Tag Archives: Politics

Election 2015: Play Nice – “Pile On!” is for the Playground

On the eve of election day, I took to Twitter to push my views in other people’s faces. After all, that’s what Twitter’s for, right?

This election will be a first for me – I will not be voting Lib Dem. I still believe in their ideology, but unfortunately Clegg chucked it under a bus, so as a proud employee of the NHS I will be voting Labour tomorrow and hoping against hope for a new government on Friday morning #VoteNHS.

I despise the Tories (I am Scottish, so it was bred-in), however way above them in the scumbag stakes, and way below in my estimation, comes Farage’s UKiP.

No amount of slippery rhetoric can get around the fact that, with the BNP effectively neutered, their cohorts have gone in two distinct directions: UKiP and the EDL. Or both. This does not forgive or forget the numerous faux pas of other parties’ candidates, however the Daily Mirror’s video of a UKiP candidate threatening to shoot a Tory candidate purely on the basis of racism makes all others pale by comparison. If you haven’t had the displeasure, the link to Robert Blay’s outrageous outpouring is here.

So, I duly added my cyber voice to the @hopenothate Thunderclap using the hashtag #NotVotingUKiP. Unsurprisingly, the kippers are out in force trying to tear down those using the hashtag, alongside a fair number of professional and wannabe Trolls who just can’t face not being the most hated show in town. What was surprising was the poor quality of the Trolling – I am either not interesting enough or do not rise to the bait properly anymore (as I write about Gender Equality this is not my first rodeo).

Luvvie

Fairly lackluster.

Meanwhile in a different Twittersphere, and unknown to me, a young feminista was being “piled on” in an attempt to shut her up after someone sympathetic shared a post where @staywithgrace gave her personal reasons for not voting for UKiP. The main issue I have with Twitter is how easily someone can summon their friends/minions/cohorts to an argument to back them up and attempt to silence the person at the other side of the argument, not with facts and figures or considered opinions, but with weight of numbers. That is, of course, a classic bullying tactic. And ironically one that UKiP will probably be most proud of. When the barrage finally made Grace say she was not going to engage further her new ‘friend’ cyber cheered to all his Twitter inclusions by calling her a victim.

Goodbye Victim

 

But don’t worry – the boy can multitask:

Harrass

While the first (and arguably worst) onslaught was cut off, like the mythical hydra three more heads rose in its place. Being that the initial post came from *shock horror * a woman – and self confessed feminist – the assault inevitably turned sexual in nature. No better way to shut a woman up than by trying to slut-shame her into the bargain, right? Our friend @hattondog appears to have removed the initial tweet to all his cronies saying Grace was sending him “filthy” private messages, but the response remains:

Gender

Others suggested she “make them a sandwich” andbemoaned the “terrible” treatment of convicted rapist Chad Evans.

I had already sent Grace a couple of supportive Tweets, but this last one got my goat and I entered the fray! I was riled, so I was almost disappointed when the best @hattondog could muster was the following:

Bedtime

The fight continues on Grace’s page just now – a person I have never met but feel hugely connected to as I have experienced some fairly hardcore Trolling myself on the #HeforShe facebook page. One guy sent my literally hundreds of messages, cramming my inbox with his woman-hating, “feminists are Nazis and here is the proof” propaganda. Like somehow I was going to decide not to be a woman anymore and just shut up.

It started because he ‘liked’ The Launch of  the Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… nights, ostensibly because we promote gender equality through male and female creatives working in collaboration. He messaged saying how great we were, unlike ‘evil feminists’, and I corrected him explaining I am a feminist but that does not mean man hating – taking me back to an old post I wrote called The F Word. The result was a deluge of material, too much to read, digest and respond to. Which of course is the point. You can’t respond, or can’t fully appraise yourself of everything you have had thrown at you quickly enough to reply citing all the ways in which they are wrong. So they chalk it up as a victory – as Grace found out today. I tried ignoring it, assuming my guy would get bored and move on, but oh no, he continued to inundate me.

Realising the thing he desperately wanted was my engagement I continued to ignore him (through very gritted teeth) as he likened me to Nazis and genocidal dictators. While that likely frustrated him it equally frustrated me as I was effectively STILL BEING SILENCED! Finally I composed a well thought through, even-handed response to him explaining I do not have enough hours in the day to wade through his screeds of ‘evidence’, and that perhaps we had best agree to disagree. The response I received was surprising. Not vitriol, not a redoubling of his efforts to bury me and my account under a weight of cyber info. Shockingly it was a very emotional outpouring, accusing me of failing to listen to him, of not valuing him. I could paste what was written here, but despite his behaviour what he told me was very personal and revealing and I wouldn’t feel right about doing so. Up until that point I had assumed I was dealing with a professional Troll, someone who is not particularly invested in the fight but enjoys the reaction they get. In reality this was a fairly damaged human being – one I entirely disagreed with, but who seemingly felt entirely voiceless and had a pathalogical need to be heard by women who, given the forum he chose, were inevitably going to disagree with him.

