domestic violence

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.

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A Little Respect

English was not my first language. It’s true that I was born in Marston Green but I don’t recall leaving the house much as a small child so there was probably no use for it. Any memories I have or what I understand to be memories are spoken in another language, the Mirpuri dialect my mother spoke. But as soon as I started nursery the memories very suddenly change and I remember giggling at my white reception class teacher for employing two Punjabi phrases every teacher needs when dealing with little ones; “line bunaow” make a line, and “chup kar” be silent. There were a large number of us without English as our first language but personally, my grasp of English has never held me back.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way words translate cross language and how so much of what we mean when we say a word is reliant on how it makes us feel. Certain words lack gravity in some cultures whereas in others they are taboo. Words like ‘cunt’ and ‘Paki’ for example. On a very basic level, these two words say very different things to British and American people, cunt being somewhat acceptable in Britain due to its overuse and Paki in America because their Asians are oriental. It doesn’t have the same gut wrenching impact as it does over here but then I became aware of how ‘cunt’ made my American (and some British) Twitter friends feel. I cannot knowingly use this word around people who are affected by it. I have to think of better words.

I have this focus on language because it is so important to understand the way it makes us feel and how it shapes our ideas. Language everywhere in the patriarchy is designed to make us feel a certain way. It controls us. It maintains the status quo. Take the word ‘Izzat’ for example. It means honour, respect, personal worth to some. I would push ego in there too. It’s a reflection of one’s self worth, and suggests the person has a reputation that needs protecting. The women in the family carry the burden of Izzat, although it is a thing shared by all those in the unit. As a child, I was often commanded to speak with Izzat, with respect, as were my siblings, whether male or female. But Izzat came to mean another thing too. For a while I believed it had something to do with the physical act of getting naked because of when it was said. The family sat round watching the latest Bollywood hit and then the villain would tear the starlet’s clothes from her. Amidst the scramble for the remote whilst we little ones cowered behind cushions, I was accustomed to hearing the phrase “Izzat looti”. Stole her honour. Stole her respect? Self-respect? Whose respect? Whose honour? What was I missing from behind my safety guard? Of course Bollywood cinema was heavily censored so I never understood what it was until I became a young teenager myself. Then I guess the older women would speak about it to give us some idea of what to expect. Cringing with shame they’d share stories about women who had been raped. But then the word changed in meaning again. This time it was being used in conversations about young girls running away from home. The families they’d leave had no Izzat left; their fathers too shame faced to lift their eyes from the ground.

This word Izzat has many layers and is not as simple as a foreign practice incomprehensible to the civilised West. It expresses many feelings and ties that are not dissimilar to our white brethren. Izzat or honour as the West refer to it is an emotion felt by the person in possession of it. This is usually men. 70% of the world’s population experiences violence and/or sexual abuse at the hands of the patriarchy. Perpetrators justify their actions by using a variety of excuses. At one time the defence “she made me do it” would have probably got you a pat on the back from the local police as they left you to resolve your own “domestic” (translate: not public, nothing to do with us) but with changing attitudes towards accountability and an understanding of power and control dynamics, better education and training for public authorities, we no longer buy that crap. Or at least there are some who don’t.

We are struggling to identify abuse and inappropriate behaviour because of racism. Physically harming a person, regardless of the excuses the perpetrators dream up is unacceptable in all its forms. When a white man knocks back 10 Stellas and beats his wife/girlfriend for winking at another man, he is responding from his own bruised ego, his own honour. He feels he has been disrespected and the only way to claw back respect is by force. Every action has a reaction and fear in the victim can be interpreted as respect by the perpetrator. How is this different to brown men abusing brown women? It isn’t. It is merely used as an excuse to avoid helping often the most vulnerable and marginalised women in our society. Because racism.

