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The New York Daily News have reported that Roman Polanski has been ‘freed’ after Sarkozy intervened on his behalf. Of course, it’s not as black and white as that. They later point out that actually,

After initially balking at his release, Swiss authorities agreed to let Polanski move from a cell to his luxurious Alpine chalet once he puts up $4.5 million bail.

So he’s on bail. He could (SHOULD) still face US courts.

But I still can’t help but feel an overwhelming desire to scream ‘what the fuck?!’ at these empty skies, in desperation. I do not understand how people can help this man. If it were your average Joe who had raped a 13 year old, the public would be baying for his blood. But because he’s a wealthy, arty man with ‘good’ connections, he can get away with rape.  He can have celebrities calling for his release, claiming he’s been treated unfairly, believing that his (admittedly horrible) past excuses in some way the heinous crime he committed.

This is the President of France, supporting a rapist. What message does that send to the people of France? What message does it send to the rest of the world, about how France responds to such incidents? He is in no way acting as an individual, he acts as representative of the people of his country, and he has just bailed a rapist.

It sickens me. It sickens me that I should even have to be writing this, that people could even go so far as to support this man. And it makes me feel so helpless, when all these bigshots get to twist the law around their little fingers. And it frightens me, that you can get away with rape if you are rich and famous. That is terrifying, and wrong.

All of this is so wrong.

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I have just returned from meeting Emma Thompson. While I would love to dwell on the experience – how friendly she is, how compassionate and how incredibly driven she is, there is a more important issue I need to address.

I took Emma the petition I had drawn up about Roman Polanski, with the 410 signatures and everyone’s comments. Any comments that I was aware of that didn’t show up on the petition, I took as a separate document. I also took the wording of the petition she had signed, and information about another petition (to be found here) which has over 3,000 signatures supporting Polanski’s arrest. (For anyone who doesn’t know about Roman Polanski, all of the information is in the petition I’ve linked to above)

Emma did not have much time between meetings, but she gave me all of the time that she had. I asked her why she had signed the petition, and she explained about how well she knows Polanski, how terrible his life has been, and how forgiving the survivor of the rape all those years ago now is. She said she thought the intentions of the judge were unclear, as were the intentions of those who arrested him recently. She told me that a lot of her friends had rung her up asking her to sign the petition, so there had been a certain amount of pressure. She said that she had already been thinking a lot about the petition, as others had expressed their dismay at her signing it.

I handed her our petition and the comments. She read them both through thoroughly, and came back to me. She said, while she supported Polanski as a friend, a crime is a crime. I don’t know whether she had realised the extent of Polanski’s crime, but she is now fully aware. She will remove her name from the petition – in fact, she said she would call today and sort it out. Even though, she stressed, Polanski has had some truly terrible experiences in his lifetime, experiences that we couldn’t even imagine and which should not be taken out of the equation, she agreed that she could not put her name to a petition asking for his release.

Assuming that she will be true to her word, her name will be removed in the very near future. Hopefully the press will pick up on it.

She left me with this, to pass on to everyone who has signed the petition/raised awareness of this issue: “Know that I will remove my name because of you, and all of the good work that you have been doing. I have read your petition. I have heard you. And I will listen.”

I hope that this will encourage others to do the same, as I really do believe that many of those who have signed the Polanski petition did so not knowing what it was that they were signing.

Just to clarify, there were certain other Qs I asked and had answered in these emails that aren’t relevant to the point we’re making, so I’ve cut them out.

Email 1, from me:

Hi there, I am hoping to bring a group of students from — University to the London Reclaim the Night, and wondered – are men allowed to the march also? Am I correct in believing it is only the first part of the march that is women-only?

Email 2, from the London Feminist Network (LFN):

Hello,

Brilliant that — University will be represented on the march! Do bring a banner from your group so that people can see where you have travelled from.
The whole march is women-only, this is historical and also is to make the point that women usually feel unsafe if they are on their own or with another female friend, and as the old saying goes we are told to get a man to walk us home to protect us etc. So the point of the march is to highlight that women should not be seen as ‘fair game’ for harassment and abuse just because they are on their own or with female friends and that they should still have every right to feel safe. So to raise awareness and make the point the march is women only. Then there is a mixed rally and disco at the Camden Centre to which men are welcome. We were working with White Ribbon Campaign on organising a men’s vigil again like we had last year, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to organise this in time now.
But if men are coming with your group they would be more than welcome to volunteer at the rally venue at the Camden Centre, where people are setting up stalls and stage gear etc! While the women go on the march.

