silenceiscomplicity

If I was a blonde girl

Following on from a week where internet trolls have had the clear message that abuse will not be tolerated, in the case of rich famous and white Chloe Madeley and the jailing of a racist tweeter for a single anti-Semitic tweet, I am forced to revisit my own experiences with social media sites and the law and how easy it was to dismiss me despite the reams of evidence that clearly proved I was being targeted because of my race and my gender.

Twitter responded in this way, every single time I reported. That was all really. Not a single acknowledgment that I exist and am a person with recourse to justice.

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The police sent out a plod who sat with me for 3 hours trying to convince me not All Coppers Are Bastards and how a lot of the negative image falls down to The Met. He seemed thorough enough taking the details down and I was left with the impression they’d do everything they could to protect me. However then I received this letter which had the opposite effect. In fact it has affected my life to such a degree, I cannot leave the house on my own. It doesn’t take a lot to frighten me into isolation but the fact that there is no recourse to safety for me has a huge amount to do with it. Why would I risk racism/sexism in the streets when I can’t dial 999 safe in the knowledge they’ll come to my rescue? They think I can handle myself and it would be difficult to prove I was alarmed or distressed. Well, speak to my GP, why not, and ask him whether I am capable of protecting myself. They might listen to a professional who can confirm that saying a few reactionary words are not indicative of someone who can defend themselves against rapists and racists. Those words are all I have. I cannot physically defend myself, I fear walking the streets in case anyone bumps into me and I’m left paralysed (I have a degenerative disc disease).

Why is it ok for people to speak to me like this?

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Of course you could just look at what I showed the police.

What kind of victim would you have me play? Do I need a famous father to push you into caring about what happens to people like me? Would it have helped if half of the media world didn’t hate my guts for calling them out on their latent racism? How about not calling the cops out on the few hundred rogue officers preying on and raping women? Maybe then someone would have noticed or cared. Maybe, if the big white feminists thought of me as a woman and equal they would be shocked at the many ways in which it is possible to abuse someone like me.

It’s no secret I have been feeling suicidal of late. I am 32 year old woman without a job, with moderate to severe mental and physical disabilities and I am still on the run from the domestic abusers who raised me. I have complex CPTSD. I am never going to be ‘cured’. I have meant very little to anyone my whole life and it has been a struggle staying alive. When I am consistently given the message that my life, my personhood is just not as important as that white girl there, or that politician at the top, it becomes even more difficult keeping things into perspective.

I want to leave this country. I am disgusted every second by the society we live in; this one that points the finger over there at the horrors perpetrated by foreigners, never once admitting the cruelty we are exposed to on our own doorsteps. The two tier system in which your face either fits or doesn’t. I have no faith in the law, or its enforcers. They work only for people who look like them.

reeva

Not Guilty Verdict for Man who Murdered a Woman

Another day, another not guilty verdict for another perpetrator of violence against women (domestic homicide in this case). The world is shocked, shocked I tell you that he got off, in a fashion that echoed the acquittal of that other famous man who shot a woman partner dead; OJ Simpson. Except that was almost 20 years ago. I am confused that these are the comparisons being made when in the year 2014, 3 women a week have been murdered so far (just in the UK), because of their gender. What happened to them, why don’t we hear about those court cases, was justice even served?

I, like many others fighting to end this violence against us, am counting dead women. I have been every year since I started working in the field. This blog here does it for us. Bookmark it, familiarise yourselves with the work being carried out here and understand that these women aren’t valueless; at least not to those of us working to end gendered violence against women.

Each one of these women could have been saved. If we’d had the resources to reach out to them; through awareness work in the community and early learning in our schools and nurseries, around boundaries and consent. As a society we need to be teaching boys to respect girls, not encouraging violent play. We should already be teaching consent so that our boys do not grow up believing they can just take at will and by force. If that fails though, we need to provide a safe place for survivors to flee to but this is always being challenged by governments who don’t feel that 3 women murdered very week is worrying enough to justify funding for safe houses. In fact they have hacked away at the domestic violence framework with abandon since they came into power. We should not have to push petitions for this very basic provision supporting women who have been forsaken by the system already, existing as wives and mothers, forced into co-dependent relationships, unable to leave because of the many ways in which we judge women for staying (if it was that bad, she would have already said..) and leaving (so you’re hungry? Shouldn’t have left him should you?)