Whether in the East or West, women are property. They are required to adhere to a strict code of conduct. Deviating from this results in coercive force to intimidate the woman into behaving in the way patriarchy sees fit. Now, whether this comes in the form of forced marriage or alienating a woman from her friends, the intention is power and control. They are essentially the same. The only difference is the way in which we view colour. Black/brown, they are already viewed with suspicion. Throw in a cultural practice that is not unlike our own a century or two ago (and really, how old are the former colonies? In their infancy) and you have an unknown entity threatening the very fabric of our society. It’s a creeping Shariah. The fear this evokes in people is not a gender issue but one of race.

We can only move forward once they acknowledge this.

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Privilege Top Trumps

What makes me a feminist? First and foremost I am a woman. I demand an equal right to life. I resent the opportunities I am not given on the basis of my sex. I will fight for these rights, physically if I have to. I resent the ways in which I have had to struggle in order to survive. I am bitter about the many men who have hurt me, on a personal level but professionally also. As women, we have all had these experiences purely because we have been programmed to believe we are physically and intellectually inferior. Many of us haven’t the fight to strike back because we already believe we will lose.

In some parts of the world, it is extremely dangerous to identify as a strong woman. Women in parts of rural Pakistan/Afghanistan have their noses torn off for refusing to make the dinner. In Central America, self-identifying trans women are brutally murdered for deviating from the extremely cis gendered norm. Young Turkish women are coerced into taking their own lives since honour killings carry a mandatory life sentence. Our sisters the world over are suffering still, controlled by the very men who claim to protect and provide. In fact, up to 70% of the women in our vast world will experience domestic abuse. It is astonishing, when the figure is this high, that our Western media is constantly demanding an end to feminism or at least writing about its decline. And there are women, mainly white middle/upper class women, the Brunis and the Perrys; but a few working class too, who believe that this might be true. Even though ¼ of their female British citizens are subjected to threats and violence in their own homes. That they actively choose to disassociate from such a crucial and necessary cause is astonishing and doesn’t make sense. How is one able to claim such ignorance when feminists have been highlighting these issues before I was even born?

I like to play privilege Buckaroo in my head. I am a cis gendered woman with a few years of life behind me. I was educated in my relatively developed corner of the West. I have the sort of face that fits and a name I constructed to impress white people from whom I may need to seek employment. I struggle to think of all my privileges because, from where I normally sit, people haven’t always been welcoming. I am a BrAsian woman of Pakistani/Kashmiri heritage but I’m kind of a beige-y brown so people generally cannot place me. I’m the ‘other’, I have to ‘specify’ and this makes me suspicious to some folk. They want to trust me cos I like to drink gin and know all the lyrics to Pink Floyd but I start to twitch when people bring up the ethnics and their alien ways, and this alarms them. I should do a better job of being British and give over my old allegiances, deny my ancestral journey to this greatest of islands. But I can’t. Not because I hold dear my old culture or religion but because women like me have to smash through the patriarchal crap for women like my mother.

A child bride, uneducated, one of eight daughters; existing only so that one day she would cook and clean and bear children. Nobody asked her about her plans, she wasn’t taught consent or autonomy. She suffered. I haven’t had the best of lives but comparatively, I had the strength to fight back. I had white middle class teachers and a second wave feminist aunt. It no longer matters that my mother struggled to feed and clothe all four of us on £40 week child benefit, I looked forward to hippy guitar mornings with Mr Davies, the primary school teacher who gave me first Parker pen. I was not going to be like my mother, I said. I wasn’t going to be so weak and unable to help myself. I was going to elevate my status and never look back. Except.. It’s a little bit selfish thinking like that. I had hope. I could read English. My teachers believed in me; I was destined for great things. My mother was never given the opportunity. She wore a plait with a middle parting, a shalwar kameez and she wouldn’t look anyone in the eye. It made her look shifty but she was just painfully shy. I have privileges my mother wouldn’t have dared to dream about. I must remember this.

When conscientious white feminist friends start questioning the validity of the word feminism in the fight for equality for ALL women, it makes me think again about my privilege and the relative ease with which I can proclaim to be a feminist. Women of colour are struggling to find their place in this crucial global movement. But also, women of the working classes. Has it been hijacked by the white woman who believes in equality for well to do white women alone or is this another divide and rule mission for the patriarchy? It’s easy for a man to say that oppression is about class first and foremost, especially if that man happens to be called Marx but the fact remains that that is his privilege as a man. And a white man at that. White women with money (and some without) have the time and resources to make a stand. Banging on about equality whilst ignoring the prejudice and discrimination faced by women of colour, disabled women, trans women etc. is not the feminism I believed it to be. It’s patriarchy manifesting in the very people who were privileged enough to recognise the inequality they were themselves subjected to.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

We cannot let the patriarchy take the word ‘feminism’ away from us. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my issues with it, BUT I am damned if I let the patriarchy dictate its usage.

Fems, let us be inclusive. Let’s literally give a shit about ALL women. Listen to the women who have been toxically shamed into believing they are inferior, because they are black or mentally unwell. We need to be aware of our language and the way patriarchy subtly controls people who are the ‘other’.

Who’s with me?

Sam's Hair

How you can help

Friends.

With Refuge facing closure due to government funding cuts of over 50%, women need your support more now than ever before.

Southall Black Sisters established in 1979, provide support to BME women at risk of or fleeing domestic abuse. Whenever there are cuts, services for the most vulnerable go first.

In response to the inherent racism and sexism we face in modern day Britain, I have decided to give up my long locks in protest and hopefully make a few pennies along the way.

Don’t worry, it’ll grow back!

We can’t bring women back from the dead though.

This year so far, there have been 47 gender related murders.

PLEASE DONATE:

Southall Black Sisters: http://www.justgiving.com/Sam-Ambreen?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweetfeed&utm_campaign=mypages

Refuge: http://www.justgiving.com/Sam-Ambreen0?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweetfeed&utm_campaign=mypages

Thank you for your support.

The shame we feel as women

It creeps up suddenly; self-consciously you adjust your posture to close in a little on yourself. Your eyes drop downwards. Suddenly you feel very exposed. This happens frequently; whether in a meeting at work or walking into a bar and almost certainly when walking home late at night. By slouching, we hope to divert attention away from our breasts, by avoiding eye contact, we can hope they won’t think we brought it on ourselves. We are reminded everywhere we turn, of the temptations we promise, and if we don’t fit the bill, we can be stuffed and pumped up with man-made fillers and human bum fat. If we’re healthy, we’re “starting to waddle”, a timely reminder we shouldn’t eat so much else who will fancy us?

The shaming begins early. They make mini-skirts and boob tubes for 3 year olds. I will always feel sick to the stomach remembering the fascination with Emma Watson’s impending sweet sixteen. Her boyish figure on the turn, she still looked like little Hermione Granger to me. But the lad mags cooed and pushed and towed the line. The difference a day makes, predatory behaviour now legal. The men writing these articles, having this ‘fun’ ‘banter’ are in their 20s and 30s. What kind of meaningful discussion could be had between a young person and a fully grown male adult?

“Getting a bit podgy” they remark when you embark early adolescence. Girls get called sluts for letting boys kiss them. And frigid, for refusing to bow to pressure. The shaming naming begins; slut, slag, whore, cunt, bitch, pussy, ho, sket, ‘punaani’ and many others I’m glad not to think of off the top of my head. When these words are spat, they are designed to cut to the core of woman, what lies between your legs is dirt and because of it you choose to be shamed in this way, with the very same words they use to describe your vagina. They cut deep. Toxic and humiliating, they are effective. The world has made it so. Half of the world’s population has a menstrual cycle, the most crucial component of the human condition and yet, it is considered unclean. In many religions, women are forbidden from intercourse/intimacy at this unholiest of times of the month, forbidden from entering places of worship or from handling holy texts. A ritualistic bath is required to cleanse the body of impurity once bleeding ceases. This dirty blood provides the cushion for nestling cells from which all life springs forth! It nurtures life! It is creation! But they would have us believe it’s a punishment for eating an apple, bleeding comparable to a “stuck pig”.

