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Politics for the Few, Not the Many

Over the last six years, the transgender discussion has gained such momentum, you can hardly avoid it.

It has infected everything from health care to education, from politics to feminism. It’s an incredibly divisive issue to the extent that you are either a trans ally or a transphobic bigot; there’s no middle ground.

The reason there’s no middle ground is because the changes proposed by the trans lobby primarily affect women and, with misogyny at its root, woman bashing is the most effective way for trans ideologues to get their message across.

Labour; How to Lose the Next Election

The recent Labour leadership hustings have highlighted the ignorance and misogyny within the party itself.

We already know that the Labour party – traditionally a political party representing the working class, the vulnerable, the poor and those in most need – has been infected by anti-semitism, homophobia, racism and sexism.

Of course, the Conservatives are not immune to any of this either, but at least they don’t pretend to represent us. They are, at least, open and transparent about their greed, privilege and entitlement.

Perhaps we hold the Labour Party to a higher standard, and why shouldn’t we?

If they are the party for those of us who hold traditional socialist views – who care about those worse off and want to make the country a more equitable and egalitarian place – then I’m afraid they should be held to higher standards than the Tories.

Everyone Welcome in the Labour Party. Except you.

Prospective leaders Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey — along with prospective deputies Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler — have recently signed and promoted a manifesto drafted by a previously unknown group: the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights (LCTR).

This manifesto demands compliance without question: we must accept trans people are exactly as they self-determine or identify, regardless of the impact that has on anyone else.

The Self is everything here.

The LCTR manifesto contains a number of pledges, including:

  • Pledge Four, which calls for the expulsion of anyone who refuses to toe the line
  • Pledge 6 which instructs the Labour Party to “listen to trans comrades.”

Ironically, when a trans woman who doesn’t support widespread self-ID tried to get in touch and challenge the group via Twitter, the LCTR promptly blocked their account.

Only certain “trans comrades” are listened to, it seems. How very inclusive.

Stop Talking. Please.

In addition to the worrying contents of this manifesto, there’s the issue of what our prospective leadership candidates and their deputies are saying.

Last week, Lisa Nandy announced that male rapists should be housed in female prisons.

Dawn Butler, not to be outdone, proclaimed on national television that, “a child is born without a sex,” although she did later recant that statement claiming Richard Madeley had tricked her into it.

Much as Butler’s comments have given media commenters and the public a line to dissect, the issue of women’s prisons is the more serious one. Nandy maintains that a man who self-identifies as a woman should be incarcerated in a prison of his choosing, even after committing acts of sexual violence or abuse against women and girls.

What will happen to women in custody who are already vulnerable to abuse and violence when they are forced to share space with this individual?

The pathways into criminality for women highlight disproportionate levels of sexual violence, trauma, abuse and coercion. Don’t those women matter? Or are they simply collateral damage in this political football match?

The level of bullying, abuse and harassment aimed at women who even tentatively raise objections or misgivings is nothing short of misogynist abuse.

Women who:

  • object to being re-labelled as ‘cis’
  • are worried about the medicalisation of children
  • are concerned about their boundaries being breached
  • don’t want to share a public toilet with a man
  • need sex segregated space for their safety and protection

All these women are shouted down, accused of being transphobic, held responsible for the deaths of trans people, targeted through their employer, petitioned, no-platformed, assaulted, and have criminal proceedings taken against them.

Even just a few years ago, this would have seemed ridiculous.
And all because an increasingly vocal group wants to redefine what it means to be a woman.

Baffled? Let’s answer some questions then;

What is a Woman Then?

A woman is the commonly used term for an adult female human. It is generally acknowledged and accepted that adult females are women, and adult males are men. It’s not a complicated issue. Simple, right?

Apparently not, because suddenly, in 2020, we don’t know what makes us men or women. Is it your genitals? Is it the kind of brain you have? Is it your toy or game preferences as a child? Is it how you prefer to dress or wear your hair? Does it mean being good at computer science or hairdressing? Can women do DIY? Can men care for children? It seems to me that these are simply stereotypes and to base your identity on a stereotype is pretty ignorant.

Women, when asked to identify what they think makes them a woman, list the following:

  • periods
  • menopause
  • weight
  • hormonal fluctuations
  • pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding
  • sexual harassment
  • male violence
  • doing more work for less — or no — money

At some point, all woman will have experienced one or more of these things. So, most people agree and accept that it is a combination of your biology and the way you are treated by wider society that makes you a woman.