Email 3, from me:

Hi there,

Such a shame that men aren’t allowed to march – I fully understand the reasoning, but loved the fact that the Bristol reclaim the night had a mixed section at the back of their march. It managed to include the men without denying the point of the march. I think we can all agree that it’s an issue that everyone should be involved in changing. I would normally be offended if someone spoke about street safety for women as a ‘women’s problem’, as though it’s only up to women to deal with it, so men showing support is important too! Perhaps it’s something that can change in later years, as the argument that it’s ‘historical’ seems to sound like saying ‘it’s tradition, so why change it?’. Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on the matter. We’ll hopefully encourage some of the guys to come along…what exactly takes place at the rally afterwards?

Email 4, from LFN:

Hello,

It is not simply tradition that the march is women-only. Male sexual violence against women does not affect men in the street, it affects women. Men are not raped in the same numbers as women are. All the British Crime Surveys and Fear of Crime Surveys show that men do not fear sexual violence from other men, whereas women’s greatest and most commonly reported fear is the fear of being raped. From very young girls to pensioners, women say their biggest fear is rape. Whereas fear of crime surveys commonly show that men’s most reported fear of crime occuring to them is car crime. Strange – because young men under 25 are actually more at risk of violence than any other group, they are of course at risk from other young men, not women.

But this march is not a general people’s march for peace on the streets for all. It is a distinct political march with a distinct political angle. We don’t insist that the marches around Gaza also protested about the Congo, Sudan, Tamils etc etc. Groups are allowed to have their own marches about their own political issue, and I don’t understand why this right is often so denied to women.

This is a women’s march about male sexual violence against women – sexual harassment, taunts, propositions, assaults and rapes etc as well as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, prostitution, trafficking, honour killings, etc etc. These things simply do not affect men in the same way, that is a fact.

The rally after the march has speakers, stalls of a variety of organisations, not just women’s organisations. Then speakers from different groups and then a big disco with both male and female DJ’s playing retro and poppy tunes until 2am.

Email 5, from me:

Hi there,

I’m assuming this is Finn by the way – if it is, then I just wanted to express my admiration after hearing you speak yesterday. It made getting a coach at 2am worthwhile, as did the event generally. If this is not Finn, please pass on the sentiment!

The rally sounds like good fun, and I assume the stalls will be similar to those at Feminism in London event which I found really inspiring. The parties also sound brilliant!

I agree with all of your points about women and safety on the streets. I would never claim that violence against women, be it genital mutilation, rape or otherwise (of course the list is long – there’s a reason marches like this need to exist), affects men in the same way. I fear you got the wrong message from me if you think that I disagree with you, or the message that this march holds. However, I’m not sure it’s right to discuss this as a ‘women’s right to a women-only march’ – rather, it is a march to express the view that violence against women is wrong. Any men who wished to attend it would not do so in order to say ‘don’t forget about me, I was hit by a girl once, poor me etc etc’, but rather to show their support and awareness of an issue that should be acknowledged and fought by all. By denying men access to a march like this, it surely discourages the (few) men who are passionate about women’s rights for the sole reason that women should have these rights from being involved, from identifying as pro-feminist/feminist (depending on your view of men and feminism, a discussion for another time!), and from being vocal about these issues.

I do not argue that the march should be completely mixed. I appreciate that there will be women who have experienced violence, that there will be women who do not want to march alongside men. I simply suggest that there be a separate section at the end of the march (in Bristol it was separated by a marching band, which did the trick without too much policing!) which is mixed. That way the majority of the march will retain the status of women-only, but it would not prevent men from being involved in such an important political issue.

I hate to be the one who is always bewailing ‘but what about the men?’ – really, I get sick of hearing this question when discussing violence, sexism in the workplace, abortion, etcetera etcetera, but I do believe that when it comes to political campaigning, actively seeking change, especially change around the sexism that is so embedded in our society, to be sexist against men seems hypocritical. We cannot tar them all with the same brush, and there are men who want to support feminism and what it stands for. As for marches about Gaza – was it said that only those from Gaza, only those directly affected by the issue, could march? Would straight people be turned away from a gay rights march? Are/were white people turned away from marches for racial equality? What makes this an issue that we have to fight on our own? It’s a heavy enough burden to bear, and one that, I agree, men cannot fully understand. They are not affected by it on a day to day basis. But they can help tackle it, they can show their support, and to turn our backs on that is to turn our backs on a changing society, one in which men are becoming aware of their privilege, and of women’s suffering, and wishing to speak out too.

