Anyone who follows this site will know that I am generally left-leaning when it comes to societal/political matters. I am in favour of gay marriage and I abhor discriminatory and bigoted behaviour. I have no patience for creationists and their pseudoscience. I find myself more drawn to left-wing political parties (such as Labour) than I do the Tories or right-wing parties. This is not to say that I feel every idea to come from the right of politics is bad (I most certainly don’t disagree with every right-wing view, I even hold a few), but I am centre-left of the political spectrum.

So when I learned earlier on of a site devoted not simply to conservative ideals, but extremely conservative ideals, I felt compelled to take a look to see if it was as bad as one commentator on Facebook suggested. The Daily Kos ran an article talking about Conservapedia’s denial of E=mc², and all I could think as I read it was that my eyes hurt.

The site promotes things such as religious-based conversion theory (turning homosexuals into hetrosexuals via Biblical and religious teachings), Young Earth Creationism, and a lot of anti-Obama rhetoric. I have never seen a greater hole of ignorance on the web in all my days.

I’m not going to post a direct link to the site, for that would be to grant them too much attention. Suffice to say, if you want to see it, google conservapedia. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve agonised a few times as to whether I should write this particular article. It’s something that first popped onto my radar a few years ago, when I came across a deeply flawed review of the sci-fi series Firefly, which suggested the show condoned a lot of anti-women behaviour, and even implied the show’s producer (Joss Whedon of Buffy fame) raped his wife.

No, you didn’t read that wrong. That was actually the title of one of the anti-Firefly posts – ‘A Rapist’s View of the World‘.

Let it be said before I really begin in earnest that I am all in favour of equality. Women should earn the same wage as men for doing the same job, and have all the same opportunities to succeed. Feminism is defined as ‘the  advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality between the sexes‘, which is a worthy goal. As the father to a daughter, I very much want my little girl to grow up with the same rights and opportunities as any man. The fact she is female should have no bearing on what she can achieve.

Feminism, like a lot of things, comes in different types. You have moderate feminism, which promotes equality through controlled, patient means. Some aspects of feminism have linked themselves to economic concerns (Marxist feminism), and then you have radical feminism.

Radical feminists tend to be louder than their contemporaries, meaning that their views get a lot of exposure. It ought to be noted that not every radical feminist practices a ‘hate men’ agenda, but most want equality too – but on very different terms.

The idea is to create a society where concepts such as gender don’t exist, along with the constructs that arise from these concepts. Some radfems argue these points more fiercely than others.

Gender is a patriarchal construct, used to subdue female-born into becoming ‘women’, who are expected (through societal manipulation) to be subservient to male-born (men).

Men are also being manipulated into this caste system, expected to fulfil roles of their own.

The ‘tearing down’ of the establishment is quite a popular idea with radical feminists.

There is a radical feminism website, Deep Green Resistance, that offers some fascinating insight into radical feminist thinking:

But if the implication is that it’s women’s job to take care of men, we reject that. Men need to take care of themselves and each other. We want to point out that this question of men’s emotional well-being is a central one to way too many people. No one has ever—not once—asked us about women’s emotional well-being, or implied that it’s men’s job to take care of women, even though it’s men who are committing the violence.

It’s true that male-on-female violence is considerably greater than the other way around. I won’t deny that and it needs to change. Indeed, any violence from one person directed at another needs to be dealt with.

That said, I wish to address other parts of this paragraph. The emotional well-being of women is important. Not every man dismisses this and indeed, this is part of the reason why men go to work every day, working hard, to provide food and shelter for their loved ones (men taking care of women and children through doing this work). I am surprised this is completely overlooked.

I love my wife. I want to do right by her. I love my daughter – I want to do right by her. I work hard to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. I do my best to treat them to things they want and need, at my own expense too. You might argue this is a construct of false gender – but nevertheless, to dismiss the role men play in supporting their families is offensive – I would never dismiss the role a woman plays in looking after their children, and nor would I expect them to be the only party responsible for looking after children (nor do I expect women to conform to the expectation that they should stay at home and be homemakers), yet Deep Green Resistance is quite dismissive of what men contribute, and the idea that men might actually care about how their wives and partners feel.

DGR is about more than radical feminism – tied to these ideas are notions of doing away with civilisation as we know it completely, for the sake of the planet and humanity’s survival. I dare say their aims and goals are not likely to go mainstream any time soon. I will however draw attention to the fact that they are not so vocal on the ‘man-hating‘ element that radical feminism is unfortunately known for.

