The fairly friendly Friday open thread

The past couple of weeks have seen a couple of the busiest and perhaps most passionately argued blogs I’ve ever had here at HetPat, and I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a bit drunk. And if you like the sound of that, as Douglas Adams  famously noted, you wouldn’t if you were a glass of water.

If you’re new around here, every couple of weeks I start a new open thread, which has no on- or -off topic, everything is of interest, and occasionally I send people here when they’ve got too much to say on a topic thread.

Anyone following the golf? It’s not my favourite sport, but I usually get into the Ryder Cup. Might try to keep up over the weekend. I like to imagine it is all like Caddyshack and always keep an eye out for gophers.

This week I have mostly been twisting my melon with Aphex Twin’s new album. Proper old school electronica with added bubblapeepboSKWONK. Some of it is so good it makes me literally laugh with astonishment.

Oh, and there’s news and wars and bombs and diseases and OH MY GOD X FACTOR IS ON!

What are your bread and circuses, folks?



When is it acceptable to ask ‘But what about teh menz?’

It would be safe to say my post on Emma Watson and HeForShe generated some pretty strong reactions.

We’re no strangers to strong disagreements here at HetPat, and I assume that most of what I write will lead to angry reactions from one quarter or other. And while I’m never shy of arguing my position in the comments boxes, I do honestly pay attention to thoughtful criticism and I give especially careful consideration to disagreement from people whose opinions and views I usually share and value. That was the case this week.

Probably the most common criticism of the post was that it amounted to an extended #whatabouttehmenz screed and I wanted to give that point some serious attention.

I acknowledge, accept and agree that feminists should have as much space as they want and need to discuss the needs and lives of women, identify problems and formulate solutions or plans of action. Some problems are gender-specific and require gender-specific analysis. Where women are discussing their own lives and situations it is inappropriate for men to march into the space and attempt to divert the conversation onto their issues instead. The same applies, obviously, when men are discussing their own issues. [Read more…]

Why Freethought Blogs matters

I guess I’ve had a pretty combative and stressful couple of weeks on the ol’ blogosphere, with one thing and another.

But a humbling truth about this network is that whatever microdramas may be absorbing me from one day to the next, I’m never far away from writers and activists whose personal efforts for social justice and freethought put any activism and travails of my own  in profound perspective.

Kaveh has a new blog up that reminds me of why I am so proud to be on this network, and why this place is necessary. It is short, sad and sobering, please go read it.

My deepest sympathies go to family and friends of the victim of the latest theocratic atrocity in Iran, Mohsen Amir Aslani. My utmost admiration, as ever, goes to Kaveh Mousavi and all bloggers, journalists and writers who brave the risks of oppression, persecution or worse to bring us their news and views.

The five little words that betrayed Emma Watson

There is so much to admire in Emma Watson’s sublime speech to the UN on Saturday. There was the poise and elegance with which it was delivered, the subtle charisma and assured performance, but it was the content that has made her the talk of social media and the darling of the world’s young progressive left.

The roster of Hollywood actors and naff pop stars that makes up the (remarkably lengthy) list of UN Goodwill Ambassadors are usually considered something of a joke. Once you have learned that Ronan Keating once put his name to a parliamentary inquiry into global food security, satire and snark can be declared redundant. And yet Watson’s speech was different. There was an inescapable sense that not only had she written her speech herself, every word came from deep within her.

In particular she made a compelling argument that, in the words of bell hooks, feminism is for everyone, or as the theoretical dictum would have it, patriarchy hurts men too. The points have been made often before but seldom with such simple sincerity:

I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society. I’ve seen young men suffering from illness, unable to ask for help for fear it will make them less of a man …. I’ve seen men fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are.”

So while I didn’t entirely agree with every word she said, there was more than enough there to win my support. Without a moment’s hesitation, I went to the HeForShe website to add my name to the campaign. I got as far as the button to sign the pledge when I glanced over the wording, and I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn’t sign. The pledge is only 35 words long. For 30 of them I was agreeing enthusiastically and then…. well, let me talk you through it. [Read more…]

Extraordinary delusions and why gamers need to grow up


A belated addition to the Malestrom series, exploring male anger online.

I was away for a couple of weeks in late August and returned to find the blogs and social media aflame with two related arguments dubbed #Gamergate and #Quinnspiracy. The former, centring around Anita Sarkeesian and the release of the latest Tropes vs Women in Videogames series, was a flare-up of a long-running saga; the latter an ugly story that saw the personal life and character of a obscure female games developer being dragged open, raked over and exposed across a billion internet connections.

As I read more and deeper into the affairs, several things became apparent to me. The first is that there is real and quite extreme anger on both sides. I don’t think Laurie Penny is far wide of the mark in dubbing this a culture war.

