Remember: Nice guys can do bad things and sex workers are people

So this happened in my city of Cape Town, in South Africa.

Another day, another brutish man decides to show the world how brave and strong he is by beating up a harmless woman. Well done, big strong man.

A shocked and traumatised Cynthia Joni, 44, of Khayelitsha, said she was on her way to work in Kenilworth on October 2 when an unknown man leapt from his car and slapped her repeatedly, then threw her to the ground, without any explanation.

He was traced after people in the neighbourhood responded to her screams, and took down his registration number.

What could spurn such rage and hatred? Trying to tease out why men beat up women is complicated and horrible. But we can operate on what this individual, Tim Osrin, said.

Later, Osrin… who is a committed member of the neighbourhood’s ‘security committee’ and lives close to where the incident took place in upper Kenilworth, claimed he had assaulted Joni because he had mistaken her for a prostitute.

Apparently, sex workers can be smacked around because, hey, they’re sex workers. And sex workers magically create crime – because no big business, cops, etc. ever commit crimes, either, right? I wonder if Osrin will smack Wal-Mart and other retailers around who mistreat and underpay their staff? Maybe he smacked cops who are corrupt and allow for bad things to happen? [Read more…]

Women are not props for your “pranks”, they’re people

There are few YouTube “celebs” I follow. One I greatly support is Laci Green. Please watch this important clip of her response to a rather awful-sounding creep & his ilk, who touch and sexually interact with women without their consent.

Women are not props, they’re people. Their bodies are not there to be fondled without their consent; their mouths are not to there to be invaded by your tongues.

This is not funny, it’s disturbing. Creeps need to be shunned, not given a platform at applauded. I’m glad corporations are taking actions against this particular Sam Pepper guy – but given the ubiquity of the mindset that allowed him to do it in the first place, seeing how many copy-cats he has and how many fans laugh in support, we all need to continue our outspoken opposition to mistreatment of women.

“Bad things happen – get over it”

That’s the message from this Rosie Millard piece [DNL url]: “Women get their bottoms pinched. It is part of life. Get over it”.

I don’t know much about the legal aspects, I don’t know whether we charge someone for a crime the victim says she’s over. I think those are complicated questions, deserving of fuller examination on a case-by-case basis. However, Millard goes from these concerns to outright telling people to “get over it”. That’s a separate discussion, but it’s woven in seamlessly into the discussion of prosecuting this guy called David Lee Travis. Just watch (emphasis mine):

The unnamed victim of the assault, who said she was paralysed with fear at the time, has spoken of her luck in being able to get on with the rest of her life after the event – the event being having your breasts squeezed for 15 seconds, backstage at The Mrs Merton Show. Hello? If such things really caused deep trauma, half the female population of the UK would be in long-term therapy. Women get their breasts squeezed. They get their bottoms pinched. Without asking for it. It is not particularly exciting, but it is part of life. Get over it.

But don’t worry, I guess, because it happens all the time in the media.

In the media, where the intoxicating combination of fame is customarily wafted about in what one might deem a bohemian atmosphere, this sort of behaviour is particularly apparent. Again, not something to be proud of, but it is simply part of the setup.

You know like how non-whites in apartheid had to use separate entrances? Yeah, it sucks, but you know: “It’s part of the setup”. I look forward to telling my dad the reason he couldn’t buy a house in another neighbourhood was that it was “part of the setup”; that he should’ve “got over it”. It’s part of life, you know? Geez.

this sort of thing happened all the time, so much so that it was almost funny.

Ah, well, if you think it was “almost funny” I guess no other person should have to worry.

I am not referring to or indeed excusing sexual assault. I am pointing out that there was, and probably always will be, a certain amount of irresponsible behaviour in the entertainment world, whether from Radio 1 DJs or anyone else, and women in particular have to negotiate it as they see fit.

They “negotiate it” by speaking out; they “negotiate” by pointing out who the creeps are.

Dear Rosie Millard: Women and marginalised people will speak out. Get over it. People who think an environment is too protective of powerful men will voice their disaproval. Get over it.

I am sick of people using their platforms to defend the status quo which they themselves acknowledge isn’t safe, secure, helpful. I’m sick of people blowing smoke in the face of awful behaviour because that’s “just” the environment – as if we’re powerless beings who are not fighting back by speaking out. And yet when we do speak out, we are told to “get over it”.

