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Awkward Silences

Since there is less than one hour to go until the Twitter Trolliday, and since there hasn’t yet been enough blood, brain cells, and digital ink spilt over the matter, I thought I’d add my (not even fully-formed-yet) view.

First off I’d like to berate Tumblr for their terrible iOS web app. It seems there will be no footnotes, inline links, and all of the other bells and whistles that I like to add to my posts to make I look like I have something interesting or important to say.

I think the main point that has been missed is that what these abusers [NB autocorrected to subset - how prescient] want is a reaction. Whether you take part or not, by talking about this at all we’re legitimising their actions and giving them a huge ego boost. They don’t care whether you’re going to shut up or shout back - all they see is your anger or hurt at being targeted.

My own view is that the best thing to do is to give them literally no spotlight. No RTs, no replies, no public complaints online. If you believe a tweet to be illegal (eg a direct threat or part of a larger harassment) then pass it along to the police. Perhaps to aid this someone like Hollaback! or The F Word could start a support network for those affected. By this I mean that people shouldn’t be made to feel alone or stigmatised for being the victim of gendered (or otherwise) attacks.

I think that it’s a shame to resort to this as I’ve debated people on Facebook that initially started by trolling, but by the end we had exchanged viewpoints cordially. Whilst neither of us changed our outlook we both left better for it. However, the alternative is that you take every bullying, arrogant, knee-jerk adolescent (mind) seriously. This takes our best people and hardens them, turning them into the cynical husk of what they were before. Too many good writers have been driven away by mobs descending upon them. I only deal with this in comment threads (indirectly and in a lesser scale) but it has put me off comments and engagement for good. I have no idea how it must feel to be even minimally well-known.

This leads me (rather badly) onto something that has bothered me for a long time. Whilst anono-knobs attacking you must be bad, worst must be the in-group slanging. This is always a variation of the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. For example, I’m vehemently anti-porn and anti-Page 3. I also consider myself a feminist or an ally, whichever it is that (you personally) will allow men to be. These are already two highly controversial issues that face feminism, with people on both sides unaccepting of the idea that the other viewpoint has any legitimacy. For my take on this, see the end of The Simpsons episode ‘The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star.’ Far too often this results in schisms in the movement, taking our power and giving it to those that are really against us. And I know: all sides are as bad as one another. This really is one of those “I don’t care who started it.” moments. We need to remember that we have far more in common (whilst we believe in equality for all) than we ever will with those that oppose us. We should start acting that way. Heated debate is good as long as we listen to each other. When we start attacking our own side we all lose.

Usual caveats apply to this post: it’s all largely gushed out from my brain slowly into Tumblr, so it’s probably as incoherent as when I talk in my sleep. Also as I’m writing on my phone I’ve probably missed a load of points that I wanted to make but my thumbs just can’t keep up. That’ll be why the writing is so rough, I’m sure.

Pastiche Penguin: A nice thing happened at work today - a regular customer, a man, who I...


A nice thing happened at work today - a regular customer, a man, who I always assumed was a bit of a Lad (read:mysogynistic imbecile) because he reads The Sun and has one of those accents (and calls all women, regardless of how well he knows them, ‘Darling’ or ‘Love’), had his paper and when I…

More Leveson

The other day I tweeted briefly with @aljwhite (one of my new favourite journalists, by the way) about the foolishness of Maria Miller mentioning Leveson to ward off a Telegraph story about her expenses. As Hacked Off have stated, this proves only that ministers should not be involved in the press after statutory regulation has been passed.

Indeed, the press itself has been guilty of this game, most notably in the case of Charlotte Church being 'asked' to sing at a Rupert Murdoch event. Have you ever stopped to wonder why celebrities seemingly fall over themselves to ‘confess’ all in the gutter press? Stories they would (obviously) rather keep secret (“my drug/gay/prostitute hell”) find their way into the press. Could it be that they are [asked nicely] to play ball, lest the article vilify them? We all know, surely, how easily an article can mislead depending on the stance and wording.

As a related aside, particular stories stick out in my mind. Lotto winners, for example, are treated very differently depending on how the newspaper views them. When a genial elderly couple won the jackpot, the reporter gleefully reported that they planned to continue playing. How charming and adorable! When the so-called Lotto rapist won, however, it was a different matter. The fact that he planned to carry on buying lottery tickets was pointed out as nothing but abject greed and pure eeeeeevil. Genuinely.

I guess the point I’m driving at is that the newspapers claim they need absolute freedom, but only so that they can continue printing thinly-veiled opinion and call it objective fact. Last week Lionel Barber of the FT (one of the most respected newspapers in the world) said that the BBC and other TV channels had to be impartial, whilst newspapers didn’t (skip to 36:30). That was his argument against an Ofcom-style body regulating the press. Frankly, I expected a better rebuttal.

And the false dichotomy is ridiculous. How people keep getting away with asserting that we either have a free press, able to do what it wants, when it wants, or we have newspapers that only report what the government wants is plainly stupid. Who thinks that the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, Al-Jazeera, and all of the others broadcasting day-in, day-out, kowtow to Westminster? Nobody.

