Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roman Roads

Horrifying to read the newspaper coverage of the arrest of Roman Polanski. Now if people want to claim he was innocent, they are welcome to do so. Instead several papers have pieces claiming that while he was guilty he should not be brought to justice because (1) he makes great films, (2) he has experienced other suffering in his life or (3) because he has paid for his crimes by living overseas for many years to avoid prison.

If any of these are to hold any weight someone needs to clarify exactly what the exchange rate is:

(1) Can I punch someone of my choosing without punishment given that my Edinburgh show got a five-star review?

(2) Can I punch someone of my choosing without punishment given that I had an eating disorder in my teens?

(3) Can I punch someone of my choosing without punishment as long as I take two weeks holiday in the south of France straight afterwards?

Worse still some people are claiming that he shouldn't be brought to justice because the crime was somehow "not that bad". Points raised include (1) the fact that the victim has said she doesn't want to go to court, (2) the allegation that she was "sexually experienced" and (3) the implication that the rape committed was only "statutory rape", i.e. that she consented to sex and that therefore the rape was only a rape on "technical grounds" because of the age of consent. Well:

(1) The victim gave statements immediately after the event and Polanski pleaded guilty so it would be easy for the judge to rule that she needn't go to court, there is no reason they couldn't sentence him in her absence. The point of the law is not to make victims feel better, although it may be hoped that in some cases it does. The point of the law is to punish those who commit crimes.

(2) Are we really still in the 21st century believeing that a woman who has previously had sex cannot be raped? Of course not. And since she was 13 at the time she hadn't previously had sex - she'd previously been raped.

(3) Firstly this is not someone a few weeks away from being legally old enough to consent. She was thirteen. The law has an age of consent for a reason. If people feel the law is wrong they should campaign to change the law, not ignore it. But secondly, and most importantly of all I think. This was much more than statutory rape.

There is a good piece in the Independent by (dare I say it) Dominic Lawson pointing out that he drugged her with the drug quaalude mixed into champagne and also that the claims of consent from the victim are very flimsy...

Here's the transcript of victim's original statement (warning: not for the sensitive reader):

"Q. What did you do when he said, 'Let's go into the other room'?
A. I was going 'No, I think I better go home', because I was afraid. So I just went and I sat down on the couch.

Q. What were you afraid of?
A. Him.... He sat down beside me and asked if I was OK. I said 'No'.
Q. What did he say?
A. He goes 'Well, you'll be better'. And I go, 'No I won't. I have to go home. He said 'I'll take you home soon'.
Q. Then what happened?
A. Then he went down and he started performing cuddliness... I was kind of dizzy, you know, like things were kind of blurry sometimes. I was having trouble with my coordination... I wasn't fighting really because I, you know, there was no one else there and I had no place to go."
Q. Did he ask you about being on the pill?
A. He asked, he goes, 'Are you on the pill?' and I went, 'No' and he goes 'When did you have your period?' and I said, 'I don't know. A week or two. I'm not sure'... He goes, 'Come on. You have to remember'. And I told him I didn't.... and right after I said I was not on the pill... and he goes... and then he put me – wait. Then he lifted my legs up farther and he went in through my anus.
Q. Did you resist at that time?
A. A little bit, but not really, because...
Q. Because what?
A. Because I was afraid of him."

That is not consent.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jordan and Daily Mail Woman-Bashing

I'm not someone who takes a lot of time to follow the career of Katie Price AKA Jordan. We all know who she is and what she does. Whatever you think about her choice to make a career out of topless modelling and publicity-courting, you'd have to admit, she's good at it.

Today's Daily Mail carries a piece about revelations made about her by her former partner the footballer Dwight Yorke. It made me pretty angry...

"Dwight Yorke has broken his silence on his relationship with Katie Price, describing her as 'vain and infuriating' and confessing that he wanted to 'throttle' her former husband Peter Andre.

The footballer has also admitted for the first time that he cheated on Price during their stormy 18-month relationship, although he refused to give any details about the encounter."

So she's "vain and infuriating" (which incidentally also appears in the title of the piece) while he is unfaithful and inclined towards violence? Why am I not feeling his rage over her vanity? You also have to wonder what is going on when a guy dates one of the world's most successful models and then announces she's "vain". That's her job - to look great all the time. If she wandered around in second hand cardigans she'd make a lot less money. If you want to criticise the system fair enough but not much point criticising her for playing along.

"[He] describes in detail the moment his former girlfriend told him she was pregnant with their son Harvey.

