#DickheadDetox: Nicholas Cage

Nicholas Cage, noted arsenugget, has a serial history of domestic violence.  His only arrest, as far as I’m aware, happened in 2011 but the charges were dropped 3 weeks later. Christina Fulton, the mother of Cage’s eldest son Weston, sued the actor in 2009 for financial compensation over a house. The lawsuit alleged emotional abuse during the relationship.

Cage has been sued numerous times for all sorts of shit, not to mention the pesky issue of not paying his taxes. In return, he’s been sued numerous times as well. He’s also got a history of public intoxication and violent behaviour. His son Weston has numerous arrests for domestic violence.

On balance, another one for the #DickheadDetox

Why We Oppose Votes For Men

This keeps getting retweeted through my feed. It makes me giggle every time.

What’s at Stake: Nothing Less than the Liberation of Women

This is written as part II of Feminisms Fest: Why it Matters.

Feminism Matters.

Feminism has always mattered.

There has never been a point when feminism doesn’t matter.

And, what’s at stake is nothing less than the full liberation of women.

I find it incredibly sad that we are still asking this question; that the endemic nature of male violence is still so unacknowledged that we have to preface every discussion on the experience of women survivors of rape with the statement: men are victims of rape too. Feminists know this. We’re the ones talking about it since the vast majority of male victims of rape are raped by other men.

Feminism matters because we are the ones naming perpetrators of all violence and are the only ones demanding they be held accountable.

Feminism matters.

Because women matter.

Because women are human too.

Rather than stating the obvious, I would rather shout out some of the amazing feminist and women’s organisations doing frontline work supporting women:

Feminism Matters but we already knew that. 

And, a new generation of women know it too.

Feminism and Me: Feminisms Fest 2013

I have always been a feminist. It is a label I chose for myself as a teenager, back before girl power was invented and New Kids on the Block were cool. My original feminism was about equality: women were equal to men and all we needed was the laws to force misogynists to stop being misogynists. The older I get, the more I believe that “equality” is nothing more than a smokescreen to prevent the true liberation of women [and all oppressed minorities]. Equality before the law means nothing when violence is endemic; when women are most likely to live in poverty; when no one bothers to actually enforce equality legislation. Growing up in an area of Canada where misogyny, race and class were impossible to miss but surrounded by people with serious cases of cognitive dissonance, including me, wasn’t really a great place to learn about feminism. It was a great place to learn that as a middle class white woman my chances of being a victim of sexual violence were a lot lower than my aboriginal friends but that was seen as normal; not something to be upset about. I may have labeled myself a feminist but I wasn’t a real feminist.

I attended my first feminist demo as a teenager in Canada. It was a sit-in protesting letters of support a few members of the local government wrote, on official letter heading, in support of a man on trial for rape: apparently, he couldn’t be a rapist because they knew him. And, there was nothing inappropriate about these male politicians using their political standing to support the son of a political ally. I was too chicken to stay for the whole sit-in which lasted for a few days. That was really the only feminist activism I took part of until I was in my 30s. Mostly, because I quickly become one of those teenage girls: the ones who have babies. 

Technically, I was 19 when I had my first child and at college but that never stops the judgemental from making rude comments about how “young” I look when they see me with my teenager. I got student loans and stayed at university, eventually graduating with 4 degrees: two undergraduate and two post-graduate; all with honours. The ONLY reason I managed this was because of student loans, grants, child tax credits, subsidised child care, subsidised housing and my mother getting a substantial payout under the equal pay legislation. It was difficult never having enough money to do fun stuff with my child and rarely being able to go out because I had a 2 year old. I had a lot of amazing, supportive women friends around me [Maria, Rena, Vanessa and Catherine!] and without them I wouldn’t have made it through my first degree. Over the years, I’ve benefited from the support of more amazing women but I took it for granted.

I was a feminist but one who lacked any kind of analysis of women as a class. I knew I couldn’t have gotten through 2 undergraduate degrees without the benefit of a, still flawed, benefits system or without the equal pay settlement my mother received. It just never occurred to me to think about how privileged I was in relation to most other women. It wasn’t until the Canadian and provincial governments started slashing these programs that I started thinking about feminism as a political theory [and I certainly didn’t learn about it as an undergraduate!]. I started self-defining as a socialist-feminist; but I still didn’t think about women in terms of an oppressed class themselves. Instead, I focused on the idea of class as a barrier for “some” women. I assumed that equal access to education would solve all women’s problems.

