All leftists have a duty to sever ties with the SWP

ThinkCease

Even by its usual standards, it’s been an exhausting few days on the left. Ever since Jeremy Corbyn appeared at a Stand Up to Racism rally on Saturday, his support base has been bitterly divided – between those who think he was right to attend the event, those strongly critical of his decision, and a small number who want nothing to do with Corbyn’s movement anymore whatsoever. And, unlike most of the ridiculous brouhahas that Corbyn so frequently gets caught in the middle of, this is something a leftist should actually give a shit about.

On the surface, appearing at an anti-racist event is a no-brainer for a left-wing politician when an extremely reactionary Conservative government have just spent their annual conference vigorously shovelling coals into a furnace of racial resentment. But there are movements in the UK advocating for racial justice with less conspicuous involvement from the much, and justly…

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All leftists have a duty to sever ties with the SWP

Speaking Out

feministkilljoys

Colleagues and killjoys,

I have received such overwhelming support and solidarity since I posted about my decision to resign from my post. I just want to thank all of you who have commented and sent me messages.

Resigning was a difficult decision. Sharing the reasons for the decision was important to me: to indicate that my resignation is both an act of feminist protest and an act of feminist self-care.

I am aware that my account was vague and short. I have been asked about the details (as have colleagues of mine): I have been asked to give the story; to tell people about what has happened. I need to say a few words in response to this request. I need to say a few words about why speaking out matters even when there are things we cannot say, even when there is much that we have to leave unsaid.

It was…

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Speaking Out

Prevent Duty: A state-sponsored attack on Muslim students

The government’s Prevent Duty has been around for 12 years, originally introduced by a Labour government.  It was the Conservative government in 2015 who made it a legal requirement of universities, amongst others, to abide by.  The Prevent Duty states that certain bodies have a legal requirement to prevent people from being draw into extremism, and is based on the “conveyor belt theory” of radicalisation.  This is the first problem.

This theory states that non-violent extremist views draw people into terrorism, but this, many believe, is completely inaccurate. Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and George Osborne could all arguably be labelled as having radical, extreme views, but none of them are labelled as potential terrorists.  What do these three people have in common?  They are all white.

Prevent lists a number of ridiculously common traits, especially in university students, as potential signs of radicalisation.  These include: a need for identity, meaning, and belonging; a desire for political and moral change; and relevant mental health issues.  Who can honestly say they have no experienced at least one or two of these?  In my second year at university, I ticked all these boxes.  I suffered with social anxiety, which left me quiet and withdrawn.  I didn’t feel like I really belonged, and I struggled with my identity, particularly my sexuality.  I became interested in politics as the 2015 General Election came around.  Anyone who knows me now knows that this was the time in my life when I really threw myself into feminism.  I ticked every box, and I was a perfect candidate for “potential radicalisation” according to Prevent.  But I wasn’t referred, and I doubt I would be if that all happened now – because I am white, and Prevent, as so many do, ignores that terrorism can come in many forms, and not just the radical Muslim extremists the media likes to focus on.  In fact, in the USA, more people have been killed by white, domestic terrorists than by Muslim extremists since 9/11 – but the media, and Prevent, would prefer to separate issues of terrorism into ‘us’ and ‘them’.

 

The entire Prevent Duty focuses on what they call “Islamic extremists”, with one measly line about white supremacists.  We know that Prevent does not care at all about white people being drawn into extremism from groups such as Britain First and the EDL.  A three year old child was referred to Prevent.  A schoolboy who used the term “eco-terrorism” in a classroom debate about environmental activism.  A student who wore a ‘Free Palestine’ badge and asked if he could fundraise for children affected by the Israeli occupation.  A university student doing a counter terrorism course reading a book called “Terrorism Studies” in his university library.  All were Muslims, and all were referred to Prevent because Prevent has made teachers believe that Muslims with opinions are a threat.  Prevent has turned educators into informants and students into suspects.  Many of these students were explicitly asked “do you have any affiliation with ISIS?”  Police have even been calling Student Unions’ around the country asking for the details of members of their Islamic Societies, and universities have begun monitoring prayer room use. This makes it abundantly clear that this strategy is clearly singling out and spying on Muslim students.

 

Islamophobia is already a huge problem in this country, with there being a 200% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes since 2012 and a 300% increase in violence towards Muslim women and girls since the attacks in Paris.  We already have Islamophobia embedded in our society, and we do not need it embedded in our institutions where students should be safe.

 

The University and College Union, a trade union for lecturers and academics, have policy stating that Prevent seriously threatens academic freedom and freedom of speech, and forces members to spy on learners, is discriminatory towards Muslims, and legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia. Even the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee has said that he would abolish Prevent.

