In the Frame – a critical look at the linguistic framing of current debates on prostitution

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 01.05.16

Debbie Cameron takes a critical look at the linguistic framing of current debates on prostitution.

Let’s start with a question. Are you pro-sex or anti-sex?

Maybe you’re thinking: ‘of course I’m not anti-sex, who the hell would be against sex?’

Or maybe you’re thinking: ‘Hang on a minute, aren’t those terms a bit loaded?’

And of course, they are. But that comes with the territory. It’s in the nature of political arguments to be conducted in loaded language. The proverbial ‘battle for hearts and minds’ is always, among other things, a war of words.

‘Pro-sex’ (or ‘sex positive’) and ‘anti-sex’ are shorthand labels for political positions on a set of issues (including pornography and prostitution) which have divided feminists since the 19th century. ‘Anti-sex’ is what the ‘pro-sex’ camp call the people on the other side of the argument: it’s not what the other side call themselves. (Because who the hell would be against sex?)

But the competing terms in a political argument aren’t always straightforward opposites like ‘pro-/anti-sex’. In debates on abortion, the opposing camps are most commonly labelled ‘pro-choice’ (supporting women’s right to choose whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy) and ‘pro-life’ (defending the sanctity of human life and the rights of unborn children). Each side has chosen a label that suits its own argument, and both have been relatively successful in getting others, including the media, to respect their terminological preferences.
Read more In the Frame – a critical look at the linguistic framing of current debates on prostitution

How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 24.02.16

This is an article that WEAVE  wrote for Parity in 2013. Still very pertinent for today.

How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

By Marie Hume, Dr. Elspeth McInnes, Kathryn Rendell, and Betty Green (Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination Inc.)

 

It is well established that a significant percentage of homeless people in Australia are women and children escaping male violence. According to Homelessness Australia, just over two in every five of the estimated homeless population are women. More women than men seek assistance from the homeless service system each year. Two-thirds of the children who accompanied an adult to a homeless service last year were in the care of a woman, usually their mother, escaping domestic violence. Domestic violence is the most often cited reason given by women presenting to specialist homelessness services for seeking assistance.

The majority of people turned away from specialist homelessness services are women and their children. One in two people who request immediate accommodation are turned away each night due to high demand and under-resourcing.
Read more How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

THE REALITY OF BEING A PREGNANT WOMAN IN YARL’S WOOD by @SarahGraham7

Cross-posted from: Sarah Graham
Originally published: 29.03.16

hero-landscape-rexfeatures_5613051kLucy was 23 when she fell pregnant, following a brutal gang rape by three men in her home country. After receiving threats on her life, she fled to the UK, believing she would be safe here – only to find herself locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre at five months pregnant. This is her story, as told to Sarah Graham.

After the attack, I knew people were after me. I was getting threatening letters, I saw men in front of our house, and my mum and I knew the police would not help. I told her it was too much for me; my life was in danger and I had to leave. We sold almost everything we had for me to escape, and friends and relatives contributed to the cost.

I didn’t know what to expect from England. I never thought in my life I would travel, so when it happened I didn’t think of anything except that I had to find somewhere safe for myself and my baby.

When I landed in the UK, they started interrogating me at the airport. They took my bag and my phone, so I couldn’t contact my mum, and the guy told me that if I didn’t tell him the truth, he was going to lock me up. I was really scared.
Read more THE REALITY OF BEING A PREGNANT WOMAN IN YARL’S WOOD by @SarahGraham7

Ruled Over by a Male Figure (RObaMF) by @SmashesTheP

Cross-posted from: Smashes The P: Women's Liberationist
Originally published: 26.12.12

I cooked the holiday meal yesterday. It was a lot of work, but it was fun.

This was my first time hosting Xmas. For various reasons, Mom was invited to the festivities this year, but dad was not.

As we sat down to enjoy the meal I had just made, Mom addressed my partner.

“[smash’s nigel], why don’t you come over here and sit at the head of the table.”

Whoa.

Mom knows I’m a feminist, but this came so naturally to her that she said it anyway.