I have to keep asking: Why would you use your finite time, finite resources to yell at people wanting progress and improvement? If you also can acknowledge that things suck, why would you not want them changed? And if you say, I’m just pointing out reality, you’ve done nothing: We know the environments suck, we know women are mistreated. If we didn’t already know that, we wouldn’t be speaking out. Whereas activists are saying “This environment is awful therefore we should change it”, shruggers go “This environment is awful therefore that’s the way it is.” Who cares? We know that’s the way it is and we want it changed.

Environments are created by humans, we change them, improve them. They’re not magically entombed. These wizards from the school of the insultingly obvious seem so keen on taking on activists or those who want change. I can’t really understand why: if they annoy you, who cares? How are you affected except that – shock! – as a marginalised person, you might have a better, more safe environment? Otherwise, why do you want to stay in a creepy environment?

These people are confusing and are targeting the wrong people. I really want them to use their resources and finite time for better ends. We could use it – the creeps don’t fucking need defending. Society in many ways does that already.

Women: wearing revealing clothes summon dark forces, please beware!

To give some background, Hannah Graham is an 18-year-old University of Virginia student who’s been missing for some time. The police have a suspect:

Charlottesville police named 32-year-old Jesse Matthew a suspect in the disappearance, and he was detained in Texas on Wednesday after he also disappeared for a short time. So far, he has refused to talk with investigators about what he might know about Graham, whom he was seen with the night she disappeared. Police have released little else about what led them to name him as their prime suspect. (NBC News)

It’s horrible story. I will never be a parent, but I have loved ones and have lost loved ones. I can’t imagine the pain the parents must be going through.

Hannah Graham’s parents addressed the public for the first time Sunday when they appeared at a news conference to ask for information about their missing daughter. John Graham spoke lovingly of his 18-year-old daughter. His wife Sue stood by his side.

John Graham asked anyone who had information into the whereabouts of Hannah Graham daughter, a second-year University of Virginia student, to come forward.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” John Graham said. “We need to find out what happened to Hannah to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.” (Wtvr)

My sympathies go out to these unfortunate people. I would say, “no doubt we all feel this way”, except someone called Debbie Schlussel is being a totally awesome human being about this entire situation. It’s hard to read this. But here we go. [Read more…]

I was Muslim: The reason I became an active atheist is now why I’m not one

Disclaimer: I didn’t want to write this. I am no one. An insignificant blogger, with no hard financial security, no listing on a best-seller list. I am about as much a threat to rich, older, white men as a mosquito is to a rock. I don’t do this for “hits” (the small amount I make from Freethought Blogs goes to charity. I don’t tell people that since that’s no one’s business, really, but feel it necessary to convey exactly what I’m setting up). There’s so little to be gained from doing this. But perhaps I should. (People who claim I’m doing this for clickbait are to be taken as seriously as those claiming men supporting gender equality do so solely for sexual favours.)

For the few who have followed my writing (hi, mom), you know how much I hate being biographical. When I do write biographical material, it is to add to the largely low volume of ex-Muslim people willing to speak out. They don’t speak out because of legitimate fears, because the culture of Islam, even in Western societies, still carries heavy burdens hard to convey, because unlike a white atheist, a brown one with a “Muslim” name is uncommon. To this day, I’m still being told I “look” Muslim, when I’m wearing jeans and a normal jacket. I can’t escape the weird identity I have and it’s this identity which makes me so angry at the leading figures – i.e. white men – of a movement that changed my life. But I’m more fucking angry at the sycophantic nature of a movement that was supposed to have abandoned sanctity for reason and evidence. [Read more…]

“But she’s wrong about Hitman!”

I wrote this as a comment on gaming site I write for  – on Anita Sarkeesian and the topic of disagreement in game culture. Thought I’d post it here so I could curate proper discussion, because this is an issue I’m grappling with as a game and culture “critic” – and as a person trying to be decent. [sic] all around.

I’m not a fan of her work, but don’t see why a woman facing death, rape and bomb threats, who is at least bringing conversation, requires me to do in-depth criticism, 300 youtubes of how she’s wrong about Hitman, etc.

Frankly, I’d rather defend her right to be part of the culture and focus on her and others’ safety, than how they don’t get my favourite game is actually super important and the best thing ever. Games matter less than people’s safety.

