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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

BBC.... what is this shit?

The BBC has a nice Have Your Say section where they can pose a question for reasoned and considered debate. Currently they have several running - the BA strike, airbrushing in adverts, when self-defence goes to far, should homosexuals face execution.

Wait.

What?

"Should homosexuals face execution?"

Why is this even a matter for debate? Why is it even considered an acceptable question to ask? Regardless of world politics, is this EVER a question that should be presented as something to be considered, reasoned, balanced? Is this ever a question where, by golly, we want to hear your opinion - kill the homos or not?

No matter what was happening in the world, there is no bloody way the BBC would have the question "Should black people face execution?"

No matter what laws were proposed in any country, the BBC wouldn't even consider asking "Should Jews face execution?"

Even at its most bigoted, the BBC would never ask readers to send in their opinions on whether we should kill muslims. They'd never ask us to send opinions on persecuting to death Asian people.


This is beyond outrageous. This is giving a level of legitimacy to the most toxic form of hate. This is presenting arguing whether we have the right to exist as a reasoned question - as a question for debate!


I have a right to LIVE damn it! I have a right NOT to be killed. We do not deserve being imprisoned and executed for daring to love, for existing! This is NOT a legitimate position. This is NOT a position for reasoned argument. This is WRONG and can you PLEASE stop sending the bloody message that our lives are worth shit, already!?


The complain form is here https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/ please use it. Because this is beyond unacceptable

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Why we can't always have a 'productive' conversation

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog



Why we can’t always have a ‘productive’ conversation

Today I had the oh-so-wonderful chance to have a long, detailed conversation with a clueless straight person about sexuality in general and male homosexuality in particular. Not malicious - but certainly ignorant, wallowing in privilege and approaching the conversation as mildly interesting gossip.

It started with a joke: “Age of consent is weird. At 16 now you can have a fag up the arse but not a fag in your mouth.” Yes. Amazingly enough I didn’t laugh. And the sad thing is this is actually not only about the 6th time I’ve heard this joke, it’s the 6th time someone has told me this joke, knowing I was gay, AND EXPECTING ME TO BE AMUSED.

It wasn’t a fun discussion. It was long, full of stereotypes, lots of ignorance and enough cringe worthy moments to make me feel down, tired and generally not a happy person. We had “gay” used as a negative descriptor (and a good 10 minutes of totally not getting why that bothered me), we had gay sex referred to as sickening, we had the oh-so-fun ‘you’ve never slept with a woman so you can’t KNOW you don’t like it,’ a couple of more “jokes” (“it’s funny so it’s not offensive.” Really? Because I’m not laughing and I am offended, so I guess you failed twice. Oh yes, do try again, I‘m sure all gay people love your attempts to find a homophobic joke that makes them laugh) and many of the standard fodder that makes me want to stab someone.

Yes, all very awkward and unpleasant and I’m not sure any of the conversation made any difference because there’s a difference between hearing and caring. But that’s not really the point here

The point is, I knew where this conversation was going within the first 10 minutes - gods, the first 5 minutes. The opening lines, even. I knew that I was heading into a long, unpleasant and awkward conversation that was likely going to throw a lot of straight privilege at me, push a lot of painful buttons and generally leave me frustrated, tired and feeling like shit. In short, within 5 minutes of the conversation starting I wanted it to end.

How do I know this? Because I’ve had exactly the same conversation and variations of this about a squillion times before. All completely unoriginal, all tiring, all painful and all immensely frustrating. And I’m quite sure over half have been utterly, completely pointless wastes of my energy and mental health.

My point?

My point is sometimes I can’t do it. And that’s a shame because, even if most failed, I know some of these conversations HAVE worked. I know some ignorant people who bought a clue, listened and did their best not to do it again. Yes, it can be productive. Yes it has worked. Yes calmly and reasonably answering all the ignorant questions you’ve answered a thousand times or politely objecting and explaining why something was offensive can and does work. It’s half the reason I ramble so much about sexuality on this LJ.

And sometimes I can’t do it. Sometimes I’m tired, I’m in a bad mood or I’m just sick to the back teeth of the whole damn hetero-normative world, it’s ignorance, it’s insensitivity and it’s endless reminders that I don’t belong. Sometimes I’m annoyed because it should be damned OBVIOUS why I don’t find that joke funny, or why I get angry at being called “fag.”

These conversations are painful and tiring and frustrating. They’re very personal (they can’t help but be), they force me to confront homophobia and homophobic ignorance head on. They force me to endure it and slog through it. They force me to be vulnerable. They force me to expose that vulnerability to someone who, at best, may clumsily trample all over me and at worst may deliberately do some stomping.


So my point again?

My point is I know I shouldn’t snap. I know I shouldn’t lose my temper. I know that I should have a productive conversation. Because it can be productive. It can be useful. I KNOW I do myself and all GBLT people out there a lot more good by calmly and patiently having the conversation.

And I think that applies to every marginalised person - regardless of their marginalisation.

We know that being clam, polite and gently correcting and explaining is the best

But we can’t always do that.

Because it hurts

Because we’re tired

Because we’ve spent countless hours doing exactly the same damn thing before.

Because we don’t have the time, energy or inclination to do so.

Because moving in a world that devalues you is hard enough without having to give a running commentary to clueless privileged people.

Because sometimes we’re angry or upset or hurt or offended or scared.


So my point again?

It’s not necessary to lecture me - or any minority for that matter - on the tone of our arguments, on our anger, on our snapped reply and furious rebuttal. You don’t have to tell us that a calmer response would be better. That we should answer those questions. That we should be more moderate, more calm, more reasoned and cold and logical and sensible.

You don’t have to tell us this. We know. But we can’t do it all the time and you can’t expect that of us. And if you do expect it - well, perhaps you don’t know how much it costs

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

World AIDS Day - a time for rage

Another world AIDS day and I am left again with an overwhelming sense of rage about the whole thing.

I am grief stricken and furious that AIDS has become the scourge it has.

The grief goes without saying - because so many dead is just heart breaking. So many dead and suffering in such numbers - there are not enough tears in the world.

But all of this is coloured by rage. Rage, because AIDS is, in my view, one of the greatest failings of humanity. The sheer size and scale of the epidemic now has been created by masses of human indifference, prejudice and ignorance to such a degree that I want to scream - and it's still continuing.


When AIDS was first becoming an issue it was ignored. It was ignored because it was a gay disease. It was ignored because it was an African disease. It was ignored because, to the powers that be, these people, these deaths DID NOT MATTER. These lives didn't fucking count. These deaths were seen as unimportant - even a good thing!

Can you imagine how less severe it would be, how many fewer would have died if the powers that be had actually given a damn then?

But, eventually, the privileged people started dying. Eventually people started to take notice. But the ignorance was already winning.

We had more ignorance coming from religious groups who LEAPED on the epidemic as an opportunity to pursue their own agenda. "Abstinence!" they screamed! No more sex! SEX IS BAD! EVIL! And every step of the way they pushed that and tried to hijack the fight to stop a devastatingly huge pandemic into a way to push their own moral values. Their dogma was more important than untold millions of deaths! And they knew no shame - to this day the Catholic Church is spreading LIES about condoms in Africa.

