Who Are Your Acceptable Victims and Who Do You Choose to Believe?

It is some time since I last wrote anything in long form – and whilst it has been mere months in reality, I look at the glare of the blank white screen, eagerly consuming the the letters I type, and I smile at it like a long lost and much adored lover. I have missed writing intensely, but for many reasons it has been a long way down my list of priorities.

But I’ve had some thoughts crystallising in my mind of late.

I was at my PIP assessment today and I wanted to scrub myself with a wire brush after.  I’m sure the chap who conducted the assessment is nice to his old Mum, and he seemed like the type of bloke who has a muscular, slightly ugly mutt at home he adores, and he wasn’t… unpleasant as such.  Its just that he hasn’t had to sit on my side of the table and would probably be personally offended if I had told him I found the whole process utterly dehumanising. Because it wouldn’t matter how nice the person conducting the assessment is (or how truthful they may, or may not, turn out to be).

When you go to these assessments (or – if you need one, and have jumped the endless hoops you are required to jump through to get one – had a home visit), you go as the person with the disability/disabilities, and/or chronic illness, and/or mental health issues. Your physical/medical/mental health has prevented you from working for a whole host of reasons, the vast majority of which are not your fault. Nobody asks or wants to be disabled, chronically ill, depressed, addicted, be involved in life changing accidents, or the (repeated) victim of crime – or whatever unexpected life altering thing it is that you couldn’t possibly have seen coming. You sure as hell don’t want to be in that office discussing whether or not you wet yourself, or cannot with the best will in the world fill in a form without hyperventilating.  And you would rather gauge your eyes out with a rusty spoon that sit there hoping the assessor will decide you are sick enough for some small amount of help, but you hope for it anyway because the alternative is being told you aren’t sick enough and should be working, and you’ve probably half killed yourself working for longer than you should of already, because you anyway live month to month and the roof has to stay over your families head.

You are only at that assessment because, metaphorically, your house is burning and the flames won’t go out.

But the benefit system as it is now is based on this simple premise: you have to prove you are on fire.

Its archaic – literally. The powerful, demanding that the powerless (who cannot conform to the prescribed behaviour set out by the powerful) prove their truthfulness/need for assistance by performing the claimed ‘weakness’* to the satisfaction of those with the power to help.

(*In this context, it is the powerful who perceive and promote the disability/illness etc as a weakness in a negative context. The idea of illness/disability/sexual and/or gender difference as a weakness or failing, is promoted by the powerful to maintain control).

Yet no matter how archaic it is – and to some extent, irrespective of the ideologies attracted to this method of achieving and maintaining power and control – it perpetuates, re-invented in some new form every few decades, but surviving largely intact and otherwise unchanged no matter what century it is.  And there is an uncomfortable truth at the centre of that.

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When I was writing more regularly about my experiences of rape culture, I was then – and remain now – utterly perplexed by how normalised it is for victims and survivors not to be believed.  There are those who would tell you that its simply hysteria to suggest that sexual abuse, assault, and rape are as much of a problem as they are. And whilst it means that those who should be taking responsibility are not, it is not the expected intransigence, arrogance or duplicity of a system that will of course seek to protect itself, that causes most perplexity. Or even, arguably, is the most difficult thing to resolve.

There is an extraordinarily simple reason why a rape victim needs to hear the words “I believe you”.  If you believe them, then (setting aside, just for a moment, the positive impact on the victim), you have acknowledged that there is a problem. If you have acknowledged the problem, you are more likely to accept the problem needs to be resolved. If you accept the problem needs to be resolved, you are more likely to look positively at what will resolve that. Because whilst prevention is better than cure, you still need the cure.

But since prevention is better than cure – what happens if you believe that most people would rather swallow a bottle of castor oil than lie about being raped or abused, and that (however uncomfortable it might make you feel), the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual violence are telling the truth?

What happens when we all acknowledge that? And what’s stopping that?

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The thing is – it isn’t just rape victims who need to be believed. That’s not the only systemic abuse problem. For disabled and chronically ill people the benefits system is inherently abusive, predicated as it is on the presumption of guilt. For Black/of colour/LGBTQ+ disabled and chronically ill people the problem is still more pronounced.  The politics of belief around chronic illness and hidden disability is a minefield. You are reduced to someone who has to permanently prove yourself innocent of a crime that never occurred, far less was ever committed.

