Friday, July 02, 2010

Not Ever

Rape Crisis Scotland have created a TV advert, aimed at tackling prejudice against rape victims.


It follows a survey carried out by the Scottish government, which found that 23% of people thought a woman was partly responsible for being raped if she was drunk at the time of the attack, and 17% if she was wearing revealing clothing.

Their campaign ad helps to make the point that a woman is never, ever responsible for being raped. Never. Not if she is drunk, not if she has said yes before, not if she said yes to your friend, not if she is naked in the street.

Their website is a good source of information, and also has posters available for download, and details of a national helpline.

As I learned on my first ever Reclaim the Night march,
"Whatever we wear, wherever we go,
yes means yes and no means no".


Monday, June 21, 2010

Small Commitment for a Big Society

Rape Crisis (England and Wales) has organised a campaign for sustainable funding for Rape Crisis centres, as there are areas without services at all, and other areas where the existing services are under threat of closure.

They are therefore asking for reassurance from the Coalition Government that it will keep its sustainable funding commitment to Rape Crisis.

As someone who has used my local Rape Crisis centre, I can only praise how well they support women and girls, and that service no longer existing would be devastating for my city. Statistics for sexual violence are not going down, and we certainly need more specialist, independent women-only services for survivors, not risk there being even fewer.

On their facebook page for this campaign, they have suggestions of things that we can do:
• Join our supporters’ group on Facebook
• Publicise the group and this event page to all your Facebook friends and encourage others to join and do the same
• Send a letter to Theresa May MP, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, voicing your support for a specific, long-term, sustainable fund for Rape Crisis groups, so that the crisis in Rape Crisis ends once and for all. You can write your own, or use our template letter to urge David and Theresa to honour their commitment to Rape Crisis (England and Wales). Find the template on our group page
• Ask your MP to support the right of sexual violence victims/survivors in your area to access vital Rape Crisis services. You can find out how to contact your local MP at: www.theyworkforyou.com
• Ask your MP and the Government for parity with the Scottish model of funding for Rape Crisis in England and Wales:
The National Co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland describes the impact of having a Rape Crisis Specific Fund there:

‘Even though some centres are still struggling, the general funding situation has improved significantly over the past four years...Because the funding is restricted to Rape Crisis groups, centres no longer have to compete with one another; this has made a huge difference in terms of the service and support they can offer women. Four new centres have also opened in areas where previously there was little or no service provision. ‘

Along with the numerous verbal public and parliamentary statements promising sustainable funding for Rape Crisis from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, the Coalition Government has told us that it will adopt a ‘common sense’ attitude to addressing the ‘needs of society by enabling funding to deliver innovative and personalised services to the community.’

They have committed to:
• Freedom
• Fairness
• Responsibility

Big Words ...but when will they become a Big Reality? Support women and girls who’ve been affected by sexual violence to have their voices heard by insisting that the Government honours its commitment.

Don’t forget: Send our template letter to Theresa May MP, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, asking that she honours the Coalition Government’s commitment to provide long-term sustainable funding for Rape Crisis centres
I will also reproduce the template letter they provide here, for those who don't use facebook. It is to Theresa May, the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Please do send it if you agree with the sentiment, and feel free to alter it to add things you feel are important to get across.
Rt. Hon Theresa May MP #Your Address #
Home Office
Peel Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

# Date#

Dear Home Secretary,

I am writing to you (or Organisation’s Name is writing to you) to seek your assurance that the Coalition Government will HONOUR its publicly stated COMMITMENT to provide long-term sustainable funding for Rape Crisis centres affiliated to Rape Crisis (England and Wales) (RCEW) by providing a specific Rape Crisis fund.

The new Government has stated, in its Coalition agreement, ‘Our Programme for Government’ (May 2010), and reiterated within parliamentary debates and public interviews, that it will support the sustainability and development of Rape Crisis provision in England and Wales.

This commitment came about as a result of the publicly acknowledged critical situation that member groups of RCEW are experiencing, as highlighted by ‘The Crisis in Rape Crisis’ and other independent reports over the last decade. It was also an outcome of continued and consistent lobbying and campaigning by RCEW and their supporters, who are gravely concerned about the consequences of the historic neglect and lack of funding for Rape Crisis groups, which led to 10 centres closing in the preceding 5 years. The Government’s commitment was a response to these specific issues facing Rape Crisis (England and Wales) member groups.

Independent research and survivors’/victims’ testimonies consistently show that the majority of survivors/victims of sexual violence are women and girls who do not report to the police and prefer to access women-only services. Many of these survivors/victims will, therefore, prefer to access their local Rape Crisis centre as they provide specialist, women-centred services, which are distinctive within the Third Sector.

However, a lack of sustainable funding means that, for the majority of England and Wales, Rape Crisis Centres do not exist in many areas and the ones that do exist are under threat. This reduces women’s and girls’ choices and opportunities in accessing specialised, local support for sexual violence and this does not promote a fair, just and Big Society.

I (or Organisation’s name) urge you to honour the commitment and to work with Rape Crisis (England and Wales) to ensure that all member groups are able to access the promised funding.

Yours sincerely,


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

It's Father's Day, the day every year I try not to get too bitter at having lost him.

When I was a kid, sometimes during half-term holidays I used to go to his work with him, when he was a German lecturer.

One day I sat in his class when they were doing an aural comprehension exercise, which in this case involved listening to a song and answering questions about it.

To keep me from too much boredom, I joined in with the class and listened to the song on headphones, and for some reason it totally captivated me. I made him put it on a tape for me and I listened to it again and again through my early childhood. My obsession with listening endlessly to quirky and odd pieces of music still hasn't waned to this day.

Then I remember coming home from University once and asking Dad if he still had the song on tape anywhere. He hunted round, found it and played it, and we listened to it again. This time, I asked what it was about, and it was totally disillusioning to find out that it's pretty reprehensible. The gist of it is a man telling his children not to play with the gypsy children in the woods, because they were naughty and dirty, but to play with their brothers instead. I was gutted, that this song I had so adored, was so offensive.

But, for the sake of nostalgia, here it is. My genius brother found this and we're pretty sure it's the very version we used to listen to.



'Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern' sung by Franz-Josef Degenhardt.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spoonless Substitute

If I had the spoons, I could perhaps have written a whole post on each of the links below, but my body is overtaking everything else at the moment, so here is a collection of some writings on the internet which have caught my eye in the last few days.

Does your iPod support rape in the Congo?, looking at rape being used as a weapon in areas of conflict over minerals used in electronics.

Disability Terminology: A Starter Kit for Non-Disabled People and the Media. I like that she acknowledges that she's coming from an American perspective, where the preferred language used by disabled people is often different from in the UK, and she makes some great points, including one expanded on by Elena Newley in "I don't suffer!".

FWD's Ableist Word Profiles are always worth a read, too, discussing disablist language further.

I loved this story about 9 women in Northern Ireland who have been acquitted of criminal damage after breaking into the premises of an arms manufacturing company. Impressively, the jury agreed with them that rather than commit a crime, they had in fact taken action to prevent crime and "protect the lives and property of people in the Gaza Strip and to stop alleged war crimes being committed by the Israeli forces".

Other stories and writing I've found thought-provoking and interesting are:

Women's health shortchanged because of bias towards male subjects in studies

The potential and the danger of first person in feminist discourse

Informed Choice or Restricted Right on thinking of abortion as a right rather than a choice.

The Absence of No: Re-considering the Yes focus in critique of rape culture

Where the Fight Against Child Obesity Can Go Very, Very Wrong

and 'Biggest Loser' TV programme finalist says the show gave her an eating disorder.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Greencoat Boy Packs a Punch to Equality.

One great thing about the internet, which is helped a lot by twitter, is the immediacy of information. When something goes wrong, all sorts of people can rally round and react, sometimes within minutes of the event itself.

So things happened like that tonight. @LGBTLabour posted the following messages on their twitterfeed.



Within minutes, this became a Trending Topic on twitter, meaning it was one of the most talked about things at that time. The discussion, now with the tag #bigotbar, is still ongoing. And people are starting to discuss actions like boycotts, and mass emails to the Punch Taverns who own the pub involved.

As Grace Fletcher-Harwood has said, they picked the wrong LGBTs to mess with! She also gives links to some pub review sites which accept comments on pubs, and the contact details of the Chair of Licensing for Westminster Council.

Sarah Brown joined in, with



All of that is why I love the internet.

But then, as quickly as things rise, they can also start to descend. A few jokes here and there. A few jibes. The point that someone has been treated so appallingly on the basis of their gender or sexuality gets overtaken by the vital importance of a witty pun on the situation. Equally, facts start to change a little, and get edited and shortened, often cutting out key information.

The F Word's own Helen was one of those who pointed out that



So let's stop introducing exclusivity and bullying into a human rights matter. The Greencoat Boy pub have actually broken the law, in refusing to provide a service to people on the grounds of their sexuality and gender. That goes against The Equality Act 2010, I'm told.

If you are as angry as I am about this, those links above, in this post, will give you a place to start on what action you might want to take. There are people to contact, and if you want to boycott premises in your area which are run by Punch Taverns, you can find out where your local Punch Taverns pubs are here.

And keep an eye out for updates - here on The F Word of course, with a Greencoat Boy search on twitter, on blogs and such.

I am so, so glad that our society is in a place where many people's initial reaction to something like this is to be outraged, not resigned to it. That the people involved want to fight, rather than feel shamed by these bigoted actions. That others are jumping in, sharing information and working stuff out together to try and make this the last, ever, place in Britain that refuses service to someone because of their gender or sexuality.

Well, we can dream.

Edited to add, another great point has been made by @Lisybabe:




Thursday, May 06, 2010

Signal Boost: Feminism and Mental Health – Call for Submissions

Found via FWD (feminists with disabilities) blog:
Feminism and Mental Health – Call for Submissions – Deadline: June 1, 2010

Call for Submissions:

The lived experience(s) of mental health in feminist communities

Call for submissions from people of any gender who identify with feminism and have lived experiences of a psychiatric diagnosis.

Our upcoming anthology, Feminist’s Navigate Mental Health (working title), will explore the complexities of navigating mental health and how a feminist identity may (or may not) shape those experiences, thoughts and feelings.

Submissions are welcomed in the form of personal short stories.

The submissions received will shape the outcome of the book. The final
manuscript will be submitted to relevant independent publishers.

Possible themes may include (but are not limited to):
o Coping – what works and what doesn’t
o Any positive aspects of your mental health that are commonly considered deficits
o Treatment preferences and past experiences
o Medication
o Personal/lived understandings of your diagnosis (acceptance or rejection)
o Stigma/tension around mental health issues in the feminist community
o Feminism and well-being/strength/empowerment
o Feminism and distress

Guidelines:
o Remember to take care of yourself while writing about topics that may be distressing;
o Good writing skills are great, but not mandatory! We will work with you to edit your piece;
o Submissions should be saved in .doc or .rtf, size 12 font, Arial or Times New Roman, and double spaced;
o 500 to 4000 words
o Include contact information and a brief biography;
o Only email submissions will be accepted;
o Submission deadline is June 1st, 2010.

Who we are
The women behind this project are Jenna MacKay and Alicia Merchant. Jenna is a psychiatric survivor and community activist who is particularly interested in violence and mental health. Alicia is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various magazines and has been published in CR Magazine, thirdspace and the Globe & Mail. Both self-identify as feminist, are interested in critical perspectives of health and live in Toronto. This project is not affiliated with any institution or organization.

Comments, concerns, questions and submissions should be directed to:

fnmhsubmissions@gmail.com


Saturday, May 01, 2010

Blogging Against Disablism Day: What Is Disablism?

What is disablism?

Disablism is arranging a meeting in an inaccessible venue.

Disablism is sitting in the 'priority' seats on public transport and not offering those seats to a disabled person, if you are not disabled yourself.

Disablism is when a doctor ignores physical health problems because you have mental health problems.

Disablism is parking in a disability car parking space when you are not disabled (even if it is *just for a minute*).

Disablism is using words like retard, psycho, spastic, handicapped and lame.

Disablism is thinking that making buildings accessible is 'bending over backwards' and political correctness gone mad.

Disablism is presuming that disabled people are less than you.

Disablism is not hiring a disabled person because of assumptions you have about their abilities or needs.

Disablism is staring at someone because they look different.

Disablism is making assumptions about what someone can and cannot do.

Disablism is making offensive jokes about a group of people on the basis of their impairment.

Disablism is presuming that disabled people's lives must be awful.

Disablism is casting a non-disabled person to play a disabled person in a play or TV show.

Disablism is disability hate crime.

Disablism is refusing to prescribe contraception to a learning disabled person because they can't possibly want to have sex.

Disablism is not acknowledging that many disabled people experience discrimination on multiple levels.

Disablism is frequently institutionalised.

Disablism is assumptions.

Disablism is not asking whether your event needs a sign language interpreter.

Disablism is going ahead and doing what you think might help, rather than asking someone what would help.

Disablism is refusing to prosecute men who rape mentally ill or learning disabled women, because the women are 'unreliable witnesses'.

Disablism is thinking that you don't need to consider access needs, because disabled people don't come to your events (and not wondering why they don't).

Disablism is assuming that someone you haven't met (or even that you have) is not disabled.

Disablism is presuming that people diagnosed with schizophrenia are dangerous and violent.

Disablism is thinking it is less tragic when a disabled person kills themselves than it is when a non-disabled person does.

Disablism is presumptions about 'quality of life'.

Disablism is behind all these news stories.

Disablism is sacking somebody when they become ill or disabled.

Disablism is not in the dictionary.

Disablism is telling us we are being punished for something we did in a past life.

Disablism is thinking that if someone doesn't look disabled, then they are not.

Disablism is ignoring somebody because you don't understand.

Disablism is thinking that disabled people 'have it too easy these days' and are therefore being overly demanding if they want to be able to get into a building.

(cross-posted at the f word)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Plans for Sunflower Day :D

If you want to meet up to plant the sunflowers, we will be meeting at 12 midday outside the Blue Moon cafe in Sheffield city centre, by the Cathedral. Please be prompt!

Alternatively, you can plant some seeds wherever you are in your locality.

There is also now a flickr group for this event. And there will be an indymedia article up when it publishes!

Check the posts below for other info and link regarding this event.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sheffield Sunflower Day Approaching!

Plans are afoot for International Sunflower Guerrilla Day in Sheffield.

Some people will be meeting in the city centre at 12 to take a walk and plant some blooms, others will be doing it individually or with friends in their areas.

Keep an eye on the facebook group, or on sheffieldsunflowers.org.uk for the latest.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Election Is A Comin'

I'm not recruiting for votes. I haven't even conclusively decided who I'm voting for. So I thought I'd share some of the tools and sites I've been looking at to help me to decide who will get a cross on my ballot paper, and who will definitely not!

