Notes and Comment Blog

When she tried to escape

Oct 9th, 2015 4:48 pm | By

If Allah is merciful…why are foreign servants treated so horribly in Saudi Arabia? Why doesn’t Allah’s mercy make all Saudis kind and compassionate?

An Indian servant was trying to leave her employer’s house, so the employer allegedly cut off her arm.

India’s foreign ministry has complained to the Saudi Arabian authorities following an alleged “brutal” attack on a 58-year-old Indian woman in Riyadh.

Kasturi Munirathinam’s right arm was chopped off, allegedly by her employer, when she tried to escape from their house last week, reports say.

Ms Munirathinam was working as a domestic help. She is recovering in hospital.

She’s not recovering her arm though. That’s gone.

The family of Ms Munirathinam in the southern Indian city of Chennai said that her employers had been “angered” after she complained about the “harassment” she was facing at her employer’s home, where she had begun working three months ago.

“Ever since she went to work with this family in July, things were not alright. My mother was not even allowed to speak to us over the phone, she was not given proper food and was forced to work long hours,” her son S Kumar told BBC Hindi.

“When she tried to escape the harassment and torture, her right arm was chopped off by the woman employer. Now my sister can’t even sit and do simple things on her own, as her spinal cord has also been injured,” her sister S Vijayakumari added.

Ms Vijayakumari said her sister had been hospitalised in Riyadh and was “in a serious condition”, adding that although they were relieved she was getting proper medical attention, they were unable to afford the expenses.

Maybe she burned the potatoes.


Another impossibly high bar

Oct 9th, 2015 11:20 am | By

Rosamund Urwin in The Evening Standard:

On Wednesday night, Suffragette opened the BFI London Film Festival. Along with the film’s stars, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep, Sisters Uncut campaigners had their moment on the red carpet. They let off green-and-purple smoke bombs and staged a lie-in, protesting about government cuts to domestic violence services.

But while the feminist fire is burning bright, the flames are sometimes scorching other feminists. The Suffragette cast was understandably supportive of Sisters Uncut (“Marvellous” was Bonham Carter’s verdict: “That is exactly what the suffragettes were about”) but the protesters were less enamoured about the film. Writing for Independent Voices yesterday, Sarah Kwei, a member of Sisters Uncut, said she felt women of colour had been shut out of the story: “Where was Sophia Duleep Singh and her Indian sisters, who led the Black Friday deputation to the Houses of Parliament in 1910?”

Singh was an Indian Princess as well as Queen Victoria’s god-daughter who risked everything campaigning for female suffrage. “She was royalty yet one step away from being destitute,” says BBC presenter Anita Anand, who wrote a biography, Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary. Anand notes that Singh has been “made invisible by time” in that common way female experience is scrubbed out of history.

So when someone does make a movie about women’s history, let’s tear it to shreds for not covering everything, rather than saying great and now let’s have movies about this and this and this.

However, the makers of Suffragette had deliberately chosen to focus on working-class women because their stories have also been under-told. That’s why Streep’s Emmeline Pankhurst is only a cameo  part and Mulligan’s laundrywoman Maud is the star. When I interviewed Mulligan for this month’s Elle, she was only too aware that feminism’s foot-soldiers had been historically side-lined and these were women who suffered disproportionately: “The sacrifice was greater for women who had far less.”

If the movie had focused on Sophia Duleep Singh, no doubt the critics would have been asking where the hell are the working class women.

Understanding of intersectionality is vital for feminism, as is debate and criticism. But there’s a pattern emerging where women who do something feminist get written off for being imperfectly feminist. But feminism is supposed to empower women, not tell them they’re failing to reach another impossibly high bar.

Spoken like a true White Feminist.

We are labelled prudes and “pearl clutchers”

Oct 9th, 2015 10:43 am | By

Julie Bindel points out the undeniable: that the endless campaign to no-platform mouthy women is an anti-feminist move.

Lies and smears against radical feminists and allies who name male violence as the key way in which we are oppressed are nothing new. We are labelled prudes and “pearl clutchers”, slurs previously bandied about by men defending their right to rape.

At a talk I did earlier this year on feminism, several students turned up to hear me, with one telling me a heartbreaking story about being cast out by her feminist group because she was a “terf” (trans exclusionary radical feminist) and a “swerf” (sex worker exclusionary radical feminist). Her crime had been to circulate an article I had written about the disgracefully low conviction rate for rape in the UK.

No pretext is too small.

Another emailed me recently explaining how she had been at the meeting at a London university that decided to “no platform” me from a debate on whether or not prostitution is harmful to women.

When several of the female students said they wanted to hear the debate, the white, male leader of that society started shouting that they were all “transphobes” and “whorephobes” for supporting me, so everyone shut up. I don’t blame them. I have had 11 years of this hostility because of one article I wrote, and they do not want the same treatment.

