Saturday, August 13, 2011

London Riots- My two pennies' worth

The Police
1.)The police are racist and violent. The Metropolitan police are particularly racist and violent. Maybe I'm cynical, but this was what I said on Sunday morning about Mark Duggan's death:
After two years of hearing every lie in the book trotted out about police murder victim Iam Tomlinson, any thinking person would be criminally stupid to assume that stories of 'a bullet lodged in a police radio' were not a load of the Met's typical evidence invention and fraud. Usually they construct some 'undeniable' piece of crap to get them through the first few weeks while they are under scrutiny. In three weeks, when this has died down, it will be revealed that the bullet was actually 'accidentally' fired by an officer. But by then there'll be loads of fudged interviews and phony witnesses, it will be fully established that Mark Duggan was so bad he was practically asking to be shot, and the relevant officers will have their early retirement package.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


After nearly 6 years of blogging, I felt it was time the old blog had a bit of a revamp. Please accept my apologies for any weirdness while works are taking place. Hope to understand HTML a little better soon too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When the Personal becomes Apolitical

Thanks to Woodscolt for sending me this vapid and annoying contribution to 21st century feminist theory from Caitlin Moran (no, not the cute children's book character, that's Katie. This is the Times columnist who changed her name from Catherine in homage to the feisty Irish teen rebel in Jilly Cooper's 'Rivals'. [Note: surely this is not really true? Query sources])
The evolution of the women's movement: which one would you choose?
Firstly, I find it difficult to believe that modern women are so confused about whether they are feminists or not that they would turn to a question-and-answer column in The Stylist, London's most overtly sexist free magazine, to find out. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this morning, the females of the metropolis breathed a collective sigh of relief as they finally learned The Truth about themselves and the world.
1.) Can they like Lady Gaga and still be feminists?
2.) Can they wear high heels without Emmeline Pankhurst rolling uneasily in her tomb?
3.) Can they read trashy magazines without metaphorically spitting in their collective sisters' eye? 
At last, these burning questions are solved by Moran, in How To Be A Woman, the twenty-first century's answer to The Second Sex.  (I'm not sure if she answered my own burning question, which was 4.) Do I Even Want To Be A Woman Or A Feminist If That's All There Is To It?)

Reposted from Elsewhere: Review

I felt a self-referential phase coming on, so it may be useful for readers who give a flying fuck to read this old review of Ellie Levenson's 2009 seminal work on feminism in the 21st century, previously published only in a magazine so small and inconsequential that I don't believe I even got hold of a copy myself. 

Nice to see how I have mellowed since then, and no longer feel obliged to constantly pour out my wrath against my journalist sisters, who are after all guilty only of poor writing and of wanting to make a very fast buck.

Review: ‘The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism’ (from October 2009)

Friday, June 10, 2011

On free education and the ideal university

A reaction to today's People's Panel in the Guardian, questions of excellence in education and this whole ridiculous NCH fiasco.

At 19, I stayed in London doing bum jobs for low pay while my friends left for the exciting new challenge of University. This I envisioned as a wonderful free space where wild, uninhibited thinking took the place of manual labour (I was a chambermaid). I imagined my contemporaries sitting in with their lecturers in dark smoky cafés, discussing Sartre and drinking espressos.

Small wonder then that when I went to visit my best pal in Oxford, I was horrified. These people talked rugby incessantly, and had their rooms cleaned for them by middle-aged women! The parties were just like London parties, only with crisper accents and smarter clothes. And coming home from the pub, we met a trio of battered, bloodied, white-tied young men. They had got into a fight, it seemed, with some ‘townies’. These ‘chavs’ had set upon them for ‘no reason’. One of the men was still clutching a champagne bottle.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Inclusivity and SlutWalk

So do many of us, it seems.
SlutWalk is still interesting. Why? Because it represents a crossroads between different kinds of feminism: radical, liberal, all kinds of left-wing, and what we sometimes fall into the trap of calling The Rest of the World. For example, my Tory friend, who I shamelessly abuse as a barometer of opinions outside of my East London, middle class, left-wing world, responded with ‘Perhaps for the first time ever, I agree. You are completely right.’ when I reposted the SlutWalk Toronto page on Facebook. It’s refreshing to be thinking about a march that appeals to a wide range of people, from different walks of life, if only because feminism in London is awfully divided, claustrophobic, and even cliquey.

All kinds of people want to see action taken against rape, and everyone (I hope so anyway) agrees that blaming women for rape has got to end. I can’t wait to see if this translates into a mixed, exciting march, and even a wider forum for debate on women’s bodies, women’s right to consent to sex, and how sexual violence fits into a wider framework of repression and institutionalised violence.

