Thursday, 19 July 2012

Dinner with a rapist

This, from

In 1992, Mike Tyson was convicted of raping an 18 year old woman and served just three years. Now Portsmouth Guildhall are describing him as a "legendary figure" - as did Sky Sports magazine last year - and promoting a dinner with him.

Local women's organisation, Aurora New Dawn, say heralding a rapist as a hero sends a dangerous message. They've started a petition on asking the Guildhall to immediately remove Mike Tyson from their programme. Click here to support their campaign. Aurora New Dawn believe that describing anyone convicted of rape as a legend or hero diminishes the importance and seriousness of rape and sexual assault.

Last year in Belfast an event with Mike Tyson was cancelled following public outcry. Aurora New Dawn believe that if enough people speak out, the Guildhall will have to reverse their decision and protect Portsmouth's reputation as a city committed to eradicating violence against women.

Will you join Aurora New Dawn and ask the Guildhall, Portsmouth to cancel the evening with Mike Tyson?

Aurora New Dawn provide services to women who've been victims of sexual and domestic violence. In recognition of their and other groups' work, Portsmouth was awarded 'White Ribbon City' status. But by inviting a convicted rapist to speak at the Guildhall, local groups believe their work is being undermined.

Click here to sign their petition calling for the event to be cancelled now.

All text (c)

UPDATE: I have now been contacted by one of the many people involved in the protest against Portsmouth Guildhall. This is what they say:

We have had no indication from the Guildhall so far that they have any intention of cancelling the event, but there have been similar campaigns in the past in other cities, and at least one that I know of was successful.

The Guildhall are currently holding the position that Tyson has 'served his time' and should now be allowed to appear in public on the basis of his boxing career. This does not hold water for the Aurora campaign team - we hold that Tyson's openly misogynist positioning in public means that his dangerous attitudes to women cannot be separated from his boxing career. Indeed, he has consistently conflated the two in order to gain publicity (for example giving interviews where he expresses incredibly violent attitudes towards women) and it is hypocritical to suggest that other people should be able to separate the two when he does not. It is not possible to separate Mike Tyson the boxer from Mike Tyson the misogynist and convicted rapist. He cannot demand that people separate the two whenever someone wants to call him up on making a living from glorifying misogyny and violence.
The writer Sarah Cheverton has reported on this issue for Women's Views on News as it has been ignored by the national media.

Friday, 13 July 2012

What ancient crone?

Below, with no editorialisation, is an excerpt from Brian Sewell's review in the Evening Standard of Aleah Chapin’s painting Auntie, which has won this year's BP Portrait Award.
 ...this ancient crone stands life-size, full-frontal and stark naked, heavy breasts drooping low, skin stretched and sagging, looking as though, par-boiled and with the lividity of death about her lower quarters, she has just escaped from a cannibal’s cooking-pot. sympathy gentles the stark observation of every detail, nor is desire roused; instead, this painting stimulates revulsion.
Had the painter stopped at the neck, this would have been a portrait of sorts; had she included the shoulders, it would still have been a portrait; but below them it becomes a grotesque medical record, the body disproportionately large. Did Miss Chapin not see that in her obsession with the ghastliness of ageing flesh, she had enlarged this repellent body beyond the scale of the head and given primacy, not to the  implications of the face — the eyes purblind, the slight smile a rictus, the tousled hair perhaps some indication of character — but to the belly-button and the breasts. ...Just think: the National Portrait Gallery took down the nudes of Freud to award a prize to this.
The image is below. It is a realistic, gentle, careful and rare image of a specific woman's body - a woman who is, like the overwhelming majority of us, not a model, an athlete or a decorative object, but a human being with personality and experience, upon whom time, age, and gravity act quite naturally, as they do upon everyone. Calmness and compassion also increase with age - but not for everyone. What could this painting have done to have aroused such revulsion in Sewell?

Auntie by Aleah Chapin
There is now a lively Mumsnet reaction thread to this.

I read Sewell's review in the Evening Standard yesterday on the train  at about 5pm, travelling on the Victoria line from King's X to Highbury & Islington. When I first got on the train there was an ordinary-looking guy in his late thirties reading a tits paper, either The Sun or the Daily Star. He was very happy, sitting proudly on the very edge of his seat at the end of his row, knees apart, heels together, taking up as much space as possible, holding the paper wide open, staring hard-eyed and with intense concentration all over the form of the model pictured there. The model was in a pair of knickers. Just like the portrait Sewell loathes, the photograph of this young and beautiful woman had "given primacy, not to the implications of the face...but to the belly-button and the breasts." But no-one was complaining.

Monday, 2 July 2012

"I don't know what to do with my rage..."

