New Statesman | Are we trying too hard to be liberal about gender?

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When I was four, my role model was a small cartoon mongrel dog with a formidable talent for swordsmanship. Or swordswomanship, because I was convinced that Dogtanian (of Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds) was a girl. My reasoning went like this: I am the most important person in the world and a girl, therefore the most important person in my favourite cartoon must also be a girl. And many happy games of Muskehounds were played by me, in my dungarees, oblivious to the unlikelihood of a children’s cartoon having a female lead in the first place, let alone giving that female lead the lovely Juliette as a romantic interest.

Eventually I realised my mistake, decided it was unfair that women never got to be action heroes, and grew up to be a feminist with the Alien films on Blu-ray. But it could all have gone another way. On Radio 4’s iPM this week, the mother of a 10-year-old called Leo explained that one of the reasons she knew her female child must be either a boy or non-binary was that Leo’s fictional idols were always male: Peter Pan, Iron Man, Wolverine.

Read the full post at the New Statesman

BBC Radio Wales – Good Morning Wales | Labour leadership election closing

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Voting in the Labour leadership election closed at midday yesterday, with it looking very likely that a Corbyn victory on an increased majority will be the result announced at conference this Saturday. I was on BBC Radio Wales yesterday morning to talk about where this leaves Labour. Does it have any prospects as a party of government under Corbyn? Can the soft left and centre hope to regain control of the party? And is Labour ever going to confront the political fragmentation of the Union?

That last is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot, partly because I think Labour’s difficulty with articulating a positive idea of statehood, and consequent vulnerability to to electoral pressure from nationalists, is probably intimately connected to the left’s susceptibility to anti-Semitism (and, given Dworkin’s analysis of the conceptual intimacy between anti-Semitism and misogyny, its sexism too). I haven’t thought this through entirely yet, but since Labour looks in no danger of pulling itself together imminently, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to work on it. Anyway, follow the link below to hear me on Good Morning Wales.

Listen on iPlayer (from 00:05:55)

Independent | Liberal Democrat Dennis Parsons is wrong – prostitution is abuse, not a career to aspire to

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The revelation that Keith Vaz was unwinding from his work chairing parliamentary inquiries into the law on prostitution by arranging to “break” young prostituted Eastern European men is a good reminder that whenever a man ventures an opinion about the sale of sex, we should ask what his skin in the game is. The best available data tells us that one in ten men has paid for sex.

According to Dennis Parsons, the main cause of harm in prostitution is people who insist that prostitution is a cause of harm. “The fact that we are asking ‘should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?’ is part of the problem,” he told a special session of the Lib Dem conference. “You wouldn’t ask the question ‘should we prevent people becoming accountants?’ You’d just take it for granted.”

Read the full post at the Independent

BBC One – Sunday Morning Live | Should sexism be a hate crime?

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The BBC One religion and ethics discussion show Sunday Morning Live hosted a discussion this week about the Nottingham Police initiative to record misogynistically motivated offences as hate crime (a subject I wrote about last week for the New Statesman). Melanie Jeffs of Nottingham Women’s Centre was there to explain the background and intent of the strategy; and Jon Gaunt was there to railroad the discussion into wolf-whistling, because violence against women is just no fun to bloviate about. I supplied some feminist side-eye, and the whole show is on iPlayer now.

Watch the show on iPlayer (sexism package starts at 20:00)

New Statesman | No, it’s not ridiculous to call misogyny a hate crime

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Women have very little idea of how much men hate us, wrote Germaine Greer, and the criminal justice system has hardly gone out of its way to disabuse us. Hate crime monitoring by the police covers disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, but astonishingly, not sex. While the police have all-too-slowly come to recognise the systemic underpinnings of violence when it affects male victims, the targeting of women because they are women has been left behind. If you want to find out how much men hate women, you won’t find the answer in the official statistics. Until now, because a successful pilot by Nottingham Police to record misogyny as a hate crime is now being considered for adoption by forces across England and Wales.

The Nottingham experiment inevitably attracted derision on its launch in July, with multiple snickering headlines about the prospect of wolf-whistling becoming a crime – the implication being, of course, that this would be inherently absurd. What actually happened was different: under the Nottingham scheme, police have dealt with more than 20 incidents, “all of which required some form of police action”, according to Dave Alton, hate crime manager for Nottingham Police. Two men have been arrested for public order offences and actual bodily harm.

Read the full post at the New Statesman

Independent | Emily Thornberry, please don’t cry sexism when it isn’t – you’re making the situation worse for women in Westminster

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“When you’re in a hole, stop digging” is the kind of good advice politicians can be very bad at taking, and Sunday morning saw Emily Thornberry with shovel in hand, blithely piling up soil during an interview with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News.

Asked to name the French foreign minister and coming up blank, Thornberry immediately went in for the attack, accusing Murnaghan of “pub quizzing” her. When she pushed the discussion onto South Korea (presumably thinking it safer ground) Murnaghan caught her out again by asking her to name the South Korean president. By the end of the interview, Thornberry had escalated to openly charging him with sexism.

Read the full post at the Independent

Literary Review | Mount! by Jilly Cooper

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‘It is sad to be reminded, once again, that all this horse racing business is about the rich, for the rich are hideous. There is nothing they cannot ruin,’ wrote John Jeremiah Sullivan in his social history and memoir Blood Horses. But the hideousness of the horsey rich is Jilly Cooper’s inspiration: for ten novels now, she has extracted frothy, filthy entertainment from the lives of the rich and randy in the fictional (and fittingly named) county of Rutshire.

Read the full review in the September 2016 issue of Literary Review (subscription required for online access)