Thursday, February 03, 2011

Good Advice Matters

Someone drew my attention to a website called Good Advice Matters, which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to offering 'accurate and relevant information' on welfare rights.
We have many years experience behind us and specialize in disability and sickness benefits, appeals, benefits for foreign nationals, better off calculations, benefits for young people, benefits for carers etc.

Good Advice Matters supports the rights of individuals to claim the benefits that they are entitled to without experiencing judgmental attitudes, un-necessary delays and confusing and contradictory information. Good Advice Matters is frustrated with the lack of accurate information and advice currently being offered by the DWP. In short we feel that benefit claimants are being let down by the system.

Good Advice Matters is extremely critical of changes to the benefit system such as the introduction of employment and support allowance for claimants with limited capability for work and the planned cuts to benefits such as housing benefit. We have seen at first hand the devastating affect that a decision to stop benefit can have on an individual and we will actively campaign to ensure that claimants receive a fairer, more transparent and supportive service.
They invite people to contact them with any benefit query or question.

They have already answered one query about Is my Incapacity Benefit Safe? and under their DWP tag and benefit advice tag they have plenty more advice on benefits. looks like it could be a really helpful resource for disabled people, regarding benefits and rights, especially as more, confusing and punitive changes come into law.

(Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?blog).

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Shhh!-In At Sheffield Libraries

Yesterday I read with dismay that the bundle of awesomeness that is Ian McMillan has been banned from a children's creative writing event for fear that he may make political comments.

He is a big fan of libraries, and has said “Libraries are a vital and irreplaceable part of a cultured and civilised society, and one of the few public places left where you don’t have to pay to get in.” Of course, he's quite right!

The story a few weeks ago of residents of Stony Stratford withdrawing every single book from their local library to fight its closure was thoroughly inspiring.

According to Library Workers For a Better Future,
In Sheffield it is being proposed that the present library budget of £8.5m should be cut by £2.5m by 2013/14, i.e. by £1.4m in 2011/12 and £550k in 2012/13 and 2013/14. There are no current plans to close libraries but cuts on this scale will inevitably have a major impact on the quality of the library service. As a campaigning organisation we are keen to work with the council wherever possible to highlight the good work that libraries do in our communities. This lack of cooperation on even such a simple thing as a children’s creative writing workshop leaves us with little option but to pursue other ideas...

The 'other ideas' they talk about are a 'Shhh!-in' at Sheffield Central Lending Library on the 5th February. That date is the national day of action for libraries, and at 11am at Sheffield Central Library, the following is proposed:
Shhh-In rules…

Finger to lips.

At 11am say ‘Shhhhh!’

Finish off with three cheers for the library!

Finally, borrow lots of books – lets empty those shelves. You’re allowed up to 15 out on your library card, so bring a big bag!
You can keep up to date with the campaign by following @lwfabf and the #shh4sheflib hashtag on twitter.

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's My Nerves!

I haven't written a personal blog post for aeons. But here we are.

I went this morning for an EMG and nerve conduction tests. I've had them before and it involves sending electrical impulses through you to see what your nerves are doing, then putting a needle into your muscle and sending electrical pulses through that as well. It pretty much is as unpleasant as it sounds, though the wire in the leg muscle wasn't as painful as it was last time.

The problem came when he tested my arms as well. This, I think, is supposed to be a way that they can compare the damaged nerves in my legs to nerves in my arms which are ok. But the nerves in my left arm are, it seems, not ok. He kept asking me questions about my left hand. Was I *sure* it wasn't numb? Was I *sure* it was ok. I eventually admitted that I have been having some trouble touch typing with it, and he did some sensation comparison things on both my hands and, sure enough, I have a loss of sensation in my left one. This was clearly showing up in the tests he was doing, which is why he was so insistent.

The thing that scares me is that the neurological problems started with my left foot and leg, then a few weeks later affected my right foot. Now it has affected my left hand, I fear my right hand will be next and then... who knows? I do know, from reading, that this does happen with neuropathy.

He didn't give me any results or analysis, he sends his results to the neurologist who will then go through them with me. But I'm more than a little depressed about potentially having hands as crap as my feet.

Later I went to see my GP to talk about the ongoing neuropathic pain from the site of my neurosurgery last February, and he has increased my gabapentin dose. I'm trying to be optimistic but it hasn't helped so far, and it has thoroughly foul side effects for a few weeks with each increase. I'm going from 1200mg a day to 1800mg a day.

And there's more, of course. There always is. But that will do for now.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I started, so I finished

After fixing all the linkage to the right, I decided it would be good to just prettify the whole thing. Welcome to my new blog design!

It's not perfect, and there are things that I would like to change but can't because it's a free template (like the twitter link in the top right hand corner, and the text colour), but I like the design, and it will do.

Now, Up To Date.

For a long time now, the links in my right side bar have been horribly out of date. They didn't represent the blogs I do read, they didn't represent the blogs I no longer read, and many no longer existed or had become password protected.

I used to use the right sidebar links as my way of keeping on top of which blogs I read, but now I read most blogs in google reader, and have been ignoring ---> for months and even years.

It got to the point where it was ridiculous, I wasn't linking to my favourite blogs and I was linking to lots of dead ones, so I set about the dreaded task of sorting it out.

So, for the last few days I have been going to each blog I linked to, and either adding it to google reader, or finding it was long gone, or finding it contained things I didn't want to read any more. So the blog list has been gradually shrinking - the more I did, the more I deleted.

And I have worked out a way to link to the blogs I like and read, without the sidebar getting so overwhelmed again, so now I have set up my blog list to be attached to my google reader account, but only the ten most recently updated blogs will show to the right.

