My latest article for Trigger Warning, on the furore over walk-on girls at darts events.
I’m sitting on a train at an ungodly AM on my way into town for FiLiA- a word meaning daughter but an organisation and annual event formerly known as Feminism in London.
I’m meeting up with two friends and our schedule for the day is as follows:
Cordelia “Testosterone Rex” Fine is on first delivering her key note speech.
October 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. On this occasion we are bringing together five prominent international speakers to discuss What it means and What it costs to be a female revolutionary. Dedicated to the role and struggles of women in the radical movements, this panel will pay tribute to the past and present female revolutionary thinkers and activists of Russia, Rojava and the UK, and will reflect on their shared and unique challenges, tactics and achievements.
Speakers: Anna Zobnina, Leda Garina, Angelina Lesniewski, Sheila Rowbotham, Nadia Plungian, and Rahila Gupta
PRISON DOESN’T WORK
Hear from the national charity Women In Prison and women affected by the criminal justice system on the urgent need to dismantle our broken and harmful prison system and how you can help achieve the starting ambition of reducing the women’s prison population to 2,020 by 2020.
WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT
How does the natural environment affect women? Are women more affected by climate change than men? What is the role of women in biodiversity conservation? How does water scarcity threaten women around the world? How can women be empowered by the sustainable management of natural resources?
This session will explore the relationship between gender and the environment, how the most pressing environmental issues are affecting women’s lives and, most importantly, how women are part of the solution.
Speakers: Louisa Gosling, Mireya Méndez De la Torre, Dr Halima Begum (others tbc)
Our aim for the day is to blend inconspicuously in, so as to avoid getting kicked out. As such, I’ve prepared three questions for the talks that I hope will probe the beliefs of the feminist speakers without blowing our cover. I’ve wrestled with the question of approach extensively, mainly because it’s gonna be so damn hard not to say what I really think- however, I think the best course of action is just to take any opportunities we can get to to lend them the rope with which to hang themselves.
My questions are as follows:
For Revolutionary Women:
To what extent has Marxism informed the modern feminist movement?
For Women in Prison:
Given that so many female prisoners have experienced abuse as children and/or DV, to what extent are men responsible for women ending up in prison?
[That one is going to physically hurt to excrete but, having checked out the organisation running the talk, Women in Prison, I feel I need clarification on what they think about this.
What I would rather say is: Is feminism about equality? Then why are we ignoring 95% of the prison population? And: Given that women are treated so much more leniently than men in the CJS and that actually, if we treated men the same as women, 5 out of 6 male prisoners would be free- that would leave only the most serious and unstable proportion of men in prison therefore, don’t you think, we may in fact see a similar proportion of suicides for men, were that the case?- because one of their clarion calls is the higher rate of suicide for incarcerated women as compared to men, which leads them to the conclusion that women simply shouldn’t be in prison. But I’m not gonna say that stuff, because it’s only talk two and I wanna not be kicked out.]
For Women and the Environment:
How much of our present environmental problems have a patriarchal origin?
[What I would like to point out here is that as the biggest consumers, women are actually responsible for the most environmental degradation].
So, hopefully I’ll get the chance to pose these questions, hopefully we will get to see the whole show without getting the boot (well except for the final prize-giving, we can do without observing their back-patting so will be bailing to get sushi from a great restaurant) and hopefully I or we will be back tonight to fill you in on our experiences.
First published in The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/philip-davies-feminism-istanbul-convention-mens-rights-a7673791.html
“Tory MP tries and fails to block anti-domestic violence bill with 91-minute speech” read Jon Stone’s headline in the Independent on the 24th February 2017- referring to Philip Davies 91 minute filibuster of The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (or ‘Istanbul Convention’). So why, you might reasonably ask, do I stand before you as one fifth of -the new pressure group – Ladies for Philip Davies?
Ladies for Philip Davies come from diverse political standpoints but we all believe in true equality, under the law, and oppose the “feminist zealotry” (Davies’s words) that is ignoring men’s issues and pushing legislation like the Istanbul Convention. You see, the convention is sexist in that it neglects the (at least) ⅓ of inter-personal violence victims that are male and also writes Patriarchy theory into law and into education- a theory that is not based on fact but belief. The preamble states: “that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women”, an assertion I and many others absolutely reject (Feminism is, afterall, a minority identity).
Davies was successful in 2015 and 2016 in securing parliamentary debates to mark International Men’s Day, despite opposition from M.P.s such as Labour’s Jess Phillips, who told the Backbench Business Committee: ‘It seems like every day to me is International Men’s Day… When I’ve got parity, when women in these buildings have parity, you can have your debate.’ Davies pointed out that “there is a big difference between men raising issues and the raising of men’s issues”. Topics discussed included the male suicide rate (75% of suicides are male), educational underachievement and father’s rights. In December 2016, Davies was elected to the Women and Equalities Committee in the House of Commons. There was an angry and stunned response from Feminist Members of Parliament, completely unused to having their narratives challenged. The leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker, recalled a speech to the International Conference on Men’s Issues in which Mr Davies claimed that ‘feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it’ and Caroline Lucas hoped that his application was ‘a joke’, claiming that his presence would be unconstructive. However, the public appear to be on his side with a poll conducted on The Metro news site [ http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/14/tory-mp-wants-women-removed-from-women-and-equalities-committee-title-6323247/ ] revealing that 82% of readers agreed with Davies, that the word ‘Women’s’ should be dropped and the Committee go forward as ‘The Equalities Committee’.
In March 2017, my friends and I founded our pressure group, Ladies for Philip Davies. We aim to support him in his task to bring gender equality to UK governance, beginning with the Women and Equalities name change. Our first action was to write to all 650 MP’s asking for their support for his proposal- and encouraging others to write to their personal MPs as many avoided answering us by hiding behind the parliamentary protocol of only corresponding with their own constituents. Our next action is to set up a petition. If we get 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond- and with the results of the Metro poll, we’re fairly confident we can achieve this. 100,000 would get our proposal considered for a Parliamentary debate (which is needed to actually change the name)- that might require a second petition but- we intend to achieve it. The name change would just be a symbolic gesture to the inclusion of men and men’s issues, but a significant one.
Rantz’s (or Charles Strebor) photographic and digital art is a lush exploration of the intersection between the natural and the man-made. His use of technology is playful and distinctive and constantly references the beauty of the living world. A wonderful example of this juxtaposition is his Branchlings series in which images of branches set against sky are layered to create kaleidoscopic effects, both highlighting the organic forms themselves and the auteur behind the art.
Whilst his subject matter tends to be rooted in landscape he is a fierce lover of people and is working on a vast project in collaboration with individuals around the globe called Others’ Worlds.
A “series of interactive images”, it “came about when I was stitching together images to make an equirectangular image of a meatspace setting and I inadvertently mis-named three of the images and noticed that the equirectangular image that resulted from the mis-naming had an aesthetic that I appreciated and decided that I would need to explore this further.
“To date, I’ve created 55 of these worlds and I’m confident there will be more over the coming years. At some stage, I’d like to take this to a space where they can be projected on walls with a tech setup such that those in the space can interact with the images in three dimensions in a way similar to the way one can interact with them on various devices.” He has also created a tutorial to enable others to explore the techniques he uses at: Making Worlds <http://rantz.me/?p=5452>
Charles’ inspirations are surprising: “Though much of my work is imaged based, most of my inspirations are text or music based. William S. Burroughs and Laurie Anderson are two of the inspirations that have been with me since my teens – William as an early teen and Laurie later on.
“I’ve enjoyed all of William’s writings and I possibly enjoy his cut-up work the most. William is also the person through whom I found – and have developed – my addiction to the number 23. Whilst there are many who like to link 23s to myriad conspiracy theories, my interpretation is that you find what you’re looking for: and I’ve found a plethora of 23s over the years. In the late 90s, I created a list of 529 (23*23) factoids about the number 23. 23 of them were complete fabrications and I’ve found more than a few of them repeated on sites as fact when they were figments of my imagination. You find what you’re looking for – and it’s good to verify what you find before you repeat.
“With Laurie, I’m continually impressed with her performance and music as well as her thoughts on how and why she creates what she does. I’ve yet to tire of anything that she has produced and I’ve listened to many of her pieces hundreds and hundreds of times. From the earlier days of “Language is a Virus” to the more recent “Heart of a Dog”, I find new inspiration everytime I listen, watch, experience.”
He also takes his cues from people he knows and loves: “There are three other artistic inspirations in my life that are people that I know and cherish. The first of these is Javant Biarujia, a poet from Melbourne that I met in the mid-80s and I’ve maintained a friendship with him and his partner for 30 years now. Javant has is own language – Taneraic < http://taneraic.rantz.me> – and I created a website for his language in the late 90s and it is has evolved to not only contain lessons on Taneraic but also blog posts. I don’t understand the language at all – and I’ve no desire to do so. I do, however, much love hearing him read his language, including the poetry that he writes in it. The second of these is Julia Robertson, a friend that I met almost five years back. Julia is a brain cancer survivor, an artist, a student and she does much work in raising funds for various organisations working on finding a cure for brain cancer as well supporting those with brain cancer. I’ve dyed my beard purple < http://rantz.me/?p=4756> for one of her fundraising activities. The third of these is Paul Pavlinovich, who I met at the same time as I met Julia. Paul is a skilled photographer who is also skilled at sharing his knowledge about photography <http://photographersstudy.blogspot.com.au/> with anyone who cares to listen. He is also heavily involved in community work with the Scouts movement, abseiling and the Puffing Billy Railway. He’s become a good mate over the years and I’ve managed to pass on my love of fire spinning with him.”
A dedicated god father, Charles says: “I’m fortunate to have two of the most amazing boys in my life. My official title is Faerie Goddess Father though we tend to shorten that to god father for commoners. These boys are also inspirations in my life and I enjoy knowing that our relationship lets them know that it’s perfectly acceptable to be exactly as you are – you can be whatever kind of man you are.
“One of the things that I’ve learned from the lads is the importance of words: some years back, the elder lad had a new shirt. He asked me what I thought of it and I said, “I don’t like red”. He didn’t wear it for many months after I said that until one day I asked him why he hadn’t worn it. “You don’t like red,” he said. I then talked more about this and said that I don’t like red for me as it’s not one of the colours that I like and I told him that it looked great on him and he should wear it whenever he wanted. The next day, he had it on.
“The younger lad is quite the charmer and we spent plenty of time together doing boy things ranging from cooking (he’s going to be able to cook a complete three-course meal for me someday soon), making photos (he likes ‘random stuff’) or reading. Having read to the boys since before they could talk, it’s a wonderful thing that they can now read to me – and enjoy doing so.
One of the things that three of us enjoy doing together is going to the beach and playing with fire and LED lights to make long exposure photographs. It’s a most enjoyable activity and we get to talk about science, light, composition and having fun.”
His boundless love of people also finds expression through his intactivism: “I first became involved with the genital integrity movement – or intactivism – through a friend who was born intersex. My friend was born with ambiguous genitalia and the thinking of the time was that he needed to ‘fit in’. As such, his genitals were shaped into a vagina because that was the easy thing to do. As he grew, it became obvious to all concerned that he was a boy and this is how he identified. Unfortunately, the stress of living with medical decisions that were made on his behalf were too much and he took his own life in the mid 90s. Fortunately, thinking about intersex conditions has changed over the years and this practice is not standard everywhere. It still happens – but not all the time. Growing in my thinking about genital autonomy and bodily integrity, I’ve moved from being concerned with only intersex conditions to the rights of all people to not have their genitals cut without their consent. Whilst there is much justified activism around female genital mutilation, the activism around intersex and male genital mutilation is not as widely accepted in the wider world. This has changed and will keep changing until such a time as the genitals of those who cannot consent are not cut until such a time as the individual can make their own choices about their bodies and how they would like them to be.”
Rantz’s images are captivating and engrossing but his earnest and generous spirit is even more so. I will give the last word to him: “There is much stupidity in the world. Far too much. I don’t see this as being emblematic of an end of days – that’s far too negative a stance for me to have as I also see much beauty and hope in the world. Provided that multinational corporations and their puppet governments do not destroy our shared world through climate change or war, I believe that the human capacity to love, learn and live will lead us to a better world. I can only hope – and believe – that my faith in humanity as a good thing is correct.”
I have a hobby. It is asking Feminists what their vision of equality will look like, as it is grossly irresponsible to embark on a mission without a clearly defined end point. I am yet to get a proper answer. I want equality too, however, I know what it will look like:
When there is an assumption of 50/50 shared parenting in the Family Courts.
When there is an equitable amount of money and effort expended researching cures for ‘male’ illnesses and ‘female’ illnesses. When there are male contraceptives.
When men are valued by society, and we see as much virtue signalling about that as we do regarding women’s inherent value- and as little misandry as we see misogyny.
When we have equitable services for male victims of DV.
When men and women receive equal sentences for equivalent crimes.
When we get rid of affirmative action quotas and let people succeed on the basis of their merits.
When the Women’s and Equalities Committee drops the ‘Women’s’ from their title and the UN Women’s department is either dropped or equal led with one for men.
When we embark on concerted efforts to make the world safer for men, as well as women.
When each sex is protected from infant genital mutilation.
When ‘forced to penetrate’ is classified as ‘rape’ in the criminal justice system.
I took part at a debate at Bath University titled ‘The House Says Feminism is Outdated’. Here are my opening and closing statements:
Pro-equality does not equal pro-feminism. In fact, the actions and rhetoric of Feminism are anti-equality; and since equality is a progressive value: the house is correct: Feminism is outdated.
It’s actually regressive and also toxic, a danger to men and boys, women and girls and society at large.
The dictionary definition of Feminism, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of equality of the sexes” is wrong. What it should say is “the belief that women are disadvantaged as compared to men, that this is a societal problem and needs to be fixed.”
But if you take even a cursory glance at the state of society and the stat’s, it becomes clear that women are by far the privileged sex.
Only women are protected from the abuse that is circumcision.
Women have more reproductive rights and, where a child is born, it’s often effectively up to the grace of the mother whether the father can be involved in the child’s life at all.
Men make up around half of DV victims but receive essentially none of the support.
There is a justice gap that sees men receiving harsher sentences for the same crime as women- and the feminist response to all these issues is to keep campaigning for more privileges for women, such as Baroness Corston’s campaign to close women’s prisons.
Finally, men account for 80% of suicides and this is unsurprising when you bear in mind that, in the words of John Waters, “They live in a culture which terrorises them, they live in a culture which demonises them (and which hides this under all kinds of pseudo-respectable and ‘toleration-based’ ideologies)”.
And, Feminism is supremely powerful. On the one hand, Feminists have installed themselves in all kinds of positions of power and influence: in government, the civil service, the criminal justice system, education and the media etc. So, for example, that Feminist MP Nusrat Ghani can propose The Crime (Aggravated Murder of and Violence against Women) Bill which would outlaw the term ‘honour killings’, require British authorities to prosecute those who beat and murder British women abroad, help bring the women home, and pay for the repatriation of the bodies of those murdered. On the other hand, 100 years of Feminist propaganda has furnished it with power over the hearts and minds of society so much so that when Philip Davies stood up and suggested that the bill was a good idea but that it should be gender neutral so as to protect the 24% of male victims of honour based crimes, he was jeered at by the entire House and his reason disregarded- and this has caused NO public outrage.
Today, Feminism has NOTHING to do with equality. If we want to pursue equality (and I think we should – and, unlike every feminist I’ve asked, can tell you what equality will look like); we need to put Feminism in it’s place (with the other religions)- and we will. We are in a culture war, a battle of ideas, and good ideas have a history of winning out in our civilisation. We won our battle against the subjection of women (and thank God for that) but, as John Stuart Mill said, we must not “suppose that the barbarisms to which men cling the longest must be less barbarisms than those which they earlier shake off” and now commit ourselves to fighting the subjection of men.
Equality is great, who wouldn’t want it? Everybody does. Equality- before the law, in dignity and well being- is the goal we should be striving for but Feminism at this point in time is not helping us reach it, it’s actually getting in the way. It has evolved from a fight for women’s legal and social equality to one for special privileges and affirmative action.
It’s time to speak truth to power and let Feminism know that it’s fulfilled it’s useful purpose, thank you very much. Egalitarianism can look after the interests of women and girls but Feminism has proven that it can’t and won’t look after the interests of men and boys. This state of affairs is no longer good enough.
Feminism is out, Egalitarianism is in.
This is a template for a letter I, and friends at Ladies for Philip Davies, are busy sending out to all MPs in the Commons.
The automated responses we’re receiving suggest that it will make all the difference if this comes from their own constituents, so please copy and paste this (or write your own email) and send it to your MP. Don’t forget to include your full postal address. Find your MP and their email address here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
I am writing regarding the Rt Hon Philip Davies’ proposal to change the name of the Women and Equalities Committee to simply ‘The Equalities Committee’.
The statistics and the real world make it clear that women are not a uniquely disadvantaged demographic. Men are facing serious issues that the select committee needs to work on too. He was correct when he said “You can still look at women’s issues on a committee that’s just called Equalities”- but the present name is explicitly exclusionary of men’s issues.
Not only is Davies’ name change proposal morally right however, but as evidenced by the poll conducted by The Metro (here: http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/14/tory-mp-wants-women-removed-from-women-and-equalities-committee-title-6323247/ and also pictured, as of the 7th March 2017) it appears to be overwhelmingly supported by the public.
I therefore ask you to support Davies in this campaign.
on behalf of Ladies for Philip Davies