White Feminisms

Interview on the Headscarf ‘Ban’

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Penny Sized Thoughts

As a short Asian woman (5ft 1in) belonging to one of the largest demographics on this here planet of ours, representation matters. We’re an easy target, we’re smaller so we can’t get away quick enough, or we’re more visible because we are child sized in an adult world, frequently fetishised by orientalists and predators who think we’re easy pickings. Everyone has a go, and I mean EVERYONE, because we’re traditionally submissive and scared of most people. The penalties for deviating evident on this very blog, as a notoriously small yet unusually loud and ‘aggressive’ south Asian woman I’m a shock to most people’s systems because I refuse to play to type, not that it matters, people only see what they want. We never have legitimate concerns, we’re merely acting out, throwing a tantrum.

Perhaps this logic can be applied to some people, just not all. The equally diminutive Laurie Penny has since deleted the offending tweet but I gather it went something like this:

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fetishising yes

Here’s the thing Laurie, there isn’t a niche market for little Asian lady clothes, we live in a society that almost exclusively caters to white people, with their big bones and flat bodies. We are masters of the wunderweb or else we have our clothes professionally altered, it’s always been more expensive to be a little Asian lady on Rainy Fascist Island, unless you manage to find a child sized garment with enough room for woman sized boobs and bums.

We’re the same size more or less, Laurie and I, in height that is. Our bodies are completely different, as you would expect. I suspect Laurie, whilst similar in stature, has a fetishisation for bodies she would deem exotic, the curvier silhouette of a woman of colour for example. It is perhaps why, when she overheard me bemoaning the severe lack of smoochable comrades at a party, she offered her own mouth. What was I going to do, put on the spot like that? I couldn’t exactly reject her (I’m much better at saying no these days, beware)  so I obliged. It was nice enough but I couldn’t shake off the feeling it was a bit awkward and entitled and she walked away straight after, if it wasn’t already weird enough.

Thinking on it now, with my more rounded view of Laurie and the world she inhabits, she probably did it just so she could say she’d kissed an Asian girl and she liked it. It’s not the first time she’s gotten into trouble for saying inappropriate things about woc, specifically small Asian women.

laurie penny fetishlaurie penny fetish 1

Or you could just be a white woman with an orientalist fetish, and enjoy the relative privileges being white gives you. You can dip into short people’s oppressions when it suits, and also the ways in which you are perceived, for instance, I think you play on the infantilisation people impose on you. We’re expected to forgive the awful things you say because you haven’t eaten, when people like myself are expected to never make a mistake even when we’re on opiates for ill health.

laurie eats toast

Frankly, I’m sick of this petulant brat. She is beyond reproach, schmoozing Nazis, helping to rebrand white supremacy for the 21st century and her sycophantic audience laps it up, time and time again. Laurie has many opinions on womanhood and how we use performative femininity to attract men, completely ignorant of the various cultural reasons non white women have for keeping their hair long. She thinks of herself as enlightened, almost Godlike (a white supremacist trait) in her analysis of other women.

I don’t care what she meant, or whether she thinks her words are being taken out of context, every interaction Laurie has with the wider world speaks volumes about the kind of person she is; irresponsible, self absorbed, entitled and ultimately, a predictable bore.

 

We need to talk about the commentariat

I write this not for the Brexit ate my braahn baby crowd but for those of us who are willing to admit harsh truths in order to effect change. To know what it is we must do for the future we learn about the past and study trends so we can be better prepared for what’s coming. You don’t need an academic record in order to observe how the world is affected by narratives however, especially if you are burdened by unspoken rules placing you at various intersections of oppression, you experience them through social inequality. Speaking for myself I have been a keen observer of all things social and have been since I studied sociology at high school. It informs my interactions with the world. I never anticipated the backlash though, I had expected some resistance but not on the scale I received and not from the people I thought I could trust, the Guardian types keen on saving us all from ourselves.

