Tag Archives: patriarchy

DrinkAware? Some victim awareness too please!

 

In wider society, there is nothing inherently wrong with promoting the responsible consumption of alcohol. In a worst-case scenario alcohol becomes an addiction requiring medical treatment. However, there is much wrong with the latest campaign poster from DrinkAware, and the messages it promotes are harmful to girls and women, and a get out of jail free card for perpetrators.

The image depicted is that of a hospital corridor, with two arrows pointing in opposite directions towards the Maternity Ward and the Sexual Health Clinic respectively. Written across the poster is the caption;

“Being drunk just once age 13. Twice as likely to have unprotected sex.”

This poster explicitly blames young girls regarding the possibility of getting drunk and pregnant through unprotected sex. However, sex is not a singular act. It is a plural one. This poster erases completely the responsibility and role of men in a drunk 13-year-old becoming pregnant. It is their responsibility not to engage in sex with a girl or woman who is drunk and in the scenario outlined on the poster it would also be an illegal act. Also, it does not provide a source for its claim that girls are twice as likely to have unprotected sex

But we live in a victim blaming culture, and this poster places the sole blame on teenage girls. It does not say anything at all about the role of men and boys in taking advantage of intoxicated girls, nor does it address their responsibility to be in control of their actions.

The finger wagging, paternalistic tone struck by this poster is extremely disappointing, and it does nothing to encourage girls who may have been raped while under the influence of alcohol to come forward to authorities if they want to and speak about their experiences.

This poster is pure blackmail. In terms of its subtext, it says “just once age 13 is enough and it is all your fault you silly girl!”

Boys and men are equally responsible during sex yet this poster renders them conveniently invisible. They would be responsible in the event of pregnancy too, yet this poster renders them invisible. Where are the posters telling men and boys that being drunk just once aged 13 could get a girl pregnant and instructing them to keep it in their pants? Exactly! Nowhere!

In wider society, we love to shame and condemn women and girls as that poster does, yet we turn a blind eye, or even reward boys and men for bad behaviour.

There is something else wrong with this poster is. We have two arrows pointing in opposite directions, firstly towards the Maternity Ward and secondly towards the Sexual Health Clinic.

This gives the impression that there are only two outcomes with respect to unprotected sex. The complete erasure of boys from the campaign may cause you to believe that it is women alone who are responsible for these outcomes, when in fact men bear the responsibility to.

Turning first to the maternity ward the poster completely neglects to mention the option of abortion, an option which any responsible clinician would discuss with a girl faced with this scenario, and any responsible campaign should make girls aware of this possibility too.  To frame pregnancy as a consequence over which a girl has no control is disrespectful and damaging to women, and irresponsible on the part of DrinkAware.

With regard to sexual health, sex as I said previously is a plural act. Men also have responsibility for their sexual health, and as such would be responsible for any woman getting an STI.

Overall though, this campaign makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. It gives the impression that women are totally responsible for unwanted sexual advances (ergo rape) and for the consequences. It blames them totally for drinking alcohol at a young age, despite the fact that a man may be buying it for them and taking advantage of the situation, yet there are no equivalent campaigns warning men of the dangers of having sex while drunk, and telling them to keep it in their pants.

This campaign leaves women isolated and at sea. It plays on the politics of fear and shaming women. Yet sadly, this campaign represents a missed opportunity. It could have been used to educate women and girls about the support that is out there for rape victims who have been raped while under the influence of alcohol. It could also have been used to educate them about the help and support that is out there in the event of unwanted teenage pregnancy.

As it stands this campaign poster is damaging. It blames the victim for a traumatic ordeal, and renders invisible every male perpetrator. As such it is serving no other purpose than to be a servant of patriarchy and I would advocate for its immediate removal. I would also ask DrinkAware to be more careful planning future campaigns with how it uses language to avoid belittling, victimising and shaming rape victims.

NB: Jane England has started a petition to try to get the poster banned. She has petitioned the Media and Public Affairs manager at DrinkAware, Kelly O’Sullivan. PLEASE SIGN.

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Has any good come out of Savile?

 

So, International Women’s Day has been and gone for another year. Yet, at the moment, every day seems to be International Women’s Day. Every day, a new horrific story involving women, breaks and comes to the forefront of the news agenda. In this article, I want to address three things. How that happened, where it happened, and why.

