Tag Archives: women

The Only Thing Dave Lee Travis is a victim of is his own egoism

In the days before the Internet and mobile phones, radio was uppermost in the dissemination of pop music and showbiz gossip. In particular, BBC Radio 1 was the Holy Grail and its DJs were like the Simon Cowell’s of their day.

One such DJ was Dave Lee Travis, affectionately dubbed The Hairy Cornflake or ‘DLT.’ Disc jockeys like Travis had real credibility and kudos amongst their fans as Radio One was one of the few places young people could gain access to information and updates concerning their favourite stars. Travis and his colleagues would also make regular TV appearances on the weekly music show Top of the Pops.

It is clear since the actions of Jimmy Savile came to light that there was a culture of “anything goes” at the BBC when the fame, celebrity and notoriety enjoyed by Travis and his colleagues was at its peak. Fame can also result in chutzpah, and a feeling that one is untouchable and irreplaceable.

Yet, it was all these qualities and more which were in evidence as he irascibly preached to the assembled media outside Southwark Crown Court yesterday. In his statement to the waiting media he tried to wheedle and cajole the public into believing that the offence with which he was charged somehow happened due to circumstances beyond his control. He spoke demonstrating no remorse in relation to the offence committed, nor did he show any empathy for the victim. Instead, he painted himself as the victim, the wronged and inconvenienced party who had been crippled by the court case.

This brings us back to much more familiar territory. Familiar, because this is what perpetrators so often do. As a disc jockey, Dave Lee Travis was a master of the use of language. He wanted to convince us that he had done nothing wrong, and avoid taking responsibility. His courting of the media yesterday showed that he is a man unwilling to rescind the grip of celebrity, a man who wants to be in ultimate control. Yesterday represented a show of defiance, and a point-blank refusal to take any responsibility for his own actions, preferring instead to blame the Crown Prosecution Service for wasting money on two trials.

In plentiful evidence here are the hallmarks of most abusers, power and control. In his own small way, David Griffin probably wanted to control the reporting of yesterday’s events. He is a man in denial, at least publicly. He spoke of being mortified. How then must his victims have felt?

At best, he is delusional. At worst he is a cruel and cold-blooded narcissist who painted himself as a victim in all of this. Seeing him on the steps of Southwark Crown Court yesterday outraged me. The cruelest irony is that the statements he made could have been from the victim. When he suggests that it is of little comfort to him that he was acquitted of so many offences, I am in no doubt that it is of little comfort to his victims too. In an ultimate act of hubris he denies that he is a sexual predator. A conviction for indecent assault however makes his denial somewhat incorrect.

The victim spoke in an impact statement of her pain at being called a liar and a fantasist. Dave Lee Travis is a perpetrator. He is absolutely not a victim. Perhaps he is in complete denial about what he has done.

That is what annoyed me about his appearance in front of the cameras yesterday. He refused to acknowledge that he had brought this upon himself. If he had never indecently assaulted his victim, he would never have been in court. People do not receive convictions for criminal offences for no good reason. He wants us to believe that he and his family know the truth. His victim also knows the truth. Combative and remorseless to the last he even shouted in court at the Sunday Times journalist Camilla Long, telling her she was making him uncomfortable. How must your victim have felt then? When you squeezed her breasts for 10 to 15 seconds? I suppose she was highly comfortable and ecstatic? Not.

When they are convicted of a criminal offence most people would leave the courtroom quietly by the nearest exit. Not so Travis – a showman until the end. Perhaps times were not so different when Travis was at the height of his fame on Radio One. Misogyny was rife and victims were disbelieved, but what Travis seemed to resent most of all was being held to account for his actions. His faux bemusement did not fool me however.

What I fail to understand though is why the media allowed this man to showboat in front of the cameras after being convicted of a criminal offence. It is because of such showboating, the ability to talk and manipulate that The Hairy Cornflake thought he was untouchable. Well, not this time. The milk has soured and we know the truth. The actions of the media were disrespectful to victims everywhere. There should not have been a single microphone outside the court room to allow DLT to spread his message. There was no hint of contrition. Unlike radio, it is one incidence where silence would have been better.

