vaw

taste and decency

Twitter Death Threats are Tasteful and Decent

Kill all men. 3 words that erased all the times I was raped, sexually assaulted and beaten by men. These 3 words justify the death threats against me. In saying these words, I have confirmed that I am just as bad as the entitled men and any report I make of abusive behaviour against me is invalid.

I have just finished speaking to the police who called to update me with regards numerous threats to kill and the reams of racist abuse I have been subjected to on Twitter. They advised that Twitter, being based in California refuse to provide British law enforcement officers with any information even in cases where there are threats to kill because their laws around taste and decency differ from ours. Apparently they only concede for serious crimes like murder (not threats to murder).

I want to know how the Metropolitan police were able to investigate the abuse aimed at Twitter activist Caroline Criado Perez (and Stella Creasy) and were able to convince Twitter that the words used to threaten her did breach taste and decency standards even though she is also in the UK (like me). I asked the officer who called me (from West Midlands Police) why this disparity between activists on Twitter when we’re all women receiving death threats and whether she could blame me for thinking it is rooted in structural racism? She maintained that she was just passing on the message from their techie guy and it had nothing to do with race, more that Twitter was refusing to comply. She was also confused because they said it was about protecting their users from opponents of free speech and that surely this protection should be extended to me too, also one of their users.

Why would it though? The internet is awash with rapists and their apologists, misogynists who fantasise about murdering and humiliating women (and probably do in their relationships) and the overall response has been amusing for them. Social networking sites like Facebook will delete an image of a woman breastfeeding a hungry baby because it breaches standards of taste and decency (and sets them apart as somehow enlightened – Darwin award please – among the mammals) yet raging racists like Britain First get a free pass. Murdering entitled scum from the states get a shrine devoted to worshiping male power. Twitter hasn’t responded to the two tickets I got from them acknowledging I’d made complaints regarding gendered abuse and DEATH THREATS but why would they?

In a world where 50 women have been murdered by men this year in this country alone, am I really surprised that gendered abuse is still being ignored by the men in power? The kind of world where the reaction to homicide perpetrated because male entitlement is one of praise and in support of male privilege, not condemnation of the kind of society that allows sick individuals like these to thrive. In a society where rape victims are asked what they did to provoke a rapist into raping them, am I surprised that the 3 words I have at my disposal to empower me when I’m feeling weak (but angry still) are considered equally harmful to the sexual abuse I have been subjected to my whole life (the experiences I have on twitter being an extension to a collage my brain has collated over the years)?

Of course I’m not. This doesn’t change the physiological effects of silencing and legitimisation of abuse has on me. I had a panic attack and had to cut the call short. This was after I explained that I would not be deleting my online profiles because I will not let them succeed in their campaigns to silence me. I won’t let them have the satisfaction and to insist I am complicit in abuse against me if I do not is victim blaming, nothing more or less. It’s not like I have a choice, I do the things I do so that the world is a safer place, one that I can be a part of. Unfortunately this whole incident has served to remind me that I can’t expect this and that attempts to change the status quo will be met with reinforcements from the oppressors.

I’ve advised the police I would like for this complaint to be escalated to their superiors and to find out how it was possible that 2 people were sent to prison for similar offences against a blonde woman.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

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White Britain, Now Will You Listen?

So the UN have released a report which has confirmed what I have been saying for years; that Britain has a pervasive culture of sexism and that it is more in your face than any other country, placing it ahead of countries normally vilified by our civilised Western leaders; places like Algeria, Azerbaijan and India (what say you now Sunny Hundal?) Of course I was excited to see that, even if they silence those like me, the truth outs eventually. However, I was not surprised in the least as to how this news was received by the ‘indigenous’ peoples of this land (only read the comments for inspiration).

Women as well as teh usual menz have responded with indignation. On a phone in to The Wright Stuff (I never watch this bilge, an acquaintance provided a fairly comprehensive takedown of the problematic discourse on this morning’s show), ‘Outraged’ of England proceeded to miss the point entirely of what she was being asked and instead confirmed what we already know.

“I don’t agree at all. I’m 26 and I’m a female electrician and the boys I work with love it! They treat me equally, I get the same pay, and on a Saturday night I wear fake eye lashes and heels and become a proper girl! I’m sorry but I agree that girls should be girls, I love being treated like a girl!”

You go girlfriend, tread that tightrope of what it means to be an acceptable woman in this country, by having it all and laughing at bantz even when they’re joking about your pubic hair or your period or your mood swings (or whether you eat).