I bet there was not a single woman, or man who was not repulsed, disgusted and shocked when the dossier of allegations against the one time television presenter Jimmy Savile was made public. Savile was a television personality, who to all intents and purposes, enjoyed success because of children. The Jim’ll Fix It badges, with their red ribbon and iconic slogan “Jim Fixed It For Me” became synonymous with Saturday night must see TV.

However, it has become all too apparent that Savile broke, not fixed many people. He was the ultimate master of deception, and left his victims with a lifetime of sorrow, misery and trauma to contend with.

The current revelations from the recently published report into the scandal reveals a Pandora’s Box of missed opportunity to see Savile convicted, and for his victims to see and feel justice being done. Had the police acted more swiftly, more lives could and should have been saved. There was also an overlooked chance to convict in the 1960s because he was “a celebrity.” My feeling is that no one, celebrity or not, should ever be above the law.

That said though, the Savile allegations are not a moment of panacea for the ongoing problem of misogyny and violence and abuse perpetrated against women and girls.

It is a psychological issue too, with even the former Editor of Newsnight dismissing the allegations made as being those of “just the women.” Would we ever hear a similar remark made about a man? I think not.

I meant that this is a psychological issue in terms of how such issues are perceived in wider society, and that the wider structure of it is unashamedly patriarchal.

Social mores have meant that over the centuries we have grown up with, and to some extent embedded the notion in our minds that women are weak and feeble, and that men are big and strong. Also, that men are rational and sensible, whilst women are angry and hysterical. Such tropes, though populist are misguided and should be avoided.

The effect of such tropes though cannot be avoided. They are what give rise to the notion, in a patriarchal society that women’s accounts of abuse and violence should not be taken seriously and are being over-exaggerated.

In a sense, this is hardly surprising. It is what one would expect those who feel comfortable with the status quo and those who defend it to say.

But the truth is, Savile is merely the tip of the iceberg, and we are told by the CPS to expect a new wave of high profile arrests over the next few weeks.

The Savile allegations were closely followed by those against Lord Rennard, although apparently some think a bit of light knee touching is OK.

So that is how it happened. But I strongly believe that this story does not begin and end in the world of celebrity, nor with the celebrity culture and subsequent power relations that run deep within it. It begins and ends with the everyday women in the UK; the women who are fighting back.

To my mind, there is no doubt in one thing, women in this country, are annoyed, not just a little but a lot. It is as if Savile acted as a catalyst, for women to stand up and be counted, in essence that they have had enough. Too often, wimmin’s problems are perceived as exactly that. Wimmin’s problems, cooked up as a scheme by the “bloody feminists” to annoy men and make their lives difficult and demean their reputation.

But the best thing about the current crop of visibility around feminist activism is this. It is not a Government initiative. It is not a charity. It is activism generated by women, for all women.

One of the best known agents of such activism currently is the Everyday Sexism website, founded by Laura Bates.

A fair criticism made by many feminists is that often, we don’t name the problem; we dance around it, alluding to it but never quite name it.

Well the website very much names the problem, and holds it up clearly for the world to see.

The most fabulous thing about Everyday Sexism is that it is not dramatised fiction, but real life experiences that are happening right now. Through the medium of Twitter and emailing the website, women are telling their own stories from their own souls. Nobody is asking them to do so, they are absolutely making that choice.

From a quick scan of the Twitter account, it seems that something as innocuous as walking to the laundrette with a pile of washing can provoke a disgusting slur, or that being pregnant can prevent you from managing an account in your company as your long term commitment is not guaranteed.

So Twitter and the Internet are powerful mediums. Whilst men seem to be frantically flailing around trying to find ways to justify patriarchy, women are fighting back, and fighting back hard.

There is also the painful stain of violence against women and girls. It is a sad indictment on our society that this is such a problem. Women and girls live with the trauma of rape and violence for a lifetime. Interventions like counselling can help but it never fully leaves you.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer yesterday issued a report showing that false accusations of rape are extremely rare, and he appealed to police not to develop an over-cautious attitude, since this may deter victims of rape.

BBC Radio 1 the BBC’s youth station, whose primary target audience is 15-24, ran a report on Newsbeat that directly contradicted the findings of the DPP. They suggested, to outrage across the Internet, that false rape allegations were a common problem with a “devastating impact for those involved”

This kind of reporting is irresponsible for two reasons. Firstly, it falls far below the normal high standards of journalism one would expect from the BBC.

