“It’s British”..or is it? …the first MP to use the c-word in Parliament

Boyz will be boyz, right? And the c-word is British, right? Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Over and over you hear these excuses for normalizing hate speech directed at women. Usually it is some clueless American just repeating what they have been told by some British troll who already knows they have crossed a boundary and wants to keep getting away with it.

Caroline Sinders (WMF): “a term of endearment in the UK.”

Cue Caroline Sinders, the WMF’s new Wunderkind for detecting harassment, who snickers like a 12-year-old as she displays the word in a powerpoint, starting at about 7:26.

“This is one of my favorite words, because it’s an insult in America and it’s a term of endearment in the UK.”

Really?  Or did the WMF’s latest and greatest harassment expert just get pwned.

Mhairi Black: “I don’t think that’s normal.”

Meanwhile, back in Merry Olde England, Mhairi Black is the first MP to actually utter this word in the British Parliament, in what was termed “a powerfully emotional, no-holds-barred speech hitting out at the disgustingly vitriolic, daily abuse that she receives”

Black spoke at an International Women’s Day debate at Westminster Hall on whether misogyny should be classed as a hate crime. Video now with over 330,000 views.

Misogyny is absolutely everywhere in our society, to the point that we often miss it because it has been so normalised by being continually unchallenged.

Some folk will be uncomfortable with the graphic language that I am about to use, but I am not going to dilute the reality of such an important issue. I am used to online abuse in particular. I am regularly called a wee boy, and told that I wear my dad’s suits and stuff. Me and my pals actually laugh about it. That is how I cope with it.

We find the best insults, and that is how we have a laugh, but I struggle to see any joke in systematically being called a dyke, a rug muncher, a slut, a whore and a scruffy bint. I have been told, ‘You can’t put lipstick on a pig,’ and, ‘Let the dirty bitch eat shit and die’.

I could soften some of this by talking about the ‘C-word’, but the reality is that there is no softening when I am targeted by these words: I am left reading them on my screen day in, day out.Someone said: ‘She needs a kick in the cunt’. I have been called ‘guttural cunt’, ‘ugly cunt’ and ‘wee animal cunt’. There is no softening just how sexualised and misogynistic the abuse is.

Some guy called William Hannah – I have never heard of him in my life – commented: ‘I’ve pumped some ugly burds in my time but I just wouldn’t’.

I have been assured multiple times that I do not have to worry because I am so ugly that no one would want to rape me.

All those insults were tailored to me because I am a woman. We can kid ourselves that those are comments by a few bad, anonymous people on Twitter, but they are not: this is everyday language.

I am aware that everyone here was uncomfortable hearing those insults – I felt uncomfortable reading them out—yet there are people who feel comfortable flinging those words around every day. When that language goes unchallenged, it becomes normalised, and that creates an environment that allows women to be subjected to a whole spectrum of abuse.

So, “strong language”, “could soften some of this by talking about the ‘C-word’”, “insults tailored to me because I am a woman”, “a whole spectrum of abuse”, “sexualised and misogynistic”, “I struggle to see any joke”, “uncomfortable with the graphic language”,… Nope, doesn’t sound like a case of “it’s British” to me. British women are genuinely distressed by this. They say it leads to violence, assaults. And they are intimated by it to the point where it constantly goes unchallenged.

For Mhairi Black this is not an abstract debate, it is personal.

The women in my life that I know and love have been beaten, raped, assaulted, called sluts, whores, and groped throughout their entire lives, and have been led to believe that this is normal and that it’s just a given, and that it’s something that just happens.

And just that same week, she herself was pressed up against in the cloakroom by some creep who is a member of parliament, and who everyone knows about. Imagine that, a sexual predator in the British Parliament and everyone looks the other way.

But wait, she’s Scottish. Is that the same as British?

It’s so, so hard to give up this “it’s British” narrative after being bombarded with so many blind repetitions.

So what about the British press?  What did they print?