I have also deleted a lot of the links that weren't blogs. The ones that remain are below the blog list. I should order them somehow, but I'll work that out in time. I have also changed my twitter feed, flickr feed and feed gadgets so they are more up to date, and look neater and fit in better, and added a 'most popular posts' thing right at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sheffield Seed Swap

There will be a Sheffield Seed Swap on Sunday 20th February at The Old Sharrow School, S7 1DB
we invite you to take some of our saved seeds and share with us seeds that you have saved yourself. Its aso fine to come empty handed ! we would just ask for a donation for any seeds you would like to take...or perhaps there is something else you can swap?
All the seeds saved here at the seed swap are organic and local.

This means that these seeds will be more suited to local climatic
conditions and will be more suited to organic growing conditions.

Seeds are one of humanities greatest resources. We rely upon saving seeds for most of our food, and much of our clothes and our medicines. One seed can produce a plant that will produce many thousands of seeds, each with the potential to produce many more thousands... is a good resource for seedswaps nationwide.

There will also be information on local community food growing projects, and other local food events as well some plants, cups of tea, and cake! This event is free. We welcome donations to keep this event going into the future.

You can find more information at

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mozaz's Funeral

Mozaz's funeral will be held next Thursday, 3rd February.

You can see the full details here, but the very basics are:

"The service will be at Grenoside Crematorium in the North Chapel starting at 12pm and finishing at 1:15pm

The service will then be followed by a gathering of friends from 1:30pm onwards at Philadelphian Working Mens Club".

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Euthanasia Kits. Joke or Tragic Truth?

What Do They Know? is a fascinating website. You can submit Freedom of Information requests through it, and view the requests submitted by others, as well as the responses from the various public sector organisations. So you can do a search for, say, work capability assessment and see all the requests and responses made through the site, or search for your local area, or hospital, or a government department.

But when someone sent me a link to this FOI request to the DWP about euthanasia options for those who are removed off DLA / ESA I assumed it was going to be a joke. It turned out, in fact, to be horribly, chillingly apt.

The request by Stuart Wyatt begins,
With your department aiming to remove the benefits from 25% of DLA
claimants, and deem 91% of ESA claimants as fit for work, please
could you inform me what provisions have been made for those
disabled and sick people to choose a quick and painless death in
preference to slow and painful death by starvation, neglect or
and goes on to ask whether ATOS will therefore be providing suicide kits.

The same man has made a video of telephone calls to ATOS asking for the same information.

It would be funny if it wasn't so damn true.

Back to the Freedomof Information request, the DWP have to reply by the 21st February, so do check for their response.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011



Mozaz, aka Mark Wallis, was angry, unpredictable, stubborn and inconsistent.

But he was also passionate. And way more sensitive than many people gave him credit for. He was supportive, when he liked you, though whether he liked you or not could change at a moment's notice. But when he was on your side, he would back you up every step of the way, whatever the kind of support you needed was. Emotional support, practical support, and advice. He offered, and he meant it.

Mozaz was a great photographer who, like me, didn't see any contradiction in finding beauty as much in abandoned, derelict buildings as in the rolling countryside. And he found much beauty in both. He adored Sheffield and was certainly one of its characters.

And Sheffield, despite itself, will miss him.

As an anarchist, and a troublemaker, and with strong feelings about almost everything, he was often to be found at demonstrations and protests. As a person he found solace in hugging trees, he wasn't ashamed to admit he cried.

The last time I saw him he was proud to have spent the past few hours in a police station. He felt proud that he was considered to be enough of a threat to the state to be worth arresting. Before being released without charge he had made sure to inform all of the coppers of their union rights, urging them to seek advice about whether they should be enforcing fascist government policy. He was exhausting to be with. Everything had the potential to make him rant, often in unexpected ways. But there was an anarchist rave hidden behind every possible situation which could arise, and he never failed to provide it. He was a prolific blogger and was @ur32daurt on twitter.

Mozaz was hard work, but if you looked beyond what was immediately visible he was sensitive, supportive, intense and warm-hearted.

He died in the early hours of this morning after a time in Intensive Care with pneumonia. Through the last few days, since becoming aware of his being ill, I kept hold of the fact that he was surely indestructible. But sadly this proved not to be the case, and he has left this city a little quieter, he has left the police force with a little less work to do, and he has left many people, myself included, reeling.

I'm going to miss you Mozaz, you mad bugger.

Monday, January 10, 2011

52 Weeks, 52 Letters Challenge

I love writing letters and cards, and I have phases of doing lots, then not doing any for ages.

The 52 Weeks, 52 Letters challenge for 2011 has inspired me. I aim to write a letter or card each week this year.

What a lovely challenge! There's nothing quite like receiving a hand-written, personal note from a friend through the door, and I hope I can bring 52 smiles to others throughout the year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't Be On The Giving End

Oh dear, it doesn't matter how many times we talk about it, and my goodness we talk about it a lot, it happens again and again.

Last Christmas we were told to not be a rape victim, earlier this year we were told that it was because of what we wear, and that half of Londoners surveyed thought there were times that rape was the victim's fault, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, in time for Christmas, Hambleton and Richmondshire Community Safety Partnership have launched a 'hard-hitting campaign', advising people to not be 'on the receiving end' of domestic violence during the festive season.

I am struggling to see their logic. Is it aimed at women who they believe were somehow planning to be abused, yet on seeing the poster they will see the error of their ways, and decide against it? How else can it be understood?

Raising awareness of domestic abuse is very important. The quote provided makes good points: “Christmas is meant to be a happy time for families but for many living in our districts it will be a time of fear and pain,” said Sarah Hill, Director of Independent Domestic Abuse Services.

“The pressure builds up as people spend more time together than normal - which can often be a flash point for abuse. But we are here and ready to help – to listen or to provide some shelter.”

But how does this equate to the victim blaming, completely missing-the-point poster.

If anyone is going to urge anyone to do anything, we need to urge abusers not to abuse. It is so screamingly obvious that it frustrates me immensely that we have to write about this again and again and again.