The people whose humanity he disregarded will have to live with the trauma his actions he visited upon them for the rest of their lives. Yet, all too often women are told to get over it, don’t get angry, he didn’t mean anything by it. I say don’t get over it, be angry, and to quote him “we know the truth.”

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The Congo Stigmata: A Response to the Cultural Appropriation of Eve Ensler

 

Eve Ensler is a writer whose best-known contribution to the world of literature is The Vagina Monologues. At the time of publication it caused controversy, for its frankness and openness about the vagina. The vagina has an air of mystique about it and it is something we very rarely talk about in public space.

In this book excerpt however Ensler talks about her experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo with raped women. The excerpt though is highly problematic. I will not be drawn into a line by line analysis of the piece because it would be very long and boring for you to read.

However, I will point out the main problem areas and the folly in Ensler’s approach to this issue.

Dealing first with the title, The Congo Stigmata I believe it is highly offensive. Firstly, stigmata have their origins in the Christian faith. Stigmata describe bodily marks or pain sensations in the same locations of the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. The phenomena of stigmata is primarily associated with the Roman Catholic faith and notable figures with stigmata include St Francis of Assisi and the apostle Paul.

However what Eve Ensler does is not only offensive it is inappropriate. She brands the whole Democratic Republic of Congo as suffering from stigma, which affects her vicariously as much as the women of the Congo. She aligns herself with them, as one of them, rather than looking in from the outside and respecting their own trauma. To brand a whole country as having  stigmata is grossly offensive.

The subject matter of the article is of course rape. Whilst there are commonalities of experience amongst rape victims, the individuality of everyone’s experiences must be respected.

Eve Ensler though appropriates the experiences of other victims though, and claims them as her own in a highly narcissistic and selfish way. She had a cancerous tumour inside herself between the vagina and the bowel which had in turn fistulated the rectum.

This meant that for her she had to have the same surgical intervention as many rape victims in the Congo.

By this point in the article though, my alarm bells were ringing. In a macabre way, she almost seems to delight in it, as though she is happy about it, or under some illusion that having the same surgery means they have a strong bond between them.

Cancer though is physiological, rape is not. The point is those Congolese women would not need the surgery had they not been raped, yet Ensler exhibits almost a kind of euphoria about the whole thing. It reminds me of somebody being happy about having their legs amputated so they can adopt the physical appearance of an amputee.

She also seems worryingly obsessed by the possibility of supernatural intervention in what happened to her. Doctors come across all sorts of things in careers, some familiar and some not but I think it is very unwise to frame the fistula in a spiritual context. This leads to it being viewed as some kind of spiritual gift which for the many rape victims who have also been through the pain of fistulas I am sure it is not.

She is so cold and clinical about the symptoms arising from fistulas too. There is no sense of empathy from the writer not even when it comes to the indignity of urine or faeces flowing through the resulting hole. No sense of embarrassment or contrition. Instead, I am left with the impression that the writer is completely indifferent to the trauma suffered by these women, and is instead more interested in the biology of fistulae.

Ensler then  described how she needed to see a fistula. Most of us want to see a famous landmark, or meet an idol, or to see a beautiful sunset. But no Eve Ensler wanted to see a fistula. By this point the article feels highly abnormal and disturbs me as I read. Not only is she being insensitive, and culturally appropriative, but also highly voyeuristic. Doctors of course need to be present in operating theatres as part of medical training, and those who have had surgical procedures can now in the Internet age perhaps look them up on YouTube. But there is no reason for Ensler to see somebody else’s operation. This feels intrusive, wrong and highly unethical. The ethics of it disturb me the most. Did the woman give consent to Ensler watching her operation? Was she aware that Ensler was watching the operation, and intending to recount it in a book?

For us on the sidelines, these are rhetorical questions, but I find them disturbing nonetheless highly so. When I wrote about FGM in a recent blog entry I did so with the utmost sensitivity. If you have your writing chops that is what you do. It is common sense.

But instead Ensler chooses to write about the operation in highly flowery dramatic prose. It is highly appropriate if you are writing a work of fiction and want to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. However it is not appropriate to transform a traumatic operation into dramatic exaggerated prose for your own selfish benefit.

She de-centres the person having the surgery completely, and bearing the hallmarks of a true narcissist, she appropriates the experience that this woman on the operating table has had and makes it all about herself, compelling her readers to shift their focus away from her subject on the operating table and back  on to her. I hope however that most readers worth their salt would be to see through this and feel sympathy for the woman anyway.

