New Statesman

We need to talk about the commentariat

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see where I’m going with this?

jonathon-haynes-race-card

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

His girlfriend later went on to ask:

farage-of-the-left

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

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

 

READ NEXT: Part Two – Comments on the Commentariat

Twitter is the real world

I deleted Twitter last night after I found I couldn’t silence my own opinion. I deleted it because all the things I have been accused have been perpetrated by all of my critics but they have stifled any retaliation. They are bigger in numbers and their actions trigger a collage of white voices; manipulative and powerful.

When I first joined Twitter, I unfollowed anyone RT’ing the EDL into my timeline. I wasn’t being ignorant but trying to protect myself from mental harm. I don’t belong in this country and I found, after visiting the ‘homeland’, I didn’t belong there either. As a 31 year old woman, I am still affected by the subtle ways in which WoC are controlled. It is very easy to monster us and depict us as damaged and untrustworthy, heck, we’re so often used in this way, we start believing it.

Tell me how, any woman claiming to be intersectional can allow discourse that alienates another woman? Why is it EVER ok to allow TERF voices into an intersectional movement? Because they are women we must listen to their bigoted views and allow them that power? If trans* women are fair game, how long before they allow similar discussions for WoC? Cos that’s how they used to talk about us y’know? TERF allies can lie until they’re blue in the face that they are intersectional but when they haven’t grasped the very basic concept of TRUE EQUALITY for ALL WOMEN, which means zero tolerance of ‘other-ing’ any woman, they are the facilitators of oppression. I’ve been watching them for some months now. They gush and eat cake and use the word sister without the slightest hint of irony. Then they stab you in the back. Mendacity is not a feature of my feminism.

This behaviour affects me so because I have had a lifetime of it. ‘Sister’ doesn’t mean anything in my world. Unless you fall into line, pray to the same God, ask your oppressors for forgiveness for your clearly demented individual ways, nobody is interested. You are not allowed to challenge, or grow, or make amends. And that’s what’s happening right now. Growing up, I was the minority voice. I was bullied and beaten for acting like “a white girl”. Today, I am facing the same again; I am a minority WoC. I am a minority ally of trans/non gender binary comrades. I am the antithesis of the mainstream white rationale and reasoning. And I am glad.

The hypocrisy of the last few weeks is not lost on me. There is nothing honourable about these people. When you have the privilege of a position that allows you an opinion and then PAYS you for making it, it’s a given that criticism is part and parcel of the package. The commentariat get PAID to use an immense platform. They remind me of spoilt film actors, playing the camera when it suits them and then bemoaning their lack of privacy when they inevitably fuck up. I don’t get paid to do anything. I do it because it is my reality and I have no choice. But I also cannot handle the onslaught of abuse I have been subjected to. I managed a week of engaging, of methodically deleting every comment calling me a whore. Do you know how mentally exhausting it is to be abused on a daily basis? I didn’t ‘flounce’, that’s what white women do when they can’t be bothered to engage you anymore and want it to look like they’ve been bullied off (remember: manipulation). I chose to delete my account before I said something really hurtful. Hurtful because it is painfully true.

I started doing Twitter because I had a cause. I found some wonderful people who now exist in the real world. These are the allies I’m going to continue to work with. I will never forget the rest of you though, I will remember your faces and your thoughts and when you fuck up, as you inevitably will (just like we all do but some of us are more allowed to than others) I will be there. I will be watching.

I am disengaging for today but that doesn’t mean I am gone forever. I am waiting for the bullshit to subside and for intersectionality to rise up again. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

Smash the Kyriarchy

Google ‘Sam Ambreen and Helen Lewis’ and you will see various blogs written by both of us but also two other names. One of them is a prolific misogynist whose life’s purpose seems to be undermining the feminist cause and the other, a woman. Apparently she’s a lawyer called Anya Palmer.

How am I supposed to feel about this? In terms of intersectionality, there is a very definite ‘us’ and ‘them’ and right now the ‘them’ is a coalition of those two. Each has an agenda to slander and vilify me as a lying, manipulative woman of colour. This is about the easiest representation of a kyriarchy I have come across.

Elevatorgate wants feminism to disappear so he spends his time trawling through the net seeking ways in which to damage the movement. Anya Palmer wants to discredit ME as an intersectional woman of colour and so she employs the same tactics as the former, loosely stringing together the worst bits of the whole incident, storifying and screencapping the shite out of anything I say. Challenge Anya and she blocks you.

These people don’t want discussion, they just don’t want us.

I see no difference in the two.

Smash the kyriarchy. Smash it all.

There’s no point in online feminism if it’s not intersectional

Since we’re looking for the least privileged woman in the world I’d like to nominate my mother. True, she lives here in the West and has never gone hungry (well, at least for no more than a coupla days) but I think she’s somewhere near the bottom and a good a place as any to start.

My mother was born in a village in Kashmir. She was the fourth of 10 children and 1 of 8 girls. Her father was a community doctor and so earned a reasonable enough wage but with that many children they were never what we might think of as well off. So much so that Granddad worked hard to save enough money so that he could give his daughters a decent enough dowry. The plan was to marry them off as soon as they hit puberty thus lessening the burden on the family as a whole.