Nobody wants to be abused. A woman seeing a poster telling her not to 'be on the receiving end' does not stop her partner 'being on the giving end'. It may just make her feel even more powerless and vulnerable.

Provide helpline numbers, sure. Provide advice and support, absolutely. But point the advice in a way that does not make it her fault. In a way that does not put the onus on her to not be punched or kicked or raped.

Because believe me, she already does not want to be on the receiving end. She does not need a patronising poster campaign to tell her that.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or find a service local to you through the Women's Aid website.

And remember, it is not your fault. Ever.

I wish we did not have to keep saying this, but as long as people keep putting out information like that, we will.

(Cross-posted at The F Word)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Disability Works, Does It?

Companies like A4e, who are paid by the government to get benefit claimants into work, are treated with at best suspicion, and at worst fear and loathing, by many disabled people, especially following TV programmes such as Benefit Busters.

The DWP currently have a shortlist for other companies who are bidding for contracts to carry out government compulsory back-to-work schemes, and worryingly one of the shortlisted companies is the dreaded ATOS, who carry out the ESA medicals, and G4S (formerly Group 4 Security).

However, apparently also on the shortlist, according to, is a consortium consisting of a group of 7 charities, who have called themselves Disability Works UK.
Disability Works UK is 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.

They boast about their £654.4 million turnover, and cash surplus of £15.6 million, which makes me feel a little queasy. As someone who has donated to more than one of these charities in the past, I will certainly never do so again if that is going to be used in a bid for them to gain their place in what is one of the most oppressive parts of the government's new benefit regime.

For charities and voluntary sector organisations who have done some campaigning against the punitive measures put in place within the benefit system, to now want to play an active part in that system, is disturbing. For them to use money donated by people in good faith as part of that, sickening.

And where does it leave our chances of major disability charities campaigning on our behalf against punitive benefit reforms? If they are hoping to profit from the legislation, I cannot see how we can expect adequate support or representation from them.

If Mind, Scope, Mencap, Leonard Cheshire et al win these contracts, will these charities, who are seen by many as the voice of disabled people, be playing a part in benefit sanctions? Will they be working with ATOS as colleagues? Will we ever trust them again?

(cross posted at Where's the Benefit?)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

DLA Consultation: The Internet Responds.

Yesterday, Where's the Benefit? posted Broken of Britain's response to the DLA reform consultation, and today I am going to try to read the government's consultation document itself.

Other disability blogs and websites have already done some great posts on this subject, and I wanted to draw attention to some of what is being said around the interwebz on the reform proposals.

Fighting Monsters writes From DLA to PIP - a consultation begins.

Arbitrary Constant writes DLA Reform Consultation: Great Expectations, Worst Apprehensions. write DLA claimants to miss out in benefits shake-up.

Disability Alliance write Government announces cuts to disabled people's support as "new test".

Left Foot Forward writes Supporting Disabled People Not Sustainable says Coalition.

Disabled People Against Cuts have a cartoon entitled Don't worry when we want your opinion we'll tell you what it is.

I don't know whether I'll be able to make my way through reading the consultation document myself without breaking things and / or having a complete meltdown, but if I do I will try to summarise it in a blog post when I have.

(cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Cold Weather Payments

For those readers on qualifying benefits, you can check whether or not you are yet eligible for any Cold Weather Payments on this direct gov website.

Payments are made when the average temperature for where you live is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.

Also from, who qualifies for Cold Weather Payments:
If you are in receipt of Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you may also be able to get Cold Weather Payments.

You get £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March and it is paid automatically, you do not need to apply for it.

So, if you want to check whether you are due to receive one, you can do so here.

Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Round-Up Post

There are plenty of must-read articles and blog posts which I haven't had the time or the spoons to cover. All of the following are well worth a look.
  • Scope are running a survey about the real costs of being disabled, which you can fill in here.
  • "On the Shoulders of the Vulnerable", an article from Morning Star with information about ATOS and how ESA medicals are failing disabled people, especially those of us with mental health problems.
  • A Guardian article, Housing Benefit Cuts: What's the Real Truth?
  • Laurie Penny in the New Statesman writes Strictly Come Scrounging, Anyone?, about The X Factor vision of society [which] blames the poor for their predicament.
  • Hopi Sen and Left Futures point out the contradiction in David Cameron criticising those claiming over £20,000 in housing benefits, compared to his own expenses claims for his second home.
  • Crisis, a national charity for single homeless people, have created a comprehensive, myth-busting press release full of information on how the government are 'peddling myths' to sell the Housing Benefit cuts.
  • Lenin's Tomb deconstructs a Daily Mail article decrying 75% of Incapacity Benefit claimants as 'fit to work'.
  • The same article is looked at on This Is My Blog, who looks in depth at 'abandoned claims' and why they might really happen.
  • Susannah posts a plea for help, describing how the removal of the Mobility Component of DLA from people in residential care will directly affect her brother.

(Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Video Follow-Up

I've had such amazing support since posting the video yesterday. I also wanted to let you know that it has been re-posted at various places.

Mind In Flux posted it on her blog about mental health and disability.

The Broken of Britain is collecting the stories of disabled people in the UK, and has linked to the video.

And it has also been posted on Pickled Politics blog.

I am touched and moved that so many people have contacted me, and commented, in such a supportive way. It was a very scary thing to do, but it also felt very important. Thank you everyone.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vlog Message to You.

In response to the wonderful words of BendyGirl.

[Edited to add a transcript of the video:

The last few days I've watched the videos from BendyGirl at Benefit Scrounging Scum, and I loved them, I thought they were brilliant. But I never thought it was something I could do, until in her second video she pointed out how important it is for everyone to speak out.

Like many, many people I am frightened by the proposed changes, the cuts, to disability benefits, and what's going to happen to services and the third sector.

