Well, hello
riot girl
Livejournal pissed me off so much with (a) the excessive spam, (b) failing to open pages even when asked very nicely indeed and (c) the advert which will soon return me to my Livejournal experience that I haven't posted for a while.

For those who have a hunger for grink, you can still find it at http://londonfeminist.com

ION: Cats still alive; cohab still alive; I'm still employed.  All these are good.  

riot girl
We've had them a fortnight.  They still don't have names.  But they are very very cute. 

Cat1 is more gregarious, first to the food every time, and keen on being cuddled.  Cat2 still doesn't enjoy being stroked or picked up, but will tolerate it from the Tuna Generating Hoomins. 

Both are capable of digesting tuna and fishy cat food without hawking it up like the last cat did - yay.

I hold some concern for the local wildlife once they're allowed outside. 

Today they're mostly spending fast asleep in a sunny spot and if they weren't basement kittehs, they'd look angelic.

Sheila Jeffreys and That Debate Again
riot girl
 I’m a cisgendered radical feminist. I’m not transphobic.

For some people, those two sentences are just incompatible. I was slightly hurt (yeah, call me butthurt) when a friend made reference on her blog to “the transphobic feminists,” as though we’re all one hive mind. But from time to time, I see why.

So today’s facepalm of the day goes to Sheila Jeffreys, for this article on the Radfem Hub. Now, I don’t have 38 years experience as a radical feminist, largely because I’m not yet 38 years old, but here’s why I disagree so strongly with her.

She argues that trans* people are targeted as children, that once a small child steps outside the pink / blue gender boundaries delineated for them at birth, a cackling horde of transactivists in white coats are ready to pounce and forcibly realign them into the opposite gender in order to keep the gender boundary alive. She compares the existence of transgendered people to the forced sterilisation of “unfit persons” in the first half of the twentieth century, the majority of whom were of course women.

She offers three strands to support this assertion: the forces which create the practice, the choice of victims and the removal of reproductive activity.

This of course ignores the most important dissimilarity: choice.

The force which creates, if creates is the right word, transgendered people, are those people themselves. Jeffreys suggests that

"Those who do not conform to gender rules, and homosexuals, are surgically reconstructed to fit in."

Really? Because last time I wandered down Canal Street, there were plenty of homosexuals who were not being surgically reconstructed. As a lesbian there has never been any sort of pressure on me to transition – and the statistics make such a proposition ludicrous: if Jeffreys were right, then the proportion of gay men and women transitioning would be much, much higher.

She goes on to say that

"Any challenge to the idea of gender threatens the main justification for the subordination of women."

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. But if we take the premise that transgenderism occurs to keep alive the male-dominated system of male supremacy / female submission, then how do we explain MTF transition (which doesn’t really feature in her article.) How about the genderqueers? What of the transwomen who ID as butch, or the “trannyfag” phenomenon of the deliberately effeminate gay transman? Transgendered people are not as binary as Jeffreys likes to think, and if she were right that the system is created by and for binary-obsessed cis men, there would be no room for these people. But there clearly is.

Where else do we go with the comparison between trans* and forced sterilisation? Ah, that’s right, "a similar set of victims, lesbians and gay men." I see no evidence, and Jeffreys offers none, to suggest that lesbians and gay men are more likely to be trans* than straight or bisexual men and women. (It’s also discordant with her final point, discussed below, which is that very small children are ‘targeted’ for treatment. As many gay and bisexual people can tell her, children are presumed to be heterosexual.)

All this is a form of eugenics, she argues, forced onto boys, girls, men and women who put a foot outside the narrow gender boundaries of our society:

"Another similarity lies in the result of transgenderism, i.e. the removal of reproductive capacity."

This will come as news to Thomas Beatie, the transman who recently gave birth to his third child, or to the trans women who have stored sperm in anticipation of reproductive urges in the future. Many trans people opt not to have surgery, or make arrangements for the storage of eggs or sperm for the future. The idea that being trans equals “the removal of reproductive capacity” is as risible as the once-common theory that gay men and women “couldn’t” have children.

Jeffrys argues that the element of choice which distinguishes trans* identity further than anything else (and let’s face it, there’s plenty) from eugenics is a fallacy. We’re familiar with the fallacy of choice (will you be a working mother or a stay at home mum? presumes that you will be a mother at all, for example, and likewise the “choice” to do something harmful may not be a choice freely made; if society says you’re only sexy in painful heels, how free is your choice to wear them?). Jeffreys places the choice to transition in this latter category:

"the offer by the medical profession of in [sic] the present of transgenderism as a cure for the extreme psychological distress that those who suffer anxieties created by the gender system can experience can be seen as an inducement that negates the idea that the practice is freely chosen."

