Independent | The problem isn’t that police officers sexually exploit people – it’s that men in the police sexually exploit women

39-uk-police-corbis

“People”. That was the word that blew my mind while I was drinking my cup of tea and listening to the news bulletin this morning. A national review of police forces, released today, reports that 334 police personnel have (in the words of the Radio 4 announcer) “been accused over a two-year period of using their position to sexually exploit people”. Who are these mysterious “people”, and could they have anything in common apart from being sexually exploited by police personnel?

To be fair, the report itself is not much more informative. Read it from beginning to end and you will learn that a third of these allegations involve victims of domestic violence, but not much more. But we can guess. Victims of domestic violence are mostly female. Victims of sexual exploitation are also mostly female. “People” in this case must mean, specifically, “women”. And the people doing the exploiting? Well, the police force is over 70 per cent male, and 80 per cent in senior roles. It’s a fair bet that it’s not the minority of female staff who are perpetrating this.

Read the full post at the Independent

New Statesman | The Femicide Census honours the victims of gender violence

femicide

The phrase “isolated incident” often turns up in media reports when a man kills a woman. The police use it at press conferences. It’s a code: it means the story ends here, no one else is in danger, the rest of the world can sleep safe because this particular killer does not have his sights on anyone else.

Thanks to the Femicide Census – a collaboration between Women’s Aid and nia, two specialist services dealing with violence against women – we now know how many of those “isolated incidents” there are, in England and Wales at least. Between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2015, it was nearly a thousand: 936 women (aged 14 and over) were killed by men in seven years.

Read the full post at the New Statesman

Progress | Scapegoating feminists is never the answer

Emily Brothers, former Labour parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam, writes that Labour needs ‘trans respect not transphobia’. It is a shame that she makes this call using language that is, at best, dismissive of the feminist movement and at worst taps into profound misogyny. The move towards greater public acceptance and institutional recognition for trans people has been one of the fastest-moving developments in equalities, but it is not a development without conflicts.

Read the full post at Progress

Literary Review | Future Sex By Emily Witt

cwqbrdexyaaphgn

Being really neither about the future nor consistently about sex, Future Sex is a disappointment. Its pitch is a big idea on an urgent theme – a kind of state of the insemination address, or The Way We Frig Now. But what Emily Witt delivers is an accidental exemplar of another modern malaise: the essay collection ransacked from various outlets and contorted into a fictive autobiographical and intellectual arc.

Read the full review at Literary Review (subscription required)

Little Atoms | The conservative Christians who see trans people as heretics

the-new-normal-twitter-card

There are no protests outside the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, London, when I arrive. There have been no petitions, and no angry pleas for the venue to cancel the event I’ve come to see: a two-day conference called “The New Normal: Tackling Sexuality and Gender Confusion Amongst Children and Young People”, put on by conservative campaign group Christian Concern. The quiet is unsettling. Any discussion of transgenderism that goes beyond the affirmative now tends to attract extreme hostility.

In Canada, a doctor has been fired and his clinic shut down under pressure from trans activists. Feminists who hold that sex is more politically relevant than gender identity are accused of causing violence against trans people. The organisation Radfem Collective, which has been attacked as trans exclusionary for its women-only attendance policy, now doesn’t reveal the location of its conferences until the day before the event – sensibly, given that pressure from protesters over another women-only event in 2012 led to the venue pulling out and the event being cancelled.

The New Normal outstrips any of these targets. It features, among other things, an “ex-gay” counsellor who claims he can guide his clients out of “unwanted same-sex feelings”; a former Ukip parliamentary candidate who claims that homosexuality is connected to pedophilia and bestiality; and two speakers who describe themselves as “COGs” (short for “children of gays”), and claim that same-sex parenting is a violation of children’s rights. Christian Concern itself is currently providing legal support for a mother and father who could lose custody having refused to acknowledge their trans child’s gender.

Read the full article at Little Atoms

New Statesman | What’s missing from the transgender debate? Any discussion of male violence

gettyimages-530272158

One of those things that supposedly never happens, happened. Luke Mallaband was convicted of six voyeurism offences after a female student at the University of East Anglia found his phone hidden in the university library’s gender-neutral toilets. The probation report described him as “high risk of posing serious harm to females”.

That creepy men would abuse mixed-sex intimate spaces in order to breach women’s privacy seems, perhaps, a predictable outcome; but it’s not something that the UEA students’ union took into account when it recommended installing more gender-neutral toilets.

“It’s about extending safe spaces to everyone regardless of gender. Once you’re in a cubicle, what does it matter who’s in the cubicle next door?” said LGBT+ officer Richard Laverick at the time. “All issues surrounding toilets and safety would occur regardless of the existence of gender neutral toilets,” said a blithe 2015 report into facilities on the UEA campus. But who you share a space with makes a considerable difference to how safe it is – especially for groups of people liable to become victims of male violence, which means women and transwomen in particular.

Read the full post at the New Statesman

Project Calm | Deep reading

project calm.JPG

Why should we read? The magazine Project Calm set me the task of explaining how books can sharpen your brain, strengthen your sympathies and make you more resilient (and yes, I do prescribe strong doses of Middlemarch for all conditions). The magazine is on sale now, and features beautiful illustrations by Jody Thomas alongside my words.  

project-calmFor as long as novels have existed, there have been moralists to warn of their dangers. Late Victorian educationalist Charlotte Mason chided that “the girl who sits for hours poring over a novel, to the damage of her eyes, her brain, and her general nervous system, is guilty of a lesser fault of the nature of suicide.” Recent research, though, has claimed that rather than inducing a slow death, reading books can actually keep you alive: a study in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that those who read a book for 30 minutes a day had a 23-month survival advantage, regardless of their wealth, education, health or sex. And fascinatingly, this advantage was specific to books. No other reading material did so much good for its readers.

Buy issue 2 of Project Calm to read the full feature or read a sampler of the magazine