Jamie Palmer ( @jacobinism ) has written very eloquently about the ‘authoritarianism’ and censorious approach of many on the ‘left’. The examples he gives of attacks on freedom of speech from so-called ‘progressives’ include, surprise surprise, a few from feminist campaigners. Because as I have banged on about before, it’s hard to find any version of feminism that doesn’t exercise or endorse some kind of censorship. Here’s an extract from Jamie’s piece:

 

‘We are now reaping the harvest of liberalism’s agonising slow death on the Left. Consider the following recent examples:

  1. According to a report in The Guardian, the political director of Huffington Post UK, Mehdi Hasan, has just publicly recommended the introduction of what amounts to a de factoblasphemy law in order to combat what he calls ‘Islamophobia’. The press, he announced, has been “singularly unable or unwilling to change the discourse, the tone or the approach” of its coverage. Casually eliding matters of race, ethnicity, and belief, he continued: “We’re not going to get change unless there is some sanction, there is some penalty. This is not just about Muslims; it is about all minorities.” Similarly, on an American talkshow, a visibly distressed Ben Affleck responded to Sam Harris’s criticisms of Islam by denouncing them as “gross and racist”.
  2. Dr. Matt Taylor, one of the scientists responsible for the awe-inspiring Rosetta satellite mission, found himself vilified by incandescent feminists when he appeared on television wearing a bowling shirt adorned with images of scantily-clad young women. It later transpired that the shirt had been hand-made for him as a birthday gift by a female friend and, as a rather touching token of appreciation, he had worn it on his big day. But an article for Verge decided that it was a symptom of the misogyny allegedly endemic within the scientific community, and reported Dr. Taylor’s televised appearance beneath the headline “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing”.

    The most risible offering in this embarrassing row came from (supposedly) sex-positive feminist Greta Christina, who spent the first paragraph of her post on the subject itemising her own involvement in the production of pornography. This, she appeared to think, placed her in the unique position of being able to explain that “freedom for me does not mean freedom for thee” as she policed the clothing of another adult: “[D]oing an interview about your team’s big science achievement while wearing a shirt with scantily-clad pinup girls does not say, “Sex is awesome!” It says, “Women are for sex.”

    Christina seemed oblivious to those who would seize on this argument to call for the suppression of her own work, as well as all other kinds of pornography and erotica she defends in her writing. Nor was she moved by arguments that men, like women, should be judged on what they say and do, not on how they choose to dress themselves. Nonetheless, clearly shaken by the uproar, Dr. Taylor ended up offering a tearful and humiliating public apology to his critics. It will be an individual of uncommonly thick skin who dares to transgress in this way in the future.

  3. Last Wednesday, the Independent ran an article by an Oxford University student named Niamh McIntyre, in which she crowed defiantly about the success of her campaign to cancel a debate between two male speakers, organised by a pro-life group to debate abortion. She explained herself thus: “The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”.

    Doubling down on her behalf, Tim Squirrell – the President of the Cambridge Union, no less! – took to twitter to declare that “shouting ‘free speech’ doesn’t help anyone without a more nuanced conception of its impacts + aspects”. He went on: “People have the right to feel…[s]afe from the expression of ideas which have historically been used to oppress them in very real ways.”

  4. Late last year, in response to long-disputed and empirically dubious claims of an omnipresent culture of rape besieging women on university campuses, activists campaigned to have Robin Thicke’s song Blurred Lines banned from their Student Unions. When UCL joined upwards of 20 other Unions in banning the song from its premises, its Women’s Officer Beth Sutton said: “UCLU have just passed motion to not play Blurred Lines in union spaces & events. Solidarity with all survivors!”

    [The same panic over 'rape culture' and anger over low prosecution rates for sex crimes has also led to unapologetic attacks from the Left, similarly advanced in the name of "solidarity with survivors", on the presumption of innocence, the rule of law, and due process. An analysis of this disturbing facet of the effort to delegitimise liberalism lies beyond the scope of this post.]

