The courage of Emily Davison

June 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm (civil rights, democracy, Feminism, history, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, protest, tragedy, truth, women)

Exactly 100 years ago, Emily Davison was trampled by King George V’s horse Anmer when she burst onto the track at the Epsom Derby. She died four days later from a fractured skull and internal injuries caused by the incident.

She was a courageous campaigner for women’s suffrage, who had already shown herself willing to put her life on the line in the course of the struggle for women’s votes. She’d been imprisoned no less than nine times, force-fed, her cell flooded by the authorities, and flung herself down a staircase in Holloway prison.

On the night of the 1911 census, Davison hid in a cupboard in the Palace of Westminster overnight so that on the census form her place of residence that night would be recorded as “The House of Commons.”  In 1999 a plaque to commemorate that event was set in place by Tony Benn.

But her very courage has allowed detractors over the years to brand her as a suicidal obsessive, not the principled and courageous campaigner that she was.

Now, a detailed analysis of the film from the three newsreel cameras that recorded the incident, has shown that Davison did not deliberately martyr herself, but was almost certainly trying to attach a ‘votes for women’ sash to the bridle of the King’s horse.

The film of that day still has the power to shock, 100 years on:

The fatal incident occurs at about 6.08, but it’s well worth watching the entire film.

PS: We should also remember the jockey, Herbert Jones. He suffered mild concussion in the incident, but was “haunted by that poor woman’s face” for the rest of his life. In 1928, at the funeral of Emmeline Pankhurst, Jones laid a wreath “to do honour to the memory of Mrs Pankhurst and Miss Emily Davison”. In 1951, Jones committed suicide in a gas-filled kitchen.

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Weeky Worker’s ignorant misogyny exposed and denounced

April 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm (CPGB, Feminism, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, liberation, Marxism, misogyny, reblogged, revolution, rights, sexism, socialism, stalinism, SWP, wankers, women)

A comrade wrote this to me recently:

“I’ve only just read this article. Really really awful.

http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/953/swp-and-feminism-rape-is-not-the-problem

And the Weekly Worker‘s extraordinary, ignorant and frankly embarrassing, misogyny (in the name of “Marxism”!) continued:

http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/956/feminism-the-world-of-women-like-the-world-of-men-is-divided

Now, someone has got their act together and replied. It’s pretty devastating:

The man doth protest too much, methinks….

April 6, 2013 by

Oh dear….

Poor old Paul Demarty. You gotta sympathise with him, he writes a piss-poor article on feminism and the SWP and he’s shocked by the tsunami of criticism. Poor lamb. Though he provides me with much comedy. Alas, poor Demarty, a fellow of infinite jest. Your flashes of merriment were wont to set Comrade Harpster a roar!

There is nothing in feminism as a core set of ideas that contradicts Marxism. Demarty, in this rather over-the-top shtick claims that the relationship between feminism and Marxism has “tortured the far left” since “at least’ the 1970s. No, comrade, it’s tortured workerists who fail to understand feminism. If you take an essentialist view in your analysis, i.e. radical feminism locates women’s oppression in patriarchy, understanding it as a monolithic entity without seeing the relationship between capitalism & patriarchy. There’s a mirror image between what Demarty is arguing and radical feminism… essentialism. Demarty’s essentialism is workerism. Or to use the phrase Barbara Ehrenreich used back in those “tortured 1970s” … Mechanical Marxism.

And Demarty is shocked I say, shocked due to the comments that ranged from supportive to mildly irked, to downright hostile. 

What does he expect?

Demarty is sloppy in his analysis but also dishonest. He fails to understand the power relationships between men and women in a capitalist patriarchal society, which is also reflected on the Left. People are angry precisely because the SWP dealt with a rape allegation appallingly, it also reflects those power dynamics between men and women, it is about the abuse of power. Something that Demarty is incapable of understanding due to his workerist politics.

Just how pathetic and insulting is this statement:  As for “other violence”, the comrades Grahl ought to try selling theWeekly Worker outside the Marxism festival, especially when things are generally tense, as they will be this July. It increases your chances of intimidation and assault a great deal more effectively than merely having a vagina.

