our language will be received, we've failed to use it properly on the most basic level.

It's the same with speech acts. Inviting a person for coffee-which-probably-means-sex is an action. A verbal one, a communicative one, and an entirely non-violent one, but an action nonetheless. Lift Bloke made Rebecca Watson aware and conscious of the fact that he wanted to knob her. He didn't - because he couldn't and because no-one can - make her aware that he had no intention of raping her. He failed to read the context, and failed to anticipate how he would change the context by speaking. I'm quite willing to believe he did this innocently, in the same way you wouldn't hold it against me if I accidentally offended some Americans by misusing 'fag'. But he did it all the same and so richly deserves to be taken aside and given some friendly advice.

And for Richard "Shit Off Jesus" Dawkins to completely dismiss the complex linguistics of human pre-fuck ritual, it's, well, a bit dogmatic and unscientific if you ask me.

*What I've concluded is that the best approach is probably to pretend she's not there all the way up, and then as she gets out on her floor and the doors are open, go "oh, by the way...". Pretend like you were too nervous to talk or something. This is in everyone's interest as, if she says 'no' straight away, you'll have to stew in the awkwardness all the way to your floor until you wish you'd just farted in there instead. But also she's less likely to be scared of you and thus want to hump you less.

02 July 2011

Cupcaeks and Ponys and Chainsaws and GUNZ

Just twat this with my twitter:
It's great being male. I can bake whatever the fuck I want without making any kind of a statement about my attitude to feminism.
and got pointed to this article by this lady.

It's a weird article. It links to this blog post, which starts off vaguely feminist but (seriously) turns into a venomous diatribe against "cold, indifferent", "eerily reptilian and unfeeling" non-bleeding birds. It advises young women on their posture and punctuation. It's also peppered with stereotypes about adult women and men:
Let him take you out on a date, maybe not on a walk or an Xbox session, even if you are, God help you, addicted to LA Noire. Meet your friend for wine instead of fro-yo one night.
Apparently women only play video games as a favour to men, and I never had to drag my ex off Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars at any point in our time together. When two women get drunk together, they under no circumstances drink bitter. And old women are, of course, unseamly:
Nobody's asking you to be matronly. Laura Bush is no longer in the public eye-as I write this, she's cheerfully douching somewhere far away, in private. You can make your own modern womanhood-there's no need to fear the dowager.
And it's just generally got this air about it of screaming "YOU'RE THE WRONG KIND OF WOMAN" at anyone she thinks is too childish.

Anyway, I'll concede. Cupcakes are bollocks. I hate the texture of icing and the sound of meringue is like fingernails on a blackboard to me. But cooking and eating cake are both highly enjoyable pastimes, and this may go some way to explain the motives of cupcake feminists. Rather than this theory
It's all to the same ends— women are trying to broadcast to men that we won't bite their dicks off. It's just that now, instead of lipstick, we're wearing glittery lip gloss, or that shit you get in the drug store that tastes like Dr. Pepper.
I suspect that, in a manner similar to the sex-positive branch of feminism, a key factor underlying the tendency to bake cupcakes is because creating and devouring delicious foodstuffs is a fucking brilliant hobby.

Besides, you want to see the infantilisation of men. Girls, you're way, WAY behind. The fact is, I don't see My Little Pony being made into a multi-million dollar film-franchise, and this might be because women are infantilising themselves to mirror us. So why do we do it? Well, it's partly a reaction to pop-feminism. If women are all intelligent and mature and serious and career-oriented, then surely manly qualities are silliness, childishness, pisstaking and neglecting work for Call of Duty 2. The pantomime drag of masculinity sends women a message saying "Look! I am a heterosexual! If you were to fancy me, there is a serious possibility I would reciprocate. Therefore consider me from the outset as a potential sexual partner". Which is handy. Capitalism associates maturity with professionalism and ambition, so the best retreat from your soul-crushing job is retreat into childhood. Also, and perhaps most importantly, it's fun.

The thing is, for someone who describes herself as "in general, a Funny Lady", Julie Klausner is taking this whole process very seriously. Most people who actually take part in it don't. Probably the best example of this is Hyperbole and a Half. Much of the time, it's hilariously, heartbreakingly cute. But it's also peppered with supermanly awesome, not just to take the piss, but also terrifying monsters and death blood killing attacks. It's self-infantilising, deliberately, consciously and to both genders to the point where it's often hard to distinguish one from the other. And it's funny, because irony and stuff.

