“What’s real is not scary”

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Listen Sister is one of my favourite songs from Dene artist Leela Gilday. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a video of her performing this song, but please click on the link as it’s such a beautiful song on sisterhood. The album Calling all Warriors is available on i Tunes.

Sister, we are stronger than we know.

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Listen sister, you know how I feel.

And, what’s real is not scary.

Unknown 1 Unknown

 

Real feminist sisterhood

It’s very rare that I share positive stories of women here. I spend so much time writing about male violence and celebrity culture that I forget to share the good stuff.

This is the good stuff: an anonymous donor gave a disabled, single mother 10 000 pounds so she can complete her master’s degree.

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The donor is anonymous so we can’t guess as to their biological sex. What we can say is that due to women sharing Diane’s GoFundMe (and whatever spiteful asshole reported it), a brilliant feminist is now going to be able to complete her Master’s degree in criminology to embark on a career helping young people who have been criminalized following substance abuse. This is real sisterhood.

Feminism is about liberating women; not who your friends are

On Friday morning, between getting myself ready for work and my child ready for school, I was tweeted an article on the BBC about a report from the Home Affairs Select Committee which recommended anonymity for rapists. I was horrified. Anonymity for rape suspects is incredibly dangerous for all sorts of reasons – starting with the fact that rapists have a huge rate of recidivism and a very low rate of conviction. Because of misogyny. Rapists commit rape knowing that the general public, the media and the police will label their victims a liar or insist she was partly responsible for the rape for the crime of being born a girl.

I was so angry, I started a petition. Whilst I was writing it, I saw a tweet with a press release from the End Violence Against Women coalition so I added their quotes into the text of the petition.

I started the petition because I was angry. I assumed other women would be angry too. I was a bit surprised at the low numbers of people signing the petition, but I hoped it would be a slow-burner with the lack of signatures due to starting the petition during a solar eclipse.

I was really shocked and hurt to discover on Saturday morning that the reason the petition wasn’t being shared publicly was because a high profile media feminist refused to sign and share it because she doesn’t like me. It’s a petition asking the Home Affairs Select Committee review their recommendation on anonymity for suspects in rape cases – a recommendation made with no research-based evidence, just vague worries about the reputation of rapists. It never occurred to me that there would be anything so controversial about this petition that people wouldn’t share it because they don’t like me.

Yet, this is what happened. The petition wasn’t shared by a high-profile feminist because she doesn’t like me. When questioned, the answer changed to “because it’s not well-written”. I wrote the petition in 15 minutes as that’s all the time I had on Friday to do so. I’m a single disabled mother – my time is limited due to caring responsibilities and my disability. I wanted to get it out as soon as possible to challenge the inevitable media coverage of men feeling sad for being accused of rape – as though the real problem in rape was the rapist’s feelings rather than the fact that a woman was raped.

Now, I’m hearing others say the same thing: they can’t sign because the petition “wasn’t written well” – an answer that smacks of classism and disablism. Under this argument, only women who have Russell group university education will be allowed to engage in public activism. After all, a rogue comma could destroy the feminist movement completely since bad grammar is a bigger sin that anonymity for rape victims.

As a disabled woman who has written at length on my experiences dealing with the brain fog associated with fibromyalgia, I find this idea that women refuse to sign my petition as its “poorly written” humiliating. I know that my illness has affected my writing and my ability to talk coherently (especially when tired as I start to lose words or use the wrong ones). I’ve been really open about how hard it is as someone who loves writing to be unable to put my thoughts out coherently: that what ends up on the paper isn’t what was in my head because of the way the fibromyalgia has effected the ability of my brain to communicate clearly. It’s also effected my ability to speak since I lose words and have huge pauses in between words (that I don’t realise is happening). I also find it difficult to process what is being said to me when tired: I know people are talking but I can’t hear the actual words and, even when I can hear some of the words, my brain can’t actually process the message. When it’s this bad, the only thing I can do is nap. This isn’t exactly conducive to mothering or being a writer.