Say what, Demarty? Merely having a vagina…

Demarty sez this about Comrade Whittle (er, that’s me): I believe she is playing dumb, but this paragraph is a little needlessly jargon-heavy, so I will spell it out.

Patronising, much?

Demarty wrote in his previous piece: Rape – and domestic violence – are not conducted, by and large, by people who explicitly hold women in contempt, but are rather symptoms of an underlying social psychopathology, a deformed consciousness that does not manifest itself in a way that it can, as the writers of the statement imagine, be “confronted” or “challenged” in a direct way.

Again, I say…  Huh?  I don’t have a clue regarding this. Not playing dumb just don’t have a scooby-do!

Where’s the empirical and rational basis for this? Psychobabble nonsense mixed with this “deformed consciousness”… Where does this fit in with a rigorous Marxist analysis, which I am sure Demarty is keen to display. And it still stands, he can still be accused of “highfalutin’ verbiage” which once picked away you are left with… empty arguments.

Oh, and “safe space” policies… Does Demarty actually understand what is meant by that because I believe he hasn’t got a … clue. Actually does he believe in the opposite, “unsafe spaces”? Safe spaces aren’t just about physical safety but about psychological safety i.e. not demeaned, not being sneered at, not undermined nor bullied. Is that such a hard concept for him to grasp? It should be a safe place where comrades can challenge each others ideas. It’s also about showing solidarity to women who have experienced violence. Again, what is so difficult for him to comprehend?

A reader’s understanding of feminism: “I have always thought of feminism as simply the belief that the liberation of women from oppression is a priority, that this oppression seeps into all the pores of our society and finds expression in multitudinous ways, and that those at the sharp end of that oppression should play a leading role in combating it.

Demarty’s understanding of the above: There are two problems with this definition. The first is that it is at a very high level of generality, which fails to tell us anything useful about what feminism does. A definition of Christianity might be offered – the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. No more precise formulation would avoid excluding one group or another of Christians. Not all believe Jesus was the son of God. Not all accept the biblical accounts. There are Trinitarians, Unitarians and all the rest.

Again, let me reiterate, say what? Sometimes you do talk about things in a general level, it’s to be as succinct as possible about a complex and dynamic form of ideas. That’s perfectly acceptable. If you didn’t go into more depth that would be a problem but the reader is giving a general indication of what they believe feminism is about. So far so good. Demarty tries to explain the problems with generalising by using Christianity as an example. It doesn’t work….

Insultingly… On the basis of the actual history of feminism as a movement, more fissile than Trotskyism and Maoism put together, this claim is transparently false, but it is still a serious motive force.

Demarty argues again in an essentialist manner. And with essentialism you hit the skids quickly.

Finally (as to be honest…. reading through this article was like wading for treacle…)

So here is the “line in the sand”. It is necessary for Marxists to fight for the class solidarity of women and men, to oppose all oppression of women and all expressions of sexist ideology, be they religious or secular, explicit or implicit. Failure to do so is a dereliction of duty. Feminists, on the other hand, fight for the unity of women as women. The Weekly Worker is unequivocally on the former side of the line. The two positions are not compatible. There are no doubt many self-described ‘Marxist feminists’ who are also on our side of the line. That is all well and good, but in that case their feminism is adding nothing to their Marxism, and they may as well drop it, for clarity’s sake.

Here we go… feminism and Marxism are not compatible! Demarty and Co. have a real fear of feminism, because it’s alternative power structure, an alternative source of organisational strength. Ooh scary. To explain in simple terms to him and the rest of the anti-feminist WW crew about socialist feminism.

A socialist feminist perspective takes the position that the patriarchy is not a separate or superior form of oppression to class oppression. Rather it is a phenomenon that has developed alongside and intertwined with class society and with class oppression. As political activists we are confronted by the question of what are we going to do about the issues that we face? Do we struggle against oppression or do we shrug our shoulders? Is our cause strengthened by challenging oppression or is it better to decide as the reformists are prone to do which things we can be bothered to face. Historical materialism developed as a recognition that the capacity of things to be changed through struggle. It is part and parcel of Marx’s dicta about our role being to change things as opposed to merely understand them. Patriarchy is based on men perceiving a benefit in, for example, having household skivvies around who are also sexually available to them. Many working class men may decide (very often do decide) that this advantage outweighs the conflicting interest they have in fighting for a society of equals. Is it not to be open to women to organise against such matters?

