Thursday, December 22, 2011

Adult Sleepwalking

I sleepwalked last night. It is something I have started doing this year, for reasons unknown. It is horrible, and I wake up too freaked out to get back to sleep. I'm writing this because it's bedtime again and I'm scared now.

It's not even just sleepwalking. Last night I got to sleep about 2.30am. I woke up at 4. I was downstairs, and had sleepwalked. Not just that. I woke up vomiting, because I had eaten tonnes of food in my sleep. I have no idea where my glasses are (I have spares now, thankfully, mainly because of this very thing).

I woke up vomiting over myself, after 1.5 hours sleep, because I had eaten so much. In my sleep.

It is foul, I hate it, it scares me.

Can't imagine this post will stay up long, because it's all quite humiliating. But maybe writing it down will help me to freak out less in anticipation of sleeping tonight.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Subscribe to hippie blog on Kindle

In exciting news, as well as subscribing by RSS feed, you can also now subscribe to incurable hippie blog on your Kindle!

As far as I can tell it is only available in the UK and the US.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

You're Frightening Me

It started with a blog post, where David Gillon challenged 38 degrees about why, despite a disability benefit cuts campaign receiving lots of votes, it never reached the 'call to action' stage.

Then there was an article (now amended) which described an athlete's move from Paralympic to Olympic competition as a "move up".

I then read in Jezebel about a sex worker who is awesome because she works with disabled clients, which apparently makes her intriguing.

And I started to wonder, what do you think of us? Of me? In these three stages, the mainstream, and the left-wing, tell me that I am inferior, and I am other. So very, very other.

Then Lisa Egan wrote a post (trigger warning) about suicide, and her despair at the lack of support from even campaigning organisations, and I still, somehow, didn't cry.

Then, finally, the article that did make me cry, in which I learned that 2/3 of people avoid disabled people because they don't know how to act around us. In addition,
A third of those questioned demonstrated hardened negative attitudes towards the disabled. Reasons cited for this ranged from disabled people being seen as a burden on society (38%), ill feeling around the perceived extra support given to disabled people (28%), and the personal worries and sensitivities which rise to the fore during a recession (79%).
It went on,
Some 60% of Britons admit to staring at disabled people because they are different, with more than half of people (51%) admitting they feel uncomfortable when they meet a disabled person for the first time, with more men (54%) admitting to being uncomfortable compared to women (50%).
At a time when cuts are actually killing disabled people, we are also experiencing more negative attitudes, perceptions of being a burden, an additional cost, especially during a recession. How very inconsiderate of us to not wait to attain crippled status until the economy is fixed.

If you're questioning whether this is a feminist issue, then the point is being missed. I am a woman who 38% of people polled consider to be a burden. I am a woman who 2/3 of people polled admit to avoiding for reasons of prejudice. I am a woman who 50% of women polled admitted to being uncomfortable to meet. I am a woman who is witnessing her friends become more and more afraid to leave the house, for fear of government- and Daily Mail-inspired abuse in the street. I've experienced it myself.

There are so many issues at the moment which are putting us all into a state of crisis. This is one of many: people are starting to frighten me. Is the person I'm talking to one of the 38%? Or the 50% Or the 65%?

Given that women are the hardest hit by spending cuts, and disabled people are the hardest hit by spending cuts, disabled women are being overlooked, avoided, resented, marginalised and othered. It takes non-disabled people, at this stage, to make some of the changes that need to happen.

(Cross-posted at The F-Word and Where's the Benefit?)

[The image is a photograph of handmade print next to one of the stencils. They read "FEAR MORE HOPE LESS". The photograph and artwork are by Ben Murphy and are used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Divide and rule works both ways

When I complained about Julian Assange speaking at Occupy LSX, I was told I was being divisive. When I drew attention to zohra moosa and Chitra Nagarajan's experiences of racism at the same occupy camp, I was also told I was being divisive. Complaining about the Labour Party, about the Lib Dems, about rapes at other Occupy camps, about inaccessible feminist meetings, and about issues being ignored under the heading of #solidarity, all get me called divisive.

The idea is that if you complain about something, you risk dividing the movement, at which point the opposition - be it the patriarchy, the 'right', the rich, the government - can move in and rule. And I understand this concern. When a movement is struggling for a voice, the last thing it needs is the people within it arguing amongst themselves, instead of against the people they are uniting to fight.

However, there comes a point when supporting a movement whose ideology or aims you broadly agree with becomes one painful compromise too many. And if you speak up, the 'divisive' accusations pour forth. But in my daily, lived experience, the division does not come from me raising awareness, the problem comes from the issues arising in the first place.

Because if I cannot physically get into your occupy camp, it is not me who has divided the movement. There is a very literal division between the non-disabled people who can get in, and the disabled people who can't. And because if there have been rapes at your occupy camp, or your occupy camp produces a document telling anyone who is raped at the camp to not go to the police, it is not me who divides the movement by drawing attention to it, it is those who rape, and those who attempt to suppress legal redress against rapists who cause a division. And because if disabled people who can't leave the house spend hours and days and weeks live tweeting events to take part in, and raise awareness of, a demonstration, and then those same disabled people actually plead with the protesters to add benefit and social care cuts to their banners and chants, and are ignored at every turn, the division is being created by them, not me.