To quote from the link above:

I hate men. Yes, I am a feminist. No, not all feminists hate men. But at this point in my life I have begun to wonder why any woman with half a brain would NOT hate men. It is perhaps testament to the amazing moral superiority of women that most women do not hate men in spite of the tortures men inflict upon them, their children, and each other. Or perhaps it is a reason why feminism has not succeeded. Perhaps in order for women to stop being chattel under the bootheels of cruel, stupid men, they will have to learn to hate men at least a little.

Whether radical feminists like or not, this is the predominant image that radical feminism has. Some (not all, I hasten to add) radical feminists love to make sweeping generalisations about men, about how they act and how they inflict cruelty upon women. If there was a movement out there whereby men made similar statements about women… well, we can all agree such a movement would be rightly condemned, as it should be.

Radical Feminism and Transphopia

There’s a certain element of radical feminism (again, I must stress not all) that have adopted a decidedly anti-transsexual agenda. The root of this can be explained through DGR’s statement here:

Radical feminists also believe that women have the right to define their boundaries and decide who is allowed in their space. We believe all oppressed groups have that right. We have been called transphobic because the women of DGR do not want men—people born male and socialized into masculinity—in women-only spaces. DGR stands with women in that decision.

Yet earlier on, the same site has this to say:

Radical feminists are critical of gender itself. We are not gender reformists–we are gender abolitionists. Without the socially constructed gender roles that form the basis of patriarchy, all people would be free to dress, behave, and love others in whatever way they wished, no matter what kind of body they had.

Whilst DGR is not condoning anti-transsexual and transphobic behaviour, there is an element of hypocrisy here. In one paragraph, they speak of doing away with social constructs of gender and that all people should be free to express themselves in any way they choose – then they apply gender and social constructs as the reason they would exclude transsexuals from their spaces – the man who became a woman is the product of a patriarchy, and therefore not welcome.

Yet the man who became a woman became a woman because they did not identify as male and with every fibre of their being considered themselves female – it seems to me that DGR are overlooking this.

There are further examples of radical feminists being vocal in their exclusion of transsexuals:

From a site called TERF (which is not a radical feminist site, but points out some notable quotes from radical feminists):

Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example.

 Mary Daly, PhD, TERF author, lecturer & academic from her book, Gyn/ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism pp 70 – 71

The irony is, radical feminists who target transsexuals have more in common with far-right fanatics (whom they deeply oppose in other ways) than they might care to believe. The Star Observer newspaper in Australia ran an article in March about a prominent radical feminist, Shelia Jeffreys. Jeffreys had this to say:

“In the States for instance they (trans people) were often compared to the black and white minstrels. The black and white minstrels were white men who dressed up with blackface to imitate what they thought were the behaviours of black singers and entertainers. That was seen as very insulting by the black community,”

“Transgenderism for men is about the right to imitate and pretend to be members of the subordinate class even though they are members of – biologically and were brought up in – the superior class. That was problematic for the black and white minstrels. It’s problematic generally when a group of people claim to be another group of subordinate people.”

Suggesting transsexuals or those who desire sex changes are in fact, using the same tactics as racists, is a not-so-subtle means of dismissing an entire group, and one step away from encouraging persecution of that group. It is not an invasion of space – it is a quirk of biology that compels some men to consider themselves women (just as it’s a quirk of biology that some men and women are gay). It isn’t a choice, I doubt it’s something that trans-people find easy to deal with, and they do not deserve transphobic attitudes. Given radical feminism’s schools of thought on oppression and persecution, I find it bizarre that this attitude exists within the movement.

What do other Feminists think?

Honestly, I don’t know, since finding the answer to that question online is proving harder than I thought. I am endeavouring to find out, so I may well add the answer to this page at a later date.

What do I think?

Radicalism tends not to be looked upon favourably. It is however, usually the branch of any movement that is heard the most, because even as a minority, the radical element is the loudest, brashest, most controversial element. Radical feminism is certainly loud, unashamed of promoting women’s rights and spaces, and not shirking from pushing its agenda of removing gender and social constructs from the equation.

Do they have a point though?

My own view is no. Well, not completely. As I said at the start of this post, I am very much in favour of equality for all. However, the fact is, I am a man. I am certainly not the strongest or smartest man, but I am a man. It is part of my identity. Does that place certain expectations upon me? Of course it does. Are these expectations necessarily fair? Not always. Whilst radical feminists may feel that current social models are in place to oppress women, an argument could be made that we are all expected to perform certain functions – that the system keeps us all in certain places. I am expected to be the primary breadwinner, because that’s the male role in society – to go out and go to work, to be hardy in the face of adversity, to not cry but to be strong and brave. I am expected to mask my emotions, to just get on with it.

