Sunday, February 12, 2012

OBJECTionable Behaviour

Some weeks ago you will recall that I was in possession of information about Object that required me to take legal advice before sharing it with you. I have now taken that advice and this article is the result.

This posting is the most probably the important that this blog will ever make. It proves that Object are prepared to engage in underhand and deceitful activity to achieve their aims.

This posting is relevant to any club that is fighting for their SEV license that find themselves confronted by a stream of letters written by ‘concerned members of the public’ that contain a raft of previously unknown, unreported allegations.

Without wishing to sound too dramatic, this posting proves that Object lie.

What you are about to read is quite frankly shocking, but to those of us that are familiar with Object, it should come as no surprise.

In May 2010, Object discovered that the four Hackney strip venues they had targeted for closure were reapplying for their licenses. So on Sunday May 23rd (at 18.29) the page framed grabbed below appeared on Object website.

As you can see it urges any like minded members of the public to write into councils and object to any presence of any clubs in their borough. You will also see that is has a link to a standard letter (Appendix 1: Template Letter to councillors). The letter has been reproduced below for you to read.

Apart from being misguided, it is essentially standard fare, is written using reasonable language and is essentially uncontroversial in content.

What makes this post so important is that the above letter was not the only one that Object were urging people to write.

On Sunday May 23rd (at 12.37am) the posting below appeared on the Object Activist Yahoo Message Board, which is a members only forum where Object communicate with their supporters. It is not viewable by members of the public. The posting was made by Katie Toms, a senior Object member and freelance journalist that has written many articles about Object and third wave feminist issues. She also interviewed Cllr Rania Khan for The Observer.

The posting is huge and for the sake of space I have only reproduced its key element…

The key paragraph (highlighted above in a red box) that is so damning is reproduced again below.

"I live and work in the borough or Hackney and as woman I feel particularly concerned about my personal safety when passing this club on foot or pushbike. I am worried about rape, sexual violence and harassment from male customers entering and leaving this club. When passing this club I have been verbally abused and harassed by male customers on several occasions outside this club".

Let me be clear here, because this is a very serious matter....

Object, in a private members only forum urged their activists to write to Hackney Council and state that the customers of The Axe, Browns, The White Horse and The Sports Bar….

  • Verbally abuse and harass female passers by,
  • Behave in such a way as to make female passers by feel they were at risk of rape, sexual violence and   harassment,
  • That worse still, Object encouraged their activists by default to lie and state that they had been the victims of this behaviour.

It seems that they wished their activists to write these letters irrespective of any factual background. Please note that at no point in the message board posting does it urge activists to ensure their letters are factual...

I wish to make this point entirely clear to Object, its Board Members and activists…

  • Incidences of rape and abuse are terrible crimes (second only to murder) that destroy lives and leave their victims with both emotional and physical scars. The public perception of rape victims is quite frankly terrible, the response of the police is at best variable and victim support resources are scarce and under funded.

  • Incidences of rape and abuse are not convenient ammunition for supporting ill founded and woefully misguided Object campaigns.  

This Object message board posting is in fact a betrayal of the victims of sexual assault. Object sell their campaign by linking the existence of clubs to incidences of rape and abuse, they repeatedly trot out The Lillith Report and the  Holsopple Report to support this view.

The Lillith Report is at best mathematically inaccurate and at worst wilfully misleading. The Holsopple Report was conducted almost twenty years ago in the USA, so I cast doubt on its relevance to clubs in Britain in 2012. Let me reframe my point, if a pressure group wanted to close every karaoke bar in Britain on the basis that people died of food poisoning in similar venues in New York in 1996, they would be laughed out of town.

Closing clubs will not reduce the incidence of rape and sexual assault and to imply that there is a causal link where none exists is a truly terrible thing.

I have to say that rarely have I encountered anything as childish, revolting and spiteful as this standard letter and I say now that Object knew they were engaging in legally dubious behaviour. If their Board thought this letter was legitimate, it would have been linked to on the public facing website and not restricted to a members only forum, viewable only by hard core activists…

We also ask that of the letters sent to Hackney Council, how many were written by actual Hackney residents given that I Objects membership is almost certainly UK wide?

We know that Object failed in their attempt to wipe out clubs in Hackney (and make 300 women redundant in the process), but it is easy to imagine that this letter has been been used again and again in local campaigns across the United Kingdom...

