Monthly Archives: December 2013

Stuff That Happened In 2013: feminism, sex work activism, DWP, freedom

So. A lot happened in 2013. Here’s a round-up of feminist, freedom-related and sex worker activism stuff that happened.

Feminism

Sadly it looks like we’re no closer to an intersectional mainstream feminism, as feminists continue to ignore trans, disabled, coloured, migrant and sex working women. 2013 saw the rise of the No More Page Three and Lose the Lads’ Mags campaigns, as well as outrage over the song Blurred Lines. The release of two members of Pussy Riot was claimed as a feminist victory here, even though their protest, arrest and release were nothing to do with feminism. Caroline Criado-Perez dropped her anonymity and gained fame through her project The Women’s Room, a database of female experts set up in response to a BBC claim that they couldn’t find any female experts for a particular show.

The slut shaming and suicides of Amanda Todd, Audrie Potts and Rehtaeh Parsons shocked the internetz and brought the danger of slut shaming and victim blaming into the public eye. Steubenville, Maryville and the Roast Busters also revealed to many non-feminists how bad rape culture is. The Magdalene Laundries scandal early in 2013 may also have contributed to greater awareness of how society punishes ‘deviant’ women. We tend to associate these attitudes with conservative cultures, but in reality the West is little different.

Freedom

Though the NSA scandal gained more publicity, the UK’s GCHQ were found to have put surveillance devices on undersea internet cables with the apparent cooperation of internet service providers. They claim it’s- of course- anti terrorism and that they’re not spying on us like the NSA. But if they can see our internet traffic, how can they figure out which ones of us are terrorists without spying on all of us? We don’t have a Snowden so it’s harder for us to get at the truth. Amnesty International is suing the UK for allegedly spying on them.

Chelsea Manning spent her fourth Christmas behind bars. Earlier in the year, Fox News played Dude Looks Like A Lady while announcing her name change. Stay classy, Fox.

The Tor Project released an updated and much faster version of the Tor browser and updated their operating system Tails. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) won a court case and had National Security Letters declared unconstitutional.

David Cameron announced an intention to put porn filters on our internet, and this was recently trialled. The filters were revealed to have an American language bias and blocked lots of things they weren’t supposed to. As I previously pointed out, we already have the filters on our phones and they block sex education, LGBT, feminist and political sites. The hashtag #CensoredUK was used to criticise the porn filter. It didn’t help that Rhoda Grant MSP and the Bill’s creator Claire Perry MP made stupid comments that showed they don’t understand how the internet works. Banning rape porn in my opinion will not solve misogyny and rape culture; it’s attitudes that need to change.

The granddaughter of the founder of Westboro Baptist Church left the Church. And the Pirate Bay’s broswer was popular; its uploads also increased by 50% despite anti piracy laws.

Sex workers’ rights

In Scotland Rhoda Grant MSP’s Bill to bring in the harmful Nordic Model AKA Swedish Model AKA ‘end demand’ failed, leaving sex work decriminalised in the UK (bar street work and working together). A lot of activism and media work was done by everyone from Alex Bryce of National Ugly Mugs (HuffPo) to Melissa Gira Grant and Pastachips (BBC Women’s Hour). There was a debate between sex worker activists Douglas Fox and Laura Lee vs Rhoda Grant MSP and Richard Lucas, which I went to and wrote up here after interviewing Douglas Fox and Rhoda Grant. You can watch it here.

In Canada an important court case was won, proving that sex work laws are harmful (Canada has the legalisation model). A year has been given to come up with new laws. This could mean that hopefully Canada will get the New Zealand decriminalisation model, but it could also mean sex work is criminalised.

Meanwhile in Europe the European Womens’ Lobby wants the Nordic Model across all European states. Sex workers in France are at risk of being harmed by the Nordic model as attempts are being made to introduce it there. Sweden acknowledges that the Nordic model is harmful, as do researchers such as Ann Phoenix.

The murders of Petite Jasmine and Dora caused a very swiftly organised sex work activist action including demos outside embassies and Twitter hashtags. Earlier in the year, a Twitter hashtag on sex workers’ rights made the papers, as did the Glasgow Sex Worker Open University conference.

The Nottingham Women’s Conference caused controversy by not allowing sex workers to attend or speak; instead two anti-sex work prostitution survivors spoke. Three sex worker activists attempted to get in and live tweeted the attempt, then a feminist blogger who had been at the conference made a blog post claiming the activists were exaggerating the situation.

In October there was a debate on sex work in London with feminist Kat Banyard, author and human rights campaigner Ruth Jacobs and others. Jacobs, who had previously been anti sex work (though she pulled out of the Nottingham Women’s Conference as it excluded sex workers), came out as an ex sex worker at the debate and argued for decriminalisation. Feminist Meghan Murphy was furious at this turn of events and allegedly attempted to out her on Twitter, not realising she had already outed herself. (Several feminists on Twitter including myself had been aware of Ruth’s past.)

DWP

Labour promised to “sack Atos” if they win in the next election. Stories of DWP-induced poverty and more Atos horror stories made the papers, including a sanctions story that was reported on the BBC news in December. There were numerous protests including demos outside Iain Duncan Smith’s house. The bedroom tax has forced lots of people to move, with some living on the streets. The use of foodbanks has risen just after Cameron stopped the collection of food bank statistics. This increased use of foodbanks has been reported in the mainstream media, which is great . A United Nations Human Rights Inspector came to the UK in tha later half of 2013 to investigate the bedroom tax.

Slutocracy

In the second half of 2013 I wrote for The Quail Pipe (is ‘patriarchy’ a meaningful term), Fearless Press (female pick up artists),Cliterati (teens and slut shaming) and the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association blog (teen pregnancy stigma). On this blog I wrote about feminism (duh), was delighted to interview the DWP whistleblower Jobcentre Mole, Don’t Judge My Family, the UnSlut Project, minister Richard Lucas, Rhoda Grant MSP and Douglas Fox. In late 2013 Glosswitch wrote a blog claiming that myself, Stavvers and other feminists are elistist show-offs because we don’t support the anti porn campaigns, to which I replied.

So that’s my summary of 2013. Here’s to 2014, see you all on the other side!

Reply to Glosswitch’s porn debate blog

Sekhmet has blessed me with a chance to defend my honour. That was one of the first things I tweeted at 1am today just after I read this blog, which accuses me of several things without evidence, attacks queer women and claims that any woman who is against No More Page 3, porn filters or Lose the Lad Mags is an attention seeking “misogynist” who thinks she’s “shagged her way” out of privelege so she can do activism by having sex. Sekhmet, it is at these points that I love you (anxieties over cultural appropriation and goddess-worshipping-feminine-feel-the-energy feminism aside).

In usual Glosswitch style it is done with links but no names, so I’m not entirely sure where she’s slagging me off and where she’s slagging off another blogger. Well played, as this makes it difficult to craft a reply. She appears to be lumping us all together into a privelege-denying, sex-bragging misogynist group, so I’m going to assume that everything she says bar discussions of biphobia is directed at me as well as at others.

Here’s some choice quotes: “who deem themselves to have shagged their way out of the quagmire of prissy feminist privilege and on to far greater heights of sexual awareness. And there they stay, looking down on the rest of us privileged fools, making sage observations such as [quotes Stavvers] and [quotes me].” Then she says we think feminists who support No More Page Three only do so because they “just hasn’t had enough fucks”. I have never said that. This is a deliberate misunderstanding of my blog.

Apparently I am a part of “the self-appointed sex positive elite” and I say that NMP3 supporters are “suffering from a type of sexual dysfunction that requires remedy. What’s your problem – are you frigid or what? The stereotype of the grim-faced, repressed feminist, who simply needs a good seeing-to to sort out her issues”. Glosswitch says ” [whorephobia] does not lie with mythical feminists who are “a bit funny” about sex”. Er…I never said that. I never claimed feminists created whorephobia or the problem lies with them. What I said was these campaigns inadvertently back up patriarchal attitudes.

“The working-class NMP3 campaigner cannot be a radical but, by contrast, the sexually adventurous middle-class woman is, not by virtue of doing but simply by positioning her sexual experience as type of currency. The more sex you have, it is assumed, the more of a voice you have earned” and “The more unusual you can make your sexual habits appear through fanciful description, the more authoritative you become (regardless of how mundane said habits actually are).” (Ten points for use of the word “currency”- it makes the thing you’re talking about seem dangerously capitalist.) This is childish and hateful. It’s not reasonable debate. Glosswitch is painting us as high school braggers, reducing my arguments to mere posing. She couldn’t have made herself look more vile and unreasonable. It just doesn’t stop: “This kind of approach is the would-be radical offshoot of Katy Perry singing about kissing a girl and liking it, or Robbie Williams boasting about swinging both ways…it’s being used to sell something else: records, calendars, misogyny, status, or a substitute activism that still doesn’t require you getting out of bed.” I’m not going to dignify that with a response; we’re not in high school any more.

As for “Those who question this are somehow defined as “white feminists” by the equally white (but dare I say less feminist) avant garde. It is, in short, not just a cop-out, but a repressive, disingenuous one at that”, I don’t have single white gene. I did my first ever blog post on race issues last week in which I mentioned my dual heritage and the racist abuse I’d grown up with. Use of “avant-garde”: twenty points as it appeals to an 18-30 year old audience.

Well, Glosswitch. You apparently don’t find my feminism so repulsive as you’re still following me on Twitter and are still allowing me to follow you at the moment of writing. A tweet that you’d linked to me and called me a misogynist would’ve been courteous, considering we follow and occasionally retweet each other.

Basics: You do not get to define biphobia and polyphobia. Even I don’t try to define biphobia, despite not fitting neatly into the hetero camp. Only women who identify as bisexual or queer can define it. The same with being poly. I am poly in the sense that I have never aimed for monogamy and have dated poly people with the expectation of forming poly households. But as I’ve never been in a poly relationship I don’t get to define polyphobia. If you have no sex work experience, you don’t get to say “I’m not whorephobic BUT..” either. Imagine if straights defined homophobia or whites defined racism. “It’s not racist! Separate but equal, yeah?” Heard that before?

One logic fail that stands out from all the rest is your very repetitive assertion that sex working and sex positive feminists want to enforce a norm of sexual adventurousness. Um. You know how sex working women spend years building their business and money to advertise it? How would they earn money if we were all sex workers? That’s like saying I want all women to be content writers! If you think my stance on No More Page 3 and porn filters can be boiled down to bragging about my sex life, why would I want all women to be adventurous? Then I’d have nothing to brag about, would I? I’ve never bragged about my sex life on this blog or Twitter. In fact I’ve mentioned at least once on this blog and once in an article on Fearless Press that I haven’t had many experiences.

Also, newsflash: Sex working feminists should not be confused with sex positive feminists. Not all sex workers are sex positive- some reject sex positivity for co-opting sex workers’ arguments and demanding women’s sexual availability. I do identify as a sex positive feminist but not everyone who shares my views does, and I’m not sure of the others you criticise identify as sex positive.

You repeatedly set up me and a couple of other small-time unpaid bloggers as a powerful group of political bullies who are silencing anti sex work and anti porn feminists. Try opening a history book or glancing at the BBC news. Right wing politicians are never going to back up UnSlut Project like they have supported banning porn since the 70s. David Cameron is never going to stand up for sex workers’ rights in the same way he wants to enforce porn filters. American evangelicals are never going to give the English Collective of Prostitutes millions of dollars like they do to anti sex work orgs. No government will ever fund an escort agency like the Irish Government funded 14 million to the Ruhama Agency. The Twitter anti slut shaming account @StopSlutShamers will never be picked up by the media in the same way as porn issues. How the Everyday Whorephobia blog and Twitter account will remain unknown while hyped-up sensationalistic trafficking “documentaries” pull in millions of viewers and even more dollars. The public will never be aware of the dangers of the Nordic Model in the same way they’re familiar with the “dangers” of porn. Bored yet? Because I could go on about the power and global reach of the rescue industry and what sort of feminism gets you media careers and how Julie Burchill can safely say stuff about sex workers that’d get her jailed if she said it about queers. I could go on about how much media attention the bad sex science calling-out site www.badsexmediabingo.com will get compared to hysteria over porn.  I could go on about how the porn debate spills over into sexting and shaming young mothers, how Jodie Marsh’s hypocrisy was televised unironically, how anti porn rhetoric dehumanises sex workers.

“[W]omen who’ve been pushed back by thinly veiled accusations of prudery, frigidity and sexual failure due to their feminist position need a word for the attitudes they’re facing.” Really? A word for your sadfeelz? Society doesn’t stigmatise you. The government isn’t trying to eradicate you. The media doesn’t encourage discrimination of you. Politicians don’t see you as a threat. The law isn’t enabling your rape, incarceration and murder. Feminists are not using their media platforms to blame you for your rape. You weren’t hounded out of your community like Daisy Coleman. You weren’t driven to suicide like Amanda Todd. The police didn’t turn a blind eye to your violent partner and leave you to be murdered like they did to @JasminePetite. You haven’t been fired unfairly like Laura Lee or outed in the media like Douglas Fox and @minxylydia or outed on social media like @pastachips. Your children have not been stolen from you because of your job. You do not live in fear of being outed like so many sex workers do. You aren’t targeted by serial killers because the police don’t care and killers know it’s easier for them to get away with it. You aren’t ‘rescued’ into a prison where the guards rape you for years, or jailed for working like what happens in some countries. You won’t be honour killed for not bleeding on your wedding night. You aren’t shunned by your family or forced to live a double life. Not like sex workers (and to an extent, women labelled ‘sluts’).

That’s why we need words like whorephobia and slut shaming. You don’t need them, Glosswitch. Everyone gets criticised over their style, choice of video games, hobbies, accent, whatever. We don’t need words to describe people who’re teased for being hipsters or Beliebers and we don’t need a word to describe how you, the group backed up by government, feel you’re being teased by a handful of random unknown bloggers with no platform. I could whine about my feelz on discovering that you, a feminist I admired and linked to on this blog, has verbally attacked me without provocation. But I won’t whinge and I won’t coin a term for it. Feminists disagree every day without coining neologisms. In fact, I’ve been hurt and even betrayed by feminists I really liked and thought were friends. Even now I still think about it and why they did it (though I also thank them, as it taught me the very valuable lesson of not to trust anybody ever and also meant that your stunt didn’t surprise me that much or hurt me at all). What was done to me was worse than what was done to you (actually, nothing was done to you- those blog posts were written for the public, not aimed at you). But I didn’t start coining names for it and I don’t avoid retweeting them or mentioning them if it’s about a political issue. There is a difference between the personal and the political. It’s time to grow up.

This isn’t helping women. It’s reducing a debate to a sexualised form of verbal assault and mocking the idea of women having sex (which has shades of slut shaming). I’ve never denied my privelege and the idea of feminists using sex to deny privelege is ludicrous. Sadly, this will only drive a wedge between feminists who disagree over No More Page 3 and Lose the Lad Mags. I respect and am friendly with some NMP3 supporters. We agree to disagree – I even RT blogs I disagree with so my followers can read both sides of the debate and make up their own minds. I see that one of these people I’m friendly with has approved of your blog post and written one of her own. I still like her. But if this shit-stirring continues, it will put unnecessary strain on my relationships with No More Page 3 supporters. I’d understand your actions if you and me were personal enemies, but we barely know each other and when we did interact, we have always got along. You seem to be starting drama for the sake of it and forcing feminists to pick sides.

Open debate is very important, so feel free to come back to discuss these issues once you have adopted a mature, less fanciful and less personal style of debate.

Oh, and painting like three or so bloggers as a bullying elite without any evidence whatsoever in those links you provided? Fifty points. Which makes a total of 70 out of 100, so not bad.

Hail Sekhmet.

Female Pick Up Artists: Challenging the Patriarchy’s Science

First published as “Female Pick Up Artists” on Fearless Press on 16 October 2013.

 

Pick up artists. Men who “run game” on women. We’ve all heard of them- but why do we never hear about female pick up artists running game on men? I referred to girls trying to get boys into bed as “playing the game” way back when I was a teen, before PUAs were a thing. (Though I also call any kind of debate or conflict “playing the game” for some reason.) But then I got better acquainted with the ol’ interwebz and realised that lots of men (and women) think that I can’t play the game- because I’m a woman.

This 2006 Observer column quotes a man as boasting how “4 billion” years of “evolution” (actually that’s the age of the Earth, but never mind) gave men the ability to charm and deceive women into sleeping with them. And this blog replies to a woman’s question about whether she can run game on men by stating that no, a woman’s version of game is to get a man to settle down with her. How awful: that women are forever barred from the thrills of game – or worse, that our game means fulfilling the old patriarchal white wedding standard. Both these articles have something in common: they both take the view that men are genetically predetermined to be pick up artists and women…aren’t.

The idea that men are biologically programmed to be PUAs and women are programmed the opposite way – to settle down with Mr Right and squirt out babies- is a patriarchal Victorian one. But then it was “proved” by science. The theory first appeared in Darwin’s Origin of Species and has been going strong ever since. Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene popularised this scientific justification: “[F]emales can be expected to invest more in children than males, not only at the outset, but throughout development. So, in mammals for example, it is the female who incubates the foetus in her own body, the female who makes the milk to suckle it when it is born, the female who bears the brunt of the load of bringing it up”. The female is “in demand, in a seller’s market” because she brings the nutritious egg which needs more energy to create than sperms. And “Once she has copulated she has played her ace- her egg has been committed to the male.” (p146-151)

But surely it’s not all bad for us girls? Female mammals can mate an infinity number of times per day, and with multiple mates foraging or hunting for her, theoretically she could spend her days mating and rearing her young. By having multiple mates, the female can also compensate for any mates who are sterile, have inferior genes, are genetically related to her, have a low sperm count or do not often mate with her. The number of offspring females can produce are however still limited by only being able to conceive a couple of days per month, but they can mate many times more than males and not become pregnant. It seems as though the number of offspring produced will always be higher for male mammals but the amount of pleasure enjoyed will always be higher for females -especially us human females, because we have multiple orgasms. This means that a ‘promiscuous’ female has less chance of reproducing and the ability to enjoy more pleasure than a ‘promiscuous’ male.

In our modern society, it makes more sense for a woman to sleep around – even without using contraception – than it does for a man. This is because a ‘promiscuous’ man, if he doesn’t take precautions, could end up paying maintenance to many children that he has fathered without being permitted to contact those children. He may be able to avoid paying maintenance to a few but this would usually come at the cost of not knowing that these children exist.

However a ‘promiscuous’ woman could sleep with hundreds of different men per month and only give birth about once every nine months. After ten years of this lifestyle, she would have just ten or eleven children; for a higher education college or university graduate (who would earn a couple of thousand per month) feeding and clothing these children would not be much of a strain and realistically after ten years the mother would be earning much more than her starting salary. (And in real life most people do use contraception and few individuals would have hundreds of sexual partners per month, much less keep up this lifestyle for a decade.) More importantly, the mother has complete control of the situation – she can abort, keep the child or put it up for adoption. A mother always has 100% confidence in her own maternity but the same isn’t true for fathers.

Dawkins concludes that “man’s way of life is largely determined by culture rather than by genes”. So maybe female PUAs can exist if the culture doesn’t repress women. Dawkins claims that human females ‘advertise’ through clothes and makeup just like male animals do and concludes that perhaps in humans the battle of the sexes is reversed- it’s the women who are competing for choosy, coy men. Perhaps we are.

University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley has a different theory – that women and men are driven to seek pleasure. In a recently published paper she proved that women want casual sex just as much as men. Conley’s findings appear to better reflect the reality of how women behave sexually. Unlike Dawkins’ theory, it doesn’t raise as many questions of why LGBTQI people exist or where they fit along the PUA male or coy female axis.  If all that matters is pleasure then it’s not surprising if some of us prefer to seek pleasure from members of the same sex. The question of whether an individual will sleep with lots of women while he is a man but then become coy and choosy after transitioning to being a woman isn’t raised by Conley’s theory, but it is raised by Dawkins. As Dawkins’ theory hinges on the consequences of pregnancy, infertile or LGBT individuals – and anyone using contraception- wouldn’t need to be either coy or a PUA.

As for me, I can work very fast- faster than most PUAs- but I haven’t had nearly enough conquests to take on the mantle of the PUA. So I went in search of a woman who has. Veronica Twist is a burlesque entertainer, rockabilly pin-up model- and a female PUA. As a single mother she liked to have fun. “There is an art to flirting,” she says. “I think most men think that when they are able to start up a conversation with a woman, get her digits, that’s their doing. Well, those men are wrong! Their corny pick up lines have never and will never work. What is working is the female being witty, flirty, fun and working the entire situation with such a finesse that the man thinks he is ‘scoring’!” she reveals. Looks like male PUAs aren’t always PUAs so much as they’re actually having game run on them by women.

Veronica also uses reverse psychology to get guys. “I will say ‘oh I am way too old, you don’t really want to date me’,” she says. And yes, girls- it does work! She even netted her now-hubby with the line “I like your car, if you let me drive it, I will let you buy me dinner.”

So take it from a real female pick up artist- women can be very successful PUAs.

 

How I Found Out Apartheid Existed In My Lifetime

I’m writing this post- a post so far removed from what I’d ordinarily write- because I have a rare perspective on Nelson Mandela. No, it’s not anything interesting or unique. It’s certainly not something I’m proud of. My perspective is that I believed that apartheid ended in the 70s and I only realised the truth when the news of Mandela’s death was breaking. A day later I realised that black South Africans only got the vote in 1994. When I found out that apartheid happened in my lifetime, it reminded me of Rallo in The Cleveland Show when he finds out that black people didn’t have the vote and then finds out they were slaves. (No, I didn’t do the face.)

Rallo

So I finally understand why this wasn’t covered in history class at school- it’s not history. Every time I heard Mandela mentioned or apartheid came up in conversation, only a few years had passed since he became President.

Race was never an issue I was interested in. This might seem very strange since I’m coloured (mixed African and Asian) and I received racist bullying in all six schools I went to. When I was a kid our car windows were smashed and racist names painted on the bonnet; I’ve also had my hair set on fire (though that was not a problem as my hair was short back then). Some of the schools turned a blind eye to the bullying and accused my mother of lying when she reported it, even though my class teachers and friends reported the bullying for me when I refused to (I knew the admin staff wouldn’t like it and sometimes I didn’t see the bullying as a big deal as I was so used to it). So you’d think race would be something I’d be interested in. But for me racist abuse was the norm; even now I still occasionally get kids aged 6 to 14 or 15 shouting names at me in the street. It doesn’t bother me because it’s been happening since I was three. I know I’m not supposed to say this. I’m supposed to feel angry. I’m supposed to say “this is unacceptable!” But even though I know it is wrong and ignorant and hateful, it usually doesn’t bother me and it never surprises me.

The main effect racism had on me was to make the teenage me want to use skin bleach and have a nose job so my nose would be more pointy (I was teased as often for having ethnic facial features- nose and lips- as for my skin colour). Thankfully Googling “skin bleach” did not bring up results for skin lighteners, so I never knew that the product I was after already existed. A documentary that showed people damaging their skin with lighteners put me off using them. I thought it was unbearably sad; I was mixed with a paler colour so at least it made more sense for me to want to look more like one parent- but the idea of pure Indian girls making themselves look so unnatural and mixed appalled me. Adverts for skin lighteners which promise an end to job discrimination and the finding of a man also disgusted me when I accidentally found them; why would anyone destroy their own colour for white people? Just so racists stop discriminating you?! Why would anyone destroy their colour for a self-hating coloured man or a racist white man? But yeah, race was never anything I was interested in. For whatever reason, feminism and subsequently the DWP and austerity were the issues I blogged about.

David Cameron has been fawning over Mandela and after the news broke he tweeted that he’d asked for the flag at 10 Downing Street to be flown at half mast. I was confused by the angry reactions to what I perceived as a kind and appropriate gesture. Then I found out by the internet that Cameron had been part of a group that made the infamous Hang Mandela posters. He was against the sanctions (just like his hero Thatcher who called Mandela a “terrorist”) and went on an anti sanctions mission to South Africa. In 1989 he was a guest of the white supremacist South African government and drank with them. At first I thought that maybe hardly anyone had heard of the ANC in those days and Cameron was a misguided teenage student. I disapproved but I also tried to see the whole situation. But now I realise that in the 60s and 70s, before Cameron was at Oxford, Brits were already campaigning for sanctions. Nelson Mandela came to Britain and whites and blacks alike supported him. So there’s no excuse for Cameron’s actions. And in 1989 he was a grown man, not a teen. Yes, there are reasons why sanctions don’t always work and yes they do sometimes harm the poorest and most vulnerable people; being against sanctions is perfectly reasonable. Sure there might have been a reason for him being a guest of the South African government; politicians do have to meet unpleasant foreign governments as part of their job. But when you look at all his actions together, it becomes very difficult to defend Cameron. The Tory party itself has had a long reputation for racism, as we all know. And as for those Hang Mandela posters, I really can’t see an excuse for that. Here’s a shareable Facebook photo that sums it all up. So it disgusts me that he now chooses the winning side by lying that Mandela is his hero. He should stay silent or, if he really has changed his mind, he should be honest and admit that he was wrong. Cameron had months to prepare for Mandela’s death and work out how to react.

The media coverage of Mandela’s life has few black South Africans in it and skims over the fact that white people were killed because of the ANC. I am not against the fact that people had to die, as the non violent and democratic avenues had all been tried and found to be closed off. But I think we should acknowledge what freedom fighting means. We can admit that people died without criticising Mandela. It would also be interesting to see a non-black coloured person’s perspective, as all coloureds were treated as second class citizens. Yes, it was an issue than mainly affected black people, but if they’ve got enough space to let westerners comment, why not? The experience of half white and half black people would be intriuging- the fact that they were discriminated by people who were their own race. In South Africa people were marked “coloured” or “white” on official records, meaning that discrimination was based not only on phenotype or skin colour but also on genotype/inheritance. So it may be possible that white people who had black ancestry were also discriminated. However it’s early days yet and maybe the media portrayal will get more in-depth in days to come.

It really shocked me that long after human evolution was understood and just a few years before the human genome was sequenced, separation was still enforced. It seems odd to me that white people look on Hitler and Nazism as legendary evil; a lot of the Nazi’s race superiority beliefs stemmed from eugenics, a pseudoscience which Brits and Americans eagerly participated in. Those beliefs were held by the South African government until 1994. Nazism was far from unique. Churchill made racist comments; WW2 was one racist against another; it was Churchill setting a limit to racism and saying that Hitler had crossed the line (which seems kind of arrogant to decide how much racism is appropriate). The last Mandela documentary I saw used stock footage of a white South African saying “[blacks] just swung down from the trees”, which is a reference to the eugenics/pseudoscientific basis of white supremacy. At school I was sometimes called a monkey and jungle bunny, and though I understood I was being teased, I never actually knew they were racist names until about two years ago when I read a work of fiction. So even racial slurs are remnants of eugenics. We shouldn’t minimise what the Nazis did, but I don’t think we should see Nazism as being that unique, either. How many coloured people died and were stripped of their rights because of colonialism, slavery, forced ‘scientific’ experiments and apartheid? Probably not as many as the numbers of Jews, gays, disabled people, gypsies and Jehovah’s Witnesses who died during the Holocaust. But the number must be quite large.

Columbus mass-murdered the indigenous Americans and mothers killed their children to spare them from him. But we still teach our kids that he discovered America and is a hero (actually, the Viking Erik the Red discovered the Americas. And before him, the Japanese. And many others). The victims of the holocaust vowed never to forgive, never to forget. Should people of colour forgive white people for the centuries of murder, trafficking, and colonialism? A powerful question, that. And all the more difficult because most white people alive now are completely innocent; they can’t be held responsible for their ancestors’ crimes. Crime can’t be ‘carried’ by race like Original Sin; that’s a racist view because it focuses on race and not the individual. So I think this question can never be solved.

One last thing, though: arresting teens for racist tweets is pointless and is often a classist act. Blowing a powerless young individual’s act out of proportion by latching onto the one unlucky guy who happens to get caught is unfair and it just pays lip service to the problem of racism in institutions and government. Like the Daily Mail reporting that Edinburgh University students wore blackface. The Mail feeds millions of people anti-immigration lies. It does way more insidious, unchallegeable harm than the very overt, very call-out-able actions of the four young friends. I wrote about this issue here.

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