Tuesday 26 February 2013

Links Round-up 26/02/2013

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Hello All,

As part of our weekly round-up, here are some things from around the tubes of the internet that we’d like to share with you...

The folks at UK Feminist Blog ‘The F-Word’ are looking for more volunteers to get involved. Could that be you?

N. K. Jemisin wants to know where our outrage is over Hollywood and the Oscars’ treatment of QuvenzhanĂ© Wallis.

As part of Women in Horror recognition month, author Lisa Tuttle writes in Bad Reputation on the topic of Female authors in Horror literature. http://www.badreputation.org.uk/2013/02/25/guest-post-lisa-tuttle-women-in-the-clubhouse-of-horror/

[Strong TW: Sexual Violence, misogyny and sexism] Laurie Penny reporting in Egypt on the difficult situation of sexual violence in post-revolution Egypt.  

Scott Jordan Harris on the presence of disability on film. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2013/02/disability_in_film_are_attitud.html

A piece on OUSU’s ‘I need feminism because’ campaign. http://oxford.tab.co.uk/2013/02/06/womcam-whiteboards-hit-rad-cam-in-radical-revolution/

A Feminism 101 type piece on how white QUILTBAG+++ persons can be more aware about casual racism and its impact in relation to inclusivity.

Friday 22 February 2013

Friday Fives: Five Places You Can See Lashings In The Not-Too-Distant Future

Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Happy Friday, dear readers, and welcome to the first of our new series of Friday Fives! (Fans of our longer Friday entries, fear not: we’re not dropping those, we’d just like to add more short-and-sweet posts into the mix.) So without further ado, enjoy our first very practical and informative Friday Five:

Five Places You Can See Lashings In The Not-Too-Distant Future

1. Colour Your World: Curtain Call (February 28th, Egham)
Royal Holloway’s Feminism Society and LGBT are running this event to conclude their LGBT History Month and kick off Women’s History Month, and invited us to come along! We’re looking forward to playing a fun and energetic set and then settling down to watch the rest of the acts and open mic performers. If you’re especially lucky, we might even break out some of our newest songs during the open mic sessions...

2. NUS Women’s Conference (March 5th, York)
We’re so excited to play NUS Women’s Conference! Many of us got our start in feminism through student activism, and we’re looking forward to attending the talks and workshops - and getting to play to a massive audience of engaged student feminists! (If you’re not already registered to attend then registration is now closed - but fear not, and scroll down...)

3. OxFem Festival (March 7th, Oxford)
As part of their celebration of International Women’s Day, Linacre College are hosting a fairytale-themed event, where the Oxford-based lifeforms among you can get your Lashings fix, at the same time as seeing a whole bunch of other feminist-type performers.

4. Queer, Feminist and Social Media Praxis (May 17th, Brighton)
As part of a day-long workshop that looks at the interactions between queer/feminist activism and digital media, Lashings will be not only performing but talking about some of the theory and process behind what we do. The workshop aims to be and open to people from a wide variety of backgrounds rather than just academics, and the whole day promises to be really interesting, so do come along if you’re able to!

5. Nine Worlds Geekfest (9-11th August, London)
Lashings will be performing a set as part of a queer cabaret during one of the evenings - and many of us will be doing other things at the convention too, like organising it or speaking at it... (Assuming it gets funded, that is - any further donations to the kickstarter would be super welcome!)

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Links round-up

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

[TW: eating disorders]. Last week was Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Amy Masson at thethe F-Word writes on her feeling of tension between her commitment to feminism and her own ED.

A critical discussion on L. Humphrey’s sociological study ‘Tearoom Trade’, an infamous study on the behaviour of gay men in the 1960s which by today’s standards is highly unethical, but also very insightful. I [Bishop] think its important to look at studies like these on balance in terms of their historical context, as horrific as the method of the study looks today.