Let me repeat that. The Catholic church is spreading LIES about condoms. WILLFUL LIES. Condoms, a vital tool in preventing the spread of AIDS, are being labelled as ineffective. How many are dying here because dogma is valued over truth?! That is evil. That is tantamount to genocide.


But the ignorance continued. Governments, confronted with the sudden horror of rising AIDS levels, some facing huge segments of their population being infected started fleeing in denial. HIV didn't cause AIDS they said. They bought into the most dubious AIDS denial research, backed the most quackiest of quack medicine to escape the reality of it.


And ignorance fed ignorance. Ignorance and agenda and denial combined to a ridiculous degree. People scapegoated the disease - it was a gay disease, a drug users disease, a promiscuous disease. 101 ridiculous and foolish "cures" were imagined by fearful, superstitious and ignorant people (the most pernicious of which, I think, was the idea that AIDS could be cured by having sex - unprotected sex! - with a virgin!). Predatory greed lead some evil people to sell their dubious "cures" to ignorant and fearful people (some of these AIDS cures are little more than vitamin C tablets!) Drugs companies with vital, life saving retroviral drugs set the prices prohibitively high - and fought viciously against cheaper alternatives.

And rising from this is an ongoing prejudice against people living with HIV and AIDS. People who can live long, productive, fulfilled lives - are treated with the kind of stigma associated with medieval lepers. Ignorance, fear and prejudice again - and again at the cost of people's lives.


AIDS is a story of human failure. It's a story of ignorance and arrogance and fear and prejudice and greed and pure, evil indifference to our fellow man.

AIDS will not go away until we change that story, fight the evil and redeem ourselves. And that is going to take a lot of work

World AIDS Day - a time for rage

Another world AIDS day and I am left again with an overwhelming sense of rage about the whole thing.

I am grief stricken and furious that AIDS has become the scourge it has.

The grief goes without saying - because so many dead is just heart breaking. So many dead and suffering in such numbers - there are not enough tears in the world.

But all of this is coloured by rage. Rage, because AIDS is, in my view, one of the greatest failings of humanity. The sheer size and scale of the epidemic now has been created by masses of human indifference, prejudice and ignorance to such a degree that I want to scream - and it's still continuing.


When AIDS was first becoming an issue it was ignored. It was ignored because it was a gay disease. It was ignored because it was an African disease. It was ignored because, to the powers that be, these people, these deaths DID NOT MATTER. These lives didn't fucking count. These deaths were seen as unimportant - even a good thing!

Can you imagine how less severe it would be, how many fewer would have died if the powers that be had actually given a damn then?

But, eventually, the privileged people started dying. Eventually people started to take notice. But the ignorance was already winning.

We had more ignorance coming from religious groups who LEAPED on the epidemic as an opportunity to pursue their own agenda. "Abstinence!" they screamed! No more sex! SEX IS BAD! EVIL! And every step of the way they pushed that and tried to hijack the fight to stop a devastatingly huge pandemic into a way to push their own moral values. Their dogma was more important than untold millions of deaths! And they knew no shame - to this day the Catholic Church is spreading LIES about condoms in Africa.

Let me repeat that. The Catholic church is spreading LIES about condoms. WILLFUL LIES. Condoms, a vital tool in preventing the spread of AIDS, are being labelled as ineffective. How many are dying here because dogma is valued over truth?! That is evil. That is tantamount to genocide.


But the ignorance continued. Governments, confronted with the sudden horror of rising AIDS levels, some facing huge segments of their population being infected started fleeing in denial. HIV didn't cause AIDS they said. They bought into the most dubious AIDS denial research, backed the most quackiest of quack medicine to escape the reality of it.


And ignorance fed ignorance. Ignorance and agenda and denial combined to a ridiculous degree. People scapegoated the disease - it was a gay disease, a drug users disease, a promiscuous disease. 101 ridiculous and foolish "cures" were imagined by fearful, superstitious and ignorant people (the most pernicious of which, I think, was the idea that AIDS could be cured by having sex - unprotected sex! - with a virgin!). Predatory greed lead some evil people to sell their dubious "cures" to ignorant and fearful people (some of these AIDS cures are little more than vitamin C tablets!) Drugs companies with vital, life saving retroviral drugs set the prices prohibitively high - and fought viciously against cheaper alternatives.

And rising from this is an ongoing prejudice against people living with HIV and AIDS. People who can live long, productive, fulfilled lives - are treated with the kind of stigma associated with medieval lepers. Ignorance, fear and prejudice again - and again at the cost of people's lives.


AIDS is a story of human failure. It's a story of ignorance and arrogance and fear and prejudice and greed and pure, evil indifference to our fellow man.

AIDS will not go away until we change that story, fight the evil and redeem ourselves. And that is going to take a lot of work

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ignoring or not being emotionally affected by marginalisation is a privilege.

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog


I’ve seen a few of these round on the internet lately and my head aches a little with them. On one forum I was accused of being hedonistic because I defined myself by my sexuality (and my sexuality is totally about having sex, it seems) while he, a heterosexual, didn’t feel the need to.

In another venue I see many men tutting and finger wagging at an angry woman during a debate about sexism - her tone is wrong, she’s too emotional, she’s overwrought and making it personal.

Elsewhere I have seen any number of marginalised people criticised as whining, being emotional, being too critical and noisy and angry and selfish.


I’m sure with a few minutes search or remembering I can think of a few others and I know people reading this most certainly can. Because one of the hallmarks of privilege is not being involved, not having to worry about it and, on some level, not caring.

I am privileged. This is an unavoidable part of being white, male, cisgendered, able bodied, neuro-typical, comfortably well off, educated and no doubt many other privileges that I am extremely lucky to possess.

I don’t approve of prejudice, ill treatment or devaluing of people who do not share my privilege. I try to be an ally.

But to me it will always be, on some level, an intellectual exercise. I can be disgusted about a vile piece of racism, but it won’t hurt me. I can be angered at the sight of some repellent misogyny but I won’t be wounded by it. When someone’s waving their able-bodied privilege around I can be exasperated and irritated but I won’t be upset and diminished by it.

And sometimes I don’t think about it. There are hours, days, weeks when I can go without ever considering race or sexism or most marginalisations. I try to make a point of doing so - but that makes it a conscious choice, a luxury. And if it gets uncomfortable or unpleasant or I simply become tired, then I can stop.

Because when you are a member of a privileged group with one of your descriptors you don't NEED to think about it - because everything around you is set up to cater to your privilege. Just as an able bodied person doesn't have to think about being able bodied while someone in a wheel chair does, just as a white person doesn't think about how race affects them every day, but a person of colour is far more likely to find it being a relevant considerations, just as a woman has to be more alert to gender issues than a man is - and just as a straight person never has to think about sexuality but a gay person has to be so terribly aware.

Yes we think about our marginalisations. Yes I define myself by my sexuality in that I - we - pay more attention to it as a descriptor that straight people do. That is not something we choose nor is it something we want to do - it's a necessary adaptation to a world that is hostile to us.