Urgh…Biological Essentialism

Well, biology is actually really important to women. Our biology is different to that of males; it affects most areas of our lives, and means we require different services and care to men.

We need cervical smears, and specific ante-natal care; men don’t.

We need access to terminations, contraception and breast care; men don’t.

Our biology means that we respond differently to medications such as anti-depressants, anti-psychotic drugs and blood pressure medication, and we have different heart attack symptoms to men.

And our biology makes a difference to how we are treated. Our physical bodies are objectified from the minute we are born. We are stereotyped according to how we look, what we wear, how we behave and what we weigh.

Our bodies are commodified and sold back to us as products. Skin care, anti-ageing products, plastic surgery, weight loss products; a constant bombardment of ‘must do better.’

Women are sexually assaulted and raped because of biology, not because of how they identify.

You cannot identify your way out of your physical biology. Think I’m wrong? Try telling the next rapist or abuser you meet that you identify as something other than a woman. See if he walks away to find another victim.

The Toilet Problem

As we reach puberty our body changes. We start to menstruate and we need sanitary bins, access to sanitary products, quick and easy access to toilets that don’t have men or boys in.

I’m sure some of you will be rolling your eyes and saying, “boys aren’t going to hurt you! There are separate cubicles!” Firstly, young girls and women need privacy. Girls report increasingly levels of sexism and misogyny from male students, including comments and bullying around their periods.

This is unacceptable in any event, and forcing girls to use a ‘gender neutral’ (in reality, unisex) toilet will only expose girls to further abuse.

Secondly, girls and women have the legal right in to sex segregated spaces, including toilets.

As outlined in the Schools Premises Regulations (2012), schools have a legal obligation to provide separate sex provision for children over the age of eight.

And no, gender neutral toilet facilities are not enough. In reality, ‘gender neutral’ toilet provision often replaces women’s toilets, while men’s facilities remain untouched.

Thirdly, there are numerous reports of women and girls being abused, assaulted, harassed and attacked by men and boys in toilets.

Women and girls are at risk from male violence in both public and private spaces. We can’t legislate for private spaces, but we damn well can — and should — for public ones.

We frequently hear, “but your toilet at home is gender neutral lol,”

Let me remind you that the bathroom or toilet in your home is yours. You have a choice about who uses it and, if you share your home with a man, I assume you know him.

So, unless you are in the habit of opening your toilet to the public, this seemingly deliberate stupidity doesn’t hold any water.

Who needs a safe space?

You might be lucky enough to not need a space away from men who are abusive.

But why would you want to deny the service to women who do? Do we deny the need for services on the basis that we, as individuals, may not use them? I don’t need to read a book in Braille; I’m glad they exist for those who do.

Women-only spaces don’t just include services for vulnerable or abused women. How about All-Women Shortlists, created to address the sex imbalance in politics. If men who self-ID as women now populate these lists, who misses out?

Women.

Let’s take another hot topic: women’s sport.

Women and men have different sporting challenges and events because of biological differences.

So is it ok for men to self-ID as women in sports? And if they win medals and awards that women have spent their whole lives training to compete against other women for?

Apparently so.

I Ain’t Your Cis-ster

According to Stonewall, ‘cis’ means someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.

I don’t know a single woman who feels her biology is compatible with the gender stereotypes imposed on her by society. Not one.

Most women experience unhappiness with their physicality on a spectrum that ranges from mild discomfort or dissatisfaction, to depression, eating disorders or suicide.

Feeling as though your female body doesn’t fit, or isn’t right or doesn’t accurately represent who you are is not a new thing. Disproportionate numbers of women experience this and they are not trans. They are just women who are impacted by a society rife with misogyny and sexism.

Sex or Gender?

Under the Equality Act (2010), there are nine protected characteristics; of which sex is one. These protected characteristics exist for a reason: to ensure everyone is treated equally and fairly, and as a protection against discrimination.

In relation to the protected characteristic of sex, there are two things to note:

  • One: we appear to have fallen into a trap of referring to ‘gender’ when we mean ‘sex’. This issue occurs across the board — surveys, medical forms, application forms and public services.
  • Two: the Equality Act exists for a reason. Regardless of what many seem to think, members of the female sex have the right to meet, gather, organise on their own without men present.
  • Organisations have the right — under the Equality Act — to provide services for women only. This includes Rape Crisis centres, Women’s Refuges, counselling services, medical care, book clubs, and sports classes.

