BEEM: We’re no longer allowed to talk about poor people in social housing because it hurts other people’s feelings.

BEEM is the umbrella group registered tenants associations in Edinburgh & Lothians, which forms part of the tenant participation strategy of  the Scottish Government. I hadn’t ever heard of  them before but they were offering free lunch to members. And, seriously, who turns down free lunch?

It was tedious.

Free lunch did not even remotely compensate for the tediousness, despite being excellent and involving cake.

The first two hours were presentations on why the Scottish government came to develop a national strategy on tenant participation and the achievements therein. The information was interesting but not what I had expected from the blurb in the email. I wanted more information on how BEEM could support local tenants’ organisations; not a history of Scottish government legislation.

There were lots of complaints about how few tenants organisations showed up to this meeting. But, it was on a Thursday. The fact that people in social housing might have actual jobs that they can’t take time off for free lunch events seemed to have been missed by a number of people paid to be there. And, we won’t even go into the issue of caring for children or family members with disabilities. That being a barrier to people (read women) participating seem to have missed everyone completely. Yes, there is some funding for childcare for these events but BEEM didn’t include any suggestion of potential childcare in their email invite. And, really, when was the last time a local authority paid for a carer so that a person (read woman) could attend these meetings safe in the knowledge that appropriate support had been covered for those they care for?

There was also no real discussion of literacy or language issues being a barrier to tenant participation in their community organisations, at the city, regional and national level. When I raised it, everyone pooh-poohed the suggestions saying that all Edinburgh council documents were available for translation. How this is meant to help people who are functionally illiterate went unanswered; as did my point that not everyone was comfortable accessing translation service via the council for numerous and valid reasons (and as someone who speaks English as a first language but with a ‘foreign’ accent, I can’t imagine how much patronising “support” those who speak English as a second language get from local employees. More than one has heard my accent and done the whole talking in a loud voice very slowly routine.)

The lack of recognition of just how severe these barriers can be for tenant participation was evidenced by an employee of a local housing association who thought that tenant at community level could be increased by holding meetings on evenings and weekends. My hand shot straight up in the air and I went straight through the “working/caring” commitment roll call. This was met by blinking.

The final note was a discussion on a desire for a major cultural shift to get people into renting properties rather than home owning. Because too many people equal social housing with poverty and that is just too embarrassing for some social housing tenants. After all, who wants to be poor? Granted, people who are poor don’t really get a choice in this but BEEM weren’t overly concerned with this somewhat large section of social housing tenants. There was no discussion of fact that places like Germany and Canada with huge rental markets also invest in pension funds negating the need to depend on a house to fund old age.

Personally, I’ve never understood the logic of home owning as a retirement fund. If your house is your investment for your old age, then surely you need to sell it when retired? Having no pension but a house you want to pass on to your children as an inheritance makes no financial sense to me. But, heh, I’m poor and will never own a home. so what the hell do I know?

It’s safe to say I scurried out as soon as it was over and won’t be going back. There may be a huge stigma attached to being poor and living in social housing in this country but that isn’t the fault of the people living in those conditions. It’s the fault of government policy, media coverage and people who think it’s more important to pretend that poor people don’t live in social housing . So that other people living in social housing don’t get their feelings hurt by having to recognise poverty in their neighbours.

Between this and the fucking appalling presentation by Police Scotland on internet safety for children this week, the revolution can’t come soon enough. And, I’m not having Police Scotland or BEEM along to mine.

We are not penguins. Cute and cuddly is not an excuse for genocide.

 

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This very brief article is doing the rounds of twitter today:

Ex-Nazi ‘bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ asks for ‘forgiveness’

Lueneburg (Germany) (AFP) – Former SS officer Oskar Groening, known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, admitted at his trial Tuesday to “moral guilt” over the mass murder at the death camp and asked for “forgiveness”.

“For me there’s no question that I share moral guilt,” the 93-year-old told the judges, admitting that he knew about the gassing of Jews.

“I ask for forgiveness,” he told the court, attended by Holocaust survivors. “You have to decide on my legal culpability.”

