Everyday Sexism for a WoC

Further reading:

Die Clarkson

Helen Lewis fanclub

Rape Rape

White feminism and its inappropriate use of the word girl to describe brown adult women

This isn’t an exhaustive list. There are the persistent trolls I have chosen to ignore because what they want is a reaction from me, even the slightest indication they’ve hurt me arouses them, chauvinists like Nazarat Hussain and Elevatorgate. Never mind the countless egg accounts that are deleted before I get the chance to gather evidence. This is my everyday sexism, where run ins with white feminists produce the nastiest catalysts to outright misogyny and malice from predominantly white men. What do projects like Everyday Sexism do for me people like me? Am I not a woman too? Oh, it’s not about me, but for the greater good. The greater good for them, the white pen pushers cashing in on their self serving campaigns.

I have been silent because I thought I’d give the “greater good” concept a go. Maybe a project like Everyday Sexism could help every other woman, if not me. However, it is failing to do even that.

I appealed to the project myself one day (a long time ago now), well, me and a bunch of other people. Despite numerous tweets from my Twitter account and from others pointing to my tweets as well, I was expected to believe the reason for not engaging me but RTing a white face with the same information was down to luck and not a decision affected by the colour of my skin (or my reputation). Apparently the founder of the project was bombarded with thousands of tweets everyday so it was impossible to extract me from the sea of faces yet somehow she saw the tweet where I called her on my suspicions that she was prejudiced in her practice. Of course I was wrong and she was deeply hurt, after all she suffers all this abuse for being so selfless in the fight against the patriarchy. Even though she publicly admits she has only identified as a feminist the last couple of years. I left it there really. Until just now.

Here, if you haven’t already read it, a nice analysis from a white woman (is she bitter too?) explaining why I was right to feel uneasy.

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TW: Rape Culture the British Way

Another day, another rich white man acquitted of rape. I’ve developed a psychic ability for predicting the outcome of these trials, without listening to a shred of evidence I can say without hesitation, they are all not guilty (well, at least the ones without photographic evidence).

It doesn’t matter that there were SEVEN victims. Nigel Evans, Conservative MP was found not guilty on one count of rape, FIVE sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.  The seven victims clearly colluded to dishonour the former deputy speaker, what other reason could there be for this miscarriage of justice? Perhaps it was all a big misunderstanding. For example you say “indecent assault” but of course it has been established that it was merely a case of “drunken overfamiliarity”. The victims clearly couldn’t take a joke or make allowances for the fact that Mr Evans was so inebriated he could not possibly be held accountable for his actions. Unless of course he was in fact female, then he’d have to avoid getting drunk in case someone stuck their hand down HER trousers. “What do you mean you don’t remember consenting to sex? Why get so drunk you can’t remember?” In this scenario being drunk means you are asking for it but hey ho, one rule for women.

I like how Evans, not guilty on all counts, found the presence of mind for a little humour in the courtroom. “Do you appreciate how absurd that sounds?” He enquired of the prosecution in reply to a question regarding his non-consensual touching of another person. Non-consensual touching is hardly absurd, it’s called indecent assault but somehow you’re either innocent of any wrongdoing or a “cross between Alan Clarke, Oscar Wilde and Benny Hill”. Did he mean to invoke an image of a rampant gay sex pest? What a massive leap but in a surreal twist, this endeared him to the occupants of the courtroom. Imagine that eh? He didn’t behave like an innocent man accused of such a heinous crime, casually, nonchalantly putting the QC back in his box, a ripple of laughter giving the accused the approval he desired, no, he was bold as you like. But let’s not split hairs on what it means to behave in a guilty or innocent way; that is how we treat victims remember?

Patriarchy is brazen enough to label your violations with words to suit their agendas. Take Richard Dawkins for example; his belief that victims of religious indoctrination suffer more than childhood victims of sexual assault where the violation can be described as ‘icky’ compared to the damnation one fears belonging to a religious order. I’m sure Dawkins is convinced this is the way innocent children feel when they are touched without knowledge of why they are being touched in a place no one else seems to bother with. Especially when they are told it’s their little secret and if they do disclose then someone close to them will die. Yes, this is a tactic used by child sex abusers to silence their young victims and having actually worked with some of them I can say ‘icky’ is not a word that has ever been used. But y’know, rich white men know all there is to know about what is and isn’t a violation against individuals who are asking to be controlled (and of course one victim will feel exactly like all the others, no..?).

