Child abuse has been a hot topic in the news this year. With the celebrity angle it was bound to become a tabloid moral panic. But I think it’s worth pointing out that the Guardian has made as much of the subject as any red top. Suzanne Moore over the last few months has revealed a vulture-like interest in the past behaviours of old, often dead 1970s TV personalities. But this is hardly surprising since powerful men abusing young girls fits the feminists’ favourite fairy tale of little red riding hood and the big bad wolf perfectly. Even though some of the victims in the Yewtree cases were boys, now men.
But other more ‘measured’ Guardian writers have also joined in the fray. Ally Fogg wrote yesterday and last week about child abuse. I agree with him that child pornography is not necessarily the cause of assault and rape. But I found his use of a single tragic and extreme case in the news as a hook to hang his argument on, annoying. And of course, again, this was the case of an older man and a young girl. As I have said before, a key element of the Guardian’s concern porn is how it takes ‘tabloid’ stories, uses them in exact same way as the tabs do, as shock value and to get clicks and attention, but then tries to make out it is above such tactics. Guardian journalists write about this stuff because they care. Also as with Fogg’s piece, there is a tendency in the Graun to stand over the actions and experiences of working class and poor people, tutting or offering on the spot ‘social analysis’ as if that’s what grieving families need right now.
Fogg mentioned in his article how child abuse has seemed to ebb and flow through history, using a statistic from psychologist Kraft-Ebing, of over 17,000 child rapes reported in France in the middle of the 19th century. What he didn’t say was that one of the reasons for this apparent fluctuation could be that ideas of what childhood actually is, have also changed over the years. As this interesting essay shows, the age of consent has shifted, and this relates to Enlightenment constructions of the ‘child’ as innocent in comparison to adults who can corrupt (as well as educate) children.
‘Near the end of the 18th century, other European nations began to enact age of consent laws. The broad context for that change was the emergence of an Enlightenment concept of childhood focused on development and growth. This notion cast children as more distinct in nature from adults than previously imagined, and as particularly vulnerable to harm in the years around puberty. The French Napoleonic code provided the legal context in 1791 when it established an age of consent of 11 years. The age of consent, which applied to boys as well as girls, was increased to 13 years in 1863.’
But discussions of Enlightenment conceptions of childhood, or Freud’s work on child sexuality for example doesn’t get website traffic. Concern porn does.
The Guardian’s true stance on child abuse is reflected in a letter to the publication from old-school Feminists Cynthia Cockburn and Anne Oakley. They write of ‘the profound, extensive and costly problem of male sexual violence. It is not irremediable. Gendered behaviour is culturally shaped. It could be addressed by many social measures, if only policy-makers willed it.’
Ally Fogg doesn’t challenge this portrait of men as monsters by featuring a newsworthy story of a monstrous man in his piece. But he does do some important identity work, reminding us all that he is a good man and, like most Guardian journalists, is very concerned.
Suzanne Moore is not known for her consistency when it comes to her relationship with social media. She left twitter twice during the shitstorm following her transphobic meltdown earlier this year. So we should not be surprised she did another disappearing act this week, only to return immediately, albeit on a kind of ‘non-cooperation’ basis. She’s still pimping her columns but won’t share her dazzling character and quips with us. Shame.
What she has shared is a column, supporting the recent actions of boxer Curtis Woodhouse. Apparently sick to death of receiving abuse on twitter, Woodhouse took the law into his own hands, found the address of his ‘twitter troll’ and drove round to his house to – er – well I think he just sat outside in his car, looking menacing. Ms Moore thought this was super cool. She said that ‘many of us would happily pay him to drive around the country to have a word with their abusers (calling them trolls is misleading).’It is probably inconvenient that the brave, C-list celebrity hero of this story is a man. If he had have been of the fairer sex, Moore might have turned this into a Valerie Solanas style parable, in which teh wimminz are moved to seek revenge on all those nasty misogynists who ever called them horrid names online. So Moore just mentions women a lot anyway, to bring things round to her agenda. She writes:
‘But Twitter isn’t nice. “Come on guys, it’s just banter!” “Can’t you take a joke?” Well, you are certainly meant to take it lying down if you are any kind of minor celebrity, or worse, a woman.’
Here she ties herself up in some knots. Usually a major promoter of victim feminism, in which women are presented as helpless damsels at the mercy of those big bad wolves, men, Moore now is suggesting that like ‘minor celebrities’, women are likely to be attacked on social media because they are perceived as wielding power. She says:
‘Social media doesn’t do face-to-face. It does jokes, one-liners, boasts. The disconnect between what one says online and how it is received by an actual person is lost in a murk of babble. Anyone who is perceived as powerful is not allowed to react like a human being.’
This notion that there is a ‘disconnect’ between our online and offline selves and modes of expression, is yet another example of digital dualism. As the cyborgology writers such as Nathan Jurgenson and Whitney Erin Boesel have explained, presenting this false binary between the ‘virtual’ and the ‘real’ is often a way of saying something negative about one side of the coin, and its usually, as it is in Moore’s case, the digital ‘world’ that comes off worse. Moore is trying to convince us that her departure from twitter is nothing to do with her own behaviour, but is the fault of…well.,. twitter! She tries to include her readers in what she suggests is a growing number of people becoming disillusioned with online interactions.
‘I recently got so bored of the constant abuse that I decided to take some time out of Twitter. And I wonder if I am the only one. Has Twitter peaked? More and more people may join but the percentage of those who actively tweet remains fairly constant’
‘No one is advocating violence. But I would like the relentless stream of online abuse to stop. Often, it is random and meaningless, and done simply because it can be. Of course, I can be rude myself. But when I am rude in writing it’s in my name – I am not hiding’
‘Perhaps there is a lull in tweeting because we have hit a time where the next stage of online etiquette has to be worked out. It’s one thing to defend anonymity on the grounds that it is necessary for the activism of the Arab spring, it is quite another when it is used to bully and taunt women almost constantly. Anonymity is not revolutionary when it is used to gag the weak.’
These statements from La Moore are all over the place and probably don’t warrant much analysis. But I think it’s worth highlighting that, using a complete lack of understanding of how percentages work!, Moore is blaming the medium in which she has been relentlessly promoting herself for a number of years, for the fact she is currently receiving rather a lot of criticism for some of her more nasty views. That’s right, I said criticism not ‘abuse’. Because in the run up to her latest flounce from twitter, I didn’t see any abusive comments to Moore. All I saw were some new blogposts and renewed challenges from trans people and others about her transphobic remarks in January. If you don’t believe me then have a look at her @ mentions yourselves. She also takes this opportunity to attack online anonymity, another ‘digital dualist’ position, where any form of identity or persona that doesn’t match our IRL ‘true self’ is seen as suspect. And again she gets confused about who is ‘powerful’ and who is ‘weak’.
The sub-heading of Jane Powell’s interesting CiF piece on suicides informs us, Laurie Penny-style , that ‘It’s time to address the root causes of men’s depression and inability to talk’. The piece gives some statistics that I haven’t checked in detail, but which tally with a story I keep hearing, and not just in the UK: that men commit suicide more often than women, by a large margin. But right from the word go, there are important facts missing from the article. Powell states:
‘A complacent explanation for the difference is that men attempt more violent forms of suicide and are therefore more likely to be successful’
Firstly, can someone tell me why this explanation would be “complacent”?
More important are the statistics that have been left out, that give the bigger picture. Powell briefly mentions that men’s suicides are “more successful” (which doesn’t seem the right word). In fact statistics worldwide tend to indicate a) that attempted suicides are far more likely than actual suicides, and b) that women are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than men. The reasons for this fact are unclear, but why is it not mentioned?
Then there is this gem which is the problem sentence in the piece:
‘Poverty and mental health issues affect both genders. The variable factor is culture and society’
For a start, there is a whacking great assumption here: that men and women function in much the same way psychologically. This is a common enough belief among feminists. The problem is that wanting something to be true doesn’t constitute scientific evidence that it is so.
In fact there are multiple factors in the physiological make-up of men and women that probably lead to differences in experience and behaviour. Whether people writing in the Guardian want it to be true or not, there is strong evidence that brain and hormonal chemistry differ between men and women, and that these differences are associated with, for example: risk-taking, and violence (also social and sexual behaviour, information processing, mood changes)
If we’re going to be at all rational about the factors affecting suicide we cannot ignore the possibility that these differences might have a lot to do with the statistical profile of suicide seen worldwide (not just in one culture).
Then there is the vagueness of saying “The variable factor is culture and society”. It’s not clear what this catch-all phrase covers, but another factor missing is the possibility that the genders experience life differently. Quite apart from physiological differences, is it not the case that women form better social networks than men, remain closer to family and friends?
It certainly seems to be the case that men are less able to form strong bonds with their children – the most important part of their lives for many. The reasons for this difference may be partly “cultural” – society expects men to go out and work, women to get maternity pay and look after the kids – but the effect is of contrasting life-scenarios where many men miss out on a lot of joy.
Powell is more interested in the idea that men are less likely to talk about depression (which is strongly linked to suicide) and – for me – it’s where she starts to make more sense:
‘It seems to be accepted that men just won’t ask for help or therapy. Calm’s phonelines tell a different story. We’ve found that if you promote a service aimed at men, in a manner that fits with their lifestyle and expectations, they will ask for help. We struggle to keep up with demand’
But soon, her beliefs about gender seem to get in the way again:
‘We need to challenge the idea that a “strong and silent” man is desirable and challenge the notion that men talking, showing emotion and being “sensitive” is weak’
Again we’re given a narrow analysis. There’s no talk of gender differences, nor of differing experiences of parenthood, but plenty of this thesis that the main factor is men not wanting to show emotion. I don’t mean to suggest that being able to talk wouldn’t help depressed men – it would. But we need the whole picture, not the ideologically correct one.
In conclusion, I think the article avoids mentioning several important possible factors in the suicide statistics – and perhaps does so for questionable reasons. If we allow an honest debate of the issue to be derailed by what we want to believe then we risk failing to help those suffering from serious depression. And anyone who has known a suicide will know how devastating the consequences can be
I could write a LOT about the Suzanne Moore/Julie Burchill debacle, but I am too busy laughing really. Evoking Gore Vidal, it is incredibly (if perversely) pleasurable for me to sit here and say I. Told. You. So. I have been unpicking the transphobia, misandry (and often plain misogyny) of Moore and her cronies’ writings for a long time now. I will just mention that unlike most who have responded to this latest meltdown by La Moore, I have huge problems with her initial piece that set this whole thing off. Because I believe focussing on ‘female anger’ is biologically determinist, and just reinforces the gender binary. But my views on this have got me into trouble.
So I am going to refer you to some measured, sensitive and also quite hard hitting responses from others to this latest scene in that campiest, bitchiest of dramas, The Women.
Please read Deborah Orr in the Graun, Christopher Bryant in Polari Magazine, Paris Lees in DIVA mag and stavvers on her blog. And please, as I am doing, take some comfort from the fact that Moore and her coven now, at last, seem to be a tiny minority in their hateful, clumsy opinions. The rest of us are doing ok thanks.
I am writing to complain – something I have not done before – about the content of Julie Burchill’s latest cif article.
Yes it is offensive, yes it is transphobic, but I am used to this kind of ‘controversial’ link-bait Daily Mail esque style approach from the Graun now.
What I am complaining about is the threatening nature of some of Julie’s words. e.g:
Shims, shemales, whatever you’re calling yourselves these days – don’tthreaten or bully us lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we’ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.
Now as someone who has a ‘lovely big swinging PhD’, a fact that was published online by two of Burchill’s journo mates, and someone who has caused the anger of Burchill and Moore by criticising their work, and someone who Moore has ‘accused’ of being a not-a-real-woman, I am frightened by this paragraph.
God knows how actual trans people will be feeling right now.
I am sure you take legal advice before publishing hate-filled pieces but just because something is not illegal it doesn’t mean it is not threatening and scary.
I hope you do something about at least the section I quoted here, or at least write explaining why you kept it in.
Elly Tams, PHD.
GRRRRRAAGGHHHHH!!! Suzanne Moore is angry
Many of us don’t feel calm but angry and perturbed that the humour embraced by Fragrant Dave is that of a previous generation (Benny Hill?). That may well be what being a conservative means: conserving the worst of things as well as the best of them
…and you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry:
These are the most conservative times for women I can remember. But why are we not saying “Enough, already”? Why are we not telling our inbred overlords that we are not as nice as we look? Partly because we are afraid of our own anger. It’s not a pretty sight. Seeing red and letting go is, for many women, a dangerous activity.
She’s so angry, she doesn’t care who gets crushed by her sheer rage:
The cliché is that female anger is always turned inwards rather than outwards into despair. We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.
In fact, she doesn’t care if people get angry with her for offending them…
People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.
…because she’s Suzanne Moore, she’s still angry, and she’s got a whole Guardian Column to tell everyone how little she cares if other people are offended:
Intersectionality] means we must understand our own privilege: the multiple oppressions of race, class, culture and sexuality. I speak as a white woman of privilege, though I was indeed born in the wrong body. It should have been Gisele Bündchen’s.
Intersectionality is good in theory, though in practice, it means that no one can speak for anyone else. It is the dead-end where much queer politics, feminist politics and identity politics ends up. In its own rectum. It refuses to engage with many other political discourses and becomes the old hierarchy of oppression.
What matters is that she’s angry, and thinks other women should be angry too – but not if they have sons:
What I was actually talking about was the way that women should be more angry about what is happening to us. I believe in anger. Everything I wanted for my daughters and yours is being denied them: housing, free education, employment.
For she is Suzanne Moore: your anger is trifling ; her anger is what really matters right now:
What I do care about is something that is deeply old-fashioned: solidarity. I may not be your colour or your culture, or share your sexual preferences, but open your eyes to what we need to do.
So to be told that I hate transgender people feels a little … irrelevant. Other people’s genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract.
And if people are still angry with her, well…FOAD, Losers:
I am not going to apologise. Get it?
Perhaps the whole affair could best summed up as follows:
Yours in solidarity (terms and conditions apply),
But I suspect Raaarrrggggghh!!!! Moore angry!! Moore demand solidarity!! Moore throw trans people to wolves!! Moore Smash!!! is nearer the truth since She-Hulk was just as prone to destructive rampages as her male counterpart. She-Hulk, however, might have shown a bit more self-awareness of the collateral damage she’d caused.
Suzanne Moore interrupted her Christmas break to provide the Guardian with some hard-hitting reportage. She anticipates ‘criticism’ for the fact she stumbles across some ‘local news’ whilst on a luxury holiday in Goa, with this humble paragraph:
‘I am a tourist not a traveller, I don’t kid myself, and now I am in Goa on holiday with my family on beautiful beaches where westerners and wealthy Indians live the high life. These beautiful people are here to party, to drink strawberry mojitos, to dance.
But I can’t stop watching the news’!
That’s right Graunwatchers! Suzanne Moore’s big scoop is something she just happened to see on telly, like everyone else around the world. But her ‘connection’ with India and, more importantly with teh wimminz, means she feels it is her duty to lecture us, I mean report on the reactions in India to a recent rape of a woman in Delhi.
Moore’s article is a run of the mill Graun feminism mix of propaganda – ‘Rape is not about sex. It is about power’ – and ‘confessional’ – ‘When I first went to Delhi some 30 years ago I stayed in some flophouse. Men knocked on my door all night. They wanted two things. Sex and Johnnie Walker. I barricaded myself in, got out my Swiss army knife and my hat pin’. But far more revealing was her twitter feed as she holidayed in Goa, watching the Indian news of the protests about ‘violence against women’. The photos she posted on twitter summed up everything I dislike about Moore’s particular brand of feminism. First, screengrabs of media coverage of demonstrations in India showed Moore’s interest in ‘retaliation’ by women against violent men. ‘Kill the cruels’ read one placard featured by Ms Moore on twitpic, ‘Stone the rapist to death in public’ another. This is the Valerie Solanas school of ‘women’s liberation’, and Moore made no attempt either on twitter or in the Graun, to question the ‘eye for an eye’ attitude of the women protestors.
But worse than that, in between her hand -wringing and ‘concern porn’ Moore posted photos of the cocktails she was drinking in Goa. Was she trying to lighten the mood for her ‘audience’ at home? Or to remind us that she’s not all angsty misandry, but also a ‘good time girl’? I don’t know, but I am glad she could sip a ‘Burmese pomegranate magarita’ to help her swallow the reality she was witnessing. But victim feminism never admits to its voyeurism. The ‘confessional’ at the start of her piece, where she intimated that she used her hatpin as a weapon against predatory men, when she was a young ‘tourist’ in India many years ago, serves to link her with the women victims of violence today in India. It’s a clever device but I don’t buy it. Because Suzanne Moore, a Guardian columnist who lives in a very smart, white, rich postcode of London, and who holidays in Goa with her smart phone and her disposable income, knows next to nothing of the lives of ordinary women – AND MEN – in the subcontinent of India.
Someone who DID know a great deal about life in India, Gandhi, is going to have the final word today. He said: