International Women’s Day

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)

This is what silencing looks like

I didn’t celebrate International Women’s Day. I didn’t feel I had the right to. I’ve known for a while that maybe I’m not allowed to call myself a feminist because of the way feminism isn’t really much about real equality (justice), or hasn’t been for quite some time even though I’ve always believed it was my calling in life, to be a professional feminist, to ‘be the change I want to see’. The movement is so fractured and ugly, there is no solidarity and as I’ve said before, what are we without it?

I am trying to understand where I’ve gone wrong and coming up with a blank. It is my belief that I trust survivors, no exceptions. I stand by that belief, I put it into practice. Of all my feminist principles, believing survivors of patriarchal violence (entitlement that is positively encouraged by society as opposed to other forms of violence/’hate crimes’) is the most important and mandatory. ‘I believe them’ was not a new concept for me, my politics didn’t suddenly change for the better when I got a Twitter account; this is the truth I have been living ever since I escaped my own abuse. I have worked in refuges, I have worked incognito in the community, provided court based advocacy and accompanied survivors to the police station, the rape crisis centre, the homelessness office. I believed EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I didn’t ask for proof, I knew there would be many occasions where my severely traumatised clients would have to retell the events that lead them to the authorities. I became an advocate because I wanted to make that process gentler on the women who would be painted as liars and cheats and because they don’t behave like victims.

Trauma does extraordinary things to people.  Perhaps silencing is one of its most visible effects. When you are repeatedly violated and you’re not sure people would even believe you if you told them, you physically lose your voice. It’s not possible for a victim to issue a statement covering every last detail of their own assault as soon as it is over. There is a period of time before a victim makes a decision about whether or not to pursue a criminal trial and it is in that short space of time that we MUST believe survivors or we risk silencing them for good. Now, for all the people quick to defend their friends/partners against rape/harassment ‘allegations’ this past week, the ones who failed to comment on the survivors lifelessly falling away from Twitter, your actions have meant those survivors have probably been silenced forever, not just with perpetrators of the incidents discussed here but also for future violations). The processes we were muddling through on Twitter were radical because they have never really been implemented before; a survivor led process that would let people speak about their concerns, their highly tuned antennas picking up on ‘nuisance’ men (because we’re all repeat survivors right?) who it turns out didn’t just make one of us feel uncomfortable, rather pretty much every single one of us in the group. I see you all talking to these people. Twitter has effectively become a safe space for patriarchal perpetrators. Argue the toss all you like here, speaking on behalf of myself and advocating on behalf of the few people who stand by their principles, this is what has been achieved.

The system meant we could keep an eye on prolific perpetrators and warn potentially vulnerable targets. Just because you’re ok with sexual attention despite your own experience of patriarchy does not mean that other people will think certain things ok. So your partner isn’t a perpetrator of anything because you love them and they’re just not like that.. How do you know? You don’t.

A few months ago one of my own partners was implicated in a scenario involving male entitlement/privilege. I still don’t know the full details of what happened but I don’t need to, I believed the survivor. I still haven’t spoken to him because of how I was triggered by this. I am no stranger to my romantic partners being misogynistic with other women but also, from the few bits of information I was able to glean, she felt her personal space was violated. You set your own parameters; it doesn’t matter whether the other person had good intentions. You get to call your own violation and I will always believe you. It called into question a lot of uncomfortable truths about myself and the sort of behaviour I allow in my life but I’ve accepted I am somewhat shaped by the experiences in my life and sometimes, bad stuff is what makes us feel good. So long as it’s consensual. Imagine then being told to grow up and speak to your lover about the false allegations by a white woman you believed to be an ally these last few years. Now, she may have had ‘the best of intentions’ but in my brain, you tell me to ‘grow up’ or call me a ‘girl’ or assume that I am not a thoughtful and considered WOMAN and need you to make me think with your superior wisdom being the white saviour you probably are, is a huge trigger for me and one that anyone who knows me will testify is among one of the worst. I fell out with white feminism over that, it’s not minor.

I saw your threat re libel laws. How very right wing of you. I see you activists burying your necks in the sand. You’re not ready to tackle rape culture or violence against women; you fell at the first hurdle. Whatever else you may think of me, whether you try to control the words I utter with legal sanctions or think of me some kind of loon, you can never stop me from speaking the truth. You might silence me for a short while but I will come back with screenshots.

I have no allegiances with anyone; all I have is my principles and it seems once again, I am being excluded because of them.

I’m Every Woman

On the eve of International Women’s Day 2012 I was called a slag, a cunt and a whore. My crime? “banging on about womens rights n nhs what about us fathers oh yeah we dont matter” (sic) A timely reminder for why we need such a day in the first place. Of the 365 days of the year, today we can shout about the injustice billions of women face in their daily lives. The abuse 1 in 4 women will suffer. The 2 women a week that are murdered by their abusive partners. The never ending struggle to be recognised as equals, not above or beneath but standing together.

We’re not equal. We’re far from it. As a British woman of South Asian descent, I often hear how lucky I was to be born in the West. From people of the same background for sure, but white people point it out too. I don’t have to cover myself up (much), I have access to an education and my partner won’t chop off my the tip of my nose for getting the tea wrong. I should be grateful. Except I don’t feel it so much anymore. Our most feminist politicians (ever) are sending out a message that woman is a giggling schoolgirl, one to be jeered at and dismissed. She is incapable of taking control of her own body, her mental state is too fragile. They’ve put out a direct hit on women and their interests; cuts to the public sector resulting in job losses, withdrawing vital funds from women’s services. They have introduced a law which tells you whether you are involved with a perpetrator of domestic abuse but should you need to escape, you’ll have nowhere to go.

There are parts of the world in which men can have four wives. Somehow this is more repugnant than being with one wife but sleeping around. In some parts of the world they use rape to control ‘their’ women. In the UK, we just joke about doing it instead. The word slag is still commonly used. And slut, whore, bitch and cunt. And cougar and MILF. Women, they nag. They use their feminine wiles. They sleep around, they get you under the thumb. Sometimes, they even deserve a good slap.

Why does a man have to point out he would never hit a woman?

When 1 in 5 young men and 1 in 10 women think violence against women is acceptable, has the world really changed much at all?

Attitudes may have started to shift. Public displays of violence/abuse are not the norm so much. There has been a reduction in violence because we have had services like Refuge reminding the world it is not acceptable. So, some of it may have gone underground. Except it’s resurfacing now, from the top down. Emotional and mental abuse, toxic shaming, is thriving.

I haven’t felt as strongly about International Women’s Day as I do today. Learning that the UK did not even make the top ten for many of the awards in the Independent’s best and worst places to be a woman has a lot to do with it. And of course, the threatened closure of Refuge. I’m reminded of the judge who called an 11 year old girl “willing” at her rape trial.

I’m of the opinion the West is equally damaging to the physical and emotional well-being of woman.

Their methods may differ but their inherent need to own and control women is the same.

*Happy International Women’s Day*