However, this is simply to ignore two things: firstly, it is jolly hard to transition, and the medical profession certainly doesn’t “offer” it around to anybody experiencing “anxiety.” It is a process initiated by the patient, not by the doctor. Indeed, the experiences of trans people (presumably Jeffreys felt little need to actually consult any for her article) described on blogs and websites would suggest that doctors are very reluctant to diagnose gender dysphoria. Secondly, to conflate “anxiety” over the gender system with gender dysphoria is to conflate two very different things.

I was not a frilly child. I can confidently say that there have been stage of my life where I “suffered anxieties created by the gender system.” (I wrote terribly angsty poetry about it as a teenager. I’ll spare you those.) I’ve never once doubted that I am a woman. Julie Bindel, something of an acolyte of Jeffreys, has suggested that her own childhood reluctance to play dolls and wear pink would get her forcibly gender-reassigned these days, and Jeffrey’s article echoes this in her concern for the children:

"In the UK in 2011 the government agreed to an experiment in which puberty blockers will be administered to children identified as failing to conform to the rules of gender from 12 years old." 

She goes on to say that administering puberty blockers to children is to negate consent, as the children are too young to give informed consent.

However, unlike Jeffreys and Bindel, I don’t believe that my experience of being a non-frilly girl is exactly the same as every unfrilly girl’s experience and that the experience of a transboy is the same as that of an unfrilly girl. Despite the pinkification of girls, there is clearly plenty of room for tomboys and for sporty girls, girls in jeans, girls in science, girls with ambition, girls with short hair, and girls who stretch the gender boundaries in every other way, and as a society we are slowly becoming more accepting of boys who are unboyish.

The haircuts and the clothes and the toys and the interests are all, I believe, fripperies. These are a manifestation only of our conscious gender: I am a girl; girls like pink; I like pink. If girls were meant to love green, pink wouldn’t get a look-in. If young girls were being ‘forced’ to transition because they fail to meet the expectations of conscious gender, I would agree that this is a dreadful thing.

But I prefer Julia Serrano’s definition of ‘subconscious’ gender, a more abstract part of us which (regardless of the conscious gender-specifications of the day) tells us what our gender is. There must, I think, be such a thing; otherwise, how to explain the case of David Reimer? Why else would more effeminate gay men not transition, and more butch women? I might not be a frilly girl (what I’ve described in the past as gendermeh) but my subconscious gender is female. I can entertain the thought that other people’s subconscious gender does not match their assigned gender. It’s not my experience, but my experience is not universal.

One quick word on Jeffrey’s point that “puberty blockers will be administered to children identified as failing to conform to the rules of gender from 12 years old.” This, no doubt deliberately, suggests that children will be identified by shadowy authorities and compelled to have gender reassignment. That is not true. It’s exceptionally rare and will only be done for children who have expressed gender dysphoria at a very young age, and simply delays puberty. This “targeting the children” concern trolling was nonsense when it was applied to homosexuals in the 1980s and it’s nonsense now. I’ll also point out that children at 12 are generally considered capable of giving informed consent to other medical procedures.

There is, I’ll concede, room for feminist debate about transgender issues. Why should “living as a woman” mean some sort of 1950s housewife role in make-up and skirts, would be one such question. What constitutes “a woman” for the purposes of women only space is always a fun one (where by ‘fun’ I mean ‘generally futile.’) There are plenty more.  I'd love to have those discussions without first having to argue about whether trans* people exist: that ship, my friends, has sailed.

I think it’s pretty clear that transitioning, contrary to Jeffrey’s views, is led by the individual not by the medical profession. If she were right, and medics were pushing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria onto those who were not dysphoric as punishment for disregarding conscious gender boundaries, then there would be a) more than one clinic treating kids, b) many more clinics for adults and c) a lot of very unhappy post-transition people suing the shirt off the charlatan who diagnosed them. There aren’t. That means that the decision to transition is a “choice” at least insofar as it’s patient-led not medic-led. In other words, to respect the identity of a trans* person is to respect their autonomy. And as far as I’m concerned, the most radical thing a rad fem can do and can call for, is respect for the autonomy of other women, not denial of it.

