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MATCHFEST 2014

WARNING: Nothing to do with Foot-the-Ball

There can’t be many feminist celebratory festivals where massive, colourful and garish hats are not only pertinent, but are almost obligatory.  Welcome to Matchwomen’s Festival 2014, where you can make and wear your own thanks to the onsite official event Milliner!  Entirely gender non-specific and wonderful to see, as adult and child alike wandered around in their really rather impressive creations.  The Match Women defied the rigid Victorian gender and class stereotypes and refused to be submissive, and this meant in sartorial presentation, as well as personality, strength, wit, decorum, and alcohol consumption.  This did not endear them to those in power or to anyone above them in status (which was pretty much everybody), as you can imagine.  And so, the tone was set for the day.  Although not with regard to alcohol consumption, and I’m fairly sure there were no actual fist-fights at this festival.

This was me for most of the day:

Cheery all day.  Promise.

I am the face you see on entering. You lucky people!

I had what I consider to be the best job of the day, greeting attendees as they arrived, ticking their names of my list, taking money from those who hadn’t paid the exorbitant fee of £4 (double what you would have paid if you pre-booked, free for children), and generally having a right old laugh.  Attendees came from all over the place, including two from Turkey who had found out about the event through the International Feminist Network.  I even got recognised by one of the speakers, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, although neither of us could l work out why she knew my name…  I am going to assume it is because of my fabulousness.

The talks were through the doors right opposite me, and organiser Louise Raw (author of Striking A Light! The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in History- yes I own it and yes OF COURSE I got her to sign it!) made sure I attended at least half.  I do love me a good socialise with like-minded folk, so being on the door and talking 20 to the dozen to everyone was fine by me.  She is now aware that this will be an annual event and I will be on the door for each one.  She may be unaware that she has no choice in the matter, though.

After briefly helping set up (I stuck bits of paper to a board with pins, put some leaflets on tables and mooched a bit) people began arriving and my job of “not scaring people away and not talking TOO much” began.  I could hear the words of the song especially written for the Festival by Tina McEvitt through the door, and the tone was set.  Fun, knowledge, discussion, debate and global enlightenment was the order of the day!

There were three people on what I like to call the ‘menu of delights’ that made me internally squee with pleasure, for I had heard of them and followed two of them on twitter (which would later lead to a pants-squirmingly embarrassing incident, in my eyes anyway).  Kate Hardie (former actor, now writer and director), Caroline Criado-Perez (activist and writer, led the successful campaign to have non-royal women featured on British bank notes) and Laurie Penny (author, journalist, activist).  Those were my definites, but the smorgasboard of choice proved hard to narrow down, so I ended up flitting hither and thither, relieved by Phil Prestianni at regular intervals (oi, dirty people, he was was co-doorstewarding with me).

I had intended to interview Diana Johnson MP for an article for Jump! Magazine, but it was not to be as she was door-stopped by the BBC as she came in.  Apparently her day job had something happening; well she is Shadow Minister for Crime & Security and I do believe a famous person had been jailed the day before for getting a bit handy with underage girls.  I did manage to catch her talk on the legacy of the Match Women and her role in winning the parliamentary debate to recognise this.  The Match Women inspired Union action from 1888, including the Dockworker’s strike of the following year, which history tends to ignore.  What a shock eh?  The Dockworkers at the time acknowledged it, but now you have to fight to get the recognition they deserve!

A hero of our times - Eam Rin

Eam Rin, Cambodian Garment Worker and Unionist. Secretary of the C.CAWDU.

As people arrived I grew more gregarious and teasing, but according to Louise people were reporting that I was sweet and funny, so I think I got away with it.  Apart from big-upping working class women, unions, the Match Women in particular and all women in general, we were to have been privileged to hear from Eam Rin, Cambodian trade unionist on the frontline.  Politics stepped in, as it is wont to do, and her visa was denied two days before the big day.  Iona Kelly, from Labour Behind The Label, stepped in, and a very interesting, enlightening and disturbing discussion took place.  What we wear comes at the price of death, disability and blood in more ways than we realise.

Often one speaker would lead into another, and feed off what had been said.  Intersectionality, global solidarity and understanding, and occasional heated disagreement arose, but never disrespectful and always inspiring.  That seemed to me to be the enduring gift of the day; to educate and to inspire.

By the end of the day, I had harrassed as many incomers as I though would arrive, but then more speakers turned up.  I got tongue-tied – Kate Hardie, I know her off the telly!  Laurie Penny – I know her off the twitter and guardian!  Kate Hardie I ended up having long discussions with, about writing, feminism, our learning curves into our current politicial statuses and so on.  Laurie Penny I called PennyRed as she entered.  That is her twitter account handle.  I am embarrassed to this very moment.  She did not mind at all.

Funny and disturbing.  And that's not a description of me!

Kate Hardie and Louise Raw discuss the film “Shoot Me!” with the rapt audience.

Ms Hardie’s film “Shoot Me!” was a funny and fascinating look at image, and photography of women, in particular the experiences of female actors for whom image is important in roles they play, but when being photographed themselves the experience can be painful.  I regret being unable to tell Ms Hardie how shocking I found the experience depicted; the mental violence and emotional abusiveness of the photographer and studio was totally unexpected.  Maybe she’ll read this… one can hope!