Secondly, it is irresponsible on the part of the BBC due to Newsbeat’s young, impressionable target audience.

Is it truly the sort of message we want to be sending out to our young people? That we want to tell girls if a boyfriend does something inappropriate, that it would be better for them to keep quiet, as no-one will believe them anyway?

Or to boys, do we want to send the message that it’s absolutely fine to rape, because they will probably get away with it?

These may be the consequences of Radio 1’s unusually baseless reporting, in actuality. It sets a dangerous precedent and that is why I thoroughly endorse and appreciate the stance of Keir Starmer, on this issue.

It is important that all victims of rape, whether female, male, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or non-binary know that their allegations of rape will be dealt with seriously and sympathetically. By broadcasting such a report, the BBC did nothing to assist in this aim.

In terms of my own situation, trans people are subjected to misogyny too, with some traduced to mere objects of fetish for the enjoyment of men. This too is unacceptable.

However, we as trans women, must stand shoulder to shoulder with all women in their struggles. To be a separate side dish is not appropriate in my view is not appropriate as that is not why I transitioned.

I transitioned to be at one with myself and the sisterhood. Food for thought.

So has some good come out of Savile? Through organisation, of women, by women, for women, it has brought issues that are normally special interest into the public gaze, and into sharper focus. It has made women stand up and say enough is enough, which it is. It has shown women they are not alone. It has allowed women to take the power back from the patriarchy, and to gain strength.

Above all, through the pernicious medium of social media it has allowed women to control their own narrative, and share it with each other.

You know the best thing is this. When I ask myself the question, who brought this change about, there is one clearly answer. Women themselves. That piece of knowledge is so beautifully empowering.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Need Feminism…….Why We All Do

I don’t remember much of my academic life. In all honesty, looking back most of it is a blur. But three things stand out for me. Reading, creative writing, and feminism. I loved them all. Two quotes stick in my brain. The first from one of my A-Level Sociology lecturers, Marilyn, which was;

“Women are a sponge to soak up all men’s inadequacies”

And secondly an accolade I am still proud of to this day.  My English lecturer Helen dubbed me as “the only male feminist she had ever taught.”

I admired Helen and Marilyn, because they were both women of passion and conviction, impact notwithstanding. The fact that I still remember their musings to this day is a compliment to them. I am proud to know, and to have known some wonderful women in my life. Women who I have cared about, loved, been inspired by, cried with, laughed with, and empathised with.

If women are a sponge for men’s inadequacies, then I have been a sponge for women’s strength. Despite never having had siblings of either sex, I have always gravitated naturally towards women, they have been my heart, my soul, and my rock when I have needed support too.

I have never looked at what I can take from a woman, but instead, what I can give to them, in the sense of  solidarity and support. Helen also said she had never met a man like me before, and doubted she ever would again. That is because the construct of a man was alien to me, and I did not, and still would not want to live up to.

Womanhood then, is not about the clothes on your body. Feminism, is about the clothes on your soul. Whether you stand up and be counted as a woman , or well, you choose to do nothing.

During my University days another thing I did was to find the poem Leda and the Swan by W.B. Yeats disgusting. Even now when reading it back, it still turns my stomach. The reduction of a female, to her mere body parts for the delight of a man is patriarchal to the extreme, and when you see it written down in the cold light of day, it makes it even more vile.

The radical feminist Catherine McKinnon argues that;

“Understanding free speech as an abstract system is a liberal position. Understanding how speech also exists within a substantive system of power relations is a feminist position.”

What this quote suggests is that speech and writing in the first instance do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in a patriarchal context to subjugate women and other minorities too it has to be said. We in the UK are a culture which privileges misogyny over mindfulness, and pornography over pragmatism. 

This is not surprising though, when a 9 year old child was subjected to a disgusting slur after the Oscars, and we are told in a week where a sex scandal is embroiling the Liberal Democrats, we are told, with all the empathy of a toilet roll, “well, he only touched her knee, it’s hardly Jimmy Savile”.

Oh. So that makes it OK and I can stop writing then? No chance! I will not be silenced now, nor ever! It is preposterous, not to mention   mocking and silencing to categorise the experiences of abused women and men, and to judge them in a quantitative, tokenistic, and insulting way.

