Women

We are, none of us, beyond hope

crazy

I didn’t read the xojane article doing the rounds, I found myself reeling from the headline as I tried to process what the author, Amanda Lauren, was saying. “My former friend’s death was a blessing – some people are so sick, they are beyond help”.

It kind of speaks for itself, the author believes there are people who are a lost cause and they should die because it will make it easier for everyone else. She feels justified in saying this, reassured enough to publish her thoughts on a global platform. I am perturbed by people who make these controversial statements, unconcerned by how they might be perceived, either possessing the hide of a rhinoceros or else feel that public opinion will sway their way (another painful reminder of the growing inhumanity we’ve normalised against anyone considered ‘other’).

I have CPTSD, a condition I am stuck with for the rest of my life because it is as the name suggests, complex. I didn’t ask to be repeatedly put in harm’s way, with no chance of escape, it’s just the life I was born into. I have explored in great detail the reasons I broke down, so that I can understand it was not my fault (when you’re mental you’re convinced you deserve it) and so that I could hope for a better future, one where I can have a fulfilling life, where I won’t be immediately at risk of a violent death.

My efforts to at least appear normal for the sake of ordinary people exhaust me, as anyone who suffers from a condition which impacts on their day to day dealings will tell you; how to not only stay alive, but to live well, to be fun and interesting and relevant. There can be no stone left unturned, no door chained and bolted in the recesses of my fragile mind, triggers must be neutralised as they arise. I frequently say things that make other people uncomfortable. I don’t do it intentionally, it’s just my experience of the world is so far removed from the norm, I come across somewhat intense and affected. When people try to cover things up, or downplay the truth, I consider that to be gaslighting because it messes with my sense of reality. When I told the truth as a child I was disbelieved and punished.

My childhood was violent, my teens isolated, my 20s split entirely from reality. Amanda Lauren would probably say my life wasn’t worth living. I believed that too, until just a year or two ago, when I suddenly remembered who I was before I became unhinged, a state I found myself in through no fault of my own. I remembered the things I was good at, the hopes I had as a pre teen, for university and beyond. This brought with it confidence and self esteem, qualities I’d mislaid following my failings as an adult in a cishet white supremacist patriarchy. When I think back to the lowest period of my life, the monotony of anhedonia and how utterly convinced I was that my time on this earth was rapidly coming to an end it frightens me to think people like Amanda believe in the legitimacy of their own bigotry.

I never thought I’d have the confidence to write my own blog, or weather a twitter storm. I didn’t dare dream of friends and lovers who hear me, even when there are no words. Even when I was a bordering on psychotic, withdrawing from SSRIs, they kept me supplied with valium and kitten pics. That’s what friends do, Amanda, they love you despite your flaws. They understand there is nothing inherently wrong with you, that you’re a product of an unjust society and that to feel depressed or disconnected from the world is a sign you’re actually (most likely) a decent sort. I don’t reject the mental ones, I welcome them with open arms, as they have me. I want to offer Amanda’s ex friend my condolences and wish for her to rest in peace. I am sorry you were stuck with people who didn’t deserve you.

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” Be wary of those who pretend they haven’t a care in the world, more so the ones who genuinely don’t.

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An Open Letter: To the racist next door (well, upstairs)

We haven’t met yet, I tend to avoid the stairwells at home time, in fact most of the time because I rarely go out but I frequently hear you come home after a relatively short day at work. The landlord says you’re a teacher and this was meant to prove your suitability for the flat above me, the walls are thin and I knew the last couple far too intimately, although I hadn’t met them either. Whilst it’s true there haven’t yet been any all night raves as yet, I am getting used to the drone of your very boring self important expressions. I don’t think this is your natural speaking voice but an affectation of what a teacher should sound like. You sound very male and very entitled even when I can’t make out the words, you frequently talk over your guests. When you’re not enunciating for the whole street you’re belting out Lloyd Webber classics for Britain First’s Got No Talent so it’s fair to say you like all the attention being you gets.

