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Should Fake News Be Banned?

https://mcxv.com/fake-news-made-illegal/

I recently attended a debate which focused on whether or not ‘fake news’ is covered by free speech.  This topic is very relevant for bloggers because if you tend to focus on news and current events, you are contributing to the discourse and you are presenting your own view of the truth, a view which may or may not be widely accepted.

Would fake news laws shut down blogs just because the powers that be don’t agree with them? Who decides what is and is not fake? And what would that mean for political commentators, Youtubers, bloggers and keyboard warriors? Before you decide whether or not fake news should be banned you first need to think about what fake news is and who defines and decides what fake news is.

Donald Trump believes that the mainstream media deliberately lies about him and his fans. The public has, to some extent, always been dubious of the mainstream media but the rise of independent news outlets seems to be fuelling this distrust. Facebook and Google are clamping down on fake news. People are being implored to actually research the facts before they share a meme. Fake news is very relevant to a world where basically anyone can be a journalist and users alone decide what will go viral, but is fake news detrimental to or in fact supported by free speech?

I have written an article about whether fake news should be banned, the definition of fake news, the difference between interpretation and facts, and whether or not fake news should be banned. The article was published on MCXV, an independent news website which allows contributors to make a small profit based on a number of views they get. Is this the kind of website which would be targeted by anti-fake news legislation? Take a look and let me know what you think!

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Milo Yiannopoulos and Free Speech

I wrote an article about Milo Yiannopoulos on my MCXV platform following the Berkely University riots and I’d be interested to hear what people think of the whole thing.

All About Milo

Some of you may remember that I wrote an article last year following a frankly embarrassing TV debate involving Milo and a few feminists who shouted over him, accused him of calling for someone’s assassination and were generally rude and obnoxious to everyone including other female speakers.  This doesn’t mean I’m a fan of Milo and his political opinions, but at least when he turns up to a debate he attempts to address the question, he allows others to speak and he comes across as calm and logical rather than angry and crazy.

If you actively hate the guy then this is actually a really big problem, because if he really is as dangerous as some people need then the last thing you want is to make him look like the good guy. And unfortunately, when he gets into debates this tends to be what happens. People spend so much time calling him a bunch of names that they never try to respond to what he says, and that just makes it look like there is no good counter argument so he must be right.

Freedom From Speech

The thing is that people are growing concerned with what is happening. It’s becoming really hard to talk about politics at all because the people who believe in a particularly rigid type of identity politics seem to have decided that everyone who disagrees with them isn’t just wrong, they’re bad. It is obviously true that hate speech is not the same as free speech and just shouting insults or going on racist tirades should not be tolerated in the public sphere, but I’ve been watching a lot of ‘discussions’ in the past year and that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

What is happening is that a lot of people has such a binary view of things that they refuse to take anyone who doesn’t agree with /everything/ they say seriously because they think they are just bad, ignorant people who don’t want to learn the ‘proper’ way of thinking. And the thing is their ideas aren’t particularly problematic or hard to follow: Yes you should listen to people and not dismiss their personal experiences, yes you don’t know what life is like for someone else, yes we should fight for equality, yes there are still problems and it’s not okay.I haven’t really seen anyone actually disagree with these things. It’s the way they put them across and all these other beliefs mingled in with them that are the problem.

The problem is the idea that you are either a feminist or a misogynist, that you are either left wing or a member of the alt-right, that you either believe all white people are inherently racist or you refuse to ‘let go of your privilege in favour of equality’. That you are either an SJW or a member of the alt right. That’s not how it works. You may disagree with the things typical social justice people focus on whilst equally disagreeing with the alt-right. You may be left-wing and critical of identity politics.

People should develop their ideas through a mixture of listening to other people, learning via reading up on things, and their own rationale. You can’t just be told: “this is what is right and you have to agree or you’re bad”.  A lot of this stuff came from sociology and if you have studied sociology then you know that the whole point is to learn about different theories and arguments, not just decide that this one theory is now suddenly absolute fact and everything else is evil. It all comes down to the different ways people are defining things and even though there is truth behind these ideas they should NOT be above criticism.

Debate Is Not Hate

It is getting to the point where people are being banned from the very groups that are meant to be ‘safe spaces’ for them. I’ve known of trans people who have been kicked out of discussion group for disagreeing that something was transphobic. I’ve known of mixed race people who have been told to ‘check their white privilege’ by a white person because they didn’t disagree with something someone said about racism. People forget that the world is made up of individual people with their own experiences, opinions and ideas. It is not made up of all-encompassing groups which necessarily speak for each other. Surely the whole point of equality is that we are not judged by whatever ‘group’ we belong to but by what we actually do ourselves.

Disagreeing with someone’s solutions or someone’s particular take on the world does not mean you are disagreeing with equality itself. People need to be able to have open, civilised and respectful discussions where they do actually listen to people with different points of view so they can see where the other person is coming from and either strengthen or question their own arguments. I’ve been getting into YouTubers recently and I’ve seen videos by people like Blaire White and Roaming Millennial, people whom I know a lot of people seem to regard as ‘dangerous conservatives’, but even though I may disagree with what they are saying they are not spreading hate speech, they are just giving their view of the world which you are then free to disagree with.

