Mary Beard

How to report abuse when they call you a liar?

It’s been an odd week on Twitter. I’ve felt reluctant to check in, not least because it’s made me acutely aware of the disparity between the empathy afforded to white women in contrast to women of colour and in doing so, it has made me feel worthless and redundant. I am not sure what the point is to anything anymore.

When I made the mistake of accusing the wrong person of racism, it didn’t matter that I had suffered it for many years before or that I would experience a sudden and severe escalation as a result of a murder that had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, on that occasion white people, male and female, held me up as an example of how privilege politics were deeply flawed, as if somehow my mistake said something about the intentions behind the whole of intersectionality. They manipulated the truth and bullied me despite the apology I issued of my own volition. The person I offended had accepted my apology and I was sincere in asking for forgiveness but it was too perfect an opportunity for people steeped in privilege and power to mock and denigrate our lives.

Intersectionality didn’t cease to exist because I’d got it wrong. If anything, I’ve been made even more aware of how we are all unequal. A white woman with a platform made others like her aware of my existence, a misunderstanding was exploited. They thought that I would go quietly, they failed to reiterate for my benefit how they wouldn’t want anyone to be bullied off twitter, as they did for each other, my thoughts, my feelings were obviously unimportant. I left for a short while but I didn’t disappear. It was as if somehow the worst had happened, as though I’d faced my demons and now I was committed whether or not I was happy about it. I was called names, I still am, I have been threatened with rape and death, I speak about these things candidly on Twitter, but nobody freaks out on my behalf. They objectify me, belittle me for my illnesses, opine on everything from my period to how I’d make a bad mother. It has been sustained and increasingly more personal. The people doing this are mostly men and all of them are white. They say it isn’t harassment or bullying but are keen to point out they hound me for my comedic value. My life and the issues I face are a joke to them. They’re ‘skeptics’ you see, it’s the (mainly) white man’s right to uncover the truth and yet they failed so spectacularly on this occasion because white unity. It’s easy to take my words out of context and glue them onto other words I tweeted, maybe not even from the same week, to make it look as though I am deranged and deserve the nastiness they relish throwing my way but they don’t realise how unoriginal they are. If they thought they would somehow gaslight me into submission and I’d admit that I was a faux forriner then they couldn’t be more wrong. Their actions fuel my anger. As a woman of colour, I am expected to withstand abuse without complaint. I thought at one time that I would keep a diary of all incidents but quickly decided there was no point. What could be done about it anyway? Well, if I were a white woman, the media might have paid a shitload more attention. Twitter would have taken me seriously and I would also probably feel entitled enough to personally approach the most powerful man in the world and ask him what he was doing to protect me. A week of rape threats and misogyny? Try 7 months of racism, sexism and ableism.

Tell me, why should I have to suffer my trolls gladly? Where was your outrage for me? Do I deserve the threats and mockery aimed at me? The treatment I receive is not confined to Twitter or my blog; racism, sexism affects my life everyday. When I reported a fascist to the police for implying he was involved in the firebombing of Muswell Hill Mosque, I was asked about my motivation for reporting him. I’m not sure whether white British people are asked about their motivations for reporting crime but again, it made me question the point of pursuing a charge. Did I really want to provide a statement and risk going to court where a quick google search will reveal the lies posted about me? I am aware that information has made it so that I have to suffer threats in silence because white Britain simply doesn’t believe me.

To endure the unacceptable and have your experiences dismissed, to be accused of dishonesty, to be denied, minimised, made to feel as though you are worthless, that is the life of a person of colour. As one knob put it, even the term PoC, defined by people of colour is not valid: “what’s wrong with non-white?” How any feminist can allow this to happen to another woman and then claim her feminism is for all women, well, can you see why I call bullshit? HOW do you expect I’m going to feel about Jane Austen when prejudice blights my life? Why is this important when women of colour are being attacked on our streets for being a different skin tone?

I didn’t withdraw my support to the feminist cause, I was abandoned. For as long as women like me are excluded from righteous attempts to smash the patriarchy, feminism will never thrive. Instead it provides a constant source of amusement for the white menz in power, they’ve been playing this divide and conquer thing for quite some time.

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Still I Rise

I have been seeing a therapist coming on 3 years. That’s how long I guess it takes to fix a breakdown. I’ve had cognitive behavioural therapy to unwrite the pathways in my head and process life in a way that means I won’t just stop breathing. I used to do that quite frequently and without realising. It’s only when my head would swim or I’d get hit with pangs of nausea that I’d notice I’d been sat holding my breath. The resultant sensations would make me want to self-harm and that was my life for a couple of years until the therapy started to take hold.

