On rape: Akin, Assange, Galloway and the #MenAgainstRape hashtag

With several men offensively seeking to re-define rape against women for their own political ends this week, I add my voice to those outraged at the fact this discussion is even still happening – but also argue in defence of the widely-denigrated #MenAgainstRape hashtag

Todd Akin

Todd Akin. The mind boggles

Rape. Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no internet connection for the past few days, it is unlikely to have escaped you that rape is on the news agenda at the moment. In a big way.

Talking about rape, even as someone who reckons themselves to be halfway clued-up on the feminist approaches towards this rightfully sensitive subject, feels a little like walking blindfolded into Oxford Circus on the last shopping day before Christmas. That is, ever so slightly-scary, possibly ill-advised, fraught with obstacles, genuine pitfalls and many, many opportunities to get quite publically and legitimately shouted at by people who know where they’re going far better than you.

But some of the stuff that’s been said has been so flabbergastingly-ridiculous, so inflammatory and, sometimes, so thought-provoking that I’ve felt obliged to finally write some stuff down.
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Book Review: Half The Human Race by Anthony Quinn

Half the Human Race, by Anthony Quinn

Half the Human Race, by Anthony Quinn

Set against the eventful years both pre-and-post World War One, this story of personal and public struggle, tender love and political upheaval touches upon many issues of gender, relationships, loneliness and standing up for what you believe in, while also providing a gentle, compelling and absorbing read.

It’s not the most incisive of books on the subject of the suffragettes, and the story’s strength fades out towards the end, but Quinn’s vivid descriptions of such varied settings as central London, Holloway prison, Paris, the Western front and the traditional British country house, as well as his deep ability to portray humanity and inner conflict, make Quinn’s characters memorably and convincingly real.

In fact, the characters’ believability is the best part of the book.

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Lowering Uni admissions standards is patronising and demeaning

The debate swirling around admissions to university, and giving students from underprivileged backgrounds lower grade conditions has been a confusing mass of political ideas, but one contentious idea has stood out: it’s only fair to help people from underprivileged backgrounds achieve what they could have achieved had they been born into a rich background ‒ including being given an elite university place ‒ if they can prove that they deserve it and can honour it.

That’s the only fair thing to try and achieve in a world that is, demonstrably, very unfair. Right?

Listen, I get it.

I’m the first person to defend this point of view whenever the raging Tories that are most of the rest of my family/the British establishment come out and talk about pandering to the poor or whatever other crashing nonsense they’re spouting off on that given day. And, heaven forfend, I often find myself to be the only person round a table who still usually agrees with Nick (Clegg, in case there’s any doubt here). But not today.

Because, I don’t think coming from a disadvantaged background means you should automatically get special treatment, or replaces the need for you to just frankly, sit down, and, at the age at which you’re applying to university, do the work. I don’t mean that callously, and I certainly don’t think it’s in any way fair or equal that some people do better at school simply because of the environment they’re in with little bearing on their actual natural intellect.

But at the same time, it’s demeaning to suggest that someone coming from an underperforming school can’t achieve the same, intellectually speaking, as someone from a hothousing public one. I know this, because a great deal of my friends from Cambridge did just that.

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‘Tube Crush’: a harmless bit of fun? Sorry, but I don’t think so

Londoners commuting

Surely this is the 'Tube crush' they're referring to, right?

If you count yourself among the substantial portion of Londoners that uses the Tube to get to work every day, you’ll be familiar with the endlessly-frustrating, somewhat soporific routine of wait, push on, breathe in, stop, stop, stop…push off – but if you’re like me and your journey begins at the far, far edges of a line (the Northern), you’ll be one of the blessed few who manage to get a seat, in which case you’ll have to insert ‘scramble, park yourself, arrange bags around feet, put on iPod, get out book, open Metro, look down or up, and studiously refuse to make eye contact with anyone else for the rest of the judderingly long journey’ to the above list. But, even for us lucky seat-hermits, every now and again, something happens that makes us look up from our slumber, and (thank goodness, not a pregnant woman, guy on crutches, or wobbly elderly person, the three people for whom you still have to give up your seat, quite rightly, but you know…) the appearance of a delectably good-looking man in your carriage is the happy visual treat new blog TubeCrush has decided to capitalise upon in its near-daily posts.

TubeCrush has a simple conceit; people take photographs of good-looking guys on the London Underground and Overground (and one assumes, general train) networks, send them in, the blog author writes a suitably witty comment and bored, or especially discerning, people can rate them if they feel such a need. A quick scroll through the photographs reveals a tongue-in-cheek, gently funny collection of posts, which seems an entirely harmless amusement to liven up the dreary A-to-B time that is a fact of life for the many travelling across London.

But is it harmless? Imagine the sexes were reversed. A blog which specialised in men taking cameraphone shots of women without their knowledge, posting them online, making objectifying comments, and then allowing anyone to rate the images?
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