Her name was Reeva Steenkamp; I’m sure none of us will forget this now. We’ll never forget the way Saatchi strangled Nigella brazenly either, in broad daylight, without a care in the world. Of course, many of us learnt the name Janay Rice this past week, the partner of an NFL player who was brutally attacked in an elevator. I didn’t watch the video because I respect survivors and also, dammit, I get incredibly triggered being a survivor myself but I did follow the ‘debate’ on social media. #WhyIStayed was the sort of hashtag that makes me feel ashamed to be human. Despite the evidence the apologists were out in their droves explaining away any rights to privacy or dignity for the victim of the attack, why didn’t she just leave, etc? Well, we keep telling y’all but you never listen, society has made it impossible to leave. Every time a blatant incident of violence against women is dismissed by the people in power, for example the shooting of a woman by her partner in their home, the message they are sending out loud and clear is that it doesn’t matter if the very life is drained from us; the man responsible is not guilty.

I have come to the conclusion that, in a patriarchy, not guilty with regards to gendered violence means the patriarchs in power were unable to fulfil the criteria as they see fit. So if you were raped, it should be violent and committed by a stranger (or a person of colour) and is definitely not something ever perpetrated by national treasures. For victims of domestic violence, nothing less than a Raoul Moat character will afford you the attention and protection you deserve, if you can prove without a shadow of a doubt that the perp was violent not only to you but other people, especially other men, only then can you be a worthy victim.

I hope desperately that we are not sat in disbelief reliving Reeva’s case in another 20 years, reminiscing on how we all knew Pistorius was guilty but what can you do? No, we should see some change before that. Like, actually giving a damn about these issues when the victims are not famous, and signing these damn petitions if you’re unable to get involved in other ways. This shouldn’t be a thing that concerns only a few thousand of us, this affects millions and this fact should be reflected. Let’s start with the media and the way it portrays abusers as heartbroken and cannot even refer to the dead victims by name (property of man, even in death).

Stop thinking of women as wives and mothers and daughters and see us as people suffering violence.

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British Values for British People

As a member of my family, a friend of many circles and a citizen of the patch of land on which I made my entry into the world, I share a common set of values with the people I choose to have in my spaces. They’re old, young, black, white and brown. Some of them practice a religion but a significant number don’t. They come in all shapes and sizes, genders and sexualities. Oddly, they do not share the same political beliefs necessarily but they place the same values on the things we all think are important; like treating each other with respect, for example, and dignity regardless of borders and stereotypes.

Honesty also scores fairly highly in our value system. It takes courage and humility to admit when you are wrong or when you may have hurt someone, unintentionally or otherwise. Recognising humanity in others is something I need to see in the people I surround myself with. I can tell when people are lying, consistency is difficult to achieve, even for sociopaths after a while. I guess this is why I am having difficulties imagining what a British value looks like, when the atrocities carried out in the name of Great Britons are neither honest nor humble.

When David Cameron dictated that British values were not an option but a ‘duty’ did he mean we should all be a bit more like this? If so I’d like to take this opportunity to respond emphatically with good grief, fuck no, strip me of my passport and send me to Cyprus (or Hawaii). I don’t really mean the passport bit, I cannot begin to imagine the hell at Yarlswood and the stories the press will spin that justify making a person stateless (even if they are only suspected of being a domestic extremist) and if calling your prime minister out for bullshit is considered a terrorist offence, then I’m hoping the United Nations (for what good they are) are keeping an eye on things as they develop over here.

If equality (and I mean true equality) is not one of your values then you probably don’t know how to do the other values properly either. Empires are built on arrogance, deceit and bloodshed. Those are not values but traits of a corrupt Machiavellian core of elites manipulating the peasants into doing their dirty work for them (because they share the same skin colour, ffs), and the thing is, empire or not, they’re still at it! I’m being asked to perform these duties but they do not come naturally to the kind of person that I am. It’s my calling to point out these loathsome idiosyncrasies not perpetuate them.

