Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings

Earlier this week, I was asked to put a trigger warning on an article I published on A Room of Our Own. The request wasn’t to include a trigger warning about domestic violence or self-harm or rape or the consequences of limited options of women living in a patriarchy. It wasn’t about the reality of male violence. I was asked to include a trigger warning on a post written by a woman who regrets having an abortion. Apparently, a feminist space which includes a very personal post by a woman who regrets her abortion – an abortion she was effectively forced into – isn’t a ‘safe space’. The violence this women experienced did not require a trigger warning, but regretting an abortion does.

A Room of Our Own started in December 2013. Since then, I have published articles on rape, domestic violence, murder, infant loss, post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, racism, homophobia and all forms of violence against women and girls. The very first request for a trigger warning was on an article where a woman expressed regret about an abortion – an abortion that was a direct consequence of male violence. Seemingly, this one article where a feminist spoke of her regret was enough to invalidate the entirety of the blogging network.

AROOO was never intended to be a ‘safe space’. It was created to combat cultural femicide by building a space where a full gamut of feminist and womanist thoughts, musings, anger and reality was explored. It was never intended to be a space where everyone agrees with everyone else. And, this is the problem with the current rhetoric around ‘safe space’. It isn’t about ensuring that women have a place to discuss without experiencing male violence or silencing.

Currently, ‘safe space’ means a space in which no one disagrees with one another ever. There is no room for discussion or questioning. We see campaigns to have women no-platformed for daring to criticise the sex industry as criticism might hurt the feelings of women who work in it. The feelings of the many women who have survived prostitution don’t count in the rhetoric. Instead, we see sex workers referring to abolitionists with abusive names – a member of the sex-worker open university used the name ‘Rachel Whoran’ on their twitter account for ages. Former prostituted women who talk openly about their experiences of rape and abuse are mocked, insulted and harassed by supporters of the sex industry (including members of the Sex Worker Open University). Where is the safe space for women to talk about their negative experiences? Why aren’t they entitled to the same right to a safe space?

There are attempts to prevent university student unions from saying anything critical about the sex industry because it makes it an “unsafe space” for students working in it without giving a thought to the fact that many of their students working in it are actually unsafe. The motions put forward by some students unions would effectively bar their officers from supporting a woman leaving prostitution if she so chose because it wouldn’t be a ‘safe space’ for women who want to remain in it. How does this make universities safe for female students?

The answer is pretty clear: it doesn’t and it isn’t intended to make them safe. Young women on campus experience high levels of sexual harassment and violence and it is now individuals which criticise the sex industry that are blamed for making them ‘unsafe’. It isn’t the fault of the rapists on campus or the university management who collude with rapists, but feminists criticising pole dancing as ‘empowerment’ for women (and until I see someone suggest that members of the UN take up pole dancing to empower themselves, I’m going to keep believing it is nothing more than a misogynistic attempt to limit women’s choices through perforative constructions of their sexuality).

This idea that universities must become ‘safe spaces’ free of dissent or discussion is infantilising an entire generation of students. Staff put content notes on lectures which some students might find difficult, but you cannot study history without learning about genocide, mass rape and religious wars. There is no literature, in any language, which is free from racism, homophobia, classism, and misogyny. Science is not free from these structures. You can put a content note on a lecture which discusses Sapphire’s Push, but that note isn’t about supporting the students who are living with child sexual abuse. It’s a clause that allows students to refuse to engage with material that they might find challenging. How many times have I heard students refuse to read about the Holocaust because the thought of it upsets them? And, those who want learn about the V2 rockets because machines are cool and not the thousands of slave-labourers who died building them because it made them sad.

We absolutely do need to make universities safer for female students – not by preventing discussions on difficult topics but by actually tackling rape culture on campus appropriately. Today’s tweet from the National Union Students Women’s Group asking the audience at their event to stop clapping as it “triggers anxiety” demonstrates the failure of universities and students unions to understand the difference between a space free from male violence and a space free from anxiety.

I suffer anxiety in these kinds of situations. I can fake it now but social situations make me incredibly anxious and I do not like loud noises, like prolonged clapping. My daughter still hates the sounds of hand dryers in public toilets and the flushing mechanism on trains and planes. The noise makes her visibly upset. Equally, the use of ‘jazz hands’ isn’t new. It’s common in BSL and is used with children who have auditory sensitivities. It is a way of managing specific situations where clapping would not be appropriate.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 21.41.42

Women who have survived sexual and domestic violence and abuse can be triggered by a million sounds: police sirens, stomping, whistling, a name. We cannot stop every single thing that might potentially trigger a student – we can help them access appropriate support and help them find ways to manage their anxiety, but we can’t pretend away the very things which caused their anxiety or PTSD in the first place.

