The cultural imperative for us to hate everyone and everything is damaging. Photo: Getty
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Westminster might be nerdy, but we should stop pouring juvenile scorn on people trying to make a difference

Defend the mouthbreathers!

“Well, there’s the goofy bastard, the posh bastard, the treacherous bastard and the racist bastard. And they’re all the same,” goes pretty much any given twentysomething’s analysis of the lead-up to this godforsaken election happening in weeks.

I’d know because, for at least the past month, most conversations with my friends have involved me trying to persuade them not to draw dicks all over their ballots. Whenever politics happen, the pressure on my generation to hate builds and builds. And the more political the politics, the more pressure there is to hate. And a general election is about as political as politics get.

So, in a strange contraption that defies the laws of physics, we spur each other on to be as jaded as possible. It isn’t hard to understand why we do this. We’re just about creeping out of a recession that’s left so many of us fearing for our futures and Ed Miliband is hardly The Answer.

But he’s also not not the answer. And that’s so hard for us to admit because of this post-adolescent cultural imperative for us to hate everyone and everything. I’ve been obedient to that imperative for too long. Hating is just so easy. “Haters gonna hate,” says Taylor Swift (and about a billion rappers well before she made that a thing that white people say). Scroll through your Twitter feed right now and count the number of positive sentiments. Especially if you follow a lot of people in their twenties, I can almost guarantee that they’ll be rare. And I’m not talking about inspirational quotes superimposed on a picture of a lake. Those don’t count. That’s just stolen positivity regurgitated by people who’ve been dead inside since Gordon Brown’s premiership at the latest.

Similarly, I’m not talking about hype. It seems that the only things we’re allowed to like publicly are those that have been deemed worthy by Guardian reading Twitter. Last year it was Serial and Kate Bush and ramen. Those were the only things we were permitted to endorse. And they’re all perfectly nice things, but they’re apolitical. For me, and so many others around my age, the fear attached to having anything other than “Ugh” to say about politics is huge. The problem is that showing anything other than the utmost disdain for Westminster is just so nerdy. And not the good kind of “I like graphic novels and David Attenborough” nerdy. I mean, straight-up mouthbreather nerdy.

In the realm of millennial Twitter, you’d be hard-pressed to find a good solid, “You know what? Labour aren’t perfect but they have some legitimately good ideas and Ed is an OK guy. And it’s not his fault he seems like he probably has a lot of allergies.” I mean, that would make a shit tweet and posting Vines of Miliband being a thundering dork is way more fun. But in an electoral race that’s consisted almost entirely of negging the other guy, I wish that more people could be brave enough to talk about the positives. I’m definitely not one of those brave people. I’m just as addicted to hating as nearly everyone I know. It’s a disease. I can barely look at a tree without being all, “nice branches, fuckhead. Where did you get them, Rubbish Branches ‘R’ Us?”

Just for once, I wish we could channel all of our angst into hating something that truly deserves to be hated. Like Sambuca or George Galloway. Only then can we begin to admit that some stuff is actually, sort of, slightly a little bit OK. And only then can we stop pouring juvenile scorn on people who are actually trying to make a difference.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Women-only train carriages are just a way of ensuring more spaces are male by default

We don’t need the “personal choice” to sit in a non-segregated carriage to become the new short skirt.

“A decent girl,” says bus driver Mukesh Singh, “won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”

Singh is one of four men sentenced to death for the rape and fatal assault of Jyoti Singh Pandey on a Delhi bus in 2013. His defence was that she shouldn’t have been on the bus in the first place. Presumably he’d have said the same if she’d been on a train. In the eyes of a rapist, all space is male-owned by default.

I find myself thinking of this in light of shadow fire minister Chris Williamson’s suggestion that woman-only train carriages be introduced in order to combat sexual violence on public transport. It’s an idea originally proposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2015, only to be shelved following criticism from female MPs.

Now Williamson feels that a rise in sex attacks on public transport has made it worth considering again. Speaking to PoliticsHome, he argues that “complemented with having more guards on trains, it would be a way of combating these attacks”. He does not bother to mention who the perpetrators might be. Bears, vampires, monsters? Doesn’t really matter. As long as you keep the bait safely stored away in a sealed compartment, no one’s going to sniff it out and get tempted. Problem solved, right?

And that’s not the only benefit of a woman-only carriage. What better way to free up space for the people who matter than to designate one solitary carriage for the less important half of the human race?

Sure, women can still go in the free-for-all, male-violence-is-inevitable, frat-house carriages if they want to. But come on, ladies - wouldn’t that be asking for it? If something were to happen to you, wouldn’t people want to know why you hadn’t opted for the safer space?

It’s interesting, at a time when gender neutrality is supposed to be all the rage, that we’re seeing one form of sex segregated space promoted while another is withdrawn. The difference might, in some cases, seem subtle, but earlier sex segregation has been about enabling women to take up more space in the world – when they otherwise might have stayed at home – whereas today’s version seem more about reducing the amount of space women already occupy.

When feminists seek to defend female-only toilets, swimming sessions and changing rooms as a means of facilitating women’s freedom of movement, we’re told we’re being, at best, silly, at worst, bigoted. By contrast, when men propose female-only carriages as a means of accommodating male violence and sexual entitlement, women are supposed to be grateful (just look at the smack-downs Labour’s Stella Creasy received for her failure to be sufficiently overjoyed).

As long as over 80 per cent of violent crime is committed by men, there can be no such thing as a gender-neutral space. Any mixed space is a male-dominated space, which is something women have to deal with every day of their lives. Our freedoms are already limited. We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about personal safety. Each time it is proposed that women don’t go there or don’t do that, just to be on the safe side, our world gets a little bit smaller. What’s more, removing the facilities we already use in order to go there or do that tends to have the exact same effect.

Regarding female-only carriages, Williamson claims “it would be a matter of personal choice whether someone wanted to make use of [them].” But what does that mean? Does any woman make the “personal choice” to put herself at risk of assault? All women want is the right to move freely without that constant low-level monologue – no, those men look fine, don’t be so paranoid, you can always do the key thing, if you’ve thought it’s going to happen that means it won’t …. We don’t need the “personal choice” to sit in a non-segregated carriage to become the new short skirt.

In 1975’s Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller pointed out that the fact that a minority of men rape “provides a sufficient threat to keep all women in a constant state of intimidation”. Whether they want to or not, all men benefit from the actions of those Brownmiller calls “front-line masculine shock troops”. The violence of some men should not be used as an opportunity for all men to mark out yet more space as essentially theirs, but this is what happens whenever men “benevolently” tell us this bus, this train carriage, this item of clothing just isn’t safe enough for us.

“A decent girl,” says the future rapist, “wouldn’t have been in a mixed-sex carriage late at night.” It’s time to end this constant curtailment of women’s freedoms. A decent man would start by naming the problem – male violence – and dealing with that. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.