When you learned about the Holocaust did you stop to wonder as I did, how so many were organised and in such a short period of time, carted off to their deaths without so much as a whimper from their white German neighbours? Did you marvel at the breathtaking ignorance of the allies who were allegedly unaware of the camps until it was almost over anyway? Perhaps now you know, given the ways in which truths are erased in our supposedly post truth world, and how narratives are framed, by those who claim to know better, those publications considered ‘leftie’ or socialist in some respects are squarely to blame, along with the perhaps deliberately embellished version of war we were taught on the national curriculum where Britain saved the world, and the Jews.

It could be true that some of us have a monumental chip on our shoulder, that we make excuses for our inadequacies or we might just be telling the truth. Recently the Guardian featured a story regarding the inhumane treatment a Dutch woman had received following Brexit when she applied for a British passport and was subsequently turned down because she had failed to include her original passport because *reasons*. There was outrage on social media not least because this mother of two was going to be ejected from the country minus her children, who did have British citizenship. How cruel the system was under Brexit, how devastatingly inhumane. Except this is the system and has been for as long as I can remember through my work with women who have no recourse to public funds. You won’t hear about them even if people like me blog about it. Where’s your outrage for women like Meena* and her toddler? She came over on a spousal visa from Pakistan and only just fell short of the then 2 year rule which stipulated residency in the country for at least two years under the supervision of a sponsor, in this case her husband, before she could make an application for indefinite leave to remain giving her full access to British benefits. He was violent. One day she made the decision to leave, because it was no longer safe enough, the violence was escalating and she feared for their lives. She’d endured his violent episodes but there was a limit. I’m only explaining this because she knew she had nowhere to go and so had suffered many months of abuse before she made the final break, potentially being faced with homelessness but that threshold had been crossed. Homelessness was preferable to certain death. Think about the hell she endured all on her own, without a clue. In fact she was one of the lucky ones and had a kind and thoughtful doctor, one who’d spotted the signs and knew of a culturally sensitive refuge that had a single room set aside for women with no recourse.

Subsidies for these women who, almost every time, fall through the net and get disappeared by the state or their abusive partners are practically non existent. There has never been adequate representation or provision for these women. When Meena traveled the two hours to the home office every time they said ‘jump’, baby in tow, she came back a sad shadow of her usual chatty self. I saw the state chip away at this personality, this woman who had every right to exist free from harm and to be supported in her darkest moments but instead she was yanked around like cattle to the slaughter. I can’t forget the way she cried as she prepared for the final hearing and was advised by her solicitor to bring all her valuables with her, if the home office denied her extenuating circumstances (despite the reams of evidence) she would be remanded immediately and sent to a detention centre. When we pleaded for the baby’s sake the home office, along with social services and even our own legal advisors said the state was obliged to provide for the little one and take her into care but Meena would still have to go. I was a temp and I left before her case was closed but I think about her even now and where she might be. When I read about privileged white women bemoaning airport queues, I think about Meena, and all the others the Guardian overlooked through indifference and probably racism, until Brexit provided the sacrificial king upon which to pin all of our woes.

Even more recently the Guardian published a lament from one Lindy West who left Twitter because it serves best the trolls, bots and dictators. I hear she wrote about the Nazism that Twitter is now famous for and also about all the ways she personally was sick of it and to be fair, this wasn’t regular trolling but a sustained campaign of abuse, harassment and stalking. I feel for her, absolutely, but I’m also a little pissed off. Anyone who knows what I and many other woc have been forced to endure the past few years will tell you the gigantic role journalists had in directing that abuse, harassment and stalking our way. When we protested the Guardian and New Statesmen ghouls for their hot takes on our lives they said we were bullying them and they as white middle class people with all the top jobs were being oppressed by us. What effect do you think that had on wider society? At a time when the far right mobilised in the wake of the killing of Lee Rigby these allegedly leftie papers were saying women of colour, queer people, trans people were bullying them and making false allegations of racism that were just unacceptable, oh, and intersectionality was just an elitist buzzword whilst poc had sinister undertones. You want to talk fake news?

Do you see where I’m going with this?

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This guy is an editor for the Guardian. When we called out the racism his girlfriend, who works for the New Statesman, was subjecting various people to, in her actions if not so much her words, this is how he responded.

