Friday, February 29, 2008

Swedish Models

Unsurprisingly with all the recent news - there is some discussion at present of how best to deal with the problems of prostitution. Julie Bindel gets very much to the bottom of the matter in this great interview with a professor of criminology.

To me it's seems so obvious that the way to sort the problem out is to criminalise men who pay for sex. Not because I'm some kind of mad man-hating lunatic who wants every guy thrown in prison. And not because I'm some weird anti-sex prude either.

The facts are these: the vast majority of women in prostitution are there under coercion of one sort or another: Trafficked women, drug-addicted women, victims of domestic violence and sexual violence. These women are being put at risk on a daily basis of rape, assault and murder. While fiction-writers may tell us there are "high-class" call girls who enjoy their work, if there are, they are clearly few and far between and do not justify the industry as a whole. n Criminalising someone who works under coercion won't change anything.

Meanwhile the men who visit prostitutes are not coerced to do so in any way. No man is ever forced to visit a prostitute. Men chose quite freely whether to do so or not. So by criminalising paying for sex you render illegal a part of the process that is not coerced and can be stopped dead in it's tracks. Problem gone.

This means of dealing with the sex industry is known as The Swedish Model because it works a treat in Sweden. Hopefully the government will come back to it at some point.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Quick Funny

I'm sure they'll fix this but right now the Times Online says "Veteran British television entertainer Bruce Forsyth celebrates his 80th birthday with Miss Puerto Rico and Miss England" underneath a photo of an Orang-Utan eating leaves!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Might I Be Paranoid?

It's easy to think you're paranoid. But that doesn't mean everyone's not against you. So three things I noticed.

Firstly I was on the bus going to do a lovely show at ASK pizzeria in Reigate and when the bus pulled up, he pulled up right at the other end of the stop to where I was stood, even though I was the only one at the stop. The driver looked at me in a sort of a horrid way as I got on and I thought "he hates women". Then I thought, don't be stupid he's probably just having a slow day. Then half way down Shoreditch High Street he pulls the bus over where a young attractive woman is sitting on a fence NOT AT A BUS STOP and not indicating she wants to get on the bus and says "alright darling, you not getting on?" in a creepy creepy way. She says "no" and he closes the door and drives on?!! And I think maybe my instincts are actually pretty good.

Secondly I see a London black cab driver is in court answering to 40 cases of attempting to drug and rape women in London. And this comes after all those really angry-making adverts "warning" women not to get into unlicensed minicabs, but to hold out for a proper black cab. One of the victims who was drugged but escaped before being assaulted said she didn't go to the police initially because she didn't think it was a big thing. Where are the poster campaigns saying "Women, Think You Might Have Been Drugged? Come Forward Immediately And Help Us Keep Other Women Safe From Rapist Bastards"?? Met not bothering to put those ones up?

Thirdly this article. A restaurant "accidentally" put the phrase "Suck My Dick Fuck Face" on to a restaurant bill for a table of ten young women. Their defense? It was only meant for kitchen staff to see and shouldn't have been on the bill. The restaurant has apologised, given the money to charity and offered the women a free meal. Would you back to a restaurant that thought it was perfectly ok for staff to jokingly write "Suck My Dick Fuck Face" on your bill as long as only the kitchen staff saw it?

One fucked up world this one...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Houston, We Have More Issues

Another message from the author of Ink and Indigo (cool knitting blog!) really had me reeling:

"I was both disgusted and unsurprised when I read your story and the story above. Two years ago, when walking from my grandmother's house to my sister's house on Christmas day. a bloke grabbed me, pushed me against a wall and pissed on my leg. I pushed him away and tried to run off, waving at a car driving close by that didn't appear to care. About five minutes later, I was grabbed by the same bloke, the same car still close, by the neck and asked why I "was trying not to fuck" him. I responded by screaming and kicking him in the bollocks. I ran off again, and ran to a phonebox, dialled 999 and explained someone was trying to rape me. They explained they were sending a car to "assess" the situation, during which time, the bloke started kicking in the glass in the phonebox and a people carrier full of men pulled up shouting "where's the Bitch?". Luckily, the police pulled up two seconds later and bundled me inside the van, where I lay on the floor crying in fear. Ten minutes later the police informed me they'd spoken to the offender and driver of the vehicle full of blokes that had been following me and told them to go home. Apparently I was stupid for believing it was attempted gang-rape, as the police said it was "drunk Pakis". The following morning, I rang the police to give a statement, only to find that there was no record of such an incident happening.