And, as I constantly blather on about, irony means a lot more than we give it credit for. One of the most pathetic, wrong-headed, essentialising things I've seen for a while was the Real Men Don't Buy Girls campaign, and look how much mockery of traditional masculinity they deploy in their mildly amusing videos. The campaign genuinely seems to believe in Real Manly Manhood for Actual Real Men as something worth aspiring to and a serious way of promoting a serious issue, but still ironises images of masculinity through hyperbole. It's also a keystone of German humour. The reason we can get away with it, the reason Ashton Kutcher can entrench prescriptive masculinity while simultaneously sending it up, the reason a German can call you a big girl's blouse while mocking the entire concept of big girl's blousehood, is because it's part of the game. Perhaps more so in America than here in the Kingdom of the Sarcastic Understatement, but ridiculous hyperbole is a masculine quality going back as far as the Mesopotamians. Irony, flippancy and not taking your sexuality seriously are all straight masculine qualities. Women are disadvantaged by it. Queers struggle to accept and define it. Transpeople reject it yet still have it nailed to them against their will. But if you're a boy who knobs girls, gender identity is all good clean fun.

The fact that women are not acting like Serious Grown-Up Feminists, that they're dabbling in pastel-pink, cinnamon-dusted, kitten-soaked femininity is not necessarily a sign of disadvantage. If anything, it shows confidence, like gay men who publicly and semi-ironically play up their gayness. It shows women no longer have to assert themselves by taking womanhood seriously. They're joining men on the fun, flippant side of the gender binary because, well, it's a lot better than the serious, professional one. Though I'm still not sure if it's all a good thing. Do we joke about it because we're all so mature about sexuality these days that nobody takes it entirely seriously? Or have we just updated our model of gender to allow ourselves room to arse about exaggerating, so long as the underlying message of Men Are Tough and Women Are Pretty gets through? Anyway, I suppose the moral of the story is this:

If you like cupcakes and enjoy cookery, bake cupcakes. If you dislike either, don't. Ignore feminism.

21 May 2011

Abuse and Taking Advantage

I don't normally wade in on thieving Tory gobshite-in-residence Nadine Dorries, but this quote reminded me of something even worser.
A lot of girls, when sex abuse takes place, don’t realise until later that that was a wrong thing to do … Society is so over-sexualised that I don’t think people realise that if we did empower this message into girls, imbued this message in schools, we’d probably have less sex abuse.
Why us boys don't need to be "empowered" a bit too also confuses me - we're also under a wee bit of pressure to get laid whether we want to or not, and we don't even have the crippling terror of being called a slut to balance that out. I for one would have liked to be told I wasn't a failure for not having all the exciting teenage sex I imagined my peers were having. But what could be worse than Nadine Dorries, you wonder. Why, Westlife of course. And what could be worse than that? The one with the annoying face going solo.
I like you just the way you are
Drunk as shit dancing at the bar.
I like it,
and I can't wait to get you home,
so I can do some damage.
I like you just the way you are.
Jump in the back seat of my car,
cos I like it
and I can't wait to get you home
so I can take advantage.

Cath Elliot was quick to call this a "date-rape ditty". Obviously "do some damage" is, at best, a pretty fucked-up way to describe sex. But "take advantage" is ambiguous. Even if we assume it's taking advantage of the woman and not the situation, is he taking advantage of her because she's too drunk to consent, or because she's drunk enough to consent? He says "your imagination takes full flight" and "even if you go too far", and she quite specifically "jumps" into the back of his car, so the woman (meant to be his wife I think) seems to be an active and enthusiastic participant. At what point is your mental capacity reduced, by alcohol or anything else, that you forfeit your ability to consent? This is why "taking advantage" is such a sticky concept. It could be raping someone in a vulnerable state, or it could be in the more rakish, Victorian sense of persuading a woman to have sex when her cross-legged, Angel-in-the-House decorum is somehow lowered. Either makes sense, as long as there is advantage to be had.

In the same way, Nadine Dorries is fairly cagey about what "abuse" actually is. Stavvers' raises an important point:
On Planet Dorries, sex abuse is caused by girls not saying no.