So, what’s the solution? Well, third spaces and services delivered by Stonewall are one answer. Rather than standing on the backs of women who did the hard graft building refuges and shelters in the ’70’s and ’80’s, how about Stonewall stepping up and creating the same for trans people? Currently, it’s the women in the Rape crisis and WA movement who have to squeeze their budgets and provision to accomodate this demand, and with the annual income of Women’s Aid at £4.2m, Rape Crisis at £2.6m and Imkaan at £500,000 and , it only seems fair that Stonewall, with their income of £8.7m, step into the breach.

Before I go; remember the 70’s and 80’s? Was Annie Lennox a man or a woman? How about Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Boy George? We knew what biological sex they were, and we knew that what they were doing was ‘gender bending’; disrupting, or bending expected gender roles. And these artists challenged the notion that men and women had to present in a way that matched a stereotypical expectation of them.

Ground-breaking stuff.

1971_grey_dress_600sqd0af6e02d830934718ac3f96c56017f8annie-lennox-suit

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A Crip In London

“A trip to London on my own? Yeh I can do that. Been going to London for years – since I was a teenager. No problem”

“But what about your disabilities, won’t you need some help?”

“No! I’m fine, stop fussing…”

This is the sort of conversation I often have with my wife. As she tactfully (and sometimes not so tactfully) reminds me, I have a number of disabling conditions and generally need help or support in some way.

I, on the other hand, am still in denial when it comes to where I can go and what I can do.

So. A lovely friends book launch and conference and meeting up with other special women requires an overnight stay in a hotel close to the venue.

According to the website, the hotel is a short walk from the venue, and the hotel is a short walk from the DLR station. Short walk. My brain interprets that as about 5 minutes. I can walk 5 minutes with my case and bag. Book it.

Wife insists on me having first class train tickets – partly because they’re only a tenner more – but also so I have space and comfort and coffee. She’s a good wife.

The Journey to London

The platform is cold and windy. I feel slight panic as I don’t know where to stand to get on the right carriage. I know I can get on any carriage, but then I have to bump all the way to my seat with a suitcase and bag and a lack of balance. First class, I think. That’ll be at the front of the train. So I walk down the platform to wait at the point where I think the carriage will stop.

Train arrives. I was wrong. My carriage is the last one. Frustrated, I try to hurry myself down the platform to my carriage as people are getting off or coming the other way. I make it. I put my suitcase on the rack and find my seat. The carriage is fairly empty apart from an extended family with twins ages about 2 and a baby. They are making the sort of noise that kids make, normal noise. But I have become so sensitive to sound because of my disabilities that it’s like they are screaming in my ear.

The train stops at York and the carriage fills up. It’s a Friday afternoon train to London and it only has five carriages. Obviously.

Standard class is standing room only so people are spilling into first class. The noise level rises, the carriage gets hotter as it gets more and more crowded. I can’t bear it.

Finally. London.

The Journey to the Hotel

I get off the train once most people have gone, and walk towards the tube, repeating over and over, “northern Line to Bank, Northern Line to Bank” in the hope it will stay in my brain. I walk to the northern line which is a good 15 minute walk for me. The first tube is rammed so I make my way unsteadily through the crowds to the end of the platform and wait for another one. I know I can’t stand up and keep my balance with my case as well so I need to try and get a seat.

Next tube is fine. A seat and only four stops to Bank.

Between arriving at Bank and getting on the DLR takes about 25 minutes of stairs. Up and down carrying my case. No escalators. So tired now.

I get off the DLR at my stop. Excellent. I’m tired but pleased I have navigated it all ok. I put the hotel details in the app on my phone and the map comes up. “Head south west.” I don’t know what this means. My brain doesn’t understand things like that. Not for the first time I wish my immensely practical wife was here. She would know exactly what this meant and which direction to go.

I keep walking. And stopping to check the map on my phone. It’s dark, I have no sense of direction nor any sense of where I am. My suitcase is really heavy and the more anxious I get, the tighter I grip the handle and the more locked my fingers become. I realise I’ve come full circle. Thirty minutes of walking in circles. This isn’t a short walk. Where the fuck is my hotel? I decide to go back to the start and see if I can navigate from there. Eventually the map tells me I’m going in the right direction.

I arrive at the hotel – the short walk from the station has taken me almost an hour. I am overheated, scarlet in the face, sweating and very sore. I look like a big tomato head. The man on reception asks me twice if I’m ok. “Yes,” I say, thinking “just give me my room key and let me go to bed.”

I get to my room. No comfy chair to collapse on to; only a bed which feels really high up and hard. I have to try and bend down to get my boots and socks off without falling on my head. Not an easy feat.