I informed her that we don’t do “head of the table” at my house, and that she herself might as well sit where she had been indicating, since there is nothing special in my house about plopping oneself in one part of the rectangular table versus another.

But, even if we did do “head of the table” bullsh*t at my house, one might think that the person who had cooked the meal should sit at the “head”—not the dude who is dating the person who cooked the entire meal. 
Read more Ruled Over by a Male Figure (RObaMF) by @SmashesTheP

Manifesto on VAWG for London mayor candidates by @newsaboutwomen

Cross-posted from: Women's Views on the News
Originally published: 30.03.16

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Commit to maintaining London’s pioneering Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.

 

 

Women’s groups in London published a ‘manifesto for ending violence against women and girls in the capital,’ recently and sent open letters to Mayoral candidates highlighting the endemic levels of domestic and sexual violence in London, and asking them to make specific commitments on ending female genital mutilation (FGM), on prostitution, on ensuring support services are maintained, and the effective policing of these crimes.

A new ‘mayorwatch’ website, which will track all relevant mayoral and Assembly candidates’ pledges has also been launched.

The manifesto and open letters precede an ‘ending violence against women and girls hustings’ in central London on 12 April, with Sian Berry, Green Party;  Yvette Cooper MP for Labour; Stephen Greenhalgh for the Conservatives; Annabel Mullin for the Lib Dems; and Sophie Walker, standing for the Women’s Equality Party, on the panel.
Read more Manifesto on VAWG for London mayor candidates by @newsaboutwomen

Maria Miller’s Report Puts Feminists In An Impossible Position by @cwknews

Cross-posted from: Stephanie Davies-Arai
Originally published: 24.01.16

Maria Miller transgender reportMaria Miller has stated that she is ‘taken aback’ by the ”hostility’ towards the government’s recent transgender reportfrom ‘purported feminists.’ She says: “I think that all of us who are feminists know that equality for other groups of people, and a fairer deal for other groups of people, is good for us as well.”

Yes of course, as a society nobody wants to see any group suffering discrimination so why would anyone not give just a passing nod of approval to this new report, even those horrible feminists?

This time it’s not so simple; ‘transgender’ is not one of those ‘other groups’ defined by distinct boundaries, as all other minority groups are. By definition, ‘transgender’ stakes claim to membership of already existing groups; the mantra ‘transwomen are women’ accordingly puts them into two protected categories; both ‘transgender’ and ‘women’.

In the blurring of boundaries, ‘women’ as a distinct group ceases to exist; we have to say ‘women-born women’ now to make the sex-based distinction clear, and we are losing the right to do even that: any sex-based comparisons are seen as ‘transphobic.’

This is the crux of the matter; if the recommendations in this report are passed into law as expected, it means that in important legal terms the distinction between men and women will become ‘gender’ instead of ‘sex’. This is an arbitrary move; when did we decide that ‘gender’ is a stronger marker than ‘sex’ if you need to differentiate between men and women? Gender, as a concept of masculinity and femininity, is based on subjective opinion; a means of dividing men and women along personality lines. ‘Correct’ gendered behaviour and presentation is already enforced and policed by society in a million different ways from birth, and the group it mostly harms is women. This report does not ask women to support transgender rights, it demands that we accept a definition of women which reinforces a limiting stereotype and at the same time deny the biological sex which is the basis of discrimination against women.
Read more Maria Miller’s Report Puts Feminists In An Impossible Position by @cwknews

Tory Housing Transformation Nothing more than another attack on the poorest by @JayneLinney

Cross-posted from: Jayne Linney
Originally published: 11.01.16

Sadiq Khan was in yesterday’s Mirror offering his opinion on the Tories “plan to transform sink estates“;  he speaks of how “having a secure and affordable home meant my parents could build a better life for me…”; this was also my experience.

My mum when widowed January 21 1965, was in the process of moving home, with my dad they’d bought a new bungalow  and sold the terraced house they’d lived in for a decade, completing on Saturday 16/01/65. Due to the insurance documents not being signed at the same time, when my dad died of an unknown chronic heart disease on the Thursday, she and I were made homeless.