We love this Geekfeminism piece on challenging oversimplified appeals to ‘natural’/essentialist notions of gender. Lots of neat references, and also a challenge to the idea of the loaded language about the word ‘natural’.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2013/02/disability_sex_is_not_just_abo.html a piece pointing out the often ignored sexual desires and needs of disabled persons.

Here are some responses to the recent high-profile EVAW campaign One Billion Rising: Natalie Gyte questions the racial politics of the campaign, Spectra responds to Gyte with the argument that anti-racist allies need to engage with and challenge white saviourism rather than abandon campaigns which include it, and Talia Meer asks “what next?”

Geekfeminism again: Your Sexism Looks A Lot Like My Racism. ‘Privilege conceals from me the experiences of not-having-privilege.’ Check out the discussion of a cultural canon outside the western/white/male experience.

And finally, London-based LGBT mental health charity PACE have launched a new online service! There’s a fundraiser for PACE coming up on March 3rd, with films from Fox (of My Transsexual Summer) and Jason Barker, and music from Wild and CN Lester - maybe we’ll see you there?

Friday 15 February 2013

Reactions to the same-sex marriage bill

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

As I’m sure many of you are aware: A bill has been approved in Parliament which will legally recognise same sex marriages in England and Wales. I’ve been asking other Lashers to share their views on this issue. In this post I’ve collected their critical responses. As you might see, it is far from unanimous praise.

At this point I thought I might bring up a point of information: one issue that came about from a discussion among Lashers was the issue that this legislation applies to England and Wales and not for the whole of the United Kingdom. Scottish parliament is currently drafting similar bill with the view to holding a vote on the issue in the near future. There seems to be no plans to vote on a same sex marriage bill in Northern Ireland.

I give a personal thank you to kabarett, Isadora, Ganymede and Sasha Rocket for sharing their views. 

kabarett: I’m disappointed

I’m going to say this upfront: I’m disappointed.

I’m going to set aside the issue of whether marriage should exist as a legal institution, and focus instead on the principle that “separate but equal” isn’t, and disenfranchising (especially vulnerable) populations is a deeply unpleasant thing for any government to do.

So: way back when, a public consultation on “equal marriage” was begun. Between its name and Lynne Featherstone’s involvement, I was actually hopeful: I thought we might get marriage equality, or something approximating it, in which the only requirement was “consenting adults”.

Hahahahaha no. Trans* people are shafted, in more ways than I can briefly list: luckily, other people have been pretty comprehensive. Poly people have, naturally, been ignored. There’s not even the slightest glimmering of a hint of the existence of genderqueer people. Religious groups haven’t been given the freedom to make up their own minds. Different-sex* couples don’t get to have civil partnerships, even if they want to avoid the cultural and religious baggage associated with “marriage”.

So here’s what I think the outcome is: the general public will likely assume that “equal marriage” has been achieved, when it hasn’t. Any efforts to increase the scope of this bill once it’s passed through the Lords will face much harder struggles than they would have done if the initial draft had been passed. Cis gay people of the general Stonewall flavour, having been enfranchised, will have absolutely no incentive to campaign with anti-assimilationist queers for our equality.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed that as a trans* genderqueer queermo, passage of this bill is likely to make my life harder rather than easier.

So my next step? Well. Letter-writing, probably, and picking my metaphorical banner back up off the floor and heading back out onto the metaphorical streets. Be the change you wish to see, and so on, because - what else can I do?

* I use “different-sex” and “same-sex” as descriptors because (a) oppositional sexism is rubbish and (b) binarism.

Isadora: That the C of E will not be allowed to perform same-sex marriages is deeply upsetting.

This is the beginning of something I’ve wanted for a very long time, and my overriding reaction is positive and optimistic. I do however, think there are some problems with the bill as it stands. For different-sex couples to not be able to have civil partnerships makes no sense. I define as bisexual, and on a personal level I feel that there is something ludicrous about a union with any partner I might have being defined differently, as a marriage or a civil partnership, depending on that person’s sex. Whilst all my relationships have been slightly different, I don’t think the sex or gender of my partner plays a big part in that. To make marriage available to same-sex couples, but not make civil -partnership available to different-sex ones seems illogical, in addition to the implication that a civil partnership is “lesser.”