But you know, things have changed since Marilyn’s sponge. The abuse and violence haven’t, but with the advent of social media, women are being able to voice their anger across the Internet, and to gain support, and kinship from other women, who have suffered similar pain.

Why am I angry too though? Why do I feel the fire of womanhood burn inside my heart? Why do I need feminism, and why do I care?

I never really knew my biological father well. I w0uldn’t recognise him if I saw him on the street. My mother brought me up as a single parent, and we were always so close. Mainly I think because of my disability, I depended on her for personal care. I was born in an incubator, and was lucky to survive the first few days of my life.

My father bought me with with toys  and gifts, but as for any moral or indeed financial contribution to my upbringing, it was never forthcoming. I loved my mum. She was my role model and friend.

But things changed in 1989 when she met Mike. He was horrible to her and me. Two experiences stick in my mind. He emotionally abused me relentlessly, branding me useless, and a disappointment, and a vegetable. He would never do any personal care for me. On a Saturday, initially, mum had a job in a pub as a chef. If I needed anything in the way of personal care, I would have to wait until she got home. He also wanted me to toughen up and be a man. His behaviour to me and mum alone demonstrates that patriarchy is alive.

Two more experiences for you. My grandparents bought me a gift of my first motorised wheelchair, in order that I could get about and have more independence. However they bought me the newest model of this particular wheelchair, and the wheel was prone to falling off.

One night we had been to a barbecue with mum and his friends, and on the way home the wheel feel off. What would be the natural response? To offer help and assistance perhaps. No! Not that pathetic excuse of a human being. He got angry, yelled, screamed and shouted, flexed his patriarchal muscles  and went home. Moreover, this meant my mother had to get me, plus this piece of heavy machinery home. She did it though I do not know how.

The second time that sticks in my mind was when Mum had to go to hospital and the scumbag refused to let me see her. He told me she wasn’t allowed visitors. When she got home, the one thing she told me was that she wanted to see me, and she was. She also had to give me a shower just after coming out of hospital, with an open surgical wound.

So firstly, I need feminism as a counterbalance to help dismantle male power structures in my mind that were drummed into me as a child. I need feminism to help me articulate my fears and feelings, as well as my oppression as a woman with a disability. I need women as friends for mutual support, love and kinship. Even as a trans woman, I need to help all women not to fear these power structures Mackinnon speaks of, or to farm the power out to men, but to take that power back for themselves, and to cradle it wholeheartedly, as if it were a newborn baby. The power of the collective female conscience is a wonderful thing.

Secondly I need feminism because it is a narrative for the oppressed and marginalised. I was marginalised and oppressed from birth as a person with a disability. People for the most part, can be selfish or uncaring and this shines through, and perhaps this is why I have an affinity with the female struggle, be that with such issues as rape, eating disorder s, or self injurous behaviour. Men experience these things too of course. But the first two are borne out of a search for perfection, a perfection which is idealistic, flawed and unattainable. Every woman is beautiful in her heart and soul.

Throughout my life, my friends have been women. I have grown up with them, lived with them and learned from them, hence the sponge metaphor at the top of the piece is appropriate. Feminism came for me long before transition, friendships with women came long before transition, and my studies of  feminism were deep-rooted in me long before any gender transition. The thing is, I didn’t want to toughen up and be a man. It felt alien to me, and toughness just phallogocentric.

Now to address the elephant in the room. Rad Fem 2013 is a conference taking place in London, with amongst others, Julie Bindel,  Cathy Brennan and Sheila Jeffreys. 

In the trans community, they are renowned for thinking that trans women are men, for wanting an end to gender, and are in a continual quest to abolish patriarchy.

By contrast, the trans community label them TERF’s (Trans Excluding Radical Feminists) and counter protest at most venues they speak at, and organise autonomously at.

Now I have wrestled and wrestled with my conscience over whether this post would be written, for the thoughts I am about to express may seem  like a revolution to some.

Radical feminism, at its core, is a narrative 0f pain, of trauma, and of hurt as a result of extreme violence and abuse in many cases. Furthermore, it  is a narrative of damage, and damaged people. That’s why in this feminist school of thought there are no shades of grey, only black and white.

Beyond the rhetoric and name calling, the conference will discuss sexual violence and will allow women a safe space in which to share their stories. Don’t forget, abuse is very VERY isolating and lonely, and for all I know, RadFem2013 may be the only time these sisters will have the chance to make friends on their terms.