IF no-one cared what my sexuality was, IF I had all of the same rights as heterosexuals, IF I could hold hands with my husband, have a picture of him on my desk, hug him in public, IF I could choose my holiday destinations without considering whether a country would imprison or kill me for my sexuality, IF I could go through my life without enduring derogatory or insulting comments about my sexuality and relationship all the time, IF society didn't spend no small amount of effort calling me a freak or lesser or a second class citizen, IF I could be sure I would be safe from discrimination, prejudice, hate crime and bigotry...

IF all these things were true then I WOULDN'T think about sexuality either. If I had the privilege of not having to think about my sexuality then it wouldn't dwell so much on my thoughts and it wouldn't be such a dominant descriptor. It wouldn't be such a dominant descriptor because it wouldn't effect my life so much, it wouldn't be something I would have to constantly take into account, it wouldn't be the worry that preyed upon me, the concern that dogged me, the constant nagging fear that I - and every other homosexual - can NEVER be rid of - at least not in my lifetime.

My point?

My point is that marginalised people have to think about their marginalisation, have to consider it and have to get involved in issues connected to it. It means marginalised people have to define themselves by their marginalisation and have to see how it effects everything around them

It means marginalised people cannot choose not to think about it.

It means conversations about marginalisation are conversations about their lives. They’re deeply personal and vitally important to them. It means they don’t have the luxury of being detached, unemotional or uncaring.


Which means

Which means marginalised people have good reason to think about their marginalisation, be alert to it - and damn good reason to be angry

Which means whenever you say a marginalised person is ‘obsessed’ by their marginalisation or ‘sees it everywhere’ or talks about it excessively - then you are probably wallowing in privilege.

Which means whenever you criticise a marginalised person’s tone, whenever you say they are ‘angry,’ ‘hysterical,’ ‘emotional’ or taking it ‘too personally’ - then you are probably displaying your privilege.

Which means if you think a marginalised person is too obsessed or too emotional or angry or taking it all too personally and it bothers you then work towards a world that doesn’t FORCE them to ‘obsess’ or that doesn’t hurt or anger them. Chiding them on their ‘tone’ and their ’obsession’ only highlights not just your privilege - but also your ignorance.

Friday, 30 October 2009

An end to the gay blood donor ban? Don't hold your breath

I had a hope that the NHS blood donation service would come into the 21st century. I hoped that this most powerful of health authorities in the UK would stop telling the country that gay people are inherently diseased and I hoped that they would help an increasingly more IGNORANT population realise that AIDS can afflict anyone - regardless of sexuality, that it wasn’t just a gay disease

I hoped the NHS would show some sense. I hoped they cast aside a pointless piece of homophobia. I hoped they’d let us help them refill their dwindling blood stocks when it is so desperately needed.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Instead the plan that’s currently on the cards is, rather than a LIFETIME ban on men who have ever had oral sex or anal sex even with a condom, there will only be a ban of 5 years.

So if you’re a celibate gay man then you can give blood. Hey, kinda reminds me of the Catholic Church! It’s ok to be gay - so long as you’re lonely, celibate, sexless martyr who does everything in their power to be as straight as possible.

But hey, all you repressed basket cares, you can give blood,. Because that’s the HEALTHY way to be gay. That makes your blood less toxic to the noble het blood stream. That way you may have cleansed your blood of most of the nasty gay cooties.

So, yeah - let’s review:
Heterosexual man who has unprotected sex with a different woman every night: CAN GIVE BLOOD NOW
Heterosexual man who has unprotected sex with a woman he KNOWS has HIV: CAN GIVE BLOOD so long as he doesn’t think he has the disease
Heterosexual man who has unprotected sex with several prostitutes: CAN GIVE BLOOD AFTER 1 YEAR
Those who have had unprotected sex with an intravenous drug user: CAN GIVE BLOOD AFTER ONE YEAR
Those who have had unprotected sex abroad in a high risk HIV country: CAN GIVE BLOOD AFTER ONE YEAR

A gay man who has oral sex with a condom?: CAN GIVE BLOOD AFTER 5 YEARS. MAYBE. But we‘re not sure yet. This is like, revolutionary risky thinking, y‘know


Yeah, this is my not impressed face. -_- See? It’s not even remotely impressed.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Blood Donor ban on Gay/Bi men may be ending.

The news is that, with Swine Flu apparently doing terrible things to the blood supply (not entirely sure why. I assume lack of donors) the NHS is finally considering the horrible risk of letting gayness into you precious het-blood.

The NHS in the UK currently forbids men who have had anal or oral sex with another man EVER from donating blood. Ever. It doesn’t matter if you’re 50 now and had oral sex with a condom ONCE 35 years ago. You cannot give blood.

This has always annoyed me. My whole family give blood. From the age of 17 to 65 they always give blood as often as they can unless medically they are unable to do so. My parents, my brother my aunts and uncles - literally all of them. I always greatly resented being considered inherently unfit to give blood based on very empty and preliminary assumptions and judgments about me. I also, on a deeply personal level, resented the ban because when I turned 17 I wasn’t READY to come out and didn’t want to - naturally my family expected me to give blood and didn’t understand why I wouldn’t. I admit to being rather bitter at being put in that situation at a time when I did not need the stress.

So, I have to say that my dislike of the NHS’ policy here is probably magnified by my personal experiences.


Let me make this clear - and to quote the blood ban petition


A straight man who has unprotected sex with a different girl every weekend can give blood TODAY
A straight man who has had unprotected sex with several prostitutes can give blood AFTER ONE YEAR
Those who have had unprotected sex with an intravenous drug user can give blood AFTER ONE YEAR
Those who have had unprotected sex abroad in a high risk HIV country can give blood AFTER ONE YEAR

Gay men are banned FOR LIFE, even if they've only ever had sex with one partner - and even if they used protection.


I'll add that by the NHS blood donor's own website it seems a straight man who has unprotected sex with a girl he knows is HIV+ can give blood after 1 year so long as he doesn't THINK he is HIV+

However, the policy appears to make no practical sense. While it is true that there are higher levels of AIDS among gay men than straight men, the majority of HIV carriers in the UK are not gay and heterosexual sex is by far the biggest transmitter of HIV in the UK. Add in that the blood supply is vigorously checked then denying a source of much needed blood like this is not only ridiculous prejudice - but it’s foolish and destructive.

The NHS is also not helping any sensible anti-AIDS campaign with this. Ignorance about AIDS continually paints it as a gay disease. In fact, according to the Terrence Higgins Trust, that ignorance is actually GROWING with a greater number of heterosexuals today believing heterosexual sex doesn’t pass the virus than there was in 2000.

We need to slam this home - this is NOT a gay disease. Gay people are not inherently diseased because we had the big bad gay sex and gay sex is not inherently harmful. At the same time straight people are

And when you decide that a gay man of 60 who had oral sex with a condom at the age of 20 cannot give blood because he’s an AIDS risk but a heterosexual man have unprotected sex with 10 different women a week is considered ok so long as he isn’t paying for it - well, that is really not slamming the message home.