That the Church of England will not be allowed, in secular law, to perform same-sex marriages is deeply upsetting. It’s a major barrier to those of us working within the C of E to try and change attitudes and eventually, hopefully, canon law. It was already going to be a long process, but this has not only put a very solid practical barrier in place, it will also make it harder to argue the case from a “what people believe/want” perspective. I think this will increase the invisibility of the large number of Anglicans (in particular, but also other religious groups) who support either same-sex marriage or equal marriage. Those both inside and outside the Church will be less likely to listen to us, because of the impression “well, that’s not what the Church/Christians thinks/want.”

My teenage self would have wanted a church wedding, but would probably still be overjoyed at this bill. I want to briefly allow her that moment of joy that she waited so long for. Probably my younger self was quite traditional about relationships, even though it didn’t always feel like that at the time. I wanted the fairytale marriage, but with another person most likely of the same gender. My current self has bits of that. I do view both the vote and the bill as a highly significant positive step and it did give me heart-surging butterflies. But there is still more work to do.

Ganymede: do we still need to have our “legal sex” recorded at all?

I’m cautiously positive about the bill - I think it’s a great step forward, although I share kaberett’s disappointment that there are so many areas where it falls down. But I’m particularly interested by the implications it might raise for the future. Marriage is, I believe, one of the few areas where your “legal sex” actually impacts materially on your legal rights - and the passing of this bill is undermining the usefulness of the distinction between “legally female” and “legally male” still further.

It was pointed out to me recently that in centuries past, “legal sex” used to hold a lot more legislative weight. Whether you were legally classified as “female” or “male” impacted on your rights in numerous ways, mostly boiling down to whether you had the right to property, or you were property. But with every step towards gender equality, more of these legal distinctions have been eroded. And to me, the question this begs is: do we still need to have our “legal sex” recorded at all?

Imagine if every person - regardless of chromosomes, genitals, secondary sexual characteristics, sense of identity, or Gender Recognition Certificate - had an equal right to marry any other person ey chose (or become civilly partnered to em!). This bill hasn’t got us there yet, but I really hope it’s the direction we’re headed in. At that point, I’m not sure there would be any great legal distinction any more between “female” and “male”. The concepts of “female” and “male” would still have a function as social genders, and as ill-defined biological descriptors. But beyond that, surely it would only be a matter of time before their usage in law was done away with as unnecessary and outdated. No need to pick M or F for the birth certificate on the basis of a cursory glance at the genitals. No need to jump through hoops getting one’s true gender identity officially recognised. No more legal conundrums where non-binary or intersex people are concerned. And I find that thought quite exciting.

Sasha Rocket: The law’s job isn’t to change the culture, it’s to reflect it

I think the fact that same-sex couples can now get married is really awesome. Although the legal differences between a marriage and civil partnerships are tiny, I think the social statement the bill makes is a massive one, that we’ve been fighting for, for a very long time; it says that, as a society, we believe same-sex relationships are just as valid as heterosexual ones, and I think that can only be a good thing. It also says that the notion of ‘separate but equal’ isn’t equal at all. When you remember that, just 10 years ago, Section 28 was still in force, this is a remarkable step-forward. Although the bill undoubtedly has flaws and particularly lets down trans people, I hope we don’t lose sight of the massive progress we’ve made in such a short space of time.

The fact that civil partnerships aren’t being extended to all couples, as well as the fact that religious groups are not legally allowed to perform same-sex marriages, is somewhat disappointing. I think the real failing of the bill, however, is the fact that it fails to accommodate trans people, in ways that have already been explained by other Lashers. There’s still plenty of scrutiny to go though, before the bill becomes law, from both Houses, and particularly LGBTQ groups so, with enough political action, some of the failings may be remedied. I’ll wait until the whole legislative process is over before I get too hopeful but, for now, I’m cautiously optimistic.