The thought of withdrawing mobility rate... the thought of withdrawing the mobility section of DLA for people in care homes is disgusting. The thought that just because somebody was living in a care home, they no longer need to go anywhere, they no longer need mobility equipment, is just obscene.

The changes in housing benefit rules so that people under 35 in private rented accommodation can't get full housing benefit if they live on their own is disgusting.

And limiting ESA to one year, when so many people were fighting against the very principle of ESA at all, and now to have to change that fight to at least, it was perhaps better than nothing, and if people are going to be put on it because they are considered fit to work, even though we know that many, many people who are not fit for work are being put on ESA, the fact that that's now limited to one year, and nobody seems to know what would happen after that.

When we are in a recession, and people – everybody who isn't working is finding it difficult to find jobs, and the strange assumption that the few jobs that there are will go to disabled people, is just not unfortunately how this society works. Disablism means that disabled people are discriminated against every day, and that includes the disabled person who is well enough to work can find it more difficult to find that job because employers are frightened, or don't want to make changes, or don't know what it means.

I'm frightened. And I'm also, like many other people, very confused. I watched the budget on Wednesday, and I was thankfully using twitter at the same time because there were many aspects that I didn't understand, or that I thought I must have misheard. And that there was a group of us all watching and using twitter at the same time made it more accessible to me, I guess.

But there are many unanswered questions. I've heard of people ringing the DWP to say, 'What's this about ESA being stopped after a year?' and the DWP not being able to answer, because they don't know.

The Housing Benefit cuts, I've heard so many different stories about who it's being cut for. So it's not just that the changes are frightening, it's that they're very unclear, and people don't know where they stand.

When I first became ill and went on benefits, I just got Income Support, and it was a horrible time. With paying part of my rent out of that, and with making debt repayments out of that, I had £15 a week for food, and electricity, and transport. For months I lived on... I used to buy these tins of Irish Stew from Kwik Save, and they were disgusting, but they were really cheap, and I figured it was as close to a balanced diet as I could get because it had meat and potatoes in it. And for months, every day, I had one meal a day, and that consisted of Kwik Save Irish Stew and as much bread as I could eat. Every day. For months. I couldn't afford sanitary towels, I couldn't afford shampoo.

I didn't know about other benefits. And someone told me about DLA and I applied for it, and I eventually got it, and it was one of the key... it was key for me, it was vital. Because my health was bad enough anyway, it was vital for me because I could afford to eat more than Irish Stew. I could afford to go to places on the bus. And I'm talking medical appointments. Before that I was missing medical appointments because I couldn't afford to get there. I could get taxis. I could get ready meals when I wasn't well enough to cook.

Getting DLA literally changed everything for me. And makes, still makes, such a difference. It means that I can afford the extra things I need because I'm disabled. Like taxis. Like ready meals when I can't cook. Like mobility aids, and other aids I use. DLA, along with everything, is being threatened. With ATOS taking over the medicals. And after what they've done with the ESA medicals that's frightening, and many people who need DLA are going to lose it.

Everything that is happening since the new government came in is frightening to disabled people. And I'm not a Labour supporter. I know that various important Labour politicians have come out and said that they would be doing what the Conservatives are doing with regard to disability benefits. So I'm not falling into the trap of saying, 'the coalition government is awful, Labour is the answer', because they are... although they are fighting some aspects of the budget, they are supporting the disability benefit cuts.

I feel like I'm being punished for being disabled. The press and the government are doing a really good job at the moment of whipping up hatred, whipping up this image of disabled people being scroungers, of disabled people not really being disabled, and being workshy and lazy. The government and certain parts of the press are promoting this strongly and I can feel, in the atmosphere, that this is affecting people's views. And with the further cuts, this gets worse and worse.

What depresses me is not my illness. What depresses me is not my impairment. What depresses me is how I am treated because of it. That's what makes everything so much harder. We do need to speak out. Because disabled people are being scapegoated and it's horrible. And for non-disabled people, you don't know what's round the corner. I became disabled. Many people become disabled. It could be you in a few years, with no care packages, with no benefits, with no support. With people thinking... with people thinking you're lazy or can't be bothered, or exaggerating. Nobody's immune from disability. And there are some people in the government, the Prime Minister included, who really should know that through their own lives. I am so... I'm frightened, and I want to give a message of hope, but at the moment it's hard to find one.

So I'll agree with BendyGirl that the hope... maybe we have to get hope from each other... from knowing it's not just us, it's not just me that's frightened, it's not just me that's confused, who doesn't know what's happening and what's going to happen.

We're all in this together.]

Friday, October 08, 2010

An Easy Way to Email your MP to Protest Benefit Cuts.

Scope are running a campaign to email your MP to ask them to take action immediately to oppose the cuts to the public services and benefits that many disabled people in the UK use and rely on.

All you have to do is fill in your contact details, then your MP's email address is automatically found and you can read and alter the proposed message before you confirm that you would like it to be sent.

So, email your MP to protest the proposed cuts here.

Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Threats and Fear.

It's impossible to overstate how terrified some disabled people are, in Britain right now.

The fear of benefit cuts is so high, and so real, and attitudes like those of Nadine Dorries add to the climate of terror.

Already people are scared to leave their house for fear of being reported to the DWP for faking their illness, now those who find networks like twitter to be a lifeline are becoming frightened to post.

If you are stuck in bed, and you've found a way to use your laptop lying down, or you can use a phone or iPad, sites like twitter are perhaps the only way for many to actually communicate with others. It may be the only conversation someone has for a week.

One purpose that these threats serve is, I suspect, to keep us all quiet. We can't complain about the process of reapplying for DLA, or of the ATOS assessments, if the very complaints we type will be used as an additional stick to beat us with. Even if typing those 140 characters used up so much energy that we then had to sleep for an hour to recover. Or hurt our eyes so much that we have a migraine for 3 days.