After two years of ‘making do’ at my grandparents we moved into a maisonette, on a new and at the time, state of the art council estate. Over the past 49 years the same estate has gone from being the flagship for Leicester City Council to so-called sink estate, now surrounded by  iron bars. Yet it was that estate where I grew up, went to grammar school and ultimately university and on to post-grad education.


Read more Tory Housing Transformation Nothing more than another attack on the poorest by @JayneLinney

Why Climate Change Impacts Indian Women More Than Men by @rupandemehta

Cross-posted from: Liberating Realisations
Originally published: 20.12.15

report issued by the World Bank suggests that India’s economic progress could be severely hampered, with an additional 45 million pushed into poverty, due to the effects of climate change. While Prime Minister Modi makes his position clear vis-à-vis developed nations, the government does not appear to be taking enough cognisance of the devastating effects of climate change at home.

Climate change is real and unless serious action is taken there is no way back. There is no plan B and unless our space exploration explodes a million fold and we get extremely lucky, we do not have another planet to call home. So climate change is here to stay and will affect everyone – most of all the marginalised. Within that subset, the vulnerable – women and children – are most likely to see its full-blown effects. Throughout the world, natural disasters and severe weather events tend to impact women more than men. In developing countries, this problem is compounded when several other factors such as malnutrition, inequitable distribution of power and gender roles that are unfavourable to women are added to the mix.
Read more Why Climate Change Impacts Indian Women More Than Men by @rupandemehta

Socialist Resistance and Sisterhood by K_IngalaSmith

Last year I wrote a piece for Socialist Resistance.  I talked about my work for a feminist women’s charity working with women who have experienced men’s violence in the context of some of my thoughts about feminism and social class.

I have asked Socialist Resistance to take the piece down following their behaviour towards another feminist, Glosswitch.  You can read about what happened – and the piece that she was asked to write –  here.

As a working-class woman, my sex-class is as important to me as my socio-economic class. Women’s oppression is biologically based and reinforced by socially constructed gender.  Though not the same, there are similarities to the way that access or lack of access to material resources is reinforced and reproduced by the different life chances and opportunities afforded to a person on the basis of social class.
I will not turn my back on my sister.
The piece I wrote for Socialist Resistance, which was written in the format of an interview, appears below for anyone who is interested in the challenges of balancing feminist activism and work in the women’s sector.


Read more Socialist Resistance and Sisterhood by K_IngalaSmith

Calais: Migration and Asylum IS a feminist issue.

Cross-posted from: Sister Hex
Originally published: 02.08.15

Ever thought about women migrants in the Calais migrant situation?

All the migrants and refugees in Calais come from countries beyond Europe, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan.

The women migrants/refugees in Calais are mainly from Eritrea. The government there is considered to have one of the worst human rights records in the world. Such is the scale of the state’s abuses that more than 5,000 people leave the country every month. Women, as in many cultures, suffer particular and horrific gendered oppression (FGM, forced marriage, rape, sexual abuse in the military) from which they try to escape and seek asylum.

Female migrants/refugees then suffer particular gendered hardships on the journey to escape state and societal oppression.
Read more Calais: Migration and Asylum IS a feminist issue.

On the Othering of Sexual Violence

Cross-posted from: The Joy in my Feet
Originally published: 26.06.15

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about FGM and the outpouring of cultural condemnations around the practice that has been flying around at large at the moment. Whilst we certainly should be condemning FGM, I wrote of my concerns about the cultural coverage of the practice which easily becomes misappropriated, used and abused by those wanting to make xenophobic, anti-immigration arguments, whilst glossing over the point that FGM is child abuse and violence against women and girls. What I didn’t write about was how the response to FGM in media and social media outlets in the UK is an example of the wider response to domestic and gender based abuse that is typical of the Western world; that is, the othering of sexual violence.

