feminisms

Happy International Emancipated Womanist Day

Every year I think about what I’m going to do for my international women’s day post and each time I spend far longer than is necessary thinking of a suitable introduction. Wishing you a happy one never seems right, it doesn’t feel like a day for celebration rather one where we honour those who’ve died at the hands of the patriarchy by never forgetting their names and the authorities that failed them, and the struggle that continues for many more women just like them; the ones who suffer in their homes (never mind the sexual harassment in the work place, educational institutions and streets).

Over 2 years ago I wrote a piece where I pleaded with white feminists to acknowledge the rape culture on our own doorstep and whilst it received positive attention initially, certain white women became overly focused on the word ‘white’ than the double standards I was intending to highlight. That was the last time Caroline Criado Perez said anything nice to me before she proceeded to explain away my concerns as though I was just being sensitive to an otherwise sound ally who wasn’t just fishing for cookies.

cute

It was when I had my first run in with Helen Lewis too, she’d read my blog and agreed I’d made some good points but she’d already commissioned an Indian woman to talk about the rape problem India has as a nation. They failed to see how they were being racist by contributing to the narrative of eastern savages whilst erasing the truly brutal incidences of gang rape in the UK. They refused to acknowledge me as a woman with a foot in both worlds, belonging in neither, brimming with criticisms of patriarchy whatever the colour of his skin. Perhaps this is why Lewis chose to stamp me out before I could do any real damage to her superiority.

If my experiences of physical and sexual violence were inadequate (how, I don’t quite understand, am I not a fucking woman?) then surely my experience as a women’s worker assisting victims of male violence would be all the qualifications I’d need?

issues

No, even when you have the expertise of a career, training in awareness and advocacy and almost a decade’s worth of professional experience you can be dismissed and discredited as someone with a chip on their shoulder because you dared challenge the status quo. I challenged white supremacy and the same women (and men) castigating us for speaking up about abusive women (cos cisterhood) then made a very public example of me and the violence they enabled hasn’t relented since. You all know this story.

At any time any one of these white media ‘feminists’ could have advocated for me. But y’see they responded that it wasn’t about me cos I’m not a woman? People like Laura Bates freely admitted to not even knowing what feminism was before they were discovered online yet her feminism is more valid than mine; a queer disabled femme presenting woman of colour with working class roots and historical abusers intermittently threatening my personal space and sanity. Laurie Penny lends her support with the caveat that Helen Lewis is an inspiration (she uses the same words every time) for all similarly minded ignorant arrogant white feminists and we should stop bullying her cos her fragile mental health never once hearing the agony we express at their treatment of us. The ways in which these women have personally silenced me, having once been ‘comrades’ on the same side, triggers the same PTSD response in me that I feel whenever I run into an old abuser. My blood turns cold and I get a stabbing pain in my chest. The room sways. I feel the tears prick my eyes and the sinking sensation in my gut that the privileged will never face the consequences of their cruelty and hypocrisy. The fact that I know, and they know but no one else seems to care or notice.. It’s the same physiological reaction in me.

Tell me, what space should I occupy? At one time I was an operational asset, recruited to represent the ethnic division of the ill fated Feminist Party but picking that apart was the beginning of the end when I realised I could no longer ignore the injustice for my own place at the table. Pariah I may be, but I live each day with integrity, truth and humility. I have been accused of believing my own hype (cos I let men abuse me so that I could build a career on it later) and also of not being very intelligent or worthy but also super smart and privileged when they pretend they don’t believe your story (we exemplify rape culture in this country).

So it is with this in mind that I want to emancipate myself from a movement within which I have no voice. It’s not for my lack of trying, look, I told you 3 years ago the movement was fractured and we’d lose it if we weren’t honest with ourselves. I’ve had enough of feeling my heart break whenever a feminist I looked up to comes out as a transphobe or a polarising token. I cannot say there are more good feminists than there are bad. I cannot in good faith ally myself with a corrupt, vindictive subset of women wearing their £45 ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt on behalf of us all, for all those who cannot access the internet and seek their own truth. I realise now that many of the reactions I’ve had for identifying as a feminist comes from the image the world has of feminism; white women behaving like entitled white men to the detriment of us lesser beings.

Happy International Emancipated Womanist Day from me, an ex-feminist who finally gets she can never be a feminist, not like they want me to be.

(I dedicate this post to all the Muslim women suffering at the hands of white men and feminists claiming race is not a feminist issue)

Not your show and tell

hypocrite

The thing about oppression many of its most vocal critics fail to grasp is that it can only really be called by the people experiencing it. White people cannot say what is and isn’t racist, cis people cannot define transphobia for trans people. This should go without saying but it is a fact that the more privileged in society feel their enhanced status permits them to discuss the lives of others with far less as their right, because they are so much smarter than you.