I understand that in a broad movement, gathered together ideologically but not always agreeing, compromises will need to be made. I am becoming less and less understanding, however, about how often the white, heterosexual, cis, non-disabled men are asked to compromise, in comparison to the rest of us. Because being called divisive is sometimes very similar to being silenced.

This was originally posted at The F-Word.

[The image is a black and white close-up photograph of a person's mouth, with piercing, with a finger held up against it in a 'shush' position. It was taken by Ko_An and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Procrastination Podcast and Book

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a chronic procrastinator. In an effort to improve this really stressful trait in my life I have been reading up and studying all about it, and one of the best resources I have found is the iProcrastinate Podcast. I have been listening to the whole back catalogue over the last couple of months, and trying to implement some of the strategies that Dr. Tim Pychyl recommends and explains.

Since my year in France, as part of my degree, I've always wondered why French people apparently do not procrastinate. They don't even have a word for it (dictionary said, "faire quelquechose demain qu'on devrait faire aujourd'hui" - do something tomorrow that you should do today). So, as Tim sometimes answers listener queries on his podcast, I decided to email him. To my very pleasant surprise, he responded quickly and has now made a podcast episode all about it.

I am very much looking forward to listening to it, and you should go listen too! Go on, it'll be good, I promise.

Tim has also written an awesome book, The Procrastinator's Digest, (also on Kindle for only a few pennies over £2!) and you can see his website here.

[The image is a photomosaic of 36 clocks. It was taken by Leo Reynolds and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Disability and Sexuality Resources

I have been doing some research on sex and disability, and thought I would share some of the links I have found. This will be useful for me in the future as a resource, and hopefully to others too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A well-loved man.

Earlier this year, a friend of several of my friends died. He was young, and the circumstances were tragic and, at the time, somewhat newsworthy. But the news media can all too easily lose sight of the very real grief and sadness surrounding someone's death, by getting caught up in the 'story'.

Some months later, and this 'story' has re-appeared in the local news, because his inquest has taken place. The real loss facing his friends and family has been overlooked in favour, yet again, of sensationalised details of his death.

Because he died by suicide, even more care than usual should be taken when reporting his death. According to the Press Complaints Commission's Editors' Code of Practice, "When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.". This is also backed up by the Samaritans, who say that
certain types of suicide reporting are particularly harmful and can act as a catalyst to influence the behaviour of people who are already vulnerable.[...] Research suggests that media portrayal can influence suicidal behaviour and this may result in an overall increase in suicide and/or an increase in uses of particular methods.
They also specifically advise the media to "Avoid explicit or technical details of suicide in reports".

On a more personal level, this man's friends and family are devastated at his loss. In particular, it is felt that reports like the one in today's Star not only dramatise a tragic situation, they also ignore that this was a person who was loved, and whose life amounted to so much more than what was portrayed. In addition, the mention of his child is worded in such a way that his friends are concerned that this could cause her to blame herself for his death when she is older.

This man died because of depression, and responsible reporting should include information on how people who are feeling depressed can seek help. Ethical reporting should refrain from including unnecessary, distressing details of his last moments. And respectful reporting should take into account the feelings of those who loved him, who will read this news report with a pain that is difficult to describe, but devastating to experience.

I did not know this man, but have seen similar newspaper reports on the suicides of two of my friends, so I know this pain well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Disabled people occupy the UK / Occupy Sheffield access info

While I hadn't been able to join an occupation on a Sunday, I went to my local occupation this afternoon and spent an hour or so there drinking tea and putting the world to right. What follows is not an in-depth access survey, but is rather the impression I got, based on the information I was told or observed.

The Sheffield Occupation is in front of the Cathedral, so trams and buses stop nearby. It is on a flat courtyard and while there are some steps to access it from some directions, there are sloped alternatives alongside them.

The Occupy Sheffield has one portaloo, which is not accessible. The local Quaker Meeting House is offering the occupiers use of their toilets, and they do have wheelchair accessible toilets on each floor (with lift access to each floor). Once they close from 9pm - 9am, use of the portaloo begins, excluding many disabled people from using it.

The closest Changing Places toilets to the site are at Sheffield Town Hall and at Ponds Forge Sports Centre.

They have generators for electricity, but try to only use these at night. They also have gas heat, which is basic. If you need electrical power for any of your equipment, this could be problematic at the Occupy Sheffield camp. If you have a need to keep warm that would go beyond wrapping up really well, then again it may be an inaccessible protest for you in that respect too.

There is a good supply of food and hot drinks. I was the only visibly disabled person at the camp when I was there, but talked to a man who was a mental health service user. Another disabled person had clearly been at the camp at some point too. This photo is of a piece of paper taped to the main tent, which reads "I am one of the few disabled people who has a job. I am mad about what our society has become. I am the 99%".

The photo at the top of the post is of the main tent. It has a large banner on it, reading "Occupy Sheffield", and another fabric banner reading We Heart NHS. Both were taken by me.