[Postscript:  it occurs to me that this post could potentially be seen as just as problematic as Jeffreys' one, in terms of being a "here is my view on someone else's identity" post.  I wrote it because I think it's important that cis people challenge other cis people's views, in the same way that it's important that men challenge misogyny and straight people challenge homophobia.  I hope it's come across in the way it was intended.]

Another Ugandan lesbian facing removal
riot girl
Grink to mayt@parliament.uk

Help yourselves.  If this reminds you strongly of a blog entry I wrote in January, that's because it's depressingly similar.   

Dear Home Secretary

I am horrified to see the news that once again, UKBA have decided to return a gay woman, Betty Tibikawa, to Uganda. She has scarring on her legs consistent with her account of having been branded as punishment for her sexuality. UKBA, with their customary logic, have refused her asylum.

Uganda is not a safe place for LGBT people or those who are perceived as LGBT. In January this year, only five months ago, David Kato was beaten to death in his home, after being pictured in a tabloid paper under the headline “Hang Them!” in an article calling for the murder of homosexuals. David Bahati, a prominent Ugandan MP, has been campaigning for an anti-homosexuality bill. Whilst it didn’t pass, it did foment public opinion and government condemnation of homosexuality.

If you google for Ms. Tibikawa’s name, you will find ten pages of hits, all of which describe her as a lesbian.

At that stage, it doesn’t matter where she is on the Kinsey scale. She is perceived to be a lesbian and as such will be at risk.

So UKBA are returning a Ugandan lesbian - at the very least a perceived lesbian - to a country which wants to introduce the death penalty for homosexuality, where the tabloids call for lynching (with "no regrets"), only a few months after a gay rights activist is murdered.

Any claimed commitment by your government to human rights cannot sound even slightly credible when Uganda's murderous homophobes have what amounts to tacit support from you.

When UKBA say they do not believe claimants are gay, they bolster Bahati's ludicrous claims that Ugandans are never homosexual, or if they are, that it is a "learned behaviour" that can be unlearned.

When representatives of our state say that homophobic attack is not a ground for asylum, they tell hatemongering tabloids that homophobic attacks are not that serious.

If you allow this removal to go ahead, you hand Bahati and his allies a powerful tool of silent support.

Commitment to LGBT rights (or any human rights) doesn't begin and end at home. It's also how we treat asylum seekers, and the messages we send to oppressive governments.

As the Home Secretary and the Minister for Equalities, you have a unique power. If you intervene to stop this removal, not only do you prevent one woman from being abused and tortured as she clearly has been in the past, but also to prevent more people from suffering in the same way, by indicating to governments abroad that this is not behaviour the UK supports.

Please intervene to stop this removal and to grant Ms. Tibikawa asylum.

David Cameron is a muppet
riot girl
 Another day, another scandalous superinjunction.  John Famous has got an injunction preventing disclosure of details of an affair he's been having.  The court, granting it, agreed inter alia that the little Famous children should be protected from the effects they would suffer if their father's bedhopping were publicised.

The media luvvies are unhappy: baw ur free press.  The Mail is particularly pissed off, so much so that they felt compelled to print pictures of the Jamie Bulger killers again, which always cheers them up.  The Guardian, which should know better, has indulged in a little bout of pearl-clutching, gasping that this creates a "two tier system" for those with children.

David Cameron has got in on the act, too, saying that 

"What's happening here is that the judges are using the European convention on human rights to deliver a sort of privacy law without parliament saying so."

Well.  Up to a point, Lord Copper.  

The element about children is misleading - the story was judged not to be in the public interest in any event.  To publicise gossip which is not in the public interest AND which will cause misery to children seems particularly malicious.  

Cameron just needs a bit of a slap around the head with "a sort of privacy law" - namely Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.  This states that "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."

It was introduced, of course, by Parliament.

Death by dangerous cycling
riot girl
 The Commons are today to hear a proposal to extend penalties for cyclists who kill pedestrians.  BBC news report here.  It refers back to the sad case of a 17 year old girl who was run down on the pavement on the road by Jason Howard, riding his bike, who said "Move 'cos I'm not stopping" before riding into her.  She died of head injuries six days later.  He was convicted of dangerous cycling and fined £2,200.

According to the DfT, in 2009, 2,222 people were killed on the roads.  500 of them were pedestrians, 104 were cyclists, 472 motorcyclists and 1,059 car occupants.  