For what it’s worth I think we should strip paedophiles and rapists of their passports but if we did that, the state itself would collapse. Instead, to keep the Great Britain functioning and doing things the British way, the way things have always been done, let’s lie about the truth and point the finger over there and stir up some shit occasionally so that everyone’s too busy fighting each other to notice they just sold their souls to the white devil.

You cannot tout your values as virtuous (or even values) when they include dehumanising people you don’t like through coercive power and control.

We see you. 

No2HLew

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I really resent writing about Helen Lewis but she makes it impossible to ignore with her unrelenting diatribe against whoever it is she wants to demonise that week. I get a lot of satisfaction from ignoring her but it’s dangerous to do that sometimes being as she is someone with an unhealthy influence however much she denies this.

Helen would like to know why there isn’t a UKIP of The Left. Not why isn’t there an alternative to the Labour party or why aren’t we supporting the existing leftists the Greens (not that I agree with any of these statements) but specifically, why isn’t there a racist immigrant bashing nationalist party white socialists can get behind? If her question reads differently to you then you’ve not been paying attention for the last decade at least.

“What on earth would a left-wing Nigel Farage look like?” Probably a bit like Hitler, even if I am Godwinning a bit. Why this sudden desire to imagine a Left where representatives reveal themselves as the racists we already know them to be on pretty much a daily basis, where we find ourselves in some kind of time warp aghast at white people calling non-white people things you hear in nature documentaries? It must be a helluva privilege having the space in your brain to imagine a solution to the travesty that is British leftism with suggestions of nationalism, safe in the knowledge that your white skin guarantees immunity against the more questionable policies say around immigration and the framing of what is and isn’t racist.

Despite the many attempts at Educating Helen on why The Left is a sham and how she contributes to it with her structural power and control, she is determined to get the message out there that it is not racism and erasure of people she thinks are unequal; trans women, women of colour etc. but the “esoteric economic arguments and in fighting” as suggested by an academic who has been following the rise of UKIP. Nowhere does it mention that the rise of UKIP is tied in very closely with the normalisation of othering people the able white majority cannot abide. Wherever fascism has thrived it has done so with the support of its moderates and liberals who ultimately affect the opinions of the lesser peoples via their blogs and columns. We KNOW that is what they have been doing these past few years. Not only do they not admit it but they carry on regardless which is why I find it difficult to believe Helen makes these inane statements out of naivety.

Let’s say for one tiny moment that she asked this question earnestly, that she is genuinely interested in the policies UKIP has to offer and believes that kowtowing to racist/xenophobic voters is just the thing this country needs, surely she should have at least mentioned UKIP’s objectives regarding the EU and how this is something that could potentially reel in those voters she’s so terribly worried about? Those people exist on The Left. It would have made sense to address this at the very least but she doesn’t even hint at it.

To top it all off, there is a UKIP of The Left, Hel; it’s called New Deal and was set up by Professor Alan Sked who founded UKIP. He did this because he felt that UKIP had become “a far right extremist and racist party”. Don’t tell me you hadn’t heard..

Polyamory in a Patriarchy (CN)

polyamory8Everyone’s childhood has a lasting effect. The decisions we make in the scenarios we face leave an imprint and they form the basis of our choices. I suppose this is why I can pinpoint when I decided I would be different from the rest, if only at that stage because I was sick of being told how to behave. I’d seen the effects of being worn down by your circumstances, every day in fact, from the minute I awoke, staring at my still snoring mum (we shared a bed, along with my baby brother), her face twisted painfully as she slept. She didn’t own the rights to her own body, she wasn’t a free person.

Her life meant nothing, she was a breeding, cleaning robot and she lost her mind, I’m sure of it, though nobody really cared. I wasn’t going to be like her. I fantasised about being a high flying exec with a stay at home husband who’d offer to act as surrogate because he was just so damn amazing like that. Kinda why I was madly in love with seahorses (and still am). I wouldn’t let a man treat me the way my father had abused my mother. I sort of stood by this as a teenager, never quite committing because I guess I still had some semblance of self-worth, if only because I was labelled ‘bright’. I suppose the trouble really started when we ran away. We were vulnerable but how many teenagers would admit to that?