Until two years ago, I would have still identified as a socialist-feminist. The unrelenting misogyny and rape apologism on the left made me reconsider my position as did the creation of the Feminist/ Women’s Rights board on Mumsnet. The more I read on Mumsnet, the more radical my feminism became. I started reading Andrea Dworkin, Natasha Walters, Kate Millett, Susan Faludi, Susan Maushart, Ariel Levy, Gail Dines, Germaine Greer, and Audre Lorde. I started reading only fiction books written by women: Isabel Allende, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou,  Kate Mosse, Margaret Atwood, Kris Radish, Barbara Kingsolver, and Andrea Levy amongst many others. I started reading about women’s lives and the power of real sisterhood. I learned about cultural femicide. 

Now, I self-define as an anti-capitalist, pro-radical feminist. I believe that feminism isn’t just about equality. It’s about the full liberation of ALL women from male violence. I do not believe that the liberation of women can occur whilst our capitalist structures remain. The Patriarchy predates capitalism but we can not destroy it without destroying capitalism too. 

My feminism, both the definition and activism, has changed dramatically over the past 18 years. I still don’t feel a “real feminist”. All I know is that I am a feminist who truly believes that women have the power to liberate all women from male violence. I’ve stopped believing the law can improve women’s lives. Instead, I believe that women have the power to improve the lives of women: it requires listening and respect and saying sorry but we will liberate ourselves from the Patriarchy.  

This post has been written as part of Feminisms Fest 2013

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 Guardian, Reeva Steenkamp and Celebrity Culture

The Guardian is currently running a particularly distasteful article which claims that Oscar Pistorius “wants to contact” the family of Reeva Steenkamp. The only part of this article which isn’t offensive is that they’ve actually remembered to name Reeva Steenkamp; the woman Pistorius murdered by shooting her 4 times. The fact that I am actually grateful that the Guardian remembered to name Steenkamp makes me so very angry.

Hannah Curtis wrote a very powerful blog on Steenkamp’s murder and the real consequences of the media’s objectification of women last week. This Guardian article is precisely what Curtis was outlining in her piece: the Guardian has just published what is effectively a PR statement which completely minimises Pistorius’ responsibility for murdering Steenkamp whilst simultaneously piling the guilt onto Steenkamp’s family to forgive him. 

This is not a news story. This is not about the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.  There is nothing new in this piece. We already knew that Pistorius got bail. We already knew that Pistorius’ family think it was an “accident”. Now, we know who Pistorius’ new PR team is because, obviously, we needed to know that.

This is the hateful nature of our celebrity culture and our obsession with forgiving the violence perpetrated by male celebrities: instead of focussing on the murder of a beautiful, intelligent and amazing woman whose family and friends are desperately grieving her loss, our media is running stories written by PR firms. 

I think it’s past time our celebrity-obsessed mass media culture is destroyed.

Hannah Curtis has started a petition here to force for the Sun to apologise for their disgusting coverage of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Please sign it.

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible was the most recommended book on the Mumsnet Feminist Book Club board when I started my #readingonlybookswrittenbywomen. Honestly, you’d think I’d admitted to kicking puppies for shits and giggles due to the level of shock by my admittance that I hadn’t read it.

For those heretics who have not yet read it, The Poisonwood Bible is the story of an American family who travel to the Congo as missionaries in 1959. The father is an emotionally abusive, misogynistic and racist evangelical Baptist who drags his wife and 4 daughters across the planet in order to “save the savages through Christ”. He’s an arsehole whose arrogance tears his family apart. The redemption of his daughters in postcolonial Africa is the story of women paying for the crimes of men but it’s also the story of sisterhood and the binds of family that tie us together. 

I could go on forever blathering about my love for this book but the best review was from a woman sitting near me on train who told me she was jealous that I was reading it for the first time. Now, I feel the same. I am jealous of those just reading it for the first time.

Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella and Sam

Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella and Sam series are some of my favourite children’s stories. I love Stella’s imagination and her utter joy at life. I love the simplicity of Stella and Sam playing together and the beautiful stories Stella tells Sam: about being Star of the Sea, Queen of the Snow, Fairy of the Forest and Princess of the Sky. I love Sam’s never-ending questions and his innocent trust in the infinite knowledge of his big sister.

These books are the celebration of the real beauty in the relationships of siblings (when they aren’t arguing over whose turn it is to clean the hamster cage or empty the dishwasher) but also how powerful the gift of imagination truly is. 

Needless to say, we own them all. 🙂

(image reproduced from here)

#DickheadDetox : Jack Nicholson

Until now, the only thing I knew about Jack Nicholson is that he dates very young women [hello creepy] and it was in his house, whilst he was present, that Roman Polanski raped a child. I think it’s safe to say he’s not a nice man. I’ve read rumours linking him to domestic violence and sexual assault. He’s also pro-life.

Yesterday, @smashthep tweeted a link to a Guardian article in 2000 detailing a lawsuit alleging a physical assault by Nicholson on a prostitute:

That aging Lothario Jack Nicholson has been hit with a lawsuit alleging that he promised a prostitute $1,000 for sex and then assaulted her when she asked for the money. Catherine Sheehan has already received a £32,000 settlement from Nicholson, but now insists that that sum is insufficient and that her injuries from the incident are “actually killing her.”