They like to stick together, these not guilty men of considerable power. In a not-bizarre-at-all move, Evans nodded to the exoneration of a man not unlike himself, “As William Roache said on this very spot, there are no winners in these cases, so no celebration”. I think this is a bit disingenuous. I think this was another huge victory for the rape culture. Despite the information we have been bombarded with the last couple of years, on the back of campaigns such as Everyday Sexism and #Ididnotreport in which the information was made clear enough for even the most stubborn to understand, society is still giving us the loud and clear message that victims lie. There is no clarification of law for the public, that a not guilty verdict does not mean the incidents did not take place (because if this was the case then we’d be looking at a trial of the victims for perjury). No, instead there is this blind belief that being accused of rape is a “horrid experience to go through”. I’ll tell you what’s even more horrid; being touched without your explicit consent, living in a system where rich white men can behave in any way they see fit so long as they describe it in a way that presents them as the injured party. “I’ll accept that he’s tactile,” said Brian Binley MP (Evans’ flatmate), words that echo a similar sentiment to the supporters of that other definitely not guilty sleb David Lee Travis. Oh, that’s all it is, just some friendly touching that people should be grateful for.

What is it with the entitled class, that they can just get away with painting this picture of an innocent man who is just too goddamn nice for his own good? It’s rape culture if you’re wondering. The kind of culture that breeds the attitude where people accuse each other of rape to “settles scores”, and victims are “vindictive liars”.

Let’s say, hypothetically that one would be cautious to treat all allegations of rape with the highest level of suspicion, that victims routinely make false allegations cos they have been spurned or in some way jealous of the successes of the accused. What motivation would the CPS have for bringing forth a case? Given my extensive experience of working closely with the CPS in cases of rape and sexual violence, let me assure you that they do not take these decisions lightly and in fact only take cases where they are mostly sure of a conviction. This means actual evidence of harm, numerous witness reports, DNA. The CPS does not want their conviction rates affected by unreliable (traumatised) witnesses or incidents where the defence can successfully prove the victim was asking for it (drunk, asleep, in their underwear).

There is a precedent being set here. In the aftermath of the Savile enquiry (where members of the British public accused 1300 victims of “making it up”) and Stuart Hall was imprisoned for just 18 months for his crimes against 13 victims (which was obviously not as serious as Savile’s 1300 and therefore deserving of a much lesser sentence), subsequent alleged offenders have been able to successfully claim there is a “witch hunt” and with their adoring colleagues and fans have silenced the victims of these perpetrators. Well of course if they don’t even “regard themselves as victims” then is there a case at all? Not everyone feels comfortable with the victim label. It suggests you must behave in a certain way, that you will always be labelled in this way (so long as you tread the fine line of what it means to be violated). Some people prefer to think of themselves as survivors because of how it is empowering following an incident where they were powerless. Most of the time people do not even regard unwanted touching as an offence because of court cases like this where it is reinforced that some people are just misunderstood. Yet this is still being used as an argument to prove ill intentions against perpetrators of sexual abuse.

I cannot say for certain whether or not something happened if I was not witness to it myself. But I do know the rape culture inside out. I know victims and I believe all of them. Every case since Savile has been a lesson in rape culture 101. The same excuses are churned out and the savages of this great green land lap it up with the cruellest of intentions; to maintain the hierarchy of patriarchy and kyriarchy, where rich white men do whatever the hell they like whilst those with far less privilege have the rule book thrown at them, often with little proof.

We won’t end rape by pointing the finger at India, or Sudan or the Arab uprising, no, not at least until we accept the very sick notion of what it means to be entitled in this country and what it means to be the right sort of victim. Without this very basic first step, one that recognises autonomy of EVERY individual and enthusiastic consent as the only way of conducting sexual relations, we are the international leaders in the maintenance and evolution of power and control and coercion. Nothing has changed.