Semantically, just look at how many I and me sentences there are, given that is supposed to be an extract about raped women in the Congo. I could feel myself falling, except that what happened to the woman on the operating table was not Ensler’s fall to have. I can appreciate that witnessing the operation may have reawakened personal memories for Ensler. However I think it is wrong and disrespectful to conflate the two together for the sole purpose of literary exaggeration and dramaturgy.

The whole way through this piece I felt like I was reading a novel, rather than a realistic account of rape in the Congo. Eve Ensler is a writer. She is not Congolese. Therefore she should not be appropriating Congolese female experience for her own writerly gain. Yes, she may have had the same surgery due to a horrid diagnosis, and I am sorry for that. But that is where my sympathy for Eve Ensler ends.

I have never read many pieces which are as offensive as this, so appropriative, so disrespectful of the experience of these Congolese women, using their lives as a crude plot device. I hope I never do again. Eve Ensler has certainly not contributed to ending the stigma of rape by writing this.

The Current Debate Around Stealth in the Trans Community is Interesting But….

As a writer the current debate within the trans community around stealth and passing really interests me. The main bones of contention concern the ability and right for people to live in stealth, and whether they should disclose their trans status to any prospective partner. Now this has definitely ruffled a few feathers and we have not arrived at a consensus yet. Perhaps on this issue we never will. But I just wanted to share a bit of my own perspective and why I think the way I do.

When I think of stealth I think of the cast of Cats. I went to see the touring production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical recently. It begins with a gaggle of cats on stage. The stage is dimly lit and strewn with rubbish and various other oddments. The cats are prancing around alert to any noise and try desperately to evade the gaze of humankind, congratulating themselves as they succeed.

Kinetically speaking, the movement of cats is very quick and light. You may catch a glimpse of them for one minute or so and then you will find them gone.

For some life as a trans woman or a trans man is based upon living by similar norms. They don’t disclose their trans status to anybody and live in stealth. The brouhaha around disclosure for stealth trans people has been reignited in recent weeks thanks to legal developments. I won’t cover analysis of those legal developments here as they have been well covered by others. I will post some must reads at the end of this entry though..

But for me I find the notion of stealth quite peculiar. This is in no small part due to my disability. Somebody once remarked to me that many people like me grow up thinking they are public property. Honey stealth isn’t even an option for me. There are times when I would love to hide from the telescope that is society but I can’t.

Being blunt about it I require a lot of physical help to go about my day and require 24-hour care. So any developments in my life are not only known to myself but also to my carer and other involved third parties.

People have seen my body thousands of times and let me tell you, it’s hardly Boudicca. The body is a temple trope goes out the window. It becomes an object for people to do things to. The person is a body, a damaged deformed body. Whilst many do find love happiness and fulfilment, disability does make it harder to love your body, because it would give anything to have one which moved properly, or looked aesthetically pleasing.

Nothing can ever either be done in peace. For me I require assistance to carry out many basic tasks.

My transition itself was also a very public one. I lived in a care home at the time. But the staff team at the care home were trained around issues of sex and gender dysphoria and my name change and timescales were publicly agreed. I could never take ownership of my transition in the same way a person living in stealth could, and indeed does.

It was something to be talked about gossiped about and disseminated amongst as many people as possible. They made the most of the exclusive story. Don’t get me wrong – I knew what I was getting into but that doesn’t make it easier. It just means you have to develop a thicker skin.

Often in trans circles people trade on their bodies and their photographs on social networks to gain validation in their female role. Understandable perhaps in a world that is obsessed over visuals and aesthetic. However deformed body is not the typical representation of sex appeal.

This is not though a ‘woe-is-me’ type reflection. But stealth has never been an option for me. Nor have I had time to worry about passing. Because I am stuck with my body for the rest of my life and I have to make the best of it. I understand why people may want to live in stealth, but for some of us this is not a choice we can ever make

I read a Tweet the other day from someone bemoaning the loss of male privilege, saying they used to be considered handsome. I was always, and still am “sweet” or “cute”. A classic patronising construction of the disabled child. The thing is though such constructions are based on a very narrow sample frame, if you like. As my counsellor once remarked wryly “there are no disabled pin ups are there Hannah?”