I throw all my clothes in a heap on the floor and limp to the shower. I feel really grubby and I need my pyjamas.

I get in the shower and instantly slip, grabbing at a pipe to stop me falling. It was the hot pipe.

Ow.

Shower done but I can’t get my pyjamas on yet. I have to air dry because my hands hurt too much to dry myself. I text my wife an underplayed message of “I’m fucked ha ha” or something similar. She’s not daft but I think chooses not to call me on my nonsense.

In my pyjamas, in bed, audible on, lights out, done.

The noise from outside is deafening to me. I live in the middle of nowhere. The only sound I hear at night is an owl. I sleep really badly. Everything hurts, the bed is uncomfortable.

Awake at 11, 2, 3.30, 5, 7am. I get up and make a coffee.

No. I swing my legs over the side of the bed, stick my feet into my slippers and tentatively stand up. My feet feel sore. I shuffle to the kettle, pick it up and go to the bathroom. The lid falls off when I press it and I can’t work out how to put it back on. Fuck it. I fill the kettle with water, shuffle back and boil it. In order to have a coffee I have to open a sachet of Nescafé. It has a perforated edge but I can’t open it. I try another one and this time it works. Sort of. Well, at least I’ve got a corner open. Same with the sugar. Same with the cartons of milk. The coffee is shit and I want to go home.

Breakfast. I’m starving.

The dining room is full of people; families mainly, so lots of noise. Children running about, shouting, crying. Basically doing all the things children do. My ears seem to amplify their noise and it rings in my head.

I try to negotiate the breakfast line. I can’t understand the system or where things are. It’s not logical to me so I just stand in the queue hoping I will move up to a place with a coffee machine. Someone is using a machine but it says hot chocolate on the screen. My brain tells me that’s a machine for hot chocolate, so I move on. I notice other people using these machines; they can’t all be having hot chocolate. Of course they’re not. I’m a moron.

I sit down with my croissant. I try to cut it open but my fingers are sore and the knife isn’t sharp. I tear it in the end. The butter is hard and cold, and I can’t open the jam because it has one of those stupid tiny corners to pull and I don’t have the dexterity or strength to manage it. I almost cry. But I don’t. I just pretend it’s Boris Johnson and stab at it until it collapses in on itself.

Back up to the room to gather my stuff which has mysteriously scattered itself all over. Painfully, I pack my case and book an Uber on my wife’s instruction to take me to the venue. It takes several minutes to get me and my case downstairs to reception to check out, and then back to the lift to go down again to the front. By which time my Uber has been and gone. I book another one.

I get to the venue which has a long drive leading off the road but the driver has to drop me at the road side because there are two vans blocking the entrance.

I trudge up to the front doors, up two flights of steps and in.

I store my case, meet my friends and find a seat.

I’m now on my train going home. The remainder of my day was made easier by Uber and friends. I am totally knackered and want to be in my home with my family.

I wrote this just to highlight the reality of attempting to take part in an activity when disabled. I haven’t even included all the steps, trip hazards, barrier negotiations or things provided ‘for your convenience’ which are massively inconvenient actually. Like plastic sandwich cartons.

Anyway. I have to laugh about it because what else can I do? I can’t make the world change around me, and I can’t always navigate it on my own so I just have to accept that there are some places or events or occasions I just can’t go to.

And that’s absolutely shit.

Thanks for reading.

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Academia and Class Politics

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#GE2017

If you’re wobbling, or unsure who to vote for, here is a handy guide….