NUS Women’s Group tweet requesting delegates not clap demonstrates the fundamental need for immediate, specialist training of all students unions officers and all staff on campuses in trauma awareness, as well as male violence. This type of suggestion doesn’t read as though it comes from someone with an in depth understanding of trauma, but rather from someone performing what they assume is social justice – as was the request for me to put a trigger warning on an article about women’s abortion regret.

This is the reality of discussions around safe spaces and triggers warnings now – its all about the performance and not actually making spaces free from rape and other forms of male violence.

 

 

Feminism is about liberating women; not who your friends are

On Friday morning, between getting myself ready for work and my child ready for school, I was tweeted an article on the BBC about a report from the Home Affairs Select Committee which recommended anonymity for rapists. I was horrified. Anonymity for rape suspects is incredibly dangerous for all sorts of reasons – starting with the fact that rapists have a huge rate of recidivism and a very low rate of conviction. Because of misogyny. Rapists commit rape knowing that the general public, the media and the police will label their victims a liar or insist she was partly responsible for the rape for the crime of being born a girl.

I was so angry, I started a petition. Whilst I was writing it, I saw a tweet with a press release from the End Violence Against Women coalition so I added their quotes into the text of the petition.

I started the petition because I was angry. I assumed other women would be angry too. I was a bit surprised at the low numbers of people signing the petition, but I hoped it would be a slow-burner with the lack of signatures due to starting the petition during a solar eclipse.

I was really shocked and hurt to discover on Saturday morning that the reason the petition wasn’t being shared publicly was because a high profile media feminist refused to sign and share it because she doesn’t like me. It’s a petition asking the Home Affairs Select Committee review their recommendation on anonymity for suspects in rape cases - a recommendation made with no research-based evidence, just vague worries about the reputation of rapists. It never occurred to me that there would be anything so controversial about this petition that people wouldn’t share it because they don’t like me.

Yet, this is what happened. The petition wasn’t shared by a high-profile feminist because she doesn’t like me. When questioned, the answer changed to “because it’s not well-written”. I wrote the petition in 15 minutes as that’s all the time I had on Friday to do so. I’m a single disabled mother – my time is limited due to caring responsibilities and my disability. I wanted to get it out as soon as possible to challenge the inevitable media coverage of men feeling sad for being accused of rape – as though the real problem in rape was the rapist’s feelings rather than the fact that a woman was raped.

Now, I’m hearing others say the same thing: they can’t sign because the petition “wasn’t written well” – an answer that smacks of classism and disablism. Under this argument, only women who have Russell group university education will be allowed to engage in public activism. After all, a rogue comma could destroy the feminist movement completely since bad grammar is a bigger sin that anonymity for rape victims.

As a disabled woman who has written at length on my experiences dealing with the brain fog associated with fibromyalgia, I find this idea that women refuse to sign my petition as its “poorly written” humiliating. I know that my illness has affected my writing and my ability to talk coherently (especially when tired as I start to lose words or use the wrong ones). I’ve been really open about how hard it is as someone who loves writing to be unable to put my thoughts out coherently: that what ends up on the paper isn’t what was in my head because of the way the fibromyalgia has effected the ability of my brain to communicate clearly. It’s also effected my ability to speak since I lose words and have huge pauses in between words (that I don’t realise is happening). I also find it difficult to process what is being said to me when tired: I know people are talking but I can’t hear the actual words and, even when I can hear some of the words, my brain can’t actually process the message. When it’s this bad, the only thing I can do is nap. This isn’t exactly conducive to mothering or being a writer.

Hence, the humiliation and hurt at being told that my petition isn’t shareable because it isn’t well-written. Because I have a disability that is slowly destroying my life. I know that it isn’t being shared because this particular woman doesn’t like me – not because of the writing style. But, it doesn’t make it less humiliating when people are being told it’s because it’s ‘poorly-written’.

Feminism is a political movement to liberate women. It isn’t about who your friends are or who is a good writer. It’s about changing the world to make it safer for women. That’s why I started my petition to the Home Affairs Select Committee. And, that’s why I hope everyone will sign it.

Congratulations on being able to write complete sentences.