I don’t identify myself in that way. I define myself, first and foremost, as a human being. Being a man is part of that but only part. I don’t use being a man as an excuse to get away with certain behaviour, I don’t use it as an excuse for failures of any kind. I define myself as a husband, a father, a sci-fi fan, a Formula 1 fan, a lover of football, burgers, Disney, gadgets, and coffee. I chose all of those things, so you might say, I am defined by who I choose to be. Yes, not everyone can choose – their voices are silenced by oppressive forces – but a patriarchal society is not the root cause of all evil – not if everyone is given the right to choose their own fate. What we need to do – all of us, men and women – is fight for those rights, not along gender lines, but along human lines. It does not matter who is discriminating who and why – it all needs to be opposed.

To any feminists who read this – radical or otherwise – I would of course be interested in what you have to say. I do not delete or refuse to approve comments made that disagree with me, only those which are filled with vitriol and anger. Make a compelling case, and you will have a voice here.

Back to What I Think

I picked up a copy of The Daily Mail today. I don’t usually do that, but they’re giving away free Lego, so I picked that up for my daughter.

As I flicked through the pages, idly glancing at the articles, I couldn’t help but come across an article (well, several in fact) that annoyed me. On page 28, there is an article about foxes.

The article is written by Andrew Pierce, who recounts some unfortunate experiences he’s had with foxes. I’m not without sympathy – there are foxes in my neck of the woods. I’ll admit to some concern for my little girl – foxes can be dangerous, and yes, they can carry diseases. Pierce refers in his article to tragic incidents where foxes have attacked small children, so yes, the danger is real.

It’s also true that foxes can make a lot of noise. They screech at night sometimes, and yes, they have been known to kill family pets.

The thing is, they have been all but encouraged to slip into urban areas by our wasteful society, as we create easy hunting grounds with our rubbish and scraps for foxes to feast on (indeed, given our steady encroachment upon green spaces and natural habitats, we have left foxes almost needing to come to our doorstep to survive).

We’ve made it easy for foxes to come to us.

Pierce makes the following statements about foxes:

These disgusting and stinking vermin – and that’s what they are – should be culled

I’ve never been on a fox-hunt and have no interest in going on one. But I would love to see a red-jacketed huntsman, followed by hounds, charging through the back gardens of our neighbourhood. Apart from doing us all a service, it would be worth it just to see the look on Joanna Lumley’s face

Foxes are not vermin. They are wild animals, driven into urban areas by the expansion of those areas. They would not be in our cities and streets if we were not chopping up their natural homes.

Pierce’s declaration about fox hunting is telling. Hunts usually involve several men armed with guns who have several dogs that are sent after a single fox, and somehow, this is dressed up as ‘sport’.

It’s not sport. It’s a throwback to the age of toffs who took pleasure in killing defenceless animals. Sport implies two people or teams with a means to compete. There is no such thing in fox hunting.

Finally, whilst it’s true that foxes carry diseases and have been known to hurt people, this is true of other animals. The Daily Mail itself ran an article in 2011 that 6,000 cases of dog-related injuries were reported.

No one is calling for dogs to be culled.

Repeated searches for numbers in regard to fox-related injuries have not revealed any hard numbers (in itself quite interesting – are there too few to warrant articles?).

It’s also worth noting that as of January 2015, most of the UK still favours the ban on fox hunting, and rightly so.

Firstly, congratulations to to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their daughter! She looked adorable, all wrapped up in her little blanket, and I wish her and her family all the best for the future!

Now for the meat of this post…

In a few days Britain goes to the polls to vote in an election that will almost certainly leave us with a hung Parliament (that is, no one party will be able to form a working majority, so cue frantic negotiations by the major parties to form coalitions with smaller ones, as happened last time).

If the polls are any indication, the Tories hold a 1-point lead over Labour – nowhere near significant enough to form a government. There’s a big reason for this too.

All the major political parties in Britain have suffered in recent years from being out of touch with the average person. Politicians from all parties are usually so far removed from reality that they do things like getting limos to ferry them 35 miles – instead of getting the train like a normal person (and I wish this sort of story was a one-off, sadly it isn’t). There was the Expenses Scandal, that revealed many MPs from many parties were using public money on some outrageous things (including a moat!)

If I vote (and that’s far from certain at the moment) it would probably be for Labour, on the simple basis that I feel the Tories have overseen the decline of the country over the past few years. There are so many empty shops in my local town centre, and there’s been an unprecedented rise in the use of food banks since the current coalition government took power.