It is with this growing irritation that I peeked out of the peep hole when I heard your voice bellow loudly as you trudged up the stairs this afternoon. I caught the back of your head, looks like you don’t have any hair, and you seemed as tall as the door to the next floor. A shorter man with brown skin followed behind. He didn’t pique my interest as much as the words you were saying to him though. You said “whilst women in India are oppressed at least they get an education. In Pakistan they don’t even have that.”

Oh really? I’m even more pumped to meet you now, can’t wait to look at all your photos of Pakistan and hear about your best and worst adventures. Of course as an educator of future generations I assume you must have the information to make a statement so matter of factly, so I’m going to believe you when you say anything, otherwise why would you? Unless say, you were just repeating a thing you’d always heard and just assumed to be true because you’re a thickheaded arrogant racist (cos white supremacy runs deep even with the ones who don’t appear outwardly fascistic) and why should you care about whether things are factual or not, it’s not like due process is a thing poc even understand in their own corrupt countries so why would they expect it here, or something?

In my large family most of the graduates are women. My grandparents had a focus on educating the girls because they wanted us to be independent and not reliant on a husband who could do with us as he pleased. They saw education as freedom from patriarchy, which certainly confused me growing up being as my family weren’t lacking on the patriarch front. I think it was a latent desire to keep “our women” free from the clutches of western patriarchy, to increase our value as women in the western world where we are seen as servile and disposable. This attitude was prevalent in the community I come from. These were the poorest of Pakistanis and many married their girls off young but the suitors were always turned away at the door for us and my aunts. “They’re too busy with their studies” was the blanket response my gran had for anyone suggesting we were ripe. This remained the case forever, at least with regards to myself. I’m still unmarried, in my 30s, and still learning, at my own pace.

This isn’t the first time a person in a position of power has espoused dangerously problematic opinions with regards to the natives of my fledgling motherland. Another teacher, older than the racist upstairs and also a devout Christian asked me once whether it was true there was a whole village of imbeciles somewhere in Pakistan, where the IQ was nominally the lowest in the whole world. I didn’t even know what to say to that.

This kind of jarring ignorance has become commonplace in the wasteland of post recession Tory Britain, it’s breathtaking because it was not the norm for me, at least not growing up in my multicultural town with my multicultural friends and teachers. It was perhaps always there but cleverly disguised because at one time people believed in power of laws which forbid racism, I know I did. The various authorities inadequate response to racism has allowed for that attitude to seep into wider society because the racists know the cops are on their side. Whiteness trumps justice. In fact racism is condoned by the people occupying seats of power at the very top, for example when they call Cobra to deal with an unprecedented death of a white soldier on British soil even though that sentence is untrue in its entirety.

I have come to conclude there is no right or wrong in society only power and control, that is to say I believe there is a moral compass and most certainly a version of life exists for some where doing the right thing is the noblest and happiest way to live but for the majority of people it really is about what you can get away with in any given situation. These opinions white people have, where they deny the humanity of others and speak of them as aliens without any direct experience of the people in question is a narrative that is centuries old. Racism is most prevalent in the UK in the areas where there are actually no people of colour, so when you’re trying to reason with a fascist that they are wrong about all Muslims, you may as well be speaking to a shit brick wall. There is no reasoning with those who are devoid of reason, education, experience yet exist in a suit of white skin that elevates them to a state of enlightenment where they can make damaging untruthful statements about other humans without batting an eyelid or challenge.

They’re teachers and I left school at 16 so they’re right and I’m wrong, or at least that’s the version some of you allow yourselves to believe.

2013 – The year Intersectionality gave WoC their own voice

It’s that time of year, where journalists take a break from ‘serious reporting’ and instead compile lists reviewing the past year and their predictions for the coming year ahead. This is sort of like one of those lists except you won’t find it in any of the mainstream publications or on the lips of the commentariat. It seems pertinent to review the impact of intersectionality on marginalised women on the back of a year where many of us felt hopeful that, for the first time, we were challenging white supremacy with a legitimate ideology they’d have serious trouble rejecting and they responded in kind by abusing us, questioning our mental health and threatening us with rape and death threats; by painting us as liars and agent provocateurs, about as black and working class as Owen Jones. No one said it would be easy.. But it wasn’t so bad when our efforts paid off in the friendships we forged and the growing promise of true equality with the advent of intersectionality.

