Monday, November 30, 2009
Here are other things that increase a woman's likelihood of being raped:
1) Leaving her specially installed "safe room".
2) Having a vagina.
3) Saying "no".
Where is the police's advertising campaign to get women to stop doing these things?
On top of this the police claim their campaign aims to encourage rape victims to come forward. But with a 5.3% conviction rate and horror stories everywhere you turn, you have to think that what's stopping women coming forward it the fact that they have a genuine understanding of the treatment they really are likely to receive. No mention is made of the women being prosecuted for daring to accuse someone of rape without first collecting irrefutable evidence.
No doubt the police would point to the fact that a second part of the same campaign focusses on telling men that they could end up in prison if they rape someone. But that should really be the only point of the police advertising and of course where the story has been picked up in the press the headlines are all based on "warning" women not to drink too much. Sky News went with "Women Urged Not To Be Rapists' Prey This Xmas", the Metro preferred "Rape warning over festive drinks" with a subtitle that made it clear it was women on the receiving end of the warning.
And how are we supposed to believe that the attitude of the police towards rape victims is improving when even their advertising says the exact opposite?
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Although the quotes from me are totally accurate and I have no problem with them or the way they are expressed - I did actually say a lot more than that to the journalist and (of course) she has chosen the bits that fit the feel of her article rather than quoting me in full. Still for the benefit of Cru-blog readers: here is the full interview I gave:
(The journalist asked) There was an article in the Daily Mail recently by Quentin Letts entitled: "The First Ladette: How Germaine Greer's legacy is an entire generation of loose-knickered lady louts". Would be great to get a response from you on your thoughts on equating feminism with a)rising violence towards women, b)rising teenage pregnancies c) women getting drunk and 'immodest'.
Also would you be able to comment on the Tory policy towards women and the family - more specifically de-incentivising teenage pregnancies and single parent families by taking away social support?
(And I responded) I was appalled by the Daily Mail article, it seemed to be totally missing the point. To blame feminism for rising violence against women makes no sense to me. Women have rights and if men's reaction to women exercising those rights is to respond violently then it is men who are in the wrong and those men responsible should have their rights taken away (by being imprisoned).
Teenage pregnancies are not a new phenomenon. In fact they have been around forever. The difference over the last fifty years the big change is that we can talk about these things - rather than keeping secrets. My grandmother found out on her wedding day that her aunt who she believed had raised her after her real mother died was actually her mother. The ramifications were traumatic for everyone involved. Every family in Britain has one of these skeletons in the closet if you dig hard enough. If the sexual revolution means we can now talk about the fact that many teenagers have sex then great - that means we can also talk to them about contraception, sexual health and issues surrounding pregnancy choices and then support them when they choose to keep and raise their children without adding an extra burden of shame to their worries.
Finally the notion of women being drunk and "immodest". Well I feel that if women want to get drunk then that's their choice and we should respect it. Women still drink considerably less than men and drunk men are responsible for much greater amount of crime and disorder than drunk women. So if we think society has a problem with alcohol abuse then we should start by cracking down on men. And the term "immodest" - well - by traditional Islamic standards what you are wearing right now (and since we're talking by email I can't even see what you're wearing) is definitely "immodest". But really "immodest" in this context probably means "in a way that stands out and is conspicuous" and if young women choose to stand out and be conspicuous then I am thrilled about that and support them fully.
I don't see Tory policies on removing benefits for single mothers and teenage mothers as "di-incentivising". I see these policies as purely punishing women for having sex. What would benefit single and teenage mothers is support to help them raise their children well. Of course we should also be chasing up absent fathers who fail to contribute financially to their children's well-being. Also addressing inequality in the workplace both in terms of the pay gap (we need gender pay, promotion and recruitment audits) and in terms of companies who fail to offer flexible working to carers and who discriminate against pregnant employees would make a big difference.
Overall I guess I am just horrifed at the notion that giving women rights can be seen as taking something away from women. I may have made some bad choices in my life which I regret, but I don't regret that I had the choice to make my own mistakes.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I have never written a biography of Sir John Betjeman. Somehow though I don't think that entirely invalidates my views on comedy.
A.N Wilson - who has written just such a biography - but who appears to have nothing else under his belt to recommend him to the world of comedy critiquing - is today complaining in the Daily Mail that sexists jokes are not, well, sexist.
Now first up he totally misses the point on the Jordan Wimmer case. As has been repeatedly stated throughout the case - no-one denies that Ms Wimmer complained about sexist jokes long before she decided to take legal action. If someone makes an error of judgement and genuinely apologises and stops the behaviour when it is pointed out, I'm all for giving them a break. However when someone persists in saying inappropriate things after they have had the fact pointed out to them - that is deliberate abuse.