Out-of-touch Tory leader and Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly would seek to repeal the hunting ban that went into force in 2005, believing that many people are against the ban – however YouGov polls would suggest otherwise.

There’s a lot more I could go into, but frankly, politics hurts my head. It seems that whoever get get at 10 Downing Street, we can be assured that our views will not be listened to, and no one will live up to their promises.

I am currently in the process of making some substantial additions to my Creationism page on the main site. The updates specifically tackle the attempt by pro-creationism debaters to make the discussions about the origins of life, rather than how life has evolved and developed.

It might seem like the two discussions are identical. Whilst they are superficially related, a debate about how life began is not the same as discussing how life has evolved.

People arrested for feeding the homeless… yup, you read that correctly, arrested for showing kindness and generosity to those in need.

To quote the page directly:

Fort Lauderdale police charged three men — including two pastors and a 90-year-old man — for feeding the homeless in public on Sunday, the first such cases made by the city after the a new ordinance effectively banning public food sharings took effect Friday.

The first to be charged was homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, 90, who has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale for more than 20 years. Also cited were two Christian ministers — Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs.

All three men face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

I can imagine the arguments now… ‘oh, by feeding them you’re encouraging them to remain dependent on handouts, they need to learn to look after themselves, etc etc’. Well, it isn’t always that simple, and the opportunity to move out of that situation doesn’t always present itself.

Even that’s beside the point. To actually go as far as to arrest a 90 year-old and two pastors over this seems beyond excessive.

So, just now, as I’m scrolling through Facebook, I come across an article from the Mirror that reported the Twitter user ‘@sweepyface’ (who was involved in a Sky News story about harassment of the McCanns) has been found dead at a hotel. This comes just days after her impromptu appearance on Sky News.

So, once again the question has to be raised about the influence of the media (and social media). Was Sky News justified in putting her face on national television? Whilst I did not agree with her stance, there were far worse examples out there, that I am sure even now skulk behind throwaway usernames, waiting to see who else they can torment.

The irony is, this woman, Brenda, may well have been targeted for abuse by the very people who were sending the most vile tweets to the McCanns.

Or she was targeted, perhaps even more ironically, by people supporting the McCanns.

Once again this highlights the perils of the media – one wrong step, be it on Twitter, or be it a national news channel, we have to remember that with freedom of speech comes the responsibility to use that freedom wisely.

So, this morning, having been watching the news (perhaps not the best thing for me to do), I saw a story about trolls on Twitter harassing the parents of Madeline McCann. Not being one to always know when to keep my mouth shut, I jumped in to offer my own opinion.

The conversation that followed quite eye-opening about my own attitudes to freedom of speech, and where the line is between free speech and hate speech. What is the point where voicing an opinion becomes an act of needless, hurtful aggression?

Some of the trolls on Twitter have spoken of how they’d happily recruit assassins, or burn the McCanns alive… they are grieving parents who have to live with the fact their daughter is probably never going to be found, and they don’t even have the closure of being able to say ‘she’s dead, it hurts, but we can bury her, say our goodbyes and try to move on’. They are suffering, and most certainly do not deserve the hate campaign that’s been going on.

I have a page on my main site about Internet Tough Guys, and the behaviour of a lot of these Twitter trolls certainly fits the bill. The main focus for the conversation I had on Twitter though, was about a Twitter user called @Sweepyface (who has since deleted her account) when she was tracked and interviewed on Sky News. Her tweets are certainly not the worst, but she said to Sky News that she was entitled to attack the McCanns and reportedly used Twitter to spread rumours about their marriage, and said she hopes the McCanns ‘suffer forever’.

I initially was highly critical of @Sweepyface (and to be honest, I still am – she may not have been calling for their heads but she was certainly not acting on anyone’s interests to harass them), but, is what she did to be considered hate speech, or is she merely voicing an opinion?

Well, this is where things get tricky.

The more I think about it (and the more I consider my conversation), it’s hard to argue that @Sweepyface did anything legally wrong. She is, like anyone else, entitled to an opinion, and Lord knows we allow far worse opinions to exist. I do feel that her position is morally untenable though.

I also have to wonder if she would have been so willing to say anything if she wasn’t acting anonymously.

Interestingly enough, I came under a bit of fire shortly after making the point that trolls rely on anonymity that I don’t put my real name with my Twitter posts. As a matter of fact, my real name is represented on Twitter, and just because someone puts a name and picture on Twitter, it doesn’t mean they’re putting their name and picture on there. In the end, we all have to be prepared to offer up a little trust to each other.

I certainly don’t believe we should be abusing the system to harass others.