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.

CONTENT NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS BRIEF BUT GRAPHIC DETAILS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

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…]

Traditional circumcision ceremonies: Averting our eyes from the bloodshed

I don’t often do the cross-posting thing, but I have a piece up on the Guardian today that I feel rather strongly about and thought should share with you here

The death and deformity caused by male circumcision in Africa can’t be ignored 

The more I read about the rituals and the extent of suffering involved, the more appalled I am that it continues with so much official blessing and so many wilfully averted gazes.

A point I didn’t really have space to address in the article is that the pain involved, the suffering involved, the risks involved –  of injury, permanent scarring and even death – are, I think, intimately tied up with the business of proving oneself a man. Those pushing these ceremonies are very reluctant to adopt safer, more humane alternatives as this undermines the entire purpose, which is more about the suffering and health risks than anything else. It’s a very extreme and rigid test of masculinity. I find it very revealing that in the participating cultures, men who opt for medical circumcision under clinical conditions are shamed as cowards.  [Read more…]

The Frankly Forgettable Friday Open Thread

Evening all.

I’ve been fairly conspicuous by my absence over the past couple of weeks thanks to one thing or another, and truth be told it’s likelyto stay that way for another week or so before normal service resumes.

In the meantime I’ve been keeping half an eye on the sprawling conversations/arguments/ debates/ slanging matches which have kept  other threads lively, so I thought you might appreciate a shiny, clean new open thread to give you room to breathe and perhaps an excuse to change the subject. [Read more…]

Me and my #MaleTears: Facing the consequences of ironic hatred

I used to work in a feminist bookshop – it was much like any other bookshop, except it didn’t have a humour section.

That gem is perhaps the best example I know of the self-armouring joke. It plays on a cruel and unfair stereotype, but those whom it targets are left defenseless, unable to criticise the joke because to do so would validate it.

It sprang to mind when reading a paragraph in Amanda Hess’s piece in Slate which celebrates ‘ironic misandry’ as a weapon in the arsenal of modern feminism. [Read more…]