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…

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

As someone – now a 40 something woman – once a baby who was born into feminism, and who later rejected it, there’s plenty about the dogma I find troubling. But I think it’s feminism’s scare-mongering and moralising about sex (usually heterosex) via narratives of men’s sexual violence against women – and girls – that gets me the most. And, though the two may not seem intrinsically  linked at first, discussions of ‘internet trolls’ seem to be yet another way that feminist women are able to demonise and criminalise men, those dirty dogs. Bear with me.

Today, Chris Grayling the UK Justice Secretary, has vowed to quadruple the maximum prison sentence for convicted ‘trolls’. This statement, which actually relates to an amendment to the Communications Act via the Criminal_Justice_and_Courts_Bill proposed back in March this year, and confirmed in July, seems to be timed carefully. It also neatly illustrates  the  link between feminist preoccupations with rape/male violence and wider discourses around ‘trolls’.

Grayling promised ‘tougher sentences’ (under the communications act) against ‘internet trolls’ after Chloe Madeley received rape threats on twitter. The 27 year old daughter of iconic TV couple Richard and Judy, seemed to be suffering a backlash after her Mum had waded into the Ched Evans  rape case clusterfuck. Evans, a professional footballer, has just been released from prison following a conviction for rape in 2012. Judy Finnegan added her tuppence worth by saying she thought the alleged assault by Evans wasn’t as bad as some rapes because among other reasons no ‘bodily harm’ was suffered by the alleged victim.  I use the term ‘alleged’ as the case is ongoing. Dad Richard is baying for blood and threatening the ‘trolls’ who threatened his daughter with prosecution.

Meanwhile, at least 150,000 people have signed a petition calling for Sheffield Utd to refuse-to-reinstate-ched-evans-as-a-player.  Feminists and their detractors online and in the media have been at logger heads over the career prospects of this one man. It all seems a bit over the top. But ‘celebrity’ cases often serve as prisms through which we look at wider issues in society. The Ched Evans case is refracting a lot of heat and light. I think even whilst the storm (in a football boot) rages on there are some reflections and questions worth considering.

The first issue that concerns me is what was the motivation for increasing the maximum sentence for ‘malicious communications’ from 6 months (it was a summary offence) to two years? Angie Bray, the Conservative MP who proposed the amendment made her inspiration for doing so clear. She said:

‘My interest was first aroused by a visit to my surgery in Ealing by constituents who were desperately trying to understand why justice had failed to be done for their young daughter, who had been receiving wholly unwanted explicit sexual text messages from the husband of the mothers’ best friend. Such was the kick that he apparently got from sending those messages to her that he sometimes sent 30 a day.

That went on for a year or so. The young girl did not tell anyone, because she knew he was married to her mum’s friend, and did not want to upset anyone. She carried that torment on her young shoulders alone. Finally, the school got in touch with the parents to find out why their daughter’s work was going rapidly downhill. Was there a problem they could discuss? What was wrong with her? My constituents asked their daughter, but she said nothing was wrong.’

Bray goes on to explain how attempts to prosecute the man defendant (who she says was 42 when the girl receiving the texts was 13-14) failed. In part she blames this on the communications act making the crime of ‘malicious communications’ a summary offence, meaning a) the maximum sentence is 6 months in prison and b) the maximum amount of time between crime and criminal charges is also six months. Extend the sentence and you also extend how much time can pass between the two.

The case that got Angie Bray’s attention fits with what we could call a contemporary moral panic over child abuse in particular and sexual violence by men against women and girls in general. Its not that I don’t feel empathy for the girl she mentions. But it worries me that clumsy criminal law is partly made on the back of panic, and of individuals’ ‘concern’ for individual victims. It reminds me of the Extreme Porn Law (2008) which critics say came to be following the murder of a woman where her attacker was found to have looked at ‘kinky’ pornographic websites. In the case Bray cites, a prosecution partly failed because the girl involved did not tell anyone she was receiving the horrible text messages. I would suggest that the silence of abuse victims and their fears about speaking out about their ordeals will not be solved by increasing the maximum sentence for malicious communications. In fact,  I wonder how many ‘grooming’ communications will even be prosecuted under this law. As with the Extreme Porn Law, it is quite possible the souped up malicous communications legislation will do nothing to protect anyone, but will  limit people’ s freedom of expression. Have we already forgotten the Twitter_Joke_Trial? In fact part of the ‘moral panic’ could be around the use of new technologies themselves

So who will be prosecuted/punished by the new improved ‘anti troll’ legislation? I can’t help but believe that when it comes to ‘trolling’, there are ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ victims. Just as in Victorian times (not to mention now) there were the deserving and underserving poor. Feminists are drawn to ‘trolls’ like bees to honey. Feminist professional troll hunters such as Helen Lewis are forever painting a picture of poor innocent feminist women damsels attacked by marauding armies of men online. High profile cases using the communications act to prosecute online expression have involved ‘deserving victims’ such as feminist campaigner and g****ite Caroline Criado-Perez and feminist MP and g****ite Stella Creasy.  It’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘Trolling’ is presented as an example of ‘misogyny’ and feminist women who trade on these concepts will be most likely to mobilise the law, thus justifying its existence with prosecutions of ‘misogynist’ trolls to refer to.

All’s fair in love and retribution. But the feminists are not always standing shoulder to shoulder with their ‘sisters’ and fellow victims of ‘online abuse’. On the day when Chloe Madeley was reported to have received rape threats online, after defending her Mum for uttering a non-feminist-accepted viewpoint about a high-profile rape case, chief rape threat avenger Caroline Criado-Perez was conveniently unavailable to comment:

It is common knowledge that UK prisons are practically full. And, that they are full of men, not to mention including disproportionate numbers of working class men (many of whom are black men). I find it hard, sitting under my troll bridge, to see these current cacophonies about tougher sentences for ‘trolls’ and associated hysteria about rape, rape threats, rape apologism etc etc as attempts by precious middle class white women to put even more of that same demographic behind bars.