Below is a comment on an article I published on Room of Our Own: A Feminist/ Womanist Network called: LEFTIST MEN ARE NOT BORN TO LEAD RADICAL STRUGGLES [A RESPONSE TO JOHN PILGER AND THE SEX HIERARCHY TRIVIALISERS] AT LIBERATION IS LIFE. The comment pretty much proves the need for the article:

Well balanced Marxist analysis, implying but not developing a programme for women’s liberation through revolutionary struggle. But a solid basis for that in these arguments. The traditional child care as a social and not domestic task, communal, range of social provisions at work (a very good bus drivers’s rep negotiated monthly leave for women drivers experiencing menstrual cycle tensions. Once the social responsibility is accepted then such things become possible. Of course these conflict with the profit motive if capitalist society but such struggles on social oppression makes revolution worthwhile for women workers and will inspire all women with a vision of a future free if sexism and all other forms of oppression worth fighting for. Same applies to race and ethnicity, sexuality, age and ability. Well done for that spirited article.

There’s nothing quite like a leftist dude for patronising mansplaining, which is why AROOO will remain a man-free zone.

10 Good Reasons to Date a Single Mom: If you’re an asshole

Continuing these weekends theme of offensive, heteronormative and dangerous dating advice about single mothers, we have this entry from Belief.net 

All you single Mommas will be pleased to hear that we aren’t considered drama llamas anymore.

Don’t listen to the assumptions and over opinionated bunch that associates single moms with the ‘D’ word – drama. It’s not true, single moms are great women who deserve a chance. Here are the ten reasons you should date a single mom.1

To be fair, I hadn’t realised we were ever considered drama llamas. I’ve always thought of single mothers as, like, people. With kids and no partner. But, whatever.

1. She’s Got it Together: Single moms have to have it together all the time. Rest assure that you’re dating an independent woman that is self sufficient and will not need a man to support her.

Yep, because all single mothers have great paying jobs and access to affordable quality care so that they don’t have to worry about chasing their child’s father for child support. I mean, it’s not really fair of single mothers to expect Dad’s to fork up cash to feed their kids when the Dad needs the money to go to Vegas for the weekend. It’s totally fair for the vast majority of kids in the UK living in poverty to be that way because it’s just rude to expect their fathers to financially support them.

2. You Already Know That She’s a Great Mom: You don’t have to think twice, you know that her love is endless and her heart is as big as the moon. She’s capable of providing the unconditional love and devotion that any child would be lucky to have.

Obviously, “any child” is code for man. Since we all know good women focus on their unconditional love and devotion on their man ensuring that he’s happy. All the time. The fact that she’s working, doing all the housework, childcare and thinking for the men so that she rarely sleeps, is chronically ill and depressed is a small price to pay so that some Dood can get a blowjob and play golf on a Saturday morning.

3. She Takes Relationships Seriously: You don’t have to worry about relationship games. She knows what she wants out of a relationship and she’ll only keep you around if you’re good for her and the kids. There is no party phase to overcome because she’s mature and knows what she wants.

Because women who don’t have children are totally immature. After all, UK streets are littered with drunken women assaulting each other and raping women. Oh wait, that’s men. But, requiring men to be mature is just those evil feminists being stinky meanie-pants again.

 4. Ambitious: A single mom is very ambitious. She has her priorities set and has goals. She can articulate what she wants out of life and out of a relationship.

Her priorities being feeding her kids and paying the rent? Or, your penis? Is her ambition supposed to be giving blowjobs?

5. Appreciative: Single moms appreciate the smalled gestures and acts of kindness. You will be treated with respect and she will not take you for granted.

Single mothers: so desperate they’ll fuck you just for remembering their name.

6. Powerhouses: Single moms have an intense amount of energy. They are able to multi-task and do just about anything. They are able to accomplish the long to-do list with ease.

Fuck knows what mothers this arsehole has met, but he’s clearly not bothered to read a single media article about women for 50 years since he’s missed the whole women living in poverty/ women with disabilities and chronic illnesses/ women who are severely depressed thing that’s going on.

But bonus points for sliding in the multi-tasking bit again: we get the message. Date a single mother and never have to turn on a washing machine ever again.

7. Less Likely to Rush Into Things: Single moms are juggling a lot – career, the average day-to-day, house and anything and everything else that you can possibly think of. When you first start dating, you may only see her once a week because she has to fit it into her schedule and make arrangements for her children. You don’t have to worry about being rushed into a serious relationship. Single moms have defined boundaries.