This feeling of being voiceless, of being silenced, is therefore one that is strangely shared on both sides of the argument, and perhaps this is the appeal of political parties like UKiP. There are large numbers in their ranks who are bigots and sexists, but it would be a mistake to assume all fall neatly under that banner – though it may be more comforting to make that assumption. The fact is that people feel so removed from the political process, and so powerless, that fringe parties are picking up votes from unexpected places. The political power of fear should not be underestimated, and all three of the big parties have lost so much respect and broken so many promises in the past that the electorate are looking for alternatives. The Greens will likely (and hopefully) pick up seats tomorrow, with the Lib Dems expected to take heavy losses. With the Tories balancing uncomfortably between their natural base and some more forward-thinking policies (supporting marriage equality for example) some of their voter base are looking for alternatives, and some have allowed the blinkers to go on so that they can ignore the fact that UKiP is a party that includes a huge racist/xenophobic/sexist element.

After a long period of financial and political uncertainty – the recession, the coalition, austerity – I suspect that what everybody really wants is some stability. What I want is a government that values the NHS, immigration and equality, and one that recognises taxing the middle to fund the rich is a recipe for disaster.

At work today, I asked my colleagues what would happen if all the “immigrants” decided to take the day off work tomorrow. My hospital would certainly grind to a halt – we would not even be able to muster the bare minimum of staffing required to run our wards, full as they are of inpatients who were largely born in this country and are primarily cared for by people originally born overseas. If we included two generations as the Nazis did, or three as the BNP did, the place would be empty and I would also be at home. Even if there were people ‘eligible’ to come to work, there would be no public transport to bring them. This idea that ‘our’ country is overcrowded with benefit-hungry foreigners is an absolute nonsense: the vast majority of immigrants work, pay their taxes, and contribute to the welfare state that the Tories have yet to successfully destroy. Recent economic studies have dispelled the myth over and over, showing that immigrants contribute far more to the country financially that they take out of it. It is all scaremongering – look over there, it’s his fault you don’t have a job! Those than can work should, those that can’t through no fault of their own should be looked after, because that is what a civilised society does:

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”

So, for the first time in my adult life, I am voting for Labour tomorrow. I hope, whoever you vote for, you are voting for Hope not Hate and #NotVotingUKIP.

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The F Word

Feminism.  Is this still a dirty word in the modern age?  Many women (and men) I know who hold the tenets of the women’s rights movement dear are still uncomfortable being saddled with the title of ‘Feminist’, laden as the term is, with many still ascribing it to angry women who just don’t like men.

This of course could not be further from the truth: women who fall under the banner are variously in relationships with men, are mothers to sons, and have fathers and brothers they love. It is not about ‘us versus them’, it is about rights, and equal and fair treatment regardless of gender, creed, colour, race, religion or sexuality is one we should all have without having to ask.  The definition of Feminism, in fact, is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women”.

Unfortunately, although we have come a very long way, there is further to go.  Women are still under represented in almost all professions, and even in occupations where we have a long history of representation there is still a dearth of women at the top.  This holds true in all levels of Government including – as reported in The Guardian – The House of Commons:

“The House of Commons has 650 MPs. Of these 650, there are 504 male MPs, so women are seriously underrepresented.”

There are many who would draw a parallel between the rights of women in the Western world and that of their counterparts in other countries.  You need only look at the case of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teen activist who was recently shot in the head for daring to demand that she be allowed an education, to see where the difference lies.  However, equality is not a contest, and just because other women face tougher challenges that does not mean we should accept being treated as a minority in a country where women make up 51% of the population.  Rather we should be blazing a trail for these women, and supporting them in their struggles while still challenging inequality wherever we find it.  Also, we in the West are not as enlightened as we think. Only this week I read two articles that concerned women’s rights issues, and both gave me pause.

Firstly I read Rebecca Watson‘s excellent article “It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too” in The Slate.  When she opted to speak publicly about Feminism and her first-hand experience of sexism in her professional field she was treated to a hate campaign that would have sent many into a hole never to return.  One suspects this was the intention.

My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page. Twitter accounts were made in my name and used to tweet horrible things to celebrities and my friends.

What was particularly disturbing about her article was how brazen her critics were and are, not even thinking to anonymise threats and attacks.  This in itself shows that the problem is endemic, and the fact that women are being ostracised for daring to speak out about such treatment frankly beggars belief.