A hard copy dossier is available for any organisation or club that is campaigning against Object and it is my sincerest wish that the venues in Hackney whose reputations have been smeared choose at least to take legal advice on this matter. If you wish to see a copy, please contact me by e-mail at .

I wish to thank the Object activists that provided me with this information, people that have become increasingly disturbed by what they read on message board and that understand that the true challenges for feminism are broader and more important than what a group of socially alienated individuals imagine happens in strip clubs.

Finally a message to Katie Toms…

In case you are unclear, please be assured that we are not ‘propagandists for the sex industry’ and that this posting was not ‘paid for by our pimps’.


  1. You do have to wonder what the legal standpoint is for any council that accepts letters like this. We are use to the lies and mistruths from Object but the blatant request that people fill in letters that hold no truth you would think that Object should end up in court. One can only hope that with the truth out that those most hurt by this can do something with it.

    Fantastic work and so glad you have brought this to the attention of the public forums. Just hope the data forensics in tower hamlets check for this type of poisonous letter.

    1. TonyN

      Bringing this kind of behaviour to the public eye is essential, I have always firmly believed that if a cause is valid, it can stand up by itself and therefore needs no underhand activity to support it. Objects cause is clearly utterly invalid and you wonder just how many of these letters were written and where they ended up.

  2. Very interesting read. You are doing important and valuable work.

    1. Thank you for reading the blog and for your supportive comments. More information that Object would prefer to see remaining secret will be revealed in subsequent postings...

  3. To Katie Toms, paid by her 'pimps' at the Guardian and the Observer to write articles which tow the 'party line' on sexual politics: WE ARE ALL PROSTITUTES! ;-)

  4. Thank you for publishing this... As you say it's a gross insult to women who actually HAVE suffered abuse, that Object would urge its supporters to lie about having also suffered threats of this in order to suit their cause. Despicable.

    1. This reminds me of Erin Pizzey's remarks about feminists back in the seventies who were keen to seize upon domestic violence as a campaigning issue, but were unwilling to engage in practical involvement with refuges or to acknowledge any 'inconvenient' facts (e.g. that women can also be perpetrators of domestic violence) which clashed with their rhetoric.

  5. What a load of nonsense - nowhere in that letter does it suggest that letter writers should claim to have been harassed if they haven't, nor does it suggest that people write claiming to live and work in Hackney if they don't live and work there. In Bath & Somerset police figures show that reports of sexual harassment in the area around a new 'sex entertainment venue' increased, so to fear this happening is not irrational.

    Your posting a private email for all to see is the childish behaviour, not the (as you say yourself) 'reasonable' and 'uncontroversial' work by feminist campaigners to create a world that is respectful of women as well as men, where women are not commodified and treated as meat to be paid for by men.

    And what is a 'designer feminist' anyway?!

    1. A 'designer feminist' is someone like you.

    2. Well that's exactly what it says. It's a model letter that includes claims that the person sending it has been the victim of that kind of behaviour. I'm not sure there's any other way of seeing that.

      It's suggested that names of schools and places of worship be edited as required but no mention made of the claims of harassment. The only interpretation I can attribute to that is that the author intends (or at least hopes) that the email will be sent with the false report included.

    3. Interestingly Object do very little to help people with their templates. The current batch still refer to things that have been disproven almost like one last desperate grab at saving things because the arguments they use have so little validity.

  6. Clare

    Let me answer your comments in an orderly manner.

    The template letter includes the following sentence...

    "When passing this club I have been verbally abused and harassed by male customers on several occasions outside this club". You can see this for yourself as it is contained within the paragraph bordered in red. It is the third sentence.

    I think the key phrase is 'I have been verbally abused and harassed'. Unless my comprehension of the English language has been significantly degraded, the phrase tells us that the person saying it has been in some way verbally abused and harassed.

    I never said that the letter encouraged people from outside Hackney to write in, I merely questioned the origin of the letters. Although in a subsequent posting I will highlight how Object on their website did encourage people who were not resident in the borough to comment about the clubs.

    Your third point about Bath & Somerset police figures will require further investigation, this will be undertaken and the findings published on this blog. This will be done irrespective of the findings, we are not afraid to face our critics or run away from facts that we find unpalatable.

    My posting of Katie Toms message was in my judgement in the public interest, given that so many peoples careers and futures would have been sacrificed by Object if their campaign had succeeded. Furthermore, if there was no issue with the template letter, why did it only appear on the Object Yahoo Group? Why was it not available for ordinary members of the public to amend and send in to the council? Why did Object decide in the space of 24 hours to make two letters available and restrict one to the Activist Group. Why are the letters different?

