Thursday, 27 January 2011

Exclusive: Giles Coren is Not the Devil

Wow. Giles Coren really knows how to upset people doesn't he? At least he does if Twitter is to be believed.

The day of his article in the Daily Mail claiming that it is more socially acceptable for women to make sexist remarks about men than the other way round Coren received quite a lot of stick in a 140 characters or less.

Most of this was good natured tutting at Coren's deliberate wind up about child birth being easy or him claiming that: "Women are far meaner, more brutal, aggressive,  small-minded, jealous, petty and venal than any man."

Utter nonsense of course but surely that was the point? Maybe I'm given Coren too much credit but surely he knew that would get people Tweeting him and leaving comments on the website expressing their outrage at such sexism. Isn't he just illustrating his point? Say something about women and you get called all sorts of names.

Some people missed the point a lot more dramatically than others. Scottish Socialist Youth posted an article entitled 'Giles Coren, What a Cunt.' It proceeds to denounce Coren by outlining every bit of attempted humourous hyperbole and taking it at face value.

Sometimes you just want to say to people 'He's winding you up mate.'

The author also goes on to say something along the lines of 'Sexism is about power. Men have all the power in the world therefore women can't be sexist.' Nevermind the fatuousness of this argument it's so far of topic as to be risible. All Coren was doing is drawing a parallel between Andy Gray and Richard Keys' stupid 'joke' and the endless similar 'jokes' on shows like Loose Women and virtually every advert. Neither have a lot to do with real issues of sexism but do happen to be remarkably similar. The only difference being that the bollocks on Loose Women is considered legitimate content (God knows what they reject) while Gray and Keys have to be closet sexists.

I feel that Coren was just trying to make people upset thinking that that will demonstrate the lunacy or the whole situation. Having said that he does get a bit carried away but if you've ever read any of his articles in the past you'd know that that's his style. I'm not condoning his style (he's wound me up a bit in the past as well) but calling him a cunt is a bit much.

Though perhaps it's not really his Daily Mail piece that upsets those at the Scottish Socialist Youth that much. They make lots of references to how 'posh' he is. Though they do claim they don't care about that. Just before calling him a posh dick.

Taking Coren's wind up about Gray/Keys being like Loose Women and comparing it to being followed home by a stranger from the bus is far more offensive. It has nothing to do with the patriarchy's control over women. As socialists you would think they would have a better understanding of what control means.

On SSY's comments section the author delights in how much traffic their article has generated (along with accusing an English reader of cultural imperialism for not knowing that they don't have 6th form in Scotland). All of that traffic has come from Coren himself retweeting your article.

What a cunt.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Anonymous by me

Julian Assange. When you hear that name what do you think of? Do you take the Jemima Khan view that he is a champion of the free press and the one man brave enough to expose the evil that is being done in our names? or do you take the view of Sarah Palin et al that he is a terrorist?

One things for sure, even if you've never read any of the material Wikileaks has put our way, you'll know that he's currently fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden to face trial for sex offences.

You could well have an opinion on these charges even if you couldn't care less about Wikileaks. Some take the view that these charges a just a little too convenient and that political pressure is behind them. Others that Mr Assange has previously shown scant regard for the law so perhaps he's guilty of this as well.

Well, whatever. Addressing conspiracy theories is a waste of time. If you believe that Mr Assange is the victim of a 'honey trap' as his lawyer Marc Stephens claims then not a lot is going to change your mind. Even if he is eventually found guilty there is still going to be a large number of people who believe this is all politically motivated.

The entrenched views of both sides have generally left me shrugging my shoulders and letting everyone get on with it. Yeah, yeah, I know. Not very responsible of me. Well, reading the Guardian's website has spurred me in to action.

An article by famed champion of feminism's third wave, Naomi Wolf, claims that accusers in rape cases should be named. That their anonymity in sex cases stems from a Victorian sense of victims being 'damaged goods' and that society doesn't see the victims like that any more. That anonymity is just the law treating women like children and that if you accuse someone of something you should do so publicly.

She then claims that having the accusers identity hidden encourages rape myths such as how rape victims look/dress. The flaw in that argument is so obvious it's almost difficult to put a finger on it.

If a victim of rape has nothing to fear from public opinion then why do myths like 'she was asking for it' persist? Why should someone who has already been through so much place themselves in a position to be defamed by the defence lawyers just so the rest of society can see justice served? Or even to be known by everyone as 'that girl who was raped by that guy' for the rest of her life?

Ms Wolf goes on to say that the accusers in the Assange case are particularly undeserving on anonymity because it is a high profile case. Mr Assange has had his private life gone over with a fine tooth comb and we now know far more about his life than is required or desired. He's a famous person. Does Ms Wolf believe that none of this would have come out without these accusations? Given the taste of the press they almost certainly would.

Mr Assange's accuses are not famous. At least I don't think they are. I've heard that some of Mr Assange's supporters have released their names, addresses and telephone numbers online so I guess if one was Ulrika Jonsson we would have heard about it.

Ms Wolf claims that: "Here, geopolitical state pressure, as well as the pressure of public attitudes about Assange, weigh unusually heavily."

The term 'geopolitical' is key here. Clearly Ms Wolf is in the camp that believes Mr Assange is the victim and the accusers are working for the US government. She couldn't care less that they might not want to be known as the women who were raped by Julian Assange for the rest of their lives. Or that they might not want every aspect of their private lives to be judged by a media half of which think Mr Assange is a saint. Mr Assange doesn't really have a choice in this. He's so famous now that everything about him is in the public domain. Should his accusers only have the choice of seeking justice or having their private lives become public property? Naomi Wolf seems to think so.

She also claims that there can be no fair trial for the accused when he is the victim of "media glare and an attack by the US government while his accusers remain hidden". Again the US government is brought up. Seeing as she is so keen to look at peoples motivation it is good of her to make her's so clear.

I have sat on the press benches during many sex offence cases and there is an argument to waive anonymity. The jury sees the accused in the dock looking like a nice young man in his suit. Wife sitting dutifully in the public gallery occasionally wiping a tear from her eye. How can they fail to sympathise with him more than the shoddy, improvised curtain hiding the alleged victim?

Anonymity for victims clearly is not perfect but it does not exist because of the law treating women as children it exists because without it far fewer people would come forward.

Without anonymity rape victims may well feel like they've been through enough and just try to get over it somehow. Justice is a public service. We should not discourage people from seeking it.

Oh and by the way. Comparing someone accused of rape with the 19th century persecution of homosexuals is unbelievably offensive.