By then end of the day I was physically flat-lining (damn you, disabled body!) but mentally could not have been more uplifted.  Laurie Penny was our last speaker, and the group had developed into a friendly supportive discussion between friends.  It was a personal talk, which resonated strongly with every single person there.  Yes, of course I asked a question.  I even gave a bit of advice to a nervous attendee within the context of the discussion, for which she thanked me afterwards!  It wasn’t unasked for or unwarranted, don’t fret dear reader.  I promise you it was contextually appropriate.

The final speaker of the day.

Laurie Penny and Louise Raw – more of a conversation between many new friends than a debate.

I don’t think I have ever been to a symposium where such a discussion has happened before, and all credit must go to the support provided by NUT who provided the venue, and the organiser Louise and her team for creating the atmosphere through inspired choice of speakers and events throughout the day.  All children present had also seemed to enjoy the day, especially the colouring competition, but had left by this time as 11 am to 9 pm is a VERY long day.  I for one had a sense of optimism about the future – not only in recognition and solidarity with those who attended this fantastic event, but also in concrete steps I could take in the move towards intersectional equality worldwide.

I did not join those who went to the pub after (damn you, disabled body!) but it felt like I had been socialising with friends-I-just-met all day.  This MUST be an annual event!  It happened last year, and I am gutted to have missed it as Tony Benn gave a talk and Bob Crow attended (fingers crossed for this year’s speakers and attendees.  Lawks I hope I don’t regret that joke!), so Louise is on notice – this must happen again and I must steward.

Please?!

And when it does, you must come along.  I shall leave you with some fairly fuzzy photos to tempt you (my camera doesn’t like dim light at a distance, and I was stewarding a lot of the day).  I neither confirm nor deny now also owning a book signed by Laurie Penny as a result of the joyous day.  (CONFIRMCONFIRMCONFIRM!!! femicrush moment.  Moving on…)  So come along.  You’ll love it.  I promise!

Matchwomen's Festival 2014

Matchwomen’s Festival 2014

I bought books from Andrea.  How could I not?

I bought books from Andrea. How could I not?

1880s Bryant & May Factory Workers

1880s Bryant & May Factory Workers.

It was a long, dirty, dangerous job.  Life expectancy much reduced.

It was a long, dirty, dangerous job. Life expectancy much reduced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciaran Walsh, RAdical Historian & SToryteller, listens to the Grunwick to Gate Gourmet presentation.

Ciaran Walsh – Radical Historian & Storyteller, listens to the Grunwick to Gate Gourmet presentation.

The Matchwomen - heroes and here we celebrate them.

The Matchwomen – heroes and here we celebrate them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do come next year, you hear?

The benefits of social housing

I am more than fed up to the back teeth (not yet wisdom, that comes from within) with the media and government constantly rambling on about the housing crisis and benefit claimants, as if the two are mutually exclusive and if they are not very nuanced topics which deserve detailed consideration.

Benefit claimants cannot afford to pay private market rents. More than that, many working people cannot afford to pay private market rents either. So they are left with the options of:
(a) staying with family and/or friends if they have any willing and/or able to help them out.

(b) sharing with many other people in homes which are not suitable for them due to size.

(c) applying for the rapidly-reducing number of social housing properties (formerly council houses, although due to cuts many boroughs are now giving over control of these properties to arms-length management organisations or not-for-profit social housing management agencies).

(d) being homeless.

When people pay private rent, they tend to pay a very high rate to cover the mortgage of the landlord, or if the landlord owns outright, to pay what the landlord considers a ‘fair rent’. This means generally an amount that is the market-rent equivalent to like properties in the area. Rent on properties will therefore vary massively depending upon where you are in the country, in your county, in your town or even in your local borough.

Council housing stock has been sold off under the Right to Buy scheme for many years now, continued and promoted by various Conservative and Labour governments. The sold-off stock has not been replaced, and the crisis in availability is not new. It is, in my opinion, now beyond critical levels.

Where I live, in one of the poorest boroughs in the country, there are no council houses.  We are all social housing.  I am in a property run by an ALMO, which is tied to providing council housing equivalent rents and rights for tenants.  I am very lucky.  My disabilities put me high on the waiting list and my experience working in housing law (legal aid funded work since stopped but that’s a different blog…) gives me a slightly better-than-most understanding of the system.  I repeat, though, I was VERY lucky.

The introduction of the bedroom tax means that people who once thought they had security of tenure now face eviction should their children have the temerity to actually want to move out at any point (not that they can now afford to). This security is seldom available in our culture of Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements, the private housing rental agreement which means the tenant only has a six-month tenancy and there need be no grounds for eviction at the end of this period.

It’s a landlord’s market, and don’t we know it. But there is so much more to housing, to homes, than rent. Social housing provides a security of tenure which means people can afford their home, can afford to take pride in it, can afford to remain in a locality for some time and can put down roots into a community. The long-term benefits of this should be plain to see for everyone, but apparently they aren’t.

Being able to settle in a community, to put down roots, means you can commit to the locality. You can volunteer, work, do part-time jobs, your children are safe in schools they will attend and be familiar with for their entire lives, your family may be nearby and you will be able to develop long-standing relationships with your neighbours. You will be able to develop a relationship with your environment; being a part of your community is essential to developing a responsibility towards it. If you are only ever likely to be somewhere for a short period of time, why on earth would you put down roots?

