Internation Women’s Day

March 8, 2010

It’s International Women’s Day
Good Things:
As everyone has already mentioned, Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar.

Boris Johnson has announced that three new Rape Crisis Centres will open in London this year, following the Boris Keep Your Promise campaign.

The Government has announced a new position concerning worldwide violence against women, filled by Baroness Kinnock.

But, all these good things come with bad.  First, Bigelow’s Oscar: At the F-Word, Amy Clare writes  how it’s taken

over eight decades for the representation of women in this illustrious category to leap from 0% to 1.2% (and it hardly needs pointing out that the representation of non-white, LGBTQI or disabled women still stands at 0%). That figure surely shows that however much it may be cause for celebration, Bigelow’s win also serves to remind us that Hollywood is still overwhelmingly dominated by white, straight, cis, able-bodied males.

in her article on Bigelow’s win. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville points out the “Battle of the Sexes” framing of the bloody seating plan (seating Bigelow next to her ex-husband, James Cameron) in her round up at Shakesville. And Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown has pointed out the coverage that Bigelow recieved for making a film about men.

Enough of the Arts. The fact that London will receive three new Rape Crisis centres is a good thing. The fact that it took a year’s campaigning to get them is not, nor is the fact that they are so needed.

And the UK government taking a more visible stance on gender inequality is great, but the gender inequality and violence against women in question, described in Action Aid’s report, is horrifying. Here are some examples:

1 in 3 women worldwide will be subject to violence at some time in their lives

and

60 million girls are sexually assaulted at or on their way to school each year.

This feels like a basic and cobbled together post, and has taken far too long too write.  But a moment of respect for all the women who are affected by gender inequality and violence against women, and for everyone who speaks out against it.

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Bisexuality, Pansexuality and general queerness

January 20, 2010

Hi, I’m Melusin , and when it’s the word people are most likely to understand I identify as bisexual. At other times I identify as “queer” or “pansexual”. Long story short I’ve realised now that I am attracted to more than one gender. But when I first came out, to myself and my family and my friends, in my teens, I identified as gay.

And I was glad, and am still glad, of the community I found from this, even when it was just me and a few similarly-sapphic friends at a girls school. When it was a few people recommending interesting books, and an older friend giving me a volume of Adrienne Rich when I came out to zim, or a volunteer at a youth theatre project telling me I was allowed write gay characters, and now, when I know many more LGBTQ people in real life and on the internet.. I valued being accepted by friends and family for what I was, and one of those friends was the man who’s now my primary partner, before I realised I was attracted to him or he realised I was attracted to me. I gained confidence from coming out, confidence from having an identity and confidence.

Without coming out as gay I wouldn’t have been comfortable with my sexuality at all. I don’t know that I’d have been comfortable coming out as genderqueer, or trans, or indeed been comfortable with myself enough to sustain a fulfilling relationship. I still think of myself as gay, sometimes, as I’m male identified and my primary relationship is with a man.

This post came from secretlysappho’s comment at Shakesville, on a post about a loathsome article entitled “The day I decided not to be gay” from the Times. secretlysappho commented: “I’d like to see a few more examples of bi- or straight-identifying people who once identified as gay NOT getting on a soapbox to talk about how pathetic we are.” So count me among them. I was glad to be gay, and am glad to have been gay, and glad I’m queer, and would probaly not be happily queer-identified if I hadn’t identified as gay in the first place. I get on the bi/pan/queer soapbox too much when I talk about this, as I do believe that gender or sex isn’t a key element of attraction FOR ME, but it is for some people. And it was realising I could be attracted to people of my biological sex was what started me along the path to believing this.

This is a little read blog which is hardly going to cause a major revolution in perceptions of homosexuality, or bisexuality for that matter, but I thought it was worth saying.

(Un) acceptable

December 3, 2009

TRIGGER WARNING: for mention of rape and mental illness.

Every now and again, on a geeky corner of the internet, or in a geeky corner of real life, I will come against a rape comparison that appears to present itself as not being offensive, but taking rape seriously. And I would like to call this bullshit. The one I come across most frequently when scrolling through fannish stuff, other than the “rape of the earth”, is in fandom for sci-fi, and it’s that “possession (demonic or angelic or by another being) is like a rape”. And it’s not. It is a un consensual loss of control, which is still bad, but not a rape.

Now I know whereof I speak about unconsensual loss of control of one’s mind and body. I have been under strong sedative drugs, had hypomania, suicidal depression, and psychosis, all of which have involved the scary sense of not being in control. It is not fun. It is a bad thing and scary and I seriously hope that no one else experiences it ever again.

But it’s not rape. Please don’t call it that.

Hate Crime/Equality Bill

November 26, 2009

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of hate crime. Have tried to keep it down to what’s in the article.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The writer is a queer, genderqueer, biologically female, disabled, fat, person, and therefore may have an agenda. So may mainstream media sources.

