Domestic Violence

Asian Woman Doesn’t Speak For Me

In 2010 I finally found the courage to turn my back on a toxic relationship I had suffered for 5 years. As an historic victim of child abuse with toxic internalised object relations, I had very little experience of healthy interaction within an intimate setting (my father was extremely abusive to my mother) I was hardwired to experience negative emotions in a positive light. My brain translated fear/anxiety into excitement. The very early interactions you have in a romantic relationship, unspoken even, determine whether you give someone a chance and if I’d been just like any other young woman in her 20s with a secure attachment to her early caregivers I would have given this man a wide berth. Unfortunately, I was not, and I was already in too deep the first time he revealed his true nature.

When people suggest victims of abuse could leave if it really was that bad, they are in fact suggesting they do not believe the victim. I tried, many times, to break it off, run as far as I could but abusers know you have nowhere to go, it is in fact one of the things that attracts them to you in the first place, not so much the neon sign on your forehead asking for trouble but the vulnerability we carry all around us, the sadness that seeps through and the need we have to fill all the empty spaces with love, whatever the cost. Estranged from my family, whom I’d fled to escape abuse, I found myself leaping out of the frying pan into the fryer, barely a year into the relationship, when he ‘put his foot down’ and decided he would no longer pander to me, because I had asked him to rinse the bath out after he was done.

Abusers know you have no recourse so they do what they like. They use your body, place their own thoughts and feelings in your brain, pushing yours into the furthest recesses where you can’t find them so easily, gaslighting you until you don’t know who you are anymore. You forget who you are, in a bid to keep them happy, because you know they’re capable of love and empathy, that’s how they draw you in, and you can’t help but wish it will be like that again someday. In the course of an abusive relationship a part of you dies forever. For what it’s worth I am glad that part of me is dead and buried, I was afforded the opportunity to be born again, in a sense. I am at peace with the fact my 20s were destroyed by this leech of a man who did not deserve me. One of the lasting memories I have, if only because of how ironic, is of various male friends of my exes crowing in disbelief he’d managed to score a girl like me. Of course, it was all done in the name of ‘banter’ and whilst I am not personally an advocate for jokes that make no one laugh but insult often vulnerable people, it did cheer me up and now I know they were telling the truth, which is probably why he used to get so upset back then and scream at them he had me cos he was worth it.

You might be wondering why I am bringing this reprobate up now, 7 years after I washed my hands of him. When feminists talk about domestic abuse in the context of gendered relationships, a binary set up, usually with one person in a traditionally male role and their partner female, this dynamic also being prevalent in homosexual relationships, we are keen to illustrate the difference in how this abuse is perpetrated because it matters. It matters in a society where opponents of feminism will accuse women of holding equal structural power and control and being just as likely to commit domestic abuse and get away with it. This is simply not true, gendered violence against women is encouraged in a patriarchal system. The penalties for gendered violence are poor, conviction rates abysmal and support is hard to come by. The rate for repeat offence is the highest in domestic abuse, compared to all other crimes. 76% of victims/survivors will endure further violence for daring to leave. There are many ways men continue to control women they believe to be their property, sometimes many years after the relationship broke down, directly but also indirectly, affecting your future relationships and career even.

This is where my ex Shihab Salim Joi creeps in. Despite his unacceptable behaviour during and shortly after our split, using gendered slurs against me, saying I was a slut for e.g. and good for nothing else he had the audacity to ask me for information regarding a book he was thinking of writing. He wanted to write about domestic abuse refuges and what could go wrong, and wanted to pick my brain for insider information. Obviously I said no. He promised me exposure, as though it was the magic word that would erase memories of him domestically abusing me (most of it was mental/financial/sexual but he thumped me a couple of times). I put *my* foot down and told him to get stuffed.

