I posted an article and depiction of an art installation on Facebook, featuring the plaster-casts of 160 vaginas (the article is a miscount), taken from all types of women from young to old, cisgender- and transgender-identifying, adorned and unadorned etc, with the intention of sharing the myriad variety of vaginas that are in existence. The article, and my reason for posting, was to confront the rising number of women who are seeking plastic surgery to remodel these most tender and intimate of body parts.
There is a great difference between having cosmetic surgery in order to conform to a socialised ideal of beauty and seeking corrective surgery for either transitioning or ridding oneself of discomfort or pain or lack of sexual feeling caused by an extended labia or clitoris/clitoral hood, for example. I am talking solely about surgery which is intended to alter the look of one’s vaginal area and not to address a medical issue.
My post sparked a discussion partly based on a fundamental misunderstanding of my position as detailed above. One participant linked to a documentary on the topic, for which I thank them and which can be viewed here, which contains the earlier-mentioned art installation explained by the artist (NSFW – graphic imagery including surgery).
Vaginas change throughout one’s life, that is normal. It is not discussed and most women have no idea what their own vagina looks like, let alone that of their friends. As the video states, a vagina varies in labia length from 2 to 10 centimetres, and that variation can occur for just one woman as they grow older. There is no ‘normal’ look. It is not a discussion for sex education, but perhaps body image and issues should be discussed in schools and within families, to address this fear of ‘abnormality’ which bears no relation to reality.
The salient point, for me, is the reason why women and girls as young as 16 are having cosmetic surgery on their genitals and consequentially how much of a free choice the decision to beautify oneself is. We live in a culture where women are valued for their looks and are objectified at every turn. Females in the public eye will find their clothing, hair, make-up, choice of whether to retain body hair (remember the Julia Roberts has unshaved armpits ‘news’ story?) up for intimate discussion. Their body of work is eclipsed by discussion about their body. Studies into the pornification of culture and the correlation between this and increasing pressure to conform to an idealised image of intimate body parts is being conducted. Such pornification results in there being no part of a woman’s body that is not up for analysis, comparison and rating within a westernised, heteronormative, white-privileged ideal.
Transgender women, who already have to conform to a patriarchal concept of ‘female’ gender in order to seek medical assistance in transitioning, risk transphobic ridicule by prejudiced members of society if they do not conform, but the conformation is to a stereotype. Thankfully the medical profession is slowly changing in this but society is slower to catch up. Vaginas vary as much as individuals do, whether cisgender- or transgender-identifying.
Lads mags and glossies promote a particular ideal, and nudity within raunch culture means all parts of women are critiqued. Pressure is increasing to conform. Women are pressurised within relationships to ‘beautify’ and I know of more than one woman who has told of being dumped because of an ugly vagina. Excuse or not for ending a relationship, this is very psychologically damaging. Vaginas change shape and elasticity as women age, especially if they have had children. Growing another human (or more than one) and then pushing it out through a tunnel that in my head it really shouldn‘t fit through (I am and shall always remain child-free) is incredible and should be celebrated. No mother should ever feel ugly or deformed as a result of birthing a child.
Cosmetic surgery will not address the psychological issues which exist. I spent years wanting rhinoplasty because I felt witch-like and ugly; I still do sometimes but now recognise the peer and social pressure I am under and have reached a point where I can understand we all find different things attractive (a different concept to ‘beauty’) and that I am loved and lovable. I am seen as beautiful by those that matter to me. That beauty is subjective, unique to me, and is far more than skin deep. I don’t always feel that acceptance of myself, I am just as subject to society’s pressures as anyone else, and I know that not everyone will be able to reach that level of acceptance.
To put yourself through such intimate surgery with all the risks that any surgical operation will entail makes me question how much of a free choice it is for a woman to make, given the society we live in. I will support the choice as I do believe it is a woman’s right to do what she chooses with her body. But that does not mean I will not question why such a choice is being made, within the context of our patriarchal society. Sharing the image of the 160 vaginas in the artwork with all the people you know would, I believe, be a good start in addressing this.
A story for Robin Stevenson
“a person who loves books; a bookworm; a parasite that consumes books’ physical contents”
I am sated; full, brimming with the language of love, lust, anger, fear, murder and mayhem.
