Conservative Feminism and the Right to Offend

This week, the fight to censor British media and art – even more than is done already – took a bizarre new turn, as pro-censorship “feminist” groups Object and UK Feminista launched an attack against Lads’ Mags. This attack can trace its roots to American morality campaigners in the 1980s, and it’s worth exploring a little history.

From the 1960s all the way through to the 90s, the British media scene was haunted by a pro-censorship figure; a devout Christian who believed her faith entailed the right to stop any British person from seeing anything that she personally found offensive. Mary Whitehouse was widely mocked throughout her campaigning life, which coincided with the greatest upswing of liberal attitudes in modern British history. She railed against the “permissive society”, in which her Christian morals came under assault from every side: the second-wave feminists were declaring the rights of women to enjoy sex without censure; abortion and homosexuality were legalised; TV and the theatre risked showing nudity, and society failed to collapse. There was plenty of work for a morality campaigner to do, but Whitehouse undertook it with a ferocious energy that gained her admirers, even among her enemies.

Although she was a figure of fun for most people, Whitehouse left her mark on British society: we became, and remain, the most censored country in Europe, other than Catholic Ireland and Poland. Her lobbying organisation, Mediawatch-UK, outlived her, and actively campaigns against “permissiveness” to this day.

But in the 1980s, the pro-censorship cause gained surprising new supporters. The feminist movement, once as far removed from Whitehouse as could be possible, split, and a new conservative wing of feminism emerged. The new, pro-censorship feminism was as moralistic as the 1960s feminists had been libertarian, as determined to cover up all female flesh as the previous generation had been to flaunt it – whether as a political statement, or just because…

Now, post-Whitehouse, media morality campaigns are spearheaded, not by conservative Christians, but by conservative feminists (though it must be suspected that many Christian morality campaigners have sought camouflage in the puritanical feminist movement).

This week’s salvo from the morality crusaders works as follows: they declare that any public display of sexuality – nudity, semi-nudity, or anything they deem to be sexual – “demeans” women. All female flesh must be covered up, in order to “protect” women.

The tactic they employ is to declare that any shop that sells potentially “offensive” material – lads’ mags in this case – constitutes sexual harassment, and thus an attack on civil rights, against any female employee in the shop. Women are, according to this doctrine, weaker and more delicate than men, and thus must be protected. This message is, of course, an anti-feminist one. But amidst the hysteria, many middle-class “feminists” seem not to have noticed, and are embracing this deeply patriarchal concept.

The tactic means that any woman who feels “harassed” or “offended” by having to even share a building with “sexualised” material can sue her employer. This isn’t an original idea; it was invented by a US lawyer, Catharine Mackinnon, who was one of America’s leading conservative feminist morality campaigners in the 1980s. This “civil rights” approach to attacking sexual expression turns censorship from something the state does, into something anybody can do. Any woman who feels she is offended, or “demeaned”, by a smiling photo of a semi-naked woman can claim that her rights have been violated, and sue for damages.

The Mackinnon attempt failed; to allow such challenges would fundamentally undermine free speech, and this is clearly protected under the first amendment of the US Constitution. What Object and UK Feminista are not making clear is what should be obvious to anyone: if a person can sue for finding something “demeaning”, then anything can, and will, be censored. Offence is taken, not given, and almost everything offends somebody. Religious groups will find lads’ mags offensive. And Page 3 of the Sun. And gay publications. Some atheists will find religious material offensive, and surely a Christian bookshop worker could sue for having to sell The God Delusion? Fundamentalist Christians could find Muslim or Jewish publications offensive, and vice-versa. White and black supremacists may object to imagery showing mixed-race couples.

Art galleries will be sued for showing any kind of sexual or other controversial object – for example, erotic Roman sculptures currently on display at the British Museum. All expression will come under attack. The possibilities are endless.