There are quizzes like Who Should You Vote For? online, where you tell them your attitudes to policies, and they tell you at the end which parties your views seem to coincide with the most.

Abortion Rights are doing an election campaign. You can download a factsheet, and lobby your candidates via the site. You just type in your postcode and it lets you email all your local candidates. It then requests that you let them know your candidates' responses to their questions on abortion rights, so that others who enter their postcode can see where everyone stands.

I have only had a response from one candidate (Green, and she answered the way I hoped she would), but hopefully the others will be forthcoming too.

Similarly, the UK Disabled People's Council have put together a list of questions which you may want to question your prospective MPs about.

MyGayVote.co.uk has pie charts showing how the different parties have fared in terms of their past votes on LGBT issues.

Planet Mouret Films is "a blog designed for learning disabled adults and those who are involved in the LD community", with lots of straight forward information about the general election, links to easy-read information about voting, easy-read manifestos and the rights of learning disabled adults to vote.

And Scope are urging "local authorities to act immediately to make sure polling stations are more accessible. They have warned that some people may find it difficult to vote in next month’s elections but said it was not too late for councils to make a difference."

(Cross-posted at The F Word)

Sheffield Sunflowers: Domain Name!

We have a domain name! From now on, www.sheffieldsunflowers.org.uk will lead to the latest updates on International Sunflower Guerrilla Day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sheffield: International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day

May 1st is International Sunflower Guerrilla Day, where people all over the world (well, probably the northern hemisphere) go out and plant sunflower seeds in places around where they live.

Having just read On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening without Boundaries, I am feeling totally inspired and have started to organise an event for this magical day here in Sheffield.

There is a thread on the Guerrillagardening.org forums, and a facebook group for the event. Sign up for either of those to keep up to date with the plans, or keep an eye open here for news.

What you will need:

Sunflower seeds.
A bottle of water.
Something to make holes with (pencil, screwdriver, trowel, or in my case, a crutch!).

What to do:
Dig a small hole about 2cm deep, drop in a seed. Cover with soil. Water.

That's it! As many times as you like, in as many places as you feel will be cheered up by a glorious sunflower in a couple of months.

I've been stocking up on sunflower seeds at various bargain shops, if you grab a pack or two each time you see them, you should have plenty by the date.

There will be people meeting somewhere central to go and garden together, and others individually planting seeds where they are. Wherever you are, Sheffield or not, join in. Just imagine how happy you, and others, will be when there are unexpected sunflowers around!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

12 Reasons I Won't Follow You Back on Twitter

You are unlikely to get a refollow if...

1. You post about diets.

2. Your posts are in a language I don't speak.

3. You post about gaining thousands of followers in a night, and you have a total of 34 followers.

4. You are following more than 10x the number of people who are following you.

5. You follow, unfollow, refollow, unfollow and refollow me so that I get notifications about you in my email several times a day.

6. You are any kind of spammer or bot.

7. Your posts are hidden. I don't want to request permission when I don't know what it's for.

8. You have no profile information.

9. Your profile information is inane.

10. You are sharing the love of Jesus.

11. Hate speech. Pretty much any.

12. You like Jeremy Clarkson.

Otherwise, go for it! So, follow me if you dare!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Supertram Problem Exists Worldwide.

Following my post yesterday about people not giving up 'priority seats' on Sheffield Supertram for disabled people, I have found some interesting links online.

I was reading Man on Crutches on Train with Camera and, about 2/3 of the way down, some words sounded familiar - I realised they were linking to a comment I made on the subject last April!

That article actually has some really interesting thoughts and information, which I want to look at in more detail when I have the chance. And it is talking about this blog, named People Who Sit In The Disability Seats When I'm Standing On My Crutches, where the creator took photos of those very people. This blog has not been posted on for nearly a year now, sadly. Though I could create my own alternative for Sheffield trams!

Another article I've found is The iPhone Vigilante, about the blog mentioned above. And I also found a discussion board message on the same issue, but in Singapore. This thread is another that I will havfe to read in better detail some other time, but one new idea I got from it is to suggest to Stagecoach that the messages announced through the tram system could include one about giving up your seat for someone who needs it more.

There is a discussion here, a yahoo discussion and a Facebook group, for those of you so inclined!

There will definitely be more happening on this issue, watch this space! (well, this blog at least).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Disabled Access to Stagecoach Supertram in Sheffield

Something has bewildered me for some time. It's that normally, when I'm on a bus in Sheffield, if none of the Priority seats are free, other passengers usually offer me a seat when they see my walking stick or crutches. However, when I take the tram, this virtually never happens. I have no idea why tram passengers don't do this when bus passengers do.

Offering me a seat is immensely helpful. Standing up for any period of time, even short periods, causes me pain. Balancing on a moving vehicle with only one free hand, or no free hands (depending on whether I'm using one or two crutches) is really difficult, when my balance is already bad. And being able to sit down, even for a short journey, helps to delay the inevitable exhaustion, which means I can hopefully get a bit more done, wherever I'm going.

Since I had surgery a month ago, I have needed to sit down more. Standing up causes me much more pain, and even the slightest things tire me out.

So, this morning, I emailed Supertram about this, saying:
Dear Supertram,

I use the buses and trams regularly in Sheffield, and whenever I take a bus, if there are no free seats, I am nearly always offered a seat when someone sees that I am using crutches or a walking stick. However, when I take the tram, I am virtually never offered a seat.

I do not know why this is the case, but people on buses seem to have a lot more respect for the 'Please give up this seat if a disabled person needs it' type signs than they do on trams.

It makes my tram journeys very difficult and painful, and is putting me off using them at all.

I was wondering if there is anything you feel you could do to help with this situation. I am obviously aware that there are people with invisible disabilities who would have every right to keep their seat, but that cannot be the case for everybody who stays in the 'disabled priority' seats when there are disabled people clearly struggling with standing.

The first things that come to my mind in terms of what you can do, are awareness raising campaigns on the trams themselves, and more proactive action from the conductors in this area.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the situation,

The response I received was, frankly, awful. They are taking no responsibility for their role and show no acknowledgement at all of my concerns.

They say:
I was concerned to hear that you find it difficult to use the priority seating if another passenger is already there. In the first instance I would suggest that you politely asked the passenger if they would leave the seat to enable you to use it . I agree with your point that some passengers may have an invisable inpairement [sic] but the seats are clearly marked and there should be no problem in the majority of cases. Experience has shown that not all passengers who warrant the use of the priority seats wish to do so and although I would expect conductors to assist when requested they will not always do so automatically. I will pass on your comments re awareness training but feel that the best way to "educate" able bodied passengers to give up the seats is if they are asked to do so by other passengers.

It's a cop-out. I feel, more strongly than ever, that they need to look at the 'Priority seats for disabled people' signs and see that whatever they currently have up is not doing the job, as people are paying no attention. There are only a few available seats which don't involve going up steps, so these need to be seriously prioritised. In addition, training the ticket inspectors in assisting disabled passengers to find a seat could be an effective way of combating the problems.

Interestingly, I was sent the link to this government consultation on Improving Bus Passenger Services today, and learned that:
7.9 We are seeking views on further ways to ensure stricter enforcement of the duties of drivers, inspectors and conductors with regard to disabled people. Conduct Regulations set out the duties of drivers/ conductors of regulated public service vehicles with respect to passengers in wheelchairs and other disabled persons. DfT’s guidance specifies that passengers who are not disabled but are occupying the wheelchair space could be asked to move to allow a passenger in a wheelchair to board, provided that there is room for the passenger to move elsewhere on the bus and the seating and standing capacity will not be exceeded. Drivers are also required to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their passengers.