Been there. Alex Gabriel, Jason Thibeault, HJ Hornbeck, James Billingham – some of the white males who led the campaign to ostracize me. This is a pattern.

Another student told me she was banned from her feminist society because the flyers she distributed outlining the threat to women’s reproductive rights referred to “women” rather than ‘“womb bearers”, which was deemed transphobic.

Someone commented on a Facebook post of Julie’s to tell that story or a very similar one, and gave me permission to quote it here:

My crime was distributing flyers at my campus for a pro choice action rally against anti abortion nutters harassing women at the abortion clinic (”trans exclusionary”) to add insult to injury, I didn’t put a penis symbol on the feminist emblem, and the flyers referred to reproductive rights as applying to ‘women’ rather than ‘womb bearers’. I’ve since been blacklisted as a ”terf” and apparently I am responsible for all the hate crimes committed against transwomen in the whole world, because of these flyers.

It’s “trans exclusionary” to talk about issues that affect women as issues that affect women. That’s a problem.

Any feminism that names men and men’s violence as the problem is being shut down. The liberal, queer-identifying feminists that celebrate SlutWalk, pornography and “sex work” do not get no platformed. They are simply not a threat to men, and therefore the increasing numbers of men who are leading the troops into no platforming hell are appeased by them.

Saying No Platform to Julie Bindel but not (until later, under pressure) to Milo Yiannopoulos is the clincher.

Here is proof that this is an anti-feminist crusade, and nothing at all about so called safe spaces.

We have always been at war with feminism.

Women and anger=

Oct 9th, 2015 9:42 am | By

A 2008 study also found the double standard about anger in women as opposed to men.

The abstract:

Three studies examined the relationships among anger, gender, and status conferral. As in prior research, men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness. However, both male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals than on angry male professionals. This was the case regardless of the actual occupational rank of the target, such that both a female trainee and a female CEO were given lower status if they expressed anger than if they did not. Whereas women’s emotional reactions were attributed to internal characteristics (e.g., “she is an angry person,” “she is out of control”), men’s emotional reactions were attributed to external circumstances. Providing an external attribution for the target person’s anger eliminated the gender bias. Theoretical implications and practical applications are discussed.

Fundamental attribution error all over again innit, but here in respect to women v men rather than self v other.

I wonder if this is part of the reason feminism is so generally hated, even by women, even by feminists. Mostly it’s because women are so generally hated, even by women, even by feminists, and that is obviously intimately connected to this double standard, as both cause and effect…but I wonder if it’s also a significant part of the hidden motivation for categories like “White Feminism” and “TERF.”

Because obviously feminism is all about women + anger. Feminism is women saying No, women refusing, women rebelling (yes rebelling), women fighting back, women resisting, women getting angry. If we all have a deep unconscious aversion to anger in women…

…well the problem is obvious.


Angry women are often dismissed

Oct 9th, 2015 8:29 am | By

A study confirms what everybody already knew: women can’t win.

Angry men are strong and forceful, while angry women are often dismissed as overly emotional. That double standard has been alleged for years now, with plenty of anecdotal evidence to back it up.

A newly published study featuring a mock jury not only supports that assertion: It takes it a step further, suggesting women’s anger may actually be counterproductive. It finds that, while men who express anger are more likely to influence their peers, the opposite is true for women.

Well that’s annoying.

Oh dear, I just made it worse.

“Our results lend scientific support to a frequent claim voiced by women, sometimes dismissed as paranoia,” conclude psychologists Jessica Salerno of Arizona State University and Liana Peter-Hagene of the University of Illinois–Chicago. They suggest the belief “that people would have listened to her impassioned argument, had she been a man” is, in many cases, valid.

They did a study via a mock-trial experiment on computer screens. There was one holdout on the jury, who spoke neutrally or with fear or with anger. The holdout could be male or female.

“Participants became more confident in their own opinion after learning they were in the majority,” the researchers report. “But (they) then started doubting their own opinion significantly after the male holdout expressed anger.”

In contrast, “when a female holdout expressed anger, participants became significantly more confident in their own opinion over the course of deliberation.”

This dynamic—which held true for both male and female participants—meant that “men were able to exert more social pressure by expressing anger,” whereas women actually lost influence when they did the same thing.

Huh. So I’ve been writing this often-irritated blog for more than 14 years now, losing influence all the time. Seems a bit futile, doesn’t it.

Huffington Post “White Feminism”

Oct 8th, 2015 5:48 pm | By

Here’s a primer on “White Feminism” courtesy of the Huffington Post last August. It’s a two minute video, and it’s a weird mix of condescending and mindless. I guess that’s to be expected from the Huffington Post, but it’s disheartening.