Each tasty morsel has consumed me as I have consumed it. Hours, days pass and I see and feel nothing but that of the printed page. Hunger for the word has hidden the world from me, and me from the world. I can now leave my place, my secret place, my place of wonder and wishing, for a while.
Words surround me, filling my consciousness with the sweet honey nectar of learning, understanding, perceiving. I experience so many lives, so many journeys, through the pulped trees which give their lives for my joy. Not just in the pages of other worlds, but in the everyday mundanity of the street sign, the advertising hoarding, the menu and the email.
Joy when social media erupted across my face, direct intravenous bloating of my brain with words immediately accessible and constantly updated. I no longer fear the moment my feeble body is unable to carry the weight of a new tome; I can carry a library in my pocket on a lightweight e-reader.
I am a word slut (positive word, I reclaim it), a collector of definition and syllable. I have favourites, many favourites, always changing and constantly updating, but am loyal to the most dedicated of those whose sounds and meanings are seared into my mind.
Serendipity – starting gently, rising up with hope and happiness and ending with a hop, skip and a jump; joyous and inviting.
Susurrus – smooth, snakelike, sliding around the tongue as a lover invited to give and take, whispering and curving around my mouth and into my brain.
Onomatopoeia – says what it means and means what it says and says what it does and does what it says and circles around and around in a glorious whirl of definition; it makes me giddy.
More words, sentences, structures, intricate and telling, simple and complicated, hanging like overripe fruit ready to fall into my gaping maw.
I leave my home. I walk the streets, going where I need to go and devouring the gifts my world shows me. “One Way Street” – words are the only way; “Menu” – food for the eyes and stomach, “Entrance” and “Exit” – promises of places unexplored and new doors to walk, run, throw myself through. The signs in supermarkets engage my eyes and lead me to unseasoned pleasures. I am tempted, and temptation leads me on. An onanistic orgy of exploration within soft and hard covers awaits me and I am impatient.
I return to my womb, my home, my library. Walls lined and decorated with the pornography of my desire. Pages softly turned, caressed and stroked by my lovers hand. I curl up. I am surrounded by all I need and I will take it slowly and quickly, as my desire is formed. The lines of fonts and handwritten script, letters and books and all that exists, created for me and by me as I take it all in. I will feast, I will gorge, I will devour. I will be made fat by the written word and I will be sated again and again. I am the Bibliophage.
(pause to groan at the frankly awful punning title)
I have written about the Timebank scheme before, when I first took part. You can see that blog here.
This month, I am doing two events:
23rd November 2013 – 1 pm - 5pm, Lee Green Community Group, 3 Leegate SE12 8SS
30th November 2013 – 12.30 pm – 4.30 pm, Sydenham Community Library, 210 Sydenham Road SE26 5SE
This is such a wonderful scheme to be involved in. At first, I thought my skills were not what would have been needed or wanted at such events. I write Wills, as my profession (in part, I also freelance content write and legal secretary for filthy lucre, and write poems and prose for fun) and did not see how anyone could possibly want such skills utilised in what is usually deemed leisure hours. Being a Will writer, I naturally see such documents as incredibly important. Also, I have real personal pleasure and a feeling of achievement from helping to ensure people are secure and feel happy that they have made provision for their loved ones at what will be a time of intense personal grief. I could not see how that skill would be useful at a Timebank.
I was so wrong, and gladly so. Not everyone can afford to have professional Wills drawn up, and although you can obtain basic forms from stationers across the nation, they do not provide you with the rules you must follow and language that will ensure your bequests and desires are met exactly as you would wish them to be.
It’s so easy to make a fundamental error, from not having the signing of your Will validly witnessed or leaving out wording which takes your bequest from cast-iron to possibly intestate (usually if a person has died before you, or if you have left a bequest to a ‘class’ of people such as grandchildren without specifying a deadline as to when grandchildren have to be born or have passed away by). This can tie up estates for many years.