Let us hope that this discriminatory practice is now ending.

There is also a Petition here you can sign in favour of ending the ban



Our blood supplies are low. That can only ever put people at risk. I - and mine - want to help. Do not risk innocents for the sake of preserving prejudice

Friday, 16 October 2009

Jan Moir - please feel free....

...to jump out of a high window at the earliest opportunity. The world will be a lot better place without your vileness.

I had a lot to do today, but I feel rather diverted now by outrage. Gah, homophobes please stop for a bit? I need to catch up!

Jan Moir, for those blessed not to know, is a columnist with the Daily Mail. That should already tell you she's a person who should be arrested for wasting good air. But she manages to excell herself by being more tasteless and more repellent than even that paper normally manages.

As we probably all know, Stephen Gately, the openly gay Boyzone star, recently and tragically died at the age of 33 of pulmonary oedema. All reports point to it being a completely natural, but tragic death

Here is a link to the comment she has just written about Stephen Gately's death. I'd warn against reading if you have high blood pressure or if there's anything fragile on your computer desk.


The original title was: "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death." Yeah, I see what you did there! The title alone raised my blood pressure. The title was dropped (though they forgot to edit the side bar. Arse-covering bigots have little attention to detail) in the outrage storm. However, the article remains in all its vile glory


Really, most of it needs no comment - it's just so obviously awful and bigoted nothing I can add will really matter - but let's draw out some of the most repellent excerpts

fans know to expect the unexpected of their heroes - particularly if those idols live a life that is shadowed by dark appetites or fractured by private vice.

And she refers to Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson who, yes, were known to have tragic vices and troubled lives.

Stephen Gately? Not so much. Oh but he was GAY. Is that a dark appetite or private vice, Ms Moir?

Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again.

Really Dr. Moir? Oh wait, you’re not a doctor. In which case please help yourself to a big cup of STFU and stop showing your ignorance. Yes, amazingly enough, 33 year olds CAN die suddenly, naturally and unexpectedly as any half way competent doctor can tell you.

After a night of clubbing, Cowles and Gately took a young Bulgarian man back to their apartment. It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards.

Or, to remove the homophobic spin, after a night clubbing, Cowles and Gately took someone back to their hotel with them. Y’know I’ve invited my own friends back home and back to hotels we me. Male, female, straight and gay.

Of course, being a gay man I simply MUST have been having orgiastic sex with them. Gods forbid that we actually have platonic male friends. Everyone knows we’re all fucking like bunnies the minute you take your eyes off us.

Another real sadness about Gately's death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over your bigotry. It does WHAT?! A young gay man dies suddenly and that indicates WHAT about civil partnerships exactly?! Even if he were having affairs and threesomes left right and centre, how the hell does this say ANYTHING about civil partnerships except to mistress bigot here?

Should we judge straight marriages the same way? ZOMG this heterosexual died young! This proves it! THERE IS NO HAPPY-EVER-AFTER IN HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGES EVAH!!!!

It is repellent that this was even given the slightest credibility in any paper - even one as vile and repugnant as the Daily Mail. Jan Moir is unfit to be a columnist or a commentator - how can someone so divorced from reality and so steeped in hatred possibly comment intelligently on anything?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

If you read only one post about Lambda drama

Read this one

Because I think it is the most eloquent and powerful statement as to why this is so important and so damn necessary

2 excerpts

Well, I gotta newsflash for you: when I handed over a copy of The Beautiful Room Is Empty and told my teenaged customer, "this book won a Lambda award, and it's about a gay character and the author is gay," -- maybe that statement would mean nothing to you, Ms Straight Writer Who Bemoans Being Excluded -- but you better fucking believe it meant everything to that kid.


That teenaged customer didn't fucking exist, not as his true self, can you get that? He was already halfway in hiding, learning to be invisible. He was learning already to keep quiet about who he liked, that the world around him would always show him pictures of smiling het couples, that even in places where there might be slightly more tolerance that he couldn't expect so many things het-folks would take for granted. The stories are so valuable because they exist in the place where these things do the most damage -- the imagination -- and the one place that could, potentially, be the most private and thus the most precious. In this last resort, this place of the mind, this child now had an ally. He had someone who had blazed the path before him, someone telling the story that might be his, or it might not, but it was a voice in his head telling a story that just might have him in the goddamn starring role for the first time in his entire life.

Nothing I've written or read contains the same impact as this post - or cuts to the heart of why this is so important

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

BINGO!




Thanks for everyone who gave suggestions and double thanks to Ann Somerville: for helping put it together for my ludditeness

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Lambda Awards - disagree if you must, but put the privilege and homophobia away

LLF made their awards for GBLT authors only. They did this because GBLT people are a marginalised group. GBLT people face discrimination, silencing and prejudice with depressing frequency. We are also frequently turned into fetishes or gross parodies - or rendered completely invisible.

In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be necessary. In a perfect world GBLT authors would have exactly the same chance in all things as straight, cis people would. This is not a perfect world. It is not a perfect world for us and many other marginalised bodies. This is why safe spaces were created. This is why we have places where we can be without having to hide, without having to apologise, without having to adapt - and where we are not the minority, where we are not other.

And so we have the Lambda awards - for GBLT authors to present their work and have it celebrated in a place where straightness is not the norm, where GBLT people are not ‘other’ and something we can be part of without the constant poking and needling that the world loves to throw

We aren’t the only marginalised body that has created an award for ourselves. We have the Orange Awards, the BCALA, the Coretta Scott King Awards. If white people tried to enter an award for black authors or men started whining about not being able to enter the Orange awards we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion - or the people talking about it wouldn’t. Because we’d recognise the whiner as silly and prejudiced.(not to say that there aren't ridiculous people protesting these awards - because there are. Sadly there is no shortage of crazy in the world)


That said, I can understand that some people disagree. I don’t agree with their disagreement but I respect that they do. And it is easily (and has been easily) possible to express disagreement without being an arsehole. No, really.

So why are so many people - so many supposed ALLIES! - resorting to homophobia and extreme privilege? Let me lay it down as I see it:


If you are implying that GBLT authors aren’t as good as straight authors then that’s homophobic and transphobic. Straight and cis authors will dominate because of societal prejudice and because you OUTNUMBER US. Many many many times over.

If you are denying, oblivious or dismissive of the very real societal prejudice GBLT people face or are trying to look at this in isolation to the very real prejudice GBLT people face then that’s homophobic and transphobic and grossly privileged.

If you are comparing these awards being kept for GBLT people to any real life prejudice GBLT people or ANY marginalised group face then you are diminishing us and them - and are being homophobic and transphobic (and likely racist/etc as well) and grossly privileged.

If you even consider using extreme hyperbole - including pink triangles, comparing LLF to the Westboro Baptist church, comparing this to segregation, lynching or mentioning straight authors closeting themselves - then you are being inexcusably and extremely homophobic, transphobic and privileged

If you are discussing any kind of “retaliation” whether it’s “I will never write GBLT again!” or “We’ll make our own awards and exclude GBLT people!” then you are homophobic, transphobic - and a spoiled brat having a temper tantrum.