There is a lot more I could say about the experience at #occupysheffield and maybe I will, but for now, this is a very basic accessibility survey for the site.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What I've Been Up To

The main thing I've been up to is setting up a massive database to link feminists on twitter with similar interests. It's been a lot of work, but 258 people have already signed up and filled it in, and that's in 24 hours!

If you are a feminist on twitter, fill in the form, then find others on the spreadsheet. See my blog post about it here.

Other things I have been doing, have been:

My favourite things today have been this video, and this news story.

As usual I'm on twitter as me, and my writer / social media self is also there @PhilippaWrites. There will be more news on this in a few weeks. I also run the F-Word twitter account and sometimes post from Where's the Benefit? account too.

And I may as well list everything while I'm at it, eh? So you can see the daftness I post on tumblr, find me on google+ and on Linked In.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Not In My Name.

Yesterday I wrote about why Workfare is exploitative and unfair, especially for disabled people. Today I want to talk about something insidious and disturbing within the plans for rolling this system out, and this is the details of who stands to benefit.

Firstly, there are big companies who have signed up, unsurprisingly, to get people to work for them without a need to pay them, such as Poundland, Matalan, Tesco and Primark.

Secondly, there are public sector organisations who want to benefit from unpaid labour, such as the local councils of Barnsley, Blackpool, Bromley, Chester, Dudley, East Riding, Gateshead, Greenwich, Hartlepool, Islington, Kensington, Medway, Neath Port Talbot, Newham, North Lanarkshire, Northumberland, Portsmouth, Renfrewshire, Stoke-on-Trent; numerous further education colleges; and several NHS trusts.

And thirdly, and perhaps most disappointingly, is the depressingly large number of charities and third sector organisations who are seeking to benefit from people being forced to work without pay, at threat of loss of their benefits.

Just some of the organisations who the DWP state will be involved in delivering the Work Programme, are:

Action for Blind People
Autism West Midlands
Disability Information Bureau
Disability Works*
Hammersmith and Fulham MIND
Leonard Cheshire Disability
Papworth Trust
Rochdale and District MIND
Royal Mencap Society
Royal National College for the Blind
Scottish Association for Mental Health
Shaw Trust
The Mind Consortium (Hull and East Yorkshire MIND)
Warrington Disability Partnership

These are the organisations from the list that stood out to me as disability organisations. Organisations ostensibly to represent and fight for the rights of disabled people.

Last year I wrote about Disability Works, a "collaboration of national third sector disability organisations including Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, Scope, Mind, Action for Blind People, United Response, Pure Innovations, Advance UK and Pluss". I argued in May that the Hardest Hit organisers could not represent me or fight for my rights when they also stood to benefit from the proposed changes in welfare reform.

Now Disability Works are amongst all of the above voluntary sector disability organisations who are seeking to benefit from workfare. Along with all the other charities above, and with all the problems Workfare will cause for disabled and non-disabled people, we simply cannot trust these organisations to have our best interests at heart. They, along with Primark and Tesco, aim to profit from labour which is unpaid, unfair, and is carried out against a threat of a loss of benefits.

These big disability charities do not represent me, they do not have my interests in mind, and they do not speak for me.

Not in my name.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Elsewhere Today

Things I have done elsewhere today:

And others' posts I have liked elsewhere:

Workfare: Exploitative and cruel, especially for disabled people

Some disabled people are completely fit for work, but cannot find any, so claim Jobseekers' Allowance. This is particularly an issue because disabled people face many barriers to work, including inaccessible workplaces, employer prejudice and employers being ignorant of, or refusing to adhere to the Equalities Act in relation to reasonable accommodations.

Increasingly, however, disabled people who are not fit for work are finding themselves claiming Jobseekers' Allowance, when they are reassessed and fail to meet the limited criteria for ESA. The result of this is that more and more people are signing on, but also unable to work, for health reasons.

The Guardian has published a press release from the DWP, which states,
People who have been unemployed for more than two years and haven't secured sustainable employment could be referred onto compulsory community work placements under plans being considered by the government.

Under the proposals people who have been supported intensively through the Work Programme for two years yet have still not entered sustainable employment, may have to do community work or ultimately they could lose their benefit entitlement.

Ministers believe a minority of jobseekers struggle to engage with the system fully, are unable to hold down a job and therefore require a greater level of support.

The government is to test compulsory community work coupled with more intensive support through Jobcentre Plus in four key areas ahead of rolling out the scheme
nationwide in 2013.

This is fundamentally unfair. We are in a position as a country where unemployment rates are rising, and job opportunities are shrinking. If someone has failed to get a job in 2 years, it is most likely to be due to circumstances outside their control, and to then force them into unpaid labour, against the threat of losing their pittance of an income from JSA, is exploitative.

For disabled people, even moreso. People who are disabled but genuinely fit for work will still require adaptations, accommodations, and accessibility. These people are less likely to have found a job in 2 years because of the reasons I explained above. And will the people who are happy to take unpaid labour also be happy to accommodate people with complex needs and requirements?

And those who have been found fit for work but are, in fact, not at all fit for work, will be in the most trouble. All of the above, on top of not being well enough to do it. Will their regular sickness absences or inability to be reliable cause them to lose their benefit entitlement? I would imagine so, according to what the press release says.

