When I was a mere nipper, just becoming aware of the people around me and the judgements made on everyone, I remember vividly being conscious that I have a number of moles and freckles (although I didn’t learn the difference until embarrassingly recently) on my body. I did not see women represented with moles on their bodies in the wider world, certainly not women who were assessed to be beautiful. I therefore believed that my moles and freckles were ugly, and that I was ugly. It was not until the acceptance of Cindy Crawford as a ‘beautiful woman’ that moles became visible and I understood that they weren’t hideous blemishes to be covered and hidden at all costs.
The lesson I learned was that moles are ugly.
This might seem very minor to most of you, but when you are judged on your physical appearance, and all women are, it is huge. As a child learning this lesson, it sinks in and it stays there. Even now, I know I have this belief in my ugliness, for having moles and for the many other reasons that means I do not conform to the westernised standard of female attraction.
Leaving aside the argument as to the value of ‘beauty’ as a tool of assessing human beings, this lack of visibility had a profound effect on me at a very early age, and *coughmanycough* decades on it still does. So, lets extend that out, shall we?
I, as a white child, was well represented in all other aspects of my life. My upbringing was in a predominantly white area with only 5 students of colour in a school of 1,200 for the five years I attended the secondary school; we knew who they were because they were so few and that in itself brings its own problems for those students and the weight of societal expectation laid on them. I had many role models around me to identify with, the TV I watched showed white people doing all manner of things, and it was not something I questioned
As a white adult, I am still represented. My colour is highly visible. I see criminals and lawyers, teachers and politicians, housewives and detectives, all of the ‘normality’ (to a given value of normal, and that is defined by what is seen and accepted) represented by people who are of the same colour as me. That imbues a sense of the possible, the attemptable. That no path is blocked because of my colour. Furthermore, I don’t even think about the possibility that my colour may affect my future.
Same goes for heterosexuality, cisgender identity, able-bodied representation, religion, gender conformity and so on. I have some but not all those privileges, and the privilege means I don’t think about the fact I am not represented, because I am.
This is where empathy is important, and for those people who are privileged in the extreme – the white educated non-poor middle-class able-bodied heterosexual cisgender male – such empathy is harder to come by because they do not experience a lack of privilege. I will never experience such privilege, so my voice is easily dismissed. So much more so the voices of those even less privileged than I.
That is where visibility comes in. It is a representation without words that strikes down to the soul for everyone, not just those who are now seen in the wider context of society. It is not just those who are discriminated against who benefit from the visibility.
I was watching a programme called Wildlife Reunions (I just got a rescue cat, I’m totally animal-mad at the moment, it’ll pass [no it won’t]) and it featured elephant caregivers all of whom were black. Educated, African, well-rounded black men in good long-term jobs exhibiting a deep level of caring and empathy. I thought to myself, when is the last time I saw such a representation, and I could not think of a single moment of television in which such an image was depicted. When we do see Africa, it is framed as a war-torn conflicted continent filled with starving people, who suffer disease and famine and require the intervention of benevolent first world charity.
Same with disability. Much as I love Grand Designs, and Kevin McLeod, he made a comment in a recent repeat, and I paraphrase, in that he forgot someone who was building a house was disabled because he rose above it and adapted himself to the world around him. My goodness, how I found that patronising and ignorant. I know it was meant kindly, but it clearly stated that disability was something only the disabled person had to deal with and manoeuvre around. All this whilst building a house with adaptions built within the walls because he could not live in a ‘normal’ house which, as all houses are, do not allow for the potential of disability in anyone.
Other than that, disability is people in wheelchairs, specialised comedy programmes, the odd soap opera character, The Last Leg and the Paralympics. There is a reason why disability is invisible, and that is the lack of accessibility and the exclusion from mainstream media representation.
I could go on, but I would ask you all to take time to really see what it is you are exposed to around you. For example, how are BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic) people represented? Compare to white people; is the representation as broad and well-rounded? What does that mean to you, to your personal identity? These things have a subliminal effect. We retain a definition of ‘normality’ even when we try to fight against it, and we must fight against it.
A simple example that many are aware of is the representation of youth culture in the media, particularly 16-24-year-old age group. Is there a difference between representations of BAME youths as compared to white youths? Be honest with yourself, it’s the only way to move past the guilt that you may feel (because I do, very much so) that you have accepted and ignored the damage unequal and non-contextualised representation does to ourselves and our society.