Almost a year ago I was accused of making it all up, for presenting a false version of myself, one that suffers racist abuse where there is no racism. I felt alone especially when the umpteenth person accused me of making things up for attention. If I had been a little sicker (I am heavily medicated at times), it would have probably been the end of my online mission to expose the rapists/racists one by one. What it inadvertently demonstrated was the typical ways in which WoC are ridiculed and caricaturised by white supremacists who don’t need to prove their assertions, their word alone is all another white person need hear. Yes, this was devastating for me, but not unusual. When I accused the wrong person of racism, it wasn’t that the racism hadn’t taken place at all, it had, it was just the WRONG person. I should have called David Starkey a vile racist and condemned BBC Question Time for giving him a platform but I’d got the wrong person. It is telling the racism perpetrated was lost in that debacle, the apology that was issued without question and forgiveness from the person I had personally offended also seemed to have vanished from the dominant white narrative, and the legacy is one of white people pulling ranks. It set the tone for 2013. It is telling that the year ended with Helen Lewis writing a piece where she exclaimed without a hint of irony “we should all be more open about the times when we were wrong” (of course it is one rule for white women and another for the rest).

If they thought I was the only woman of colour holding up the whole of intersectionality and slandering me was going to harm it in anyway then they are terribly naive and probably need to catch up. Here, I provide this service and present my Twitter feminist WoC (women I have had the pleasure of befriending post white feminisms) on their highs and lows of 2013 and how intersectionality spoke to them and brought us all together.

Aniqah (@AniqahC)

I hadn’t heard of intersectionality before this year. I only found out about it when I joined twitter again and started seeing “intersectional feminist” in people’s profiles. I can truthfully say that learning about intersectionality changed my life in that I felt comfortable in my own skin for the very first time. I used to separate and loathe each little part of myself; my dark skin, my religion, my gender, my sexual orientation- they just didn’t go together in the eyes of mainstream society. For the first time I feel INCLUDED in feminism as a Muslim, as a WoC, as a queer woman and it feels AWESOME. It’s also the first time I realised that yes- race, class, religion, identity ARE feminist issues and that I wasn’t any less of a feminist when dealing with these things.

Why isn’t intersectionality more well known? Why don’t I see all the wonderful WoC, LGBTQ feminists in the mainstream media? I grew up thinking that feminism was a WHITE movement and feeling ashamed of my own culture but I was wrong! There are and have been loads of WoC feminists all over the world. I feel very disappointed that these women DID exist but were just not allowed to sing from the rooftops like their white counterparts.

I feel very positive about 2014. I really think that intersectional feminism- a movement that fights for women across all walks of life- is only getting bigger and louder. Much louder.

Sook Min (@doloresonthedot)

Growing up as a working class WoC I was always aware that my relationship with oppression and privilege was different to the white women I was surrounded by, and always felt frustrated because I didn’t have the language to describe the racism I experienced and the differences of my experience to theirs. Using Twitter was a really revolutionary experience for me because it showed me that the language I need *does* exist and connecting with so many fantastic WOC who let me sound ideas off them and recommended me reading materials was incredibly liberating.

My personal highlight of the year #NotYourAsianSidekick, created by Suey Park, felt like a huge catharsis for me – finally I was able to speak openly about my experiences as an Asian woman and articulate the fears and concerns I have regarding anti-blackness within Asian communities – and instead of being shut down by other Asians, I was supported. It was a low point when I came to the realisation that white feminism as an ideology does not support WoC and other marginalised groups (trans* people, sex workers, disabled women, WoC who fall into all these oppressions too!) and would rather focus on “banknote feminism” than really addressing its own issues.

In the coming year (along with a few other wonderful women) I am planning to host a few discussions to examine different facets of the experiences of European PoC and our legacy of colonialism. I also think 2014 will be a great year for rejecting White Feminist values and hopefully translating some of the energy I feel into practical action!