You’d think a fairly straightforward case of criminal liability for genocide, but no. Apparently, old people are cute and cuddly and therefore not liable for their actions:

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Narcissistic Father declares daughter property: internet decides her consent no longer exists

I flinch when I see babies in “Daddy’s little princess” pyjamas and girls in “Mummy’s Little Helper” t-shirts. I don’t think these kinds of clothing are cute. Mostly, they make me want to vomit.

This image takes the fucking cake though. In the category of “how well can you meld creepy narcissism with daughter as property”, it would totally blow away the competition. It’s the other side of those horrific purity/promise rings given by fathers, particularly in US sects of Christianity, to their daughters so they will always remember their “Daddy’s Little Princess”. The similarities to grooming practises by sexual predators is completely ignored.Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 09.04.30

It’s more than just the creepiness of labelling children possessions of the fathers. There is also the issue of consent.

I’ve deliberately removed the child’s face from the image because I believe it is unethical to share images of children without their consent – particularly when the image is used to humiliate. Yes, every other site has published her face but that doesn’t make it fair. Consent isn’t given via other people’s misuse of a child’s image.

Realistically, who wants to be known forever more as that girl from the Facebook meme with the creepy father? The one who warns away boys from her body with his six pack on her t-shirt? What about her right to privacy? Her right to live a life not defined by the actions of her father? The choice to be anonymous? This isn’t a child who is old enough to consent to her image being used. She’s not old enough to understand the full ramifications of having her image online.

Publicly humiliating your child in this manner isn’t good parenting. We need to stop sharing these images of children when we know that the only reason they are doing the rounds of Facebook is for people to laugh at.

 

 

Into the Woods: Could have been funny but ended up Mother-hating (Spoilers)

(spoilers)

Into the Woods is meant to be a modern twist on the traditional fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. Their stories are tied together by the Baker and his wife who cannot conceive a child due to a curse placed on their house by the witch next door. They need to find 4 items in three days to lift the curse: a cape as red as blood, corn-silk hair, a white as milk cow and a golden slipper.

This construction of the Baker and ‘his wife’ sets the scene for the whole film. The bumbling baker who can’t remember a simple set of instructions is the hero, whilst his possession-wife is brave, smart, funny, kind and dies. The baker gets everything he wanted in life: 3 children and a maid in Cinderella. His wife is killed. The idea that a ‘good’ family would be so desperate for a child that they would steal from another child is rather bizarre too. At least, the wife steals hair from Rapunzel. The baker, on the other hand, can’t steal from Little Red Riding Hood and returns her cape the moment he steals it. He earns the cape by killing the wolf.

I’m not a fan of the ‘women so desperate for a child they will do anything’ trope. The baker wants a child too but he isn’t punished for his failure to conceive – only his wife. His refusal to acknowledge his wife’s contributions to the marriage are not seen as flaws but the signs of a ‘good’ man.

The representation of women in the film is entirely sexist – all of them have serious character flaws. Little Red Riding Hood is so greedy she steals from the bakery AND eats the treats for her grandmother. Both her mother and grandmother are killed. The original curse on the witch was placed on her by her mother in punishment for failing to notice a thief. The witch curses her neighbours because she’s spiteful and hates her aged body. The original thief is the baker’s father who is forced into it by his pregnant wife (the father runs away but that’s because he’s sad not bad like the women). The witch steals Rapunzel to punish the mother. The baker’s wife dies because of her desire for a child. The woman giant is killed because she seeks justice for the theft of her property and the death of her husband (yes, the giant wants to eat Jack but Jack did steal from him first). Jack’s mother dies because she’s not very bright and thinks her son’s dim too.

Rapunzel and Cinderella are the only two women not ‘punished’ although Cinderella is sentenced to a life time of cleaning up after the baker and raising his children. Rapunzel goes off with the lesser of the two dim princes but without learning about her birth family. They are also not mothers and it is mothers who are classed as deserving of death.