“I love being treated like a girl!” I don’t. I want to be treated as the intelligent woman I am (I say this as someone who is frequently labelled stupid and deranged). I want the right to pick and choose my own partners without having my space invaded by entitled menz who feel I should be grateful for any attention they force on me. I don’t wanna giggle at your stupid ass bullying ‘jokes’. I don’t want to know why, in this allegedly progressive country the phrases “asking for it” or “she made me do it” are acceptable excuses for those poor browbeaten menz.

What does it mean to be a free woman on this little island? Freedom to wear whatever you choose? As we have discussed, the margins leave little room for error. Too many clothes and you have something to hide, be that your expression or cup size. Wear too little and “you’re asking for it” (well, if it is ‘on a plate’). I can’t believe anyone would be so pig ignorant to believe white men respect white women for having the right to present themselves as they see fit (as the media sees fit). Yeah, they routinely physically assault hijabi women, pulling their scarves away from their heads in a bid to liberate (victimise) those put upon brown girls. Yet white girls, from when they begin to physically mature are policed by one male relative or another who will assert “you’re not going out in that” with a look of disgust at this blossoming young slut. How many ‘Angry’ of Tunbridge Wells will rage-type a letter to the local gazette at the sight of a breastfeeding mother, their sensibilities shaken to the core at this harlotry (how intelligent are these people, exactly? What would they rather, that the baby starve? Oh, they should just stay at home and sit in the dark in case a nosy neighbour catches sight of their tempting breast?)

The definition of what it means to be a free woman in the Western world is an illusion. Except I suppose if you’re a white woman of the banknote variety. But even they can fall victim to male perpetrated (enabled by society) violence against woman. Would it surprise you to learn that 1 in 10 British women believe violence against women is acceptable (Women’s Aid statistics)? Imagine being that low in self-esteem and lacking in self-worth that you believe you may sometimes deserve male violence. Surely this is one of the symptoms of a diseased Britain? It is the way we condition victims of male perpetrated violence in this country to believe that they are in some way complicit in the abuse against them, that if they didn’t provoke something, then they absolutely have the power to change their menz if they give him the love of a good woman. This message we are drip fed about what it means to be worthy of love and non-violence, the goal posts are forever changing and get this, it’s not actually our job to rehabilitate entitled menz. It’s impossible to do in a society that is so steeped in male privilege, where everything can be blamed on victims (even when they cannot legally consent).

What if you’re made to focus on issues where othering is par the course? Britain is the top of the league when it comes to pointing the finger elsewhere. Yes, there have been successful campaigns tackling FGM and we have added our voices in the global condemnation of India’s rape culture but what did that achieve for us over here? Well, a whitewash of our own pervasive culture of sexism to be completely honest. A precedent has been set here where despite widespread reporting of the true nature of rape statistics (the number that go unchallenged, the incredibly rare ‘false reports’ which we believe to be the norm) it appears that the reverse is true when analysing the outcomes of various high profile acquittals. This travesty of justice has empowered the entitled to push for an increasingly perverse lowering of standards, where indecent assault can be reframed as ‘drunken overfamiliarity’, where supposed deterrents such as naming of potential abusers can be overturned if championed by the immensely privileged. Where we have to foot the legal bill of a Tory fatcat who, brazen in his newfound powers, wants to change the law so that it protect rapists. What a façade.

1.2 million British women suffered domestic abuse in the past year.. Still think we haven’t got a problem? 30% of these women have endured their living hell since the age of 16. So of course our government consisting mostly of rich white men would slash funding to women’s services by 50%. This is an entirely appropriate way of handling patriarchal terrorism right? Factor in the biggest pay gap in 20 years and you have a situation where there is no way out for victims, they are financially dependent on their abusers. Especially seeing as independent living has been eradicated for the under 35s; couples are entitled to housing support; singletons under this age have been abandoned. What happens when you leave victims without support? According to these police statistics we’re expecting the death toll to top 10,000 and that’s just the figures we have data for. What about the many more who will never report because the police are corrupt and actively encourage rape culture? The majority of victims do not report, we already know this. We’re to expect a plague of patriarchal terrorism that will result in the murder of vulnerable women and children but y’know, let’s just sit around and defend ourselves as being some kind of world leader in women’s rights.

To admit there is a problem would be a turning point. But why would ‘Great’ Britain admit that? You may well have told yourself my mission is self-serving and bitter and you may still think this now there are hard facts. If I see you though (and I’m probably somewhat biased with my experience of having a foot in both worlds – white and non-white) then how the hell do you think you appear to the rest of the world? If someone as academic, well-travelled, well read as a UN rapporteur can face criticism (and outright abuse – never read the comments) for sharing concerns that affect all of us, then am I really surprised I was treated in such a malicious and dishonest way myself?