She’s right there aren’t. And it would be easy to give up. But I don’t want to. Do you know why? Because other women don’t give up other women stand strong and I must stand strong with them in solidarity. In some ways with transition I feel as though I have nothing to gain from my birth sex identity and nothing to lose either. Disability pretty much ransacked any male privilege I could have had at birth so it is not something I’ve ever known. Perhaps this helps me to approach myself in a blank way allowing myself the reflexivity to just be without any preconceived ideas. I’m not a stereotype and I don’t pander to them. I’m just me. I like the same things as I’ve always liked – my writing, my keyboard and my musicals. I dislike the same things as always disliked. Namely, they are football, ignorance and prejudice.

You can’t be at all stealth like if you have a disability. You can’t hide a bloody thing. When I was going through some particularly intense times and intense counselling sessions back in the care home I cut myself with a razor blade. Something in me just was about to explode and I couldn’t take it any more. Cutting then was a release, and I couldn’t even do that in peace. You can’t be emotional or vulnerable in peace either. Being disabled means you forfeit any of these rights, even though people around you are as respectful of your choices as they can be. But in my case the physical disability means I’m dependent on somebody else.

There are times when this stealth thing sounds quite seductive and appealing. I think the reason why I feel a bit disconnected from the debates around stealth the moment, is because it is something I have never and will never be able to practice in my daily life.

I’m just concentrating on surviving, living life to the full, and being the best me that I know how to be. Such debates to me are beamed from an island of remote privilege which I shall never be able to contemplate visiting. People have always stared ever since I was born.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is a spare space in the Louvre you may as well hang me right there is an exhibit and pay me for my services as the newest painting. Stealth could never happen for me. Just something to think about. Honesty is the alternative. But for me it’s a good thing.

If We Checked and Apologised for Every Privilege the World Would Be a Dull Monolith, But……..

Louise Mensch has caused a stir with this article. She appears to favour the American tendency towards social action as opposed to merely splitting linguistic hairs.

In some aspects I agree with her I believe we do need to actually work out as women what we stand for and what we want to achieve. For without such grounded rational thinking the feminist movement is in danger of implosion and disintegration; two things which I feel no feminist would want.

In some aspects I disagree also.

When I was growing up, before I was old enough to have an electric wheelchair I was pushed around in a manual wheelchair by my mother. I would often hear her having subconscious dialogues with herself from above my head about how lucky other people were when they wouldn’t move out the way in a shop to let the in my wheelchair past, or similarly when they parked in a disabled parking space. As I have grown older I have taken on board these difficulties too. Her problems she had negotiating the vast array of obstacles that somebody in a wheelchair encounters are now my problems also.

But I still think privilege checking is something of a moot point. On my down days yes, I do think that other people are lucky to be able to do all the things that I would want to do, and echoing the words of my mother how lucky they are.

But that does not mean I want them to constantly have to check their privilege and look over their privileged shoulder. This engenders a feeling of guilt in people. It makes them feel guilty for something that is part of circumstance as opposed to a vendetta to single you out.

It is like when people ask the question “why me?” I think a far better question to ask is why not me? What is so special about me that my life should be rose tinted in comparison to other people’s?

Implicit too in the notion of privilege checking is that privilege is something that, as well as being acknowledged and apologised for that it is something that can be changed. That is to say that a person should want to reduce their privilege in order to restore equilibrium to an unbalanced system.

However people cannot help how they were born. I may think at times my able-bodied friends are lucky but I don’t have a chip on my shoulder and spend my life resenting them. That would be counter-productive and only lead to my own needless suffering.

Everyone has some level of privilege. For example even though I am disabled I have speech. For the technological nerds amongst you I am dictating this article using speech recognition software. Yet nobody tells me to check my speech privilege. It is important that we know what our privileges are and be proud of them and own them.

But I am also trans as well as being disabled and lesbian. Therefore I am part of three minority groups. I could regard these as an ocean between me and the rest of society. I could promulgate the misery narrative and the suffering narrative but I don’t. I choose to use my experience to help others and to empower them to live a life of their choosing.