But if we accept that most people would rather work than put themselves through the Dickensian benefits process, and we believed disabled and chronically ill people, then would we really continue to tolerate and normalise the thousands upon thousands of disabled and chronically ill people dying, every year?

What happens when we believe black people and people of colour about racism, and about how we as white people, need to address our internalised racism and do something about it?

What happens when we believe trans women and trans men, believe that they are who they say they are and that they receive the abuse and discrimination they are telling us they receive?

What happens when we believe the refugees who tell us of the brutality and wars they are escaping?

What happens when we actually do think of the children, and believe them when they say they are being abused?

What would happen, if we chose to believe them all?

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The uncomfortable truth is this: we choose to believe the victims we are comfortable believing. And we choose to acknowledge the oppression’s we are comfortable enough to acknowledge.

And whilst its the system that sells the lie, it only keeps working because people keep believing it. And all of us do, at one level or other: some people will believe disabled people about the how the benefit system is killing people – but not a person of colour when they say that something is racist, and won’t believe the refugee escaping war and brutality; and some people will believe disabled people and people of colour, but won’t believe that trans women are women and trans men are men . Or they will believe a person can be gay – but not bi. Or accept all that, but won’t believe that the respectable man up the road with the good reputation could possibly be an abuser, and will tell you how terrible it is that he has to live with that accusation…

And the still more uncomfortable truth is this – because we choose to believe some people are living under oppressive systems, but do not, cannot or will not believe the same of others – the cycle of abuse across the multiple layers of society continues. It might be chipped away at, in piecemeal fashion – but you only have to look around you to understand that the foundations of that system remain as strongly entrenched as ever, and that all we have successfully and systemically managed to do is disbelieve black people, rape victim, the disabled, trans people, LGBQ people, women, the sick and refugees.

We believe who we are comfortable believing. We believe those who don’t challenge our world view – and we definitely don’t believe those who challenge more profoundly our view of ourselves. We believe those we perceive as being acceptable to believe.

And we can choose to ask ourselves why we don’t believe the black person, or the disabled person or the trans person, or the refugee – and then answer that honestly, or not.

Because belief is a choice. So the perplexity remains.

 

 

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Blind to Poverty: The Stoney Heart of #TheGospelAccordingToIDS

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”  

Hélder Câmara”

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Steve Bell on IDS 12/11/2010

It came across my tweeter feed this evening, and suffice it to say, my reaction was not a calm one. “Priti Patel MP: The bishops are blind to the moral message of IDS’s gospel of work.” Gospel of work?  GOSPEL?

Oh what fresh hell was this? After all, we are talking about the man of the Easterhouse Epiphany, who successfully fooled many with his new found desire to pursue ‘compassionate Conservatism’. This was a man who – perhaps because under his leadership the Conservative party were suffering mightily in the opinion polls – was already exploiting his religion in order to appeal to the conservative (small c) heartland, crying in public about ‘the poor’ and proclaiming his concern about how the secularisation of Great Britain might be one of Britain’s ‘biggest problems‘.

So well did he play the part of the caring and compassionate Conservative Christian leader that he was invited to speak at the Labour Party conference in 2005 by Bob Holman, founder of the Easterhouse based charity FARE, and it was where IDS proclaimed: “Everyone should have enough money to live properly in their community.”  And whilst his appeal to the conservative heartland did not save his leadership of the Tory party, it paved the way to a successful re-invention which allowed him to pursue his calling as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

So let us return to this ‘moral’ message, this ‘gospel of work’ – the Christian inference  is clear, and I would suggest, deliberate. The word ‘gospel’ is of course a rendering of the Greek word meaning ‘good news’ evangelion and is most often associated with Christianity. The premise then of this post is simple: that the bishops (and by extension any one who agrees with them about benefit cuts and caps which have been metered out under Duncan Smith) are failing to accept the ‘morality’ which drives this, and haven’t accepted the ‘gospel’ that this is The Way in which the poor should be dealt with.

Or to put it another way, this is the gospel according to Ian Duncan Smith, and there is something wrong with us if we don’t see it his way.

When you build a society in which people are only valued for their economic output, is is those least able to produce economically who suffer. And when your ‘morality’ is built on the premise that those who cannot produce economically should be forced to do so, inevitably you will find the belief that their poverty is their own fault, that it is a weakness of which they must be cured. And that is what is at the heart of this ‘gospel’ – the poor are poor because they have chosen to be so, and these cuts whom so many others can see as wrong, are in fact for their own good.