To the cisters, the supremacists, the commentariat: We’re not here for you. We’re not here to make you comfortable. We’re not here to make this easy. We’re going to rock your world and dismantle your structures, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Natalia (@SandiaElectrica)

I guess, as with many WoC, intersectionality was something I’ve always been aware of in a way. We live this stuff every day – this simultaneously gendered & racialised oppression. Then add into the mix a queer sexuality and mental health issues and I’ve known full well how these things interact and compound each other. From time spent on social media I have become more aware of the nuances and subtleties of how these things play out though. I’ve learned a lot from other WoC, especially black feminists, Trans* women and Disabled WoC.

There have been many highlights for me – although almost always tinged with some sadness or discomfort – but then I think that’s in the nature of progress against oppression. I’d say one of my favourite moments was when Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) started the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag. It was like a portal to the reality of WoCs lives – where you could see others and in turn be seen by them – a backlash against the usual erasure. It felt like a real turning point. Of course there were the usual white tears and tone policing – the monstering & accusations of ‘reverse racism’ and calls for assimilation under the guise of unity are still going on now, but I feel like we built a stronger sense of community in that moment. We can see each other more clearly now and we know we’ve got each other’s backs.

I think the low point for me has got to be the Fisher Vampire’s castle/Russell Brand period. It’s weird because this also had a sort of dual, bittersweet nature in terms of what it brought up. It was really crushing to see people who had previously made all the right noises with respect to feminism laud this profoundly hateful attack – it was like a big fat fuck you to everything that is of the deepest concern to myself and those like me. The same with Brand – the willingness to sweep the inconvenient misogyny under the carpet so people could align themselves with this faux-everyman predator. Having said that, it’s been said many times now, it did polarise people and force many off the fence. It was painful at times to see which camp people chose, but also heart-warmingly surprising to find allies you never knew you had. It’s forced a praxis to the seemingly empty words that irritated me for so long.

I expect in 2014, racists, sexists, transphobes etc. will probably double down on their denial or hatred – and I think the reason for this is that despite all this talk of fractures and a lack of unity there is actually a growing unity among the marginalised. I think some of our voices are starting to break through and I feel like we are less afraid in a way. I feel like we’re getting louder and harder to ignore and it’s because we’re doing it for ourselves rather than holding our hands out, asking to be ‘tolerated’.

My end of year message to white feminism? You are fast becoming as irrelevant to us as we are to you.

Jude (@judeinlondon)

Prior to this year I was aware very vaguely of the term intersectionality but hadn’t explored it. I came to understand it better from following fantastic feminists & women and I realised that intersectionality was merely the term for every experience I’d had in life since birth.

I think primarily it was just the bringing together of women who had long been silenced to shout back louder in unison. There were many individual highlights but that was the most heartening for me, personally. A good thing really considering the constant misapplication & wilfully ignorant understanding of intersectionality from white mainstream feminism. I predict mainstream feminism will step up its attempts to co-opt and appropriate intersectionality. They’ve seen it’s not going away and now they regroup to try and control it.

They’re worried, and they should be. 2014 is not their year, it’s ours.

Fatiha (@Hijabinist)

Intersectionality has been a part of my feminism for years because I’m a Muslim women and I wear hijab, so intersectionality is my lived experience. A lot of islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry is very gendered and a lot of the gender based discrimination I face is tied to the fact that I’m muslim, a convert and a ‘hijabi’.

I’ve done a lot of my intersectional learning on twitter and I think it’s a great forum for marginalised folks to share ideas and support each other. The support I’ve got on twitter has been a highlight for me. It’s my experience that people we think of as mainstream, white cis feminists generally aren’t supportive of muslim women and have a very simplistic and patronising understanding of the issues we face. Meanwhile trans women, women of colour, and sex workers have all been very supportive. Women who find themselves pushed to the margins by mainstream cis white feminism end up sticking together.