 


Read more On the Othering of Sexual Violence

The Political Left and Sexual Harassment

Cross-posted from: Liberation is Life
Originally published: 18.12.15

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Ginny Brown

Until we support girls and women in setting boundaries for their own safety and comfort, we cannot accurately describe ourselves as opponents of rape culture.

The core of female oppression is the appropriation of our reproduction, care provision and sexuality by more powerful social sectors (in this era, we’re talking men and the capitalist class), for the purpose of maintaining their power. Our speech is discouraged and ignored. We are impeded from shaping society, but society insists on shaping us.

This means that a prerequisite for feminism is supporting women in working out which boundaries we want to set and maintain in support of our political, social and individual needs, as well as safety. Not jeering at girls and women who defend these boundaries. “How are you going to keep the attendance female-born – are you planning on doing panty checks at the door?” has to be one of the most shameful responses to anyone organising a female-only activity*, whether it be commercial, social or political. And yet I was part of a socialist group in which some members did that. It’s one of my more embarrassing memories of the Australian Democratic Socialist Party’s intervention at a Fem X (student feminist) conference in the late nineties, and I don’t think I said anything in response.
Read more The Political Left and Sexual Harassment

Enforcing Northern Ireland’s New Swedish-Style Sex Purchase Law – A Sex Worker’s Story

Cross-posted from: Ruth Jacobs
Originally published: 19.11.14

A rainy night in Belfast. Cold and wet with a wind whipping round the corners of the barren streets where women used to stand. How things have changed. A decade ago, even on such a horrible early winter’s night, there would have been activity, but the law changed and drove the women away. Many moved inside, others stood in darker corners by derelict houses or under battered trees in city parks, waiting for the cars.

Now, the law’s about to change again. Protesting that they don’t want to criminalise the women – just the men who seek out the women – the gentle Sinn Fein folk demanded that the old rule against loitering for the purposes of prostitution be struck down.

We talked about this, a few of us, at the quaintly but tautologically-named Commercial Sex-workers’ Clinic recently. The wonderful woman and man who run the service rolled their eyes. They didn’t want Clause 6 of Morrow’s Bill and they certainly didn’t think this ‘concession’ was going to fool anyone.


Read more Enforcing Northern Ireland’s New Swedish-Style Sex Purchase Law – A Sex Worker’s Story

BDSM & Feminism – Are They Compatible?

Originally published: 09.12.15

Nobody knows why one thing turns them on over another. Would you ask me why my sexual orientation is the way it is? In the same way, enjoying BDSM does not feel like something I can (or want) to change. A lot of feminists argue that I’ve just internalised the patriarchy, that it’s not my fault but, y’know, I’m not very ‘feminist’ for enjoying it. I find this theory unappealing because I think the false consciousness they are talking about refers to things you can rationally think your way out of:

“Do I belong in the kitchen? No, I can’t cook for shit!”

But I can’t programme myself out of what turns me on. For the sake of argument, let’s say I have internalised oppression via the media – then what else have I internalised? Do I really find Kiera Knightley attractive or have I just internalised a false beauty ideal? This line of argument is vague and attributes right and wrong arbitrarily. For example, I could easily argue that caring about makeup and beauty is internalised patriarchy, but I’m not going to go around telling women they shouldn’t wear or enjoy wearing makeup because it’s wrong. These sorts of things (beauty, fetishes, humour) are non-morals with no right or wrong to them; they’re just preferences.
Read more BDSM & Feminism – Are They Compatible?

You are killing me: On hate speech and feminist silencing by @strifejournal

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 17.05.15

Radical feminists are regularly accused of denying trans people’s right to exist, or even of wanting them dead. Here Jane Clare Jones takes a closer look at these charges. Where do they come from and what do they mean? Is there a way to move towards a more constructive discussion?

The claim that certain forms of feminist speech should be silenced has recently become common currency. Notable instances include the ongoing NUS no-platforming of Julie Bindelthe cancellation of a performance by the comedian Kate Smurthwaite (which prompted a letter to the Observer), and, in the last month, the demand that a progressive Canadian website end its association with the feminist writer Meghan Murphy.

