More tales of bad behaviour…

June 3, 2008

A bit of a belated hollaback, this one, but I’ve been off doing other things lately and haven’t had the chance to sit down and write properly for a week or two. The next bit will partly explain why.

I’ve been injured for the last three weeks. For the last two of those, I have been stupefied on painkillers and had the attention span of a gnat. Thankfully, I’m on the mend now. (It was a sprained foot).

Now you’d think that a hospital waiting room would be a fairly safe place, during the day at least. All those signs up saying that attacks on staff will not be tolerated, people passing in and out all the time, everyone being too caught up in their own personal problems to bother with bothering their fellow patients.

Step forward Twat MkIII. Yes, it is you I’m talking about, you were in the waiting room of the Royal Liverpool Hospital some time after 11 am on the 27th of May. Youngish guy, wearing a cap, you had an ominous Christian book open on your lap. (I was a poet and I didn’t know it!)

Now, when a woman is sitting in a hospital waiting room, waiting for the nurse to call her name, so she can hop into the consulting room and have someone reassess her dodgy foot, she doesn’t want to get to know people like you. Especially when she has shown this by hiding behind her own book. When she ignores you and feigns massive interest in the “Look After Your Heart” wall display to the side, don’t embarrass and annoy her by continuing to try and get her attention, in the way you would a small dog. Don’t you know how rude that is? Do you not realise that people do not go to the hospital to be chatted up?

Honestly, some people.

The next bit of street warrior-ness happened earlier today. I don’t think it has anything to do with feminism or that it really counts as street harrassment, but it’s bad behaviour nonetheless.

Right, you, you in the silver Vauxhall (I think, I didn’t stick around to take notes). The arsey-looking bald-headed guy with the tenuous knowledge of the Highway Code. Passing by Abercromby Square sometime shortly after 1pm. Yes, you.

When a traffic light is on red, you stop. When the little green man is flashing on a pedestrian crossing, people are going to walk across. It is not optional for you to stop, you self-important prick. When you do feel the need to ignore the basic rules of the road, DO NOT give the innocent road-crosser you just nearly hit evil looks, as if it’s her fault! I make no apology for shouting or using foul language towards you, as you bloody well deserved it.

I admit this probably had nothing to do with my gender, but it does illustrate the kind of self-important, entitled mindset that feminists often find themselves up against. We are constantly told how we should feel aabout things like street harrassment and expected to second-guess other people’s unpleasant behaviour – of course it was only a joke! Likewise, when out and about of an evening, we are supposed to second guess what any given passer-by might do and make sure we act accordingly – mustn’t drink, mustn’t use certain streets, mustn’t wear revealing clothes, unless a random pervert happens to be passing by. As if we can. As if we can work out in advance anything that a lurking misogynist might do, any more than we can anticipate what traffic signals a substandard driver will or won’t obey.

Okay, some time this week, I’m going to put another more positive post up. I’ve been to see Gunther von Hagens’ Bodyworlds and have plenty to say…


Peace, love and Niki de Saint Phalle

May 4, 2008

Nana Millefiori

Thankfully, I have no street harrassment to report this weekend. Instead, I just managed to catch Tate Liverpool’s Niki de Saint Phalle retrospective before it closes on the 5th.

I had heard of Niki through articles in Sunday supplements, but had never seen much of her work. If this exhibition is touring, then I advise anyone reading to go and take a look. Niki had a long and varied career in art, involving many different styles. She is most famous for her “Nanas” (pictured), large, stylised goddess-women, shown in poses ranging from proud, pregnant to playful. They are typically sculpted in papier mache on wire armatures and painted in bright, assertive colours. I like the Nanas. There is something very cheerful and comforting at the same time about them.

Niki is also known for her “tirs”. These were relief sculptures with concealed pouches of wet paint and foodstuffs within, which were released when the artist, or one of her accomplices, shot at them with a .22 rifle, also on display at the Tate. The tirs developed from being quite abstract to being astute political statements, dripping with their own “blood”. Niki was opposed to the imperialist regime in her native France, its treatment of the North African colonies and the far-Right organisations that were proliferating when she made these works.

