On @PiersMorgan and The Power of Ignorance About #PTSD [CN]

Piers Morgan, who "fears [PTSD has] become the latest celebrity accessory".
Piers Morgan, who “fears [PTSD has] become the latest celebrity accessory”.
I was accused of witchcraft once. As in an actual, the-spirit-of-Matthew-Hopkins-is-alive-and-well, genuine “I truly believe you are witch who suckles at the devils teet” accusation. It went on for a good few months – I got followed by people in town saying it loudly and pointing at me, for all to hear, on occasion.

I was okay, eventually. Took me a good few years not to get twitchy around that particular religious community, although truth be told I withstood that particular bout of spiritual abuse because I decided, in my own slightly… idiosyncratic… way, to embrace the role to which they had ascribed me. And, having ignored and ignored their ridiculously medieval brand of misogyny (and trust me, the women were way more vindictive about it), I turned round just one single time to see what would happen, if they thought I was about to actually (in whatever way they imagined it) cast a real (in whatever manner they interpreted it) spell.

And I never saw them again.

*********

Piers Morgan is what happens when the opinion of the journalist becomes more important than the news the journalist is supposedly reporting. Piers Morgan thinks he is the news.

So now that you have a pretty clarified idea about what I think about Piers Morgan, let me get to how that plays out, in the context of his recent tweets about PTSD, and the possible interview with the Lady Gaga, whom he had essentially accused in those tweets of being (at best) dishonest.

First, lets just recall for a moment, what happened when Mr Morgan interviewed Janet Mock – and then what happened where constructive and genuine criticism was met by a rousing performance of Piers Morgan, the aggrieved white liberal man, without whom we could not possibly do without.

I only mention it because, whilst Lady Gaga wont have to deal with Morgans brand of racialised transphobia dressed up as ally-ship, she will be dealing with a man who will frame the interview as a ‘debate’; ostensibly on the ‘hook’ of PTSD being treated too lightly by celebrities, but in reality because women who don’t report the abuse, assault or rape are laying themselves open to suspicion of lying, and that therefore the claims they make about having PTSD must automatically be considered equally dubious.

Because woman = liar is a pretty hoary old trope, and Morgan’s interviewing style can be pretty accurately be described as the journalistic equivalent of “if she sinks, she’s innocent, if she floats then she’s guilty.” Its a nasty little trick that can be made too look like justice (or in the this case ‘journalistic balance’) in the hands of a self important showman, and the eyes of the frightened and gullible.

It’s not witchcraft, to be able to see Morgan’s argument for what it is: misogyny, dressed up as entertainment, presented in the guise of liberal tolerance. And just for kicks, let’s make it a ‘debate’, because another humans life and reality is supposed to be ‘debated’. Or something.

Whether or not the interview with Lady Gaga happens, I am willing to put money on it being a dumpster fire: and even more money on Morgan refusing to take any responsibility for that afterwards.

I could be wrong.

But I doubt it.

Advertisements

When Choice Is Not Liberal But Radical: A Response to Meagan Tyler on Choice Feminism

choices

 

Feminism is not, nor should it be, a monolith; it would be counter-productive – even destructive – for feminists to expect women to become some sort of Borg collective, where all thoughts are one and all individuality is erased.  The idea that choice in unimportant in the collective liberation of women is fallacious: when part of the oppression focuses on denying autonomy over the body in which one lives, and the life that one leads – choice matters very much. That is why ensuring access to, for example, reproductive health care is so important, and why the right to safe abortions is so central to feminist praxis.  Preventing pregnancy or choosing not to carry a pregnancy to term are choices which I suspect most feminists would fight for.

Choices, then, matter in feminism; reclaiming the many ways that patriarchal society seeks, or has sought, to restrict or deny completely many aspects of being able to be fully autonomous goes hand in hand with dismantling the structural inequalities that perpetuate those restrictions. After all, the suffragettes did not seek to dismantle the patriarchy before fighting for the right to vote, and patriarchy did not hand in it’s resignation notice before making abortion legal here in the UK. (Or did I miss the memo…?)

There are many types of oppression which are structured to support and maintain patriarchy: sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism and able-ism for example, and none of those types of oppression operate individually – they intersect in many and various ways to rob people of their ability to make choices that would allow them to reach their potential as human beings and, in turn, contribute to and play an active part in their communities.

One of the impacts of patriarchal oppression is to ‘other’, de-humanise and demonize the bodies of those who live under those many facets of the patriarchy, and that becomes more acute when those bodies do not ‘fit’ the able bodied binary that is held as the ideological ideal. In the face of that, the choices that someone makes can be particularly powerful, and the choice to embrace the very body that is so loathed and feared can both empower others similarly oppressed, and speak with great impact against those structures which despise it.

In such a context, then, choice is not liberal but radical.

The arguments against what is disparagingly called ‘pop feminism’ fail to recognise the power of choice, because it assumes that choices are made because of imagined freedoms, when in fact those choices are usually made fully understanding the absence of them: but it also assume a function of feminism that is prescriptive of what feminism – and by extension women – should and should not be.  Meagan Dylan makes the same error that Meghan Murphy made before her because it is rooted in false notions of a universal experience of girlhood and womanhood, and therefore assumes that all women who, for example, have photographs taken of them naked, are doing so because they are in thrall to the male gaze.

It is ironic that one of Dylan’s criticisms of ‘pop feminism’ is that it supposedly ignores structural systems of oppression, when the criticism itself is so largely absent of any awareness of racial, colonial, able bodied and binary concepts of feminine beauty and sexuality.

I am not under any illusion that we ‘choose’ our way out of oppression, and the assumption that ‘choice feminism’ believes that it can is patronising and without foundation: it is a view that has assumed instead of listened, and frankly feminists, most particularly white feminists, spend far too little time listening.

What choices can do is speak truth, loudly and powerfully, to those who hold power and can it be radical, courageous and beautiful when that happens.

 

 

 

 

 

#IBelieveHer: The Radical and Transformative Beauty of a Simple Statement

This post discusses rape, abuse and violence against women (cis, black, transgender) and children. I reference my own experiences as well as material which some people may find triggering, so please take care of yourself. If you have never disclosed, either by choice or by circumstance, then know that I believe you.  

One such misplaced belief is that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are rife. – Keir Starmer, March 2013

In March 2013 the CPS released a report which laid bare the reality about so called false rape and domestic violence accusations. It is a report that should be read carefully, and not simply because the figures make strikingly clear how rare false reporting is.

Previous studies had also shown the rarity of false reporting, but the CPS report mattered because it illuminated something which gets lost in the less than nuanced conversations demanded by those who want our attention on the infrequent occasions when someone reports something which didn’t happen, rather than on the all too numerous women and children who are beaten, raped and killed week in and week out – most often by men they know.

What it highlighted was the vulnerability of those who accuse – it illustrates that there is neither any maliciousness, nor vindictiveness, (as some men would have us believe (TW/CN) ): only powerless people in difficult situations who may, nevertheless, find themselves on the receiving end of an unreasonable and disproportionate prosecutorial system. Whatever else is said or written about Eleanor de Freitas in the wake of her death, both her family and the investigating detectives are certain that the prosecution which pre-empted her suicide was utterly wrong, and her fragile mental health made her vulnerable in ways too many failed to comprehend.

For black women, transgender women and transgender women who are black and of colour, the situation becomes more complex. Racism and transphobia as well misogyny and sexism, mean they are pushed still further outside of our anyway unwelcoming society: their bodies – labelled unacceptable by their skin colour and/or their gender presentation – find a society not only unwilling to believe them, but willing (even eager) to discard them altogether. Ce-Ce MacDonald, Marissa Alexander and Janay Rice are women at the appalling tip of a violent iceberg. Their humanity is not simply ignored: it is not recognised at all.

It is a paradox that creates a shameful isolation – women are raped, abused and beaten daily and yet any of us, either by instinct or experience, know that if we speak up the first reaction from too many people will be disbelief and primarily a concern for the accused; concern for the ‘stigma’ of living with a ‘false’ accusation. The first instinct of society is not to believe the woman or child. Ask any of the children – or their parents – who tried to report what was going on in Rotherham, what labels were laid on the girls, what disbelief was endured before any truth finally came to light. The hand wringing which followed will be repeated again because no lesson is being learned of any value.

The truth is this: that even thought there are endless studies, and reams of statistics, which show that women and children are telling the truth, that ‘false reporting’ is not all common and even more rarely done out of maliciousness, society prefers instead to be concerned for the powerful, and not the powerless.

Women are, therefore, not only untrustworthy in societies eyes: we must also bear the blame for the physical and sexual violence endured. Constantly the message is writ large: if we did not exist, neither would these issues. We are told every day: rape exists because we do.

Against this backdrop of disbelief and victim blaming must come liberation and rebellion, and transformation from one state to another – from the web like trap of being both the blamed and the un-believed, making a simple statement such as #IBelieveHer and #IBelieveYou can be a truly radical act.

I know this: twenty or more years after I was raped by a man who made sure I would be treated with suspicion and disbelief if I were ever to speak up, those words were like oil on my turbulent heart. After nearly of two years of sexual violence, of gaslighting, of rape – hearing those words years later opened up a pathway to real healing. Sure, I’d had counselling: I had learned to ‘live’ with what had happened. I had recovered enough to move forward. But I had no access to a community where I could feel safe when talking about it.

Because that’s the difference: whilst those words are not a panacea, those words mean that there is a community of people – even in this disbelieving and victim blaming society – where I can say: I was raped; and there will be no finger pointing, no shaming, no dubious questioning from people unwilling to confront the ugly truths of life.

Everyone who has ever been abused and raped needs this: until we no longer require radical acts to provide community and safety; until we live in a world where the vulnerable are believed and supported; until we understand that the stigma of being raped and not being believed is far more damaging than being accused; until we raise our sons not to rape, not to demand or feel entitled to demand, and to recognise the humanity of all women; until racism, sexism, transphobia and misogyny dies – until then, first, last and always:

I believe you.

Sometimes I Am Rage, Sometimes I Am Grace 2: Faith, Hope and @BoxerGifts Rape ASBO’s

(This dude is apparently a journalist…a man who clearly knows how to do better feminism whilst at the same time trashing the woman…)

Because a woman speaks and therefore ‘shut-the-fuck-up’ is the knee jerk response…

And then of course there are the comments left by ‘Dawn-possibly-Thomas’… and although I deleted them immediately, there were a few rather more traditional ‘calling a woman cunt/bitch/whore’ comments (although they did at least call me a Christian cunt/bitch/whore, so I suppose I should be flattered that they recognised me as a woman of faith).

It occurred to me quite quickly that if these fake ASBO’s were truly harmless; if they weren’t in fact products of a mind which can make light of, excuse and joke about rape; if they really were just some silly thing over which I were wasting my time..

Why go to all the trouble of trying to shut me up? Why put me down, why patronise and belittle me? 

Now, I know that as far as actual abuse online goes, the above is nothing: I may be a woman, but I am protected by my cis-gender and my whiteness, and what I have experienced is nothing compared to many cis and trans*gender women of colour.

Nevertheless it is interesting to me the efforts these men will make to shut a woman up for something over which I am – apparently – wasting my time.

The petition – because even if Boxer Gifts/Silly Prezzies/’Dawn-possibly-Thomas’ doesn’t withdraw that bloody ASBO from sale, I’m not going to shut up. Not now. Not ever.