I really don’t want to come across as confrontational, as this march is something that I feel is so valuable, so important. The fact that the London Feminist Network has revived Reclaim the Night is inspirational (in fact, it’s provided me with the groundwork for potentially holding one in Exeter, for which I am very grateful) and I do not seek to undermine this achievement. All I want to do is say how I feel, and put across the feelings of the men I know who were interested in the march. I run a Gender Equality Society at my university, which attracts men and women who are keen to discuss gender and society, as well as get involved politically. In the majority of our discussions, we get a mix of opinions, but one thing that everyone unites on is the issue of violence against women. The men in our group, as with the women, were excited by the idea of a Reclaim the Night march, to bring this issue into the public arena and start a dialogue about it. They were saddened to know that they couldn’t be a part of it. I will still encourage them to come for the rally and the parties, but they have expressed concern, feeling unwelcome, feeling dismissed and judged purely on their gender. Yes, this is something women have to face on a regular basis and it’s all to easy to say ‘see how we feel, now’, but as feminists we have to be bigger than that. We are fighting for equality, we have to set the precedent. Just as we argue that it is wrong for women to be judged purely on gender, to not be seen as individuals, we must argue that men should not be judged in the same way.

Out of interest, would you be campaigning as actively if this were an issue affecting men, if they were the ones suffering from regular violence? I would hope so, as it is a human rights violation that must be stopped regardless of whether women or men are affected by it. Yet, if that were the case, how would you feel to be told that actually, you don’t get a voice in this? Even if people of your gender were the main cause of the issue and you wanted to speak out against that, even if you were not violent towards men and sought to discourage fellow women from being violent (in this alternative universe, of course), even if you committed much of your time and energy to fighting said violence – if even then, you were told that you were not welcome at marches against this issue because you didn’t experience it first-hand, how would you feel?

It just seems wrong to me, I don’t know how else to put it to explain my point of view. I agree entirely with what the march stands for. I am a feminist, I set up and run a Gender Equality Society that is currently campaigning for a Rape Crisis Centre in Devon, I am the Gender Equality representative for our Union and the student rep for our Women’s Network. I am trying, with all of my might (and much of the time I should perhaps spend on my degree) to be heard in this town, and to get people involved. I am trying to fight feminist fights in the university, on a local basis, and I try to get to as many events elsewhere as possible. But if even the feminist events are exclusive, if they do not allow me to involve the men that I have got on side, how can I explain that? How can I respond discouragingly to ‘oh feminism, that’s just man-hating’, when I know that the majority of feminist marches do not allow men? That certainly sends out the message that men are not allowed to be involved with this, that feminism is a women-only arena, even an anti-men ideology, loud and clear.

I will still be attending the march in November, hopefully with a good number of us to represent Exeter. But I know that the experience, however empowering and significant it will be, will be marred by the knowledge that the men I have brought with me have had to be left behind, setting up the rally, behind the scenes, not allowed to join us.

So thank you, thank you whole-heartedly for holding this march. Thank you for being there, for providing women with this network and for fighting for something that is so incredibly important. I just hope that, if not in this year, then in future years, I will also be able to thank you for your inclusiveness, and your understanding.

With the greatest respect,

What are your thoughts? This seems straight-forward for me, but is clearly not a black&white issue, as the LFN have been quick to point out…

My friend just sent me this (to see what we thought, not because she agrees with the sentiment):

Don’t want to stir things up, but it makes one think…….

“WHITE ” Pride”

This is great. I have been wondering about why Whites are racists, and no other race is…..

Proud to be White


Michael Richards makes his point…………..

Michael Richards better known as Kramer from TVs Seinfeld does make a good point.

This was his defense speech in court after making racial comments in his comedy act..  He makes some very interesting points…

Someone finally said it.  How many are actually paying attention to this? There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc.

And then there are just Americans.  You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction.  You call me ‘White boy,’ ‘Cracker,’ ‘Honkey,’ ‘Whitey,’ ‘Caveman’… and that’s OK.

But when I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink .. You call me a racist.

You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you… so why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?

You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day.

You have Black History Month.  You have Cesar Chavez Day.

You have Yom Hashoah.  You have Ma’uled Al-Nabi.

You have the NAACP.  You have BET… If we had WET (White Entertainment Television), we’d be racists.  If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists.

If we had White History Month, we’d be racists.

If we had any organization for only whites to ‘advance’ OUR lives, we’d be racists.
We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce.  Wonder who pays for that??

A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant.

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships… You know we’d be racists..

There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US.  Yet if there were ‘White colleges’, that would be a racist college.

In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights.  If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.

You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you’re not afraid to announce it.  But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.

You rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.

I am proud… But you call me a racist.

Why is it that only whites can be racists??

There is nothing improper about this e-mail.   Let’s see which of you are proud enough to send it on.  I sadly don’t think many will.  That’s why we have LOST most of OUR RIGHTS in this country.  We won’t stand up for ourselves!