  • The Guardian had a demure op-ed by Kevin McKenna, a dude who covers Scotland, and who referred to the language as “primitive attacks carrying a degree of malevolence and violent intent that chilled you”
  • The Independent embedded the video and printed “I struggle to see any joke in being systematically called a dyke, a rug muncher, a slut, a whore, a scruffy bint. I’ve been told you can’t put lipstick on a pig, let the dirty bitch each shit and die.”  But when it came to the c-word, they used asterisks: “… when you’re targeted with these words and you’re left reading them on my screen every day, day in, day out – she needs to kick the c***, guttural c***, ugly c***, wee animal c*** – there is no softening just how sexualised and misogynistic the abuse is.”
  • Although it did embed the video, the BBC did not specify the language at all, only saying she “read out some of the worst insults aimed at her”, instead headlining that “she was ‘physically pressed up’ against a colleague accused of sexual misconduct in the House of Commons voting lobby”.
  • Even the Daily Mail, England’s version of The National Enquirer, would only print “c-word”, along with some hostile editorializing comments about women:  “Scottish Nationalist MP Mhairi Black used the C-word five times to illustrate exactly the kind of abuse she gets online and in the post.  Recently, Diane Abbott did the same thing, although she was a little more polite than Mhairi — but who isn’t?”

So no, it’s not “British”, except in the sense of being a primitive and violent attack used by the British equivalent of trailer trash.

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17 thoughts on ““It’s British”..or is it? …the first MP to use the c-word in Parliament

  1. Whoever told Caroline Sinders that “the C-word” was a term of endearment in British English was lying (possibly playing a particularly vicious practical joke). For all practical purposes there is no context in which it would not be extremely offensive. The social media insults that Mhairi Black quotes are, and are intended to be, hurtful and hateful, and would, I hope, be intolerable in a face-to-face context.

    Interestingly, the well-known Wikipedian Eric Corbett has managed to establish the precedent that a sufficiently well-established contributor is allowed to get away with using this sort of language. Excuse me while I vomit.

  2. Thank you for that.

    For some reason, it’s “common knowledge” amongst Wikipedians, I have had arbitrators say it to me with a straight face – Americans, that is. I do believe the origin of that was with Corbett’s crowd, possibly a strategy to get him off the hook. I have heard some anecdotal evidence that it is used in all-male spaces to establish intimacy, but this is second hand or possibly third-hand information.

  3. I have been told that there are all-male milieux (typically white male working class hard-drinking pubs) in which “cunt” is regarded as a friendly insult but the worst insult that one man can level against another is “woman”. Fortunately I do not find myself in such milieux.

    Wikipedians accepted the garbage about the word being friendly banter from Corbett because they wanted to find a way to let him off the hook. They did not care about the truth so much as what as convenient for their MMORPG.

  4. Unsurprisingly, the truth is that context matters. In the UK, it is indeed both a term of endearment (strangly, particularly in Scotland) and the worst insult you can use. It is to be used with extreeme care, lest the former use be misinterpreted as the latter.

    And while the friendly form is most likely only used in male contexts as part of good natured ribbing of one’s friends, or even strangers in a relaxed context, I wouldn’t exactly be surprised if I heard a woman use it. News just in – some women prefer the company of roughty tufty men, and use their style of speech to fit in. Whether they do so in their own company, I could not say, as I’m never there.

    As has been observed, this Wikipedia trend to excuse it as an acceptable British word in everyday speech, let alone on a PowerPoint slide, is a myth that originated with the cult’s desire to protect the Corbett. His use of it, that context, was categorically of the UK insult kind. And he knew it.

    In that incident, there were also quibbles over its sexist qualities, and it is indeed not a gender specific insult in the UK (in common usage, no implication of feminity is implied in the same way “fag” or “bitch” has quite specific stereotypically genderised derivations). But that too was just a smokescreen, since they knew fine well that both women and Americans were present, so even if it wasn’t meant by him as misogyny, interpretations as such in that company was perfectly valid, and they are all aware of these things.

    All that said, on the subject of Wikipedia derived myths – The Daily Star is the UK equivalent of the National Enquirer. The Mail is an award winning newspaper read by millions and contributed to by numerous columnists and journalists of high repute.

    The Mail is disliked not for its inaccuracies or even deliberate lies (incidence of which are comparable with other mainstream tabloids), but for its editorial stances and penchant for driving public discourse rather than just reporting it. Not sure what the US paper equivalent of that is, but it is certainly of the Fox News mould. Even that would be unfair, since Fox News doesn’t really do journalism at all, certainly not award winning. Unsurprisingly, in this issue too, context matters.