If you’re disabled, vote Labour
If you know someone who’s disabled, vote Labour 
If you care about disabled people, vote Labour
If you’re on a zero hours contract, vote Labour
If you’re on minimum wage, vote Labour
If you’re unemployed, vote Labour
If you’re working full time but still need benefits to survive, vote Labour
If you have children, vote Labour
If you’re concerned about class sizes, vote Labour
If you support teachers, vote Labour
If you’ve ever had a child weeping over SAT’s pressure, vote Labour
If you’re frustrated by the constant meddling in, and changes to the curriculum, vote Labour 
If you would like your children to be able to go to university and not be in debt, vote Labour
If you believe that big business should not be allowed a monopoly, vote Labour
If you’re outraged that certain companies are allowed to get away with not paying taxes, vote Labour
If you believe in a democracy which taxes the rich to support the poor and aims for equality and fairness, vote Labour
If you are sick and tired of shoddy rail networks and crap services, vote Labour
If you think Kier Starmer will make a better job of Brexit than Boris Johnson, vote Labour
If you think that food banks are unacceptable, vote Labour
If you believe that everyone should have enough to eat, vote Labour
If you think that children should not go to school hungry, vote Labour
If you believe in a social care that has the staff to do its job, vote Labour
If you are horrified by the lack of care and consideration given to our older generations, vote Labour
If you think that no one should have to lie in their own urine for hours at a time because they can’t afford to pay for personal care, vote Labour
If you have elderly relatives and you want them to be cared for by well skilled, well paid, qualified staff, vote Labour
If you want a well funded child protection service that is efficient, caring and able to actually support families, vote Labour
If you would like families living in deprived and disenfranchised communities to be supported and assisted to have better lives, vote Labour
If you live in a community which was devastated by Thatcher, vote Labour
If you think Hillsborough was a disgrace, vote Labour
If you believe Orgreave deserves a full enquiry into state sanctioned violence, vote Labour
If you believe the Working Class have been let down, ignored, ridiculed and abandoned, vote Labour
If you believe that the media is biased towards the Conservatives and big business, vote Labour
If you think our media should be properly regulated and offer factual, balanced news, vote Labour
If you think the financial crisis was caused by the banks, vote Labour
If you believe the banking sector should be regulated and monitored with strict boundaries so they are unable to be reckless with our countries money, vote Labour
If you believe everyone has the right to a home, vote Labour
If you think having to sleep in doorways is wrong, vote Labour
If you believe in social housing, vote Labour
If you believe in workers rights and protection from exploitative employers, vote Labour
If you believe that people are entitled to a decent pension in their old age, vote Labour
If you believe that people with disabilities – physical and mental – deserve to be treated fairly and sensitively, vote Labour 
If you think that 16 year olds should be allowed to have a say in their own futures, vote Labour
If you believe in a welfare state that supports you from the cradle to the grave, vote Labour
If you have ever used the NHS, vote Labour
If you have had to stay in hospital and seen first hand the pressure nursing staff are under, vote Labour
If you go to your local A&E and see sick people waiting for hours to be seen or lying on trolleys in corridors because there are no beds, vote Labour
If you believe in a health service that is free for everyone, vote Labour
If you know that more investment will make the NHS work more efficiently for us all, vote Labour
If you don’t want a government that make arms deal with Saudi Arabia, vote Labour
If you believe that a better way of dealing with conflict, war and terrorism is sitting round a table and TALKING, vote Labour
If you don’t want a prime minister who is happy to nuke the planet, vote Labour
If you want more investment in the armed forces so we can intervene fairly and with some authority, vote Labour
If you think fox hunting is cruel, unnecessary and blood sport for the upper classes, vote Labour
If you want a government who commits to a greener future, vote Labour

If you are someone who has a good, well paid job, a nice house – maybe no mortgage – kids at private school and money in the bank, then read the above and think about this;
You are one of the few, not the many.

You have a responsibility to offer a hand up to others and not kick the ladder away and leave the many at the bottom.
VOTE LABOUR

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ToryVoting

Choose no life

Choose no job

Choose no career

Choose an education you can’t afford

Choose payday loans and debt collectors
Choose crumbling communities, destroyed industries and boarded up shops

Choose poor health

Choose overstretched and underfunded NHS care

Choose letting your teeth rot because there’s no NHS dentists left

Choose low rent, damp and run-down houses.

Choose benefit sanctions

Choose food banks

Choose racism, hatred and division

Choose austerity measures with corrupt MP’s and the tax-avoiding big businesses

Choose election fraud and expenses scandals and waking up in despair on a Sunday morning.

Choose sitting on the couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, filled with a furious rage at how your life has been manipulated

Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in an underfunded nursing home with care staff on zero hours contracts, nothing more than an embarrassment and inconvenience to the selfish, fucked-up MP’s you voted for.

Choose no future. 