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A few years later, I was googling myself (at least I’m honest) when I saw a link to Asian Woman Magazine which confused me, I had written stuff for Asiana but that was when I was still dating the editor, Shihab Salim, his work for Asian Woman was definitely post-split, after he’d been made redundant as a victim of the credit crunch. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read what it said. Not only had someone used my name and job description from Asiana, I was the ‘agony aunt’ for a bit, they had given out the kind of advice an abuser would deem suitable. As a staunch feminist who hates most men I am hardly going to advise you pander to any manz fragile ego. If these shoddy little men can’t get a grip on their own toxic masculinity I would advise you kick their asses to the kerb and let them cry wank into the night, you are worth more than some man child who missed out on key developmental stages and really just wants you to be his mum. THIS is why I have written this post. When you google my name, or Shihab’s I want this link to show up too.

I contacted Issuu who said they cannot amend or delete any content without the publisher’s consent but the publisher/editor is as elusive as Wally, in that I can’t find her, even though her name is all over the internet. I can’t/won’t submit a DMCA request because copyright infringement would mean they used words I’d written without my consent and I want it noted I most definitely did not write the frankly, badly written frottage of an excuse for journalism published by J Wimal, clearly without editing, otherwise she would have known I wasn’t at all involved in Shihab’s shameless display of male entitlement and indirect harassment.

It has been 7 years and I am still having to deal with this man turd and his attempts to control my opportunities. This is why women don’t leave. We’re afraid they’ll carry out threats to destroy us, our reputations (as it is in my case), or even our lives, the 52 women murdered by their intimate partners every year a testament to this, for daring to think of themselves for a change, for saying enough is enough.

UPDATE: Issuu have quarantined the offending article as the publisher appears to have deleted their details from the Issuu database. Thank you to Jonas at Issuu for taking my concerns on board.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I will never cease to be amazed at the lies people tell, even when you have evidence to the contrary. What is going on in that tiny little brain of yours Shihab? Is it perhaps a barely veiled threat to out me, giving the name on my passport without my permission (kinda your MO), as though you can scare me into a corner in defense of my anonymity? You were one of the people who convinced me to change my name! You said you wouldn’t employ anyone who sounded like they might wear a hijab and suggested I include a photo of myself with my CV.

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That’s really odd, because if you really are telling the truth here that’d mean you also used my image without my permission.

It behooves you to tell the truth as it happened, Shihab, lies always have a way of unraveling themselves.

Poor Shihab, leaving a trail of angry ex girlfriends in his wake, when he is just a kind and decent sort. I’m not the first to say he’s an abuser, and I won’t be the last. I have plenty more evidence should anyone require it. You won’t take me to court because you’ll lose. Just saying.

The Politics of Violence Against Women

As a survivor of domestic violence and a repeat victim of online harassment and abuse, neither of which were acknowledged by the authorities or the commentariat responsible for throwing me to the trolls in the first place, I am angry but also demoralised by the display of ignorance and entitlement our feminist women MPs have treated us to the last few weeks.

Lucy Allan the Conservative member of parliament for Telford was found to have lied about the death threat she allegedly received in response to the fact she’d voted to bomb Syria. Similarly Stella Creasy lamented the ‘call doxxing’ she’d clearly imagined being as there is no such thing. Doxxing is what happens when someone trawls the Internet for your home and work details, pasting them online so that anyone can access your private information. Trolls and those with actual criminal intent (to rape or kill) are then free to hunt you down and hurt you. This hasn’t happened to Stella and even if it did the police would do their jobs, unlike the reality for the majority of victims who are not permitted to even defend themselves with words because it shows they weren’t frightened or intimidated by the perpetrator. Victim blaming aside, in my personal experience the authorities pass the buck on whose duty of care it is to safeguard vulnerable people online. If you’re an MP though, the cops are answerable to you, it’d be more than their job’s worth to treat the elite the way they do the rest of us plebs so to use this language not only incorrectly but to suggest there is no recourse is a blatant lie, especially when someone has already been jailed for getting on Creasy’s privileged side.

Siobhan McDonagh, another Labour MP claimed the attacks on her were comparable to domestic abuse, using emotive language in order to appeal for sympathy because we do care about victims in this country. Domestic abuse is so called because it happens in the home. It is where one person lives in fear of another, a relation, intimate partner, regardless of gender. It is not at all comparable to the righteous condemnation that goes hand in hand with being a representative for the people, particularly when you’re not doing a very good job of listening to your constituents. How do these MPs suggest we behave given that we’re being sold down the river for objecting to more war (and a million other policies) by these elitist warmongering neolibs?