Being oppressed for one reason however, doesn’t give you the right to shine the light on other social justice movements in a bid to highlight a perception you might have of the privileges of those others. We’ve all seen and perhaps used this reasoning ourselves in the past but allowing for personal growth, there really is no excuse for making an example out of another group unless you are being directly oppressed by them.

You can’t say “if it happened to black people there’d be uproar”. This is a thing white people usually say. You cannot bring Jewish people into the equation either. It’d be like a cis heteronormative person whining about straight rights. To make an example of another group of established victims of western societies is actually underlining your belief that someone else is being favoured over you. If you’re white you need to stop right there before you make a fool of yourself further. The colour white forgives many sins, and it’s a mockery of intersectionality to use it only for your own ends. Yes LGBTQ rights are always under threat, believe me, as a queer I have some understanding of the issues that shape our lives but my life chances are also significantly affected by the colour of my skin and the structure of my face and the many perceived notions of my gender performativity or lack of gender identity based on who’s looking at me at the time.

I fear not only the people who object to my existence because they’re whiter brighter and more ruthless but the ones who brought me into being because I’m not very much like them either (and I mean my immediate people, not the whole goddamn race). If it happened to black people.. What? What would happen? Diddly squat if we’re to look around us and pay attention, and make the choice to be honest and not a complete arsehole. If it happened to Jewish people.. What do you mean if it happened to Jewish people? It’s STILL happening to Jewish people. This line of questioning is so detached from the reality of existence it smells like white privilege to me. In fact it’s still happening to LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities and beliefs different from our own. It’s time to stop punching down (and sideways), surely?

The point is that we should stop doing this/saying this about anyone.  There is nothing well-meaning about a witch hunt that seeks to destroy anyone who is different. We cannot say the word white without a backlash yet the contents of our pants or the validity of the abuse we suffer is open to scrutiny or ridicule. I’ve been saying it for years but it’s somehow more valid when it comes from a posh white man; Britain is home to the world’s best hypocrites.

Femme and Proud

image_29

Gender is something that is very personal to each and every one of us. It can’t be written off as a binary with two distinct identities or dismissed altogether as a construction of the patriarchy, it is often complicated, as it should be in a world we share with billions of other people. Culture influences our perceptions of gender and what we deem acceptable from other people. Except it really shouldn’t be about what other people think, our bodies are our own. If someone is more concerned about the contents of your pants, if determining your sex is the most important thing in their mind, then you are reduced to their idea of your primary function, which is to procreate. We think of our babies having babies as soon as they are born (even if we’re not consciously thinking it) and in many cases months before they make their entry into the world. Isn’t that odd?

I was inspired to write this piece after reading a friend’s disclosure regarding their gender identity. They have been empowered enough to state what has been a constant for them but couldn’t before because of society’s expectations of men and the way they are to interact within a patriarchy. It’s a brave step and one that has become possible because of the many ways it is becoming more acceptable to talk about, and our awareness of the rest of the planet and their attitudes towards gender. It is becoming clearer that the binary is predominant in western societies and those nations generally deemed backwards tend to be more relaxed with the idea of a spectrum of many identities. It is with this knowledge and support I now feel able to make my own statement.

I am a cis femme woman and a feminist and I adore my femininity. There, I said it, judge me all you like. I did the tomboy thing, when I thought that was the path to true feminist nirvana, when I bought into patriarchy and behaved as my male peers did so that they couldn’t treat me like a woman (that just made me a bit of a prick tbh). I became that manic pixie dream girl, girly but with enough blokey humour to ensure my place with the lads. All of that sucked for me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be everything anyone could ever want me to be and it didn’t feel right. I noticed the looks from my feminist colleagues, the comments about my clothes or the ways in which white women just have to write about your hair and your desperate gender performance because you’re not so enlightened and don’t know any better. I’ve tried to be something I’m not to fit in with others ideas of what it is to be x but I’ve never felt more empowered since I embraced the femme within.

I LIKE looking after people. I prefer dresses and skirts to ambiguous clothing. I’ve had my hair cut into a million styles, even a short back and sides yet the only one that feels comfortable is the one that covers my breasts. I also LIKE being looked after. I LIKE the idea of staying at home and looking after any children I might have. Heck, I love babies, most of them, in fact. I know some people find it difficult to handle, but they would, it being a patriarchy, where femininity is judged and mocked by both men and women alike. It’s weak to be feminine or sexually coercive, the mere sight of your curves drawing unsuspecting predators to you like a moth to a flame. Yet all these judgments, these insinuations come from the feelings your body provokes in them (and their tiny little minds). The men hate you for having any control over them and their trouser snake (what are they, 2 fucking years old? Nobody MAKES you do anything. You have to work for that privilege not demand it as your birth right) and the women hate you cos the men are looking at you and not them. They think you’re a strumpet dancing to the tune of the MRAs who believe they deserve a real girl except they get to define what is and isn’t one, something they also have in common with TERFs. Those women who deny gender completely, who seem indistinguishable from power tripping white middle class men.

