A book a loved (and one I didn’t) by @AtHomeActivist

Cross-posted from: The Agoraphobic Feminist
Originally published: 14.12.15

A book I loved…

I don’t really have all-time favourites, so I picked a book I just finished reading, my current favourite – Girl on the Net: My Not-So-Shameful Sex Secrets.

Aside from being a steamy romp (yeah I just said that) through the sex life of said Girl, it deals with a load of stuff including joyful sluthood, BDSM and consent and teen girl sexuality (I still have a lot of left-over weird guilt over stuff that happened in my teen years, so this helped a lot). 
Read more A book a loved (and one I didn’t) by @AtHomeActivist

WHAT FEMINISM MEANS TO ME.

Cross-posted from: The All Women Show
Originally published: 14.08.14

Our feminist society is making a zine, the theme is ‘What feminism means to me’ and here is my contribution!

F = Freedom

The most important notion in feminism is a woman’s freedom. Freedom covers a whole lot of things, freedom over her own body, freedom of speech, and freedom in the public domain. Feminism works towards giving women freedom. So we can wear what we want, say what we want, walk where we want and be who ever we want, without anyone taking advantage of us, in any situation.
Read more WHAT FEMINISM MEANS TO ME.

Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

Cross-posted from: Slutocracy
Originally published: 12.04.13

As Doortje Braeken noted in her telegraph column, “we’re not teaching young women about teenage motherhood because we don’t believe it’s a good idea because we do see that it reduces a woman’s future choices.” She went on to say that personal choice is absolutely sovereign. I fully agree with Doortje Braeken but I want to highlight the issue of believing that pregnancy limits choices.

Because the idea that starting a family at a younger age somehow magically limits a woman’s choices is absurd. If you’re under 16 it is the law that you have to go to school so even if a young parent wants to stay home with their child, they can’t. No university will ban you from attending because you are a mother or father and it’s the norm for older or mature students to be parents. If older students are often parents why are younger students assumed to be unable to cope? And that’s without considering the fact that while kids take up lots of time and attention, many students work while studying so it’s not like being childfree means you have unlimited reserves of time.
Read more Getting pregnant won’t ruin your life: teenage girls, pregnancy and myths

Top Posts of 2016

Erasure: The New Normal for Lesbians by @VABVOX

Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny by Young Crone

Is the term FGM cissexist? by Kalwinder Sandhu

Unspoken Grief: The Death of a Daughter by @VABVOX

Maria Miller’s Report Puts Feminists In An Impossible Position by @cwknews

Consent Is Sexy And Sexy Is Mandatory

The Snowflake Awards: A Review of White Feminism™ in Pop Culture by @GoddessKerriLyn

The Science Museum and the Brain Sex game by Young Crone

‘There Seems To Be Some Queer Mistake’: The Film of Anne of Green Gables by @LucyAllenFWR

Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Racism in the Feminist Movement by @ClaireShrugged

Remembering Carrie Fisher

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Read more Remembering Carrie Fisher

The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

Cross-posted from: Murder of Goths
Originally published: 06.06.16

This is a subject that comes up a lot within the body positive plus size community, a hell of a lot. And it’s always controversial.

Weight loss.

There tend to be two camps.

On the one side – weight loss has no place within the body positive community, we are bombarded daily with messages from both society and the media about how we should be losing weight, about how weight loss is Great Goal and how losing weight is an amazing applause worthy achievement. Can we not just have one bloody space where our bodies are loved and cared for without having to dodge diet talk?

On the other – it’s a personal choice to lose weight, and therefore no one else gets a say.
Read more The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

What we’re reading: on identity politics, the War on Drugs and Ivanka Trump

All politics is “identity politics” by @MayaGoodfellow
via @WritersofColour

… The idea underlying this link of thinking is that the left have for too long focused on minorities at the expense of the “majority” (read: straight, white people), pushing the latter into the arms of the far-right. This comes from the age-old assumption– that has by no means been expunged from the left – that white, straight men have no identity other than one based in class (if they’re working class).