As Heidi Hartmann argued in her essay, “The Unhappy marriage of Marxism and feminism”, We must understand the contradictions among social phenomena, the sources of dynamism and the likely directions of changes, learning from our inevitable mistakes and keeping on with the struggle.

The forms of struggle that we take must reflect this dynamic complexity or the organisations that are supposed to combat oppression will end up causing it.

Unfortunately most of Demarty’s article is insulting, patronising and offensive to women. And if he wanted an honest debate around feminism he’s scuppered it with his incoherent and nasty rhetoric (you aint winning any points comrade…). Language that says, “great collective shriek” which is no doubt aimed at those “left feminists and their blind rage”…

Boy, Demarty just can’t handle angry feminists. Men.. they can get angry but not women. Yes, there’s a lot of anger around and it’s very understandable. Yet he finds these debates have distinctive features: repugnant, laughable, paranoid and hypocritical.

Bit like Demarty’s writing style….

Finally… and this is the kicker: Given that this all started with a provocative headline, let me end with another provocation: this is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. The trolls scream only because they have nothing to say.

And who are the trolls, feminists perchance?! Well, this troll is unimpressed if this is all WW can muster regarding arguments against feminism.

When it comes to his writings he is no wordsmith, no crafting of any cogent arguments and no elegance. If Demarty was a gunslinger he would take aim yet fire from the hip in all directions, missing his targets in this stream of consciousness manner. He’s no sharpshooting gunslinger. When he shoots from the pistol in his left hand his aim is dictated by the recoil from the shot he’s just fired from the pistol in his right hand. In other words, he can’t carry an argument rather he blunders, blathers and babbles.

Weekly Worker… you are going to have to raise your game.

[NB: the Weekly Worker/ "CPGB" people have collected the responses together and posted it all up on one page. http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/online-only/join-the-debate-feminism]

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Laurie Penny on the SWP rape allegations

January 11, 2013 at 7:57 pm (crime, Feminism, Jackie Mcdonough, left, misogyny, New Statesman, sexism, SWP, thuggery, women)

We have deliberately refrained from commenting on this most serious matter until now, mainly because of lack of first-hand information and a reluctance (unlike, for instance, Socialist Unity)  to engage in tittle-tattle. However, journalist Laurie Penny, on the New Statesman website, has now placed the matter very much in the public domain. By republishing her article we do not mean to endorse everything she (or ‘celebrity member’ China Mieville) say/write: here’s what she’s written:

Socialist Workers Party fist logo

What does the SWP’s way of dealing with sex assault allegations tell us about the left?

When it comes to sexual violence, why should progressive organisations be held to different standards?

How do we deal with sexual violence on the left? Here’s a case study.

The Socialist Workers’ Party, for those who aren’t familiar with it already, is a political organisation of several thousand members which has been a prominent force on the British left for more than 30 years. They are at the forefront of the fight against street fascism in Britain, were a large organising presence in the student and trade union movement over the past several years, and are affiliated with large, active parties in other countries, like Germany’s Die Linke. Many of the UK’s most important thinkers and writers are members, or former members.

Like many others on the left in Britain, I’ve had my disagreements with the SWP, but I’ve also spoken at their conferences, drunk their tea, and have a lot of respect for the work they do. They are not a fringe group: they matter. And it matters that right now, the party is exploding in messy shards because of a debate about sexism, sexual violence and wider issues of accountability.

This week, it came to light that when allegations of rape and sexual assault were made against a senior party member, the matter was not reported to the police, but dealt with ‘internally’ before being dismissed. According to a transcript from the party’s annual conference earlier this month, not only were friends of the alleged rapist allowed to investigate the complaint, the alleged victims were subject to further harassment. Their drinking habits and former relationships were called into question, and those who stood by them were subject to expulsion and exclusion.

Tom Walker – a party member who walked out this week in disgust – explained that feminism “is used effectively as a swear word by the leadership’s supporters…. it is deployed against anyone who seems ‘too concerned’ about issues of gender.”

