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activism Corbyn economics Politics

Politics: the viral divide

I begin to think the virus blame-game is even more misleading than the rest of the political hot potatoes put together.

Sham lockdown

When the whole masks and lockdown thing started, many of us thought it impossible to ‘stop’ a virus in a crowded country where many people still had to go to work. Many more realised it was impossible to do so with late lockdowns and kids being sent back to school. Anyone who was really paying attention knew from the start that it was impossible when there never was any reduction in the international travel of ‘business class’ people.

List of Johnson's extensive travels during times of virus
Johnson’s travels

So why get angry with ordinary people who did or didn’t observe lockdown properly for whatever reasons?

What we were trying to do

Most of us however, threw ourselves into dealing with life in lockdown with the aim not of ‘stopping the virus’ but of ‘flattening the curve’ – of preventing the inevitable wave of hospital admissions happening all at once, when the NHS was already near the danger-level of overwhelm.

Well, the NHS is up against it now, and it’s not because you or I didn’t do virus precautions properly, it’s because the government didn’t attempt to refund the NHS to cover shortfalls – was that most obvious of options even discussed? Nor did government deal with any of the serious gaps in lockdown compliance. We just had a few police forces harassing people who stretched the rules whilst walking on the prom whilst, as we now clearly see, government ministers led the tide of non-compliance.

‘Anti-vaxers’

At no stage in history did a vaccination campaign ever reach 100% uptake. They do not need to. Depending on the nature of the virus, most vaccination campaigns aim at reaching between 80 and 90% of the people. There is room for those who are allergic, or who have phobias, and those who just won’t be persuaded so, as the vast majority of people did take up the vaccination offer, there’s no need to have rows over who did or didn’t.

That terrifying calm

At first, many middle class professionals, especially those who thought they could maintain their income from home, were filling social media with the joys of lockdown calm. I enjoyed the calm, despite watching my business going down the tubes – but that enjoyment of a reduced traffic, reduced commerce world scared the pants off most government ministers. In lower and middle income professional areas, they saw people beginning to learn that they quite liked it when the wheels stopped. We were heading for a nationwide Reggie Perrin attack.

What I did while my business fell apart

Worse yet for the government, we began to realise who ran the country – who really were ‘essential’ workers.

Stencil on a street in Manchester: Unskilled jobs are a classist myth used by the rich to justify poverty wages

In ‘lower class’ areas (yes, ‘lower class’ is how people like our government ministers describe families that produce and maintain our keyworkers) in those areas, they first saw the truth that lockdown was ‘the middle class staying at home while working class people bring them things’. They saw the immediate suffering caused by reduced access to foodbanks. They saw the extent to which schools and other community facilities had been left to take over where social services and community health projects had long ago been cut to pieces.

poster: our key workers support everone. Pay them. Protect them. Respect them.

There, we see the true reason why the government was reluctant, late and incomplete with every lockdown or virus limitation plan. Like it or not, they gave us ‘herd immunity’ by stealth. They could not even get enthusiastically behind the ‘flatten the curve’ argument, because that laid them open to more people realising how badly they, along with previous governments, had underfunded and fragmented the NHS.

Natural immunity

We rejected the idea of ‘herd immunity’, or ‘letting things take their course’ for very good reasons but the government did not provide us with effective alternatives, so now we have to rely on it – but…

A few days ago, a study came out suggesting that having a case of the common cold is quite a good defence against catching a bad case of Omicron. I said well, [unprintable] I should have been getting on with my life, riding trains amongst the coughing sneezing winter crowds, and spent half the winter with a cold, like I always used to.

And according to todays papers, health authorities are concerned that there is another virus threatening, and that this year children will have “much lower immunity” at a time when the NHS is already under extreme pressure.

Who is to blame?

In normal times, babies would be born with a fair amount of natural immunity from ‘the bugs of the year’, and would take in more protection from their mothers’ milk, because it would contain immunity from any bugs their mums had had in the year or two before they were born. In many cases, our reductions in activity and partial lockdowns have stopped that happening.

So we are now at the stage where we do depend on natural immunity, but we really haven’t got much, because so many people have kept aloof, and have not had the normal winter viruses.

Public transport face mask image

And the blame rests with the government.

So next time you’re tempted to sneer at someone who happens to have a different opinion to yours on virus measures, do please remember where the blame actually lies. Diligent keepers of distance and washers of hands, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, the efficient keepers of lockdown and the indignant flouters of it, were all reacting to a situation in which the government was working against the people, and everyone just tried to sift an opinion out of a mass of PR and lies. No-one but the government and the stingy, irresponsible employers they serve should be shouted at over this situation.

Wuhan

It’s notable that since the Downing Street parties story has brought many people’s attention back to government culpability, the Wuhan lab theory is getting media attention again, with remarkably little emphasis on the international aspect of that lab, of the American and Australian scientists there, because if all else fails, blame the Chinese. And what of the opposition? Oh, but it’s been a difficult week in Westminster and by coincidence, Keir Starmer is self-isolating again.

Happy news

The good thing in all this is that the admirable response to a difficult situation that we saw in the NHS, in community volunteer groups and in the trade unions revived the taste for collective action inspired by the Corbyn movement.

Keep listening, Keep thinking, Keep talking

‘Government’ or ‘opposition’, Westminster is not your friend. Your best protection is always to get along with the people around you. Discuss these things, beyond knee-jerk differences, and plan some collective action. It will make you happier and it does far more good for you and others than a whole partyful of career politicians ever will.

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Book reviews book shops Uncategorized

Confessions of an Airline Pilot – Why Planes Crash

Incorporating Tales from the Pilot’s Seat

Guest post from Terry Tozer

Most will think of poor maintenance, bad weather, old aircraft among other obvious reasons, yet none of these reasons are common; it is more subtle than that.

Could airlines be delivering the same awful standards that we experience in other areas of life? Could the corporate culture be behind accidents? Are they accidents at all in fact? Or simply crashes brought about by a chain of human induced events.

The answers are all in this book, presented in a readable form for anyone to enjoy. It is light on the technical jargon, but focuses on the human element in safety – or the lack of it.

The reader is offered a ride on my and other flight decks, turning dull accident statistics into readable detective stories. In addition to the main core of the book – why planes crash – are some anecdotes from my own experience that in the main, focus on what it is like in the cockpit

It may dash the commonly held notion that pilots live the life of luxury sunning themselves by a foreign hotel pool and partying with attractive crew members. Life at the pointy end is often a wonderful picture show of stunning vistas and night skies but it can also be a bit tougher when it comes to fatigue and time zone changes – could your pilots be sleeping while the aeroplane cruises on, on autopilot?

Corporate structures are profit driven and those who run them are not pilots. As with the medical world, the bosses could not do the job that those at the coal face do every day. Fatigue is an issue and is seldom recognised as such in the boardroom. Sadly, this is also true of the industry regulators.