But all politics is identity politics. Nigel Farage pledged during the referendum campaign to “take back control” – not just from EU bureaucrats but migrants who were repeatedly racialised as a threat to this country. His platform was rooted in the politics of whiteness (and importantly this is a form of politics that doesn’t always exclusively speak to white people). It can be hard for some to see how this is true because whiteness masks itself as natural. As academic Gloria Wekker has said, whiteness is “not seen as an ethnic positioning at all”. It is the default – the identity contains worth and humanity. That’s why the working class is so often treated as a homogenous group that’s exclusively white. …

Princesses Are Terrifying. So Is Ivanka Trump by Sady Doyle via @ElleMagazine

For those of us who overdosed on Disney princess memorabilia growing up, good news: Thanks to Donald Trump and his legion of terrifying yet well-coiffed children, Americans are now closer to living in a monarchy than we have been since 1776. And Ivanka Trump—blond, pretty, well-mannered, given massive amounts of power over the citizenry thanks to nothing but her genetic makeup—is the closest thing we’ll get to a princess. Which is how we’ll all get to find out: Princesses are terrifying.

It’s not clear yet what role Ivanka Trump will play in her father’s administration. What isclear is that she will have one. It was reported Wednesday that she would occupy the White House offices usually reserved for the first lady. (Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks pushed back on this report.) Ivanka was initially tapped to join Trump’s two oldest sons as part of his “blind trust”—assigned the role of keeping the $3 billion conflict of interest that is the Trump Organization alive while her father was off presidenting. And yet, almost immediately after Trump was elected, she began holding meetings with foreign heads of state and hunting for houses in D.C. In subsequent weeks, Ivanka’s name was floated for every position from “climate czar” (although she has no relevant expertise re: climate change) to first lady (although Trump is married) to, most ominously, “women’s rights”and/or child care policy: “If you look at Ivanka—she’s so strongly, as you know, into the women’s issues and childcare…. Nobody could do better than her,” Trump told Fox News last Sunday.

‘Impunity has consequences': the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Ten years ago this week, Mexico’s then-president Felipe Calderón deployed thousands of troops to fight against organized crime, at the start of what became an all-out war on drug trafficking which has raged ever since.

Since then, more than 100 of the country’s most wanted drug traffickers have been captured or killed. Billions of dollars have been spent, but the campaign has not ended the narcotics trade, or enforced the rule of law.

On the contrary, the decade-long war has had a devastating impact on the country’s social fabric: violent crimes perpetrated organised crime factions – and the security forces themselves – have spread amid almost total impunity.

The human cost has been catastrophic: about 200,000 people have been murdered and at least 28,000 “disappeared” since 2007. Abuses by security forces are widespread.

Most of the victims have been men, but women also have been tortured, trafficked and targeted for particular brutality, with almost total impunity.

Official records indicate almost 7,000 women and girls have disappeared since 2007. But activists say the reality is much worse. The government register of the missing includes 164 women from Veracruz, yet a local monitoring group has documented almost 500 cases of girls and women who have vanished in the past three years alone.  ….

On Optimism and Despair by Zadie Smith  via @nybooks

A talk given in Berlin on November 10 on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize.

First I would like to acknowledge the absurdity of my position. Accepting a literary prize is perhaps always a little absurd, but in times like these not only the recipient but also the giver feels some sheepishness about the enterprise. But here we are. President Trump rises in the west, a united Europe drops below the horizon on the other side of the ocean—but here we still are, giving a literary prize, receiving one. So many more important things were rendered absurd by the events of November 8 that I hesitate to include my own writing in the list, and only mention it now because the most frequent question I’m asked about my work these days seems to me to have some bearing on the situation at hand.

The question is: “In your earlier novels you sounded so optimistic, but now your books are tinged with despair. Is this fair to say?” It is a question usually posed in a tone of sly eagerness—you will recognize this tone if you’ve ever heard a child ask permission to do something she has in fact already done.

Charlotte Bronte did NOT repair her mourning shoes with her dead sister’s hair!