I am ashamed to admit, in the past, I have used men for protection. You can walk the streets at 2am, your heels clicking on the street, without the fear of someone pouncing over your shoulder. Walk into a bar and they’ll look once but maybe not twice, you don’t even have to think of who is where and whether they could get too close.

1 in 4 women will experience rape or an attempted rape. How can one begin to understand why this is a reality?

But sometimes the same men we look to for protection, violate us. You are more likely to be raped by your husband or partner than a complete stranger. In fact, 1 in 7 women have been coerced into sex. I would call this rape too. In my work with women, I asked “have you ever been raped?” Most women would reply “no”. Follow that question on with “have you ever had sex when you did not want to?” A large proportion then replies “yes”. Non consensual sex is rape. Why do these women feel it is not? In many parts of the world, sex is an ordeal for women, its only function to satisfy man so that he may create life. Male life, preferably. They have been brainwashed into believing that their role as woman is to suffer, because they are temptresses and they are asking for it.

Here in the West we are filled with outrage at the brutality our sisters in the East must suffer. They are not permitted to touch holy books when bleeding; they cannot excitedly declare their pregnancies for they are the result of impure deeds. The birth of a daughter is mourned not celebrated. When challenged, many will defend their rights to such feelings because, one day, their daughter must leave. She is only theirs temporarily, someday soon she will be handed over to another man and her destiny will be in his hands. They can only pray he will be merciful. This belief that daughters are born a burden drives families to increasingly barbaric methods of control; where death is a desirable outcome, preferable to shaming of the family name. What is more shameful than the taking of a life? Why is all the honour of a family placed on its female members? Like a classic car, they are cared for and then sold. No previous owners, no mileage on the clock and you get a brand new CD player, with the plastic still on it and everything. Be sure to check it’s sealed properly; otherwise you are entitled to renege on the deal. Your statutory rights will not be affected.

We have every right to feel angry. How can the world stand by and allow such suffering? Such behaviour justifies war, apparently. “Have you seen how they treat their women?” THEIR women? “True story right, mate was on tour, walking through a village in Kandahar and there was this pretty girl putting the washing out, anyway, they only looked at her and her husband came running out and beat her in front of them. She was pregnant too”. Well, in that case, why don’t you bomb the whole lot and make it your country? How about not staring at pretty girls in a country where rapists are made to marry their victims? The person telling me this story was the last person to educate me in global women’s rights. I knew him to be a user of women; he thought it was funny that he and his 10 friends had collectively taken their turns with the ‘village bike’. His words, not mine.

2 women a week are murdered in the UK. Many of these post separation. Perpetrators murder because the victim failed to obey, or she left or they felt she was going to leave or they’d heard she was sleeping around, for example. Perpetrators feel betrayed and angry and humiliated and so they murder. Is this not also a question of perceived ‘honour’?

15 year old Gemma’s brother in law decided to maul her at home, whilst the family were elsewhere in the house. When she asked, in shock, why he would do such a thing, he responded he’d heard she was a slag so thought he would try his luck. There are girls born free for all, they would have us believe. Bound by secrets and lies, many women suffer in silence. They did not report when they were violated, their resignation an unspoken norm in our 21st century Western society.

I was very young when I first acknowledged I was lucky to be born British, access to a free education being one of the perks. I resented being brought up Asian in a culture that despised us; our clothes were different and we spoke a funny language. I yearned to be English. I wanted to wear shorts and begged my parents for a paddling pool. I loved music and was thrilled to learn my secondary school specialised in this area. It quickly dawned on me, however, that the music teacher only picked the girls with short skirts and beige canvas shoes. I had been graded a clear A for my singing ability but despite this, he would only speak to me briefly and on occasion, ignore me completely. Even at this young age, I knew it was because he did not like me for who I was. It was a well-known fact, a scandal, that this same teacher was married to a previous pupil of the school, 30 years his junior. Aged 11, I felt life was unfair, if I had a short skirt, I could sing a solo too.