After the Mary Beard incident, I was really excited to see my therapist. I wanted to tell her how well I’d coped. Coping is something I’ve been learning to do. Years of being silenced, of being disbelieved left me unable to deal with the most basic of situations. Without therapy, the mistake I’d made would have finished me. I would not have been able to admit that I had done something wrong because the toxic shame that feels like internal bleeding would have rendered me incapable. Instead I would think of all the worthless valueless things I’d been called and would take it as confirmation that I must be those things. I wouldn’t have thought to apologise because I would have believed that my apology would be of no consequence and instead would be used against me as a sign of weakness. I really believe this is why Caitlin Moran finds it so impossible.

But I did apologise. Admittedly I experienced the initial gut churning realisation that I had made a monumental mistake but I also knew that I could overcome it. I understood that I could learn from this. I acknowledged we all make mistakes, sometimes catastrophic. It is how we deal with them that makes all the difference. I’m not infallible. I do my best to empathise and I want to understand everything, that’s why I have this need for transparency. So I steeled myself for the fallout. I hadn’t, however, banked on being made an example of when privilege politics gone wrong in a move orchestrated to discredit our progression as intersectional feminists striving for equality for all, not just the white cis commentariat.

I apologised to Mary Beard because I had offended HER. I wasn’t ‘called out’; I was jumped on by someone with their own nasty agenda. Weeks of being shown for the bigots they are and the first time once of us slips up, it’s time to take us all down. I didn’t wait for someone to point out my mistake, I realised it myself and did what I could to make amends. First and foremost, I immediately apologised on Twitter. I also blogged it. I started following Mary because I wanted to learn more about her, and she followed me too. I wanted to learn from this experience. I thought about it many times in the weeks to come, that old cringe that creeps up on you just as you’re about to fall asleep. But it also made me think of how I’ve always felt uncomfortable calling out racism, because of the way it can be turned back on us. In this instance I’d got it so very wrong. But it reminded me of the time a workmate would sing “there’s a brown girl in the room” whenever I’d walk through the door. Or the white ex-boyfriend who told me it didn’t matter how much white people allied themselves with non-whites, most of Britain is the Daily Mail variety. In doing so he’d further compounded the paranoia that brown people like me feel whenever we are in white company. It could be anyone.

Helen acknowledged that I had made an error due to ill health. She would have made this decision because, before the incident that day, I had actually been tweeting the pain I was in. I have a spinal injury and complex PTSD. There was no excuse for my false allegation which is why an apology was made in full. Understanding privilege does not give people the right say and do what they like but it does give people some idea as to WHY something happened. And it provides the platform for respectful discussion. It doesn’t take away the harm perpetrated which is why I wanted to ask for forgiveness. I didn’t do a Caitlin and block my critics, I listened. When the brain fog takes over I try not to succumb to it. I want to understand and compartmentalise what happened and so I take it apart. I realised then that Helen was going to make a show of me. But I also knew it was a very tenuous link she was making and that I was an easy target. This isn’t the first time I’ve been scapegoated. In fact, it is a part of my disorder!

To randomly come across a Storify that I was assured would be deleted was disheartening to say the least. I didn’t understand why it was back up. I thought it was underhanded and kicked myself for trusting someone who had clearly wanted to vilify me. Why was it still there? Only I couldn’t ask Helen because she’d already blocked me. Through dribs and drabs of incoherent tweeting, I saw that she was unhappy about a blog I’d written. I wracked my brain thinking about where I might have offended her. I’d mentioned Mary in a couple of blogs but no real link to Helen anywhere. And then, I saw someone mention the post “There’s no point in online feminism if it’s not intersectional”.

I don’t talk about her at all. In fact her name is tagged on the post but I don’t specifically mention her. I do take objection to the author of the Mean Girls post though. In a debunking of her outrageously misogynistic piece in where she admits to wanting to behave like teh menz, she wrote some very damaging things about the feminist movement. It is my right to debunk a piece which is given a platform like the New Statesman. Did Helen take offence because she was the one who published it? Whatever her reasons, how can she justify republishing something she said she would take down because of the circumstances of that particular day? Am I not allowed to have an opinion now? If, in the future, I am racially abused, can you all discredit me with this one example of when I got it wrong? I’m not super human; I will probably make more mistakes. But I will damn well try to understand why they happened and how I can prevent them from happening again.