Workfare is exploitative and unfair to everybody who is forced to do it. For disabled people it has added layers of unfairness, which have the potential to leave, yet again, the most vulnerable abandoned without financial support.

Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?. Thanks to @m_s_collins for prompting me to write this.

[The image is a black and white photograph taken at a protest in New Zealand against a Workfare programme. There are numerous people with placards saying, "The rich get rich at the expense of the poor" and "Real jobs not workfare". It was taken by SocialistWorkerNZ and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Monday, November 07, 2011

Miss you, Dad.

There's nothing I wouldn't do to hear your voice again.
Sometimes I want to call you, but I know you won't be there.

Are you looking down upon me? Are you proud of who I am?
There is nothing I wouldn't do to have just one more chance
To look into your eyes and see you looking back.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Eamonn Holmes and Unexpected Allies

When, like me, you're a left-wing feminist blogger, and you get an email saying, "Oh my God you're in the Daily Mail", the automatic response is to expect the worst. I had an idea what it would be about, because I had done some interviews with journalists about the story I broke about Eamonn Holmes saying to a girl who had been raped, "Well, I hope you take taxis now".

The tweets I had initially sent about him saying it had been retweeted hundreds of times, and I had had lots of support for what I had written, but what on earth would the Mail have to say about it...?

Well, it turns out that they weren't mocking my feminism, or defending Holmes' comments. In fact, they quoted me in a broadly sympathetic article. So next came the Daily Telegraph. The same thought process. A panicky click through... also sympathetic, with quotes from a telephone interview I had given as well as the blog post.

Then aol lifestyle, and unreality primetime, and this morning even The Sun.

It's certainly been a weird 24 hours. I won't be recommending the Mail, Telegraph or Sun for their feminist content any time soon, but I'm certainly pleasantly surprised that I've been quoted in them all, and not in a horrible way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recent Things...

Some of the things I have been up to lately.

[The image is a photograph of dozens of brightly-coloured sweets in the shape of flowers.]

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's World Mental Health Day, so stop stigmatising my pills.

Today is World Mental Health Day, and amidst the stamping out of stigma and awareness raising there is also a loud and pervasive perpetuation of misinformation. I've already been asked to give money to people 'at risk of mental health', for instance, when mental health is surely the goal - mental ill-health is where it becomes problematic. I've certainly never been asked to donate funds to fight physical health.

Mental ill-health has characterised much of my life, and is frequently far more incapacitating than my physical impairments. I've taken psychiatric medications for 17 years, and that's unlikely to change any time soon. I'm not overjoyed at the sheer range of pharmaceuticals I swallow every morning and evening, but it is far from the most significant aspect of my mental distress. So why do so many people focus on the pills as the problem?

For instance, as part of World Mental Health Day awareness on twitter, a study telling me that women's use of antidepressants is at crisis point keeps appearing. In this, Platform 51's director of policy, campaigns and communications Rebecca Gill, said:
"These shocking figures reveal an escalating crisis in women's use of antidepressants"
I appreciate that their study goes on to explain that they are criticising the practice of prescribing antidepressants in the absence of any other psychological support, the frequently highlighted statistics like, "A quarter, 24%, of women on
antidepressants have been on them for ten years or more" serve only to stigmatise people like me.

Rebecca Gill goes on to say,
"Worryingly, our research suggests that there is still a huge stigma attached to mental health problems. With 1 in 5 not telling their families and 1 in 10 keeping it a secret from their partner, it is clear that women fear they will be judged on the state of their mental health",
seemingly without the awareness that scare statistics about antidepressants contribute to that stigma. Their chosen headline is not that rates of women in mental distress is at crisis point, rather our use of antidepressants to cope with it.

Antidepressants are not the enemy. I agree that appropriate psychological support should be more widely offered, and that medications should be reviewed regularly. However the problem is not with the pills. The problem is the world we live in that makes so many of us despair enough to seek medical help to manage it. It's with the levels of rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and sexual abuse that can make live unbearable for so many. World Mental Health Day should not be 'celebrated' by stigmatising us for coping in whatever ways we can.

[The image is a photograph of many different medicinal pills and capsules. It was taken by e-Magine Art and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Things that are not like rape *Trigger warning*

Trigger warning: this post talks about the language and reality of rape. All of the links do the same. Please progress carefully.

This morning, Johnny Depp is reported to have said, when talking about being in a photo shoot,
"Well, you just feel like you're being raped somehow. Raped ... It feels like a kind of weird -- just weird, man. But whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like -- you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid."
In doing this, he portrays an increasing cultural acceptability of comparing rape to things that are not at all like rape.

For instance, a few months ago, Netflix in the US increased their prices, and BuzzFeed collated some of the 'most outrageous netflix price increase reactions': 7 of the 24 accuse Netflix of raping them. Similarly, a writer having their words stolen does not constitute rape. Countering this misuse of the word, Angela B says,
If your copyright is infringed... may not even know it happened; once you know, not much changes for you.
...there are clear legal remedies and an enforcement arm that is usually willing to do its job.
...people believe you. bruises, pregnancy, STDs or other physical repercussions.
...nobody takes the side of the infringer.
...nobody asks what your article was wearing.
Cara at Feministe and Sady Doyle have written about a man describing the development of a TV show as being like rape; podcasts talk of ear rape; there is a type font available called date rape; there is a different kind of font rape; instant messenger rape; AIM rape (different from IM rape, apparently); instructions on how to facebook rape your friends, and a website with examples; and on and on and on. You get the idea.

