Speaking of Pervasive Sexualisation…

Cross-posted at Vegans Against PETA

A recurrent theme in animal-rights rhetoric is an attempt to connect with other struggles against oppression, to present the abuse of animals as similar to the abuse of different sorts of humans.

Now, for many people, the leftist revolutionaries of Latin America, from Fidel Castro to Evo Morales to Salvador Allende, are a key example of that struggle against oppression. So if you were an animal rights group and you found that the granddaughter of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was a vegetarian and was willing to work with you, it would seem that you have a campaign ready made.

You might, for example, have her in an outfit and posture that echoes famous poses that Che Guevara often held. You could use a slogan like “Join the vegetarian revolution”. It’s a brilliant plan. It’s got a striking image with a lot of resonance, and it’s also got a point that can be backed up (the connections between different forms of oppression, the need for revolutionary change in human-animal relations, the willingness to endorse militant tactics, etc.)

It’s controversial, sure – Guevara is a controversial figure, hated by some and loved by others. But let’s suppose you have no problem taking controversial stances. And perhaps your main plan is to run the campaign in Latin America, where Guevara’s very popular.

But now, imagine that you’re also PETA. Now a problem emerges. There’s a woman in your poster, but there’s nothing sexual about it. Nobody’s going to get a boner out of simply seeing someone in an inspiring pose of resolute defiance. What can you do?

I guess you’ll just have to make her semi-naked. Get her tits out, yeah? Cover them with an ammo belt of carrots, sure, but make sure that she’s clearly in a state of undress. After all, she’d rather go naked than wear fur, amiright?

Never mind that there’s absolutely no reason for a sexualised image in a poster themed around Che Guevara and revolution. He is hardly famous for having posed nude while storming Havana.

And never mind that it introduces a completely conflicting message that is liable to undermine the actual point – that will encourage viewers to look and think ‘I’d like to do her’ rather than ‘I’d like to aid her in doing something revolutionary’.

Never mind that you’re sending the message that women must always be sexual, even when the subject at issue – political relatives – has nothing to do with sex at all. Never mind that you’re encouraging a culture where every bit of the media features soft-core porn and women are pervasively judged in sexual terms.

That’s all beside the point. This campaign might get more attention now, and that’s all that matters. Nice one PETA.

More Rape Culture

What do feminists mean when they say we live in a ‘rape culture’? For one thing, a culture where rape and intense happiness can be referred to by a single word.

So let’s go to wordnet and look up ‘ravishment’. It has two definitions:

“a feeling of delight at being filled with wonder and enchantment”


“the crime of forcing a woman to submit to sexual intercourse against her will”

Look ‘ravish’ up somewhere else, say, wiktionary. Here again we find:

“to seize and carry away by violence; to snatch by force”

“to transport with joy or delight; to delight to ecstasy”

“to rape”

So when the Martian documentary-maker arrives tomorrow, how am I supposed to explain this?

What the Gurkhas tell us about the World

So the British government, after extensive public outcry and even more extensive Joanna Lumley, has granted the Gurkhas, a group of specialist Nepalese soldiers who served the British army, the right to stay in Britain.

Perhaps this gives us a glimpse of the alchemy involved here. If you’re a foreigner and want to enter Britain without leaving yourself open to assault, you must first kill another foreigner somewhere, some enemy of the Mighty Empress Windsor. Then, rather like a sacrificed animal, that other dead person’s blood will protect you.

Seriously, what a screwed-up world is this where the best way to earn respect and dignity has to be through war? How many soldiers have made a greater contribution to human happiness than the average child-raiser? But does having a child earn anyone the right to be left in peace to live and work where they want? Of course not – any suggestion of rewarding or supporting people involved in the vital work of child-raising is seized on by the right-wing to lament the decadence of society and the tides of ‘baby-factories’ sweeping across the world.

The most destructive typically-male activity is a badge of honour, while the most productive typically-female activity is a mark of suspicion. What a coincidence.

Rape and Imprisonment (of Women) Debated in Parliament (by Men)

It’s obviously true that different people have different ideas of what their natural and fair rights are. For example, I would naturally suppose that I have the right to walk around outside, but that I as an individual have no right to have sex with another individual.

Yet, as one more part of the rich a diverse tapestry of cultures across the world, the Afghan parliament is proposing that I have this the wrong way round. Sex is in fact something that can be an individual’s right, and going outside can be a privilege.

Of course the people with the right to demand sex (Shia husbands) also naturally have the right to walk around outside. And those whose vaginas are to be legally transferred to someone else are the ones losing the right to walk outside.

This law has prompted protest, reassuringly, but the protests held by Afghan feminists are met by larger protests by supporters of the law (i.e. the pro-rape-and-imprisonment faction). Not just outnumbered, in fact, but pelted with stones.

This is not a law drafted by the Taliban, and the stone-throwers protesting in its favour are not Talibannites (as Shi’ites, the Taliban would consider them heretics). This is not the manifestation of a dark, malign, cave-dwelling force of evil that can be driven out with bombs and guns.

This is an expression of widespread societal misogyny. It is an expression of forces which can only be destroyed by two things: grass-roots change led by Afghan women, or a bombing campaign by foreign occupation forces. Which kills every individual in the country.