So, I visited those news sites that don’t have trigger warnings and are often not the most aware places in the world, the nicer variety of those (BBC and Guardian), and I found this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8378817.stm

It is an article on how the UK has the largest number of reported hate crimes, and how it might not really. I’m not really sure what to make of it. My cynicalprogressive brain thinks that parts of it seem to be leaning towards the political-correctness-gone-not-quite-mad-we’re-the-BBC-but-progressing-more-than-we-would-like and it seems to want to shift the attention towards “anti-social behaviour”. I also don’t like the following extracts:

Earlier this year the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her 18-year-old disabled daughter Francecca after being hounded by local youths in their home at Barwell, Leicestershire, saw their plight described by disability groups as a hate crime.

Neighbour Anne Jones told The Report she had no doubt her old friend was targeted because of her disabled daughter and son.

“It was terrible… It was going on for years because she had a disabled daughter – they picked on her,” she said.

But Julie and David Smith, who live a few doors along from Fiona Pilkington, said the same youths harassed and abused many residents in that locality.

and then

Many in Liverpool’s gay community believe trainee policeman James Parkes was targeted because of his homosexuality when he suffered multiple skull fractures after an attack in October.

The most recent figures from Merseyside Police show a 41% increase in homophobic attacks in the city and police are treating the assault as a homophobic crime.

But others we spoke to in Liverpool, claim to know a different version, alleging that Pc Parkes was beaten up after he intervened as an off-duty police officer because the gang had been causing problems with doormen.

If true, this version would turn an iconic hate crime into a still serious but altogether different kind of assault.

Both instances, “described by disability groups as a hate crime” and “many in Liverpool’s gay community believe” are the standard BBC undercutting trick, most recently used on their piece on fatphobia (to which they contribute) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8327753.stm

Both seem to point towards the “they’re just being too sensitive/paranoid” defense, especially with the other witnesses/voices being called being in one case, one couple and in another case “others we spoke to in Liverpool”, coming across as somewhat flimsy.

Then there’s the quotes from experts. The main gist seems to be that some crimes are prejudice, not hate crime. I’m fairly sure that anti-social behaviour based on something that a person is should count as an hate crime. To quote Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:

The prosecution of hate crimes requires special consideration because when someone is targeted for hir race, nationality, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, it has the potential to affect everyone who shares that identity in hir community, state, across the entire nation.

That’s to do with prosecution, but it also applies to the monitoring of hate crime in order to bring in such legislation, which is what the last part of the article’s about. The gist of the BBC article seems to be that

a) what are reported as hate crimes are just misread crimes/anti social behaviour and it’s difficult to tell what a hate crime is, because some might just be prejudice, which is a “much more expansive notion”

b) the explicitly stated ”

In fact there is no such thing in law as hate. Prosecutors have to prove hostility. The former director of public prosecutions has said this could mean antagonism, meanness or unfriendliness.

But if the victim or a witness believes the crime is motivated by some kind of hatred, it will be recorded as a hate crime.”

c) There is so much about hate crime that we do not know – such as its scale, whether it is increasing and if it really affects victims more than other crimes.

As mentioned above, hate crime terrorises, or has the potential to terrorise, an entire community. This, especially combined with the following passages:

This summer the government launched a massive hate action plan.

It is considering a host of ways to tackle hate crime – like establishing specialist hate crime courts, obliging all public bodies to record and report all hate crimes and incidents – getting schools to report all bullying with hate elements.

While well intentioned we may end up with a picture of the UK that is much more hateful than the reality and may not reduce the levels of this type of crime.

The dismissive tone “well intentioned” and the inclusion of the act of “getting schools to report all bullying with hate elements”, followed by this, pretty much makes me weep. Because the terrorising an entire community goes as far as schools- I was less willing to come out as queer because of homophobia in our society, and homophobic elements in the bullying of others at school. I still monitor the places I publicly identify myself as queer, by behaviour or otherwise, and will do so more if homophobic violence has happened in that area. Accounts of ablist bullying and hateful/prejudiced behaviour make me less likely to disclose my disabilities. Ditto outing myself as genderqueer. These things started when I was yea high, at school, and I really think the government doing something about it in schools, as well as in society in general, is a good idea. Outside my own experience, someone victimised because of their religion or race in a certain place will be more likely to feel unsafe in other places because of this, and this starts at school.

I think the timing of this article makes me especially suspicious- the next reading of the Equality Bill is next week, which covers protection for discrimination and harrassment, including in schools. Activists, myself included, are currently lobbying their MPs to vote for amendments to the Bill with regards to discrimination against transgender people, namely to change those protected in the Bill from those who have undergone gender reassignment to all transgender people (the majority of whom to not undergo gender reassignment), and to protect transgender school pupils from transphobic bullying. Possibly I am, genuinely, oversensitive in this respect, but a dismissal of hate crimes just before a piece of equality legislation looks like an attempt to dismiss concerns about prejudice, discrimination, and yes hate at a time when they can affect things.

(Given that the article said that hate crimes “can be anything from verbal abuse, graffiti all the way through to murder”)

NOTE: If you are a UK citizen and interested in lobbying your MP about the inclusion of all Transgender people in the Equality Bill, model letters are here: http://justfillingintheblanks.blogspot.com/