According to the lawsuit, the star invited Sheehan and a friend to his home on October 12, 1996. He offered each woman $1,000 to wear “little black dresses” and engage in sex acts with him. But Nicholson later became “loud and abusive”, commenting that he would never pay anyone for sex, as he could “get anyone he wanted as a sexual partner.” Sheehan claims that Nicholson promptly grabbed her hair, thumped her head on the floor, and then threw her out of his house.

Justifying the complaint, Sheehan’s lawyer Ira Chester says, “about a year after she received the original payment her injuries and the damage to her brain stem got worse than originally thought. Now the injury is actually killing her. She has no vision at times and finds it hard to cope with the pain… The medical bills have already reached $60,000, but if she is to survive she needs an important operation… The original settlement isn’t enough.”

The lawsuit joins a long list of complaints filed against the hell-raising 63-year-old – the oddest of which saw Nicholson accused, in 1996, of rupturing a woman’s breast implants. 

So, Jack Nicholson definitely a contender for the #dickheaddetox

A Personal Account of Domestic Violence

I am publishing this on behalf of a friend who wishes to remain anonymous; as does her friend she is writing about: 

My friend Anna’s criminal case against her violent husband has been dismissed. He was expected to at least have some sort of community service, a fine and probably some sort of restitution, but he walked away without even a caution.

Anna, my friend since university, told me about a year ago that her marriage was going through a rough patch. She made light of it on the phone, in her upbeat way, but wanted me to come and visit. For lots of reasons, I wasn’t able to manage it, and feel dreadful about this. She told me later that he had violently attacked her. I am not even bothering to qualify this statement with an explanation of how they got to this stage or belittle it by adding that it was a petty argument. He violently attacked her. She managed to get him to back off, and she went to her bedroom armed with her mobile phone and a chair to blockade the door. She said that she almost stepped outside herself and saw herself as this woman whose spirit was finally knocked out of her and she was a shadow of her former self. From confident woman having lots of warm artistic friends living in a great studio in New York and doing work she enjoyed to this frightened-to-go-downstairs woman.

She called the police who responded within a few minutes. Her husband was found barely conscious on the couch, and deemed not to be in any fit state to do much of anything. She went to a hotel that night, and the next morning, he was full of apologies.

The violence didn’t stop. And here was the dilemma for Anna; some of it was so covert that it made her wonder whether she was imagining it. For instance, they entertained quite a bit, and he would do the cooking, mainly as he was a control freak and didn’t trust her to do it ‘properly.’ She would be carrying a plate of food and he would ‘accidently’ trip her. Usually it was in front of other people who would all jump to his defence that it was an accident.

In his more sober moments, he would articulate how unhappy he had become, and wanted out of the marriage. While she didn’t disagree, they had decided to discuss it when their youngest started university. It seemed tolerable and finite; they had separate bedrooms, their own cars, friends and their paths would barely cross.

He started posting on a singles website, initially in Anna’s words, ‘discretely’ as if she didn’t mind as long as he didn’t flaunt it. And then he started being more and more disrespectful, including inviting girlfriends to their house.

And then around this time last year, he attacked her again violently. She called the police and this time he spent a night in the cells. He was charged with assault and battery. He claims not to remember any of it. He wasn’t allowed to return to the family home.

Several months later the case was due to be heard at Magistrate’s Court. She had visited the courtroom and explained how the process worked. She opted to give her evidence via a video link so she wouldn’t have to be in the same courtroom as her husband and his family. She was understandably nervous and scared. And then the case was adjourned. In total the case has been adjourned 3 times for administrative reasons such as previous cases running over, lawyers having other cases.

Last week, the case was due to be heard again, or rather for the first time since he attacked her a year ago. Since this time, she and her husband via their lawyers reached an out of court financial settlement to finalize the divorce, their children are starting to be less traumatized and time has moved forward, although the scars run deep. Her youngest son who witnessed the violence declined his offer at university as he didn’t want to leave his mother vulnerable. Despite her assurances that she would be fine, he has taken a year out, suffers panic attacks and is not sure that he wants to study medicine as he can’t concentrate.

Anna told me that the reason she initially wanted to tell her story in court was so that the, ‘legal position’ reflected what was done to her. After a year however she just wanted to put it all behind her and was exhausted physically and mentally.

The legal system really let her down. It shouldn’t take over a year to hear a case of domestic violence, keeping in mind that this was a case the CPS were actually willing to prosecute. Maybe domestic violence cases should be fast tracked, or somehow highlighted for special attention.

I don’t know the answer, but Anna’s ex husband apparently was seen celebrating at a local pub drinking champagne in the evening after the case was dismissed.