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Grauniad Highlights – a tumblr by @Phinharper and @thegreatDamfino

February 25, 2014


Grauniad Highlights , a new tumblr by @TheGreatDamfino and @PhinHarper is really quite inspired. And I’m a little worried it will put the already weary and lacklustre  Graunwatch out of business altogether!

Phin began the project when his friend Joel (@thegreatdamfino) left the UK for far-flung pastures new, so Joel wouldn’t miss out on the UK’s ‘best news’.  Now they both update the site. This simple presentation of the most Guardianesque bits of the Guardian has had me chuckling to myself for days.

But Grauniad Highlights can be read seriously too. It exposes the most cosseted, navel-gazing, ‘first world problems’ attitudes of the Graun in a comical way, without making my mistake of actually saying anything about the journalism and the hacks, that hypothetically could get one into hypothetical trouble. I particularly like the entry below which simply lists some of the inane yet slightly neurotic questions of Graun headlines:  ‘Can you be too intelligent? Can you be too ethical? Can you be too left wing? Can you be too happy?’  It puts a disturbing image in my mind of  Eva Wiseman on acid.

gh2Although Grauniad Highlights shows up the Guardian for what it has become – a superficial lifestyle mag that accessorizes concern – it also has a worrying effect on me in that it makes me feel almost affectionate towards the old ‘newspaper’.  I can see why Joel, living thousands of miles away from King’s Place, would miss groaning along with the rest of us at the pompousness, the smugness, the tweeness the Graun churns out on a daily basis.  Like overpriced cappuccino, ‘we apologise for the inconvenience caused’, ugg boots and rain, its a reminder of home.


Graunwatch Reshuffle

November 7, 2013

I’m doing a bit of spring (winter) cleaning at Graunwatch, dusting off the cobwebs etc. I’m still hoping to put some of the articles together in an ebook format at somepoint.

Meanwhile, though the Graun still incenses me on a regular basis, I’ve decided it is sometimes better just to laugh it off, Like babes in Toyland do.

A Fair Discussion of the Suicide Statistics? By @henrymcg

January 24, 2013


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

‘The Women’ and the rest of us

January 19, 2013

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.

A Letter To the @commentisfree Editors about Julie Burchill

January 13, 2013

Dear all

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.

Best wishes

Elly Tams, PHD.

Suzanne Moore Hulks Out – By redpesto

January 10, 2013


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:

Dear she-males,

Fuck off.

Yours in solidarity (terms and conditions apply),

Suzanne, x.

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.

Rape and Cocktails – Suzanne Moore Does Delhi

January 2, 2013


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:

I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.