Many thanks to @mistrijah and Village Way (East Dulwich) for arranging the haircut and making it a painless (and even pleasurable) experience.
Maybe next time I WILL go bald.
With Refuge facing closure due to government funding cuts of over 50%, women need your support more now than ever before.
Southall Black Sisters established in 1979, provide support to BME women at risk of or fleeing domestic abuse. Whenever there are cuts, services for the most vulnerable go first.
In response to the inherent racism and sexism we face in modern day Britain, I have decided to give up my long locks in protest and hopefully make a few pennies along the way.
Don’t worry, it’ll grow back!
We can’t bring women back from the dead though.
This year so far, there have been 47 gender related murders.
Thank you for your support.
Someone once told me I wouldn’t be so pretty without hair. I have a round face and a rather large head. It carries my big brain, is what I tell people.
I had an unusual relationship with it when I was growing up. Coming from a strict background, I had no autonomy with regards to my hair. It was to be covered as part of my religion and I wasn’t allowed to have it cut, often being told that God had forbidden young girls from styling their hair in a manner so as to entice men. I can remember having it braided so tightly, my head hurt.
So when I ran away, aged 15, the first thing to go were my Rapunzelesque locks.
“I wanna look like Rachel” I grinned to the stylist at Toni and Guys. My aunt had arranged for it to be done, she understood the reasons why. My name and my hair were no longer required. Driven by the need to emancipate myself, my hair became progressively shorter in the years that followed until I was left with a boyish crop. And I hated it. I had nothing to hide behind or flick back. It was so thick, it became impossible to style. So I grew it and vowed never to cut my nose off to spite my face, ever again.
I grew it and trimmed it and clung on to it like a comfort blanket. Until aged 25, I went to review a salon as a favour for a friend. I couldn’t normally afford to have such a do, the stylist was renowned for his work with a Bollywood clientele and much of his work graced the pages of the top glossies. I trusted him to know hair and faces and style. So I gave him carte blanche. He didn’t hesitate. With one swift action, he’d rounded my hair up at the nape of my neck and chopped it off. I felt the blood pool into my feet. He swivelled my chair around and pulled forward some hair. “Don’t give me a fringe!” I shrieked. I have a cow’s lick that makes fringes stick up. Snip! The hair was gone. He scissored away some more until I was peeking out from beneath my designer fringe. I hated it! And I hated him!
I felt like a part of my womanhood had been hacked away. The friend I was with looked at me sympathetically. “Dude, you look about 15.”
It was another 6 months before I felt like myself again. Once again, I solemnly vowed I would never be parted from another of my beloved strands for as long as I lived.
Except today I got to thinking, if my hair means so much to me, it’s got to be worth something. I’m not able to work, I have no income but I do feel an increasing urge to give. Or do something at least. If I could make, say £5000 for women’s services, sure, I’d give up my hair.
If I could do my bit to help save Refuge, I wouldn’t think twice. If I could share some of that with, say Southall Black Sisters, it’s a done deal.
It feels a little bit crazy. And the selfish part of me that loves me and my hair is telling me I’m mad. But when the CEO of Refuge is saying “In my entire career, I have never been more concerned about our survival”, I know my hair will grow back.
Refuge must survive; there are women whose lives depend on it.
When 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, we all need to be prepared to deal with the fact that it might happen to someone we love. If you suddenly found out that your sister was being abused by her loving, doting husband, how would you react?
DON’T SAY: I can’t believe he would do something like that, what did you do? Why would he hurt you?
Perpetrators of domestic abuse are often charming and sociable characters. They know how to manipulate people into thinking they are calm and reasonable. Your sister will not have seen this side to him; he was hardly going to begin the relationship in his true colours. Asking her what she did and why the abuse took place is justifying the act. There are no excuses for physical and emotional abuse. I have had people argue that “she deserved a slap” for her behaviour. Or “she made me do it”. Nobody makes an abuser do or feel anything; they allow themselves to feel a certain way because it is never their fault, somehow they are always the wronged party. However she might behave, the decent thing for him to do is walk away.