Back To Milo And The Riot

So getting back to Milo for a moment. Some of the things he says are pretty bad (especially his fear of Islam and rejection of refugees) and others are more reasonable (his criticism of the wage gap as misleading is pretty well acknowledged by economists and statisticians). He says things in a deliberately provocative way, he is quite obnoxious and realistically he is just a bit of a dick, but does that justify rioting on your own campus to stop him giving a talk? Is he really the epitome of all evil? Is he even worth the effort? Isn’t it just fuelling his growing fame?

Some people think he or Breitbart or both orchestrated the whole riot thing for publicity and if they did it was very effective. Milo has a new book due next month which is already on Amazons best seller list and so this recent media attention has happened at a very good time for him. Milo’s book is about how college campuses are closing themselves off from debate, how they police points of view and refuse to give anyone with whom they disagree with a platform. The Berkeley university riots were the perfect advertisement for his book. Maybe he did orchestrate it because it seems to have worked out very well for him.

What do you think?

https://mcxv.com/lets-talk-milo-yiannopoulos/

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My response to Everyday Feminisms post on ‘concern trolling’, body positivity and fat shaming

If you read my blog regularly (and you should!) you may already know that I’m quite critical of the modern feminist movement. This does NOT mean I don’t appreciate and I don’t support 1st, 2nd and 3rd wave feminists (to me 3rd wave feminists were in the ’90’s and is encapsulated by shows like Buffy, Xena, Dark Angel etc), nor does it mean I have some archaic view of women belonging in the home as baby making machines with tiny brains and men controlling everything. I just believe that feminism as it exists today has been derailed onto petty issues, bad arguments, and dodgy politics and in its current state it isn’t something I want to be associated with. If you’re interested in reading my thoughts on feminism in more detail go here.

For this post I’m not going to be talking about feminism per se but I will be critiquing a feminist publication: the infamous Every Day Feminism. This website is a pretty good example of everything that I believe is wrong with modern day feminism and oppression politics. It is often really badly written and either unedited or very, very badly edited, it makes erroneous claims which it then backs up with other articles from the same damn website, and it assumes moral superiority to the point that if you disagree with the argument, not even the principle but the argument, then you are an evil bigot who needs to be educated and/or shut out for your toxic views.

The article I’m going to be critiquing is “11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health isn’t Helping Anyone.” Before we begin I would like to clarify that I do not support bullying, harassment or general nastiness on an individual basis. I am not writing this to support or condone people who physically or verbally harass fat people. It is also true that there are underlying medical conditions which can affect someone’s weight and fatness is not necessarily a result of over eating or poor lifestyle. This article is also about obesity, not people who are just overweight.

1. Because Stereotyped Assumptions About Someone’s Weight Are Oppressive

“To hear assumptions from dietitians and other healthcare practitioners that because of a physical characteristic, their weight, they must be unhealthy and engaging in poor self-care.

To then have people on the Internet dedicating entire comment threads to berating them.

Everyone – fat or thin – is severely harmed by this message. And as social justice activists, it’s first and foremost your job to show empathy to marginalized folks – and then look inward to examine your unchallenged assumptions.”

This is true to some extent. You cannot know a strangers health just by looking at them. There are healthy fat people and there are unhealthy thin people and you can’t know someone’s health status unless a: they tell you or b: you medically examine them yourself. It isn’t okay to go up to strangers and go “OMG you’re so fat. You must be sooooo unhealthy. Do you have diabetes?”. Obviously that’s not okay and I for one don’t support accosting individuals on their life choices in any case.

But what this article seems to be saying is that the medical health practitioners who examine someone and suggest they lose weight for their health are assuming based on stereotypes rather than the medical facts for that individual person. It basically assumes that there aren’t any health problems associated with being obese and anyone, even if they are a medically trained professional, is being a bigot if they express concern. And that’s just nuts. 

It is an excepted medical fact that obesity can lead to many health problems ranging from breathlessness, back pain, fatigue, excessive sweating and general unfitness to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancers. Naturally, if someone has medical training and these are medical facts if they see someone who is excessively overweight they will inform them of the risks and suggest they make some changes in their lives. As this medical professional would presumably have access to their medical records they would not be making the assumption that this person being overweight was due to their lifestyle when it was actually caused by something else. It is not oppressive for a doctor to tell you the truth and suggest you make some changes to improve your life.

2. Because Fat Doesn’t Kill

Again this is partly true. No one dies from ‘fatness’ in itself and there are overweight people who lead very healthy lifestyles, eat fairly healthily and have regular life expectancies. Being overly thin as well as overly fat can also be an indication of severe health problems and health problems could happen to anyone regardless of their body type. Being thin or being an average weight doesn’t make you immortal and won’t necessarily protect you against the health conditions mentioned above.

