Category Archives: feminism

The terrorism of Feminism

So as we all know, 2018 is a big year in the feminist calendar – in 1918 there was a big push to offer some women – not all, but some, the right to vote. Some might argue that as there were so many restrictions in place, it wasn’t something to celebrate. 

However, I would say that this was a massive step which leads us to the present day where most of us take being able to vote for granted. To the point that the right to vote is something so ingrained that people need to be pushed to vote in the first place. That we  are reminded that people actually died for our right to vote. 

And now we come to what I want to write about. 

f3
Emily Davison throwing herself under the Kings Horse in the 1913 Derby. She was killed.

What led to our right to vote, how did it come about and why are we quick to remind ourselves and others that Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under a horse in order to raise awareness to the cause that others like her were fighting for. 

f11

Fighting for. 

This is one aspect that seems to have been sanitised and I don’t want to go down the ‘because it is women’ road.  I really don’t. The fact of the matter is that the Suffragettes were terrorists, their intention was the terrorise the British people to force the government to take notice. 

Why and when did this happen and can we not take ownership of this part of British History? Women took extreme measures because that was the only way that they felt that they would be able to be heard, to be treated like human beings and not merely property.

A 'Lancashire lassie' escorted through the palace yard, Westminster Palace, London, March 1907.
A ‘Lancashire lassie’ being escorted through the palace yard, Westminster Palace, London, 20th March 1907. A young woman is reluctantly escorted by two policeman who are holding her by the arms. The woman is still protesting as she is led away. The last line of the verse at the bottom says ‘For Women’s Rights anything we will dare; Palace Yard, take me there!’ (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

There were women like Kitty Marion, who was not looking for the vote. Instead she was looking at changing the acting industry for reasons that echo #metoo and shows that in 100 years little changes and that is why we NEED extremists. Kitty carried out a nationwide campaign of arson and bombings. I am not suggesting she was alone, but that she was one of a number of extremists within a group (groups, there were several groups with similar aims). Or should I say, she was one of a number of disenfranchised women that had tried everything to make a change in a mans world and nothing worked. 

Does that sound familiar? Being pushed so far and reaching a breaking point, where suddenly everyone is forced to stop and look, listen, change is ushered through? 

We see it even now, time and again, where voices join together and manage to push something to the foreground. Where hushed whispers in corridors, the nudges, winks, the unspoken is suddenly out in the open. But where we have media, social and traditional to help promote a cause, and able to reach millions of people without much effort.. One hundred years ago, it was much more difficult to gain attention any further than locally. 

f10

Extreme measures had to be taken, and people, and property were killed, maimed and destroyed during the cause. Let us not sanitise this. I am not for a moment excusing or romanticising the violence that was used to make a point, to make noise, to get the Government to listen. I am not saying, that with enough distance and time having passed, that it was okay because it worked out in the end, I have rights, and can vote, drive, own my own property, I am not beholden to men, I can work and earn my own money. 

f9

I am not for a moment excusing the terrorism, what I am saying is that if we don’t talk about it, discuss it, review it, we will never understand the context, the history, we will not be able to understand what caused the extreme violence, why the participants felt it was the only way to get their point made, what pushed them to violence in the first place. 

“History shouldn’t be comfortable and safe, it should always challenge you and always be challenged.”

 

Advertisements

Grief or guilt?

When my great aunt died, it was a massive shock, as I had said in my last blog. I was not something I was at all prepared for. Not that I didn’t realise that she has been unwell, or that she was old, but that I had managed to convince myself that she was just always going to be there.

I am going to assume that this is a fairly normal reaction – that you just can’t see a time when someone isn’t around. That they are just so, present, that life without them just doesn’t seem right?

g3

I have been grieving for over 2 months. It took almost all that time to stop crying at the drop of a hat. That even thinking about Tante Hilde would mean that I would either expend a lot of energy forcing the tears back, or running and hiding.

The thing, for me, when I reflect on my feelings and consider what I am going though. It is guilt. Like I said in my last blog, I have managed to escape dealing with grief for most of my life so this has hit me hard, I just don’t have the coping skills, or frankly the emotional support network.

Why was I guilty? Was it the fact I couldn’t remember whether I had sent anything at Christmas? Or that I had ignored her phone calls last year – she had left voicemails on my mobile because although I have a landline, I didn’t had an actual phone plugged in. And if I had, no doubt I would have spoken to her. But you know how quickly time passes, you just … forget. days turn into weeks and into months, then you realise that she had last called you to wish you a happy birthday. Last July.

636

Or was the guilt over not having been to see her? I recall her comments coming up to her 90th Birthday, that she kept saying that she wasn’t going to see my before she died. And boy, if I thought that cut deep at the time? Nothing compared to how I feel writing that. Realising that although she was saying it to get a reaction, her was making a prophecy.

She was supposed to be alive for longer, she was supposed to at least wait until I got to see her in August. Until I had made my prodigal return to the home I had not seen in over 2 decades. The home I loved and selfishly assumed would just continue to be there. Patiently waiting for my return at a time that suits me.