There are two main issues with using the word rape to describe things that are not rape. The first is that it devalues the word and desensitises us to what it means. If someone has just been facebook raped, it might not mean that much to them if their friend is actually raped*. Not if, over time, rape is consistently used to mean price rises, annoying pranks, loud noises and blog posts reprinted without permission. It takes the impact out of the word, when the crime of rape can have an unbelievably significant impact on a person's life. Angela Rose, from PAVE, said,
"The more we dilute this word, the more we play down the power of sexual violence. It actually adds to the silence surrounding this issue because it diverts attention."
Mikki Halpin goes on to say that
"This demoralizes victims, whose traumatic experience is now ranked along with a poor performance review or a hefty cell phone bill."
The other danger is that of triggering rape survivors. Not only can we see our experience being demeaned by the misuse of this word, but the way it is casually thrown about can trigger flashbacks, nightmares and trauma. Many rape survivors have the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A PTSD trigger can be many things, including a sound, a smell, a memory, a word... This website talks specifically about PTSD in rape survivors. lists 'Forty-nine things that are not rape and one that is'. Number 50: Rape is rape.

Edited to add: I appreciate that I might not have worded that particular sentence as well as I might have, to convey the meaning I intended. I was talking about the verbal impact of the word, and I was thinking about it from the point of view of the person who has been raped. As I may have expressed it badly, I will present an alternative now: If you have been raped and you want to tell somebody, and they then tell you they have just been facebook raped, it may well put you off because it might lead you to believe that they did not have an understanding of what being raped actually meant, if they were happy to use the word in that way. I apologise that that was not clearer.

[The image is a photograph of a traffic STOP sign, which has been subvertised with a sticker of the word 'rape' underneath it. It also has two other stickers on it, and is above a traffic 'all-way' sign. It was taken by Nigsby and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Wearing a pair of tottering heels...

I remember noticing, as a child, that when the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in the news for having met with one foreign official or other, the report frequently went along the lines of, "Mr X was keen to strengthen relations with Britain, and Mrs Thatcher looked very fetching in a blue suit and matching handbag". I didn't understand why she had gone into these clearly very important meetings with no views or policies or corners to fight for, so instead the reporters had had to resort to describing what she wore. I didn't realise that it was a flaw in reporting, it was a flaw in society that meant that even the most powerful woman in the country was judged more on her appearance and her attire than what she said.

Now, to say that I am no fan of Thatcher would be a vast understatement, but it was unfair that she was represented in this way purely because of her gender. I was talking about this very thing last week, how we laughed, remembering the good old 80s and its chauvinism.

Then today, while scanning the twitter feed for the Conservative Party Conference, a headline caught my eye: Baroness Warsi ignores 'anti-Ed ban': Wearing a pair of tottering heels, Sayeeda Warsi stomped on Ed Miliband and his rhetoric at conference last week.

The feed in question was moving fast, so as I clicked on the link I assumed I had misread the subheading, but sadly I had not. Baroness Warsi's shoes were apparently so notable that a report on her conference speech had to mention them in the subheading, and the article itself.

I haven't yet noticed any reference to the shoes of the men who have spoken at the conference. William Hague is talking as I write this, and I have no idea what he is wearing on his feet. Which is either slack reporting, or proof that footwear isn't in fact that important in political oratory.

[The image is a drawing from marker and colored pencil, of a red shoe accented with pearls, large pearl jewel and gold braided trim. It is by erichazann and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

17 Cities to Take Action Against Atos and Government's Welfare Policy Tomorrow

Feel the power of the disability vote - Protest of California health care budget cuts

A press release from Benefit Claimants Fight Back:
Towns and cities around the UK will see protests tomorrow (30th September) against Atos, the IT Company responsible for carrying out the con-dem government's Work Capability Assessment. As part of a National Day of Action Against Atos, organised by disability, claimant and anti-cuts activists, people will be gathering outside Atos' offices in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Brighton, Chatham, Cheshire, Birmingham, Glasgow, Hasting, Norwich, Oxford, Bristol, Chester, Plymouth, Sheffield and York.

In London a demonstration is being held outside the BMJ Careers Fair where Atos will be exhibiting in an attempt to recruit doctors to work on their Disability Assessment teams. Thousands of people have been denied or stripped of vital benefit because of decisions made based on Atos' assessment procedure which involves a short interview and a computer based test. Many people have had conditions worsened, either by being forced into the workplace, having much needed money withdrawn or the stress of the assessment process, which has been described as relentless. Sadly some have taken their own lives after hearing of Atos and the DWP's decisions to remove their benefits. Even people with cancer and other terminal illnesses have been deemed 'fit for work'. The government has pledged that this form of testing will be extended to all disability and health related benefits.

This week over one hundred groups and individuals signed a letter to the BMJ and the RCN urging them to stop allowing Atos to recruit at their events and in their publications.

An online protest will see companies and organisations which do business with Atos contacted and informed of this company's 'callous and cruel' treatment of disabled and sick people.