 

We must realise how these guidelines are embedding themselves within welfare services and how this is going to have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing, interests and educational experience of our students.  Just by being implemented, Prevent has already intimidated Muslim students into silence.  There is a very real fear amongst our students that any opposition to Prevent will land them in hot water.  We have had Muslim students decline to speak in opposition to Prevent and decide not to undertake research into its effect on Muslim students for the sole reason that they are scared it will end in them being referred to Prevent themselves.

 

Prevent is no more than racial profiling and state-sponsored Islamophobia.  PREVENT is not the solution.

 

Orginally posted on The Beckett Online, 15/02/2016

Prevent Duty: A state-sponsored attack on Muslim students

We’re sick of heteronormativity and cissexism – Inclusive sex & relationships education can save lives

TW: rape, child abuse, heteronormativity, cissexism

 

The government has repeatedly rejected calls for statutory sex and relationships education (SRE).  In doing though they are failing millions of people.

 

The sex education we currently give our students is not acceptable.  A quick google image search of the topic will return hundreds of images of the symbols for ‘male’ and ‘female’ intertwined.  When I was in school, we were shown how to put on a condom.  We were told that girls have periods, and why that is, and we were told how pregnancy can occur, and how to avoid it.  It was all very heteronormative and cissexist.  We were split into groups of “girls” and “boys”.  It all felt very secretive and very embarrassing.

I was never told that some people were attracted to people of the same gender.  I was never told that it was okay that I felt like I was attracted to people regardless of gender.  When I was 10, and I liked a girl, I knew I could never tell anyone. I thought “it’s not possible for girls to like girls, right?”  I had never been told by my teachers that it was even a possibility, so of course, I thought there was something wrong with me.  When a teacher discovered, when I was 15, that I had a girlfriend, I was told “you know that’s wrong, don’t you?”  I lost friends over having a girlfriend, because my friends were never taught that what I was feeling was “normal”.  If it wasn’t for my supportive family, I would have grown up confused, alone, and scared.  And many do not have the supportive family I have.  I was never told that what I was feeling was normal by my educators, and at times I was explicitly told that my feelings were wrong.  I dread to think how this must feel for children who are only attracted to the same gender, or for children who grow up feeling that they were assigned the wrong gender at birth by a society that thinks it knows individuals better than they know themselves because of what their genitals look like.  With more than 50% of trans youth attempting suicide before their 20th birthday, this is an issue we cannot allow to go untouched any longer.

Inclusive SRE can mean that LGBTQ* children grow up knowing that they are “normal”, that they are equal and worthy, and that they deserve love and happiness as much as anyone else and, importantly, that they have the right to self-define however they feel.  No child will have to grow up in silence about their identity, not realising that what they feel is completely acceptable and felt by many.

Up to 40% of all LGBTQ* youth attempt suicide.  Proper, inclusive sex and relationships education can stop this.

 

SRE has the opportunity to teach children, from an early age, about the importance of consent – a topic which is far too often being left to Students’ Unions to implement themselves, on an opt-in basis, to 18+ year olds; meaning the majority of people will never actually be taught about the importance of consent, and when they are, it is all too often too late.

A lot of people do not realise what constitutes rape and sexual assault.  A recent report by Professor Sarah Edwards discovered that around a third of men university students said that they would have sexual intercourse with a woman against her will “if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences”.  However, when the phrasing of this statement was changed to include the word “rape”, 13.6% of the men surveyed said they would do so – which, though still shockingly high, shows that an outrageous number of male university students have little understanding of what exactly “counts” as rape.

We hear a lot of “but everyone in their right mind knows rape is wrong” and “no one needs to be taught not to rape” – but I don’t buy this.  This goes for all people.  Everyone should be taught about consent, about what it is, and what it is not.  Because clearly, there is in fact a problem whereby a lot of people don’t know what consent is.  If we are teaching about sex in schools, we need to teach about consent, and proper and compulsory SRE would allow this.

Consent education from an early age can also, of course, teach children who are being abused that what is happening to them is not okay, and could encourage them to speak to someone who can help, be that a family member or a trusted teacher.

 

Proper sex and relationships education can save lives, and it is about time it was implemented properly in the UK.

We’re sick of heteronormativity and cissexism – Inclusive sex & relationships education can save lives

We must support Junior Doctors

Tomorrow, junior doctors will again be taking industrial action against the government’s proposed changes to junior doctor and consultant contracts, and I stand firmly in support of them.

Junior doctors are currently covered by a contract that acts as a safeguard to prevent them from working dangerously long hours.  The contract has financial penalties for employers if it is not enforced, and therefore acts as a very reliable safeguard in keeping junior doctors from working long hours without breaks.