His girlfriend later went on to ask:

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It is the middle class liberals and lefties citing Brexit as the root of all evil who have enabled the rise of fascism. Virtually every last one of them is white, plus a few tokens on hand to massage their egos. They did know, we tried to tell them a million times. They didn’t just do as they were told, they were the ones doing the telling. These are the facts we must remember.

It doesn’t matter what we think, as grandchildren of immigrants, and legitimate citizens of rainy fascist island, where our lives are scrutinised and twisted beyond our recognition. We are not permitted to defend ourselves or to react from a place of fear and vulnerability. When we react to these privileged white people’s assessments of our lives they double down instead of listening to us because they cannot believe we would have the audacity to talk back. We are bizarrely hostile, not understandably so. We should ask nicely, with our heads bowed and exult upon our colonial masters how special and superior they are, if we are to be given a voice, otherwise we simply do not exist.

 

READ NEXT: Part Two – Comments on the Commentariat

JK Rowling and the Order of the British Empire

In this capitalist world where celebrity is everything, endorsements from the rich and famous can win or lose an election. Part of the reason Brexit was such a shambles was the utterly confusing mix of ‘idealist’ lefties and unapologetic bigots all on the same side. This is not to say I believe Galloway is an idealist or even a leftie for that matter but he says he is (even though I had some trouble reconciling this idea with the images of him sharing a platform with Nigel Farage). Whatever the leftie Brexiters thought they were doing, they weren’t prepared for the violent backlash against anyone deemed not English enough and in the weeks that followed there were some heartfelt retractions and apologies. Turns out if you ally with right wing fascists you only lend credence to their cause.

Perhaps this is why people like JK Rowling believe hard left and hard right are one in the same; they saw some of them mingling together for good ol’ Blighty and imagined the need for independence was unifying, they can work together so long as they kick back at the uber state. Personally I couldn’t understand how anyone could claim to be left yet relish the idea of having a national identity, separate from the rest of Europe because we are Englanders and we should be proud of such greatness. Nothing leftie about that if you ask me. Nationalism is not socialism but I can see why it could be so confusing for so many, this theory that the far left and the far right come together like a horse shoe. I can see why people would think in this way but I have to add, it is a bit of a reach and sounds like the opinion of people who repeat truisms parrot fashion. It sounds like the brain fart of someone who has never attended a counter demo against a far right rally for if they had they would know that the far right are always the first to attack and it is on the far left to defend. The far left resort to violence because it has been proven through history fascists only respond to this kind of protest; you can ask them nicely to leave and see where that gets you.

Far right knuckle-heads repeatedly threaten communities where the population is majority non white. Far left comrades; black, white, brown, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, LGBTQ, disabled and many others defend these communities because we know an attack on one group is an attack on us all. Do not tar these very distinct groups with the same brush, JK and friends, it only magnifies your political ignorance and detachment from reality.

Neoliberals, Blairites, Red Tories etc would like for us to accept this idea they know what’s best for us, even though they haven’t the slightest interest in what makes us who we are. I want to talk about JK Rowling specifically because she was presented as their ace card – surely no one would dare question the almighty creator of Hogwarts, they assumed. With such a huge following I guess they thought we’d listen to her. Well, actually, a bunch of us were going to notice JK making false equivalencies between antifascists and fascists especially when she has a track record of ignoring minority voices pleading with her to honour their cultural practices and not misappropriate native ideas. This white lady with immense privilege routinely blocks brown people for saying she is stealing their culture and not compensating them for it. Heck, she isn’t even acknowledging it. It does feel suspicious doesn’t it, when we say it out loud and join the dots? A white lady picking and choosing how she would like to represent ethnic minorities, ignoring their protests at being misrepresented, hinting at the fact they and their supporters are just as bad as the white supremacists who would have us all wiped out.. It’s not just me, is it?

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Couple this with the fact that Blairites seem to glaze over whenever you bring up the Iraq war and the devastatingly harrowing legacy we left behind, choosing instead to vote for more bombs then gushing sycophantically about how much richer they got under Blair.. We cannot lay claim to greatness as an island until the war criminal has been held to account. We cannot claim to be a democracy when up to 2 million people were silenced when they marched to Stop the War. We cannot turn our backs when generations of Iraqi children are condemned.

