Tag Archives: twitter

Why I Went On a Summer Trolliday

 

In a recent discussion on the phenomenon of big data Jim Messina, David Cameron’s new election assistant makes an interesting admission. He points out that during the 2008  Presidential election campaign only one Tweet was sent as Twitter and Facebook were still relatively small platforms.

It seems almost laughable thinking about it now. Facebook has 61 8 million active users, whilst Twitter has 200 million regular users in figures publicised in The Daily Telegraph in March this year.

So they really are the behemoths of the social media landscape. And well done to them. But this week has been a low point in Twitter’s history in particular.

The chain of events began when Caroline Criado-Perez achieved victory in her campaign to put a woman on British banknotes. Soon after taking office the new Bank of England Governor Mark Carney announced that Jane Austen would replace Charles Darwin as the face of the £10 note from 2018.

Very cruelly though Caroline wasn’t allowed to bask in her victory for too long as the ugly side of Twitter emerged. In her own article here you can see just how disgusting the original threats were.

In the days following, the trolls continued, trolling the timelines of Stella Creasy MP and Claire Perry MP and also sending bomb threats to several female journalists.

The positive news is, the police have acted and swift arrests have been made, with more I am sure to follow.

The head of Twitter in the UK Tony Wang has apologised to users for what he called “threats which were simply not acceptable.”

Today however a bomb threat has been sent to Professor Mary Beard, a classicist at the University of Cambridge

So in light of recent events, I feel pretty angry at Twitter. I feel pretty angry too at the people who have made these vicious and vile threats under pseudonyms from the relative safety of a computer screen.

 

Alongside other women, there have been many discussions around how best to register to respond and keep the issue in the limelight for as long as possible. In the end the feminist campaigner and journalist Caitlin Moran came up with the idea of a trolliday, an ingenious neologism borne out of the word holiday. The idea of trolliday was that women would not Tweet yesterday for 24 hours in protest at the recent threats and misogyny directed at women. After all there are people located behind this strange swirl of hashtags and 140 character dialogues. Where there are people there are feelings and many people’s feelings have been hurt over the course of the week.

The essential message which I hope trolliday conveyed is nothing to do with buckets and spades, ice cream or a suntan, although all of those things are infinitely pleasurable.

 

I have seen nothing that has convinced me that any of the men this week has a valid grievance against women. All I have seen is genuine hatred of, and directed towards women by men

The positive good side of social media is of course that barriers are eliminated. The fact I can’t walk doesn’t matter on social media. My followers don’t judge me by my ability to run the London Marathon. They judge me by their interest in my tweets. It has been really good to meet a whole bunch of like-minded people via Twitter. It is because there are so many positives around the use of social media that the negatives are even more accentuated.

I took the decision to take part in trolliday because I do not want the kind of Twitter where women feel unsafe, and where they feel reluctant to express themselves for fear of misogynistic, prehistoric and puerile reprisals. Threatening a woman with rape, or threatening to bomb their house is not cool. If I could ask these trolls one thing it would be this. How would you feel if it was your relative, your mother or your grandmother who was targeted? Saying they wouldn’t care because they’re not feminists is not a good enough argument. I bet if they were sufficiently scared and frightened you would go to their house as fast as possible and protect them and reassure them.

Just because people in public life like MPs and journalists may seem remote and at a distance it does not mean that humankind should not afford us courtesy and compassion. We are people, and we have feelings too. I love Twitter for its argumentative and discursive nature. I may disagree with people but I never ever hurt them intentionally, and rape threats and bomb threats are something I could never in 1 million years envisage making to fellow human beings.

I’m silent today on Twitter not because I’m scared or afraid of Twitter. I’m silent because I want a better Twitter and a safer one, although not one lacking in robustness or personality.

In a discussion on LBC 97.3 last night with presenter Olly Mann, amongst other things he posited the question to me of why I felt Twitter needed to apologise. He playing devil’s advocate I think suggested that Twitter was only a platform and it was up to users to take concerns to the police.