My second observation is that the gamers’ side to the dispute does not just comprise straight white males, and that one particular sub-plot within this drama – the hashtag #NotYourShield – actually makes a good and important point about feminists and others bolstering their arguments by co-opting the identity and opinions of other women and members of other populations to which they often do not belong. I’ll try to return to this point another day. Nonetheless I think it is true that the vast majority of those most involved have been men and I don’t think it is inaccurate to see this as primarily a dispute between feminist women and gamer men. [Read more…]

Chris Grayling can ignore prison rape. Hundreds of victims have no such luxury


Today the Howard League published their long-awaited briefing on coercive sex in prisons, despite the best efforts of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to block their work.

It’s an important document which covers well the difficulties of research in this area, noting the difficulties in gathering reliable data at the best of times, but especially under a political regime which is brutally uncooperative. It does not shy away from the difficulties in categorising and defining coercive and abusive sexual activities, noting that as well as violent assaults, prisons are rife with subtle coercion, including prisoners choosing or being obliged to perform sexual acts to pay off debts, for protection or in exchange for tobacco.

Another important (and sadly very topical) point noted is that MoJ statistics do not record any data on sexual assaults or abusive acts committed against prisoners by staff, despite evidence from the US to suggest that this can be relatively commonplace and despite gutwrenching testimony of appalling sexual abuse by staff at young offenders institutions in particular.  [Read more…]

A Finely Flavoured Friday Open Thread

I’ve got the Great British Bake-Off playing on the catch-up TV widget. Officially it is my sweet significant other who is watching it but, hmmm I’m hungry.

I’ll confess I got interested in it when #Bingate erupted in the last week or two. For foreigners and Martians, this involved some old woman doing something with a young man’s ice cream in her freezer compartment (these are not euphemisms, by the way) and he ended up throwing his own baked Alaska in the bin and getting thrown off the contest.

Then, just a week later, the older woman responsible suddenly had to withdraw from the contest on medical reasons after “falling and hitting her head on a hard floor in a restaurant” causing neurological damage that temporarily disabled her sense of taste and smell, according to the BBC. Yeah right. Do those people think we have never seen Midsomer Murders?   One of the other contestants brained her with a jellyspoon, it’s a given.

Anyway, it is officially the most British scandal in the history of Britain.

Talking of which, a lot of my attention is being taken up by the Scottish independence referendum. As an expat Scot in England, it’s kind of freaky that my family could be foreigners by this time next week. (Shut up, constitutional law geeks). I’ve been keeping my counsel, as I don’t have a vote and I don’t really feel comfortable opining when I don’t have to live with the consequences. Broadly, my head says no and my heart says yes, but the honest truth is I won’t be devastated with either result next week.

[Read more…]

The flesh is weak: On the Erection Equals Consent rape myth

Rape myths take many forms, and male victims have their own myths to bust.


Whenever an article appears about the sexual abuse of men and boys – especially abuse perpetrated by women – you can almost guarantee that a comment will appear saying something like: ‘well he couldn’t have been that unwilling if he got a boner.’

It is an incredibly damaging and harmful myth, for at least five reasons which I shall detail later in this post, but first let me do my best to convince doubters that it really is a myth. [Read more…]

Quick update on CDC sexual victimisation stats

Regular readers will be well aware of the sexual victimisation statistics – the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This is (to the best of my knowledge) the world’s second largest sexual victimisation survey after the sexual violence modules in the Crime Survey of England and Wales. However it has the advantage of asking some specific questions that CSEW does not. [Read more…]

Those sharing stolen photos are not acting like Edward Snowden – they are behaving like the NSA

In the 36 hours or so since the stolen intimate photos of movie and music stars began to be published online, I have read some outstandingly stupid justifications and excuses for their distribution.

Most of them are depressingly familiar from other discussions of sexual violation. Typical arguments include that these (mostly) female stars have previously traded on their sexuality, so have forfeited their right to say “no” to any other appropriation of their sexuality; that by allowing private photos to be taken in the first place they were ‘asking for it’ and so have no right to complain if someone takes advantage; or that it is all some deliberate publicity ploy and that they were probably complicit in the leaks – or in other words, they wanted it really.

Amongst all this predictably disingenuous balderdash is one claim that I’ve seen repeatedly on various Reddit threads and by several commentators on this Guardian thread. This argument equates the release of the stars’ private photos to the leaking of the NSA files by Edward Snowden, and suggesting that if one approves of the latter, it is hypocritical to object to the former.

There are many things I could say in response to this, but the most polite and restrained is that it is completely upside down and back to front. [Read more…]