What we’re reading: male entitlement, abortion rights, racism, and women in prison

Short prison sentences punish children too, by Lucy Baldwin & Rona Espstein

… Despite none of the mothers in our study serving no longer than 34 weeks in custody, the majority under six months; the effects on the children described to us were many. Mothers described their children’s relationships as siblings being changed, especially where they had been separated to different locations. Some mothers felt their children were less close to them and had become closer to their temporary carers. One mother felt her child no longer knew her as her mother. Mothers described children having nightmares, bedwetting, becoming clingy, insecure and angry.

The study highlighted the harm caused to the mothers themselves by these short, and often very short sentences; all served for non-violent offences. But also, very clearly to the children of these mothers. The very welcome Scottish decision to implement a progression from their pre-existing   presumption against sentences of under three months, to a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months is a clear message and recognition that short sentences do more harm than good, and wherever possible community alternatives should be sought. We urge England and Wales to urgently follow suit.  …

Catholic Hospital Pressured Women to Bury Their Fetuses—Then Pence Made It Law, by Amy Littlefield

Tethered to an IV, naked under her hospital gown, Kate Marshall felt trapped as the chaplain approached her bed. It was 2015, and Marshall was awaiting surgery at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Indiana after losing a much-wanted pregnancy. She had not asked to speak with a chaplain, but the man had nonetheless entered her room and then pressed her to sign a consent form that would allow the Catholic hospital to bury her 11-week fetus in a cemetery plot.

Marshall, a University of Notre Dame English professor who wanted nothing more than to have a baby, planned to send the fetal remains for testing, hoping to understand what had caused her miscarriage and thus avoid having another. She also did not want her fetus buried in a grave as if it were a full-grown person.

But the chaplain scorned her decision, Marshall told Rewire in an interview.

Gutted by the sudden loss of her pregnancy, and conscious every moment of the dead fetus that was still inside her body, Marshall asked him to leave five times before he finally did, according to a written complaint she filed with regulators the next day. …

 I’m Disabled and I Get Sexually Harassed — Here’s Why That Matters, by Emily Wu  via @TeenVogue

We were 15 years old, just starting high school. A boy from my biology class would hiss my name, just loud enough so his friends standing nearby could also hear. “Psst — hey Wendy,” he said. I turned my head. He stuck out his tongue and wiggled it between two fingers. He laughed. His friends laughed alongside him, elbowing each other as I continued to walk by, cheeks flushed. He did this over and over again for all four years in the hallways where everyone could see, and he did it without ounce of empathy or shame. His laughter rang in my ears every time I read another story about women — including actors, senators, lobbyists, and musicians — experiencing harassment, assault, and other forms of sexual violence.

Before the #metoo movement took over social media in October, I had never written about my experiences with sexual violence before. I couldn’t even write “sexual harassment,” “abuse,” and other related words without feeling deeply ashamed — even though there is nothing for me to be ashamed of. …

Weinstein, White Tears and the Boundaries of Black Women’s Empathy, by Jamilah Lemieux  via @CassiusLife_

Despite the absence of other folks’ compassion when Black people need it most, my immediate reaction to stories of sexual assault and harassment is almost always instinctively, deeply empathetic, race be damned. For that reason, this is one of the more challenging pieces that I’ve ever written.

As I read yet another account of post-Harvey Weinstein trauma from a white woman who apparently matters more to the world than I—or even her fellow accuser Lupita Nyong’o—ever will, I had a thought that made me recoil a bit at myself:

“There is no role that white women can ever play better than that of ‘victim.’”

What a harsh response, right? And, yet, it is as true as anything I’ve ever said in my life.

Be clear, I didn’t feel bad for having this thought; rather, I was disconcerted that it came to mind at this particular moment. After all, these white women aren’t crying because a Black female colleague raised her voice in a meeting or because one of her own had a change of heart about a consensual sexual encounter with a Black man. These women are sharing horrific stories of alleged assault and harassment at the hands of Weinstein, a man who had the power to either catapult or end their careers. ….

#NotYourRescueProject: How a white middle-class academic masqueraded as the women he trafficked and pimped, by @bindelj  via @FeministCurrent

Molli Desi was — until recently — one of several women and girls trafficked from the Indian sub-continent into the UK sex industry and pimped from flats in Kingston and Surbiton. Their names include “Beauty,” “Kama of Kingston,” “Rani Desi,” and of course “Molli Desi.” These women and girls were marketed to sex-buyers under the moniker of “sacred prostitutes”: servicing men wasn’t just “sex work,” it was their spiritual mission and they were highly trained. The men who bought them, however, complained on punter websites that they were unable to speak English and were utterly unenthusiastic. These men did not report the trafficking of these women and girls to the police. …

I have discovered the creator of the hashtag campaign #NotYourRescueProject is Dr. John Davies, masquerading as Desi. This hugely damaging campaign continues to be instrumental in enabling liberals, leftists, and others who should know better, to smear feminist sex trade abolitionists such as myself as Victorian, anti-sex, racist colonialists, driven by class prejudice, hell-bent on controlling the sexuality of “sex workers.” It is also a handy platform from which to abuse and gaslight survivors who give very different accounts of male violence in prostitution. Moreover, it is has become a legitimate “body of peer-reviewed research” to thwart social policy which would otherwise provide prostituted women and girls exit from prostitution and hold the men who profit from their abuse to account. ….

