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.

Can’t resist setting you off with a pointer towards Paris Lees’s piece in Vice the other day. If you missed it, it is a quite spectacular firecracker thrown into the ammo room of the so-called TERF wars. Should you care what I think, I personally think she gets a lot of things very, very right, a few things very, very wrong, but it is never less than a breathtaking adventure in rollercoasting blogsmithery.

Fasten your seatbelt before take off. 


  1. Ian says

    I reckon this is a good time to link to Scott Alexander’s “ In favour of niceness, community and civilization.

    It was interesting to see the mention of Sarah Ditum. I subscribed to her blog a while back (not sure why, I think she had interesting things to say at the time.) If I recall correctly, she took a bit of a break and when she resumed blogging it was all this dreary doctrinaire stuff – thousands of dense words just to keep drawing that line between oppressor and oppressed over and over again, and ensuring the “right” people were on the “right” side of that line.

  2. mildlymagnificent says

    Thanks for that one, Ally.

    Am I a not very nice person if I admit that I loved it?

  3. Marduk says


    I always thought of Ditum as one of the more boring and bland Guardian writers (although the contemporary ‘New Blandness’ is on another level) visiting her blog was a bit like when the murder detectives kick in the door of the quiet librarian’s flat and find he has been sticking up pictures and writing on the walls and has a pentagram carved into the floor. Had that moment of vertigo and screeching violins…

    That Paris Lees piece was awesome. The bottom line is that her right to exist is surely not a ‘debate’.

    But I’m probably guilty of finding the whole thing fairly interesting to be honest, mostly because its just fun finding out who is really an ok progressive liberal and who is a massive hate-filled bigot. You just never know! And to watch, with increasing hilarity, the abuse of the intellectual machinery of feminist theory to support bigotry (it really, really doesn’t work, its such a doomed enterprise, but they can’t stop themselves and watching someone trying to bend over backwards while dislocating their sense of shame, juggling and keeping the plates spinning is always funny, ask a mime). So, yeah, all the wrong reasons basically I admit. But I only indulge in this from the starting position that as Lees says, bigotry is bigotry, there is no real debate, the outcome was predetermined from the start.

  4. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    This is the moment that the question arises; what makes a feminist? For me, online activism isn’t remotely activism. The stuff Lees wrote about is as puerile as it is pointless. Lees herself has had stunning success as an activist, and that isn’t going to change (and is to celebrated).

    It seems to me that the dregs of feminism and trans activism get together to pointlessly Duke it out on Twitter. Lees put some manners on Bindel (a woman I admire now with far greater reservation than before) and Burchill is too ridiculous to taken seriously anyway.

    There are huge arguments within the trans community, particularly about what constitutes a transfer person. But they are largely kept out of very public platforms. TERFs, like MRAs, seem to feed off and crave any attention, even if it’s negative, and see it as a victory.

    The TERF wars are unwinnable, because one side sees losing as a form of winning (TERFs) and the other side’s actual activists are making considerable headway.

    Mainstream feminism is pretty much untouched by the debacle. Meanwhile, all of us at HetPat down tools for a while and watch the show.

    Paris Lees is one smart cookie. And I know there are a few more like her who are equally verbose and motivated. We’re watching a bona fide charge for acceptance taking place.

  5. Marduk says

    I actually disagree with the view that this is an internecine battle anyway, that is actually what the bullies would like us to think. Just like domestic abusers would rather their activities were thought of as part of a private family issue but don’t get to do that, I’m afraid the “gender critical” don’t get to slap people around in private either. Thats why I talked about progressive liberals vs. bigots, hiding behind feminism as a shield might con the Guardian’s commissioning editors but nobody else frankly.

    I disagree mainstream feminism is “untouched” though. Its raking up a lot of core issues actually. What is interesting (and Ditum is the prime example here) is that some people think they know what to say (because online feminism is bourgeois and performative anyway for the most part) but are getting caught out on what they actually believe.

    Five year ago you’d have found virtually nobody who’d agree with essentialism, because everyone knows “essentialism is bad”. Yay, everyone perform feminism! Turns out though that if you pose the question differently, there are essentialists everywhere. I think its raising questions actually. Whether this is healthy or not is none of my business.