Going from someone who’d vowed to take four husbands in protest at the belief some men are entitled to multiple wives I was suddenly monogamous and desperate for security and that, along with the toxic hardwiring courtesy of my parents (my dad mainly) I was pretty much doomed to the same fate. I went from one disaster to the next, the details slightly different each time but the script remained the same. Severe anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing of my sex and gender, if only I wasn’t so nice, or hadn’t worn those clothes or got that drunk or let him touch me when I really did not want to be touched. Maybe everyone was right, maybe I was just asking for it. When you think of yourself as subhuman you let others treat you like that. You give in to the internalised toxicity and believe you’re a loser. Who’d believe you anyway?

Some women can accept second place. I don’t think I’ve ever been one of them and yet that’s what I got. There was the guy in the forces with whom I ranked a clear 4th, after queen, country and his dad. There was the one who chose God. The one with the ex and 2 kids didn’t even present himself as such, not at least until he’d introduced me to hard drugs. He also ‘slept at the office’ a lot. A friend I hold dear was once also my intended. Then his family forced him into a marriage and he went on to have kids and seems happy enough though who ever really knows these things? There was the arsehole who groomed me before any of this was a thing. He had a beautiful girlfriend and of course I just wasn’t up to scratch.

A lot of people are judgemental of girls who fall for bastards but they could just admit they understand that internalised object relations borne of violence and abuse (even torture) are the root cause of these toxic relationships. This is why pick up artists are deeply insidious. They tap into vulnerability that is hardwired in childhood and exploit disordered thinking. They are abusers themselves, carrying on the work of the fathers who wore down the innocence of their daughters, priming them for life in a patriarchy because that’s just nature. Except it isn’t, it’s just power and control and ownership.

I guess I was always going to end up poly, once I broke away and fell out with the whole system and everything. I don’t want an intense, do or die kind of relationship where I am dependent on another person having the time for me. I don’t want to feel all of those feelings ever again. I do however need companionship and intimacy from time to time and it helps if you spread that about a bit.

How can I expect all the things I need from just one partner? It’s impossible and also unfair to expect one person to understand all of those things in the way that you see them. I don’t think I feel more for one than the others, it’s just different. They also have other partners too and no, we don’t all sleep together. Poly means having private relationships, it does not equate to orgies and swingers (whatever floats your boat though). We all know about each other and that’s important, it means we can respect each other.

(As you all know) I’m quite fond of this concept of equality and what is good for the goose etc. So some people carry babies and *shock horror* how would we know who’d put the little one in there if there was more than one partner? This is assuming the people involved subscribe to the belief that lives amount to property and a child can only belong to one man, the patriarch, the sperm provider. It’s a good thing I don’t think of human life in this way, that any potential future offspring need not show me their gratitude for bringing them into this world, especially when they had no say in the matter. Also, not everyone wants babies. Relationships, especially monogamous ones seem to centre on the expectation that settling down means starting a family. Why must we ‘settle down’ even? Why aren’t relationships allowed to shift and grow in the same way people do? Is it preferable we maintain toxic relationships for the sake of the state and being normal, compromising the wellbeing of all those involved whilst conducting secret affairs where yet more lives are destroyed? It seems convenient that in these scenarios it is the women who suffer the fallout, whether she is the ex-wife or the temptress stealing all the husbands away.

It should be easy enough to understand; consenting adults reaching out to each other where there is a connection, being honest about those feelings, feeling free to explore them without the usual constraints of monogamy; obligation, jealousy, ownership, dependency. For the most part my relationships work well, especially within queer circles however, despite the best intentions of the people involved, patriarchal values and judgements are inescapable, especially when you’re a femme presenting woman.

I was 8 years old the first time I was accused of luring someone’s husband away with my tempting childlike qualities. I was accused of this because I’d been seen embracing a member of my extended family in his bedroom. Well what the fuck of it, I was a child, a small one and starved of affection in the home, I took cuddles wherever I could. In justifying this to you now I feel disgusted it even needs to be said but you have to understand where collages of shame begin if you have any hope of destroying them. Aged 10 I stayed silent about the sexual abuse I experienced at the madrassa because I was ashamed of the fact that I’d begun menstruating and perhaps this is why I’d been targeted, my horrid developing body betraying my innocent mind. Perhaps I was just that temptress getting what I deserved. I felt like this is in all of the relationships I mentioned above, looked down upon by the exes of my partners, their families, the church.  I felt like this again, very recently. Taking polyamory out of queer circles and expecting normals will be accommodating is pie in the sky thinking.