Supporters of Disabled People Against Cuts have said that "As long as ATOS continues to treat disabled claimants little better than animals they will continue to protest against them and seek means to discredit them."
This entry is cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?

[The image is a photograph of a blue sticker which reads "Feel the power of the disability vote". It is from an American disabled people's campaign, but is just as relevant here.]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feminist Podcasts

I listen to lots of podcasts, on all sorts of subjects, but sometimes struggle to find really good feminist ones. So I asked on twitter and facebook for feminist podcast recommendations.

Some of the following were already on my list, and I will be adding the others to give them a try. In case you, too, were looking for some feminism on your iPod (other mp3 players are available), check these podcasts out. Some of them are not explicitly feminist, or do not call themselves feminist, but they are ones which are considered feminist by at least some listeners. They are in no particular order.

We have also had our very own podcast in the past, and you can check out episodes one, two and three.

Other podcasts I found through google search rather than anyone's recommendation, are:

Thanks to @famousblue, @AngryMalayWoman and @LittleSpy amongst others for their recommendations. If you know of any other feminist podcasts, let us know in the comments!

(Originally - well, 3 minutes ago - posted at The F-Word).

[The image is a photograph of a silhouetted person wearing headphones, against a dark gold background. It was taken by Philippe Put and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Banks are Bastards When You're Poor.

Yesterday I got a letter from my bank, informing me that my account is changing. I have a Basic Bank Account, because I don't have enough income or good enough credit for a normal current account. It seems that, as of next month, my Basic account is going to become even more basic.

The main change, according to the letter, is that from October I will only be able to use RBS and Natwest cashpoints. Or Ulster Bank ones, to be fair, but there aren't (m)any of those in Sheffield. To me, this is pretty much a disaster. My local cashpoint is a supermarket one - to find an RBS or Natwest ATM I will need to go into the city centre. Every time I need cash.

Also, walking is often difficult for me. I just don't have the capacity to be going to the city centre every time I need to withdraw cash, or - if I'm already in the city centre - walking further than is absolutely necessary, to find the correct cash machine.

Having to use a Basic Bank Account is already a fairly humiliating experience at times, and they tend to be held by people who are unable to access better accounts, because of their income or financial history or age. I am limited to banks that offer basic accounts, and within that selection, to banks that I have not had debt with in the past. Since recent mergers of numerous banks, I am even more limited because banks which were not financially connected before, now are.

The bank assure me in the letter that they value my custom, and in the very same sentence tell me I am welcome to close my account if I am not happy with the changes. Cheers for that, it makes me feel really valued. I haven't yet worked out a way that I can open a different account elsewhere.

So I have no options. I can't close this account in disgust and go to a different bank. I have thought a lot about this overnight, and all I can do is grin and bear it. Cope with the fact that I will only have occasional access to my own money. Work out ways to withdraw lots of cash in one go without being mugged. Learn where RBS and Natwest cash points are and if there are buses that go nearby. Use the small amounts of energy I have to go to the appointed cash machines rather than being able to get out my money and spend it in my local area.

If I had the energy, I'd be even more furious than I am.

[The image is a photo of a hand holding up a piggy bank against a blue sky. It was taken by D. Sharon Pruitt]

Edited to add: I'm not the only person outraged by this. have said:
NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have been lambasted for preventing holders of their basic bank accounts from using other banks' cash machines.

NatWest and RBS basic bank account holders can only withdraw cash from NatWest, RBS or Ulster Bank cash machines in the UK or at the Post Office. The move places RBS and NatWest alongside Lloyds TSB, which already restricts it 'Cash Account' holders to using Lloyds TSB cash machines and branches of the Post Office.

Previously, most basic bank account holders were able to use the Link network to withdraw cash.

Which? principal policy adviser Dominic Lindley commented: 'This change will increase financial exclusion as it leaves basic bank account holders at RBS unable to access around 80% of the free cash machines in the UK. These account holders will be inconvenienced and might incur extra costs when travelling to find a cash machine they can use.'
Thanks to @vinnivee for that link.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Abortions are not the same as pensions

The Government is set to announce changes to abortion law next week, which will involve pregnant women being offered 'independent' counselling, rather than receiving counselling from the organisation which is due to perform the procedure.

The change is being put in place by Nadine Dorries and Frank Field, both MPs, and the anti-abortion sentiments behind it are undeniable in the face of Dorries having
"criticised the "financial incentive" of the counselling offered by abortion clinics, claiming 60,000 of the annual 200,000 terminations would not take place if women were offered the chance for counselling elsewhere" (Guardian).

Nadine Dorries also said, "The important thing is that the government have highlighted and agreed that counselling by organisations that are paid to conduct the procedures is not independent [...] That's very reassuring."

Similarly, Frank Field has said, "It is a general principle that advice and services should be separate," [...] I have no evidence of that [biased advice]. But we had no evidence of mis-selling of pensions until people investigated." (Guardian).

The thing is that abortions are not the same as pensions (I think that qualifies as a sentence I never thought I would need to write). Abortions are healthcare, and with healthcare, the advice and services are generally not separate, and nor should they be. If a surgeon is going to be operating on me, I want her to be the one who talks me through the procedure and warns me of any risks. If a dentist is going to be pulling out one of my teeth, I want him, not an independent organisation (who is probably against the pulling of teeth) to give me the 'facts' beforehand.