Now whenever people talk of people "crying rape" I point out the complete incompetence and institutional sexism of the police force.

I hope you're ok."

If anyone else has a story they would like to shame on the subject - anonymously or otherwise, I am happy to post them up and think it's important these stories are heard. You can email me through my blogger profile page.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Liberal Life

Just read this - saves me the job of writing it! Johann Hari on Sharia Law.

Light Relief

Quick reminder - I am still hosting a weekly political comedy night every Sunday in Angel. It's called Comedy Manifesto and the show starts 8.30pm (doors at 8pm) at the Camden Head Pub, Camden Passage, Angel Islington. £5 when you mention the blog (£7 otherwise). We have the fantastic Debra-Jane Appelby headlining this week so it'll be a great show.

If that doesn't tickle your fancy or whatever then I also host a regular comedy night with new acts and experienced folks trying out new stuff. That's every Monday at the Roundtable Pub, St Martin's Court, down the side of the Wyndham's Theatre near Leicester Square. Again it's 8pm for 8.30pm and £5 if you mention the blog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Houston, We Are Not The Only Ones With A Problem!

Thanks very much to everyone who offered sympathy and advice about my abusive caller and troubles getting the police to take the matter seriously. The story was re-published on both the F-Word and Dollymix and I had some responses from those too. One email sent to the F-Word particularly struck me and, with permission from author Danielle Kemm (quote "You can use my name, I don't see why I should be ashamed or scared!"), here is what she said:

"I was just reading Kate's post about how she was harassed and the police didn't seem to care, and I think it's sad that this seems to be the norm, rather than the exception.

I had a drink spiked on a night out about 6 months ago, I knew as soon as I woke up that something was wrong, because I remember being relatively sober, and then a total blackout.

So my mum took me to the police station, I took the clothes that I had been wearing in a carrier bag, and didn't shower in case they needed samples or whatever. Turns out this was pure wishful thinking.

I asked for a test to confirm my drink had been spiked. I was then asked "Do you think anything *untoward* has happened?" I replied that I didn't know, as I couldn't remember a thing, as generally happens when your drink is spiked.

I was then told that I would "know" if anything had happened (depsite the fact that if you've been drugged you wouldn't be capable of resistance, so there would be no bruising anyway. Clearly even if you're drugged you're expected to kick and scream for it to be considered rape). And then she said that the purpose of drink spiking was rape (although she skirted around the actual word), basically implying that my drink hadn't been spiked, as I hadn't been raped (her
assumption, maybe because I wasn't sobbing hysterically?)

Then she actually had the cheek to ask me if I drunk often, and how often I drunk!

She refused to do anything after this, not even file a report for my missing jacket and phone, which I imagine she might have done if I hadn't come in to waste her time on some silly suspicion.

She told me to go to the hospital if I "really thought" my drink had been spiked. Which I did, only to be told somewhat more sympathetically that it was against hospital policy to carry out the test, given the sheer number of requests (so clearly there is a problem, which the police seem determined to turn a blind eye to) and that they should have done a test there and then at the station.

Of course, by this time, my 12 hours were up, and it was pointless to go back a demand a test.

My mum later told me that after relating this story to some people she worked with, she was told of several personal experiences with drink spiking at the same nightclub, and apparently it happens on a weekly basis there. Something that you would assume would make the police more receptive to such complaints, rather than less.

I have since lost all trust and respect for our so called protectors of the law."

Thanks very much for sharing that with us Danielle, that is awful and I think it's really important that people hear about these things.

Houston, We Have A Problem

Well I spend a lot of time here on the Cru-blog addressing issues of misogynist violence, abuse and hatred. My first-hand experiences - with the exception of my abusive childhood - are generally at the less threatening end of the scale - guys shouting stuff at me when I'm on stage or whistling at me in the street, that kind of thing. Not nice but, for me anyway, not something that affects my life too much.

Recently that has changed. In December last year I had a crank phone call from a male voice who asked if this was the number for a brothel. I said no and asked where he got the number and he hung up. I figured it was either a genuine idiot mis-reading a number he'd read in a phone box or someone I knew a bit drunk thinking they were being funny. The number came up as "the caller withheld their number".