Post Covid, lockdowns and “furloughs” mean that crews are rusty and have flown little. In responsible airlines – and the book tells how to choose those – recurrent simulator training and careful scheduling will get pilots back up to speed carefully. Others are less responsible.

Some airlines have made scores of pilots redundant and so as things open up, they are now pushed for crews. The result is overwork and fatigue. There have been two studies that equate fatigue with alcohol consumption and the shocking fact is that with poor scheduling a crew can be tired enough to be effectively, “over the limit,” were their impairment be down to drinking.

That said, flying is safe with a good airline and driving to the airport is far more hazardous, so don’t lose sleep, just read and understand what the priorities are and who applies them properly.

Oh yes and we can discuss Turbulence, which is most passengers’ pet hate.

Happy Landings

TT

Pre-order direct from the publisher

See publisher’s blog for photos, and more from Terry.

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activism Corbyn Labour Politics Uncategorized

Why sign that petition?

In many ways, the petition text does not actually touch on the issues that most people see as the ‘Sir Tony’ problem. I’d say there’s a big one, and an earth-shatteringly enormous one – but I keep changing my mind over which is which. Here they are, in no particular order…

The ‘rescind Blair’s knighthood’ petition

The reasons…

We know what war is

The massive demo in London – believed to be around 1.5m people was not a single-issue demo. Its message, for chanting purposes, was ‘don’t attack Iraq’ but the wider, the excruciatingly important message was the popular realisation of what war is. (Some would say ‘always has been’, some would say ‘has become’ – but either way….) First world countries inflicting war upon countries far from home, ‘managing’ wars that they can be confident will never directly affect ‘their own’ people or property is very obviously a political game, a businessmen’s game. It is not acceptable to the general population.

It’s possible (some would say obvious) that statesmen have always spun lies to persuade their governments to pay for, and their people to fight in, wars they want to engage in but in the case of Tony Blair, we saw it happening, and we required acknowledgement of that. We may not have stopped the war, but the conversations that took place on that march, between reds, greens and non-party political groups, between socialist and non-aligned activists, between members of several religions and members of none, was a huge part of people in this country grasping the notion that we are the 99%, and that if we are to survive, sooner or later we need to learn how to put the brakes on the 1%, when they set up their massive crimes.

The ‘rescind Blair’s knighthood’ petition

Blairites v Corbynites is not over

It’s easy to misjudge what happened in the Labour Party in the last decade. It’s easy to think it was all about two opposed characters, and what people’s tribal allegiances were but although it’s a long time since Blair was leader, and Corbyn is now suspended from action within the party by the new leader, the real nature of the clash in the party was about understanding, and responding to, the discovery that we are the 99%, and all we need to do is work out how to take advantage of our vast majority. That’s a discovery that is made sooner or later in every generation, and it never ceases to matter. That’s why a favourite catch-phrase of the Corbyn movement was ‘for the many’.

The Labour Party could not, as it turned out, be opened up and democratised, because the 1% never let go of the levers that control the party. That needs to be remembered. I personally believe the lesson was that party politics is not helpful to the people. It’s tribal, and divisive, and is in fact one of the tools the 1% use to keep us apart. You may not agree, you may think one or other of the supposedly progressive parties is still worth fighting for. Up to you, but a large portion of the 700k people who have so far signed that petition have done so because they see Blair as the a leader of, and a symbol of, the force that broke the attempt by the 99% to get a grip on the party that, supposedly, was the party of the people.

Cartoon - Blair lists the reasons for his knighthood - not just killing a million Iraquis, but also.......
Some of the other reasons, illustrated by Paul Arkell

The ‘rescind Blair’s knighthood’ petition

What we need

If we are to beat poverty, if we are to beat the warmongers, the creators of refugees, and the climate crisis, if we are to save our NHS, and re-establish the need for decent, secure housing – if we are to do any of these things, we the 99%, need to keep leaning on the 1%. We need to keep showing them that we see their game, that we are learning how to push back, and that we are not going away.

We need to tell people like Blair – and that means everyone from him through Prince Andrew, Jeff Bezos, Boris Johnson and Sir Keir, all the way back to Blair, that their world is not sustainable, that neither their rules nor their rule are acceptable, and that we are too many to ignore.

That’s why, however far the wording of the petition is from your own personal reasons for being embarrassed/appalled/furious at the idea of this man being honoured by our country, whatever you wish that petition had said, its power now is that it’s the petition that’s got over 700k names on it. Please sign it, please share it, please email it to friends not on social media. We need that petition to be over a million, so that it cannot be dismissed as a minority view.

The ‘rescind Blair’s knighthood’ petition – sign it, share it, talk about it, take it further.

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activism media Politics Uncategorized women

Sorry, we broke the revolution?

I have a great view of the pincers of sexism from here just now. When we talk about gender being oppression, we’re not just talking about different dress codes.

There have been ructions recently within feminism over women working with right wing organisations – particularly when trans-Atlantic link-ups have blurred people’s view, and led to some unsavoury alliances.

It’s one of the issues where I find myself sitting amidships – I have been encouraging cross-party discussions on several of the women’s campaigns because it’s so very obvious that women of all classes and world-views have issues in common, but we will not gain anything for women if we pass the initiative to people who are so far to the right that they want to “protect” women and girls from what those of us on the left know as liberation.

Meanwhile, those on the left who are opposed to the sex-based rights campaign will happily write off any women who, for example, get an article published in the Spectator or the Times (let alone the Telegraph or Daily Mail). They are the kind who automatically assume the views of a woman at the other end of the Labour Party’s left-right span can be discounted as ‘fascist tendencies’.

So here we are, trying to walk a subtle line, bringing as many women together as we can without running into those “too far right” thickets and then something else comes up that makes it ten times harder: working with right-wingers is beyond the pale but showing the slightest discomfort about working with socialists “just because” they are blatantly misogynist is an unforgivable failure of solidarity.

This is women caught in the pincers of sexism. This is what women mean when they talk of conflicting demands, of unachievable expectations. The most lethal weapon of sexism is gendered expectations. In this particular case, whichever way you look at it, the failure to produce a socialist revolution by next Tuesday can and will be blamed on feminists.

Categories
activism Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

2022: Sisters, the campaign starts here

“This is the year our collective righteous bloody-minded refusal to shut the fuck up finally broke the impenetrable wall of ‘no debate’” – Jane Clare Jones on Twitter, 31st Dec 2021 Click here to read the whole message.

So we have won the right to have the debate. Now, we need to win the debate.