If newspapers want to pump out commentary then they should mark it as such. If I read something in the CiF section of the Guardian I know that whatever is written is solely the opinion of the writer. The same cannot be said for the majority of articles in other newspapers. Don’t get me wrong though; I love commentary. I think it’s the best part of a newspaper. But it needs to be expressly clear what is what.

In summary, I’m advocating press freedom, with the caveat that journalists and papers alike be held accountable for their actions. Nobody operates in a vacuum, and to pretend your mistakes and mistruths have no consequences is distasteful in the extreme.


I’ve just sent this to my MP and I think you should read it too. Enjoy!

Read More

I once ate a whole pack of biscuits for breakfast

The world is currently (and ) discussing the Leveson Inquiry, so in a bid to remain relevant, I’m going to talk about doughnuts.

Read More

Why No More Page 3 is not a Bad Idea

Since the start of October, I have been supporting the No More Page 3 cause. I had always thought it a bit of a weird concept: every day a new young lady gets naked in the most widely-read newspaper in the country. From birth we’re taught not to judge a book by it’s cover; to value people for their thoughts, actions, and abilities; that everybody is equal, regardless of race or sex or disabilities or otherwise. This is, of course, not a complete list but you hopefully get the picture.

Page 3 tramples over every single one of these. Although maybe ‘trample’ is not a strong enough word.

The ‘models’ are always white (bar 4 black women since it’s inception), 18-25 (since they stopped using under-18s in 2003 due to a change in the law), women of a certain body-type (long hair, hourglass figure, big breasts, no disabilities, etc.). And almost every day there is a new ‘model’ to fulfill the needs (overwhelmingly) of men across the country.

What kind of message does that send to people? I can spell it out if needs be:

"This is what is beautiful. Throw her away when you’re done, and tomorrow there will be someone new just for you."

My view is that Page 3 creates an entitlement and demand for the objectification of the bodies of women. By no means is it the only source, and to make that argument would be naive. There are obviously far worse things, content-wise, out there in the world. But the everyday normal-ness of Page 3 is what makes it so insidious. Right now it is considered an institution, but were men to play cards with a pornographic deck in public there would be an outcry. Not so much if they look at teenage tits on the train, though.

Even The Sun calls for regulation on internet porn whilst promoting, to anyone that buys it, that Page 3 is now Page 360 on their website. Use your imagination, or rather, don’t.

The normalising effect of all this nudity over the days and weeks and months and years that someone will read it will (hopefully by now) obviously lead to an entitlement to female bodies, as documented by groups like the Everyday Sexism Project and Hollaback!

Anyway, the reason that I bring this all up is because of a contradictory opinion I read today. It was billed as a ‘feminist takedown of No More Page 3’ and I was fairly excited to say the least. Most criticism so far has come from people either completely missing the point and refusing to read any of our arguments, or, even better, outright attacking us.

So something a little more thoughtful and measured piqued my interest to say the least. But it was a huge letdown.

So many of the arguments miss the point that it becomes a joke. In fairness to Nanaya the post was written some time ago, and maybe by now she knows more about the campaign. For example, on the issue of Page 3 being removed:

Well, the obvious “what”, to me, would be “what will they replace it with?”. I doubt it’d be especially feminist-friendly, but perhaps that’s also unfair of me.

Surely it could be no worse than what is already there, short of becoming even more pornographic.

Nanaya then goes on to detail the various missteps commentators have made with regards to slut-shaming among other things. Whilst I don’t want to muddy the waters further (and derail my train of though even more than it is already) it seems silly to me to spend most of the post attacking others for separate viewpoints. I believe this to be an ad hominem fallacy, but what do I know? I’m a maths/science person.

As I’ve stated above, I think Page 3 is a massive gateway porn (if I could sound any more square). In this instance, I think her “salt water” analogy is wrong. It’s more like giving someone a glass of salt water every day and then wondering why they prefer salt water to regular.

I also feel that, in part, the point of the petition is totemic: i.e. that by taking down this juggernaut of sexism and objectification we will show people that in the 21st century it is not acceptable to consider women to be disposable and only of any worth if they fit a narrow idea of beauty. That is why other organisations are not named, but very easily could be. In fact I would prefer it if other groups started with the aim of ending the obsession with the looks of others. But, alas, that makes you “sex-negative” and a “prude”. Shame on me.

Personally, I would prefer it, too, if women did not feel the need to go into ‘modelling’ (note the use of quote marks) in order to make a living. Yes, that does mean helping with benefits, a living wage, etc. which perhaps people will not like. But that is a discussion for another time I guess. More interesting to me is this:

If the people you think you’re trying to help want you to piss off, that probably ought to tell you something.

I’m sure a lot of drug addicts would fall into that category. We’ve all been told, then.

My favourite part of the post, though?

I don’t disagree that Page 3 is sexist, and I also don’t disagree with Deborah Orr about the element of nastiness in the Sun’s editorial policies.

So let’s not get rid of it!

Anyway, I now have to run away to bed as I have work in the morning, so apologies for this not being the most clear/coherent post/argument in the world.

Please do respond with any corrections/counter-arguments etc. as I’m always interested in ways I could be enlightened or whatever.


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