I rebelled, naturally. Under my school uniform of shirt and trousers, I’d wear vest tops and wonderbras. Having been an exceptional student throughout my schooling, I started truanting. Aged 15, my friends and I would sneak into wine bars, shirts and ties stuffed deep into our schoolbags. We’d share a couple of lager and limes and marvel at our grown-upness. We had our fair share of male attention. Made up to look 20, I soon started dating a 19 year old. He knew how old I was but that didn’t stop him. My skirts got shorter, my eyelashes ridiculously fat. And why? Aged 15, I’d learnt I had to attract men to get noticed. The contrast between home-life and the world outside the front door was confusing and given the choice I chose the unknown. English girls seemed free. I believed this until aged 22, I applied for a job working in a domestic violence refuge. My attitude rapidly changed as I learnt about feminist principles and how they came to be. In the year 2004, I learnt that women, English women, were being murdered for daring to leave their partners. Domestic abuse is estimated to be the biggest killer of women aged 19-44. Although there are no figures to say for sure, it is estimated that less than half of all incidents are reported to the police and yet, they still manage to receive a call a minute.

“We don’t treat our women like that over here”. OUR women? And yes, yes you do.

We can’t get drunk in case we get raped. We can’t walk the streets at night because then we’re just working them. We can’t wear skirts above the knee or a top revealing the outline of our breasts (like, totally asking for it). If we speak up about our bodies, our choice; we’re baby killing lesbians. If we dare to leave, we leave ourselves open to further attack. If we have more than a few partners, we are slags. If we get raped, we lied about it (unless it was a stranger who dragged you into the bushes in broad daylight, wearing a balaclava, wielding a knife.) What were you wearing? How many sexual partners have you had? Why kiss him if you did not want to have sex? When pregnant, we become vessels. Strangers will chastise you for smoking a cigarette, cupping their hands around your swollen stomach. Why do our pregnant bodies become public property? A visible panty line is the mother of all sins. Our vaginas scrutinised for signs of a camel’s hoof. Young Western girls have their labia minora sliced off so they can resemble their 3 year old selves. At the first sign of fuzz, we shave, wax and depilate ourselves as soft as a baby’s bum. What is so attractive about resembling an infant? When we ask for anything, we nag. When we speak up, we are uppity. We are trouble-makers. We aim to cause mischief. We are responsible for the breakdown of family life. We are the upholders of original sin. We dumb ourselves down to get on in life, lest we are seen as a threat. And still, there are people out there who think we have too much.

When feminism first began, it made a massive difference to the lives of Western women. They made the world change its laws to recognise woman as man’s equal. In a short space of time, they were able to elevate the status of woman to a place where she could be considered, on the surface of it, an equal in a developed world. And yet, here we are 101 years after the first International Women’s Day, developing callouses from the tug of war we are still having with patriarchy. We have papers like the Daily (Hate Fe) Mail refusing to refer to violence against women as domestic abuse. Unless of course it is a female perpetrator. Women of the Western world are frantically knitting uteruses for congressmen in the hope they’ll keep their hands off theirs. And one is never stuck for a pro-choice rally to attend. They’re obsessed with our hairy armpits and shame us for having non-blonde body hair. We write to spread awareness of our struggle, but in doing so we leave ourselves open to attack from sexually threatened men. If only it were that easy to shut a woman up!

It is not a question of OUR women or THEIR women; we do not belong to man. We brown women do not need white knights in shining armour to rescue us from the savages and white women are not just sleeping with black men because they have larger penises. Wherever we are in the world, we are controlled because we are female. We birth the boys, they, as well as the girls, come from our vaginas. Is it a fear of creation? Is it a jealousy, an inadequacy at not being able to do the same? It must be shunned because it is incomprehensible? Whatever it is, it’s bullshit.

Say It Lots And Say It Loud: I’m A Feminist And Proud

People love to hate feminism. Its core values have been to promote equality between the sexes; political, social and economical. By definition, one could assume that all women would like equality and therefore all women must be feminists. Sadly, this is not true. Feminism has been given a different meaning, one that has been distorted to mean oppression rather than freedom.