Hence, the humiliation and hurt at being told that my petition isn’t shareable because it isn’t well-written. Because I have a disability that is slowly destroying my life. I know that it isn’t being shared because this particular woman doesn’t like me – not because of the writing style. But, it doesn’t make it less humiliating when people are being told it’s because it’s ‘poorly-written’.

Feminism is a political movement to liberate women. It isn’t about who your friends are or who is a good writer. It’s about changing the world to make it safer for women. That’s why I started my petition to the Home Affairs Select Committee. And, that’s why I hope everyone will sign it.

The Kindness of Strangers

There has been a lot of discussion on twitter recently about sisterhood and whether or not it exists or should exist. And, yes there are very serious problems within the feminist movement which need to be addressed but sisterhood does exist . We just need to work harder to ensure that it doesn’t just exist theoretically.

Recently, my sister suffered a catastrophic fire in her house and women (and men) who I’ve never met donated money to help her. I have seen women, and its almost always women, rally around others on twitter with money to pay for medical treatment, emotional support and physical support. I have seen this time and time again. And, we don’t recognise it for what it really is : women supporting women as we have done for several millennia.

I cannot describe how much my sister appreciated the kindness of complete strangers; how much I appreciate the kindness shown to my sister. People are still offering to help my sister. She has received so much. Instead, could you all donate to the  Ending Victimisation and Blame (Everyday Victim Blaming) campaign instead. They are a small organisation run by only a few volunteers and they really need financial support to keep fighting victim blaming within the media and helping women, children and men who’ve experienced domestic and sexual violence.

This is what feminism really is: women helping women.

Twitter #FeministLoveins : Celebrating Sisterhood!

I’ve written recently about the negative aspects of twitter with the online bullying, cliques and some, frankly, ridiculous behaviour.  


Sometimes I focus so much on the negative and worrying about being trolled that I miss the good stuff. This week I have had several really inspiring conversations with women on 3 continents. I’ve discussed pornography, reality television, rape, racism, children, cats and women’s literature. 

I forget what a privilege it is to converse with so many women and learn from our collective wisdom. Our lives and our feminisms differ dramatically but the sisterhood still exists. We just need to celebrate it more. We need to celebrate our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to stop expecting perfection from our sisters. We stop pretending that feminism is the Borg where we all must think the same thing or we’re not feminists.

So, I’m having a twitter #feministlovein today for all the amazing women who’ve inspired me, held my hand, made me rage, made me laugh, made me cry and most importantly made me a better feminist. 

Abi Yaffe
AFeministMother
AlexPolisTigers
Alice (@adarling575)
Alison Boydell
allthecake (@whoateallthepye)
Alyson (@textuallimits)
A Lone Parent
Andrea (@MsAndreaist)
Angela
Angeline (@Angeline1611)
Ann Tagonist
Anna
Anywavewilldo
Avital (@themamafesto)
Background Spinner
Barbara Scott
Barbara Carregonnen
Bee Jones
Bessie 
Benita(@e_benita)
Bobbi Oliver
Caitlin Roper
Camilla (@whodoesshethink)
Caris
Carol (@maggiefairy)
Cat Eleven
Cath Elliot
Cath Andrews
Cath
Cath 
Cathy Brennan
Caroline Criado-Perez
Caroline Crampton
Chitra Nagarajan
Chloe Miriam
Clara
Claire Moore (@cctheatreco)
Claire
Clementine
Crates&Ribbons
Dawn
Denise Marshall
Diane (@teenybash48)
DillyTante
Donna Navarro (@lexiconlane)
Dorien Niprock
dustsister
Elodie Pierce
Emma
Emily (@theurbandryad)
Emily Milton
Fantome
Farzana (@bananaharama)
feministavenger
FeministBorgia
FeministRoar
FeministaSista
FeministUK
Firestone Dworkin
Flea (@evil_fi)
Flumpmistress
FrauHupfdohle
FrothyDragon
Georgina Spiller
Gill
Glosswitch
Gobtastic
Goddessdevva
Gothicmama
Grainne McMahon
GrumpyOldBat
Hannah M. Curtis
Hannah Mudge
Hannah
Heather Harvey
Helen Lewis
Helen (@theowlgirl)
Helen (@queenofbiscuits)
HerbyAttitude
HisFeministMamma
Hypathie (@Hypathieblog)
JamButties
Jane (@ambitiousmammas)
Jane
Jane
Jane
Janey
Janey (@vegetarianjelly)
Janie
Jen (@JennNiff)
Jess
Jo (@PortofinoSunset)
Jodie (@MsJodieLW)
JudeinLondon
Julie Bindel
Julie
Jules
Katharine Edgar
Karen Ingala Smith
Karis (@Karis_Lily)
Katabaticesque
Kate
Katie
KBadlan
Kiramadiera
Kiran Chug
Laura
Laura
Leah Hardy
Lee Lysandra
Liberation Lover
Lilith (@GrimalkinRN)
LilRadFem
Lily Monroe (@pornfreeculture)
Lissie (@lissielouwalton)
Liz (@Lizj73)
Liz Kelly
LondonFeminist
Lorrie Hearts
Louise
Lucy (@Bang2write)
Lynn Schreiber
Lucy Bottomface
madoldbat (@scouserinlondon)
Mary-Ann Stephenson
Marie
Marstrina
Mhairi Macalpine
Meghan Murphy
Melissa (@theresthebs)
Melissa Wilde
MissAndrist
M.K. Hajdin
NattAndra
Nicola (@NicolaGilChrist)
Nicole (@ni c_jameson)
Nicole Rowe (@cellardoor790)
No Anodyne
Orla Moylan Hegarty
Philippa (@incurablehippie)
Planet Pavs
Planet Cath
Portia Criado-Perez
Poppy (@popbadger)
@psychoclaire
RadFemRusty
Rebecca
Redbullfiend
Reni Eddo-Lodge
R.K. MacKenzie