Western governments, for what it’s worth, are condemning the law. And that might be ok – there may well be little more that they can do to really change the situation. Except that some of those governments (not just the US, but, going a bit further back, the Russians and the British) have used their supposed aim of removing this sort of misogyny to justify an invasion – and are still using it to some extent to justify robotic warfare in Pakistan.

In related news, an International Labour Conference has been held in Iraq, which is a step forward. At the same time, a motion was brought forward in support of women’s rights and, after debate, defeated. This is – well, a step in that it was brought and debated, a non-step in that it was still defeated.

Machiavelli Reveals Self as Patriarchal Dickwad, Surprise Largely Absent

Reading through Machiavelli’s “Discourses on Livy”, I came across a section entitled “HOW A STATE IS RUINED BECAUSE OF WOMEN”.

Mystified, I read the historical anecdote that was then recounted – which was, in short, that in a city once, an heiress whose father was dead was ‘asked for’ by two men, one upper-class, one lower-class, and being ‘under the protection’ of both her guardians and her mother, the former supported the latter and the latter the former, and in order to solve this dispute…the city united into two opposed groups, each of whom then called in allies from neighouring cities, producing a ruinous war.

Now I was mystified, for one thing, by the fact that not one person considered asking the heiress in question who she would rather marry. But my mystifaction was only increased by the conclusion that was drawn: “it is seen that Women have been the cause of many ruinations, and have done great damage to those who govern a City, and have caused many divisions in them.”

This seemed bizarre because, well, the story seemed to describe one man and another man having a fight, large groups of other men joining in, and then enlisting the support of more men.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rape Culture

I was recently browsing ‘Face Book’ and was reminded in a very obvious way that patriarchy is everywhere. 2643_1038242839498_1328320344_30120730_7731437_n

See, there’s this thing on facebook for ‘fans’ – there are pages set up for various artists or bands or whatever, and people can register as ‘a fan of’ them. And of course, sometimes people make other things into fan-able items. Hence I noticed that facebook was informing me that:

“2 of your friends have become fans of I love sex!

Bemused, I clicked to see who had joined. It was typical facebook fare, people posting with bad grammar and long discussion threads with titles like “Funnyest SEx Story!” and “What’s ur favorite position and why!!!?” And there were several pages of pictures, mainly of people who were, in somebody’s judgement, “sexy”. Some of them were cute, lovey-dovey things, like shown to the right.

Then I noticed, on the first page of photos, this: Read the rest of this entry »

I have three hands

Today, on the one hand, we have a new ad idea: a bus stop where the seats are actually scales, so when you sit down, the poster shows your weight! So now you, without having asked for it, have had a fact about you broadcast to everyone else at the bus stop. And wherever you go, the ups and downs of your weight will be repeatedly conveyed to you. How convenient! How dystopian!

On the other hand, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and about a third of those who survive will experience serious physical problems for life. Moreover, ‘dieting’, rapid changes in weight, and sustained deprivation of food have been found to produce, even in ‘healthy’ subjects, neurotic symptoms, obsessions, depressions, and life-long suppressions of immune function.

On the third hand, the UK continues to claim that it not just is against, but actively criminalises, “assisting suicide”.

What is the Vatican saying tonight?

Back off, Bitch, I got wings

Back off, Bitch, I got wings

Pope says condoms not the way to deal with AIDS, they will only aggravate the crisis.

God-Damn Punk-Ass Mother-Fucker.

EDIT: in case it’s not obvious, “Fuck the Pope” is sung to the tune of “Rock the Boat” by Hues Corporation.

The Patriarchy Gets Everywhere

So fairly recently, I cast the bones and they told me, I think, to go to a blood donation session. So I went along, got vampirised a little, and sat down at the tea table to eat crisps and replenish my fluids.

On the table, underneath the biscuits, was a charming mat-poster affair, showing a large cartoon blood donation session, filled with various stereotyped people donating blood and making jokes – a sort of Where’s-Wally style panorama, obviously designed to showcase the diversity of people who give blood.

Note that: the purpose as far as I could tell was to show an array of human diversity.

Yet something was a bit non-diverse. I noticed that of the medical staff, there were some in white coats, doctors, who seemed to be male, and others in blue outfits, nurses, who seemed to be female. I could only see one counter-example, a solitary female doctor. This perturbed me, but I was sure it must just be in the one area I was looking at. There had to be more variety present in the rest of the scene, surely?

Alas there was not, and don’t call me Shirley. Of the roughly 25 medical staff, 24 four of them obeyed the Iron Law: nurses are female, doctors are male.

At this point I shook my fist at the ceiling and shouted ‘Damn you, Patriarchy!’ As one does.

This is Fantastic

Shapely Prose reports on two recent articles: one that finds that diets don’t make people less fat, and hence concludes that we should focus on exercising, and one that finds that exercise doesn’t make people less fat, and hence concludes that we should focus on diet.

At least amid all the complexities of hard-to-interpret science, we can be confident that as long as everybody keeps repeating ‘diet and exercise, diet and exercise’, it will be true. That’s comforting.