There have been some real low points this year that had me facepalming to myself. One was during the Stand With Wendy protests in Texas, when someone dressed up in a burqa with a crown and sash saying “Ms Texas”. How can feminism support Muslim women when Muslim women’s bodies are used as a symbol of oppressive misogyny? When I spoke up about it of course a bunch of people leapt in to defend the costume. There was another incident where Boris Johnson made a remark about women only going to university to meet husbands. This got picked up by the Everyday Sexism project and they spent several hours tweeting and retweeting women’s (non-marriage-related) reasons for going to university. In fact the comment had been made specifically about Muslim women of colour. There was an added racial and religious connotation to the remark but of course that got erased in the rush to play a fun new hash tag game. Then at the end of the year Laurie Penny had to nerve to write an article claiming that it was racist men who were corrupting feminism with their nasty islamophobia! If this year has taught me anything it’s that feminists are quite capable of bringing in the islamophobia, racism and transphobia all on their own.

Fortunately twitter and blogs remain a great platform for us to push back against this kind of exclusionary feminism. I think we’re going to see the push back get more organised and more vocal in the coming year and I expect to see a lot more subversive hashtags and twitter movements. Someone said to me recently that they felt that a seismic shift was coming and I agree with that.

So to the Cis White Feminism Brigade I say this: your time has well and truly passed.

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.

From an angry feminist to the men up to no good (TW)

It’s a simple world where the good man dwells. He has ideas about the role he plays in society and he works hard to maintain the way he is perceived. He loves his children and brings breakfast to his wife’s bed. He talks to other men about their balls because men don’t talk enough about their balls so he seeks to redress this, and for all his endeavours, he expects a pat on the head. What’s the point in being so damn good if nobody notices it?

The Good Men Project falls short at its name. We all know a ‘good man’ or a ‘nice guy’ who is keen to point out their goodness and niceness from the first time they speak to you. They’re so good, EVERYONE takes advantage and they always finish last. They’re just waiting for the right woman to come along and it will have all been worth it. But the reality being what it is, she doesn’t exist to please him (and why the hell should she)? This is when good men go bad. Much like teh menz over at The Good Men Project, good men have an idea of what they need in their lives to enable the good man to flourish from within.

Good men like a good woman. Don’t be angry now wimminz, good men don’t like it when wimminz shout. Or have an opinion for that matter. Actually, a good woman is allowed an opinion because ‘naturally’ that opinion will echo that of the good man. In this way, the good man is free to work out his biceps whilst the good woman is happy to play wifey to her man. It’s not like it’s his fault 1 billion women across the world are experiencing violence or oppression because of their sex. And just because there are billions of men beating and humiliating those other women, doesn’t mean we have to be angry at the other billions of men who are not abusive, we just need to be better at seeking the good ones out. Oh wait, which ones were the good ones again?

To paraphrase: “I was really angry right, cos some men sexually abused me once but I got over that cos these other men do these lovely things for me”. Nondescript men, or decent people, do nice things for other people cos it’s being human. Many men have been nice to me but I tell you what, they didn’t make the pain of being violated more bearable.

Oh, thank you for my perfect birthday weekend nice man, it really made up for that time the mosque teacher slid his hand up my 9 year old thigh. All better now.

Gosh, those flowers are amazing! I don’t think I’m ever gonna think about the time I was gang raped EVER AGAIN. I can stop being angry now; I know not all men are the same. I love all teh menz!

Are you fucking kidding me?

The Good Men Project published this piece in all seriousness. As if sexual violence was the only thing spurring on billions of women to fight against the oppression they face, they found a poor soul with an all too familiar story and a warped sense of her role in a patriarchy, so much so she believes these minor gestures of love and affection (that are her RIGHT and a bare minimum of human decency) are somehow to be commended, and ran with it as their answer to the angry feminist threatening their male goodness.