Am I just guessing? No; the Mackinnon law, which failed to gain traction in the US, was adopted in Canada in 1992. The result: “controversial” material – and in particular feminist and gay publications – was seized. Gay bookshops were raided. The Canadian state revelled in its new powers of censorship. All the censors had to do, if they wanted to ban something, was to find one person who found that thing offensive.

Are Object and UK Feminista just well-meaning but naive? Unlikely. These groups know better than anyone the history of what they are trying to do, and the chilling effects this tactic would have on free expression. What is really disheartening is the rush of “feminist” supporters to back these morality groups in the mistaken belief that feminism is about begging “The Patriarchy” to protect weak, sensitive, helpless women from anything they might find demeaning (which has, it seems, come to mean “icky”). What is tragic is the widespread belief that the very sexual freedoms won by the 1960s feminists are themselves a threat to women’s rights.

I have a fundamental problem with people who are prepared to be easily offended. About anything. In fact, I find them offensive. Object and UK Feminista will find themselves as easily censored as anybody else if their “civil rights” approach to censorship succeeds; I suspect they don’t care. They are the modern-day successors to Mary Whitehouse, and if they succeed in banning all “offensive” material, they will have finished the job she began in 1963, when she set out to attack – more than anything else – the sexual liberation of women.

[PS – As I’m so often informed that I, being a mere man, have no right to comment on feminist issues, here are a couple of other good articles on the Lads Mag campaign, written by women.]

Georgia Lewis: Losing lads’ mags and the slippery slope of censorship

Gemma Ahearne: Dangerous Dolls: ‘Object’ and Lose The Lads’ Mags

It’s Not Terrorism Unless It Happens To Us

For as long as I remember, the word Terrorism has been thrown around lazily and inconsistently, but never so much as today. The problem began when the United States was looking for a catchy name for its next war, and decided to make it the Global War on Terror. As was pointed out at the time, terrorism is merely a tactic, not a recognisable group or ideology. But the name was short and snappy, and it stuck.

In the 80s and 90s, terrorism was pretty obvious to us in London. The IRA, and sometimes other Irish groups, were planting bombs regularly. While they occasionally hit what you might have called economic or military targets, primarily the targets were civilians. Pubs, shopping centres, train stations. The purpose of terrorism is to terrorise. In turn, a frightened population empowers its government and police, and accepts an erosion of democracy and free speech.

Terrorists rarely attack military targets, for a couple of reasons: first, while this may outrage civilians, it doesn’t terrorise them; it doesn’t make people think that they might become the next victim. Second, because military targets are difficult to hit without getting caught. Killing ten people in a pub is easier than killing one soldier on duty. An attack on a serving soldier isn’t terrorism: it’s warfare, of some form. Thus, the IRA was both a military and terrorist organisation – ditto Hamas. The insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, while they attacked US and British military targets, were not terrorists. They were soldiers in a war.

Thus, America’s claim to be fighting terrorism overseas was (and is) nonsensical. Not all terrorists are individuals or small groups. State terrorism exists. America’s deliberate attacks on the press and civilians in Iraq and elsewhere were acts of terrorism. Israel is a consistent user of state terrorism, attacking civilians indiscriminately on an almost daily basis. America’s drone strikes are terrorist in nature. They deliberately target, not just “militants”, but any civilian who associates with them. This is designed to “send out a message” to locals every bit as much as the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks were.

Last week, two people killed an off-duty soldier in Woolwich, prompting a debate over (among other things) whether it was a terrorist attack or not. It seems like a grey area: the target was not a randomly selected civilian. However, the attackers’ use of media – by giving a statement to a nearby observer with a camera phone – was terrorist in nature. Knife murders aren’t especially uncommon in the UK, but the sight of the murderer talking casually to camera was what differentiated this one from others. This wasn’t the most brutal murder to have taken place in the UK recently – many murders must be similarly brutal. It was the video that made the public respond, and the casual way in which the killers just waited for the police to arrive, not the killing itself.