Roberta
Rose-Anna (@roseannastar)
RoseBlah
Rosemarie (@roseycameron)
Rowena (@RowenaMonde)
RubyFruit2
Ruth Jacobs
SallyAnn Betteridge
Sarah
Sam (@katedaddie)
Sara (@sararatee)
Sarah (@academicablues)
Sarah (@saraclarke)
Sarah Haughey
Sarah (@seja75)
Sarah (@sarrrrahhhh)
Sarah Jay (@mauvedinosaur)
ScallopsRGreat
Scarlet Wilde
Scousey (@Firewomon)
Sharon
Sianushka
Sister Trinity 
Slutocrat
SmashtheP
Sophia 
Sophie
Soraya Chemaly
Steffie (@selise3)
Terre Strange
TheTrudz
Tricialo (@trishlowt)
Truthtopower
TullyHerron
Umlolidunno
Vanessa 
Vicky
Victoria (@VABVOX)
Victoria Lucas (@radfemmamma)
Virginia Pele
Winnie Small
Zarina (@Zarinacc)
Zoe Williams

(Sensibly, when I started this list I only put the first names. I’m going through to add either last names or twitter handles so others can follow them too, which is what I should have done from the beginning:) )

*This is only a list of women from Twitter. The list would be twice as long if I included the amazing feminists on Facebook.

Mumsnet Woolly Hugs : Real Power of Sisterhood

The Mumsnet Woolly Hugs are incredible. Mumsnetters give up their time and their talent to knit blankets for children with terminal illnesses, families in grief and those just needing a hug. The talent and the kindness of Mumsnetters who are involved is so inspirational. They are incredibly generous. 

This is the mission statement from their website: 

The beautiful blankets shown through this website have been made by a community of Mumsnetters wanting to show their love and support to fellow Mumsnetters and their families facing heartbreaking and devastating loss. Some contribute by crafting, others by donating funds or wool, all playing a full part,  It is hoped that the blankets can offer some comfort to the families. If they get one ounce of love from their blanket then it’s all worth it. 

The blankets have come to be known as Woolly Hugs.

This is the real power of sisterhood. Not all the women involved would define themselves as feminists but this is what feminist sisterhood entails: caring for other women. 