Single moms have “defined boundaries” or single moms are exhausted working and caring for children. I love the idea we all have ‘careers': no single moms balancing two jobs at McDonalds and Tescos to pay the rent.

Although, Dood won’t have to worry about the kid’s father hanging around since these children are clearly all the product of immaculate conception.

8. They Know What Makes a Relationship Work: Being a single mom involves having prior relationship experiences – which means a single mom can identify what does and doesn’t work. They are able to carry their expanded ability to love someone well into their other relationships. Their friendships, relationships with family and bonds with their children benefit from their ability to know what works.

Gotcha: single mothers are totes desperate that they’ll drop all their friends to hang out with yours.

9. They Understand Selflessness: Not every person is selfish but being a single parent gives you a different perspective on life and allows you to view the world with a different lens. The important stuff seems small – in other words importance gains a different meaning.

This is essential or you may end up having to clean the toilet.

10. They’re More Aware of Your Needs: Having kids teaches you how to better treat others. Single moms are able to know what you want because they are constantly in tune to the needs of others.

AKA: Worship your cock.

Good to know that single mothers are more than just fucktoys. We’re also solely responsible for childcare AND housework, whilst giving daily blowjobs.

10 reasons why single mums are great in bed.

The Metro is renown for its inability to accurately report on male violence against women and girls. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the article which suggests that Dr. Melvin Morse was justified in waterboarding his step-daughter because he researched near-death experiences in children. That was truly an awe-inspiring piece of journalism. Granted, I’m still slightly perturbed about the fact that their staff can’t tell the difference between bad sex and rape, but that’s only to be expected in a newspaper that thinks sexual violence is entertainment.

Today’s evidence of The Metro’s Misogyny is 10 reasons why single mums are great in bed.

First off we have the: unrealistic, patronising and downright freaking dangerous assumptions about single mothers:

There are plenty of things single mums have mastered the art of – multi-tasking, compromise and patience to name a few.

But it’s not just the ability to breathe deeply and count to ten that they rock at.

When it comes to sex, single mums have got it going on – and it’s got nothing to do with gratitude.

‘Compromise’ being code for doing exactly what their male partner wants regardless of their own pleasure. After all, no one ever talks about men “compromising” during sex. This is always the woman’s job. And, what’s with the obsession with insisting single mothers are still viable fucktoys?

And, they can fuck right off with the patience and ability to count to ten horseshit. Single mothers aren’t Mary Poppins in Ultimo. In the UK, many can’t afford Ultimo since they are living in poverty whilst their ex-partner commits child abuse by refusing to financially support his children. They multi-task because they have NO choice. Multi-tasking and patience don’t exactly come with the new hormones after you push a baby out of your vagina (or after a c-section).

1. Body confidence

When you’ve pushed a human being out of your vagina, suddenly something like a 3-inch stretch mark carries less significance.

Trust me on this one, you don’t want more detail.

I’m so glad that Katy Horwood thinks all single mothers have great body confidence. I’ve never met a woman who was actually confident about their body – never mind women who are juggling work with childrearing without help. But, hey, let’s pretend single mothers don’t actually livein a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy and are required to pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test whilst cooking dinner (or shoving chicken nuggets and chips in the oven because they are exhausted).

We also need to be totally honest here – there is a reason the images of single mothers that accompany the article feature young, attractive white women: because even Horwood doesn’t believe fat women can have body confidence. And, we all know that Black single mothers are pretty much the scions of satan walking the earth. There is a reason the term reproductive justice was coined by Black Women and it isn’t because they were worried about looking sexy for random dudes reading the Metro. Being poor is just too tacky to mention. And, we won’t mention disabled mothers. Who wants to fuck them?

2. Appreciation

There’s nothing like Peppa Pig on loop for the last 36 months and daily conversations about the pros and cons of a roller-skating disco party to encourage gentle enquiries about the availability of beds at your local mental health hospital.

If you want your date to cry with joy for just leaving the house, date a single mum – thankful for a parking ticket if it means they can have a conversation with another adult about something other than Disneyland, can you imagine what they’re like in the sack.

Single mothers are so desperate to be fucked that they are grateful for a dude shoving their penis in them. It doesn’t matter how horrible or abusive a man is, single mothers are so desperate for sex they’ll do anything (obviously this doesn’t apply to fat women or lesbians, because they don’t count as the acceptable face of “single mothers”

3. Hot sex and lots of it

Your date gets out once a month and has a babysitter until 10.30pm.