Autonomous organisation seems to have annoyed people. Women do have a right to organise freely. I am not saying that in terms of permission, I am stating it as fact. Trans people are however, being excluded from this conference.

However, if one is organising an event, one sets its parameters. Remember what I said earlier? Radical feminism is a narrative of pain, and women are coming together to share.  

Being frank, the p*s is a male organ, and represents trauma and pain to many women. Perhaps they find trans people triggering, in the same way as they would find a man triggering, whilst at the same time having no particular beef with that person’s character?

I’ll be damn honest here. I find some straight men triggering. Due to the wheelchair, I am lower down than they are so am always looking up. Mike was tall too so this can be frightening.

I always protected my mother though, and hated it when he shouted and screamed at her, and at me.

We need feminism to allow space for such things to be aired. Another problem I think the radical feminists have around trans people is that they have entered their space, and taken on their identity, whereas they were born into that identity of struggle from time immemorial. In  a way, I understand that grievance. It is hard to see identity changing around you, and to see people claiming an identity you thought was exclusively yours, then in come the trans people, snatch it away, and parade it around like a trophy, and never mind all the years of abuse and trauma you’ve suffered. I get that, truly. But I don’t want to erase you, nor reinforce patriarchy, nor am I interested in  power. I have very little anyway, since I rely on others to accomplish most tasks of daily life. I do have personal power inside me though which ensures that I can guard against being subjugated again.

We also need feminism as a response to misogyny, as an angry response to “women being reduced to c*nt” as Kate Millett would have it.  According to the charity Rape Crisis joint statistics from the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Office for National Statistics reveal that 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year. Similarly, they show that over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted every year. Finally they show that 1 in 5 women, aged 16-59 has experienced some form of sexual violence.

These are sobering and cannot be ignored. For behind each number is a person, and behind each person, a life scarred. But hopefully through kinship, love and support scars can heal. 

Frankly though, that’s why I am a feminist. I got sick of hearing stories over the years from women who’d been touched up in clubs, to having men saying, hmm lesbian,I bet I can turn you.

This was brought home to me vividly, when I started going to my local gay club. All the women there had stories, that is why they too are fragile and vulnerable sometimes. I can assure you though, I want to defend their interests. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with them whilst respecting their boundaries. Women deserve respect for they are beautiful, kind, caring and compassionate. I don’t know where I’d be without my sisters. So thank you all of you.

So why do women need feminism? For support, for a bridge where once before there was a deep chasm. Why do I need feminism? It gives me a voice, in a male dominant culture. It speaks to me and for me. When I hear feminism expressed it speaks to me and for me.

Before I conclude let me say this. Many trans women suffer abuse too. But there is nothing to stop us opening our own autonomous discussions about that. Julie Bindel is a campaigner against domestic violence, which to me is a laudable occupation. Sheila Jeffreys Kate Millett lecture got me through insomnia last night. I also found this interesting having spent a long time studying feminist literary theory at uni. 

I need feminism because it means I can live with pride, confidence and self esteem (recently discovered) in a world plagued by ableism. Most of all it enables me to stand with and for the people I love the most – women.

I wish RadFem 2013 the best of luck, and I hope it helps the women who attend. Meanwhile, I’ll do as Cathy Brennan suggested and be me.

 

 

 

How Intersectional Are We?

If the recent firestorm around Julie Burchill has got me thinking about anything, it is the notion of intersectionality. I am by my very nature an intersectional being, I suppose we all are really. But for most, I contend that paying heed to intersectionality, is an optional thing rather than a must do.

However, for me I have no choice since one of my intersections is fairly obvious, I am  in a wheelchair. I am also lesbian and trans. On one level, it could be said that this puts me at odds with the rest of the human race. To me this is also a victim stance.

On a positive note though, this gives me a chance to see the world through three sets of very enriching eyes, to bring something to the table that perhaps other people could not. 

I began to blog precisely because, in as much as there were some very erudite accounts of life with a disability, or life being trans, or being lesbian.  However though, I saw no stories and heard no anecdotes of all three together together in one big stew pot. Sometimes you know, in my experience they even fight, argue and squabble for attention. We need intersectionality though, and desperately. The need to live , understand and breathe by the  credo of intersectionality for the benefit and maintenance of a socially cohesive  society.It has a mandate but the question truly is , do we truly use that mandate to its full potential, and tap into it enough?