Roots, when constantly uprooted and moved, kill the plant. So too, the love of community and relationship with people around you dies.

Very few people can afford to buy their own homes. Very few people can afford to rent long-term. The housing crisis will only be exacerbated by continuing rises in rent, the idea that ‘market rent’ is fair – a mistake made by those who believe fair only relates to those charging rent, not those paying it.  Social housing used to provide security and safety for those in the lower wage bracket and those caught in the unemployment trap. It also provided a means of escape for those in abusive homes. Not any longer.

We need to invest in social housing. By doing so, we are investing in our communities. Surely I am not the only person who sees this connection?

A Dirty Phone Call Is No Laughing Matter

This afternoon I answered the phone at work with the usual “Good afternoon, [NAME OF FIRM]”.  There followed the distinct, unmistakable sound of a man masturbating down the phone.  I wasn’t sure, I decided to waste their phone bill, put the phone down on my desk, second-guessed and questioned my hearing, listened again, realised my first assumption was correct, and hung up.  I say unmistakable now, but I did question myself.  I was and am still, 5 hours later, shocked.

I’ve never been on the receiving end of a dirty phone call before.  I’ve experienced plenty of other types of sexual/bodily harassment as has almost every other woman (if not all) but never a dirty phone call.  Since writing that blog I’ve remembered this further invasive experience:

The Acupuncturist
I was undergoing electro-acupuncture for back pain quite a lot of years ago.  The acupuncturist was using needles with crocodile clips attached through which the current was passed.  He dropped one of the crocodile clips and decided to retrieve it from its lodging place in the dip of my buttocks, in the centre, by crooking his finger and fishing it out.  This meant his finger touched and hooked almost into my bum.  Sounds funny, doesn’t it?  I am sure a couple of you smiled, and I don’t blame you for it.  We are conditioned to find such things funny in so many ways.

I didn’t find it funny, I was shocked and immediately wanted to get straight out of there, but as I was almost naked and alone I didn’t feel able to.  What makes it even funnier (in a not-at-all sort of way) is that the crocodile clip was on wires; had to be, to conduct the electricity through.  He could have simply pulled the wires to pick the clip up, with no touching necessary.

I will never have acupuncture again.  I left the shop numb and shaking, and promptly burst in tears.  Luckily I bumped into a person I knew who made sure I was okay and whom I managed to persuade not to go in the shop and punch the acupuncturist through to next week.  He is a big bloke so could easily have done it, and I can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but that is not my way.  I needed support and comfort, not hypermasculine violence which would just leave me feeling worse for having been the unwitting cause of it.

I got my money back for the remaining session I had booked, but the shop refused to admit that there was anything at all wrong with the elderly gentleman’s conduct.  No action was ever taken.  As I know, he still works there and gives treatments.  I walk past the shop every time I leave work (for those who know me personally, it’s not the one below my office).

Back to the dirty phone call.  I had identified where I worked when I answered the phone.  The person knew where I was, and I was alone in the office all day (a very rare occurrence).  What about when I went home?  Might they try to find the office?  Is it possible they could turn up? If so, what then…?

Unlikely, I am sure, but the fact is I didn’t know that for sure.  It could happen.  It was extremely likely it would be simply a one-off incident, but there was no way I could possibly know.

I posted a status message and jokes were made.  I didn’t find them funny.  I appreciate the people were probably just trying to cheer me up, but what it made me feel was belittled and stupid for being so shocked and upset.  It’s not funny.  Read #yesallwomen on twitter, if you have even a modicum of disbelief about the world we live in.

I spent the afternoon trying not to worry, but when I left work I found myself looking all around me, suspicious of any man who came near me.  I work in a town centre, there were a lot of people around me.  A lot of men, of all ages.  I was suspicious of all of them.  Again, it is very unlikely anything would happen, but again, I did not know that for sure.  There was no way I could know.  Not all men, true, but how am I to pick out the ones that are bad from the ones that aren’t?

I am normally quite street-aware anyway, but was hyper-vigilant tonight.  Even so, I still felt panicky, walked faster, was jumpy and managed to stop the panic attack before it started.  I stood at the bus stop, wary of any male passenger getting on the bus, thinking to myself “he came up behind me, he’s running for the bus, why?  Is he following me?”  It may be paranoia but then again it may not be, stalking happens.  It’s extremely unlikely and statistically I am safe, but  I repeat again, I did not know that for sure.

I did not feel truly safe until I walked in my front door.  Now with the passage of time, with a night’s sleep, and distance, I will feel safe again.  The world is locked out and I am now in my cocoon, my safe place, my warm and calming home.

All that from one dirty phone call.  I am angry now, and will keep on with #yesallwomen and confronting, blogging, fighting any way I can.

And that, dear reader, is why it is no laughing matter.

CLL – My Latest Diagnosis

Those of you who know me well know I seem to collect chronic conditions.  Thinking back, they seem to occur in the first two years of each decade, so imagine my excited anticipation for when I turn 50!