7.10 The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations stipulate that there should be clear signage for the priority seat and the wheelchair space on the bus. The Department is committed to delivering transport that works for everyone. We have therefore been considering how enforcement of these regulations can be improved. Stricter compliance with the Conduct Regulations would go a long way in ensuring that the wheelchair space is available for a passenger in a wheelchair.

7.11 We therefore seek views on measures to ensure stricter compliance with the regulations in general, particularly on whether introduction of financial sanctions against operators who persistently breach any aspect of the regulations, would be useful.

Now, while this regulation is regarding buses, the trams in Sheffield provide a very similar service, and should take account of the current regulation and proposed changes. My safety is certainly compromised when I have to stand on their vehicles.

I don't know what steps to take next. I was hoping that a response from Stagecoach would be helpful and open to looking at improvements. However, their huge failure to take what I have requested into account has really disappointed me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We Are Women Too

This video is of Eleanor Lisney and Michelle Daley, talking at Million Women Rise at the weekend, about disabled women's lives. About the reality of domestic violence committed against disabled women, including individual women's accounts, and about Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter after being unable to get help against the abuse and intimidation they were suffering. About refuge provision - scarce at the best of times, and accessible provision being almost non-existent. About the particular vulnerability of disabled women when it comes to sexual assault and brutality in care homes or by carers, and the difficulties in reporting and being heard, as well as barriers to accessing services. And about multiple identities, and how disabled women can experience multiple discrimination from within the disability movement, other women, the community and society.
"It is about raising the voices of our disabled sisters. It is also about ensuring our recognition within this struggle for human rights. [...] We all have a responsibility to ensure that disabled women are recognised, and respected, as equals within this struggle, and all our voices to be heard. We are women too."



[Edited to add - There are transcripts of these speeches here, thank you so much to Eleanor, one of the speakers, for letting us know, and to Felix Gonzalez for making the videos and doing the transcription. More transcripts of speeches of the day will be published at http://connectculture.wordpress.com/ in due course.]

Monday, March 08, 2010

Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum

Asylum Aid has created a Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum.

The way that we are treating these women is appalling. Completely ignoring the trauma they have suffered, we are locking them up or forcing them to beg and sleep rough, without support, healthcare or money.

Asylum Aid have created this video.

Every single woman from Asylum Aid on Vimeo.



They say,
We believe a change of culture designed to produce a genuinely gender sensitive asylum system is urgently needed to ensure that women seeking asylum receive a comparable standard of treatment to women in similar situations who are settled here already.


There is also a campaign briefing available, and they are campaigning so that all member states of the European Union to adopt gender guidance so that women's asylum claims will be dealt with consistently.

(cross-posted at The F Word)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Headache

I've had a headache for a week. Constant. I've been taking painkillers following surgery, then I've had a horrendous mouth infection, so taking more painkillers for that. So I couldn't understand why I still had a headache!

So I read about painkiller headaches. That sounded right. Taking painkillers can cause headaches. So I read, you're supposed to stop taking the painkillers to make the headache go away. But I'm not taking the painkillers for the headache, so what to do? I can't stop taking them or my mouth may explode and my foot fall off (not that I'm prone to exaggeration).

But then I read that you only get painkiller headaches if you are taking the painkillers for the headache. If you are taking them for some other reason, they don't happen. And I am, I'm taking them for my leg and my mouth.

So, I still have a headache and no idea why. I initially thought it was a pre-menstrual one, then it carried on post-menstrually. Then I thought it was the toothache causing it. It could still be I suppose.

I don't know. I'm just moaning.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Misery

One of my problems is that I ignore things my body and mind are telling me to such a degree that they have to pretty much knock me on the floor before I pay attention.

I had surgery on my leg last Thursday, and as today there was slightly less pain than yesterday, and as I could walk 3 steps without crutches, I spent a lot of the day determined to be HAPPY dammit. It was only when I found myself sobbing, and this carried on for a good half hour, that I realised how much I'd been kidding myself all day.

Things might be marginally better than yesterday, but I'm still tired, in pain, traumatised by surgery while awake, wondering what on earth is going to happen next, feeling seriously let down and scared.

But when I don't want to see it, I don't see it. Until I'm forced to.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blame the Victims... Again!

I had the misfortune of watching Carol Malone on TV this morning. She said that if women get drunk or dance provocatively, it's really their own fault if they get raped.

She also said that men can't be blamed for raping women when they (the men) are drunk, because they don't really know what they're doing.

Double standards much?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who is Most Committed?

This awesome woman shows the madness of gay marriage bans.



Friday, February 12, 2010

Pharmacology

Pharmacies seem to have a new policy of doing medication reviews with patients, and as I use whichever pharmacy is most handy at any given time, I keep using different ones and thus having more and more medication reviews.

Today's was interesting. It turns out that two of my meds cancel out the action of one other, and that that one other cancels out the action of the other two. Interesting! All three prescribed by the same person, incidentally.

Also, the pharmacist made an assumption about my mental health diagnosis on the basis of the meds I'm on. It is a diagnosis I have had in the past, and his guess seems as arbitrary as the numerous guesses I've had from numerous psychiatrists I have seen, so no harm done.

He was impressed that I knew what each of my medications was for. It's worrying, he said, how many people don't. I'm the kind of person who always wants lots and lots of information. I can't imagine swallowing stuff daily without having researched it thoroughly, never mind not knowing what it was even prescribed for.

Someone in my family has been on antidepressants for 21 years, and she still has no idea that that's what they are. She obediently swallows them every night. I haven't had the heart to tell her, but I don't know if I should or not. She knows I looked it up, and she hasn't asked me for details. If she asked, I would definitely tell her, but as she hasn't... I dunno. The doctor tells her that they help her to feel better, and that she would feel much worse without them, so she should keep taking them. She's of a generation to not really challenge doctors.

As for me, I keep taking the pills. I'm reducing the odd one slowly, but I seem stuck on them for the time being at least.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sheffield Cake Weirdness

One of my favourite blogs, when I want a giggle, is Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong. So today, when I spotted these two gems in the same bakery window in Sheffield city centre, I had to sneak a couple of phone pics and share them.

First of all, is a penis cake. It's a cake of some boxer shorts, with a huge penis pointing upwards. Well, I can't think of anything else it could be. The blobby things on top of the penis are buttons, which backs up my theory. As a penis cake, it's very good I suppose. But is this the way to advertise your cake decorating expertise in the window of a shop on a main road?!

08/02/2010

08/02/2010


Who is Rachel? Did she really want a big penis cake??

Then, I looked down. Right below it, their sole other example of their skill, was a cake with a spelling mistake.

"Happy birthday Mummy Abiola, Elegance PersonifEId"

08/02/2010


Perfect completion to the display, I think you'll agree!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI

The Catholic Church has contributed more than most to the oppression of women. Whether it's the deaths of women in childbirth and of HIV / AIDS due to their commitment to preventing safer sex, or covering up the abuse of girl and boy children and protecting the abusers, they have consistently chosen paths which keep women controlled and 'in their place'.