The second article was in The Guardian, written by Jill Filipovic and with the stand-out title “The real Republican rape platform“.  This was nothing short of terrifying as it showcased some incredibly disturbing comments made by both men and women in the Republican Party ahead of the US elections.  Whatever your views on abortion, most will find it shocking.  Being that I am pro-choice, I was gobsmacked.  Let us begin with Richard Mourdock:

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Familiar as I am with the pervasiveness of right-wing Christianity in American politics, some of the quotes in Filipovic’s article still made me check the date on the article.  Was this written in the 1950s?  Nope, definitely 2012.  Despite senior Republicans disowning these remarks, Indiana senatorial candidate Mourdock has as yet refused to retract them – though he did make an ‘apology’ of sorts (no doubt with an arm twisted up his back) for “any interpretation other than what I intended”.  I consoled myself with the fact that this opinion was coming from a man, someone for whom women’s rights are not important, and also with the fact that even Romney and his ilk wanted to distance themselves from his views.  Surely he is a lone voice?  Sadly no.  Cue a quote from the Tea Party’s Sharron Angle, a female Republican senate candidate who believes abortion should be outlawed, even in the case of rape and/or incest:

“she insisted that a young girl raped by her father should know that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Much good can come from a horrific situation like that, Angle added. Lemons can be made into lemonade.”

Much good can come from a horrific situation like that.  That is her true belief.  Understandably this statement has made a lot of people very angry. Add these comments to those of “legitimate rape” exponent Todd Akin, Roger Rivard who tells us “Some girls rape easy“, and those of Douglas Henry who believes that “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was” and you begin to feel that the whole world has disappeared through some kind of time portal to the dark ages, where women were chattel and had no say over their body or choices.  How much more enlightened then is our Western world compared to that of our Middle-Eastern sisters?

Thankfully, in this dialogue almost entirely dominated by men (according to 4th Estate 81% of people quoted about abortion in election news stories between November 2011 and May 2012 were male) some opposition voices have come to the fore.  President Obama, when asked by Jay Leno for his thoughts on the ‘rape debate’, replied:

“Rape is rape – it is a crime – and so these various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me, don’t make any sense to me. The second thing this underscores though is this exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women’s healthcare”

Lena Dunham and Tina Fey have also spoken strongly on the issue, with the former recording a video endorsement for Obama and the latter speaking at the center for reproductive rights:

“if I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a $2 haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m going to lose my mind.”

Lesley Gore has re-recorded her 1964 hit “You Don’t Own Me” to encourage women to get out and vote at the US elections on 6th November.  It shows a variety of women singing along followed by some shocking facts about Republican plans to remove funding from Planned Parenthood, shut down all family planning services and repeal affordable care – all actions that would primarily impact women.  This attempt to remove any prospect of choice, along with the means to prevent unwanted pregnancies, is a workaround as the Republicans know they can’t just outlaw abortion overnight.  That’s right, the Pro Life lobby are so Pro Life that they don’t even want you to have safe sex!  Aren’t we overpopulated enough as it is?! They even want women to have to disclose to their employer their reasons for being on birth control, an idea which if it ever became law (perish the thought) would surely discourage women from taking precautions.  Will these measures prevent unmarried couples having sex?  Hell no, but at least they will suffer the STIs, unwanted pregnancies and stigma that they clearly deserve…

On an election theme, CNN also published an article (and quickly retracted it) stating that women who are ovulating are more likely to vote Liberal as they will be feeling ‘sexier’.  Yes that’s right, rather than staying home and having all that sinful sex you are still able to safely have (and if the Republicans win you’d better make the most of it), the hot-to-trot ladies will be off to the polls to cast a lustful vote for the incumbent President.  The article, referred to as “craptastically craptastic” on the Daily Kos, is utterly ridiculous – however I do urge you to read it as it really does beggar belief.  It does, however, attempt some balance by asking the opinion of Susan Carroll (professor of political science and women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University) who, unsurprisingly, is not convinced:

“There is absolutely no reason to expect that women’s hormones affect how they vote any more than there is a reason to suggest that variations in testosterone levels are responsible for variations in the debate performances of Obama and Romney”

Carroll sees the research as following in the tradition of :

“the long and troubling history of using women’s hormones as an excuse to exclude them from politics and other societal opportunities…It was long thought that a woman shouldn’t be president of the U.S. because, God forbid, an international crisis might happen during her period!”

So, in a nutshell, if you think that Feminism has no real relevance for those of us in the First World, I beg you to reconsider.  The articles I have cited are but a few of those I read or consulted whilst writing this post, and the sheer volume of polarising pap in the run up to the US elections should give anyone, regardless of their political persuasion, pause for thought.  The attitudes and opinions expressed certainly bring a few F words to mind, but surprisingly Feminism is not top of the list.

********

Since posting this I have come across an ‘Ad’ from Todd Akin where a rape survivor endorses him.  You can watch it here.  Presumably as she got pregnant she was not “legitimately raped”…