To the WAGs I say this; I am not about to steal your husbands and partners, I do still have standards y’know? Sure a couple of my partners are married and I’ve explained to them how the dynamic is oppressive for me, when we live in a system that rewards men for their maleness, so it doesn’t matter how many partners they have, out in the open or otherwise. I understand why people might feel this way; marriage indicates a primary partner, one who shares your name and grants you the respect of being a whole person doing life the way you’re told to do it with someone you will be spending the rest of your life with. That’s what marriage is and I still feel like the bit on the side. It’s not equal. The law says so. But I am poly not a ‘home wrecker’. I suppose these problems arise when your partners are (or at least immediately identifiable as) heteronormative white males. They are the patriarchy whether they choose to be or not. I’ve also admitted my own thoughts on marriage (to myself) and this has an obvious effect on the way I feel currently.

I choose not to be married because I haven’t really found the one I want to be married to (despite being engaged twice) and may never do this. That’s ok; I gave up ‘looking’ a long time ago, when I decided that marriage was for weirdos who couldn’t accept human nature. It’s taken a lot of strength to be honest with myself and admit I actually think quite highly of marriage, more than I’ve been willing to admit. It comes from disappointment at my parents for making these huge life changing decisions (giving up their desires, producing a load of kids for the sake of it) without enough thought for the consequences. Monogamy does work for some people but even they have the potential to stray. To make vows forsaking all others is a serious declaration and one that marrying sorts have hardwired in their brains. Any perceived threat to this dynamic, say a flirty unattached 32 year old performing femme ‘exotic’ woman of colour will be treated as such and made to feel all of the things I have always felt from all the women controlled by the patriarchy (that’s all of us). It’s not just me feeling this because I choose to; everyone contributes to this picture, intentional or not.

It’s impossible to feel like an equal in a poly set up when you are just a girl in a patriarchal world. It doesn’t matter if you change the things that led you to feeling insignificant the last time, and apply different labels, for someone with a toxic pattern it is those very feelings of inaccessibility that attracts you towards situations. The kind that’ll fulfil your script and leave you feeling like the needy unhinged person you’ve always allowed yourself to be, because they are absent. This is something that haunts me regardless of my intimate practices. I had hoped for better though.

Maybe polyamory is just a phase for me. I don’t want to label it as such cos I have no idea what the future holds. I’m happy with this indecisiveness for now but not so down with the judgement of the kind of woman involved in multiple relationships. I’m no more a slag than the men I’m involved with. I am not in possession of magical powers that endears all of the men to me like some testosterone magnet they cannot resist. It does not make me easy, just because I fancy some men does not mean I fancy them all. I am not going to pursue a polyamorous relationship with men in monogamous relationships. The mere suggestion of this recently provoked me into writing this 2000 word blog. I don’t really want to have to do this again so if you have any questions or concerns maybe you could google them instead?

Women Against the Feminist Backlash (CN)

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A few years ago, after a mental breakdown that had been a long time coming I made the decision that I was no longer a feminist because I felt so utterly let down and victimised by women I’d assumed were feminists (due to the nature of the work we’d done together). At the time I was going through another period of acute mental distress as a reaction to my father abusing his new family. I’d been as transparent as I could about it at work but I didn’t feel supported and eventually the toll of dealing with domestic abuse in my own life (along with a myriad of cultural oppressions) whilst trying to prevent it in the lives of many others manifested in a few very bad decisions that ultimately led to my seclusion from society.

Yes, I was guilty of dissociating when my triggers were at their worst. This translated into an anger that I found myself channelling towards other men, a problem considering the people we relied on for justice consisted of mostly men; police, courts etc. I had to bite my tongue when they conveniently forgot a client they didn’t like, or ‘accidentally’ disclosed details of a survivor’s safe house to the perpetrator who then beat her up, handing himself in when the job was done. When I tried to challenge the enablers of these incidents I was reminded of the fact that we needed to keep them on side and I needed to work on my personal and professional boundaries and not react emotionally. I agree that there has to be a certain level of professionalism and diplomacy in business where you’re trying to butter up a client you hope will give you a fuck ton of cash but I felt the public sector had a duty, regardless of their feelings about a person/situation. I was chastised for demanding this; somehow I was the one to blame not the incredibly misogynistic ‘allies’ who revelled in reminding me at every opportunity that they had the power to work well if they chose to.