On days that I can't leave the house, and can't use the phone, the internet is the only tool I have to communicate with the outside world. I don't want to lose that. But the fear affects me as much as anyone, and right now so many of my outlets feel threatening.

This is what the threats to disability benefits are doing to me. It is worsening my madness significantly, which, ironically, will make me less and less able to work, not more.

(cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Being Offensive To Show How Offensive Offensiveness Is

DSC_2777ed1 The Press Complaints Commission has upheld Clare Balding's complaint after AA Gill in the Sunday Times referred to her as a 'dyke on a bike'.

This is really good news.
Balding said the word "dyke" was "too often used as a pejorative and insulting term". She said her sexuality was irrelevant to the programme and the hurt had been compounded by the columnist's mock apology for previously saying that she looked "like a big lesbian".

As you might expect, Stonewall has released a press release on the judgement, however it has used offensive and racist language in that press release to make its point.

Using racist language, to highlight how bad homophobic language is, is never the way forward. Holly's post on Oppression Olympics explains this clearly, and insulting Meera Syal and Vanessa Feltz's ethnicities is as offensive as the original AA Gill comment. Doing this in the guise of supporting a decision against offensive language is ridiculous.

I don't want to directly quote the language they used, but the screenshot above of the press release will show you what they said. The 'P' word in particular is one which makes me feel sick. Using it as an example of what The Sunday Times would never have said is misguided at best, and I do wonder what Ben Summerskill was thinking when he thought this was appropriate.

There is an option to comment on the page of Stonewall's press release, and if you too find these references unwise and offensive, I would recommend you do so.

Story originally heard through @becksydee. Photo by me.

(cross-posted at The F Word)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Spam Comments

I've lately started getting a lot of spam comments on my old posts, so I've been deleting them as they come in (Hint to spammers, don't bother writing a convincing looking comment for the context when your username is GenericViagra).

But as the problem is getting worse by the week I have now changed my settings so that comments left after a post has been up for 14 days will have to be moderated. Hopefully this won't be too annoying for regular or legitimate commenters, and it will save me time and energy I could better spend, I dunno, pissing about.

Friday, August 27, 2010

CAB Report on the Coalition Budget 2010

The Citizens Advice Bureau has written a report on Key welfare changes and their impact on low income households.

It makes for very depressing reading, and while it does not look specifically at disability benefits, it reports on the reductions and changes in Housing Benefit, JSA and tax credits, all of which are claimed by many disabled people. For instance,
From 2013/14 any claimant on JSA for more than 12 months will have their HB entitlement cut by 10 per cent. This will continue until they have “left the benefit system and been in work for a while”.
This seems a crude measure as it appears that it will apply even where the tenant is fully complying with their JSA requirements to actively seek work. The cut will fall hardest on those who face disadvantage in the labour market, such as people in poor health or with a disability who have failed the harsher medical tests for incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance, and have therefore been moved onto JSA.
It also explains why changing benefit levels from rising in line with the Retail Prices Index, to the Consumer Prices Index, will result in a reduction in the value of benefits and tax credits.

At the end of the study the report highlights scenarios illustrating the impact of the cuts on specific households, and several of the case studies include the issues of people who are ill or disabled. For instance,
A 50 year old man with mild learning disabilities and literacy issues has done manual work all his life until arthritis in his knees, hips and shoulder forced him to stop work. He has worked and paid contributions all his life until that point. He pays rent of £110/week and council tax of £18/week.
He claimed ESA but was found fit for work, so is now claiming JSA. The number of jobs he will be able to do is severely limited. He also has no access to his own transport and finds public transport very difficult because of the arthritis. His Jobcentre Plus personal adviser finds it difficult to suggest jobs for him. He has been out of work since his arthritis made it impossible to continue in his job two years ago and he has been claiming JSA for a year.
After housing costs he has a disposable income of £65.45 a week (his JSA). After a year as a result of changes in up-rating of JSA and also the LHA rates, his disposable income is likely to drop in real terms to about £64. However he may well also lose a further £8 off his HB as the 30th percentile rate is used to calculate the LHA rate. If he is unable to find a job after a year he will lose a further £10 a week of his HB. If he can not find somewhere cheaper to live he will have a disposable income after housing costs of about £46, a 30% reduction. Even if he can find somewhere cheaper to live, his disposable income will drop to £54, a 17.5% reduction.
If he had been allocated to the work-related activity group for ESA, his income would be £91.30 a week.

(cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Intrusive Questions


1. Making an unwelcome manifestation with disruptive or adverse effect.

2. (of a person) Disturbing another by one's uninvited or unwelcome presence.
Intrusive comments from strangers about my breasts began pretty much as soon as they grew. Intrusive 'are you anorexic?' questions happened when I was slim (and yes, some of that time, I was. Did you really want that answer?). Intrusive comments about my weight are different now, but still intrusive and rude.

But lately, the subject of the vast majority of intrusive questions I get asked are related to being disabled.

Practically every time I go out, someone asks me, "So, what've you done then?" and nods to the crutch. This happens disproportionately in the bus queue, oddly. But can happen anywhere - last week by the guy serving me in Subway, and he didn't even stop there.

I am never quite sure how to answer. In my head I come up with clever and funny stories to answer this question, involving shark attacks and being trampled by donkeys, but in reality these rarely come out of my mouth. I sometimes say, "I had an operation on my leg" which, while true, isn't entirely relevant. For what it's worth, regarding that actual question, I haven't done anything.

I could tell the truth of course, but it's a long, complicated and in depth story, and people wouldn't actually want to hear the whole thing. Not that I'd do this, because it's none of their business. If you are a complete stranger, you are not entitled to my medical history.

Some, like the Subway guy, go further. "What was the operation for?" "What does it feel like?"

Then there's the unsolicited advice that so frequently follows: "My mate had something like that and when he stopped eating *insert random food group here* it got better"; "Have you tried *insert unproven alternative treatment here*?"; "You want to be careful using that stick, you don't want to get reliant on it".