I’ve included some images of the beautiful quilts knitted by Mumsnetters:

On Sisterhood: Kris Radish’s The Sunday List of Dreams

I’ve blogged incessantly about my love for Kris Radish’s My Elegant Gathering of White Snows which is fairly obvious considering I named my blog after it. I’ve been too scared to read anymore in case they aren’t as good. I was totally wrong. I’m about 15% of the way into The Sunday List of Dreams and it is fabulous. I’ll write a proper review later but I love this bit so much I had to share it now:

It is female communion. That astounding crossing of cultures and ages and time and place that wraps women together and makes them one. It is a holy moment, a sacred sharing of estrogen, a remarkable gift of love. It can happen in a public waiting room when a stranger asks another woman to hold her baby – her beautiful baby – when she needs to go to the bathroom. It can happen when you see a woman on a street corner and two guys are hassling her and you open your car door and she gets in without hesitation. It can happen when you see a woman at the grocery store crying because she is a dollar short and you pay her bill and carry her groceries to the car with kids and then slip her another 20 bucks. It can happen when you are at a play and that woman you saw arguing with that asshole man won’t come out of the last toilet stall of the bathroom until you hand her some toilet paper and then she cries into your shoulder and you give her the phone number of the women’s shelter. It can happen when your mother tells you about her first love and your heart stops because you realise your father was her second choice. It can happen anywhere – this female communion where women feel safe and close and absolutely as if they have touched a piece of heaven because of you. 

Is that not utterly beautiful? 

The Mumsnet Secret Santa: Thanking Those Women Who Have Changed Our Lives


The Mumsnet Secret Santa has been going for several years now. It was started by members as a way of thanking others who had helped them but also as a way helping others. Along with a Mile for Maude and the MN Woolly Hugs, it is the real side of Mumsnet: women supporting women. It is the real meaning of sisterhood. 

I was honoured this year by being nominated. It is such an incredible feeling to be nominated; to be thanked for helping someone else. It is a beautiful feeling. 
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of nominating other women who have supported me through my PND and my crisis of confidence following some rather misogynistic twaddle with my career. I am so lucky to be surrounded by some amazing women. 

We need to start telling each other how amazing we are.

We need to start doing so publicly and loudly. 

This year, my Secret Santa sent me an Amazon giftcard. I spent several happy hours downloading some amazing books onto my kindle. Obviously only books written by women:

Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Carol Shield’s The Stone Diaries
Andrea Levy’s Fruit of the Lemon
Andrea Levy’s Never Far From Nowhere
Aminatta Forna’s The Ancestor Stones
Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows

Thank you My Secret Nominator. 

Thank you to my Secret Santa.

And, thank you to all the amazing women in my life. 🙂

Ode to the Doom Cats

This is written by lovely friend Philippa Molloy. It refers to a joke on Mumsnet many, many months ago; a joke which still makes me smile.

Ode to the Doom Cats


I am a doom cat of cognative dissonance

Fuck off, fuck off you awkward feminists
I see its my right to be marginalised or terrorised
Just cos my genitals don’t hang on the outside.
So what if I want to cook meals for my man
Ignoring the fact that if thats what I want
Feminism says I canI am a doom cat of cognative dissonance
Don’t make me feel awkward you nasty feminists.

In Defence of Women-Only Spaces

I’ve been thinking about the issue of women-only spaces recently but two events have crystallized for me just how necessary women-only spaces are and how much the requirement that “everyone” be included simply excludes women. At least, when I first started thinking about writing this blogpost it was based on my feelings of two protest marches that I had just attended. Then, the unnecessary violent response of a group of MRAs towards the women dominated safe space that is Mumsnet made me realise just how frightening some men find women-only spaces. Or, as my dear friend Blackcurrants, once said:

Honestly, I think some men walk into a space where they are not likely to be (1) amongst other men and thereby automatically treated as ‘in the gang’ or (2) fawned over by women who think they exist to make men feel good and have a complete existential crisis. If the world doesn’t revolve around ME, an insecure man thinks, it can’t be working right! PANNIIIIC!