Urban Garden, May 2011

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Claims and Counter-claims [a guest post by Elvis Presley]

I have been thinking a lot about 'reclaiming' words. The only conclusion I have come to is that the 'reclaiming' of "nigger" and "queer" are totally different phenomena which were only linked afterwards. Now they are reinterpreted as having been consciously 'reclaimed' but this did not happen. There was also a change of meaning in both cases is not the case with other conscious attempts at 'reclaiming', where there is often no change in meaning. Which is maybe why they don't work.

I think that 'nigger' was first used by gangsta hiphop and others not to have a diferent meaning from its white racist meaning (which itself had followed its original, neutral meaning which simply meant 'black'/'slave' interchangeably). As used in gangsta hiphop, 'nigger' was a black person, but within a context that completely acknowledged a racist society. Hence why it could not be used by anyone white or with a stake in that racist society. Using the word means that the speaker is not in denial about the racist nature of society.
Why do I call myself a nigger they ask me/Cause everywhere I go police wanna harass me...Why do I call myself a nigger they ask me/Guess it's just the way shit has to be. NWA - Niggaz for life

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reclaim the lexis? (continued from yesterday)

‘I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses’ (Lyrics by Jerry Herman)

The debate about SlutWalk’s use of the word ‘slut’ seems to be largely centred around ‘reclaiming’ words and whether it is possible to ‘reclaim’ the word ‘slut’. I think it is not possible. But let’s just think a little about how words are ‘reclaimed’ and why that is not a useful term for this particular action.

Language is fluid, and changing. Words that meant one thing fifty years ago (‘queen’, ‘fuck’, ‘housewife’) now are used in a completely different way. Language reflects the dominant discourse yet is constantly subject to reinterpretation, subjectivity and subversion. And semiology has shown us that while the word itself may remain constant, its meaning can change each time it is used, for different people, registers and contexts. Nonetheless, to use a word in its generally accepted way is to wield the power of that word’s meaning. Thus the word ‘immigrant’ currently carries negative connotations which reflect the power of anti-immigration politics and a racist media.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

You’re slutting yourself go, dear

When I heard about the Canadian demonstration SlutWalk, my first reaction was ‘How nice. Like Reclaim the Night, only more inclusive and less bitchy.’ It seemed like a festival against objectification, specifically concentrating on how women are pigeonholed by their appearance: the primary concern obviously being the slut/virgin dichotomy. Can it be subverted? I thought so. I’ll come back to this initial reaction, because it’s important.

Now SlutWalk is coming to London. After a couple of other demonstrations in the States, I have identified three main problems within the debate about SlutWalk, although I feel they are all connected. The first is the issue of reclaiming a word: can it (always) work? What about words such as ‘nigger’ and ‘bitch’? Does it depend on the word? And are there even benefits to reclaiming a word?

One more poem... while I'm too busy revising to write.

Billy Collins: nailed it. He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York and has been the USA Poet Laureate. The guy understands the trauma of teaching poetry to unwilling students! 
Interestingly, AQA used this poem as an example of the unseen poetry question in their practice paper for the new spec English Literature GCSE. Who says they don't have a sense of humour: that meant that I was actually forced to teach  this poem to kids. Sample remark: 'Is "Like a colour slide" a metaphor, miss?' And of course I don't give a shit about whether it's a metaphor or not. Not as long as they are incapable of telling me in one sentence what the poem is about, or who 'I' is, and who 'Them' is is the poem. Bless Their hearts.

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Duffy is queen of Object-Subject identity crises

Although while trying to teach this poem to resistant 16-year-old, I realised I'm the only person who likes it. Nobody's memory is wrong, kids! Just the way people use/abuse those memories. But you're too young to appreciate that.

We Remember Your Childhood Well by Carol Ann Duffy
Nobody hurt you. Nobody turned off the light and argued
with somebody else all night. The bad man on the moors
was only a movie you saw. Nobody locked the door.
Your questions were answered fully. No. That didn't occur.
You couldn't sing anyway, cared less. The moment's a blur, a Film Fun
laughing itself to death in the coal fire. Anyone's guess.
Nobody forced you. You wanted to go that day. Begged. You chose
the dress. Here are the pictures, look at you. Look at us all,
smiling and waving, younger. The whole thing is inside your head.
What you recall are impressions; we have the facts. We called the tune.
The secret police of your childhood were older and wiser than you, bigger
than you. Call back the sound of their voices. Boom. Boom. Boom.
Nobody sent you away. That was an extra holiday, with people
you seemed to like. They were firm, there was nothing to fear.
There was none but yourself to blame if it ended in tears.
What does it matter now? No, no, nobody left the skidmarks of sin
on your soul and laid you wide open for Hell. You were loved.
Always. We did what was best. We remember your childhood well.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to plan and write an essay