What does “White Feminism” mean?”  Presenter 1 asks helpfully for us.

“Basically,” says Presenter 2, “White Feminism is feminism that ignores intersectionality.”

“So not all feminists who are white,” says 1, “are White Feminists.”

But most are, 2 says, because they just don’t have to think about race on a daily basis.

Sigh. One can see what they’re getting at, of course, and it’s not that there’s no truth to it, but jeezis what a way to go about it, with what ineffable smugness, and yet again this eagerness to attack feminism in particular.

“And we’re not just ‘pulling the race card,'” says 1. “White Feminism excludes the experiences of basically, anyone who’s not white, cis and straight.”

Then why call it White Feminism?

Also, what about middle class? Why is cis a category while middle class is not? What about young and attractive? Both presenters are young and attractive – what about Young Attractive Feminism? Why are we attacking White Feminism for excluding anyone who’s not white, cis and straight, but not attacking Young Attractive Feminism for excluding anyone who’s not young and attractive?

But they are kind and reassuring, once they’ve educated us. “Being a white feminist doesn’t make you a bad person,” Presenter 1 tells us, “it just means you have a lot to learn.”

Presenter 2 gets the closing line: “The most important thing any white feminist can do is educate herself, and listen, and engage with the experiences of women of color, without silencing them. Because sometimes as white ladies we just have to shut the fuck up.”

If that’s “intersectionality,” I say the hell with it.

“White feminism”

Oct 8th, 2015 4:07 pm | By

Another entry in the ledger I’m suddenly keeping to follow this “Blame Feminism” thing: Laura Turner at Religion News Service repeating the stupid bad mistaken platitudes about Meryl Streep and those t shirts and the racism and privilege and general evilness of feminism.

About the Emmeline Pankhurst quotation on the t shirt, Turner informs us

It’s a nice sentiment “in a bubble,” as Ira Madison III wrote over at Vulture. But neither Britain nor America exists outside of a bubble when it comes to things like rebels and slaves, and Streep or Mulligan or their publicists or someone in marketing ought to have thought of that before these women donned these shirts and posed with smiling faces. “The message that Streep and company are co-signing,” writes Kirsten West Savali at The Root  “…is that one cannot be both enslaved and a rebel; and tucked between those lines lies the erasure of a dual existence that black women have been forced to navigate in one form or another throughout history.”

No. No to every word of that.

No, it’s not “a bubble,” it’s a particular bit of history of a particular country, which does not have to adapt or conform itself to the different history of a different country. The UK is allowed to make a movie about British suffragettes and then advertise it without consulting Americans. It’s that simple.

And no, the Pankhurst quotation does not say that one cannot be both enslaved and a rebel. That’s an asinine claim, a claim that ignores the way language works. Obviously Pankhurst was a rebel because she was a woman in a system where women did not have equal rights before the law – obviously she was a rebel and a slave at the same time, and that was the whole point of the sentence. It’s true that she didn’t explicitly talk about black women in that sentence, but then she didn’t explicitly talk about white women either. That’s not automatically “erasure.” The particulars matter.

White feminism in the West has a long history of erasure of women of color. When Pankhurst spoke the words she did, she was most likely pretty ignorant of what it meant to be a black woman in England.

“Most likely”? Do you get the feeling that Turner doesn’t know a damn thing about Pankhurst and is just assuming that she was a stereotypical White Feminist? Do you get the feeling that she’s relying on the usual cues – people are outraged on Twitter therefore there must be fire?

That mindset still plagues feminism to this day, so that the white women who too often grab the megaphones are unaware of or unwilling to listen to their sisters of color.

White women too often grab the megaphones? What a crock of shit. All women are prevented from getting anywhere near the megaphones, is the reality. Bashing “white feminism” at every opportunity isn’t the best way to improve that reality.

Foot soldiers

Oct 8th, 2015 10:38 am | By

Katie Bamber of Liberty notes the relationship between universal human rights and women’s rights, via Suffragette.

It’s been said countless times, but it bears ceaseless repeating, that we owe so much to those brave women. Many of them, names long forgotten, were working-class foot soldiers – like Maud – who suffered social exclusion, destitution, lost their incomes and their families, for the cause. Others, most famously Emily Wilding Davison, paid the ultimate price.

Forget all that, the important thing is to attack them for not being 21st century anti-racism campaigners.

A century on, we’re still far from true parity. Gender injustice remains the most entrenched on our planet. Even here in the UK, it’s so embedded in our day-to-day existence that it becomes white noise and we stop seeing it.