I put it to him though that Twitter also has responsibilities to its users and that the corporation need to be seen to be caring. Twitter are culpable. It’s their platform. They need to show they will come down hard on those who disregard its rules with impunity.  The laissez-faire approach to social media hasn’t worked. We need a better Twitter. At first they seemed remote, slow cold and distant. Now with the apology from Tony Wang they seem to be getting the message.

Another caller said that if people couldn’t deal with Twitter, they should get back to the kitchen. Twitter should not be an endurance test. Rape threats are not something anyone should have to deal with in any arena, let alone from strangers at high volume over a sustained, merciless period.

I said that Twitter needs to show it cares.I was silent yesterday to show the affected women I care about them too.

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The Pros and Perils of Twitter

This isn’t going to be a long post, but I just wanted to offer a small comment about the treatment of Caroline Criado-Perez.

Twitter is a great thing. It has brought me into contact with wonderful intelligent funny people because, if I’m honest sometimes I feel a bit intellectually starved where I live at the moment.

Coming from university to just a normal town with nothing special about it, compared to the beauty and grandeur and knowledge that Oxford has to offer was a real culture shock for me, and I’m sorry if that sounds offensive but this is my own blog and I will speak as I wish candidly and honestly as always.

Essentially Twitter is a different ball game to Facebook. As well as the more pithy things like following Justin Bieber, numerous celebrities and finding out what’s going on in the world it’s a great place to meet interesting people.

What I’m trying to say is that since meeting similarly minded women on Twitter, it has kept me moderately sane and less like a fish out of water.

People share knowledge and I can soak it up like a sponge. It makes me think and challenges me as much as any seminar debate. I like arguing, passionately and standing up for the things I believe in. Twitter is the perfect vehicle for this. It’s honing your skills and proving yourself in 140 characters.

But in thinking about the malaise that has engulfed Caroline over the past 48 hours, one cannot help but think of the bad side of Twitter too.

One thing is clear to me. There is no difference for me in the interactions I have with people on Twitter to interactions I have in a real-world environment.

So as I get to know people more emotions start to creep in. Life stories are shared; along with significant events in one’s biography.

So Twitter does not stand alone as a bunch of random people posting on a website. That is why I joined Twitter in the first place. To go back to the feminism I had always loved and enjoyed intellectually, and to be honest I was fed up with only hearing wall-to-wall trans theory, acronyms like TERF were becoming all too common and I wanted to know more and hear the other side of the story.

For women on the radical side of feminism they are suspicious of trans women because many of them have had traumatic backgrounds themselves and see women infiltrating their space rather than being born into it.

But my approach on Twitter has always been a nuanced one. I have never attacked blindly and always listen to the narrative behind what people are saying without privileging my own standpoint. This I believe is the best way to learn and it has proved fruitful.

How does this relate to Caroline Criado-Perez then? Well it’s simple really. I’m a very protective sort of person. I think it stems from the ill-treatment I received from my stepfather. I know what it’s like to have your back against the wall to feel like you’re powerless and to feel like you’re nothing because insidious people, nay, clever people get inside your head and tell you so. I was always very protective of my mother tooand female friends in general.

So it doesn’t take a million mile walk for me to try to empathise with how Caroline must be feeling right now. I just think to myself imagine if that was my mother or sister if I had one. How would I feel?

Well probably not that different to how I feel at the moment incredulous angry and disgusted by what happened.

But that’s the point. I care about the people on Twitter. It has become much more than just a social network to follow celebrities. It has become a place for multifaceted people to hang out and share ideas.

It is also a place where women can gather in numbers and register their disgust. This went beyond simple trolling. These were violent threats.

But a debate has opened up about how widespread this problem is. Caroline is not alone. Many women have come forward and reported that similar things happened to them both historically and in the present day.

So whilst Twitter may have its disadvantages I like Twitter. It has brought me many friends and allies and much moral  support.

More importantly regarding current events  a group of women with individual differences  coalesced  together to campaign for change. I’m glad that happened.

Has any good come out of Savile?

 

So, International Women’s Day has been and gone for another year. Yet, at the moment, every day seems to be International Women’s Day. Every day, a new horrific story involving women, breaks and comes to the forefront of the news agenda. In this article, I want to address three things. How that happened, where it happened, and why.