She was barely 16 when she was packed onto a plane ready to begin her new life in Great Britain. She had barely enough of an education so that she could read letters sent to her in Urdu by her mother, my nan. She was just a child. But one my grandparents couldn’t afford to feed. And so she was palmed off on the first willing man to take her on. My father was 10 years her senior and didn’t want to get married. Or at least he did, but not to her. He was in love with a woman of mixed heritage and his mother, my paternal gran was determined it wouldn’t happen, she hadn’t brought her boys to this new land only for them to mix it up. She and my grandfather had a way of ensuring their children did as they were told, mainly through violence and coercion. My great grandparents had been Muslim scholars, feared and revered by the community in Pakistan. They had a reputation to protect and this came at any cost. My grandparents were the product of an extremely insular and strict manifestation of Islamism. As a child I heard my paternal great grandmother was beaten to death barely a few months after the birth of my granddad’s younger brother. This, because she had sat on her brother’s bed, whilst he lay recovering from an illness. It was too much for great granddad’s male ego and honour. “That’s just the way they did things” was the reply I got when I protested my family legacy through tears. “I’ll show them,” is the mantra I’ve had my whole life. I will be a feminist for all my foremothers; I will take back what was stolen from the women who came before me. A life, namely. An education. Bodily autonomy. Sexual freedom.

But my mother, now divorced and estranged from me, still suffers. We don’t speak because I am alien to her. From a very young age, I believed my emancipation would come from allying myself with the white feminist. I wanted what they had. As a very small child this meant the freedom to dress as I wish and associate with boys. That’s as far as my struggle got through my teens. But as I got older, I continued to behave as my white peers did and this widened the gap between my mother’s hopes for me (she really wanted me to be an air hostess) and my desires for equal rights in a man’s world. She won’t speak to me because she is afraid of what I have become. She won’t give me the opportunity to explain I did this for her.

As soon as I was old enough to hit the men back (15), I dragged my mother away from the community she knew and set into motion the process to divorce her from my father. During this time, I gullibly confirmed to the white workers who were trying to house us in temporary accommodation that the men in my family were savages, bringing with them the patriarchal controls they had back home. When fleeing domestic violence the local authority has an ‘interim duty to accommodate’ and as I rolled out the reasons we were presenting as such, it suddenly dawned on me, I was lucky to be alive. Domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, poverty, homelessness, religious/cultural demons, immigration issues (read racism), disability, isolation, self-harm, eating disorders.. This was not an exhaustive list but my small family had been victim to them all. Sure, I had internet access at the time but I didn’t see it as a privilege, more of a necessary escape. That’s a very silly thing to say Sadie. And it is your privilege that allows you to think like that.

I wish my life had been a little easier. I wish my mother had the right to an education so that she was self-sufficient and might have kicked my dad to the kerb with her dignity intact. But she didn’t. After 20 years of unfaltering duty, irrespective of the abuse she suffered, my father granted her a divorce and gave her £6000 for the trouble. That’s how much she was worth in the end. Her body ravaged by pregnancies she did not consent to, her children traumatised and displaced. She put the miserly amount he’d afforded her towards my younger sister’s nuptials. Because, despite the living hell she’d endured, she was still afraid the community would judge her for her unmarried daughters. This is also where I fell short in my duties as a daughter.  I don’t believe in marriage and who could blame me? But my mother doesn’t see it like that. The patriarchy has controlled her life since forever and although she suffered as a result of it, it still governs her thoughts, she doesn’t know any better.

If I’m a bit mean, frankly, it’s because I’m fed up. Suzanne Moore blocked me on Twitter a little while ago. I can’t even remember what for but I was reminded of it when I tried to RT the fuck outta her tweet asking for James Delingpole to admit he’s a misogynist cock. I joked that it was a shame because even though I had my issues with her, united we would stand in the face of patriarchy. I’m assuming it got back to her because later on that evening I was able to RT with abandon. Why couldn’t Sadie Smith leave well alone? By writing her piece all she’s done is pander to patriarchy. Hell, she even admits to wanting to behave like a misogynist. How is that EVER ok Sandie?

Could it be that privilege allows you some control? The privilege of having a voice or a face that fits so that you can use a platform whichever way you want. “Feminism is not bullying and beating up other women.” Haven’t you done exactly that, Sadie?

As a result of my life, I take pills. There are the ones that keep me on an even keel and the ones that work directly on my spinal cord and brain. When I accused Mary Beard of racism, I was horrified and immediately apologised, but I was made an example of when privilege politics go wrong. I’d unwittingly caught the tail end of a Twitter storm and was held up as an example of ‘stupid’ intersectional feminists using the race card at will. I wish I had the privilege of a clear, sharp mind. I wish I could pick the days when the fog takes over; I could plan my life a bit easier.

If I’m mean or angry, couldn’t you at least try to understand why? That’s what we intersectional feminists do. We understand that some of the stuff that happens in life has profound and lasting effects on people. None of us ask to be born for if we did, I’m sure we’d all tick the white cis gendered box. Nobody would choose an existence where you are overlooked/beaten/murdered for the colour of your skin, or choose to be disabled or *trans.

It’s just how we were born and all we mean to ask is, why am I not as worthy as you?