If you don’t believe a survivor of abuse because of some ‘instinct’ or ‘hunch’, remember these feelings are part of the rape culture we all live in, that tells you to doubt survivors, that tells you that abuse is rare, that people, especially women lie about abuse and that abusers are never people who you would know. If the abuser is someone you know, or someone who shares your politics, it’s more convenient for you to think they’re NOT an abuser. This is why it is really important to think about abuse politically. To find out how abusers operate. To educate yourself about how common and well hidden abuse is, and how survivors do not always act in the way you expect them to. Also, educate yourself about how rare it is for someone to lie about abuse. Look at how women who have come forward with accounts of abuse have been treated. Ask yourself if someone would put themselves through that without good cause. Ask yourself why you are so convinced that it is bound to be one of the incredibly rare cases of ‘false allegations’ when it involves your friend, a member of your party, the candidate you want to support in a election. Yes, any time someone tells you anything, they may be lying, or if not, they may lack the evidence to prove what they are saying in court.”

 

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My Housing Crisis

It’s a difficult place to live in, Britain. Despite the claims of the Daily Mail readership, social support is at an all-time low following disastrous Tory cuts to services for the most vulnerable. We should all know by now asylum seekers do not drive around in free cars paid by the national insurance contributions of job seeking working class white people. Social security barely provides a safety net for its own citizens so it’s a bit rich to assume the racist home office would allow such luxuries for forriners. Take me for example (why not, it’s my blog?).

The house I grew up in, my Hotel California (currently my haven), is being sold and divided between my dad and his siblings. It is being sold because my father would rather pocket his share of the sale than care about whether his kids (or any of the extended family being as it is my grandparent’s house) have anywhere to seek refuge. ANYWAY this means I am going to be homeless in the foreseeable future. It has been a long time coming, in fact I have been looking for somewhere to lay my roots for over a year but it is nigh on impossible for someone in my position.

I originally had plans to move back to London (I lived there before my breakdown). Whilst I was looking for a place to live, a good friend gave me a place to crash on a futon on their living room floor. This was great to begin with but my back injury would eventually get worse from not having an orthopaedic mattress (or even the space to install one). Also, when you have a mental illness it is advisable that you have a little space you can call your own, locking the door if needs must. As grateful as I was to have a warm dry space, it didn’t provide me with the stability I need to heal. With a budget of £500 to rent a room in a shared house (a very good friend raised the cash for a month’s rent and deposit), I assumed it was only a matter of time before something came up but it never did.

London landlords do not want tenants claiming housing benefit. Professional tenants do not want to share with people claiming benefits. One advert even stated that they were after someone who would be out during normal business hours (save on bills? Who knows?), not so coded language for no-layabouts-please-we’re-capitalists. For the few that would consider DSS, an additional fee was incurred for guarantors, references, additional admin costs (licking a stamp should not cost £100). It’s not like the rent was even affordable, you’d be lucky to find a box room for less than £550pcm. Confronting these facts was terrible for my mental health; I am a useless burden, why can’t I just sort myself out and make some money? Round and round the unmerry go round of feeling worthless, having it confirmed because of social exclusion, ending up back at square one terrified of going anywhere, speaking to anyone because I don’t make the grade.

I applied to a housing co-op who refused me on the grounds I was too mentally unwell. Also they couldn’t help me if I wasn’t willing to share with anyone regardless of gender. I admit I specified I did not want to share with men; considering my politics and mental health with regards to patriarchy, you could hardly blame me. In a last ditch attempt to show they were being helpful, they offered a property in Northolt (no local connection, beyond zone 4) sharing with a man. As if they hadn’t heard me at all. Defeated, I returned to Birmingham and reassessed my needs.

Initially I was excited to find you could rent a whole property for the price of a room in London. For less than £400pcm properties boast all mod cons AND tasteful refurbishment in areas you could liken to Shoreditch; young, wealthy, with a buzzing nightlife.  Imagine my frustration then when none of these would accept housing benefit. You know they have a hatred for benefit scroungers when they explicitly state in caps ‘DSS NOT WELCOME’, it reminds me of ‘no blacks, no Irish, no dogs’, that there are sections of society who turn their backs on you with their noses in the air; no one has any time or space for scum like me. I began a search for DSS friendly landlords and was shocked to find that whilst there was some provision in this area, the rent was much higher for housing that was just not up to standard. On average DSS friendly landlords claim about £100 more for significantly poorer conditions in scarier parts of town.