Let’s set the terms of the debate

Have sympathy for the young folks who were sold the repressive ideas of gender identity and ‘born in the wrong body’ misfits. Have a bit of respect for their ‘non-binary’ get out clause. We do need to (gently) explain to them that their instinct is right, but that it’s nothing to do with sex. Personally, I think the idea of a gender-neutral pronoun is a good one but not sure ‘they’ will stick, as it’s illogical in the setting of our (largely non-declining) language. If the grammar of your verb doesn’t tell you about case, gender, plurality and so on, you need words that do.

We have successfully reached the government over this, and they have laid down guidelines which, if parents and teachers keep pushing, will get the worst of the misleading ‘education’ out of schools. (Here’s the relevant directive, and an analysis by Transgender Trend of recent changes. )

Have sympathy for the people we used to call transsexuals, people like April Ashley. There aren’t many of them, you know – most are male, most are people who made a full medical and social transition, and attempted to go about their lives without interfering with anyone else’s rights, legal or otherwise. In 2004, they won the Gender Recognition Act – a messy bit of legislation, made by politicians who, if you look at Hansard, didn’t really know what they were talking about. They left some fluff in the works, but nothing that can’t be sorted out when the yelling finally dies down – it did at least solve the problem transsexuals had back then, before same-sex marriage was legal.

The GRA was followed by the Equalities Act 2010, which gave specific protective rights for transsexuals (under the exemption for ‘gender reassignment’) and for females and males as a sex class (under the exemption for ‘sex’). Again, there’s fluff – including lots of surrounding texts and directives with conflicting assumptions and definitions but you could be forgiven for thinking that that solved the big issues, and just left a bit of clearing up to do.

So what’s the problem?

Transgender woman India Willoughby demonstrates a not uncommon
attitude ‘TRA’s have to the more traditional transsexuals.

The GRA was not good enough for a lobby of mature males attempting to muscle in on all things female. Mature males, manipulating the situation to change Equalities Law and societal practice to suit themselves, had no regard for the safety, well-being or self-respect of women and girls, let alone GRC-holding, integrated transwomen. That’s the issue.

It’s not all about males?

It’s true, there are females who want women’s rights dismantled in the belief it will help them ‘live as men’. I think they need to think again. Take prisons, for instance. There’s been a lot of noise about our legal system granting males identifying as women ‘the right to socialise with women’ in women’s prisons, but very little traffic in the opposite direction. This is because trans men hardly ever get placed in male prisons. It so very obviously isn’t safe. Your average sex-offender, in his male prison, simply is not going to say ‘oh look, there’s a person with a vagina but I’ll leave her alone because she says she’s a man’. It cannot, and does not, happen. Trans men, just as much as those of us who are happy to be women, are safer in a world where the law understands sex-based provision.

So: The debate so far

First, they touted the idea of ‘self-ID’. Some years ago, the public at large grasped that this was being used to ‘let in’ males who had not transitioned at all, and the public did not like it.

So they stopped talking about ‘self-ID’, and started talking about ‘gender Identity’, but we still weren’t allowed to actually debate it…

Definition of gender identity. Very long, and based on a 'personal perception of a stereotypical assumption'
It’s very easy to get organisations to sign up to protecting
people’s ‘gender identity’, especially if there’s been no debate
to flag up the problems. It seems, on the surface, like a
very reasonable call to let people express themselves how
they wish – but what if such an agreement is a prelude to an
untestable category and a law-change?

The debate

ROUND ONE

“I feel like a woman”    “I was born in the wrong body”

TRA (Trans rights activist): I have the body of a male, but the mind of a female.

Feminist: but what do you mean when you say “I feel like a woman”? As a woman myself, I feel like someone whose life has been shaped by female biology – by female puberty and reproductive processes, by the danger of rape and the possibility or actuality of pregnancy and child-rearing, and by all the assumptions society makes about me because of that.

TRA: You can’t understand the feelings of another human. You must just accept that I feel like a woman.

Feminist: but if you can’t understand the feelings of another human, how can you possibly KNOW you feel like a woman?

TRA: Bigot!

Feminist: Look, I’m not intolerant. I’m not stopping you living your way. Dress how you want, call yourself what name you want, get a GRC and call yourself a woman if you must, but leave us the spaces and services we ourselves have fought for, to help women and girls get through all the consequences of female biology.

TRA: Shut up, transphobe.

ROUND TWO

“There is no conflict between trans rights and women’s rights.”

FB meme: If you believe women discussing their rights goes against trans rights, then you have no choice but to accept trans rights are an infringement on women's rights.

ROUND THREE

Dying like flies

TRA: but why are you obsessed with trans people? It’s men who harm women.

Feminist: yes, that’s why we are defending the Equalities Act provisions which are based on SEX. Men, you see, are a potential danger because they are MALE.

TRA: What about transwomen? Transwomen are more oppressed, and in more danger of violence and murder than any other group.

Feminist: how dreadful! Could you show us some evidence of that?

TRA: look, here we all are grieving on Trans Day of Remembrance.

Feminist: grieving for who?

TRA: Shut up, heartless terf.

(To be fair, it’s rarely trans people of any variety having these arguments. TRAs appear to be a small group of very noisy students and their even smaller group of older, mostly female, admirers, bulked out on Twitter by endless armies of semi-anonymous males who like being rude to women. Their apparent clout is down to the scurrilous actions of Stonewall and the many organisations who use Stonewall’s approval as a substitute for actual virtue).

After monthsnmonths of the kinds of conversations shown here, Stonewall gave up their #NoDebate position, and offered up CEO Nancy Kelly to talk it through on the radio. According to commentator Jane Harris, it went like this…

ROUND FOUR

“We pass, therefore we are.” and “I wasn’t happy as a male, therefore didn’t benefit from ‘male privilege'”

Women have been making our case on blogs, in any magazines or papers that would take our work, for years. (Lo-o-o-o-ong years.) As have the other side, in separate articles. But it’s only really in the last few months that attempts at debate have appeared much in print. Where they do, the example in the Winter Special edition of Prospect magazine is typical. Under the title ‘gender wars’,  “a lawyer and a philosopher respond to seven propositions”, transwoman Robin White and Kathleen Stock lay out their respective cases.

Stock explains that “humans are a sexually dimorphic species”, states that the idea we can “change sex” is a fiction (in law, it is what is known as a “legal fiction” since the GRA 2004). She also demonstrates understanding of, and sympathy for, those who do transition, as well as explaining the many reasons why sex matters.