Sometimes things can affect your estate without you realising. Say you aren’t married to or in a civil partnership with your partner, but have children. If you do not leave a life interest in the home you share with your partner to your partner, they have no right to live there (unless you jointly own the property). Further, if you are not married or civilly partnered, then your partner has no right to any of your estate at all (unless jointly owned). I have dealt with Probate of such estates and the pain this can cause is tremendous.
The best thing about the Timebank for me is not the skills I share, though. It is being a part of a community in which time is given freely, to help those around you. I too benefit; I cannot sew and there are always people there with their sewing machines ready to sew, mend, fix and teach others how to do so. Bike repairs are taught and made, music is shared, computer skills and basic IT help is given – in fact anything that is not a skilled profession (Timebank is strict not to impinge on paid employment) is possible.
It is not simply an event held once a month either. People earn ‘hour’ tokens, which I usually donate. People can register with the Timebank, and thus elderly and mobility-impaired people can donate their skills from their home in exchange for help with household tasks they might not otherwise be able to manage (again, not taken the place of trained Carers) such as a simple lightbulb change, or simply spending time with someone.
People sometimes need permission in some way to help others out, for fear of infringing on their personal space or making assumptions about needs, or simple embarrassment. I know I have felt this way. Timebank allows you to do that.
Whilst people do donate skills they would also charge for, Timebank is very careful not to impinge on the waged sphere. If waged skills are donated, they can be exchanged for similar waged skills and this can help new businesses and community groups get off the ground.
I am grateful to have the opportunity Timebank gives me. I didn’t think I had skills, but now I know everyone has something they can do. If you are interested, the Rushey Green-based website is here and the national UK site can be found here.
Today we residents of the South East London Borough of Lewisham are celebrating. After a hard-fought battle, taken all the way to the Court of Appeal, the Jeremy Hunt-led government fight to shut down Lewisham Hospital’s Accident & Emergency department (leaving skeleton services only) and to drastically scale back maternity services has lost. Lewisham residents have won and we shall keep our hospital services so desperately needed by an ever-growing borough in ever-increasing poverty.
First, some background:
2012 – the decision is made by the Department of Health to downgrade Lewisham Hospital services. The campaigns against this decision start almost immediately.
2012-2013 – marches, protests outside BBC Question Time (filmed at Goldsmith’s College, New Cross, in December 2012), fund-raising activities, petitions and myriad other activities show the many thousands who support the campaign to Lewisham Hospital.
July 2013 - Save Lewisham Hospital Group and Lewisham Council, represented by Rosa Curling, take Jeremy Hunt and the government to court. Mr Justice Silber stated the government acted unlawfully and outside their remit under the National Health Services Act 2006. The government launches an appeal.
29th October 2013 – Lord Dyson (the Master of the Rolls) presiding with Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice Underhill, rejected an appeal brought by the Government and upheld the decision.
So how did the losing side react? Quoted in a variety of media sources, Mr Hunt and his department are “‘now looking at the law’ to ensure changes can be driven through in future ‘when local doctors believe it is in the interests of patients’.”
The Gagging Law is important to the Government, as without such groups as 38 Degrees, Save Lewisham Hospital and individuals donating funds to challenge government decisions, in this case over £20,000 was required, the attempt to circumvent due process would have succeeded and Lewisham would have been downgraded. Lives would have been lost. The Gagging Law will prevent such challenges being possible within a year of elections – the implications of this are clear.
Mr Hunt’s comment implies a consultation with the GPs and Hospital Specialist in the area being affected before forcing change, but this was not the case with regard to Lewisham Hospital. No Lewisham GP or Lewisham Hospital staff member had been consulted about the decision because it was concerning a neighbouring Trust. The decision was made because the failing South London Healthcare Trust was losing £1million a week. Lewisham Hospital is not part of, nor has it ever been financially linked to, the SLHT. Lewisham Hospital is a successful hospital under government own guidelines. It has received much investment and is a flagship hospital now.
This was the government robbing a newly-successful Peter serving a vulnerable and poor population to pay Paul’s PFI-created debts, which would only end up in both in debt and ripe for privatisation.
The correct response would be for the government to accept defeat and to abide by the rules, guidelines and laws they themselves set up. This was the first decision of the Unsustainable Providers Regime created by this government to deal with failing (i.e. underperforming/not profitable) NHS Trusts. This legal decision, backed at appeal, states the government acted unlawfully.