I was once told by a feminist that “real feminists do not have to announce they are feminists”. I was left feeling like feminist was a dirty word that we must disassociate ourselves from. It was ok to feel like a feminist and act like a feminist but you couldn’t tell anyone you were one. I encountered a negative response any time I uttered the words “I am a feminist”. People knew about my work, they knew I believed in equal rights and whilst we spoke of these things in the context of social impact and global development of women, it was fine. Most people agreed, most people do hope for a better future for their daughters. Without the dreaded feminist word.

“Feminism has had its day, it’s time to move on as its less about gender and more about education and equality for all then just for women… Injustice is just that injustice. It doesn’t pick a gender, race or creed, people do. This is why I hate feminism, it detracts from the fact that there are many people, men and women, who are unjustly treated, beaten and abused.”

So says a dear friend of mine, who was himself abused by a woman.  I like to think everyone has a friend who they can argue with till they’re blue in the face, it’s going to end in fisticuffs until one suddenly lets up that they were just playing advocate. This is the relationship I have with this friend. He’s a feminist but doesn’t know it. The response he had from the police was an example of best practice. He was offered advice around his options, sympathetic and methodical. Although I do not have much experience of men accessing domestic abuse services, this one example was dealt with efficiently and empathically. Until we achieve equality in authorities dealings with victims, 1 in 5 men and 1 in 10 women will continue to believe domestic violence against women is acceptable. Speaking to my colleagues, there is a perception that male victims of DV are much more likely to be believed by the police simply because they are men.

More worryingly, it is when women take issue with it that I have to question why feminism has left some women estranged from the cause.

“ABSURD ‘feminists’ label all men who don’t roll over and comply as rapists.’Feminists’ do all women a disservice.”

This in response to men should take more responsibility when attempting to sleep with an inebriated partner. Decency dictates that if either partner is in such a state that they might not remember, it’s probably best to leave it. We live in a society where women feel it their duty to protect themselves from attack. Don’t get so drunk you cannot consent. Whilst men are free to get as drunk as they like without a perceived threat to their sex. If a group of men got drunk and one of their party chose to have stick it into another whilst he was too drunk to consent, that would be rape. No questions asked. He wouldn’t be asked whether his clothing was too revealing. We wouldn’t dream of saying he had lured the rapist into his bed with his provocative behaviour. We wouldn’t suggest it would not have happened had he been sober.

The more I try to understand the role of woman in society, the more I struggle to remain focused on equality. How can I accept that “feminism has had its day” when we are further from equality than we were 2 years ago? The global war on women has reached dizzying heights of violation. Our wombs are up for debate, both sides of the Atlantic. I have never witnessed such a fixation on the reproductive rights of women, misinformation around abortion and toxic shaming of those who make the choice to abort. I cannot think of a more gross violation of an individual’s human rights and the right to privacy than the pro-lifers camping outside abortion clinics. Their actions are forceful and coercive. How can they be allowed to protest when protest for the masses is being criminalised? An on such a deeply private matter.

They’re turning the clock back to their 70s by withdrawing crucial funding. Right now, we must accelerate our feminist activities, spread our arms and become more inclusive. Otherwise we’ll hear more news like this:

“Pavan Amara interviewed 38 working class women from across the country for her report that was published on the F-Word website last week. She found that working class women had effectively been excluded by a movement that was failing to reach the people who really needed it. It was only when the class divide was crossed that the problem became evident.”

(http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/cinema/2012/mar/feminism-failing-are-working-class-women-being-excluded-movement)

Coming from a working class background, 2nd generation Asian, I would say there is some truth to this statement. I didn’t notice one day I was part of the movement; I was born this way. I actively sought it and initially struggled to find my part in it. There is a divide between white middle class feminists and the rest of us. I found my experiences a hindrance to my work. Somehow because of what I was going through and in some way, still experiencing, I felt my contribution was not as valid as someone who had done a degree in Gender Studies and a Masters in Women’s Rights. Surely the people best placed to help people overcome abuse are those who have been there and felt it themselves? Isn’t that where true empathy comes from?