Now, if you consider yourself an ALLY and have expressed your disagreement in any of these terms then I ask you to relook and rethink. I’m not saying don’t disagree - disagreement is fair enough and can be done respectfully and sensibly (though you may still look clueless and privileged, well, everyone not part of a group can be that) and not resorting to the offensive bilge we have seen smeared around the place.

If you identify as GBLT and are even thinking of cracking your teeth saying these things then PLEASE wake up. You may be deeply involved in the m/m genre, you may have a lot of straight, cis friends, fans and favoured authors in the genre. It may be instinctive to defend them - but, in the name of all that’s holy, THINK. Look at what is being said - LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. You are giving credence to this thinking! You are SUPPORTING the fool memes of “gay special rights” and dismissing homophobia, overlooking transphobia and dismissing societal prejudice. You are not only handing weapons to the our common enemies but you’re sharpening them first!

Yes, disagree - most certainly disagree. But if the disagreement falls into screeching privilege and gross homophobia and/or transphobia then you have crossed a line. And if a friend of yours does it or someone does it in your space you need to slap that down - because no matter how big a friend they are, no matter how big a fan, no matter how much you admire them or how integral you consider them to your genre and community - if you tolerate and accept prejudice, if you let gross straight or cis privilege go unchallenged then it WILL come back and bite us on the arse. It WILL be used against us.

Disagree if you must, by all means. But don’t be a tool of straight and/or cis privilege. Don’t hand weapons to the phobes. And don’t let your spaces be places where such vileness can grow.

ETA To note, as pointed out by Krynn in the comments, there is a steady transphobia here in the sense that there's an assumption that there will be no heterosexuals in the awards - completely ignoring heterosexual trans writers

I admit that I am very lazy with my language too often, and use "straight" as a general term for "heterosexual and cisgendered" which is neither an ideal descriptor nor a common one nor a good one since our trans brothers and sisters do deserve more recognition than that, and I'll reword things to be more appropriate

Saturday, 26 September 2009

This? This is my not amused face. The Lambda Awards

The Lambda Awards by the Lambda Literary Foundation are book awards for GBLT authors. In the past they have allowed straight people to submit entries. They have now decided to limit the awards to GBLT authors since an award designed to elevate, protect and showcase GBLT talent became swamped by oodles of straight authors of both gay fiction and m/m romance.

To note: I would have linked as friend’s post who admirably summed this up, but since his entry is private I won’t foist the debate, controversy etc onto his space. It’d be rude. But I will say that I don’t claim originality for all of the ideas expressed here. The snark and slap downs are mine though.

Now, personally I don’t generally care overmuch. Mainly because I don’t pick or choose the books I read based on awards and I have no earthly chance of ever winning any literary award anyway, but I do approve because, as I’ve touched on before (and will likely post more on later), it’s vitally important for marginalised groups to have their own space. In a world that is 99% about straight people, it’s necessary for mental well being, awareness and confidence to have a few corners that are about us. It’s nice to have a place where you aren’t an “other” where you aren’t the odd one, the exception, the anomaly.

The Lambda Awards are one of these spaces and they have taken steps to make sure it stays that way.

Thankfully, most authors - including straight authors of GBLT fiction and m/m romance - have been sensible, respectful and understood fully. I am glad to see that the vast majority of people have brains, decency and grace.

And some people are not happy. In fact, there is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth. And a lot of very ugly straight privilege being waved around that is giving me a headache. Some of the comments are obvious in their stupidity. Since I’ve spent a very unproductive couple of days trying to educate the clueless and venting my spleen on twitter (sorry for falling off the map - I had my righteous anger on) I may as well knock up an LJ post out of it, so let’s look at some whines

1) It’s not about you
This is an award for GBLT authors. That doesn’t mean LLF is saying straight people shouldn’t/cannot/are incapable of writing books with GBLT characters or themes. It’s not saying anything about what straight people can/cannot write - because it’s not about straight people. I can’t emphasis this enough. LLF is not doing this to stop a popular title from winning (seriously, did you buy performance enhancing drugs for your ego?) nor is it doing it to exclude good straight writers because the GBLT writers can’t compete (yeah, see this is when ‘selfish, privileged whining’ crosses the line to active homophobia). LLF is a GBLT award for GBLT authors. it’s not about straight people. Get over yourselves already

2)Unfairness
“It’s Unfair!” Unfair... Seriously? You’re whining at a group of people who are fighting tooth and nail to get basic rights recognised, who are pilloried by major religions and political leaders and who are afraid of openly declaring who we are for fear of physical assault about FAIRNESS because of a BOOK AWARD? How about this? When the straight world gives GBLT people the same rights, privileges and respect as straightness gets THEN you can come and talk about how unfair this book award is.

“It discriminates.” The world discriminates - sadly very much against GBLT people - and that includes GBLT authors. We don’t WANT gay awards. We very much want awards like this NOT to be necessary. We’d love it if the world was equal and we didn’t have to make our own spaces. But it isn’t - and that’s why these awards (and awards that celebrate women authors and POC authors) are so extremely necessary.

3) Prejudice
“The genre I write is marginalised.” This is true - gay romance, m/m fiction, f/f fiction et al is a marginalised genre. Undisputed and we all agree that’s wrong. But why is this LLF’s responsibility to address? It’s about GBLT people not genres (not about you, remember?) This is an attempt to redress very real prejudice against people - and I think I’m not alone in saying that prejudice against GBLT is a wee bit more serious than the marginalisation of a genre.

But yes, it is wrong. But it wasn’t GBLT people who disenfranchised the genre. It is the mainstream (straight) that keeps the genre down - why are you attacking a GBLT organisation and not the mainstream literary awards?

“I’m a woman, so I also face prejudice” agreed. And? The fact you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t have straight and cis privilege any more than my being gay means I don’t have male privilege. Arguing you should be able to enter a GBLT award because you face sexism is as foolish as me saying I should be able to enter a woman’s award because I face homophobia.

4)Petulant Flouncing
“This is anti-straight bigotry! You’re oppressing us.” I’m not even going to dignify that with an intelligent response.

“Well we’ll make our own award for straight authors only!” Ummm, why? To prove to the world you’re homophobic? You don’t need to go to all that effort. Believe me. If the award is about the GENRE then there will be no need to exclude authors. If it is about the AUTHORS then you are implying that straight authors are somehow oppressed or discriminated against and need a safe space. Or it could be that you’re stamping your foot and having a tantrum.

“Fine, I won’t WRITE GBLT EVAH AGAIN!” are you saying that you only wrote GBLT in the hope of winning an LLF award? Really? Well, don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.

“Then I’ll have to CLOSET myself to enter the award.” You didn’t. You did NOT say that. Really. You did not compare the horrible reality of gay people having to lie and act and hide to desperately survive in the face of homophobia and internalised self hate with you PRETENDING TO BE GAY TO WIN AN AWARD?! You did NOT make that comparison?