Just this week we’ve heard that female MPs have been put on a rota to walk around the Conservative conference with the Prime Minister – perhaps to disguise the fact that a pitiful 68 of the party’s 330 MPs are women. That Suffragette’s selection for the London Film Festival’s gala screening made headlines because of the novelty of its all-female director-writer team shows how far we have to go.

Its all female director-writer team? Don’t you mean all cis female director-writer team? If it were an all trans female director-writer team then we could celebrate.

The progression of universal human rights law is our best hope for achieving true gender equality around the world. A dark irony, then, that the (still overwhelmingly male) Conservative leadership are on the brink of dismantling our Human Rights Act and, in the process, taking a monumental step backwards.

If we allow the powerful to erode the universality of human rights, the vulnerable will be hardest hit – and, as history shows, the most vulnerable are often women. Many human rights issues still disproportionately affect women: modern slavery, domestic and sexual violence, trafficking, pay inequality and lack of public representation.

But they have the immense privilege of being cis. Compared to that, everything else is insignificant.

Feminism is everyone’s punchbag

Oct 8th, 2015 9:38 am | By

Jeanne de Montbaston sets the record straight on Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragette movement.

When Pankhurst made her speech, slavery labelled as such was illegal in the UK, but, within that relative (very relative!) legal freedom, women’s bodies had been commodified within Pankhurst’s lifetime. Indeed, when she married in 1879, the legal act that would make it possible for married women to own property – that is, to be financially enfranchised – was still three years in the future. The famous campaigner Caroline Norton, who died just a couple of years before Pankhurst’s marriage, had managed to stir up public sympathy when her husband refused to divorce her and also claimed her earnings as his property, leaving her unable to earn a living and banning her from seeing her sons (which was also his legal right). Lower-profile women, naturally, lacked both the influential friends and the wealthy context of Norton, and faced stark choices between starvation, prostitution, or resigning themselves to the ownership of their husbands (with legalised marital rape). Slowly, women like Norton and Pankhurst were beginning to challenge the structural violence that treated them as non-persons, as individuals whose earning power and legal rights were controlled entirely by men.

In other words women were literally enslaved in several senses, even though many such women were highly privileged in other ways.

There are two things that bother me about the way I’ve seen this controversy play out in the media and in discussions. One problem – which is common to an awful lot of feminist issues – is that we’re being encouraged to treat feminist foremothers as if they must be discredited, as if we should expect them to act as if they’re perfect citizens of 2015, not ordinary women living in their own times. Feminism, in other words, is everyone’s punchbag.


What is that? Why is it that so many “progressives” are so ready and willing to attack feminism every chance they get? Why is it that it’s almost always women who are singled out for attack and demonization and ostracism? Why is “TERF” a thing when “TEMRA” is not? Why is “cis privilege” so seldom applied to men? Why are so many people who would call themselves feminists so hostile to feminism and feminists?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. I do know that I find the whole thing very disturbing and depressing…not personally, because my recent ostracism has actually ended up being a net benefit, but politically. In political terms, I think all this rabid hair-trigger hostility to feminism is a tragedy.

The spirit that animates this movement

Oct 7th, 2015 5:56 pm | By

I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave. I would rather die than submit; and that is the spirit that animates this movement…..I mean to be a voter in the land that gave me birth or they shall kill me, and my challenge to the Government is: kill me or give me my freedom: I shall force you to make that choice.

Guest post: Better to be a rebel than gripe on Twitter

Oct 7th, 2015 5:17 pm | By

Guest post by Chris Clarke.

Apropos of the Emmeline Pankhurst T-Shirt thing.

1) American slavery was a genocidal atrocity, and I fully support reparations for the descendants of former slaves. Full stop, as they say.

AND: slavery as an institution and concept is not limited to its American context. As someone with British and French ancestry, I am almost certainly descended from slaves. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans, perhaps millions, were kidnapped into slavery along the Barbary Coast as recently as the early 1800s. (Google “Baltimore, Ireland” for a chilling example.)

The very word “Slave” is essentially a forgotten ethnic slur, after the Slavic people who were kidnapped into slavery in Spain a thousand years ago.

This isn’t intended as an “all lives matter” kinda argument: I’m just saying that when people say things like “white women never had to endure slavery,” which I’ve seen frequently of late, they’re spreading a falsehood and erasing a historical reality. Racist slavery in the Americas was unique in many ways, and its legacy still shapes our society. But restricting the word “slave” to that particular near-endless atrocity erases literal millennia of injustice and suffering, especially of that people who lent their very name to the concept.

2) I think the degree to which the word “Rebel” is assumed to signify only the armies of the racist Confederacy speaks volumes about the state of American progressivism these days. The IWW were rebels. The SDS were rebels. Women Strike for Peace were rebels. The Panthers and the Attica Brothers and the occupiers of Vieques were rebels. It’s sad that so many progressives claim that the label automatically allies you with the worst elements of American history. What path does that leave us? Griping on Twitter, apparently.

3) The expectation that the entire world needs to hew to American sensibilities is a form of colonialism.

To all men and some women at long last

Oct 7th, 2015 5:14 pm | By

At least this nonsense about quoting Emmeline Pankhurst saying “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” has prompted me to refresh my memory on the history.

Here’s a fact sheet from the UK Parliament itself:

During 1916-1917, the House of Commons Speaker, James William Lowther, chaired a conference on electoral reform which recommended limited women’s suffrage.

Only 58% of the adult male population was eligible to vote before 1918. An influential consideration, in addition to the suffrage movement and the growth of the Labour Party, was the fact that only men who had been resident in the country for 12 months prior to a general election were entitled to vote.

This effectively disenfranchised a large number of troops who had been serving overseas in the war. With a general election imminent, politicians were persuaded to extend the vote to all men and some women at long last.

In 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed which allowed women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification to vote. Although 8.5 million women met this criteria, it only represented 40 per cent of the total population of women in the UK.

The same act abolished property and other restrictions for men, and extended the vote to all men over the age of 21. Additionally, men in the armed forces could vote from the age of 19. The electorate increased from eight to 21 million, but there was still huge inequality between women and men.

All men could vote, but only 40% of women could. That seems odd on the face of it. I wonder what the thinking was. That it turns out men are all capable of voting, but women, oddly enough, are capable of voting only if they have some money? I mean once they drop the property requirement for men, it seems bizarre to retain it for women while at the same time granting [propertied] women the vote for the first time. Guys! The logic is the same! If you drop the property requirement for men you might as well drop it for women. You’ll only have to go back and fix it in the end, which will make you look silly.

It was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. This act increased the number of women eligible to vote to 15 million.

Note that the franchise was not restricted to white women. I had someone on Facebook tell me it was, earlier today. Nope.

From the BBC:

The suffragettes, a name given to them by the newspaper The Daily Mail, were born out of the suffragist movement. Emmeline Pankhurst, who had been a member of the Manchester suffragist group, had grown impatient with the middle class, respectable, gradualist tactics of the NUWSS. In 1903 she decided to break with the NUWSS and set up a separate society. This became known as the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

In other words she was a…what’s the word, students? A…? A rrrrrr…?

A rebel! That is correct. She was a rebel against middle class, respectable, gradualist tactics.

Mrs Pankhurst believed it would take an active organisation, with young working class women, to draw attention to the cause. The motto of the suffragettes was deeds not words and from 1912 onwards they became more militant and violent in their methods of campaign. Law-breaking, violence and hunger strikes all became part of this society’s campaign tactics.

With young working class women. Pretty rebellious for a woman of her class. But of course it’s true that she doesn’t measure up to the perfect, glistening, unimprovable political views of today’s Young Intersectionalists.

An apple, a pear, a plum, and a toaster

Oct 7th, 2015 11:33 am | By

Victoria A Brownworth has thoughts on Julie Bindel and no-platforming.

The University of Manchester Student Union thinks lesbian feminist writer and activist Julie Bindel is worse than ISIS.

If that sounds extreme, it is. Manchester SU could not come to a conclusion on whether or not ISIS, unarguably the world’s worst terror group, should be sanctioned by MSU, but they were unanimous that Bindel should be.

Take that in for a moment.

I have. I’ve been taking it in since Monday.

As co-founder of the feminist anti-violence group Justice for Women, Bindel has been no-platformed previously for speaking out on a range of gender issues. She is actually best known for her writing and speaking on sex trafficking of women and girls, for which she has also been no-platformed.

Invited to be on the panel with Bindel is Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor at the right-wing news magazine Breitbart. Yiannopoulos is also a men’s rights activist who has written extensively about the “fantasy” of rape culture and as recently as Oct.4 was a counter-demonstrator at a celebrity Slut Walk, carrying a sign comparing rape to the Harry Potter fantasy world of J.K. Rowling.

Yiannopoulos has also written that lesbian domestic violence is far more prevalent than male-female domestic violence and has written many blatantly misogynist, lesbophobic and transphobic columns.

As recently as Sept. 22, Yiannopoulos asserted on Twitter that “Maybe trans has nothing to do with any psychiatric disorder–it’s just second-class citizens (men) who want female privilege.”

Bindel is one of only a handful of speakers under a country-wide ban by the National Union of Students (NUS), a confederation of more than 600 student unions throughout the U.K. Also on the banned list: the terrorist group Al-Muhajiroun, the racist English Defence League, the British National Party, the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is dedicated to creating a global caliphate under global Sharia law and…Julie Bindel.