In order:
Aged 12 – formally diagnosed with epilepsy, now completely controlled by medication (since I was 17).
Aged 21 – formally diagnosed with PCOS.
Aged 31 – formally diagnosed with spinal osteoarthritis, thusly painkillers by the many and degeneration (although slow, thankfully).
Aged 32 and a bit – formally diagnosed with Jessner’s Lymphocytic Infiltrate – have a google.  Most common in men in their late 60s.  Faded after 3 years.
Aged 41 and a lot – formally diagnosed with CLL (although doctors vary between “I wouldn’t tell you this if I wasn’t sure” and “probably CLL”).

CLL has left me ambivalent.  As a writer, I have an irresistible urge to write about it, to get my thoughts out, marshall them and try to make sense of it.  I want to publish because I feel my story may help others.  The stories of others help me, so if one person can relate and feel uplifted or enlightened or less alone in the confusion, that’s why I did it.  Not to hurt or upset anyone, although I know I am loved and people will feel pain.  I am sorry for that.  Please know that there is no need and I am humbled and gifted to be so loved.

So what is CLL?  I’ll break it down:

C – Chronic.  This means it is a lifelong condition which will not go away, be successfully removed by medication, or that I will recover.  I will feel better and/or worse as time goes by.  All chronic conditions can be managed to a varying degree of success, and there are a wide variety of such conditions.  They are not diseases.
L – Lymphocytic (ooh another one!).  Just means contained within the lymphatic system.  It is the location of the chronic condition.  Not connected, apparently, to the JLI – I asked.
L – Leukaemia.  This is a description of the particular type of cancer cell that the bone marrow in my body is very, very slowly birthing.  Note the very, very slowly.  That is extremely important.

It’s that last word isn’t it?  When the very caring and practical GP told me, I felt a hot and cold flush of pins and needles move up and down my body, my eyes widened and panic flooded through.  I’m guessing that word will do it to you – leukaemia.  Swiftly followed by the word ‘cancer’.  But what does ‘cancer’ actually mean?  It means deformation of cells in the body which multiply to prevent the parts of the body in which they exist from working properly, slowly killing them.  My bone marrow is producing deformed white blood cells which will slowly travel down the conduits of my arteries and veins and collect in the junctions of my lymph glands.

Not that ‘slowly’ again.  Still very important.

I am completely asymptomatic.  CLL is only ever diagnosed when blood is being tested for something else and the higher white platelet count is noticed.  A couple of further blood tests to check it wasn’t an anomaly whilst fighting infection and a look down a microscope to determine the shape of the cells, and CLL is diagnosed.  It’s most common in those over 55 (again with the bucking the trend, I’m such a rebel!) so it is seldom deadly.  People tend to die of old age before actually needing treatment.  You can go 20 or more years without ever needing to be treated through radiation, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, or whatever course is chosen.

I am at the stage where I have a slightly elevated count.  Very very slightly elevated.  All I need is to be monitored by the local NHS (I would be nowhere without the NHS – I honestly believe given my collection of chronic conditions and various medications I would not be able to afford private treatment or insurance, so may well be dead).  Haematology and regular vampire-sucking of blood and that is it.  Nothing else.  To be honest, my arthritis is more of a pain (HAH! See what I did there?) than the CLL.

However, the fact remains that I have cancer.  I have leukaemia.  A very slow-developing type, which will not affect me for many years, probably.  I am a healthy person, which is positive.  Chronic conditions do not mean a person is unhealthy, it’s important to remember that.  I have conditions which affect my lifestyle, my abilities, and my way of being, but I do not have acute illnesses.  Healthy is relative.  I am healthy.  Just to be sure you get what I’m saying here.

But I have cancer, and I can’t pretend that the idea doesn’t scare me.  I believed before this diagnosis that statistics aren’t helpful, and that belief is set in concrete now.  Every individual reacts differently to treatment, and there are so many different types of cancer out there, each reacting and acting in a variety of ways particular to the person who has that specific type of cancer.

CLL is, although I cannot say or write it without a wry raise of one eyebrow (I’m doing it now as I type), the best form of cancer it is possible to get.  Yes, I did really just type that sentence.  It is the most likely to go into remission, and has the longest gestation (?) period and can be very successfully treated.  But that’s statistics again, and they apply in broad strokes, giving no real indication as to the individual experience.  Good statistics give hope, bad statistics give terror, and neither reflects the reality of the person being treated so helpful are they, really?

I know I will need treating one day.  I am young to be diagnosed with CLL, so it is inevitable I will develop the cancer and need some form of treatment.  Rather than wondering if I will one day have cancer, and what form if I do, I know I will and how it will show itself.  That is, in my eyes, a great gift and an advantage.  I have time to get my head around the idea, to understand testimonials and empathise with others, to learn and perceive and come to terms.  I have deformed white platelets in my body, being born from my bone marrow, as I type, but I only know by accidental diagnosis.  I choose to believe I am lucky.  It is a choice, that my depression (diagnosed around mid-20s, recurrent not cyclical) and CBT/counselling/psychotherapy over the years has helped me to choose.  I practice, and I need it at the moment.

Because I am scared.  I am terrified.  All the reading in the world, all the stories in the world, all the hope and fear, will not truly allow me to know what will happen.  Will there be pain? Probably.  Will I die? Very unlikely.  Will it recur once it’s occurred once?  Possibly.

Then there are all the other questions, like will I have to stop working (I love my job), and when will it happen (impossible to know, but always on my mind) and so many others that pop up and disappear and have no real answer.  I like answers.  I don’t have any and nor does anyone else.