The basis of this claim is the assertion that a certain strand of feminist thought is hate speech. Versions of that assertion have circulated on social media for a number of years — complete with obligatory analogies between Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) and Nazis, the BNP or the Ku Klux Klan. But its effectiveness in excising speech from the public sphere was really brought home to me in August 2014, when the journalist and trans activist Paris Lees pulled out of a Newsnight debate with the gender-critical trans woman Miranda Yardley, saying she was ‘not prepared to enter into a fabricated debate about trans people’s right to exist.’


Read more You are killing me: On hate speech and feminist silencing by @strifejournal

Submission to the consultation on the Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill from the Nordic Model Information Network

Cross-posted from: Charlotte Proudman
Originally published: 30.11.15

The Nordic Model Information Network is a global alliance of researchers with deep and systematic expertise in researching the dynamics of prostitution and the sex industry, trafficking and violence against women. We write in response to the consultation on the Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill, and we argue for the adoption of the Nordic Model. We do this in accord with the 2014 Resolution 1983 of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly “Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe”, and the (Honeyball) Resolution of the European Parliament, “Sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact of gender equality”, both of which recommended by overwhelming majorities the approach of addressing demand as best legislative practice throughout the European Union.

Our research is grounded in contemporary evidence including, importantly, the testimony of survivors of the prostitution system, as well as drawing on historical and philosophical inquiry. Many of us have worked directly with prostituted women. We have individual and collective links with a wide variety of organisations working for the abolition of prostitution as an institution of gender inequality and exploitation. We believe it is important to signal very clearly that our position on prostitution is not grounded in a moralistic approach, or in any kind of hostility to women in the prostitution system. Nor is our position linked to considerations about maintaining ‘public order’. Our concern is centrally with the human rights of women in protecting the dignity of all women equally, and with an end to all forms of the subordination and degradation of women.

We unequivocally support the removal of criminal sanctions for women who solicit sex and the strengthening of laws against coercion in the sex industry. On this basis we are in support of law reform that decriminalises solicitation and that focuses on women’s safety. We do not, however, support the general aim of the Bill to reform the law on prostitution in Scotland along the New Zealand model. We set out our reasons for this below. We think it is important from the outset to clarify and correct some of the misinformation, in particular about the Nordic Model, noted in the Consultation Paper.


Read more Submission to the consultation on the Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill from the Nordic Model Information Network

16 Days of Activism to Eliminate VAWG: What you can do to support women’s services! by @EVB_Now

Cross-posted from: Everyday Victim Blaming
Originally published: 25.11.15

These are just a few of the ways that you can support women’s services during the 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Male Violence against Women and Girls.

  1. Donate £1 to a specialist women’s service like the national organisations Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, or Refuge.
  2. Donate £1 to your local service providers supporting women who are living with domestic and sexual violence and abuse. BME women’s services have been disproportionately impacted by so-called ‘austerity’ so please don’t forget them.
  3. Donate £1 every day to a different specialist women’s organisations.
  4. Share fundraisers for women’s services across social media. We understand that many women can not afford to donate £1. Sharing fundraisers is just as essential as being able to donate £1.
  5. Share articles on domestic and sexual violence and abuse on social media to raise awareness.
  6. Host a coffee morning for your friends to raise money.
  7. Bring some baked goods into work and ask for donations to a service of your choice from your co-workers.
  8. Collect clothing, bedding and any other unused household items to donate to your local refuge or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc.
  9. Donate toys to a local refuge for children who will be living in them at Christmas.
  10. Write to your local councillors, MP, or MSP about the consequences of austerity cuts to women’s services.
  11. Write to your MEP to demand that the tampon tax be over-turned.
  12. Write to your MP to point out how offensive it is for the government to fund refuges and rape crisis centres from the taxes collected from the sale of sanitary products.
  13. Write to your local councillors, MP, or MSP to demand ring-fenced funding for women’s specialist services, including those for BME women or those with disabilities.
  14. Write to local councillors, MP, MEP, or MSP and ask them to undergo specialist training on domestic and sexual violence and abuse from specialist organisations.
  15. File complaints with media about inappropriate, misleading and offensive coverage of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
  16. And, if you’re a man, stand up for women’s rights. Challenge men who make rape jokes. Call out male friends who refuse to financially support their children. Insist your employer implement the equal pay legislation. Donate money to rape crisis centres and refuges. Wearing a white ribbon isn’t enough. Your need to do the work to end violence against women and girls.