In a brave and principled resignation statement published yesterday, Walker said that:

“. . . there is clearly a question mark over the sexual politics of many men in powerful positions on the left. I believe the root of this is that, whether through reputation, lack of internal democracy or both, these are often positions that are effectively unchallengeable. Not for nothing have recent sex abuse allegations in the wider world focused on the idea of a ‘culture of impunity’. Socialist Worker has pointed to the way that institutions close up to protect powerful people within them. What is not acknowledged is that the SWP is itself an institution in this sense, with its instinct for self-protection to survive. As previously mentioned, its belief in its own world-historic importance gives a motive for an attempted cover-up, making abusers feel protected.”

Members are now leaving the organisation, or being expelled, in large numbers after the case came to light at the party’s conference and transcripts of the discussions were leaked online.

The writer China Mieville, a longstanding member of the SWP, told me that, like many members, he is “aghast”:

“The way such allegations were dealt with – complete with questions about accusers’ past relationships and drinking habits that we would instantly, rightly denounce as sexist in any other context – was appalling. It’s a terrible problem of democracy, accountability and internal culture that such a situation can occur, as is the fact that those arguing against the official line in a fashion deemed unacceptable to those in charge could be expelled for ‘secret factionalism.”

Mieville explained that in his party, as in so many other organisations, the power hierarchies which have facilitated problems such as this have been controversial for a long time.

“Many of us have for years been openly fighting for a change in the culture and structures of the organisation to address exactly this kind of democratic deficit, the disproportionate power of the Central Committee and their loyalists, their heavy-handed policing of so-called ‘dissent’, and their refusal to admit mistakes ,” he told me.  “Like the current situation, a disaster catastrophically mishandled by the leadership. All of us in the party should have the humility to admit such issues. It’s up to members of the SWP to fight for the best of our tradition, not put up with the worst, and to make our organisation what it could be, and unfortunately is not yet.”

The British Socialist Worker’s Party is hardly atypical among political parties, among left-wing groups, among organisations of committed people or, indeed, among groups of friends and colleagues in having structures in place that might allow sexual abuse and misogyny by men in positions of power to continue unchecked. One could point, in the past 12 months alone, to the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile case, or to those Wikileaks supporters who believe that Julian Assange should not be compelled to answer allegations of rape and sexual assault in Sweden.

I could point, personally, to at least two instances involving respected men that have sundered painfully and forever friendship groups which lacked the courage to acknowledge the incidents. The only difference is that the SWP actually talk openly about the unspoken rules by which this sort of intimidation usually goes on. Other groups are not so brazen as to say that their moral struggles are simply more important than piffling issues of feminism, even if that’s what they really mean, nor to claim that as right-thinking people they and their leaders are above the law. The SWP’s leadership seem to have written it into their rules.

To say that the left has a problem with handling sexual violence is not to imply that everyone else doesn’t. There is, however, a stubborn refusal to accept and deal with rape culture that is unique to the left and to progressives more broadly. It is precisely to do with the idea that, by virtue of being progressive, by virtue of fighting for equality and social justice, by virtue of, well, virtue, we are somehow above being held personally accountable when it comes to issues of race, gender and sexual violence.

That unwillingness to analyse our own behaviour can quickly become dogma. The image is one of petty, nitpicking women attempting to derail the good work of decent men on the left by insisting in their whiny little women’s way that progressive spaces should also be spaces where we don’t expect to get raped and assaulted and slut-shamed and victimised for speaking out, and the emotions are rage and resentment: why should our pure and perfect struggle for class war, for transparency, for freedom from censorship be polluted by – it’s pronounced with a curl of the upper lip over the teeth, as if the very word is distasteful – ‘identity politics’? Why should we be held more accountable than common-or-garden bigots? Why should we be held to higher standards?

Because if we’re not, then we have no business calling ourselves progressive. Because if we don’t acknowledge issues of assault, abuse and gender hierarchy within our own institutions we have no business speaking of justice, much less fighting for it.

“The issues of democracy and sexism are not separate, but inextricably linked,” writes Walker. “Lack of the first creates space for the second to grow, and makes it all the more difficult to root it out when it does.” He’s talking about the SWP, but he could be talking about any part of the left right now, in its struggle to divest itself of generations of misogynist baggage.