For the government through Hunt to now suggest a change in the law is required is nothing short of dictatorial tyranny. Time for a change of government. Time for a revolution in political thought and process.
Time for the government to go.
(congratulations to all at Save Lewisham Hospital)
We don’t live in a democracy, and I find it hard to understand how anyone can think we do. Democracy is taken to mean ‘one person/one vote’ as a fundamental principle. Just to be sure we are on the same page with this, from the Concise English Dictionary (1994, Wordsworth Editions Ltd):
“Democracy: n a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them; the common people; a state of society characterised by recognition of equality of rights and privileges; political, social or legal equality.”
We are told democracy is a proud inheritance from the Ancient Greek society which first developed the political principle as a revolutionary form of governance in opposition to the oligarchical system which had become so corrupt and oppressive it could no longer continue.
Well, that sounds quite familiar to me right now. I do not believe we have, or have ever had, a democracy. Even the Ancient Greeks didn’t – women and slaves were disenfranchised. Democracy in action has never borne any resemblance to democracy as defined in theory. To define and teach democracy to our children, as we and our parents and our parents parents were taught, is to instill in them the first lie upon which all inequality, privilege and prejudice is built.
We need to stop believing this lie; many people have already stopped but many still believe that the political system we have can work, it just needs the right people in it. I myself used to believe this to be the case. However, in recent political times, where so many people are suffering, and so many are blaming others who are suffering instead of those who make the decisions which have caused the suffering, and when political parties change but do nothing but blame the previous government and fear-monger in readiness for the next general election, it has become so very clear that the system is broken. It cannot be repaired. It cannot be bodged together. It cannot be plastered or painted over. All that will do is maintain the privileged few and continue killing the ever-growing underclass.
The chasm between rich and poor is growing ever larger. Different forms of discrimination; racism, sexism, transphobia, disablism, ageism, classism, caste discrimination, homophobia, all contribute to the division of people and the perpetuation of the privileged few. That is fundamentally oppositional to a true democracy.
We do need a form of central administration and taxation to survive as a society. We do not need a system which prioritises corporate rights and economic privileges over those of the individuals and communities who earn and spend the money and whose labour creates the items or services the industries which enrich the few.
Bankers are not owners of the money they invest, we lend it to them. They take risks with our money to try and make more money in the esoteric world in which money only exists in a computer algorithm. It is not real, but our lives revolve around it. They have become the financiers of government, and our governments have become beholden to them. This is the very antithesis of a democracy.
We are given the option to vote for parties, not policies. These parties only develop short-term policies as that is the way our political system is set up – with an eye to the next election in 4 or 5 years. But we live in the long-term, our planet evolves over decades, centuries, millennia, and we need to plan for the future of our grandchildren, not us. The money we pay into the system with our National Insurance isn’t for us. It’s for those drawing down now. We hope that our children and grandchildren will be paying in for us, and we had better damn well hope they have a decent enough future to be able to do that. Based on what I see happening now, I don’t believe that they do.
We need a revolution. We need a revolution in thought, in ideal, in system, in education and in empowerment. Apathy is a natural result of the constant grinding disenfranchisement we feel. As with compassion fatigue, political fatigue is inevitable as we have been promised many things from all parties and are left with three main groups all of whom seem to be the same. They even went to the same schools and are cut from the same cloth; what real difference in choice could that produce? Centralism merely means a drift to the right, the economic, the corporate and the privileged from what I can see.
Democracy could work. But I don’t see how it can work if we still only have limited choices of parties to opt between. Democracy at the very least would need:
- All voters to have exactly the same number and type of candidates i.e. political parties/independents.
- All voters to have exactly the same policies to vote on.
- Each vote counts for exactly one vote; this has not happened in many years. For example, my vote in the last election counted for 0.19 of the average vote of ’1′. This is because I live in a heavily-built up inner city area, and as a result my MP represents more individuals than MPs in less populated, often wealthier areas. EDIT: this number has proved confusing to some readers. To clarify – if each person in a democracy has one vote, that means their vote has to have the same strength and meaning as every other person voting. The way electoral boundaries are drawn, some areas have far more residents in them than others, yet only have one representative. It is the amount of people an MP is representing from which this figure is drawn. I hope that helps. END EDIT.