There is a curious logical somersault here, the idea that rape can be prevented entirely by saying “no”, although it plays in perfect harmony with the popular notion that rape is only rape when the victim (always a woman, apparently) says “no”. No no, no rape. Dorries has taken this to its logical extreme: that uttering the n-word will magically vanquish all rape.
I'd take this further and say that anyone even vaguely feminist should stop saying "you can say no" and start saying "you don't have to say yes", what with rape being based on consent not refusal and all. But Nadine Dorries isn't particularly interested in rape here. Her "abuse" still has this strange implication of getting girls to consent to sex. Yes, two people fucking too young because they think that's what they are meant to do is a bad thing, but it's rather condescending to pretend that a 15-year-old boy isn't going to be just as confused about what he wants as his girlfriend.

Both the concept of "taking advantage" of an inebriated or enamoured woman and Nadine Dorries' idea of "sex abuse" are based on the assumption that there is sex women and girls shouldn't be having, regardless of whether they want it. Fierce moralisation over women's sexuality, policing their bodies, and the hangovers these leave in our language confuse the issue of consent. Not only does this mean soft-headed religious conservatives can pull off the deft backflip of invoking rape so as to tell girls not to consent, it makes it possible for predatory fratboy shitehawks like McFadden to bypass the distinction between horny-drunk and non-consenting. These concepts don't draw a line between willing and unwilling participants, but between good girls and sluts, between women who are fucked and women who aren't. Consent is sort of irrelevant.

15 May 2011

The A-Z of Political Correctness

By James Delingpole, aged 12¼.

A is for Alphabetised Lists
Of course, as I found out writing for the Telegraph AND Mail, you're not allowed to say a WORD against so-called Political Correctness unless you do it in the form of an alphabetised list. Political Correctness gone mad!

B is for Blacking Up
Call me racist but I really don't see the problem with this.

C is for Cunts
Though I suppose we have to call them “feminists” these days. Listen love, you've got the vote, now sit down and stop trying to influence politics.

D is for David Attenborough
Compare his earlier series in the sixties to his work now. See how Politically Correct tyranny has aged him.

E is for European Union
Even the name sounds positively Orwellian.

F is for Facial Cumshots
When I was but a priapic young adolescent passing round a sticky VHS tape, the actors would spend their wad in her mouth, on her vadge or up her arse like normal. Why do the likes of Bonnie Greer and Trevor Phillips feel they have to force this bukkake nonsense on us?

G is for Gryffindor
I think I hate the sanctimonious little do-gooders more than the pseuds in Ravenclaw and those Hufflepuff morons combined.

H is for Hitler, Adolf
Would have loved Political Correctness. Enough said, you'd think, except the PC Brigade will call “Godwin's Law” on you if you dare to point this fact out.

I is for Incorrect, Politically
I am one of the few courageous journalists who can honestly claim to be COMPLETELY incorrect in every column I have ever written.

J is for Jif
You have to call it Cif now. WHERE WILL IT END?

K is for Kestrel
You can't say “windfucker” any more. Pathetic.

L is for Lost
What the fuck was going on with this whole series? It made no fucking SENSE! And don't get me started on the ending of Inception.

M is for Magnets
Science has yet to produce a satisfactory explanation for how these work. Explain that.

N is for Niggers
You have to spell it 'niggaz' now or else they get offended.

O is for Old Rope
Is it just me or has the price really plummeted on this stuff?

P is for Political Correctness
You need only read this excellent article to understand how insidious the creep of Political Correctness is. It affects so many disparate aspects of our lives you'd think it was completely made up by right-wing fantasists to embody their worst, most vivid visions of what the Left gets up to.

Q is for Quran
It says on page ONE for Christ's sake, “Kill them all and rape their toddlers”, yet the likes of John Snow and Krishnan “Hussein” Guru Murthy just hum and haw and wring their hands.

R is for Russian Roulette
Banned in schools now. They claim for so-called “health and safety” reasons, but it's almost certainly on the say-so of the Ukranians.

S is for Scientists
Islamo-Marxist quislings, to a man.

T is for Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
NEVER got a Leonardo that Christmas, did I? Had to make do with Raphael. Toys R Us had “sold out” of Leonardo, my dad said. Sold out to the EU's pro-red propaganda more like.