Equality isn’t an optional add-on, a side-issue to be dealt with after the revolution’s over. There can be no true democracy, no worthwhile class struggle, without women’s rights. The sooner the left accepts that and starts working the enormous stick of priggishness and prejudice out of its collective backside, the sooner we can get on with the job at hand.

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Get well soon, Malala

October 16, 2012 at 8:03 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, children, Civil liberties, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, Pakistan)

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From Hope not Hate:
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Malala Yousafzai is on her way to the UK for emergency medical attention. This brave 14-year-old from Pakistan is fighting for her life after being shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to campaign for girls to be educated.
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The shooting has shocked Pakistan and tens of thousands have taken to the streets to condemn the shooting and support her calls for greater rights for girls and women.
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The attempted assassination of Malala highlights the worldwide struggle between HOPE and hate.
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From the persecution and harassment of minorities in the UK to the genocidal killing fields of East Africa; from Governments trying to outlaw homosexuality in several countries to the religious extremists who are trying to impose their worldview on believers and non-believers alike – there is just too much hate in this world.
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Malala should be a symbol of our resistance to hatred. That is why we want to let her know that we all want her to recover. We will deliver one copy of the Get Well book to the hospital and another to the Pakistan High Commission.
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This week has been designated Hate Crimes Awareness week and HOPE not hate has created a special website to look at hate crime. Each day this week we will put up a number of articles by organisations helping victims and trying to reduce hatred in our society. There will be a daily discussion point and people will be invited to give us their thoughts.
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Today we ask why victims of hate crime appear so reluctant to report the incident to the police.
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You can visit our website here: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/hate-crime
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/Get well soon Malala Yousafzai
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Malala is an extraordinary brave young woman from the Swat District in Pakistan.  She was born on July 12th 1997 and at the age of 11 began a blog for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban in the Swat district, with a focus on the right of girls to be educated.  A translation of her blog can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7889120.stm.
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Malala has continued to be a vocal advocate, of education for all, in Pakistan and was the runner up of the International Children’s Peace Prize last year.  Her contribution was recognised within Pakistan in December 2011 when she was awarded the National Youth Peace Prize.  Malala is an inspiration for people across the world. On October 9th 2012 the Taliban attempted to assassinate her as she travelled home after an exam on the school bus.  A national day of prayer has been held for Malala across Pakistan.
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Tell Malala we are thinking of her
http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/malala-yousafzai

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Sir Jimmy Savile’s crime

October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm (BBC, celebrity, child abuse, children, crime, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, media, men, sexism, thuggery)

Jimmy Savile was clearly a disgusting and degenerate excuse for a human being. Claims from the BBC (notably former DG Mark Thompson) to the effect that no-one there had the slightest idea about Savile’s child abuse, are, quite literally, incredible. Almost as unlikely are the denials from Thompson and Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, that last year’s Newsnight  exposé of Saville was pulled because it would have made a sick joke of the three tribute programmes honouring Savile that the BBC had ready to air over Christmas.

Yes, you only had to look at the grotesque figure of Savile and listen to his droning, witless voice, to guess that he was a total creep and sleeze-ball. But Savile’s crimes (now surely proven beyond reasonable doubt or cries of “he’s not here to defend himself”) would appear to be just the tip of the iceberg. Every day seems to bring new revelations that make it clear that Savile’s paedophilia was just one manifestation (albeit an extreme one) of a culture of gross sexism and tolerance of sexual abuse that existed  in the BBC Light Entertainment department from the late 1960′s (ie the creation on Radio 1) up until at least the mid-1990′s and the end of the  ‘Smashie and Nicey‘ era. And there are those who are suggesting it may not have completely ended then, either.

Janet Street-Porter, for instance describes in today’s Mail (see previous link) how Jim Moir, Head of  (BBC) Light Entertainment in the 1980′s once addressed a committee meeing at which Street-Porter was the only woman present, by announcing “Well chaps, I’m going to put my dick on the table.” It was, of course, merely a figure of speech. But a telling one. Other female broadcasters (notably Liz Kershaw and Sandi Toksvig) who were at the Corporation in the in the 1970′s and 80′s have now come forward with accounts of sexual harassment, while a Sunday Times reporter, Camilla Long, claims she was groped by Dave Lee (“Hairy Cornflake”) Travis after interviewing him in June of this year. The recurring theme of all these stories is that such behaviour was considered normal and acceptable and anyone who complained would be regarded as strange (or worse, a lesbian).