This is the church that ordered the excommunication of everyone involved in helping a 9 year old girl, who was pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather, to have an abortion. The church actively tried to prevent the termination, and when it failed it ordered that the child's mother and the doctors involved be excommunicated. (Not the step-father, tellingly).
"If the B52 bombers flying over Vietnam were dropping contraceptives, the American Catholic hierarchy would have condemned that in a minute, but they were dropping napalm"
-- James Carroll

The Pope has also been in the news this week for speaking out against the UK government's equality policies, which would have required churches to stop discriminating against LGBT people. This is a man who, when he speaks, people listen. Just think what he could use his voice for. He could protest poverty, he could condemn domestic violence. But no, he speaks out against equality.

Later this year, the Pope is planning a visit to Britain. Not only do I not want him here, I was really disgusted to hear that the £20 million cost of his visit will be paid for by public money. Just think how many Rape Crisis centres could be funded by that money!

The National Secular Society have started a petition to ask the Catholic Church itself to pay for the visit. As I write, it has 17,457 signatures, one of which is mine.

The Catholic Church, contrary to the guidance of many passages of the Bible, is a very rich institution. If this man, who played a leading role in a systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests, wants to come here, let him pay for it himself.

(cross-posted at the f word)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Rape Victims Blamed Again

Virginia Wood has a really interesting post on her blog about yet another form of blaming women for being raped.

This time it isn't what she was wearing, what she had drunk, or her fantasies, but is actually her own history of trauma and her lack of awareness of her surroundings.

Many women have a history of trauma, and I can't imagine there are any who are constantly aware of everything that's going on around her. Neither of these make it her own fault if she is raped.

Similarly, even if you are aware of your surroundings and don't 'freeze' when attacked, that is not necessarily enough to prevent rape. Virginia gives certain examples,
Maybe it was a "blitz attack", which of course by definition would mean she wouldn't have known she was even being attacked until she was already down. Or maybe her rapist had a weapon: I have to ask--do men really believe that a martial artist can kick a gun out of an attacker's hand like good ol' Chuck Norris on the teevee? And then there's the rapist who comes in through the bathroom window in the middle of the night and has you under his control before you even wake up. Now how you gonna karate-kick his ass outta bed with your legs all tangled up in the kivvers? And then there was the woman I knew whose attacker told her if she cooperated, he wouldn't harm the children sleeping in the next room: All the martial arts training in the world won't trump that one.

[...]

Let us note that one in every six women in the U.S. will be assaulted in her lifetime. Maybe it's just me, but I think that's frequent enough to suggest that we are not, in fact, in control of our own destinies--at least not when it comes to rape. Indeed, that kind of thinking sounds to me like a form of privilege: The not-raped can believe they did/do something to earn/deserve that status ("I kicked the shit out of him!" or "I'm always aware of my surroundings." Always? Really?). That kind of thinking allows the not-raped to feel safe and secure in the fantasy that "it will never happen to me" and to look down on victim/survivors as people who screwed up somehow.

Victim-blaming, even in this guise of scientific research, is rife. Somebody, somewhere is missing the fact that the person to blame for a woman being raped is the rapist. Always.

When I was at sixth-form college, two police officers came in to give us a talk about safety. The boys were sent to one room with a male police officer, to receive a talk about driving safely. The girls were sent to another room with a woman officer, to receive a talk about rape prevention.

Quite why the girls didn't need to be given the same advice about safe driving was bewildering, but the weirdest thing was it was the girls being told how to prevent rape rather than the boys.

In that talk, we were told that 2 out of 3 rapes could have been prevented (by the victim). How's that for victim-blaming? Imagine how that felt for rape survivors in that room! Being told by a cop that really they should have been able to do something about it was humiliating and vicious.

And what's more, 3 out of 3 rapes could have been prevented - BY THE RAPIST NOT RAPING THEM. That is where the blame needs to be laid. Every rape that ever occurs could have not happened, if the perpetrator chose not to do it.

That is the point. Men can stop rape. They have to.

(cross-posted at The F Word)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let Go!

I've been told about the phenomenon by various disabled people, but had never experienced it myself until today. The phenomenon of a complete stranger grabbing hold of you without warning, to 'help'.

Today was the first time I left the house since the snow started. It was a very scary prospect, helped a lot by yaktrax. My walking can be pretty dodgy at the best of times, but amidst ice and snow I just haven't been able to risk it. But by today I was tearing my hair out. I needed to see something other than my 4 walls. So, yaktrax and woolly hat on, I ventured out.

It was pretty precarious. The city centre pavements were worse than I'd anticipated, but I did most of what I had to do, then waited for my bus home.

It was when the bus arrived that the presumably well-meaning man grabbed me. From behind. By the shoulders. The jumping-out-of-my-skin which resulted was far more likely to make me lose my balance than any amount of ice, and his holding onto my shoulders was hardly going to help with that.

It was only when he said, "Here, let me help you on the bus" that I knew I wasn't being mugged.

I know, I know, he was only trying to help. But seriously, grabbing a woman from behind is not a good thing to do. It's inappropriate and way too invasive to personal space. And when that woman has a walking stick, which is perhaps why you're grabbing her, you're probably more likely to cause injury than to prevent it.

If you really want to help, just ask. I would have actually appreciated being able to hold onto Mr Grabby's arm to help me on the bus, had he asked if I needed any help. Don't presume, don't grab, don't force a blind person across the road or a wheelchair user down a kerb. If you ask, and they need help, they'll tell you what you can do. And you won't frighten or injure them that way.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Resolve Not to Resolve

It's that date when, every year, people resolve to go to the gym, lose weight, cut out nice food and starve in the pursuit of thinness.

The fact is that you really do not need to do this. You are allowed, as a woman, to take up as much space as you take up. You are allowed to resist the messages relentlessly bashing us over the head from the media which insist that we copy celebrities and hate every inch of our body which is not clinging unhealthily to bones.

95% of diets fail. Their whole philosophy is one of deprivation and undernourishment, which is not something that the vast majority of people can stick to for any length of time. The result being a cycle of miserable starving and bingeing, which feels endless.

The trick is to stop dieting at all. Start to love yourself and your body exactly as they are. By all means do your best to eat well, but banning foods will make them more tempting than ever, and punishing yourself via what you put in your mouth creates a horribly negative relationship with food, and food is something that we have to deal with every day of our lives if we are to survive.

(Cross-posted at The F Word)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas

It is very strange for it to be a few days before Christmas and I'm not running around buying last minute presents or wrapping paper. I finished all my shopping a couple of weeks ago, and my wrapping last week. Cards all sent. Odd.

Today is winter solstice, so after today the days start getting longer again, which will be much appreciated.

Hope you all have a fab Christmas time!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Amanda Knox

I first wrote this for the F Word blog.

Amanda Knox has been convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, and if you weren't paying attention, you might believe that she did it alone.

In fact, two men have also been convicted of the murder - one last night and one last year, but they are very much secondary to the story, even though, as far as I can tell, it has never been decided who did the actual killing.

Now, I have not studied the trial or the evidence, and I do not know whether Amanda Knox did or did not kill Meredith Kercher, but I do know that this is seeming to be another legal case where the woman involved is demonised to a degree rarely seen in male defendants.

And the fact that Amanda Knox appears to be a young woman with some confidence in her sexuality has certainly worked against her. That she had condoms and a vibrator in a see-through bag has been widely reported, as some kind of proof that she was deranged enough to kill her housemate in a sex game.

That her nickname is Foxy Knoxy has been repeatedly mentioned, though very few reports tell you that that nickname apparently came about due to her skills on a football field rather than anything more salacious. Because that wouldn't fit the story quite so well.

