In a post entitled evocatively Little Lolita, legal blogger Amanda Bancroft ( @_Millymoo ) has presented a very ‘Guardianesque’ line on the Megan Stammers ‘abduction’ case. She writes:
‘The press coverage and social media commentary has been, to some degree, stomach churning. One tweet, summarising a seemingly popular opinion, said:
‘Megan Stammers should write a book: ‘My Teenage Years’. Or, ‘How I Cost My Maths Teacher His Job’.
This level of victim blaming – whatever has happened here, on the mere facts that this child was found in a foreign country with a teacher having been taken there without her parent’s consent, suggests she is a victim of a crime – is not, sadly, unusual in crimes relating to women and girls. It is even more so when scenarios would appear to involve sex, as this one, prima facie, does.
This is rape culture. Rape culture is a ‘concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence.
Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape’ (Wikipedia).’
I agree that the tweet she quotes and others like it, is a horrible way to talk about a teenage girl. I also agree with Bancroft as she says later in her piece, that the teacher in this scenario had a ‘duty of care’ to all his students, that does not include whisking any of them off on a ‘romantic’ tryst to France! I even have issues with university lecturers copping off with adult students. But then I am a bit of a secret ‘prude’.
However the argumentation the blogger uses, and the concepts she backs up her points with, I find tired, misandrous and suited to the Guardian’s Women’s section, not a supposedly ‘evidence based’ legal blog.
Readers of Graunwatch will know I have huge problems with the idea of ‘rape culture’. In an article published at The Good Men Project and elsewhere I argue that ‘rape culture’ is a feminist myth, used to bash men, and to reinforce the cliche that ‘all men are potential rapists’ and all women are potential victims.
On twitter today, I added a further comment on the subject, that was greeted by Bancroft with a ‘yawn’ and minutes later, a block!
But I think it is lazy blogging to just go to wikipedia for a ‘definition’ of a term that is highly contested. Remember, anyone can contribute to wikipedia and say anything they like! And arguing with wiki geeks is even more soul destroying that arguing with feminists!
But apart from the unfair conflating of ‘rape’ and ‘rape culture’ with this rather poignant tale of a fifteen year old girl who ran off with her maths teacher, I think we could use the event to engage in a much more subtle and complex debate.
I recently reviewed an edition of the Gender and Educaiton journal which does just that. In their discussions of the ‘sexualisation’ debates in our culture, including the 2011 Bailey Report, the journal authors also invoke the image of Lolita. But rather than only presenting teen girls as ‘victims’ of predatory men, they counteract that position by identifying a ‘sexual knowingness’ that many girls and young women possess. And by exploring the contexts in which girls explore and experiment with their sexuality. The journal edition also asks the question relevant to this case: where are young people’s voices in these ‘debates’?
The problem with the law is it is black and white, when reality is often fifty shades of grey. If Megan’s maths teacher has committed a crime, and remember, that has not yet been decided by those who have the power to do so, then it still may not be helpful to call her a ‘victim’.
Victims don’t get to choose their own destinies, and it seems very limiting to label someone with their whole adult life ahead of them in that way.
The Guardian (and its outpost twitter) has been getting its knickers in a twist about Grant Shapps, the Tory MP and his self-serving online behaviour. Apparently he has edited his own wikipedia page, making himself look more impressive in the process, using an unacknowledged assumed name.
This goes against wikipedia policy, and the Guardian’s sensitive moral sensibilities. Wiki says if you use an assumed name to edit your own pages you should identify yourself and be transparent about it.
I am not convinced by the Guardian’s stance on this issue for a few reasons. Firstly, I know for a fact that lots of people create and edit their own wikipedia pages without telling anyone who they are. Whilst it can be somewhat tiresome reading so-called ‘encyclopedias’ that read more like facebook profiles or linked in self – promotional blurbs, I think this is only natural. In metrosexual culture, the Big I AM is what internet communication is often about. And if wikipedia is run by the people, for the people, it is going to reflect how the people are.
Secondly, the Guardian has a habit of criticising ‘shallowness’ in others but not acknowledging it in itself. I found it particularly funny that Suzanne Moore recently added ‘narcissistic’ to her list of faults of her feminist nemesis Naomi Wolf. Moore then went on to twitter to receive gushy adulation from her twenty one thousand twitter followers. If anyone criticises her work it’s easy, she can just block them.