Not comparable. I keep saying that, but it can’t be helped. Not comparable.


They have been made aware

Oct 7th, 2015 10:58 am | By

The Manchester Students’ Union has updated its statement about its no-platforming of Julie Bindel.

They’ve withdrawn the no-platform and apologized?!


The pre-update portion:

Last week we received a visiting speaker request form for Julie Bindel to be invited to speak at a society event.

As per our external speaker processes, it was flagged as potentially in breach of our safe space policy.

After reviewing the request in more detail, the Students’ Union has decided to deny this request based on Bindel’s views and comments towards trans people, which we believe could incite hatred towards and exclusion of our trans students.

You can read the full safe space policy here.

The post-update portion:

Updated 07.10.2015

Further to our previous decision to ban Julie Bindel from speaking on campus, we are extending this decision to Milo Yiannopoulos.

We have been made aware of various comments lambasting rape survivors and trans* people, and as such we are concerned for the safety of our students on the topic of this event. He is a rape apologist and has repeatedly used derogatory and debasing ableist language when describing members of the trans* community.

As such, this undermines the principles of liberation enshrined in the Students’ Union, as outlined in the Safe Space policy. We believe these views could incite hatred against both trans* people and women who have experienced sexual violence. As we believe it is probable these views would be aired in this discussion should he be allowed to speak on campus, we have no choice but to ban him

As we made clear to the society, this means that this event with the proposed speakers will not be going ahead under the banner of the Students’ Union, with our support or using our resources.

Something jumps out at me.

As we believe it is probable these views would be aired in this discussion should he be allowed to speak on campus

You know what jumps out? They never said that about Julie Bindel.

You know what else? It’s probably true about Milo Yiannopoulos. That’s what he does. I’ve watched him do it. It’s probably not true about Julie Bindel. Yiannopoulos makes a point of insulting people in person; Bindel does not.

Yet Yiannopoulos was no-platformed as an afterthought. He’s a genuinely mean, combative, insulting character, a shock jock, a dirty fighter – yet it’s Bindel who was treated as Most Dangerous.

Something’s wrong with this picture.


Oct 7th, 2015 10:28 am | By

Wikipedia on the National Union of Students no-platform policy:

NUS No Platform Policy

No Platform is a policy of the National Union of Students (NUS) of the United Kingdom. Like other no platform policies, it asserts that no proscribed person or organisation should be given a platform to speak, nor should a union officer share a platform with them. The policy traditionally applies to entities that the NUS considers racist or fascist, most notably the British National Party,[1] although the NUS and its liberation campaigns have policies refusing platforms to other people or organisations. The policy does not extend to students’ unions who are part of NUS, although similar policies have also been adopted by its constituent unions.

How the policy works

The No Platform policy, as defined in the NUS’s articles of association provide that no “individuals or members of organisations or groups identified by the Democratic Procedures Committee as holding racist or fascist views” may stand for election to any NUS position, or attend or speak at any NUS function or conference. Furthermore, officers, committee members, or trustees may not share a platform with any racist or fascist.[2] The list of proscribed organisations, as of May 2012, includes the following organisations:[3]

The NUS also has policy refusing platforms to people or organisations for other reasons: the NUS LGBT Campaign (and formerly, also the Women’s Campaign) refuses platforms to those they consider to be transphobic, including Julie Bindel;[4] and the National Executive Committee has policy refusing a platform to those it considers to be rape deniers or rape apologists, following George Galloway‘s statements about rape when asked about the allegations of sexual assault facing Julian Assange.[5]

Let me say this about that:

Julie Bindel does not belong there.

Whether or not you think there should be such a policy, it’s ludicrous that Julie Bindel should be on that list.

Oh but the Yanks might not like it

Oct 6th, 2015 5:48 pm | By

Facebook told me Meryl Streep and the Pankhurst slogan is trending, so I took a look at the trending…and was embarrassed. It’s so creepily and narcissistically US-centric that it makes me cringe. Apparently everyone everywhere is supposed to be alert to what Americans Might Think About This and act accordingly. And that’s supposed to be a progressive view? Please.

This piece by Yohana Desta at Mashable for instance –

Some quotes are timeless. Others are ill-timed.

The hive mind behind the film Suffragette, a biopic about the women’s suffrage movement in England, is learning that lesson the hard way after a recent gaffe that shows the film’s stars wearing shirts with an ill-advised quote spoken by suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in 1913. Meryl Streep plays Pankhurst in the film.

Cringe. It wasn’t an ill-advised quote for Pankhurst! And the film is about Pankhurst, and her context. It’s not about Americans and their contemporary context.

In a photo shoot for Time Out London, Streep, Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff and Romola Garai all sported shirts with the quote: “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”

While it’s safe to assume that British activist Pankhurst didn’t mean to evoke the American Confederacy —which adopted “rebel” as its descriptor of choice — her quote has unfortunate implications when read by U.S. audiences. It may have made sense in 1913, but that phrasing has a different connotation in 21st century America — and the quote also reads as though its speaker is implying that being a “slave” is somehow a choice.

So what? The movie is not about 21st century America, Time Out is not an American magazine – why is the whole world expected to worry about what the connotation might be in the 21st century United States? The US is just one country, it doesn’t get to veto what other countries say about their own history. Fucking hell – this is “social justice” as sheer narcissism.

To be fair, the film is thoroughly British and is catering to its home-turf audience; that may be why the quote didn’t initially raise any eyebrows across the pond. Still, it’s hard not to cringe when you see it splashed onto a shirt worn by arguably the most famous actress alive.

Not at all. On the contrary. The slogan resonates with other, similar slogans, such as La Pasionaria’s “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” It doesn’t even slightly suggest “the Confederacy.” The word “rebel” does not suggest that to the rest of the world, and it’s incredibly US-centric to assume that it does and should.

In an era where celebrities are quickly being called out every time they put their feet in their mouths (Matt Damon, for example), someone should have thought twice about that particular quote being singled out and emblazoned on a magazine cover.

Bullshit. It’s none of our business. In fact now I feel peeved that they didn’t get a UK actor to play Emmeline Pankhurst. Francesca Annis? Helen Mirren? Penelope Wilton?

It’s appropriation, that’s what it is.

Purity and absolutism

Oct 6th, 2015 4:59 pm | By

Jane Fae has thoughts on the no-platforming of Julie Bindel.

It was a feminist conference that did for me. I was due to speak at Feminism in London this month, but have now agreed not to, apparently because my views veer too far from accepted doctrine.

The topic of the talk in question was “speech and space”: my view is that the demand for absolute freedom of speech emerges from privilege; and that virtual spaces should be policed and protected in ways similar to physical space. I have watched over the last couple of years as various mobs have attacked women online – Caroline Criado-Perez, Stella Creasy, Mary Beard. The list is endless, and more must be done to address this online abuse.

Me, in a smaller way. Many women I know, in a smaller way.

But on other topics – the regulation of porn, for one – I have contrarian views, and this was enough for those who were concerned at my presence at the conference to cry havoc. Suddenly, every last word I have written over the years – and I write a lot, maybe 300,000-400,000 words a year – was up for scrutiny, every slightest deviation from the true way magnified to make me the enemy.

Ooh yeah! Isn’t it fun when they do that? When they literally comb through Facebook groups to find comments of yours, and not just comments but even when you’ve clicked the “like” button on something? Isn’t it wonderful to discover that people can be that obsessive and filthy in their hatred of little you? It’s like finding them sniffing at your dirty clothes hamper.

Behind the scenes, individuals whispered that my presence made the space “unsafe” for some women. Perhaps this was because of my supposed views on porn, but more likely it’s because I am a trans woman, since others holding similar views do not seem to have been briefed against. A situation was created in which, if I had insisted on speaking, I would have undermined both the event and my own thesis. There was no good or right option: it felt kinder to walk away; to collude, if you wish, in my own silencing.

Yes…I did that too, but not because it felt kinder. I did it because it felt cleaner; less contaminating; less like being trapped in a small room with a group of twisted vengeful fanatics. I did it because I wanted to get far away from them. It’s worked a treat.

Just days later, the feminist writer and activist Julie Bindel has been “no-platformed”. She supported me in my own time of difficulty, and was this week barred from a debate at Manchester University on whether modern feminism has a problem with free speech.

Again, it is safety that is the supposed issue, although bizarrely, that same institution seems to have no difficulty in inviting Milo Yiannopoulos to speak, a rightwing commentator who has publicly argued that trans people are mentally ill, and suggested that rape culture does not exist.

This situation is not specifically about feminism, but something else, something dangerous in current discourse. It is about absolutism: feminist, trans, Green, Corbynista; every fashionable fraction of progressive thought.

I think of it as being more to do with purity than absolutism, but it’s both, and they’re closely related anyway. People who don’t want to keep all the things clean and separate, but instead are happy with mixing and slopping the juices around and morgrelism of all sorts, are much less likely to be absolutists too.

It is, too, the forced syllogism: the idea that knowing one or two things about a person, one therefore knows all, and can extrapolate the whole.

Or else that the one or two things are so radioactive that they pollute everything else about a person. There was this Facebook “like” once, so everything else is garbage.

And in the end, it is about silencing. This happens only occasionally through the formality of the “no platform”. Far more often, as in this instance, an impossible situation is created, which forces a person to step down from speaking.

Which is great, because it means the creators of the impossible situation can blame the whole thing on the person who steps down from speaking. It’s all her fault, the hysterical bitch – we were just having a nice re-education session in which we made lists of everything we hate about her, and she had to go and ruin it by leaving. But what do you expect from a hysterical bitch like her? It’s just typical.

We need safe spaces. We also need mutual tolerance. Without it, debate will end, not just formally, by individuals being denied a platform, but totally, through a far more dangerous rush to self-censor. In too many places, too many spaces, we are there already.

I hope the zealots of the Manchester Student Union will read Jane Fae’s article.

12 MSF staff and 10 patients

Oct 6th, 2015 12:23 pm | By

The Guardian reports that the US keeps changing its story on how we happened to bomb that MSF hospital in Kunduz.

US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded.

Shortly before General John Campbell, the commander of the US and Nato war in Afghanistan, testified to a Senate panel, the president of Doctors Without Borders – also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – said the US and Afghanistanhad made an “admission of a war crime”.

Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead.

So, what, then – the pilots read their minds? Made a wild guess?

The airstrike on the hospital is among the worst and most visible cases of civilian deaths caused by US forces during the 14-year Afghanistan war that Barack Obama has declared all but over. It killed 12 MSF staff and 10 patients, who had sought medical treatment after the Taliban overran Kunduz last weekend. Three children died in the airstrike that came in multiple waves and burned patients alive in their beds.

On Tuesday, MSF denounced Campbell’s press conference as an attempt to shift blame to the Afghans.

22 people killed – 12 more than were killed in Roseburg.

The wrong kind of union

Oct 6th, 2015 11:34 am | By

The Mancunion reports on the censorious Student Union, quoting from a public Facebook post that is no longer available on Facebook:

In a blog post on her official Facebook page, Women’s Officer Jess Lishak said: “The proposed society event requested to invite two highly controversial and offensive speakers; radical feminist and famous transphobe Julie Bindel, and journalist and ‘men’s rights activist’ Milo Yiannopoulos.”

What a foul way to talk – “famous transphobe.”

“We unanimously decided to not allow Julie Bindel to be invited to speak at an official SU event. We also approved the request for Milo Yiannopoulos on the provisos that, should the event go ahead, there will be extra security put in place for everyone’s safety.

“Julie Bindel is a journalist and activist who’s been on a crusade against the trans community, and trans women in particular, for many years. She abhorrently argues that trans women should be excluded from women-only spaces, whether that be through feminist organising or women’s sexual and domestic violence services.”

She says she “refuse[s] to allow our campus to be poisoned by this woman’s tireless campaign to deny trans people their basic human rights and… to subject our students to a campus that puts Bindel’s wish to spread and incite hatred above the safety and inclusion of our trans members.

“This is not about shutting down conversations or denying free speech; this is about keeping our students safe,” she says. “If this were about silencing people we happen to disagree with or avoiding uncomfortable conversations, we would be denying the application for Milo Yiannopoulos to speak.

“The difference in these two cases is inciting harm to a group of our students. Yiannopoulos is very careful to criticise feminist thoughts, theories and methods of research or statistics rather than calling for active discrimination against women like Bindel does to trans women.”

You have got to be kidding. Yiannopoulos incites actual harassment of actual women on Twitter every day. Julie Bindel doesn’t do anything resembling that.

In 2013, Bindel dropped out of an event organised by the Manchester Debating Union on pornography after receiving a number of death threats.

She came under continual fire after writing an article in 2004 expressing doubt about the experiences of trans individuals titled ‘Gender benders, beware‘.

She is included on the NUS’s no platform list, alongside George Galloway, Julian Assange, and any member of the BNP.

So the national Student Union has an official list? And Bindel is on it?

That’s appalling.

A trans woman commented on the Manchester SU post in support of Bindel.

I’m going to go out on a limb as a transwoman. I’ve met Julie at an event and engaged with her at length and I’m totally comfortable and happy doing so. I actually don’t find her views transphobic at all – women centred, and gender critical of course, but not transphobic. I’ve learnt a lot from Julie and women like her, and this no-platforming, i.e. censorship is totally Orwellian.

So is that comment also “abhorrent”?


Oct 6th, 2015 10:17 am | By

Julie Bindel on Twitter:

Julie Bindel ‏@bindelj
I wouldn’t mind, I was looking forward to wiping the floor with @Nero then necking a bucket of martinis with him. And making him pay for it.

Nero (Milo Yiannopoulos) in reply:

Milo Yiannopoulos ‏@Nero 16 hours ago West Hollywood, CA
You didn’t stand a chance you batty old dyke. But yeah I’d have picked up the tab. I know how low-income lezzer households are xxx

Notice a difference?

Yet she was banned, and he was not.