Coming between these parts of her career were her “bride” sculptures, and this was when she started working predominantly with the idea of womanhood, feminity and female experience. The brides, with their wide, distorted bodies made of lace and bits of broken doll, conrast with the exuberant Nanas. They and some of the tirs are the most explicitly feminist pieces on display, although Niki never identified as a feminist artist, perhaps because she had managed to sculpt and shoot her way into elite artists’ groups and did not wish to be marginalised. 

I am no art critic, so cannot really describe all of what was on display adequately. What I left the exhibition with was a huge admiration for Niki de Saint Phalle, her huge and vibrant personality, her talent for melding the aesthetic and the meaningful, her ideas and her energy.

It’s a great exhibition, you should go!

Oh dear, not more bad behaviour in the street…

April 26, 2008

Following on from last week’s post about the hideous scene I was forced to witness in Lewis’s last week, I’ve decided to call out another weirdo and his nasty public behaviour. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t go round looking for this stuff – the fact that I’ve witnessed it twice in two weeks has just made it stick in my mind and get on my nerves that bit more. Both times, I’ve been doing stuff that I do every day or at least every week, without a problem. It just proves that women going about their everyday lives can come up against hatred, or in this case, just general creepy strangeness, in any situation.


Okay. Now for this week’s total twat. Yes, I’m talking about you, the one with the short, dark brown dreadlocks and the ring in the left eyebrow who was wandering round Abercromby Square in Liverpool, today, the 26th of April, at around 12:50, close to the Sydney Jones Library. Wearing black clothes, with a hoodie or cardigan sort of hanging off your left shoulder. You kind of looked as if you were on drugs – am I correct?

I was walking along the pavement towards the Sydney Jones, so that I could take some books back and meet a friend. Mr Twatoid materialised through the gate from the Abercromby Square quad and walked towards me, seemingly normally. He started looking at me quite intensely, but i just assumed that he thought he recognised me from somewhere. I did a quick mental check to see of I remembered HIM and was perhaps being ignorant, but drew a blank. I had never seen him before.

As he got closer, the staring intensified and he mouthed something at me. I have an idea what it was and it looked like “I hate you”, but I can’t be 100% sure of that. It could have been some other incoherent twat-talk like “High hay hooooo” or “Highgate loo”. I was mildly perturbed, but kept on walking. The staring continued and Mr Twat moved directly into my path, almost deliberately walking into me. As he passed, he said something I didn’t catch in a weird high-pitched voice. I was slightly more perturbed, but kept on anyway, making sure he wasn’t following me.

This incident pales into insignificance compared to last week, but I felt like recording it as another example of a male using intimidating behaviour for NO reason. It was more irritating than frightening.

I did not speak at all during the whole exchange. What on Earth had I done to have someone mouth weirdness at me and try to barge me off the pavement? I walk to the Sydney Jones carrying books several times a week and this doesn’t happen. It’s not normal and it sucks!

I’ve decided that I’m going to record all of these incidents in my blog in the future, but I hope there’s not too many, because there’s loads more stuff I want to write about…

I’m back and I’m angry.

April 19, 2008

When I started this blog, I had all sorts of good intentions and tons of ideas for articles I would write. Sadly, I’ve been too busy burrowing here and there and working at becoming an archaeologist to actually do any of them.

What is even sadder is that what has pushed me to write again is not an inspiration or a great idea. It’s something awful that happened earlier today.

Today, at about lunchtime, I was taking my usual shortcut through Lewis’s department store in Liverpool, on my way to my normal Saturday lunch and window-shopping session in the city centre. I was passing by where they display the china when I became aware of a disturbance behind me. I kept walking, not really wanting to see. The disturbance followed. A man was shouting really loudly at someone, probably several people. I think there was a raised female voice as well, but I’m not sure. It was when I caught “It’s none of your fucking business” and “I was having a conversation with my WIFE” among the torrent of “fuck off” that I got a clue what was going on. My heart sank. I detest violence and disorder in public towards anybody, woman, man or child, but public displays of domestic violence sicken me in a particularly personal way.

