Family

Britain’s Rejects

My 72 year old immigrant grandmother died in 2002, prompting a rushed visit to Pakistan. She had specified her wishes to be repatriated to her final resting place when the time came. Growing up we’d always objected to their pipe dream plans to show us the motherland, even going so far as likening it to death, given that we were never short of a cautionary tale or two of what could go wrong if they were not truthful of their intentions. There was always talk of so and so’s kid who’d gone off the rails so the folks took them ‘back home’ to straighten them out. This usually meant a forced marriage but there was always the worry you’d never return.

For 20 years I’d ignored their pleas to at least give them a chance and see what they had built with their own hands, for us, so that we had roots and a place we could always call home. My gran, or dhaadhi as we called her, would look at us in disbelief and shake her head, unsure of how else to sell it to us; the stories she’d tell of exotic fruits abundant in the courtyard, trees grown especially for us, her face wrinkled up in a smile as she recalled the exceptional quality of, as she put it, the juiciest mangoes on God’s green earth and other fruits I don’t know the English word for.

Whilst I love listening to her and seeing her clear delight I wasn’t convinced. I considered myself British, English even, and harboured an unhealthy self hate; I wasn’t above sneering at Pakis. Eager to set myself apart I believed the things white people said about Pakistan and Pakistanis and asserted my Britishness whenever it was required of me. I do cringe whenever I think back to that mindset. I think about the sort of white person who’d get off on hearing my disgust for people like me, the kind to collect tokens and play brown people off each other, dividing Muslims and Hindus for example and profiting off the misery that inevitably follows. Divide rule and conquer works to this day.

It didn’t matter when she died though, I suddenly felt I owed her a trip. Almost immediately I was consumed with guilt that I hadn’t honoured this wish of hers whilst she had been alive but I hoped she knew I was with her for her final journey. Barely six hours after she took her last breath we (my twin, dad, aunt and I) were in business class on a PIA flight bound for Islamabad. It was the first time I’d ever flown and my nerves were shot, I’d barely slept or processed what had happened but the hot cloths and silver service made up for the turbulence a little bit. My dad even let twin and I smoke a cigarette! It was that kind of a day, normal programming abandoned, venturing into the unknown out of a sense of duty and family pride. I tried not to think of her, alone, entombed in a wooden box, along with the rest of the cargo.

We landed at Islamabad airport at 6am. I was hit by the heat, as if I’d walked into a wall of hot air and it would suffocate me, upon exiting the plane. The sun hadn’t been up long but it was already 27 degrees. My thoughts went to my gran and the effect these conditions would have on her lifeless body. We waited for her coffin to be released and clung to each other through the chaos and din of the arrivals lounge, we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Random strange men pawed at our luggage offering to carry it, not being entirely forthcoming about the tip they expected for this service. It smelt funny, and the people were scary, staring at us as if we’d fallen from the sky. An uncle herded us out of the terminal and explained we looked different to regular Pakistanis and they were probably trying to figure out if we were worth anything.

It didn’t feel like a homecoming but the worst day of my life and the natives weren’t exactly helping. I didn’t want my worst fears to be confirmed, that we were easy pickings and could be disappeared, never to return. Dad’s cousin thought we were hilarious, batting furiously at the flies that seemed to throng the air, shrieking at the various creepy critters that had dared to greet us. We were a novelty. Fragile. Typical of desis who’d lost their way. A highly amusing form of entertainment for the locals.

The funeral was as expected; the outpouring of grief par the course but I had never imagined my dear gran knew so many people. I was bewildered by the number of women sat around smoking, a practice that was almost entirely gendered amongst the older generations in Britain. I only ever knew one lady smoker, my granddad’s sister in law and she had a free pass on account of her mental status. Here it just seemed to be a way of life, the chilum, similar to a shisha, was a permanent fixture. Granted they weren’t holding penis shaped cigarettes as they do in the west (cigarettes were originally marketed to women on the basis that women envied the penis and smoking would achieve equality or something) but this was really a sight to behold for someone who’d been brought up in a strict household where women most definitely did not smoke. I was also surprised at the relative freedom my girl cousins had with regards to their personal grooming. We’d been forced to keep our hair long, our eyebrows natural and our sleeves below the elbow and yet my cousins had no such restrictions. It’s when I first started to believe our grandparents were trying to preserve something of our culture in the west, that we were a snapshot frozen in time of an era pre colonialism whereas the rest of the world had just moved on.

They referred to us as the English princesses, for being so vulnerable to the elements. In our hurry to bury dhaadhi according to Islamic law within 24 hours, we’d had to forgo the usual preparations; shots for foreign diseases and the like. Within 48 hours we were struck with a mystery bug that was determined to shoot itself out of both ends and stifling temperatures in the mid 50s weren’t helping the situation, especially when the electricity was guaranteed to give out at least twice a day. I had never felt more miserable in my life and decided there was nothing else for it, we had to go home. Everyone else had other ideas though; we hadn’t given it a chance, we needed to eat more and think about getting better, the airline wouldn’t carry us if we were too sick and for a brief time I was petrified they weren’t going to let us leave at all. Maybe this had been the plan all along.