A few weeks later Mr Cru answered my phone and again a male voice asked if it was a brothel. He said no and again the guy hung up.

Another time Mr Cru answered and the guy hung up immediately.

Another couple of weeks later and I answered one again. This time he had a lot more to say - still asking if it was a brothel, asking if I was a hooker (his word, not mine) and asking me to describe myself physically ("how big are your tits?", etc). He also mentioned the area in which I live - which frightened me as evidently he knows my address. I told him I was going to contact the police if he didn't stop.

This afternoon I had two more calls, back to back from the same voice. This time he said he was coming round straight away to "fuck" me "really hard" and a lot of very very unpleasant things. He also said my name (I haven't told him so that's another frightening sign, he evidently has access to my details). And he told me that I was a "bitch" and that this was why he was making these calls and if I didn't want them I should "stop being a bitch". He then told me he worked for the local police - and re-iterated that he was coming round immediately to "fuck" (i.e. rape) me.

Of course it would be the one morning this week when Mr Cru was out, so by this stage I was in a total panic. So I called the police. I explained the situation in full, and that I was home alone. They suggested I contact my mobile phone company (yes really - as though the problem was the calls rather than the threat of rape - and also as if I should investigate the crime myself, rather than them doing it) and then said they'd "try" and send someone round. They also said I shouldn't use the word "rape" since the caller hadn't used it (the caller also didn't say he was coming round to "fuck" me but only if I gave full consent... the threat is obviously rape).

I was then home alone for two hours. I did ring O2 and they said they absolutely could try to trace the call but they would need to speak to the police to do so, not me. As I thought.

Then Mr Cru got back - in a rush, having come from Leicester to get to me and make sure I was ok. The police arrived more than two and a half hours after I called 999. They sent two male officers (despite me explaining that the caller had claimed to work for the police, etc, surely it was obviously a better idea to send a woman?), who refused to show Mr Cru any ID and instead told him to go outside into the street (leaving me indoors alone) and look down the road at the police car parked there.

Then, finally they took down the info about what had happened. They were mostly interested in some pretty odd stuff like what make my mobile phone was, and whether I had called the police for any other reasons recently... But I went along with it to try to get to the bottom of the situation. Then they asked "Are you not too bothered about this?" in a way that they clearly wanted me to say "I'm not too bothered". Of course I said "Yes I'm terrified I'm going to get violently raped"

Then they left telling me (a) to keep a diary of when the calls happen in future and (b) to give them a ring if there were further developments and (c) that they would send me a letter by the end of the week letting me know what was happening.

Not a very satisfactory state of affairs. I work in an industry where I'm forever giving my number out to anybody and everybody who might have work for me, so it's not really feasible to figure out who it is. I have a couple of potential suspicions but definitely no clear answer. Advice - legal and practical - very welcome.

What A Dumb-Ass Article!

I can't say I subscribe to the Journal of the Institute for Public Policy Research. They have won awards though for being the "think tank of the year" and they call themselves progressive so you would think their stuff would be worth a read. However before I even got as far as downloading the title article from their latest edition we hit a problem:

"Jean Edelstein, PPR reporter, argues that liberal middle class feminists are letting women down by frowning at rape and ‘honour’ killing headlines but not tackling this violence."

Shouldn't it be the police who tackle violence? Are we supposed to form a rampaging feminist army and march through the land? I'm up for it but I'm not sure it's the best approach.

Lets take the issues of rape and "honour" killing as two separate things (although I acknowledge rape as an "honour" crime is another well documented problem).

Rape affects women from all backgrounds - rich and poor, white and black and every other ethnicity. It IS offensive and wrong to suggest that rape is a a predominantly working class or minority ethnic problem. And that sort of thinking is one of the things that stops women coming forward because (a) they don't think they can have been a rape victim because they're white and middle class and (b) they feel they might bring their ethnic group into disrepute if they report.

"Honour" killing and "honour" violence (such as the murder of Banaz Mahmood, pictured) are problems which we see as being specific to certain cultures and communities. Now personally I see a very tight connection between the guy who murders his daughter because she refuses an arranged marriage and the (quite possibly white, middle class) guy who murders his wife when he finds out she's having an affair. It's men trying to control the women in their lives, particularly sexually. However the difference, at least in theory, is whether or not there is some support among the relevant community for those murders and the assumptions (sometimes valid, sometimes not) are that "honour" killing is done with the approval of the community and wife-murder isn't.