When racists mock non whites for having a chip on their shoulder, for rinsing their oppression dry with the excuse “it was all a very long time ago and I wasn’t there, don’t blame me” they are choosing to ignore the ways in which non white cultures are still being carved up for mass consumption, rewarding the Columbusing white purveyor whilst various ethnic majorities struggle to ensure our basic survival. All she had to do was listen and come to an agreement with the people she is using to propel her successes; to give back what she took from them, in a manner befitting the native tradition. She actively chooses to ignore them. It’s why I had to interject when I saw JK conversing with an old time hero of mine, Sanjeev Bhaskar, in response to a Twitter user asking how he felt about JK supporting racist Blairites. His response was in earnest but coupled with the subsequent tweet from JK it presented Sanjeev in the light of a token brown person, his testament erasing the many voices who feel JK has profited from our ideas and stifled debate from the very people it concerns. Kudos to Sanjeev, I appreciated his frank replies to me, and the exchange prompted me to write this post, something I have been avoiding this past week, partly due to the inevitable white knighting from scary dudebros if they chance upon it but also because it would be ignorant of me to leave out the bit where I admonish the usual suspects for their erasure of the important points being made here. Of course Helen Lewis and Laurie Penny were going to circle jerk their support for this beloved children’s author of whom we’re all just jealous, for being so smart and original. The same faces who’ve systematically erased and silenced poc protesting erasure and silencing have propped each other up to the exclusion of everyone who is not rich, white and not famous.

They can’t have Sanjeev Bhaskar, not when already they have Panju.

sanjeev

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Further reading:

National Geographic – Native Americans to JK “We’re not magical”

Magic in North America Part 1 – Ugh

Natives in America – Dear JK Rowling: We’re still here

We are, none of us, beyond hope

crazy

I didn’t read the xojane article doing the rounds, I found myself reeling from the headline as I tried to process what the author, Amanda Lauren, was saying. “My former friend’s death was a blessing – some people are so sick, they are beyond help”.

It kind of speaks for itself, the author believes there are people who are a lost cause and they should die because it will make it easier for everyone else. She feels justified in saying this, reassured enough to publish her thoughts on a global platform. I am perturbed by people who make these controversial statements, unconcerned by how they might be perceived, either possessing the hide of a rhinoceros or else feel that public opinion will sway their way (another painful reminder of the growing inhumanity we’ve normalised against anyone considered ‘other’).

I have CPTSD, a condition I am stuck with for the rest of my life because it is as the name suggests, complex. I didn’t ask to be repeatedly put in harm’s way, with no chance of escape, it’s just the life I was born into. I have explored in great detail the reasons I broke down, so that I can understand it was not my fault (when you’re mental you’re convinced you deserve it) and so that I could hope for a better future, one where I can have a fulfilling life, where I won’t be immediately at risk of a violent death.

My efforts to at least appear normal for the sake of ordinary people exhaust me, as anyone who suffers from a condition which impacts on their day to day dealings will tell you; how to not only stay alive, but to live well, to be fun and interesting and relevant. There can be no stone left unturned, no door chained and bolted in the recesses of my fragile mind, triggers must be neutralised as they arise. I frequently say things that make other people uncomfortable. I don’t do it intentionally, it’s just my experience of the world is so far removed from the norm, I come across somewhat intense and affected. When people try to cover things up, or downplay the truth, I consider that to be gaslighting because it messes with my sense of reality. When I told the truth as a child I was disbelieved and punished.

My childhood was violent, my teens isolated, my 20s split entirely from reality. Amanda Lauren would probably say my life wasn’t worth living. I believed that too, until just a year or two ago, when I suddenly remembered who I was before I became unhinged, a state I found myself in through no fault of my own. I remembered the things I was good at, the hopes I had as a pre teen, for university and beyond. This brought with it confidence and self esteem, qualities I’d mislaid following my failings as an adult in a cishet white supremacist patriarchy. When I think back to the lowest period of my life, the monotony of anhedonia and how utterly convinced I was that my time on this earth was rapidly coming to an end it frightens me to think people like Amanda believe in the legitimacy of their own bigotry.