  5. So as usual, the answer is “it’s complicated”.

    Here is some attempt to map profanity by regions, based on Twitter. https://stronglang.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/mapping-the-united-swears-of-america/

    I have a lot of disagreements with this map based on my own experience, which is probably not with Twitter users, plus it does not show race/gender/age data, but it is data of a sort. England is said to have some 300 dialects, so I imagine collecting data from England would be more difficult.

    Will try to embed the image, although images in comments do not seem to be stable any more:

    jack-grieve-swear-map-of-usa-gi-z-score-cunt

    This is the first time I have seen a British woman weigh in on the subject, and it seems they interpret it as American women do, as part of a culture of violence against women.

    The Daily Mail should be ashamed of themselves for their treatment of the subject, “mainstream tabloids” would seem to be an oxymoron.

    Corbett was certainly aware of the effect of the word on American women, he said as much, he has also written at length about his family history of domestic violence.

    But why does the cult wish to protect Corbett and/or this type of language? By “the cult” I think you would have to look separately at his supporters vs. the WMF. Why are they afraid of him? I have always looked at all those GA’s and FA’s and barnstars they give each other as meaningless trinkets, but perhaps they are in control of the mainpage and there is no one else who can do it? What would happen if they all left?

  6. The protection of Corbett and language used to attacl women is a by-product of the way the MMORPG works. The discourse is framed in terms of writing an encyclopaedia, but it’s all about prevailing in conflicts over things that merely appear to be about an encyclopaedia, like infoboxes, but it’s all about winning fights. The motivation is internal: winning fights in the game; and external: positioning oneself to receive real-world benefits like grants and jobs. Why would anyone care if they all left and were replaced by a new generation of useful idiots? The WMF would use their nine-figure budget to spin it all as a reason to spend even more money rewarding themselves and their acolytes, and gaining influence with their Silicon Valley chums as a beard for their social irresponsibility.

    In case you think this analysis is too cynical, and that it might actually be, at some level, and to some extent, about writing an encyclopaedia, consider this. There are about a million articles that require improvement under Wikipedia’s own rules, being either unsourced or inadequately sourced. Thousands of these are Biographies of Living People, supposedly the most sensitive class of articles that absilutely must be got right. What are Wikipedians doing about them? Nothing. I rest my case.

  7. Apples and oranges. What more could they do with BLP, that they aren’t doing already? Isn’t there already some forum and some special contact info that nobody ever uses?

    Sure they want to give money to WiR and Art + Feminism, but do you really think they need Manchester as a foil for that? No, that is the elephant in the room they do not want to talk about in public, they have gone to a great deal of trouble to make sure that when you google “Wikipedia” + “women”, Corbett is not the first thing that comes up in a search. It has to be something else. They could enforce their ToS tomorrow, and rope in way more institutions, why don’t they do it? Where is the money? Where is the hidden power structure that is accountable to no one? Is there some link between the very well-funded WMUK and Manchester? It has to be something in the volunteer sector. Bishonen? There was some conflict there once with Jimbo.

  8. I neither know nor care what they could or should be doing. The fact that they have no effective plan in place to resolve these huge flaws in what they themselves have set up as the key principles of their so-called encyclopaedia shows that the things they talk about are not in fact the things they care about. The key insight is that Corbett doesn’t matter. Writing an encyclopaedia doesn’t matter. All the things they talk about, and most of the the things their critics talk about are epiphenomena, words that have meaning only in so far as they serve to win fights and prevail: they have as much meaning as the stripes on the tiger while it’s sinking its teeth into you.

  9. As I said, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s possible in principle to write an encyclopaedia on the model of Wikipedia, and all I can say is that the famous mantra “Wikipedia does not work in theory, only in practice” is only half correct: the evidence is that it doesn’t work in practice either. If I were going to design an encyclopaedia I wouldn’t start from here. As a vehicle for channeling large sums of money into the pockets of people who don’t do the work, and promoting careers in the US leftish non-profit–think-tank–social enterprise nexus, it works fine.

  10. Just backtracking, I would say that Corbett DOES matter, and for some reason he matters more than writing an encyclopedia that “anyone can edit”. But why? Whose “US leftish non-profit–think-tank–social enterprise nexus” pocket is money being channeled into to keep him placated? I’m just not seeing it. Are you talking about something specific or is that just a generalization?