Guilt because times waits for no man. Time doesn’t give us a reprieve, it doesn’t slow because we are juggling too many things and just need an extra moment. Time just marches on and we are left holding the pieces after everything comes crashing down. That is it, isn’t it? Guilt is for the survivors, the ones that were left behind. The ones that are still here, still working through memories. Wondering what they could or should have done differently.

2006

It is more than clear to me, that I shouldn’t have kept putting off getting my passport, that a ticket to Germany isn’t all that expensive and staying with my aunt would have been at minimal cost and would have made both of us happy. And because I could only think of myself, because I expected the world to wait until I was ready, she lost out on seeing me and I lost out on precious memories with my great aunt. My grandmother, my hero.

That is the thing, she isn’t close just because I would spend summers with her, Christmas holidays, evening visiting on my own. It wasn’t a relationship of convenience. I really loved her and looked up to her and understood some of her quirks and shared similarities. She was stubborn, headstrong, independent and fierce. I look over her old photos, and I see her smile, her love for animals, I see her climbing trees and I see some of myself in her. I may just be finding things because I want them to be there, I want a small part of her to be reflected in me.

639

Because I am guilty that I didn’t spend more time with her. Not that I didn’t have more time with her, I didn’t spend the time I could have had, with her. That was my choice. I could wax lyrical about how obtaining a German passport is a massive ball ache, how the Brits are staunch in their refusal and dragged my heels over an Irish passport.

See? How easy did those excused slip out? Because that is what they are. I am an inherently self absorbed and self centred person. Over the last 3 months I have had reason to reevaluate some of the things I have done, how through laziness (no better word) I had allowed things to happen. And how to build relationships. And while I type this I realise that it has been 2 days since I last spoke to my mother and am going to cut this short to go call her….

 

The long shadow of grief

My great aunt, Tante Hilde had been poorly for a long time. She had many damaging habits, including smoking, drinking and poor eating habits. She was in her nineties and should have moved into a nursing home last year at the very latest. She needed a lot of care and was resistant to having people in her home.

Not the most auspicious starts to a blog but I do tend to write as things come to me and not outline correctly. Three years reading English Lit at uni entirely lost on me.

P1070823

In February I went home to celebrate my FIL’s birthday (eightieth) and while there, I had lunch with my mother. My mother had power of attorney for my great aunt. Tante Hilde helped raise my mother, and since I really had no contact with my paternal grandparents and my maternal grandparents died while I was still in primary school, Tante Hilde was the closest approximation to a grandparent. Certainly the closest relative next to my mother. But I won’t go into my estranged family in too much detail as I can see this blog running away from me and I want to discuss grief.

Now in mid February I discussed getting my paws on a passport (another long story, for another blog) so I could go to Germany with my mother in August. She was planning on going over at the end of March which wouldn’t have given me enough time to get one organised and she was finding the visits increasingly difficult. Not long after my discussion, my aunt had a serious fall in her home and ended up in Hospital. My mother was in contact with both the hospital and local relatives. She was going to be placed in a local nursing home after being assessed and given the all clear by the medical staff. It was looking good and mother had discussed arrangements with the staff at the nursing home. Confident that while my great aunt would not like being in a nursing home and not her own home, she would at least be well looked after.

2006

And then, Tante Hilde had another fall. My mother was already concerned about the extend of her dementia (undiagnosed but at her age, not unexpected) and following the fall, it was decided that she should have her hip replaced to ease pain and promote recovery.

Which should have been a standard operation, one preformed many times, every day in every part of the globe, in most cases on elderly patients.

However, my great aunt had a D.N.R disclosure. Again, not something that would normally need to be acted upon after a relatively routine operation.

However, my mother received the call. The one that you don’t want to get. The one from medical staff asking for permission to resuscitate your relative. Because you are the only one who can make that choice. So at the end of February, my mother found herself going out to Germany a month earlier than anticipated. To sign paperwork to state that my great aunt was not to have a tube inserted to give her food. That she was to live on purely water until she passed. Which could be up to 3 weeks. Three weeks of watching your loved one, the person who helped raise you, who you ad spent over seventy years with. Who had been at your wedding, watched your children grow into adults. Who at her most vulnerable, could not tell you to ignore the D.N.R disclosure on her records.

DSCI0025

My great aunt died on Mother’s Day – 11th March for those outside the UK.

I remember the day well, I had been speaking to my mother daily while she was in Germany, visiting my aunt and staying in her house on her own. Various family members and friends visiting. There was no particular time for our phone calls, so when I picked my phone up to call Pete to pick my up after my gym session on the Sunday, and saw a missed call from Germany, I didn’t give it a second thought.

I called my mother, still hyped from the gym, expecting her to tell me about her breakfast on the veranda listening to the church bells. But that isn’t what happened. She told me that my aunt had died earlier that morning and I didn’t know what to say, I don’t remember exactly what I said but I remember I tried to distract my mother as I could tell she was on the verge of tears and I couldn’t do anything to comfort her.

I crossed the road and got in the car with Pete and … and I didn’t say a word. I didn’t tell him my great aunt had died. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to think about it. I needed time to process it. To understand.

P1050504

On the Monday I did everything possible to try and distract myself. On the Tuesday I was due to have dinner with two close friends. I had to cancel. I was just not able to pretend that everything was okay. I went home, and told Pete that Tante Hilde had died. And I don’t think he really knew what to say or do because I didn’t give him the ques to allow him to help me.