The response to the attack (or more accurately, to the video) has been shocking. There was a widespread response of “round them up” and “send them home”. There have been dozens of attacks by bigots against Muslims. The video seemed designed to arouse racist anger: a black man, talking to camera, with the blood of a white soldier on his hands. It has long become unacceptable to call for black people to be repatriated, but now “Muslims” are the proxy target for racists. Hatred of minorities is back in fashion.

As I’ve pointed out before, the fact that “terrorists” can only make small-scale attacks using household implements as weapons should be be of some comfort. It shows how weak and small these groups are. Instead, hysteria has gripped a large, moronic section of British society. The British government is using this moment of stupidity to introduce further censorship controls on the Internet, and sadly the public doesn’t seem to be objecting.

“They hate our freedoms”, Bush used to say. But no – our own governments hate our freedoms. The attacks are being used as an enabling mechanism to introduce draconian new laws. Government exploitation of a young soldier’s death (shamefully, with support from the Labour Party) to attack free speech is despicable; but British morons have failed to notice, so outraged they are that a Muslim, a black man, an IMMIGRANT, murdered “one of ours”.

Witness how a vicious knife murder of a 75 year old Pakistani in Birmingham is treated as an isolated event. In fact, this bears the hallmark of terrorism; any Asian is a valid target, because the attack will create terror in Asian communities. Witness how a young white man planning to bomb a school in Oregon is arrested, and nobody uses the T-word; now imagine the moronic, self-pitying response if he had been Muslim.

The doublethink gets even crazier. Killing millions overseas may be acceptable to most Americans, but in Massachusetts, writing a rap lyric is terrorism. Our leaders, as they work tirelessly to remove our rights of free expression, have turned poetry into terrorism, and terrorism into “collateral damage”.

If you haven’t read 1984, I’d recommend it. George Orwell understood how the masses, too easily, can be made to accept any position, however senseless it may be. If you believe that the Woolwich attack was horrific, you are a normal human being. If you believe that it justifies a clampdown on minorities, or even more restrictions on our rights to privacy and free speech, you may be a moron.

Peter LaBarbera Does NOT Suck Dick*

Sometimes, I realise that this whole moron-watching thing is a bit too easy. In order to easily shock/amuse people, I find myself cherry-picking the most ludicrous people in the world, and “exposing” them as idiots. Anyone can do this. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. We, all of us, whatever our political or religious views, tend to present complex, nuanced situations and people as two-dimensional. From time to time I catch myself creating caricatures of people who, in reality, have both good and bad sides to their characters.

Many of us were guilty of this during the gay marriage debate in the UK. We tended to mock and vilify opponents of gay marriage, without hearing what they had to say. In the US, the arguments reach even more extreme and stereotyped positions. I’ve seen many passionate Christians abused and smeared, simply for standing up against – what they call – the Gay Agenda. Whatever we think of their views, we must surely recognise their principled bravery in making their stand. Perhaps we should try to hear what they are saying.

One such advocate is Peter LaBarbera, President of Americans For Truth. Peter worries that many Christians simply don’t think enough about homosexuality. Sure, it crosses their minds from time to time, and they don’t like the idea of it, but for well over 90% of their lives, they don’t even think about it at all. Yet – as LaBarbera knows – homosexuality is a grave sin in the eyes of Christianity. Most Christians would rather ignore what goes on in gay bedrooms; but LaBarbera ain’t most Christians.

I may oppose everything he stands for, but I can’t fault his bravery. Despite being obviously disgusted by gay sex – cock-sucking, anal, fisting, etc. – Peter LaBarbera thinks about it all the time. This March, he took his commitment to a whole new level: he went to The Castro, San Francisco’s gay district, and shot photos of semi-naked gay men. On Easter Sunday! When really, he should have been in church with his family, several thousand miles away!! And what do the advocates of the Gay Agenda do? They name him “Porno Pete”. How childish.