Essay Plan
Deadline: six weeks (42 days)

Day 1 and 2 Two days of reading really hard, filled with ideas and enthusiasm. It won't be like last time. I'm going to get this one done in plenty of time.
Day 3 One day in the library, finding that all the books I wanted are on loan and therefore borrowing a load of random ones that have 'India' in the title and so must have some relevance to Dalit literature.
Day 4 to 18 Two weeks of self-satisfied chilling out, safe in the knowledge that there are still 5 weeks left. Well, three and a half.
Day 19 and 20 Two self-consciously busy days, spent putting all the books into piles, opening some of them then closing them again, using a lot of post-it notes and in general thinking about anything other than Dalit literature. Books now fully colour-coded and still completely unread.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thoughts on Poems for a Royal Wedding

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy today gave us a list of poems based on wedding vows. I didn't really want to bother with the pile of tax-funded clap-trap that is this non-event, but since my favourite poem from this category was conspicuous by its absence, here it is.

Liebeslied from the Dreigroschenoper by Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht

Und gibt's auch kein Schriftstuck vom Standestamt
Und keine Blume auf die Altar
Und weiss ich auch nicht woher dein Brautkleid stammt

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

All the world's a stage

We had the kind of night out that only tourists really do: an ice-cream in the sunshine in Trafalgar Square, dinner at Planet Hollywood and then a West End Show. It seems I barely leave the house any more except to go to Wilkinson in Stratford; this excursion was the cause of much excitement for me. It's long been one of my favourite films, and Kander and Ebb's music is always wonderful, although much of their shows are pretty much unheard of these days. (I really want to see a revival of Flora, the Red Menace though!) The two that survive, Cabaret and Chicago, both provide Brechtian social commentary through the filter of a meta-dramatical show within a show.

When I mentioned how much I loved Chicago to a friend, she was taken aback that a feminist would enjoy such a sexist musical. It is true that all the characters, male and female, are dressed only in transparent black underwear throughout, except Mama Morton, the prison warden, Billy Flynn the lawyer and Amos, the cuckolded husband. For two of these, their clothes mark the power and status they enjoy over the other characters, mostly criminals from Prohibition-era Chicago's seedy jazz-men-and-booze-ridden underworld. For Amos, his cardigan is a reminder of his utter boringness and near-invisibility.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Save Newham Academy of Music from closure

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When we started in the Teddy-Bears recorder class in the mid-eighties, everything was free. One of England's poorest boroughs offered weekly lessons in every conceivable instrument to every child that wanted them, absolutely free of charge. Needless to say, that did not last long. Fees were gradually introduced. But low-income and large families remained protected, and the ethos of the Academy was not fundamentally altered. They worked with schools and communities, they provided music lessons for disabled and behaviour-challenged children, they performed concerts in old folks homes and sang carols in the High Street.

The State on Trial?

During the second week of the Ian Tomlinson inquest, almost exactly two years since his death on April 1st, 2009, media attention has been focused on the testimony of the officer who struck him with a baton and pushed him to the floor, almost certainly causing his death. After a long-running media campaign beginning with the Guardian’s release of video footage from the attack, it seems the IPCC and Metropolitan Police cover-up campaign will no longer be able to protect PC Simon Harwood. The family’s public grief, the media attention and the huge amount of new evidence volunteered by bystanders and protesters have made mincemeat of the original network of lies released by the police. Harwood’s own testimony on Monday and Tuesday of this week has led to his admitting at least half a dozen untruths in his story. While it may be too late to prosecute him, he is now being set up to take the fall - and the flak.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Murderer Simon Harwood at Ian Tomlinson Inquest

What we've learnt from Simon Harwood's testimony so far: after leaving the van he had been assigned to drive for no reason, he spent the day wandering around looking for a fight with an enthusiasm to rival the most sporting Black Bloc member.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

'Generation Angry'

I've started revision in earnest now, so suddenly the desire to blog has returned, sparking massive anxiety about time-wasting and the possibility of failing all my exams. Hell.

New wave of University Occupations
UCL went back into occupation this week, and have been dogged by threats of CCTV monitoring and the punishment of individual students by management. On the positive side they've taken over a fantastic space: a corridor of administrative offices on the ground floor of the South side of the main quad, off Gower Street. If you have a connection with UCL, do protest against the attempt by management to penalise individuals for a collective movement. Sign their petition here, or email the mega-rich provost Malcolm Grant at Rex Knight, UCL's Senior Administrative Officer, is also involved in the legal action be threatened against occupiers: his email is

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

we support the blackout 4 campaign for a free internet

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