Having been priced out and pushed out from renting the kind of place I deserve (one that isn’t covered in mould, where the wallpaper isn’t torn off and the walls aren’t stained with poo or blood) in London and Birmingham, I don’t fancy my chances anywhere.

Let’s say by some miracle I do find my ideal home, where they’re happy for me to claim housing benefit; how can I then convince them that despite my being under the age of 35, I will scrimp and scrounge the shortfall between what they are charging and what the government thinks I am entitled to in the way of housing support. At age 31 I can only claim for the cost of a room in a shared house. All landlords (private and agency) providing DSS properties want you to pay the full amount of housing benefit (and they know this does not cover under 35s), there are no exceptions unless you are part of a couple in which case, you’re fine. What is this subtle re-enforcing of co-dependent relationships through various rewards?

What am I to do? I could approach the local homelessness unit but considering my experiences of them through my work, I would not want to put myself through that, I know I would not cope mentally. I attempted to contact an advisory service for victims of historical abuse, maybe they could signpost me elsewhere but I slammed the phone down on the telephonist in tears when she commented on all the forriners coming over here taking all our housing. She thought she was talking to a ‘Sam’ y’see.

I made a claim for Personal Independence Payments which I’m hoping will help with the cost of renting somewhere given the obstacles I face because of my disabilities. Maybe then I would not need to claim HB, the landlord need never know that I am a lowly benefit thief. But what happens if in this instance I’m not mental or disabled enough? Surely the fact that I am in the ESA support group would establish this fact. I wouldn’t dare assume.

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TW: Would you report your rape to the police?

I have a Google email alert for sexual offences police corruption. It’s been a busy week for a few bastard coppers. I created the alert after the case brought against Ryan Coleman Farrow who was convicted of 13 counts of misconduct in public office (THIRTEEN) yet received only 16 months in prison for his crimes despite the fact that one of the victims killed herself following his negligence. They described him as a ‘rogue officer who set out to deceive’ implying that victims should not be alarmed by his practice, as though he was the exception not the rule (even though there was some vague reporting of a coinciding case where the defendant could not be named for whatever reason). Another of Coleman Farrow’s cases involved the rape of a 96 year old woman (she died without justice) by her son, in her own home. I would imagine if you were going to make an example out of anyone to serve justice as a reminder to the rest, this would be the one but I cannot say that 16 months is a particularly effective deterrent especially given that he could be released in half that time.

I want to prove that this kind of conduct is endemic in police forces across the world. I want to point out how ridiculous it is for us to expect these people –among the most likely to demonstrate their entitlement – to protect us from the worst of violations. We can start by having a look at this pig.

Here we have the judge using the Polanski Defence in his ruling; the poor sod was so grief stricken due to the death of his wife, he couldn’t help but molest a 14 year old child. He was given a reduced sentence because of the effect on his own 11 year old. Here is a court identifying two counts of indecent assault against a minor yet all the while subtly condoning his behaviour in the form of a lenient sentence of 18 months and actual fucking praise for having done “so much for the public in North Wales”. The defendant, Donnelly, had told the girl she reminded him of his late wife. Now, I cannot be the only one alarmed at the fact that this man has been given a reduced sentence because of his own underage child (who is probably more likely to remind him of his late wife if the child is from that pairing?). The judge said that he hoped the public would understand “the balance the judge has to make in these cases” to which I put this; he is now a schedule one sex offender. Will social services and probation follow up these offences and supervise his contact with any minor given that he has a conviction for subjecting a child to cruelty, exposing them to ‘moral and physical danger’ and will be on the sex offenders register for the next decade? Doubt it.

A lot of victims don’t get to court because of how the system is set up to favour perpetrators (rape culture) or through fear that the case will play out as the one above. Many more make the decision to report abuse but then fall back after their first encounter with the cops. I can understand why. As a general rule they aren’t the most sympathetic in nature nor friendly, their job is to contain disorder so that it protects the surrounding area (buildings mainly). It is a huge leap to entrust these (mainly) men with sensitive information when we are afraid they are capable of the same things. As a DV worker I was aware of a few ‘rogue officers’ in my line of work. We knew one of them was quite a sadistic abuser, all the while giving the impression he took domestic violence seriously but we couldn’t let on because his victim was also a colleague. Imagine that; working for a domestic abuse organisation, unable to point out the perpetrators in your midst because mendacity. If the truth had been outed, she would have probably lost her job.