U is for Universities
Seems now all you need to get into Oxbridge is three or more A grades at A-Level, a glowing interview, plus genuine skill, dedication and interest in your subject. I hate to imagine the chavs that are now flooding the place.

V is for Vaginas
Have you ever seen one? Terrifying.

W is for Winnie the Pooh
As a bear of very little brain, long words bothered him, and so like your esteemed author he would certainly have little truck with Political Correctness.

What do you mean do I want a tissue? Just fuck off. Yes, you you cunt, fuck off. Leave me alone alright? I'm fine.

Y is for Your Best Porno Mag, Your Mom Threw Away
Too long have we taken this right for granted. I for one am quite willing to fight for it.

Z is for Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
I could never find all the bastard skulltulas. Never. What the fuck, Nanny State?

11 May 2011

Rushing Dehumanisation

A weird aspect of the death of Osama Bin Laden that I've noticed. Naturally, we went all out to dehumanise him. If not pretty, it's fairly unsurprising. Obviously dehumanisation is bad for what it allows us to do to anyone we perceive as less than us. But also if we pretend to ourselves that those who do evil things aren't human, we will only ever underestimate the evil that we as humans are capable of, and so probably won't be that good at preventing it. This is why I don't like dehumanisation: it lets humanity off too lightly.

But that's not what I found weird. The first weird sign was The Sun calling him a "beast". Dehumanising, yes, and ten points to Slytherin for that, but it's dehumanising in the wrong way. "Beast", to my ears at least, is not appropriate for terrorists. It's for dehumanising sex offenders and people that steal Billy Bunter's cake. I doubt Bin Laden had time for either. Plus aside from that, "beast" is a bit of a mild term for a mass-murdering religious fucknut.

Second was the man on Question Time (at around 18m13s, there may still be time to see it on iPlayer), who said
I just wanted to say that I'm very offended by Mr Ashdown's referral to Osama Bin Laden as a "man"
Aside from the fact that he later uses the term himself, this is strange, especially followed up with "let's tell it like it is", which you might expect to be vaguely scientific and take into account his human DNA.

What disturbs and slightly baffles me about both of these is that dehumanisation has become the norm. We've obviously been doing it too long. It's not enough to demonise your defeated enemy, to show him as less than a man. To even refer to him once as a human is offensive (we may have been over how easily ultra-PC right-wingers take offence), while the quality of dehumanisation can go utterly to pot, just so long as nobody has the audacity to call Osama Bin Laden what he was - a (shitty, shitty) human being.

We're no longer at the point where it is acceptable to see our enemies as less than people. We're now not allowed to do anything else.

08 May 2011

Asking For It

What with the Slutwalk, which I reckon looks interesting at least, I thought I'd have a look at an argument I've seen for rape victims bearing responsibility. I'm sure you've seen it before. It goes
"Ok so imagine you park your car in a dodgy area right, and you leave it unlocked yeah, and the keys are in the ignition, and the car's in a really short skirt and stuff. Obviously it gets nicked right, and your reaction is like "awww I'm such an idiot, it's my fault for parking it there, unlocked, drunk, and with a history of promiscuity"
And of course, there are things women can do to avoid getting raped, like staying at home all the time, ideally tied up in a sack with their vaginas removed and kept in a safe. And should they leave the safe unlocked, yes, they are by their own actions, slightly increasing their own chances of being raped.

It's true that there's something icky about using a crime against property as an analogy for a crime against a human, but I don't think that's the problem. After all, we'll justify all kinds of things with an analogy about a bloody omelette. It's also true that only the rapist is to blame for rape - though perhaps the reason this is often ignored is that the criminal's responsibility for the crime is too obvious to bother mentioning. Where this analogy falls down is that it's a little too apt. Say (for the sake of argument, as it's actually bollocks) that excessive drinking puts women at greater risk of rape, in the same way as parking your car in a dodgy area puts it at greater risk of theft.

Would your stupidity in parking your car like that diminish the thief's criminality?
Who's going to say "well, there's no point in pressing charges, as you were asking for your car to get nicked"?
Who's going to say "well, you can hardly blame the joyriders for stealing it, seeing as it was unlocked"?
What counsel for the defence is ever going to argue "my client cannot be held responsible for the theft of said vehicle, given its position, its being unlocked and the presence of the keys in the ignition"?
And don't think you, as the victim of the car theft, will have to answer a single question about what cars you might have owned in the past.