I tried to keep walking. The man pushed past some people and was now level with me. He was now verbally abusing another woman who had obviously pulled him up on his shitty behaviour. I do not know who she was. He called her, among other things, a “soft cow” and repeatedly told her to fuck off.  Other insults were used, but I don’t remember them. At this point, a tall blonde woman in a checked jacket caught my eye. The look she gave me was not one of fear exactly, more the kind of look you do give a fellow person in this kind of situation, when you don’t know how to act and are looking around for support. I did not know who this woman was or what her part in the debacle was. I thought she may have been the bystander who had been the object of the last outburst.

I mouthed to her something about getting one of the assistants, not wanting to draw fire myself. Too late. As I was approaching the hosiery section, the man started shouting at me to fuck off, claiming it was nothing to FUCKING do with me and calling me a “soft cow” and other insults I cannot remember precisely enough to want to recount them. I am ashamed to say that I turned round and pretended I hadn’t noticed what was going on. By this time, a security guard had appeared. The man walked away, shoving a mobile phone into the hand of the blonde woman. It was only then that I noticed that they had a small child with them.

I was rather shaken. I am not used to this sort of thing happening. I went over to two of the female shop staff, who had seen what had happened. They said that shop security were now following the man. They were very kind and listened to my outraged and saddened waffling for a bit, both agreeing that the man’s behaviour was totally unacceptable. “Some people are just horrible”, is what one of them said to me.

All I did was show some concern and rudimentary solidarity with a fellow woman, heck, a fellow human being. If you are reading this, Mr Fuck-ugly overtanned psycho-aggressive control-freak misogynist who was passing through Lewis’s at about 1:10 pm on Saturday, 19th April, I have one thing to say to you. Take a leaf out of your own book. My concern for a fellow woman and disconcertion at your vile public behaviour is none of your fucking business. You act like a misogynist jerkoff in public, the few decent and brave people around will intervene and WILL pull you up on your unaceptable levels of aggression and rudeness. Just because a woman happens to be married to you, does not give you the right to insult, denigrate, threaten or humiliate her in public – whatever it was you did when you were thankfully out of my sight and direct earshot.

The person who intervened first, and I, were totally within our rights to expect you not to act like that in public or elsewhere. We were not in the wrong and you had NO fucking justification to insult and intimidate us and any other decent right-minded shop assistant or passer-by who was subjected to your violent outburst.

I will not mind my own business. For too long, this awful stupid feeling that we shouldn’t interfere has indirectly caused many serious crimes – I’m thinking most DV-related murders, most child abuse-related killings, a good number of horrific crimes against vulnerable adults, Dog knows how many other offences – or at least allowed them to go on undetected.

It’s time to get angry again. All that is needed for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing. Or mind their own bloody business.

Justice for Jane

August 3, 2007

The Chris Langham trial has brought pornography and its darkest side into the public spotlight once more. I am intending to blog about that at a later date, but for now I would like to focus on another trial that was concluded earlier in the summer: the trial of Graham Coutts, who was found guilty of the murder of Jane Longhurst for a second time.

For the uninitiated, Coutts murdered Jane, a special needs teacher and musician, in 2004. He strangled her and then hid her body in a rented storage container, before losing his nerve some time later, dumping the body in a wood and setting fire to it. The pathologists involved were unable to tell with certainty whether she was strangled with a pair of tights, or whether she was asphyxiated by manipulating pressure points on her throat.

Coutts was known to be a BDSM practitioner with an obsessive interest in “strangling” his female partners and was a user of “necrophiliac” pornography sites. He was initially found guilty by a jury, but appealed, claiming that Jane’s death was the result of a BDSM sex “game” gone wrong.The original judge did not give an alternative consideration of manslaughter to the jury, so the retrial, which Coutts lost, was ordered.
Feminists, particularly those of a radical nature, followed this case closely, especially as Jane’s mother, Liz, launched a campain against violent and necrophile porn, which resulted in some new legislation being drawn up.

