Laurie Penny and Mary Beard in Conway Hall.
Show Hide image

VIDEO: Laurie Penny and Mary Beard discuss the public voice of women

Highlights from our Conway Hall event on 30 July 2014.

Within the setting of Conway Hall, a landmark of London’s independent intellectual, political and cultural thought, Mary Beard and Laurie Penny tackled the question: why are we so afraid of outspoken women?

From the Ancient Roman forum to Twitter, women have long had to fight for freedom of speech. In 2014, women are still fighting for this basic human right. Online abuse directed at women crosses all forums of the internet. Few women writers and campaigners have not had their views or arguments mocked online at some point. More worryingly, women online also regularly face abuse, harassment, intimidation and violent threats. The purpose of this abuse is to silence women and remove them from public debate.

Mary Beard is Britain’s best-known classicist. A professor in classics at Cambridge and classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, she is also a regular commentator on both the modern and the ancient world via her blog, A Don’s Life. She presented the BBC 2 programme Meet the Romans with Mary Beard and has appeared on BBC Question Time.

Laurie Penny is a blogger, activist and New Statesman columnist who writes on social justice, pop culture and gender issues. She is the author of Meat Market: Female Flesh under CapitalismPenny Red: Notes from a New Age of Dissent, and Discordia: Six Nights in Crisis Athens. Her latest book, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, is out now.

Chairing the event was Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Labour to strip "abusive" registered supporters of their vote in the leadership contest

The party is asking members to report intimidating behaviour - but is vague about what this entails. 

Labour already considered blocking social media users who describe others as "scab" and "scum" from applying to vote. Now it is asking members to report abuse directly - and the punishment is equally harsh. 

Registered and affiliated supporters will lose their vote if found to be engaging in abusive behaviour, while full members could be suspended. 

Labour general secretary Iain McNicol said: “The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society.

“However, for a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. They shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.

“Put plainly, there is simply too much of it taking place and it needs to stop."

Anyone who comes across abusive behaviour is being encouraged to email validation@labour.org.uk.

Since the bulk of Labour MPs decided to oppose Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, supporters of both camps have traded insults on social media and at constituency Labour party gatherings, leading the party to suspend most meetings until after the election. 

In a more ominous sign of intimidation, a brick was thrown through the window of Corbyn challenger Angela Eagle's constituency office. 

McNicol said condemning such "appalling" behaviour was meaningless unless backed up by action: “I want to be clear, if you are a member and you engage in abusive behaviour towards other members it will be investigated and you could be suspended while that investigation is carried out. 

“If you are a registered supporter or affiliated supporter and you engage in abusive behaviour you will not get a vote in this leadership election."

What does abusive behaviour actually mean?

The question many irate social media users will be asking is, what do you mean by abusive? 

A leaked report from Labour's National Executive Committee condemned the word "traitor" as well as "scum" and "scab". A Labour spokeswoman directed The Staggers to the Labour website's leadership election page, but this merely stated that "any racist, abusive or foul language or behaviour at meetings, on social media or in any other context" will be dealt with. 

But with emotions running high, and trust already so low between rival supporters, such vague language is going to provide little confidence in the election process.