Plus remember that Wimmer is also claiming that her former boss Mark Lowe brought an "escort" dressed in hotpants into meetings. Wilson says that Lowe "hotly denies" this. He would do though given he's in a court of law and looking like he's not got a leg to stand on.
But Wilson's point is really not about the rights and wrongs of the case - it's about comedy and how we all ought to lighten up about a little harmless racism. Yes really - that is his point.
"Making remarks or jokes which you know will be upsetting to another person in your hearing is obviously the mark of a bully and it cannot be defended"
Now firstly - that is exactly what Mark Lowe did - he make jokes about blonde women in hearing range of a blonde woman who had complained about such jokes previously. But secondly - no, it is not ok to tell sexist jokes when there aren't any women in earshot, nor racist jokes in an all-white group. The problem with such jokes is actually much less that individuals are offended but that they normalise attitudes of prejudice and stereotypes which lead to hatred.
"Some of Bernard Manning’s jokes were offensive. But some were really quite good jokes: “If you dial 999 in Bradford, you don’t get the police coming round – you get the Bengal Lancers.”"
That one sounds racist to me. Definitely racist.
"I think you would need to be an incredibly humourless Bangladeshi not to see that this reference to a regiment from the high days of the British Raj was quite a funny joke about immigrants."
And that's racist too - insisting that only Bangladeshis would "not get" the joke.
"Manning was not making a mockery of people from Bengal because they were from Bengal. He was making a joke about the fact that Bradford is very full of Asians.
And in so far as jokes depend upon an element of surprise, there is something picturesque about expecting the arrival of Z-cars and getting instead the Bengal Lancers on their horses, dressed in topis and turbans."
Seriously - could he dig himself any deeper? Is there anything more he could say at this point that would make it any worse?
Seems like sentencing those who commit violence against women is having a bad week in general. In Scotland a man was given 18 months probabtion for "having sex with" a 13-year-old (and when the BBC says "having sex" you will realise that what they mean is "raping" since 13-year-olds are not considered old enough to give meaningful consent under British law). Still no doubt being on probation for a few months will make him think twice about doing it again..?
By way of comparison if you accuse someone of rape but then turn out to be an "escort" (and check the double-speak here because aren't escorts supposed to be "high-class" prostitutes who are at liberty to pick and choose which of their clients they have sex with?) and therefore are presumed to have consented to any and all sex ... you get two years in prison.
My advice if you're planning on getting sexually assaulted this weekend (because of course it is women asking for it - not men perpetrating it, remember!) try to get your case heard in front of (a) Judge Paul Downes or (b) whoever sits at Preston Crown Court who seem to have a better grasp of how to deal with rapists.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Firstly Lawson says he doesn't know what "alternative comedy" means and how it differs from "not alternative" comedy. But surely Lawson is old enough to remember the days when comedy simply meant racism. Bernard Manning, Roy Chubby Brown and Jim Davidson? Club comedians who often all told the same jokes as each other, crude mother-in-law jokes and bawdy references to women, etc. So alternative comedy was originally conceived to counter that - as something that was progressive and often overtly political.
There is no denying that the line nowadays has somewhat blurred. Many of the acts perceived as the most "alternative" are doing jokes about rape and about women that Bernard Manning would be proud of. In fact Jimmy Carr once did a joke so suitable for Jim Davidson that the latter literally nicked it and had to later apologise.
Now apparently the antidote to this latest wave of offensiveness is Michael McIntyre, a very brilliant and very competent comic whose material is consistently about the minutae of day-to-day life and who flinches from politics and controversian subjects like a slug in a salt dish. And I don't mean that as a criticism - some people prefer their comedy funny and unchallenging. It's not my taste but even I have to admit that he's great at what he does.
There are two issues I have though...
Firstly I think when it comes to offensive comedy the media has got it all wrong. There's nothing offensive about doing a joke about rape. What is offensive is when the punchline to that joke is that the woman in question "deserved" it or "was asking for" it. If you write a joke about rape where the punchline is about the dreadfully low conviction rate or the poor attitude of the police then great.
Lawson mentions the incident with Andrew Sachs and Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross and seems to be offended that sex was discussed on air when what was offensive about that situation was this noxious idea that a woman's Grandfather is or should be the guardian of her chastity.
Jimmy Carr's joke about British soldiers forming a great Paralympic team for 2012 is a joke about the incompetence of government policy - it's one of the best lines I've heard from him. On the other hand I've seen him do jokes about rape and about Roma people which I found offensive.
The solution to offensive material not to demand that comedy focus only on topics which would make a good episode of The Tellytubbies but to seek out comedians using their art to express something meaningful and valid, breaking through prejudice rather than compounding it (Translation: Give me my own series!).