As some other Lashers have said, a wider debate about the nature of relationships would be awesome, but I don’t think we need (or even should) be looking to parliament for that debate, particularly not currently. The law’s job isn’t to change the culture, it’s to reflect it; it’s up to us to change that culture. I think we’re slightly in danger of losing sight of the fact that lots of people have now had their relationships recognised as legitimate, and I hope that the radical change there’s been in the last decade acts to motivate us to keep at it and reminds us that we are getting somewhere.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Links Round-up 12/02/13

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Equal marriage is now a thing! If you're all very good this week, you should be seeing some lash-reactions to the news soon but, in the meantime, Peter G Tatchell's super excited about it, Helen Croydon tells us why the idea of traditional marriage isn't all that simple, Sarah Brown details all the ways in which the bill sidelines trans people, while Sarah McAlpine hopes it will provide an opportunity to gain further equality.

Oxfordians, feminists or both may be interested in Womcam's 'I Need Feminism Because...' campaign, which is lovely. Less lovely is the resulting 'I Need Masculism Because...' trending topic on twitter, but thankfully it's been delightfully taken over by more lovely feminists, whose mocking tweets you can see here.

Over at Feministe, Jill's written an interesting piece about occupying the middle ground between intellectually opposing sex work while still fighting for sex-workers rights.

Those of you who enjoyed the over-abundance of Doctor Who (if there is such a thing) in Sasha Rocket's post on Friday may also enjoy taking a look at what it would have been like to have 11 female Doctors.

Finally, our very own, beloved Valentina and Zim are both involved in some super-awesome things, which you can be part of! Valentina's Nine World's Geekfest Kickstarter fund is here, while Zim's Indiegogo fund  for the next album from The Mechanism's is here.

Friday 8 February 2013

An Incredibly Frivolous Post In Which I Like River Song

My Photo

Posted by Sasha Rocket

Let me start off by saying I actually don’t understand a lot of the flack Steven Moffat gets for apparently not being able to write well-rounded female characters. That’s not to say he’s in any way feminist, or that he always gets it right (seriously, what the hell did he do to Irene Adler?) – it just means I find many of his female characters believable, relatable and likeable, at least to the same extent as most mainstream pop culture. Heck, Amy Pond (along with Han Solo) is the love of my life. And if there’s one person I want to be when I grow up (there’s many), it’s River Song.

Rarely have I seen the Whovian community so enduringly split as it seems to be on the issue of River Song. Is she impressively strong and independent or simply a vessel for devotion to the Doctor? Charming, sophisticated badass or cleavage with a gun? She’s undoubtedly capable, intelligent and remarkably self-assured – all things I like in my fictional women. She’s even regularly shown to be more skilled than the near-Godlike Doctor. River was actually one of the few female characters that briefly came into my head when I was reading Sebastienne’s post ‘Paging Doctor Sherlock House’. She certainly fits at least a fair few of the archetype’s characteristics: she is significantly more intelligent than almost everyone else around her, she’s self-sufficient (‘financially’ is a tricky word when one’s technically in jail), she doesn’t follow social norms, takes charge of situations, etc. So far, it looks like we have a pretty awesome character.

But, hold your horses, some viewers are saying. Moffat entirely undermines all this by being so wholly in love with the Doctor. Her devotion to him weakens her, they say, because it lessens her agency and reasserts the importance of the male protagonist. And, OK, there is a point here. ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, anyone? Without wanting to give spoilers, lest the irony takes bodily form and attacks me, River has a pretty damn sharpish change of motivation and makes a huge sacrifice to save the Doctor’s life, in a fairly weak and unconvincing plot twist that exists no doubt to simply reiterate how central our male Doctor Sherlock House is to, just, everything. In many ways, the fact that River Song held so much promise is what makes this treatment of her relationship with the Doctor so galling; Moffat gave us the possibility of something wonderful, which makes it feel almost like a betrayal when he inevitably fails to deliver. As Cleopatra said of Moffat’s development of River, “I’m not angry, just disappointed”.