Feminism exists for more reasons than a good man can fathom, evidently. As feminists we are fighting for bodily autonomy. We are angry for the demands put on our bodies, from puberty through to pregnancy we are controlled by the patriarchy. Our breasts aren’t big enough or they’re so big we tempt strange abusive men into having a go. Pubic hair is more often than not groomed to please the eye of the beholder; we have very little choice over how we look down there. Teh menz invented labiaplasty for those whose vulvas resemble that of a grown woman. I’m not a big fan of porn (ahem) but in the interests of research, I’ve seen the patriarchal ideal shift. Women’s bodies have changed drastically from the 70s to present day, in appearance and also the ways in which they are used. Newspapers and magazines bombard us with images of ridiculously tall white cis gendered wimminz with tans in ridiculous suggestive poses (legs akimbo/shaking a tail feather) and anyone falling short of this ideal just isn’t worthy. We are constantly fighting the battle for the right to choose what happens to our pregnant bodies. Some of cannot be pregnant, some of us will be forcibly impregnated and many more will break their backs working right up to the birth for fear they will lose their jobs in this patriarchal man’s world. And before Junior cracks his first smile, we’ll be leaking breast milk at work, crying in a toilet cubicle, torn between needing to be with our young and needing to work in order to survive. But wait, patriarchy has an answer! You need a manz to provide! He’ll be earning more than you for a start. Even if he beats you, cheats, uses your body at will. Know your place woman; pregnancy is vulnerability and teh menz like the sound of that. Good Men will even do the hoovering, cos they’re good like that. Just keep your gold stars handy and they might even do it again.

“I certainly had a lot of reasons to be angry. I was sexually assaulted”. That’s one reason, Good Men Project writer. Where were your words regarding the systematic control of women in the workplace, the streets and at home?

“The truth is that most men are not rapists.” That is not what my male friends tell me. But then I guess this depends on your definition of rape. Do you mean rape or ‘bad sexual etiquette’?

“Of course, I had a right to be angry at the men who hurt me. But I didn’t have a right to hold all men everywhere responsible for what happened to me. And by being angry, I was shutting down the possibility of love”. I have every right to hold patriarchy responsible for the ways in which it controls women. Unfortunately the patriarchy is mostly made up of men. I am angry but there is love in my life. It surrounds me and supports me. Anger at the patriarchy is one of my redeemable features and shock horror; there are men that get why! And totally dig it.

“For example, my brother steadfastly believed what happened to me and validated..” STOP. Were your experiences more or less validated because he is a man?

“And so did the mac and cheese he made me when I was sad, and the hours of Nintendo-playing we did when I was too down to do anything else.” This is why I love my girlfriends. I don’t need to thank them for providing me with distractions; it’s just how we roll. All of the time, and mostly with little significance.

“He turns up the heat when it’s cold. He walks the dog when I don’t want to go outside. He puts gas in the car.” He basically functions as humans do. Respect.

“Men love survivors of sexual violence every single day” Can you believe it? Have they no shame..? I’m sorry, but what exactly does this line mean?

“Most men are horrified by sexual violence and its impact on those they love.” Unless you’re asleep and it’s the second insertion of the day, you’ve already given consent and it can’t be violent if there weren’t any bruises.

“They want to help, but feel powerless – and afraid to say or do the wrong thing.” They feel this way because they are aware of how big patriarchy is and they know they can’t battle it alone. They stay silent because it’s too risky.

“If we want men to join the movement to end rape and sexual violence, we have to stop talking about all the things men do wrong, and start talking about all the things that men do right.” I know a few honest men who deserve genuine praise. Generally they read, retweet and shut the fuck up. They don’t dare to presume what women need in order to achieve equality. They are there to support us, not take over (take note you fucking good men). They have an appreciation of what thousands of years of subjugation has done to womankind. As our allies, they are happy for us to take the floor.

Unlike the good men and the nice guys who, under threat that the wimminz might take over (we’re a few hundred years off that sonny jim), use every vulnerable/disillusioned woman (who may or may not have listened to angry feminist folk music..)  they can find to undermine our crucial movement.

Feminism isn’t fun and sexy, it’s angry. Fighting oppression and for our basic rights does this to us.

May your anger over floweth and the good man/nice guy fadeth away. A-wo-men.

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.

The First Obstacle To Equality

“I don’t want to say anything cos they won’t believe me.” A sentiment almost exclusively owned by women. Whether disclosing rape or thinking of telling our pals their boyfriends are womanising scum, we fear repercussions on speaking the truth. There was an incident in which we were victim, we were hurt physically and/or emotionally, we know what happened wasn’t right. Yet it’s instinctive to bottle up and withhold justice for ourselves because we know, society will simply not believe us. What makes us so unbelievable?