It was shortly after I became medicated that I began a new relationship with a chap who, in hindsight, was drawn to the fact that I was vulnerable, the sort that proposes marriage before you’ve marked your 3 month anniversary. The kind of guy who’s been taken for a ride by every girlfriend he’s ever had, referring to them as ‘the ex’ (never by name), and somehow gets taken advantage of because he’s such a nice guy and you know how they finish last. Anyway, this dudebro focused on the fact that I was, as he saw it, an ex-feminist. I’d told him about the experiences I’d had with professional fems, how I ceased being a woman the second I set foot into the office and he reminded me of this whenever I expressed fem positive. I won’t deny it, I was angry at that time and agreed with everything he said about the movement and the kind of women involved in it. His fascist dad more or less humiliated me at the dinner table when they had me over for Christmas because he’d seen a bunch of feminist quotes on my Facebook profile and he’d thought I was ‘above that’. This was the man who’d slapped my bottom really hard and laughed raucously at my embarrassment. This was also a man who’d beaten my then fiancé’s mum for the course of their relationship, specifically when she was suffering post natal depression.

As I got better and gradually remembered my self-worth I started challenging the ideas he had for our future. Being in the forces it was expected of me to follow him wherever he was posted. I took issue with this; why was his life plan more important than mine? Frankly I was getting rather sick of feeling like a plug in to someone else’s life experience and was ready for my own script. He also thought it was funny to comment on my past and label me a slag as a ‘joke’. Yeah I’d had more experience than him and this made him feel inadequate but somehow it was my fault he had self-esteem issues. He’d said to me very early on in our relationship that he was only going to say it the once but he thought I was possibly smarter than him and we should never speak of it again. Except he did, every time he wanted to put me down for being a ‘know it all’ or when I scored 30 points more than him on an online IQ test or towards the end, whenever I offered an opinion on anything. I guess that’s why I challenged him as much as I did and why he, one day told me to fuck off, slammed the phone down on me and never called back. I was engaged right up until that phone call but it didn’t really mean anything. As a white cis man he had all the power in that relationship and he objected to any attempts at equality. It was a close shave for me, and the turning point in how I view myself, especially in the context of relationships within a heteronormative patriarchy.

I became a card carrying feminist again.

I felt duped and a little ashamed of the conversations I’d had with him. I’d written off feminism because of the actions of a few gatekeepers of the kyriarchy. With time I was able to separate the bunch of women who’d dismissed me for being culturally strange, for having the audacity to point out inconsistencies in their praxis and for demanding better and the rest of us, hesitant to label ourselves feminists because of the sorts of women most vocal in the movement; the white middle class feminists (and their token WoC).

I’ve written in length about this conflict within feminism. Now we have a counter movement (apparently) #WomenAgainstFeminism and they want the world to know they’re not like those other women haranguing men for rights to their own bodies. Sure these women have the right to identify in an which way they choose, a right feminists have protected but we have to comment on and understand the perspectives coming out of that discussion.

We have to face the fact that some women do believe themselves to be inferior to men and inherently different (biologically and spiritually) which is why they do not object to being treated less favourably. That self-hate is internalised and any woman demanding better is perceived as arrogant and self-interested. Whilst I feel sorry for these women I don’t waste my breath. Similarly there are the slut shaming body shaming /policing women who’ve survived by endearing themselves to the patriarchy, a place at the table as reward for navigating the tightrope to acceptance. If we go back far enough with any of these individuals we’d probably be compelled to show them compassion and empathy but who’s got the time for that?

Of course a huge number of women against ‘feminism’ come from those backgrounds that have been historically sold down the river. They may refer to themselves as womanists, they may refuse to label themselves but quietly continue doing the sort of work that feminists do; in their homes and communities, demanding better from boys and men.