Louise picked up on the word “cis” short for cisgender. The use of this word as some kind of in group special vocabulary ironically seems to anger a lot of the people it describes, for they say they would not use it to describe themselves and resent other people using it when talking about them.

Here too there is the notion of “cis privilege”. Now this even as a trans woman inherently worries me. It worries me because it assumes that because women are not trans, and they have been born women that therefore this is somehow something that should be grateful for. Surely it is obvious that when one transitions into womanhood that they are not transitioning into a privileged position. The female narrative is one of struggle and hardship. Women suffer greatly in society. They suffer discrimination and domestic violence at times at the hands of men.

My mother brought me up on her own single-handedly. The trials and tribulations of being a woman are not easy. Whilst I may feel jubilant and authentic at last I must be sensitive to the fact that being a woman, or indeed being a man is not always an easy ride.

By the same logic just because people are able-bodied and not in a recognisable minority group it does not mean that they do not have problems of their own. Conditions both economically and socially are tough right now, so we should be careful when accusing people of privilege.

Being born cis is definitely  not a privilege. Ask women in developing countries, or in situations where there is war and conflict whether they feel privileged. I think we must be careful at times even though our own circumstances matter greatly to us not to freeze out the narratives and personal experiences of others.

The issues people face go far beyond language as well. It is not only what people say but what is done in society that counts. Which is more ableist? Is it a person using the word walking or a car obstructing a dropped kerb? In other words, which of the two is the greater problem and which needs the most urgent attention?

It is not a trick question I am posing here. It is a question of priorities. Do we want to police everything and control every infraction or do we want to pick our battles wisely and concentrate on the most important issues facing feminism?

This is rather reminiscent of the Twitter storm that my colleague Helen Lewis at the New Statesman became unfortunately embroiled in. She stated that if she used the and in turn phrase “walking out the front door” she would get a Tweet telling her that some people can’t walk and can’t leave their houses and by implication she would be accused of being ableist.

I was incredulous at this. I, Hannah Buchanan, disabled woman have used the phrase walking to describe my kinetic movements all my life. How intersectional is that? I think I deserve at least a round of applause. I am assimilating with the able-bodied population. Heaven forfend, even integrating!

All of this brouhaha sounds alarmingly similar to the brown eyed blue-eyed experiment created by the feminist Jane Elliott. She divided the children in her class up and gave the ones with brown eyes more privileges than the ones with blue eyes and vice versa.

What this was meant to show in essence is how people in minorities feel. It is hard to watch other people doing things you can’t do, going to places you can’t go and having experiences you cannot share. However it is not a question of privilege checking for people cannot help their birth. It is a question of living successfully and beautifully as a minority in a majority world. I do not think that people who can walk and who are not trans are more privileged than I am. They may experience problems of which I am not aware so I shouldn’t judge and manipulate their majority status as a stick to beat them with. I do not want people to have to walk on eggshells in my presence and apologise for their moving legs or for their not being trans. I want them to feel comfortable  and happy around me.

Privilege checking is useless on its own without action to back it up and without dialogue in a non-aggressive manner.

It is not only a question of policing and telling people when they get things wrong but also when they get things right. Language is a fixation and does matter while sticks and stones matter too. Physical obstacles matter as well. It is important that we use the privileges we have in the right way to benefit society as a whole.

But that said, I am an intersectional being and I am proud to be so. My lack of privilege gives me a vast array of insight into issues that more privileged people may lack. So what then is privilege really? It is a subjective phenomenon based on individual experience. I have also had a University education, but that doesn’t negate the issue of not being able to walk.

There have been times when I have heard people complain about small minutiae, and felt aggrieved. But checking privilege and telling people to do so. is meaningless alone.It’s like checking the price of Corn Flakes at the supermarket.

What I want is for privilege checking to be an agent of social and cultural change.That’s when we will know things are changing for the better.

For Louise Mensch, privilege is something to be proud of. It is how you use it that matters.

Why Intersectionality Needs To Be For All

Intersectionality is a curious concept really. For those who are unfamiliar with it, trying to grasp it must be akin to a trip to France with a twist. The twist being of course that you can’t speak French. Picture it now. You’re there, in the majestic shadow of the Eiffel tower, clutching your phrasebook dutifully. You then exclaim in tentative pidgin French, “Ou est le toilette?”