Abortion Is Legal in South Africa — But Illegal Clinics Are Thriving. Why?, by @sianfergs

Cross-posted from: Sian Ferguson
Originally published: 03.04.17

faded poster with the word ‘ABORTION’ in purple capital letters is plastered on a lamppost near my house in Grahamstown, South Africa. At the bottom of the poster, a phone number is printed in large font. Similar posters can be spotted in cities like Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town. It might be on an electricity box in a small town, or on the side of a traffic light in a coastal area. The posters live all over South Africa — in fact, they’re so ubiquitous I rarely noticed them until a foreign friend mentioned them.

“Are these clinics legal?” she asked. “Because, I mean, abortion is legal here, right?”


Read more Abortion Is Legal in South Africa — But Illegal Clinics Are Thriving. Why?, by @sianfergs

How do they know who to kill?

Cross-posted from: Not a Zero Sum Game
Originally published: 17.02.17

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 09.20.22A video is doing the rounds, in which a white person with a lifetime of male socialisation behind them – in other words, someone at the apex of human privilege –  gives great fanfare to the banal observation that science is an activity rather than a phenomenon and that classification is the imposition of more-or-less imperfect linguistic concepts on a more-or-less well understood underlying physical reality. On the basis of this stoned undergrad level of profundity, this person now exhorts us to lay aside our childish attachment to the classifications “male” and “female” and admit that, given that sex is a “social construct”, then it’s just frankly not real, and our attachment to those categories is an old fashioned piece of bigotry that oppresses the minority who wish it to be known that their sex tracks their gender.


Read more How do they know who to kill?

Feminism, Men and Women-Only Spaces, by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Louise Pennington
Originally published: 22.12.12

The demise of feminism is back in the news again. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Katy Perryhave both made public statements about how unnecessary feminism is to their personal lives. Suzanne Venker has not only declared feminism dead but claims that there is now a war on men. Ironically, this death of feminism has coincided with very public demonstrations of feminist activism, as well as increased public debate on the issue of the inclusion of men within the feminist movement.

Yet, the debate over the inclusion of men within feminism movement has always been important. It has never stopped being important. It has only re-emerged in the mainstream British press due to the backlash to the women-only RadFem 2012 conference in London in June; as well as the no-platforming on the Manchester Women-Up North Conference who chose to have one session for FAAB-women survivors of sexual violence only. The inclusion of men within the feminist movement has been debated for 40 years now. It never stopped being debated. 
Read more Feminism, Men and Women-Only Spaces, by @LK_Pennington

ABORTION IS NOT A DIRTY WORD! by @extreme_crochet

Cross-posted from: A Woman Alone
Originally published: 25.07.15

As you know, I started a petition in Novemeber last year calling for buffer zones to be created out side of abortion clinics. Bpas also named me as one of their champions of choice for my campaigning after presenting the petition to No.10. Sadly, I haven’t been able to bring about change …. Yet!

I am heartened by the continued news coverage of abortion clinics and by research stating how most women do not regret their abortions (please read the article by Rebecca Schiller article on the statistics at the end of this post).
Read more ABORTION IS NOT A DIRTY WORD! by @extreme_crochet

Institutionalized Misogyny: Two Women Tortured and Publicly Shamed by Public Prosecutor in Ciudad Juárez by @Andrews_Cath

Cross-posted from: Hiding under the bed is not the answer
Originally published: 15.06.15

Two women from  Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua, were arrested and charged with provoking the abortion of one of the women’s fetus of five months gestation earlier this month. Both women do not have the resources to pay their own legal defense (they earn 700 pesos -3 pounds fifty in UK money, 42 dollars in US money a week as factory hands)  and were assigned public defense barristers. In every stage of their trial their human rights have been violated and their dignity trampled on. Both women allege that they were tortured by police authorities in Juárez: local media reports that one attended her trial in a wheelchair due to the physical and sexual violence she has suffered. Yet, at their trial their lawyers presented no arguments to defend them from the charges. As a result they were found guilty on the basis of the confessions they had made to the prosecutors and have been provisionally released.


Read more Institutionalized Misogyny: Two Women Tortured and Publicly Shamed by Public Prosecutor in Ciudad Juárez by @Andrews_Cath

When do women stop being people? by @Sianushka

When do women stop being people?

Actually, there are lots of times. When we’re treated like objects to be remarked upon on the street. When we’re treated like objects to be assaulted on the streets. When our utterly personal right to bodily autonomy is violated and stolen from us by abusers and rapists. When we’re reminded once again that men are default human, and we’re a vague category of ‘other’.

However, in this one particular post I want to talk about one particular moment when women stop being seen as their own person – pregnancy.


Read more When do women stop being people? by @Sianushka

Neoliberalism and the commodification of experience by @alisonphipps

(cross-posted from genders, bodies, politics)

The personal is political, that revolutionary phrase which illuminated the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s and after, was originally coined in response to claims that consciousness-raising was navel-gazing with no coherent programme for social change. It posed a direct challenge to the idea that ‘personal problems’ and especially so-called ‘body issues’ should not be brought into the public arena, an assumption which feminism has done an excellent job of destabilising. Politicising the personal through the production of research on gendered bodies has fed the development of epistemologies based on the validity of experiential knowledge, and this, in turn, has brought to light the impossibility of objective analysis.