Cinema? Art gallery? Walk along the Thames? LOL.

Single mothers: always gagging for it. You don’t even have to pretend you actually want to date them. They’ll be so desperate they’ll shag you in the backseat of a Mini in a Tescos parking lot.

4. No small talk

And if she’s lucky enough to have a free evening, not only will you get the reverse cowgirl instead of a stroll through Richmond park but you’ll also get the pleasure of some serious zeds after.

If you think you’ve mastered the art of dozing off after a shag, try three nights of unbroken sleep in the last four years.

Let the snooze off begin.

Because, really, who the fuck wants to actually talk to a single mother. You might have to learn their name or something.

5. Condoms

If there is one thing guaranteed to make a woman stringent about birth control, it’s solo child rearing.

The only unexpected surprise she wants from you is the ability to get it up again 10 minutes after your last orgasm.

Gosh, who knew that birth control was TOTALLY the responsibility of the woman? Granted, I’m a single mother so maybe my perception is skewed but don’t men have the penis that the condom goes on? Are they no longer capable of putting one on themselves? Or, saying no to sex without a condom?

6. Wet wipes

Always in a single mum’s handbag. Handy.

Apparently, there’s now a law banning men from buying wet wipes. Who knew?

7. Biological clocks

Tick, tick, tick.

Is the scary sound you will not be hearing from your single mum girlfriend after two months of dating.

Been there, done it… now where were we, ah yes – orgasms.

Cus, it’s not like men’s fertility and the quality of their sperm doesn’t deteriorate with age. Or, men might want to have children. Or, women who don’t want to have children. Or, non-single mothers are so desperate to get pregnant they’ll fuck anyone.

8. They know what they want

When time is precious and adult interaction scarce, suddenly getting things right first time matters a lot.

Forget fumbling sex and not knowing what’s working or not – single mums spell it out.

And without the luxury of Sunday lie-ins and seven day-a-week shag options, single mums make sure it counts – and rarely get headaches.

Single mums never get headaches and women that do: well, they’re just hateful. Who gives a shit about consent when a dick is involved?

Course, if you are still having ‘fumbling sex’ over the age of 21, the problem is you. Not the women you’re dating.

9. Role play

Spending the majority of her waking life barking orders, when it comes to role play in the bedroom, single mums have it wrapped up.

You’ve been a bad boy, straight to bed with no supper!

Ya hear me.

Because women who aren’t single mothers are incapable of expressing their sexual desires. Or, something.

10. But know how to cuddle like a pro too

Just don’t ask for milk.

Because this isn’t creepy at all.

Katy Horwood is supposedly a relationships expert – one steeped in misogyny with a soupçon of racism. Just for funsies.

Dr. Stuart H Russell: a man not afraid to show his racist, misogynistic side

This charming email, from a Dr. Stuart H Russell, explains why rape culture exists: because women are sex-crazed animals and immigrant.s

David Osborne is correct – and I would add that when women revert back to a decent, modest lifestyle amongst the male population, instead of cavorting around like rutting, sex crazed animals, the better for all concerned. Such conduct may well have evolved naturally amongst males but is most certainly alien for females.

Marxism, feminism and the likes of the disgusting feminoids of groups like Vagenda are to blame for increasing levels of misogyny and violence towards women, as are the rising numbers of immigrants pouring into the UK, especially from places like Africa and the Indian sub continent.
That would be this charming Dr. Stuart H Russell. I cannot adequately express my feelings at Dr. Russell choosing to share his wisdom with me.

Owen Jones, lesbians and transphobia

Owen Jones has only recently written his first article on transgenderism. Despite claiming to think transphobia is hateful, Owen Jones was so shocked by a lesbian woman asking him when he last preformed cunnilingus that he tweeted this:

owen jones cunn

 

Keeping in mind here that lesbian women are consistently called transphobic for refusing to have sex with pre-operative transwomen. Many feminists, including  heterosexual and bisexual women, who find the term ‘cotton ceiling’ – which was coined by transwomen to discuss why lesbian women were refusing to have sex with them – distressing are regularly told that its transphobic to say anything remotely critical about the term. Transwomen are women, even if they have a penis, and lesbian women are transphobic for refusing to have sex with transwomen.

I watched Owen Jones twitter feed after he posted this tweet and I only saw a few lesbian women asking why it didn’t count as transphobic since transmen have vulvas. Had a lesbian woman said ‘giving blow jobs’ wasn’t lesbian sex, their mentions would have been full of people calling them transphobic, threats of violence and wishes that they die.