With the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Maxine Carr has arguably been more slated by the press and public than Ian Huntley, who actually killed the girls. Maxine Carr's crime was to lie to the police by giving Huntley an alibi, and there is no indication that she did so with any knowledge of what he had done.

Amanda Knox even got a longer sentence than Raffaele Sollecito, who was also convicted of Kercher's murder. Issues which seem to have been used against Knox during the trial are so telling about what women are still up against compared to men in these situations.

1. There was a youtube video showing her drunk.
2. She sent an email to a friend saying she had had sex on a train.
3. She wrote a story about a woman being raped and a photo of herself with a machine gun entitled 'the Nazi'.
4. She did cartwheels in the police station while waiting to be questioned.

Now, while the third of these is certainly questionable, and the fourth somewhat odd, the first two are unremarkable, and are in no way legal evidence for murder.

According to the Guardian,
Italians shrug off extramarital sex, yet they are prim in their attitudes to premarital sex, at least outside the stable context of fidanzamento (engagement). They use the same words for boyfriend and fiance.

So many were taken aback to learn that, by the time she was arrested at the age of 20, Knox had had sex with seven men. They were less outraged by how this information was obtained: Knox was told in prison she was HIV-positive and asked to write a list of her lovers. Before she was told that a mistake had been made, the list was passed to investigators, one of whom passed it to a journalist.

The ethics around that 'mistake' are appalling, particularly if it was a tactic to obtain information about her sexual history to use against her during the trial.

Amanda Knox may or may not have committed this murder, and I certainly do not know whether she did. However, two men have also been convicted and rarely even mentioned. That Knox is a woman, and a woman with some sexual history, appears to have damned her.

Monday, December 07, 2009

God Wants to Cure Me

DSC_9725


Yesterday a man approached me at a farmers' market, and said, "I can't help but notice you use a walking stick". This exact phrase is regularly used by people who want my address to send me mobility aid catalogues in the post.

However, he then went on to say, "And God wants you to walk home without your stick. I have seen healings here today, and wonder if you would let me pray for you so that he can heal you."

I was amused at the time, refused his offer and walked on. However it wasn't long until I was actually furious.

Firstly, how dare he make all sorts of presumptions on the basis of my using a walking stick? Actually, my stick is a good thing. It helps me to get around without falling over, which is always a bonus. Sure, it's a hassle sometimes and it's wrecking my wrist, but his outlook assumed that mobility aid = awful, must be fixed. When my outlook is mobility aid = great, helps me go places.

And secondly, I don't think that your God does want me to walk without a stick. If he did, he's had a good few years now to sort that out, and hasn't. If he was that bothered, he'd have done it by now, and frankly wouldn't need you praying to him to get around to it.

So please, don't make presumptions about my rather gorgeous purple walking stick, whether I should want to get rid of it or not, and whether I want you to get inside my head by promising something you can't possibly achieve, by means of superstitious nonsense.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Not-So-Helpful Advice from Women's Magazines

My fifth guest post at the F Word.

Yesterday while waiting for an appointment, I picked up one of the women's magazines on the waiting room table and started skimming through it to pass the time.

I came across an article entitled '25 health tips women doctors want you to know'. I thought this may be interesting - or at least more interesting than how to emulate the latest look from the latest celeb, so I started to read.

To say it was disappointing is somewhat understating the matter. One tip told me to use moisturiser. Another to walk rather than take the lift. Another to eat plenty of calcium. Then one tip was to buy a vibrator. While this may be good advice, the explanation behind it was infuriating! It said that some men are not good at foreplay, and if this is the case with 'your man', then rather than be frustrated, get a vibrator instead and you won't have any problems any more.

On so many levels, this is dreadful! Firstly, many women are single, many are with women not men. Heterosexist presumptions still prevail everywhere. Secondly, still calling it 'foreplay' separates it from 'sex' as if they are two completely different matters, with one building up to the other rather than it all being one whole experience. And thirdly, if your partner is bad at sex, or does not understand your sexual needs or desires, then that is something to work on with them, have fun exploring and mutually learn about. Saying, 'oh he's not good at that bit' is kinda letting him off the hook, let's face it!

If your male partner was having trouble enjoying sex with you, you can be sure the magazines wouldn't advise you to get him a blow-up doll or simulated vagina, it would tell you 'how to please him' and exactly what you should do to make sure he was happy.

By all means buy a vibrator, and enjoy it. But don't take advice just because it comes from a doctor in a magazine and use it to substitute a partner with good technique rather than talking to that partner about the problem and what you do and don't like.

I very rarely read women's magazines these days, and if I do it tends to be the Chat and Take a Break type when I'm ill, rather than the beauty / fashion ones. But whenever I do look at those - usually in a doctor's waiting room - I see that the same old messages we have always had from them are still there.

A few weeks ago I made some photocopied flyers to surreptitiously slip inside teenage and women's magazines in shops. They counter some of the usual crap messages we get from these publications, and question their content. If you want to get hold of any of these flyers I'd be happy to send you some if you send me an SAE to
Pippa, PO Box 4663, Sheffield, S1 9FN
Alternatively if you want to get any of my zines just let me know when you order that you want some of the magazine flyers and I'll stick some in the envelope for you.

It's small actions like sticking the flyers in the magazines that can actually make a real difference. When we are feeling powerless in the suffocating patriarchy around us, knowing that a woman or girl somewhere who might never have been allowed to challenge the presumptions of heterosexuality, the fascist beauty standards around us or the everywhere-written laws of body hair, who bought that magazine today, may get some relief and empowerment from the words they unexpectedly find stuffed inside, really does help.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Tweet Too Far?

My fourth guest post at the F Word.

As an avid tweeter, I'm not sure how I missed this story when it actually happened, but I became aware of it about a week ago.

Penelope Trunk, a woman in America, was widely condemned after sending the following tweet:
I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a f**ked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.

The main criticisms aimed against her seemed to be that:

1. it was insensitive to those who had had miscarriages and were devastated about it,
2. that it was an inappropriately detailed message, which her many followers did not want to read, and
3. that she was heartless and abortions are bad.

I think these are all different points, and the former certainly has more validity as a criticism. A miscarriage can be an utterly awful experience for a woman who wants the baby. And indeed women who aren't sure. There is huge grief, loss, fear and hopelessness. Penelope Trunk herself has experienced such a miscarriage, and said on her blog
there are many women who want the baby and have a miscarriage. I was one of them. I cried for days. I get it.

In a blog post at the time, she said
I am four months pregnant. But the baby is dead, inside me, and must be removed. I am devastated. I always knew this could happen, in the back of my mind. But you are never prepared for something like this to happen.

This is not a heartless woman talking! In defending her tweet, she says,
To all of you who said I should not be happy about having a miscarriage: You are the ones short on empathy. Any woman who is pregnant but wishes she weren’t would of course be grateful when she has a miscarriage. [...]

But if you have ever had an abortion, which I have, you would know that a miscarriage is preferable to an abortion. Even the Pope would agree with that.

It is clearly a difficult area to negotiate. Some women are devastated at miscarriages, others are relieved. I suspect that very few women who are relieved feel able to speak out about this, their fears confirmed by the attacks on Ms Trunk.

But if you have just miscarried a wanted child, I can only imagine how awful it would be to have read it.

On to point 2, it was detail that people did not want to know, it was gory and personal, and who wants to hear the details of that?

This is where I defend Ms Trunk absolutely. Women's bodily functions are normal and natural, not dirty and shameful. I talk openly about my periods, about the joys of using washable sanitary towels, and about having endometriosis and PCOS and the problems that come with that. About spending 4 days of each cycle in agony and unable to move. About the amount of blood that comes out.