Bro code, an unspoken agreement between men that their woman is their property and brothers must not risk the woman coming between them. Yes, she is damn fine and tempting but don’t fall for her, instead, give that big man chest a primal thump and a knowing look; “bros before hoes”. They will believe each other before they believe you, in some misguided solidarity with the brotherhood irrespective of the offender’s track record. Whereas, a woman; her reputation, her previous record says everything there is to know about her morality.

Do women who have had sex always tell lies? Jane Clare Jones asks for the Guardian.

“In the patriarchal playbook, a woman’s moral virtue is synonymous with … well, her virtue. Good women are chaste and pure. And the others – those who express their sexuality in ways not sanctioned by church and state, those who are sexual at all – are quite simply not to be trusted. They seduce and entrap. They’re dirty and diseased. And, above all, they are deceitful and duplicitous. If they want to moralise, they should, as Rogozin told us in his second tweet, put their pants back on. And if they refuse, nothing they say is to be taken seriously or believed by anyone. A simple sexual slur, and, as if by magic, a woman’s word is instantly devalued, divested of authority and discredited.”

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/13/women-sex-lies-pussy-riot-madonna)

This makes sense. Rape victims, sexually assaulted against their will have actually had non-consensual sex. Despite the fact that they did not agree, potentially fighting off the perpetrator with every bit of strength they had, men will instantaneously believe they must have brought it upon themselves. “They love it really.” By the mere fact they own vaginas. If she wasn’t doing a good job of keeping her vagina shut, i.e. sewing it up so it’s not a “gaping pocket” or covering herself so that she looks just like any other Dalek, then she must have been “asking for it”. How patriarchy has twisted the way we view women, their bodies sexualised even when breastfeeding their infants. People are disgusted by the most natural act of them all. Because, well, it’s private, for a husband’s eyes only. Only on humans though, we are more than happy to guzzle back billions of gallons of other animal’s bodily secretions, quite happy to munch on the reproductive efforts of birds. Females, whichever species, are to be gorged on, to satisfy male bellies and sexual urges. It’s their only function. Do you know what human breast milk smells like?..Isn’t it time you found out? Why don’t we talk about it? Is that why breasts are so sexualised? Is it also why we push sugar laden formula milk on people who can’t afford it, because breast milk smells so.. womanly? It smells as it does so that visually impaired newborns can recognise their mothers. It’s NATURAL.

So they forcibly impregnate and take what they can from the female form. Rape it at will. A vessel, it carries through new life, but the womb is pure filth. Full of dirty blood, it smells. In many cultures, they shave off the downy soft hair on small babies, coming as it did from that evil place deep at the core of woman. She must take 40 days’ rest, unwashed and unmade; cleanse herself of all impurity when her time is up. Reintroduce her into society as a born again virgin, God put the baby in there, they have no idea how it came out. Vaginas, they smell bad too. Why don’t we ever talk about semen? It’s not an odourless, colourless gas we can’t see. Boys start off by teasing girls about their periods and how they can “smell when you’re on”. I don’t remember teasing the boys back just feeling utterly ashamed at being afflicted by this curse I thought was going to bypass me, being as I wasn’t like all the other girls…

Nuns. People believe them (unless they too are raped). Mothers who never remarry, sacrificing everything for their broods; they are exalted in my local community. They are however, also called ‘rundhi’ in Punjabi. ‘Rundhi’ means both ‘widower’ and ‘whore’. For a woman without a man (having already experienced sexual intercourse) must be like a whore?

Will you join me in an unspoken celebration of the female form? Not to ogle it and take from it what you want to satisfy your own desires but marvel at its resilience and adaptability, the ability to create life, sewing together all the parts that make a human… Magic, no? And what might it be like to be with a woman who is proud of her body and what it can do too? Not just reproductively but sexually. And if there were more men who knew and appreciated female sexuality, maybe then we’d be happier sharing the truth about when we were violated?

Our bodies are not shameful. Patriarchy is.