'My reaction was immediate,' he said. 'There was no way we could have this baby. I told her, "Our relationship is too unstable. I don't think it's right".' "

Really? So you weren't ready to have a baby with this woman? There are these great things that've been invented especially for guys who feel that way about their relationships - they're called CONDOMS. And if you're really totally 100% sure there's no way you could raise a child with this woman - don't have sex with her.

"He recalls staying down one night and Katie's crowd were heading off to a big party in London.

He said the crowd came back 'steaming drunk' and made a terrible noise, despite the fact that little Harvey was asleep upstairs.

'I challenged her about this lifestyle. She'd desperately wanted our baby but was this her idea of motherhood?"

I don't understand - was the child left unattended? Was the child put at risk? Or was the child at risk of nothing more than maybe being woken up in the night by a bit of noise? Should we also be condemning mothers who snore or live near noisy foxes? What was his idea of fatherhood? "Staying down one night"? What about the other 364 of the year?

"After a night of 'wild' sex, Yorke describes how he pulled out a £45,000 ring and gave it to Price.

'It was clearly an engagement ring,' said Yorke


They flew home separately - and Price never returned his ring."

Now for me it's not the value of the ring that tells me it's an engagement ring - it's the guy who gives it to me asking me to marry him. No woman accepting a piece of jewelry as a gift should be unspeakingly understood to have agreed to anything. What next? That was clearly a can-we-try-some-bondage bracelet, and now you've accepted the let's-remortgage-the-house-and-move-to-Spain pashmina you'd better start packing? And no, the whole point of gifts is that they are given freely, if it had conditions attached to it's being offered they should have been stated up front.

Seems to me that the first thing Ms Price has gotten right about raising her child is to keep him away from his unpleasant misogynist father.

Friday, September 25, 2009

You Lucky London Feminists!

Lots of you will I know already be coming to the Feminism In London conference on 10th October. If not then head over here pronto to find out more and reserve your place.

After the conference (and you don't have to go to the conference to come along) we are holding a fabulous feminist fun-packed cabaret show. It's downstairs at The Comedy Pub on Oxenden Street (between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square - SW1Y 4EE), doors open at 8pm and show at half eight, though you can arrive before that and buy tickets if there are any left have a drink in the main bar any time.

The line-up is still being tweaked but I have confirmed appearances from Eve Webster (the impressionist who shredded Ann Widdicombe at the recent Abortion Rights fundraiser) and fabulous headliners Chambers and Nettleton (pictured above).

[Update: added to the line-up: the British Bette Midler... Abi Roberts!]

[Update number two: also added to the line-up: amazing magician Katherine Rhodes!]

Tickets are £10 full price and £5 concessions. I'm not going to make any rule on who is and isn't a concession so if you can afford it, it is a fundraiser, please buy the full priced ticket but if money's an issue get a concession one and don't miss out on the fun.

Other info: The pub is over-18s only (sorry) and the venue is down a single flight of stairs. We will do whatever we can to help with accessibility so give me a shout if you need advice on that. Show will finish about 11pm and afterwards there'll be a DJ (over whom I have no control but it's usually cheery and dancy) and the venue will open up to the public until 2am.

You can buy tickets using the button below.


(Oh and by the way once you pay it will tell you to contact David at Soho Comedy Club for your ticket, but this is not necessary, I will just have a list including your name and email address on the door).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

David "Doublespeak" Miliband

A few weeks ago I wrote to David Miliband in his capacity as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to ask him to sign the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. You can find out more about the situation here. Today I received a reply from a Ms Woollard, responding on behalf of Mr Miliband. It was - frankly - a load of shite...

"In principle the Government supports the Convention against Enforced Disappearance. However, we do need to examine the potential impact on our law if the UK were to ratify it. In particular, lawyers are analysing the extent to which common law provisions may need to be replicated in statute law, and whether the introduction of one or more specific criminal offences would be needed."

He's seriously telling me that he's worried about the impact that signing the UN Convention against Enforced Disappearance might have on UK law? If there is any possible way in which UK law could be affected by the UN convention against Enforced Disappearance then it is UK law that needs to change. Effectively his email tells me he's not prepared to condemn enforced disappearances overseas in case he wants to enforce some disappearances over here...?

"If the Government decides to ratify the Convention, these changes to the law would require primary legislation, which would be introduced when Parliamentary time allowed. Decisions would also need to be taken on whether the United Kingdom required any reservations or declarations upon ratification. The complexity of these issues under consideration does not permit a deadline to be set at this time for completion of this analysis, however, work is being progressed as rapidly are possible."

What a load of political double speak. "We'd love to end human rights abuses but we're just so busy right now". "Oh well we couldn't possible stop people from dying until we've had a nice cup of tea and a hob-nob..."

