Posts by Matthew Taylor
...a ten-point plan for avoiding rape, and includes the following advice: "try to appear undesirable and unattractive", "never go out alone" and "do not wear skirts".
It's hardly reconstructed advice - pretty much copied from the cod "rape prevention" advice - but in the context of mass protests it raises uncomfortable questions about what the purpose and value of protest is.
One key problem with that part of the guide is the attempt to offer advice to women on avoiding sexual violence, but issuing general (non-gender/sex specific) must surely be acceptable.
The obvious analogy is advice on how to reduce the chances of being attacked on political demonstrations - it's similarly victim blaming to say "If X hadn't gone out and protested, they wouldn't have been attacked", but I don't think there'd be criticism in principle of offering advice on minimising that risk.
Setting that specific advice to one side (it's odd, at best), there is no dichotomy between saying "This situation is unacceptable", and saying "This is the situation, so take steps to mitigate the risk".
We're talking here about a risk posed by other people, and for which those other people are responsible: if we know they pose that risk, but will do nothing to reduce the risk they pose, should we take steps to mitigate the risk?
This question is distinct and discrete from any question as to whether them posing that risk is acceptable, or whether, in a hypothetical alternative set of circumstances, that risk would exist.
The truly difficult question this leads to is raised towards the end of Laurie Penny's article:
Shortly after the revolution in Egypt, hundreds of women were assaulted in Tahrir Square by the same men they had stood beside only weeks earlier to overthrow a corrupt regime. Their only "provocation" was to dare to assemble in celebration of International Women's Day. It was the first inkling we got that there might be more to creating a free Egypt than ousting Hosni Mubarak. These things don't "just happen" in disorderly situations. These things happen because some men believe that they have the right to police and punish the bodies of women.
Until they stop doing so, any revolution will be incomplete, because women are not just afterthoughts in the global fight against tyranny and austerity. Any "revolution in favour of the people", of the sort that Anonymous anticipates in its guide, will not be worth having if it does not agitate for social, political and sexual liberation for every single one of its members. To paraphrase Emma Goldman: if I can't wear a short skirt, I don't want to be part of your revolution.
If you know that other people pose a specific risk, but you feel you must protest, can you take steps to mitigate that risk?
If you can take those steps, should you?
An argument against taking steps to protect yourself - because it somehow legitimises the existence of that risk - is a counsel of perfection. Protest may have a value, but is it worth the risk that people would have to run to undertake it? Conversely, as seems to suggested, is there less or no value in protesting if you consciously act to mitigate risks?
These aren't hypothetical questions. Large scale public protests are back in fashion, and the "Occupy" model extends their duration from hours to weeks. Any risk involved in participating in them is one to which thousands of people are being exposed. How they choose to address that risk is the most basic interface between political ideology and reality - what should be, versus what is.
Don't you love silly season?
Not that 2011 has been a vintage year. Between Libya, riots on the streets of London, and
Hurricane Tropical Storm Irene, there haven't been nearly enough stories about baby cats, liquifying corpses, and the fastest way to board airliners.
All credit, then, to pollsters YouGov, who conducted a poll back in June, but had the sense not to release it until the final days of silly season.