“This is like segregation!” Aw c’mon there’s no justification for that amount of ignorance. You cannot seriously compare the attempt to create a GBLT award for MARGINALISED people with the systematic oppression of black people by racist white society. There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin.

"pink triangles" Uh-huh. First, let me scream "GODWIN!" Then let me just gape in wonder that anyone would think ANYTHING about this is even REMOTELY comparable to the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.

Really I'm in awe at how low this has gone in places and deeply thankful that most responses have been more... moderate

Monday, 21 September 2009

Legitimate Criticism is not an acceptable Doorway for Bigotry

I’ve spoken about criticisng respectfully as an outsider but now I’m going to ramble on about the unpleasant habit some people have of using criticism as a method to express their prejudice (hence the need for the former post)

Recently there have been a few cases of marginalised people doing stupid and naughty things. Kanye West at the Music Video Awards, Serena Williams having a tantrum with a ref and, in the more distant past (though updated with near weekly fails) there is Perez Hilton, well, Perez Hilton just about every time he’s opened his mouth. Included here for completeness and general overview (and because of point 6 which I risked doing exactly what I was cautioning against)

All of these people have been, rightly, criticised for less than acceptable behaviour. No problems there - all of these people have done things severely worthy of criticism. And then there’s a criticism that makes you want to headdesk - where people are basically treating it as an excuse to let that bigotry hang free.

So let’s look at some bad criticism and Sparky’s guide to why it fails.

1) Any and all uses of bigoted language.

Why it Fails
Do I even need to say this? Kanye West was an arsehole, a brat, a selfish prat and many other things. Accurate, if crude, descriptors all. The N-word? REALLY unnecessary and unless he’s started eating small children while I wasn’t looking, makes the “critic” (racist arsehole would be a better term) look waaaay worse than he ever was. Criticism is legitimate. Using it to pull out the inner bigot isn’t.

2) “Serena Williams’ unprecedented rampage... wild... savage...”

Why it fails
Excessive hyperbole. Serena Williams is not the first sports person to throw all her toys out the pram because a ref decision went against her. Footballers do it on a near weekly basis. John McEnroe had a whole marketing persona based on him spitting his dummy out and breaking tennis rackets.

Basically - it is no more unacceptable for a marginalised person to lose their temper/say something stupid/whatever than it is for a non-marginalised person. If the white guy doing it would only earn a tut and a headshake from you, then the black woman doing it shouldn’t earn your outraged and furious condemnation.

3) “I never ever comment on sports usually - but...”

Why it fails
Well, why are you mentioning it now? Hundreds of sports personalities have arguments with refs, umpires et al. Millions of gossip columnists say shit that is awful - and that you routinely ignore.

I’m not saying don’t criticise. I’m asking you to examine WHY you’re criticising. IF behaviour is worthy of criticism and IF you would NORMALLY comment then go right ahead. But if you completely ignore it when a white person does it, then commenting on it when a black person does it looks bad. If you wouldn't think to mention it when a straight person does it, but simply have to talk about it when a gay person does it looks wrong. To repeat again - I had a colleague who loved to tell me all the details of any and all incidents of crime committed by immigrants he could find. He never said anything inaccurate - but he never spoke about crime UNLESS it was committed by an immigrant. I think it’s pretty clear why.

4) “Kanye West, a black entertainer...” “Serena Williams, a black sportswoman...” “Gay gossip columnist, Perez Hilton...”

Why it fails
If you were talking about Eminem saying something foolish - you wouldn’t identify him as the “white straight entertainer.” There’d be no need - his race and sexuality would be deemed to be a) obvious and b) irrelevant. It is equally true when the fool in question belongs to a marginalised group. Why are you emphasising or reminding people of their race/sexuality etc? Why are you acting like it’s relevant?

5) “Kanye West shows what is wrong with the black...” “Perez Hilton again shows the sexism/racism of the GBLT community”

Why it fails
When black people get together, put a crown on Mr. West’s head and announce him their supreme leader, I’m sure they’ll send us a memo. Until then his actions and speech reflect himself and ONLY himself. When the Gay Mafia appoints Perez Hilton as Commander in Chief of our marriage and morality destroying armies then we will let you know. Until then he is not a spokesperson, avatar or poster child for the GBLT movement or any part of it.

If you have a legitimate, sensible criticism about a community or movement, then go for it - respectfully. But don’t pluck out the bad actions of one person and decide that this is somehow indicative of absolutely everyone within the group.

6) “Perez Hilton is a disgrace to GBLT people.”

Why this fails
Fail 1 If you are NOT part of the marginalised group in question (in this case, if you are not GBLT) then it’s presumptuous in the extreme to dictate who is and isn’t a fit representative of that group. Sure, he’s a fool beyond all measure all too often - but it’s not your place to say it or to choose which GBLT people are appropriate “spokespeople” or not (aside: In my view no-one is or everyone is). We don’t need or want you policing us or playing “good minority/bad minority”

Fail 2 If you ARE part of the marginalised group then STOP PLAYING THIS GAME. You are feeding the fools at no. 5. The correct answer isn’t to say “Perez Hilton is a disgrace to all GBLT people” but to say “the man’s an arsehole - his sexuality is irrelevent.” He doesn’t disgrace me. He doesn’t shame me. I have no duty to apologise for him nor do I have any sense of collective responsibility or blame for what he’s done. He is not my friend or family. I have no power over his actions and no influence over them.

It is deeply homophobic to judge me or other GBLT people on the basis of what he has done/said. We do not have a duty to denounce him, we do not have a duty to apologise for him. We need to fight against the idea that all homosexuals should be collectively punished for the act of one - not feed into it.


There is nothing wrong with criticism. And when people have decided to show their arses and arseholery there’s absolutely nothing wrong with calling them out or expressing your anger, disappointment or disapproval. But the how you express it - and the WHY. Well that needs examining. Because no amount of arsholery justifies bigotry

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The delicate art of criticism as an outsider

The delicate art of criticism.

I’ve spoken before on how important unity and intersectionality is. But I want to add to that with a problem I’m seeing over and over with people who are trying to promote it - the delicate art of criticising a marginalised group/movement - ESPECIALLY if you are not a part of it or see to have different priorities than it.

Criticising a marginalised group is delicate and difficult. Because we’re defensive. Yes, we are.

Ok, I know that’s annoying to read - we’re all tired of silencing techniques of saying we’re too “emotional” or “angry” or “hysterical” or “sensitive.” They are so often used to basically tell any marginalised group to sit down and shut up - and certainly anyone trying to silence you this way should be hit with a fish repeatedly until they can only twitch slightly.

But we are often defensive. We’re defensive because people under attack ARE defensive. We’re defensive and irritated by outside criticism because 90% of it is so utterly wrong. Best case scenario it’s so utterly ignorant that it makes your head hurt and the worst case scenario it’s some prejudiced arsehole taking any opportunity they can to bash you. In short, 90% of “criticism” is just yet another way the privileged world likes to give you a good kicking. This usually means that any outside criticism will quickly be greeted with hostility.