By contrast, about 0.5 people per year are killed by cyclists.  (One per two years or so.)  A pedestrian is much, much more likely to be killed by a motorist mounting the pavement.  Which is why this part of the article made me lolsob:

The Conservative MP said: "Imagine if a motorist had mounted the pavement and killed a schoolgirl as she chatted to her friends.

"The motorist would have felt the full force of the law and there would have been a national outcry if such a person had walked away with a fine."

The full force of the law, eh?

Just like John Ashbrook felt the full force of the law after he hit Adrianna Skryzypiec and dragged her for 140m, killing her.  No further action taken.

Just like Joao Lopes, who felt the full force of the law after he crushed Eilidh Cairns to death.  Fined £200.

Just like Robert Harris, who felt the full force of the law after he skidded into the Rhyl cycling club on three bald tyres, killing four of them.  Fined £180.

Just like Keith Wilson, full force of the law again for careless driving in which a cyclist was killed.  £150 fine.

Just like Michael Thorn, who crushed Emma Foa with his lorry.  £300 fine.

Yeah.  Like the MP says, just imagine if that had been a motorist.  He wouldn't have been fined nearly so much as £2,200.

Edit:  Thanks to Honest John of YACF who pointed out that the victim was actually on the road, not the pavement.  It doesn't excuse the cyclist, who could and should have slowed down, but it does make the MP's comments factually inaccurate.

Soup run? Grink run.
riot girl
The consultation is open until 25 March on Westminster's soupbrained plans.  Do email areeves1@westminster.gov.uk with your own response if you wish to do so.

Dear Sir or Madam

I understand there is an ongoing consultation with regard to the proposed byelaw ostensibly on rough sleeping and soup runs.

My first objection is compassionate. Westminster cannot seriously believe that people sleep rough because soup might be available. It's pretty common knowledge that what keeps people street-homeless is not soup, but drug dependancy, alcohol dependancy, social or behavioural problems, mental health difficulties, breakdowns in relationships, and any number of difficult social issues more expensive to solve than a soup run.

My second is legal. This is an appalling bit of drafting. Introduce this and you have inadvertently banned sunbathing in the parks in summer; fainting in public; falling asleep on the bus; being epileptic; buying a round of drinks and handing them to friends in Soho Square; a parent giving biscuits to his or her children / children's friends; the Vegan Society's habit of giving out vegan food (other than near to retail premises selling the same); the Hare Krishna; the Diet Coke Girls; the distribution of bottled water at tube stations in summer; promotional lollipops and sharing a bag of crisps.

Did you really mean to ban those? Really?

Now let's turn to what you did mean to ban - distributing soup to the homeless - and note the two giant loopholes: there is no way to ban the distribution of money which can then be used to purchase soup for a token sum, although I suppose if you're nostalgic for the old "nasty party" soubriquet you could then have them for trading without a licence, and there is no stipulation that the charge must be financial.

In short: what a silly idea.

Best regards


No promotional lollipops for Westminster
riot girl
 Westminster Council, presumably short of things to do, have resuscitated their old plans to outlaw soup runs on the basis that it “encourages homelessness.” Quite apart from the manifest absurdity of this suggestion (of the many factors causing street-homelessness; the availability of the odd cup of soup doesn’t make the top ten) there is a political will to ban soup runs because they attract crowds of homeless people, many of whom might be prone to begging, drunkenness, drug abuse or simply cluttering the place up. Westminster values tourism more than the homeless, and to help (as opposed to hide) the homeless costs money.

And money is something they’re clearly very short of, because they couldn’t afford to pay someone to draft their proposed byelaw. They had to rely on the work experience kid who’d just begun a GCSE in law, with the assistance of the bloke who’d come in to unblock the bogs.

Or at least, that’s what I assume happened, from the quality of the draft.

Here’s the fail:

s.3(1) No person shall lie down or sleep in or on any public place.

Whoops, we’ve just abolished summer sunbathing in Hyde Park. Also, make sure you don’t fall asleep on the night bus.

s.4(1) No person shall distribute any free refreshment in or on any public place.

s.4(2) No person shall knowingly permit any person to distribute any free refreshment in or on any public place.

What constitutes free? According to s.1 of the draft byelaw, “refreshments are free if they are distributed without charge to the persons to whom they are distributed.”

But there is nothing to stop anybody from distributing 1p pieces while the soup run charges 1p per soup. The soup run could also “charge” a handshake. There’s no stipulation that the consideration must be financial.