As with an ideology, there will be sections and subsections sprouting from wherever it can be extended. For my part, I cannot understand the Transphobia emanating from some radicals on the feminist spectrum. The root meaning of the word for me is equality. And I do believe we can achieve equality together, female and male feminists working together to smash patriarchy.

Feminists of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your shackles. 

No Woman, No Cry?

Refuge, the single largest provider of safe havens and support to survivors of domestic abuse is facing closure due to a 50% cut in funding. Local authorities have slashed their contribution to services for women at risk of domestic and sexual abuse by over £2 million. The organisation have already shut down two of their culturally sensitive projects providing support to women from ethnic minorities, specialist services that cannot be replaced, placing the most vulnerable women in our society at even greater risk of abuse and/or homicide. My heart is pounding as I write this.

I have worked for Refuge and various other schemes. They provide the backbone to many other services, leading the way with their specialist in-house training and the national 24hr domestic violence helpline. They have helped implement a framework which ensures equality and good practice across the board. Putting it mildly, without Refuge, many women would be forced to remain in abusive relationships, destined to put up and shut up.

2 women a week are murdered by their abusive partners. In the year 2012, spousal homicide is still very much a reality. Whilst this is still an issue, how can this government possibly justify slashing the budget by half? Austerity means cuts, but we’ve all seen what cuts do to the people of this country. They are already dying due to welfare reform, vulnerable people are committing suicide because this government has not listened to them, has not believed that they are genuinely unwell, has withdrawn their support to leave them suffering alone. The campaign to divide and rule the public against the sick and disabled has been malicious. They want people with mental health issues to work for their benefit.

Now, what will they think of our women at risk of or fleeing domestic abuse? Rhetoric around the breakdown of the family, single mothers and their devil spawn, the women that broke Britain by undermining the role of father and breadwinner… Male privilege must be allowed to return and flourish. Hear hear, vote Tory!

As a child, I witnessed domestic abuse in all its forms. In my home, on the street, in the media. Women were not more accepting of it back then, they simply had no choice. The police would not respond as urgently to domestic calls because they were exactly that, issues to be resolved between ‘man and wife’.

My mother remained in an abusive relationship until I was old enough, aged 15 to drag her away from it and into a safe house. She just didn’t have the strength. She couldn’t do it herself because she was afraid to speak the language (my mother spoke fluent English but was too ashamed to having been mocked by father for being illiterate). Culturally sensitive refuges meant that women like my mum could approach a service themselves if they needed to. When I eventually began my career in domestic violence services, I started off in a refuge for women of South Asian origin. The work we did was invaluable. It saddens me that cuts will always affect the most specialist services first.

Vivien Hayes of the Women’s Resource Centre, speaking to the Guardian, says “Government cuts have impacted more negatively on women than men. You have to wonder whether this is a case of institutional sexism.” And by its very nature, institutionalised racism too. The culturally sensitive refuges go first, then services to women in general.

Whether it is cuts to job in the public sector or direct funding to vulnerable women and their children, women have borne the brunt of this government’s policies. They’ve tried to affect the way in which we access family planning services. We’ve seen them mock their female members of parliament, “calm down dear, yada yada.”  It’s easy to imagine the PM as a spotty teenaged boy, pulling on the pigtails of his crush, calling her a slag when she rejects him.

Are we in the slightest bit surprised that the Tories would do this to us and our services?

What comes next? The decriminalization of spousal rape?

Cutting services for women, thereby definitely cutting services to BME women, turning the clock back to the 1970s and all the other privileges that period afforded men. Yes, the country will save money. There’ll be fewer divorces, fewer welfare claims, fewer women to deal with because many more of them will be dead.

The Independent on Sunday places the UK in 16th place for the best place in the world for a woman to be.

SIXTEENTH.

I have a feeling it’s about to get a lot worse.