Because I am nearing 40 and this is the first time that I have had to deal with real grief. I had had loss before, I have been to a couple of funerals (although again, all children until a year ago). I had had relatives die – my paternal grandparents died in quick succession not long after I had started to get to know that side of my family. A close friend died this year and that did knock me sideways as it was unexpected.

To a degree, Tante Hilde was unexpected. I was making plans to see her in August. She had smoked at least 40 a day for longer than anyone cares to recall and had the lungs, and stamina of an ox. We often joked that she would outlive us all. So yes, shock was a big part of what I was going through, processing.

I realise that I am rambling but I am trying to get this all out in some sort of order. One thing that hit me hard, and I think has been the hardest thing to process, is losing my home.

IMG_0286

They say home is where the heart is, and I although I was born in England, I have always said that Germany was my home. And I never really had to give it any thought, I didn’t reflect. I grew up speaking German, most of the relatives that I had met or had a relationship with are from my mother’s side.

But what I began to realise is that, my heart, and home, where entwined with Tante Hilde. As I write this, I realise that it sounds like New Age bullshit. But hell, thanks for making it this far?

I have moved around a lot in my life, and I have lived in my current home, longer that any home prior to this. I guess it isn’t all that unusual to many people these days, but it means that I am lacking a rock. I have nowhere I can say stayed the same. But going to my great aunts? It never changed, it was always the same, she didn’t change. The town, for the most part, remained unchanged. There was a routine when we went there. We slotted into the routine without any real thought. Not only had I lost my great aunt, my rock, I had lost my home. I had lost my childhood. My security blanket.

And here we must stop for today because this has although become longer than I anticipated and need to break it up a little.

No excuses

Now, ladies, let us get serious Smear tests. They are embarressing, awkward, and in some cases, painful.

I had my first one at 20, I remember the letter arriving on my door step, some sort of ‘coming of age’ – Congratulations, your officially a grown woman! And off I trotted to the G.P surgery to have my first experience of how utterly humiliating it can be to be a woman. 

You see, I was not longer living at home, and certainly have no female friends to discuss this with, so I went in blind. There were stirrups, and a metal contraption that was wound open once inserted, and then the swab? YEOWCH!

wh4

So I have have had more than a few of these, pretty much every one has been uncomfortable to a degree, and after being repeatedly told I have a small cervix, asked about bleeding after sex, and having anomalies with each result… it is just not something I look forward to. But it is something I still eventually get around to doing, because a moment or 2 of being uncomfortable is a pretty small price to pay. And let’s face it, we are all going to go through it! 

I remember vividly Jade Goody, both her rise to fame, and then how important she suddenly became. If you don’t remember, Jade was a pseudo celebrity, but her legacy is discovering she had cervical cancer and she died after a tragically short battle with it. Whilst battling cancer, she campaigned asking people to get their smear test, explaining how important it was, not to leave it, to leave it too late. And following her death, there was a spike in attendance. 

wh6

However, somewhere between my first test and Jade’s death, the age for your smear test was raised to 25. That may seem like a small jump but it is significant. Getting girls, and women to start this routine early is as important as detecting and catching cancer is. It then becomes habit forming, another check on the to-do list of womanhood. While I understand that there is some medical backing suggesting that waiting until 25 makes some sense, I suspect that this is financially motivated as despite some people’s assumption, the NHS is a business and each letter, each appointment, each test, costs the individual trust money. 

Now, speaking of money, where do you get your smear test? It is important to be comfortable with the person and environment. I have switched between GP and Family planning. As I mentioned early, smear tests have never been especially comfortable for me, and especially after moving to Northampton, I tried to do all my family planning, at the family planning clinic. I liked and knew the doctors and nurses there and felt much more comfortable. However, funding changed and now I can only go to my GP to have the test. 

wm2

So when I called a couple of weeks, imagine my surprise to learn that not only can I only go to my GP to have the smear test, there is only one nurse covering 2 GP practises. Now I am not going to lie, this is not making it any easier! 

Now, something that prompted my booking of the test is a post in a FB group that I haunt called Queens of the New Age. There was a status about having a smear test and having glittered the lady garden. I love a challenge so I made sure I had styled my downstairs with some glitter for me appointment and used some Snow Fairy powder to try and keep things fresh.

wh7

Things have moved on since my first smear, should I have led with this? Possibly but I don’t like to do things in a sensible order. You will be shown into an examination room by the nurse, asked a couple of questions, and asked to undress – waist down, lie on the couch and place the paper towel over yourself for modesty. A plastic speculum is inserted to allow the nurse to use a ‘brush’ to get a sample of cells. That is is. Now I managed to chat throughout with the nurse, and we joked about the glitter and lack of shaving (an over sight) and it was over in seconds. I have never had such a quick test, and it was completely painless. 

What I am saying is that, most people will have completely painfree and painless experiences. You will be seen by a nurse who has seen it all before, probably several times that day before your appointment so you will not be presenting herself with anything new. But I cannot say this enough, please, even though the starting age is 25, do not forget, forego or not book an appointment. It is not even 20 mins of your life every few years that could quite literally, save your life. 

wh3

Pinning the tail on the

Victim.