This brings me onto the third and final reason why I don’t buy the Guardian’s ‘concern’ about Shapps.
In a piece in the Telegraph Willard Foxton made a careful critique of the Guardian’s new ‘star signing’ Glenn Greenwald. A pundit from the USA, he has been greeted with a mixture of fanboy worship ( for his sharp criticisms of American foreign policy and relatedly his defence of Assange) and horror. The horror seems to have come largely from his Graun colleagues, many of whom lie firmly in the Anti-Assange camp.
‘If even the most basic fact-checking of Greenwald’s article had gone on, someone would have said “hang on Glenn, isn’t this nonsense?” Further, Greenwald has been accused of sock-puppetry in the past, which makes it all the more worrying that – apparently uniquely at The Guardian – he claims he has been given moderating powers over the comments on his pieces.
Greenwald’s blog shares the space and the masthead of the Guardian. To the untrained eye, it is indistinguishable from real, hard, fact-based journalism. Greenwald is entitled to his view that CNNi (but not CNN) is censoring the news to appease Middle Eastern regimes, but it doesn’t stack up at all – and by giving Glenn the authority of the masthead, the branded blog, I feel the Guardian is undermining the excellent hard journalism it produces.
The Guardian has already sacked one of the two high-profile Americansit hired recently; maybe it’s time for Glenn to “draft a piece for Malaysia Matters”, as they say at King’s Place?’
So if the Guardian are so keen to stamp out sock puppetry and unchecked self-promotion maybe they should not be giving Greenwald such free reign.
I am a little worried that giving Greenwald moderating powers over his articles may be an ‘experiment’ on the part of the Graun, and if it ‘works’ they might roll it out to other columnists. I know Julie Bindel would be rubbing her hands with glee if she could control the ‘misogynists’ below the line. And in fact, under Suzanne Moore’s piece about Naomi Wolf’s by now very well-examined Vagina, the moderators were incredibly gung ho with the delete button. Maybe that is a taste of things to, er, come…
Much has changed since the wannabe prime minister David Cameron pledged to give a third of his first government’s jobs to women, thereby ending what he called the “scandalous under-representation” in parliament. Not least the fact that, once in Downing Street, he promptly appointed just five women to his 23-strong cabinet. There may be a female home secretary in Theresa May, but at 22%, the UK ranks 57th in terms of female parliamentary representation, according to the Centre for Women and Democracy.
Not for the first time, Martinson focuses on the number of women in the cabinet, as though this correlates to the level of feminism within the coalition. She goes on to point out how Cameron tried to deal with his ‘women problem’ by ‘the appointment of an unelected woman to give the feminine perspective to Number 10.’ It’s unclear whether Martinson’s reference to the ‘feminine perspective’ is a slip of the keyboard, or a reference to some special insight that only women have by virtue of being female – like ‘female intuition’, only in a shade of Tory blue.
In order to come up with some advice for Cameron on what to do about women, and how he should go about his reshuffle, the article then goes on to present the views of what can only be described as a round-up of the usual feminist suspects, including Graunwatch/QRG fave Julie Bindel, professional ‘mumsy cupcake feminist’ Natasha Walter and Ceri Goddard of the Fawcett Society, who came up with this gem:
“The reshuffle is a golden opportunity for the prime minister to boost the presence and influence of women in British politics. Ninety years after women first got the vote, the nation is run by a cabinet made up of more millionaires than women. Women are bearing the brunt of austerity measures in terms of cuts to benefits and services. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Other countries fare much better, even when it comes to cabinet-level posts – indeed, Sweden, Switzerland and France all have equal numbers of men and women in their cabinets. Why can’t we?”
Goddard’s not the only offender amongst the writers, but ‘more women equals more feminism’ is such a frequently-used argument perhaps it ought to form the official Team Woman motto. What’s also interesting is a clear contradiction between the way Bindel and Susie Orbach come out on opposite sides regarding (now-former) Women and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone. Each sees in her only what they want to see: someone who spoke out on body image issues (Orbach) versus someone who won’t give the commercial sex industry a kicking because she’s part of a non-existent ‘party line’ in favour of decriminalisation (Bindel).