The other main criticism of River, as far as I can tell, seems to be that she’s little more than a twist on the ‘femme fatale’ trope or, as she’s referred to in The Wedding of River Song, “hell in high heels.” In fairness, this seemed to mostly come up following The Angels Take Manhatten, in which River/Melody Malone can definitely be read as a play on this stereotype. I actually struggle to see this as a fair criticism, since it seems to centre around the fact that she sometimes gets ‘dolled up’ (I’m not sure if I meant that phrase ironically or not), but we more often see her in pretty darn practical clothes by the standards of feminine heroes – the first two times we meet her, she’s wearing, first, a spacesuit and then combat gear. What’s more, she is actually always appropriately dressed (unlike the time Moffat inserted “I’m dressed for Rio” as a contrived excuse to get my beloved Amy into particularly skimpy shorts). Honestly, though, regardless of what she wears, River Song is always first and foremost a badass. A traditionally feminine or sexy look needn’t detract from that.
The point about River’s character being undermined by her love for the Doctor is trickier, because it points to a real trend of female characters being used to make it really obvious how super-amazingly-awesome the male protagonist is. Wow, we’re meant to say, look how much everyone loves this guy – he must be super-amazingly-awesome! Firstly, though, let’s remember, we’ve so far seen a relationship in which River has known the Doctor for a long time, whereas we’ve watched him get to know her. It’s understandable that her devotion to him is often shown as stronger than his devotion to her. Secondly, yes, she goes to extraordinary lengths to see or contact the Doctor – she breaks out of jail to go on a date and invents graffiti by desecrating priceless ancient artefacts to contact him, but on the other hand, she breaks out of jail to go on a date and invents graffiti by desecrating priceless ancient artefacts to contact him. It’s never played as River doing these things because the Doctor’s so special, but because she can. That’s the important thing – these actions say more about her than they do about the Doctor. She’s definitely not ‘plot flesh’* and actually never loses her agency – despite her devotion to the Doctor, she never acts out of character or loses control of the situation (with the exception of that one time in Let’s Kill Hitler). In fact, she regularly uses guns, which the Doctor famously disapproves of and it’s actually him that seems to bend his opinions in Day of the Moon, when he says, “this is my friend, River. Nice hair, clever and, unlike me, she really doesn’t mind shooting people. I shouldn’t like that. Kind of do a bit.”

I’m not at all trying to vindicate Moffat for all the times he’s been (intentionally or otherwise) pretty damn misogynistic, or trying to say that the context of how female characters are so often used isn’t relevant or doesn’t matter. Even so, River Song actually stands out in mainstream pop culture as an example of a self-assured, badass woman who’s in control of herself. Yes, Moffat’s let River down in some ways, but (irrationality alert), I still feel like that’s not her fault. The fact that she's pretty cool seems to have made her a bit of a figurehead for a much wider trend, in the same way some parents will be extra disappointed when their 'good kid' goes off the rails. Separating the character from the context is tricky business but, with current representations of women in pop culture, I feel a bit like I have to take what I can get while still trying to find better.

*A super useful phrase for a female character who exists only in relation to the male protagonist and whose personality and abilities changes to fit the whims of the plot, coined by a particularly charming gentleman friend of mine.  

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Links round up (5th Febuary)

Here are some links that we at Lashings thought to share with you:

Here's a graphic on ‘how to deal with being called out’ and how to react to it in a charitable and open way.