If feminism had been more inclusive then maybe more women would ID as feminists. If patriarchy eased up on the backlash we might gain momentum but then we would win and the menz don’t want that. This is evident in the many ways men target and harass women online; making our cyber spaces unsafe and leaving us open to attacks and threats to kill.  They do this to us because they are afraid we are making an impact and they want to shut us up by using an age old tactic to silence women; the risk of physical/sexual harm. That’s the only real advantage, generally speaking, that men have against women, this fear of male violence that we internalise from a very young age that controls us for the course of our lives. Of course they would object to a bunch of women battling to end male violence; they enjoy the control it gives them. Sure they’re going to mock us for believing survivors of domestic and sexual abuse regardless of whether the disclosure fulfils the criteria patriarchy has set out on what it means to be a victim. They’re going to make fake profiles and bait other feminists in a bid to catch them out; causing ructions between opposing factions so we’re too busy fighting each other to fight them. Except I don’t think they’ve realised yet that we can multitask for reals.

We may not call some other feminists friends (or even ‘feminists’ for that matter) and we might fight them day in and day out but given a choice I personally would still take a TERF for my team than an MRA, if for no other reason than female solidarity pisses them off. So there’s a contingent of women hellbent on winning favour with the menz they prefer to those gossiping snarky women, it’s no different to the girl who liked to hang out only with the boys at school. The one who was not like all the others; she was witty and intelligent and pretty but also low maintenance and strong enough to carry her own bags. In fact that girl was me. I have been that female as a fully grown woman too. It’s a lonely place; one that exists because you’ve been forsaken and treated badly by people you thought would get you. It’s reactionary and childish. It makes you feel powerful, to set yourself aside as somehow enlightened and who wouldn’t want to feel like that when the message society is constantly drip fed about free thinking autonomous women is that they’re just a bunch of lesbians intent on ending the human race with their morning after pills and disrespect for the sanctity of marriage and ownership and obedience.

For the record, if I ever have kids I want to stay at home and look after them. As a feminist, this is my right to choose. I advocate reproductive rights and access to abortion but I probably wouldn’t have one myself now. I want to conceive the ‘old fashioned’ way; with a man whose job it will be to provide. I LIKE doing chores. Y’see it doesn’t matter what I think about someone else’s life choices (or what they think about mine) because I am not living that life for them (and it’s none of their business). I live my life and despite my experiences (and hopes for the future) am proud to call myself a feminist.

..The intersectional kind (for those who missed that memo).

secretary

CN: 50 Shades of Wrong

The first time I saw Mr Grey I knew it was the beginning of a queer little crush I knew most people would probably not understand. He was unnecessarily rude to his new secretary, but only to the untrained eye. Following a stay in a psychiatric hospital the female lead character Lee Holloway takes steps to reconnect with society and goes through the motions; finding herself a job and a man to settle down with. She’s invited to an interview for a secretarial post where she meets her new boss Mr E Edward Grey. Despite her limited proficiency for the job he employs her and over the course of the film their flirtations centre on her submissiveness and willingness to do practically anything he asks of her. He is initially perplexed and tests the boundaries of how far she is willing to go but quite quickly they are interacting with each other in what could be described as a consensual BDSM relationship.

Lee is also in a relationship with a childhood friend who bores her sexually. Her attempts to make him understand that she’s not strictly ‘vanilla’ end with frustration and a resignation to the role she must play within that dynamic. As he humps away for posterity, with his eyes closed and his hand outstretched from the sheer intensity of sexual congress with a seemingly consenting individual, she responds in a dull, monotonous fashion, oohs and aahs coordinated with each thrust. I found this scene uncomfortable because she is consenting to sex for his sake and not really considering her own feelings on what she needs from him. He doesn’t even notice she’s not into it and it is this detachment from the activity and from each other, the absence of mutual satisfaction that is worrying, that she allows her body to be used sexually because that is just what we do. Kind of like the dynamic between E L James’ Mr Grey and his victim.