Second there are plenty of people who deserve more attention for how wrong they are about games, such as those who say it “causes” violence, journalists who flout their swag, show off and show little engagement with material of games, developers who screw their audience, Kickstarter failures, etc. All these are actually detrimental. One person’s YouTube criticism is not.

I’m actually not interested in people’s criticisms of her work. First, because I have my own; second, who needs to hear it right now? Will the industry die because your voice wasn’t heart against Sarkeesian?

Imagine meeting an astrologer who’s got death threats and demanding he pay you attention, from a screaming mob, so that you can deliver criticism of his pseudoscience. I don’t care that you’re right about astrology; I care that you’re using time and energy to criticise him when you could be using it to defend him against bullies threatening him.

I also want to add: If we want to develop a culture that handles criticism properly, we need to care about people first. For example, those wanting “social issues” removed from game reviews are wanting solidification of the current state; the state that allows so many people to reach this level of anger at harmless women. Games can’t be removed from social dynamics anymore than cars or paintings can be. How you examine such items devoid of the contexts and identities that gave rise to such things in the first place is beyond me – except that you’d be delivering the most neutral, bland inhuman aspects of it. Imagine describing the Mona Lisa by listing the colours and direction of brushstrokes – that’s what it sounds like to me when you plead for objectivity. (No I don’t think every game write-up should analyise the race/sex aspects and what the second tree really means; but I do think such things can be written and should be done without cries of it being not part of gaming – or that it’s “ruining” games.)

You want to criticise Sarkeesian – Great. Work on creating a culture where doing so is done maturely, civilly and with sensitivity to the other person as the default. By pushing through with your criticism, you’re making it clear you don’t care about the current context a harmless person is facing for merely trying to make games better. Whether she’s right is debatable; whether she – and others – should have her life and safety threatened is not. Right now, I know what my priority is in this particular instance.

Maybe one day we can debate the merits of her video – and I might actually agree with you on some points. But now is not that time and, as indicated, there are other targets more worth your criticism. Otherwise you just become part of the climate that is already a room of knives.

In which I make the case against comment sections cos I hate free speech

In the Guardian I made the case. I did! At least according to some commenters.

Yup. Free speech is bad and by removing comment sections I can magically prevent everyone in the world ever having conversations, silence their dissent and such. Did you know before comment sections, no writers or thinkers or people were ever told they were wrong? Yes! Criticism never happened in alternate ways, such as in-depth discussions, letters, and so on.

No. Only comment sections.

I had no idea that shutting off comment sections meant shutting off people’s internet access and ability to start their own blogs, use forums, etc. But as I hate free speech and am a dictator, I am obviously glad. Anyway, I have to go sit on my thrown made of the silent screams of my critics which I will never ever hear ever again because I am all-powerful and none shall ever oppose me.

 

Celebrity hacks and victim-blaming: Responding to 3 common claims

Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities have had (nude) photos stolen. I noticed three, of many, recurring responses, mostly it seems from my fellow men dictating what women should do with their bodies. Cos, yeah: of course.

Others have said these things more eloquently. But here’s some responses to claims about celebrity privacy violations – i.e. nude photo leaks – that we need to keep reinforcing.

  1. “Who cares?”

Celebrities may be annoying to many; celebrity culture itself is to me largely horrible. Celebrities are not necessarily talented, merely people with a large audience. However, the key here is “people” – not monsters. Presumably we want a better world for people – thus if bad things happen to people, we should defend and support them. This isn’t about whether they themselves actually notice – but it does mean setting up an environment that reacts appropriately to when women have their photos leaked and aren’t berated as “sluts“; it’s about reinforcing a space, like the Internet, that doesn’t spread stolen information from people because they’re “hot”. After all, women who are not celebrities at all, have the same thing happen to them. [Read more…]

Gamers are angry and they need to grow up

After dealing with trolls for an entire day – thanks to a certain prominent atheist with a million followers Retweeted me on Anita Sarkeesian – I had my article on the same issue go live. I looked at what happened when Joss Whedon and Tim Schafer endorsed Sarkeesian, what men (and non-targeted people in general) can and must do – even if misogyny and sexism appears to be a dying animal. It’s cornered beast but still has claws.