However their words have not had the desired effect, instead survivors have expressed their dismay and unease at this appropriation of survivor language by women who should definitely know better. Why aren’t they trained in women’s issues, how can they be unaware of the ways in which patriarchy denies justice to victims on the basis that “women lie”? When one woman makes a false allegation of anything that is viewed within society as a women’s issue, it has a knock on effect for us all. It’s sad and unfair but a fact that whenever we do make progress we do so for the whole of womankind. Similarly when one of us fucks up, we make things difficult for all.

When Jeremy Corbyn was voted in as leader we were told how unfeminist it was to overlook the female candidates but the feminists themselves don’t understand how unfeminist it is to use these particular words in the wrong context, when so many women are denied justice.

Please stop using the words we use to describe our lived experiences. As marginalised people we need them to describe the actual things we suffer without justice and for people to understand what those experiences mean. To undermine this language is to undermine the work we do in the community and online to raise awareness of violence against women, something of which I’m sure the capitalist fems haven’t the slightest clue.

(To bomb Syria, where there will most likely be women and children is a feminist issue but then white feminism was adamant race wasn’t a feminist issue at all so they’re hardly going to join the dots here)

Shout your abortion

Following the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood services in America (state funded), abortion activists took to Twitter with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion to counter the arguments made by zealous anti choicers. If you’ve ever followed the ever present attacks on family planning or been involved in actions to support your local abortion clinic you’ll have been confronted by some very strange people indeed. With this in mind I knew that tweeting in solidarity would provoke a backlash, I just wasn’t as prepared for the kinds of things completely random people on the internet would say to me (and me, a seasoned survivor of trolls).

I tweeted:

I didn’t say I’d had an abortion or that I agreed or disagreed with termination (for the record, it’s your body, your choice) but I knew it would reach those people whose lives it had saved, at least those who acknowledged the established life within the pregnant person carrying a promise of potential life (20% of first time pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion, 80% of those before 12 weeks gestation), which is in no way a baby or a person (person being a societal construct). When a foetus is squatting in your uterus it does not cancel out the life already in existence, without which the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Bizarrely this fact seems to have escaped these people.

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Nope, not what I said at all

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Logic clearly evades you for refusing to accept there is life in the person carrying the foetus.

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This tweet is particularly interesting because it feeds into the idea that pregnancy is essentially a woman’s fault. By opening my legs I am consenting to a foetus being installed in there. If this person could acknowledge the sperm provider and the condom issue many men have (yeah sure, they’re ‘too tight’) and spread that responsibility about a bit I’d be less inclined to believe they were woman hating scum.

For example all these people with their righteous war on people who carry foetuses (I doubt very much any of these people has even considered the fact that other genders are also capable of pregnancy, this is a specific hatred driven at cis women for not being masculine/male/patriarchal).

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The idea that all unwanted pregnancies can be attributed to selfish promiscuous women is entirely misogynistic and anti woman. These people would probably accuse a woman of entrapment if she happened to get pregnant and wanted to *keep* the foetus. Similarly there is no sympathy for women choosing to abort because their life depends on it. Going back to my original tweet, I said it because I used to work as an advocate for women in abusive relationships and have seen firsthand the violence inflicted on women for being pregnant in the first place. 30% of all domestic abuse begins in pregnancy. This is because the pregnant partner is suddenly vulnerable and dependent. Controlling abusive people use this to their advantage. It’s not uncommon for perps to threaten forced miscarriage, the idea that they put the foetus in there and they can also take it out should the victim refuse their every whim. There are people who cannot grasp the complexity of human relationships, and crisis points, relationship breakdowns, never mind the systems we have created to control people according to kyriarchy so it is a bit of a reach on my part to expect compassion.

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You are not representative of almost 8 billion people worldwide.

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76% of women faced a further incident of violence for having the audacity to leave. The period after a survivor leaves the perp is the most dangerous, “if you leave I will hunt you down and kill your kids”. 

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This guy thinks we should run all decisions by him because it’s all about him. It’s not and he is nobody.