- No system to have inherent heirarchical discrimination which would affect the voter’s ability to use their vote, and to use it effectively.
- No system to have discriminations within them which support inequalities – if voters aren’t equal in society, they are not democratic societies.
I don’t believe in political parties. I believe in policies, and in long-term planning, and in developing a system in which our planet can continue to sustain us all. I believe in global cooperation. I believe in equality; local, national, international, global. I believe we need a revolution. I don’t believe that anything else is possible. In order for change, effective change, to happen, revolution is the only path I can see.
I most certainly do not believe it will be easy. I’m not even sure I will see it in my lifetime. But I hope for the sake of my children, and my children’s children, and my friends and family and for acquaintances, strangers and everyone, that it will happen.
I am assuming the call for a blanket legal ban on the wearing of a burqa would also mean a ban on the niqab, as the burqa and niqab are the particular styles of Islamic female dress which cover, either partially or entirely, the face.
For clarification, here is an image showing different forms of Islamic female dress:
I’ll state my belief right out up front. I do not believe that banning the burqa would be anything but a retrograde oppressive step, and further that any ban is ethically, morally and legally unjustifiable. I have engaged in much debate over the last weeks of discussion of this proposal, which I do not believe will actually be enacted despite Nick Clegg’s fairly toothless promotion of the same in what in my opinion was a desperate attempt to regain credibility.
One constant refrain by those who don’t wear the burqa/niqab (by choice or by not belonging to the culture in which it is worn) is that it is symbolic of the oppressive lack of freedom and choice women in that particular branch of Islam are subject to. To a certain extent that may be true; some women may be unable to choose to adopt that form of dress. That is not the fault of the clothing. That is to be laid at the feet of the people who are enforcing the rule that the woman must wear that item of clothing. You know what? The burqa/niqab is not compulsory under Islam nor is it defined as such in the Qur’an. It is as much subject to personal ideology as any other form of religious iconography or dress one wears to express ones faith and, in this particular case, modesty before the eyes of Allah.
A ban on the burqa/niqab would not save those women who are being forced to wear it i.e. those suffering in an abusive situation. A ban has been testimonially stated to actually worsen the situation for women; they are kept in the home, out of circulation, and abuse has increased (according to testimony from France, collated by Islamic feminists). Fundamentally nothing has actually changed as a result of the ban other than to further oppress the women who cannot access aid to escape such situations if they would wish to and who were already not making a free choice to wear the clothing.
If the women are being isolated due to the ban, to whom are they to report their abuse? There is far more to domestic violence than that. The ban has isolated the women further than the emotional/physical and/or sexual violence already does. Being unable to leave the home just means it is impossible for them to seek help or to be recognised by the in-community help organisations as possibly needing help.
All that is quite apart from the fact that many Islamic women do choose to wear the burqa or niqab as a representation of their faith and modesty before Allah. That choice is made free from any other oppression apart from that of the religion they believe in. I have problems with all forms of organised religion but that is a different argument and pertinent to the belief systems that I believe need changing and updating. It has nothing to do with the freedom to wear whatever item of clothing one chooses.
To force women to dress one way or the other is oppression; it’s the attitude and belief system that needs adjusting. Banning such clothing removes choice just as much as enforcing it does.
I have also become aware of reports that the wearing of the burqa and niqab is on the rise in the UK. I have yet to see any statistical evidence of this but either way it is irrelevant. What I do know from my reading and conversation with Islamic feminists and non-feminist Islamic people is that the wearing of burqas/niqabs or any other form of Islamic female attire is a complicated topic which creates much debate with the various and myriad interpretations of Islamic faith both within the UK and worldwide (specific to countries, areas in countries, regions of the planet etc). Incidentally, under some forms of Islamic expression men are also supposed to wear modest non-sexualised baggy full covering clothing including covering their head, although not particularly their faces.