BE PROUD TO BE WHITE!

It’s not a crime YET…. but getting very close!

It is estimated that ONLY 5% of those  reaching this point in this e-mail, will pass it on.

So I thought I’d share my response with y’all 🙂

“It is estimated that only 5% of those reaching this point in this e-mail, will pass it on.”

That’s because it’s a racist pile of shit. Sorry, but it is. The only vaguely decent point in it is that we cannot say we are ‘proud’ to be white without being seen as racist, but to be honest I don’t think you should be ‘proud’ of being of any race, cos it’s not an achievement it’s natural.

The stuff about ‘black history month’ and all black colleges and the like is ridiculous. The fact is, we don’t NEED a white history month because every day it is white history that is given precedence. We don’t NEED scholarships specifically for white people because they are more encouraged to continue education. We don’t see it as racist for a white police officer to beat up a white criminal, because race doesn’t come into it. It doesn’t stop it being an issue if someone is abused by the police, it’s just not a matter of race. White people rob, carjack and shoot. It is not just black people, and if it is black people it is not entirely directed at white people. We don’t NEED a march for white people’s rights. We have all the rights. Well, white men do. White women come a close second. There is no need for protest when there is nothing to protest about.

It just reminds me of all the people (mainly men) who respond to feminism with ‘yeh but you’re sexist the other way, men are being oppressed by positive discrimination blah blah’ – like the girl from philosophy society at the beginning of the year who thinks that somehow white men have less rights than women because there are more laws stating the rights of women and people of colour. She didn’t stop to think that this is because white men (and white people generally) automatically have those rights in our society. They don’t need it written down to enforce it.

And no, it’s not ok to call some one a ‘cracker’ or any of those other names. Because that is racist. But that doesn’t make it ok for white people to be racist, not in the least. It just means that this is another issue that needs to be addressed.

Thoughts?

There are a lot of things that I happily give up my time to think about. There are a lot of people who I think about, a lot of films I consider, music I listen to. Keira Knightly, however, does not often occupy my mind. Indeed, I have a confession. Something of which I am not proud. I was not a Keira Knightly fan. I really, really didn’t like her.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask. Don’t most women hate Keira Knightly? We saw what Tanya Gold said

If you want to befriend a woman, ask her the question, “What do you think of Keira Knightley?” In the resulting torrent of bile and loathing, you will bond. She will say, “I hate Keira Knightley. She’s such a terrible actress. She looks like a stoat. And those teeth! She makes my fists itch!” It is a Pavlovian response. Hatred of Keira is like menstruation; all women share it. At work, we sit in rows doing Keira Knightley impersonations. You stick out your teeth, and make claws with your hands, pretend they are paws, and pretend to dig.

Isn’t that true?? Even if it’s not, what’s the problem with you not liking some actress? Big deal.

Okay so I’m being pretty patronising, I know. But this is something which has really bothered me – so much modern media and so many modern women dislike this woman for no real, legitimate reason, and I have found myself following them purely because…well, actually, for no reason. I just did.

As I said, this wasn’t something I spent time thinking about. It never really bothered me, until now. In the last week I’ve read two interviews with Ms Knightly, one in The Guardian and one in The Big Issue, and it got me thinking. What exactly is it I don’t like about this woman? I honestly cannot answer that question sufficiently. Yes, she can be quite pouty. Yes, sometimes her acting is a bit flat. But that such things can cause so many women to hate her is very saddening. Here is a strong, independent woman. She is clever, sarcastic and loyal (refusing to speak about her friends/family/relationships publicly). She is a good actor, and she is a beautiful woman. She is also very quick witted – her response to women’s unanimous so-called ‘hatred’ of her was praiseworthy:

“Well, I’m doing a good thing for women all over the country, then,” she says. “I think that’s a very positive thing.”

Yet she is faced with the hatred and subsequent abuse from the public. It does make me wonder what it is she’s really doing wrong. Making people jealous, perhaps, with her looks and her wealth and her opportunities to kiss various much-loved actors *coughJohnnyDeppcough*. Or perhaps it’s simply because she’s a woman.

The attitudes towards her are perpetuating the view that strong women are to be feared, despised even. It is because of this widespread acceptance that such women are a threat that it becomes difficult for women to get by as independent and powerful in their own right. It is because of the perpetuation of these beliefs that the women who are in the spotlight so often lose it, some resorting to harming their body in order to satisfy the public’s idea of the ideal woman, some literally losing their grip altogether, like Britney, while the others are forced to accept that they will have to face the irrational judgement of the public in order to do the job that they love. Ms Knightly falls into the latter category, accepting the views of the public as inevitable but simultaneously avoiding it by not reading what is written about her.