Why is it transphobic for a lesbian woman to not want to have sex with a pre-op transwoman, but it’s completely fine for Owen Jones to refuse to have sex with a pre-op transman? Why is Owen Jones allowed to say that gay men do not preform cunnilingus when lesbians get death threats for saying that lesbian women don’t give blowjobs?

If it constitutes transphobia for lesbian women to refuse to have sex with transwomen, then Owen Jones is transphobic by being horrified at the thought of performing cunnilingus. If the first is transphobic, and Jones isn’t, well, that says a whole lot about the misogyny of the people spouting this level of hypocrisy. Either they are both transphobic or neither is transphobic. They both cannot be true.

Telling rape victims how they *must* process their rape is inherently anti-feminist

I was unsure about writing this. Rachel Hewitt’s disclosure of rape in the New Statesman was incredibly brave and I do not want to bring more rape apologists and their handmaidens into her mentions. Yet, I’m still horrified by the reactions of certain feminists to Hewitt’s disclosure. Rather that simply stating the feminist imperative “I believe you”, Sara Ahmed, a professor at Goldsmiths,  wrote that she would “challenge every word” of Hewitt’s article. This is simply because Hewitt pointed the value of female-only space for her as a victim of rape. Ahmed was more concerned with making a political point that supporting a rape victim.* This is the point we have arrived at with transgender politics – instead of listening to victims and ensuring that there are support services for everyone, women are being told they have no right to a service that reflects their needs because others are more important.

Alison Phipp’s tweet concerning Hewitt’s disclosure is utterly disingenuous:

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 16.25.36 I have NEVER seen a single person suggest that transgender people have no right to support services. I have seen numerous women – and not just radical feminists – state that their experiences of male violence are so traumatising that being forced to share with anyone socialised as male is impossible. Whilst transwomen may have felt they were in the wrong body from birth, it doesn’t erase the socialisation of male privilege – including the fact that teachers still consistently favour boys over girls in class discussions. It isn’t anti-feminist to demand that every single person who has experienced male violence have an appropriate space that meets their needs at the most difficult time of their life.

Phipps, in further tweets, suggests that if a female student discloses rape to her using language Phipps deems ‘transphobic’, Phipps would immediately challenge their transphobia. The last thing a rape victim needs is someone telling them that their support needs are wrong or hateful. It is precisely this type of suggestion that makes university policies of ‘safe spaces’ utterly ridiculous. Phipps believes that an event hosted by a gender-critical feminist makes university an ‘unsafe’ space. Frankly, she’s missed the boat.

University campuses and student hang-outs are already unsafe spaces and it has nothing to do with transgender politics. They are unsafe spaces because they are full of violent, predatory men (including staff). Female students are at an increased risk of sexual violence because sexual predators choose to hunt on campuses. Suggesting universities are ‘unsafe spaces’ because you don’t agree with an opinion makes an absolute mockery of the violence and micro aggressions women experience every second on a campus.

We need to talk about women’s specific needs for spaces that they define as ‘safe’ for themselves. This includes recognising that there are already men in prisons who have committed sexual assaults and rape in women-only spaces by claiming to be trans. As long as the definition of transwoman is ‘anyone who identifies as trans’, it will be used as a loophole for rapists to access women’s spaces.

There are also transwomen in prison – in the UK, as well as the US and Canada – who are incarcerated for rape and murder of women and girls. Many of these transwomen transitioned after being incarcerated as the case of Synthia China Blast makes clear. There is already evidence that predatory men use ‘safe spaces’ like Alcoholics Anonymous to  target vulnerable women. There is also anecdotal evidence of male perpetrators of domestic violence claiming to be transwomen to access the very refuge in which their wife is living. In the UK, we have a pre-op transwoman convicted of murder who had to be moved out of a woman’s prison because of their behaviour with other female prisoners. The fact that women in the criminal justice system are likely to have histories of childhood sexual abuse and substance abuse and are uniquely vulnerable is ignored. A convicted killer with a penis in a prison full of vulnerable woman – the majority who are there for non-violent crimes – raised no flags for the potential for sexual abuse.

What we need is more investment into support services for everyone living with male violence: more specialist refuges, more rape crisis centres, better NHS provision. We do not need victims of male violence to be shamed out of accessing support because they do not feel safe around people who have a penis. This isn’t about creating a hierarchy of people who deserve support but rather insisting that investment in services reflect the needs of individuals.