There is a reason black people are far more likely to be shot and/or involved in violent crime than white people, and it is not ‘black-on-black’ violence (a reductive dismissive and ignorant statement which really should be banned).
Now stop for a second. When you read that sentence, did you assume that the black person was most likely male and most like the criminal rather than the victim? Be truly honest with yourself and examine your initial thought. It’s okay, no-one’s reading your mind.
That is what representation of black people in the media brings to you. It is systematic oppression tied into the expectations we all hold of how a black person will behave. That form of discrimination is one that kills.
Privilege is a curse as much as it is a, well, privilege, because it means we are blind and we miss out on the experience of so much of life. Accept that you will have racist thoughts, you will have suppositions about disability, you will retain ideals of gender-stereotyping and so on, if you are in the privileged sector of that social grouping. That’s not your fault.
If you don’t see all that you know exists, be aware that the invisible is just as valid, and the experiences of the invisible need to be heard, shared and shouted. Step outside the privileged comfort zone. It is not the job of the discriminated against to teach you, they have enough to do fighting for their visibility. It is your job, and my job, and everyone’s job, to learn and research and remove oneself from the platform of privilege to give space to those whose voices are by the very essence of experience more important that yours (and mine).
Visibility is vital. It’s for all of us to fight for it; the privileged even more so than those not. You won’t lose anything and you will gain so much. But even if you didn’t, are you really content to achieve and profit on the backs of those who you are stepping on and pushing down simply because they don’t have the same skin colour, physical abilities or gender as you?
The Great British Eccentric
When I grow up, I want to be just like them.
Just like a great British eccentric.
I will be wizened and gnarly, with a beard that
No woman should be able to grow.
I will curl it and wear ribbons.
And pretend I am a musketeer.
Brandishing my walking stick at all my foes,
Like Errol Flynn, but with bigger balls,
And less sexually transmitted diseases.
I will wear all my clothes, all at once,
In no particular order.
I will be hugely, massively, squishably fat.
And wear skin-tight leggings,
And have people talk in scandalised fashion,
About the wobbling of my tremendous thighs,
And my chins, and jiggle of my no longer sexy bosom.
And not care in the slightest.
I will clash in a glorious riot of colour,
Of pattern and of style.
If I am not large, I shall go the opposite way,
And be so skinny a gust of wind would blow me over,
Or at least that’s what I will say.
And I will wear voluminous skirts that drown me,
And threaten to trip me over, but I won’t fall.
Because I will be held up by bits of string,
And sticky tape and card and paper that I carry around.
Just in case I might need them.
I will challenge complete strangers to races,
On my walking stick, and if they agree,
I will win every time. Because I will cheat.
Because I am old, and cheeky, and will get away with it.
I will talk to strangers, just like my parents said I shouldn’t.
I will discuss my health in long, vivid description.
Sparing no details, from the hairs in my ears,
To the peculiar discharges I never expected,
From my long-descended vagina.
I will write, obsessively, about all that I see,
On the biros I steal from Argos and betting shops.
I will make a bet on the wrong horse.
I will intend to get it wrong, just because.
I don’t need reasons any more for anything.
I am old, I am invisible, I am free from you.
Free from expectation. Free from derivation.
Free from giving a shit!
I will flirt outrageously with anyone and everyone.
Gender be damned, I will twinkle and glow.
I will be adorable and in turn be adored.
Or feared by those who are still in their box.
Too afraid to step outside in technicolour.
Monochrome grey their world of lines,
And rules and guidance and littleness.
I am outside now, outside the box, outside
The rules, outside the society I was suppressed in.
I will be the me I want to be, finally.
I will challenge strangers to debate or conversation,
If I see a girl on a walking stick, I will run,
I will hobble and twist and grate to her,
And I will tell her my life so she can know,
That she can be all that she wants to be.
That she can reach for the stars and shine.
That she can be just like me if she wants to.
Like me and my scream of joy at life.
Like me, the great British eccentric.
© Tina Price-Johnson 6.1.14
Inspired by an old lady who challenged me to a walking stick race as I passed her in my local shopping mall; we then had the most hilarious of chats. She was in her 80s, clearly and proudly non-conforming and totally free in herself. I want to be her, so I’m practicing from now on!