Victim blaming. I am sure you are all aware of what it is, and indeed have done it yourself before now. 

Today, this morning, I woke up to a friend commenting about something that had happened while shopping, Not once, it had happened before when she was with her son, and again which prompted her post. She was followed, cat called, questioned by a group of men while shopping. Now this is bad enough, but what made it worse that in her explanation she said she would speak to the store to see if it had happened previously, because she didn’t want to over react. 

rape2

And I came accross a story from a b-list celebrity (I couldn’t place her so I wouldn’t expect you to) who had been attacked on a night out. She had gotten talking to a guy while waiting for her taxi and suggested he share a taxi with her friend. He proceeded to try to sexually assault her friend and then after the driver had pulled over, attack them both. But she said, of course she shouldn’t have talked to him or invited him to share the taxi.

These are just 2 stories fresh today, but I hear them every day, I hear friends tell me something, first, second or third hand, we see it on the news, again directly or indirectly.

rape6 

Victim blaming can be external or internal – victims, try and reason what happened. Where they not careful enough, pay enough attention, do something to provoke it. External? Well why not look at any rape case, the victim is raked over – what where they wearing, where were they, what time of day was it, had they been drinking, were they alone, had they led the victim on.

But it has to stop, we can’t keep accepting something is a certain way, that ‘boys will be boys’, that if we talk to a man, it means we had led them on, that we can’t drink because that means we gave off the wrong signals, that we can’t be alone because that opens us up to attack. 

rape3

See the problem here? The ONLY cause of rape is rapists. There is nothing else to be said. Most rapes occur between people who know each other, even in passing. It happens a lot in marriages and in families, between friends. A stranger raping someone is not uncommon but it is often part of a larger attack.

So knowing this, why when someone happen, is the natural reaction to victim blame. Why is is easier, normal, natural to suggest that someone has been stalked home, around a store, accosted, because … they are too pretty? Because they smiled at a stranger instead of scowling? Because they dared go out without a proper escort? I feel like I am writing about something that happened 100 years ago, that women where not expected to go out alone. But I am talking about things that happen every day. 

rape5

Victims are not to blame VICTIMS did NOTHING wrong – whether you are Kim Kardashian getting robbed in a hotel suite, or a single mother trying to do some grocery shopping. Someone should not feel that they have to keep quiet over a legitimate concern because of how it might be perceived, worrying and checking it from each angle to see if it was something they caused or initiated. 

If we can all realise that victims are not at fault, and look at things critically instead of trying to reason it out. That would make both reporting and prosecuting so much easier. I realise I am leaning heavily on rape/sexual assault in tone, but that is pretty much the concern for most people in this situation and it is one of the most under reported crimes. 

We need to change the way we look at it, and change the conversation.

rape1

The long and the short of it …

Short hair.

Now I have been threatening for years, to shave my hair off. It was always an idle threat to a degree. There are a lot of reasons why you second guess doing it. I had been joking about shaving my hair off a lot at work because I have been mistreating it a lot and when we started planning what to do to raise money…. why not shave our heads. We had only been talking about it the week before hand.

So My colleague and I excitedly started making preparations, getting supplies, setting a date. There was certainly a lot of goading between the 2 of us, and it still didn’t seem real until we received our first donations on Just Giving.

hair6

We started getting twitchy. But why? What is wrong with having short hair? It isn’t even down to gender, both men and women are dictated to when it comes to hair. Last week a friend’s child bought home a letter with the minimum length her son could have at school. And how many times are we told, impressed upon, or told that long hair is desirable in women (symbolism a la Mulan).

I haven’t had long hair for a good 5 years or so, I mean I grow it to my shoulders and get bored. But I remember shortly after I cut it all off, I had sat in the car with no makeup and looking in the mirror, saying ‘I look like a boy now’ .. a friend commented on a selfie I had posted ‘so … rock and roll grew up, gave up, and cut her hair off’ (I deserved that, I was pretty rude when he cut off his hair).

Hell, it was probably said in jest, but doesn’t everything have an element of truth? Every time I put on a wig, with long, luscious curls… I feel great. Like my makeup, it is another layer that stops me looking like… me? As an aside, I realised this summer that I have to wear makeup when I wear baseball caps as they hide (hid?) all my hair and facially it left me looking fairly androgynous.

hair

Since I started writing this post, I have had my hair shaved, so this is becoming more reflective in tone. I won’t lie, it was emotional. For someone who had pretty much emotionally detached herself from her own hair nearly 2 years ago, the thought of losing it was difficult. I even shed a tear – I think that was more the high emotions of the entire day, people telling me how brave I am.