This assertion that complete strangers have of themselves as the saviours of the unborn would have more merit if they were willing to consider the life of the pregnant person but they cease to be human from the point of conception instead acting as a vessel for the precious new life everyone’s going to forget about once it moves out of the uterus. The pregnant person will be left with the foetus they did not want.. What’s that you say?

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Complete strangers think it’s ok to tell me to sacrifice my body and wallow in the guilt of my unwanted pregnancy which I’ll then have to hand over to a stranger, the system, uncertainty. Pregnancy can be life threatening, from the phsyical difficulties to the mental strain it can put on a person, no one has the right to torture you for having the misfortune of being born with a uterus. If pregnancy doesn’t kill you then labour might. Cis men have no say in the abortion debate because they will never carry a foetus or suffer the fallout if things go wrong. The reason they are so vocal on the anti-choice scene is because they are redundant if they do not exert patriarchal power and control. They won’t ever create life so they control it.

From the frightening to the downright ridiculous, opponents of bodily autonomy reveal more about themselves than the people they target, they’re nosy and perverse, poking around in strange uteri.

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Ah, Americans.

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I keep looking for the illegal thing I’m supposed to have said but to no avail.

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If a person is feeling suicidal cos they’ve been forcibly impregnated, an abortion is life saving and I would go as far as saying therapeutic in terms of their recovery, and regaining control of their own life.

Every single one of these people and the many I didn’t document failed to see the hypocrisy in their words. The life of the foetus cancels out the life of the person carrying it, without whom the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Personally I’m not here to change your thoughts on abortion or bring you round to my superior way of thinking – something anti-choicers may want to examine in themselves – but to ask you to cast the first stone only when you can say you are completely sin free.

Also, this stance on abortion seems to be as far as they’ve got in terms of a world view and how that actually works in practice. They’re all ‘save the foetuses’ but how many of these advocates shared the same enthusiasm for the precious lives of Syria’s existing children, rejected by Europe, asleep in the freezing cold, barely surviving? Or the fully formed babies with given names blown to pieces in Palestine? How about the severely disfigured infants of Fallujah? Selective outrage makes a mockery of the whole pro-life movement. The planet is exhausted by our reproductive efforts, live viable children are treated as though vermin, domestic abuse blights the lives of some of those foetuses saved by those ignorant of life in its entirety, yet hellbent on power and control. That’s all it is.

Why the truth matters to me

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Growing up a stranger in the place of your birth is disorientating. Asides from the challenges one might encounter when starting at a new school, like making friends, children with foreign parents have to overcome additional obstacles in order to fit in. They must learn another language sometimes, as I did, but language is one of those things small children master within a surprisingly short period of time. Other barriers to assimilation are not so easy to tackle and there are so many, it’s no surprise people from ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately with poor mental health.

When you are told you are, but also feel, a member of the underclass, you either buy into the narrative – especially when you’ve not been taught to think critically – or you seek to distance yourself from the perceptions others have of your people. You buy into their hate or your own, in a bid to survive, but to survive well. Self-love just isn’t an option. I was conscious of the lies I needed to tell if I had any hope of accessing the world I wanted to belong to as early as age 6 when I decided I wanted to be called Sam. Even for one so young and innocent I had an inkling Sam was a name they just couldn’t mess with. It was English for a start. I didn’t have to spell it out every time, or have people poke fun at it, whether my peers or teachers (who should have known better). Even at this age I knew I had to change who I was if I was to have a fighting chance in life.

Racism wasn’t the only thing that informed the shaping of an identity that sat at odds with who I was inside. In fact as time went on, it became less of a conscious thing and something I normalised, and believed everyone did. Of course I now know this isn’t true, that many people are born into their identities and have the freedom to express them without the judgmental white gaze waiting for them to slip up.  Or the limitations of a violent home, living your days in fear of attack, never knowing where the next hit was coming from, desperately trying to cover up the evil truth from outsiders, in case they confirmed you did actually deserve the abuse you endured.

