Sexual 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 Unabashed Racist Sexism of Twitter

Twitter has locked me out of my account today because of this tweet:

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They say it violates their rules and I have to delete it before they’ll reinstate me but I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to delete it because Twitter allows these people even after they make personal threats against me:

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I get emails informing me that personal threats to find/kill/rape me and racist/sexist bullying doesn’t violate anything to their mind so I’m not going to play this game where they want me to submit despite the many levels of hell I’ve endured.

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Twitter is a platform for entitled white men. They’ve used it to racially sexually harass me ever since I first joined. I stopped expecting their outrage on my behalf a long time ago, what I am perplexed by on this occasion is the insistence that I can make it all go away if I just delete what I said, to take it back, to erase it. No, I will not. That tweet was in response to a white male who wanted to take pictures of my ‘pretty Arab feet’ from which I might make more money than my ‘crappy self named blog’ who’d referred to me as a cunt and a whore and other racially motivated slurs yet managed to retain his account.

I had threatened to raise hell if Twitter took issue with my use of the phrase ‘kill all men’ as it did when it blocked a woman of colour for using it recently so Twitter chose to make an example over a different sentiment.

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I don’t want to use a platform that is so blatantly skewed towards entitled white men. Like fuck them. I do however want to hit them where it hurts. Solidarity can be costly, it can keep us from doing all the things we so enjoy, in support of our principles, but it’s one of the only good things we have right now. I urge you to log out, if not for me then yourself, because this medium is a means of white supremacist control. It was an ordeal ridding myself of my FB account some months ago now but it was the best decision I ever made, standing up to an enabler of racist/sexist abuse. They justify their behaviour because of our continued reliance on their services despite the ways in which they use and sell us out.

As @qqasim89 says in his letter to Twitter “Banning a few prominent “alt-right” users is simply not good enough because you are now doing half the job for them by banning the active resistance. Please reinstate @SamAmbreen_ and make it clear that defending yourself is not a crime” because if they do not do this and I comply with their unreasonable request they have disempowered me and reinforced the message that entitled white males are free to do as they wish with the rest of us and there isn’t a thing we can do about it. Is this our reality now?

(If we normally keep in touch via Twitter, leave me a message in the comments below instead, I will be here for the foreseeable)

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).

I am done

*Barfomenz pricks, heads up. The popo might not give 2 shits about me but you crossed a few lines even the cops can’t ignore. I know you probably don’t understand family or love so you have no concept of protecting the ones you love as a result but this isn’t just about me. This is much bigger than that. When you go down, it won’t be one or two of you, it’ll be the entire cocking thing. I’m just gonna wait for that to happen and let you have your sick little fantasies in the meantime because let’s face it, you have nothing else. You’re not smart or beautiful or sporty, you’re just pond scum. The sort I would happily stab a million times with a blunt pencil for kicks (ooh, go on, report me for my threats to fill you with lead).

You had an advantage targeting me because I’m ill, cos pathetic little boys like you can’t take on someone the same size or on an equal footing, so you sit behind your little screens and kill/fuck cartoons with your stupid joysticks and threaten women and kids with sexual and physical violence. You are the definition of subhuman*

I am done with social networking or antisocial as the case has been. I threw myself out there because I felt like I could make a difference with everything I’ve learnt in my life and work but when I spoke up, the very people I was complaining about attacked me in their droves. The people purportedly on my side enabled them to do this. The same people who will commission Indian people to talk about India’s big rape problem without acknowledging the horrific rape and abuse on our own doorstep. The sorts who deny the racism inflicted on us every hour of every day without exception and in fact encourage it as a means of shutting us down. Those ‘lefties’ bent on defending their right to joke about rape and pour scorn on the imaginary race card without ever once reflecting on their whiteness and privilege.

You’ll have seen the new story regarding the woman beheaded in the street in Egypt. Such a brutal loss of life, such a horrific tale of male dominance and violence. We don’t treat our women like that.. Except we sorta do, (in a not immediately fatal sense, at least not always). The law may have been changed barely more than 50 years ago, to end capital punishment but the process of humiliation and voyeurism remains unchanged. The act of being tortured (physically or verbally) in front of your peers, to remind them of what happens to those who do not play the game is what they did to me, and everybody just stood around gawping, some too timid to speak, others revelling in their recently uncovered powers of impunity. That racism and sexism and privilege I was banging on about, they denied it by doing those exact things.

“How terrible to accuse someone of racism! I’m not a racist you fucking Paki”

“What do you mean you have an opinion? I’m going to kill you, you slag”

They twisted everything, they abused us and enabled others to abuse us with their huge fucking platforms and all the while a load of white people who have nothing going for themselves other than also being white, were listening and waiting for the time it was ok to call you a Paki online, and in the street.

Theresa May recently unveiled plans to make emotional abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour a jail-able offence, with up to five years in prison and a fine. Within an intimate relationship she described it as being ‘tantamount to torture’. I have had those relationships but I have also felt similarly being on the receiving end of racists and misogynists online, the point being that they attach to an existing collage of male violence and license to abuse. I already suffered from a condition affecting victims of torture before I’d even discovered social media.

To me, that image of the decapitated woman lying dead on the ground hurt my heart because she could have been my sister. Heck, she could have been me. I may not have had my throat slit but many have threatened to do exactly that to me. The frog in my throat that makes it difficult to breathe and speak is distressing. The idea that I might lose my mind again brings me back to the woman they beheaded. Her head was physically removed from her body by men who do what they like. The constant stream of white men telling me to kill myself, or threatening to doxx me or my family, or rape and slaughter me, sharing pictures lifted from an underage cousin’s profile, of her and my precious baby nephews, and bombarding me with images of torture, violence, images so gruesome any truly human person would feel shaken to the core is an attempt at a beheading of the emotional kind. The intention is to push me to the point where I do kill myself, a thing they feel is certain if they can only push me far enough. I don’t need to look to Egypt if I want to feel sorry for women; I have my fill of patriarchal misogyny in the apparently civilised west.

I am deleting these profiles now cos I do not want in on any platform that favours and benefits white men; the ones that delete the accounts of breastfeeding mothers but inform me that my rape threats do not violate community standards. I couldn’t give a stuff about ‘social’ networking. I do not attach easily to material possessions or ideas of what it means to be cool or current. When I reported these same fuckers to the police over 6 months ago, they cautioned me for kill all men. Now here we are, you’ve seen the images and how futile it is to expect justice when you are a woman of colour speaking truth. It is ok to threaten me with physical and sexual violence; this was confirmed to the abusers when the police and the platforms did fuck all about actual laws being broken. The thought of this makes me want to kill myself before someone else does. I may not have any control over a single thing in this godforsaken country but I am damned if I don’t get to call how it ends. I haven’t spent time teaching myself to breathe only to die a violent death at the hands of a fucking manz.

Silencing is what brought me to Twitter and it is why I leave it now too. The world hasn’t changed for the better these few years, it’s gotten considerably worse. Your allies are not your friends, all coppers are bastards and I really think we should kill all men (as in not just the black ones).

Women Against the Feminist Backlash (CN)

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

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

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

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

I became a card carrying feminist again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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