Choose the Tories

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The Twelve Days of Twitter Feminist Christmas

On the 1st day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
a row with Owen Jones

On of the 2nd day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 3rd day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 4th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 5th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 6th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
6 victim blamers
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 7th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
7 Twitter storms
6 victim blamers
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 8th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
8 not-all-men-are-like-that,
7 Twitter storms
6 victim blamers
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 9th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
9 contested women’s spaces
8 not-all-men-are-like-that
7 Twitter storms
6 victim blamers
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 10th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
10 I can’t even’s
9 contested women’s spaces
8 not-all-men-are-like-that
7 Twitter storms
6 victim blamers
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 11th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
11 pompous journos
10 I can’t even’s
9 contested women’s spaces
8 not-all-men-are-like-that
7 Twitter storms
6 victim blamers
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones

On the 12th day of Christmas Twitter gave to me;
12 fuck you, bitches
11 pompous journos
10 I can’t even’s
9 contested women’s spaces
8 not all men are like that
7 Twitter storms
6 victim blaming hashtags
fiiiiive MRA’s
4 whiney dudes
3 mansplainers
2 twitter trolls
and a row with Owen Jones
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Women, We’re Sorry…

*see below for update*

 

There’s a woman you may know, knocking around feminist circles. She’s funny, entertaining & charismatic. You know the one; always ready for the craic, always has a kind word to say, happy to take the men on when they find their way into our twitter feeds. So far, so lovely.

But (and its a big but), this woman has something to hide, and we’re all helping her do it. She slides into your private messages, on Twitter or Facebook. You share a joke, have a bit of a giggle, criticise stupid men, moan about work, your kids, & rail against male violence.
The messages increase, she builds your confidence. You’re friends, right? You can tell her anything. So you do. You tell her things you don’t usually talk about. You share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences. She understands – sometimes she tells you that she’s been where you are. She’s been you – she gets it. You open up to your lovely friend, who messages you a lot (and I mean A LOT).

 

As you share confidences, she tells you about her need for special friendships. She tells you she’s tired; she wants to have deep and meaningful friendships with women, not just superficial online ones. You connect. You start to develop feelings for her, and she feels the same. You arrange to meet up.

 

When you meet, she reminds you of all the things she knows about you. How connected you are, but how she finds it so difficult to emotionally connect.

She tells you about a couple of previous women she’s been involved with. She discloses the abuse they put her through. She describes how they preyed on her, how they sexually assaulted her, how much they have damaged her mental health.

 

You understand because this has happened to you as well, although it’s usually been men who have damaged you. You empathise. You look at these women in a different light and detach yourself from having contact with them. You know she appreciates your support.

 

She tells you that she’s never met anyone like you before, you’re a shining light in her life. You laugh together, she cooks for you. You take selfies and enjoy your special time together. You have sex*.

 

Let’s keep this special thing to ourselves, she says. Let’s enjoy it without anyone intruding, let’s have fun without anyone making assumptions about us, let’s treasure “us”.

 

“Us”, you think. Us. This woman really gets you, you can’t believe your luck – things have been shit for you, recently. It’s fine not to want everyone to know everything about your life, people can mind their own business.
So you keep it quiet, hugging your secret to yourself.

 

Then, something feels off. She’s quiet, not so many messages. You ask her what’s up, worried about her mental health.

 

Little do you know that there’s another You. In fact, there are loads of You’s. Many women, all having the same experience as you, all having messages and phone chats and long email conversations and meals cooked and sex and massages and baths when the sun goes down.

 

She didn’t tell you about the other You’s.

 

She didn’t tell you about the other secrets.

 

She didn’t tell you that text was from another woman, the one she’s meeting next week.

 

She told you that email was from her boss, not from the woman who stayed last week, who spent all night crying as this woman ignored her messages.

 

She didn’t tell you that she’d use the things you told her, against you.

 

She didn’t tell you that she’ll make a complaint to your boss if you try and expose her.

 

She didn’t tell you that she’ll take the piss out of your good nature, and then shit all over you without a second thought.
She did tell you that women wouldn’t believe you.

 

She told you that you’d be isolated from your friendship group.

 

She told you that we would make sure that you had no one and nothing.

 

She told you that specific women, us in fact, would turn against you. That we would always take her side, always believe her over you – and in some cases, we did.

 

So this blog is an apology.
If you told us about this woman and we didn’t believe you, we’re sorry.
We completely and utterly fucked up and we are very, very sorry.

 

To the women she’s currently preying on, we’re sorry that we haven’t warned you, but we know you’ll not be able to hear us anyway.
We hope your friends support you & help keep you safe.
Please take care of yourself, don’t keep secrets and whatever you do, don’t lend her money.

 

If you’d like to talk about this, please email me;
(planetcostello @ gmail.com), rather than using the comments.

 

*I said sex here, but you know you wouldn’t have consented if you’d known the whole story.

 

If you need support, please contact http://rapecrisis.org.uk/.