So there, I’ve said it and I’ll say it once more out loud; I’M FEMME AND I’M PROUD.

I know who I am and I couldn’t give a stuff what you think about it.

10987702_10155225679995596_5799254382376444925_n

Chelsea racists are a distraction from a much bigger problem

Another racist attack on a public transport system, another furore over the state of football today; except everyone seems to be ignoring the great big white elephant riding around on the circle line 7 days a week, 365 days of the year (despite the many ways in which we tell you it’s happening every hour of every day on Twitter, where you can all see it at any time).

Life as a person of colour living in a white world is hard (especially if you are a woman and battling sexism as well). We do not have the freedom/privilege to exist; we must navigate our days with much introspection and safety planning, so that we avoid bringing violence on ourselves. Already this is sounding like victim blaming and that’s because it is, our media and governments routinely advise victims on how to play it safe never once suggesting to the perpetrators they should stop or else face the long arm of the law (whether victims of race or rape). This is why it hurts more to see white people dominate a hashtag with their tales of shock at the state of football today, or their calls for action to ensure this never happens again.

damaging ramifications

 

(damaging ramifications for football but white people ok to continue being racist)

It happened to me 2yrs ago and that was the last time I boarded a bus in the night. In fact shortly after that, with the increasing fascist demos and racist discourse from our rich and famous (google India Knight for the P word and Jeremy Clarkson for the N word, Dawkins for his Islamophobia and Cobra for their double standards) I stopped going out altogether. I may have some passing privilege in some parts of the UK but on the whole I’m not willing to take that risk or bother playing white identity bingo when I am freaking the fuck out already. What flavour of racist is this, I wonder? The sort that’ll forgive me my skin tone if I make enough shared cultural references? Or the sort that thinks all Tamils are Pakis, white being supreme? Any white face in a crowd could be capable of stabbing you, even as you absentmindedly do your food shop on a Sunday. They can shout white power at you as the life drains away and the propaganda channel won’t even call it terrorism! Just theories, attacks on people of colour, not actual lived experiences we’ve been trying to tell you about. Never mind that the white leftie press routinely shuts down any objection to their increasingly right wing ‘discussions’ on our lives (by shamelessly labelling it silencing), we are not permitted to even begin telling you our experiences of our mother’s cultures because we’re being forced to accept the white supremacist’s account of it. All it takes is one token person of colour to disprove your entire life story.

What do we, as people of colour, have to say about racism in the west? It’s rampant and escalating (because we feign shock and surprise at the odd incident, it’s left to propagate whilst we focus on ISIS, or forced marriage, or FGM, which in turn confirms the racism they already feel). The politicians and media have made it so, with their not so subtle manipulation of other white people they usually hate and look down upon. Surreal, huh? Laughable almost.  That’s white supremacy though, completely ignorant of the reality for the majority world.

Stop being shocked, white people, and start paying attention to us. Speaking for myself, I am not about to do to you what your empire did to us, and still does. I am asking you to challenge racism whenever you see it in the street (and the media) and call out your family members when they’re being cocks, whatever their justification for their hate (recession, snobbery, friendzoning) because excusing it the way you do, oh, they’re just working class, or unintelligent, or ignorant blah blah blah does nothing to address it but continues to perpetuate that kind of thinking.

It’s no one else’s fault if you’re a hateful, envious toad. We see you.

10980760_10155209187035596_9020375917203205264_n

Please tell me this is a joke

Look at the names on this list of signatories. How many of these has personally silenced me? Where was the list supporting me when 8chan drove me off the internet with rape and death threats, racist and sexist abuse? How dare a single one of these supposed ‘lefties’ bemoan ‘silencing of the individual’ when they enabled exactly that of me?

It reads like a who’s who of white power and their tokens. Yes, the one who said we’re just jealous we can’t write is also in there but I am ashamed to see Southall Black Sisters add their name to this list. I felt similarly when they polarised Muslims with their Je suis Charlie nonsense.

You’re no better than us, you’re simply the kind of token they want you to be. One that knows it’s place.

Of course none of you will actually read this because I am actually silenced. Shouting it out into the ether is just something I do for kicks.

10980760_10155209187035596_9020375917203205264_n