1. “Bounty Hunting, Islamophobia and Blaming the Victims
Less under the spotlight are the litany of provocations and double standards, which if directed at a majority Christian or Jewish population or any other religion or culture, would attract an avalanche of condemnation, approbation and anti-defamation legal actions.
Given the litany of derision, insults, filth and humiliation aimed at Islam, its followers, and nationals of majority Muslim countries, the impartial observer can only wonder at the tolerance shown towards those insulting and denigrating. The proportionately few freelance furious who have taken revenge pale against the ongoing, multi-national George W. Bush declared: “Crusade.”
This primitive, predatory practise of “dead or alive” inducements for “some mother’s son” aimed at the poor, the criminal, the opportunist, with all legality negated, is the brain child of the “U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice Program.” This Orwellianly misnamed project was, aptly, dreamed up in 1984, during the Reagan Presidency. (xviii)
“Since the inception of the Rewards for Justice program in 1984, the United States Government has paid more than $100 million to … people who provided actionable information …” informs the website. Which surely brings in to question on a vast scale captures, convictions and indeed, deaths.
“And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior”, wrote Bill McKibben, in Harpers. (August 2005.)
Hate speech and bounty hunting is contra to any civilized norms, but in the light of all of the above, howls of outrage at Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour’s comparatively modest offering of $100,000 for the initiator of a film which insulted an estimated 1.5 billion Muslims – over one fifth of the world’s population – out do the word hypocrisy. An apt word has yet to be invented.”
2. Right on:
“It’s a tired old word, but patriarchy won’t stop rearing its ugly head
There are certain words that offend people. I learned a long time ago to avoid them. “Sexual politics”, for instance, is better than rusty old “feminism”.
I realised this when Hopi Sen, a fellow Orwell prize judge, used it to me of George Galloway’s latest rant about the “moral repugnance” of women having abortions. George Galloway and moral repugnance in the same sentence: whoever would have thought it? But, said Hopi despairingly (we were talking on Twitter), what with Jimmy Savile too, this week it feels as if we are seeing the face of patriarchy.
Indeed. “The patriarchy” – nameless and shameless but coming to a town near you in its endless tour of misery.
The revelations about Savile and the culture that kept so many silent are not new to anyone who has listened to women.
A community-service sentence for domestic violence (Justin Lee Collins) is not new. Depressingly, domestic violence campaigners have said many women never get such “justice” at all. The continuing support of the hard but impotent left for Julian Assange and their dismissal of the women concerned is not new. Women’s rights have rarely been a priority for “revolutionaries”.
All of these things occur in a system – patriarchy – that is often as bad for some men as it is for women; a system that works in conjunction with capitalism. Kate Milett’s definition remains useful: patriarchal institutions maintain a situation “whereby that half of the populace which is female is controlled by that half which is male”. Men not only dominate women, elder men dominate their youngers. Patriarchy is not a conspiracy but a construct to explain how society organises itself and could therefore change. Matriarch, I note, has now become almost a term of abuse when used about Angela Merkel.
In this deeply conservative era, patriarchal displays are obligatory. Hence the new “tradition” of each party leader producing a mute but glamorous wife for a postcoital glow after a speech. The sick joke of David Cameron and his talk of not being here to defend privilege but to spread it – please, if any Tory tries to spread anything near me I may shoot them down as a potential burglar – is that, of course, he and his colleagues cannot even properly name their privilege. They may acknowledge their poshness but not their masculinity. That is their wives’ job.
Such privilege entitles men such as Cameron to think that legislating over the bodies of women and patronising the poor is OK. It is this same entitlement that lets judges treat domestic violence leniently. It is this privilege that means many young girls fall pray to abusers. Those who knew of Savile and did nothing, men and women, were scared of what exactly? It is hard to challenge a privilege that is unspoken and that is why I am speaking here about patriarchy. Cameron and his cronies may have just been “born this way”, but when they could choose to be on the side of women they simply haven’t.
The power of calling out abuse, though, is cheering. The rousing speech by Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minsiter, has gone viral. Her anger is raw. Watch as the leader of the opposition shrinks before her: “I was offended when the leader of the opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a man’s bitch. I was offended by these things. Misogyny, sexism, every day from the leader of the opposition.” Gillard has been called a witch, a bitch and told that her father died of shame for her politics. It’s almost impossible to imagine a woman making this speech in the House of Commons. She would be drowned out by jeers.
For even the “modernisers” wear their political droit de seigneur with ease. Equality is a great “idea” but feminism remains a joke of the hilarious Harriet Harperson kind. The mantra of meritocracy means more of exactly the same: no more women in public life, no acknowledgment that men need to up their game.
The reduction of feminism to a “chattering class” issue is absolutely part of the rightwing agenda. Only certain women can “afford” to be concerned and this is exactly the dead end of Tory feminism, which is strong on the right to have it all and totally blind to women who have very little. But open your eyes to see that the fight for women’s rights remains real and globalised. Working-class boys have died in Afghanistan on the pretext of improving the rights of women, remember? A 14-year-old in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, has been shot in the head at close range because she wants an education. We admire this fight for basic rights as we talk to the Taliban.
We are not in the same situation but the rights that women assume here – not to be abused or raped, to “aspire” to equal representation in public life and at work – are being chivvied way. We have a judicial and political system that is allowing this to happen and we cannot challenge it if we cannot name it. These words – patriarchy, feminism, misogyny – are indeed old. Retro, even. But they are vintage concepts, pre-loved because they are the real thing. Use when necessary.”