DO: Offer to listen, without judgement or advice. However much you may want to protect your friend/family member, you cannot start telling them what to do. Chances are she is trying to leave a controlling situation, the last thing she will want is more orders. Instead, calmly offer your shoulder and listen. This might be the first time she has disclosed anything so you want to remain calm and in control. If you break down, she might feel she is burdening you. If she does ask for your help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 where they can advise you on how to plan around safety and advise on the steps she will need to take should she need to flee.
Remember: It has taken a lot of courage to break her silence. Confidentiality is key. You are there to buoy her spirits and offer reassurance that she is not alone. She might want an immediate solution, then again she might not. Relationships are complicated and there are bonds that run deep. He might be her abuser but he could also be her first love, the father of her children. She might just want him to seek help. You are not there to judge but to make life more bearable.
I have been approached once or twice by women who are dear to me. In these situations, I knew their partners, we all socialised together. Holding it together for them, kissing their abuser on the cheek when meeting, is difficult and requires strength and diplomacy. You can never lose sight of the trust your friend/family member has placed in you by confiding. Should they see past the façade, the consequences for your loved one could be devastating. Also, although you are trying to save the day here, don’t be a hero, you do not want to make yourself a target.
If you do find yourself involved in a situation where harm is imminent and your loved one needs to escape urgently, get together some essentials. Toiletries, passport, a change of clothes. Children’s favourite toys. Refuges are furnished and if she is not able to get away with more than what she is wearing, some refuges can make arrangements for provision and may also be able to enlist the help of the local police should she need to return to the property for the rest of her belongings. Ensure this is all done in a safe manner, if it is not possible then simply leave to another day.
As I have previously mentioned, the National Domestic Violence Helpline can help with queries. I am also here should you need additional support.
On the eve of International Women’s Day 2012 I was called a slag, a cunt and a whore. My crime? “banging on about womens rights n nhs what about us fathers oh yeah we dont matter” (sic) A timely reminder for why we need such a day in the first place. Of the 365 days of the year, today we can shout about the injustice billions of women face in their daily lives. The abuse 1 in 4 women will suffer. The 2 women a week that are murdered by their abusive partners. The never ending struggle to be recognised as equals, not above or beneath but standing together.
We’re not equal. We’re far from it. As a British woman of South Asian descent, I often hear how lucky I was to be born in the West. From people of the same background for sure, but white people point it out too. I don’t have to cover myself up (much), I have access to an education and my partner won’t chop off my the tip of my nose for getting the tea wrong. I should be grateful. Except I don’t feel it so much anymore. Our most feminist politicians (ever) are sending out a message that woman is a giggling schoolgirl, one to be jeered at and dismissed. She is incapable of taking control of her own body, her mental state is too fragile. They’ve put out a direct hit on women and their interests; cuts to the public sector resulting in job losses, withdrawing vital funds from women’s services. They have introduced a law which tells you whether you are involved with a perpetrator of domestic abuse but should you need to escape, you’ll have nowhere to go.
There are parts of the world in which men can have four wives. Somehow this is more repugnant than being with one wife but sleeping around. In some parts of the world they use rape to control ‘their’ women. In the UK, we just joke about doing it instead. The word slag is still commonly used. And slut, whore, bitch and cunt. And cougar and MILF. Women, they nag. They use their feminine wiles. They sleep around, they get you under the thumb. Sometimes, they even deserve a good slap.
Why does a man have to point out he would never hit a woman?
When 1 in 5 young men and 1 in 10 women think violence against women is acceptable, has the world really changed much at all?
Attitudes may have started to shift. Public displays of violence/abuse are not the norm so much. There has been a reduction in violence because we have had services like Refuge reminding the world it is not acceptable. So, some of it may have gone underground. Except it’s resurfacing now, from the top down. Emotional and mental abuse, toxic shaming, is thriving.
