Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jo, silence doesn't imply apathy, it might just imply that I don't need to waste my time repeating what someone else is likely to say rather better

I have a lot of time for Jo Christie-Smith. So much, in fact, that I encouraged her to apply for the selection of a PPC for Dulwich & West Norwood whilst I was running to be Chair of the Local Party.

We haven't always agreed on the best route towards making our Prospective Parliamentary Candidates more reflective of our society (she is rather more interventionist than I am) and I remember a lengthy argument in a restaurant bar in Brighton a few years back that ran on for more than an hour without any sign that we might reach even a tentative agreement.

She writes really well on issues related to organisation (a pet hobby horse of mine) and equality (something that matters a lot to me, and an area where I have past form). I still don't always agree with her though and we crossed swords rather messily at a meeting of the English Candidates Committee nearly two years ago when, in my view, she was sold down the river by the very people she was supposed to be representing (may the then Executive of the Parliamentary Candidates Association hang their collective heads in shame...).

However, I think that she's been quite harsh on the male element of the LibDem blogosphere when she asks why we aren't commenting. I heard the reports on 'Today' this morning and, in the recesses of my groggy morning mind, my sleepy liberal cortex thought, "Bloody good thing too, what kind of neanderthal thinks that what is done to you when you're drunk is your responsibility?". My next realisation was that I was late for work and really ought to get on with my day.

I tend only to blog when I've got something to say, although I have occasional flights of fancy, or whimsy, when the mood strikes. And today, nothing had happened that I felt particularly equipped to say much of value about. Except, of course, to respond to Jo's blog posting...

So, not so hard on us, Jo. If you want us to join you on the barricades, let us know where you've built them and we'll probably turn up. But don't be surprised if we are delayed by having to write a blog entry telling everyone that we're coming...


Liberal Polemic said...

Here's a thought. Maybe we don't all listen to the Today programme (I have better things to do at 6.30am.

Or maybe it was such a total no-brainer that it wasn't worth commenting. I tend to write about things that make me angry, but if I understand the story correctly (an injustice righted) then this is good news. And good news is no news, as they say!

Anonymous said...

I don't think Jo was having a go at male bloggers individually. On an individual level there is a certain level of randomness in what news might move us to post on any particular day.

But collectively, you would expect those random elements to cancel each other out over the male Lib Dem blogosphere. Yet still she only saw one male Lib Dem post about it.

Jo Christie-Smith said...

Hello Mark,

I've just been doing a marathon response session over on my ownposting, so I thought I'd come over here and address some of your points.

"I think that she's been quite harsh on the male element of the LibDem blogosphere when she asks why we aren't commenting"

Well, in my defence, I wasn't limiting my frustration and disappointment to male Lib Dems but male bloggers and men in general!

But now you mention it, I do think that as Lib Dem we somewhat panic ourselves into saying absolutely nothing about 'women's issues' so often. The reasons behind that are great and varied (and worthy of an entire book) but I'm sure some of it is down to our belief in the individual and therefore our dislike of any level of analysis that puts us into a group, especially when it is not a self selecting one.

"I tend only to blog when I've got something to say, although I have occasional flights of fancy, or whimsy, when the mood strikes. And today, nothing had happened that I felt particularly equipped to say much of value about. Except, of course, to respond to Jo's blog posting..."

Hmmm, you'll forgive me for a bit of a wry smile at this one because if only the rest of the (lib dem) blogopshere held out such restraint on blogging and commenting on issues that they were not really qualified to speak on.

But I guess the issue is that public perception of rape will only change when those in power and those with the ability to influence other start speaking out. My analysis is that, men being both the ones in power and the ones who can provide the best role models will be best placed to do that.

It is possible to speak out on more than your own personal experience, isn't it? I mean, very few of us know what it's like to live under a dictatorship with the highest inflation rate ever recorded but it doesn't stop all of us getting cross and posting something about Zimbabwe, does it?

And Mark, I don't want you to join me on the barricades, I want to go and build your own, better, more effective barricades in places where I can't necessarily reach. and at that point, I'll stop with this analogy as it is in danger of falling apart.

Plus I do point out action that can be taken by men. I nearly always on posting on the topic of male violence against women point people to the White Ribbon Campaign (google it as I don't know how to do links on comments); I do think my criticism is at least constructive!

Jo Christie-Smith said...


Well a wrong righted is a bit of a superficial take on the piece.

Because my first thought was how come CICA were thinking it was all right to suggest that women could be partly culpable for their own rape.

We have a society were 30% of the population think that a women is partly or wholly responsible for their rape if they've been drinking. That is the issue, CICA was an aberration, the same attitude is reflected in the police, in the courts in fact throughout the justice system.

That makes me angry!

But Mooism has a point, that I'm looking over a group and seeing patterns (or lack of patterns) about what are issues for us and what isn't - not wishing to harangue individual bloggers.

However, one of the reasons I blog about equality issues so much is that I don't see many other people doing it; it is rather a political career limiting move, but hey if I don't do say about it, why should I expect anybody else to.

Which kind of informs why I'm an activist in the first place. Niemuller and all that.

Mark Valladares said...


I suppose that it comes down to environment and 'upbringing' to a certain extent.

My formative political years were spent at one of the country's more radical educational institutions, the University of East Anglia, where the concept of defining your own oppression was very much in fashion. Taking a stance on equality issues, particularly those related specifically to women, tended to result in a storm of abuse (what could you possibly know about...), and so one tended to hold back from contributions on those subjects.

General issues of equality, I can do (being an ethnic minority tends to keep people from doing the same in this field, it seems), and so I tend to stick to them.

I'll bear in mind what you say about building barricades, although I'm more the type to procure the material for the barricade so that someone with a better skill set can actually construct it...

Anonymous said...

On the 30% point Jo. Seems to me pretty reasonably that 30% think drunk women are partly responsible for putting themselves at greater risk of rape, but entirely unreasonable to use that as mitigation for the crime or to blame the woman for the rape itself.

Being an irresponsible idiot doesn't make you responsible for being exploited by others, it does though make you an irresponsible idiot.

Jo Christie-Smith said...

Anon, sure, if you want to make up the question to fit the percentage but the poll talked about 'blame' not 'putting themselves at grater risk'.

Anonymous said...

Sure, but the question is not very revealing in that regard as it doesn't discriminate between people who do as you worry really think that woman encourage rape with their behaviour and those that think woman risk rape through their behaviour. One is a position that leads to bad laws, the other is common sense.