Here we find a testimony from a nurse who was employed by Atos, the privatised company responsible for assessing people in the UK for disability benefits. The nurse speaks of the horrific experiences she had in being told to work towards targets, and not to criticise management for any decisions that are disagreeable effectively compromising a nurse’s ethical commitment to patients. [Trigger warning: DWP assessment issues]

Marianne from oxJane.com speaks about her views on a t-shirt sold on the website of Australian actress Rebel Wilson that effectively is ‘skinny shaming’. As Wilson is someone lauded by fat acceptance circles, the implication of ‘skinny shaming’ is unhelpful as it implies that ‘there can only be one’ ideal and acceptable body type. Marianne’s view is that body acceptance is about accepting people of many body types, and that donuts are for everyone. [potential TW: discussion of body issues, harassment]

The ‘biblical’ view that’s younger than the Happy Meal: From the Patheos progressive Christian blog, this is a *very* interesting piece of social history detailing the way in which evangelical churches in the US restructured their positions on abortion and contraception from the late 70s to the late 80s. An excerpt:

“In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal. Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception. Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says… They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.
That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.”

Interesting piece by s.e. smith on their explanation of why ou does not adhere to the label ‘feminist’ because ‘of the insistence of policing the label’.*

Verso Books report that the Anarchist bookshop, Freedom has been firebombed. Freedom is also the home of Freedom Press and hosts spaces for meetings of many radical and anarchist interests.

A piece by Omar Shahid on the phenomenon of many white British women undertaking the Shahada ritual, which is a requisite to membership to the Islamic faith. Shahid concludes that this increase of women who have identified with Islam may challenge perceptions of the faith group.

A topic close to my heart! A petition to cease advertising children’s toys in a gendered manner, and thus reinforcing gendered roles and stereotypes.

[TW: oppressive langauge in relation to sexuality and mental health] Beth Cox on the Power of Words. The overly casual use of words has an impact that many people don’t realise that can be difficult to overturn negative preconceptions. Cox gives the example of how the word ‘gay’ is used, as well as terms relating to mental health conditions that are used to perpetuate uninformative and demeaning preconceptions about those conditions.

Indian minister for women and child development Varsha Gaikwad announces that the government will include issues of relevance to sex work and gender identity.

*editorial - gender pronouns corrected

Friday 1 February 2013

Being In Public While Female

Posted by Ganymede

Trigger warnings for discussion of rape, sexual harassment, rape culture.

I feel as though my feminist awakening is very much still ongoing, and over the past year or so, my eyes have been opened to a lot of pretty shocking stuff about which I used to be ignorant. The big one is the concept of "rape culture" - the idea that certain commonly-held beliefs and attitudes in our society (even ones which are seemingly innocent and well-meaning) add up to make rape and sexual harassment easy to get away with. So when I heard that there was going to be a Reclaim the Night event held in Cambridge, I was determined to attend and show my solidarity.

The question was whether to attend the march itself, or the allies' solidarity demo. As a symbolic point, Reclaim the Night marches are for self-defined women only, though as someone who was raised female and is still overwhelmingly read as female, I believe I would have been welcome to attend. However, in the end, I chose to attend the demo instead - for the simple reason that I have never experienced any kind of street harassment, and could not in good faith march alongside people who had, without feeling I was appropriating their experiences.

Frequently, as a trans* person, I come up against difficulties in interpreting my gendered experiences. I was "raised female", but I often feel as though I haven't had "a woman's experience" - I've ignored a lot of the messages society gives about how women should behave, and as such I can't relate to a lot of the supposedly "universal" aspects of life as a woman. The more I hear about others' experiences of street harassment, the more I start to feel like I'm the only female-assigned person I know who hasn't experienced it.

And this is horrible, and it's shocking, and above all it's not right. But how have I managed to escape it? What's more, how have I managed to go a lifetime without even internalising the fear of harassment or gendered violence which is central to so many women's experience of rape culture - which is fed by every well-meaning piece of advice to restrict how you dress, how much you drink, where you go and with whom?

Is it because I, identifying as male, have subconsciously never thought of this advice as applying to me, therefore have behaved with the ill-founded belief that "it won't happen to me" (or that, if it did, I would be able to single-handedly fend off a would-be attacker)?