We may laugh, but why not accept that this man is clearly far more driven than most of us. If I spent as much time blogging as LaBarbera does thinking about gay sex, I’d probably need to upgrade to a bigger server.

Perhaps, Peter LaBarbera has actually tried sucking cock. Not because he wants to, but because he wants to get inside the mind of the enemy. How can you oppose the Gay Agenda unless you have lived it? There is – I must make clear – no evidence whatsoever that Peter LaBarbera sucks cock. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if he had, for perfectly good reasons.

So people, before you mock, try to understand what makes these people tick. The Gay Agenda has made Peter LaBarbera – and doubtless many other good, heterosexual Christians – think about cocks, anuses and cocks being inserted into anuses, far more than is healthy. There is a divide between us and them; Peter LaBarbera is trying to reach around this divide. I, for one, applaud him.

* Probably

Tuppy Owens: I Was Censored By Feminists

Tuppy Owens
Tuppy Owens

Since the 1960s, Tuppy Owens has been a sexual libertarian: she has campaigned tirelessly for sexual freedom and set up groups that fight for sexual rights for disabled people. As a woman fighting for the sexual rights of women (as well as men) to enjoy sexual pleasure without guilt, she might once have been embraced by the feminist movement; yet since the late 1970s, she has been repeatedly attacked by anti-sex feminists. Here, she describes some of her experiences.

 

My name is Tuppy Owens and I am a woman. I started the Outsiders Club in 1979 for disabled men and women to gain confidence and find partners. Feminists immediately started attacking me, accusing me of encouraging disabled men to be “as disgusting as other men”. I can remember them sitting in the front row at conferences I spoke at, hurling abuse. I chose to ignore them.

For 25 years of my life, I published the Sex Maniac’s Diary, a jovial pocket book featuring sex positions of the day, kinks of the week, and international listings for sexy hotels, swing clubs, fetish clubs and places to enjoy commercial sex. Many people bought it as a joke Christmas present but in reality the information was very seriously researched and presented.

There were obviously more commercial establishments for men than for women (as there still are), but feminists therefore decided the little diary was “sexist”, and slowly printers refused to print it and criticism abounded – its charm and innocence were lost. I was very upset, but there was nothing I could do, anti-sex feminism was “in”.

Rather reluctantly, I was persuaded by its organisers to join Feminists Against Censorship. I didn’t really go along with their way of working and had nothing in common with the members. One of them asked me, while scrounging a lift in my car, “do you still fuck men?” “Yes”, I replied, why not?”. “Well, men just do what they want.” I thought about this and told her, “Yes, men do what they want and women do what we want. That’s what makes sex so great.” “Oh” she said, and sat silently.

Feminists Against Censorship decided to produce a book. I suggested they call it “Tales from the Clitoris” but it ended up with the rather vulgar title, “Tales from the Clit”. I was to be given a chapter, to write about Outsiders and my work with disabled people.

I wrote it from the heart. Midway through, I expressed my concern with what was happening a great deal at the time (late 80’s, early 90’s) when women felt their genitals were rather like a trophy which would be shared only in very special circumstances. I watched women swagger around as if they held this precious object between their legs, not to be shared. “Where had the generosity gone? How sad it was for disabled men who would never live up to the required standards, and never get to taste their delicious pussies and share their pleasures.”

Or something like that. Well, this paragraph was censored out, and I declared “I’ve been censored by Feminists Against Censorship!”.

Sadly, things have got much worse now. Feminists have joined forces with religious groups to get rid of all the wonderful striptease joints in London and elsewhere. Why can’t they listen to the women who are strippers before campaigning to close their places of work? Why are they allowed to get away with this? Probably because the feminists have kicked the balls out of the politicians, council members and journalists who might, in the past, have stopped them behaving so outrageously.

Feminism makes me not wish to identify as a woman, or a human being for that matter. I think I’ll opt for just being a mammal.