    Finally, do you really need me to explain what a 'designer feminist' is? Really do not have the space here, but it would make a great future posting though! Although until that time I think Anna van Heeswijk is a great example. Kat Banyard as well.

  7. Clare replied to my response and I imagine because a hyperlink was included in the message that Blogger decided is was spam. So for the sake of fairness I will publish it for her...

    The 'template letter' on the yahoo group is clearly one woman's letter. The suggestion that it be used as a template is on the assumption that anyone reading it would not be so stupid as to copy it exactly to include any untrue statements.

    That goes part way to explain, I would have thought (I'm not a member of OBJECT's yahoo group, nor do I work for or volunteer for OBJECT but really this is just common sense) why Ms Toms' 'template letter' appeared only on the yahoo group and not the public website - because it's her personal letter to the council which she is sharing to encourage others to write, and offering an example of the KIND OF letter that can be sent. It is common practice in campaigning, for more experienced campaigners to share the letters they've written and report the conversations they've had, to encourage newer campaigners to have a go themselves.

    The underhand one here is you - joining someone else's campaign yahoo group and publishing their campaign communications for everyone to see. Where's the respect for different opinions that you are asking for your opinions? You should be ashamed of your hypocrisy.

    The phrase 'designer feminist' is meaningless, childish and offensive name calling.

    That research by Avon & Somerset police:

    1. Can you read? Or do you have browser issues? Its fairly obvious what the posting was about and what the writer wanted people to do, which was tell lies to Hackney Council and hope it was enough to get a result.

      Also what does the phrase 'Where's the respect for different opinions that you are asking for your opinions?'actually mean?

    2. I have seen excuses of why a template would only be published inside a closed user group. Now I have a background of 20 years in IT and communications and in all the time worked in the field I have never come across anyone who would put a document they wanted to get out to the public in a closed user group. For starters if you are trying to get others to send in a message it is quicker and easier for them to download and edit the template themselves. Needing someone else to download, attach it to an e-mail and then send it which requires a second download makes no sense. Also Yahoo User Groups tend to have a habit of crashing and anyone with any background in IT would avoid putting a document on there if they wanted to get it out urgently.

      So a document which someone is hoping to get out to as many people as possible only makes sense if it is in an area where everyone can access it. Excuses and saying it is just a template dont work if it is not in the public domain.

    3. Just out interest Clare, why is the group Coventry Women's Voices using data which refers to districts of BRISTOL city centre? And is CWV's campaign against striptease venues in Coventry unconnected to Object's national campaign?

    4. The other thing to consider is the clubs in Bristol are operating in the same area as the nightclubs. It would be difficult to analysis the trend unless the police can provide information about where the men who committed the offences spent their evening/afternoon/morning prior to the offence. I wonder how many would come from night clubs and how many were in the LDCs. If the police can provide that information it would help as the area has a lot of nightspots.

    5. Re crime figures in Bristol. May I point you towards council minutes 23/11/11.

      Councillors discussed the difficulty of blaiming particular businesses for crimes.

    6. Many thanks Alan.

      A very useful set of minutes that will make a useful contribution to the posting that I am writing about the supposed link between SEVs and crime.

  8. Clare, thank you for your response...

    I do not recall suggesting you were a member of or had any association with Object.

    It clearly is 'one woman's letter', but the inclusion of the phrase 'TEMPLATE LETTER - Please amend as you wish' tells me that it was designed to be more than the basis of an activist letter. I really feel that it does more than offer an example of the 'kind of letter that can be sent'.Particularly when the template advises people to 'DELETE AS APPROPRIATE' the list of schools and places of worship close to each venue, particularly when the template advises 'YOU NEED TO SEND A SEPARATE E-MAIL FOR EACH CLUB, AND DELETE THE INFO FOR SCHOOLS/PLACES OF WORSHIP AS APPROPRIATE'.These statements sound more like instructions to deal with the template as opposed to general suggestions of content and phrasing.

    Also read the introduction, it asked that people send in e-mails on the same day as the posting, clearly there was a short time frame to act within.

    Is it not true that Kat Banyard and a colleague sat in on a meeting of the British Lapdance Association without revealing their identities and agendas? Everyone applauded her for her that act. By your definition Kat Banyard is a hypocrite as well, because I would be amazed if she had been invited to their meeting...