I received this tonight, after spending a day talking about women's rights, women's visibility, respect for women and women's representation with some brilliant and inspiring sixth-formers from Camden Girls' School and then attending an extremely moving and powerful film and spoken word presentation by the charity Tender, which uses the arts to educate young people about making choices that lead them towards healthy, loving, non-abusive relationships.
Hi - I don't know what else to do with my rage so I'm writing to you. I've just read an advert in the Guardian for Talks Plays and Comedy at the Criterion Theatre. There is a list of 13 names - all men. The excitement over the womanless event is on twitter and on the Criterion's website and not a mention of the fact that it appears to be a men only event. Imagine if all the participants were women. For professional reasons I can't use my own name which is the one above.
I've checked out the Criterion's site and it's worse than what this writer has said: there are 15 named men and no women featured during the venue's summer events, which covers plays, talks, comedy and storytelling. The season, entitled Playing the Games, says that it brings together "leading comedians, actors, playwrights and Olympians" and "celebrates sporting and cultural talent from the emerging to the world-famous." Think in admiration, for a moment, about this impressive diversity of disciplines, types of presentation and performance and levels of fame. How varied, how open, how generously conceived. There will be something for everyone here, unless you like women and want to hear them speak, be made to laugh by their wit, see their ideas brought to life or find out what motivates them. The 15 men and 0 women breaks down like this:
  • There are comedy performances by 3 men and 0 women: Mark Watson, Alan Davies and Stephen K Amos.
  • There are plays by 2 men and 0 women: Serge Cartwright and Adam Brace
  • There are storytelling sessions "designed to champion the love of reading and stories" given by 3 men and 0 women: Brian Blessed, Eddie Izzard and Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry is actually on the board of the theatre; the board has twice as many men as women
  • There are lunchtime interviews featuring "conversations between some of the world's most emininent Olympians, past and present, and an esteemed gathering of actors, writers, directors and presenters." It involves 4 men talking to 4 male athletes: Rick Edwards talking to Kriss Akabusi; Stephen Fry talking to Edwin Moses; Stephen Daldry talking to Haile Gebrselassie; Clive Owen talking to Adrien Niyonshuti
According to the What's On Stage site, the season has been co-curated by producer Sam Hodges (the link takes you to his Twitter stream) and Stephen Fry.

Playing the Games runs from Thursday 26th July to 12th August and has 15 named stars who are athletes, comedians, directors, presentors, actors and playwrights. It covers comedy, storytelling, interviews, conversations. Anything is possible, everything is included, except women. Who made these decisions when all they had to do to make things equal was find 7 or 8 women across 6 categories? And - shame, shame, shame - in a year when so many brilliant women are representing Britain at the Olympics... and not only that, but by the Criterion's own criterion, they needn't be current stars but could have attained greatness in their field in the past - they could be "sporting and cultural talent from the emerging to the world-famous," as the theatre says.

Women are the majority of ticket buyers for all arts events. The Criterion has taken their money and slapped them in the face, pocketed the revenue and used it to help 15 men's and 0 women's careers. What kind of game are they playing with Playing The Games?

Updated: I have now received this fan mail in support:
From: Keiron Noonan
Jul 3
Subject: Your whining contribute​s nothing to the revolution
Just read your latest snit.

What is it with you? Are you a right wing fifth columnist?

Why do you play your endless games of identity politics? Unite for the revolution or take your feminist national socialist rants somewhere else. 
Your "cause" would have some credibility if you were any sort of talented writer. You are not. 
I read some of your fiction and felt the life force suck out of me. Your writing sucks enormously.
Your only talent is one of self promotion. All you ever talk about is you and why you deserve a bigger career you greedy, materialistic, ugly, talentless and selfish bitch.

You are the worst kind of class and race traitor.

Try to redeem yourself by joining a cause and serving something other than yourself.

Solidarity (Not that you know anything about that but try to learn something)

And yesterday I received the below, not from 'Rageflag' but this time from, uh, 'Manplus700', with very similar language, rhythm and tone and echoing various other pieces of hate mail I've received and comments posted on sites like this one. I don't know what makes hatemailers give themselves names redolent of 70s porn stars, defunct ska bands, evil Power Rangers or Decepticons or cameo baddies from a cheap Horror Channel remake of Highlander. Hatemailers should know that all messages sent to me are reported to my Internet provider, to colleagues, to the relevant publications or broadcasting corporation (in the case of messages sent in reaction to an article or broadcast), to my representatives and to the police, or to all of them. It is very, very easy to trace emails, even those with unpersonalised and once-used addresses. Even when a harasser thinks they are being 'random', using Internet cafes around their town, they usually operate within a relatively small circumference or with marked patterns of useage (time of day, duration, type of venue or device used, sites surfed) and with stark similarities in language, structure, tone, reference. I will not be posting up any more examples as they are boring to read. To my female colleagues, if you have received messages/comments which are similar in tone, style, language and approach, please let me know and we can go together, nightclub toilets style.
George Hastings
10:09 PM (4 hours ago)
to me
subject: You need help. Here it is.

First of all thanks for sharing your sense of rage against almost everything.

You said "I hit the glass ceiling and it really hurt".

Not half as much as it hurt when you were beaten to within an inch of your life with the ugly stick.

You really are amusing to so many people. You are a totally clueless, talentless, spiteful and ugly bitch so obviously feminism was going to be your cause.

Because identity politics is the last refuge of beta grade dickheads the world over.

You have literally no idea how human society works. You seem to think that men and women are identical and interchangable.

I'm so glad that you are depressed because you are a class one shit and deserve to be unhappy.

Your crazy vision for humanity is never going to happen.


I'm looking forward to your next instalment of the "Consequence of betrayal". It is pricelessly funny that you blame men and not women for adulterous affairs.

It takes two to tango you silly bitch.

Not that a bigot like you would ever accept that.

No half decent man would fuck you in a million years. You are not even worth a knee trembler in the loos.
I am very glad that a half decent man would not want to enjoy conjugal relations with me, as I really only want a fully decent man. I was thinking, too, that if you strip away the bile and invective, the derision which is explicit in this hate mail is no different from the derision conveyed implicitly by a theatre which has programmed and celebrated a season featuring 15 men and 0 women. Rageflag (Gah! flags of rage, everywhere you look! Stop flapping at me, you angry flags with your semaphore of fury) and Manplus 700 (the sensitive porn studs' fave semi-permanent budget eco friendly henna-based hair colouring alternative to Grecian 3000) have made the effort to tell me to my interface that I am talentless and worthless.

The Criterion Theatre have gone one further and let women know, with their 15 men 0 women programme, that they consider all women to be talentless and worthless.