White spends a large amount of the page-space listing all the things he’s done which he believes make him look like a woman, and presents this as the main reason he deserves to be treated as one. (NB most women do, and always have, accepted that, socially, and will use the pronouns and everything. That’s why most transgender women think they ‘pass’). Extraordinarily though, this professional arguer of cases, this lawyer, then presumably unwittingly gives one of the clearest examples I’ve seen of why women desperately need special provisions in law on the basis of sex:

Robin White writes: I have done little to alter my speaking voice, as it is something I rely on in my job as a barrister

Many women, through all too real life experience, can confirm the low status women’s voices have in the arena of the justice system. This assumption that women’s voices don’t count runs though many areas of life. Take, for example, the situation described above, where trans women have managed repeatedly to be heard stating their need to be moved into women’s prisons. Bizarrely, although it’s recognised that trans men would not be safe in men’s prisons, women in women’s prisons are just assumed to be able to put up with the presence of male sex-offenders. The doubts and fears of female prisoners simply have not been heard where it counts.

James Max gets irritated by women being audible…

The famous artist birdy rose commentates on an exchange in which a woman is called hateful, then a man is accepted whilst saying the same things.
Tweets: one complains about 'shrill voices continue in my ears about biology'. Another offers to explain in his 'baritone'.

(These conversations are among those that appeared in response to James Max’s extraordinary brush with Posie Parker, analysed here by Clive Simpson )

We are winning the debate

Don’t stop now!

We are winning the debate, but it has only just started. Please keep talking to everyone, keep writing those emails, keep going to those conferences and demos – we do need to win it, because our children need rescuing from the ‘gender identity’ smoke and mirrors, and because mature males who’ve scented a potential advantage won’t let go of it easily.

We’ve won the right to have a debate. It’s looking good so far but it’s a long way from over. Stay patient, stay polite. There are people out there who still haven’t grasped the basics. They would appear to include a lot of our politicians so hone your arguments, and get ready to win the debate. It’s not just about explaining how, in our sexist, porn-soaked society, unregulated male access is so dangerous for women and girls. It’s also about communicating the wider human context – that every human society, everywhere, liberated or otherwise, has always allowed some kind of ‘women’s place’ within its structure (as far as we can see, those ‘third genders’ that were touted around for a while did not have access to women’s spaces – they were just excused male warrior rites, probably because they were gay). And for the women who have let all this float past them, it’s about explaining the value of women’s groups, women’s politics, women’s sports and all the rest of what we created for ourselves, through a hundred years and more of campaigning, about how all those things demonstrate to our girls that they don’t have to pretend to be men, or reject sex altogether, in order to get some kind of a grip on life.

Are you ready to win the debate?

I suggest a subscription to The Radical Notion as a good way to start preparing yourself.

Here’s my own statement of the gender critical stance

Here’s my analysis of a recent attempt at debate on the telly

A note on pronouns

We’re going to win this!

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people
Categories
activism Politics women

A note on pronouns that contradicts a previous post I did on pronouns

Like the vast majority of people, I used to politely use whatever pronouns people wanted me to use. That goes right back to my teens in the 1970s, when I knew gay people, and camp entertainers, who were male, but liked to be called ‘she’. Why would one not go along with it?

As to me, I don’t claim ownership of any pronouns but I do have preferred adverbs. If you are describing my actions, I require that you use the adverbs ‘gracefully’ and ‘intelligently’. Not using them in relation to my actions is really rude. It’s denying me validation. It’s denying my personal vision of how I am.

Yes, it really is that cheeky, telling people what words to use when they talk *about* you. Telling people how you want to be addressed is one thing but instructing them on which words to use when talking about you is a particularly overt kind of bullying.

it also lays *you* open to bullying. If you put your faith and your confidence in others speaking about you the way you want them to, you are handing them a weapon to hurt you with. School kids sense this, and they use it.

Like many people, I’ve been pondering this ever since I realised how the ‘transwomen are women’ campaign constantly shifts its ground, pursuing any form of words women find that allow them to talk about sex, and declaring those forms transphobic.

That is a deliberate sabotage tactic, and requires a response. By all means, let’s call people what they want socially, when we’re talking *to* them but when we’re trying to debate, particularly when we’re trying to talk about sex based rights, I am going to use pronouns according to what sex I perceive people to be. It’s the only way to talk clearly, and is therefore necessary. It’s also our right, under several clauses in Human Rights law, and was newly confirmed in 2021 both by the Forstater case and the Harry Miller case.

Categories
activism media Politics prejudice

Spoonfuls

I am going to found a media corporation, just like all the others. I’m going to call it Spoonfuls.

For every court case, dispute, scandal or other human flurry that gets noticed, I will pick a woman or sometimes, for variety, a slightly goofy beardy man, and put that person’s photo in the news every day, along with shoutable headlines suggesting it’s all their fault.

For every act of warfare that shows up in the world (all of which are instigated by those who wear the clothes of statehood and spend their energies scrapping over bits of terrain with useful business consequences), for every one of those outbreaks of high-tech violence, I’ll do a wee report, letting people know how ‘we’ are doing against ‘the enemy’. No need to complicate things with indications of who ‘we’ or ‘they’ are.

Want to be ‘a journalist’? Let me know, I’ll send you a template. You can send in articles, and I’ll put them in my ‘opinions cost nothing’ section, so you’ll go away with the vague idea that not getting paid is all part of the wonder of living in a free country.

I’ll have a few professionals who will help build the long-term character-assassination of anyone who is positioned to mess up the narrative, and if ever we feel things are slipping, they’ll all play in concert for a while and get everyone really annoyed with, say, feminists or black activists – doesn’t matter who, as long as it’s a section of everyone. ‘Refugees’ is good at the moment. We did ‘single mums’ once – that was a laugh. Circa 1996 I think; unaccompanied pushers of pushchairs hardly dared go out in daylight after a while.  

My little team of professionals will be celebrities – that’s always gratifying – but more importantly, they’ll be paid enough to feel as though they have something to lose. Other than that, it’s all profit – I don’t need to sell the papers or anything. People who benefit from the mainstream narrative will give me Big Presents.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeee! Happy New Year!

(Alternatively, you could stop watching mainstream TV – for heaven’s sake, you can get a pretty good idea of the mainstream narrative by glancing at the headlines on news stands, or the clips of QT and all the rest of it that people pass round on soc media. It’s MUCH quicker, and just as informative. For real news, find some intelligent bloggers – Caitlin Johnstone, Jonathan Cook – whatever rocks your boat, as long as they’re ‘outsiders’.)

Categories
activism Book reviews Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

If you were honest, what would you say?

Or Janice’s Goats

***Long Read for Twixt Week***

I used to think I lived in a free country – born in the UK in the 1960s, it was a long time before I questioned the idea. Even when I discovered it wasn’t entirely true, I was still aware that as countries went, our country in the 20th century was relatively good on freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

My but it’s changed, and not in a good way. Politically, we now have pressures on our freedoms from both right and left, each in their own way, and for their own reasons. Can you tell which is which? Do you judge both varieties in the same way? You might like to test your attitude to one or two of these: (or skip straight on to ‘a failed workshop’ below, if you already know what I mean).