The surgeon that did my last operation gave me all the facts I needed. I respected her opinion, and she knew the details of my case. These details can make a big difference to the advice you are given - if someone has diabetes, or heart disease, they might be given different surgical advice than someone without. If someone is taking certain medications, they need specific advice that pertains to their situation in advance of surgery. What we don't need is to be directed to an organisation that is against the surgery ever taking place, who know nothing about our individual circumstances, who are thought to be in a better position to 'advise' because they will not be doing the procedure themselves.

In a healthcare context, learning from the misselling of pensions makes no sense at all. Many abortions are done in NHS hospitals - are they also thought to be profiting from women going ahead with a termination? Because if so, they also profit from people going ahead with verruca removal, chemotherapy and colonoscopies. Do we need independent organisations to advise us on those too?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Please update your feed subscription address for incurable hippie blog!

I have updated my feed address. It is now Please update your feed reader settings!

The 'subscribe to posts' link in the right sidebar should updated to the new address, so you can click on that to resubscribe if necessary.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When we are very wrong

If someone calls someone out on their privilege, it is time to listen. The very nature of privilege is that we are mostly unaware of the privilege we hold, in the areas we hold it in. So if a black person tells you, a white person, that you have been racist, it is almost certainly them, not you, who is right.

If you are told that language you just used, or attitudes you just showed, are oppressive, then take note. While your initial reaction may be to explain yourself, justify what you did, or dismiss the criticism, this is silencing and derailing. It is because we have privilege that we have been able to get through life without realising how hurtful or divisive it can be to say or do certain things, so just because someone's challenge may not make immediate sense to us, does not mean it is untrue.

We must always respect the lived experience of those we have privilege over, and take note when they take the time to tell us about it. So if a black woman challenges something racist said by a white woman, or a disabled woman challenges a disablist attitude, or a working class woman challenges middle class privilege, it is time to listen. Don't argue! If a bisexual woman tells a straight woman that she has shown her privilege, then the straight woman must listen. Take it in. Respect the experience of the other woman.

    This applies if:
  • a trans woman calls out cis privilege
  • a disabled woman calls out disablist privilege
  • a woman calls out male privilege
  • a black woman calls out race privilege
  • a working class woman calls out class privilege
  • a genderqueer person calls out cis privilege
  • a fat woman calls out thin privilege
  • a lesbian, bisexual or pansexual woman calls out straight privilege
  • an older woman calls out ageism
  • a woman of colour calls out white privilege
  • a woman calls out slut shaming
  • many, many other variations

    Things NOT to do if someone calls you out on your privilege:
  • Don't kick out. Be glad someone told you, and learn from the experience.
  • Don't try to justify what you did. We all know 'splaining when we see it, and this is what you would be doing.
  • Don't ever say, "But my gay / trans / disabled friend isn't offended when...". It's the same thing as "But some of my closest friends are black!". Members of oppressed groups are not homogeneous entities who think, feel and react in the same ways. And maybe your friend hates you doing it too.
  • Don't repeatedly apologise. Say sorry once, and learn.
  • Don't hate yourself. The way privilege works is that those of us who hold it don't always see that. Take responsibility for what you do next, don't endlessly beat yourself up for mistakes already made.
  • Don't demand to be educated by the person who challenged you. It is your responsibility, not theirs.

Being white, non-disabled, cis etc. does not mean that you have a perfect life. Most people have privilege in some areas of their life while experience oppression in others. Use the issues you know about (being a lesbian, for instance) to inform the more privileged parts of your life (being white, for instance). Relate the one oppression to other oppressions outside of yourself.

It's pretty unpleasant to be told you have just been anti-Semitic, or heterosexist, but it's even more unpleasant to be on the receiving end of prejudice. Be glad someone told you, and use the experience to make sure you never do it again.

[The image is s black and white photograph made up of lots of small square photographs of the faces of a diverse range of people. It is adapted from an image by Colemama, and is used under a Creative Commons License]

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Madness Gone Politically Correct

So, I have made my podcast debut. And as if that's not exciting enough, I am sharing the stage airwaves pod with Sir David Attenborough, one of my lifelong heroes. Very exciting! I talked about the language of disability and disablism, and you can hear me on the Pod Delusion here.

Then, to add to the excitement, Clare Horton at the Guardian liked it and quoted me. My head may eventually shrink back to its self-deprecatingly normal size, but I wouldn't bet on it.

So, head over there and have a listen. You'll notice the Schizobird story I blogged about last week

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An example of good, anti-disablist practice.

In contrast to the recent Disablist Language Alerts, I was alerted to a much more positive action, taken by Joey Sneddon at OMG Ubuntu!. He reviewed a twitter client, called Schizobird, and after hearing from readers about how the use of the term 'schizo' could be really offensive to a lot of people, they are now consulting their readers to find a new, more acceptable name for the client.

This is the kind of reaction I like! When somebody is challenged, instead of saying, "Don't overreact, I didn't mean it like that!", or similar, they have said, ok, we didn't mean to offend anybody, and we don't want to offend anybody, so let's think about it again.