At the height of my mindset around the Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore debacle, I was kind of thinking in a grumbly way to myself, that it was easy for the rest of the  LGB community, because they did not have to contend with this kind of resultant abuse.

Later though, I began to think again in a cool headed way. The simple truth is, it is not that the LGB community suffers no oppression, it is just that it presents itself in many inglorious and frightening forms.

The general population are en masse users of social networking. A common trick nowadays is to log into someone else’s Facebook account, and post something they absolutely would not. My friendship group is predominantly LGBT. Now , as a woman, I have a dilemma here.

A common lesbian prank is to write “I WANT C**K” on another lesbian’s Facebook. The dilemma is evident. I have two voices screaming in my head at this point.

The trans voice, inevitably will say, hang on a minute, women have c**ks too, it does not make them lesser women, which is true. 

However, the woman’s voice also presents another scenario. The c**k is also a phallic symbol.  It could and maybe does trigger. We need to be empathic and alert to this possibly.

One of the problems with society at large is that it is too dichotomous, reinforcing too many binaries. 

As well as being a person with a disability, a lesbian and trans, I am a feminist. I believe that women’s rights in society are pivotal. You see friends, right from birth, I have been different, silenced and not normal. So female spaces, and feminism were always atrractive to me, it was a narrative that sp0ke to me, and pierced loudly through my heart. From my own standpoint as the feminst sociologist Dorothy Smith would have it, the world looks pretty unique, and pretty shit for women.

Women are consistently used and abused and objectified by a patriarchal society. They have 0ne night stands after which the girl is a s**t and the guy is a stud. Why is that? Due to male privilege. He gets a pat on the back and a beer perhaps, the girl gets objectified and villified.

I have had too many conversations that start with the opening gambit, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

I have grown up with and been around women all my life. One of the most painful things of my life was when a friend confided in me she was suffering from anorexia.

It is a disorder, quite simply that strips away your mind,  body, energy, self esteem, confidence and soul. My friend talked to me for three hours, solid. She said to me that it meant a lot, just to be listened to. I supported her, loved her, cried with her, and heard her. I never judged her. To me, this is the quintessence of what being a woman was about. My childhood was a discourse of feminism really. Of periods, boyfriends, gossip, and fun and clothes. But the thing with it is, all the time, women are jostling to gain a voice in a society which  is largely not given to them. They are oppressed. Women go through blood sweat and tears to be approved of by the rest of society. Their painful insecurities are often manifested in disorders like anorexia, and self injurous behaviour. Yet this is a hidden narrative, concealed on numerous support forums. My friend’s anorexia was a painful experience. I almost lived it with her. But the other thing is, women are strong. You will I suspect be glad to know that my friend recovered, but it was a long and painful journey for us both.

But nowhere is female oppression more evident than in the scenario of r*pe. Seeing the disregard, and the cruelty with which Fantine (wonderfully portrayed by Anne Hathaway) was maimed and objectified by her rapist in Les Miserables  was truly stomach churning. But for many women (and men too) this is a reality.The arrogance of it, and its cavalier nature. What right does anyone have to violate the body and soul of  another, leaving emotional scars and physical scars that may never heal?We read it in the news almost daily but what I see is a chilling ambivalence towards it.

I have lived through women’s problems and pain all my life. One of my friends who I went to school with said to me she was surprised I did not start growing ovaries and a womb! Another friend told me I was too much of a girl to be a guy for too long. Another said “you act like a girl , you’re like us, but you are not a girl. Why? That is what made me want to transition. For I had been pondering the same question from the moment I could talk.

I never owned my gender in my former life, which I can truly say was a living hell. I was massively proud to change that, and go from darkness to light. A former counsellor said I would lose power. I was never really interested in power though, not in that sense of patriarchal power anyway.

I am massively proud now to have a gender which matches up the inner identity and the outer.

What I am not so proud of though is the vile vituperation that was metred out to Suzanne Moore last week. I was more unhappy with the creation of the word”cuntards” in one of her Tweets and told her that.