Cross-posted from: Katharine Edgar
Originally published: 09.12.16

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A lie can travel halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on. Or, in this case, a contemporary artwork shared by a witty but mistaken tweeter can lead to a myth taking root worldwide, with over 16,000 retweets and nearly 30,000 Twitter likes in a few days. That’s a lot of people who now think this is true and that Charlotte Bronte really did go for muddy walks in her black silk mourning slippers and then fix them with Emily’s hair, not forgetting to embroider little sprigs of heather on the insoles.
Read more Charlotte Bronte did NOT repair her mourning shoes with her dead sister’s hair!

Alan Carr; “Not My Nigel” – Justin Lee Collins edition.

Cross-posted from: Frothy Dragon
Originally published: 13.12.16

Dear Alan Carr,

You can harp on about how the Justin Lee Collins who assaulted his partner wasn’t the Justin that you knew, but the truth of the matter is that he was.

See, this is the kind of talk that silences abuse victims. Talking about how it was a “toxic” relationship. Minimising the abuse. It’s telling victims that their experiences of an abuser aren’t accurate, because yours are different.

 


Read more Alan Carr; “Not My Nigel” – Justin Lee Collins edition.

What We’re Reading: male violence, the ‘War on Drugs’, and being single

Singleness and the world of ‘not belonging‘ ASHA L. ABEYASEKERA openDemocracy

… Feminists have highlighted how ‘single women’ as a category continues to be regarded as a ‘problem’ that must be rectified. Psychologists Jill Reynolds and Margaret Wetherell (2003), for example, illustrate how the notion of singleness as a ‘deficit identity’ has a powerful influence over how single women present themselves: justifying their decision to be single, and claiming meaning and their life’s worth as originating outside of marriage. Anthea Taylor (2012) argues that single women are ‘pathologised’: their independence and autonomy often read as a poor ‘trade-off’ to marriage and family.  In Sri Lanka, as in other parts of South Asia and elsewhere, the ideal of companionate marriage—imagined as a union of two persons and based on intimacy and pleasure—amplifies the marginalisation of single women. The repertoires about single women are unequivocal: without a husband and children, single women signify ‘lack’—they are incomplete and, therefore, do not belong. …

What lies beneath prostitution policy in New Zealand? by Maddy Coy and Pala Molisa at  openDemocracy

Prostitution and trafficking are increasingly contested in international human rights and policy forums, with debates polarised around the question of whether the prostitution system entrenches institutionalised male dominance, or if its harm grows out of associated criminality and stigma. In April 2016 France joined other countries in adopting the approach now often referred to as the Nordic Model – decriminalisation of selling sex alongside exit and support programmes, together with criminalisation of sex purchase. This human rights approach sits in sharp contrast to the endorsement of the New Zealand approach by Amnesty International and in the interim report of the UK Home Affairs Select Committee.

Impunity has consequences': the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Lizbeth Amores dropped off her son at her mother’s house before heading to a house party with her friend Verenice Guevara. They were last seen at a bar popular with local gangsters.

The following night, María de Jesús Marthen was among a dozen or so young women invited to a private party at a ranch about an hour east of the city centre. On her way to the event, Marthen messaged her boyfriend, pleading for help.

The next night, Karla Saldaña and her friend Luisa Quintana went out for tacos. They were spotted leaving a bar in an unknown vehicle.

None of them were ever seen again, but they were not the only women to vanish: over the space of three nights in November 2011, at least 50 women disappeared in similar circumstances from Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz state, which had been convulsed by cartel violence and political volatility.

Custody in crisis: How family courts nationwide put children in danger  via @Salon

In family courts throughout the country, evidence that one of the parents is sexually or physically abusing a child is routinely rejected. Instead, perpetrators of abuse are often entrusted with unsupervised visits or joint or sole custody of the children they abuse, putting children in danger of serious, often life-threatening harm, according to children’s advocates.