So here is Sparky’s guide to trying to be critical on important matters without causing the hackles to rise. I’m using the lens of people criticising the GBLT movement, but the same applies across the board


1) Be respectful. Remember, your audience is going to be angry and hurt - remember also you are talking about issues from the outside. If you want to be heard, blasting in with insults, homophobia, radical generalisations etc are going to annoy. You need to get past that initial anger and pain

2) Is criticism a habit? Do you only say bad things about homosexuals or the GBLT movement? Do you ever have any praise for us or our causes? Do you express outrage or anger at the abuses GBLT people face? If so what’s the ratio? 1 semi-positive post to 10 posts that are critical? Because if it’s all negative all the time, then you may want to consider why and whether there’s any point to your criticism - because it comes off as a homophobic screed. I follow one blog that is extremely informative and useful on some issues, but the blogger so constantly lashes out at gay people and the gay rights movement that I no longer consider it a safe place. Even if you think your criticism is valid - if you only post the bad it makes it look like you’re LOOKING for things to throw at us.

3) Are you criticising individuals and presenting their actions/words as universal or typical? We’re not all Perez Hilton or Dan Savage. It’s age old prejudice to present the negative actions of one member of a group as typical of all.

4) If you are criticising an individual as just an individual - is there a specific reason you picked them out? I had a colleague when I was at uni who was always ready to tell me about various crimes committed by immigrants. He never said anything inaccurate, nor did he use offensive terms - but religiously reported every crime he could find. If an immigrant wasn’t the criminal, he didn’t report it. He also felt the need to make it clear that the criminal was an immigrant every time. Again, trawling for the negative.

So, why are you talking about this person? Is their sexuality an important descriptor? For example, there are no end of epicly failing parents out there - so why did you feel the need to comment on the Lesbian couple’s ridiculous law suit ? Why was the lesbianism an important enough part of the story to mention?

5) Have you thrown any stones at your own glass house? This is one thing that is irritating and often leads to people lashing back. Are you criticising people/groups on an issue that your own group/movement is also failing on? If so, have you commented on your own group’s failure? In recent months I have seen many people criticise the GBLT movement on the lack of diversity in their leadership - coming from people who have not cracked their teeth on their own movement’s lack of intersectionality or diverse representation. If intersectionality is truly important to you, then you will address it as a whole - if you think it’s only important when discussing the GBLT community’s failing then it looks like the issue isn’t important to you - finding another excuse to criticise gay people looks much more likely.


I really think there is a lot of useful information out there and a lot of valid criticism. I think our allies - and all marginalised groups’ allies have a lot of useful things to add and maybe see things that we miss. But it is being lost either because it is poorly presented AND because there are so many people who are using the EXCUSE of the criticism to indulge their homophobia.

I am thankful that there are some wonderful people and wonderful bloggers and activists who are getting this right. Hopefully more and more people will listen to them. But the number of people screwing it up badly is turning a lot of people off - and making them less likely to listen to those who got it right.

The message is lost in the anger and the hurt - and nobody wins then.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A long time coming - his memory deserves that much

To gain attention to something that sorely needs rectifying.

Alan Turing should be recognised as one of the greatest of Britons of all time. The father of computing. His work during world war 2 alone should have made him a hero. But even that pales comapred to the huge achievement and benefit that computers have brought to the world. These are actually only 2 of many achievements

He was a truly brilliant man who did wonders for the country and the world

And we will always wonder what other great things he could have done if he had lived longer. He died when he was 42 - such a waste for such a brilliant life to be shortened so horribly.


He died because he was gay. He was convicted in a time when being homosexual was illegal. He was stripped of the security clearance he used to help us so impressively. He was chemically castrated. In the aftermath, he killed himself. He was killed.

He deserved better than that. He was owed more than that. We can't right the wrongs of the past - but we can honour his memory, acknowledge the wrong and make sure neither he - nor the perseuction he suffered - will be forgotten

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/turing/

Friday, 7 August 2009

Intersectionality - and how we’re all fighting the same fight

I’ve been reading a few blogs, thoughts and damn good rants on and around the subject of intersectionality. This basically touches on people who belong to several groups that face oppression or prejudice (for example: a black woman, or a differently abled homosexual) and there are so many big topics here that I could spend hours talking about it (from the oppression Olympics to the “dilution” argument, to under representation - gods it could take days and most of it has been said before and better - though I may visit them in the future.)

But there’s one point that strikes me most about it which I do firmly believe in. We’re all fighting the same battle.

Oh details vary, reasons vary, individual concerns vary, history most certainly varies. There’s a lot of variation here that we shouldn’t dismiss. But in the end there’s one unifying message:

People shouldn’t be ‘othered,’ devalued or treated as lesser be that through great big violent oppression and hate or small, subtle but prevalent societal assumptions and pressures.

That is the core. That is the foundation. This is the root of all our movements for freedom and justice. The ‘othered’ should not be disadvantaged by the dominant privilege and should enjoy the same rights, freedoms, opportunities, respect, position and advantages as they do.

To me, this means every victory is a universal one. Every battle against racism won, is a victory for gays, women, the differently abled, minority religions et al not just for people of colour. Every battle won against homophobia is a victory for all of us. Every battle won against transphobia won is a victory for all of us. Every battle against sexism won is a victory for all of us.

Similarly, it means that every incidence of sexism, ableism, racism, homophobia et al is an attack on ALL of us. In every instance the message is being sent that it is ok to treat people as less for being ’other’ in every instance it is saying that the privileged group deserve their privilege and others deserve to be treated as less. Even if we ARE privileged in that specific instance, it is still an attack on us if we allow any ‘othered’ group to be treated as less. We have a stake in that fight and we have a duty - not just from human decency - but from sheer self-interest to fight against that prejudice.

It also means that if an ‘othered’ person does something or says something sexist/racist/etc then they are hurting themselves.

The message is Prejudice is Wrong. You can’t say “some is wrong” or “it’s wrong when used against me” or “this prejudice is ok but prejudice against me isn’t” it doesn’t work that way. When you are prejudiced or allow prejudice to go unchallenged - even if you don’t perceive it as your fight - then you are giving a license to be prejudiced - you are allowing the idea that prejudice isn’t necessarily bad. That’s a message none of us can afford to send.

In practical terms what does this mean to me?
1) Even if a prejudice doesn’t touch me - I have a duty to fight it. The fight against sexism, racism et al may not be directly my fight, but in a wider sense they are. If I allow racism, sexism etc then I weaken the fight against homophobia

2) I have a duty to be an ally. That means being informed. That means being educated. That means not being a burden. That means not being a source of headaches. That means understanding what THEY need not what I THINK they should need.

3) All issues should be aired. I should not allow any ‘othered’ people to be silenced. I should respect platforms for them to air their views and battles. I should listen. I should not allow any ‘othered’ groups to be marginalised, their issues brushed aside or ignored - even if in doing so it would garner more attention to MY issue

4) I should acknowledge my privileges - because ignoring them annoys - and try to think past and beyond them and not use them to oppress. I should do all I can not to be part of the problem

5) I should never ever ever ever ever condone the ‘divide and conquer’ tactics that have been used so successfully before. We’re in the same fight - we can’t throw our allies under the bus if it will get us ahead.