I suspect that for some men, women-dominated spaces are a threat to their perceived sense of entitlement to be the voice that gets heard. And women-only spaces are threatening because, as the oppressing class has always known when they try to restrict the ability of the oppressed class to gather together unmonitored- they must be up to something. Protecting women-only spaces is more and more important as formerly safe places are lost under the guise of being “fair” to all sex/genders, which is a policy that just ignores the political, social and cultural implications of The Patriarchy as it affects and effects all marginalised groups.

I’ve been on lots of protest marches: against the war in Iraq, nuclear weapons, against the current destructive cuts in the Welfare Bill, in support of youth and leisure centers, Reclaim the Night, and Million Women Rise. Of these only the Reclaim the Night and Million Women Rise marches in London have been advertised as women-only. There is a very real difference in being in a woman-only protest march. It simply feels safer because the organisers make the effort to include vulnerable and marginalised women. This starts with allowing disabled women to march at the front in a protected space. It does have secondary impact of slowing down the march and ensuring that the march take up as much space as possible for as long as possible. More importantly, however, it ensures that disabled women are considered an essential part of the protest and not simply an inconvenience.

The two events which crystallised this for me were the Million Women Rise March 2012 and the International Women’s Day: March Against the Cuts. Million Women Rise was inclusive with transport arranged for those who did not feel physically able to complete the march. This included women who were pregnant and had mobility problems as a consequence. This is a group of women normally ignored because pregnancy is a “choice” and it isn’t “permanent.” Both of these theories require a refusal to acknowledge just how much damage pregnancy can do to a woman’s body. More importantly, no one was bumped into or knocked over and children were free to bounce about shouting slogans and dancing because they were safe. They were safe because they were in a protected space where everyone’s particular needs were catered for and attended to. Being knocked and bumped is a very real problem for many women due not only to physical disabilities which make it extremely painful but also the added trauma of women who have experienced sexualised violence. Being knocked into by men does not make these women feel safer or feel like the protest respects their bodily integrity and personal experience. It simply further marginalises already marginalised women.

The International Women’s Day: March Against the Cuts held in Glasgow on the Saturday following Million Women Rise was a very different atmosphere. It was specifically organised to recognise the very deliberate gendered effect of the cuts on women but it was not a women-only space and it showed. Two men holding a large banner kept walking over women in order to get closer to the front of the march. Having a large banner bash you in the back of the head is hardly a pleasant experience. It is also completely defeats the purpose of a march about gendered political experiences when two men decide that their voices must be more visible that women. There was no attempt to make sure that the march was inclusive of marginalised women and resulted in disabled women being left behind and trailing the march whilst the police tried to hurry us on. The police always try to hurry marches up; in a protected march this doesn’t happen because the organisers are aware of the issue. This is not the deliberate fault of the organisers themselves but is what happens when men are involved and women’s [and other marginalised people] needs are not addressed. Men take over the space and make it about them. They marginalise women without even being conscious of doing so because they are so used to being in charge and being heard.

The last two Reclaim The Night marches in Edinburgh resulted in similar behaviour with the distressing addition of the male band conductor repeatedly banging into several disabled women without ever once apologising or making an effort to be more aware of the effects of this behaviour. When men are involved, women’s voices get silenced. We need to stop that. One of the best academic examples of this type of male behaviour is a study of classroom behaviour of men and women undertaken at Harvard. As feminists, we need to stop pandering to these men and make sure that all our sisters are involved and heard.

The second problem with including the men who whine about not being allowed to participate in women-only marches and demonstrations is that they never ever show up nor do they bother to take responsibility for organising their own protests. If they did, I would show up because I truly believe that the Capitalist Patriarchy is harmful for everyone. But, they never do and that is the problem. Women are asked to be “inclusive” which allows men to abdicate responsibility for standing up and being counted. The notable exception to this the White Ribbon Campaign which is organised by men in response to the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989 wherein a male gunman killed 14 women, injured 10 more women before killing himself. However, it is not surprising that when we think of the massacre of these beautiful and talented women, we can immediately name the perpetrator and not his victims. These are the women who paid with their lives for the “privilege” of entering male-space:

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

We need only-women rooms to give us space to breathe, to love and support one another and to hear one another. Unless we start hearing each other, we won’t ever be able to support one another and that is what women-only spaces give us: the opportunity to just be.