Monthly Archives: September 2011

Pornographer’s Summit – not welcome in our city

a delegate "dances" for protesters at the pornographers conference

Feminists to stage ‘meat market’ outside porn trade summit


Feminists organised a cute  protest on  23/9/11 outside XBIZ EU, an international pornography trade summit, at the Edwardian Radisson Hotel in Bloomsbury Street – dressed as butchers and businessmen trading in women’s body parts. Delegates – some of them already, obviously, having begun their happy hour early – came out to see the kerfuffle. Perma-tans and exotic coiffure were de rigueur.  The gentleman above was very enthusiastic, as you can see.


Swiftly, however, the police and later Radisson staff, escorted the gentlemen back into the hotel so that the women could carry on, unharrassed, with their peaceful protest.

Speakers at XBIZ EU included porn baron Berth Milton, Chairman and CEO of Private Media Group, and Michael Klein, president of Hustler, founded in 1974 by Larry Flint, is now a major producer of pornographic DVDs and online content. In 1978 the Hustler magazine featured an infamous front cover image of a woman’s body being mutilated by a meat grinder.

The global pornography industry is estimated to be worth $97 (US) billion.

OBJECT has launched the STOP.PRESS.PORN campaign to call on the Government to end the sexual objectification of women in newspapers and to end the Page 3 phenomena – already been supported by the Lib Dem Party Conference.

Kat Banyard, Director of UK Feminista, said:

“The pornography industry butchers women. Brutal, body punishing acts are now routine in mainstream porn and women are presented merely as a collection of body parts, deserving and desiring of pain. The pimps and porn moguls gathered at this are part of a global industry ruthlessly seeking new and profitable ways to carve up sexuality and trade away women’s equality. The Radisson Edwardian hotel is hosting a brutal meat market, not a lavish corporate conference.

“For decades the pornography industry has enjoyed unchecked expansion. It’s time to wrestle power back from the pornographers. With a review into the culture and ethics of the press underway, the Government must ensure that pornographic imagery – like ‘Page 3’ – is a key part of this review.”

Anna van Heeswijk, Campaigns Coordinator at OBJECT, said:

“This is not the porn of yesteryear. Pornography today is increasingly violent, body punishing, degrading and woman hating. Hardcore porn is the norm and it is being accessed by boys as young as 11 on the internet and on mobile phones. The messages and images from porn are infiltrating every aspect of our popular culture and women and girls are bearing the brunt of increased levels of violence, sexual abuse and harassment that accompany pornification.

Our message is clear: ‘women are human, stop treating us like objects’.”


Julia Long from the London Feminist Network said:

“This summit is being presented as a lavish, respectable corporate event, when in fact it is a brazen opportunity for the porn industry to plan new ways of profiting from the exploitation of women. No matter how slick and sophisticated the presentation, it is the still the same old meat market just below the surface. This protest is sending an important message that Xbiz is not welcome in London.”


Sabinra Qureshi from Million Women Rise said:


“The public deserve to know the truth and reality behind the so called sex industry and the harm that underpins it, not the glamorised version the media and events like this tend to promote.”






Protesters meet and greet Porn Industry






Murdoch’s Money and Metropolitan Police Madness

There is no way that Rupert Murdoch’s proposed offer of around 3 million to the Dowler family can be anything but unsettling. The money, mighty to the family, miniscule to the Murdochs – draw attention to the contradictions swirling around the deal.

This is not to join the tendency to deride ‘compensation culture’: redress and reparation are important contributions to individuals whose wellbeing has been vitally injured, to their recovery, and to social recognition.

The cruel irony for the Dowlers is that these millions compromise their own wellbeing: this money is about someone who can never profit from it, Millie. The Dowlers will now have to manage Murdoch’s largesse. Nothing can ever be enough, and yet this is already too much.


They will also have to manage the meaning of Murdoch’s offer. There is no restorative justice here. Murdoch himself needed to meet the Dowlers, he needed  his face-to-face humbling because he and his empire needed forgiveness. He needed to perform virtue and to have it rewarded and recognised by his victims.

So, this offer denotes neither contrition nor conscience nor compensation – because those words imply change.

What is Murdoch giving the Dowlers? The money is peanuts for an empire that is almost the most powerful media organisation in the world. It is pennies for the man himsef, reckoned to be the 13th most powerful person in the world.

What he is not giving the Dowlers nor the other hacking victims, nor British culture, which has been so degraded by his presence, is the promise of dignified and deep reform of his media practices.

The context of the offer is salutory: in the very same week the Metropolitan police tried to mobilise the Official Secrets Act to scare the Guardian, the scourge of News International.

It was the Guardian’s revelations about the NoW hacking and interference in the Dowler investigation that detonated the hacking scandal. It morphed from a scandal about celebrity privacy to a scandal about the the breaching of any code, public or private; and it exposed a most dangerous triangulation: the intimate circuit connecting the News International, the Met and Conservative Party HQ. The promiscuous spread of NoW personnel into the police and the highest echelons of a political party secures for the Tories illicit access to information. Knowledge is power.

The Dowlers didn’t put themselves into that scandal – but they are in it, nevertherless.

The Met’s audacity in trying to terrify the press with the Official Secrets Act shows that it is still trying to lock the gates of the Temple rather than cleanse it. The Met is still trying to protect itself rather than the public and the public interest. The Met’s managers don’t seem to know what world they are living in after Dowlergate – until the outraged reaction forced withdrawal.

