Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Answer Isn't Aunts

In today's Observer there is an article discussing psychologist and writer of Raising Boys Stephen Biddulph, and his recent discovery that young girls are in crisis. He says that what's needed is more female influence at home, namely an "aunts army" ( ). I am not one to complain about an article in a national Sunday newspaper raising awareness of the fact that young girls are having a horrible time of it, that they suffer record highs of anxiety and self esteem issues. I am even hopeful that such a discussion will move towards a recognition that there are links between the low self esteem of teenage girls and the high rates of domestic violence against adult women.

What does make me angry is the suggestion that these things ultimately come from poor mothering. He believes that "no girl and her mum always get along and no mum can meet all her daughter's needs," without providing a lot of evidence for this belief. Perhaps it's because women just can't get along with all those hormones?

I would like to offer a personal case study and hypothesis to counter Stephen Biddulph's theory.

Meet Vicky. She is ten years old. She is brighter than average and comes from a liberal background. Both of her parents are teachers, and she has been brought up to understand that asking questions and being curious are routes to happiness. She will happily agree that she loves both of her parents and gets along with them equally. She is popular at school and on friendly terms with the majority of her classmates. At school there is a seating system whereby students in a class sit according to how well they perform academically. Vicky has always sat at the 'top' table throughout her primary school career, and this is considered 'cool'.

Vicky is now twelve, and goes to state comprehensive school. It's been a bit of a shock to the system. Classes are no longer banded and people sit wherever they want. She sits anywhere, because she no longer has a close circle of friends. Vicky is now aware that she has buck teeth and a crooked nose. It's not to say that these things weren't true before, they had just never really been important. Now they are pointed out on a daily basis by boys that she knows are stupider than her and have no particular claims to beauty themselves. At home, things are still very happy. Vicky still loves both of her parents, but in the last two years has become closer to her mother. There are things she needs to know that she would just rather not ask her father about and, as things turn less pleasant at school, it is less embarrassing to tell her mother than her father.

Vicky is now sixteen, and she has her first proper boyfriend. He is a clever boy and she has wanted him to be her boyfriend for a year. Their burgeoning relationship is soured by the fact that almost everyone else in her year believes she is a lesbian. Girls in her gym class cross to the other side of the corridor when she walks past, and have loudly asked the PE teacher if Vicky should be allowed to watch them changing. One classmate asks Vicky's boyfriend, "If you're going out with a lesbian, does that make you gay?" when he sees them kissing. This time, it is usually other girls who tease her. Vicky has friends now, though only one close friend and she's not even entirely sure about her. She has learned that people will change allegiance very quickly and finds it difficult to trust her peers. She is aware she is poorer than her friends. At home, things are happy but strained. Vicky has become very close to her mother, finding her an excellent confidante and a person that can be trusted. But it is becoming increasingly clear that her mother has mental health problems, and it will be another two years before she is diagnosed with chronic depression and has to stop working. She also suffers from incapacitating migraines and Vicky feels very responsible for her. She knows that when she finishes school, she wants to get a job and start paying rent to her parents.

At the end of the academic year, Vicky's boyfriend breaks up with her. He won't tell her why. They never had sex, and Vicky thinks that must be the reason.

Vicky is nineteen. She has just moved away from home to go to university. She is living with her boyfriend, and they live a bus ride away from the university campus. Vicky likes her boyfriend because he is older than her, and this shows that, if he likes her, it must be a good thing because he has experience. He also has a serious medical condition, and Vicky likes feeling needed. She is doing well at university, and enjoys once again being in a culture where working hard and being clever are a Good Thing. But she doesn't really make friends at university. It's difficult, living away from the social centre, and her boyfriend doesn't really feel like going out with a bunch of people who are so young. This makes Vicky feel special, though she does wish she had someone she was close to. She speaks to her mother almost every day on the phone for long conversations and knows that she can go back to visit whenever she wants. But she misses having someone to be close to.

Vicky is twenty-one. She is being emotionally and sexually abused by her boyfriend, who she is about to marry. Vicky doesn't quite understand that this is what is happening. She knows that she does not want sex with her partner, and that it often makes her cry. He wants her to do things that frighten her. He likes having sex with her when she's not excited, and it hurts. She also believes that most things that go wrong are her fault. She knows she is not beautiful, and believe her partner is the only person that would have her. She thinks the alternative to being with him is being entirely alone. Vicky still talks to her mother, though her partner doesn't like it - he complains that she laughs more with her mother than she does with him. She rarely sees her any more, and worries that this is because her mother doesn't like spending time with her any more. She does not recognise that her partner makes her mother uncomfortable. It sometimes crosses her mind to tell her moth that she is unhappy or frightened, but she is scared that her mother will want her to leave her partner and she will be alone. Her partner does work for her father and her brother, leading Vicky to think that they like him more than her. Vicky is very depressed. She is about to finish her university career with a good degree, but doesn't know what to do afterwards. She would like to carry on academic study, but knows that she must work because her partner's health means he cannot carry out a regular job.

Vicky grew up in a family of strong women. She had female relatives she saw regularly: her mother, her maternal grandmother, her aunt and one of her older sisters. All of these women were remarkable role models in their own right. Her mother was always approachable and practical about any problem; her grandmother volunteered for charities like Cruise Bereavement well into her senior years; her aunt worked for a shelter for women escaping domestic violence; and her sister was a strong and fearsome woman who raised three children on next to no money. Vicky did not tell any of these women she was abused by her husband until after they separated. This was for many reasons, but mostly because her abuser had made her believe two frightening facts:

1) That despite all evidence to the contrary, their relationship was perfectly normal. More than that, it was an ideal.
2) That he was older and more experienced than her, and no one would believe what she said over him.

This case study shows two things that I think Stephen Biddulph is missing. Firstly, it doesn't matter how many strong adult female influences a child has in her life, if she falls into the trap of a clever abuser she will suffer and be miserable. Secondly, while we allow sexualised cruelty against young girls at such a formative age, they are going to grow up confused enough to be easy prey for abusers.

Vicky was lucky enough to wander into the path of some very good people who helped her gain the strength to leave her husband and grow close to her family again. I wish all victims of abuse could be this lucky.

Scratch that - I wish no one were a victim of abuse to begin with.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Women with Funny Shaped Bodies

The following is an email I wrote to Debenhams following a nasty experience with a bra fitting at their Swansea store.  Large breasted/broad-backed women, beware!!


Good afternoon,

Following my friend telling you on Twitter that I had had some problems with the service during a bra fitting at your Swansea store, you asked me to email more details.

I went to your Swansea store this Saturday specifically to have a bra fitting.  I used to go to La Senza but they're now closed down, and I know that Debenhams have an excellent range of bras for larger busts so thought I would try their fitting service.  I was greeted by a sales assistant at the dressing room and I asked for a fitting.  She showed me to a cubicle and told me to remove my top and leave my bra on.  As I was not wearing a bra (I had outgrown all my previous size to a point where wearing them was uncomfortable) I left my T-shirt on.  I had done this at previous fittings at other shops without issue.  The assistant seemed surprised but carried on regardless.  She measured under my bust and said I measured as a 34.  She did not measure over my bust, which surprised me as this is what had happened in other fittings.  She asked what size I had been wearing, and I said a 34DD.  She said we would start with a 34D, which again I found surprising considering my 34DDs had become uncomfortably small.

As I expected, the 34D was much too small.  She then brought me a 34DD, which was better but felt very tight around and pinched under the arms.  She suggested that it would fit better if I adjusted the straps.  This wasn't possible as I was wearing the bra and couldn't reach behind me.  Normally in this situation, I would expect the assistant to adjust the straps for me.  Next she tried a 34E, which fit a little better around but was much too big on the cup.  She seemed frustrated that I did not fit any of the 34 bras as that is how I had measured, and said, "Some women just have funny shaped bodies."  I was hurt by this comment, as it implied that it should be my body that fits to Debenhams' bras, rather than the other way around.    I was told, "You could try a 36, but you'd have to go down a cup size.  Just try different ones on, you'l find something that fits eventually."

This had left me with the impression that the assistant was going to get me a 36D to see if it fitted any better.  In actualy fact, she had gone to the woman in the cubicle next to mine, who already had an assistant helping her, but was getting married and buying a wedding lingerie set.  In the end, I picked up six bras in varying sizes and bought the ones that fit.  This was a fairly lengthy process, during which I heard the same assistant with another woman in a neighbouring cubicle who was a 40F, and who seemed to be having similar trouble with the assistant and finding a bra that actually fit her comfortably. 

I bought two 36Ds and a 34DD (This fit me around just fine, perhaps made with extra elastane?)  Together with matching briefs.  All in all I spent £70 at your shop.  Possibly more than the woman getting married, who had two sales assistants.  I would probably buy bras at Debenhams again as you do have a really beautiful and comfortable selection for larger busts.  However, I would not be fitted there again, and would not go there for 'occasion' lingerie, for which I would want to be fitted.

I understand that Debenhams is not a shop that caters specifically to underwear fitting, like La Senza or Madam Foner's, and that it's possible your assistants aren't trained much in fitting or wanted to work in fitting.  But I think it's important that they be taught how to deal with larger busted women, and particularly that not everyone's body is going to work specifically within the confines of their tape measure.  When recounting this story to my mother (who was a bra fitter for John Lewis for several years) she was surprised that I measured as a 34, because I am very broad across the shoulders and back.  There are various aspects of physionomy that need to be taken into account, as well as basic measurements, and I feel that the overall emphasis should be placed on comfort.  After all, this is a piece of equipment in which a woman's expected to spend her whole day.

Normally I really enjoy shopping for underwear.  It makes me feel special, and I really enjoy buying something pretty and comfortable, and having a good choice of selection.  On this occasion, I really didn't enjoy myself.  Afterwards I felt unattractive and freakish, and the overall experience took much longer than I had anticipated as I ended up having to fit myself.

I hope that you will consider my comments and experience, and possibly see that your staff are more thoroughly trained in fitting.

Kind regards,

Vicky Ford

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Consent Debate - Some Questions Answered

The following is an email that I sent to a friend after she asked some very pertinent questions about the rape/sexual consent question.  These questions were asked following my posting a link to this article .  Because I discuss some very personal issues in this post, I will be heavily screening comments. 

TRIGGER WARNING: The beginning of this post is a description of my own rape and sexual abuse in some detail.  Those who are triggered by descriptions of rape and/or sexual abuse should proceed with extreme caution.

Dear S,

I'm going to try and answer some questions about the question of rape, rape apologism, rape culture and the question of consent.  I am by no means the definitive voice on this topic, and you undoubtedly already know that there are several different views surrounding this debate (If you're not aware, I'd be delighted to point you in the direction of some really good and interesting articles).  Personally, I take the view of Enthusiastic Consent, though I can often see the viewpoint of other forms/means of consent, so can't really say I know the answer.  But I've done a lot of reading around this topic, as well as going through some cognitive therapies following my own experiences, and hope that I have a reasonable understanding of what a lot of people go through following a rape or sexualt assault experience.

If it's alright, though, I'd like to give you some information about my own experiences first.  I want to do this because it took me a very long time to accept that what happened to me was rape and sexual abuse, and also because my experiences are not what people usually think of when they try to visualise rape in their minds.

My abuser was my ex-husband.  His name is Dave.  We began our relationship when  I as 17 and he was 36.  We were together for seven years, of which we were married for two.  He first abused me when I was eighteen years old.  On that occasion it was rape.  We were having sex and it was incredibly painful for me.  However I could tell he was enjoying, and I didn't want to let him down.  It became so painful that I started crying, but because he was behind me he couldn't see and continued until he came.  Afterwards he realised I had been crying.  He said he hadn't known, but did not apologise for continuing.  I can't remember enjoying any sexual encounter with him after this.  The instances of rape were very seldom.  Generally, although I did not enjoy the sex, I did consent.  The truly hurtful and traumatic moments in our sexual relationship were technically sexual abuse, not rape, because they involved sexual acts not penetrative vaginal sex. 

Dave at some point during our first year together said that he wanted to have anal sex with me.  I agreed to try it.  Dave did not believe in lubricant.  I'm really sorry, but I can't go into details because I don't want to get upset, but this was the hardest and most painful part of my abuse.  There were also issues to do with blow jobs that I don't want to go into.  When doing these things, I went through a variety of ways of saying 'no' which I think any 'normal' sexual partner (by which I mean a partner who puts the sexual needs, pleasures and comfort of their partner as an equal priority to their own) would consider to be withdrawal of consent.  These included obvious disinterest in the sex that was happening, asking him to stop, asking him to wait, asking him to try something different, crying, saying "You're hurting me", and saying a "no" that was interpreted as "Wait for a minute then start again" or "I want you to try a different angle but keep doing what you're doing". 

Dave abused me in this way for two years, after which I spoke to him outside of a sexual situation and told him the things I did not want to do any more.  He said my refusal to do these things made him feel dirty.  He told me that lots of women do these things, that his previous girlfriends had done them. He told me I was being prudish and that I wouldn't enjoy sex if I didn't experiment.  He said a lot of things but, at this point, I was very firm and refused to do it anymore.  After this  he made it very clear that we would be having sex on his terms or not at all.  For the remainder of our marriage, we had sex around once a month.  He usually wouldn't come and, if he did, it was because he jerked himself off.  When our marriage began to break down, Dave cited my stopping his abuse as one of the reasons, so I tried again to please him because I felt incredibly guilty.  The two weeks I spent trying to do the things which I term abuse are some of the worst memories I have.  They are the most frequent flashbacks and nightmares.  I think probably because I had had an affair towards the end of our marriage, and I knew what nice sex felt like.  After this time, I knew I would not be able to do this anymore, and I asked him to leave. 

I didn't tell anyone for a long time.  I had tried sometimes to tell my Mum while Dave and I were together, but had never managed to get out the specific words.  Part of the reason was because I was scared that if I told anyone they would break us up and I would be alone.  I felt, partly because he was incredibly manipulative and partly because I had a lot of self esteem problems, that if he left I would have no one.  I also felt that I was the failure, I was doing something wrong, and that was the reason that I didn't enjoy the sex and he only wanted me in certain ways.  These things are, obviously, symptomatic of wider patriarchal issues to do with young women understanding their role in a relationship, developing self esteem, having an adequate sex education, etc.  But I was a clever girl, I had a very strong feminist family, and I grew up believing that I would never let anyone abuse me. 

Before I was abused, I wasn’t able to understand how a woman could be being raped or sexually abused by someone she trusts, and not feel able to say, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING THAT HURTS!!!!"  I still spend a lot of time thinking about why I let him do these things to me.  The only thing I can say is that, that first time, it was just going to be that first time.  Because I thought something was wrong with me.  And if I just gritted my teeth and bore it out, it would be fine next time.  But it wasn't.  And I kept thinking next time will be fine, next time will be fine -- I didn't even notice the point at which hurting and being afraid became normal.  And when I did realise that, I tried to do something about it.  I should have walked.  But I didn't.  Maybe if I'd thought anyone else would believe me – or as I put it in my mind, ‘if I’d been a bit braver’ –  I would have told them and they would have given me some perspective on the severity of what was happening.  But I thought that rape was a stranger grabbing a woman who's kicking and screaming, dragging her into a bush, holding a gun to her head, and having sex with her despite the fact she's begging him not to.  Through speaking to family, friends, counsellors and other people with a similar experience, I know that that type of case actually forms a small minority.  That most women who are raped, are raped by someone they know.  That most don't report it.  That many don't even admit it happened until years after the event.

OK, thank you for reading through that.  I'm going to try and answer some of your questions more directly now, and I hope you will understand the thought processes behind my answers.

"What kind of stuff have they [some men replying on sexual consent debates] done that is rape without them knowing it?"

The most common that I've seen are responses either that if they hadn't borderline raped women as a teenager they never would have had sex, OR that if a woman is so drunk she can't say 'no' clearly or loudly enough that it's not their responsibility to try and ascertain whether the answer really is 'yes'.  You also get a lot of trolls (I say trolls but they're obviously people of some description) saying things like women who dress provocatively are asking to be raped, that drunk girls are fair game, and various other rape/rape culture myths. 

There is also a general sense also that if a woman does not meet a certain number of resistance targets, she’s not given a 'real' no.  For example, if a woman is consenting to foreplay, it follows she must want sex.  If a woman has invited you in for coffee, it means sex.  If sex has already begun, she's not allowed to change her mind because something has made her uncomfortable.  It's rarely explicitly said, but the impression these men give is that they have done these things or have friends who have done these things, and want to be told that they or their friends are not a rapist.  They then start digging holes and inventing complex algorhithms for how they think a non-consent should be given.  Which is, obviously, impractical when consent can be obtained by just bluntly saying, "You're fucking hot, are we good to go?"  Because when you ask for consent it doesn't have to be, like you said, "May I now touch your boob? Where am I allowed to prod my penis?"  A simple, “Is this ok?” at a crucial moment is asking for consent, and giving a cue that your partner is giving you an opportunity to re-draw the sex contract, as it were.

"Another question would be why aren't women confident enough to articulate no clearly?"

This is a wider issue.  Let's face it, it's a fucking enormous issue.  Because if a straight man was about to be butt raped in a situation where he definitely didn't want to be butt raped, he'd have no issue at all saying no.  In the more violent cases there are fear issues.  There's a lot of research done on reaction to rape, and especially in violent cases rape victims freeze up, either from fear or because their minds just switch off to deal with the trauma.  This is what sometimes happened to me, and why I have post traumatic stress disorder.  PTSD is essentially when our minds have blanked out a bit so we wouldn't have to fully experience something horrible but then, later on, that experience is triggered by something we experience.  (For a full and excellent read on PTSD I highly recommend Understanding Traumatic Stress by Claudia Herbert and Ann Wetmore)   For me this is often seeing an experience similar to mine, hearing a phrase similar to what Dave used to say to me, the feel of hands on my head or having someone loom over me.  Sorry, I'm digressing, but this is one reason why there might not be a strong explicit NO.

In situations where the abuser is someone the victim knows, there are often a variety of emotions at play.  A woman may be faced with the choice of just doing this one little thing (as it can seem at the time) or losing a friend/husband/lover/family member.  There are the consequences of saying no, of being branded frigid, of being negatively compared to another.  The way women are brought up is still to define themselves by their sexual output.  Virgin and slut are both strong insults to women.  There is the knowledge, when choosing consent, that they may be choosing one path or the other.  There may be feelings that the giving of sex may be the only way they can be loved.  I feel that a BIG part of stamping out rape culture and enabling women to be able to say no, is to teach young women and girls that they are not simply sexual objects.  That saying NO isn't such a big decision that they will be defined by it negatively, in a way I think you can sometimes feel you will at the time. 

It's about giving power back to women, but equally about teaching men to respect a no, or a non-explicit no.  A comment that frequently comes up is that women make a 'token refusal', which a man may need to push through in order to attain sex.  I don't know about you, but I've never made an explicit or non-explicit refusal without meaning it.  And I'm concerned that these 'token refusals' may be women who are trying to let a man down gently and not ruin a future chance of sex/friendship/whatever, but whose gentle refusal is being brushed aside and creating a vicious circle by teaching that woman that it doesn't matter if you say ‘no’, he's not going to listen.

"The reason that I'm responding in this way is that I'm concerned about a lack of realism & an infantilisation of women in this whole rape debate. And also a demonisation of men sexually, which is bad for everyone."

I'm assuming here that when you say 'infantilisation of women' you're talking about encouraging men to gain a definite 'yes' before pressing ahead with sex.  You see this perhaps as handling a woman with kid gloves, where I see it as a basic mark of respect which I and all women deserve.  As I said earlier, although I RT'd this article (it made me smile and I agreed with the majority of it, and thought that my followers would find it interesting) I am mostly in the corner of the enthusiastic consent.  The basic premise of this is that rather than doing whatever the fuck you want until someone screams, "NO!" in your face, you aim to make the person you're with scream "YES! YES FUCKING YES!!!!" as often as possible, and thereby know that you're having consensual sex.  Because the part of this whole rape debate that gets me really creeped out, is when men get involved trying to ascertain what they can get away with.  That's not happy sex.  And why the fuck would you want to have sex if you're not pleasing the other person?  The way I see it, non-consensual sex is just wanking with another person's body.  Good, happy, healthy sex is about pleasing another person as much as, if not more than yourself, and getting off on how much they're into you and you're into them.  It's a HAPPY circle of GUH! 

But the way I read this article was that the writer had got so pissed off with men nit picking and saying, "But what if this?" that she had just decided: Right. Fuck it.  You want to know if it's consensual? JUST FUCKING ASK!  It's really not that much time out of your day, and it's not going to kill the mood more than POTENTIALLY RAPING SOMEONE!  And it can be sexy to be asked.  It can be very flattering.  We all know sex is more complicated than that, but for the real thickies who just cannot get it into their skulls that, yes, we expect them to obtain consent and not rape people, this is a pretty hard and fast rule.  It's also part of turning around the responsibility.  One of the things rape/SA victims so often get asked is, "Well, did you say no?" This is a way of being able to turn to a man and say, "Well, did she say yes?"

As far as demonising men.  This is a really difficult one.  There is a definite demonising of the patriarchy, and the fact that the majority of (straight cis) men are brought up in a world that says it is their responsibility to take what they want and that other people (especially women) and their needs come second.  Some rapists are obviously sick in the head.  My ex husband was sick in the head.  But he also has no comprehension that he has ever done anything wrong.  And he used to speak frequently about women crying rape out of spite.  This is the mentality he grew up with.  It's a mentality I suspect a lot of men have.  And by demonising rapists the way the media frequently does, it's making it worse.  Saying "This is the rapiest kind of rape, done by a bad man who loves hurting women, look at him over there in the bad corner, he's BAD, aren't you glad there's only a few of them?" means that men who simply ignore a non-explicit refusal of consent don't think they're doing anything wrong.  And when you challenge them on it, they get defensive, and start devising the aforementioned algorhithms of consent.  Again, vicious circle. 

So it's not so much about demonising men, as pointing out to them (not just men, but the general rape culture) that the existing mentality around the subject of rape is a very skewed one, and that this needs to be adjusted.  This might mean bruising some egos, it might mean having to admit some nasty things to yourself and perhaps, if possible, apologising very sincerely to anyone you might have hurt.  But I think it's much more important that this bruising of egos happens in order that we can start to get women to a place where they can say no and, more importantly, so we can teach young men and boys growing up exactly what they should expect from healthy consensual sex.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Receding Crimson Tide

Being one of the pour unfortunate souls who suffers badly from PMT, it struck me this month how seldom it is that I see or hear or periods in the media.  It seems like a quarter of my life is spent complaining about my PMT lack of co-ordination, emotional collapse, pains, smells and the various other natural wonders that come with menstruation – but it’s bizarre how infrequently the women of the screen grimace and, at questioning looks, mutter, “Time of the month.”  Just this morning I downed a couple of pain killers, and when my male colleague asked if I had a headache I replied, “Monthly problem.”  Perhaps there are women for whom their period is a blink-and-miss-it affair, but certainly not for me.  Even before I started trying for a baby, my period became something that loomed on the horizon, casting a shadow of dread and the expectation of pain.  It has done since I was thirteen, and probably will do well into my forties.

I asked the question on Twitter: Excluding Carrie (Ferral women throwing tampons at a woman menstruating in a shower just isn’t what I’d call a naturalistic depiction) who can name a film where a woman in it has her period.  These were the responses:

That Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman film where they’re shagging all the time
Maybe Baby
My Girl
In the Cut.
...That’s it.

Obviously, my method isn’t flawless – and please do add suggestions – but that seems a very short list.  Particularly when you consider the number of films in which women become pregnant.  But every pregnancy film I can think of, the woman either finds out through morning sickness (Knocked Up, Juno), or because of a test done while she’s in hospital (Baby Mama).  I have to go back to Grease for the immortal words, “I skipped a period.”

It was suggested that a period is one of the mundane and unpleasant facts of life that’s easily omitted from the glamour of the media, like going to the toilet.  But people do go to the toilet in films.  Even if it’s just for scatological comic effect, there are toilets in film.  A man was eaten on one in Jurrasic Park.  A woman spends the whole film on one in The Boat the Rocked.  And let’s not move on to what happened on the sink and in the street in Bridesmaids!  But even in that last fabulous, feminist, estrogen-soaked masterpiece there was nary a tampon, not a hot water bottle to be seen.

So why does this bother me?  Well, as I said before, I’m a very unfortunate, pathetic specimen at this time of the month.  I spend one week in every four with my head in the shed, in tears or in pain because of menstruation.  And just once in a while, it would make me feel better to know that Gwyneth Paltrow gets greasy hair every month, that Liv Tyler has PMT spots, or that Anne Hathaway can’t move without carefully combining codeine and ibuprofen so that she can still function without passing out.  I want Jennifer Anniston puking.  I want Scarlett Johanson to get a pube caught in a sanitary towel.  I want to see the hilarious and tragic things that befall the majority of woman-kind, and I want to be able to smile (laughing would hurt right now, my tummy’s tender) and say, “Shit, I feel your pain, sister!”

And before I wind up, I just have to share this little nugget of the most positive attitude I have ever seen to the blob:

I see mine as a glorious red trophy of gore. My worshippers have left a blood sacrifice in my knickers in my honour.” - @SaraAnnwyl of Twitter (Thank you!!!)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

New Blog

I have set up a blog for writing about my experiences with sexual abuse, domestic violence and living with PTSD.  It is called Writing the Flash Backs.  This blog contains graphic descriptions of sexual and domestic violence, and may trigger anyone effected by these issues.  Please refer to the warnings at the beginning of each entry for details of what's discussed.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

News-Worthy Women of 2011

The BBC have published a list of noteable news-worthy women from 2011.  As you scroll through this list you might notice that the majority of them are brides, victims or -- well -- pandas.  And of these women, I only actually remember reading news stories about three of them (One was the panda!).  But as we all know, there have been loads of women doing awesome things in the news this year.  I've compiled a list, but please add your own!
(Disclaimer: Describing these women as news-worthy does not mean that I agree with them.  I'm looking at you, Nadine Dorries.)

January 2011
Sian Massey – Referee Official subjected to sexist criticism by (male) Sky Sports commentators
February 2011
Hillary Clinton – Speaks out against ‘internet repression’

March 2011
Wajeha Huwaider – Makes protest video to campaign to legalise women driving in Saudi Arabia
April 2011
Atifete Jahjaga – Elected first female president of Kosovo

May 2011
Angela Merkel – Phases out use of Nuclear Power in Germany

June 2011
Christine Lagarde – Named IMF chief
July 2011
Louise Mensch - Participates (understatement) in the phone-hacking Inquiry

August 2011
Aung San Suu Kyi – Ongoing establishment of democracy in Burma

September 2011
Nadine Dorries – Attempts to reform Abortion Legislation

October 2011
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee & Tawakkol Karman -- Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize

November 2011
Dilma Rousseff – Becomes Brazil’s first female leader

December 2011
Adele – Named biggest selling artist of 2011

Honorable Mention

Caroline Lucas – Couldn’t fit her in anywhere else, but holds the title of having the most questions answered by PM in the Commons!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Another Year of Progress (2011)

It's about that time of year when one considers all that has happened since the last time it was Christmas.  Because I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression, this is a happy time for me, as I can look back at all the things that I have done this year that I would not have been able to do the year before.  Here is my list:

1)      I learned to drive and passed my test first time.
2)      I went, on my own, into two social situations in which I did not know anyone.
a.       The first of these was to a meeting of the Swansea Feminist Network.  I didn’t know anyone who would be there, but it was at a Women’s Centre and therefore not very scary.
b.      The second was to join a sports team.  A full contact sport.  With trainers.  While being scantily clad.  This is a gold star point of progress for me, particularly as I am ENJOYING IT!!
3)      I went with Mark to the wedding of one of his friends, at which I did not know anybody but Mark, who was the best man and therefore not able to ‘take care’ of me.
4)      I started divorce proceedings against my ex-husband and abuser.  As part of this, I described my abuse to a stranger (my solicitor) without crying or being overwhelmed by any other panic responses.
5)      I was able to talk to two friends who had known me when I was with my ex-husband about the abuse without panicking. 
6)      I have been able to write about some aspects of my abuse to people online, who have been able to use my experiences to help them towards training to help other women who are being abused.
7)      I have been able to look at my ex-husband’s website and see pictures of him, and pictures that he took of me when we were together, with only very minor, controllable panic responses.
8)      Any panic attacks that have occurred because I’ve felt threatened by the possible presence of my ex-husband have been controlled on my own, without needing support from family or friends.
9)      I have been able to carry out acts that used to bring about panic attacks without any form of anxiety response.
10)  I have been able to read books and watch scenes in films that have triggered minor flashbacks, and have been able to control my panic/anxiety responses on my own.
I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made this year.  I feel like I’m starting to get to a point where I can turn my experiences into positives, by helping others and sharing.  These are my goals for next year:

1)      Continue with roller derby.  Try and become more confident in the social situations – not leaving as soon as possible at the end, talking to people more, attending social gatherings, etc.  Maybe even make friends!
2)      Carry out a long drive (I am planning to drive to Scotland in March), and feel confident that I can do it and that, even if I get lost, it doesn’t matter because I’m in control.
3)      Start to write more about what happened.  Try to write without needing to pick over why the things happened, but just letting the memories and experiences out and accepting that they took place without needing to know why.
4)      Try to help more people who are at earlier stages in recovering from abuse or coming to terms with PTSD than me.  Maybe look at volunteering for a group that helps victims of domestic or sexual abuse.
5)   I'd like to feel more comfortable talking to my family about what happened, and not feel like I have to do so much to hide it or hide my responses to some of the things that scare me.  I don't know how to achieve this, though, which is why it's last.

Please, feel free to add your own lists.  I’d be really pleased to see a whole page of progress!  Or if anyone feels they can help me with any of my goals, please leave a comment and I’ll contact you  :)  Alternatively, if you feel I could help with anything based on what I've written here, please contact me.