    Looking at Art+Feminism I’m not seeing any political agenda http://www.artandfeminism.org/find-an-event/ (unless it was to keep out the vanilla-flavored academic feminists, which I think did happen. Is A+F part of the radical LGTB crowd? I don’t know.) And even so, I do not mind non-profits for political think tanks I do not agree with getting some of the free WMF coffee and donuts along with the spiel. These movements are historical and sometimes do have archives.

    By “huge flaws in what they themselves have set up as the key principles of their so-called encyclopaedia” I thought you meant something besides politics. In which case it can be fixed.

  11. The logic goes as follows. Wikipedia claims to be a crowd-sourcing community, building an encyclopaedia based on certain principles of verifiability and reliable sources. However, the product is, by their own admission, not reliable; the product is in catastrophic breach of its own rules on verifiability and sourcing (the “huge flaws” of which I speak); the community is a dysfunctional and abusive cult running an MMORPG that looks like a bigger version of Lord of the Flies. So it’s clear that we can completely ignore what they say in any analysis: they are not even lying, they are just emitting the sounds you make while doing what they do, akin to the sort of grunts that early hominins would evntually turn into language. If what they say appears to make sense and be consistent with reality, it’s a complete coincidence, as much as if the stripes on the tiger eating you were to form the letters “I AM A TIGER”.

    So how best to do the analysis. Well, let’s look at where the money goes. A lot of workers toil for free on the projects using their own time and money and get nothing back. A huge amount of money accrues to a foundation in Californa that uses under a tenth of it to keep the project infrastructure going; that awards grants to a chosen few project members and occasionally even employs other project members on sinecures or busy-work that they usually do rather shoddily; that is ruthlessly efficient at one thing only, namely raising more money for itself; and which has a revolving door for both staff and money into the political nexus I mentioned (the best word I know of for which is “Clintonism”) and an delusional aspiration to appear a Silicon Valley player.

    I hope that helps.

  12. Neither had I, and I certainly didn’t make that claim. The association between the Clinton Foundation, Democratic political strategy consultancies and the WMF are well-documented, although mainly at a site you wouldn’t want me to link to. But perhaps you prefer not to hear that?

  13. Oh now I remember, back in 2015 you wanted the WMF to hire one of your Tory friends and they didn’t follow up on it. That was all the way back during Lila’s tenure.

    https://genderdesk.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/the-rogol-rfc-and-collective-punishment/#comment-11732

    The “association between” turned out to be the WMF gave a contract to an independent firm that had once done a contract for a political campaign. So thanks to you they now do their consulting in-house instead of getting actual experts. https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2018-April/089950.html

    What next, Hillary gets a cup of coffee from Starbucks, so Starbucks becomes off-limits for WMF staffers?

    Funny thing, the sidebar is starting to look the same way it did back then.

    https://genderdesk.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/rogol-gets-free-speech-and-kohs-gets-pms/

    Looks like someone is still grinding an ax.

  14. That’s so far from any connection with reality that I’ll just leave it at that. If the most important thing to you about Wikipedia is that the Foundation should be insulated from criticism, then I can only wish you good luck finding some tasty mosrsels in their trough.

  15. Sorry, but that still doesn’t really explain it, and six posts on the topic is hardly “insulated from criticism”.

    That WP does not always meet NPOV is to be expected, it is a work in progress plus this can be used as additional incentive for recruitment.

    I have yet to see the “revolving door for both staff and money into the political nexus”, in spite of 8chan digging up that bit about WP hiring a firm that had been previously hired by a political campaign. While some might hope for WP to advance their careers, this is rare and from what I can see not driven by WP — WiRs are paid by their home institutions — although this might get them a scholarship for a conference or two, and the leftover donuts from the editathon for their staff room. Although many might drool over what Michel Aaij has achieved academia-wise, this remains a one-off.

    So what is left is the “dysfunctional and abusive cult running an MMORPG” with no explanation of why there is so much resistance to cleaning it up. Since this does not seem in the interest of the foundation, or their fundraising model, then, per Occam’s razor, the nexus of the power structure for this is elsewhere.

    AFAIK the inside story of the rise of Art + Feminism remains untold, I bet that Brill Lyle has some interesting insights, although she does seem to be drinking the WikiData koolaid.

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