Under the last Labour Government, the concept of welfare went wrong. We saw an extreme culture of dependency on welfare developing where families became trapped – sometimes by deliberate choice and sometimes by accident – in a cycle of dependency in which they were rewarded for not working. This cycle also affected generations of households, which led to the erosion of the basic value of hard work, aspiration and the general desire to want to get on in life. (Emphasis mine)

People, so the narrative goes, have found a ‘lifestyle’ from which they need to be saved. In this narrative, the disabled aren’t doing enough for themselves, and those struggling with mental health issues could certainly make more of an effort. The LGBTIQ+ community might struggle with stigma and poverty, but if they could only stop being so ‘dependent’..  With this sort of view of humanity, it must make sense to take away social housing and take money away from domestic violence refuges, because naturally the last thing those escaping from domestic violence need after running away with their kids from life threatening violence is to develop ‘dependency issues’. And god help you if you are black or of colour.

Duncan Smith’s gospel is nothing at all like the gospel as proclaimed by Christ. It is, however, quite a lot like the ‘prosperity gospel‘, as proclaimed by a number of (very wealthy) preachers. But it isn’t good news for the poor, it wont set any captives free and it certainly isn’t life.

It’s a fake and phoney gospel, and if you don’t conform to it, it will kill you.

Setting The Bar Higher: More Women In Parliament Is Not Good Enough For Me #GE2015

 

Most of the Labour Party's female MPs, including Harriet Harman (centre) gather on the steps to New Palace Yard outside the Member's Entrance to the House of Commons before they enter as the House sits for the first time since the General Election.

 

In the wake of the recent general election, a good deal of post-election comment has focussed on the increased number of women MP’s entering parliament, with most of the major parties welcoming more women in to their ranks.

Increased representation across the political spectrum is for many an important goal: more women in parliament = more representation for women is a logical, if simplistic, approach.

On the night of the election, and in the teeth of the growing grim horror of realising this country had elected for itself the most right wing government we have ever had, there were individual bright moments: Naz Shah’s victory in Bradford was made all the sweeter because she ousted the pinnacle of left-ist misogyny George Galloway; and Mhairi Black’s victory and acceptance speech was also another very bright spot indeed.

Both of these women, by virtue of the lives they have led, and the understandings they have of the world in which women operate, will I hope prove to be both strong and positive role models in the stifling air of patriarchal misogyny that is the House of Commons.

And therein, I suppose, is the very nub of my cynicism about this great display of positive spin being written and spoken about the increase in women MP’s: will these women en masse make this Parliament, this government, and the House of Commons, less patriarchal?

Will they, en masse, ensure that the cuts which have led to crisis in Domestic Violence support services are reversed?

Will they, as a group, work together to change societal attitudes to violence against all women, recognise the particular dangers faced by specific groups of women, and work to tear down the walls of racism, transphobia and misogyny that blight so many women’s lives?

Will they support the unseen, silent army of carers (mostly women) who provide the care to family members and friends that the state cannot or will not?

And what of the women stigmatised because of mental health issues, struggling in severe poverty with disabilities, or vilified by our societies racism because they are refugees?

What of the women fighting for homes? For the safety of their children?

Will they challenge the patriarchal systems they are now working within to effect the kind of changes that women need?

Because this is my concern: women are not all affected in the same way by discrimination, and not all forms of discrimination affect all women – we are not all equally oppressed.  There are differing and intersecting ways in which women deal with (often life threatening) oppression: we are not one single homogeneous class.

Naz Shah and Mhairi Black not withstanding, the vast majority of these new MP’s are white, cis gender and come from comparatively privileged back grounds.  When the difference between the overwhelmingly white, cis gender, privileged MP’s  on any side of the house is so insubstantial – when so many women in various ways face threats from a government that is prepared to ditch the Human Rights Act, I don’t want, or need, more women simply buying in to the very systems which threaten us.

This isn’t something as shallow as disagreeing with someone else’s politics – this is about women’s lives.

#GE2015 – A Victory For the Politics of Fear

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For many of us who grew up under Margaret Thatcher, there is a feeling of ‘deja vu’ that is familiar, and frightening –  a sense of being plunged in to dark days where those who are most marginalised and most vulnerable, those who have the most to lose and the least to spare, and those who already stumbling because their strength is being sapped are now in greater danger than ever.

