Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Evolution of Manchester’s Gay Village

Here’s a piece first published in The Guardian in August 2004:

It would have been his idea of hell. When Greater Manchester’s former chief constable, James Anderton, accused the city’s gay population in 1987 of “swirling around in a human cesspit of their own making”, little did he know he would come to be regarded as one of the instigators of Britain’s gayest city, and perhaps the most successful gay village in Europe. The roll call would also have to include Margaret Thatcher, whose notorious Section 28 – a clause in the Local Government Act passed in 1988 – galvanised a spectacular coalition, ranging from theatre impresarios to librarians, to defend the right to a gay life. Neither could have anticipated how their crusades would conjure up a queer constituency. Back then, Canal Street in Manchester city centre was still a red-light district. Anderton, an evangelical Christian, encouraged his officers to stalk its dank alleys and expose anyone caught in a clinch, while police motorboats with spotlights cruised for gay men around the canal’s locks and bridges.

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Peter Mandelson – 20 Years Ago

In October 1989 I interviewed Peter Mandelson about activism, Europe, and his shirt. Here’s a copy of of the full text as printed in Marxism Today:

Peter Mandelson is Labour’s director of communications

Let’s start with you as machiavellian man. How do you feel about the way you’re represented: image-making but no substance?

We can dispose of me pretty quickly: I think I do have substance. What the Labour Party has undergone during the last three to four years has been complex, challenging. It could not possibly have been undertaken by people without substance. The more important question is whether what has happened in the Labour Party has been a triumph of style over substance. And I would refute that utterly. Style is a necessary but insufficient condition for success. Ultimately a political party needs to be saying things which are in tune with people’s mainstream concerns and aspirations.

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Disney’s Law of The Jungle

Here’s a piece first published in the Independent almost 15 years ago to the week.

DISNEY will earn more from The Lion King than from any other cartoon in history. That’s not just because Disney is the best marketing machine in popular entertainment, but because this movie offers a fantastical solution to that most vexing political problem of our time: the role of fatherhood.

This fantasy is far more important than the accuracy of the film’s detail. As it happens, The Lion King is an insult to lions, hyenas, Africa and children. My cinema was packed with children who were forgiving and enthusiastic; they quarried the cartoon for laughs and filled the place with the sound of their own pleasure. They forgave this cartoon its formulaic score and crass zoology. They rewarded Disney and their adult relatives with the goodwill of having a good time.

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No Means No and Rape Means Rape

Among the unexpected outcomes of Roman Polanski’s re-arrest on the charge of sexually abusing a girl in 1977 a new concept: rape that isn’t rape. The unseemly hypothesis was offered with gravitas by Whoopi Goldberg: that what he did was not ‘rape rape, ’ she said.
Rape rape is?
This manoeuvre is revelatory. It says nothing useful about what Polanski did to the child. But it tells us something important about the distribution of respect and blame.
We know everything we need to know from the testimony given to the Grand Jury by the girl herself. We’ve known for long enough what went on: according to transcripts of the child’s evidence to a Grand Jury (transcripts unsealed, on the web), Polanski set her up, got her drunk, raped her and took the precaution of avoiding a possible pregnancy by anal rape. Her evidence is not challenged. Whoopi is wrong. Rape is ‘rape rape’. She didn’t consent. On the contrary she repeatedly withheld her consent. Her descripton of the mise en scene is flat, detailed, bare. According to her testimony, her commentary during Polanski’s apparently protracted rape was clear and simple: ‘No…no…no…’ She said No and meant No.
What else did this girl have to do to make her non-consent clear? And what else did he – and we – need to know to be persuaded that what he did was rape. As in rape rape.
She said she was afraid. Of whom, what? ‘Him.’
What did she want to do? ‘Go home’.
The semantic debate reprises an era when culpability lay not with the perpetrator but the victim. Above all it is a bid to reinterpret rape as always something else, particularly in a certain strata of society where anything goes, and everything is known.
This is a context where big men’s accountability is only accidental, a bit of bad luck. It is, therefore, a context that encourages complicity.
Now her expressed wish that the case be abandoned is mobilised in his favour. But she at least – unlike Polanski – is holding on to her pride and dignity in a context that hasn’t delivered justice.
She insists that she has not only survived the harm he did, she has ‘prevailed’. She doesn’t want her body to be available for public consumption.
She blames the criminal justice system for this mess. Not only did she not get justice – justice was seen to be not done. And now her testimony is being impugned.
Had Polanski done the right thing in 1977 she would not be in this position. She deserves to be released from this burden by Polanski doing, finally, the right thing: the right right thing.

© Beatrix Campbell
2 October 2009