It is funny, this blog post has had 25 (at last count) revisions, I have retyped, deleted, moved, thought things through. What is it. Hair, that is all it is. But as the cover image states, hair is the crown you never take off. We are taught from a young age that long hair is more feminine and throughout history we have seen women being shorn of hair as not only defeminising but dehumanising. And more than that, we have to think that people might worry that there is a medical reason that you have lost your hair (especially if you wear a headscarf like me). And that raises awkward questions, people becoming embarrassed for assuming or asking and you trying to comfort them in their embarrassment.

hair3

But what it comes down to, vanity. It really is that simple, when I get upset about looking like a boy, when I worry about having to wear makeup so I don’t look like an alien (no brows or hair), it is simple, it is because I don’t want to look androgynous, because I lose my sense of identity. But at the same time, not having my hair, it is making me question my vanity. Is hair really all that important, when it comes down to it. I wear wigs FFS so clearly I am not that invested in my hair. It makes me question myself and how I go through life, those moments when I worry about what my hair looks like, when I stop to look in a mirror to check my hair, when I reach to check my hair when I take off my coat, those moments throughout the day that I tweak, brush, move, adjust. 

hair5

I am not brave, I am not fighting anything. It was only hair. I was so blase about shaving it off, and yes, I am not loving it. But me, cutting my hair off? All that has been effected is my vanity. People who are effected by cancer, who have no choice, they are the ones that are brave, they are the ones who deserve our respect.  So while I am not in love with my look, has it changed me? That much? Nope, I need to get over myself and keep my vanity in check.

Those people that we helped with our fundraising, everyone who supports and works with/for Coppafeel every day? They are the ones that we should be raising a glass to. 

And on that note, I am happy to say that we smashed out target of £200, and raised £420 (and counting) 

4

#metoo

Well what a shit storm this has created. 

Not long ago, I was open about some of the abuse that I have received – and it took A LOT for me to commit that to a blog. I never talk about it. Ever. I don’t talk about the guys who have grabbed by boobs, my ass, pushed their hands into my crotch, who have pushed the hands up my skirt, who have molested me, who haven’t even asked let along ignored ‘no’.

#Metoo is important. We need to voice this sort of thing, because like I said in previous posts, we are continuously conditioned to keep quiet, to find a reason why it happened. We are told that we must have done or said something, that we should be ashamed over what happened. 

m2

This hashtag is supposed to highlight how many people are effected, to show that is isn’t just some bint that is featured in a news report or writes a blog or is featured on a documentary. That is is your mother, your sister, your coworker, you neighbour, it is your bus driver, your postie. It is anyone and everyone and these are not isolated. 

And you know what else, it doesn’t matter if that person misinterpreted advances. Because … oh hey there, advances, you were unwelcome. Your cat call, unwanted, you comment over the cut of the dress, unneeded. That hand on the boob over the line, the time you forced yourself on her, unforgivable. 

mee5

Now, what else have we had over recent DAYS because of this, we have have the men complaining that it isn’t just women that are assaulted, although to be honest I think it is more women pointing this out… so okay. Sure. I get it, I really do. But one step at a time. I am all about inclusion but could we not just appreciate this for a moment before … no? Oh okay… lets all quietly change the wording on the blurb we are busily copying and pasting. 

Then we have that the men stepping up and apologising for any time they made a woman uncomfortable or if after reflection they did take things too far, didn’t listen, didn’t stop. These men have reflected, using the benefit of hindsight and been brutal in their analysis. And brave. Really fucking brave. Not only are they admitting they were wrong, they are not hiding behind ignorance or youth. They are not hiding. 

mee2

Well, now let us move onto something else that quickly happened, to do with hiding. Women, who, like me just cut and pasted the blurb and didn’t go into their own story. Because to us, just saying #metoo was enough. It was enough to stand in solidarity to show that we are not lone, not the exception to the rule. But no, we are then told that we are faking, or hiding, or not being forthright, that we are jumping on the bandwagon. You know what. SO WHAT IF THERE ARE WOMEN OUT THERE USING THE HASHTAG ERRONEOUSLY it got us talking about it and for each woman who is just joining for solidarity’s sake, 10 more are sitting in the shadows ashamed of what might happen if they stand up.

meee3

Oh then, yes, then we had (let us all remember this is a matter of what, 3 days?) men using the #methree hashtag. Men that have been FRIENDZONED and let us not get me started Nice guys finish last Welcome to the friend zone… and a few other blogs have covered my feelings on the matter. Or that women have had a free meal, a night out, a trip to the theatre, or a new bag out of a man and … and … get this. THEY DID NOT RETURN THE FAVOUR WITH SEX. Yes, yes I am shouting because I can honestly not fathom a time, reason, or excuse for this mentality and so I think I will leave this point alone before I do something silly. 

meee2

Well, just when I thought that things couldn’t get worse, bear in mind every time it pops up on my news feed there is a different take on it, a friend sharing their own opinion, experience, their feelings or an article. 

This woman, I won’t utter her name. I am leaving this here. I have said quite enough about it on my own FB page, and if you are friends with me, I am sure if has popped up and I appreciate your comments on it. dickmove

Copp a feel

and think of me.

So at the end of the month, I will be having my hair shaved off for charity along with a friend/coworker.

Kevin Murphy are supporting Coppafeel through out October to raise awareness and promote self checks in young women. Breast cancer is something we have all been directly or indirectly been touched by, who hasn’t had that doctors appointment, had a family member, friend, colleague.

1

We all know about the Race for Life, we wear pink, we wear our ribbons of support. But the problem, is two fold.

We don’t check our own breasts. We are still coming to terms with our own bodies, that it is okay to be confident in them, to talk about them. We don’t know what looks normal, where are we going to gauge this. We look at the media, we see augmented, photo-shopped, we see cosmetically enhanced. We don’t know that our own breasts are just that. Our own. But what we need to do is get used to them, we need to learn to love them and spot changes in them.

5

We need to learn to go and speak to someone if you spot any changes. Don’t think you are being a bother, or a worrier, or that you will be dismissed out of hand. You are the only one who knows if there is something different. 

One thing that people have mentioned to me as I pass out cards at work. They know they should be checking their breasts but they don’t know how. They don’t know what to look for. What should be a trigger. Well honestly anything that isn’t normal – ask your partner if they notice changes as well. 

2

If you go to CoppaFeel they have a range of resources to help you – including guides to check your breasts and even a text reminder so you will never forget to check. 

Like I said, I will be shaving my hair off at at the end of the month to help support and raise awareness – if you can spare a £1 please CLICK HERE to go to my Just Giving page. 

6

Conditioned to say YES

to the dress…. and anything else that comes along.

Have you read about the chap in Bristol who set up a piano and explained to media, far and wide, that he would continue to play until his lady love until she came back to him.

Sounds like something out of a movie… anything from Princess Bride to Love Actually which a fair few infamous episodes from various sitcoms. And let us not forget the knight in white shining armour narrative which is barely questioned. It was only in the 70’s with authors like Margaret Atwood (Bloody Chamber) not questioning that someone might need saving, but rewriting the narrative as to whom is doing the rescuing.

d1

But let us not forget, as many men are growing up with the idea that they are the protector, the rescuer, the one who ‘does’ that is their narrative. The fact that there are more single parent families than ever has done little to disqualify this sentiment, in some cases, it could be argued that it is causing the idea that boys, need to become men who can look after their mother. A lovely sentiment but would this be the case if their father was the primary caregiver?

I digress, let us look at the Piano Dude, misguided? Enthusiastic? A Romantic? I mean what was he actually doing wrong?? Nothing! I mean what on earth, why am I taking such exception to him doing something entirely harmless, he is playing a piano. The world is watching. The media is primed to see him reunited with his love. And if that doesn’t raise any red flag for you, well… take a seat.

Some of the comments made when I shared the post : Inviting the media? It screams “Hey look at me ladies I’m a vulnerable romantic that has broken heart. I’M AVAILABLE!” At the same time it is also inviting intimidation with a crowd to take him back. There is just so much wrong with all of this.

Yup! If someone says they’re not interested just leave them alone. Being in a relationship and asking them to marry you is a bit different. Unless you just don’t want to get married ever. I’m happy just being with my boyfriend.

Yuk, he seems like a bit of a creep…perhaps why she left him in the first place, if a guy did this to me the only thing he would get is a restraining order

The way to win a woman’s affection isn’t ultimatums.

d3

Basically as someone who has suffered from violent unwanted advances and stalking. This is a big nope.

A. It screams of entitlement. What right does this woman have to say no. Now she can’t say no. I will embarrass her into compliance.

Compliance, this is slowly grooming a person into acting, saying or doing something you want to them to do. This can be by positive reinforcement (a la Penny and Sheldon in TBBT) offering a reward for doing as requested or wanted, or negative reinforcement where the result from stepping out of line can be physically or emotionally unsavoury. Telling an employer/friend/family member something, making fun of a person, breaking, damaging or removing something. You get the idea. 

d9

B. It gives others the impression that this is good idea. Either as the suitor or the victim. That big declarations of love are the way forward. That no, does not need to say no. And hell, make sure she was really sure that she is sure by repeatedly asking until she complies.

Like i said, it is wearing someone down – look I get that declarations and expressions of love are great. They really are. But they are also personal. You need to read a person. Four months is not long enough to know a person and certainly not long enough to warrant such a declaration of love. But again, it is wearing someone down and making them eventually agree. What about gut instincts. Yes, she/she may have ticked all the boxes, at the time. But no one, NO ONE is irreplaceable. And while I type that I understand that part of the grand gesture is to make that person feel that they are special. But it just continues to generate unrealistic standards. 

d8

C. Unrealistic romantic standards a la Hollywood are continued to be perpetuated and normalised meaning violent and abusive relationships are harder to spot and remove oneself from because, isn’t this the dream.

I was thinking about this when I switched my TV on this morning and saw Sleeping with the Enemy on. I have been accused of many things in the course of the discussion of this Piano Player. But my argument here is that he is just a lesson, as a person? Sure we don’t know much about him, but do we know any more about the characters we watch in movies, sitcoms, read about in books? They are all as one dimensional but their actions, never the less, impact on how we then interact. This isn’t to say, NO MORE ROMCOMS but that we open dialogue to understand damaging behaviours that could easily be a subtext and how they influence and how to spot when they become toxic.

d7

D. Yes I will stand by entitled and frankly women being shot for saying no is enough evidence.

Every day, women are attacked, physically, verbally, and mentally for expressing an opinion. For having a mind of her own, her own strategy, agenda, her own agency. Women are expected to tow the line, to comply. To be agreeable and quiet. Now I want to say, yeah know you. It is just in relationships, it is that ‘9 out of 10 know their …’ but no. No it isn’t the case. women are cat called, shouted at, grabbed by complete strangers because they are still seen a commodity that can be bought and sold and worse (?) still, that has no agency. Remember the shooting a couple of years ago in America because a girl refused the shooters advances? Or my favourite – Brock Turner who decided having merely interacted with a girl at a party gave bum the right to violently rape her? Oh and it was violent and pre meditated and he was trying to hurt her. Power play.

d5

Now my argument has been thrown back at me, telling me that I am over reacting and that if this is how I feel then like I said above, rom coms should be banned, and a litany of other things. Think banning violent video games and music in the wake of school shootings. That is not what is meant by this discussion and this discourse. This is merely an example to allow points to be made, issues to be highlighted. To open the dialogue about what could be potentially damaging behaviour.