But just because she is strong enough to take it does not make it acceptable. We need to stop this, now. I am not saying we cannot dislike other women, far from it. But we mustn’t victimise women, we mustn’t follow the media blindly, we must stop. We must think. We must justify, to ourselves, why we view these women in the way that we do. For how can feminism ever get anywhere when women hate other women just because they are strong? If we can’t get past the hatred of strength that we learn from our backward society, how can we ever progress?

I am ashamed that I accepted dislike of Keira Knightly as a given. I am ashamed that I didn’t stop to ask myself why.

I have learnt my lesson. Please, learn from it too. We need to learn to love women for who they are, regardless of shape, size, age and colour, and one of the first steps to that is surely to address the very opposite – our hatred of our own kind.

And as Inga Muscio says in Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, we learn to hate other women through the unwritten rules of society, but the only way to truly be free of such a hatred is first to understand that much of the hate is our own insecurities projected onto celebrity – and then to acknowledge these ‘weaknesses’ in ourselves, accept them, and love ourselves.

So please, for me, for you, for women everywhere, love yourself and lose the hatred. The world will be brighter, your step will be lighter, and we’ll be ever so slightly closer to truly being free.

I expect many of you will have seen it, but for those who haven’t…enjoy. I know for us lot here in the UK we can’t vote in America even if we wanted to, but the message is important where ever you are, so watch!

  • Hat tip to Kenneth Quinnell via Shakesville

  • Right, now back to revision.

    Brownfemipower has stopped blogging. So has blackamazon. I just thought I’d fill you in.

    Summary

    Feministe responds to the issue

    When any of us have a soapbox, an opportunity to get up and talk, we must continue to stand by those who aren’t called on. If you want to consider yourself an anti-racist or a white ally to people of color — if you want anyone else to consider you those things — then it behooves you to swim against the current. If everyone did, perhaps the tides would turn, even if it was just in our corner of the blogosphere.

    I wish this hadn’t happened. I never really got the chance to look at BFP’s writing in detail, but what I read of her blog was very powerful. It’s terrible that she should be driven from blogging like this. Equally with blackamazon. I just hope that it serves as a lesson to everyone (it has certainly made me re-think what feminism stands for a great deal), and that they returns when they each feel that they are ready.

    I expect most of y’all will have heard of this. Maybe. I hadn’t until today, and I am now really eager to go and do it. Maybe after college one day? In Churchill Square? Or the Lanes?

    This, by the way, is the Free Hugs Campaign.

    It’s amazing. So inspirational. And hey, hugs are important things. They can change a life. This small act of kindness and generosity is really quite incredible.

    Thought I’d share that, and this poem, with you. Enjoy.

    The Hug– Tess Gallagher

    A woman is reading a poem on the street

    and another woman stops to listen. We stop too,

    with our arms around each other. The poem

    is being read and listened out here

    in the open. Behind us

    no one is entering or leaving the houses.

    Suddenly a hug comes over me and I’m

    giving it to you, like a variable star shooting light

    off to make itself comfortable, then

    subsiding. I finish but keep holding

    you. A man walks up to us and we know he hasn’t

    come out of nowhere, but if he could, he

    would have. He looks homeless because of how

    he needs. “Can I have one of those?” he asks you,

    and I feel you nod. I’m surprised,

    surprised you don’t tell him how

    it is – that I’m yours, only

    yours, etc., exclusive as a nose to

    its face. Love – that’s what we’re talking about, love

    that nabs you with ‘for me

    only’ and holds on.

    So I walk over to him and put my

    arms around him and try to

    hug him like I mean it. He’s got an overcoat on

    so thick I can’t feel

    him past it. I’m starting the hug

    and thinking, ‘How big a hug is this supposed to be?

    How long shall I hold this hug?’ Already

    we could be eternal, his arms falling over my

    shoulders, my hands not

    meeting behind his back, he is so big!

    I put my head into his chest and snuggle

    in. I lean into him. I lean my blood and my wishes

    into him. He stands for it. This is his

    and he’s starting to give it back so well I know he’s

    getting it. This hug. So truly, so tenderly

    we stop having arms and I don’t know if

    my lover has walked away or what, or

    if the woman is still reading the poem, or the houses –

    what about them? – the houses.

    Clearly a little permission is a dangerous thing.

    But when you hug someone you want it

    to be a masterpiece of connection, the way the button

    on his coat will leave the imprint of

    a planet in my cheek

    when I walk away. When I try to find some place

    to go back to.




    And on that note – adieu!

    Flickr Photos