Support this crowdfunding campaign to help women

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and Rape Crisis Scotland needs your money. Please donate if you can: it’s an essential and desperately underfunded service. The stories being shared by the @rapecrisisscot Twitter account are heartbreaking.

On a typical day across Scotland this year over one thousand survivors of sexual violence are waiting for specialist support from Rape Crisis Centres.

The wait can be excruciating; the support is described as lifesaving.

Frozen 2 is very beautiful

I took the kids to see Frozen 2 today and had an unexpectedly brilliant time. The film’s a ton of fun, particularly so in 4DX when your seats move and you get sprayed with compressed air and water. 4DX is ridiculously expensive but hugely entertaining.

if you’re going to go, try and see it in 3D. It’s a very beautiful film, and the way it uses 3D is often breathtaking.

Why we remember

It’s Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) today, the day when the trans community and our allies mourn the deaths of people killed because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.

2019 isn’t over yet but so far 331 trans people have been murdered, hanged or lynched. Those are just reported and recorded crimes; the real number is higher.

I’m lucky to live in a relatively safe part of the world: just one trans woman was murdered in the UK for being trans this year. In the US, where “trans panic” – “I discovered she was trans and I was so upset I stabbed her 27 times in self-defence” – is still a legal defence against murder in many states, there were 30 murders. In Brazil, there were 130.

I’m not a black, poor trans woman in North or South America, so my life expectancy isn’t 35. But just because “only” one trans woman was murdered in the UK doesn’t mean that people don’t die here because of fear, intolerance and hatred of trans people – although inevitably the bigots claim exactly that, while dismissing TDOR with uncanny impressions of the men who ask “but when’s international men’s day?” on International Women’s Day. We have many days to remember and raise awareness of violence against women, so for example International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is next week; the bigots are well aware of that but pretend otherwise.

You don’t need to be murdered to die because you’re trans. For example, trans people are more likely to be homeless than cisgender people. They are more likely to be forced into sex work, to be exploited. If a homeless trans person freezes to death or or if a trans sex worker dies of a drug overdose, it isn’t murder. But they’re still dead.

And then there are the lives we lose to suicide. Trans people kill themselves because they feel they can’t come out. They kill themselves when the years on waiting lists become too much to bear. And sometimes they kill themselves post-transition because while transition may fix your body, it doesn’t fix the world around you. That world is often hateful, and not everybody is strong enough to endure it.

Here in Scotland, the LGBT groups from the main political parties have released a joint statement to mark TDOR.

…visibility cannot be conflated with progress when it also makes you a visible target for abuse. For the last two years, the UK media coverage surrounding the Gender Recognition Act’s reform has concentrated on rights outwith the remit of the legalisation itself. Trans people have had hard-earned rights endowed by the Equality Act 2010 brought into question. For many trans people, it has felt as though the very foundations of their daily lives are being pulled from under their feet.

Here’s former Times editor Katherine O’Donnell.

Trans people are less than 0.5 per cent of the population but face overwhelming levels of hate and violence.

Here in the UK, some politicians, journalists and others with influential public platforms seek openly to take away the trans population’s legal protections. In Scotland, MSPs Joan McAlpine and Jenny Marra had chosen today to invite to the Scottish Parliament speakers who agitate against the human rights of trans people and call us parasites and perverts.

The event has been postponed but the intentions of these members of the SNP and Scottish Labour are plain.

The consequences of preaching hatred and division, of stripping away legal protections are greater discrimination and violence. The evidence for that is written ultimately in the hundreds of murders we remember, the suicides, the beatings, the healthcare, housing and work denied, the bullying and the daily anxiety.

I speak now directly to those journalists and politicians here in Scotland who have given platforms and lent credence to the ideas that propagate this hatred.

What you are doing is wrong and the consequences are real and terrible.

I see you. We see you.

Stop this today.

Sheep laughs

The kids and I went to see the new Shaun The Sheep film, Farmageddon, today. It’s warm, wonderful, and very British – in the best possible sense of the word. I laughed even more than my kids did.