If however we accept that "honour" killing is a distinct issue affecting women in certain minority groups in the UK then how ridiculous for an article to blame that on white middle-class women! here's who might be to blame for "honour" killing: the actual murderers, other people from the communities where it happens who encourage the practice, those in these communities who help cover up the murders, religious and cultural leaders who condone it, police who fail to respond to calls, government officials who fail to provide adequate funding for safe houses and in-community policing, support and education, anti-feminists who spread the message that women should be treated as chattels. Here's who isn't to blame: me. I'm white and middle class and a feminist and I haven't "honour"-killed anybody, not for really ages. To say I frown on "honour" killing is like saying I think murder is naughty. No, I think it's an abomination and an outrage and if there is something I can do to prevent it - I will be there to do it right away. But there isn't.

Blaming other women for crimes committed by men against women is just a form of abuse of women. That it's being published by an organisation who claim to be a quality progressive think tank, is a disgrace.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Police Camera

Do not read this if you don't have a very strong stomach. Via Feministing, a US story. The issue of police mistreatment of women who come to them for help. The woman in the video was a victim of an assault of some sort, when they police arrived to sort it out - they accused her of disorderly conduct, arrest her and violently strip-search her with male officers. We've heard claims of this sort before, the difference here is - she's got it on video. If this doesn't lead to a large-scale review of police policy and all the officers involved facing criminal charges then it will be a major outrage.

And if they treat victims like this - imagine how they treat suspected criminals...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Real McCain

Seems like John McCain has wrapped up the Republican nomination and I am starting to feel very uncomfortable with the number of people telling me that he's "better than Romney, Huckerbee* or Guiliani". That's like being the world's most sophisticated Telly-Tubby - there isn't a prize!! McCain, let us not forget, wants to take America to war with Iran, Pakistan and very probably any number of other countries. Brave News Films have some coverage. Here are a few reasons to be very afraid of him:

Foreign Policy:
  • "Naive to exclude nukes; naive to exclude attacking Pakistan." (Aug 2007)
  • Supports repealing Roe v. Wade. (May 2007)
  • Voted YES on barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions. (Oct 2007)
  • Voted YES on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. (Jul 2006)
  • Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. (Mar 2005)
  • Voted YES on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime. (Mar 2004)
  • Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003)
  • Voted YES on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions. (Oct 1999)
  • Voted YES on banning human cloning. (Feb 1998)
Civil rights:
  • Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2002)
  • Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
  • Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996)
  • Voted YES on banning affirmative action hiring with federal funds. (Jul 1995)
Death Penalty
  • More death penalty; stricter sentencing. (Jan 2000)
  • Pro-death penalty; more prisons; increased penalties. (Jul 1998)
  • Voted YES on limiting death penalty appeals. (Apr 1996)
  • Voted YES on mandatory prison terms for crimes involving firearms. (May 1994)
  • Voted YES on rejecting racial statistics in death penalty appeals. (May 1994)
  • Voted NO on $52M for "21st century community learning centers". (Oct 2005)
  • Voted NO on $5B for grants to local educational agencies. (Oct 2005)
  • Voted NO on shifting $11B from corporate tax loopholes to education. (Mar 2005)
  • Voted NO on spending $448B of tax cut on education & debt reduction. (Apr 2001)
  • Voted YES on declaring memorial prayers and religious symbols OK at schools. (May 1999)
  • Voted YES on $75M for abstinence education. (Jul 1996)
  • Voted YES on requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer. (Jul 1994)
For a fuller version see On The Issues here. Also Johann Hari has a great piece about him.

*When I try to write Huckerbee on my computer my spell-checker tries to "correct" it to Bloodsucker.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Sorry for the rather sparse posting - although there is still heated debate going on about the benefits or not of bigger boobs on the post below - and my podcast, linked right, is alive and well too if you fancy a slightly political laugh. Failing that you can pass the time by looking at this adorable kitten... (she's called Pandora and is no longer mine - now in a good loving home...)

I am gearing up for tomorrow nights Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition - which if you still didn't hear - I'm in!! If you're London-based there are still tickets for the final if you click here. Or you should be able to pick one up on the door too.