Of course the other issue with this is the definition of “distribute” – s.1 helpfully clarifies: ““distribute free refreshments” means give them out or offer to make them available to, [sic] members of the public.”

If I buy a round of drinks at the Edge Bar and distribute them in Soho Square to my friends, am I breaking the byelaw? Technically, yes.

How about a parent who has a child plus that child’s friends and their parents out for a birthday treat, and hands round biscuits when they get crotchety? Impermissible. Level 2 fines all round.

Shops who give out samples of food or drink to passers-by? There is some exception made for them under s.5(c) which confirms an exception where “the distribution is of samples of refreshments and is carried out for marketing purposes on land adjacent to retail premises in which the same refreshments are available for sale.”

But it would penalise the Vegan Society who turn up in Covent Garden with delicious tasty vegantastic food to tempt people over to the green side, because they’re not always next to a retail premises.

It would stop the bottled water companies handing out free bottled water to tube passengers during a heatwave. Likewise the “Diet Coke girls” who hand out promotion mini-cans of cola. The carshare company who are currently handing out blue lollipops with their leaflets. Potentially, we’re talking about stopping the tea-and-biscuits in the vestibule after church, if you’re a Westminster churchgoer.

What a giant load of cobblers this is. Its broad brush approach criminalises people going about their legitimate business whilst leaving a nice big loophole for those it was aimed at. A plan thought up by those who lack compassion, drafted by those who lack comprehension, and no doubt to be implemented by agencies who lack cohesion.

Sex offended
riot girl

So, the ruling on the sex offenders register is finally being implemented.  Given the media response, you'd have thought the Supreme Court judges had personally released every sex offender in Britain straight into a children's playground.  I can see that the case was an unappealing one: two registered sex offenders, one who was eleven years old himself when he raped a boy of six, and one a man who had abused his daughter, went to court over the lack of access to any form of review.  

If someone is given more than a 30-month sentence (i.e. committed a very serious crime; this would not apply to the oft-cited hypothetical case of a 17-year-old boy having consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl) they are placed on the Sex Offenders Register, where quite frankly they belong.  There is then no mechanism to apply to come off it, and it is this which the Supreme Court agreed was a breach of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.  Not, you will note, being on the register, but having no way to ask to be taken off.  The court was perfectly aware that applications may rarely be successful.

David Cameron said he thought this was "appalling."  Theresa May said two interesting things:

"It places the rights of sex offenders above the right of the public to be protected from the risk of reoffending"

Eh?  No it doesn't.  It places their right to ask for a review above the right of the public to be protected from the risk of them asking.

"This Government is determined to do everything we can to protect the public from predatory sexual offenders, and so we will make the minimum possible changes to the law in order to comply with this ruling."

This government, on arriving into power, suggested granting anonymity to rape defendants as distinct from any other defendants, perpetuating the myth that women lie about rape and potentially doing quite a lot to protect predatory sexual offenders from the risk of such persecutory behaviour as prosecution.  Thankfully, they shelved it.

This government presides over a system in which between 75 - 95% of rapes are never reported to the police (HMCPS & HMIC, 2007), and of those that are, a quarter are 'no-crimed' by the police, usually those which involve rape by an acquaintance.  

This government should know that conviction rates hover around the 5 - 6% mark, largely because research indicates that between a quarter and a third of jurors think a woman was sometimes to blame if she was raped if she had been drinking, flirting or was dressed in sexy clothing, or if she had many partners (the myth of implied consent.)

And this government has taken no steps at all to change any of that, although they could very easily reintroduce the rape shield brought in by the Youth Criminal Justice & Evidence Act 1999 - which was almost immediately torn apart by the courts to the extent that is now meaningless.  

They could mandate understanding of consent as part of PHSE or sex education on the national curriculum.  There are all sorts of things they could do.

However, this government is composed mainly of people of a similar age, class and background to the barristers interviewed for this article for the Journal of Law and Society, which includes such gems as describing victims as "scrubbers" and maintaining that rape (of an ex-partner) "is really not a terrible offence."  And those barristers were experienced rape prosecutors.  

And that is why, when I hear that this government is "determined" to do everything they can to protect the public from sex offenders, I wonder what "indifference" might look like.

Processed meat product on LJ
riot girl
 I've just deleted half a dozen spam comments, all on historic posts.  Anybody else getting this?  So far it's mainly been designer handbags and Russian pr0n.   

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