Fortunately the bug seemed to attack in waves and a day later our uncle took us shopping, we hadn’t come with very much stuff, in my case I didn’t even own more than one pair of salwar kameez. All was going well until we actually spoke to the vendors and my uncle clocked they were hiking up the prices. He said if we liked the look of anything to point at it rather than say anything aloud. I was confused, we’d been conversing in Punjabi but apparently even that sounded different to them and English people could afford to pay more.

I felt personally attacked, not gonna lie. I didn’t belong here, as people were keen to point out with every interaction. I didn’t like the heat, I didn’t like the food, or the people even, they were rude and looked at me the way closeted racists did in England. I didn’t feel safe. All I wanted was a cheese and tomato sandwich and my bed, at home in rainy blighty. I asked for fries on one occasion, thinking there isn’t a place in the world you can’t get fries, and bawled my eyes out when they arrived dusted with chilli powder. In the end, I shook off as much of it as I could and sliced up some tomato and onion for the weirdest chip butty ever. I dreamed of Nandos. I vowed to kiss the ground when I got home and never complain about the cold ever again (delirious or delusional, you decide) and made it my mission to pester the folks at all times, ET had to go home. Eventually, 10 days after the ordeal began we boarded a flight home, excited like you wouldn’t believe I made lists in my head of everything I would drink and eat.

I wasn’t sorry to say goodbye to my dysfunctional country of origin, but I did think of what it might be like, 50 years on. There’s no doubting Pakistan is a hellhole for many reasons but it was made this way. It was a consolation prize given to the victims of the British empire, those who once considered themselves Indian, those of my grandparents generation who would’ve been young children at the time of partition. They’ve seen horrors we can only imagine. They are the product of such horrors. To show humanity you must be shown it and Pakistanis are amongst some of the first to be dehumanised. They are the losers of the empire and all the alliances that followed, between extremists bound by mutual desires for power and control and must be mocked and denigrated in order to maintain the global hierarchy. They are Muslims and they were once proud rulers of India, loved by moderates of all faiths. Their fall from grace is the only lasting legacy for young Pakistan, it simply hasn’t had enough time to recuperate.

Our grandparents were refugees of a kind, the land they occupied was destroyed by the British who busted a dam, destroying everything. Britain promised those people refuge from a disaster of their own creation and so they came, naive to the racism that awaited them. They never accepted they were British, my grandparent’s generations, their hearts were too broken, unable to mend. Such is the life of the stateless citizen. I had tricked myself into believing I belonged in the UK but 9/11 changed all of that. The unspoken hate bubbled to the surface and became impossible to ignore. It’s gotten exponentially worse in recent years, there’s no denying it now. They say we don’t integrate but when we do they want to ban us from getting involved, just look at the furore over the Xmas ads, life is impossible for those of us who do not belong anywhere.

There’s no love lost between me and centrist Sadiq Khan but I felt for him today. We don’t belong anywhere, we only have an idea of what it is to belong somewhere and our place of birth is the nearest we can get to realising it, despite what the racists might say.

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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

truth

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.

White Britain, Now Will You Listen?

So the UN have released a report which has confirmed what I have been saying for years; that Britain has a pervasive culture of sexism and that it is more in your face than any other country, placing it ahead of countries normally vilified by our civilised Western leaders; places like Algeria, Azerbaijan and India (what say you now Sunny Hundal?) Of course I was excited to see that, even if they silence those like me, the truth outs eventually. However, I was not surprised in the least as to how this news was received by the ‘indigenous’ peoples of this land (only read the comments for inspiration).

Women as well as teh usual menz have responded with indignation. On a phone in to The Wright Stuff (I never watch this bilge, an acquaintance provided a fairly comprehensive takedown of the problematic discourse on this morning’s show), ‘Outraged’ of England proceeded to miss the point entirely of what she was being asked and instead confirmed what we already know.

“I don’t agree at all. I’m 26 and I’m a female electrician and the boys I work with love it! They treat me equally, I get the same pay, and on a Saturday night I wear fake eye lashes and heels and become a proper girl! I’m sorry but I agree that girls should be girls, I love being treated like a girl!”

You go girlfriend, tread that tightrope of what it means to be an acceptable woman in this country, by having it all and laughing at bantz even when they’re joking about your pubic hair or your period or your mood swings (or whether you eat).