Our two-year investigation – which includes interviews with more than 30 parents and survivors in California, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Maryland and New Jersey – uncovered stories of children consigned to suffer years of abuse in fear and silence while the parents who sought to protect them were driven to the brink financially and psychologically. These parents have become increasingly stigmatized by a family court system that not only discounts evidence of abuse but accepts dubious theories used to undermine the protective parents’ credibility.

A Siege of Herons and a Winter Forest: Carols, Poems and Stories for Christmas by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Books
Originally published: 22.12.15

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When I emptied out my desk in search of Christmas cards, I realised I’d been stockpiling quite a bit. Wrapping paper with yew and ivy and Christmas berries on it; stocks of illuminated manuscripts; multiple versions of deer in winter (I understand you can buy a Primark Christmas jumper with queer deer now, too); lots of birds sitting in amongst the illuminated branches and Christmas greenery. I’ve got birds on the tree, too, and my housemate made a wreath with mistletoe, holly and fir cones from Cambridge Botanic gardens (she works there). And I’ve been cutting back the laurel and ivy hedges in the back garden so I’ve got a mug full of ivy berries.

IMG_3428 It’s all traditional Christmas imagery – the outside brought inside; the reminders of winter forests. But for medieval people, Christmas was not just a mid-winter festival; it was also the culmination of the fasting season of Advent and the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the traditional time for Christmas games and feasting and also for hunting the animals to provide the Christmas food. The religious festival itself had a plangent and brooding undertone, which you can see from carols such as the mournful Coventry Carol, the austere, foreboding and triumphal ‘Out of Your Sleep/Arise and Wake’ and ‘Adam Lay Y-Bounden’, with their glances out from Christ’s nativity to the Harrowing of Hell it foreshadows. These carols shift our attention, from the expected centrality of Christ’s nativity, to focus on the narratives that run alongside, and outside, this one.
Read more A Siege of Herons and a Winter Forest: Carols, Poems and Stories for Christmas by @LucyAllenFWR

The interplay of light and shade

Cross-posted from: Blues in a Tea Cup
Originally published: 08.05.16

There’s a lark somewhere. I can hear her singing her tiny heart to shards, and I sweep the cirrus sky for the speck that will show me where she is. Hovering on the wind high above her nest, she’s invisible to my naked eye. And now I think of you. I was walking this very path, my heart in tatters, numbed by the senselessness. I wanted to write a poem to speak to your short and magical life. It seemed that first line came from nowhere.

It’s hard to believe that was almost four years ago. Years when the sun has continued to rise and set, the new leaves have burst yellow on the oaks every spring and the bluebells have nodded oblivious in their shade. Years when I’ve caught glimpses of you everywhere, yet known you’re no more visible to me than the lark. Years when others I’ve loved have left too, each departure opening the wound afresh, yet each of their leavings was more timely than your own.
Read more The interplay of light and shade

When a Man Kills a Woman by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 27.11.16

Across everything that divides societies, we share in common that men’s violence against women is normalised, tolerated, justified – and hidden in plain sight.

Credit: Counting Dead Women project

… Responses to men’s violence against women which focus almost exclusively on  ‘healthy relationships’, supporting victim-survivors  and reforming the criminal justice system simply do not go far enough. Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of sex inequality between women and men.  The objectification of women, the sex trade, socially constructed gender, unequal pay, unequal distribution of caring responsibility are all  simultaneously symptomatic of structural inequality whilst maintaining a conducive context for men’s violence against women. Feminists know this and have been telling us for decades.

One of feminism’s important achievements is getting men’s violence against women into the mainstream and onto policy agendas.  One of the threats to these achievements is that those with power take the concepts, and under the auspices of dealing with the problem shake some of the most basic elements of feminist understanding right out of them.  State initiatives which are not nested within policies on equality between women and men will fail to reduce men’s violence against women.  Failing to even name the agent – men’s use of violence – is failure at the first hurdle. …


Read more When a Man Kills a Woman by @K_IngalaSmith

A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing

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A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing is now available:

Paperback

Kindle

CreateSpace

 

A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing is a collection of essays, poetry, and short stories written by women. The proceeds of this book will be used to support this platform covering the costs of hosting and website maintenance and development.