Imagine reporting your abuse to someone like the copper I worked with. What do you think he’s going to do? I would think he probably couldn’t care less and depending on how vulnerable you were, might try this. Then imagine that the Met refuse to accept responsibility for an on duty uniformed police officer (one who has been convicted and dismissed from the force for his actions) for taking advantage of a vulnerable drunk woman who was unable to consent. What will their defence entail? She shouldn’t have been so drunk she was unable to protect herself? But.. The police are supposed to protect us. We don’t see them as individuals; they are the police (plural). With this stance are they in fact reminding us that the police are free to act with impunity? No accountability? No responsibility? It certainly seems like it.

I’m yet to see the term ‘rogue officer’ applied with this recent spate of predatory coppers. Perhaps because it would be an unashamed blag and at this juncture, career suicide for anyone stupid enough to stand by it. The Sapphire Unit (since “overhauled and renamed” allegedly) has been exposed for its corruption yet again. A detective constable and police constable facing claims that they faked records (perhaps in a bid to boost detection rates a la Coleman Farrow).

The public are not waning in confidence, they are livid with anger at this blatant disregard for victims of patriarchal violence. These perps are not just the knuckleheaded cap toting Neanderthals we find at demos but senior officers; detectives at the top of their game. Like this prick. Of course the police will not be commenting at this stage because anything they do say, can and will be given as evidence. This isn’t just A Thing we have to endure in Britain, police officers in forces all around the world are guilty of almost identical crimes. The intention is to maintain patriarchy, by keeping vulnerable people afraid, teaching them that the state controls what happens to their bodies, it decides your value and whether you can access justice. The same people we are consistently forced to trust with our most intimate violations are in fact the same ones who keep rape culture alive. These officers in America used their authority in exactly the same way ‘rogue officers’ do in every corner of the world. They are in a position of immense power (one where they are perceived to be fighting the forces of evil) and instead they use it for its intended purpose; one of power and control in a hierarchy determined by the patriarchy. Even when they are caught red-handed the preferential treatment they receive in sentencing compared to say, black males, is an overt display of double standards and a reminder that they still win even when you throw the rule book at them.

We need a different system.

gia

TW Does my trauma look big in this? TW

In the past 48 hours I have managed only four hours of sleep and only then passing out due to the volume of opiates and other analgesics in my system. I know this because I’m alert as soon as they wear off. I’m in a state of hyper vigilance and even though I know this there is no way of controlling the symptoms, despite the substantial dose of chemicals providing me with a steady stream of serotonin. This is a common effect of PTSD or CPTSD as it is in my case.

I have been medicated for coming on four years now. I have been in therapy for almost all of that too. I have been incredibly lucky to have been given the support that I’ve had; psychotherapy with one of the best private therapists for less than a tenner a week via an agency that supports other people like me. Among their service users are historic victims of child abuse, victims of workhouses for example. It has taken me a long time to admit to myself that the level of abuse I encountered in my life was not ‘normal’. I say this because there is an acceptable level of violence and power and control in our society. I have CPTSD and this condition commonly affects victims of torture, prisoners of war. If you consider yourself one of the people who knows me pretty well (I’m sure there are many given the frequency with which I disclose) then have a think on this for a second; you barely know the tip of the iceberg.

It’s easy for the immensely privileged to snark they’re even better than you at recovering their mental health but it’s my right to point out how dangerous it is. I have been a willing participant in my rehabilitation. The decision to sort myself out was down to the fact that my twin sister was bringing my nephew into the world and I was damned if he was tarnished with our past. Everything I do, the contracts I keep with myself and my health professionals to not fade away, I do for him. I have spent four years tirelessly rewriting my script, tweaking my pathways with mindfulness and coping techniques yet despite this; my body always feels as though it is ready to collapse from the sheer effort of staying alive. I am exhausted. I would prefer not to exist but I cannot set this example for the little ones. Feeling suicidal is a common feature of my life. Now, I know it exists and I have been given the tools to manage it but that doesn’t change the fact that I think about dying most days. Every time I witness oppression, however minor it may seem to other folk, I wish that I wasn’t alive with all of you. Of course I have to be alive so this feeling is then replaced with a sense of failure. I failed at protecting myself. I failed to hold it together even though I am aware of the torturous things I was subjected to and would comfort another person in my situation. I failed this world and myself. This is usually where, in the past, I would probably self-harm. I haven’t because there are people who know how far I’ve come and they’re proud I’m still moving. To be honest, I give a lorry load more fucks about what they think than some self-identifying uber human.