Police Crime and Sentencing Bill

Nationality and Borders Bill

Julian Assange extradition

Cancel Cancel Culture

Fawlty Towers

Johnny Rotten

J K Rowling

Russia and China

The first thing is to see that we are – understandably – very confused. Three examples from my direct experience

A failed workshop

Long ago, before covid, I was at a literary festival (no wait – let me think – this matters – it was 12 years ago) I ran a workshop on freedom of expression. I did it because I’d recently published a book which I thought might be controversial. It was about child abuse, and incest, and other nasty things – but the arena in which these things played out was a small-town Christian community so when we published, I was kind of waiting for complaints.

I got complaints. What surprised me was that they weren’t about religion. They were accusing the writer of appropriation because she had a main character who was lesbian. It was only a handful of complaints, and every single one backed off when I said to them ‘do you know the author? Why do you think she’s not a lesbian?’

So, I figured, the complaints were ideological so, when I was asked to set up a series of festival workshops on issues relevant to writers, I decided I wanted to know what writers thought they could or couldn’t express. I set out to explore our writing and publishing world in search of taboos, and find out what the workshoppers thought could not be set down in print. The workshop was a flop. None of the attendees could think of any taboos. They were utterly sure that artists of all varieties could and should say anything they want to. I had to prompt them to get a grudging agreement that you probably shouldn’t name living characters and slander them.

I admit I concluded they mostly weren’t professional writers or else they weren’t being honest, but just think how different that workshop would be in 2021.  The complainers about that probably-not-a-lesbian author were a small minority on the other end of email exchanges, no-doubt forerunners of the post-modernist tide demanding ‘authenticity’.

I think attempting authenticity is a good idea when, for example, a film director looks for black people to play black parts, disabled people to play disabled parts and so on – but to say that authors are only allowed to write about people like them – that fiction authors are only allowed to use their real life standpoint – is a step too far for me. As Ursula le Guin put it, ‘it’s fiction. We make stuff up.’

A Mantel Piece

In Hilary Mantel’s collection of her journalistic writings, she includes an essay on the censorship she experienced around her when living in Jeddah. Writing in 1989, she is explaining the concept of censorship, on behalf of a UK readership whom she assumes have not heard of such things. She gives examples: my favourite was the scouring of the recipes on the back of packets of imported sauce mixes, in order to strike out (and I quote) ‘that dreadful word, “pork”’. Mantel explains that

…you cannot abolish the concept of pork from the world, but if you are assiduous you can unsay the word; if your felt tips are busy enough, and numerous enough, you can take away its name and thus gradually take away its substance, leaving it a queasy, nameless concept washing around in the minds of unbelievers, a meat which will gradually lose its existence because there is no way to talk about it.

Does that situation sound familiar to you at all? She then moves on to talk about the UK’s reaction to the Rushdie affair. In case you’re not old enough to know, the Ayatollah of Iran condemned a book Rushdie wrote, called The Satanic Verses – in fact, he went so far as to condemn Rushdie himself, calling a fatwa against both Rushdie and his publishers.

Mantel observes that some authors and commentators in the UK responded by asking whether the book was, in fact, bad form in some way. Mantel comments, ‘politeness may be the ruin of the West’. She serves up a typically English (ie, devastatingly polite) verdict on those in the UK who ‘cast doubt on Rushdie’s integrity’ or called for ‘the withdrawal of the book’.

‘Perhaps,’ she writes, ‘it is understandable that the authors of children’s books and light social comedies should decline to defend The Satanic Verses. Their freedom of expression is not at issue.’

I cheer on Mantel’s view here. The authors she describes are an example of the ‘sheep’ of our society. Rather like the attendees of that workshop I ran, they probably don’t even tell themselves about self-censorship, so can’t possibly tell anyone else. In more recent years, in publishing particularly, we have seen what I consider to be an extremely craven backing away from any colleague who has been accused of anything that people seem to fear might ‘rub off’. The consequence is the enabling of mass bullying, which those authors appear to manage not to notice.

Pronouns

In recent years many women, particularly if they’ve been active in the trade union movement or party politics, have had much to say on the pressures being applied over how people talk about sex and gender. I for one have expended a lot of energy defending the vocabulary women need to describe our political and social experience, and to maintain safeguarding boundaries. Our statements on the topic are often met with determined efforts at making us stop it.

I did suggest to my sisters at one point that perhaps we should concede the whole pronoun thing – I’ve always been of the opinion that a gender-neutral pronoun would be a useful addition to our language – I suggested it because I thought it was more important that we get ‘female’ and ‘woman’, and the language of childbirth clear. (Not just because of the women’s rights v trans rights debate but it really is still very hard for people like midwives and doulas to converse on social media, because of the tendency of the sites to assume naming women’s body parts can only equal pornography).

But I have changed my mind. ‘Misgendering’ is being treated as though it was a crime. It has taken several court cases to assert that using ‘wrong’ pronouns is not a crime. (See Maya Forstater and Harry Miller ) The assumption that we are morally obliged to apply people’s required pronouns when talking about them is a whole lot different to politely referring to people according to their wishes when talking to them. The latter is often useful and usually harmless. The former is accepting censorship.

Fortunately, I believe, the refusal of ‘required pronouns’ has been more widespread amongst the young than many suppose. A recent survey reported in ‘Prospect’ magazine (‘Gen Z explained’ in winter special 2022) states that 75% of ‘Gen Z’ respondents would agree to a designated pronoun for someone – but these are university students. I’d put it at less than half if taking a sample from secondary school students I’ve mixed with lately.

I’m less concerned about that though, now we’ve established it is NOT a matter for criminal law – I will make my own decisions when presented with pronoun requirements, because I know can. We still need to push back against workplace and judicial bullying on the issue, though. Women in prison can find themselves punished for ‘misgendering’, and that report about ‘Gen Z’ somehow managed to have a whole section on attitudes to gender, identity and sexuality without using the word ‘sex’. It suggests to me that ‘sex’ has become a ‘queasy, nameless concept’ for the report’s authors (see ‘pork’ above). It suggests serious bullying has led to serious self-censorship.

Authoritarianism, bigotry and bullies

I reject censorship and compelled speech, especially when enforced by police officers and employers because it’s directly against our beleaguered human rights. I spoke to a woman recently who is considered one of the ‘extremists’ in the women’s rights v trans rights situation. What makes her ‘extreme’ is her practice of calling a male a male, however they ‘identify’. Speaking to her, I found her view both reasonable and useful. Many women struggle with the current constraints, especially if they have been abused, or need to express safeguarding concerns about a sex-related issue. This ‘extremist’ woman told me she had seen such relief on the faces of women hearing her forthright words. They needed a model of someone calmly and unwaveringly expressing what they could see but not say. She considers her stance far from extreme, she considers it a kindness and a necessity.