Look, I have a consultant on the case, and she knows a lot about this stuff. You don't. Just drop it.

Think about it this way, if you were waiting in your GP's surgery waiting room, and someone asked you what you were seeing the doctor for, you'd feel that that was an inappropriate and overly intrusive question. It's the same - perhaps worse - at a bus stop, or a sandwich shop, or in the park.

Just like telling me I have big boobs (as if I didn't know) is inappropriate, and telling me to eat less is inappropriate, and telling a slim woman to eat more is inappropriate, so asking a complete stranger about their impairment is also inappropriate.

Sometimes young kids ask me questions, and I don't mind that as much. They mainly want to know if it hurts. Then they get on with whatever they were doing before. Actual friends asking me questions is fine, and actual friends offering me advice based on something they've read can be helpful, because they know what I've already tried and what I'm likely to want to try.

But the man at the sandwich shop and the woman at the bus stop and every other stranger who feels entitled to know, it's not fine. My body is mine, in all its weirdnesses and failings and successes. Some of its details are visible to you, but it's still not ok to just tell me what you think because you can see that I have breasts, a big tummy, a limp, scars or a mobility aid.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's not benefits that are outrageous, it's the cuts.

The Guardian reports on attacks on people who have been on disability benefits for 10 years or more.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling described the figures as "outrageous" and promised action to get people off benefits and back into work.
There is a shocking lack of acknowledgement or awareness that if someone has been on disability benefits for 10 years are probably pretty ill, have significant impairments, or face massive barriers.
"Thousands of people who have simply been cast aside by a welfare system that does nothing but put them in a queue for benefits and then forgets about them.

"Well those days are over. We will no longer accept a system which writes people off at a drop of the hat and expects the taxpayer to foot the bill."
With statements like that, they appear to be trying to cloak their attacks in the guise of concern for the benefit recipients, but it is a thinly disguised threat where the biggest concern is clearly the 'taxpayers footing the bill'.

It shows a complete lack of comprehension of the reality of the day to day lives of those who have been on long-term sickness benefits, and of why people are in this situation. There are many things the government could do to improve disabled people's lives and, yes, their chances of eventually getting back to work, but cutting off benefits helps no-one.

To put the £4.2 billion in context, we also know that £16 billion worth of benefits go unclaimed every year.

(Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not fit for work, not fit for benefits.

Many disabled people are currently terrified of the threats to their benefits, and those with mental health problems are especially scared. The benefit system has always been more geared up towards assessing physical impairment, and the new ESA assessments appear to have reinforced rather than reduced the discrepancy.

Meridian Tonight has reported on the case of Nicola Hobbs, who after years of anorexia applied for a job. However, she failed the health test and so was not given employment. As a result of this she applied for benefit and in this case was found fit for work.

A very confusing situation - judged too ill to work when applying for a job, yet fit for work when applying for benefit. But to add insult to injury, these two opposing judgements were made by the same company - ATOS Healthcare, who do the ESA assessments for the government.

Meridian Tonight has a two minute video covering the story on their website. Worryingly, it is not the first time I have heard of cases exactly like this, with ATOS declaring the same person unfit for work when doing an employment health review, yet fit for work when doing a benefit assessment.

(Cross-posted at the new blog, Where's the Benefit?)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Being Fat

Ten years ago I thought I was fat.

Today, I know I am fat.

Ten years ago, being fat was the worst thing I could ever contemplate.

Today, being fat is fine.

Ten years ago, the word fat was loaded with fear and disgust.

Today, the word fat is a descriptive word only, with no moral judgement.

Ten years ago, the idea of getting fat terrified me.

Today, I don't fear getting fat, because I already am.

Ten years ago, despite being 'underweight', I hated the fat I thought I could see all over my body.

Today, I know there is nothing to fear.

Ten years ago I would have chosen to stay ill rather than take the medications which would help me to get better, but cause massive weight gain.

Today, I take those medications daily.

Ten years ago I thought that fat was the ultimate unhealthy thing I could be.

Today, I know that that anorexia was way more self-destructive, damaging and unhealthy.

Ten years ago, I thought that telling other women how fat I looked, and how awful that was, was normal and ok.

Today, I know that moaning to other women about my body's appearance reinforces the view in all of us that women's bodies should look a certain way.

Ten years ago, the word fat was nothing but an insult.

Today, the word fat is nothing but a descriptive term.

Ten years ago, if someone told me how flattering an outfit was on me, I'd be pleased.

Today, if someone tells me how flattering an outfit is, I know that they really mean it hides the areas they don't consider acceptable.

Essential Reading:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Judging Other Women, Judging Ourselves

One of the reasons I stopped reading women's magazines was due to the way they helped to create a mindset within me of judging other women's appearances. And in turn, my own.

All those pap shots, or red carpet shots, with captions such as "OMG, Celebrity A wore item X with item Y. The shame!" always made me start thinking "oh, I'm not supposed to wear X with Y? Since when? What else do I not know? Do I look stupid?"

And "OMG, Celebrity B's appalling outfit just draws attention to her problem areas, not flattering at all!" made me start seeing women's bodies in terms of 'problem areas' and how we must disguise them at all costs.

For what it's worth, I don't even consider the parts of my body that don't work so well as problem areas, so I hated applying that destructive judgement to my bits that are simply more bulgy than others.

But reading those hateful comments made me see similar 'sins' in real life, and the language of body fascism started to invade my consciousness. I was making snap judgements about other women's appearances. As soon as I clocked each thought, I'd immediately challenge it and reassure myself that I didn't think that really, but I hated that the snap judgements were happening at all.