The Tweets were nasty, and not befitting of fellow sisters. As I suggested in my original blog last week, the article contained much good food. She was arguing that welfare cuts are having a disproportionate effect on women and other minorities I guess. A point worth making. This is why I love feminism so much. It is a philosophy that speaks for the oppressed, and I include myself in that oppression frankly. Were I just looking with my disabled head on, I would say, fab! go girl! she is giving me a voice. Ditto to lesbian.

But I was upset by the Brazillian transsexual slur. I said that she spoiled the article with its use. However there was much good food there.

The reaction of the trans community was disproportionate though, and could be equally construed as hate speech by Suzanne as Burchill’s article was to the trans community. Suzanne has not picketed the homes of Tweeters though. 

The fundamental mistake made was to fight oppression with oppression. I see all too often that the trans community is quite happy to do to others what it does not want done to it, and that disturbs me, greatly. If Suzanne does it, it is oppression. If we do it, it is campaigning or activism. It is not right, unfeminist, and distinctly wrong. Here’s an idea, I am being quite out there I grant you.

If the trans community had not reacted the way it did, then perhaps Julie’s abhorrent piece would never have been written. It did not just float out of a vacuum. Something had to happen for it to happen. Cause and effect. Snowballs perhaps relevant.

Finally the oven ready broad porn star stuff. It reminds me of a certain bird often cooked at Christmas but that is a funny aside. I believe there is pressure on all women to look glamourous, sexy, wear lovely high heels and dresses and look sexy for men’s (sometimes) benefit. Social pressure, peer pressure and inner psychological pressure that all women, trans and not, fall vicitim to. And that my friends is fucking sad. Women should be able to be how they want. 

Many lesbians understandably rock against this pressure. I do not have a particular type. I love faces, eyes and smiles make me giddy. I want to get a tattoo. But I digress.

Throughout my University degree, I subconsciously weaved a narrative of oppression. Postcolonialism, feminism and other such things.

I was born othered through my disability, othered was not something  I became. I am guessing this is why I loved feminism so much.

Feminism is my narrative. What is not my narrative is seeing women oppressing women, and driving them off Twitter.

Women’s concerns should be ours too. At every opportunity, we should be shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with our sisters. The concerns of people with disabilities should be our concerns too. The concerns of lesbians and gay men should be our concerns too.

I have always been characteristically loyal, caring and empathic, before and after transition. I am not a different person but a happier one.  Women themselves made me a woman, through consistently including me in their space, not due to a smash and grab violation on my part, but, more simply, because they wanted to. The transition was gaining a  fun wardrobe and a better name. Apart from that, business as usual, but at the outset of my transition, I did feel very blessed to be  invited to a hen night.

So, how intersectional are we? The answer is not nearly enough. There is a tendency for  some to retreat into the trans bunker, and moan. That option is not open to me, because I am intersectional by proxy. I have my disability and lesbian identity too.  So in order words, it is a juggling act, rather like plate spinning in a circus.  However, I want to say categorically that none of my identities are a stigma to me. I am proud of them all.

If we want change, we have to be the change. For radical feminists, we need to see behind the lens of why they think the way they do. I do not want to invade their space, but perhaps understand it better.

Trans oppression is not the only oppression. We need to be careful not to be the perpetrators of hate speech instead of the victims. It just gives Julie Burchill more reason to think that her polemic might be true.

So how to change things? Solidarity with feminism is a good start. We also need to be intersectional. This is why disability rights succeeded. It was due to common aims, goals and objectives. What are ours?

We need articles like that penned by Burchill. They challenge us, we can rebut them and argue with them. But we do not need to respond to hate speech with hate speech. We have a responsibility to show we care not just about our own plight, but that of others too. Finally, to the radical feminists, I hear your position. You may not respect my gender. But I hope you can see that this is a decent piece written with the best of intentions.

The Burden of Proof

So Facebook really is much of a muchness. There is a wide breadth of comment, analysis, moral support and anything else you may find in the context of human life. 

But that includes the negative shit of life too, sadly. Imagine then, my disgust and anger when I read the following status update.

” Why dick head men at mcdonalds feel the need to tell me to prove i have a girlfriend or that i love her makes me laugh …. Fuck you she is mine and i am hers …. I don’t need you to make me know that! TWAT!”

Now firstly, I have never heard anyone go to McDonalds and ask  for a Big Mac, and fries with a large portion of misogynistic homophobia please. Nor do I think this is what my friends Aimee and Charlotte expected either. 