I think she’s absolutely right and, as long as no-one starts laying down the law about such situations, your decision about words you say is just fine, whatever it is. I suggest being diplomatic when it seems right to you, and being forthright when you see a need.

I reject ‘cancel culture’. I consider it anti-fa gone mad. Young people have picked up on the techniques their elders have used to contain genuinely violent fascist movements, and a noisy minority are adding rowdy bully-tactics to boycott actions such as were applied so successfully against apartheid South Africa, in attempts to put a stop to anything they happen to disagree with.

The inability to accept others having meetings, giving lectures or writing books you disagree with is called ‘bigotry’. I don’t know where this idea got turned on its head but bigotry means intolerance of others’ views. Those militant youngsters and their refuse-to-grow-up grey-haired apologists are bigots, and bigotry leads to bullying.

Decency and respect

I think the vital point which gets missed, as our country sinks into ever more authoritarian attitudes, is that you don’t need laws, or rules, or bullies, to maintain decent social behaviour. As an editor and a publisher, I was a ferocious defender of the author’s right to lay down whatever words and ideas they needed to but I would from time to time go back to authors and question what I considered to be unnecessary or harmful passages.

I abhorred a large proportion of what I saw on telly when I was a kid, because, long before I had the vocabulary to express the idea, I found both news and entertainment were regularly racist, sexist, classist and gratuitously violent and sensational. Many of the things I abhorred are now actually removed from viewing schedules, because decency has prevailed. At least I thought it had. I hope it was decency, because if it was enforced censorship, I disapprove. I refer you to Eveline Beatrice Hall: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

A decent society does not encourage gratuitous vulgarity and abusiveness, nor does it allow vulnerable minorities to become scapegoats or the habitual butt of jokes. We should be sensitive to how our national conversations are going. I actually left out a line in one of my quotes from Hilary Mantel above because I thought, on its own, published in 2021 as opposed to when she wrote her piece, it would look unnecessarily critical of Muslim culture as a whole. There is a nasty tendency for that in our society at the moment, therefore decency requires avoiding anything that appears to support that tendency unless that something is 100% accurate and necessary. (Please pay attention – I’m NOT saying Mantel said anything wrong. Don’t think of ‘cancelling’ her!)

You can’t easily made decisions like those I make as an editor in an authoritarian country full of bullies. That’s why defending freedom of expression is vital.

Now, if you don’t know why I’ve called this piece ‘Janice’s Goats’ but you were polite enough to read it anyway, this would be a great time for you to read Janice Turner’s article in the Times, 24th Dec 2021. Here’s a link.

Oh and one more thing…

Just in case I haven’t convinced you, neither official censorship nor mob-attempts at cancel culture work. Why is that…?

Goats are fearless – here’s Stephanie Winn

Goats are curious – here’s my response to a book launch getting ‘cancelled’.

Categories
activism Politics Uncategorized women

The gender-critical stance: a review of the basics

***Long read for the weekend*** for those thinking about Coming Out on the 19th

The core principle: sex and gender

There is ‘sex‘ – our species is naturally divided into male and female: not just us though. We are one type of the huge biological group called ‘mammals’. There has never been any doubt. Women and men, like cows and bulls, rams and ewes and all the rest of the mammals, come in those two distinct categories (‘intersex’ is a misnomer for disorders of sexual development (DSDs) which has been callously used to argue for ‘non-binary’ identities. DSDs USED TO cause confusion as to the sex of some babies. Those days are gone. Doctors do not guess. In almost all cases, they can immediately tell whether DSD babies are male or female. Human biology is binary.)

And then there is ‘gender’ confusingly, the word is often used when people mean ’sex’ but gender is a social thing. It’s a set of norms and expectations a society imposes on male and female people – men wear trousers, women cry more easily – stuff like that. We know that is not biology because the rules of gender are different at different times, and in different societies, and anyway, it’s easy to break the rules if your character is stronger than social influence. You can’t change your sex, though.. Sex has always been the same, everywhere.

If you believe that women and men should be allowed to dress, speak, behave and design their lives according to their own preferences and talents, rather than feel obliged by society’s gender rules, then you are gender critical. It’s not unusual. Nor is being ‘gender non-conforming’ (being a ‘butch’ woman for example, or a man who chooses what gender-norms designate as ‘women’s’ colours or styles). Unfortunately, for some years now, our schools and universities have been led astray by ‘queer theory’ under the ‘Q’ and ‘+’ bits of LGBTQ+. They teach young people that gender is innate, and that the road to liberation is not to reject gender rules but to reinforce them by developing and defending their supposed ‘gender identity’.

According to the Green Party, there are those who 'identify as' women and gender variants.
The Green Party is one of many organisations currently forcing applicants to ‘identify as’ this or that rather than just being a male or female human. Don’t accept it – complain!

One of the reasons that people need a gender-critical ‘coming out day’ is that speaking out on a topic most people misunderstand is confusing, especially when so many organisations (such as the Green Party above) are using the language of gender ideology. There are still a lot of people who just don’t get what the sex-and-gender row is all about. They have been persuaded that gender-critical views are ‘anti-trans’. It’s hard to risk exposing yourself to a misunderstanding that entrenched – but you know, there are more gender-critical people than you might think.

The fact that biology is real and gender is imposed is the core principle of feminism. Many people are beginning to remember that, and many more older women never forgot it.

(The help and encouragement bit of this blog comes further down, under the heading ‘How to do it’. First, the nature of the problem…)

We need to challenge acceptance of queer theory’s gender-identity ideology, and the so-called ‘trans rights’ campaign that relies on it because…

1. Trans rights activists (TRAs) don’t get that it affects women

It’s a legal problem: Our legal rights are sex-based. The services, funding and political space that are available to women are protected by the sex exemption in the 2010 Equalities Act, one of the nine special provisions for those recognised as likely to be unfairly disadvantaged in society. There is also a provision there for ‘gender reassignment’ so trans people are also protected but, Stonewall and other grant-chasing organisations now have a much greater interest in trans people than they do in women because, currently, there is far more funding available for trans projects. That’s why, a few years ago now, Stonewall petitioned the government to end the ‘sex’ exemption, replacing it with ‘gender identity’, so that both exemptions would work for trans issues rather than one for trans and one for sex-based women’s issues. (That’s also why there are a lot of very angry feminists out there).

It’s also a status problem: Stonewall, Pride and other trans-funded organisations have been pushing for language changes that enable their change of emphasis – changes such as describing the ‘female gender’ as consisting of trans women and cis women – thus denigrating the female sex to a sub-set of women. There was also a large and surprisingly successful campaign to persuade people that ‘adult human female’ is a terrible thing to say. Not everyone is aware of the consequences of such vocabulary policing in the large scheme of things. Those who are aware are probably already campaigning to maintain the status of women. If you don’t see why it matters, talk to someone who knows a bit about developmental psychology about how all the words and phrases specific to women and girls are being denigrated or side-lined, and how that is likely to affect the self-esteem of girls growing up in a sexist society.