Not to have anticipated the calumny caused by the Dowler case and then by the Official Secrets Act caper, exposes its media department – a quarter of its staff former NoW hacks – as equally unworldly.

This week Conservative Party HQ isn’t in the narrative, but if the Met is News International’s security arm – see Jonathan Freedland: – then the Tories are also hardwired into this circuit. This is very sinister.

Unwittingly the Dowlers found themselves positioned in this narrative and the campaign to crack hacking – – it is to be hoped that the money won’t take them out of it.

Why Not Go Green?




D’you know, I don’t understand why people of sound mind aren’t voting Green. The Lib Dems have been for many a tactical alternative to the dismaying trajectory of New Labour, slinking into neo-Liberalism.

For a ravishing account of that journey see Stuart Hall’s latest intervention in the new edition of Soundings,  and its shorter version in the Guardian


For many, Ed Miliband’s election as leader of the Labour Party  seemed to promise a twinge, a flicker, of hope that Labour might renewal itself and it might achieve that by transplanting a bit of radical DNA into its bloodstream. But Miliband’s performance at the TUC this week showed a man entrapped, not a man empowered. Does he and his milieu have any  how to think positive and think progressive at the same time? This is not a leader expecting to lead. Only a man expecting to manage.

A bit of canvassing for the Greens in the Highgate local by-election this month has yielded interesting insight into the agonies of Labour voters: there are 29 Labour councillors in Camden. Unassailable. There is one Green councillor. For left of centre voters the contest is between the Greens and Labour. The Greens are seen as the progressive option, and yet the sense of Labour supporters being snared by loyalty is palpable.

In England lending support to the Greens is the hopeful thing to do, it releases the possibility of re-discovering the joys of politics as the art of the simultaneously reasonable and the radical, of engagement rather than the dismal experience of political pessimism and loneliness.

What, anywhere, is better than the Green Manifesto, as a way of thinking about how to sort stuff out.


What’s not to like? 

Theresa May talks to Jenni Murray Woman’s Hour





So Theresa May on Woman’s Hour 14 September 2011 is promising to address women and women’s issues. She who abolished the one body that made sure the government engages with the voices of women, The Women’s National Commission; she who refuses to enforce mandatory pay audits so that companies disclose patterns of pay – without which equal pay become inconceivable; she who refuses to modernise the equal pay legislation and proposes instead voluntary action -  without the Equal Pay Act introduced by Barbara Castle in 1969 there would have been no significant action on the gender pay gap; equal pay has stalled, the gender pay gap is growing.

She who  disabled the equality duties introduced in the dog days of the last Labour government. There will be no significant progress to budge the gender pay gap.


There is no doubt that May’s commitment to improving outcomes for women suffering secxual violence has been a lifeline to rape crisis centres.

Where the oppression of women converges with law and order Tories tend to be braver than when women’s oppression impinges on political economy.

And we know that Theresa May knows the implications of  legal equality duties, the possibility that they may actually make a difference: she  warned government departments in 2010 that they had not implemented their legal duties. Clearly she understood that had  the coalition deficit reduction strategy been disciplined by the equality duties then the cuts could not have scythed through women’s socio-economic wellbeing.


Yvette Cooper’s brilliant arithmetic revealed that around three quarters of the deficit reduction costs would fall to women, and only around a quarter would fall on men.


It made no difference. They ignored their statutory duties.

Fawcett Society undertook a judicial review. It failed. It made no difference.


So, when we listen to Theresa May’s claims that women are in the coalition’s mind we know that they intend to make no difference.


Freudian slips, bad jokes and equal opportunities rubbish



September 2011


Here we are, returning from summer breaks, and what the media describes as the silly season, back into real life.

Real life is ‘the usual rubbish’ about equal opportunities.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University advertised for a trainee anaesthetist and allowed an inadvertent clause to slip through its recruitment ad: after describing the job spec, it added ‘the usual rubbish about equal opportunities employer etc.’

The Freudian slip provoked great amusement among the usual suspects, Tories and the Daily Mail.

It released another bout of ‘Positive discrimination has gone too far…!”

But how many people involved in recruitment didn’t bother to read that ad?

Who was taking seriously equal opportunities in this profession still dominated by  white, male, middle class men? Who was expecting this ad to do its bit?

And how come some people who should at least know how to read an Act of Parliament –that is, MPs – don’t know there isn’t and never has been  ‘positive discrimination’ in Britain’s equality legislation.

In a debate between me and the Tory MP Dominic Raab on the Jeremy Vine Show on 6 September, Raab insisted that positive discrimination was the problem.  But positive discrimination is not and never has been allowed by British equalities legislation.

What  is permitted is positive action: where candidates have equivalent experience            expertise, employers may select candidates whose presence will make the  workforce more representative. Who would not want to do that? Raab MP, for one.

Buried by the muddle over the law, and the scornful hilarity there is a bad joke: among UK medics there is ‘widespread discrimination’ against women, there isn’t positive discrimination in their favour.  Men earn around £15,000 more than women.  Women’s opportunities are constrained by a ‘hostile culture’. That’s the verdict of the British Medical Association’s first investigation into inequality among medics in the senior echelons of the NHS, published in 2009 and on its of its esteemed authors, Prof. Anita  Holdcroft, herself an anaesthetist.

There are twice as many male anaesthetists as female – 4382 men, 1774 women.  What’s positive about that?