“I’m one of the women affected by this blog post. I can’t even begin to describe the damage that this woman has done to me. She targeted me from the start, making me feel special, different. I feel completely stupid now but I thought she was such a good woman, we all did. 
She got me to trust her and tell her all the things I would normally keep to myself. She told me she understood what I was going through and that she had been through the same kind of heartbreak. 
I’ve spoken to other women she abused now, women she had told me were predators themselves, and I’ve found out she told them the same about me. 
We always say in feminist circles that ‘I believe her’ but she made it clear that no one would believe me. I was left alone to try and deal with the damage she caused me whilst she carried on doing her best to isolate me from the networks we shared, dripping poison about me to other women, cosying up with mutual friends and taunting me by making innocent seeming comments where I could see them. 
It’s only now that I’ve spoken to women behind closed doors that I realize loads of us knew what she was like – we were just afraid of being disbelieved. We still are. It’s hard to believe that someone can be so cruel and vindictive whilst pretending to be your sister. It hurts more than any man’s abuse ever could.”
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Women, We Thank You

We got married in May, and I think it’s safe to say that some of those we invited will no longer have us on their Christmas card list! It got me thinking about the value of online friendships, and what it means when you attempt to take some of those “online” connections into offline spaces. 
Cath & I have had an open door policy since we moved in together. We like spending time with other women, finding out about them, building on shared politics, or shared interests or similar experiences. We’ve regularly rearranged the house to accommodate women overnight (often at times when we’ve had lots of other things going on), partly to save women money on hotels & partly to pad out the foundations of friendships which have been built mainly online. 
Recently however, some of those friendships have become fractured, and some of those fractures have become chasms. 

My reluctance to ignore problems or to avoid speaking about difficult things has played a significant part in these fractures, resulting in Cath particularly feeling deeply hurt and angry – sometimes on my behalf, and sometimes because of her own pain. Cath & I show & feel pain in different ways – contrary to what seems like popular belief, we are not an homogenous morph, we are two individuals with our own beliefs, values, thoughts and opinions that combine to make us a strong couple with a deep and loving connection. My expression of pain is often (but not always) anger, and I believe that some women, who may have described themselves, and been considered by us to be close friends prior to May 29th, don’t think I feel pain at all. Not real pain. Not their sort of emotional pain, at least.  
Cath was diagnosed with a life-altering disability last year. She struggles with her energy levels & has had to step back, take time out and spend time healing her own body. Not everyone is sympathetic & understanding about this – some women we thought we’d connected with have ignored her health issues completely, and felt very angry when Cath has said “no”, or more likely, I’ve said “no” on her behalf! Some women offered unhelpful advice; “Have you thought about improving your diet? Exercising?”
“No. I’d not thought about any of those things because I am a fucking idiot.”

<sarcasm> 

So to those women – we thank you. 
We thank you if you’ve fucked us over recently, because better now than in 5 years time. 

We thank you if you claim to be our sister & yet actively seek out women whom you know have harmed us for your own approval and attention; we always knew you were shallow and now you’ve proved it. 

We thank you if you recently deliberately blanked our 12 year old child at a feminist conference, because that way she’ll find out that women are not always who they claim to be, and it’ll help her trust her instincts. 
We thank you if you’ve been welcomed in our home as a repeated houseguest, yet claim I’ve always made you feel uncomfortable and unsafe, because that means I can save my comfort and care for someone who deserves it. 

We thank you if you’ve called us names behind our back, described us as “difficult” “angry” “sanctimonious bitches” or any other phrase you may have uttered, because we know the class issue is too difficult for you to manage. 

We thank you if you’ve cut off all contact with us, after months of building a friendship, because another woman told you to.

We thank you if you’ve enabled other women to steal or appropriate our work, and have colluded with women to ignore requests for support with our activism.

We thank you for remaining silent when the women you’ve chosen over us continue to perpetrate abuse and harm to other women.

We thank you if you’ve claimed to be a feminist and used misogynist slurs against us. 

We thank you if you’ve claimed your own pain as real, and dismissed mine. 

We thank you for trying to discredit us and silence us.

We thank you for your breathtaking displays of disloyalty. We are pleased to know who will actually stand by us, and who won’t.

We thank you for all of these things, because what you have done is show us the opposite side of this – the women who could not have been more rock solid if they’d been made out of granite. 

Women who call us, text us, check in with us, send us lovely cards, tell us that they’re thinking about us. 

Women who don’t demand anything, who are happy to see us as two, individual women with needs & wants like all others, rather than Teh Planetz. 

Women who have been kind, and caring, and warm. 

Women who have heard us when we speak – really heard us. 

Women who have listened to our experiences & said “that sounds rubbish. Can I do anything?”. 