I haven’t felt as strongly about International Women’s Day as I do today. Learning that the UK did not even make the top ten for many of the awards in the Independent’s best and worst places to be a woman has a lot to do with it. And of course, the threatened closure of Refuge. I’m reminded of the judge who called an 11 year old girl “willing” at her rape trial.
I’m of the opinion the West is equally damaging to the physical and emotional well-being of woman.
Their methods may differ but their inherent need to own and control women is the same.
*Happy International Women’s Day*
Refuge, the single largest provider of safe havens and support to survivors of domestic abuse is facing closure due to a 50% cut in funding. Local authorities have slashed their contribution to services for women at risk of domestic and sexual abuse by over £2 million. The organisation have already shut down two of their culturally sensitive projects providing support to women from ethnic minorities, specialist services that cannot be replaced, placing the most vulnerable women in our society at even greater risk of abuse and/or homicide. My heart is pounding as I write this.
I have worked for Refuge and various other schemes. They provide the backbone to many other services, leading the way with their specialist in-house training and the national 24hr domestic violence helpline. They have helped implement a framework which ensures equality and good practice across the board. Putting it mildly, without Refuge, many women would be forced to remain in abusive relationships, destined to put up and shut up.
2 women a week are murdered by their abusive partners. In the year 2012, spousal homicide is still very much a reality. Whilst this is still an issue, how can this government possibly justify slashing the budget by half? Austerity means cuts, but we’ve all seen what cuts do to the people of this country. They are already dying due to welfare reform, vulnerable people are committing suicide because this government has not listened to them, has not believed that they are genuinely unwell, has withdrawn their support to leave them suffering alone. The campaign to divide and rule the public against the sick and disabled has been malicious. They want people with mental health issues to work for their benefit.
Now, what will they think of our women at risk of or fleeing domestic abuse? Rhetoric around the breakdown of the family, single mothers and their devil spawn, the women that broke Britain by undermining the role of father and breadwinner… Male privilege must be allowed to return and flourish. Hear hear, vote Tory!
As a child, I witnessed domestic abuse in all its forms. In my home, on the street, in the media. Women were not more accepting of it back then, they simply had no choice. The police would not respond as urgently to domestic calls because they were exactly that, issues to be resolved between ‘man and wife’.
My mother remained in an abusive relationship until I was old enough, aged 15 to drag her away from it and into a safe house. She just didn’t have the strength. She couldn’t do it herself because she was afraid to speak the language (my mother spoke fluent English but was too ashamed to having been mocked by father for being illiterate). Culturally sensitive refuges meant that women like my mum could approach a service themselves if they needed to. When I eventually began my career in domestic violence services, I started off in a refuge for women of South Asian origin. The work we did was invaluable. It saddens me that cuts will always affect the most specialist services first.
Vivien Hayes of the Women’s Resource Centre, speaking to the Guardian, says “Government cuts have impacted more negatively on women than men. You have to wonder whether this is a case of institutional sexism.” And by its very nature, institutionalised racism too. The culturally sensitive refuges go first, then services to women in general.
Whether it is cuts to job in the public sector or direct funding to vulnerable women and their children, women have borne the brunt of this government’s policies. They’ve tried to affect the way in which we access family planning services. We’ve seen them mock their female members of parliament, “calm down dear, yada yada.” It’s easy to imagine the PM as a spotty teenaged boy, pulling on the pigtails of his crush, calling her a slag when she rejects him.
Are we in the slightest bit surprised that the Tories would do this to us and our services?
What comes next? The decriminalization of spousal rape?
Cutting services for women, thereby definitely cutting services to BME women, turning the clock back to the 1970s and all the other privileges that period afforded men. Yes, the country will save money. There’ll be fewer divorces, fewer welfare claims, fewer women to deal with because many more of them will be dead.
The Independent on Sunday places the UK in 16th place for the best place in the world for a woman to be.
I have a feeling it’s about to get a lot worse.