Read more A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing

The Family and Criminal Courts need to stop colluding with stalking and domestic abuse perpetrators

Cross-posted from: Rachel Horman
Originally published: 07.04.16

Mandy Dunford has been a victim of serious stalking for almost 10 years and her experience of the Criminal Justice system highlights many of the problems still facing victims of stalking and domestic abuse. The issue was recently featured on BBC Breakfast when both Mandy and I discussed the terrible way in which she and hundreds of other victims are being let down (Click here to watch the interview).

Mandy was treated badly by the police when she reported the stalking with the police failing to take it seriously and one officer even sexually assaulting her when he went to see her. The police failed to take appropriate action and Mandy felt – like many stalking victims – that her only option was to investigate the matter herself and gather her own evidence so she was forced to set up CCTV cameras. We don’t expect victims of other crimes to do this yet it happens constantly to victims of stalking. It is what we pay our police to do. Stalking victims will have experienced on average over 100 incidents before they even make a report to the police so it is vital that this crime is taken seriously particularly when you consider that 1:2 domestic abuse stalkers will carry out the threats they make and that the vast majority of domestic violence homicides involve stalking. It is what Paladin – National Stalking Advocacy Service refer to as “murder in slow motion”.

Mandy’s perpetrator was eventually arrested and charged with a number of offences including several firearms offences and several sexual offences as part of his behaviour had involved standing close to her home, naked, whilst watching her through binoculars and masturbating. Yes, exactly.

Did I mention that the stalking had been going on for 10 years??

Whilst the court did impose a custodial sentence – mainly due to the firearms offences – they failed to protect Mandy with an appropriate protective order. This is another all too common situation for victims of stalking and domestic abuse. In Mandy’s case because of the sexual offences a SOPO was made (Sexual Offences Prevention Order). Unfortunately Mandy was not consulted around the wording of the order and its terms were changed by the judge without reference to her which allowed him to return to live next to her and allowed him to approach very close to her property. This would never have been allowed had he lived next door to a school in my view.

The police accepted that Mandy would be at risk of serious harm due to the lack of protection afforded by the SOPO but said that they were powerless to do anything to help other than give her £5000 to build a “panic room” aka a prison cell in her own home.

Remind me who the victim in this case is again…?

Mandy is being assisted by Paladin who have been advocating on her behalf and the police have recently agreed to refer the case back to court to have the terms of the order altered. Unlike restraining orders it is not possible for a victim to apply to the court to change the terms of a SOPO so Mandy has been powerless in this regard. Let’s hope that this time the judge takes a more victim centred approach to it rather than concentrating on the perpetrator’s wish to return to home where he would be able to continue his reign of terror.

I represent victims on a regular basis to obtain properly worded protective orders in the civil courts to plug the gaps left by the useless orders sometimes handed out in the criminal courts.

Victims deserve properly worded protective orders to ensure that they are not re-victimised by feeling that they have to move away as the perpetrator is allowed to return to live next door to them. This is a common situation as stalkers will go out of their way to find accommodation near to their victim and all too often it is the victim who has to move again and again as the stalker tracks them down. This constant moving is then used by social services and the family courts as a stick to beat the victim with as they are accused of putting the welfare of the child at risk by keeping moving even though the father (who is often the perpetrator) is not criticised or held to account for his actions.

The criminal and family courts need to take the issue of domestic abuse and stalking far more seriously and stop colluding with the perpetrator as it is putting women at risk of serious harm and homicide.

 

Rachel Horman: Feminist legal blog by family legal aid lawyer of the year Rachel Horman. Mainly domestic abuse /forced marriage and violence against women. Sometimes ranty but always right…..

 

Even after death

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 03.11.16

I’ve often written about the case of William Burke Kirwan on this blog. His was the case that caused me to pursue a different path in life. Since 2010 I’ve been researching his murder of his wife and it’s lead me back to university and in directions I never dreamed of and there’s plenty more to do. So at this stage I’m a little bit proprietorial. My friends know this about me and tend to point out interesting nuggets about the case they stumble upon. In Dublin, after all, it’s a very well know case indeed. You can still argue about it if you take the boat out to Ireland’s Eye from Howth.