What the radfems were shocked by was the outcry against Coutts’s conviction and the resulting campaign.
I have read through the transcript of the original trial and the testimony that Coutts gave is garbled, inconsistent and unreliable; he gives no real explanation of how Jane came to collapse, stop breathing, vomit blood and die. He gives no indication that he tried to seek help. In other statements he admits there was no previous sexual relationship between them but still expects the jury to believe that she consented not only to sex but to this peculiar and violent sexual act – hardly the stuff of first-date dreams. His excuse for concealing her body for so long was to protect his pregnant girlfriend – whom he had supposedly cheated on! Yet a small army of his supporters defended him to the hilt. They seized on one tiny piece of evidence released during the original trial: Jane had made a brief and cryptic comment to a work colleague a couple of years previously that something she had done with a boyfriend “took her breath away”. This, to a sane observer, would mean that she had enjoyed something she and her lover did very much, perhaps more than she anticipated or perhaps just “a lot”. It is a cliched phrase common in films and Mills&Boon novels.
Unless, of course, you are one of the violent porn users and BDSM fanatics who campaigned for Coutts’s release. Then, this phrase was an admission that Jane too was a BDSM practitioner who enjoyed breath restriction as part of sex. All this despite the fact that several of Jane’s former lovers testified that this was untrue and that she had shown no such inclination with them.
This grasping at straws by porn and violent sex apologists was doubly hypocritical considering their wailing and gnashing of teeth at the use of forensics from Coutts’s computer showing that he accessed violent and necrophile porn, some on the day of Jane’s murder. To go through files on a man’s computer, a BDSM dom’s computer, to analyse his porn usage was unfair, prejudicial and misleading. To seize on one comment a woman made in a corridor and to question her former boyfriends about their sexual habits was acceptable and necessary. It is just another version of the old sexual double standard, brought in to the 21st century.

The jury thought differently and wasted no time in convicting him once again for murder, aided by the judge.

Before the case, I had no particular opinion on BDSM. Now, I am shocked at how a section of the BDSM community did not distance itself from a violent murderer like Coutts, who himself admitted that he had confided to a psychiatric worker that he was worried that his obsession would lead to him killing a woman.

Most people get through life without the need to throttle their partners in bed or stare at images of simulated murder victims.

The backlash against Liz Longhurst’s campaign, which aims to help protect women (and men) from suffering as her daughter did, is depressing. The legislation as it stands, is not perfectly clear and needs tightening up, but the reasoning behind it is there. While we have a sexual culture that celebrates domination, real and implied violence and “pushing the limits”, there will be too many who push things too far, with the blessing of the “free speech” and “sexual freedom” advocates. One man’s sexual freedom is another woman’s sexual hell. (Or even, sometimes, another man’s hell too.)

Blog back up and running

August 3, 2007

The Burrow is now fully operational, following a long period of downtime on the Rodent’s PC. Please check back regularly as several updates are planned.

The BBFC, Censorship and Manhunt 2

June 22, 2007

This week the video game Manhunt 2 was refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification, due to its extreme, bleak and unrelenting violence.
The Manhunt series has never been far from controversy, particularly when it was cited in a murder trial involving two teenage boys. The game was “cleared” of being a factor in the killing, but the reputation has remained.
Many commenters in the games and media world have decried the BBFC’s actions, with terms such as “nanny state” being bandied around. Now, I have not played wither Manhunt game and have no desire to do so, but I do have some inside knowledge of how video games are classified for sale to the public.
The certification is handled by PEGI, a European independent body, and the BBFC if the game contains considerable cinematic elements. Both have published guidelines which are freely issued to all game companies. In other words, Rockstar Games know what the rules are about what can and cannot go in a game.
So this was not an arbitrary act of censorship or the result of a campaign by Daily Mail readers, it was the BBFC following its own rules. They do not go around banning games at random; this was only the second game refused a certificate in the history of organised rating.
Another important point is game retailers’ continued refusal to make a concerted effort to enforce the games’ age ratings. It is still easy for a ten year old to buy an 18-rated game, or to persuade a parent to buy it for them, as many people still view games as something for children and disregard the warnings. Insisting on ID for 15 and 18-rated games would reinforce the message that the products are not for children, although retailers would lose sales so they are reluctant to do it.
As an adult who enjoys gaming, I do wish the industry would sort itself out and stop obsessing over pushing the boundaries of violence (and increasingly sex, especially in Japanese import games.) There is so much more to games than testosterone-fuelled killing spree simulations, and plenty more avenues that could be explored.
Aren’t games supposed to be fun, anyway?