Banning an item of clothing that a woman wears does nothing to stop the idea that men are not supposed to take responsibility for their sexual urges; the evidence with regard to sexual offences in this country bears that out. The banning is simply policing the women and dictating and perpetuating the idea that a form of clothing is responsible for attitudes towards the gender. A ban is as bad as an enforcement; it is simply the opposite extreme. A burqa does not legitimise, excuse or apologise for rape any more than a short skirt asks for it. Should we then ban short skirts? Women are raped even when they are wearing burqa or niqabs.
I am not saying don’t ban the burqa or niqab because women are being abused; that is reductive of my argument. I am saying clothing is not responsible for societies attitudes and banning any item of clothing is simply reinforcing that women’s bodies are not their own and should be policed in some way. Many Islamic women choose to wear the burqa or niqab for their own reasons. Some do not. A ban will do nothing other than remove agency from Islamic women.
I would agree that in order to prove one’s identity such as with passports at Airports or in Court cases where one is on trial, one should remove face coverings of all kinds when required. There are already practices and rules in place for this. I have also seen arguments that patients should be able to see the faces of their caregivers, and pupils the faces of their teachers. Are we not teaching intolerance to our children if we tell them that some women who are members of a particular religion have no right to wear what they choose? What harm does it do to be unable to see the face of one’s teacher, if the body language, the tone, the care and the actual teaching are all of good quality? Where are the reports of actual children being unhappy at being taught by a woman wearing a niqab or burqa? With regard to medical staff, I can understand the apprehension at such a heightened time that you might wish to see the face of the person diagnosing and treating you. If you does not trust your medical caregiver then you should be allowed to opt for another member of staff. That is the choice of the patient, and trust is vital in the relationship between patient and medical practitioner. In all cases though, an assumption is being made about the efficacy of the person wearing the burqa/niqab without any actual evidence pertaining to the same. Case by case may be understandable in this, but not a blanket legislative ban. The decision is based upon the patient’s fear and is fundamentally based in a mistrust borne from personal intolerance, however that intolerance is created.
EDIT: A friend commented on my FB post of this blog “completely separate to the communication issues which are drummed into us during training, there are safety requirement issues to do with staff dress. Veils etc are at risk of hanging into things and passing infections between patients, same as hair which has to be tied back. Also with regard to dress, staff should be able to wash all of their hands including their wrists which is impossible with full length sleeves and also with cloth wristbands worn ceremonially by some other religions.” I agree – any item of apparel that causes hygiene hazards should not be worn. That is not limited to the burqa/niqab, and should be policy in the NHS and in private medical facilities. That does not support a blanket ban on the burqa/niqab, and from what I know medical facilities already have policies in place to deal with these matters. END EDIT
Ultimately, I do worry about the policing of clothing. It tends to involve the policing of women; legally and socially. Men tend to be policed in our society by social attitudes, and I do think women have more choice of clothing. However, women’s clothing is objectified and policed with regard to how it is perceived sexually, men do not have such pressures). For many Islamic women in this country, the burqa/niqab actually allows them more freedom in that they are not constantly the subject of the male gaze and can move more freely, made invisible to a certain extent. Of course, that is as much a reaction to the policing of female bodies and the clothing they wear as anything else.
This is why I think a ban of the burqa/niqab is simply policing women’s clothing and does nothing to address the underlying attitudes, beliefs and oppressive systems to which women are subject. The attitudes need to change, or we are simply shifting focus in the same patriarchal view.
In the United Kingdom, we have a culture of freedom of religious expression, freedom of choice of clothing. Legally we are allowed to wear what we choose (to a given value of patriarchy, prejudice etc.). I have heard and read the argument that women should respect our culture and not cover their faces. That is a fallacious argument; our culture is one which allows the burqa/niqab. Further, if one feels fearful or mistrustful of women in burqas or niqabs, then I believe that person should question WHY they feel that way. Oppressing another person based on unsubstantiated feelings you have towards arbitrary factors that person may exhibit through clothing, colour, disability, gender and so on is unacceptable; it is creating and perpetuating discrimination. Banning the burqa/niqab on this basis is to use the same reasoning that allows victim-blaming in sexual assault and rape: i.e. the clothes the victim/survivor wore made the rapist/assaulter feel that way.