I am scheduled for my first haematology visit this month.  Three months after diagnosis, which is a good indication of how not worried the medical establishment are about this.  I’m hanging on to that.  I will question and probably prove to be a pain in the bum about this, as I don’t believe in simply saying yes/no and blindly following medical experts.  But they are the experts and I do trust them, just not implicitly.

I need to write this.  I need to share this.  I cannot have the same telephone conversation with the many people with whom I want to share this with, and who do not want to know but I need them to.  My blog will hopefully tell them, so I will re-share as much as possible.  I will react occasionally because it is always, always, in the back of my mind now.  It is a part of me.  I hope you understand and forgive me the pain it may cause.  It was unintended.

For more information try this link: http://www.ukcllforum.org.uk/about_cll.php

Thank you for reading this, if you did.  Please share it.  There are many who may find it helpful.  I hope you did. And if you remember only one thing, remember – “very, very slowly”.

Yours in love, and fear, and hope, and everything in between.
Big hugs! X

Rain Brown and the Seven Harpies

Featured Image -- 399

tinapj:

A wonderful fairy tale from knockback.co.uk – read and share, lucky people!

Originally posted on KnockBack:

A Slightly Feminist Fairytale by Bisha K. Ali
Illustrated by Sam Golin

nce upon a time, in the height of summer, when the Sun baked the ground into unyielding hardness and the people whispered in the dark for water, a Queen sat in her palace war rooms, poring over defence tactics with her husband, The King.

View original 3,172 more words

What is a romantic partner?

I’ve been thinking about this, ever since I found out my incredibly scrumptious niece who is all of 8 had declared she had a boyfriend, but that he didn’t want to tell anyone because … well, it doesn’t matter. Naturally, this irked me somewhat so my immediate reaction (after wanting to get all medieval on his bottom, which is inappropriate at his age and wrong at any age) was to say if he doesn’t want to tell anyone he is not a boyfriend.

Then I started to wonder. What is a boyfriend? What is a girlfriend? What is a partner? How can one explain the role, the idea, to a youngster in order to help them develop healthy relationships when they get older, within whatever sexuality they are?

I have a lot of children in my life and I worry about this a lot. The experiences of those who are developing and growing in the world now are a lot different to mine. The internet has changed the world vista, extremes of behaviour and sex are more readily accessible and imitated, and pressures on the youth seem so much more oppressive than I remember mine being. It’s odd, but it seems to me that whilst there is a lot more variety, the boxes in which we are to be put are a lot narrower and restrictive. A curious dichotomy…

Back to my children. What advice would I give? How could I protect them yet let them grow into the wonderful, strong, capable people I know they will be? How can I support their parents and caregivers in doing this? I am the ‘dodgy’ Aunt, the ‘oddmother’, the older friend with influence, and I love my children fiercely. I do have an effect on them, and I take that seriously (most of the time). Sometimes I am a total fool and idiot, which is great. Isn’t that why you all had children, so I could be one too?

Back to advice. List format is great, so I’ll use it:

  1. A partner will always admit that they are in a relationship with you, and will be proud of the fact.
  2. A partner will be supportive of your decisions, but not afraid to explain why they think you might be making a mistake. If you disagree, they will support you anyway.
  3. A partner will NEVER hit you.
  4. A partner will NEVER make you feel bad about yourself.
  5. A partner will NEVER stop you seeing your family and friends, for any reason.
  6. A partner will complement your personality and character, whether that is by being opposite or the same or a combination of both.
  7. A partner will make you feel you are the best person you want to be and can be.
  8. A relationship that is right may take work, but it will never seem like work.
  9. A partner is someone you can trust, and who trusts you.
  10. A partner is someone you can make mistakes with and disagree with, and that doesn’t affect how you feel about them.
  11. A partner is someone who makes you happy.
  12. It is better to be single and happy than with someone and unhappy.

 

So that’s my list. Of course it can be vice versa too – they should treat any partner they have with the same respect and care. Any points you’d want to add? What do you think? Have I missed anything?

I love my children. If their partner doesn’t love them as much as I do, then they simply aren’t good enough!

I’m a Paid Columnist – Yes, Really!

I try to post at least one or two blogs a month, so you, oh-beloved-reader-mine©, can have something to either argue with, laugh at or look incredulously toward with your morning coffee’n’muffin.  However, I have also started to write for the wonderful Pilot TV News as an opinion columnist (which fills my heart with all the squee) so thought you might like a butcher’s* at my scribblings thus far.

If you like, please repost the articles from the Pilot TV News site.  I am providing the full links to make this easier to cut and paste, as well as a click through.  Thank you very much, kind-reader.

I am proud to present (in date order of publication) – MY COLUMNS:

This first one deals with the use of the word ‘revolution’; what does it mean?  What format could or should a revolution take?  Do we need one?  (spoiler: I say yes): http://pilottvnews.com/2013/11/talkin-bout-revolution/

It seems obvious, really, and intersectional identity feminism is not a new idea.  I have been learning about it and studying proponents such as Angela Davies since 1990, and it certainly existed as a concept and reality in feminism before I knew the word.  Somehow, though, it still seems to be new to those who do not understand the fundamental ideals of feminist thought: http://pilottvnews.com/2013/11/intersection-feminism-equality/

Should you, or anyone, vote?  Is it really possible to have a democratic process when there is no equality of candidate, in number, parties represented and amount of people represented by a single MP?  What do you think? http://pilottvnews.com/2013/11/vote-vote/

Twitter, and other social media, is rife with violent, sexually degrading and humiliating language aimed at any woman who puts her head above the parapet and has a publicly expressed opinion.  I’ve been lucky so far…: http://pilottvnews.com/2013/12/culture-violence-women-victim-blaming-cyber-violence-rape-culture/

The government is failing, the measures are not working and poverty is on the rise: http://pilottvnews.com/2013/12/austerity-income-gap-rich-poor-increasing/

An arbitrary age, bearing no relation to the form of consent to be given, the maturity of teenager, the education and understanding they may have and the relationships they may embark on.  Time for a re-think on the age of consent and sex education for all, methink(s): http://pilottvnews.com/2013/12/rethinking-age-of-consent/

Islamaphobia – the latest in a long line of mistaking religious belief for culture/skin-colour.  Argue with an ideology, don’t demonise a people based on a racist assumption because of it: http://pilottvnews.com/2014/01/anti-religious-racism/

Yes, a debate on immigration is needed.  However, unless we are given facts rather than force-fed propaganda, and unless it is discussed in the context of economy, family and refugee need, we can never have a real debate or real solution: http://pilottvnews.com/2014/01/immigration-real-problem/

Scare-mongering headlines of ‘gendercide’ – again the real issues are ignored in an attempt to govern what women do with their bodies.  Most irksome (I write, understating dramatically): http://pilottvnews.com/2014/01/sex-selective-abortion-intersectional-feminist-perspective/

Misunderstanding, misrepresentation or ignorance – whatever the cause, racism is the result.  It is privilege to believe that such an image does not at the very least subconsciously promote and perpetuate racist inequality: http://pilottvnews.com/2014/01/racist-chair/

Who is/are Anonymous? What are they for?  What do they do?  Most importantly, who are they responsible for or answerable to?  Who watches the watchers? http://pilottvnews.com/2014/02/anonymous-vigilante-revenge-justice/

The war on drugs is killing people.  It has failed, repeatedly.  Moreover, it has been fought by hypocrites and ignored scientific evidence and evidentiary experience.  Time for a change: http://pilottvnews.com/2014/04/who-really-benefits-failing-war-on-drugs/

Be warned, there is rumour of a v-log being created for Pilot TV News, upon which I may feature in all my glorious technicolour reality!

*butcher’s hook = look (for the non-cockney amongst you)

PILOT TV NEWS–Our content is free under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No-Derivative 3.0 license.

Is this the thought police?

After two weeks of heavy public pressure, including boycotts of Mozilla Firefox by OK Cupid and many LGBTQ activists, former CEO Brendan Eich has handed in his resignation. He resigned after public pressure and campaigns, for a point of view he held in private, which had not been proven to have affected his work. He had donated thousands of dollars to support Proposition 8, the legal ruling made in 2008 in California which rescinded same-sex marriage rights, and to support political candidates who supported the Proposition.

I am firmly against Mr Eich’s point of view. I am a feminist, an equalist, through to the bone and do not in any way agree with his expressed viewpoint. I personally would not want to work with or for anyone who held anti-equality views. However, I am disturbed by the fact Mr Eich was put into a position where he was forced to resign because of a personally-held point of view.

I was fired from a job once, because of my political views. It was my first job after leaving university and having completed a secretarial course, and ended almost a year of unemployment. My contract was not renewed after the probationary period. I worked for two bosses (a theme which seems to have carried on throughout my career) and the female underboss took me out to lunch on the day I was told. It was she who told me the overboss had made his decision because I was left-wing and outspoken as a woman. This I now find ironic as I was not particularly outspoken then. I couldn’t actually work out how the overboss had discerned my political leanings as I didn’t define myself as being of any particular leaning. He was right-wing, the owner of the actual business was a Conservative MP, but the job did not entail any political or opinion-giving tasks. But my job was gone, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was fired because I did not politically align with my boss.

What is the difference between this and Mr Eich being forced to resign for a privately-held political viewpoint? If he had shown bias and discrimination in the workplace, in his job, in any way through Mozilla Firefox as a brand and product, then yes I could understand the position. He hadn’t done this though. It may have been possible that his view would change, and his statement certainly showed an interest in doing so.  Only time would have told, but this now is time we will not have to see whether he would have changed his opinions or whether he would have shown discriminatory behaviour.

I am concerned about this action. I was concerned with the proposed boycott and suggestion we switch from Firefox to Google Chrome, not least because Google pays an awful lot of money to Firefox to be the default server, so it seemed to me to be counterproductive.  Such a boycott would damage the many employees of the company.

Mostly, though, I am concerned at the idea that a person can be removed from their job because they hold a particular personal viewpoint. There is no evidence at all, that I can find, that Mr Eich’s views had ever affected his job. Mozilla has an excellent anti-discrimination policy, but Mr Eich had not actually shown any discrimination against anyone at the point of holding the job. There are only those donations in 2008. In fact, he had been working for Mozilla as Chief Technical Officer since 2005 and I cannot find any report of him having been discriminatory towards anyone at the company. If he had been, would it not have been publicised? I am bearing in mind that lack of evidence is not proof of lack of discrimination, but one can only act on what one knows.