So, a big cheer for OMG Ubuntu!, and a big hat tip to @thermalsatsuma for the link.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Disablist Language Alert #2

Disablism on twitter...
  • from @lipsticklori: SU2TS: This is lame. Not as lame as STLD2, but still lame. Just as well though... don't think I have the brain power for thinking. #DanceMM
  • from @STFUParents: Getting submissions together for this week's @mommyishdotcom column, all about crazy baby names! What are the craziest names you've heard?

In blogs...
  • RH Reality Check gains a mention for use of hysteria / hysterical three times in one post.
  • Via Feminist Law Professors, we see men saying "Dude, you’re crazy", about male contraception. Originally in the New York Times
  • Pharyngula quotes Glenn Beck describing the Norwegian killer as crazy
  • More from Pharyngula, but sadly this time his own words. He describes Breivik as deranged, delusional, insane, lunatic, violently insane, and stupid.

[The image is of a black woman, Sojourner Truth, and the words, "Say no to hate". It is used under a Creative Commons License and is by Ed Fladung]

Disablist Language Alert #1

What with the 'crazed madman' in Norway, and Caitlin Moran talking about retards, disability hate speech is everywhere at the moment.

As a result of being completely and utterly sick of it, I am going to do some blogging. Each time I see any, for *a period of time I have not yet determined, might be tonight, or for a week, or forever*, I am going to log every instance of it that I see. Every single one. I am not going to go hunting it out, but if your tweet about something being lame, or someone being a halfwit, passes my eyes, I am going to post it here.

I am currently listening to the Pod Delusion podcast, and ironically, it has given me my first example.

Adam Jacobs, talking about how science is reported on the BBC, talks of people who disagree with commonly accepted scientific opinions as morons, idiots, window-lickers and loony, and of content being "dumbed down".

[The image is of a black woman, Sojourner Truth, and the words, "Say no to hate". It is used under a Creative Commons License and is by Ed Fladung]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is this the way to keep women safe?

The Independent has reported today that "women could be given the right to know whether their partners have a history of violence under plans to be considered by the Government". I have mixed feelings about this, even though on first glance it seems like a good idea. I heard a Woman's Hour programme earlier in the week where the proposal was discussed by Michael Brown, whose daughter, Clare Wood, was murdered in 2009 by a violent partner; Jane Keeper from Refuge; and Brian Moore, the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police.

Michael Brown supports the proposed law, which is being called Clare's Law after his daughter. He believes that had his daughter known about her partner, George Appleton's previous convictions for violence against women, she would never have got involved with him.

Greater Manchester Police have been criticised for not offering Clare the help she needed, but Mr Brown is insistent that any new policy had to be national, and not just relating to Manchester, and he talked passionately about the prevalence of domestic violence murders. He said,
"The statistics are frightening. There's 2 ladies every week killed by domestic violence. Their partners turn on them. And I think if they were all clumped together and that was two coach loads of ladies going over a cliff face, the drivers and the bus would be taken off the road. And because these ladies are dotted all around the UK, the statistics don't show that there's somewhere in the region of 100 - 120 girls or women killed by their partners every year. And strangely enough there's one man every 3 weeks. So the statistics speak for themselves. Had it all happened at the one time there would have been an enquiry, and because these ladies are dotted round the UK, it falls by the wayside and I think it's shocking".

The coroner at Ms Wood's inquest is reported to have said that women should be able to be informed of any convictions for violence in the past of their partners, and the statistics from Brian Moore, the Chief Constable, appear to back this up.

He explained that research he carried out showed that there were more than 25,000 serial perpetrators of domestic abuse who offended against different victims over 5 year period. This does show that there is a real problem of abusers hurting woman after woman after woman, and if a law like the one proposed could help to prevent that, then surely we should try it, as one measure amongst many, to truly tackle the problem of domestic abuse.

But Jane Keeper from Refuge summed up concerns that I, too, share. She explained that the majority of victims of domestic violence still never go to the police. Therefore there are a lot of unconvicted perpetrators, who women could potentially check, and be informed that they are fine. Ms Keeper also discussed the practicalities of the proposal - do women call the police each time they meet someone new? At what stage in a relationship do you check? And she mentioned resources too, that police are frequently not even able to tell high risk victims that their abuser has been released on bail, so they would be hard pushed to respond to lots of queries from people in new relationships.

The aspect that worries me the most is the idea that a woman could be reassured by the lack of previous convictions of her partner. Lulling her into a false sense of security could be downright dangerous. It's not that this law would simply not be 'enough', it's that it could cause more problems when someone feels they have been assured safety.

A lot does need to be done about domestic violence and abuse, and no one solution can present all the answers. But I fear that this solution will cause new problems as well as some solutions. But then, in the cases mentioned by Chief Constable Moore, perhaps a law like this could have helped the women in relationships with these 25,000 serial offenders. I do not know which would be greater: the scale of damage caused by a lack of this law; or the scale of damage caused by a law like this being introduced.

[The image is adapted from a photograph by Elvert Barnes, issued under a Creative Commons License. This blog post is cross-posted at The F-Word]