But what fat does do is put excess pressure on your organs, raise the risk (not the certainty, the risk) of certain health problems including life threatening illnesses, and can reduce the quality of your life. Being extremely obese, becoming immobile, not being able to take care of yourself and not being able to lift your own body weight are real concerns for some people. Sure scare mongering doesn’t work, but telling people as long as they feel beautiful everything will be fine isn’t helping anyone either.

3. Because Fat Doesn’t Cause Disease Either

This point basically goes on about correlation, not causation and uses the ice cream and drowning example as a way to show that obesity does not cause health problems but is correlated with them.

And it’s not exactly wrong. Being fat does have a positive correlation to health problems and it can make them more likely, but it does not guarantee them. You could be obese and live a long and happy life. That does happen. That could happen to you.

But you know what? I could say the exact same thing about smoking. Because smoking has a strong positive correlation with health problems but we all know a story or know someone personally who smoked all their lives and lived a long and relatively healthy life. If you’re a young smoker (16-35 say) you’re fairly unlikely to die from your habit. Your quality of life may be affected and there’s never any guarantees but realistically speaking we all know smokers who seem pretty healthy. Correlation does not guarantee causation but the increased risk is real. If you want to take that risk it’s up to you.

4. Because, If Anything, Fatphobia Causes Adverse Health Effects

It is true that depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation are listed as possible symptoms of obesity. I don’t think you should be promoting an unhealthy lifestyle or saying that lying around and eating junk all day is a lifestyle choice that should be celebrated, but you shouldn’t abuse or harass people based on their appearance either. It is also true that we have extremes in our fashion industry which normally only depict thin women or fat women and completely ignore everyone in the middle which creates this idea that if you’re not 5’8 and skinny you’re automatically fat which may make people less likely to try because being 5’8 and a size 8 (English sizes) just isn’t realistic for a lot of people. We should have more diversity in fashion and in the media.

But you can’t blame everything on other people. A lot of people, including a lot of fat people, don’t see obesity as an attractive body type and if you are uncomfortable with your body shape it is likely to lead to feelings of low self-esteem.  These body ideals are probably influenced by the media but they are not solely created by the media. 

If I put on a lot of excess weight and I don’t like what I see it’s not because I’m thinking about fashion models or even about how other people will see me, it is because /I/ do not like what I see. When I then lose weight it is because /I/ want to be comfortable with myself. I have a huge problems with people pushing this idea that all of our insecurities and ideals are solely shaped by the patriarchal media. Can’t people try to lose weight because it makes them feel better inside and out? Maybe it doesn’t do that for you, but it certaintly does it for me.

If you are uncomfortable with your body shape and there is no underlying cause for it surely the way to make yourself feel better is to try and work towards something you find more attractive in a healthy, realistic way, not simply be told that ‘if people don’t like how you look it’s their problem’. Because it’s not always about other people. If you are happy with how you look and you’re not worried about health then by all means do whatever you want, but if you’re not happy with being obese that doesn’t mean you’ve just been ‘brain washed’ by the media. You are not incapable of knowing what you want for your own body. Can people please stop being so patronising?

This point is also only addressing a few areas of a much larger problem. Depression and anxiety are not the only health problems associated with obesity. Does fat phobia create heart disease, diabetes, breathlessness, sweatiness, cancer, and stroke?

5. Because Mental Health Is Also Health

Because when you ridicule someone, or a group of people, based on their social disadvantages, especially wherein you hold power, what we call that is bullying.

Of course it is. I’m not sure why these people always assume that if you mention anything in opposition to what you say you’re automatically bullying them. My approach to talking about obesity is simply this: You never, ever, ever attack someone personally. You do not chase strangers down the street, you do not send people on the internet hate abuse, and you do not bully people you know by making fun of them. When you talk about obesity it is either objectively as a health problem without talking about any one individual or, and this is up to your own discretion, to a close friend if you’re worried about them and they have expressed an interest in losing weight.

Pointing out the risks objectively isn’t the same as bullying someone. As a semi/ex-smoker if someone were to come up to me in the street, flick my cigarette/e-cigarette out of my hand and shout at me about cancer then I would feel personally abused. But if I see an article on the internet talking about the real medical health problems associated with smoking… that’s not personally targeting me. That’s letting me know the risks so I can choose what to do with my own body. Why should obesity be different?

6. Because ‘Glorifying Obesity’ Isn’t a Bad Thing

Isn’t it? Overeating/Binge eating is an eating disorder which is mentioned on eating disorder websites alongside bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Now it’s true that not everyone who is overweight is overweight due to their lifestyle choices, there are underlying medical issues which can have a huge effect and everyone should keep this in mind, but for a lot of fat advocates this really isn’t the case. They do say that it’s fine to eat whatever you want whenever you want in whatever quantities because as long as you feel good about yourself nothing else matters.