I have been reading a lot about this issue, because it is one which concerns me. A rather excellent article supporting Mr Eich’s resignation was posted on Slate yesterday which agrees with the forced resignation of Mr Eich.  It seems those actually working for Mozilla were not happy with the choice of Mr Eich as CEO, and internal action was taken to remove him from the position with three Board members resigning over the majority vote appointment. He was a controversial choice from the start.

Ultimately though, if we allow a personal political view to force a person out of their job, rather than follow the legal channels and prove the person has behaved in a discriminatory manner, or allow a person to change, then aren’t we discriminating against them ourselves? I find Mr Eich’s view reprehensible, but that must be separate to my application of the principle of equality to all people. There is no evidence at all that Mr Eich had discriminated against anyone in the workplace. Shouldn’t we have given him a chance to fail, rather than just force him out? If he had discriminated in any way, then I would be all for a boycott, for forcing him out. But isn’t this a bit pre-emptive? I feel Mr Eich has been found guilty of the fact he may potentially have violated the laudable anti-discrimination policy of Firefox at some time in the future, rather than actually having done so.

Should it be proven Mr Eich discriminated against anyone, work colleague or employee, or had violated the Firefox anti-discrimination policy, then my view would change. Until then, I am very wary of any action which encourages punitive action against a personally-held political view. Mozilla prides itself on bringing together a diverse range of people. Where does the line get drawn? When does diversity stop?

No Make-Up Selfie = Narcissism?

I saw a link to this article in the Independent on Facebook today, and not for the first time the no make-up selfie meme which was intended to raise awareness of cancer research was defined as an act of narcissism by those who participated.  One comment stating this was enough to irk me, but more than one is getting me really mad.

The article states the campaign was sparked by a of an author who uploaded a photo of herself without make-up on in support of Kim Novak daring to bare at the Oscars.  This is a bit of a misunderstanding; actually the meme was initially a “Dare to Bare”  (http://www.escentual.com/dare-to-bare – if the link doesn’t work when clicked) campaign last October in which women were sponsored for going without make-up to work, or a social function, or similar such event, in order to raise money for breast cancer awareness.  The two separate events appear to have conflated on social media.

I understand men are now doing ‘socks on cocks’ selfies for testicular cancer.  This is great, if how to check oneself for lumps, bumps and testicular changes is posted with the photos.

Normally I intensely dislike memes which purport to raise awareness without actually giving any mention of the cause about which such awareness is to be raised.  It seems pointless and exclusionary to me, especially if one is supposed to specifically exclude a particular group of people as part of the meme.  This one, though, has sparked discussion, awareness-raising and fund-raising for myriad cancer charities and I myself did take part, linking to charities and two forms of checking for signs of cancer.  Here’s what I posted:

naked face - shocking!

me without make-up

“Here’s my profile picture without make-up for this cancer awareness meme thingy – did you know it is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month this month, in the UK?: http://www.ocam.org.uk/
Have some more links:
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/
http://www.icr.ac.uk/
http://www.channel4embarrassingillnesses.com/video/how-to-check-yourself/how-to-check-your-testicles/
http://www.breakthrough.org.uk/about-breast-cancer/touch-look-check
Just a few to keep you going – Have a lovely day.”

But this is not what enraged me about the Independent article and the many other comments made with regard to the narcissistic nature of women posting selfies without make-up on.  What is narcissism?  The dictionary defines it as “excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance.”  From the comments I have read by women posting these selfies, whose genuine and heartfelt wish is to promote awareness and many of whom have donated to charities, an excessive interest or admiration of their own looks is the last accusation that could be thrown at their comments.

Women are judged by their appearance in our society, only someone brought up in a cave without any social interaction at all could fail to realise that.  The decision to bare their faces, publicly, on social media where photos are shared and seen by more than those who are in our immediate social circle and are permanent (unless deleted) so can be re-accessed days after the actual event, is one which flies against social norms for women and is in my opinion a brave move.  Yes, it is brave.  It is scary.  The myriad comments stating how hideous, horrible, monstrous, vile etc the women feel they look are not fishing for compliments.  This is how many, many women feel.  I have said and will probably say it again, often, about myself.   It is a socialisation that is ingrained within us.  We look at our faults, not our truth.  We see ourselves not as others see us, but as society thinks we should be and are failing to measure up to.  We wear make-up to give ourselves confidence to face the world, to conform to an ideal of attractiveness in as far as we can.  We want to be beautiful, to be accepted.  We are supposed to be beautiful to be accepted.  It’s not narcissism to do so, and it is most certainly not narcissism when we feel a cause is so important that we are willing to go against our fears to promote it.

So whilst I generally dislike such memes, this one was an effective one in the way people adapted it to their own use.  To disparage those women taking part as being narcissistic, self-loving, and to criticise the meme on that basis is ignorant.  It is a denial of the way in which women are viewed in this society.  It makes presumptions about the reasons for posting and the actions the poster is making alongside posting the photos.  Maybe a few women did post with narcissistic motivation, but by far the majority I saw and have read about did not.  They found posting terribly difficult but wanted to do something for those they have loved who have been affected by cancer.