But does blaming the victim actually shift some off the rapist's shoulders? Would rape victims who "asked for it" feel discouraged from pressing charges? Would excuses be made for their attackers based on the victims' dress or behaviour? Would the perceived sluttiness of a rape victim be used to discredit her case and might she, possibly, have to answer a couple of minor questions about her sexual history?

It strikes me that this car-theft analogy works far better as an argument against the victim's responsibility. So much so that it must have been invented by a feminist, and borrowed by victim-blamers who thought it sounded clever. They can't have thought it up themselves, given how much they struggle with figurative speech. Because generally, the idiom "asking for it" - be it theft, murder or a slap in the face - is understood as just that: an idiom. A figure of speech. Yet for some reason, when a woman asks for it by smiling at you while having nice legs, suddenly the metaphor gets taken very, very literally, to the point where it basically counts as consent. Well, I'm afraid it's not how blame works. It's not how analogies work, it's not even how cars work, and it's definitely not how consent works.

PS This song is awesome.

30 April 2011

When You've All Wiped Yourselves Down

I came home yesterday, after carefully avoiding everything, to find that there's a facebook page dedicated to roughly sodomising Pippa Middleton. More searching of the terms 'smash', 'back', 'doors' and 'in' reveal there's a similar one to her title-heavy sister. There's also one for the lovely Cheryl Cole. I'm pretty sure most of the major female celebrities have had a smash-your-back-doors-in page dedicated to them at some point.

Now, whether or not these women would like having their back doors smashed in or not is sort of irrelevant. Even if they would, they'd probably be - as well as obviously very flattered as anyone would be - a little bit creeped out at the thought of over a thousand randy internet-gnomes formulating action plans over pictures of their bottoms.

"Ah!" you might say, "but if you get rich and famous off the back of your fantastic arse, then surely your arse has to give something back to the community in the form of boisterous anal sex fantasies". Which is arguably true. Cheryl Cole probably puts an awful lot of gym-work into her arse and other bits, knowing their importance to her professional career. Her Future-Maj probably wanted to join the royal family, even if it was only secondary to marrying her boyfriend. But Pippa Middleton. I'm not sure how Pippa Middleton asked for her fame. Pippa Middleton has been catapulted into some rather intimate, slightly degrading, and disturbingly public sexual fantasies and why? Because she went to her sister's wedding in a nice dress.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm a republican.

13 April 2011

More Bollocks About Real Men

A friend just stuck this up on her bookface.

This, I find in parts infuriating and in parts relieving. Relieving because I no longer have to feel the slightest bit of guilt about the hellish human trafficking industry. I own a penis. A real one, made of actual penis flesh and penis blood, with which I was born. So now I realise I'm off the hook for the abhorrent transportation of young women, often children, for a lifetime of sexual slavery, which is perpetrated exclusively by women, transmen and replicants.

But then I also find it offensive, counter-productive, personally offensive and, above all, bollocks. The problem with men who use trafficked prostitutes isn't that they're not "real". It's that they are nasty, rapey, self-centred little shits. The insinuation of "real men don't buy girls" and "real men don't rape" is that, because a man can't acquire the free, consensual use of a vagina for an evening, he's somehow failed at his own gender.

The theoretical problem with this is that it conflates all sex work with trafficking - "buying" women as slaves with paying women for sexual services. This feeds into a general hostility towards sex-workers themselves which even a lot of feminists buy into. But it is also incredibly offensive and insulting to me personally. I'm not very good with women. I've had one, in total. I'm probably worse at getting laid than most of the Fake Men who rape or use prostitutes. I never quite learned the whole pulling/seduction thing, and I'd be lying if I said this made me happy. But, since I'm flat broke and limit myself to consensual sex on ethical grounds, this basically translates to me not having sex. If Gerard Butler and all these other halfwits are to be believed, my moral failing is the same as that of someone who pays to rape people, and that the main thing wrong with the people trafficking industry is that it fails to fly the penis flag high enough. So don't look for a picture of me with a sign any time soon.

Edit: Quiet Riot Girl has some fairly sound ideas about it too.