Johnny Depp’s performance as the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood is the most ridiculous part of the film. It isn’t scary but rather creepy in the traditional sense. He stalks the young Red Riding Hood using words like lush. Granted, we know he wants to eat her but actually he appears at the sexual predator common in 80s stranger-danger messages for children. The sexualised imagery in this song is in complete contrast to a film that is obviously aimed at children. Beyond the distressing imagery of an adult man stalking a child with sexualised language, Depp’s performance is pretty much Jack Sparrow and his character from Dark Shadows all rolled into one. As much fun as Sparrow is, he’s already had 4 films – and Dark Shadows is a dreadful mess of drivel.

In contrast, the song ‘Agony’ performed by the two princes was a brilliant piece of satire:

It made them both look as pathetic, whiny and ridiculous as they are (and thank Gaia Cinderella dumped Charming’s arse).

What would have made this a true modern twist would be for the mothers to have survived and lived together. The baker punished for not recognising his wife as a person and Jack and Little Red Riding Hood held accountable for stealing without being killed. Even the witch reacted out of desperation and self-loathing. Her crimes are ones to be pitied. Instead, this is a film where mothers are punished for mothering.

Kate Middleton: Suffragette

Kate Middleton is officially our generations suffragette for the incredible action of wearing the same outfit twice. At least, according to Patsy Kensit.

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#DickheadDetox: Owen Jones for Whining about not winning feminism

 

To be fair, there are lots of reasons why Owen Jones could be nominated for the #DickheadDetox : his recent inability to understand that lesbians are human too followed by his excruciating refusal to recognise that watching pornography at work isn’t acceptable for anyone, including middle aged white dudes – or, that a judge who claims to be so stressed they need to wank at work shouldn’t be a judge. I’ve yet to see A&E staff argue for their right to wank at work due to ‘stress’, but, hey, they usually aren’t middle aged white dudes.

I’ve added Jones for whining about not ‘winning’ feminism in response to challenges from anti-pornography feminists. Cus, there is no evidence of male entitlement in a dude who insists on ‘winning’ an argument with women. None whatsoever.

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Owen Jones is just another misogynistic, left-wing right-on dudebro.

Second wave feminism and racism

Erasing women of colour from their participation in the second wave feminist movement is racism.

Claiming racism didn’t exist in second wave feminism is racism.

It is entirely possible for both statements to be accurate. Claiming that one is true and the other is not is also racism.

Vice is now reduced to recycling plots from Kevin Smith films

And, it’s not even one of the good Kevin Smith films. It’s Mallrats.

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A film whose claim to fame is a running joke about having sex in an “uncomfortable” place: not the backseat of the volkswagon that every character suggests, but anal sex. This particular subplot focuses on “Trish the Dish”:  a 15 year old girl who has been given a huge advance to write a book about the male sex drive. Trish the Dish’s research involves rating men’s sexual talent. The only real reference to Trish’s age is when the villain – a man who is only the villain, played by Ben Affleck, because he hates slackers who hang out in malls (this is the 1990s after all) – is sent to prison for child rape. One of the final images in the film is of Affleck about to be raped in prison; a theme used over and over and over again in American media.

As a movie, it’s rather trite and predictable. Adult men behaving like entitled children isn’t exactly all that exciting: men living in their parent’s basement because they won’t get a job; men who have jobs thinking they are awesome; men who whine all day. This is pretty much the dating pool for women in their 20s now as it was then. And, really, the ‘hero’ of the film insists his girlfriend climb out a window than meet his parents. How pathetic is that?

Emily Reynold’s article in Vice magazine* on her spreadsheet of sexual partners isn’t exactly a new idea: see the entire series of Sex in the City. Sending a survey out to your former partners for feedback on your sexual repertoire isn’t a new idea either. Certainly, punting stories of your sexual history to the media is about as predictable as kitten gifs on twitter. For evidence: see every interview Anthony Kiedis has ever given.

I expect we’re supposed to be shocked and titillated by a young woman talking candidly about her sex life in the media. Mostly, I read it thinking that she was 20 years too late for this to be something fresh (or whatever the word for cool is now).

I wonder what Kevin Smith is up to now and what plot lines will be Vice be stealing from him in 20 years.

*clean link

 

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.

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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.