Why aren’t we allowed to learn and grow from our mistakes? When is it ever ok for a woman in Helen’s position to falsify a set of events and present them in a way that will encourage people to abuse me? There’s a set of people eager to point out how stupid I am and also the ableist bunch who think I am lying about my health. Or if I’m not lying about my health, then I should refrain from having an opinion. Move over Harry Potter, I need your cupboard under the stairs.

This is why we’re doing the intersectional thing folks. We’re giving those people you wanna shut up a voice. I’ve had enough of silencing. That’s why I’m ok with Helen leaving her skewed version of events up. This incident has strengthened my belief in the cause more than ever before. These are the people we are fighting. They are not our allies. If they were any good at feminism the last time round, i.e. including women like my mother and trans women like my many wonderful friends, we wouldn’t still be in this shit heap of a patriarchy.

When the patriarchy attacks my female critics, they have an ally in me. When their allies attack me, they call me a ‘cunt’. My feminist critics make an example of me.

WE ARE NOT ON THE SAME SIDE.

Dredging up a 3 month old incident is not good journalism, it’s desperate.

Whatever you do, don’t make a mistake, and NEVER trust a cister

Helen Lewis once storified a set of tweets but left out the connecting bits that made a bit more sense of my very senseless allegations of racsim against Mary Beard. She reassured me at the time it would be deleted because unfortunately I am a spoonie and take 3 different meds that can have an affect on the way I’m thinking some days. She acknowledged my health. She acknowledged my apology. She also left out some of the tweets which was part of the argument I had with her when she first published it. The published set of tweets look they’re from somebody deranged (any yes, I’ve totally been there) and because of who she is, she can now undermine ANYTHING I have to say about feminism. I made one mistake that didn’t even fucking concern her and she can now use it against me when she PREVIOUSLY SAID SHE WOULDN’T.

Don’t you think I felt humiliated and enough of an idiot on discovering my own mistake? I dunno about Helen but I try not to be a shithead about things. If I hurt someone, I apologise. If I need to learn a lesson, I damn well will. But Helen doesn’t believe in restitution. She’d rather hang me in the stocks and leave me there forever.

Just because you’re having a hard time accepting your immense fucking privileges, how can you then use them to shit on someone far less privileged like me? I wish I had your platform Helen, I fucking do.

Leave it up for all to see Helen, don’t be the bigger person even though society knows your name over mine. And you know the privileges that affords. If people want the truth they can read it here.

In my world, we make up for when we did wrong and resolve conflict with respect. I thought I had done so with the person I’d hurt but apparently it was Helen Lewis who deserved to be so pissed off about it. Not lovely kind Mary who accepted my apology and should never have had to deal with what I said to her. No Helen, this is all about you. Sigh. It’s really not though is it?

Don’t hijack this to cover your anti intersectional sins.

You can make an example of me all you like, you’re still a shit feminist.

bully

What I learnt today

I made a mistake today. It was particularly bad because I made an allegation of racism against someone who was actually doing the opposite. I do not mean to excuse my behaviour, if anything I will mull over this for weeks to come; but I happened to be riding the Cocodamol wave of euphoria and, on seeing tweets of support and solidarity to a name I’d filed under Racist Question Time, I snapped and without thinking fired off a reaction.

I was met with a barrage of tweets that have now magically disappeared. I don’t want to name names and I’m not even that affected by them anymore but I was called stupid, blathering, an idiot and a lot of other stuff I glazed over. It then occurred to me that I should have checked my facts before rushing in guns a blazing. What did I really know about Mary Beard? Turns out I was wrong.

I promptly apologised and bowed my head down in shame. Because I did feel shame. I was catastrophically mistaken and I felt I had harmed another’s person. I don’t mind stomping on racists and I want them to hurt the way they hurt us but the thought that I’d wrongly accused and upset the wrong person, well, I wasn’t going to sleep very well. I apologised today and I will apologise if I ever do it again.

It could have been a whole lot uglier. If I wasn’t so slow today, I might have taken more offence at the storified version of events. I didn’t have the mental strength to read all the tweets about me.  Had I done so, there’d be a Twitter storm saying absolutely nothing new. Isn’t it time we moved on from all this?

We could all do with listening more and thinking about feelings. I know I will.