The Harassment And Silencing Of Women Who Dare To Speak:

Misogynistic internet harassment is an issue, it’s perverse and lobbied against women who speak out against male violence and other patterns of female subjugation all too often. From simply repeatedly typing “not all men” at women who acknowledge patterns of male violence in society to full blown rape and death threats piled on women who dare speak out in public. One of the most prominent examples of misogynistic internet harassment has been the abuse targeted at Caroline Criado-Perez following her campaigning to prevent the Bank Of England from removing historic women from banknotes. She writes of here experience in Glamour Magazine [1], there seems to be a never-ending stream of people who want to be that straw that breaks my back – that new person who’s made it their task for the day to ruin mine.” This is not an isolated incident either, other prominent examples include the vulgar debasement and harassment of Anita Sarkeesian [2], she has been persecuted, badgered and made a mockery of through a variety of disturbing acts including drawings depicting her rape and having a game created titled “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian”.

These acts are perverse and disturbing and display the aggression expressed by men against women who dare to suggest that they deserve respect and these acts demonstrate the way masculinity feeds and promotes violence against women. I absolutely believe it’s not a natural instinct of men to desire to debase and degrade women and I whole-heartedly feel we should be able to hold men to a higher standard than to write this violence off with “boys-will-be-boys”. This violence lobbied against women who dare to speak out also exists on various levels, the recent culture of no-platforming women who dare to speak out is an extension on the belief that women should only be allowed to speak out if their opinions are deemed acceptable. Activist Julie Bindel often faces no-platforming for daring to suggest female biology exists and her anti-porn, anti-prostitution stance [3] and comedian Kate Smurthwaite faced an uprising from Goldsmiths University’s students union [4] for her beliefs that prostitution is not something we should support. Both these acts suggest that there is a way women should speak, that there is a specific set of beliefs that are socially palatable for women to state, this is something we have to stand against.

This same action of what can only be seen as shielding society from women who use their brains and have opinions is noticeable on twitter, there has been a programme created titled “The Block Bot”. The block bot is essentially a database of all the people a small group of moderators deem un-palatable for wider exposure, this includes a large number of women who, like Bindel and Smurthwaite, dare to use their brains. These women are labelled handy acronyms like “SWERF” and “TERF”, a misogynistic slur designed to silence those who suggest that espouse trans-critical and prostitution-critical beliefs [5]. “TERF” and “SWERF” are made out to be neutral descriptors [6] but are clearly used to silence and push identity theory whilst smearing the names of women [7] [8]. These methods of cult-blocking and labelling are all methods of subjugation of women, the power of naming is a power held by men over women, labelling women terms ranging from ‘whore’ to ‘bitch’ in an effort to control and police their actions, I cannot see the application of “TERF” and “SWERF” as anything other than a continuation of that.

Ultimately from this it’s clear that there is a belief that women are only allowed a voice and a platform if their message is approved in advance. Speaking out against male violence, misrepresentation or complete male-washing of images on a currency is apparently viewable as a request for violent rhetoric, harassment and threats, that we live in these times is telling of the way left to go before we can be sure that women can live free from the overbearing policing of their voices. It’s important in the face of this culture of silencing that we use what powers we have to create platforms for women to speak, to stand up for a woman’s right to assert and define themselves and their lives, not doing so will only excuse this current culture and lead to more silencing, debasement, harassment and male violence exerted at the expense of women.

[1] http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/news/features/2013/09/twitter-abuse-misogyny-in-140-characters

[2] http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/internet/2012/07/what-online-harassment-looks

[3] http://www.newstatesman.com/sarah-ditum/2014/03/when-did-no-platform-become-about-attacking-individuals-deemed-disagreeable

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/feb/02/goldsmiths-comedian-kate-smurthwaite-free-speech-show-feminist-campaigners

[5] http://sarahditum.com/2014/07/28/how-terf-works/

[6] https://twitter.com/juniordrumkit/status/571642974578323456

[7] https://twitter.com/caephyn/status/571586306884689920

[8] https://twitter.com/Anon_Senpai/status/571567181680414720

The Toxicity Of Lad Culture

Universities across the country have a problem, the problem of lad culture. It’s pervasive and damages the university experience and is faced by all students who are not gender conforming male’s who have a sense of alpha male entitlement. ‘Lad Culture’ and ‘Banter’ are a plague on campus, ranging from good old Male entitlement to full blown violence and rapes. It’s a very real problem, and it’s incredibly scary, and the fact it has not been addressed is telling. In-fact I would suggest there is a huge failing of universities to stop catering solely to the entitlement of straight white men. Whilst women, people of colour, LGBT people and other overlooked groups are often ignored as administrators pander to the whimsical desires of these men, the overlooked groups turn to creating safe spaces and societies. Whilst creating safe spaces is an important part of the healing process for people who feel unsafe on campus and acts as a brilliant way to discuss, meet and talk to people who you share something with it does not address the reason why we feel unsafe and it doesn’t deal with the problems in a way that makes the majority of the spaces we inhabit feel safe. If we want campuses to be safe spaces for all people we have to demand that the overwhelming pandering is stopped and that our needs are catered to before we begin catering to wants.

Universities are supposed to be places where everyone feels safe, in many ways campuses should be places of inclusion and somewhere we can let loose a little without the fears that come with doing so ‘in the real world’. Instead students union bars are not places to feel safe in when drunk, but places I feel like prey in to the ever watching male eye and constantly at risk, from the news as-well we can tell that campus’, especially at night, are hotbeds of rape and sexual assault. Campus’ are somewhere cat-calls are not uncommon, where hordes of steroid pumped and entitlement fuelled men prowl and stalk like they own the place and where these problems are relatively ignored. Where threats of and violence to females are not uncommon and anonymous hate to feminists “just a bit of fun” it’s no wonder so many people feel so unsafe, we’re left to fend for ourselves whilst this group of men receive celebration and support for perpetrating misogyny. I cannot help but view this as the flowering toxic head of gender, the manifestation of internalised male supremacy.

When we have a culture where one in four people at university have experienced unwanted sexual advances [1], sixty eight percent of female students have been sexually harassed [2] and fourteen percent of female students have experienced serious physical or sexual assault [2] it’s clear the problem is serious and that it’s women who’re taking most of the hits. The fact that these are the figures demonstrates the complete failure of universities to cater to the needs of their female students, more has to be done to protect people from male violence, and men have to be held accountable for their actions, I refuse to accept that ‘boy’s-will-be-boys’. The existence of facebook groups and websites that glorify this behaviour are also a concern to me, by promoting this lifestyle I see them as nothing less than active promoters of the perpetration of male violence and the subjugation of women. We have to hold the universities to account for this behaviour and we have to ensure there are clear routes to go down should someone experience violence or sexual harassment, the creation of initiatives to counter this behaviour also needs to happen, and universities need know this is expected of them. The continued denial of the problem by universities needs to stop, and the more we talk about it the more we can counter it, the more conversations we have on this topic the more we can improve the student experience and most importantly work to reverse the effects of toxic masculinity society creates.

[1] http://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/nus-research-reveals-one-in-four-students-suffer-unwelcome-sexual-advances/

[2] http://www.nus.org.uk/Global/NUS_hidden_marks_report_2nd_edition_web.pdf

Carly Believes: Gender

Bed bound with a hangover, so figured “Hey, let’s get political”, so here we are, I’m going to start writing more regularly and stuff that’s palatable for humans to read so hey, I figured why not outline what I believe in a series called “Carly Believes”.

Gender, shall we talk about it? The way in which society places a large dollop of faeces on the face of every person who is born with a vagina, there, I said it. We all grow up with it, it surrounds us, astounds us and becomes an intrinsic part of who we are. It Is ground into us that women and girls behave one way and men and boys behave another, that one holds these specific attributes and the other hold these specific attributes (e.g women and girls being dainty, fragile, emotional, submissive and caring). Gender is intrinsic to society, to business and advertising and to all aspects of how we perform and interact with and around people. For these reasons (and various others) I stand against the continued existence of gender, I believe people should be freed from these constraints to live how they like, without Men being called “Sissy’s” for acting “like Women” and without Women being labelled “butch” or “lesbian” simply for acting “like a Man”. Gender is a box, well arguably two boxes, and I believe wholeheartedly we should stop forcing people into one of these boxes, and that we do it based on their sex is remarkably stupid, it prevents people from achieving their full potential as humans and stifles personality along with enabling the oppression of women by men through limiting.

Expanding upon this we can discuss further details such as the way gender plays into sexuality, how Men who’re homosexual are labelled “queens” and how Women who are homosexual are labelled “like men” or “butch”. I notice gender plays into heterosexuality, we are expected to find attractive the qualities of the opposite sex that are specifically related to gender, for women, prettiness and delicacy rank highly on the list of things men are supposed to find attractive in a woman alongside agree-ability and empathy, where in men women are supposed to like rugged “rough and ready” type men with bulging muscles and wealth. These two things are clearly linked to the way society defines and teaches us to be and the media use this to their advantage, it’s no wonder we live in such a hetero-normative world when through the application of gender we prepare people for it from birth.

The topic of trans people is often brought up when discussing gender, the conflict of definitions between the trans movement and radical feminist theory (in my opinion) hinges on it. There is a lot of discussion of “Gender Identity”, or, one’s internal sense of sex. Radical feminism is directly at odds with this claim as it asserts gender as a harmful social construct designed to subjugate Women that needs to be destroyed and abolished. I agree with radical feminism on this issue, I believe gender should indeed be abolished, but I do not believe that immediately puts it at odds with the continued existence of transsexual people. Gender identity suggests we have an internal mapping of gender, that would suggest that the way Women are socialised to be is innate, this is something I cannot side myself with, I do not believe transsexual people are “Men in Women’s bodies” or vice-versa instead I would have to suggest the cause of transsexuality is unknown, likely residing in cultural conditioning and gender, our minds are impressively open to moulding and that moulding starts occurring at the moment of birth. An interesting thing I see is people declaring insistence on the existence of gender identity because of the existence of trans kids, however these people often seem unwilling to accept that gender-nonconformity =/= transsexuality, and that yes, children that young are sometimes trans, their existence proves not the existence of gender identity but goes a long way to showing how gender influences and shapes us from an early age.

So yeah, I believe we should abolish gender, that it’s harmful and the tool used in the continued subjugation of Women. And I’m not cool with supporting that.

If you want to read a better-written accounts of this stuff there are some awesome articles and blogs out there:

Miranda Yardley wrote a fantastic piece in the Morning Star on the conflict of the trans movement with radical feminism, she’s a brilliant human: www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-cb92-The-conflict-between-feminism-and-the-transgender-movement#.VOSiWPmsWSo she also tumbl’s- http://ommadusk.tumblr.com/

Elizabeth Hungerford’s blog is fantastic, she is fantastic too: www.sexnotgender.com

Dr Aoife Emily Hart has an awesome blog on this stuff, it’s wordy because she’s an intellectual and all that.. but worth a read most absolutely, also she is a truly excellent person: http://aoifeschatology.com/

The blog www.mshellbedlam.blogspot.com is awesome, but sadly on haitus whilst it is re-written, when it’s back I recommend it highly. The woman who writes it is a beautiful human, truly wonderful and also blogs on http://secretlyradical.blogspot.co.uk/ which is totally fantastic too.

There are others out there, https://miriamafloat.wordpress.com/ is wonderful (as is the writer), hunt out the good stuff I recommend it!

In Defence Of A Letter

I write this in support of the letter published in the observer over the weekend, – http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2015/feb/14/letters-censorship – , since the release of this letter there has been an uprising against those who signed it, with various people attacked and labelled “TERFs” for speaking out against the act of silencing and censorship.

I wrote not long ago on the topic of no-platforming in general, I discussed how, as a student, I feel coddled and pitied, viewed as unable to withstand criticism and unable to experience views alternative to mine. But now I’m going to write publicly in-favour of radical feminism and the right of Women to self define.

The response to the letter published in the observer was widespread, the most vocal and well-read/ listened to being the voices of trans women who labelled all the signers “TERFs” and refused to acknowledge that free speech is something that should be protected. There were numerous responses published to blogs, various ones which made their way onto different forums and facebook groups and all on a similar theme, trans women need to be protected from hearing that people born biologically female are distinctly different from those born biologically male. The entire discussion on “no-platforming” reduced solely to the issue of trans-women an their need / desire to live without being informed of their biological distinctness from those born female. The ideological selfishness and distinctly self-important view that trans-women are the only people who need protecting, that the entire issue of no-platforming boils down to that of trans-women’s desire to live free from accepting their biological sex is insulting, not only to those who are female and recognise their biological sex class as very real, but also to transsexuals who spend years living with sex dysphoria only to be told that their experiences are not real and that they could have avoided the whole debacle by identifying as female from the off-set.

No-platforming is indefensible, despite many peoples efforts to say otherwise. There is no reason to stop people from hearing opinions that run contrary to their own, Julie Bindel talking at a university will not lead to an increased risk to trans women on campus, Kate Smurthwaite performing her comedy show will not lead to an increased risk to sex workers in that area. I refuse to accept that someone should be shut down and silenced for their beliefs unless their beliefs can be proved as actively inciting violence against others, this is not true for Smurthwaite or Bindel nor Farage (though he is a total arse). To say that I am unable of making my own mind up, that I cannot be exposed to views contrary to those held by a subset of trans women, or some sex workers is insulting to my intelligence and to my right to form opinions contrary to popular opinion (if these things even class as that). To stifle debate and conversation within the institutions where debate and conversation are paramount to learning and progress is the very opposite of liberal, it’s constricting, silencing, offensive and insinuates that those clever enough to study at university, are lacking in the mental ability to process views that may run opposite to those held by the student, or by wider society. To me, that is offensive.

No-Platforming At UK Universities, A Students Perspective

I’m a university student, an annoyingly liberal and nicely middle class university student. I do a liberal arts degree, my preferred newspaper to read is The Guardian, I’m not however emotionally insecure over my political views, nor my more philosophical views or my views on socio-political affairs, I don’t need to be pandered to. There is a growing trend throughout the UK of this tactic of “no platforming” individuals from speaking at the countries universities, if someone is not absolutely palatable by all members of the university and challenges any beliefs or ideologies then they’re unlikely to make the cut. Be it people like Nigel Farage every-bodies favourite racist toff (sorry Boris, you just aren’t racist enough) or Julie Bindel, the feminist who says what people don’t always want to hear, excuses are made and the shutters are closed. These are not people who pose a direct risk to community members, they are simply people with ideologies that fit not exactly with those of the university and more often than not their “Safe Spaces” policies. Personally I’d love to hear Farage speak, what better way to reinforce how much of an arse he is than to watch him speak enthusiastically and his eyes light up at the thought of evicting migrants, heck I could even get a glitter-bomb or egg him on the way out if I felt so inclined.

I feel pandered to, I feel like I’m viewed as incapable of having my political and socio-political views challenged, that I’m somewhat in need of coddling in cotton wool and protected from the reality of the shit that exists in the outside world. It’s not helpful, it creates a stagnant culture on campus, prevents progress, prevents outside influences from rallying up students and damages our ability to deal with people we disagree with. It’s easy to sit in an echo-chamber with people you, 9 out of 10, agree with, discussing politics or the situation in Gaza, what’s not easy is to be spoken to by people who’ve been there, who disagree with your ideas and challenge you to the core. It’s terrifying, it’s horrible and it hurts, I’ve done it hundreds of times with various issues, opinions are rarely meant to be concrete, by being exposed to challenging beliefs it inspires us to be better humans, it inspires us to remain fresh and open to new ideas, by cutting off and stemming any outside influence from getting to us we get stuck, we stagnate and end up in an environment where what we say is policed and where we are told what is right to believe.

I’m not in need of coddling, I’m a grown human being, nearly 20 years old, there has never been a better time for me to be exposed to opinions I disagree with, if not now than when? When is it acceptable for me to be exposed to these beliefs that are apparently so challenging to my beliefs? Universities are supposed to be places of progress, places where we can discuss difficult topics, where we’re stretched and challenged, where nothing is the accepted view and where we are shaped and formed into seasoned debaters. Instead we are increasingly moving to a society where stating “sex work is wrong” is enough to have your comedy show cancelled from student unions, where feminists are refused space to speak on their specialist subjects because of beliefs that do not fit 100% with the universities preconceived idea of what’s acceptable. I believe this is wholly unacceptable, I want to egg racists, I want to shout obscenities from the back of a room at people I disagree with, I want to hear emotive speeches on topics that cut through my heart. I ask all universities who no-platform speakers, why am I viewed as so incapable of handling myself when in the same breath you tell me to expect an intellectual experience at university?