Women who have made us laugh, who have reassured us, women who have taken our 12 year old away for the weekend to give us some space. 

Women who have understood & respected our views on class, challenged us, accepted challenges from us, women who have contributed to that foundation building to cement our friendships. 

Women, we thank you & love you. I’m not one for Christmas cards though – shall we all just chuck some money in a charity pot rather than cluttering each other’s houses up with crappy Christmas cards? 
Send us an anniversary card though – Cath loves that sort of thing 😉
Jo 

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National Fibromyalgia Day

I can’t go, I’m sorry.

I can’t make that, I’m sorry.

I’m going to have to cancel, I’m sorry.

Can you come to me? I’m sorry

Can you pick that up for me? I’m sorry.

Could you help me? I’m sorry

Can we rearrange? I’m sorry.

I don’t want alcohol, it makes me ill. I’m sorry.

I can’t walk that far. I’m sorry.

I can’t do that piece of work. I’m sorry.

I’ve been asleep all day. I’m sorry.

I don’t understand what you said. I’m sorry.

Can you explain it again please? I’m sorry 

I forgot to do that. I’m sorry.

I forgot to bring it. I’m sorry.

I can’t remember where I put it. I’m sorry.

I’m in a lot of pain. I’m sorry. 


Repetitive isn’t it? I’m sorry I can’t do all the things I used to do. Believe me, it upsets me far more than it upsets you. 

Please don’t invite me to loads of events or social occasions l without understanding that I might not be able to come. 

When I say I’m in pain, take it as read that I’m in A LOT of pain. 

If I forget something you’ve told me it’s because my brain fog is severe and the impact of losing my memory skills is far worse for me than it is for you.

Fibromyalgia rarely exists alone. It tends to manifest itself in a multitude of illnesses. These are just some of the ones I have;

– abscesses which cause tracts across my body. They run into one another & are agonising.

– IBS (unexpected, unpredictable & highly embarrassing)

– numbness & pain in my hands

– plantar fasciitis in my feet

– alternate sweating and freezing.

– nasal problems (inability to breathe through my nose)

– exhaustion. Serious, proper, unable to function exhaustion. Not just abit tired & need a nap, no this is the kind of exhaustion that means I am unable to drive, walk or function. Where I literally can’t keep my eyes open. Which is caused by a trip to the supermarket.

– pain that navigates and move around my body, all day, every day.

– reflux. I wake in the middle of the night vomiting. I don’t wake up to vomit, I actually wake up vomiting. Then I have a panic attack.

– anxiety & depression. Feeling like I can’t function with non-Fibro people means my anxiety levels rocket when I’m forced to do that. Sometimes I physically cannot leave the house. I stay in my pyjamas for days, only communicating with the dog. It’s not a choice I make. It’s a lack of choice.

Fibromyalgia is a really shitty condition for many people. Please be kind to us. 

Thank you

Edit; I would like to add that, without the support I get from my partner, my life would be horrendous. She picks me up, listens, believes me, helps me. She looks after me, takes me to appointments, encourages and cares for me. She has a full time job, is hugely over worked & very tired most of the time. I love you Jo xx

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A Simple Choice by JD Smith (Guest Post)

Looking down it seems like such a simple choice, simple and insignificant, but it’s not. It’s complex and complicated; it’s full of twists and turns.

It seems like such a simple choice, but it’s not. It’s full of different opinions, different issues. All of them conflicting with each other. You’re faced with trying to shift the lies, the half-truths, from the actual truth. Faced with deciding which side you want to fall on.

It seems like such a simple choice, but it’s not. Just two little marks and it’s done, it won’t make a difference you think. But the truth is that it can make all the difference, it can make or break a man, bring to power a political ideology or bring one crashing down.

They lie, they plot, they manipulate.

They twist, they scare, they evade.

But despite all that, all the promises they make, all the words they say to try and sway you to their side, it falls to this moment, this single moment. You are expected to remember everything they’ve said, everything they’ve promised, and make a choice of the future of the country. It comes down to two little marks and the future is decided.

Left, right, centre. It all becomes a mess of directions in your head. It’s all so easy for the older generation, they have firm opinions made cement by years and experience. For you it’s harder, less solid. You’re not so sure, not sure who to trust, who to help and support.

It seems like such a simple choice, but it’s not. You think you can’t make a difference but you can. You look down at the slip of paper and make a choice. You put a cross in a box and place the paper in a box full of other papers.

You’ve made the choice.

You’ve voted.