We’ve all been there. And, so it would seem, many of us still are regarding the concept of intersectionality.

Before I began writing today, I took a quick straw poll of a few friends, with simply the question, ‘Do you know what intersectionality means?’’

I withheld from them the reason why I was asking, and refrained from giving assistance or clues.

The response from all was essentially no. The funniest response was “I dunno, Google it” which I have to say, made me giggle considering what I am doing now.

Now either I have very stupid friends, which would be a wildly inaccurate presumption. Or, the other possibility is that we are still at ground zero in our collective awareness of what intersectionality is, and what it does for society as a whole.

At this point in time, I would err towards the latter.

Intersectionality is:

“The study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination”

So for us in minority communities it provides a useful backstop and talking point. For example, to reference my own circumstances, if I am lesbian, trans, and disabled how does all of that fit together to create and illuminate the tapestry and intricacy of my life?

For me, I had no choice. From birth, I was born an intersectional being. My birth took place weeks early plus an incubator. As is obvious, I survived. Indeed, most intersectional beings are born that way. Black, disabled or gay all strands of life are represented in the veritable chocolate box that is intersectionality.

Now, I am also trans, love women dearly, and am privileged to be counted as a lesbian in my social and personal life.

This didn’t just happen. I caught on to the politics of the gay scene quickly. It was an environment I had wanted to be part of for some time, straight clubs just didn’t give me that zesty zing I was looking for. 

I was honest with everyone; they know about my trans background and are cool with it. Honesty brings dividends when cultivating intersectional relationships.

For Sarah Ditum, intersectionality is an ice pick. She says;

But this makes intersectionality a sort of test that the reader must pass, rather than a tool the writer is using to describe and shape the world. Your willingness to familiarise yourself with an obscure vocabulary becomes a measure of your political soundness. And that, I think, is where intersectionality (the word) betrays intersectionality (the concept).”

I agree with this assertion, in particular the part which I have emboldened.

The idea of intersectionality is in practice a fabulous one. It means that we can be more aware of each other’s intersections, and how they interlink and overlap.

Yet it is my concern, even now, that the usefulness of the concept is being diluted. Intersectionality currently is much like buying a luxury item at the supermarket, or being bequeathed a special Access All Areas pass. It is in danger of ignoring the people it was designed to help. Its usefulness to them is questionable. At the moment it is by no means a panacea.

Rhiannon Lucy Coslett and Holly Baxter echo this view. Writing in the New Statesman they say;

It almost seems as though some educated women want to keep feminism for themselves, cloak it in esoteric theory and hide it under their mattresses, safe and warm beneath the duck down duvet”

And moreover:

[“Some] have been bandying about the oft-quoted phrase “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” We would suggest that anyone with an interest in genuine equality for all adapt that phrase to “my feminism will be comprehensible or it will be bullshit.”

I find myself concurring again.

It has become something of fashion recently in the age of social media for people to “call people out” or pile on to them for the most minor breaches of intersectionality, even in some scenarios where no breach has occurred.

It tends to be vocal people who do such, and regrettably, the opinions of the actual minority with a stake in the issue are drowned out by a loud, baying, well meaning, but unthinking symphony.

Then, the domino effect takes place, whereby the next member of the symphony orchestra steps up to the plate to have a pop. And still the voices of those with a stake in the issue are silenced by so well meaning intersectional “theorists” on Twitter.

My problem with intersectionality is twofold. Firstly, it is as yet little understood. We need to do much more in that regard to bring it out of the lecture theatre and into life .My second problem is the fact that the theory is borne out of disenfranchisement alone. Everybody even though they are part of a minority group, or more than one, will have massively different autobiographies and life experiences too. Surely the objective ought to be to become enfranchised too?

Yes, there are times when collective, intersectional action is important.  But we must ensure that we do not allow our precious, personal identities to become absorbed into groupthink.

We do so at our peril.

If we acknowledge that not everyone is going to be an expert on intersectionality from the word go, and might make mistakes we are making progress. Or, if we could acknowledge that somebody could hold an opinion you disagree with, without a thousand strong Twitter mob piling on them, that would be yet further progress, and a progress orgasm if you realised they were just as intersectional as you.

Or, the alternative is, we could be like that tourist, lost in France, still looking for the elusive toilet.

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.