It’s Official! Obama’s Endless War

Amidst the various sporadic outbreaks of moronitude, people could be forgiven for missing this week’s top story. The Obama administration casually admitted that the US has been running a global, open-ended war since the 9/11 attacks, and it has no intention of stopping any time soon.

During a Senate hearing, Pentagon officials said that the “war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates” could last another 20 years; and claimed that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was passed in order to allow the 2001 attack on Afghanistan was an open-ended authorisation to deploy violence anywhere on the planet. When an Independent Senator pointed out that the Pentagon has “…essentially rewritten the Constitution…”, this was met with a shrug, and “…I’m not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer of any kind…” from one of the Pentagon officials. Now, I’m not a lawyer either, but I’m aware that “ignorance is no defence” when it comes to lawbreaking.

The Pentagon is apparently aware that it is breaking US law (not to mention international law), and seems to be 100% comfortable with that fact. US democracy is revealed to be a sham when most Democrats loyally line up behind the Obama administration; meanwhile, Republicans, rather than oppose Obama’s shredding of the constitution, would rather pursue three completely fabricated attacks on Obama instead. As we already know, the Republicans are even more enthusiastic about pursuing illegal wars than the Democrats.

The current phase in the “war on terror” involves firing missiles at various targets in Pakistan and Yemen, and in the process killing far more civilians than fighters. Pakistan has just achieved the first moderately democratic transfer of power in its history; the US, in pursuing an illegal war against Pakistani individuals, against the wishes of the Pakistani parliament, can fairly be described as a terrorist entity. Under international law, Pakistan is within its rights to retaliate – though it lacks the power to do so, and any retaliation would only strengthen the case for continued terrorism by the Americans.

Yemen is a very poor country which is experiencing a severe water crisis. For a fraction of what the US spends on bombing the place, work could begin on securing water supplies and addressing poverty. But helping fix Yemen’s problems wouldn’t serve the Pentagon’s interests: in order to pursue endless war, it requires a frightened American population; and that needs an enemy. If American morons were to discover that the “terrorist threat” consists of small, scattered groups of idiots driven by poverty more than anything else, support for the Pentagon’s terrorist campaign would weaken.

Those people who were paying attention at the beginning of the “war on terror” (in which the neo-cons blamed Afghanistan for the actions of a small group of Saudi dissidents), will remember predictions that the war may last a decade; now it’s clear that the strategy is to keep kicking the can down the road. 20 years is a meaningless number. The “enemy” barely exists, yet so long as people believe it does, the war will continue, and create the illusion of an enemy as it does so.

The fact that the entire “global terrorist threat” against America has managed to produce 19 men armed with knives, and two men armed with pressure cookers, over a period of twelve years, would make intelligent people stop and think; luckily for the war machine, there appears to be a great shortage of intelligent Americans (or alternatively the corporate-run media ensures they rarely get heard).

Since the Republicans are doing their best to cover up for Obama’s attacks on the constitution, it’s up to liberals to break ranks. Sure, it was good to have a Democratic president, and even better to have a black one, but any dreams that Obama was any kind of liberal must surely have been shattered by now.

Americans, you are bringing death and destruction to places most of you can’t find on a map, just as you did during the “Cold War”. Billionaire interests are leading your country to destruction, and like sheep, you blindly follow. The more foreign civilians you kill, the more likely that some person, sickened by the death and destruction in their own country, will try to take revenge on you. And it seems equally inevitable that you will crap your pants and allow unelected interests to take even more of your liberty in response.

As one of your great men, Benjamin Franklin, said:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Free Shaker Aamer

Eleven years ago, a British resident, Shaker Aamer, was working in a school in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped. Since then, he has been illegally imprisoned and repeatedly tortured at the illegal US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. The British government has requested his return, and he has been cleared for release – but is still there. He is reported to be one of the majority of Guantanamo detainees who are on hunger strike, and are being illegally and painfully force-fed.