If that’s what you want to do with your life I’m not going to stop you. I do believe we should focus more on health rather than appearance and we need to acknowledge that different shapes and sizes are natural and not everyone has the same body shape, but without an existing condition I just cannot believe that being obese is natural.  Yes the BMI is a bit dodgy and yes some people get higher results because of bone density, muscle and/or other physical attributes but it really just comes down to common sense. Just because the BMI /can/ be faulty doesn’t mean it is /always/ faulty. You are welcome to do what you want to your own life but when you start saying it is not only a personal choice but something that should be emulated, promoted and glorified … then expect criticism.

7. Because One-Size-Fits-All Definitions of ‘Health’ Are Ableist and Perpetuate Heathism

There are still a million questions that we have for you.

Like how the fuck do you define “health” in the first place? And who gets to decide what that is? And how is there any possible way to judge health based on a person’s size?

And is it even really appropriate to value health?

I would say that medical tests for your blood pressure, BMI and general fitness level would be a pretty good place to start. I actually agree with the whole ‘no one size fits all’ thing because it is very clearly true.  People have different body shapes and some people have naturally different proportions. We cannot and should not all try and have the same body because we aren’t meant to have the same body. What we should be focusing on is how to make the most out of the body we do have, not the body we think we should have or wish we had.

 It is also true that skinny people and regular sized people can experience health problems. I know skinny people with health problems. And rapid weightloss can be a sign of a huge variety of medical conditions.

But I feel that this is kind of avoiding the point. Saying that other people experience health problems as well doesn’t mean there isn’t a link between health problems and obesity. Just because you might experience them regardless of your weight doesn’t mean you should increase the risk by eating loads and loads of food. If you see someone who is immobile, or someone who cannot walk up stairs or has trouble moving, or someone who is constantly out of breath and sweating, or someone who has loads of digestive problems, or someone who is just miserable with how they look … that’s a pretty good indication that they aren’t healthy. This doesn’t mean everyone who is obese is necessarily going to suffer these problems but it doesn’t change the fact that it makes it more likely.

In the U.K there is also the NHS argument for the last point. I don’t particularly like this argument because if we want universal health care it must be universal and ultimately people have autonimy over their own bodies, but for the sake of debate if you are obese due to lifestyle choices and you have avoidable health problems which you are treated for on the NHS then it is kinda everyone’s problem because you are taking up money, resources and beds which could be used for non preventable conditions.

Also what is heathism?  I’m going to assume that’s an example of Every Day Feminisms fabulous editing and it actually means ‘healthism’. What is healthism? Is it really a bad thing to promote health? Granted not everyone has the same level of health but if you don’t surely it’s even more important to be as healthy as possible? I really don’t get that one to be honest.

8. Because Weight Loss Doesn’t Actually Improve Health Anyway

What they do in this point is try to argue that weight loss alone doesn’t improve health. And yknow what? They’re right. Starving yourself, going on fad diets or yo yo diets or getting surgery probably won’t improve your health and weight loss surgery should really only be done in an emergency. But saying that fad diets, starvation and medical surgery won’t improve your health is kind of a given because … they won’t. Weight loss can’t be a quick one step process. It is a gradual thing that happens naturally as a result of fairly small lifestyle changes. Exercise and not living a sedentary lifestyle are also really, really important.

Everyday Feminism says that they promote a healthy diet and exercise. If they do then that’s great, but do they?

  It depends on what you mean by a healthy diet as portion control, calories and what you are eating are obviously going to play a part. It also depends on what you mean by exercise because going to the gym and doing some light cardio once a week is unlikely to improve your fitness levels that much or help you lose weight. But if you do follow a healthy diet with potion sizes that still make you full but not to the point of over eating AND you follow a exercise regime which incorporates cardio, weights and generally moving around … unless you have a pre-existing reason for being obese … I just don’t think you would stay obese if you did those things.

9. Because No, Being Fat Is Not At All Like Being a Smoker

First, being fat is a physical characteristic, not a behavior.

Second, smoking has been proven to cause death and disease. Being fat, on the other hand, has not.

Unless the fat is a result of a pre existing condition then it is a pretty strong indicator of a behaviour. And obviously you can’t ‘catch fatness’ from standing next to someone eating a cheeseburger. Obviously not. There are however links between obese parents and obese children and children who have obese parents are likely to become obese themselves so in that way you can kind of ‘catch it’, but through eating behaviour and lifestyle rather than actually catching it just because you stood near a fat person.

In reality, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, an epidemiologist named Richard Doll published research suggesting first that smoking could cause serious health damage and second that there was a close link between smoking and lung cancer, which was repeatedly confirmed.

Surely this ‘close link’ is a positive correlation much like the one that links obesity with numerous health disorders?

No one is saying that smoking is exactly like being obese. But the way it is handled and the way you should talk about it are quite similar in my view. In the same way that it is unnacceptable to approach a fat person eating in the street and lecture them on the importance of a healthy diet it is also unacceptable to accost an unknown smoker and talk to them about lung cancer. But both parties need to know the risks, they should know that there are options availible is they want to make healthier choices and we should not glorify or understate the potential problems associated with either thing. 

Ultimately people have the control over their bodies and no one else has the power or the authority to change that, but that does not mean we have to pretend it’s all fine.

10. Because You’re Subscribing to a Harmful Bootstraps Myth Mentality

So when we perpetuate the narrative that we all have a choice in whether our bodies are fat or thin, we push the idea that everyone should be striving toward thinness all the time – and that is something that actually harms us all.

Can we just get off the thin thing for a moment? It’s not a question of being extremely fat or extremely thin. Those are not the only two options. It is not a question of trying to force everyone to be thin, it’s about encouraging extremely obese people to make changes in their lives so that they lose some weight and have a better quality of life. 

This is why I think we are desperately in need of ‘average’ sized models who are not plus size but are not super skinny either. We need to show that there aren’t just two options and that you don’t just leap from skinny straight to plus size.

11. Because, Straight Up, Fat-Shaming Just Makes You a Jerk

Concern trolling does not make you a hero. You’re not saving anyone’s life.

You’re not motivating anyone toward health. You’re not helping someone cope with oppression. You’re hurting people. All concern trolling does is hurt people – both individually and socially.

And if that isn’t a good enough reason to reevaluate your actions, then what is?

I’m really not sure how pointing out medical truths is hurting people, nor how ignoring medical truths is helping people. There are people out there who can be really mean on an individual basis and that’s not cool, but if talking about a medical issue which is already all over the media as a nation if not western world wide problem isn’t allowed because it might hurt someones feelings then surely nothing will ever get done and our government will continue to try and push sugar taxes and healthy eating down our noses whilst people like you sit back and say the only problem is mean people.

If you have been hurt, upset or felt victimised by the contents of this post then please let me know how and why. Any comments, queries or criticisms are encouraged but flames, trolls or anything which just goes “OMG YOU’RE SO MEAN!” without saying how and why will be ignored and deleted.

 

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Thoughts on victim blaming

As a writer who likes to focus on news/current events, I’ve been a little dubious about delving into feminist discourse and engaging with those ideas. As I don’t personally identify as a feminist (I’ll write more about that in another post) I’ve found discussing the issues that relate to feminism quite difficult because so many people will quickly become offended and angry if you disagree with them, even if you don’t actually disagree with them as much as they think. However, I’ve been thinking and reading about this stuff for a while now and I think it’s time to get involved.

This is the first of a few social issues topics I’m going to be looking into, and for this article, I’m going to be looking at the concept of victim blaming.

Victim blaming

I do believe the victim blaming does happen, but I think there’s a bit more to the concept than we tend to assume. As far as I’ve seen, a lot of people will automatically assume that if you were sexually assaulted you were drunk and provocative, and so some people think that not being drunk and provocative will ensure you’re not sexually harassed. And that’s just not the case.

One time I was coming home on a Sunday evening (around 7pm) after a shift at the Zoo. I was wearing a long red anorak type jumper and jeans, and I was tired and anti social as hell. And these dudes on the bus kept talking to me, and asking me where I was getting off and such, and then they tried to follow me home even though I barely engaged with them and told them multiple times I didn’t want to hang out with them. I’m not saying that is sexual assault because it’s not, but it is a form of harassment, and it’s not pleasant. Harassment happens a lot, and it can happen no matter what you’re wearing. People can also be assaulted in jeans, tracksuits, and conservative clothes.

Because of this, it can get really annoying when people assume every time you’re harassed it’s partly your fault. I understand the frustration behind it, but I do feel that to help people understand this a greater distinction needs to be made between the different situations that sexual harassment or assault could happen. People can be harassed and assaulted when they are drunk and semi-clothed, but that isn’t the only instance where it could happen. It can also happen in broad daylight, or on public transport, or when you are walking home from work. It can happen at random, it can happen to women regardless of their sexual history, and it is often not provoked or encouraged in any way.

I don’t feel the campaigns that went viral depicting acts of everyday sexual harassment went far enough because as far as I saw they didn’t mention young people under the age of 18, who are actually more likely to experience this kind of thing frequently, but I do believe that these campaigns were and are very important, and that is one part of feminism I could definitely get behind.

The backlash against safety precautions

The problem, as far as I can see, is that some people refuse to accept that there can be a difference between harassment or assault that occurs when the victim is drunk, unaware and vulnerable, and that which happens in other situations This difference doesn’t mean that one is worse or more justifiable than the other, but it is just a different discussion.  For the rest of this article, I’m going to to be talking about assaults and crimes as relating to drunk, unaware victims.

There’s been a backlash against so-called victim blaming for quite a long time, and I’ve seen it focus quite a lot on safety adverts and warnings telling girls not to get too drunk and wander off alone. Some people believe this is avoiding the problem, that it doesn’t matter how drunk a girl is because she has a right to do whatever she wants and not have to worry about people taking advantage. Some people say that the focus should be on teaching boys not to rape, not teaching girls how not to be raped. And of course  that’s true. People shouldn’t sexually assault other people, and people shouldn’t rape other people. Period. No ifs no buts.