I bet there was not a single woman, or man who was not repulsed, disgusted and shocked when the dossier of allegations against the one time television presenter Jimmy Savile was made public. Savile was a television personality, who to all intents and purposes, enjoyed success because of children. The Jim’ll Fix It badges, with their red ribbon and iconic slogan “Jim Fixed It For Me” became synonymous with Saturday night must see TV.

However, it has become all too apparent that Savile broke, not fixed many people. He was the ultimate master of deception, and left his victims with a lifetime of sorrow, misery and trauma to contend with.

The current revelations from the recently published report into the scandal reveals a Pandora’s Box of missed opportunity to see Savile convicted, and for his victims to see and feel justice being done. Had the police acted more swiftly, more lives could and should have been saved. There was also an overlooked chance to convict in the 1960s because he was “a celebrity.” My feeling is that no one, celebrity or not, should ever be above the law.

That said though, the Savile allegations are not a moment of panacea for the ongoing problem of misogyny and violence and abuse perpetrated against women and girls.

It is a psychological issue too, with even the former Editor of Newsnight dismissing the allegations made as being those of “just the women.” Would we ever hear a similar remark made about a man? I think not.

I meant that this is a psychological issue in terms of how such issues are perceived in wider society, and that the wider structure of it is unashamedly patriarchal.

Social mores have meant that over the centuries we have grown up with, and to some extent embedded the notion in our minds that women are weak and feeble, and that men are big and strong. Also, that men are rational and sensible, whilst women are angry and hysterical. Such tropes, though populist are misguided and should be avoided.

The effect of such tropes though cannot be avoided. They are what give rise to the notion, in a patriarchal society that women’s accounts of abuse and violence should not be taken seriously and are being over-exaggerated.

In a sense, this is hardly surprising. It is what one would expect those who feel comfortable with the status quo and those who defend it to say.

But the truth is, Savile is merely the tip of the iceberg, and we are told by the CPS to expect a new wave of high profile arrests over the next few weeks.

The Savile allegations were closely followed by those against Lord Rennard, although apparently some think a bit of light knee touching is OK.

So that is how it happened. But I strongly believe that this story does not begin and end in the world of celebrity, nor with the celebrity culture and subsequent power relations that run deep within it. It begins and ends with the everyday women in the UK; the women who are fighting back.

To my mind, there is no doubt in one thing, women in this country, are annoyed, not just a little but a lot. It is as if Savile acted as a catalyst, for women to stand up and be counted, in essence that they have had enough. Too often, wimmin’s problems are perceived as exactly that. Wimmin’s problems, cooked up as a scheme by the “bloody feminists” to annoy men and make their lives difficult and demean their reputation.

But the best thing about the current crop of visibility around feminist activism is this. It is not a Government initiative. It is not a charity. It is activism generated by women, for all women.

One of the best known agents of such activism currently is the Everyday Sexism website, founded by Laura Bates.

A fair criticism made by many feminists is that often, we don’t name the problem; we dance around it, alluding to it but never quite name it.

Well the website very much names the problem, and holds it up clearly for the world to see.

The most fabulous thing about Everyday Sexism is that it is not dramatised fiction, but real life experiences that are happening right now. Through the medium of Twitter and emailing the website, women are telling their own stories from their own souls. Nobody is asking them to do so, they are absolutely making that choice.

From a quick scan of the Twitter account, it seems that something as innocuous as walking to the laundrette with a pile of washing can provoke a disgusting slur, or that being pregnant can prevent you from managing an account in your company as your long term commitment is not guaranteed.

So Twitter and the Internet are powerful mediums. Whilst men seem to be frantically flailing around trying to find ways to justify patriarchy, women are fighting back, and fighting back hard.

There is also the painful stain of violence against women and girls. It is a sad indictment on our society that this is such a problem. Women and girls live with the trauma of rape and violence for a lifetime. Interventions like counselling can help but it never fully leaves you.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer yesterday issued a report showing that false accusations of rape are extremely rare, and he appealed to police not to develop an over-cautious attitude, since this may deter victims of rape.