You are in control of how you feel and react, not the person who is wearing whatever item of clothing that is inspiring that fear/anger/sense of intimidation etc in you. Don’t blame the object of your fear for creating that fear, blame the society that teaches you to think that way and moreover, change the way you think and react. Question why you feel that way. That is the only way we can overcome the prejudices we are all brought up to believe in, myself included.
I’m leaving the last words to the women who actually wear the burqa or niqab, click here to read what a few have to say.
When I first started this blog (at this current address), I vowed that I was going to write for entertainment and edification only. It wasn't going to be a confessional blog. It wasn't going to be personal except in a Thurberian way, as I shared amusing anecdotes about me and mine that wouldn't ultimately make them hate me for sharing things that probably shouldn't be shared.
Two different men have been unmasked as the bloggers behind two separate lesbian feminist-identified blogs. This has caused outrage, from what I have read in brief, but I am neither familiar with the specific blogs nor the content of the same, so am unsure what exactly they wrote. However, from the outraged reactions, I can safely infer that it is the falsehood of their identity which has caused the pain to those readers, who before the unmasking had assumed the identity of the bloggers was as the blog gave – that of women who identify as lesbian feminists – and that the blog posts did nothing to cause the reader to question the identities of the bloggers as given.
I understand the anger of the readers – the labels ‘lesbian’ and ‘feminist’ cause many to be discriminated against and/or misinterpreted, misquoted and misunderstood, and to learn that two blogs which have been a source of support and understanding for many have in fact been written by members of the oppressive sector of society (white heterosexual men), whether these men were writing supportively or not, is a wound. The voices of lesbians and feminists are so frequently silenced, when two of the voices which had been heard turn out to be lies it is a wound which cuts deeply.
But what exactly is it that people outraged about? Does the message as perceived by the reader alter because the identity of the writer is not that which the reader believed to be true? Certainly, any factual biographical information used within those blog posts can now be refuted – a male heterosexual cannot give life experience facts as a female homosexual for obvious reasons. But any other forms of facts remain the same; statistical information, researched testimonials, all remain as factually irrefutable as before the identity of the bloggers was discovered to be false. Facts given in blogs, especially if not source-cited and seemingly independently verifiable, should always be taken with a pinch of salt.
If there are facts detailed in a blog, then they should be verified if possible. Libraries (vital to any society to enable all members to self-educate and self-inform in an independently verifiable manner in an egalitarian way – but that’s a different blog post), alternative websites such as news sites or encyclopaedias (even Wikipedia needs its facts checked), etymology sites and so on, all can be utilised to verify the truth of the data given as facts. The life-experiences can only be verified insofar as the reader perceives the experience to be truthful to their own experiences. The internet is a source of information, not the source.
You are reading my blog. Unless you know me personally in real life, then there is no way which you can verify the personal information I have given in my ‘Who Am I’ biography. I can assure you it is all true, but again you can only take my word for it. My written word, as given in this blog. How very Catch-22!
In a blog, it is the message which is written which is all the reader can perceive. So it is how it is perceived, the resonance with which it chimes and the truth it speaks to the reader, which is important. Did the message of the bloggers confessing their lies change as a result of the reveal? The people who were outraged would seem to say it did. But the words don’t change, only the truth of the people writing those words. The perception originally gleaned from the articles when first read by the readers doesn’t change. The bloggers were not ‘caught out’ in their lies, they confessed the real identities behind their blogs. So the perceptions of the readers were as if those messages were written by lesbian feminists, and were believed to be true.
Blogs are read for many reasons. Fiction, poetry, life-experience, political and/or social ‘truths’ (to a given value of personally-experienced and blogger-understood truth), all reasons for reading particular blogs. But the only truth that can really be taken from a blog is that which the reader perceives. Even if the blogger (such as myself, I again attempt to ensure you) is telling the truth about how they personally identify themselves, it is the reader’s perception which informs the reader. Misunderstanding abounds; cultural and life-experience mean even individual words let alone entire passages are comprehended in a variety of ways which make blog posts mean different things to different people.
Ultimately, in a blog, it is the perception of the words which matters. It is the message, not the messenger, which is strong. It is how the reader perceives the written word, not the writer who writes it, which gives strength and the understanding to a post. Message, not messenger, is the word.