We certainly don’t need tweets like this claiming that rape victims who need female-born only spaces “think like rapists”.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 16.32.35

Particularly when the tweeter then points out that they haven’t actually bothered to read the article they are objecting too:

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 16.33.02 Shaming women for their experiences and insisting that they *must* process their experience the way someone else demands of them is anti-feminist and cruel. No one deserves to be spoken to like Rachel Hewitt was for disclosing their experience of rape. If your reaction is to tweet abusive language and dismiss the experiences of a rape victim, then you need to reflect on your feminism.

 

*The tweet has since been deleted and I do not have a screencap of it.

Isis and the Nazis

I have never been a fan of genocidal top trumps: where people actually have discussions about which genocide was “worse” and then get into semantics about the definitions of ‘worse’ and ‘genocide’. These discussions inevitably focus on two people: Hitler and Stalin. Using scientific methods to commit mass murder and its location within Europe are the two reasons given for the Nazi genocide’s place as the Number 1 World’s Worst Genocide – Stalin may have killed more people but he didn’t have Science. Not that I’m arguing for ‘most people murdered’ to be a definition of the worst genocide in human history – that type of discussion is inherently racist because it ignores European genocides committed in Africa and North and South America throughout history. We use this language of ‘worst’ so we can pontificate on the theory of ‘Never Again’ whilst cheerfully committing or financially supporting genocide across the globe.

Us Europeans, we totally learned our lessons about the evils of killing people after the Holocaust: except for those small issues of the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, French troops in Algeria and every other war and major human rights abuse across the world funded by our government directly or indirectly through our support of the arms trade and our ever-increasing demand for natural resources from oil to diamonds. Profits before people erases the stench of genocide and mass murder from white men living in mansions in Essex.

We need to be clear here: Never Again is a bullshit statement. Millions of people were directly and indirectly involved in the Nazi mass murders of Jewish people, Roma, Sinti, Soviet POWs, gay men and ‘asocial’ – a category that includes women who were lesbian or who worked as prostitutes. It’s not like the Soviet army marched into Auschwitz in January 1945 to discover that genocide had been an official Nazi policy. People were involved in building concentration, slave labour and death camps. Cattle cars with dying people in them traveled through towns. 34 000 Jewish people were murdered at Babi Yar in one week in September 1941 by the Einsatzgruppen: mass murder on this scale had witnesses – and witnesses who were not directly involved in the genocide.

The Nazi genocide was not committed by Hitler, Goebbels and a couple of other people. It was committed by huge numbers of people living across Europe and indirectly supported by countries like the UK, US, Canada, Spain, Switzerland who denied entry to Jewish, Roma, Sinti families desperately trying to escape.

We also knew it was happening. The British press was reporting mass murder in 1942. In July of that year, the New York Times ran an article about the killing centre in Chelmno. This idea that no one knew about the genocide is a post-war myth designed to minimise responsibility of those directly and indirectly involved. And, we need to be brutally clear here: the Nazis may have started the genocide but they were well supported by members of all the countries they invaded: from Poland to France and the USSR.

Nothing that challenges the liberal, Western view of themselves as saviours of humanity is allowed to exist though. So, we prance about saying Never Again with completely straight faces even though genocide has continued non-stop since 1945 and our country continues to sell arms to anyone who can afford to buy them, despite knowing they were selling to governments, mercenaries, terrorists, and criminal gangs.

This is why I was so incensed with this statement by Grace Dent in an article today in the Independent*:

In Isis we are observing a level of atrocity towards mankind that, post-Nazism, we hoped we would never again witness. But with Isis there’s no excuse for not knowing what “they” are up to. There will no big post-war reveal where we can wring our hands saying, “Well, this is awful, but we had no idea”.

Isis are committing war crimes on a daily basis. But, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this level of war crimes of genocide since 1945. We just don’t give a shit about the genocide in Cambodia or Syria or the 40 women who are raped every hour in the Congo. We know about these war crimes, like we knew about the Nazi treatment of people with disabilities, but still we do nothing. Instead, Grace Dent claims that Isis are engaged in a “level of atrocity” not seen since the Nazis. I suspect the Kurdish communities slaughtered by Saddam Hussein using British technology would beg to differ.