    You mention the 'respect for different opinions', when did Object ever show any respect for ours? When did Object ever sit down and debate or even discuss their position with any dancers? To my knowledge it has never happened despite repeated requests for dialogue and mutual understanding. Please go to a website called Moronwatch and read a posting called 'Feminists or Fascists', read some of the comments and think about respect for the opinion of others...

    I like the phrase 'designer feminist'and find it appropriate when applied to people who seem determined to restage the 'Feminist Wars' of the 1970s for the benefit of their own profile.

    Finally, I already located and downloaded the .doc file you linked to. I am good for my word but will request further data from the police and post my findings, irrespective of how the results can be interpreted. The reason for requesting extra data, is that on the Avon and Somerset Police Forces website, they do not provide statistics about incidences of sexually motivated violence against women, just an umbrella category for 'Violence' in general.

    1. It strikes me that Clare has gone out of her way to ascribe only the most positive motives to Object in general and Katie Toms in particular, and the most negative to you for exposing some of their more ethically and legally questionable campaigning methods. However, those of us who've encountered Object and have attempted to engage them in civilised debate know only too well the extent to which they will resort to dirty tricks and disinformation.

    2. Good comment. The Clares of this world clearly do not like being caught out and when they do, the best they can manage is to repeat the same arguments again and again, a bit like broken records...

  9. Listen. It doesn't really matter who was wrong, who was right and what their intentions were, the letters (it looks to me like there are two in the posting)are iffy. First you see good advice for inexperienced or reluctant activists on writing an effective letter to the council. Then we see something a bit different, which is the part marked Template Letter. When motivating activists to do stuff, it is always important to mitigate risk and make sure they don't do something that puts them on the wrong side of the law and as a result expose your group to legal action. To be honest, template letters like this are only any good if they arrive in their thousands because then it doesnt matter if they are all the same, whoever is on the receiving end of the mail avalanche just KNOWS something is up and that it had better be looked at. It looks to me like the writer of the post wanted quality and quantity, some good original letters and a load of cloned letters to add weight to the campaign. The problem is people want to help but have other stuff to do as well and they probably spent ten minutes cutting and pasting, saw the juicy stuff, thought "this looks a bit dodge but it must be alright if Kathie says so" and sent it all off to the council.

    Look at the paragraph. The first sentence says that the clubs make the writer feel unsafe and there is nothing wrong in saying that. The second sentence says that the writer feels anxious about being attacked, nothing wrong with saying that either. Its the third sentence that is a problem as it says that the writer has been verbally attacked and abused by club goers. If it had been me writing the posting I would have played safe and said that I had SEEN people been verbally attacked and abused. It has almost the same impact but keeps the activist writer out of the frame legally speaking. Although thinking about it, I would have ditched that sentence altogether.

    I would also have played safe and stuck boilerplates everywhere about the need to be legal, decent honest and truthful, just in case the posting went public. The other thing to look at it is the time this went to press, 12.37 on a Sunday morning. Could be that the writer was dog tired and forgot to put in safeguards. When written material is to released it has be clean because you need plausible deniability if someone does anything stupid. Its only my opinion, but it was at best an amateur approach and at worst negligent. But then again its only an issue if these clubs get lawyers involved. Kathie probably never imagined it would end up in the hands of this blog writer and if they are very lucky they will get away with it, but as its a business they are up against, you can bet that lawyers have been all over this page.

    If you're wondering whose side I am on, don't bother. Dont want to seem rude, but I dont care either way. But I do have activist experience, and I campaign on animal rights and have been involved in campaign and activist management for about ten years. Every group has its moderates and firebrands and you just know that you keep the leery stuff away from the firebrands as they will probably mess up. Kathie probably thought that as they had had already closed one club, it would be simple to close the rest and maybe got a bit over confident and sent it anyone with an email address.You have to remember that the law is all about interpretation and a good lawyer and decent QC could have a field day with this. Its never about the truth, only how people see it on the day and this could create a precedent against the anti club movement that could undo everything they have achieved so far. Campaign activism is not a game, its not like the Famous Five, its real stuff and you cannot approach it lightly.

    1. Stupidity and hubris are never adequate excuses for actions which have potentially damaging consequences, nor do they constitute a valid defence under the law. And it always HAS to be about the truth, because lies will be found out in the end, and the liars exposed.

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