What am I supposed to make of this @GiaGia? Actually, no wait, what about teh Langtry woman? She has PTSD and she disagrees. This from the woman who said the fact she was in a South African prison during apartheid means she is not racist or something. Never actually thinks to check her privilege even though she’s about as white middle class ‘leftie’ as you can get and suddenly she’s also the world’s authority on PTSD. I wouldn’t like to assume but here’s betting that our mental health afflictions are DEFINITELY NOT THE SAME (caps lock apply). I wonder if girl woman’s adult life is marred by her abusers abusing their new children in the same way. Wonder if she’s suffered any patriarchal terrorism due to the colour of her skin; like being engaged to a man who sees you as nothing more than a trophy of post-colonial colonialism. There are actually people who seem to think I prefer to claim victimhood with my various disorders than go back to the life I had earning almost 30k a year with my own flat in a hipster part of London. Actually, you can scrap the hipsters but what I’m trying to say, being as I am only in my early 30s, I have not chosen a life of pain and misery over the potential I had (have?).

What is it with these white mouthpieces? Trash the oppressed long enough and the triggers will prove too much? Y’see when I get pushed to that point I am beyond reasonable debate, I’m in fight or flight mode. There is less chance of me backing down and more that I will slay everything in my path. I’ve had enough of the pushing down; I’m not going to play nice. If you get a hard time from me, it may be worth remembering my actions are measured and you’re merely getting a reflection. ‘Feminists’ who think that “because the world didn’t change, just you” is reason to bash victims for being victims and not survivors (cos it’s a level playing field AMIRITE?) are one step away from saying “well, of course she won’t leave him so I’m washing my hands”. I’m not sorry that I don’t fit your white person’s definition of a worthy victim or a righteous survivor, to be fair I’m trying to survive in a system that was not set up for me or others like me.

How dare you suggest I am less worthy than you?

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Blue Valentine

Surviving in a patriarchy is a daily struggle, which is why I’m instantly suspicious of anyone who thrives in this kind of environment. The people at the top are the ones to watch; success is not something that comes with complete honesty and integrity in capitalism. It infects every little corner of the society we find ourselves in, permeating every creed and culture so that somehow, wherever you are (in most parts of the modern world), women are considered inferior and incomplete without men to shield them from other men (70% of the entire world’s population of women in fact). We literally cannot escape the monster; it’s in our beds whilst we sleep at night. It’s in the workplace, the gym, outside your front door. It’s in our homes on our TVs and not just in the films with explicit content notes at the start but out of the mouths of our British darlings; the ‘comedians’ and soap ‘stars’ with their freedom to speech that actually physically harms the vulnerable; this little island is heaving with perpetrators of violence against women and girls.

I am so wound up by the film I just watched I started blogging before it ended. I wanted the disgust and fear to feel fresh when I pinpointed why my reaction felt so visceral. Firstly, I have established it is not cos I’m a man hating shrew, I quite love a few of them actually, it’s you other pricks I cannot abide and it’s all your own fault cos patriarchy.

With that out of the way, I want to get the WTF? lessons in structural patriarchal oppression off MY chest. The film Blue Valentine starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling centres on the relationship of a “contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods” – IMDB. Now I don’t know what other people saw but I saw patriarchy ignore a woman’s bodily autonomy repeatedly until she caved. I have spoken to countless women who have done this, me included. To feel so battered and exhausted by the onslaught of unwanted sexual attention, you step outside of yourself and give in. At no point did Williams’ character ask for her space to be invaded but then neither do most targets of patriarchal entitlement, we’re just conditioned to believe it is something we should expect and tolerate.

I wanted to scream/punch the TV because of the way the film attempted to sweeten their ill-fated tale with flashbacks to their miserable beginnings. They were trying to depict the heady romance that brought them together and how it started in earnest but y’know relationships break down because people stop needing each other. Except that’s not what happened. I wanted to see what other people thought about so I googled (much easier than asking people I find…)

I found this piece and decided not to look any further. For the record, we cannot change the common dysfunctions we find in relationships if we refuse to acknowledge first the role patriarchy plays. The phrase ‘common couple violence’ describes a situation where people are equally to blame for escalations of violence and aggressive behaviour, incidents rarely result in serious injury or the other person fights back. This, in contrast to ‘patriarchal terrorism’; which, to be honest, is my understanding of all domestic abuse not just the ones where the survivor looks like a victim. It’s possibly telling that the person to coin this phrase is a man. There is also the fact that Wikipedia presents a criticism of his idea suggesting that he was accused of reporting bias but who knows, maybe an angrier feminist got there before me.

Let me explain something to the many men presenting their own truths about matters that affect people affected by patriarchal entitlement. We didn’t ask to be born only to witness our mothers being physically and sexually assaulted. We’re so used to seeing men strutting around, their chests puffed up all pigeon like, invading the space of the person we love most in the world, despite our very early protestations before we were even able to verbalise. When we cried, he just ignored us. After a while we stopped crying because we realised it made no difference. Some of us will have learnt to tune out our surroundings and ingratiate ourselves with the man whose hand felt like a frying pan on impact. Best not to say anything, better to pretend it didn’t affect you, maybe this is normal life, who knows? This is what happens to some victims of child abuse; they internalise the toxic relationship as being something that is within the boundaries of ‘normal’ because of how it is widely accepted in society.

I cannot watch a single film from my childhood without critiquing the impact of the messages I was being fed about my role as a female. Everything revolved (and in many cases, still does) around relationships; this belief that there is a princess out there for every man, someone to cherish and obey them. It’s not something that is restricted to any John Hughes/Mickey Rourke movie of my childhood. Gosling’s character makes a remark about how men marry for love whereas women just settle for someone with a good job. In the context of the film he snaps her up when she is most vulnerable. She’s absolutely terrified; when she finds out she is pregnant, possibly by another guy, that he’ll react angrily so she doesn’t immediately tell him. He then threatens to jump off a bridge (as you do if you’re a menacing, manipulative privileged male). Threatened with the possibility she would be responsible for his death because she didn’t jump to his command she blurts out her news. He reacts in the way no male should ever react to a pregnant person; he shouts her and demands a decision about what she is going to do. Not in a supportive way, just belligerent he was not having his needs met. In fact, this was the whole premise for their relationship. He repeatedly makes advances on her and she is not exactly coquettish in her repeated rejection of him yet senior practitioners of human psychology, the people we turn to when we want to behave ‘normally’ are telling us that guilt and innocence shift depending on which person’s perspective you look at it from. It is no wonder we allow patriarchal abuse in societies and in many cases actively encourage men to assert their dominance when we have the attitude that sometimes, women are just asking for it. Williams’ character opts for an abortion but just as the speculum is inserted, she changes her mind.

On hearing this news, Gosling’s character scoops her up, obviously thrilled that he finally has his own little family. Now, contrast the two ways in which he reacted to being told what her intentions were. When she didn’t respond he became aggressive; men don’t have the best reputation for handling sensitively the subject of them potentially inseminating anyone or the fact that it might not be theirs (cos human beings are property like that) and she hurried away, afraid at what he might do. After the trip to the abortion clinic he sweeps her off her feet and then carries her in his lap on the train home. SHE apologises to him for getting pregnant, telling him it isn’t his fault. I think you’ll find it probably was though.  It is possible that he was attracted to how vulnerable she suddenly was and knew she wouldn’t leave him; a tactic often used by emotional abusers, pregnancy creates an immense amount of dependency. Or perhaps she behaved in the way she did because she is accustomed to men turning when they don’t get the answer they want, like her father for example, smashing his plate of food on the table because it wasn’t prepared to his exacting standards. Even her grandmother advises her on matters of love, stating she was never really that in love with her grandfather indicating a sense of duty to explain why she stayed in the relationship.