As a teenager I was as coy about it as everyone else my age was. But then after several years of medical tests, investigations, interventions and surgery, I realised that it was ridiculous that I was not supposed to talk about *that*, whereas if the problems I was experiencing were in most other parts of my body, people would not shrink away from hearing the details.

For centuries, women have been taught that their periods, along with other 'women's things' should be kept quiet. And why should they? One of my favourite things is reading feminist radical menstruation writings and looking round the Museum of Menstruation site. Partly because I like breaking patriarchy's rules, and partly because it is fascinating.

I have no doubt that while some people would prefer I kept it all quiet, I have every right to talk about bleeding, and I will continue to do so.

Why, then, should Ms Trunk *not* talk about her miscarriage? If I want women to be free to talk about periods, breastfeeding, childbirth, and other 'women-only' subjects, so we all know we are not alone, then miscarriage must come into that too. She should not have to keep it quiet in order to not offend the sensibilities of delicate men who are reading. Miscarriage is a fact of life, and it is often painful and messy and emotional. And the more women feel able to discuss it, the less isolated and alone other women will feel, whether the miscarriage is, to them, a relief or a profound loss.

The third point is perhaps the most enraging. How dare she feel relief at miscarrying? How dare she be planning an abortion at all? How dare she complain about abortion provision?

I'm not going to use this post to argue about why women deserve ultimate control over their own bodies. But we do. I hope I'm preaching to the converted, but if not, the debate occurs in so many places that it should not be necessary here.

Ms Trunk's situation does, of course, brings up issues of access to abortion. For a woman to have to be relieved to miscarry, because getting an abortion is so fraught with difficulties, is a really appalling situation.

I will not condem Penelope Trunk for sending that message. Not at all. At worst, it was perhaps insensitive, but this is a woman who was miscarrying in the middle of a board meeting. She might have been relieved, but it would nonetheless have been a difficult, awkward and painful situation. Sometimes women need to stop putting everyone else first and express themselves as they need to.

She had every right to feel relieved when she realised what was happening, and she should never made to feel shame at feeling that, nor should she be, or feel, silenced by others who find it distasteful.

Her body was going through something that millions of women experience. Some of those women are devastated, others are ambivalent, and some are glad. Some, like Penelope Trunk herself, miscarry more than once and feel very differently about each instance. And this is all common.

I recommend this post on the subject at DoubleX. She says,
not talking about a miscarriage or an abortion—or all the complicated feelings that can get rolled up in both—because it's just too personal is fine. But not talking about it because no one else ever talks about it—so maybe we're just not supposed too—is not.

We need the freedom to discuss the things we need to discuss, to continue the work of the feminist health collectives of the 70s and truly liberate ourselves.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Disabled Feminism

My third guest post over at the F Word.

I was very anxious before writing my first post here, but when the comments starting rolling in, I was overwhelmed by the positive messages in response to it.

Firstly, it really helped me. The encouragement that I am doing ok, I am doing good things, and I am making a difference, even if I can't necessarily do the 'outside' things.

And secondly, that it touched so many people. Not especially that my words helped, but that talking about disability and feminism seems such a rarity, and that many people were reading about it for the first time. I'm so glad I could do that, and I'm so glad that it provoked thought for some and reassurance for others, but we need much more!

I mentioned on my main blog that I had posted here, and one of the commenters there said,
Isn't it a shame that writing about disability and feminism and inclusivity is something that is still a remarkable thing?

And she's right! Feminism and activism really needs to catch up, and really address this.

I appreciate that some groups have limited resources, or not much choice of venue, but seriously, if you are a feminist group and you are not meeting in an accessible place, what are you thinking? Would you meet somewhere that excluded other groups of women? Some kind of white-only venue?

You wouldn't, because, even if the founding members of the group were all white, you would know instantly and instinctively that this went against every human and feminist value you have ever held. You would not want to associate yourself with a venue like that, nor would you want to support that venue in any way. If you did meet there, that would give out a message to black women that they were not welcome, so they would not enquire about the group, which might give you the impression that black women did not want to join the group, so it was ok, for the moment, to meet there. This might eventually give you the false impression that actually, meeting in a white-only venue wasn't so bad, black feminists weren't trying to join so it was less of an issue than you had predicted, and after all, the room hire is free.

You know, reading that, that it's wrong! And meeting in an inaccessible venue is the same. Even if no disabled feminists have enquired about the group, this may be because they know they can't use that venue. Or maybe they even turned up, waited outside for a while when they couldn't get in, then went back home. What if one of your regular members becomes disabled? Will they be no longer welcome?

However, overall there was a really positive message from the commenters to my original post, which is that online activism is relevant, is important, and does make a difference. Raising awareness, taking action and sharing stories and experiences can all be done extremely successfully online, and even more effectively than in real life at times. This is a good reminder to me, and to all the women who responded who also have limited spoons, whose uses have to be carefully chosen.

Kitt, in the comments, said
I know disabled feminists have a lot to offer - we have been forced to plumb the depths of our ingenuity to do the things we want to, using as few spoons as possible, and to choose our battles because we simply have to prioritise everything, everyday. Feminism has always benefited from the ingenuity of women - letting disabled people in will only add to this. We are another voice in the choir that will make the song sweeter and stronger.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Send a card, save a life?

My second guest post over at the F Word.

For some reason, last year was the first time I ever took part in the Amnesty International Greeting Cards Campaign. It was on the long, long list of things I intend to do, but never got round to.

But then last year, I did it. I made greetings cards from some of my photos, wrote encouraging messages inside, and posted them to the people I had chosen. It was easy, creative, and actually felt like a good reason to be in a Post Office queue.

I would have loved to send cards to everyone in their campaign, but I knew the postage would be prohibitive, so I had to decide on who I would send to. I went for sending cards to all the women in the campaign, and sending one to Binyan Mohammed, who was a British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay.

So when my booklet for this year's Greetings Card campaign arrived in the post yesterday, I instantly read through it and started ticking the pages of the ones I wanted to send cards to.

Again, I will focus my attention on the women. Amnesty says:
Our Greetings Card Campaign brings people across the world in touch with each other in a simple way - by sending a card with a friendly greeting or message of solidarity to someone who is in danger or unjustly imprisoned.

Below are 32 stories about people around the world who have suffered human rights abuses and would benefit from a card with a friendly greeting or message of support.

Between 1 November 2009 and 31 January 2010 we'd like you to write to as many of them as you like and remember that just one personalised message will mean the world to a prisoner in a cell or a family waiting for news of a loved one.

They give advice for each person about whether you should avoid mentioning anything religious, or political, and a suggested message. The website also gives translations of their suggested messages, if you want to write to the recipient in their own language.

Amnesty has checked with each potential recipient that it will be safe for them to receive cards, and even if you only send one (there really is no requirement to send all 32!), it can make a massive difference to somebody out there whose situation is otherwise dire.

Some examples of people you can send cards to this year are Justine Masika Bihamba in the Democratic Republic of Congo who has found herself and her family under attack because of her work for a women's rights organisation. In September 2007, soldiers forced their way into Justine's home while she was out, and tied up her six children, aged between five and 24, at gunpoint. One of the soldiers kicked her eldest daughter in the face, breaking her tooth. He then attempted to rape Justine's 21-year-old daughter.