So when the Irish Times featured the case as part of their series of stories from their archives, quite a few Irish friends sent me the link and asked me what I thought. Now I’ll say again that this is a case that is very special to me so I’m apt to be a touch judgemental but in this case the article in question raised my hackles both as a historical scholar and as a court reporter. 
Read more Even after death

Swellings and Seals: On the Origins of Bill

Cross-posted from: Glossologics
Originally published: 25.11.16

Well, here it is. Bill. Like it or not, we all have them, we all think about paying them.

I, of course, am no exception. Several kind people have asked me recently why I have been producing fewer articles for this blog. The main reason is that I do not receive an income from here, and I have bills to pay. Much as I would like to spend my time writing more and more articles, I have to do other work that actually pays. If you would like to help enable me to produce more articles here, please support my books; fiction and non-fiction.

Now, onto the matter of the etymology of bill.

If you look in the dictionary, you will find several definitions for the word ‘bill’. It could be a bill in parliament; a duck’s bill; a bill to be paid; a slang term for the police, as well as other usages. 
Read more Swellings and Seals: On the Origins of Bill

What we’re reading:

16 Ways To End Violence Against Women And Girls by @EVB_Now  via @HuffPostUK

Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape by GUILAINE KINOUANI at openDemocracy

Dutch race hate row engulfs presenter Sylvana Simons — BBC News

Transforming a victim blaming culture | openDemocracy

White Skin, Black Masks: On the “Decolonial Desire” of Vasco Araújo by Efua Bea via

What makes a word a slur?

Cross-posted from: language: a feminist guide
Originally published: 06.11.16

Content note: this post contains examples of offensive slur-terms. 

Last week, the British edition of Glamour magazine published a column in which Juno Dawson used the term ‘TERF’ to describe feminists (the example she named was Germaine Greer) who ‘steadfastly believe that me—and other trans women—are not women’.  When some readers complained about the use of derogatory language, a spokeswoman for the magazine replied on Twitter that TERF is not derogatory:

Trans-exclusionary radical feminist is a description, and not a misogynistic slur.

Arguments about whether TERF is a neutral descriptive term or a derogatory slur have been rumbling on ever since. They raise a question which linguists and philosophers have found quite tricky to answer (and which they haven’t reached a consensus on): what makes a word a slur?

Before I consider that general question, let’s take a closer look at the meaning and history of TERF. As the Glamour spokeswoman said, it’s an abbreviated form of the phrase ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’; more specifically it’s an acronym, constructed from the initial letters of the words that make up the phrase. Some people have suggested this means it can’t be a slur. I find that argument puzzling, since numerous terms which everyone agrees are slurs are abbreviated forms (examples include ‘Paki’, ‘Jap’, ‘paedo’ and ‘tranny’). But in any case, there’s a question about the status of TERF as an acronym. Clearly it started out as one, but is it still behaving like one now? 
Read more What makes a word a slur?

YOUNG PEOPLE IN CARE AND OFFENDING: A BROKEN SYSTEM

Cross-posted from: Feimineach
Originally published: 26.06.15

On the 23rd of June, 2015, the PRISON REFORM TRUST LAUNCHED A REVIEW to examine why children aged 10 to 17 who are in care are more likely to offend than children who are not in care. [1] The Trust acknowledges that the majority of young people in care do not offend or come into contact with the youth justice system; however, “children and young people who are, or have been, in care are over five times more likely than other children to get involved in the criminal justice system.” The Trust continues: “In a 2013 survey of 15-18 year olds in young offender institutions, a third of boys and 61% of girls said they had spent time in care. This is despite fewer than 1% of all children in England being in care.”  The review aims to identify why young people in care are disproportionately represented in the youth justice system and, importantly, how to respond to this problem. 
Read more YOUNG PEOPLE IN CARE AND OFFENDING: A BROKEN SYSTEM