Williams’ character has been socialised into believing that what HE wants, goes. She looks almost afraid in her early run ins with the future father of her child. Alan Ravitz MD argues that Williams’ knew what kind of character she was getting involved with because she was aware of his personality from the very start. He suggests that she chose to be with him because of how he fulfilled her needs at the time; “pregnant with an abusive father and passive mother”. Historic victims of child abuse, even the ones who weren’t being directly abused themselves but witness their mothers suffering it hear warning bells regarding abusive partners, like most people, but their brains do not interpret them as a negative thing. The need for stability and love mutes the voice flagging up any concerns. For them it’s so familiar in how it reminds them of their childhood for example that many don’t even question inappropriate behaviour until it is pointed out to them (even as a domestic abuse worker, I was unaware of the fact I was still experiencing abuse in my own life). The psych also suggests that the relationship perhaps soured when she no longer had any use for him completely disregarding the fact that Williams’ character is holding down a full time job yet still doing all of the ‘women’s work’ too. The scene where Gosling spoons cereal onto the table to encourage their little girl to eat at least the raisins; Williams comes across as rigid and without a sense of fun when she insists the girl use a spoon. Is she being a killjoy or is this a nod to the fact that she has to clean it up (which she explicitly states)? Also, when fathers give their children the impression that fun is there to be had but mum won’t allow it, this pits a child against their mother creating a special relationship for the feckless father and his child where they can be mad at mum instead of ever examining their own behaviour. The little girl pleads with her mother with the logic that dad says it’s ok.

Dads, by all means get stuck in with the child rearing and be as silly as you like but think about the poor mug who has to clean up after you. What about her? Is anyone really that surprised when a relationship breaks down for seemingly no good reason, except for the fact that we live in a patriarchy? How many times is Williams’ character approached with sexual intentions when all she wants is to have a drink or get some sleep? How many times is she touched without her express consent? He doesn’t cuddle her; he gropes her at every opportunity, pulling at her flesh, kneading her breasts. She is slimed on at the supermarket, when she’s visiting her grandmother in an old people’s home, on her own front porch. She gets her child and herself ready for work. She is the one to cook the food and put it on the table. In practically every scene she is buzzing around the room, tidying, organising, planning. She isn’t comfortable with any of the attention she receives from any of the men in the entire film but do they care? No, they just put her down for being so ungrateful.

Like, she should be grateful he gets jealous of the thought of her with other men. It is her duty to assuage him with reassurances that other men do nothing for her even though she is frightened whilst she does this. He demonstrates has no regard for her professional working life when, after she repeatedly tells him that she cannot go have sex with him in a sleazy motel because she is on call (as a nurse at a hospital) he goes against her wishes and books it anyway. HE made the decision he was going to use her body, it didn’t matter that she might be needed in an emergency or that she was tired, they did what HE wanted to do. Alan Ravitz MD downplays this patriarchal control by labelling it ‘pathological romance’ instead. There’s nothing romantic about men wanting to take at will and asserting their right to this at every opportunity, in fact, that’s called harassment, it is male privilege and entitlement.

Williams’ character separates from her husband because she suddenly becomes aware of the influence her father abusing her mother had had on her as a little girl. She won’t speak to her father in the closing scenes where the couple go their separate ways. Her dad asks her what is happening and she specifically says she won’t be discussing it with him emphasising she means him in particular. Here is a grown woman who is suddenly furious with her father for shaping her into the woman another man could take advantage of. In that moment she grows as a person. How could a senior psychiatrist miss something as glaringly obvious as this? Simple really; he IS the patriarchy. It is men like him who control the moral compass. How else do you think we got into this mess in the first place? Men have been tripping over themselves to depict women as deranged, hysterical, out of control for simply asserting their rights to autonomy. Of course they wouldn’t want you to think like this, it would mean having to fend for themselves, making their own goddamn sandwiches, having a cry wank instead of raping you.

Patriarchy is protected by the law (check out rape statistics), by healthcare professionals (as we have discussed) and perpetuated by the ways in which we view unacceptable behaviours on the part of men, choosing to reward them for it (see all the rich and famous exonerated by the law, cherished by their fans). This won’t change until we call patriarchal oppression when we see it. There are some very basic links missing to achieving equality.

Call out culture may have been ridiculed by patriarchy but we always knew it would, it makes taking advantage of the vulnerable a lot more difficult.