However, more than 30 years on, it is time to ask questions about what has befallen the personal in a neoliberal political context. Neoliberalism individualises, interiorises and neutralises – within this framework the political uses of the personal have shrunk as difference has transformed into ‘diversity’, and experience and emotion have become part of a broader ‘tabloidisation’ and ‘testimonialism’ in which popular culture and politics have been saturated with feeling. As Ahmed (citing hooks) reminds us, this narcissistic and therapeutic moment and movement can easily co-opt and depoliticise our personal pain (although she cautions that this does not mean it should be ignored). In the current political climate, affect and emotion often serve to detract from structural critique: as Pedwellargues, inequality is frequently seen as a failure of understanding rather than a product of neoliberal and neo-colonial governmentality. Furthermore, the pain which has always been (justifiably) central to feminist politics can accumulate and stagnate in what Wendy Brown calls ‘wounded identities’ which both legitimate and depend upon state power.

We are currently doing feminism in amongst a commodification of distress. Moreover, this transforms experience into currency with which to buy into broader ideologies or ‘gazump’potential political opponents. This is revealed by the frequency with experience is ventriloquised by politicians and privileged ‘experts’, who use empathy as a technology of access to marginalised lives, often upstaging grassroots communities who may be able to claim ownership of their stories but lack a political platform. Neo-imperialist agendas strategically centre ‘native informants’, often women, whose narratives of oppression are used to constitute Other cultures, usually those of Muslim-majority societies or communities, as uniquely and inherently misogynist and homophobic. Domestic and international politicking around the sex industry is characterised by a fight for experiential authenticity, which in the mainstream media is often transmuted into a ‘debate’ between the extremes of the ‘victimised survivor’ central to abolitionist agendas and the ’happy hooker’ who often materialises as a rebuttal to that type of feminist politics. As part of its resurgence, anti-choice politics has recently undergone a shift away from its sanctification of the foetus, towards advocating the idea of abortion as a deep personal trauma which is contrary to women’s best interests.

Within a lexicon in which experience is frequently and increasingly used (often second-hand) in the service of particular political agendas, personal stories begin to lose their humanity. Complex and varied narratives are simplified and homogenised for ideological ends and can then be dismissed by those in opposition as apocryphal or even corrupt. As debates become more heated, we tend to fixate on the first-person and discredit the experience when we ought to be questioning the surrounding politics. The relationships between particular experiences and powerful and often repressive political agendas have begun to define the narratives themselves and to rob them of legitimacy. Muslim women who speak out against gender inequality become unreliable because they must be stooges of the imperial West. Sex workers who acknowledge pain have been procured and perhaps coached by moralistic, prudish abolitionists who wish to strengthen the police state. In response, those with privilege and political power tend to defend themselves with attributions of false consciousness: Muslim women who choose to cover their bodies, hair and/or faces, and sex workers who declare choice and discuss self-expression, can both emerge as patriarchy’s dupes. In this politics of positionality, experiences are always already marked by ideology and the first question we ask (consciously or not) when someone shares their experience is, ‘whose side are you on?’

The ideologisation of experience has produced a flattening out of lived realities for fear they will be converted into foreign currency. In much the same way as the complexities of ending a pregnancy may be underplayed by pro-choice individuals and groups for fear of reinforcing pro-life agendas, sex workers may de-emphasise, hide or even deny difficult experiences within a politics of respectability which operates in opposition to the radical feminist rescue industry and in a dynamic in which ‘excited’ and ‘exited’ are the only positions available. As neoliberalism turns debates into bidding wars, experience is valuable only in the right currency, which polarises and renders invisible the possibilities in between. Those with differing experiences of the same phenomenon are unable to co-exist, as one person’s experience may outbid and ultimately annihilate another’s. This also creates little space within the individual for mixed or ambivalent feelings to endure: multiplex subjectivities must become less so in order to be intelligible within the dominant phraseology of concepts such as ‘objectification’, ‘victimisation’ and ‘empowerment’.

Such compelling but essentially meaningless universalisms hide the operation of structural and historical dynamics. These include the impact of successive waves of colonisation on religious institutions and their relationships with both state and mass forms of political action in many Muslim-majority countries and communities, the links between migration flows and identities, the ways in which repressive immigration policies and criminal justice systems encourage individuals to narrate themselves in particular ways, and the situating of commercial sexualities within a post-Fordist capitalist system with a service-based consumer culture, high unemployment and shrinking social welfare. Furthermore, attempts at structural analysis often themselves inevitably collapse into appeals to experience: for instance, the radical feminist idea of patriarchy is frequently reduced to a homogenous experience of ‘male violence’, with little attention paid to the ways in which intersecting structures of oppression might produce varied encounters with this phenomenon and/or give rise to disparate analyses and forms of activism.

The contemporary politics of the personal prevents us from co-situating and productively analysing different experiences within such intersecting analytical frameworks, instead creating an anecdotal flow which is transmuted into a competitive deployment of one-dimensional stories and serves to create and widen gulfs between us. The fetishisation of experience also serves to restrict or conceal discussions based on other evidence, such as the compelling case against the criminalisation of sex workers and/or their clients, in which the figure of the victimised prostitute who must be rescued has made way for data pertaining to police and community harassment and repression, susceptibility to infectious diseases, risk of violence and access to health and social services.