2. TRAs don’t get that it affects girls

One of our local councillors, who I had thought of as a reasonable person, laughed at me and used ageist jokes on Facebook to try and jolly me out of believing that much of the pressure to transition is coming from schools, that schools’ ‘equality training’ based on Stonewall’s campaign led children to base their belief in trans children on sex-stereotypes. The average teacher is very young these days, the teaching profession having become one most people very quickly start looking for ways to get promoted out of – and one of the results of that is that there is a desperate shortage in secondary schools of women who are old enough to have experienced the full malevolence of a sexist, ageist society. The parents don’t know the extent of the harm done to girls because the teachers don’t get it.

3. TRAs don’t get that it’s a bullying issue

Of course, some teachers do get it. I suspect there is no institution in the land that doesn’t have anyone who’s seen through the smoke and mirrors. And when people do finally see through it, they also become aware of the weight of the ideology that has captured education and most of the arts and media world. Speaking out takes courage, especially if you fear you’re going to be the only one. As one women I know put it, it’s hard to know what words exactly will work, when you’re ‘speaking into the void’. There is no one visible bully, there is no specific threat but the sense of doom is there.

The most likely consequence of speaking out is no worse than the embarrassed silence of a roomful of people trying to digest that you’ve just said something powerful and dangerous. For most people though, silence is bad enough. In some ways, an immediately visible bully would be less scary than the weight of a well-funded publicity campaign working against people trying to understand you.

4. TRAs don’t get that transition is a sham

It takes a while to understand that knowing you can’t really change sex is not the same as seeing trans people as ‘bad’. They are, as one transwomen put it to me, ‘gender refugees’. You can’t actually change sex, as Nancy Kelly, CEO of the main perpetrator, Stonewall, finally admitted when she was cornered in an interview on radio 4. You can only ‘change your sex characteristics’ that is, appearances. And it’s not a one-off job. Those who attempt it are signing up to be a lifetime medical case, requiring regular chemical, surgical, cosmetic and training treatments to keep up the camouflage – forever. Because it’s not a natural thing. It takes a lot of engineering to maintain.

That’s why transitioning used to be the preserve of menopausal males with good quality health insurance. They can afford it, they’ve had time to think it through, and have been adults long enough to understand why they want to. And it is a want, not a need. Transitioning is not the only way of dealing with the feeling that you’re at odds with the world and your body just doesn’t work for you. Younger and less well off transitioners have a terrible time trying to get all the treatments out of the health service in a timely manner.

That is the only part of the trans rights campaign that has evidenced legitimacy, and that we must all have sympathy with. Appearances are desperately important to the young. If you have led young people to transition, if you have not explained to them that there are other options, other ways of learning to be content in your own skin – if you’ve done that to your children – as in many cases we have, thanks to Stonewall’s ‘training’, then it is cruelty upon cruelty to then drag our feet over helping those young people either to desist or to transition as effectively as it is possible to do.

Instead, we persuade them transition is the only way, then abandon them to an over-stretched, underfunded health service. They suffer. Trans people already have protection under the Human Rights act, under the Equalities Act and via the GRA, but what is missing is health care. Where young people have been persuaded to transition, whether or not they continue to want to go through with it, the appropriate care and treatment must be there for them in a timely manner.

5. TRAs don’t get that gender-identity is a sham

But if the young people hankering for trans treatments are doing so because they are autistic or lesbian, and have been bullied into believing ‘trans is cool’ and it will save them from bullies, or if they are one of the many girls who are dysphoric due to abuse-trauma or a sense that being a woman is being a second class human, then somewhere down the line, they are going to realise that they don’t really have this gender-identity that transing is supposed to serve. They will see that they are on a never-ending road to a goal that won’t solve the problem anyway.

autistic girls often seem 'masculine' to those who don't get gender pressure and sexism.

6. TRAs think it’s a no-brainer civil rights issue

Stonewall and all the other grant-farmers were very clever in that they hitched the ‘trans rights’ movement onto the back of gay lib, which most of us now agree was 100% right and necessary. The reason that was a brilliant trick was that the main focus of gay lib was combating Section 28, Thatcher’s declaration that schools must not ‘promote homosexuality’, so when we now say schools should not promote transitioning children, it sounds like ‘conversion therapy’. When you see through the trick, it becomes obvious that the opposite is true – ‘transing’ children is conversion therapy.

Allison Bailey 'affirming lesbian and gay kids as trans is conversion therapy.

The false equivalence between this and gay lib allows trans activists to write off concerned parents as ‘far right religious bigots’. The reason this is all so misleading is that schools never did ‘promote’ homosexuality, they just helped children understand and accept it. There was never any danger of schools ‘selling’ homosexuality. It’s not like double glazing. You can’t sell it to people who it doesn’t come naturally to – and homosexuality *does* come naturally to a lot of people. But being ‘the other sex really’ just doesn’t.

People tend to think it does if they have a sexist attitude. A gentle, gay male child might seem ‘girly’, or a lesbian or autistic girl may seem ‘tomboyish’, but only if you think you know how boys and girls respectively ought to behave. That notion is deeply sexist, and more ingrained than people realise, now our children have the misfortune to be growing up in a deeply sexist, sex-obsessed, pornographic society. We need to rescue them from all that by challenging sexist society, and affirming children’s right to express themselves in any way that feels right, to experiment with different appearances and interests, not medicalise them to fit the appallingly extreme gender stereotypes that are forced upon them.

7. TRAs think ‘gender critical’ means ‘anti-trans’

They just don’t get that until the last ten years or so, those people who did choose to transition managed to get on with it without pretending that they really had changed sex, let alone demanding that everyone else, including our politicians and judiciary system, must also pretend. You can be gender-critical, and understand, empathise with and support trans people. I do. I get that they have found a personal, individual way of protecting themselves from sexism. That doesn’t mean they’ve magically changed sex. My trans friends do not demand that belief of me, and in social circles, I have no problem calling them what they like to be called.

That’s personal, individual and just fine. Caveat: you’ll feel quite exuberant when you finally speak out, and find yourself among gender-critical friends. You’ll find you have quite a lot of steam to let off, and you must do so. Holding back after you’ve been bullied or silenced is very unhealthy so great – get ranting! But please don’t be tempted into being rude to genuine, rational trans people. They have chosen a hard road, and have quite enough trouble with real transphobes (who are generally gung-ho wanna-be alpha-males). I respect my trans friends, as I respect anyone who is different to me, so long as they equally respect who I am. We can and must all do that.