In fact, it is a hallmark of all the contributors that they merely restate their familiar positions on women, the ‘disproportionate’ cuts, the idea that violence against women is the priority, and that if only there were more women around the cabinet table, all their wishes would come true – though it must really gall Julie Bindel that she even contemplates the idea of relying on a male Minister for Women to deliver on the issues she wants.
So what happened in the actual reshuffle? Needless to say, Cameron didn’t listen to a word from any of the women in the article. Pretty much from the off, Martinson was already counting heads and grumping via Twitter:
hmm, 2 women seem to be 1st casualties already. Not sure Cameron listening to what #women want from the reshuffle yet (link)
Indeed. RT@jameschappers Big women problem shaping up for PM as Spelman, Warsi, Gillan out. Can’t end day with fewer women than before (link)
Martinson’s focus on the overall numbers of women not only overlooked the significant issue of the sacking of Ken Clarke as Justice minister, and the lack of ethnic diversity in the cabinet, but misses two crucial points. First, Cameron only needed to increase the overall number of female ministers (rather than just cabinet ministers) by just one to get a cheap ‘more women’ headline. Second, and more importantly, the number of women doesn’t tell us a single thing about policy. That sound you hear is Margaret Thatcher cackling insanely as she watches another bunch of naive feminists make the same mistake they did when she became Prime Minister over thirty years ago.
And it got worse for Team Woman soon after that. First Justine Greening got shunted from Transport to International Development to make way for an expanded Heathrow airport, then Maria Miller was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport as well as Minister for Women and Equalities, leading to this Twitter exchange:
Martinson: Apart from trying to stop [British Preganancy Advisory Service] what interest has Maria Miller shown in women and equalities exactly?
Eleanor Mills: @janemartinson Cameron reckons maria miller is a woman (rare breed in cabinet now) so she is qualified for wimmins issues #reshufffle #sigh
Martinson: It would be funny wdn’t it. If it weren’t so v annoying…
It’s hard not to laugh at the fact that having waved the flag for Team Woman so much, Martinson now finds Cameron following though on the very logic she has so often used, only to appoint an anti-abortion MP to a brief which may include women’s reproductive rights. It’s Sarah Palin Reloaded. No wonder Martinson ends up whingeing about ‘More women than before? but not the 1/3 he promised’ like a kid complaining about getting only two ponies instead of five, and then discovering they’re both three-legged nags rather than thoroughbreds. By paying more attention to numbers rather than to ideology, Martinson’s been blindsided to the fact that even if Cameron had appointed women to half his cabinet, they’d still all be Tories in favour of cuts.
Once the major part of the reshuffle was over, Martinson posted her analysis of the outcome, where she had the sheer brass neck to write the following:
Policy is always going to be more important than personnel, but to end the day with fewer women than the handful he started out with seems a tad careless.
If policy were really that important, Martinson wouldn’t be quite so obsessed with counting heads at every opportunity as a subsitute for debating what the Tories actually do and say. She wouldn’t have been such a cheerleader for the ‘media savvy’ Louise Mensch. She might finally realise that female Tory MPs like Elizabeth Truss are perefectly capable of being as brutally right-wing as their male counterparts. In short, she’d have a much better analysis of ‘Tory feminism’ as well as sexism within the Coalition.
But never mind all that: Team Woman at the Guardian may have taken a pasting over the reshuffle, but the real question is whether they learn to change tactics or persist with same failed approach. I suspect Martinson may yet keep choosing the latter.
The unstoppable prymface now runs a successful weekly twitter forum, using the hashtag #youngmumschat . This week she is ‘turning the tables’ so from 8.30pm tomorrow evening the young mums who normally chat to each other and ask each other questions about being young parents and the prejudices they face, will be asking non young mums questions! I think it is a great idea, especially because when it comes to stereotypes of ‘teen parents’ and ‘young mums’ it tends to be people not in that situation who form the opinions and prejudices. So this chat provides a valuable opportunity for people with different experiences and expectations to talk to each other.