This does not mean, of course, that we should not theorise from experience – indeed, the ‘view from nowhere’ with its attendant ‘voice of reason’ can also be that of the oppressor and reeks of entitlement and privilege (I say this with an awareness that in writing this piece, I may reasonably be read that way myself). Neither does it mean that all experiences, while valid, can be regarded as in themselves equally reliable sources of knowledge – what Haraway would term knowledge as an ‘act of faith’. Rather, we need to be able to translate experiences between situated, heterogeneous and power-differentiated communities, and use these as data to create knowledge informed by many types of evidence and frameworks of intersecting structures. We must also walk the fine line between respecting varied experiences, while critically appraising the uses to which particular experiences or technologies of empathy are put. Adding to our existing questions about ‘whose personal’ is political, we must be mindful of what it means to use the personal in the contemporary political context, ask whose experience counts within both dominant and marginalised thought and activism, and understand how neoliberalism depoliticises the personal and suppresses resistance by alienating us from each other.

 

Alison Phipps: This blog presents some examples of my academic and non-academic writing, on issues around gendered bodies, politics, and contemporary sexual cultures. I’m currently Director of Gender Studies at Sussex University and my work encompasses sexual violence, sex work, childbirth, breastfeeding, and abortion. I also have a specific interest in ‘lad cultures’ amongst students and how they are shaped by both neoliberal themes and postfeminist sexual tropes. You can find me on Twitter at @alisonphipps and you can download some of my academic papers at http://sussex.academia.edu/AlisonPhipps.

Abortion: My 13 Year Secret

(Cross-posted from Helen Blogs)

Her name would have been Sophie.
His name would been Jack.

She/he would have been 13 now. A teenager.
A teenager who would probably have been grounded a few times by now, if they had taken after me anyway. A teenager who probably had a girlfriend or boyfriend. A teenager who would have started secondary school and hopefully be thinking about what subjects to take for GCSE’S. A teenager who hopefully wouldn’t be making the same mistakes as I did.

I often wonder what Sophie or Jack would have looked like. Would they have looked me? Would they have looked like him? Would they have had blue eyes, brown eyes, blond hair, brown hair, black hair. Would they have been tall, short, slightly built or more well built like me?
Would they have been quiet and calm, or loud and boisterous? Would they have been activists at heart like their mother and father were?

I often wonder what they would have been like.

And I, especially most recently regret massively the fact that Sophie or Jack only lived for a very short amount of weeks, inside my body.

And that I made the decision to not continue their life.

I made the decision to have an early abortion. Distinguishing the life that was starting to grow inside of me.
Why am I writing this blog? Why am I telling you this?
Why after 13 years of total silence am I breaking that silence and speaking out?
Why after years of pro choice believing am I about to probably upset some people off by saying out loud that I cannot think anything other now than that life is precious, life starts at conception, and the life I carried did not deserve to be aborted.
Why after years of silence am I writing about the abortion that I had that will probably upset some of you reading this who have faithfully followed my writing and blogs online over the years and feel like you know me?
Why after years of silence am I sharing this that will probably get the Pro Life tweeters online condemning me and my actions because in their seemingly graceless world that is what they feel they should do (with the exception of a couple of people I’ve recently tweeted with whose brutal grace put tears into my eyes)

Why after years of silence am I telling you this?

The simplest answer is because it feels like I have come full circle.
When I first started blogging years ago it was a space to write about the things I could not vocalise. It was a space to write the things that my head was screaming but that I could not express whilst sitting in front of someone. And as life changed, so did I, and as I battled life, I wrote about it. ‘Fragmentz’ the identity was created, as a blog and as a tweeter. And I talked/wrote about life. And was grateful for the support I gained and received through that season from people I didnt know as I often went to places that were uncomfortable for folks, and where there were ‘no holds barred’ so to speak.

When I became a Christian again in October 2013 life changed. So did the need to write anonymously about absolutely everything in my life that had and was happening. And I started to explore life as a more ‘cohesive’ person, joining together the ‘Fragmentz’ who could only discuss the horrors of the past online with strangers (and a very small handful of people offline who didn’t live locally to me) with ‘Helen’ who had found a community safe enough/close enough offline to start exploring them properly face to face with people.
Blogging took a back seat a bit, and I started to write much less about what was going on and what I was experiencing. I remember some of you (people I’ve connected with solely online over the years) being quite hurt when I chose not to record/blog/publish transcripts of my baptism last year. I got to a place where whilst I love and need my online relationships I also needed privacy and space to explore and ‘do life’ in relationship with people offline. Something that was a different experience for me, and at times VERY challenging. I discovered it is one thing being ‘vulnerable’ online via twitter and a blog and a totally different thing being totally vulnerable face to face with people offline.
To look people, people I was learning to trust and can say I do trust now, in the eyes and be vulnerable with. It was tough.

But its what has happened. And it has been life changing. Life giving.

A few months ago during one of my many hospital stays which seem to be frequent at the moment I remember spending most of the time reading my Bible and praying. And felt a real sense of needing to ‘complete’ what had been started in terms of vocalising my story.
A real need to complete what had been started by God in terms of accepting who I am as a person and my past.
I felt like God was saying to me that if I was going to die then I needed to have made my peace fully with Him. And in that moment realised that IF I was going to die that I didn’t want to die with out having ‘become’ right with Him. Fully.

And that my ‘story’ was largely about what people had done to me. It was about the abuse as a child. The rape as an adult. And other stuff in-between, like the self harming, down ward spirals of depression and the overdose. The consequences of what happened to me.

But what I also realised was that my ‘story’ needed to become about things that I have done too.
I’ve needed to forgive much over the years, but I have also needed to be forgiven of much too.

My ‘story’ needed to include the realisation and acceptance that I have made mistakes. Huge massive big deep profound heart ripping mistakes that have held me condemned for many years.

A mistake that some people who identity as ‘pro life’ would call murder.
A mistake my pro choice friends and people I’ve identified with for years would call a choice I had every right to make.

But as I’ve journeyed life with people, offline, I’ve journeyed what it means. Life. What ‘life’ means. And being part of the lives of people who have become pregnant and carried their babies until they have been born, and seeing that process made me reevaluate my thinking. I remember the day when someone who has become an amazing friend showed me her first scan picture of the baby they longed for for so long. I could have cried. And just kept looking at it going ‘oh my God, theres its nose, feet, toes’ etc. It was so clear.

I realised in that moment, that very moment, in the pub over lunch that day looking at that scan picture, that having always been a pro life thinker (life in every shape or form, including the life of animals which was my big activist heart back then) I had become ‘pro choice’ in order to live with what I had done. Because by having an abortion I had gone against everything I believed in.
I had gone against the fact that I once believed life is life and is so from the moment it is conceived. I had gone against believing that all life, including the life of animals deserved to live.
And to live with myself I made myself believe that the baby I had aborted was not a baby. Just a mass of cells. Just a thing. Just a fetous. With no heart beat. With no feelings. With nothing. I made myself believe it was not life.
And I closed my heart and my head down. In order to survive. Which is what I’ve had to do numerous times over the years.

In order to be the ‘survivor’ that my twitter profile says I am, I had to close my heart and head down many many times to the horrors of life, in order to just keep on going. In order to take that one more step in front of another. In order to just make the day through. In order to live.

My baby has always been called Jack or Sophie though. So perhaps I didn’t close my head and my heart completely. Just enough to survive. Because if I believed what I had done was perhaps not the best thing back then I don’t know how I would/could have carried on.

But I also know, back then I didn’t know how I could/would have carried on when I discovered I was pregnant.
My living situation was volatile and difficult. The situation with my ‘boyfriend’ difficult. He didn’t care. I remember the day I told him, and he told me he didn’t care. I could do what I liked. I could have an abortion. He did not want to know. I could have the baby. He did not care or want to know. A week later he text me and told me to not contact him again, changed his phone number and ‘moved on’. (He lived from house to house with friends). He disappeared from my life. I’ve never seen or heard from him again.
I felt if I had gone to some of the Christians I knew at that time that they would have been more concerned about my ‘sin’ than anything. And shocked that Helen had got herself pregnant. Whether or not that would have happened I don’t know. But I felt it would.

I was alone. Totally alone. I was drinking a lot. Self harming. And still battling with other peoples behaviour towards me.
I had no money. No support. No where to go.
I was alone.
I felt like I simply could not bring a child into the chaotic world I lived in. Into the chaotic world my mind was. Into chaos.
I went alone to the clinic that day.
I went alone into the room to see the Dr’s, with just the nurse whose name I don’t even know alongside to get the medication I needed to take. I went back the day after, alone.
I walked in alone. And I walked out alone. I walked the next few days alone.

And I’ve continued to walk this particular walk alone. I’ve held this secret, alone. For 13 years.
And as I’ve come to value life more and more over the last 12 months the more painful the choice I made that day has become.
The more the condemnation and shame has hit.

The stronger I’ve got especially over the last year, the more I’ve come to realise life can be lived fully, the more Ive journeyed with people offline in community, the more I’ve become part of peoples lives, and the more they’ve become part of my life the more I’ve come to realise I don’t want to carry secrets. Because with those secrets come shame. And the condemnation. And the feeling that what I did could never possibly be forgiven by anyone. And if you read the tweets from pro life tweeters online you would be led to believe that it can’t be forgiven.

But thats not the case.
One of my favourites quotes is by Brene Brown. It is ‘shame cannot survive being spoken and met with empathy’.
And I discovered I needed to speak my shame.
And so I did. At the end of last year.
I spoke my shame.
I spoke my shame to the handful of close friends who have journeyed with my over the the years who I simply could not do life without. I spoke my shame to them fearful that this might be the ‘last straw’ in what they could cope with – having thrown lots at them.
I spoke my shame to my immediate church leaders, who have journeyed the last 18 months with me, whose baby girl changed so much of my thinking, fearful that this might the ‘one’ thing that would make them think ‘that Helen, she is too much’.
I spoke my shame to my church Pastor fearful that this would change his thinking of me, that he would treat me differently, that he would tell me this was the one thing that God could not forgive. That he would not want me in his church any more.
I spoke my shame to God.
I spoke my shame, to them all. Fearful of rejection.

But in that speaking of my shame, I discovered freedom. It wasn’t instant. But I found it.
I discovered I was wrong. Wrong to expect rejection which has been such a big part of my life, from the people I love. And who I have discovered and finally(!) accepted love from. I discovered that in speaking my shame to them, they were able to respond with love. And empathy. And its changed me.
I have discovered that despite there being absolutely nothing left to hide now, no part of my ‘story’ unspoken that these people, these friends that have become my family still love me. Still accept me. And still want to walk with me.

And I discovered I could speak my shame to God, who already knew it anyway, and still come to Him.

The last few months have been a painful journey.

The last few weeks have been a revolutionary journey.

With experiences of God that I simply cannot put into a blog, so personal and profound, that have made me fully realise and accept that I have been forgiven. And if I am gong to die, tomorrow because I’m hit by a bus or if I’m going to die because my respiratory system shuts down during an asthma attack and I can’t breathe any more, or if i’m going to die because my immune system is not working properly and my white blood cells are so high there could be something much more serious going on than we know about then actually that is OK.
It IS OK in as much as I am at peace now. I am at peace with my story. All of it. I am at peace with the people who have hurt me. I am at peace with the decisions and mistakes I have made.
If I am to die, I am at peace with God.

I have forgiven much. I have been forgiven much.

And so as I said above, we have come full circle. Having journeyed this journey over the last fews months, offline, it feels right to journey it with people online now. It feels right to speak out to people who have followed and supported me via twitter and fragmentz/helenblogs and to be fully open and transparent. Honest. About who I am as a person.

If you have shared my blogs/tweets over the year’s I’d be grateful if you were able to share this one. Because I want as many people as possible who have had contact with me to know who I am. What I have done and where I am at.

It feels especially right to be sharing this now because more recently I’ve had an influx of ‘pro choice’ and ‘pro life’ tweets being put into my timeline due to the political status in the States, and some big pro life marches that have recently taken place there.
It feels especially right to publish this blog, a blog I’ve actually written over quite a few times over months now because I am desperate to see more grace, especially within the pro life movement. A movement that seems to forget the life of the mother. A movement that online especially comes across as far more concerned with condemnation than anything else.
I beg you, if you, like I am now, are a pro life thinker that you consider love, and grace and mercy as you tweet what you tweet and say what you say.
Remember as well as the life of a baby you are ‘protecting’ you have the life of a woman to think about too.
And she deserves more than being shamed and condemned.

If you are reading this having had an abortion, there is no condemnation. you are loved.

Thank you for reading.

This is it.
This is me.
This is my story.

Twitter censors online abortion service by @newsaboutwomen

(Cross-posted from Women’s Views on the News)

Calling upon all Twitter users to send a complaint; tweet the hashtag #FreeWomenonWeb.

Twitter has disabled the link to the Women on Web website and made it impossible to tweet a link to the website.

Women on Web was founded by Women on Waves in 2005, to respond to the urgent request for help for an abortion of women in countries where this healthcare service is not available.

Women on Waves is a charitable organisation focussing on women’s health and human rights. Its mission is to protect maternal health by preventing unsafe abortions.

The work of Women on Web has featured in the New York Times Magazine (NYTM) and in a documentary Vessel made by Diana Whitten and available through iTunes.

Founder Rebecca Gomperts is a Dutch general-practice physician and activist who, when working as a ship’s doctor on a Greenpeace vessel, landed in Mexico, and met a girl who was raising her younger siblings because her mother had died during a botched illegal abortion. When the ship sailed on to Costa Rica and Panama, Gomperts met more women who told her about hardships they suffered because they didn’t have access to safe abortions. “It was not part of my medical training to talk about illegal abortion and the public-health impact it has,” Gomperts told NYM. “In those intense discussions with women, it really hit me.”

On returning to the Netherlands, Gomperts worked out how to help women like those she had met. She did some legal and medical research and concluded that in a Dutch-registered ship governed by Dutch law, she could sail into the harbour of a country where abortion is illegal, take women on board, sail with them into international waters, give them the pills at sea and send them home to miscarry – and began Women on Waves.

In 2005 Women on Web, was set up. It is a telemedical service that supports women in countries where there is no access to safe abortion to obtain a medical abortion. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year 42 million women have an abortion and half of these, 20 million, are illegal and unsafe.

An abortion with pills is very safe and effective to do at home till 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is very similar to a natural miscarriage. Millions of women have done abortions at home in the United States and Europe and it is standard practice there.

The medicines used are on the list of ‘essential medicines’ issued by the WHO. By removing the possibility to link to or tweet the website of Women on Web, Twitter has severely violated Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of information, as well as Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, the freedom of expression. WoW has filed a complaint, but there has been no response from Twitter. Women on Waves and Women on Web are calling upon all Twitter users to send a complaint and tweet the hashtag #FreeWomenonWeb. Thank you.

 

Women’s Views on the News (WVoN): is a women’s news, opinions and current affairs site, and our management team, writers and editors all work on a voluntary basis. Our aim is to redress the gender imbalance in global news reporting by telling the stories that the mainstream press ignores, while at the same time encouraging more feminist writers to become news reporters and editors. If you interested in volunteering for us as an editor or writer please contact: volunteers@womensviewsonnews.org

Please create a legal exclusionary zone outside of abortion clinics

PETITION

Just to explain my latest petition by Extreme Crochet….

After seeing the Youtube video of a pregnant woman confronting protestors outside an abortion clinic (for want of a better term)….. I was amazed to learn that people can protest, film and harass women as they attend their appointments. Apparently, protesting directly outside a clinic is illegal in France, Canada and the US. Why not here?

I realise that we are talking about talking away someone’s right to protest but what of the rights of these women to be left in peace? I’m not saying ban all anti abortion protests as I am a firm believer in freedom of speech – even if I totally disagree with them. What I’m saying is, let’s have an exclusion zone set up so no protesting can take place directly outside a clinic.

This is a highly emotional time for a woman. Some may be in incredible distress but know that abortion is the right choice for them. You may think what they are doing is wrong although, do you not also value these women’s rights to be free from being videoed?

In my eyes it’s a subtle form of violence against women and trying to take control over their bodies, their choices.

This isn’t about making all protests about abortion illegal, this is about protecting women from being harassed outside of clinics (and whilst they are walking up to the entrance). No ones freedom of speech is being impared!
Exclusion zones are already set up outside the Houses of Parliment. A legal buffer zone to give women privacy is not much of an ask really.

So please consider signing this petition to make protesting outside clinics illegal.

 

PETITION

“It’s only 9 months. To save a life” by @Herbeatittude

(Cross-posted with permission from Herbs & Hags: Meanderings of a Hag)

“It’s only nine months! Isn’t that worth it, to save a human life?”

So goes the argument made by those idiots who are in favour of forcing girls and women who get pregnant with an unplanned foetus, to continue with the pregancy and give birth to it against their will.

As anyone who has actually been pregnant knows, it’s not 9 months, it’s 40 weeks, which is actually nearer to 10 months. The reason tradition has it as 9 months, is because in the old days most women didn’t know they were pregnant in those first few weeks.

There is a modern myth abroad which declares that “being pregnant is not an illness” and that it is in fact, nearly exactly like not being pregnant. Again, as anyone who knows anything about it knows, that is simply not true. However for many of us, we have NO IDEA, not a single conception, of just how unlike not being pregnant, being pregnant can be, unless we ourselves experience some of the risks and side-effects or know someone who has done so.

I did a little bit of research on this. Oh all right, I didn’t, I went on Mumsnet and asked them – this should not be taken as a comprehensive list or a serious meta-analysis. It’s just a list of things people on Mumsnet have had happen to them as a direct or indirect result of being pregnant and giving birth. Some of them are relatively trivial, some are vair serious indeed, like Death. Anyway it’s my starting point for a list of potential risks that women undergo, when they decide to keep a pregnancy. Or when somebody decides they have to keep it whether they want to or not. When you see it written down, you wonder how much hatred pro-forced-birthers have for women. For the real hardliners, none of this means anything, they hate us anyway and don’t believe our lives have any value. But for the thoughtless knee-jerkers who aren’t that committed to the forced-birth arguments, this list might be a useful thing to contemplate. Anyone wanting to add anything, I’d be interested to hear from you.

Anaemia
Anal fissures
Anal incontinence
Anaesthetic mistakes leading to permanent disability.
Asthma – 1/3 of women who have it finds that pregancy makes it worse.
Back pain
Bell’s palsy
Blindess (tearing retina during delivery because of pressure of pushing)
C-sec wounds getting infected, haematomas associated with C-sec wounds, keloid scarring.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Cascade renal colic
Change in digestive system
Change of body shape – breasts and hips do not return to form prior to pregnancy. There are implications for psychological harm there alone.
Coccyx problems – some women have difficulty sitting down forever after.
Constant nausea sometimes for the whole 10 months
Cutting of bladder during caesarean
Death
Decreased suppleness (particularly bad for women who do sport).
Dental problems
De Quervain’s Syndrome or Mother’s Thumb?
Diarrhea and vomiting lasting for 2 or 3 years after the pregnancy.
Eclampsia
Eczema can be made worse
Episiotomy wounds can open up
Eye prescription changes.
Fistula
Gestational Diabetes. About 8% of women are affected by this.
Guilt and self-loathing from giving child up or not bonding if kept.
Gum disease and wobbly teeth
Haemorrhage
Hair colour change
Hands and/ or feet can grow and not go back to their old size.
Hernia
Hip pain
Hormonal effects on pre-existing conditions ie psoriasis, acne, etc
Hyperemesis, with severe dehydration
Increased risk of gallstones and kidney stones
Increased risk of osteoporosis
Increased risk 12 months post partum for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (inflammation of the uterus, ovaries, FTs) – can leave permanent scarring, cause infertility, ectopic pregnancy etc
Iritis (a horrid auto-immune inflammation of the iris, which leads to blindness if not treated quickly and efficiently. A sudden change in hormones can cause an attack).
Less intense orgasms
Lochia can be retained, causing distention of the uterus.
Lowering of the immune system
Mastitis
Memory implications
Mental Health conditions are often exacerbated by pregnancy.
Months of sleeplessness. Sleep deprivation recognised as serious health risk by most medical authorities in the world.
Muscle tears
Multiple Sclerosis has been known to be triggered in pregnancy
Negative impact on finances that will affect mental health, lifestyle, access to jobs.
Nerve damage
Nipple thrush causing nipples to permanently invert. Leading to lack of confidence, lowered libido etc.
OCD can be triggered/get worse post partum.
Pain of the milk coming in.
Permanent increase in blood pressure
Piles
Plantar fasciitis
PND
Post partum hyperthyroidism, leading to the need to take thyroxine for the rest of ones days.
Post-birth complications. Poor stitching followed by repair operation months later.
Post natal psychosis
Pre-eclampsia
Pre-existing conditions like Arthritis, need drugs to control them. These drugs are harmful to foetuses and need to be stopped, leading to the woman with arthritis ending up in constant pain for years, possibly life and needing to use a wheelchair.
Pre-natal anxiety and depression is generally not discussed but common.
Prolapse
PTSD
Restless Leg Syndrome
Scarring
Sexual problems (libido, sensations)
Skin changes like patches, spots etc. Sometimes patches never clear up.
Snoring and sleep apnoea
Spinal migraine
Sore and painful joints, sometimes lasting months or years.
SPD – a syndrome which can lead to serious disability and pain, no cure.
Splitting of chest muscles (can’t remember term, but colleague could fit a fist in the space between her muscles)
Tears into urethra and clitoris as well as vaginal and anal.
Thrombosis- deep vein and superficial vein
Tokophobia
Urinary Incontinence – stress incontinence, urge incontinence and both. This would be considered a major effect in a man, but for some reason women are supposed not to mind. This can lead to lack of confidence, depression etc. (Which since this is how patriarchy likes women to feel, should possibly be seen as not a side effect at all, but a lovely womanly enhancement.)
Varicose veins
Women who suffer Gestational Diabetes are more likely than average to develop diabetes later on in life. Sometimes gestational diabetes will be permanent.

Only 9 months eh? I don’t think so. Now imagine telling a man that he should risk any of the more serious things on this list (or even some of the less serious things), in order to save the life of a child, because human life.

It just wouldn’t happen would it? Because unlike women, men matter.

HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag: I have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. [@Herbeatittude]

Three Years in Prison Without Trial for a Miscarriage

Cross-posted from Hiding Under the Bed is not the answer

Virginia, a young indigenous women from Guerrero, suffered a miscarriage in 2009. Since then she has been in prison in Huamuxtitlan, Guanajuato, charged with murder. There has never been an autopsy to determine the cause of fetal death. All judicial proceedings against Virginia have been carried in out in Spanish and she was not offered a translator who could explain proceeding in her native Nahuatl. Neither did she have access to a defense lawyer who could speak her language.

In January this year, thanks to the work of the NGO Las Libres and the volunteer law students from the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica (CIDE) in Mexico City, a federal judge ruled that her human rights had not been respected. In the light of the fact that there was no evidence to support the charge against her, the judge also ordered that she should be released. However, this has not happened. Instead, the local judge re-issued a warrant for her arrest on the same charges.

Verónica Cruz, director of Las Libres, told news agencies that this new warrant was a “reprisal” against Virginia for exposing the abuses committed by the judicial authorities in Huamuxtitlan. She also observed that her plight was the result of the “triple discrimination” Virginia has been subjected to in the judicial process as a poor, indigenous woman.

As I reported last week, this “triple discrimination” is sadly the norm for the Mexican justice system. However, in the case of Virginia, there is also a further difficulty. Guanajuato is one of the most conservative states in Mexico. It was one of the first states to reform its constitution in 2010 in to declare that the right to life began at conception. As I reported recently, its governor has openly opposed federal directives which oblige health service providers to grant abortions to women who have suffered sexual assault.

Guanajuato has a long track record of imprisoning women for miscarriages and still-births. As is the case with Virginia, the strategy of the judicial authorities is to charge them with murder –which can be punished with sentences as long as 25 years– rather than for procuring an abortion, which has a five-year tariff. Two years ago, Las Libres and students from the CIDE law school successfully championed the cases of six women who had been in prison for as long as eight years. Like Virginia they were convicted of murder after losing their pregnancies. None of the women jailed had actually procured an abortion; rather each one had suffered a miscarriage, which due to family circumstances, poverty and/or ignorance they had tried to conceal. Once they had been forced to seek medical attention, one of the people who attended them (doctor/social worker) had then made the accusation with the relevant authorities. All of the women were from the poorest areas of the state and lived in conditions of poverty and social marginalization. They were unable to neither defend themselves personally against such charges nor pay someone competent to do it for them.

Cruz is certain that Virginia can be absolved if only the judicial process could be concluded. The fact that she is merely charged and not formally sentenced means that there is a limit to what her defense lawyers are able to do. It is evident that the local authorities in Huamuxtitlan know this and are purposely dragging their feet to stall the case being sentenced. As a result, Virigina has now been in prison for three years.

As I wrote last week, life is extremely difficult inside prison for women such as Virginia who don’t speak Spanish and are far away from home and access to support networks. It is testament to the deep misogyny of Mexican society that its most vulnerable women are treated in this way.

An edited version of this article was published on e-feminist

Hiding Under the Bed is not the Answer is the blog of historian of Mexican politics Cath Andrews who also writes for e-feminist and Toda historia es contemporánea. She tweets at @Andrews_Cath

Pro-Life is Lies

Cross-posted with permission from The Real Thunder Child

Thanks to the recent underhand behaviour of the Telegraph regarding “sex selective” abortion, and the clear stated intent of the Times, I would like to re-iterate my own rebuttal of the pro-life narrative- a letter I wrote to the Guardian in 2011, as follows here;

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/27/abortion-debate-government-pro-life

In case the link doesn’t it I have re-produced it verbatim…..

“What the “pro-life” lobby fails to be honest about (which is why their influence is increasingly dangerous) is that – unlike the “pro-choice” lobby – they seek to remove from women their ability to choose a course of action best suited to their own circumstances and conscience.

I am a Catholic. I am against abortion*. But – as the mother of a girl – I’m fervently “pro-choice”. As much as it’s every woman’s right to choose not to terminate a pregnancy, it’s also her right to choose the opposite action. Every person has the right to complete sovereignty over their own body, and the right to deal with whatever consequences exercising that choice involves. “Pro-choice” only advocates a woman’s right to a termination if that’s what she chooses and, unlike “pro-life”, seeks neither to coerce or legislate (or coerce via legislation) over a person’s ownership of their reproductive destiny.

Medically speaking, allowing choice is ethical; removing it is not. Along with the abolition of the death penalty and the creation of the NHS, the 1967 Abortion Act stands out as the most ethical, humane piece of legislation in British history. It’s about time we of the “liberal left” grew a backbone and defended it as such.

Sinead Connolly”

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* when I say I’m against abortion, I must clarify that I’d prefer to live in a world where it was never necessary. But that world MUST be created on women’s terms, not those deemed by patriarchy, or nothing will have changed.

** I have nothing further to add, anything else would be hyperbole – and the subject has enough of that without any of mine.

The Real Thunder Child can also be found on Twitter as @resurgamblog.