I was bubbly and outgoing, smart and organised, my mouth permanently fixed in a smile. I was part of the school council, a class monitor, a straight A student, a member of the quiz team and captain for rounders, netball and cricket. We were the champions of it all. None of the teachers would have guessed the situation at home was escalating, that we were living in fear and self-harming. My personality was split early on, through necessity; I had to be two different people in order to survive. Entering the big wide world as a teen on the run, I had to invent another persona to fit in with all these interesting new London types from all over Europe and beyond. When I left school, I left my world, my friends, my life behind. I had to learn how to speak in a way that didn’t set southerners off in a fit of giggles at my dulcet Brummie drawl. I had to be flexible if I was going to make it, whatever it would take. I lapped up my token status as the one who wasn’t like all the others, as though this was a reflection of my amazingness and not a divisive and racist microagression used by white people to remind you of your place (not so worthy but not so bad either, a reminder to keep doing what it is you’re doing for cookies), and keep you from questioning their problematic views.

Of course I didn’t know then that I didn’t have to be so amenable. I was on the run from a culture I had rejected because of the ways in which it made me a target and was desperate to adopt new ways to help me blend in. I became so many different things to so many people; I forgot who I was and what I wanted. I lived a life where I was manipulated by people who identified this willingness to please and then exploited it. I was used and abused, scapegoated. I was called a liar for keeping secrets I was too afraid to share. A gestalt therapist I accessed through my work noted that I smiled when I spoke of negative things and asked me to consider the incongruence between my words and my body language. I had become so jumbled up in my thoughts I began to dissociate whenever I was afraid. There was drug abuse, promiscuity, domestic abuse in my intimate relationships whilst I struggled to hold down a job as an advocate fighting for victims of domestic abuse. I was my own best example of bad practice though it did have the bonus of making me non-judgmental, however hopeless a situation might have seemed, I believed it was essential they had access to the same support. Cops for eg are less likely to want to help repeat victims, especially those who may have been warned off from being a witness previously (cos it’s all about them and paperwork, not an infectious social disease).

I couldn’t find my way out of my living hell. I couldn’t access the support to do so because then people would know my secret; that I was ugly and horrible, and undeserving of love and respect. That I should die. My adult relationships confirmed the self-hatred I had as a small child; nothing I did would ever change the fundamental flaw from within, my low social standing as the daughter of immigrants who never did escape the ghetto or the colonial mind-set (despite the straight As) and respect for hierarchy (within patriarchy). I was a slag before I had even kissed a boy, they must have known what I would grow into I reasoned.

A tragic incident in my personal life provided the catalyst for PTSD. All the feelings I’d ever suppressed bubbled to the surface and consumed me. I existed, and that’s all I can say for my consciousness over the period of a year except that I never want to go back there. With the right support, I was able to identify the pathways responsible for the ‘random’ panic attacks. I sorted the snapshots in my mind onto the correct collages and vowed to trace them back to the first triggers so that I could beat them. In order to do this, I have to be 100% honest with myself and everyone else or the carefully constructed administration of my mental health will fold in on itself.

A huge part of my recovery is about owning my genuine mistakes and experiencing them in a way that doesn’t cripple me with anxiety (the white commentariat can go to hell for the ways in which they hindered my progress, not forgetting the PoC who’ve perpetuated the lies about me).

Don’t lie to (or about) me; I will come at you with the rage of a woman who knows she is being gaslighted, because it triggers a collage of all the people who’ve knowingly put me in harm’s way, by minimising, denying and erasing my experience of things. I always feel a little crazy following a spat with people who lie because it hits me hard in a way you cannot appreciate. Sunny Hundal occupies the same brain space as the mosque teacher who molested me and continued to enjoy the kudos of being a holy man. Helen Lewis triggers the same feelings as the guy who molested me at 15 then said he’d heard I was a slag so thought he’d try his luck. That dude denies to this day that he ever put a finger on me.

If I say something and it seems dishonest to you, run your concerns by me, to my knowledge I am always telling the truth. I do however appreciate the arbitrary nature of most things so if you know better, do tell. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t help if you’re already a friend, coming at me with criticisms, however well intentioned, won’t end well if we’ve barely exchanged a RT, or even the bare minimum of support considering the shitehole the internet can be (and has been towards me).

Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb?

“Your mother, your mother, your mother”. That was the premise of one of my favourite Islamic children’s books as a kid, referring to a hadith (kinda like the gospels) where the prophet responded to a follower that mothers take not only first place in our hearts but second and third also, with fathers coming in fourth. I may have been 8 years old but I believed in those words more than I appreciated at the time. I simply did not have a relationship or bond with my dad, I couldn’t understand the point of him to be honest but I clung to my mother and she favoured me out of the four of us, her right hand Sam, always eager to please and whip the rest of them into line.

I can’t remember exactly when we drifted apart, it was more a collection of events that drove a wedge between us until we were so estranged from our relationship as mother and daughter, we forgot how to speak to one another. I was determined to fit into the white western ideal of acceptable behaviour and presentation which at the time translated into wearing very little and getting wasted and of course this would actually frighten my very traditional mother from a village in a remote part of Kashmir, especially when daughters who go bad are often attributed to a mother’s loose morals, regardless of the actual circumstances – violent father, violent household, cultural and religious demons and attitudes, societal pressures and expectations of brown girls in a white world.

To preserve her own honour she had to reject my behaviour by turning her back on me. She was probably disgusted by me to some degree. I did fry up a load of pork sausages in her kitchen once, out of defiance which made her promptly throw up in the sink. I felt hella guilty as the severity of what I’d just done dawned on me but I had a point to prove that I was an individual with the right to self-expression, however much my mother’s stomach flipped at the thought I was destined for hellfire.

The cause of the rift between us was largely down to the society we found ourselves in. These days I see you coming, suss out your intentions within the first few sentences but as a young person, microagressions had a different effect on me. I bought into them and believed if I was more like my white peers I wouldn’t be targeted for the colour of my skin. I wore a cross, I did goth, changed into hipsters and crop tops on the bus into school or town, joined in with the paki this, paki that, keen to make the distinction between them and us but it meant denying my very being, the people who brought me into existence and the way we are perceived by the ‘natives’ of this island. They tolerate us as long as we toe the line.

In the process of rejecting all the labels required of me, and finding self-love I remembered what it felt like to feel close to the woman who had given birth to me, 2 months premature, having carried my twin and me carefully in her 5ft frame up until then, and how I could still love her after so many years apart. I reverted back to using my ‘mother tongue’ with anyone who could understand it. For years I struggled to communicate effectively in my first language, perhaps because I didn’t have the comfort of just speaking without being judged on my grammar. Like anything, you become rusty without practice and of course I was busy showing off my English language skills to demonstrate how much I really belonged here. It’s like riding a bike though, as I discovered when I sat down with my mum, for the first time in almost decade, neither of us expecting the other to apologise for abandoning one another, just two women with an understanding of the lives we’d been forced to lead; violence being a feature whether in the home or on the streets.

It was nice. She was older but less stressed and receptive to me, as me. I felt as if we’d glued together the gap in our relationship, and we could continue from this point forward without having to look back; an unspoken understanding that there was no agenda only life reminding us how painfully short it is. I was thrilled to feel at home and close to her once again. She seemed genuinely proud of every little thing I could do, without the usual expectations one has of an individual in a white western patriarchy. She doesn’t care about my lack of a job or mortgage or husband. I had surpassed her expectations by coming back to her and apologising for choosing this country over her.

When I was a kid I sneered I had no idea how I had come from her body and was composed entirely of her and my dad. I looked down upon them, thought them unintelligent and unrefined. Whilst I cannot say this has changed about my father, I take back the judgments I made about her. I judged her through the White Gaze™ and it doesn’t treat women like my mother very well. It considers them weak and unattractive, an easy target, and she was targeted, even when she had four under 5s in tow. I blamed my mother the victim for the abuse white people subjected her to. I am ashamed I put her through this.

My mother is a highly intelligent individual. She has a self-awareness that is missing in most people. She taught herself English by reading our textbooks over the years. I wasn’t even aware of her level of comprehension until one day she flipped at me for lying about my whereabouts, because she’d actually been reading an email I’d sent to my friend over my shoulder and I hadn’t bothered to cover it up assuming she didn’t have the first clue.

Never underestimate a woman of colour. We haven’t had an easy ride of it so we’ve gotten good at adapting to our surroundings. I know where I got these skills from now and it was a joy to talk politics with her over a cup of tea. I wondered what she could have been if she wasn’t a housewife and mum of four at the age of 21. What could she have achieved if she hadn’t been abused by my father and abandoned by her own family who lived thousands of miles away? They thought they had done their best by her, 1 of 8 daughters, by marrying her off and to a young man living in England too. They hadn’t anticipated the power and control that would govern her life.

This Mother’s Day, the first for me in almost a decade is a special one. I’ve bought her some comfortable shoes, biscuits for diabetics and a posh card to make up for all the ones I never sent. I’m excited about it, and looking forward to wishing her a happy one. For a while it was a day of triggers and self-hate, because under the defiance and stubbornness of underlining my grievances I actually felt unworthy of her love. I felt abandoned. I had burnt that bridge by rejecting who she was for some fake promise of acceptance if I assimilated with the white people of this land.

I was wrong and I am sorry. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom (I’m a Brummie by birth, alright?) x

A person like me

What is the point of social media for someone like me? When I say ‘me’ what exactly do I mean? I’m not under any illusions about my existence; I don’t see myself leading you all to revolution or winning a Nobel peace prize or anything. I haven’t the knack for self-promotion for a start. In order to do this I’d need an internal editor capable of presenting an image that fits easily in a white patriarchy; the kind that asks questions but lets you come to your own conclusions, no doubt confirming your own biases, whatever the message. No, there isn’t a place for someone like me, not when I spell it out for you that people like me are suffering, if not fighting for their lives.

I may have been heard if I hadn’t turned the spotlight around on the people mendaciously constructing a world that doesn’t reflect the reality many thousands of ethnic minorities (and ‘others’) experience on this rainy fascism island. My primary malfunction was assuming that the world was ready to hear how the individual contributes to the unjust and unequal system we find ourselves trapped in. The beginning of the end for me was initiated by another woman. A feminist no less, one of the ‘race is not a feminist issue’ brigade, as I discovered when they felt buoyed enough by the support of other white people to say whatever they liked, without consequence.

The world of social media is a microcosm of the world I cannot be a part of irl. The same white gatekeepers exist in positions of power that mark someone like me out as a troublemaker, a loose cannon. Instead of saying this though, noting that we’re all human and fallible, apologising for our prejudices and making promises to do better, it has been standard practice to obliterate the dissenting voice instead, by subjecting the speaker to all of the things they have been protesting against.

I am a survivor of male perpetrated violence and sexual abuse. I was subjected to this violence whilst I was still curled up with my twin in our mother’s womb. I am a survivor of immigration and now realise that a lot of the violence I and the other women in my family were subjected to was exacerbated by the ways in which the men of my family were treated by the British Empire. I am learning about my heritage and I can finally understand the ghosts that haunted my grandfather, a child who witnessed partition and then never spoke of it again. He was in the army, we knew that much. He had his name crudely tattooed on his arm in biro ink, in case they needed to identify his corpse I presume. On leaving the army he came to settle in Birmingham and worked extremely hard for 5 years before he could bring over his wife and 3 small children, my father being the middle one. When he eventually did call for them, they were almost lost forever when the plane they had been ordered to leave – to make space for VIPs who were given priority – crashed over France killing all those on board. My family is a miracle. They survived the empire and they made it to this country in one piece.

However, the struggle for basic survival didn’t end with them, whatever the white knights of Twitter seem to think. It’s a bit rich for these white saviours to mock us with stories of how our dark men are mutilating our vaginas and killing us for talking to boys and how much worse off we’d be if we’d been born in any of the brown countries. The fact that my female cousins had a private education in Pakistan with one of them awarded a scholarship for a doctorate in engineering isn’t something I’ve ever felt the need to share to silence the hecklers, as if they would listen or believe me anyway. I don’t need to be reminded of patriarchal violence and control; my great grandmother was beaten to death by her man. It wasn’t the Asian or Muslim in him that made him do this or ensured she was victim to it. It was power and control. Patriarchal power and control; the kind that rears its ugly head when your country is under attack and ‘your women’ are being raped, being as they are merely vessels for the patrilineage. The kind that prompts my apparently relaxed Sufi like ancestors to suddenly turn inwards and toughen their cultural praxis so that others cannot accuse them of allowing the British to bastardise their values. Of course that’s going to be amplified when they arrive in said coloniser’s country. I see the anger and disapproval they pelted me with as I was growing up as a reaction to colonial power and control and their abuse of my person as a manifestation of their own post-traumatic stress disorders and Stockholm syndrome. My grandparents were promised a home away from home but when they arrived here they were faced with severe violence and abuse yet their reaction to it was to accept their dehumanised status and suffer the blows. That pent up rage and hurt had to make its exit somewhere and it was people like me who bore the brunt of it. I forgive them though, because I know it wasn’t their fault. It was yours ‘Great Britain’.

I shunned my brown Muslim family the first chance I got, running away from home aged 15, cutting my dark waist length hair into a bob, eating all the pork products I could ram into my mouth (denouncing the Muslim God as I masticated), just out of spite. I thought the drunker I got, the more they’d accept I was one of them. I had to find a white boyfriend cos that would give me the protection I needed from both racist whites and vengeful brownies. I was annoyed at my gran for not telling us a distant cousin had married a white man (who’d converted to Islam for her) and that she’d instructed the other women to keep it a secret too. She was afraid we were ripe for the poaching y’see. She was right. Maybe if I married a white man I could have a properly white sounding name too. I was already called Sam and had dropped my uber Arabic surname because of the lack of opportunities it had lumped me with. A mere 6 hrs after I’d begrudgingly westernised my name, I was given my first interview in 3 months. That’s how racist Britain was in 2005, regardless of what we were told.

I’m not proud of the ways I have ducked and dived the judgements racism has thrown my way. I am not ashamed of it either. I am able to reason that survival is cruel and I did whatever was necessary. White people make it impossible for you to exist in a way that honours your cultural background then mock you for leaving it behind. This is the exact reason why I give up, why I’m done trying to get people to think. The issue here is not one of co-existing in a tolerant society and resistance to this liberal way of life but the shifting of goalposts so that it never matters that we do our best or bow our heads, it’s just not good enough. White Britons want us to jump through hoops like the good little Asians do, they want us to change our beliefs/personalities depending on who is calling it at the time, even if it is some beer bloated ignorant pig of a chav (I’m working class, what of it?) who thinks they’re better than you cos their ruling classes stole from yours. On this matter of working class whites, I am done with trying to understand a section of society so downtrodden and put upon by the illuminated ones “It’s not their fault they’re poor and stupid, their racism isn’t really racism, they’re just ignorant”. Stop right there and hear me on this; I left school at 16, I don’t have a formal education or trust fund and I am not a racist either. When I look at white people I don’t see degrees of racism based on their level of education/class. I see people who recognise my humanity and those who want me silenced/dead because they believe I am not human enough. Call me a paki and I’ll call you white trash.

So y’see, I know why my peers and even those with a much smaller vocabulary than me are being published in the papers, their voices resonating with all who look like them. They are the ones who know how to play the system because it has been set up to benefit them. I know how this game goes but I’m not a very good liar and it’s never been about a high flying meeja career. I want to say what I need to say and for it to be heard and believed as my lived experiences. However if anyone actually did that then they would have to admit how they benefit from the status quo and nobody wants to relinquish their privilege or share it with someone as outspoken as me (they think I think like them and want the things they want and this scares them).

I am a British Asian woman who tried to be all that was required of me but soon realised that meant I had to be dishonest and dissociate for the privilege of success in a white capitalist patriarchy. I have grown to hate this country I so loved once upon a time. I don’t want to bomb it or teach anyone a lesson, terror is terror, whoever experiences it, even the knuckleheads but I will smash anyone upside the head if they ‘do a racism’ in my presence. I am shackled and gagged on social media, I am prevented from defending myself, I do not deserve solidarity and so I give up, take it, keep it for yourselves. We’ve come too far to backtrack the racism of the past year and now I fear we’re hurtling towards the inevitable. Sticking around without the backing I need from white ‘allies’ is waving myself like a red flag to a bunch of fascist bull shits.

It’s safer to behave as though you do not exist.

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