BBC Radio 1 the BBC’s youth station, whose primary target audience is 15-24, ran a report on Newsbeat that directly contradicted the findings of the DPP. They suggested, to outrage across the Internet, that false rape allegations were a common problem with a “devastating impact for those involved”

This kind of reporting is irresponsible for two reasons. Firstly, it falls far below the normal high standards of journalism one would expect from the BBC.

Secondly, it is irresponsible on the part of the BBC due to Newsbeat’s young, impressionable target audience.

Is it truly the sort of message we want to be sending out to our young people? That we want to tell girls if a boyfriend does something inappropriate, that it would be better for them to keep quiet, as no-one will believe them anyway?

Or to boys, do we want to send the message that it’s absolutely fine to rape, because they will probably get away with it?

These may be the consequences of Radio 1’s unusually baseless reporting, in actuality. It sets a dangerous precedent and that is why I thoroughly endorse and appreciate the stance of Keir Starmer, on this issue.

It is important that all victims of rape, whether female, male, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or non-binary know that their allegations of rape will be dealt with seriously and sympathetically. By broadcasting such a report, the BBC did nothing to assist in this aim.

In terms of my own situation, trans people are subjected to misogyny too, with some traduced to mere objects of fetish for the enjoyment of men. This too is unacceptable.

However, we as trans women, must stand shoulder to shoulder with all women in their struggles. To be a separate side dish is not appropriate in my view is not appropriate as that is not why I transitioned.

I transitioned to be at one with myself and the sisterhood. Food for thought.

So has some good come out of Savile? Through organisation, of women, by women, for women, it has brought issues that are normally special interest into the public gaze, and into sharper focus. It has made women stand up and say enough is enough, which it is. It has shown women they are not alone. It has allowed women to take the power back from the patriarchy, and to gain strength.

Above all, through the pernicious medium of social media it has allowed women to control their own narrative, and share it with each other.

You know the best thing is this. When I ask myself the question, who brought this change about, there is one clearly answer. Women themselves. That piece of knowledge is so beautifully empowering.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Three: Snog, Marry Or Avoid?

Now, before I begin this post, I would like to make the following points. I am not a stereotypical Angry from Manchester, nor a BBC basher, and finally in no way shape or form, a serial complainer.

Nailing my own colours to the mast and being honest, I have done some work for the BBC in local radio, I love the BBC. It is a bastion of creativity and pushing boundaries. It is also very hot 0n inclusion, and being relevant to oppressed minorities, and this is something that people in the BBC are highly passionate about.

They believe in innovation and highlighting important issues, and along with Radio 1,BBC Three in particular believes in presenting issues of importance to other young people.

To be honest as well, I am glad we have the BBC. I would far rather we have democratic PSB than autocractic, Government led state run television.

I spoke when writing about My Transsexual Summer about Channel 4, and BBC Three’s ability to create compelling, and innovative documentaries.

I do not subscribe to the view that BBC Three is trash television. After all, they have handled such subjects as bipolar disorder and coming out with sensitivity, maturity, and integrity. This is what makes the following clip all the more surprising.

Thanks to my good friend Sarah for uploading this clip. How do you feel when you watch it? What emotions are conjured up?

Upon hearing this, my first emotion is surprise. It is only twelve seconds long, but what a televisual timebomb, and what on Earth are the Exec Producer, the Producer and the Director playing at? How would this stand up to scrutiny under BBC Editorial Guidelines and policy?

I was surprised because of the BBC’s good track record in minority representation in general. I would be delighted to hear the rationale for this part of the script, because transsexuality is not even pertinent to the show.

The BBC’s  Editorial Guidelines state that;

              5.4.38

“We aim to reflect fully and fairly all of the United Kingdom’s people and cultures in our services.  Content may reflect the prejudice and disadvantage which exist in societies worldwide but we should not perpetuate it.  In some instances, references to disability, age, sexual orientation, faith, race, etc.  may be relevant to portrayal.  However, we should avoid careless or offensive stereotypical assumptions and people should only be described in such terms when editorially justified.”