This idea of genocidal top trumps is lazy, inaccurate journalism. War crimes are happening every single day and we do nothing. People are dying in war zones not just from from weapons but from lack of healthcare (Palestine), clean water, sanitation and food. Why aren’t we talking about the millions of people who are forced to depend on NGOs for food – who are dying of starvation because profit is considered more important than people, whilst the IMF supports rich countries in their exploitation of others. Isis are a violent organisation who are committing mass murder – but they aren’t the only group currently engaged in war crimes today. The crimes committed by Isis cannot be decontextualised from the war crimes and genocidal practises of hundreds of other groups across the globe.

We need to discuss why 3 teenage girls from England flew out to join Isis despite knowing the crimes they are committing – just as we should ask why former British soldiers join ‘security forces’ to work as mercenaries in war zones knowing that they will be committing war crimes. And, why can Grace Dent write an article insisting that these 3 teenage girls not be allowed back into the UK when former mercenaries can return to draw army pensions?

Because these two questions are connected. And, how we define genocide and war crimes is a huge part of why the UK can pretend its the saviour of Africa whilst engaged in deliberate policies to extract the natural resources of the second largest continent in the world without giving a thought to the people we are killing in order to have diamonds.

* For an analysis of the extremely problematic content of the rest of the article check out the twitter stream @WritersofColour

@TakingShapeUK liken women to animals to be hunted with #skinnybirdwatching

B-RuJO5IQAAboHk.jpg-largeThese images are actually from Taking Shape UK’s twitter feed advertising their new campaign #skinnybirdwatching.B-RuMJlIQAAxXBt.jpg-largeB-RuTXWIAAAMw3R.jpg-large

 

This is pretty clear evidence of a piss-poor understanding of social media, body-shaming, and and a failure to recognise the reality of violence against women and girls. Taking Shape UK are a clothing brand which specialises in plus size clothing. Their campaign features people sitting in a box on a road looking for women who are a size 6 so they can prove that size 6 isn’t that common.

Now, I’ve been that natural size 0 (4 in Canada). I’m pretty short but I still regularly got called chicken legs and accused of being anorexic. I was working in a bakery at that time where my diet consisted of free pizza pretzels, donuts and fresh bread. Completely unhealthy diet? Absolutely. Anorexic. No.

I was bullied for years at school and this shaming of my body for being naturally short and skinny was part of it. I’m no longer that skinny – not from having children (although I never returned to a size 0) after my kids. I’m now fat because I have been seriously ill for years with fibromyalgia and asthma. The steroids for my asthma made me gain weight, my fibromyalgia limited my ability to walk even short distances and I have an even worse diet because of comfort eating associated with depression.

I was once that object of shame for being skinny and am now an object of shame for being fat.

This is precisely the kind of campaign that makes me want to reach for those donuts again. It is body-shaming women who are naturally a size 6 – or those who exercise constantly to be a size 6 because we live in a culture where women are rewarded for it. Blaming women for trying to neutralise any possible “flaw” which could lead to abuse is pretty much the essence of internalised misogyny. It certainly won’t help women living with eating disorders like anorexia deal with their illness. Instead, it will make them feel more judged – and this is the very last thing these women and young girls need.

Taking Shape UK are objecting to the use of size 6 models during London’s Fashion Week by reducing women to animals to be judged like pigs at a country fair. Will we be judged on our plumage – acceptable as fat if we have great hair? Or, our skin colour? A quick skim through their catalogue shows only white women. Women are not animals and a clothing company which refers to its customers as animals has pretty much lost the plot.

What are they claiming is the perfect size? A 14? 16? 18? Do women only count who have ‘curves’? If that’s the case, I’m fucked as a short, fat woman notably lacking in curves. The language of the reprehensible ‘real women’ campaign by Dove is littered through this. That was nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick too.

Why aren’t Taking Shape recognising that the  obsession with ‘real women’ having curves just as damaging as the  fashion industry’s obsession with size 6 models? All this campaign is doing is judging women for their bodies. It is the patriarchal fuckability test in action.

There is another side to this particular campaign which is troubling and that is the issue of stalking. Sitting in a box watching women is seriously fucking creepy. Likening women to animals to be hunted whilst sitting in a box is even creepier. Setting up to monitor women with binoculars with the intention to draw images of them (as it says in their press release) buys into a deeply misogynistic construction of women as objects to be owned and surveilled. This is precisely the type of abuse that stalkers engage with when they target women.

All in all, this is a disgraceful social media campaign and Taking Shape UK have seriously fucked up. No woman deserves to be judged for their body type and women are not animals to be monitored in the streets.

This campaign is pretty much the essence of misogyny.  And, the images below – well, Taking Shape won’t be getting my custom anytime soon.

bird 1 bird 2