  6. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    Well, it depends what you mean by mainstream feminism. Beyond a twinge of embarrassment, individual feminist activists, in WA, for example, won’t be unduly affected.

    Trans activists will probably galvanise and revitalise in the face of a common enemy, and TERFs will get some attention and get to act like they are important. Switch TERFs for MRA and trans for feminist and you will see about the only affect the MRM.

  7. Tendentious? says

    Nichi Hodgson has an article in The Gaurdian “Lesbians know the secret to the best orgasms you’re not having”, so there’s a sort of connection with this as she claims that lesbians have orgasms 75% of the time compared to only 63% for het women and a “mean ratio” of 85% for men. She ends up by claiming “there might just be an opportunity for men to fill the gap: put that old-fashioned psychosocial chivalry to good use, and make sure the women in your lives get their orgasms first.”

    Anyway it got me wondering whether there might be a connection between failure “to orgasm” and domestic abuse.

  8. Paul says

    Anyway it got me wondering whether there might be a connection between failure “to orgasm” and domestic abuse.

    Some research suggests that lesbian, bisexual and trans women suffer from dv as much as straight women.In fact the level of dv may actually be higher for them although the outcomes on average may not be as bad.Nevertheless if there was a link between the failure to have an orgasm and dv then i suspect lesbians would be as likely/unlikely to have one as straight women.

  9. says

    Whether Paris’s piece is awesome or not really depends on where you sit. It’s basically a semi-serious, Burchillesque rant, sideswiping certain people (and their arguments) in a way that makes it difficult for them to respond (without just getting very cross). It’s also rather disingenuous in that Paris has been involved in this “debate” more a little herself. Indeed, her piece is part of it.

    But sitting where I do in regards to the whole thing (i.e. on the trans “side”) – yes, I thought it was awesome too 🙂

  10. Anton Mates says

    Nichi Hodgson has an article in The Gaurdian “Lesbians know the secret to the best orgasms you’re not having”, so there’s a sort of connection with this as she claims that lesbians have orgasms 75% of the time compared to only 63% for het women and a “mean ratio” of 85% for men.

    IIRC from browsing the literature a while ago, women also tend to have sex less often in same-sex relationships than in opposite-sex ones. (This is pretty much the only factual basis behind the popular concept of “lesbian bed death.”) If you do the math, you find that lesbians and straight women are having about equal numbers of orgasms per week.*

    So one possibility is that lesbians are just less likely to have sex unless both women are really in the mood, in which case they have more orgasms because they’re really in the mood. Straight women have more “meh” sex because they want to please an enthusiastic male partner, even if they’re not very enthusiastic themselves. (Not that plenty of women aren’t enthusiastic about sex even if it doesn’t involve an orgasm.)

    A connection to male-on-female DV is plausible, if this dynamic is symptomatic of the man disregarding the woman’s wishes and consent. OTOH, maybe the men aren’t being particularly pushy and the women are just enjoying the chance to do their partner a favor. I’m not aware of any research on that particular question.

    *Bisexual-identified women, however, report more sex and more orgasms. Again, IIRC.

  11. Marduk says

    With Joan Rivers death we see the return of the usual questions.

    There are lots of funny women, but few of them in Britain. This is just a bad time for British comedy in general really. Meanwhile, in America, you’ve got people like Maria Bamford, Sarah Silverman and Tig Notaro. Theres just no comparison really, the level is so much higher, its a more polished, professional product and in particular artistically, just absolute light years ahead. There are people doing smart, challenging work that, er, works. US comedy is enjoying some sort of golden period at the moment, UK acts look like a bunch of students telling fart jokes by comparison. We should recognise this as the national crisis it is.

    But I don’t think the Graun helps dispute the Hitchen’s calumny when it pushes people hard who’d be lucky to get 7 minutes in a bar in LA on a Wednesday night. We know its rubbish. I don’t see why comedy, unlike film, books and music, is so parochial actually. Why does it all have to come from London via Edinburgh?

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