I was actually shocked when I heard about it which is why I was motivated to write about it. Nobody should have to justify or explain themselves to anyone, unless they are discriminating, harming or bullying others in some way, whatever that may be.

What can I tell you about my two friends, Aimee Sherriff and Charlotte Forster? Apart from the fact they are very much in love which is patently obvious to know them, Aimee has a ghetto bum, loves N-Dubz, is crazy, loyal and supportive and drives my chair more badly than I do, when drunk (and sober in my case). Charlotte is a drama student, very arty, and we share a mutual but geeky love of showtunes. Like the Sherriff she is also very kind and supportive of me.

But on a serious note the level of misogyny here is disturbing, and in a sense has parallel echoes with the debate around gay marriage. There is also a distinct lack of equilibrium in this encounter. Since when has a straight person ever been asked to prove that they have a boyfriend, and moreover that they love them. Excuse my French, but what the actual fuck?

What I am trying to say, is that if they were straight, this would never be an issue in a million years. But their lesbian status, it seems makes them some kind of object of interest and voyeurism. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong. It is a question that would never be asked of a straight person, and is humiliating and demeaning, especially for a committed couple.

Lurking beneath this event though, I believe is something more sinister. Namely, this something is an issue of culture, and respect.

There is a cultural problem in this world too. There are people, indeed many thousands of them, who are quite happy to air their lives on The Jeremy Kyle Show. Coupled with that though, there are people whose involvement with a show like this, who would never dream of going on a show like this, either because they would be scared to go on television, or because they have other outlets for resolving this.

But how is this relevant to what Aimee and Charlotte experienced?

Well firstly, their dilemma is exemplified by the scenario. Their sexuality is a private non issue for them, however, anything which is separate to the self (in this case McChicken Sandwich man) and the other (Aimee and Char). Some people just cannot handle the fact, that there are people different to them. Others meanwhile, see it as an advantage, whilst others see it as a threat.

Difference is not bad, difference is good. However, in the case of difference, ergo minorities, it becomes a problem for those who live with it, live inside it, and get down with it on a daily basis like me.

There is a gulf between what is acceptable and unacceptable, when you are different. I know for me, since I have put myself out there on this blog, plus in everyday life too, some of the questions I have been asked make my mind boggle and my curls stand on end.

However, I am choosing to put myself out there, because of personal objectives I have, and goals I want to accomplish. However, Aimee and and Char are doing no such thing.

I do not think that ordering a meal in McDonalds translates as putting yourself out there.

Let me look at the statements the men made. Firstly, proving you have a girlfriend. Wave a magic wand, and magically your girlfriend, avec ghetto bum will appear. But the second one. Prove you love her!

How, by engaging in full on cunnilingus on the table to indulge a heteronormative fantasy which is an epidemic in classic stereotypical male narratives? Oh please! I wonder if the men would be just as turned on by two heterosexuals fucking? I somehow doubt it.

But people have their sense of identity buried within them, and that is where it is comfortable for most people. It should not be revealed to someone at the click of a finger. As I suggested earlier, lesbians do not HAVE to prove anything.

However, constantly being asked to prove anything, whether it be your sexuality, gender identity, or indeed any one of a number of things, can be stressful at best, and humiliating and dehumanising at worst.

Though, let us not be deterred from celebrating ourselves around those who support us. For our identities, each one of them unique and wonderful and we should always celebrate them when we want.

For even sexist voyeurism can never take away our freedom to express, which is buried deep within our soul and self.

But proof is a burden. It was a burden for Aimee and Charlotte. It changed a fairly regular experience into an unpleasant one. What is heartening though is that Aimee and Charlotte are both confident enough in their sense of self not to allow their love to be diminished by idiots. 

I join them in saying fuck you to that man. He crossed a line. That of the heteronormative double standard. It is what makes a lesbian erotica to a straight man, but the idea of sex with a gay man makes him “uncomfortable”.Whilst also he is quite happy to perv at a woman’s boobs. Don’t we have a right to boundaries and things that make us uncomfortable too? Patriarchy is to blame. Pure and X-Rated.

I would never ask someone to prove they are straight, so do not use your straight privilege to ask me or my LGBTGQ friends  about their sexuality, genitals, who they love, and whether they love. If you are straight, proof would be a burden for you too. Just be thankful you do not have to experience it. 

Charlotte left with scarf. Aimee right with orange and pout.