She moves, she undulates.
Each side-swaying step a glory in ripples.
Waves moving up, down, out.
Her skin barely containing her body as it strains.
Every shift in her weight marked out
By the beauty of her.
Her step is heavy, heavy as she seems.
But her step is light, light as the sun,
Gleaming from her skin in reflection.
Basking on her. Over her.
Joyful to be able to become,
A part of her.
She takes up space, yet not enough.
Power contained, barely.
Muscles straining within.
We are drawn into her orbit, and
Never want to leave.
She is unaware.
She is beautiful.
Nearby, another steps out into sun.
Tight, drawn in, still in her skin.
As she makes her way through the crowd
She weaves between people.
Sparing and strong.
Skin sinewy layered over bone,
Her structure plain to see.
The form of body over bone,
Life living and loved.
She too, is beautiful.
The older woman, walking,
Strength through use.
Strength through wisdom.
The sun finds its way to shadow,
Reflecting the wrinkles earned.
Her body a map of her life.
Each fold of skin is a mark.
A medal, a proud indication
Of her long, lived, life.
Every step taken, mistake or not.
Her beauty is proudly displayed.
Her beauty suffuses.
The last is slow, shuffling, gait awkward.
Held up and on by her stick.
But ignored, beaten.
Her body is an everyday battle,
Which she has learned to fight,
With grace and with favour.
Reading the minutest hint
That she must take care.
She is beauty.
All the myriad variation
That exists in humanity.
That proclaims womanhood.
Is strength and love.
Is anger and hurt.
Is new birth and final death.
No one can be said to represent all,
And no one person is excluded.
All surface is temporary.
All is changing, inconstant.
All have power and pain,
and all I see are beautiful.
© Tina Price-Johnson 9th July 2014
I’m posting this as I was reminded of it and how much a friend loved it last weekend, whilst at the Matchwomen’s Festival 2016. I hope you like it, I hope you share it. Some positivity in this world gone strange and terrifying.
I’m in a slight state of shock to find myself writing this. That shock is in itself is an example of my own privilege. I live, breathe and immerse myself in a life of combating prejudice where and when I am able to, and in striving to ensure I am open to being challenged on my own privileges (such as the fact I am white, university-educated and live in a relatively wealthy country, although am not myself wealthy or even middling).
So I’m used to challenging myself, and the shock I feel at finding myself explaining privilege again is a result of the fact I have been questioning for so long and challenged by people who take the time to call me out when my privilege is showing. I am discriminated against, being disabled, experiencing mental health issues, and being a female and not conforming to the ideal of femininity, but my privileges are more than my intersected oppressions in the society in which I live.
It is this Facebook status message specifically which has inspired my blog:
The most perfect thing I have ever seen just happened on the replacement train bus service between Newport and Cwmbran:
White man sat in front of a mother and her son. Mother was wearing a niqab. After about 5 minutes of the mother talking to her son in another language the man, for whatever reason, feels the need to tell the woman “When you’re in the UK you should really be speaking English.”
At which point, an old woman in front of him turns around and says, “She’s in Wales. And she’s speaking Welsh.”
Quite a short and simple status message, telling the tale of a story of racism/Islamaphobia experienced by many people. I also question that the white man would have approached a male talking to his son in this way; gender may also have played its part. I have no problem believing this story may be true.
Apparently a lot of people do. Almost immediately the veracity of the story was questioned. When I posted it, I was demanded to prove it was true, and when I challenged said questioners to prove it wasn’t true, was told that as I posted it I had to prove it.
Guess what colour and gender the people questioning this were? Go on, I’ll wait…
Yes, you are right, they are white and predominantly male. In fact, all of those questioning this story that I have been able to discover in my research have been white. One objection was concerning the fact a rail replacement service had not been operating ‘that day’ (although the status message does not specifically name a day). This was quickly refuted with a very brief basic google search.
Then I stopped in my endeavours. Why was I doing this research? What the hell was I doing trying to ‘prove’ a racist incident had occurred? Why were those challenging the veracity so determined to demand proof that the specific incident had occurred? Many cited a similar tale from the United States in which a woman with her child was confronted by a man telling her to stop speaking ‘Mexican’ because she was in the USA and should speak English, and it turned out she was speaking Navajo.
So what the challenges are basically saying is that the two stories are so similar that they could not possibly have both happened.
Wow. Privilege much?
That is NOT how racism works (or any other form of prejudice, for that matter). Racism is systemic (which is why the privilege race cannot be systemically racist – that’s another blog) and is built up from myriad incidents and experiences. The fact that it happened twice in similar cultures (USA, United Kingdom) is in fact more proof of systemic racism and the effects it has on people. I’m not surprised that many similar stories can be found. There are many similar stories of incidents of sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia – you name it.
I repeat, that is how discrimination and prejudice works!
Demanding ‘proof’ of incidents of discrimination instead of doing your own research if you question it is also privilege – you are assuming an incident didn’t happen because it does not tally with your own experience.
Step out of your privilege for just one second and consider what it is you are actually saying. You are denying an experience of oppression. You are silencing a voice fighting against discrimination. You are perpetuating the systems of privilege and oppression by which you benefit.
I know it’s hard to be confronted by your own privilege, but you are not responsible for having that privilege. You are responsible for what you do with it. That’s what I strive (and fail and strive again) to do. No-one is perfect. But really, is it so hard to step back and check oneself, if it means discrimination and oppression are one step further forward in being eliminated?
If your first instinct is to demand irrefutable proof an incident of discrimination actually happened rather than to find irrefutable proof that it didn’t happen, you are part of the problem. That’s your privilege. Check it.
As an Alumni of Goldsmiths College and follower/supporter of the Centre for Feminist Research based at the college, I am extremely disappointed that Professor Ahmed felt she had no pathway but to resign. Sexual harassment is a plague in society and Professor Ahmed was a beacon in the field of combating this scourge. The response from Goldsmiths, whilst I am assuming is legally bound up in red tape (and can be found on Linked In), is deeply unsatisfactory. I am now questioning my position in supporting the Centre, and should appreciate a statement from them dealing with this issue and with Professor Ahmed’s full statement on her blog, full statement to which I link in this post. Goldsmiths has always been at the forefront of intersectional feminism and sociological research. Has it truly become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the status quo? I sincerely hope not.
Colleagues and killjoys,
It is with sadness that I announce that I have resigned from my post at Goldsmiths. It is not the time to give a full account of how I came to this decision. In a previous post, I described some of the work we have been doing on sexual harassment within universities. Let me just say that I have resigned in protest against the failure to address the problem of sexual harassment. I have resigned because the costs of doing this work have been too high.
This decision was difficult. The Centre for Feminist Research has been a lifeline and a shelter. We have together created a space within the institution that has been a space to breathe. It has been a space that is not populated by the same old bodies.
I want to thank in particular all the students I have been lucky enough to work with especially those…
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Am I a “Good Ally”? What does this even mean; how does one determine the value of one’s ally-ship? Should it even be a consideration?
I have many privileges afforded to me in my UK-based lifestyle. I am not poor (although the bar for the definition of poor seems to be constantly lowering); I am white; I am educated; I present as able-bodied about half of my time; I am cisgender; I am heterosexual, and apparently look like I am. I appear to conform in many ways.
I have my intersecting experiences of discrimination; I am female and I am disabled, and live with clinical depression. Within those identities are further experiences of discrimination, for my lack of societal conforming good looks such as being fat and having a ‘gifted-size’ nose. I have experienced much discrimination but it can also never be denied that I have experienced much privilege. I am guessing I will continue to experience both.
Being an ally to those who experience discrimination that I benefit from due to my privilege is something I feel incredibly strongly about. It is fraught with many considerations and fears. Am I speaking over those who should be at the forefront of the fight? Is my white woman shouting silencing my sisters of BAME identity ? I see it with the male ally to feminism being lauded for the slightest act of discovery when women have been screaming the exact thing for many years, apparently into a void. I know my white, educated voice is more likely to be heard and respected than a person who has not got my education or whiteness. That’s the very nature of the privilege I am afforded.
Guilt goes along with that privilege, and it should. Not the guilt of the creator of the privilege, but of the person benefitting. I recognise that I am not responsible for the creation of the privilege but I very much am responsible for the ending of it. That is the fundamental definition of myself as an ally.
So far, so wordy. It’s all for nothing without action. My disabilities have limited my activism more and more to online and in writing, although I will still be at a rally if I can. Visibility is important, more so than any other form of activity, so I will carry a placard with pictures of those who can’t make it on there; a show of although I am one, be aware that I carry many others with me.
I will use my privilege to fight that same privilege. But I will only do so if I am not speaking over those with experience. If I can support a sister of BAME identity I will do so and it must be at the expense of my own voice being heard. I will be heard if there is the space given to me to do so. That is my rule.
I have become aware that this rule may be problematic. It may stop me from speaking at all. As a woman, I am raised to be nurturing, to put others ahead, to say “no, you first” and indicate forward with bowed head to let others pass. I need to be braver as an ally.
I need to stop worrying about staying silent and speak forth. If I don’t, then my silence is complicit in perpetuating the prejudice. It’s okay to be wrong, to make mistakes. It’s okay to be called out because without being called out you cannot know what you are doing, what I am doing, to make the situation worse. Being called out is a gift not an embarrassing attack. The language used to call out is that of a person or people long oppressed and if I cannot understand the anger, pain and frustration behind it then I think I am missing the point.
As one woman said, “Excuse us if we don’t always smile politely after you stomp on us.” Damn right. We should thank you for taking the time. If anyone starts any sentence in response to a point made with “but not all…” then Ally101, they are missing the point and not being an ally.
No advancement in social history has ever been made without acts of violence. Think about it – the suffragettes in the UK both enacted property and personal violence, and were on the receiving end of truly vile state sanctioned violence. Likewise the ending of the slave trade in the United States, the 1960s Civil Rights movement, the Stonewall Riots and so on. The violence is not one way; the discriminated-against have been on the receiving end for so very long that it truly is a war. I don’t want that to happen but I damn well understand how it does, and to dismiss it with racist stereotypes like the ‘angry black woman’, or the criminalised black male, or to emasculate gay men as ‘feminine’ thereby inviting society’s approbation exclusively by conforming to the masculine ideal of strength and physical dominance, is dismissing and provocative.
I know which side I will be on and it won’t be the one whose privilege I share. That is what I will do. That is my Ally Pledge.
Am I a good ally? I have absolutely no idea. But I want to be and I work to be. That’s all any of us can do. That’s all that ALL of us should do.
Thank you to the strong and open women who allow me to reap the benefit of their knowledge for the inspiration for this. If they see this, they’ll know who they are
38 Degrees, a very popular and populist independent campaigning group, recently took down a petition objecting to the political bias of journalist Laura Kuenssberg because of sexist and misogynistic comments made by very few commenters on social media. Their reasons for making such a decision can be found here.
It had been claimed that 38 Degrees themselves supported sexism by allowing the petition to continue although research showed that of all the tens of thousands of signatures to the petition only one or two misogynistic comments could be found as evidenced by the google cache of comments as at 11th May 2016 at 9.29 pm GMT.
This is silencing of the worst type. It takes a very serious issue such as sexism and misogyny experienced by women in the media spotlight and uses it to suppress any dissenting opinion and political viewpoint.
Laura Kuenssberg has a track record of proven bias towards the right wing parties most particularly evidenced in the recent elections across the United Kingdom along with her colleagues. This petition was intended to give voice to those objecting to such bias and was addressed to Ms Kuenssberg as she is the Political Editor of BBC News at the BBC and fronts Newsnight, the flagship BBC political broadcast. It was suppressed, based on false and/or misleading accusations.
Sexism, misogyny, indeed any form of discriminatory language, is faced by those who are female/BAME/transgender/disabled/poor/working class/non-heterosexual all the time. It is nothing new, and indeed the twitterati have been discussing misogyny and violent language directed at feminists for a very long time (since the inception of Twitter, basically). So why was this petition taken down, and why was it this petition and only this petition that was attacked?
I strongly believe it was to silence those who object to the clear bias of Ms Kuenssberg and the BBC’s political department. It’s no coincidence that this happened right before the BBC Charter is up for debate and renewal, and it is a relief to read today that the government will not have the draconian powers it wished to have. Yet. But this is not a blog about the BBC.
By throwing accusations of sexism and misogyny at the petition, however truthful, the point of the petition was lost and the debate was gas-lighted into self-righteous congratulation at ‘supporting’ a female who was being abused. Where is the support for all those women who are abused elsewhere? How convenient for those who wanted the petition gone to have an opportunity of proving themselves as non-sexist in suppressing the voice, ignoring the fact the petition itself was not sexist at all.
If we allow this to continue, then anyone who does not like what a person is saying, or a group is doing, or a campaign point of view, can get a group together and write some reprehensible discriminatory commentary on social media, and hey presto! All opposition is suppressed and silenced and it is for ‘good reasons’. Somebody is indeed ‘thinking of the children’.
I am a feminist. A rampant feminist, as I have been called in the past and embrace as a compliment. I oppose sexism and misogyny in every form. I am an intersectional feminist; I strongly believe equality of opportunity cannot exist if any form of discrimination still exists. It is absolutely right to object to the sexism and misogyny which is addressed to anyone, whatever their political leanings and however reprehensible one might find their personal activity.
It is absolutely unacceptable to suppress and silence using unrelated anti-discrimination rhetoric as the reason.
We saw the same thing recently with the anti-semitism scandals in the Labour Party being broadcast far and wide (background and more in-depth discussion of this here) whilst the racism in the Tory Party being barely reported upon or discussed (link is to an old story, as an example).
Rightly, racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia must be confronted and has no place in modern politics. Wrongly, the fight is not being applied equally and is being used to silence opposition and suppress dissention on entirely unrelated topics.
Self-righteous silencing makes me feel sick to my core. It suppresses dissent. It perpetuates the very discrimination it uses to silence. There is very definitely sexism and misogyny being directed towards Ms Kuenssberg, and that is wrong. That as the first Editor of BBC Newsnight to be female it was to be expected she would face such sexism is both depressing and wrong. That does not mean she is not biased in her reporting, nor that the BBC has been proven to be biased towards the right wing parties in their political broadcasts and news coverage. The two topics are not mutually exclusive.
If the support for those suffering discrimination was honestly intended and truly felt, it would be applied across the board regardless of those who are suffering at the hands of such discrimination. That it is not is very telling. It is a politics of black-and-white. Of no grey areas. Of conflation of ideologies. There is sexism throughout society, just as there is racism and all other forms of discrimination. To use the fight against such discrimination to suppress voices of dissent is insupportable.
I for one have had more than enough of the self-righteous silencing.
I expect you have too.
I am an artwork. I am a story. My pages are turning, filling, spidery writing scrawling the beats of my life. I am not finished. I will never be finished.
I am the beat of my heart. My body is the outward expression of my inward journey. Each tattoo strikes with a rhythm of pain overcome and autonomy regained. Strength ever growing and determination building. Beat, and I will overcome. Beat, and I will win.
Betrayed, used, lied to. Physical compatibility belied emotional vulnerability. I was told I must separate, move away from friends. We were fine together, but hate was all I would get from ‘outside’.
I gave my love and he gave his hate, the hate of his friends he said, but the truth was his insecurity. I could be with him. Only him.
I left him. I took back my power, and inked my mark of separation. Chosen image to divide from his potential destruction. Tattoo’d to reclaim my body. I wear a different body to that which he tried to destroy.
Self-inflicted hate of my shape, formed and incepted by those of you who told me I was wrong, defiled by my self-worth. My largesse was gross heresy to the ideal I should be wearing.
I took my self-loathing and drew on it. My design, a decoration worthy of me. Needle stabbing a permanent tribute to my value. I will give invitation-only viewings of the glory of my art, if I judge you worthy of access.
Confident, phoenix arisen. New design, a simple aesthetic in reflection of my passions. A distillation of culture, of history, of curve and of shape, coalescing in perfection on the slope of my back.
I am not your object to mould into submissive perfection. I am my canvas to adorn as I please. Make your assumptions as I make my body my own and my soul dance all over my skin.
I am a member of a couple of CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia) support groups on Facebook. I have many friends who are trained in and offer a range of alternative therapy treatments. I myself have undertaken a course in homeopathy and am a qualified trained reflexologist (with ITEC, although this has lapsed due to physical health issues; I was unable to practice). I understand and support holistic treatments with as wide a range as is possible and proven efficacious (whether placebo or not, placebo can work if the patient believes it will).
One thing I will not put up with and will object to strongly is when complementary therapy is offered as alternative, and conventional medicinal cancer treatments are advised to be ineffective (at best), or to be tools of a profit-driven pharma giant intent on perpetuating damaging health procedures which will kill or make the condition worse (at worst).
This is dangerous. This kills, and has done.* Let me be clear, I am not talking about prevention, but treatment. Living a healthy lifestyle is a good idea, and nutrition, exercise, general maintenance etc. is a positive step. Furthermore, as long as complementary medicines are not contraindicated by scientifically/empirically proven conventional practice, I see no harm. By contraindicated, I mean that some complementary treatments directly affect the efficiency of medication that may be prescribed by doctors/oncologists – for example St. John’s Wort is commonly used to treat depression (and has a proven positive effect, although why is still debated) but will reduce the effectiveness of other forms of medication (in my case, my epilepsy medication at the moment but also some cancer treatments which I will need in the future).
One of the problems of a privatised healthcare system is that it, like any system which has a profit motive at its core, will be treated suspiciously by those who are reliant on its services. The UK is lucky in that at the moment it has the NHS, which provides some protection against a purely profit-driven motivation in healthcare. Capitalism is inherently riven with abuse; we see that in the garment industry with sweat shops, in the sex industry with trafficking, rape and abuse (still called sex work/prostitution by the media which enables abuse to continue, in my opinion), even with the poor and vulnerable in society forced into low-paid work and substandard housing for the sake of more money in the landlord and/or shareholder’s pockets.
Complementary medicinal practice is also profit-driven, a fact which seems to be forgotten. Just as with conventional medicine, this means it is also open to abuse but unlike conventional medicine, there is no registering body or oversight practice which protects those seeking complementary treatments. Especially where there is private/insurance-led healthcare systems, this is open to the con artist seeking to profit from the very real fears of patients and those who care for them, and those who fear diagnosis.
I have read a great many ‘alternative medicine’ posts and watched many videos since my diagnosis 2 years ago. What I find with almost all of them is a lack of empirical evidence or source data from which they are drawing their conclusions. There is a lot of correlation proves causation, and poor pseudo-science written in very convincing language. I have research training to degree level; I am able to discern from the language used and from my own research what is worth following up and what is merely quackery (as I saw one video call conventional medicine, at the same time as state that is what conventional medicine calls ‘alternative medicinal practice’). The citing of historical methods of treatment as being seen at some time as ‘alternative’ is taken to mean current alternative treatments will be accepted as being as effective as already proven treatments available in conventional medicine. This may be true but it is not proven at the current time, despite scientific testing. To state this is to play on the hopes and fears of people who have a disease which if not treated at all WILL kill them. I find this reprehensible fear-mongering.**
There is talk of ‘sources’ and even of murder of alternative therapist providers by ‘big pharma’.** None of which is proven, but when those of us who are living with a cancer diagnosis read this, we are scared. Trust is very important between a patient and a care provider. These articles are deliberately vague but give enough data to be read as very believable. They destroy trust and create more fear. They are very much about ‘alternative’ therapies at the expense of conventional treatment, but not through informed decision-making.
Access to the internet and social media posts has exacerbated this situation. Constant posts even in online support groups can give false hope. The line between conventional and complementary therapies and the seeming inability for conventional medicine to work with complementary therapies doesn’t help. Far more complementary therapists are willing to work with conventional practice than the other way round, and this leaves the patient in a frightening, confusing position. Both need to work together, not pull apart.
Treatment is about the whole body. Complementary therapies are as much about the mind as the body and that is vital in creating an optimum environment in which one can rest, recover, and revitalise. Alternative therapies are about profit as much as they say conventional therapies are. But worse, much worse, is that they kill. All we can do is raise the point though. There is nothing we can do to stop this, and people will die as a result.
It’s immoral, unethical and certainly not an alternative, unless we mean an alternative to life. Don’t take my word for it; I admit I have a bias. I am very much an empiricist; I rely on data, factual information, the scientific method and proven effectiveness.*** I am not a faith-based person, that is not my character. What I ask is that you do your research, go deeper than the links I have provided, apply critical thinking and seek others to help you. Research source information, check out the background of websites you utilise – who are they and what is their motive?
It’s your life. It’s your loved one’s life. Make it a good one.