You can find the address and contact details of your local councillor via  WriteToThem.

Online Misogyny – a speech for FiL

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 26.10.15

On the 25th of October 2015, I spoke at the conference Feminism in London. The subject was online misogyny, and I was honoured to share the panel with Connie St. Louis, Dr. Emily Grossman, and Alison Boydell. The following is a transcript of my speech.

Hello and thank you for having me to speak at Feminism in London. I’m Claire, and it’s an honour to be here, and to be discussing something so relevant to women’s experiences both in terms of activism and in a more personal capacity. I wonder if I could start with a show of hands – how many people here have experienced misogyny online? Thank you. [Vast majority of hands raised.]

That’s sad, but not at all surprising.

If anybody is going to quote me on Twitter, please make it this: I believe that misogyny is endemic. It’s true that the Internet has revolutionised almost every aspect of our lives, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed the nature of people’s values. From behind a screen, perhaps from a position of anonymity, men are harassing women, swearing at women, abusing women, threatening women, stalking women. The internet, much like the Force, can be used either for good or bad. It has never been easier to sign and share a petition but, equally, the odds are signing one the one the old fashioned way with ink and paper is far less likely to result in you being called scum and told to die.
Read more Online Misogyny – a speech for FiL

Femicide – Men’s Fatal Violence Against Women Goes Beyond Domestic Violence by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 18.05.15

I wrote this piece for Women’s Aid’s magazine Safe:

The Office for National Statistics released findings from the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales on 12 February. Men continue to be more likely to be killed than women, there were 343 male victims compared to 183 female victims (of all ages including children and babies). Court proceedings had concluded for 355 (55%) of 649 suspects relating to 536 homicides.  For those suspects where proceedings had concluded, 90% (338 suspects) were male and 10% were female (38 suspects). Men are more likely to be killed, but their killers are overwhelmingly men. Women are less likely to be killed, when they are, they are overwhelmingly killed by a man.  When we’re talking about fatal violence, we are almost always talking about men’s violence.
Read more Femicide – Men’s Fatal Violence Against Women Goes Beyond Domestic Violence by @K_IngalaSmith

Reports on ‘Leaked Nude Photos‘ — Just Another Form of Victim-Blaming by @CratesNRibbons

Cross-posted from: Crates N Ribbons
Originally published: 01.09.14

As most of you will have heard by now, an anonymous hacker has stolen the private images of a large number of female celebrities, and posted them on 4chan, an imageboard website notorious for being a cesspit of misogyny.

Here are a selection of headlines I’ve seen today:

The Great Naked Celebrity Photo Leak of 2014 is Just the Beginning –  Guardian

Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photos Leaked ‘After iCloud Hack’ – BBC

Leaked Nude Celeb Photos Spark Hacking Fears – Sky News

Jennifer Lawrence’s Nude Photos Leak Online, Other Celebs Targeted – Huffington Post

Leaked: Photos of Naked Celebrities, Including Jennifer Lawrence – The Sydney Morning Herald

Nude Photos of Many A-List Celebrities Leaked Online After Apparent Hacking – CTV News

*****

Leaked. Over and over, the same phrase is being employed. The photographs were leaked.

What a strange word to use. A leak is what happens when I fail to turn my tap all the way off. If my water bottle is not properly sealed, it leaks. If I had a baby, and then forgot to change its diaper often enough, that would leak too.

But is that what has happened here? Did the photos of these women suddenly find themselves on the internet in an unfortunate accident, brought about through the laws of physics and a defective containment system? Or was there something else at work here?
Read more Reports on ‘Leaked Nude Photos‘ — Just Another Form of Victim-Blaming by @CratesNRibbons