“I love being treated like a girl!” I don’t. I want to be treated as the intelligent woman I am (I say this as someone who is frequently labelled stupid and deranged). I want the right to pick and choose my own partners without having my space invaded by entitled menz who feel I should be grateful for any attention they force on me. I don’t wanna giggle at your stupid ass bullying ‘jokes’. I don’t want to know why, in this allegedly progressive country the phrases “asking for it” or “she made me do it” are acceptable excuses for those poor browbeaten menz.

What does it mean to be a free woman on this little island? Freedom to wear whatever you choose? As we have discussed, the margins leave little room for error. Too many clothes and you have something to hide, be that your expression or cup size. Wear too little and “you’re asking for it” (well, if it is ‘on a plate’). I can’t believe anyone would be so pig ignorant to believe white men respect white women for having the right to present themselves as they see fit (as the media sees fit). Yeah, they routinely physically assault hijabi women, pulling their scarves away from their heads in a bid to liberate (victimise) those put upon brown girls. Yet white girls, from when they begin to physically mature are policed by one male relative or another who will assert “you’re not going out in that” with a look of disgust at this blossoming young slut. How many ‘Angry’ of Tunbridge Wells will rage-type a letter to the local gazette at the sight of a breastfeeding mother, their sensibilities shaken to the core at this harlotry (how intelligent are these people, exactly? What would they rather, that the baby starve? Oh, they should just stay at home and sit in the dark in case a nosy neighbour catches sight of their tempting breast?)

The definition of what it means to be a free woman in the Western world is an illusion. Except I suppose if you’re a white woman of the banknote variety. But even they can fall victim to male perpetrated (enabled by society) violence against woman. Would it surprise you to learn that 1 in 10 British women believe violence against women is acceptable (Women’s Aid statistics)? Imagine being that low in self-esteem and lacking in self-worth that you believe you may sometimes deserve male violence. Surely this is one of the symptoms of a diseased Britain? It is the way we condition victims of male perpetrated violence in this country to believe that they are in some way complicit in the abuse against them, that if they didn’t provoke something, then they absolutely have the power to change their menz if they give him the love of a good woman. This message we are drip fed about what it means to be worthy of love and non-violence, the goal posts are forever changing and get this, it’s not actually our job to rehabilitate entitled menz. It’s impossible to do in a society that is so steeped in male privilege, where everything can be blamed on victims (even when they cannot legally consent).

What if you’re made to focus on issues where othering is par the course? Britain is the top of the league when it comes to pointing the finger elsewhere. Yes, there have been successful campaigns tackling FGM and we have added our voices in the global condemnation of India’s rape culture but what did that achieve for us over here? Well, a whitewash of our own pervasive culture of sexism to be completely honest. A precedent has been set here where despite widespread reporting of the true nature of rape statistics (the number that go unchallenged, the incredibly rare ‘false reports’ which we believe to be the norm) it appears that the reverse is true when analysing the outcomes of various high profile acquittals. This travesty of justice has empowered the entitled to push for an increasingly perverse lowering of standards, where indecent assault can be reframed as ‘drunken overfamiliarity’, where supposed deterrents such as naming of potential abusers can be overturned if championed by the immensely privileged. Where we have to foot the legal bill of a Tory fatcat who, brazen in his newfound powers, wants to change the law so that it protect rapists. What a façade.

1.2 million British women suffered domestic abuse in the past year.. Still think we haven’t got a problem? 30% of these women have endured their living hell since the age of 16. So of course our government consisting mostly of rich white men would slash funding to women’s services by 50%. This is an entirely appropriate way of handling patriarchal terrorism right? Factor in the biggest pay gap in 20 years and you have a situation where there is no way out for victims, they are financially dependent on their abusers. Especially seeing as independent living has been eradicated for the under 35s; couples are entitled to housing support; singletons under this age have been abandoned. What happens when you leave victims without support? According to these police statistics we’re expecting the death toll to top 10,000 and that’s just the figures we have data for. What about the many more who will never report because the police are corrupt and actively encourage rape culture? The majority of victims do not report, we already know this. We’re to expect a plague of patriarchal terrorism that will result in the murder of vulnerable women and children but y’know, let’s just sit around and defend ourselves as being some kind of world leader in women’s rights.

To admit there is a problem would be a turning point. But why would ‘Great’ Britain admit that? You may well have told yourself my mission is self-serving and bitter and you may still think this now there are hard facts. If I see you though (and I’m probably somewhat biased with my experience of having a foot in both worlds – white and non-white) then how the hell do you think you appear to the rest of the world? If someone as academic, well-travelled, well read as a UN rapporteur can face criticism (and outright abuse – never read the comments) for sharing concerns that affect all of us, then am I really surprised I was treated in such a malicious and dishonest way myself?

Nah. I wouldn’t expect any less from these historic benders of the truth under the Order of The British Empire. It does however thrill me to witness the sinking of this shit.

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.