Anyone who wonders why innocent people are being held and tortured by the US has not been paying attention for the past decade. Neo-cons wanted endless war, and in the absence of a real enemy, they had to create one: “Terrorism”. When they invaded Afghanistan in 2001, they offered generous bounties for “terrorists”, with the inevitable result that gangs of thugs kidnapped and sold people, at random, to US forces.

The people thrown into Guantanamo Bay, and other US “dark” prisons, were described by the Bush Administration as the most dangerous people on Earth. This helped frighten ordinary Americans, as well as whip up a climate of Islamophobia. It allowed both the Bush and Obama administrations to attack civil liberties in the US, and carry out a series of illegal wars and assassinations abroad. Shaker Aamer, and thousands of people like him, had their lives destroyed as a “necessary” part of this campaign. Almost all of these “most dangerous people on Earth” have been quietly released without charge; Shaker is the last remaining British victim of Guantanamo.

You can read more about Shaker Aamer here, or watch the video from his campaign below.

Ann Coulter and the Return of the Bell Curve

Before 9/11, when Muslims suddenly became to blame for everything, there were still morons; it’s just that they believed different myths back then. Right-wing Americans, who hadn’t yet been fed the “Islam is evil” myth, needed somebody to hate; and in general they chose to hate black people. White Supremacy, which went quieter after 9/11, and quieter still after Obama’s election, was the right-wing American moron’s prejudice of choice.

I spent a lot of time online in debate with some of these people. They had rehearsed their arguments well, but once the cracks in their reasoning were exposed, the whole edifice crumbled quickly. Their fundamental claim was that black people were genetically inferior to whites. This was old orthodoxy that had survived unchanged since the same argument was used to justify the slave trade, centuries earlier.

The racists made good use of a 1994 book called The Bell Curve, which examined both genetic and environmental factors in intelligence. However, noticing that intelligence is partly dependent on genes isn’t the same as noticing significant differences between races – something the authors themselves made clear, although the racist morons chose to ignore this point. They also made use of IQ test scores which showed black populations in America significantly under-performing whites. Claims of “white supremacy”, however, were dented by the fact that Chinese and Indian IQ scores were above those of whites. The poor supremacists were forced to accept Asians as their intellectual superiors, as the price of “proving” that blacks were their inferiors.

The argument was fairly easy to dismantle. IQ scores have been steadily rising since the tests were invented over a century ago, demonstrating that education is a major factor in IQ. In fact, the gap between today’s white people and whites a century ago is far wider than the gap between any two racial groups today; to claim that modern whites are genetically much different from their great-great-grandparents would be nonsensical. Additionally, black IQ scores are rising faster than white ones. Again, this rules out a genetic factor.

The race-based arguments are further undermined by breaking the racial groups into smaller subgroups. For example, in the UK, black immigrants from Africa educationally outperform those from the West Indies; and Indians do better than those from Bangladesh.  The arguments are old and thoroughly discredited.

So imagine my surprise when I was informed this morning that racist far-right American nut-job Ann Coulter was tweeting about a study about Hispanic “inferiority”.

This claim just happens to come at a time when a debate about amnesty for illegal Hispanic immigrants is raging. Which is convenient.

Ann is a genuine moron, but falls into the small group of morons who are just smart enough to make a good living from scaring those even dumber than themselves. She regularly pops up in the right-wing media to make racist and otherwise stupid comments that are calculated to get morons all hot and excited. The fact that she is blonde, and could be described as attractive (externally, rather than in her dark soul), if you like that sort of thing, certainly helps her win TV appearances and viewers. No doubt, Kleenex sales rise in Bible Belt states whenever she appears and calls for some country to be nuked, or calls Arabs “ragheads”. Or whatever.

I wish Ann was a little more considerate. Now she’s sent those tweets, my timeline will be filled by morons repeating the claims for the rest of the day. Sigh… and I was hoping for a quiet Friday.