Othering, prejudice, bigotry is wrong. Always. Allowing it in any instance opens the door for it to be allowed anywhere. If we recognise this we are much much stronger

Friday, 26 June 2009

On Burqa Banning

It seems that, in a spat of lunacy, burqa banning has come up in France. Naturally, some people are saying we should do the same here - because craziness spreads, y’know. Let us analyse all that is wrong with this. This may take a while, there’s a lot of wrong there.

First of all the very idea of a dress code for people on their own time in a free society is so very disturbing that I don’t even know where to begin. Seriously, the very idea is ludicrous. Gods, I find public nudity laws ridiculous (and I think they’ve done a lot of damage with us overly sexualising the naked body, being unable to separate nudity and sex AND caused us no end of societal hang ups about our bodies and shame regarding many parts of them. But this is another matter). Laws which say what you can and cannot wear without good reason are the very antithesis of freedom - it is a very personal thing that is being dictated here and it’s an expansion of government power into an area that is very very scary.

We already have rules about where you can and cannot cover your face (such as banks) and we already have rules about work and school uniforms. This is expanding that to a blanket ban. So where are the good reasons for this huge infringement of personal choice?

It intimidates people.
Intimidates people? Why? Do you think she has a pair of uzis under there? The only reason that would be intimidating would be because people have waaaay too much Islamophobia programmed and this ban would only feed into that. I think a more accurate term would be people are “disconcerted” or made uncomfortable by burqas.

Well, so what? People are made uncomfortable by men in drag or make up. I can make thousands of people ragingly uncomfortable wearing tight trousers, a hot pink, skin tight-tank top with rainbows, linked Mars symbols and the words “so many men, so few can afford me,” or “You must be at least 8“ to ride“ blazoned across it. My grandmother, even in her sane days, was intimidated by any man with a beard. She and all my great aunts and uncles are outright intimidated and FRIGHTENED by Nuns. I am intimidated by large, overt religious symbols. I am intimidated by skin heads. I’m mildly freaked by tongue piercing and ear gauges.

However, we do not and should not dictate other people’s clothing and body decoration on the basis of what makes us comfortable - the arrogance of that is beyond compare. If you don’t like such clothing, do not wear it, but to demand others adhere to our tastes and sensibilities is deeply wrong

The Qu’ran doesn’t demand they wear burqas
I’m sorry, but the number of non-Muslims telling Muslims that they are practicing their faith in an incorrect fashion is beyond silly. Yes, the Qu’ran says that men and women must dress modestly. Right, like that isn’t damned ambivalent and couldn’t be interpreted many different ways - like a lot of holy text (there are HOW many different variations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism for example?). It doesn’t matter how YOU interpret it, unless they have come to you for theological advice, it is how THEY interpret it. Even if you DID share the same faith, it is not your place to tell someone they are doing it wrong.

These women are being oppressed!
On the face of it, this argument looks so much better. All these women are forced into burqas and this way they would no longer have to wear them! Let equality and freedom ring out!

Except it fails in one fundamental level. You are denying these women the choice. They go from being forced to wear the burqa to being forced NOT to wear the burqa - whether they want to or not. Look at Iran during the time of the Shah, look at modern secular Turkey. In both countries there were/are laws restricting the wearing of veils et al - and women WEAR/WORE them as a form of protest. They wanted to wear these clothes and they were forced not to.

Why is the oppression of male dominated governments telling women what to wear any better than male dominated family/cultural/religious customs telling women what to wear?

By all means have facilities to reach out to people who may be being coerced, definitely inform people of their rights, definitely provide protection and shelters and refuges - but making their choices for them is NOT freeing them from oppression.

If you think women should be free from oppression then you think that THEY should be able to make their OWN choices, even if you disagree with them.

They’re being oppressed - cultural brain washing edition
This basically says that yes the women are being oppressed but they agree to it because they have been culturally oppressed and don’t know any better.

Or, to put it another way: It is our duty as White, Christian Men to teach these poor deluded Brown Muslim Women how to do things decently.

Yes, I know that not all Muslims are non-Caucasian but the language used here is extremely reminiscent of the old “white man’s burden” argument. We have to save the poor women from themselves! They don’t know any better!

Seriously, this is the height of arrogance. We have to ban the burqa because it’s oppressive of women and women who do wear it are being oppressed even if they choose it because they don’t know any better. Now go wear a mini-skirt and a boob tube as is societally acceptable! Alright, the last was a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s amazing how often society EXPECTS women to show flesh (but that’s another issue).

Side note to the oppression:
So let’s assume for a second that all these women ARE oppressed either by absorbing cultural misogyny or because they have fathers/husbands/brothers who will do them harm if they disobey. Right. Now you outlaw the burqa. The thing that stops their body being seen by males who are not relatives - which is the point of the garment to begin with

Do you think they’ll just go out in more revealing clothing? Really? Because I think it’s far more likely that they won’t go out at all - that they’ll be trapped in their own homes. If they’ve accepted the idea that the burqa is essential “modest” dress required by the Qu’ran then they’re NOT going to be comfortable walking around outside without it. In fact, in some cases I imagine (obviously I don’t know) it would feel akin to going out undressed, to say nothing of religious aspect of it. Any oppressive male relatives are likely to be equally or more unimpressed or unhappy.

This? Does not sound like a reasonable solution to any kind of oppression to me.

In fact the whole idea doesn't sound reasonable on any level

Monday, 26 January 2009

Hmmm who wants turkey?

Beloved and I do a lot of our shopping at the local(ish) indoor market

This is a bonus because I am still on my "stop screwing with my food!" kink and you can't beat this place for that - fruit and veg and meat in as little packaging as possible with as little added as possible. No dyes and artificial flavourings and preservatives and other random crap they try to poison us with constantly. Not the meat market - corpses, freshly served. Nothing added but dead animal. Nom.

Even better, not only is it high quality meat unmessed with - but it's cheap. Especially come the end of the day and they're selling off their stock. Of course, there are drawbacks - especially if Beloved is left unattended.

Beloved: Look what I got in the meat auction! (not really an auction, more the butcher yelling "who'll give me £10 for this?" and then lost of people racing forwards to get the corpse) *staggers a little*
Me: *boggles* You killed Big Bird.
Beloved: It's a turkey
Me: It's an ostriche! How big is that thing?
Beloved: 22lb I think...
Me: *boggles again*. Are you expecting a REGIMENT to visit? What are we going to do with 22lbs of turkey?!
Beloved: Well you never know when your family's visiting.
Me: We'll have to invite the whole town to eat the damned thing. What possessed you?
Beloved: It was £5
Me: *boggles yet again* And 3 boggles are really my limit

So, we have a TURKEY. It is staring at me. Daring me to cook it in all its majestic splendour. The oven is afraid. Very afraid. It's going to take a damn site more than a fan assist to cook THIS Sesame Street retiree.

Still £5 for 22lb turkey? You can't go wrong with that. But this shows how utterly NOT domestic Beloved has. Household of 2 people? SHOULD NOT BUY 22 lb TURKIES!