That’s why I did it.  That’s why I shared the information.  Not for narcissism, but for awareness; the very point of the meme in the first place.

UPDATE: Cancer Research UK has reported receiving approximately £1.4million in donations through these selfies.

Male Abortion

I was having a conversation with two very good male feminist friends (very good both in terms of our friendship and in their activism with regard to intersectional equality) about the topic of abortion.  By virtue of the fact only women (and transgender men who retain their womb and functioning ovaries, who form a very small minority of such cases) get pregnant, abortion is an issue which is at the very heart of patriarchal social mores.  The idea was proposed by one of my friends that there should be a legal process by which the male sperm-donor who fertilised the ovum should be able to ‘abort’ the zygote/embryo/foetus (z/e/f).  This means they would have no contact, no rights and no responsibilities towards the child once born.

This would initially seem to equalise the situation with regard to abortion, because after all it physically only affects the woman’s body and it should be the woman’s choice as to whether to have one.  This has led to many arguments about how unfair this is towards the man who may end up being a father against his will.  I am going to write specifically on the proposed idea of the ‘male abortion’, so despite my strong temptation to pontificate at length on that extended topic, I shall resist … for now …

I completely understand the theory of the male abortion, and on paper it would seem to be an excellent solution to men who do not want children but are going to become fathers because their individual little tadpoley-sperm won the race to that enticing sexy little ovum.  The conversation we had was brief and we did not go into depth, but I have found myself thinking about the idea more and more.  Ultimately I do not see how, in our society, this could possibly work in reality.

Patriarchy is unfair, we all know this (at least we should do, if you don’t what rock of privilege have you been hiding under?).  Even amongst single parent families (sidebar – statistically most of whom are headed by women, who become single parents through divorce or separation from their partner), female-headed single parent households have seen a reduction in their disposable income in excess of the reduction experienced by men.  When male/female parents are separated, the single father who does not have primary residence and care of the child or children sees a rise of 23% in their disposable income whereas the single mother who does have primary residence and care sees a reduction of 15%.  Even when the father does have primary residence and care, he is more likely to have a higher level of income.  This statistic surprised me, I did not expect such a pronounced difference.

This data clearly does not back up the socially-constructed idea that single mothers are bleeding the fathers/welfare state dry, or that maintenance provided for the family unit by the father is in any way a superfluous boon to the mother who is therefore living it up on the father’s hard-earned dosh.

Have a pretty graph to help explain how this disparity is growing and for both male and female-headed households the position is worsening* (I had to photocopy and scan, thus the quality):

The situation is getting worse.

(insert comment about the government here – mine are all too rude)

So, if a male should have the power to abort their responsibilities, and the female continues with the pregnancy, patriarchy has already seen to it that the household will be in poverty or near to it.  Pregnancy takes sperm and ova, but only the female carries the z/e/f.  Ultimately it is and should be her choice whether to carry to term as it is her body.  The decision after that as to whether to keep or put up for adoption could be made by the biological parents, and I do agree that if the mother wants to put up for adoption and the father wants to care for the child, he should be able to have that option, with financial support from the mother in exactly the same way the mother would receive financial support from the father.

But that is when the child is already born.  For the gestation period, it is the female’s right to autonomy over her own body that takes precedence.  Yes, it may seem unfair to the male, but pregnancy is a risk every time you have sex even with all the best contraception in the world.  If you don’t understand that, then perhaps you should not have sex…  just saying… or you should be prepared to deal with all the potential consequences including impregnating the female.

The social safety net provided by the welfare state has been steadily eroding for years, and is now disappearing in leaps and bounds.  The only way that male abortion could work would be if the patriarchal system was already overthrown and childcare was accepted as the responsible, difficult job that it is.  If the male is aborting their rights and responsibilities, then there must be a welfare state capable of stepping in to ensure the child is not suffering in poverty and sufficient affordable childcare options available should the mother wish to work and not be a stay-at-home carer.  As this will be ensuring the child’s upbringing is not impoverished, it will aid all single parents, not just women, but because patriarchy is the way it is it will mostly aid women who are in the majority of single parent-headed households.  Until this system in existence and patriarchal oppression overcome, the male abortion is not only a perpetuation of patriarchy, it is a male abdication of the responsibilities that come with the risk of male/female penetrative sexual activity.

Furthermore, I’m really not sure how the male abortion would work in real terms.  An abortion means there is no child.  A male abortion would mean the father having no contact, rights or responsibilities and treating the child as if it never existed.  A male abortion would only occur if the female was not having an abortion herself.  So what happens given the fact the child does exist?  What if the child wants contact with the father, or if the father suddenly changes his mind?  What about the extended family – they would also have to have no contact with the child under these circumstances.  How would this be legally enforced?  What are the ramifications, in the long-term?

So, the fact that a male cannot have an abortion is unfair maybe on the father, but guess what?  So is patriarchy.  I cannot see a way in which this concept could practically work, legally, practically under patriarchy, and socially.  Maybe you have a different view.  Please do let me know.  I am open to the idea in theory.  Overthrow patriarchal oppression, and maybe it will change my opinion, as it is a practical solution which I cannot see ever working.

* http://wbg.org.uk/pdfs/WBG-briefing_Sept-2013_final.pdf

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