But, of course, there is a qualitative difference between the sexual harassment of adult women (reprehensible as that is) and the crime of paedophilia, isn’t there? Maybe so. Or maybe they’re just different points on a continuum. Either way, there is every reason to assume that paedophilia at the BBC and, indeed, throughout the world of pop music and light entertainment in the 1970′s and 80′s, went well beyond the loathsome working class oik Saville. After all, even that doyen of twee, middle-class naughty-but-nice smugness, John Peel, boasted in newspaper interviews and his Sounds magazine column, of his penchant for under-aged girls. I would submit that the picture below, in its way, is almost as disturbing as what we’re hearing about Savile.*

*Naturally, this has upset Peel’s adoring fans, who rally to his defence here.

NB: it is clearly the case that a lot of the current attacks on the BBC in the wake of the Savile revelations, are coming from sources like the Murdoch press (the Sunday Times, especially) and the Mail, that have their own commercial and ideological reasons for wanting to knock the Beeb. But that doesn’t mean that what they’ve published is untrue, or should be down-played. I’ve made extensive use of material from both these sources in what I’ve written above - JM

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Liddle: “I could not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids”

September 30, 2012 at 11:53 am (child abuse, children, crime, Jackie Mcdonough, law)

Rod Liddle is one of those people, like Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn, about whom I rarely comment, here or anywhere else. Partly because these people are such utter cocks that comment is generally otiose. Also because getting lefties and liberals annoyed is exacly what these people aim for (he only does it to annoy / because he knows it teases) and I don’t want to play into their hands.

Rod_Liddle

(Rod Liddle is associate editor of The Spectator. He writes a weekly column in the magazine, as well as contributing to The Sunday Times and The Sun).

Nevertheless, I feel obliged to draw your attention to a piece in this week’s Specator where Mr Liddle appears not just to excuse the sexual exploitation of pupils by teachers, but to confess (or boast) that had he become a teacher…well, read an excerpt for yourself:

“I never found out [what sort of teacher I'd be] because the one thing stopping me from being a teacher was that I could not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids. It seemed to me to be virtually impossible not to, and I was convinced that I’d be right in there, on day one. We’re talking secondry school level here, by the way – and even then I don’t think I’d have dabbled much below year ten, as it is now called. I just thought we ought to clear that up early on. At my old comprehensive school a few teachers were known to be schtupping the pupils: one of them, a female teacher who was extremely foxy in a Pot Noodle scuzzy kind of way — she copped off with some fifth-form lad, and another teacher (a man with a guitar and a faux rebellious attitude) gained the affections of an extremely attractive fourth-form girl. As pupils, we didn’t remotely mind about this and both teachers were very popular. But I knew, when I was considering my career options, that this sort of behaviour was definitely frowned upon by the authorities and that I would not last the week in my new job. Frowned upon, although not much more, I ought to say — certainly not the deranged howling that is kicked up these days, the fury and the righteous anger.”

NB: The Sexual Offences Act, 2003 makes it a criminal offence for a teacher to have any form of sexual contact with any pupil at their school who is below the age of 18, even if the pupil is above the legal age of consent. Such “abuse of a position of trust” also applies to carers and trainers of young people under the age of 18 in any other institution.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/contents

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NUS to ‘no-platform’ Benn and Galloway?

September 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm (AWL, Feminism, Free Speech, Galloway, Jackie Mcdonough, men, misogyny, strange situations, students, SWP)

The Last WikiLeaks Supper

Above: the Messiah Julian and his rape-denying disciples, including Benn and Galloway

The expression “hoist with one’s own petard” springs to mind:

(from the Counterfire‘ website):

Leading anti-war campaigner and socialist Tony Benn will be ‘no platformed’ like Tommy Robinson of the racist EDL and Nick Griffin of the fascist BNP if a motion to the National Union of Students gets passed this week. If local student unions follow the national union then Tony Benn may be refused a platform in any student union in the country.