  5. A few months ago, the New Statesman columnist Sarah Ditum wrote a rather good articleprotesting the illiberal use of ‘no-platforming’ to silence unpopular views held by those “deemed disagreeable”. However, her arguments were offered mainly in support of Julie Bindel, a radical feminist labelled ‘transphobic’ and ‘whorephobic’ for her views on trans rights and sex work. Ditum is, from what I can tell, largely sympathetic to Bindel’s positions on these issues, which made her defence of Bindel’s right to speak a relatively straightforward affair, causing her no significant ideological discomfort.

    But when it came to the no-platforming of a repellent male chauvinist and self-styled pick-up guru named Julien Blanc, Ditum’s principled defence of free expression evaporated, and she wrote a new blog post explaining that this was a very different matter. “There is no free speech defence for Julian Blanc” she concluded. (In response to the outcry, Blanc has since been denied a visa to enter the UK.)

  6. This is not to mention the recent fracas over the Exhibit B installation, deemed unacceptable by anti-racist campaigners (which I covered in an essay here), or the hounding of feminist Adele Wilde-Blavatsky for her opposition to the veil and the demonisation of ‘white feminists’ (which I covered in an essay here). The latter post, incidentally, led The Feminist Wire todescribe what I wrote as “racist and anti-Black specifically”, and an attempt “to maintain white supremacy”.
This handful of examples barely scratches the surface of the problem. Not one of the writers or campaigners above was detained by the need to establish a causal link between the expression of ideas they dislike and consequent harm. Censors never are, despite the fact that, in an open society, the burden of proof ought to rest with those who would restrict individual freedom. Instead, those inclined to defend free expression were variously tarred with the brush of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, or rape apologism (depending on what was at issue).

When taken together, these individual cases – niggling and petty in and of themselves – speak to the flowering of a deeply sinister and censorious tendency amongst self-identifying progressives, invariably justified in the name of protecting the weak, the vulnerable, and the voiceless. In their righteous zeal to place certain people, views, and ideas beyond the pale, and secure in the complacent belief that their own opinions are beyond reproach, not one of these well-meaning men and women appears to have considered that their own liberty will, in the end, fall victim to the very same arguments they advance to silence others.

It should hardly be a surprise that in the midst of this reckless and dangerous onslaught against liberal values and the belief in the axiomatic nobility of the oppressed, there should be no room for sympathy with the Middle East’s only functioning liberal democracy. A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] campaign, ostensibly mounted in support of Palestinian nationalism, but actually aimed at the disestablishment of the only Jewish State, has been slowly gathering mainstream support and legitimacy in the West.

Reprehensibly, the BDS movement seeks not simply the boycott of Israeli goods (which would be bad enough); it also explicitly attacks academic freedom. In the foreword to a recently released collection of essays entitled The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, the American political theorist Paul Berman argues that BDS activists are only able to make such arguments because they have convinced themselves of a misperception: they see what they are doing as “modern and progressive” when in fact it is “retrograde and disgraceful”.

The same must be said of the examples itemised above. Even as they thoughtlessly stigmatise those who defend free expression as “right wing”, these activists, writers, and campaigners have succumbed to the right’s most regressive autocratic tendencies. Dogmatic and unbending in their misanthropic view of human sexuality and race relations; unapologetic in their advocacy of an infantilising, separatist agenda of ‘safe spaces’; ferocious in their intolerance of views they deem unacceptable.

Gazing with mounting dismay at the escalating authoritarianism on the left of the political spectrum where my own political sympathies lie, I have been repeatedly reminded of a post published by the late Marxist theorist Norman Geras five months before his death. With a minimum of preamble, Geras quoted Chris Brown, Professor of International Relations at the LSE, as follows:

I think the biggest shift that has taken place in my thinking over the past 30 years is that I’m a lot less tolerant of relativist ideas, and multiculturalist ideas than I used to be. And that’s something that when you say it, it induces shock and horror sometimes. 25 years ago, I was writing material that, if it wasn’t poststructuralist, was at least ‘fellow traveling’ with the poststructuralists, arguing essentially anti-foundationalist ideas, arguing that the Western liberal tradition was just one tradition among other traditions, and so on. In a way, I think I was in bad faith over a lot of that. I believed that liberalism would always be there, and so one can afford to attack it. The events of the last 20 years have shown that that’s really not the case, that a lot of the traditional liberal values of freedom and tolerance are seriously under attack and need to be defended. So I’ve become a defender of the Enlightenment project in a way that I wasn’t maybe 30 years ago – that’s a big shift.