Or is it because female gender conditioning has worked on me at a more insidious level?

I was never entirely unaware of the perils of being female in public. In fact, since it thoroughly freaked me out to be thought of as female, I was more than usually aware of them. More specifically, ever since puberty, I was terrified of male-identified people coming on to me. I just wouldn't have known how to handle it. So I cut my hair short (badly), I wore baggy clothes to hide my breasts, I chose glasses with thick fuck-off-don't-look-at-me frames. In brief, I deliberately worked to make myself look "ugly". Because god only knew what would have happened to me, I thought, if I'd been "pretty".

It didn't stop there. I was aware that, having a female appearance, any "friendly" or "innocent" conversation I got into with a male-identified stranger might be taken as a sign of... interest. I've taken a lot of intercontinental night buses, and I've always been wary of the chatty-looking guy taking the seat next to me. It's a long journey, sure, and he might legitimately just want to pass the time with a bit of conversation. But hey, it's much safer just to plug yourself in to your headphones and avoid all eye contact, isn't it?

I like my headphones. I wear them when I'm out walking, which means that even if someone does verbally harass me (or, of course, try to interact with me on any more benign level), I won't hear it.

Dress dowdy. Avoid eye contact. Don't talk to strangers. In summary, don't "lead them on". All typical bits of rape-prevention "advice" that I've followed to the letter ever since I grew breasts. All symptomatic of behaviour restricted by fear, the fear of what might happen if you don't hide how you look and who you are.

Maybe I've got away with avoiding gendered harassment and violence because my short hair and featureless clothes make my gender hard to read. Or maybe, if I am read as female, it's as such an unusual (i.e. unpredictable, i.e. dangerous) variant on the theme that nobody dares try it. I went through a brief student phase of going out clubbing, in my own slightly off-centre version of "sexy girly clothes", but still with badly-cropped hair, and tending more towards unashamedly uncool flailing than dirty dancing. Not once was I sleazed upon.

Or maybe, the rape-prevention "advice" "works". Well, whoopee. I don't think it's a fair exchange: letting fear impact upon your wardrobe, your actions, your whole personality, just in the uncertain hope of retaining your physical safety. And that's said as someone who was never big on femininity in the first place.

Or, y'know what? Maybe it doesn't work. Maybe it's just sheer blind happy coincidence that I've survived in a female-coded body for this long. After all, there are plenty of masculine-presenting female-assigned people who do experience harassment of all kinds. And that's before we even get on to the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes are not committed by strangers in dark alleys (a 2005 Home Office study estimated that only 28% of reported rapes in the UK were "stranger rapes").

And the most insidious thing about the rape prevention "advice" is that if it "works" at all, it's only on the principle that you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your friend. Me going around dressing as gender-ambiguously and behaving as introvertedly as I can isn't going to prevent rapes; if it has any effect at all, it's just going to mean that the would-be rapist goes for someone else. Someone dressed more... "provocatively". Someone whom people will be more likely to blame for the incident, rather than support and encourage to report it. Because everyone knows what you "should" do to avoid being raped. And that includes the perpetrators.

Rape-prevention "advice" isn't useful information for women. It's a handbook for rapists.

And that's why I demonstrated in solidarity with the Reclaim the Night march on Monday. By some stroke of good fortune, I don't feel that the night is mine to reclaim. But I will defend every woman's right to dress, and behave, and live as she chooses, free from fear. Rape is never going to be stopped by restricting women's freedoms; it can only be stopped by our culture sending out the message that rapists will not get away with it, no matter who they pick on, whether it's someone who was "following the advice" or not. I demonstrate to say I want to be part of creating that culture. I demonstrate to say that nobody, of any gender, should have their lives twisted and restricted by the threat of sexual violence. I'm angry enough at the way that happened to me, and I haven't even had "a woman's experience".