I never thought I’d have the confidence to write my own blog, or weather a twitter storm. I didn’t dare dream of friends and lovers who hear me, even when there are no words. Even when I was a bordering on psychotic, withdrawing from SSRIs, they kept me supplied with valium and kitten pics. That’s what friends do, Amanda, they love you despite your flaws. They understand there is nothing inherently wrong with you, that you’re a product of an unjust society and that to feel depressed or disconnected from the world is a sign you’re actually (most likely) a decent sort. I don’t reject the mental ones, I welcome them with open arms, as they have me. I want to offer Amanda’s ex friend my condolences and wish for her to rest in peace. I am sorry you were stuck with people who didn’t deserve you.

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” Be wary of those who pretend they haven’t a care in the world, more so the ones who genuinely don’t.

‘Confronting’ random women is called street harassment

All too often I use this blog to rage about all the bastards in the world but today I’m going to engage in some unprecedented activity (like the badass ex Muslim I am) and actually thank some of you for doing your human duty. If I’d had you Twitter treasures on the bus that time I was racially abused I’d probably still feel ok to go out on my own. On that occasion 50 odd people chose to laugh at my pleas for help. They fell on the side of the racist who’d just called me a Paki bitch for ignoring his sexual harassment. The packed top deck of a London bus, in Kilburn, a multicultural area, at 3am, and not one person thought it unacceptable I’d been targeted for racist and sexist harassment. Even the other poc on the bus looked away, a black man shook his head and looked at his feet. Luckily my white best friend was there to slap the offender and stand in his way so he couldn’t actually physically reach me.

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When Matthew Doyle tweeted this, whatever his intentions, he had assumed solidarity from Twitter. The majority of people I follow were still reeling from #StopIslam which was trending in the UK yesterday following the Brussels attacks but it was trending for a reason, a significant number of my fellow citizens/twitterers are in fact white supremacists, even if they do not think of themselves as racist. With this in mind, Doyle tweeted his encounter with a random Muslim woman on the street in which he demanded an explanation for Brussels. What he wasn’t expecting was for common sense to prevail and for people to afford that woman the humanity and dignity each and every single one of us deserves; the right to exist free from harm and collective punishment.

On seeing that tweet my heart fell, my initial reaction isn’t anger as you might expect of me. I ALWAYS feel toxic shame first, a latent trickle of self hate and abject fear, I feel intensely vulnerable, then apprehensive because I was still unsure of how Twitter would react. How many times have we said x is racist only for the fair, well meaning apologists to deny/erase our perspectives? On this occasion though, I felt buoyed by the outright repulsion for this man and his bigoted actions.

Thank you friends, allies, comrades for showing me that there are some of us at least who took on board what it is to be human, that we can be outraged on the behalf of a woman none of us personally know, who might not even exist, because whether she does or not it’s the absolute right thing to do, especially when many more suffer incidents like this in their day to day dealings with the Great British public. Every. Single. Day. Every time there is a terror attack the media reporting provokes/incites a wave of increasingly violent attacks on women like me, because white men like Doyle are too cowardly to pick on someone their own size. He calls himself a feminist and I guess he can; telling Muslim women what to wear *is* the white feminist’s modus operandi, I just wish they’d stop pretending they see us as equals.

On a final note it is worth mentioning that there were still some people on ‘our side’ who thought that tweet wasn’t real or else intended to be a ‘joke’ or *insert well meaning excuse here* just not what we as people of colour say it is. Nice middle class white people, why do you still refuse to listen? People have been murdered in this country for being brown or ‘looking Muslim’ these past few years and still you think we’re just making it up, or overreacting? You cannot tackle a problem until you call it what it is. Doyle tweeted it in all seriousness then backtracked when he realised people were upset but changed his mind again, perhaps galvanised by incoming tweets of racist solidarity.

When you deny the experiences of the people living it, it only gets worse.

The Politics of Violence Against Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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