Unfortunately, there appears to be scant appetite for Professor Brown’s critical self-examination on the postmodern Left. Instead it clings to its metaphysical conspiracism, and disdains empiricism and a meritocracy of ideas derived from free and open debate in favour of the imposition of speech codes designed to stigmatise, shame, and silence.

In the name of a righteously-espoused ‘inclusivity’, such people have submitted to the worst kind of authoritarian elitism, and forgotten an elementary truism of Enlightenment thought. As the revolutionary 18th century pamphleteer and Dead White Male Thomas Paine observed in the short dedication with which he opened The Age of Reason:

You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.’

Read the whole of Jacobinism’s excellent post here

As has been widely publicised, mainly by people who’ve developed a sudden and very specifically focussed interest in football, Ched Evans has been training at his old club Shefffield Utd’s grounds . A Utd spokesman has said:

“The club acknowledges receipt of a request from the PFA to the effect that the club consider allowing Mr Evans, who is a PFA member, to train at the club’s facilities.

“According to the request, this training would be with a view to enabling Mr Evans to get back to a level of fitness, which might enable him to find employment in his chosen trade.

“This request has come to the club, because it is the last club at which Mr Evans was registered before his conviction.

“The club agrees with the recent statements of the PFA, to the effect that professional footballers should be treated as equals before the law, including in circumstances where they seek to return to work following periods of incarceration.

“There can be no place for ‘mob justice’.”

This sounds to me like an uncontroversial, sensible statement. The law is the law. Rehabilitation is a vital part of our justice system. A man is training to be fit to return to work after over two years in prison having been convicted of a crime. But if you read the response from many feminists this set of events is a travesty, and a personal attack on women the world over.

Today Sarah Ditum reminded us of a piece she wrote in the New Statesman back in August, where she said that Evans should not be allowed to just ‘get on with his life’ on release from prison. Ditum wrote:

‘If there were justice for women, rape would be a crime that makes us all turn in disgust from the perpetrator. We would see rapists as what they are – men who have committed one of the ultimate acts of denying female humanity, men who have performed an act of intimate savagery by penetrating the bounds of a woman’s body against her wishes. If there were justice for women, the shame, disbelief and misogyny that lead to the 6 per cent attrition rate for rape conviction would not exist. If there were justice for women, Richmond and Evans would be humbly recusing themselves from the world while they await forgiveness – they wouldn’t be gently settling back into the lives they had before.’

I find this paragraph symptomatic of a lot of feminist dogma. Whilst simultaneously stating that we should not ‘shame’ women for being victims of rape and sexual violence, Ditum employs graphic language to shame Evans, and men in general. She says we should ‘turn in disgust’ from people who are convicted of rape, calls rape ‘an act of intimate savagery’ and says that men convicted of rape should hide from the world whilst they ‘await forgiveness’. But as we know, this is a forgiveness that never comes, from feminists at least.

Ditum’s sister in arms, Caroline Criado-Perez also employs the ‘leper effect’ this time to ‘mark’ anyone (sorry, any *man*) who believes Ched Evans is not guilty of rape:

Sarah Ditum and other feminists’ shaming of Evans, his supporters and anyone who dares challenge their point of view reminds me of Foucault. He has argued that whilst leprosy is no longer a blight on the modern world (though is Ebola the new leprosy) the figure of the ‘leper’ who must be banished from society for being ‘unclean’ is alive and well. Or sick. Foucault writes:

‘Once leprosy had gone, and the figure of the leper was no more than a distant memory, these structures still remained. The game of exclusion would be played again, often in these same places, in an oddly similar fashion two or three centuries later. The role of the leper was to be played by the poor and by the vagrant, by prisoners and by the ‘alienated’, and the sort of salvation at stake for both parties in this game of exclusion is the matter of this study’

- Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation

Sarah Ditum doesn’t just shame ‘rapists’ and men in general. She tries to ‘shame’ me on a regular basis too, by telling anyone in her earshot about personal details of my life that she *thinks* are shameful. She also attempts to shame trans women and sex workers. My view is that feminism is a politics of shame it’s just quite cleverly implemented and hidden behind a  pretence of challenging the shaming of women.