The Government plans to reduce the number of breaks per shift to just 20 minutes every six hours – this means that a junior doctor working an 11 hour shift will only get a single, 20-minute long break.  There is also no financial penalty attached to the Working Time Regulations (WTR) on which this is based, so employers will be under less pressure to ensure that junior doctors are actually getting the breaks they are entitled to.

Junior doctors’ current contract sets standard working hours as 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday.  Junior doctors routinely work outside of these times in order to provide their patients with the high quality care they need.  When junior doctors work outside of these times, they receive a pay premium to reflect the impact that working outside of these standard working hours has on an individual’s personal life.

The Government, however, does not want to recognise the impact of working evenings and Saturdays, and so they plan to extend the standard working hours to 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday.  This means that 30 hours a week that are currently paid at a premium rate, would move into standard time meaning junior doctors will ultimately lose out.

I, and many others, absolutely reject and oppose these proposed changes.  The removal of junior doctors’ current safeguarding contract will result in working long hours with a very short break; this is not safe for the doctors’ wellbeing or for the patients for whom they are providing care.

The proposed extension of ‘standard’ working time would not value junior doctors’ time appropriately, and clearly underestimates the impact of working evenings and weekends as well as ‘standard’ hours on individuals’ lives.

The change, many fear, will encourage employers to see junior doctors as a cheap way of staffing, leading to them working fewer hours during the day, and more hours at evenings and weekends.

Tomorrow, junior doctors will take industrial action, striking in protest against these proposed changes and the detrimental impact they will have on junior doctors’ lives and on the healthcare we receive and value so very much.  From 8am onwards, junior doctors and students will be on the picket lines at all hospitals for a 24 hour picket.

Striking is an effective and important way of exercising the power workers have against unjust and unfair conditions, and we completely support the junior doctors’ decision to use strike action.  The British Medical Association (BMA), the trade union for doctors and medical students in the UK, argues that these changes are part of a wider attack on the NHS in the government’s pursuit to privatise our healthcare – something which we must stand firmly against, in the belief that healthcare is a fundamental human right which should be available to everyone, and not just those who can afford it.

Though the strikes are argued to be ‘very damaging’ for patients, we argue that the proposed changes will have a much more detrimental impact on both patients and junior doctors in the long-term.

It is so important that the public absolutely supports the junior doctors in their action and opposition to the government’s proposed changes, and encourage others to do the same.

We must support Junior Doctors

No more ‘Blurred Lines’ – Consent workshops are making a difference at university

Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault.

The young men in the media who refuse to attend consent workshops have a terrifying misunderstanding of rape.  In one picture, a 19 year-old, white, male student holds a sign which states “this is not what a rapist looks like” – in actual fact, the US Department of Justice estimate that around 75% of rapists in the US are white men.  But then again, we know that a rapist can come in any shape or size – any gender, age, ethnicity, a close friend or a complete stranger, etc.  Ironically, this is something this student would have known had he attended a workshop.

 

Put simply, consent workshops are important because a vast majority of students are confused as to what exactly consent is, and many refuse to believe how common sexual assault really is.  Consent, something which should be a very simple concept, has been sidelined as unimportant and plagued with misconceptions in the media.  Sex education in schools focuses on how to avoid STIs and pregnancy, but not how to have happy and healthy relationships.  Consent is seen as a ‘Blurred Line’.

 

“A person consents if they agree by choice, and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice” – so a person saying ‘yes’ because they have been threatened or guilt-tripped into something is not giving consent.  Consent is active and enthusiastic participation, and it not simply the absence of a ‘no’.  This is what we teach in our workshops at Leeds Beckett Students’ Union.  We explain the damaging effect of rape jokes on a society that already treats rape as normal.  We hear ‘rape’ and think of a violent attack, committed by a hooded stranger in a dark alleyway, when really 90 per cent of rapes are committed by someone we know and trust – in most cases, this person is a friend or partner.  We fail to acknowledge these instances as ‘real rape’ because of our warped conception of what rape is – and often we fail to recognise what has happened to us in the comfort of a friend’s bedroom.

 

Our consent workshops are available to anyone who would like one, on an optional basis.  We’ve given them to SU staff, residential officers, society committees, students in general, and even had one taped by the BBC.  It is our hope that the majority of students will have attended one in the next academic year.  The workshops aim to teach once and for all what consent is.  We come from the angle that we are living in a rape culture that trivialises rape, and we believe that we can change this culture by changing people’s attitudes and knowledge about consent and making people understand what consent really is.  We do not believe that people who contribute to this culture, for example, by telling rape jokes, are bad people – they are simply caught up in the culture that we all live in.  It is only by educating people that we can challenge rape culture and end this problem once and for all.