Having failed to do so, he sexually assaulted her with a knife. Although Justine and her children were able to identify the soldiers, they have not been arrested or brought to trial. Workers at Justine's organisation have regularly been threatened and attacked because of their peaceful work against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Another woman is Sonia Pierre in the Dominican Republic. She is a human rights defender and has been threatened and harassed as a result of her work to stop discrimination against the Haitian community in the Dominican Republic. Sonia is executive director of the Movement for Dominico- Haitian Women (MUDHA), which works to combat the anti-Haitian prejudice and racism that is an everyday reality for many migrant workers and Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Then there is a group of 9 women's human rights defenders in Nicaragua. They are Ana María Pizarro, Juanita Jiménez, Luisa Molina Arguello, Marta María Blandón, Martha Munguía, Mayra Sirias, Violeta Delgado, Yamileth Mejía and Lorna Norori. They belong to various organisations that work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse; promote sexual health and promote the rights of women, children and young people.

They are facing legal proceedings for their involvement in the case of a nine-year-old girl who was raped and made pregnant in 2003 and obtained a legal abortion in Nicaragua. In October 2007 a non-governmental organisation backed by the Roman Catholic Church lodged a complaint against the nine, accusing them of concealment of rape, crimes against the administration of justice and other misdemeanours. We fear that the complaint is because of the women's human rights work and their activism to ensure the right of women and girls to safe and effective sexual and reproductive health services.

They list so many people whose lives you could help by a simple action. You can put as much work or money into it as you want to, really! Send one card to one person, or get your whole community to write and send cards to everyone!

As you can tell, I believe strongly in this campaign, and will be posting my own cards off in the next few weeks. I'm also going to be photocopying some of the booklet and sending pages out with the zine orders I get until the campaign ends. If you have the spoons, give it a go.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bankrupt the BNP

From Bristol Antifa:
Bankrupt the BNP!
Well, maybe not quite bankrupt, but folks in the UK can help make this bunch of fascists considerably poorer.
They've just got themselves a freepost address:
British Heritage FREEPOST
Nice and easy to remember eh? Every 'letter' to this address costs them 42p, and can simply be an empty envelope with the address on it. It's cheap to buy a bunch of these (you can get 50 self-seal ones for 75p from Wilkos) and run them through your printer while you're off doing far more interesting things. A friend has so far sent 1250 envelopes, costing the fash over 500 quid. That's less than £20 of my mate's hard-earned cash very well spent!
Please feel free to join in.
42p may not sound like much, but it would pay for dozens of BNP leaflets. Multiply that by potentially tens of thousands of empty envelopes sent their way and the impact on their activities becomes much more obvious. And when an envelope costs little more than a penny, it really does make sound economic sense!

We're advised that it's not worth sending heavy objects as they'll be filtered out at the sorting office, and we don't want to make our posties' jobs even harder than they already are.

Current good ideas are:
Christmas catalogues with your name and address torn off
Leaflets
Takeaway menus
Envelopes of glitter (it's hellish to get off your clothes, and the mental image of perpetually sparkly fascists is too good to miss)
Postcards or letters with anti-racist and anti-fascist messages
Chopped up cardboard boxes
Anything at all else you can think of. Within reason.

Feminist Spoons

My first guest post over at the F Word.

You may not have heard of the Spoon Theory, but it is worth a read.

A woman called Christine Miserandino was trying to think of a way to explain to her best friend exactly what it was like to live with a chronic illness, and came up with the Spoon Theory to give her an idea of what her life was like.

I find myself quite regularly using it, e.g. "I was planning to do that, but I don't have enough spoons". It is also becoming more well-known and well-used by other disabled people I know. It's very simplified, yes, but it gets the message across, as long as the person you are mentioning it to knows what you are talking about.

Friends and family are aware enough of my health problems to understand when I have to cancel things, or rearrange them. But these days, I am much less involved in feminist activism than I ever have been.

This is definitely spoon-related, and also directly related to my main local feminist group meeting in an inaccessible venue for so long that I gave up arguing with them about it. (They now meet somewhere which may be accessible, but they're not sure. I feel so thoroughly disenamoured with them that I'm not willing to test it out).

But I have also found that while individual feminists can be very understanding with my lack of spoons on a day-to-day basis, it sometimes seems less acceptable when it interferes with my ability to attend actions, protests and meetings.

I have it when there is a feminist action going on which I am not well enough to get to. I think of little else the whole time I should be there, I berate myself and feel thoroughly miserable. It then doesn't help when it is implied at a later date that those who did not attend were not committed enough, didn't care enough, aren't good enough.

This is far from universal, and many, many feminists have, or are developing, a really good understanding of disabled politics and the issues affecting disabled women. It is also not unique to feminism. The same attitudes can prevail in general lefty politics, the peace movement and more.

But historically, a lot of feminism has failed to address disabled issues. To quote from a blog post I wrote many moons ago,
Feminism needs to integrate disability politics, needs to embrace disabled women and our experiences, to be fully feminist. Excluding disabled women from feminist academia, analysis, activism and community not only is crap for the disabled woman, it prevents feminism from becoming all it needs to be to liberate women.

While I wrote that in fury about a particular situation, it still stands. It's not just about making sure we can get into the building! It's about understanding that without addressing issues affecting disabled women, feminism can never be fully representative of women, nor can it adequately support us, campaign for us or understand our lives.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two More Posts at the F Word blog

I am still guest blogging at The F Word. My two latest posts are Send a card, save a life? about the Amnesty International greeting cards campaign and Disabled Feminism, about several things including feminist groups whose meetings are still not accessible.

Head over there, have a read!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bonfire Night Baddies

I've always wondered whether fireworks were environmentally dodgy, and the Guardian have confirmed that they indeed are.

Every asthmatic knows that the 6th November is really, really bad on the breathing front. And there are good reasons.
Fireworks come in all colours. But they certainly aren't green. The full spectrum of toxic nasties shower down from firework displays all over the country today. Aluminium provides the brilliant whites, antimony sulphide produces the glittering effects, carcinogenic copper compounds produce bright blues, barium nitrate gives off glittering greens but a poisonous smoke that can cause breathing problems and bright red colours are sadly accompanied by strontium which can cause bone disorders. The list of hazards to people, pets and the environment goes on.

But are there any alternatives? In the United States 4 July is the annual big bang in a country which last year got through 97 tonnes of fireworks. After residents near Disneyland started to complain of breathing problems the company invested in research by scientists at Los Alamos national laboratory in New Mexico to replace the chemical accelerants with compressed air. But the fireworks are expensive and unlikely to replace the more popular but more hazardous fireworks filled with percholates that contaminate water.

More recently a pyrotechnic company claims to have developed a more eco-friendly firework using sawdust and rice chaff. But whether this development is little more than a damp squib is unknown.

Then there's the danger posed by bonfires to hedgehogs. The RSPB also warns of siting your beautiful bonfire too close to trees, shrubs or the nest boxes of birds.

Plus, I'm feeling whatever the Guy Fawkes equivalent of 'Bah, humbug' is now, and don't want to be kept awake. Bah firebug.

First Guest Post at the F Word

I wrote my first guest blog post at The F-Word a few days ago, Feminist Spoons.

I have been amazed and pleased by the fantastic comments that people have left - it has been empowering and encouraging for me, and it seems for blog readers too.

When we do what we can, that's enough, it's good enough. Maybe the things we are able to do are different from the things others can do, but that doesn't make them lesser. We're all doing good :)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Guest Blogging

I am very excited to announce that for the month of November I will be a guest blogger over at The F Word.

So watch that space, along with this space, for posts!