Nah. I wouldn’t expect any less from these historic benders of the truth under the Order of The British Empire. It does however thrill me to witness the sinking of this shit.

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Shame of Spitalfields

Pride of Spitalfields is the name of the pub where Meow Meet – a gathering of like-minded individuals’ crazy about communism and cats – took place. There was a planned pub crawl but as the night went on, we settled and occupied the back quarter of the pub. Being with kindred spirits aside, I felt myself on full alert having clocked the various leering geezers dotted around the bar. Very early on in the evening a large skinhead attempted to woo me with his American accent all the while slurring how much he liked the cat on my dress, his eyes fixated on my breasts. After we’d done a good job of ignoring him, he sloped off.

I felt safe. A mixed group, I was friends with many of them and since we’d been out together and tackled patriarchy effectively before, I felt reassured I could just be. With these righteous men and women I felt free. Except patriarchy was more brazen that night. I caught the bald American through the corner of my eye, as he left his table to walk past me for the loo. He stroked my shoulders and back whilst I was sat on a stool between two of my friends. Shocked and utterly grossed out, I told the group what had just happened. When he came out of the toilet, one of my beautiful sisters pointed at him and said “how dare you touch her? Don’t fucking do it again?” Far from being embarrassed he’d been caught out, he leant in to her and asked her to slap him. In an attempt to distract him, I asked if he was American. When he replied yes, I said “figures”. Well, then he called me a “fucking cunt”. When the rest of our group stood up, he crawled off, mumbling expletives.

Shaken but proud and empowered, I told one of the barmaids what had happened. I was happy when she immediately said she would not serve him anymore. She also said he had been aggressive but they couldn’t throw them out because there were only three women behind the bar. However, I was just pleased that she’d acknowledged what had happened. Shortly after, the man and his friends left. One of them even apologised to one of the men in our group. We were able to enjoy a few more drinks before the second incident of the evening.

Sat on my stool at the side of the table, somebody grabbed the back of my neck and pushed me down. Alarming and distressing, yes, but I also have a spinal injury. I’ve been told never to attempt to touch my toes. I have to think of my every movement before I make it. I am having an MRI in three days. Livid, I shot up and shouted at the man. I can’t remember what I said; I was too frightened and angry. Other people in the bar started shouting at me, how it was funny it was always the same girl complaining, how our stools were in the way of the path to the toilet and my blood ran cold. I asked the older landlady whether they were saying I was making it up and she matter of factly nodded yes. I didn’t exactly want to burst into tears and start rolling off all the other times I hadn’t been believed but that’s what happened. Like a collage of all the other times I’d been violated but made to feel like the evil scheming temptress I must be. All of it poured out as the mascara gushed down my cheeks. I’d had a drink but the pain is always the same and I react in exactly the same way. Triggers, emotions so strong and so embedded because of careless caretakers and patriarchy; that I try and keep a lid on. For years, I slapped a smile on it until the corners of my mouth hurt so much from smiling, they’d quiver. Now, I cannot.

One of the things said to me by the patrons of that pub was that we should just accept it. Accept what? Being groped? Being leered at? My body does not belong to the public. It is mine and it is fragile. If anyone touches me without my consent, I will shout and scream blue murder.

When I finally calmed down I learnt the man who’d grabbed my neck had also groped one of our teenage comrades (her account). The guy was in his 50s. One of my friends hugged me as she said she’d challenged one of the younger barmaids as to whether she’d been harassed more than a coupla times in one evening and she said yes. The landlady responded there was little they could do with their customers of old. And there, patriarchy is atoned. Capitalism is what makes the misogo man’s world go round.

I can’t keep it in any more. And I know there are many others like me. I’m not going to get quieter as time goes on; I’m going to get louder. And if aggression is what they understand, I might have to do what is required of me.

I think if someone touches you without consent, you should be allowed to hurt them back without theirs. That seems a fair exchange.

trans2

Intersectional feminism is not a choice

Like all newborns, I came into the world with an empty memory bank. I knew only that I had to feed and poo. Loud noises came as a bit of a shock but as long as there was warmth and I was wrapped up secure; life was good, people were love and being alive mostly pleasurable (I assume). Being a twin, in my earliest memories she felt like a shadow, always there, never far behind.  There was a oneness and it was a comfort, I’d never feel alone. But then the labels society slaps us with are inevitable.