It now seems certain that the Conservatives will form the next government; they will, like Thatcher, strip this country still further of its ability to look after the weakest and most vulnerable. Like their much worshipped former leader, David Cameron, George Osborne (no longer saddled with the worse that useless Danny Alexander) and Ian Duncan Smith, will wring changes which will increase the numbers of those struggling on zero hours contracts; that will withdraw yet more of the already pitiful support the sick and disabled are only able to access with increased difficulty; the racism and xenophobia that increasingly dictates the way that we respond to and deal with refugees will produce a fouler stench every day; those in danger will find it harder to access safety. Education and the NHS will be further plundered and sold off. University will become a dream as elusive to a new generation as it once was, long ago when such things were not accessible to the ‘working class’.

I am not in the habit of wearing rose-coloured glasses: I have no desire to take us back to previous era’s , even though they were a time when full employment and a ‘cradle to grave’ welfare state where part of a healthy, vital and productive society.  We can’t go back.

But we must go forward, and find a new way to create that same security and stability that helps people to make their communities better.

When the dust has settled, it will become more obvious that the Left messed up, and messed up big time. There will be those in the Labour Party who will mutter that this happened because the party had become too left wing: let me assure them that the very opposite is true.

The Labour Party have not been a party of the Left wing for a very long time – since 21st July 1994 in fact, when they abandoned the solid foundation built under John Smith for the lure of the easy power that came with the compromise of principles, and signing up to the same narrative of fear which Thatcher had found so successful.

And though many may genuinely want to see an end to this narrative of fear and despair which tempts us to look back to some previous time in history – and which has seemingly been rejected by the Scots – both the fragmented nature of the left and that temptation to look back rather than forward, have played their part in handing the Tory party a victory which will undoubtedly lead to more despair, and more death.

There will I am sure, perhaps because of how painful we know the ensuing 5 years will be, be a temptation to seek a false unity that may demand those whom the left have too often trodden on or thrown under a bus to silence their complaints in order to scrape back some semblance of possibility that things will be different next time.

And just as looking back will not make this better, false unity will not a solid foundation create.

So we on the left have to be honest: we have to address the structural and systemic racism, sexism, transphobia and misogyny that plagues us.  We have to be prepared to get our hands dirty, and get back to grass roots activism and re-connect with the problems and people we are supposed to be fighting for.

We have to change the story we tell, and drop the narrative of fear back in to the cesspool from which is was wrought, exchanging it for a language of hope and faith. Those oh-so tempting phrases like ‘helping hard working families’ – which exclude millions and show such contempt and disrespect to those who might not draw a salary or be part of a ‘family’ unit but still have to work harder than some of us know keeping body and soul together – have to go.

We want a better way – and it will take hard work. We already have some idea of how painful that work could be. Lets not be afraid of that. Lets not be afraid to recognise that we messed up because we lacked the courage to challenge the right wing narrative of fear that has so dominated our politics for the last 35 years.

Because then, maybe, next time, we wont feel like this the morning after. And everyone today who is looking at the next 5 years in numbing, gut churning fear, will actually have hope.

Can You Be a Willy-Loving Feminist?

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Back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s when I wasn’t yet a teenager,  radical feminists were pondering on the idea of heterosexuality as a political institution (“compulsory hetrosexuality”)  and that choosing to be a lesbian was the ultimate act of liberation from that institution.

And as Julie Bindel reminded us recently, the mantra of the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist group was “all feminists can and should be lesbians.” [Emphasis mine].

The pamphlet produced by this group at the time was called “Love Your Enemy – The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism.”   (LYE – i.e., lie – for short. Get it?) If you read it (and I am always up for reading something which purports to be radical and revolutionary) it takes about 5 seconds to see the inherent flaw and not much longer than that to notice the complete absence of anything remotely resembling an analysis of the patriarchy that considers the problem of gender oppression in terms of class, race, disability, gender binary, trans*gender and bi-sexuality. (The heterosexual anger at Bindel on twitter this last couple of days has been interesting – ask the trans*gender community what it is like to be on the receiving end of Bindels ill-aimed anger).

Bindel asks us to think about these ideas in the comparatively acceptable terms of ‘choosing sexuality’ as an intellectual idea rather masks the fact that this whole idea was deeply unpleasant from the start and it did – and does – absolutely nothing to dismantle the very patriarchy it rails against. And let me clear – it isn’t the notion of choosing your sexuality that’s the problem: no body but you decides who you are. 