It is no coincidence these two dominant male characters are both called Mr Grey when E L James’ inspiration comes from Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behaviours on which the popular cult film The Secretary is based. However, the similarities end with their name. James Spader’s Mr Grey isn’t a self-assured perpetrator of violence against women; he controls her day to day movements with her consent because she enjoys the sense of belonging (having been lost and alone up until that point) and the strict parameters within which she can satisfy her impulsions (preventing another trip to a psych unit). Lee has a troubled past with eating disorders and self-harm that they explore in detail. Mr Grey controls her but in a positive way; for example making a pact that she won’t cut herself because she can find that release elsewhere, spanking with a paddle brush for example. She wants him to tell her what she can eat, making the focus of this behaviour sexual instead of dysphoric, not so much calorie counting but the notion that the two of them are in it together to the bewilderment of everyone else “one scoop of creamed potatoes, a slice of butter, 4 peas and as much ice cream as you’d like to eat”. He indulges her, it’s not about him. In fact he withdraws from the relationship when he fears he might have taken it too far and stresses that his perversions are not sustainable long term. He punishes himself, taking out his frustrations through physical exercise. It is then up to Lee to assure him that she is a consenting adult in it for the right reasons, because she enjoys their dynamic as much as him. A lot of the communication between them is unspoken. He recognises that she intends to prove her intentions when she storms in on him in her wedding dress (she is engaged to the boring childhood friend) and plays along, telling her to sit with her hands palm down until he returns. So she does.

E Edward Grey isn’t the type to beat a woman up and rape her without her enthusiastic consent. Christian Grey on the other hand revels in humiliating his victim. Whilst humiliation is a turn on for some people, again this is with their full consent; between two people who can legally consent (minors/vulnerable adults – drunk – cannot, in any circumstance). There are safe words and there have to be rules both parties are aware of before anything happens. Everyone, from victims of male perpetrated violence to practitioners of BDSM have reacted with outrage to this framing of abusive behaviour as acceptable sexuality because of how it has been wrongly presented as some kind of celebration of female sexuality when actually it is about the power and control of women by men through dominance and violence. If this book was as progressive as people like to make out then there’d be a whole dialogue around BDSM and other sexual preferences/fetishes but there is not because usually we condemn women for expressing their sexuality. Patriarchy can hyper sexualise whomever it chooses to but it will not allow a woman to present her own sexual identity as she sees herself because then she’s just a slag.

The key issue that raises concern throughout the 50 Shades series is this matter of consent. Why does he have to get her drunk in order to have his way? He even admits to it. Sex with someone who is too drunk to consent is rape, clear cut. Try and explain this to E L James though and you’ll get the stock response that you’re a troll and have no idea what you’re talking about. Yes, even if you have suffered those same patterns of abuse in your own relationships or happen to be a lifelong enthusiast of consensual BDSM, your feedback does not matter. James believes she is the authority on a subculture she has tarnished with her twisted misogynistic views. At the beginning of this month she even chose to brandish actress Mara Wilson a ‘sad fuck’ for objecting to her badly written trash. What kind of person calls another, a stranger and perhaps a victim of male perpetrated violence (it being a patriarchy) a ‘sad fuck’? This abuse is indicative of the kind of mind that believes women are to blame for the violence they experience, that they should just put up and take it like a woman.

I know a lot of people who practice BDSM and they are possibly the safest and most considerate people to be around. I have myself been curious and experimented and even considered things such as consensual cutting, a practice that many might consider to be abusive even with informed consent but might make a difference to my self-image if I do not self-harm when I am in a negative mood. I am also a repeat survivor of domestic abuse. I know there is a pretty fucking wide line between the two but that’s only because I’ve spent a while learning about consent and owning my rights to my own body as an autonomous individual.

In a world where many women do not even know when they are being raped (having sex with someone who does not want to/cannot consent is rape not ‘non-consensual sex’) is it really any wonder this book has been so successful? For something so badly written it’s sure been pushed as some kind of revelation and I guess it would appear that way in a society that is otherwise shamed and ostracised for having sexual desires that do not conform to the hetero missionary lights off acceptable form of making babies. Of course misinformation around a book which explores those taboo acts We Never Speak Of will be gobbled up by the sex starved masses who are just grateful someone went there in the first place.

Except it’s dangerous when it encourages coercion and manipulation of vulnerable people and you can’t criticise the fact that it does.

guerillafem