As always, I can only use my female gaze and experience, I full acknowledge that this is not a gender issue and welcome discussion and discourse on this subject.

d6

 

Grooming into submission

So let us take a moment to discuss grooming. We are well aware of the word, it is bandied around a lot. We may have a shiver run down the spine as the connotations become clear.

But what isn’t clear is the wider implication of the term. It is no different than the children that we hear about. We stop and think. How did this happen. Why did no one realise, why did no one notice? Put a stop to it, what were the red flags… surely it was obvious?

dv9

Hindsight is 20/20 = that is something we all hear a lot but it is very true. We are able to make logical and reasoned conclusions when the information is laid out for us.

October is the month we will discuss domestic violence. It is not an easy topic. It is not clean, simple, it is not easy. And I want to discuss my own experiences. I have discussed it to a degree over several blogs. It is not something I enjoy discussing. Far from. But I want to give you an insight. What I experienced? Nothing. It is nothing in comparison to what others have experienced.

However, I will share a few things that have happened, with the benefit of hindsight and I am hoping that will help open the conversation up a little.

dv6

I grew up in a violent house hold. This is something that was not really discussed at the time or for a long period afterwards. I remember one afternoon, after dinner. Something had set an argument off between my parents. We were all sitting at the dinner table, the meal had finished. There was a teapot on the table. The plates had been cleared. My brother was sent to his room. I have my back to the rest of the room and parents on either side. There was shouting, screaming. The teapot was thrown. The tea marked the ceiling after that day. The cupboards behind my fathers chair were slammed hard enough for glass to break.

This was far from isolated. My father was a very angry person. If things were not done just so, or when he said there was a raised voice. Hands were raised. Against each other? I don’t think so. I am sure that it was voices and emotional abuse. But that is my mother’s story and not mine to tell. She left with us, when I was 12 years old and not a moment too soon.

dv5

Now fast forward a year or so. I used to go to school in Cornwall and lived in Devon, and not just over the bridge. It took well over an hour to get home. The second bus often had Dockyard workers. One man got talking to me about … look honestly I can’t remember. But he was very complimentary. He liked my purple eye shadow (I loved purple, don’t judge!) and would always make sure to sit next me to talk. Now, at the time I didn’t give it a second though. I was clearly in school uniform the first time he spoke to me and that was always a topic of conversation. I didn’t think there was anything more to it and didn’t for a moment think that I got off the bus practically on my door step was anything to concern myself with. Luckily I got chatting to a couple of kids my own age and this put a stop to anything that may have happened. I am not saying anything would have happened. But does it show you how easy it is?

dv8

Let us move forward to someone I used to spend time with at 16. I had known him casually for a while, we shared similar interests and he met my friends, he was 10 years older than me. I had spent time at his home a number of times and there was never a thought it would be at all inappropriate. He had a live in girlfriend and seemed pleasant, laid back. One day I was hanging out at his house and we where both on the sofa. I was lying down and somehow he ended up lying down behind me. He made a comment about my perfume and I really didn’t know what to say or do. We finished the movie and I went home as planned. A few weeks later, he popped over to my house and we went for a drive. Nothing unusual about this, and I didn’t give it a second thought. Until we had driven to an out of the way car park and he started sliding his hands over my top, on my thigh. Now I was not stupid. I knew what was going on. I didn’t want it to happen and luckily he stopped and we went home. He wasn’t happy and yes, it was my fault, I had led him on and how I better not mention it to his girlfriend or he would tell my mother what a whore his daughter was.

dv4

Now let us move onto the biggie. You see, I had met someone and dating him on and off. Ended up living with him. To say the relationship was complicated was somewhat of an understatement. We dated, we stopped dating, he slept with someone, we slept together, I was completely at his mercy.

This is the one. This is the big one. You see, in both previous (there are other incidents but 3 is the right number I guess) there was a degree of grooming involved. Compliments, listening, just keeping someone company. Similar interests. In older men – when you don’t have experience it is easy to be blamed for leading them on because you may be doing something they expect someone to do if interested. But I will say this. That is an excuse whatever your age and NEVER EVER let someone make you believe it. Well.