Refusing to allow fascists a platform has long been the policy of the left and the student movement. But in a remarkably ill-thought out move the National Executive of NUS is about to apply the same policy to Tony Benn and Respect MP George Galloway.

The reasons given for this unusual step are comments they made about the charge that Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange raped two women in Sweden. The motion states that Galloway ‘referred to a man inserting his penis into a sleeping woman as, “bad sexual etiquette’ and that Tony Benn said of the Assange case, “the charges are that it was a non-consensual relationship. Well that’s very different from rape”.’

Tony Benn has since, at the request of Goldsmith Students Union, of which he is the honoury president, retracted his remarks, apologised and restated his life-long commitment to women’s liberation. But still the NUS is persisting with its resolution.

The comments in both Galloway’s and Benn’s cases are of course wrong. It is wrong to state that non-consensual sex is not rape, and it was wrong to try to defend Assange from extradition by dismissing the claims of the women involved.

But beyond this, there is a fundamental problem by responding to these comments by trying to no platform Benn and Galloway. ‘No platform’ is an exceptional position that the Left has typically campaigned for Unions and other organisations to adopt in the fight against Fascism.

It is an unprecedented departure from the left’s defence of freedom of speech on the grounds that there can be no free speech for those who would deny such freedoms to others. There can be no democracy for those who would use genocide and extermination to end democracy.

These conditions clearly do not apply in this case. It is the exceptional danger posed by Fascism that prompted the tactic of no platform to be applied exclusively to fascists. To apply it indiscriminately to other political views we oppose means fascists cannot be isolated by the no platform policy as an exceptional threat.

Backward ideas about rape are profoundly upsetting and damaging to the fight against women’s oppression. However, the prevalence of these ideas (which the motion acknowledges) points to the fact that they stem from the sexist society in which we live. Therefore it is within society that we have to fight these ideas.

Surely it is much better to have Tony Benn, a figure that many people look up to as an inspiration, apologise and restate his commitment to women’s liberation as he has done, than to let damaging remarks remain unretracted where they can continue to damage and distract our movement. This is a fight we can win – we can change people’s minds, we can challenge sexism in our movement.

Astoundingly, if the writers of the motion genuinely believe these remarks have put Benn and Galloway beyond the pale, then there are a lot of people missing who should be named in this motion.

While the motion makes brief reference to Roger Helmer (UKIP MEP) and Andrew Brons (an MEP for the fascist BNP and a former leader of the fascist National Front), why are the members of the Coalition government who are overseeing massive cuts to rape crisis and domestic violence services not in this motion?

Why not the whole of the Cambridge Union Society who invited Dominique Strauss-Kahn to speak there earlier this year? Why not those government ministers whose refusal to demand that Assange will not be extradited from Sweden to the US is effectively prolonging the injustice to the women involved? All these people have gone far further than to make an offensive remark.

What’s more, the NUS would not dream of no platforming war criminal Tony Blair. And the NUS quite regularly opens its platforms to Zionists. In this context the attempt to no platform Tony Benn and Galloway looks absurd.

And why is the NUS, which has let its members down so badly over the fight against fees and cuts, not organising against the closure of rape crisis centres? Where are the leaflets, the posters, the protests, the pickets and the demos?

Tony Benn was a wholehearted supporter of the student movement of 2010. Which is more than the NUS executive can claim. It would be better if the NUS spent less time either censuring or no platforming Tony Benn and George Galloway and more time actually defending its members.

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A response from AWL students, here.

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Kate Hudson stands down as Respect candidate, denounces Galloway

September 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm (communalism, Galloway, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, populism, Respect, women)

“I cannot in all conscience, stand as candidate for a party whose only MP has made unacceptable and un-retracted statements about the nature of rape. To continue as Respect Party candidate in this situation, no matter how much I object to and oppose his statements personally, would be in effect to condone what he has said. That is something I am not prepared to do” - Kate Hudson.

Kate Hudson, prospective ‘Respect’ candidate for Manchester Central, has put out the following statement:

It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to stand down as Respect Party candidate for the Manchester Central by-election. This has been a difficult decision to make because I am in no doubt that the Respect Party has the right policies to meet the challenges facing Britain today, and that its redistributive anti-austerity and pro-investment platform is exactly what is needed to turn around Britain’s failing economy and meet the needs of Britain’s population. Political events across Europe demonstrate that Respect is not alone in working to fill the political space vacated by Labour and its sister social democrat parties as they have moved to the right and embraced neo-liberalism, from Greece to France and now Holland.

However, I cannot in all conscience, stand as candidate for a party whose only MP has made unacceptable and un-retracted statements about the nature of rape. To continue as Respect Party candidate in this situation, no matter how much I object to and oppose his statements personally, would be in effect to condone what he has said. That is something I am not prepared to do.

I stand by the position taken by Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob, who has stated:

“Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong.

There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange. These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him. Any individual accused of a crime, sexual or otherwise, is innocent until proven guilty. By the same token, any individual who believes themselves to be a victim has a right to have their grievances heard in a fair manner and not have their allegations belittled or dismissed. This is the cornerstone of justice.”

Unfortunately George Galloway’s subsequent clarification of his remarks was totally inadequate.

To continue to represent the Respect Party in this context does not accord with my political principles, which include the continuing struggle for justice and respect for women, as well as fighting against austerity, war and racism. I will continue to work within the Respect Party to ensure that our values and principles with regard to women’s rights match up to the Party’s – and George Galloway’s – outstanding record in these other areas.

I would like to thank our members and supporters in Manchester and across the country for the strong support extended to the Manchester Central campaign. The struggle for a left politics based on justice and equality, where society is organised to meet the needs of the many, will continue.

Permalink 48 Comments

Women Against Rape Seem To Have Forgotten We Are Supposed To Be Fighting The Patriarchy

August 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm (Feminism, Free Speech, Galloway, Guardian, Human rights, imperialism, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, reblogged, women)

Twitter Feminists are doing a very good job of dismantling the anti-woman rhetoric written by Women Against Rape in the Guardian today. The article is a pile of victim-blaming, rape excusing twaddle from two women who should know better: Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff. Any woman who writes this is victim-blaming:

“It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction.”

They are calling the two women liars. It doesn’t matter how much want to pretend they aren’t, suggesting the charges are a “smokescreen” is calling to victims of sexualised violence liars. That is the territory of MRAs and their handmaidens. Not Feminists. Yeah, they try to minimise the impact by saying this without a trace of irony:

“… the names of the women have been circulated on the internet; they have been trashed, accused of setting a “honey trap”, and seen their allegations dismissed as “not real rape”.”

WAR are also calling the two women liars. They are suggesting it wasn’t real rape. By buying into Assange’s paranoid fantasies, they have effectively silenced two rape victims and trashed the reputation of their organisation. They are arguing precisely the same thing as MRAs. All for what, to line up to defend a whiny little tosser because they think he’s The Second Coming? Well, he isn’t. I know her and she’d kick the shit out of Assange.

Yeah, it might be true that Assange is being pursued with more vigour than most rapists are in the UK or in Sweden, but that’s hardly an excuse to dump the procedure against Assange. All rapists should be pursued this aggressively. Then, rape victims might actually get some justice. Instead, WAR have just made it a whole lot harder for women to get support. They have made it harder for other women to get convictions for rape.
The whole article is a pile of paranoia and misinformation. WAR have just ensured that I won’t ever use them for support or refer friends to them. Anyone who writes that Wikileaks is more important than the bodily integrity of two women is no feminist. Wikileaks is more than one man and, frankly, it’s not like Assange’s reputation in Wikileaks is all that brilliant what with the whole dumping an Iranian leak into the shit without a backward glance.
Freedom of speech is meaningless if it only applies to rich white men’s rights to criticise governments. Supporting Assange at the expense of rape victims removes women’s right to bodily integrity. It removes our right to free speech. If that isn’t hypocrisy, then I don’t know what is.

Posted by at 17:21

Permalink 16 Comments

It’s not really extradition…

August 23, 2012 at 8:28 am (Civil liberties, Feminism, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, women)

'Surprise Extradition' !

H-t: London Feminist Network

Below: the Messiah and his Chosen Ones:

The Last WikiLeaks Supper

Permalink 8 Comments

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