As you will see from the part I have emboldened, the BBC have utterly failed to avoid offensive or stereotypical assumptions in this case.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines further state that;

5.4.39

“When it is within audience expectations, we may feature a portrayal or stereotype that has been exaggerated for comic effect, but we must be aware that audiences may find casual or purposeless stereotypes to be offensive.”

Again, I am sure you will agree that the BBC has roundly failed here too.

For them there is nowhere to hide. This was not a little F-Bomb the BBC forgot to bleep out. It was not even live. On live TV anything can happen. So therefore you can apologise, and hope it blows over, as was seen on The Voice UK  in respect of Becky Hill.

But this was not live, or as live. Snog, Marry, Avoid ? is pre-recorded and as such pre scripted. I do not blame the voice of POD. I blame the production team, who failed in their duty to check this script against the Editorial Guidelines. Remarkable really since it took me and Google all of five minutes to find them and reach the relevant section on portrayal.

But the fact that this script was waved through, shows me that the production team were well aware of what they were doing. This escalates it from a simple, naive mistake to complicit bullying. There is no other way to describe it.

With v/o’s there are two simple processes, scripting and directing. The producers will have in mind on any show how they want the script to be delivered. It could be as a straight narration, i.e just normal speech, or with certain emotions or characteristics, i.e exaggeration, sadness or sarcasm. Some narration involves saying the same thing in different ways?

It was clear, from the sneering tone adopted by POD, that the programme meant to cast transsexuals as joke figures, as little more than a bad pastiche or over exaggeration of the female form. This is inexcusable, since no two people, with the  exception of identical twins or triplets look exactly the same.

To reduce a minority group to a singular clone is an insult. To further describe them using an unbalanced crop of bad attributes further adds to that insult. All the attributes could be described as relating to all women. Have you ever heard of the term ‘bad hair day’ BBC? I know I have.

What also confirms the programme makers intentions is the deliberate juxtaposition of the contestant’s name Rachel, with a male name Richard. She too is a victim here, not due to being compared to a transsexual, but because the programme makers have allowed her to be used to make this insult stick. She was a pawn in a programme makers game, and she looked visibly shocked and upset. Yes she chose it, but would she have chosen that narration?

However though, there is a cynical, sinister side of this. Some programme makers, and producers love complaints. They give shows the oxygen of publicity, that bit of  edge, talkability, and notoriety.

Some shows even go through stages like that, where shows become known more for their off screen antics than what happens while the show airs.

POD is well known for satire, and this is within the spirit of the show. However, discriminating against a minority group in a crude, wholesale manner is not. You see, discrimination is a slippery slope. Replace the word transsexual with another oppressed minority and the backlash may be far greater. However, that does not make the impact any less.

The Queen of trans activism, Paris Lees has started a hashtag trending on Twitter, to show BBC Three that transsexuals instead of being singular are quite pluralistic and varied in terms of appearance and characteristics as all human beings are. #WhatTranssexualsLookLike is the hashtag you need, microbloggers!

What also was the Controller of BBC Three playing at? This happened on Zai Bennett’s channel, and he needs to take responsibility.

Minorities have a right to watch television, listen to the radio, or indeed browse the Internet without feeling got at, or victimised. That right was not just ignored here, it was trampled on by BBC Three getting too big for its boots, and not following its own Editorial Guidelines.

As I suggested at the outset, this saddens me. I do love the BBC, and it normally has a fantastic record of minority representation. Why allow it to be tarnished by a needless, unnecessary, irrelevant but highly discriminatory error. It is vile.

Would I snog BBC Three at the moment? Erm no! Would I marry them at the moment? No! But would I avoid them, no because they do produce high quality, gamechanging programming.

However, they need to remember that as part of the wider BBC, they are a public service broadcaster. Their target audience are impressionable, and malleable. Do they want to send out the message that bullying and victimising transsexuals is ok?

I hope BBC Three learns a lesson from this, learns it fast, and well, and further hope they never make such a crass mistake again.