By the time we were three, I was the sensible one. My parents and grandparents had wanted the first born to be a boy, instead they had me AND another girl. I was desexualised from a very young age, my twin not so much. I could walk around the house in a skirt barely scraping my bum and they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. My sister was made to go change out of her pedal pushers. She was pretty, I was smart. She was graceful, I was solid. We were identical twins.

Struggling with my identity, I conformed to the tomboy stereotype. I liked rolling around and jumping off things. I put on a brave face and got my jabs first. We’d play ‘follow the leader’ in the back garden and I’d order them about and they’d fall into line. In role play I was the cowboy, the bus conductor, the gladiator. The doctor to her nurse. I thought girls were pathetic. Yes, it hurt when I fell and grazed my knee but the positive encouragement I got for being such a ‘brave lion’ meant I rarely expressed any pain. I wouldn’t question my appearance again till the menz began to compare us too.

Puberty came early. My emerging curves were too much for the family and I noticed a huge shift in their attitudes towards me. Suddenly I was a woman and they treated me as such. We could entice boys by merely reciprocating a glance. It was an oppressive environment, being a woman you were instantly less important and there to be ordered about. I would slouch forwards so that my chest wasn’t so prominent. I would wrap scarves around my barely there breasts when I was alone in my room, maybe I could slow down this premature transformation. But I also popped down the two halves of a kinder egg to see what I might one day look like. I decided that I’d rather keep the mounds because that is what seemed ‘normal’ for me. In fact, I felt happy. I felt powerful. I felt like me.

Imagine what it must be like to come of an age when it is made clear to you that who you feel you are (know you are) is not ‘normal’ but weird, that you cannot under any circumstances feel like yourself, in fact if you choose to ignore the threats and warnings, you could be murdered for standing by your person. Fems, imagine feeling and thinking “I am” and being told “you’re not”. Repeatedly. How does it feel to being born into the wrong body? I have thought a lot about this and I have had my own mental health struggles but the body is a constant reminder of your perceived identity and if you are treated in a way that is alien to the way you feel?

When my body started changing, I wanted it to stop. I noticed the embarrassed looks on the men folk’s faces and the worry on my mother’s. I didn’t enjoy the accompanying growing pains, I resented that boys seemed to get away scot free. For their part, teenaged boys can be cruel and I was mocked for sounding like one myself. As a child, I was taunted. As a young adult, I was sexualised for having a ‘dirty’ husky laugh. I’d even convinced myself I wouldn’t bleed; being as I wasn’t like the other girls. I began to self-harm, in various ways, cutting to disfigure my ugly skin, binging and purging to shock my body into submission. BUT I had the privilege of owning the body I would grow into. My hormones would eventually settle, I would realise my own capabilities, I would be granted the support to embrace who I am. This is what happens when you are cis gendered and society wants you to fill a role. They will actively encourage it.

Trans* people suffer from the minute they can verbalise and are able to disagree with the labels put on them. I cannot begin to imagine the depression one would suffer; it is no surprise that almost half of all transgender people have attempted suicide. When our brothers and sisters are already suffering, what kind of evil are we perpetuating when we deny them their bodies, their choices? How does a trans* person’s bodily autonomy affect us? Simple answer: it doesn’t. Much in the same way that abortion does not affect the religious and political menz up top, even though they seem to be the most vocal about it. It’s patriarchy that decides what happens to women’s bodies. It is patriarchy that dictates the differences between the two genders, as if there are only two. Their versions of masculinity and femininity are suffocating and ultimately come down to control.

I cannot stress enough how patriarchy keeps you apart to keep you down. Caitlin, Suzanne and the Jools’ are perfectly acceptable to patriarchy, that’s why he’s given them the platform they have. Well, they’re women and they say they’re feminists and because they have money and power, they must be right. But 100 years ago, they’d have been abused the way trans* people are now. Bent and shaped into a desirable figure, speaking only when spoken to. They certainly wouldn’t be allowed to raise their voices or react in an honest way. What a privilege it is to have a voice. And now that their struggle is over, they’re using their powers to silence others. That’s not feminism. THAT’S PATRIARCHY.

“Your feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”

YES. THIS.

As a feminist, I would ask that all my fems question their attitudes towards women who are the ‘other’; disabled women, WoC, trans* women. That was the point of feminism right, equality?

Equality doesn’t mean ableist cis gendered white people living happily ever after (to the detriment of the rest of us). For equality to stand a chance, we need the peoples with the most privilege to humble themselves and share some of their good fortune. And fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

My Top Tip for the commentariat: Do the exact opposite of what you’re doing right now and STFU.