Secondly Lawson seems to be implying that McIntyre has been a victim of some sort of conspiracy to keep him off the airwaves because he's overtly middle class. He quotes McIntyre as saying "People used to come to my show and love it, and critics were coming and not seeing that...".Well sure but why should we believe that is specifically middle class hatred. I'm a political feminist comedienne and after six years I've yet to be reviewed on the biggest UK comedy website Chortle. And while I'd love to be reviewed by them, I don't see it as a conspiracy that I haven't been. And if I do get reviewed by someone who doesn't find me to their taste or is in a bad mood that day or catches me on an off night then I can make my case against the review but I can't imagine concluding that it's because I'm middle class. The vast majority of comics on TV are middle class as far as I can see.
But for another thing - the reviewers may have a good point. Sometimes I go to a comedy show and laugh more or less the whole way through but come away feeling empty and unsatisfied. Other times I might only laugh a few times but I also learn something new, understand something new and see the world in a new light and I come away feeling uplifted. So which is the better "comedy" show? For my money the latter. To measure comedy against a laughs-per-minute ratio seems to me a very clinical and limiting way of looking at it. If reviewers have seen past that, good for them.
And finally the notion that it's been so tough for McIntyre and that the odds have been so terribly stacked against him seems to have been countered recently by the fact that every DVD shop I go past has his grinning cardboard face looming out of the window above a legend about ideal Christmas presents for all the family. Whatever wrong the establishment did him on the way up - I think they're making up for it now.
But then that wouldn't exactly fit with the Daily Mail/Dominic Lawson vision of the poor hard-done-to straight white male. That sort of revolutionary talk would be better suited to .. erm .. The Independent... Oh shit.
In fact clearly what is happening here is I, your humble blogstress, should be writing for The Independent and instead they've gone ahead and hired a posh straight white bloke called Dominic Naffing Lawson!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Now I agree, travelling late at night alone is dangerous. I have to do it all the time so I should know how frightening and intimidating it can be, and of course we all know the statistics on how rape is dealt with by the police which are even more frightening. But at the same time I don't think the solution to that problem is to give MPs more expenses money - the solution needs to protect not just MPs but all women in the UK and involve a major overhaul of the law and policing policy.
Now first of all I've had problems with LBC before - a very misogynist station in general, they often have "debates" along the lines of "should women be allowed to do XYZ?" or "have women's rights gone too far?" which I just conceptually don't understand. Plus one time before I was on there and the presenter (one N. Ferrari) started screaming at me towards the end of the interview and kept changing the subject, so we went from "Should the current maternity pay scheme be extended?" to "Why should women get maternity pay at all?" to "Why should single Mums get benefits, why do we let them sponge of the state?" in less than a minute without my getting a real chance to answer any of those stupid questions.
But this morning really took the biscuit. Before I got to say a word he did a huge intorduction in which he criticised these MPs in the harshest possible terms for even raising the issue. He said things like "Women say they want equality but as soon as the going gets tough..." and "I'm not going to hold back, I'm going to name and shame the women who are doing this right now, right here on air..." and finished up with a tirade about how if they have this kind of attitude the country is better off without them.
I started to explain why I think that we do need real answers to the issues of rape and sexual violence against women but that the connection to MPs expenses was something of a red herring. Clearly unhappy he interrupts to say that I might not think so but other feminists support these MPs... Effectively by this stage he's arguing with himself and screaming at me that this shows that women in general are - well - generally wrong about everything (I'm paraphrasing here). I actually had to threaten to hang up just to get him to listen to me for a few seconds.
So I said "hold on this is only four MPs...". Now bearing in mind I only found out about the interview ten minutes before I was live on air, it came as little supririse to me to be informed that in fact it's five MPs in the group who have made this statement. I am happy to be corrected. Instead I get screamed at "GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT", "IF YOU'RE GOING TO COME ON HERE..."
And the stupid thing is this guy is the presenter! If it was me and some uber-right wing nutter with a presenter refereeing things to make sure we all got our say it would be a bit much but I would probably put up with it. What is the point of having a guest on so you can ignore what they say and harangue them about what you assume other people, not on your show, think? Seriously the whole interview was like "here's a feminist - I'm going to shout at her".
LBC call themselves "London's Biggest Conversation" but a conversation is where two of more people exchange opinions. When one person expressly invites another person to "discuss" something and then fabricates their opinion and screams over every word they say I think we're out of the realm of "conversation" and closer to the realm of "psychopath".
I may stop doing LBC interviews, they are fairly poorly paid and one of the researchers told me one time - you're the only feminist who ever agrees to go on air with us... so maybe it will leave them in the lurch.