And the more I judged others, the more those judgements affected my own self-esteem. If I could judge Celebrity C, even momentarily, for an unflattering top, when she is frankly at most 1/3 of my size and is conventionally beautiful, then really, what did I look like? And if the women who wrote these magazines, and other women who read them, judged conventionally beautiful and improbably slim women so badly, what on earth would they think of me?

So I stopped reading those magazines. I stopped reading reactionary statements about the supposed fashion sins committed by other women, and I stopped making those judgements about other women, and I began to stop making them about myself. It was one of the best things for my self-esteem and for my self-respect that I have ever done.

With this in mind, I was interested to read this blog post from polimicks.
I have been making a concerted effort to remove appearance-related insults from my vocabulary. Because honestly, if I'm pissed off at someone, it has NOTHING to do with what they LOOK like, and everything to do with what they ARE like.
This rang very true with me. Happy as I always am to argue endlessly against the politics of, say, Ann Widdecombe, I would also endlessly defend her when people criticising her resort to making fun of her appearance and weight. And they invariably do.

Firstly, there is no need. It is cruel, it is nasty, and no contribution for the advancement of women is ever made when politicians are only critiqued on their size and perceived attractiveness. Secondly, it is entirely irrelevant, and unhelpful to the argument anyway. If you want to slate Ann's position on abortion rights, go ahead. But you only devalue your own argument if you make any reference to her never needing one because 'she's so fat and ugly that noone would want to impregnate her'. And yes, I've heard that numerous times. This undermines any valid point within the rest of your argument, as well as being needlessly shallow and hateful.

Criticising other women's bodies goes counter to everything that feminism should stand for. It is hurtful to other women, and it is hurtful to ourselves. And it is irrelevant to any other criticisms of a person, be it their politics, their acting skills, their singing ability, their ability to read the news, or, frankly, anything at all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh, the Outrage!

Certain newspapers are renowned for creating outrage and horror out of the smallest things, but this example had me howling with laughter. That might be related to the painkillers I'm currently on for an excessively painful period, but that just makes it all the more relevant.

It appears that somebody on set thought it would be funny to add 'jam rags' and 'pile cream' to a blackboard shopping list in Marlon Dingle's kitchen. I agree, I think that is quite funny.

I had actually never heard the term 'jam rags' for sanitary towels before, so I've learned something new. And it highlights the fact that just as characters in soaps are rarely seen going to the toilet, they are also rarely seen as having periods. Funnily enough they never watch other soaps, either.

The Fail tells us:
Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch, said: 'Clearly whoever wrote that knew exactly what they were doing, and they certainly didn't need to.
'It's not a particularly helpful phrase to refer to sanitary towels as "jam rags" , and it is unnecessary.
Sharon Kennedy, 26, from Kingstanding, Birmingham, said: 'I couldn't believe my eyes when it appeared on screen - it's not the kind of language you expect to appear in one of our oldest soaps.
'I had to cover my young son's eyes because I didn't want to have to explain that kind of crass language to him at such a young age.
Mother-of-two Jean Walker, 38, from Lichfield, Staffs, added: 'I was stunned when my son, who is only seven, turned around and asked me what a jam rag was.
'It's not the kind of thing you want your kids seeing, so it was disappointing to see it on a programme like Emmerdale just after dinner.
'You hear phrases like that used in the street or in the pub sometimes, but to use it in front of millions as part of a TV soap is a pretty silly thing to do.'

These people don't appear outraged, or scared for the moral health of their child, regarding the current storyline of a murdered man's body being found in the woods, or an older woman's admission of graverobbing, or the sad death of the chronic alcoholic pictured in that screenshot that very night (yes, I watch Emmerdale!). But a mention of sanitary towels in slang terms - UNACCEPTABLE!

Oh my. Somebody think of the children!

I use medical terms and slang terms to refer to periods. I try and avoid overtly negative ones like 'the curse', despite my endometriosis and PCOS making me feel quite cursed on days like today. When I lived in France, periods were often referred to as 'les Anglaises' - nobody quite knew why, but one theory was the shade of red that white Brits turn when they holiday in sunny France, and another was to do with the red coats that the guards of Buckingham Palace wear.

So I'm on the blob, I've got the painters in, Liverpool / Arsenal / Man U are playing at home, I'm menstruating, I have my period. There's nothing offensive about that, it's a fact of life, and talking about it shouldn't horrify anyone.

Because I've always had problems with my periods, it is something I have had to talk about regularly. I also had to come to terms with the fact that periods weren't shameful. Buying sanitary towels as a teenager might have felt mortifying, but now I barely notice doing it. There really is nothing to be ashamed of.

The Onion has a nice collection of euphemisms for menstruation, my favourite probably being It's 'that time of the month' where 'I'm not at my best' because 'my vagina is bleeding'. The Museum of Menstruation has the most comprehensive collection of words used to describe menstruating I have ever, ever seen. That site is actually endlessly fascinating, with extensive information on anything and everything to do with periods.

So, what are your favourite period euphemisms? Do you prefer to use less euphemistic language? Would you be horrified to see 'jam rags' on a shopping list? Or is any mention of our 'monthlies' offensive at all?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Budget Impact on Disabled Women

Jess posted that women will bear the brunt of three-quarters of extra taxes and benefit cuts from the latest budget. Disabled people are also at risk, especially with the proposed changes to benefits, so disabled women will be particularly adversely affected.

In a 2004 study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, on the extra costs of living associated with being disabled, it was found that disabled people living on benefits face a weekly shortfall of £200 compared to the amount required for them to ensure an acceptable, equitable quality of life and minimum standard of living. And those results were for people on maximum benefit levels.

With many people who are too sick to work being 'pushed into seeking work without any help or support', and the continuing rolling out of ESA, a system condemned as 'unfit' by one of the very people who designed it, along with proposed 'savings' (by which we mean cuts) to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), many disabled people living on benefits will be even more limited.