Penises are not evil. The patriarchy does not exist because of penises. And if we are going to end bigotry then suggesting that heterosexual women are ‘collaborators’ is just.. well, stupid. All women are equal except for the ones who are heterosexual because they just are or choose to be?  I can’t quite decide if this is the natural result of the dehumanising way they think of trans*gender women or vice versa,  but either way, I am not prepared to dance to the bigots tune.

Yes. You can be a willy-loving feminist.

#SurvivorPrivilege, Fairies, Unicorns and Other Myths: A Response to @georgewillf

(Note: The hashtag #survivorprivilege was started by @wagatwe – for more information on that read here).

 

Washington Post pundit George Will  has finally blown the whistle on the big secret – those of us who have been lucky enough not to be killed by our attackers and rapists have privilege and status.  It’s even possible that we lied to get it.

Funnily enough, just recently I was discussing this with a friend of mine (who always insists to her therapist that there honestly is no need for her to roll out an actual red carpet, and that feeding her grapes whilst she reclines on the therapist’s couch is actually quite embarrassing); we were marvelling at how it has turned out to be such a benefit to us, and how society falls over itself to treat us like royalty.

Both of us are amazed that the media now focus on the behaviour of the attacker who chose to rape us, and that girls no longer have to be told to adjust their behaviour; that nobody ever tells a rape joke anymore, and that it is great that we can feel confident that we (and every other rape victim everywhere) will see justice for the crimes committed against us.

We then flew to lunch on the back of our dragons and had a splendid time with the aliens who popped over from the neighbouring galaxy in their UFO. Sorry you missed them, but they have promised that they will be back next month.

Like many men who don’t want the status quo to be challenged, Will has a ‘women-who-do-not-endlessly-kick-and-scream-against-their-attackers-are-not-real-victims’ kind of mentality. And he cannot get his head around the fact that being educated about rape awareness only unearths more pesky ‘not-really-victims’ victims . To Will, these women (whom he comes within a hairs breadth of calling liars suggests in a less than subtle manner are of dubious morality) are simply exerting their feminine wiles because the Obama administration seeks to address the situation of college rape, and sees them as akin to getting a man to pick up the hankie you just accidently-dropped-on-purpose because – well, they’re women and they want the men [i.e., government] to come riding to their rescue.  (Just pass me another grape will you? And please pick up my lavender scented hankie whilst I recline on my chaise longue).

It’s not that this man has a view point that is grotesque in its rape apology: it is the prominence that both the Washington Times and New York Post give to this privileged white man who belittles the violence of rape in such a casually dismissive manner. (“Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka “sexual assault,” he writes, as though rape is some prankster-with-good-intentions hiding behind a mask and doesn’t really mean it when it frightens the crap out of you, violates you and leaves you unable to function emotionally or psychologically).

The world George Will lives in is the one where the patriarchy gets to do exactly as they please – to whomever it pleases them to do it – without ever having to be held even remotely accountable.

The world in which every woman deserves to live is very different – it is nowhere near to reality yet, but it’s not a myth and we will continue to fight for it.

 

Confessions of a Borg Drone – Shedding My #liberalwhitelogic

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Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager

Here’s the thing about The Borg (and if you’re not a Star Trek fan or a sci-fi geek and you don’t get the reference, here’s a link to a nice little précis) which I have lately been pondering on – they are a pretty decent parallel for Liberal White Logic.

Liberal White Logic has many sects and many schisms within those many sects – in the secular variety there is Conservative Liberal White Logic (sometimes self-referred to as ‘compassionate Conservatism‘); there is ‘Liberal’ Liberal White Logic; there is Feminist Liberal White Logic; there is Social Justice Liberal White Logic.  You get it in religion too – the Everything-Should-be-Nice-for-Everyone-Have-Cake-and-a-cup-of-Tea-Anglican-Liberal-White-Logic is the one I am most familiar with of course (and I’m really am going to have to find a shorter name for that).

Whatever the superficial differences, certain key traits mark out Liberal White Logic in all it’s guises (and vices):

  • Magical Intent
  • Colour Blindness
  • Self-Delusion
  • Assumption
  • Appropriation
  • They are bloody everywhere

The Borg had all of these things (and I realise that with at least one of the above points I am likely to be considered stretching it a bit but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll stretch the point if I want to).  You see the thing is, in the context of Star Trek the fictional science fiction programme, the viewer looking from the outside in has no problem in distinguishing The Borg as the ‘bad guy’, even if you feel a degree of pity for the individual drones whom you know are often there against their will.

The Borg do not merely invade other worlds – they eat them up and absorb that world in to itself until there is nothing left of the world that you might recognise of it. The Borg absorbs, assimilates, those who were once individuals until there is nothing of the individual left and there is only the collective Borg. The Borg want everything because The Borg assumes all things belong to it – because The Borg seek ‘perfection’ (and in some implicit way must therefore be perfect).

The viewer sees this and knows that it is wrong. The viewer has no problem recognising this as evil.

In a feminist context, let’s consider Eve Ensler for a moment – and purely for the purposes of this post, cast her in the role of the Borg Queen. No doubt some might consider this a bit harsh, but it seems a reasonable way to illustrate the point, particularly in the light of the whole appalling ‘Congo Stigmata’ thing. (For a whole host of other reasons why Eve Ensler is such a good example of the worst kind of Liberal White Logic, I would suggest you read Lauren Chief Elk, Mikki Kendall and Prison Culture to get to grips with what I am referring to. In fact, read those first because these are the voices of the women most directly harmed by all this).

Ensler is quite possibly the pinnacle of the worst that our collective Liberal White Logic ends up producing, although she is certainly not unique:

Magical Intent:

Like many ‘charitable’ white people, Ensler has (or appears to have) good motives: she wants an end to violence against women in the Congo, and has spent time with these women. She seems to have concern for their welfare. Her intent seems good; and because her intent is good, this surely means that she is beyond reproach or incapable of anything that might be deemed colonial or racist?

Have you read those articles yet?  If you have, can you see the problem? Can you see the appropriation, the centring of herself, the consumption of these women’s lives for her own benefit?

Colourblind:

I don’t doubt for a moment that Ensler would tell you that she doesn’t judge someone by their skin colour and would certainly tell you she is not racist. But when she is appropriating and consuming Native women’s struggles, the pain and horror of the women of the Congo – do you think she is recognising their individual and communal histories and cultures? Do you think she is respecting these when she takes it upon herself to ‘speak’ for them? Do you think a white saviour is not racist?

Self-Delusion:

Okay, I will admit that I am not convinced that Ensler suffers from self-delusion: call me a cynic but given how much and how many have questioned her methods, her tactics, her language, her approach and her overall behaviour (and have done so directly), I am not convinced that Ensler is at all naive about what she does.

But if she really is that naive, if she really does not understand the impact her actions have upon the women who must deal with these things – the she fools herself to a massive degree, and in order to continue to do so has to shut out not just the voices of those who seek to question her, but her own voice too.

Assumption & Appropriation:

These two really do go together – as I have already touched on, our White Liberal Logic is as imbued with colonial assumptions of superiority as the right wing demagogues we more normally fool ourselves in to associating with such thinking. The only difference is, we think we have to ‘save’ People of Colour, directed by the narrative that People of Colour are too starved, war-torn or poor to save themselves.

It is barely a step from that to the appropriation of the cultures (honestly do you, or does someone you know, have a ‘dream catcher’ in their home?), and the consumption of their heritage and their lives.

photo of Eve Ensler from the Guardian.(photo from The Guardian).

Honestly, if we – if Eve Ensler – were fully recognising the humanity of People of Colour, would this be happening?

They’re Bloody Everywhere:

One Billion Rising is almost upon us, again. There really will be millions (though maybe not a billion) ‘dancing for justice’. Millions who have not questioned Ensler’s organisations Liberal White Logic – millions who think that getting up and dancing is what justice will look like for the indigenous women whose own day of vigil and remembrance for the missing has been appropriated by ‘V-Day’. Millions who have perhaps bought into Ensler’s assertion that her own cancer was the result of Congolese women ‘entering her’, who have not questioned her desire to watch a Congolese woman’s surgery and then talk about that anonymous woman in terms of ‘holes’.

But this is the thinking I was spoon fed and weaned on, like every other white western woman: this seemingly well meaning, liberal ‘hippy’ thinking which is as guilty of the colonial, oppressive, self-centring racism that those right wing bogeymen of old are.

We white liberals look at them, and pat ourselves on the back for not being them. 

But we are. And we are everywhere. We are the Borg – resistance is futile and you will be assimilated.

Or maybe not. Maybe we will question ourselves more closely – maybe we will take a long hard look at what we’ve believed without question before, maybe we will stop thinking it is always about us and step back. And listen. And hear. And recognise – and learn.

On cookies, motivations and why no platform is a good thing

Over the last several weeks certain discussions coming across my twitter timeline have caused me to particularly notice something, which I otherwise might not have: when a woman of colour talks about white women ‘looking for cookies’ from them, I tend to check to see if that’s what I am doing because in such a context cookie-hunting would be appropriative, and even flat out racist; it would be a way of consuming women of colour, something that we white women have been doing for far too long.

But when a white woman says it, my response is usually different: it feels manipulative, as if listening to women of colour, and accepting that when they say something is racist, well it’s racist – is a betrayal of feminism.

(If you aren’t sure what ‘looking for cookies’ means or refers to, think of it as approval and reward).

I am not here for anything that could be even a little bit racist, or appropriative or colonial: but I am white and therefore part of a political and social structure which is racist.

I don’t want cookies. But I do want to do what is right and in order to do that I have examine myself thoroughly, look at my thought processes and actions and words honestly, so as to identify where I may racist or colonial. And if a woman of colour says that something is racist – then it’s not for me to doubt that.

Perhaps not having a platform, not having an audience whose approval I seek to maintain is a good thing. Maybe it means that by being part of the crowd, hidden, un-noticed gives me a freedom to see things more clearly because of it.

Because I am picking a side: it’s the side that I cannot help but pick. And I’m not picking it for cookies.

Am I Being Naive.. Isn’t An Ism Always An Ism?

Shouldn’t be as simple as this:

  • If a Person of Colour (PoC) says that something which has been said, written or done is racist – then it’s racist.
  • If trans*/transgender person says that something which has been said, written or done is transphobic/cis-sexist – then it’s transphobic or cis-sexist.
  • If a physically or mentally differently abled person says that something which has been written, said or done is ableism – then it’s ableism.
  • If a LGBTIQ person says that something that has been written, said or done is homophobic/queerphobic – then it’s queerphobic.
  • If a woman says that something which has been said, written or done is sexist – then it’s sexist.
  • If a Woman of Colour (WoC) says that something which has been said, written or done is both racist AND sexist (intersectional) – then it is, and further more if she also says that we white women need to stop using the word we should respect that.

I will grant you that this is awfully simple stuff. Which is why some might see it as naïve, or be able to provide a whole smorgasbord of reasons why some those might not always apply.. but really – shouldn’t it actually be as simple as this?

Isn’t anything else just an excuse?

Julian ‘I Am The Messiah’ Assange on the BBC

So Julian Assange did a thing on Radio 4’s Thought For The Day today.

That’s right. A man who is a fugitive from justice, who is avoiding facing legal allegations of rape by holing himself up in the Ecuadorian Embassy, was allowed by the BBC to broadcast his thoughts on… wait for it… “governments dare to aspire.. to a god-like knowledge of each and every one of us.”

Um.

So the man with the most blatant messiah complex, who wants us to believe that he never committed any act of rape or sexual assault – who encourages his own followers to believe in his innocence in an act of psuedo-religious faith; and who dis-fellowships those who dare to question him in a way not dissimilar to cults like the Jehovah Witness’ – accuses the governments of the West of “daring to aspire to god-like knowledge”.

I am not hugely concerned with what he said: I am hugely concerned that the BBC gave him air time.  And before some bright spark starts in with the ‘he’s-not-been-charged-or-found-guilty’ schtick, let me just nail this right now.

2 women have made a complaint that he raped and assaulted them. 2 women who Assange and his church  (sorry, groupies … I mean supporters) have publicly named, and smeared and have gone to great lengths to generally further degraded these women. (In what is possibly the oldest trope going, these women have been accused of being ‘part of a plot’ to destroy Assange/Wikileaks).

Julian Assange’s lawyers twice argued to the British Courts that the allegations would not be rape under English law, and on both occasions the courts ruled that the allegations would, indeed, be considered rape.  Let this sink in for a moment, because he is basically saying that he did it, he just doesn’t consider it to be rape.

(For more on the legal mythology surrounding Assange, I would suggest reading David Allen Green – aka ‘Jack of Kent’ – or this by Anya Palma).

What the BBC did today by giving Assange air time was legitimize this fugitive from justice. They gave a man evading rape charges a pat on the back and told everyone that this was a man being victimised by the very same patriarchal system he exploits to rape women and then evade the legal consequences.

And this is not okay.

It’s BS – high, stinking, BS.