"The UK takes its international obligations seriously. For instance, in December 2003 and after detailed consideration, the UK was the third country in the world to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture. As part of this protocol, on 19 May this year, we established a 'National Preventative Mechanism' to inspect the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in any circumstances within the UK."

The most recent example he has of the UK doing something right in terms of international attitudes to human rights is 2003? Firstly I love the way he writes "the UK" as if I'm not actually part of it. I know about the UN protocol on torture. I wrote to MPs in 2003 and asked them to sign it. I didn't write to Miliband at the time because (doh!) in 2003 he was MP for South Shields and held no other governmental position. If anything I was more closely involved in that one than he was.

It's actually a waste of government time in my opinion to be to-ing and fro-ing about an issue as simple and clear-cut as this. Do we support human rights abuses? No. Next.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dark Knights

Last night I was on BBC Five Live discussing Harriet Harman's plans to stop businesses from reclaiming VAT on "expenses" trips to strip and lap-dancing clubs. Well we were supposed to be discussing that. Instead I got screamed at by a guy called Chris Knight (the one on the left) who described himself as the president of the lap-dancers association. Weird for two reasons - firstly elsewhere on the web he's listed as the vice-president and secondly because why would a guy be head of the lap-dancers association? I mean isn't that kind of like having a white guy as head of an organisation which represents black people?

Anyway there were three things that I was angry about.

Firstly because he just shouted over everything I said, which sometimes I do too on air, sometimes you have to stop someone taking up all the air time with some irrelevant or just outright wrong point. But this was not it - this was just him trying to silence me. He didn't listen to a single point I made, however brief.

Secondly he had this manner of saying things as though that made them true. He said "the law as it is works perfectly" - and that's really not true of any law. The murder law doesn't work perfectly, murder still happens and some people trying to assist suicide for the terminally ill can be at risk of prosecution. He also said "if anything illegal happens the police sort it out" when in fact what is true is that when illegal things happen if the police find out about them there is a chance they'll try to sort it out.

Finally though when I agreed to do the interview I was told there would be one other person on air - a lapdancer called Naomi. When we went live Chris Knight was there too - effectively Naomi's boss. Needless to say when your boss is sat next to you you're hardly going to be open about the positives and the negatives of you work environment. For instance at one point I asked Naomi if clients ever touched her while she was dancing and she said "no, never". Really? So she's worked for several years dancing naked across the laps of drunk men and not one has ever touched her? Does anyone believe that. Afterwards I had a chat with a friend who has worked as a stripper and I told her what Naomi had said to which she responded (and I quote) "ah fuck that's ridiculous".

Today I noticed that I'm not the only person who thinks Chris Knight is a nasty bully. So do ... wait for it ... the House of Lords! He's been paying lobbists to try to convince Lords to table watering-down motions to the new bill changing the way lapdancing clubs are licensed. The article in The Times (linked above) contains two classic Chris Knight-isms...

"We got the best response from lords because they don’t rely on votes like MPs do."

Or in other words "Boy, if we lived in a real democracy, we'd be in trouble". And...

"It’s hard to get public support when you run strip clubs."

Aw boo hoo. Well don't do it then!

But the best line in the article comes from 78 year-old hereditary peer Lord Bridgeman who said "I’m very happy to discuss this with you but I need to be properly briefed".

...being "properly briefed" is not something Lord Bridgeman or the women working the industry should expect!

Human Sacrifice Related Thought For The Day

On Sunday I was "informed" by various over-the-top religious activists that there is far too much sex ed in schools (see post below). This afternoon I was helping a friend's 8-year-old with her homework which included a worksheet about the Aztecs. All well and good, there were some missing words to fill in and so on. Then there was a blank box above which it said "In this box draw a picture of a human sacrifice". Huh? So we can't talk to kids about sex but it's just fine to have them drawing dismembered bleeding corpses? I suggested she just write in the box "Are you serious, I'm eight!" and her mum suggested drawing the temple without the gory bits but then we left her to make her own choices so for all I know she's been carefully colouring in blood puddles and extricated still-pumping hearts...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cru-Blog on the TV (Again!)

Last Sunday I was back on The Big Questions on BBC One. Thanks to everyone who got in touch and apologies for not posting the link sooner - for some reason it wasn't on the BBC iPlayer until today so I didn't want to post the story before you could watch the show in question. However it is up now so please click here and have a look!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Barbie World

I am featured in a student documentary about Barbie dolls and their impact on young women. It's in two sections below - I'm mostly in the first half of the second section. For some reason as soon as I start talking about feminist issues all the cats in the neighbourhood show up - it's like they know that secretly I'm their leader...