Trans people are not the problem. The ideas of ‘gender identity’ and ‘self-ID’ are the problem. They allow abusers in. If we sort ourselves by sex, ‘pretenders’ won’t stand a chance.

Misogyny

Of course, there are some people who DO understand all the points above, but just feel an affinity with gender-identity theory because they like a philosophy that puts women down, and/or they like the opportunity to be rude to women. I think we can and should disregard those people.

… and then there are unresolved AGP people (but we’re not allowed to talk about that).

AGP - autogynophilia - is the condition that creates the strident demand for validation.
Bullying stems from the AGP craving for ‘validation’.
Find out more from @kiriino_insouto

Gender critical coming-out day, 19th December

How to do it

You are probably worried about doing it alone, about finding yourself ‘speaking into the void’ at work or college or wherever – so first and foremost, have a good think about the people around you. Lots of people are gender-critical – or at least, ‘questioning’. Many are quietly trying to signal their concerns. Try to find some of those people and have an experimental chat with them first. Message a few seasoned ‘out’ feminists online.

You may be worried about running into difficulty with those who have authority over you – your bosses or others who can affect your education or livelihood. The ground is gradually clearing there. Make sure you do know your rights. Human Rights law covers freedom of expression and freedom of belief, so long as you aren’t rude or abusive to anyone (make sure you are not!) and the Forstater ruling this year confirmed that does include gender-critical beliefs. Be prepared to assure them that you aren’t ‘anti’ anyone, you just have your own views about gender and sexism.

Your organisation is probably having doubts already, at some level – they will know many organisations have pulled out of Stonewall’s ‘equality’ schemes in this last year. They may already have realised that Stonewall’s version of the rules is just plain wrong so now, if you say ‘I have a right to think this, I have not attacked anyone’, you have legal back-up, and if the boss doesn’t know it yet, they will soon find out. Just refer them to the Sex Matters website, or the legal case, which Fairplay for Women won, to have sex addressed properly in the census, or send some clips of the growing number of politicians who have pointed out the problems that have been occurring.

So, get some allies around you if you can, make sure you know the law, and don’t just dive in and shout at everyone. As the Coming Out Day campaign put it, come out ‘as much as you can as safely as you can’. Maybe choose a few people to speak to first – think it through, and go a step at a time. If you’re worried about your kids, or your livelihood, maybe see the 19th as the start of a longer, more careful journey – but make sure you decide upon, and take, the steps you can – you’ll feel so much better when you have friends you have discussed this with.

From here on, this is stuff to browse while you think it over…

Here is some great advice on how to have the conversation. It’s from a publication called Lesbian and Gay News. It’s a great resource for different views on sex and gender issues.

For the legal stuff, go to Sex Matters.

For the women’s campaigns – well, there are loads now – do a search but here are a sample selection: For Labour Party women, LWD. For other women in politics and campaigning, especially Trades Union women, Womens Place UK. For sports, Girl Guiding and other specialist campaigns, Fairplay for Women. (they are also good on the legal stuff). For women in Scotland, Forwomen.Scot. All these groups, and many more have facebook pages where you can go and have a chat with like-minded people.

Here’s a recent BBC interview, and my deconstruction of what we call ‘the gender woo’ (that is, being so far up the tree you can’t see the ground).

Here’s Mr Menno who will cheer up any gay men who are feeling battered by all this.

Here is the late, great, ‘Queen of the Terfs’ Magdalen Berns.

There are a lot of women walking around wearing badges proclaiming that they were ‘radicalised by Mumsnet’. If you’re not there already, it’s a great place to dip your toes in. A couple of examples:

And here are the ‘coming out’ banners and profile pics for your soc media accounts to wear on Sunday.

And here are some (now quite famous) gender-critical social media people, a few people who got it badly wrong (you can decide who is which) and some ideas and memes…

It takes a pretty bad policy to make Labour Party women support a Tory over an organisation supported by Labour shadow minister!

Here’s a critique of gender ideology from someone who’s been through some battles over this…

See @JamesEsses for details

And finally, a magic word you may need to practice…

Categories
activism Politics women

What are prisons for?

When I was younger, most people who weren’t on the fairly far right politically thought prisons were a safe place to put people who were a danger to others. Knowing that there are very few women who are seriously a danger to others, I went along to a meeting about prisons recently and discovered that whilst there are maybe 4 or 5 thousand women in prison in the UK, only perhaps a few dozen are seriously violent. So, the meeting asked, why do women get incarcerated? What does that do?

More on that here…

But another question I came away with was, who are these dangerous women? How does that happen? Well on the one hand, there are women who have been brought up in chaos and poverty, who have been victims of male violence, deceit and exploitation from the start, and who have eventually been pushed to a point where they fight back – with the force of a lifetimesworth of desperation. If you’ve a strong constitution, you can find out how that works by reading about Emma Humphreys.

More on that here…

Last week, my local women’s group invited a woman who used to work in the prison service to tell us more – and the more that she told us was profoundly shocking.

International drug smugglers

They are really bad people, aren’t they. They ought to go to prison for the longest time, shouldn’t they? Are you, like me, imagining oily men with expensive leather coats and hidden guns, driving to sleazy night clubs in long, low cars? Well, those guys are in the equation somewhere but the people who regularly get the 20-year sentences for that particular crime are usually women from Jamaica or certain African countries, whose children have been kidnapped, who have been beaten and threatened and told in no uncertain terms that if they complete a piece of business that involves a plane ride, their kids just might come out of the deal alive.

What would you do?

You remember that few dozen seriously dangerous women they have in prison? I wonder how many of them are lost, confused, desperate ‘international drug smugglers’ who will probably never see home or family again, and never know if their kids survived the failure of the piece of business.

prison toilet
Just a comment

Place of safety

The other thing I found quite shocking was the discovery that women who have been abused and exploited all their lives, women like Emma Humphreys, often go to great lengths to avoid being let out of prison because for them, for all its unpleasantness and frustrations, prison has been the only place they’ve ever felt safe from imminent attack.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of men’s prisons. Many of the inmates of men’s prisons are dangerously violent and the atmosphere is febrile and permanently close to violence. That’s why it seems doubly awful that violent men can now avoid the kinds of things that happen in men’s prisons – such as workshops to tackle sex-offending – by getting themselves moved into women’s prisons.

So – why are women in prison? First and foremost, women are in prison because poverty, deprivation and male violence corner them into desperate acts. Second, women are in prison because they commit crimes such as international drug smuggling, or defending themselves by attacking with kitchen knives, crimes that voters like to hear get long sentences. Politicians know this, but they also often like the short route to pleasing voters.

Please help to change this

How? Well, the first and easiest thing would be to help us tell more people why women are in prison. Another would be to join campaigns against poverty, deprivation and male violence.

Find out more here…

The Howard League

Justice4Women

Lucy Baldwin on Women in Prison

The law does not work for women