The cost of living for everybody, as well as the particular extra costs of living for disabled people, continues to rise, and will do so especially with the increase in VAT. As benefits are frozen and essentially cut, disabled women in particular will be seriously adversely affected.

For working disabled women, there will also be more problems. The Joseph Rowntree report found that disabled people with high-medium needs would find themselves with a shortfall of £80 a week, not even including possible PA costs. Add to this that more disabled people tend to work in the public sector than the private sector, where cuts are of course being made, and the situation is frightening. In addition, disabled people who work can claim Disability Living Allowance, so cuts and limitations will affect them too. In fact, some working people can only work because of the way they use their DLA to cover additional costs, so cutting that could well mean that some working disabled people would have to stop work, and claim benefits.

The proposed budgetary changes threaten to send many more women into poverty. They threaten to send many more disabled people into poverty. So for disabled women? It is a very scary time indeed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Misc Freebies

I have never been known to turn down a freebie, at least not that I can remember. There have been a few very cool ones lately, so thought I'd share.

Firstly, you can get a free bag for life, made from recycled plastic bottles. You can choose your colour. It is associated with Procter and Gamble, so as long as that doesn't bother you, go for it!

Secondly, free food! I got in the post today a box of lovely healthy food, all free! You can too, from The code for getting it free is 2DK1RCP. You do have to sign up with payment details, but it's easy to cancel once you've got your freebie. However, I won't be cancelling for now at least, because yum! Full disclosure: if you sign up with that code, I get £1 off a snack box!

Thirdly, a directory of free wi-fi locations.

Fourthly, find your local freegle or freecycle group, and you can give stuff away for free as well as get it :)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

You look fine. You really do. All of you.

It is no longer enough to hate your breasts, face, stomach, legs, nose, ears and lips enough to get them sliced and diced or injected with poison. It's no longer enough to have society tell you that your body is so very unacceptable that you should risk your life having major surgery in order to make it fit patriarchal 'rules' about thinness, pertness, tightness, hairlessness and perfection.

Now, you have to apply the same thinking to your vagina. Are the muscles stretched? Are your labia too big - or too small? Is your mons pubis too big - or too small? Ditto clitoris. Well, you can have those cut up too.

That article actually says,
So, if you or your partner is not satisfied with your vagina, a rejuvenation procedure can work wonders.

Your partner? If s/he is not happy with your vagina, that is entirely their problem! And is not ever a good reason for you to have it chopped up. In fact, if they are criticising your vulva or vagina, they certainly don't deserve you.

Amy Clare's review of a Channel 4 programme about 'designer vaginas' is worth reading.

I have had surgery twice this year, and the fear and pain associated with them made me think a lot about, and seriously question, why people would put themselves through that voluntarily. Just how strong are society's pressures, that they cause women to go through massive pain and lots of health risks, to get a smoother face or less saggy boobs?

When a woman chooses to have cosmetic surgery, I feel sad. Until we live in a society where what we look like is not used to oppress us, I question how much free choice we ever really have to make these decisions.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Help Make It Stop

Via Women's Views on News, I discovered this video from the Metropolitan Police, telling people to dial 999 if they hear domestic violence attacks through the walls from their neighbours.

It shows the shocking statistic that almost 1 in 5 murders in London are the result of domestic violence, and ends with the statement, You make the call. We'll make it stop.

It's an issue that has provoked discussion with my friends over the years. Many, many of us have been in this situation, hearing arguments next door escalate, and wondering what to do.

I personally have dialled 999 when things sounded like they were getting really out of hand, but it wasn't an easy decision. When you do dial 999, you fear that you will make things worse for the woman, when the man is released, if he is taken into custody at all. You fear that the police will not take it seriously. You even fear that you may be misinterpreting the situation, despite the smashing and screaming that you really can't mistake.

But I did dial, on more than one occasion, because I feared that that would, indeed, be the time that he would kill her. Because I could not bear to hear her suffering and terror any longer. Because I could not live with myself if I just sat there and allowed it to happen. Because she was being beaten, her furniture was being thrown, and nobody should need to tolerate that. Because I could hear her daughter crying upstairs.

I dialled 999, but even having done it I was never 100% sure it had been the right thing. If it would make him more aggressive to her later. If the police would 'make it stop' at all. In the end I spoke to my neighbour alone, asked her if I had done the right thing, and asked whether I should I do it again, if necessary. She was a proud woman, and said she was fine, but did eventually agree that if it sounded really bad, I should call for help.

So what about you? Have you dialled 999 in that situation? Have you wanted to, but not dared? Have you decided against it? And why? What made you call, or what made you not call?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Rapist Urged Not to Rape

My local paper has published an article following the sexual assault of a woman. They report that the police are urging a change in behaviour to prevent further rapes. Sadly, contrary to the title of this post, the change in behaviour they are encouraging involves the behaviour of local women, who are advised to not walk alone on the paths of the Dearne Valley Trail.

So, I would like to make a few changes to the article. My alterations are in bold
POLICE have issued this image of a man who subjected a 50-year-old woman to a terrifying sex attack as she walked her dog at a South Yorkshire beauty spot.
The man assaulted the woman as she he walked alone on a secluded path on the Dearne Valley Trail, near Elsecar, Barnsley, at around midday on Thursday June 24.

The stockily-built attacker was white, around 30 years old, with short fair hair and a round face. He was wearing blue shorts and a white T-shirt and fled towards Elsecar Park following the attack.

Police are warning people using the trail to be vigilant and report suspicious activity immediately. They are also urging women not to walk the paths alone. They are particularly urging the rapist to stop raping, and want men to be aware that if they walk the paths alone, they may cause alarm to the women in the area, due to this recent attack.

Det Sgt Steve Trigg, from South Yorkshire Police, said the woman was left "traumatised and in shock" after the serious sex assault, and feared she might be killed.

Anyone with information about the attack should call 0114 2202020 ext 736551.

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:
• 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

# 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: