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.

Monday, 12 December 2011

A Festive 30 Seconds of Misogyny

I am listening to the radio.  I’m not normally a radio person, but one of the cats had stood on the TV remote and somehow flipped it over to BFBS Radio, a station I don’t know.  The music’s not overly offensive, and I’m trying to work up the energy to get back to some analysis I’ve been working on, so I leave it.  As I stare into space, mildly amused by the antics of my two cats, the presenter introduces today’s phone-in: what annoys me most about Christmas.  The first message read out is from a man who hates the Christmas shopping.  So far, so interchangeable with The Grumpies’ Guide to Christmas.  The second message read out says, “I never know what to get my girlfriend”.

One this point the presenter is very helpful.  “What about an iron?” he says, barely able to conceal the glee and chuckles at his own cleverness.  He proceeds with a few more domestic implements that any girlfriend would be delighted to unwrap for Christmas – some of them would even make quite a good impression when used to smack said boyfriend over the head!  His parting suggestion (he’s now snorting, and I can picture his eyes watering at just how funny he is) is “a broom”.

Yes, I know.  I’m suffering from my feminist humour bypass again.  Bloody grumpy feminists.  Can’t they take a joke?

The problem, I think, comes from my own basic understanding of a joke.  Isn’t it supposed to be funny?

The shopping-gender divide seems to be something of a theme this Christmas.  Perhaps it’s because all the adverts have gone into sentimentality overload.  They aren’t showing the usual endless clips of harassed but cheerful looking women battling through the shops, frantically wrapping presents and preparing a Christmas dinner so big that even the poor starving Cratchetts would be sick or turkey by mid-January.  So the enforcement of the festive female stereotype has to be done somewhere.  But it seems to be happening everywhere.

I was watching the BBC news a few days ago, and they too were doing a piece on how irritating shopping can be at this time of year.  They interviewed a man and a woman.  The woman had been shopping for herself, not Christmas shopping – and had enjoyed herself.  The man had been attempting (and failing) at Christmas shopping and having a horrible time.  From this the (male) reporter drew the conclusion that women are better at Christmas shopping than men.  The (male) studio anchor chipped in, saying women “just enjoy these things more”.

Standard Male Privilege Response ™ will be, “What does it matter?  It’s not hurting anyone to draw such blatantly sexist conclusions and broadcast them on national media.  Where’s the harm?”  Normally at this point I would start in on statistics to do with how these messages affect women growing up, or discourage women, or result in an insidious removal of women from positions of power.  Not this time.  Because it’s Christmas.  And at Christmas I’m allowed to be petulant.

Enforcing gender stereotypes with militant persistence at Christmas matters because It’s Just Not Fair!!  It encourages a latent laziness in everyone who has a penis.  It encourages every man to not bother to think of those around them, to try and shunt the touchy-feely loving emotional part – one of the few that still exist in this commercialised capitalist festive world – over onto the women.  Because they’re no good at knowing what would make other people happy.  The women can do that.  They *like* giving a fuck about other people. 

Yes, shopping at this time of year is an absolute ballache.  I hate shopping at the best of times, but we all know that elbowing your way to the last remaining copy of Elf in HMV, while it blasts Slade at you through tinny speakers, is a particular circle in Dante’s hell.  But the whole point of it is that it’s supposed to be worth it.  Because you KNOW someone who answers the phone, “What’s your favourite colour?” and it’s just plain WRONG they’ve never seen this film.*  Having a penis does not excuse you from understanding your fellow human beings, the people who tolerate, and possibly even love you the whole year round.  The ones who make you smile.  The ones, God forbid, who may even clean up your snotty tissues when you have a cold.  Or make you a cup of tea when you’ve had a really miserable day.  Or picked the lock on that chest in Skyrim with the Really Awesome Weapon in it, because you have no patience with locks.

This is why it’s not OK to joke about getting your girlfriend – or any important woman in your life – a clich├ęd domestic appliance for Christmas.  It’s the season of goodwill.  In my mind, the time of year when a woman should be able to be appreciated for herself in all her individual glory, safely cosied away from the evils of misogyny.

Merry Christmas, ladies.  May you all have the power tools and video games you’ve been longing for all year!

* Apologies to all who didn’t get this reference.  You really should watch Elf.  It’s a very good film.