This last one, it was over a period of time, and started in my home town, he moved to London. I ended up in London and because I had never really lost contact, we started hanging out again. I knew a lot of his friends group so it was natural that I would fit into his social group again. He worked in the financial district and because I was very much in the PVC and lace goth period, I was somewhat of a novelty. He paraded me around like some toy. Luckily I can hold a fairly civilised conversation and got on well with his colleagues so I was never an embarrassment. But I helped add to his mystique. And all the time he told me I was stupid. Worthless. I worked in a hotel to begin with, then I moved and worked in a bar. I then moved back home and lived with a friend. He couldn’t let me go, this isn’t conceit on my side. He couldn’t let go because I had gone. He hadn’t had a say in the matter. I ended up agreeing to pop up for the weekend. That turned into a week.  I moved in. I can’t even remember it being an actual conversation. Isn’t that the excuse? ‘Oh well she just moved herself in, I felt trapped’. How he only cheated on me because I assumed he already had (he had) but honestly? I was past caring by this point. His flatmate (a mutual friend) had moved out. We moved house. I ended up sleeping on the sofa. It wasn’t something we discussed. I just did it. I needed to give myself some space. He was still sleeping around. He did it with intent. Always from our friends circle. Which shows how fucked up our relationship was. No one knew our status and clearly some people didn’t give a fuck.

dv3

I am editing a lot here, I am sorry. But this is difficult enough as it is and I don’t know anyone wold want to read an even longer blog but please, feel free to contact me if you want to discuss.

So the final move, my boss had recently moved and his house was on the market. So we moved in. We had separate rooms by this point and led fairly independent lives. Up to a point. I remember my close friend spending time with us during all of this and would say what a lovely couple we made, how lovely we were, comfortable together. Well, we knew each other intimately, inside out. He had known me since I was 15. By the time I left? I was 23. That is a big chunk of time to know someone. And formative years. I wasn’t in a relationship with him the entire time but he was there, in the background.

One day, I remember, I was in the kitchen, and chatting to my friends, I had made 2 calls one after the other. I had expressed that I wasn’t happy. One was a good friend, one a relatively new one. Now I honestly can’t tell you who it was at the time. But I was just saying how unhappy I was. There were a number of reasons, failed relationship, money, sleeping on the sofa. I didn’t even realise that he was there. Suddenly he flew into the kitchen. Punched me. While I was on the phone. When I finished my call he called me out for acting shy around him. How I should know he wouldn’t hit me without reason. What always comes back to me especially with this one. The language. The cute names, the terms of endearment. There is something very sinister about someone using a cute name for you. Never using your given name. You know how if someone uses your full name at school? That the headmaster is calling? Or your mother calling your name and if she uses your entire name you may as well dress for your funeral? Well this is the same. The cuter the name, I can’t say them even now. But I remember at the time, I even thought… he cares enough to give me cute names. Social conditioning? It has taken a long time to get over my issue with it. And Batman knows I do it myself. Often I will use an ‘anti’ cute name for people or a level of sarcasm as somewhat of a defence mode. This isn’t to say don’t call your girlfriend ‘cupcake’ ‘sugartits’  whatever, but it is just another little part of the grooming that I endured and I am sure I am not alone but I don’t for a moment assume to project my own experience onto another.

Fighting Fit part 4

What utterly broke me – what was the straw? It was a mutual friend, whom I had spoken to about my issues with him. She knew more than … actually anyone. Because she had known him almost as long as I had, who had dated his best friend. We had an argument and she threw it all back in my face. The argument was not even directly related to me, it was to do with her BF and a mutual friend. So why it got so vicious. I don’t know. But she didn’t believe me. Had she ever? Was she just saying it to hurt me? Clearly I was such a good actress as she questioned it. Why would I still be there? Why would I live there? Why had I not said or done something. I mean… it wasn’t bad he wasn’t hitting me. We weren’t even dating at this point, what was stopping me.

DV1

But all of this? It comes down to grooming. I am sorry, this has been more of a release of information that something more informative. But are you reading this as someone who had suffered from mental or physical abuse. To be told, no one would want you, you are useless, stupid, you did this, you caused this, you are responsible, that somehow, it is your fault. And this is from friends, family, strangers, society let alone your abuser ? When people stand around saying ‘once is enough, I would leave’ and make you feel like shit for staying. For not realising how difficult this is. That is isn’t always as simple as walking away, even if children are not involved? That your life is more than just who you are in a relationship with. It is more people. It is all those friends who you see all the time but don’t see a problem. That hell, might even whisper in his ear, she is no good, you can do better. Who don’t for a moment see the haunted look in your eye.

Because the problem is, behind closed doors people behave differently, when they are at work, when they are with their friends, family, when they are chatting to the barman? That isn’t always the person you see at bed time first thing in the morning, when the dinner isn’t just right, or you hadn’t had a chance to hoover because you were doing over time. Because your friend’s mutual or otherwise will have been won over by them, your family will have gotten to know them over a period of time. Maybe they didn’t agree with them to begin with, maybe now they are part of the furniture. Or won them over, after all you are still with them ?

Grooming is about slowing introducing behaviour that you would not normally tolerate, of changing your tolerance, your habits, of converting your social circle, friends, family. So that the changes are not noticed. It is not over night, it isn’t something that happens over a weekend, it is a long game. It is something that happens slowly, and this is where the danger is.

If you are in a position where you feel you are out of your depth, you need help or support? Or do you suspect someone needs helps?

Please, the worst thing you can do is say ‘well I managed/it is easy/why didn’t you’

Because every story is different, everyone has their own path.

Some places that can help :

Victim Support UK

Women’s Aid UK

Refuge UK