This is prymface’s blogpost about the event:
So, for the last 9 weeks, we have been hosting #youngmumschat on Twitter. Each week we get between 14 and 27 tweeters joining in from 8.30pm till, usually, way past 11pm! We have a handful of regulars and then a few newbies each week. New connections and support networks are made and each week it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling!
Something I hadn’t anticipated, though, was the comments from people afterwards who aren’t young mums and never were, but they picked up on the chat and they message me to tell me what they think of it! So far 100% of comments are positive, which makes me think maybe #youngmumschat is also, is some small way, helping to change the stereotype or negative perception of young mothers….OR maybe the negativity is just how we EXPECT others to see us, and actually they thought we were a pretty ok bunch all along!
Its true that I read articles like this and look down at the comments and I want to cuddle up all the young mums in the world and never let them out my sight because I never want them to hear someone calling them a “slut”, “slag” or “stupid” just because they are a young mum. BUT something came up in this weeks chat that got me thinking about this more….. One young mum emailed me a few months ago saying she was finding it hard to mix with other mums, who were all older than her. My first reaction was “well if they don’t like you, stuff them – It’s their loss!”, but I managed to tone my advice down a bit while another young mum rightly pointed out that its important to make an effort to get know people….. Then this week that same young mum told me that her partner took her son to a kid’s birthday party …. All the other mums told him how amazing she was, what a good job she was doing and how much they admired her for bringing up her son on her own!! In an instant, that problem was sorted, and her son is now the most popular kid in school! Sometimes we are so quick to go into defensive mode we don’t actually stop to consider that people might NOT always think we’re sluts slags or stupid!! And that look people give us might not be pity or judgment but actually be admiration!!
During #youngmumschat we’ve asked a number of questions about how young mums are treated differently and responses include:
“People assume I don’t know as much as I do-They try and tell me how to parent my daughter”
“I don’t feel I’m taken seriously”
“People see a young mum and imagine ONE scenario without even knowing the first thing about you”
“People assume I’m single, struggling and pitiful”
“Slut-shaming gets tedious”
“The ‘young mum’ title stays with us forever because there is always someone passing judgement on our decisions or past decisions”
“I was contacted by a TV company but they didn’t use me because I didn’t represent the ‘typical teenage mum’”
“Everywhere needs a better understanding of young mums. Less stereotyping and less judgments of young people.”
“I’d have liked to have been able to walk down the street and not hear people talking about us!”
” A university said because of my son they didn’t think I could offer any commitment to the course”
“My baby ended up being rushed to hospital due to a GP electing to patronise me rather than listen”
“I learned that there were shockingly unprofessional and judgmental people in maternity and social services”
So, next week I wanna turn the tables with #youngmumschat - I want young mums (and of course former young mums!) to ask questions to others and I want non-young mums to answer!
SO…..Young Mums, what have YOU always wanted to ASK OTHERS. Tweet or email me your questions….
Those who aren’t/weren’t young mums, this is YOUR chance to be heard!! PLEASE GET YOURSELF ON TWITTER FROM 8.30pm Wednesday 5th September.…. (You don’t really have to stay till gone 11pm!)
And we will be gentle with you – I promise!!
3) The ‘diversity’ of body types on display at the Olympics
‘In mainstream images of physical perfection, you would never see a woman with big shoulders; you would only see a man who had waxed his chest in a special interest publication; you would never see a woman with quads that meant anything; you would rarely see a guy as wiry as Bradley Wiggins.’
I am still on blog holiday – honest! But redpesto has kindly penned this post on the Graun’s gold medal performance in the gender olympics. Enjoy!
While everyone else has been enjoying London 2012 and supporting Team GB, Guardian Woman’s page editor Jane Martinson and other Guardian journalists have been cheering on ‘Team Woman.’ In case you’re wondering who they are, here’s one explanation, by way of a comment on a piece by Martinson about ‘media savvy’ Tory MP Louise Mensch:
What we have here is a fluffy puff piece that at some point merges into a more serious article about representation. For me what it does is expose the fallacy of representation (as if Maggie and Palin weren’t enough). Given that Mensch is part of a government currently inflicting untold levels of suffering upon the female population (according to Jane’s pieces on it, given the monicker I assume you’d disagree but there it is) who is [it] that ‘the women’s blog’ should really be giving time and promotion to? The media isn’t a neutral player here, who you profile has an effect on the success of their agenda (this being the thesis of the article itself!).
I think we see the faultline here yet again between the issues that matter to feminism and a rather more crudely uncritical ‘Team Woman’ approach. Someone out there is a junior MP trying to get a bill in that is far more pro-woman than anything Mensch has ever bothered herself with. That MP may well be a man. Who is on which side here?
The International Olympic Committtee (IOC) is concerned that men and women race in separate events (much to the frustration of transgender and intersex sportspeople), but ‘Team Woman’ is pretty sure biology is all that matters. Even if some bloke goes on a couple of cycle rides, and some other bloke wins a tennis match, for Martinson and the Guardian it’s all about the women.
So at just over halfway through the Games, how is Guardian Team Woman doing? Sadly, Alexandra ‘Lexy’ Topping was disqualified for a tweet (subsequently deleted) complaining that the women’s football tournament started before the Olympics. Others noticed that the men’s football tournament also started before the opening ceremony, in order to ensure that all the matches could fit within the Olympics itself. So for jumping the gun in such an outraged – or rather outrageous – fashion, Topping’s Games was already over.
Despite such a poor start, a bronze medal goes to Jane Martinson for reducing the entire opening ceremony to a headcount of women and an appearance by a group of suffragettes, plus the misleading claim that all countries had sent at least one female competitor – yes, even Saudi Arabia.
In fact, neither Barbados nor Nauru sent any women, but who’s counting (apart from Martinson)? And she clearly missed her chance of a better medal by ignoring the appearance in the opening ceremony of James Bond – usually denounced by feminists as a reactionary misogynist killing machine – as part of how Britain presented itself to the rest of the world. But maybe she was distracted by the appearance of feminist icon Elizabeth Windsor in a cameo role as Queen of the United Kingdom.
The silver controversially goes to Owen Gibson for this on-message argument: ‘British women have dominated the medal haul so far, leading to predictions that they will beat the men in the final tally for the first time.’ Yes, the real medal race is between the boys and the girls – sorry, between the menz and Team Woman – even though they don’t actually compete directly against each other unless they’re astride a horse. Curiously, if you look up the medals for Britain at Beijing 2008, you’ll discover that Team GB’s men didn’t win a single individual track and field gold, whereas Christine Ohuruogu won gold in the women’s 400m. Moreover, one wonders what the Guardian does when one day’s gold medals are all won by men, as happened on Day 6 and Day 9 of London 2012. Short answer: get a kicking.
However, as doubtless anyone on Team Woman at the Guardian will probably tell you, the only reason that men and women compete in separate events, and that the women’s 100m world record (10.49s) doesn’t equal the men’s (9.58s), is of course because of the patriarchy, and the fact that the women wear the wrong sort of clothing. But Team Woman is all about showing up the men as the whiney losers they are, not building a better national squad. No men’s synchronised swimming? That’s just ‘mansplaining.’
Finally, and in a highly unusual move, the gold medal goes to Jane Martinson for this observation on Jessica Ennis’ gold medal-winning performance:
Know this not biggest achievement but having finally seen medal ceremony Jessica Ennis gives hope to shorter #women and girls everywhere
Sports fans may know that there isn’t a single Olympic event where contestants are categorised according to height, rather than by weight in sports such as weightlifitng, boxing or judo. Even when height matters (see basketball), bigger does not always equal better, but it sure helps. And anyone who has ever lined up for a race on a school sports day would know you can’t judge the competition by how big they are – as anyone other than Martinson who watched the men’s (let alone the women’s) 10,000m finals could have told her.
An honourable mention must also go to Martinson for her attempt to tell her son that a female heptathlete is a greater sportsperson than a male 100m runner. Even in Fruit Ninja, apples don’t fight oranges. Someone show that kid some YouTube clips of Daley Thompson and call it a draw with Jessica Ennis before he thinks that the London 2012 slogan is ‘You Go, Girl!’ rather than ‘Inspire a generation.’
But overall, it’s a clean sweep for the Guardian and Team Woman at the London 2012 Olympics! Bravo!