 

 

Below are some examples of positive attitude and knowledge changes in people who have attended a workshop at Leeds Beckett compared to people who haven’t.

 

1

The correct answer to the above question is 90% – of people who have attended a workshop, 69% answered this question correctly.  The remaining 31% answered ‘78%’, which, although incorrect, is still an estimation that it is a high percentage of rapes that are committed in this way.

As for people who have not attended a workshop, only 25% answered this question correctly.

 

 

2

The correct answer to the above question is obviously Yes.  95% of people who haveattended a workshop answered this correctly, compared to 82% of those who have not attended a workshop.  Although this number is certainly not low, it’s still definitely not high enough in my opinion.  This is one of the common misconceptions that leads to rape, and is one instance where it is common for both the perpetrator and the person it happened to, to not to realise what exactly it was that happened.  If someone is a little tipsy, but in control, this does not mean incapacitated.  But, in cases where someone is incapacitated; no, they cannot consent to sex.

 

 

3

Of people who have attended a consent workshop, 96% feel confident that they would know where to go for help and support, and the remaining 4% are “unsure” with no people stating that they do not know where to go for support.  Unfortunately, of people who have not attended, 36% stated that they are not confident in knowing where to seek help and support.

This result indicates that as well as improving our knowledge and attitudes towards consent, Consent Workshops also improve our knowledge of where we would go should we ever need support if something like this ever happened to us.

No more ‘Blurred Lines’ – Consent workshops are making a difference at university

Rape jokes and why they just aren’t funny

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape.

I don’t think anything has ever angered me like the return of Dapper Laughs.

Rape jokes and whether or not they are ‘funny’ are being discussed a lot on social media recently, and this is largely because of Dapper Laughs – a comedian whose entire act is ‘how to pull women’ (apparently) and a large amount of his jokes are about rape. I’m not going to repeat many of his ‘jokes’ here, because quite frankly, they piss me off way too much and I don’t want to put myself through the hell of finding them. Daniel O’Reilly, the man behind the ‘character’, appeared on Newsnight after a petition to get his show on ITV cancelled received over 68,000 signatures – he vowed to end the character of Dapper Laughs, and to not only stop this form of ‘comedy’ himself, but to help stop it altogether. Then, on Christmas Day, he announced that Dapper Laughs would be returning, rendering his apology complete bollocks, to use a technical term. Worst Christmas ever, maybe?

One joke was directed to a woman in his audience at a stand up gig; “she’s gagging for rape”.

Also, when addressing people who say his lessons on ‘picking up women’ are basically a rape guide, he said:

If it was a guide to rape, I would have done one five-minute episode, come on and go “Oi oi, I’m Dapper Laughs, go down the shops, get some rope, bit of duct tape, rape the bitch, well done, see you later”.

Another of his jokes was: “if she cries, she’s just playing hard to get.”

Hahahaha. Wow, funny… Hilarious.

Anyway; Dapper Laughs aside, the monumental prick. Whether or not you find the “odd rape joke quite funny”, this is why it is unacceptable to make them.

I’d first like to say that I honestly don’t think most of the people who laugh at or join in with these jokes realise the harm they are doing.

Rape is a very real, very horrible thing. What rape does to survivors is indescribable. There are women who would rather die than be raped. When you make a joke about rape, you are trivialising it. It perpetuates the idea that it’s not a serious problem. To someone who is not a rapist, it might be seen as just a harmless bit of fun. You do not know who is hearing this joke. If a rapist, or a potential rapist, hears these jokes, and the laughter that follows, it appears that rape is acceptable. It’s funny. It’s something that can be joked about and not taken seriously. At the very least, it appears that rape is not something that is cared about.

Imagine a rape survivor hears you tell these jokes. As approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales per year, it is extremely likely that a rape survivor is going to hear these jokes, particularly when they are so widespread and even allowed on our televisions. Dapper Laughs is all over the place recently, and I can’t imagine rape survivors finding it easy to avoid him. I’ve certainly tried. Even when walking down the street, telling jokes with friends – you have no idea who is hearing the joke you are telling. Your joke makes rape sound trivial. Like it is not important, or that it is funny. Or that people simply do not care about rape. Is it really any wonder that rape is considered the most underreported violent crime, when survivors are all too often made to feel like what they went through was ‘just a joke’ and that no one cares? Or that people even find it funny?

Bottom-line – don’t joke about rape. You are trivialising a very real and very horrible ordeal that far too many people go through.

You probably don’t like it very much when people joke about that time you were so drunk you threw up on your dog, or that time you called your teacher Mum. So don’t make jokes about the thousands of rapes that happen every year, an experience that is incomparable, traumatising, and, put simply, not funny.

Rape jokes and why they just aren’t funny