The unfortunate truth is that some people do sexually harass, assault and even rape other people, and I don’t believe it’s something you can just educate away. I do believe they should include consent and when it is not possible for someone to consent in those obligatory ‘growing up’ classes they have at school. They should also talk about street harassment, and why boys should not harass girls who don’t want to interact with them. You can’t really teach social skills in a classroom, but perhaps some basics in body language and how to tell when someone is interested and when someone doesn’t want to be approached could help.

They should  also talk about male victims in abusive relationships (in both homosexual and heterosexual pairings) and how that does exist because there is still a lot of misunderstanding and understanding about this issue, and I believe they should also educate both men and women about the dangers of getting too drunk. Because when you get really drunk, you are vulnerable. And some people might take advantage of you. Some people might hurt you. You could also hurt yourself.

Rape culture?

Educating people about these issues is important, but I think this idea that you can ‘teach’ people not to be rapists, that all rapists are ‘confused’ as to what constitutes rape and what doesn’t, is quite naive. The consent lessons could help some people, but ultimately we are already taught as individuals within this society that crimes such as rape and sexual assault are bad. ‘Rape culture’ may refer to a society where rape victims find it hard to get justice because people will question their story and then a conviction is hard to come by, but by the reality of the crime, rape is not easy to prove in a lot of cases.

It often happens in secluded places without witnesses, if it is reported a few days, weeks, months or years after the event there will be little or no DNA evidence.  It doesn’t mean rape isn’t a terrible thing and rapists shouldn’t be punished, but by the nature of the crime it is often very hard to achieve a conviction without substantial evidence, whether the judge personally believes the victim or not. A court of law has to remain unbiased until they receive enough evidence to tilt them one way or another whether they want to or not, and if they don’t get that evidence and there isn’t a confession it is very difficult for them to proceed. It is especially hard to make a conviction if the victim was intoxicated and therefore does not have a clear memory of the event, in the same way that it is harder to make a conviction several years after the event when the exact details may not be as clear.

A court of law has to remain unbiased until they receive enough evidence to tilt them one way or another whether they want to or not, and if they don’t get that evidence and there isn’t a confession it is very difficult for them to proceed. It is especially hard to make a conviction if the victim was intoxicated and therefore does not have a clear memory of the event, in the same way that it is harder to make a conviction several years after the event when the exact details may not be as clear.

I’m not saying it’s not a bad thing that so many rapists are never convicted, but I just don’t really know what the courts can change to make things better. They have to remain unbiased until they are given sufficient evidence, and if they don’t get that evidence whether they want to or not they can’t convict based on your version of events alone. I know it’s horrible, but I really don’t know what the solution is.

I have never been a fan of the term ‘rape culture’ because when people use it it seems to encompass anything from cat calling to penetrative rape. Whilst this isn’t always the case, I keep seeing people using examples of street harassment as examples of ‘rape culture’, and that doesn’t sit well. You cannot rape someone with your eyes or with your words. Catcalling and unwanted attention are not pleasant, it can be frightening and it has the potential to turn into an assault, but it in itself is not assault, and it is certainly not rape.

Sexual harassment is not pleasant. At best it is annoying, and at worse it is frightening. But someone trying to talk to you, whistle at you or get your phone number is NOT in the same category as penetrative or enveloping rape. The idea that a guy catcalling you is closely related to rape seems a bit ludicrous to me, and it definitely seems to undermine the experiences of rape survivors.Rape shouldn’t be a buzz word that’s thrown around to identify any form of sexual harassment or unwanted advances. Rape is rape, harassment is harassment. The distinction needs to be made.

You can’t just teach the problem away

It is common knowledge that theft, violence, murder, rape and pedophilia are all bad. We have laws against them, we have news stories about them which condemn the crimes and the perpetrators, and these crimes go against the ethics that most people at least pretend to live by in our society. This does not, however, stop some people from doing any of those things. To explain why any individual let alone multiple individuals murder, rape and abuse children is a job for trained psychologists and even then we may never fully understand, but I doubt the people who committed these heinous crimes wouldn’t have done so had they just had a consent class at a university or school that they may or may not have attended.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t try, but I think it’s incredibly naive to say “well just teach them not to do bad things, don’t teach us to stop them.”. Because the world isn’t just magically going to ‘become nice’ someday. A lot of people are not going to do these things, but some will, and I don’t know if that will ever change. As we cannot read and police people’s minds, we don’t know what they are thinking. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they are going to become a murderer, a thief, a child molester or a rapist. You can’t lock someone up before they have committed a crime. So whilst we can and should talk about these issues and spread awareness about them, I don’t think we can ever ‘fix’ the entire population so no one ever does anything terrible to another person.

The importance of safety

Whilst not all sexual assaults happen when women are drunk and unaware, it can happen. It does happen. You should follow simple safety measures when going out, such as not leaving your drink unattended and trying to stay in a group if you’re going to get wasted because it’s safer. It doesn’t mean something will happen to you, and it certainly doesn’t mean it should happen to you. It also doesn’t mean something may not happen to you at another time, in another situation. But whilst you can’t protect yourself from everything, you should at least try to protect yourself where you can, and not put yourself in unnecessary danger regardless of the fact that that danger shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Sexual assault isn’t the only thing that could happen either. If you’re drunk and unaware you’re an easier target for muggings, you might get in a fight, you might lose your belongings and get stranded, and you could also injure yourself. Sexual assault is something you should try to protect yourself against, but it’s not the only thing. To say that women have the right to wander around off their faces at night and not have to take any precautions because nothing should happen to them isn’t that helpful  because of course nothing should happen to them.

Of course it’s the attacker’s fault, not the woman’s. But something could still happen to them. Isn’t it better to not be alone or not be so drunk that you’re totally unaware in that situation? Of course you have the choice and the right to do what you want, but we do not live in a PG-rated violence free Utopia, and until such a fairy tale ending comes about we shouldn’t pretend that we do.

One could use this logic in other situations. What would you do if someone said it was wrong to tell children not to talk to or go off with strangers because the adult shouldn’t harm the child even if the child does engage with them, get into their car or go to their house. And no, of course they shouldn’t harm the child. But they might. Some people would. Of course it’s not a solution to the problem, and of course if something did happen it is never the child’s fault. But you’d still rather not risk anything happening to your child, and that is why you tell them to be careful or you don’t let them walk far on their own. Not because you’d blame them if something did happen to them, but because you want to prevent something happening to them in the first place.

As far as I can see, advising women to take simple safety precautions when they go out drinking isn’t an example of rape culture, it’s sensible advice.  I guess you could argue that it’s sexist to assume that women need to use these precautions when men don’t, and in some ways I’d agree. Men may be less likely (although it’s definitely not impossible) to be sexually assaulted on a night out, but all the rest of the issues above still apply. I’d say the fact women are reportedly more likely to experience sexual violence than men, the fact that women tend to be smaller than men and are perceived to be less physically strong, and the fact that many may perceive them as an ‘easy target’ is why these campaigns tend to focus on women, but maybe we should be targeting men as well.

Conclusion

I do believe a degree of victim-blaming does happen in our society, but I feel our collective efforts are focused on the wrong thing. Statements like “instead of teaching women not to be drunk, let’s teach men not to rape them” are true, but they are also a little pointless because you can’t just teach someone not to be a rapist in the same way you cannot teach someone not to be a murderer or a thief. We should teach consent, we should emphasize the legal implications and as a society we should condemn them, but we can’t assume that everyone who does a bad thing simply ‘needs to be educated’ and that crime will go away. We need to accept that even though we shouldn’t have to, we still need to protect ourselves as much as we can, not just from sexual assault but from all the bad things that people can do to each other.

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Tuesday morning update

I have two announcements to make this fine Tuesday morning.

    1. Take a look at my published article on why we need more video campaigns for male domestic abuse victims
    2. I’m doing book reviews now! Take a look at my new and shiny book review website, and if you are an author or looking for new books to read this summer click on the ‘book club’ banner for lists of cheap books and the opportunity to list your own book and gain a wider audience.

For more information on Alter Ego by Tory Allyn (the book I’m currently reviewing) check out it’s Amazon listing here.

I’ve been quite busy writing about weird topics for minimal pay (latest includes sewing machine sergers, karaoke machines, and milk frothers) but I promise to update again soon with a longer and very exciting post.

Book Club Reading List

Cheap eBooks

Cheap eBooks

Cheap Kindle Books

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Jeremy Corbyn

Click for my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

I have long felt that the Labour party is suffering an identity crisis. The old Labour movement, the movement of Atlee, the NHS, and the welfare system was abandoned in favour of Tony Blair’s centrist movement, but that doesn’t appear to be working either. Jeremy Corbyn offers a return to old Labour, to the values Labour used to represent. Perhaps those values don’t have a place in this country anymore, perhaps the working class has changed too much.

Perhaps society has changed too much. If this is the case, and Labour cannot go back to its roots but it can’t re-imagine itself as anything more inspiring than a second rate Tory party whose main policy is seemingly slightly ‘nicer’ than the Tories, then perhaps it’s time for something new. Perhaps Labour should split, if that is how things are going. All I know is that we need differences of opinion in parliament, we need parties that differ enough that people feel that they have a choice. We need parties that represent people, that give them a voice. Parties people will support. And if Labour can’t be what it used to be but doesn’t have a good enough alternative, then something needs to change.

Corbyn has the support of a lot of people because they don’t see him as part of the establishment, because they see how much the media and the MP’s hate him. And this increases his popularity because he seems different. He’s an underdog. He shares people’s values, and that scares the establishment. He seems nice. He would rather hang out with and support local, ordinary people, then bother with the rituals and ceremonies required of politicians. Perhaps this isn’t a good enough reason to support him, but if enough people feel this way then they deserve to be heard, and if enough people want him in power he should stay.

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Reaction to Brexit

We’ve left the EU.

It still doesn’t feel entirely real, to be honest. It was assumed that the British people don’t really like change, that they’d stick with what they knew, that referendums don’t normally deliver results like this.

But it did. And now we’re out. Now we are a small little island bobbing around on it’s own with no real idea what’s going to happen or who it’s friends are. We’ve rejected our neighbours, we’ve turned our backs on our allies and we’ve upset a lot of people. The pounds low, the stock markets breaking and at the moment it looks like all those warnings were in fact correct and in a day we’ve screwed up our country beyond repair. This is a historical moment, something that may well have a massive effect on British history for the foreseeable future. The historian in me is excited, the traveller in me is upset and the regular human me is confused.

Neither campaign was particularly good. The Leave campaign has been accused, and rightly so, of using racism to create fear and in doing so gain support. As Nigel Farrage was such a big part of the Leave campaign it always had that dodgy UKIP feel that a lot of people can’t abide and their incredibly dubious ‘breaking point’ poster really did not help matters. All of this really dominated the campaign when in reality there were a lot more points to consider.

I know people who thoroughly researched the EU before the referendum and after much soul searching voted to leave, and I know they didn’t do it because of immigration. Immigration may be the reason some people voted, but there is this idea floating around that it must be the only reason and it really, really wasn’t. There were many concerns about the EU being a huge, confusing and undemocratic entity that was trying to take over the entire region and ensure the individual countries had less and less power for their own affairs. This may or may not be true, but it is a valid concern, and one that doesn’t stink of racism and xenophobia. There is also this deep seated British need to separate ourselves that perhaps played a bigger part then the younger more Europe friendly voters realised.

The media’s attempts to paint leave voters as exclusively working class small town un-university educated Daily Mail readers also backfired and may have actually lost the remain campaign the support they needed. The Remain campaign didn’t really seem interested in stating why we should remain in the EU; they seemed more focused on the dangers of leaving, and this simply failed to impress people.

If you focus on why the other party is wrong instead of on why you are right, it makes it look like your own argument isn’t that strong. I’m sure there were a lot of good reasons they were talking about, reasons they should have made the focus of their campaign, but instead all I could hear was fear mongering and a growing resistance towards it. Perhaps they didn’t trust the British people enough to give them real arguments out of fear it would go over our heads, or perhaps they trusted us too much to make such a big decision on something a lot of people simply didn’t know enough about.

It didn’t help that there is quite a massive lack of understanding about what the EU is and what it does in this country. The fact is it’s a massive, bureaucratic and multilayered organisation that is very hard to understand, and I do question if their lack of transparency is real as so much as people didn’t know where to look.

I’ve always known the EU existed, but until this referendum I’ll admit I never knew a great deal about it. I loved the fact I could live and work in another European country and I thought the idea of uniting countries in the same area via trade and belief was a good idea, but I never knew the logistics of it.

I voted remain because I love the open borders Europe has, I love the freedom of people moving and visiting as they please. I love the idea I could have just packed up and moved to Germany, or Holland or Italy or any of these 27 countries if I chose. And I loved cheap travel. Maybe these aren’t the calculated, well researched reasons that they should have been, but you always end up voting with what is most important to you at that given time.

There are a lot of questions, a lot of confusion and a lot of anger going on at the moment. The press is dominated by the immediate negative effects this decision has made, people are fighting amongst themselves, the young are accusing the old of destroying their futures, accusations of stupidity, racism and ignorance are flying around. The Leave voters are assumed to be racist, and the Remain voters apparently can’t deal with the realities of a democracy. These reactions are all to be expected, but none are particularly helpful.

Perhaps some of the older voters did vote because of an outdated idea of making Britain great again. But perhaps they voted because they, unlike us, have lived through a time when Britain was not part of the EU. Perhaps because of this it isn’t such a scary concept because they know we’ve done it before. And perhaps they also voted this way because they’ve lived through our membership of the EU, maybe they have a better insight of how it’s changed the UK then we do.

Some people did vote because of racism; perhaps  because they don’t like the EU telling us we should let in Syrian refugees. Maybe others don’t like the free flow of people, perhaps they want to build a wall around Britain and truly cut us off from the world. But others would have voted for any number of reasons; including the un-democratic and over imposing structure of the EU and fears that a closer union would end in one state, one army and one currency. Public opinion has never been and will never be unanimous, and it does not and never has fitted into neat categories.

Victor Klemperer, a Jewish academic and diarist who kept a record of the Nazi regime frequently found that you could never assume someone’s beliefs. He encountered children who spat at him in the street and Nazi officials who apologised to him, who told him they didn’t agree with the regime. He found different reactions and opinions everywhere he went, and he stressed throughout his book that the ‘vox populi’ is never unanimous. This is something I feel we could all learn from, something that would stop these broad accusations and let us focus instead on the actual arguments and the future.

Who knows what’s going to happen now? Maybe, miraculously, the leavers are right and this is the dawn of better trade deals and a rising economy. Or maybe we’ve just shot ourselves in our collective foot, will realise just how bad a mistake and will end up running back to the EU and beg to be let back in, which (if it did happen) would result in a much worse deal and the end of the pound. Hell maybe someone will invade us and the rest of Europe will turn a blind eye. Should we be optimistic? Should we be terrified? What do you think?