I look forward to Ms Ditum’s articulate and civil response to my criticisms of her journalism and her dogma. Oh:

‘ a file that was never closed’ – Foucault got it #disciplineandpunish

“The ideal point of penalty today would be an indefinite discipline: and interrogation without end, an investigation that would be extended without the limit to a meticulous and ever more analytical observation, a judgement that would at the same time be the constitution of a file that was never closed, the calculated leniency of a penalty that would be interlaced with the ruthless curiosity of an examination , a procedure that would be at the same time the permanent measure of a gap in relation to an inaccessible norm and the asymptotic movement that strives to meet in infinity.”

 - Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

The terrible, awful, rubbish #samaritansradar app has been suspended. I was going to blog about the app, which set out to monitor and collect people’s tweets, then ‘alert’ someone who follows them, and who subscribes to the app, if they seem to indicate a ‘cry for help’ or a suicidal mood. The person being monitored has not consented to this kind of surveillance and intrusion. But after over a week of campaigning, on twitter, via blogs, emails to the samaritans, and a change.org petition set up by Adrian Short, the samaritans announced the app was being pulled, for the time being at least. So I don’t really need to add my voice to the many dissenters.

Another reason I’m not going to write at length about this failed social media experiment, that an organisation claiming to be  concerned with vulnerable people, seemed to be conducting *on* vulnerable people with no care for the consequences, is that there are already some incredible pieces of writing on the subject. So here are some of the blogposts I’ve read on Samaritans Radar that have impressed me. One of the many positives that have come out of this debacle for me is a reminder that blogging is not dead!

In addition to his post announcing samaritans radar has been suspended, and his eloquent tweet coda to it:

Adrian has written four more excellent posts explaining why the only ethical thing to do with Samaritans Radar was to shut it down.

There are  four equally good posts by Paul Bernal on the app, which consider important issues of public/private tensions on social media, privacy in more general, the necessary autonomy of people who call on the Samaritans and other agencies for support, and more.

Lesley Pinder has written about being the ‘target audience’ for the app and clearly articulated why she would not sign up to it. Becca Peters of third sector thinking blog also had some interesting things to say about why those who subscribed to the app might not want to or probably should’t use it.

Purple Persuasion imagined if the app was a real-life ‘intervention’ and the horror of that scenario.

At Information rights and wrongs blog ,  Jon Baines considers some of the privacy concerns raised by Samaritans Radar, and rebuts the Samaritans’ claim that they are not the ‘data controller’ of the material collected by the app and so not liable under data protection law.

Some twitter users tested the app and blogged about their findings. Queer crip showed how clunky, simplistic and often inaccurate the app is in finding words and phrases the Samaritans think indicate someone might need help/support. Michelle Brook also does tests on the app and reports back at her Quantumplations blog. Michelle is currently analysing the survey Samaritans have created to ask people for feedback on the app, and will write up her findings soon.

I will leave the final word to a Samaritans volunteer, who like many of us, thought an organisation known for ‘listening’ was not doing so over the radar app:

An article in the guardian this week cites  world economic forum research, showing the UK gender pay gap is widening.

Quoting the WEF the Graun say the UK has fallen to 26th in the world ‘global gender gap’ rankings, “with the country ranking 48th in terms of both labour force participation and wage equality, and 66th for estimated earned income”. This rhetoric of the ‘gender pay gap widening’ was repeated in the media and on social media. Further articles were published with scare-headlines like life for women in Britain getting tougher! And feminist organisations such as The Fawcett Society paused in their campaign to get male politicians to wear feminist t-shirts, to say ‘I told you so’.

But is the world economic forum report a trustworthy source of information about gender and pay?
In short, on looking over it and some related documents about its methodology I’d say: NO. The methodological problems with the research are not insignificant. Firstly, rather than providing ‘hard facts’ based on statistical data about salaries and wages, the findings from the wef are based on ‘opinions’ of ”business executives’.  Secondly only an average of 98 companies were surveyed in each country. Thirdly there is no mention in the report of random sampling :no reasons given as to why the selection of companies would be representative of a country as a whole.

So all we can really conclude from this report is that some business executives in the UK think that the gender pay gap has widened in the last twelve months.

The Fawcett Society reinforce their ‘gender pay gap widening’ assertion by providing stats from the office for national statistics survey of annual and hourly earnings. On first glance I would say that this data is more robust than that of the WEF. But the Fawcett cherry pick from the figures to back up their own viewpoint. For example the Fawcett Society quote the ONS as saying:

‘Men’s mean gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) were £16.91 in April 2013, up 2.3% from £16.52 in 2012. Women’s mean hourly earnings increased by 1.3% to £14.25 compared with £14.07 in 2012. This means that the gender pay difference for full-time employees widened to 15.7% from 14.8% in 2012.’

But if we take into account the differences in findings from identifying the mean v median results, the gender pay gap could be seen to be less stark. As the ONS point out:

‘Men’s median full-time weekly earnings increased by 1.8% to £556 between 2012 and 2013, compared with an increase of 2.2% for women to £459.’

and:

‘In April 2013 men’s median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) grew by 2.5% to £13.60, up from £13.27 in 2012. In comparison, women’s hourly earnings were £12.24, a 1.9% increase compared with £12.01 in 2012. The gender pay gap for full-time employees therefore increased to 10.0% from 9.5% in 2012.’

So by using median earnings the pay gap shrinks from over 15% to 10%.

Also, the WEF, the Fawcett Society and feminists in general fail to take into account the circumstances which contribute to the gender pay gap. The ONS are again more rigorous. They remind us that:

‘there is a difference in the proportion of male and female employees who work full- and part-time. For male employees, 88% worked full-time and 12% worked part-time in 2013 Q2, while the comparable figures for female employees were 58% and 42% respectively. This
highlights the fact that more women work part-time than men and consequently they are more likely to receive lower hourly rates of pay’.

And yet, even though the numbers of women working part time contributes to their lower earnings overall, women’s wages for part time work rose more than men’s between 2012-13.

‘For part-time employees, men’s median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) were £7.95 in April 2013, up 3.0% from £7.72 in 2012. In comparison, women’s hourly earnings were £8.40,an increase of 3.2% from £8.14. The gender pay difference for part-time employees was therefore in the opposite direction to that of full-time employees, widening to -5.7% compared with -5.5% in 2012′.

Another circumstance affecting wages is career breaks for having children. The WEF report stated that the UK ranked third highest in the world in terms of length of maternity leave and this will have an impact on women’s pay. As commenters under the first graun article on the topic said:

‘Women fall behind because of extended career breaks to have children ie they are being assessed in the same way as a man would be if they took extended career breaks.

To equalise the average on a population level we would have to encourage some women to return to work immediately after giving birth.

I doubt we will even get to the point where the majority of women will accept splitting those early months 50/50.’

And there’s the rub. If paternity leave was raised to match maternity leave, more men might take time out to care for young children, which would contribute to narrowing the gender pay  gap. But paternity leave is not high on the feminist agenda. Is this because women want to maintain their sovereignty over the domain of parenthood whilst also claiming discrimination in the workplace? Mother knows best after all.

I don’t want to think anymore than I have to about Nick Clegg modelling feminist t-shirts. But one thing that annoys me about him, Miliband and other pro-feminist men is they often spout feminist rhetoric  unthinkingly. I notice that ‘male allies’ repeat banal statements like ‘the gender pay gap is widening’ without consulting the data, or even thinking to look beyond the headlines made by feminist publications and campaign groups. To support feminist women because they are (feminist) women and to protect them from the scrutiny these men might apply to other dogmas and information sources seems patronising and paternalistic. Before we know it women could be out-earning men and then these cuddly feminist-friendly men might be out on their ears with only an unfashionable t-shirt for comfort.

According to The ralph retort the Guardian made its mind up about the #gamergate controversy back in September (if not before). In a missent email, the graun’s head of technology, Jemima Kiss gave an edict to her journalists:

‘Again please DO NOT RESPOND to this idiotic campaign.

Leigh [a feminist games/tech writer] will  be coming in to morning conference to talk about Gamergate soon’.

Her email is given the subject heading of: ‘Re: Leigh Alexander and Vice Writer ‘#killallmen”. I would be interested to see the rest of the thread in question!

It’s not surprising the press takes certain editorial lines on issues. But there’s something in the timing of this email and its tone – dare I call it ‘bossy’? – that is particularly authoritarian and closed-minded. Particularly Guardian.  Dismissing a complex set of events/people/actions as ‘idiotic’ is not very rigorous for a senior journalist.

I wouldn’t want to get on the wrongside of Ms Kiss! (though it’s quite possible I already have).

Metrosexual M and S? #metrosexual

Posted: October 23, 2014 in metrosexuality
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If you’ve been anywhere near a UK high street lately you will have found it hard to avoid bumping into David Gandy in his undercrackers. British institution  Marks and spencer, traditionally known for middle aged women and twin sets and pearls, is tapping into the metrosexual market. Its new range of not *too* frumpy men’s underwear, and associated ad campaign is definitely a departure for the respectable department store. I’m not a fully fledged connoisseur of men’s knickers but I think Gandy’s range - and his adverts – are an improvement on David-Beckham‘s pants for H and M. Maybe there’s a slightly overdone attempt to look ‘manly’ on Gandy’s part, with his pecs, frown and stubble. How manly does anyone look in nice white cotton boxers?

The Daily Mail decided to interview a slightly odd selection of people about M and S’s new undies. Jenni Murray from R4′s Woman’s Hour was suitably disapproving, saying M and S are ‘misguided’ to think that ‘sex sells’. Um… But at least she applied her conservative views on women’s ‘objectification’ to men too when she said: ‘Body fascism has become a real problem for a generation of girls and, now, boys are beginning to feel the same anxieties about diet and exercise.’ It is progress of sorts.

Andrew Clover (no I don’t know who he is either) was also sceptical about the move, saying:

‘This whole campaign seems the opposite of M&S underwear: it’s a bad fit. Gentlemen M&S shoppers are homely types. We don’t show off, though we’re quietly proud of our taste in wine. If M&S must advertise men’s underwear, they should have Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville in his dressing gown, or that nice chap Alexander Armstrong from Classic FM in his pants.

But then he went on to admit spending 20 minutes eyeing up Gandy in his pants before finally buying a pair, then parading his new outfit to his wife and kids when he got home! Glover  rather challenges the myth, supported by Claudia Connell (nope! not a clue) that women buy men’s clothes for them these days. She thinks that ‘Gandy is a cold and calculating, Christian Grey character, sending subliminal messages to middle-aged, Middle England housewives to go and buy these pants for their husbands’ According to market research, fashion counts for about 83% of young men’s spending. I think M and S are not appealing to middle aged women but are aiming Gandy’s crotch at younger men. And whether or not the men want to *be* David Gandy or *do* him is probably immaterial to the high st chain, who are just interested in the  - um – bottom line.

I welcome M and S embracing metrosexuality and I tend to agree with Ann Diamond who said a b arely clothed David Gandy  is an improvement on ‘the recent M&S women’s clothing ads, with all those stuck-up high achievers [like Annie Lennox and Emma Thompson!]‘. And who knows, maybe some young men will venture into the shop looking for some boxer shorts and they’ll come out with a middle aged woman in twin set and pearls on their arm…