Lipstick for singers who want the stick to stay stuck

I know what you’ve been thinking. “Carrie,” you’ve been thinking. “All this politics stuff is all very right-on, but where’s the #relateable #content? Why can’t you blog about interesting things, like how to find lipstick that doesn’t make you look like Robert Smith from The Cure’s granny?”

This post’s for you.

One of the things I have to think about now I’m back doing music is whether my lipstick will end up all over my face when I sing in my band. Some singers stand back a bit from the microphone, but I’m not one of those singers – so if I use anything more interesting than a nude colour, I end up looking like a messier version of this:

We did some promo photos recently before rehearsing and I went for a pretty dark colour; after a few hours of singing afterwards I looked like a toddler who’d got into their mum’s makeup bag and also made a lot of really bad life choices.

I’ve been trying to find something a bit less frightening for a while, and thanks to a recommendation on Twitter by National columnist, genuinely nice person and rocker of superb lipsticks Kirsty Strickland, I tried this stuff:

It’s called Superstay 24 Matte Ink, it’s by Maybelline, it’s currently 3 for 2 in Boots and it’s brilliant. I can get through three hours of mauling the mic without moving a single molecule of it, and it’s so tough that it might be the only thing left after a nuclear war: we might end up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but at least we’d look pretty fierce.

It’s not perfect. It feels tacky on your lips – you know how gloss paint feels when you touch it and it’s almost but not quite dry, and you leave a fingerprint? That – and the darker colours are a nightmare to get off when you’re tired and just want to go to bed. It’s also a menace to fix if you get your line wrong.

But if like me you’re all over the mic when you perform and you’d rather not end up looking like a bad hallowe’en costume, or if you’d just like to go for a night out without having to reapply every half hour, it’s worth the downsides. This lipstick stays stuck.

Voter ID: a solution that doesn’t work for a problem we don’t have

To paraphrase Mrs Merton: what first atttracted the Conservative government to voter ID, a scheme that would stop many non-Tory voters from voting?

After an unsuccessful attempt to introduce it in 2017, voter ID is back! Back! BACK! This version is slightly more sensible than Theresa May’s version from two years ago (unlike May’s proposals it has plans to try and address postal fraud too), but it suffers from the same fundamental flaw: voter ID is a solution that doesn’t work for a problem that we don’t have.

We have a problem with election rigging in the UK, but it isn’t happening in person at ballot boxes. It’s happening in campaigns that flout electoral law with little regard for the consequences, and on the ground it’s happening with postal voting. Voter ID doesn’t affect either of those things.

The number of people prosecuted for the offence of personation in 2017 was 1.

The number of people in the UK without photo ID is 3.5 million.

We know voter ID disenfranchises people, because we already have it in the UK: it’s part of the Northern Irish political system, and it disenfranchised 1/10th of the electorate. That’s with the same system the UK government is proposing here, where photo ID will be available for free (when you’re poor, £43 for a driving licence or £85 for a passport is a lot of money). In the UK’s trials of voter ID so far, significant numbers of people were denied a vote. When some majorities can be as small as two, every vote matters.

Voter ID being sold as a solution to a problem that we do not have, but the government doesn’t want it because it believes it’ll stop one or two people from committing personation. It wants it because voter ID reduces the number of people who vote, and those people tend to be the ones who don’t vote for right-wing parties. That’s why it’s a favoured tactic of the Republican Party in the US, which the UK Conservative party increasingly resembles.

“Abominable” isn’t

I took the kids to see Abominable yesterday. I didn’t have high hopes: the marketing made it look like another school-holiday by-the-numbers animation, and I already knew it made extensive use of one of Coldplay’s worst songs. But it turned out to be a wee gem of a film, and my two loved it.

It struck me while I was watching it that kids’ movies, especially animated ones, are often much more diverse than adult ones. One of the best cartoons I’ve seen with the kids, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, featured a black hero, a black villain and a multi-gendered, multi-racial supporting cast; Ralph Breaks The Internet was a two-hander with a strong young female character; Abominable’s hero is a young Chinese girl and the characters are also primarily Chinese, albeit in a westernised cartoon form.

That diversity is a good thing, of course. Kids come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and films should reflect that – and they often do, even if studios aren’t quite ready to give Elsa from Frozen a girlfriend. And films for older audiences are becoming more diverse too. Last year’s top-grossing US films featured more diverse casts and lead characters– although as Deadline reported, “the only way to go is up when the numbers have been so low for over a decade.”

 

Listen to this: Marian Keyes on Radio 4

I caught this by accident today and absolutely adored it: the final episode of Between Ourselves With Marian Keyes, featuring the author reading some of her non-fiction and chatting with Tara Flynn. Some of it was deadly serious, some of it had me laughing like a drain, some of it was the sound of nails being hit firmly on the head (such as, “You’re not being ‘edgy’ if you’re not the one on the edge”). The whole thing was beautifully warm and emotional and human.

Highly recommended: it’s available online until the end of October.

 

“A shill like you”

Frankie Boyle went viral again yesterday for suggesting that there were “perfectly legitimate reasons” for being suspicious of Greta Thunberg. “For example, the fact that you’re a big stupid man-baby, tricked by an algorithm into taking your opinions from corporate power.”

Inevitably, some people on the internet disagreed and thought it was a great idea to pick a fight about “the climate hoax” with someone who spends most of their time insulting people in ever more elaborate ways.

You’ll never guess what happened next.

Yep.

Boyle:

Never in their wildest dreams could elites have imagined they would have a shill like you. They thought they’d have to pay for people like you. Here you are, on your own time, fighting for corporate interests, against the literal survival of your own species. Because you fell down a YouTube hole. Because you grew up in a stupid post colonial society that encouraged your delusions of superiority. When you eventually burst into flames, or are torn to pieces by dogs in an abandoned ASDA, you can take comfort in the fact that at least you redefined the word “moron”, just when we thought we’d seen it all.

As we say in Scotland, telt.

 

The rescue industry for women who don’t want to be rescued

One of the things I love about the internet is that it can bring you stories from voices you wouldn’t otherwise hear. This is a good example: it’s a long and interesting piece about sex work by Lorelei Lee. It’s a great article about something I know very little about, a series of pictures from a life that’s very different from mine.

Sex work, whether prostitution or pornography, is a controversial topic. But as Lee notes, in most cases the people debating the topic don’t seek the views of the people who actually do the work. People on both sides of any debate presume to know what’s best for women without actually asking what the women want.

Neither liberal feminists nor libertarians, radical feminists nor the religious right, can hear us speak in our own words. They do not want to hear us; they want to collect the scraped-bare “facts” of our lives and call them data.

…When feminists call for the criminalization and delegitimization of sex work, they do not ally themselves with sex-working women. They actively create and cultivate a world in which sex-working women are culturally, legally, and visibly separated from women who do not trade sex. They make sure that they will not be mistaken for one of us, and they do so by telling a story about our lives that is about predators and not about work. A story in which the power dynamics are utterly uncomplicated and so are the solutions.

This is something we’ve seen recently in the UK, where groups have demanded the closure of strip clubs and simply ignored the views of the women who work in them. Not only that, but they used concealed cameras to film the women without their consent.

Kuba Shand-Baptiste writes in The Independent:

The “campaigning” here was at the expense of, not in support of, the women working at the clubs. Dr Sasha Rakoff, the chief executive of Not Buying It, maintains that the sting was “not about exposing lap dancers”. Yet one of the women who was filmed working at a strip club in Manchester, identified as Daisy, said the sting had violated her privacy. “I consent to being on CCTV,” she said. “I consent to it every night when I go to work [because it keeps me safe] but I don’t consent to them [the campaigners] filming me.

“We have a right to our body, despite what we do for a job, and they’ve taken that right completely away from us.”

…These groups say that it’s impossible to accept both that sex work can be exploitative (which, of course, it can) and also that sex workers have the right to demand better safety and fairer conditions in their workplace. It’s all or nothing: strip clubs should be abolished; strippers should be filmed without their consent for their own good; sex workers as well as their clients should be locked up; porn should be banned.

The reality is much messier. Lee:

How do we describe our lives without neglecting the fact that we have experienced both violence and joy at work? How do we talk about those extremes without ignoring the pragmatic day-to-day of it all, the profound boredom of washing and folding sheets between sessions, of listening to wealthy middle-aged men boast, of surreptitiously checking our watches while fucking, of all the tasks that we are paid for that have nothing to do with sex and have so much in common with other forms of service work? How do we talk about our experiences without letting their meaning be stolen?

The perspectives of women in the sex industry are often inconvenient for the people who want to “save” them. Kate Lister in The Guardian:

…the sex workers at the centre of these debates are finally being allowed to speak for themselves. And to the surprise of many feminist groups, it turns out that they do not want saving. Nor do they seem particularly grateful to their would-be saviours for campaigning on their behalf to do them out of a job. In fact, they appear to be downright angry about have-a-go rescue missions that involve secretly filming them naked, then outing them to members of local licensing committees.

There’s nothing new about the rescue dynamic. Sympathy for the plight of the “fallen woman”, and a need to save her, was endemic in Victorian newspapers. Hundreds of charitable organisations were established throughout the 19th century to rescue and reform such women.

The voice of the sex worker is noticeably absent in much of this historical debate, but on the rare occasion it is heard, it frequently offered a very different perspective, as it does today.

Do read the whole thing, it’s fascinating.

As Shand-Baptiste points out, the same narrative of women who must be saved from themselves plays out with regard to other groups of women.

There are some campaigners, and particularly some feminists, who seem to believe that in order to achieve a more equal society there are people out there who need saving from themselves. We see it in conversations about black women (”How, exactly, does twerking ‘empower’ us?“); about Muslim women (”Wearing a hijab contributes to your own oppression“); about fat women (”Self-hatred and subscribing to beauty norms is the only way you’ll save yourself“), and about trans women too (”Your personal suffering at the hands of people like me is mythical“).

The overarching message is that these women can’t possibly know what’s good for them. They need a self-appointed, morally upstanding woman to tell them what to do – and to silence them in the process.

Lee describes “the rescue industry”, where self-appointed saviours do their self-professed good works for the benefit of TV cameras.

Nicholas Kristof live-tweets brothel raids and gets paid by the New York Times to write about it. The former police officer and pastor Kevin Brown leveraged his “rescue missions” into a reality TV show on A&E called 8 Minutes, for how long he believed it would take him to “liberate” sex workers from “a life of servitude.” On the show, Brown pretended to be a client and then ambushed women with TV cameras when they arrived for work. The ambushes were staged, but the exploitation of vulnerable workers was not. In 2015, sex workers and writers Alana Massey and Bubbles described how Brown and A&E failed to provide the support they promised the women they’d convinced to go on the show.

Lee continues:

Rescuing women from the sex trades is an old business. In San Francisco in 1910, a woman named Donaldina Cameron made it her job to join police on brothel raids to “rescue” Chinese immigrant sex workers and take them into her mission home, called Nine-twenty. At Nine-twenty, the women were made to cook and clean and sew in preparation for being good Christian wives. Staff read all incoming and outgoing mail. Many of the rescued women escaped their rescuers.

Seven years later, the Methodist reverend Paul Smith delivered a series of sermons calling for a shutdown of the red-light district in the uptown Tenderloin neighborhood. In response, three hundred brothel workers marched to the Central Methodist church to confront him. Reverend Smith told the women they could make $10 a week working as domestics. The women told him $10 would buy a single pair of shoes. He asked how many would be willing to do housework. They said, “What woman wants to work in a kitchen?”

I realise this is a long post, but it’s just scratching the surface of the issues Lee raises. She’s written an extremely interesting and thought-provoking piece that respects the readers’ intelligence – a courtesy, I suspect, that hasn’t always been extended to her.