Independent | I’m not surprised that the BBC chastised Jenni Murray over her transgender comments – this is what institutional sexism looks like


Impartiality is the necessary fiction that allows the BBC to exist. A public service broadcaster that didn’t attempt to hold its head above bias would be untenable, and this is why the BBC’s editorial guidelines make it clear that news and current affairs presenters are not to publish their personal views on “controversial subjects”.

But what do you do when the controversy comes for you? When, however much you’d rather not be the object of dispute, you become the frontier in an ideological war? When what you are – and how you name yourself – slips from neutral to contentious, without you doing anything?

Jenni Murray has presented the BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour for 30 years, and she’s been a woman for even longer than that. At the weekend, the Sunday Times published an article by her titled “Be trans, be proud — but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman’”. Under that headline, Murray criticised some claims of trans activism (and she was careful to say she was talking about the extreme of the debate): that anyone who identifies as a woman has “always been a woman” no matter the age at which they transition, and that references to the female body should be censored in the interests of inclusion.

Read the full post at the Independent

Guardian Review | Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt


I want a good gothic. A novel that smells of blood and old Bibles and sex, ripe as a walled-up corpse, but stays the right side of self-parody by sheer commitment. Sadly, Mr Splitfoot is not that book. Although Samantha Hunt turns out the creepy imagery and Christianity, suspense runs short and horror is too often undercut by an infuriating structure that serves symbolism over story.

Read the full review at the Guardian

New Humanist | Beatlebone by Kevin Barry


This has been a big year for literary resurrections of famous men. The Booker Prize went to Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, an epic that centres on the 1976 attempt to assassinate Bob Marley, while the shortlist for the Goldsmiths’ Prize, which recognises experimental fiction, includes Max Porter’s Ted Hughes-conjuring novella Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, and Beatlebone, which summons John Lennon circa 1978.

Of the three, Beatlebone is the most fearless in its advance on an icon. James and Porter keep their daunting subjects at something of a distance, a vortex around which events circle (James), or safely refracted through artfulness (Porter). Kevin Barry, though, storms headlong into the psyche of Lennon. It’s a curious place: Lennon at this point in his history is in retirement, reconciled with Yoko Ono and a full-time father to their son Sean. He is famous, but no longer doing the thing he’s famous for – he simply is a celebrity, on the run from his public and from himself.

Read the full review at the New Humanist

Statement in response to London Young Labour Summer Conference Motion 8 supporting the decriminalisation of sex work

The London Young Labour summer conference takes place this Sunday. Among the motions to be voted on, motion 8 deserves particular scrutiny from feminists: it is titled “Standing up for sex workers’ rights, supporting the decriminalisation of sex work.” It is principally concerned with committing LYL to opposing the Nordic model. A number of feminist activists, academics and frontline service providers have collaborated to critique the claims and evidence offered in this motion.

As a feminist and a Labour Party member, I am publishing the full document below and hope that any delegates attending the LYL conference will consider it carefully before voting. It is a detailed and thorough rebuttal of motion 8, and very much worth reading in full. However, the conclusion is a particularly powerful explanation of why the Labour movement should never legitimise an industry founded in exploitative power relations:

as feminists we believe that women who sell sex are fellow human beings who operate under the constraints and limitations of all human life. Most of them are neither superior, sexually liberated entrepreneurs, nor weak and defenceless victims. They are responding to the demand created by men and catered to by pimps and traffickers (among others), a demand which can and should be delegitimised through the introduction of legislation that signals that sexual exploitation is not an acceptable “service” to purchase, even if the money exchanging hands seems to make it a “free” transaction on behalf of the class of people thus being exploited. The protection of those who sell should not be conflated with the legitimisation of those who buy. Those within the Labour movement who fail to distinguish or even acknowledge these two very different constituent elements of the sex industry, and who do not identify which holds the power, should explain their position better and more honestly than they have done in this motion.



Here are some things I have thrown away over the last month:

Two sandwich toasters.

A full set of Ikea cutlery.

A two-pint glass with “beer monster” printed on the side.

A fridge that was probably fine.

A load of wooden beams for roofing. (“That is good wood!” said the man who works at the recycling centre, incredulously, as my husband pitched the slats into the big skip for waste wood.)

A scratched but sound table top. (“That’s wood, not bric-a-brac,” said another man who works at the recycling centre, waylaying me and ending my hopes of sending the table on to whatever the furniture version of going to live on a farm is. “It’s not good enough condition.”)

A perfectly fine bedstead. (This I slung bitterly into the wood skip, not willing to risk another bruising rejection of my rejected possessions.)

After the savage dismissal of my table top, I sat in the car and cried for a bit. Not just because I was 13 days into a two-week process of house clearance and moving, though I was, and that seems like a perfectly legitimate reason to have a brief sob; it was the waste that got to me.

My own detritus was painful enough. When you move, it’s sensible to carry only what you want to take, and in the preceding month, we unloaded uncountable bin bags of stuff to the charity shops of Bath. I don’t think of myself as profligate or wasteful, so this evidence of both my profligacy and my wastefulness was unwelcome. Clothes that didn’t fit or didn’t suit. Toys our children had neglected or outgrown. Books – not many of these, but the packing made it undeniable that a whole mass of volumes have sat on our shelves, unopened and unliving.

But then there was the other stuff, other people’s stuff. The house we were moving into had been student accommodation for most of a decade, and the whole cellar was tightly packed with boxes of possessions no one wanted to take with them, and no one wanted to throw away.

Someone had left a full wardrobe of clothes and a collection of manga in a zip-up bag, all now lightly mildewed. There was set after set of crockery and cutlery: plain white economy porcelain, or the mix-and-match assembly of spares from mum and dad. Person after person had come to this house, each bringing their own offering to the underworld of homewares in the foundations.

My husband and I hauled everything out. We were Jesus of the unwanted pots, harrowing the hell below our living room floor. And then we ditched it all – some we donated and some we kept, but more that I would have liked went to the tip. Guilty as I felt, I decided the original sin of this stuff was in its making, not its junking. All of it had been wanted at point of sale: the doughnut maker, the “beer monster” stein, the cock-and-balls cookie cutter with optional depresser for marking a biscuity bellend (student house). And none had been wanted after.

This seems an abjectly terrifying use of human ingenuity and natural resources. It seems so hideously inefficient: shouldn’t there be some kind of system so the owner of sandwich toaster one could inform the owner of sandwich toaster two that an operational sandwich toaster was already in residence, so no need to add your own to the small electrical graveyard? A register of unnecessary objects.

But I know also that this stuff is all necessary in its way: these are the tokens by which wealth is circulated, production maintained, employment created. All this festering junk is the waste crapped out by a functioning economy, and we fill first our homes and then the land with shit.