RSS Feed

Category Archives: Uncategorized

A letter to our friends in Rojava:

As feminists living across the island of Ireland, we wish to express our heartfelt solidarity with our courageous sisters and comrades in Rojava as their project for women’s freedom is under attack. Please know that as the fascist Turkish state attempts to isolate, dispossess and brutalise the communities of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, they will only serve to strengthen our collective resistance and resolve.

 

You stood with us as we fought to repeal the 8th Amendment. You visited us in Ireland and generously shared your knowledge so we could learn from your struggles and victories. You invited and warmly welcomed us into your communities, demonstrating how a feminist society could be organised in practice, something we had only previously imagined.

 

Let us be unequivocal, an attack on the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria is an attack on women’s rights, on feminist organising and on ways of organising society that prioritise ecology, community and humanity over profit. Your woman-led political movement offers a feminist alternative to global capitalism, with its gender-balanced decision-making system, and the centring of women’s liberation in this unprecedented democratic project.

 

Erdoğan and the Turkish state are threatened by the democratic values of Rojava, by its empowered women and its commitment to equality.  These attacks in the name of establishing a ‘safe zone’ are no more than an attack to drive out our friends and comrades from the region, to smash the democratic project and to put an end to women’s liberation.

 

The creation of a so-called ‘safe zone’ also serves the purpose of deporting thousands of Syrian asylum seekers residing in Turkey. They will be brought back to Syria under the strengthened rule of Bashar al Assad, a war criminal, in spite of the fact that they fled from it in the first place. The invasion of Rojava and the full reinstatement of al Assad’s power over Syria and its diverse population are two sides of the same coin, which contemplates the return to an authoritarian stability that can stop the movement of people (so much desired by the fortress Europe), achieved at the price of slaughtering civilians and destroying emancipatory political experiences.

 

We draw inspiration from your courage and your strength and will come out onto our streets to raise our voices in solidarity with you and to fight fascism, our common enemy.

 

 

We call on feminists across the globe to join us in supporting our sisters, friends, comrades. Organise, march, shout, fight and rise up for Rojava.

 

Jin, jiyan, azadi! Ní Saoirse go Saoirse na mBan

 

Theresa O’Keefe

Farah Azadi

Juliana Sassi

Wendy Lyon

Paola Rivetti

Aileen O’Carroll

Helen Guinane

Jen Doh

Caoimhe Butterly

Eve Campbell

Hilary Darcy

Stephanie Lord

Sinéad Redmond

Emily Waszak

Aoife Frances

Mary McAuliffe

JA Valois

Maggie ONeill

Linda Connolly

Ursula Ní Shionnain

Suzanne Leen

Sharron A. FitzGerald

Mx Brody Hodgins

Jane Xavier

Paula Geraghty

Melanie McArdle

Dervla O’Neill

Caroline Forde

Ciara Fitzpatrick

Susan Miner

Alanna O Neill

Julia Crowe

Lauren Foley

Heather Ferguson

Joanne Lynam

Emer Smith

Shannon Patterson

Natasha Finnerty

Margaret Ward

Claire McGinley

Nicoletta Mandolini

Clara Purcell

Clare O Connor

Lisa Keogh Finnegan

Tracey Ryan

Anne Mulhall

Maire Ni Mhordha

Eilís Ní Fhlannagáin

Sinead Pembroke

Leticia Ortega

Dyuti Chakravarty

Beth O’Neill

Niamh McDonald

Linda Kavanagh

Antoinette Murphy

Leness Falls

Yvie Murphy

Elaine D’Alton

Maggie Feeley

Siobhán Nic Fhloinn

Becca Bor

Lisa Basire

Xavier Beardwood

Anita Villa

Layla Kuyper

Marie Mulholland

Caroline Kuyper

Marie Moran

Céile Varley

Sharon L Mc Menamin

Muuka Gwaba

Anne McLean

Katharina Swirak

Jacqueline O’Toole

Antonella Garofalo

Brigid Quilligan

Ann O Sullivan

Cat Inglis

Breige Ann McCaughley

Maria Perkins

Sian Cowman

Vivienne Daly

Samantha Kenny

Louise Inglis

Ciara Miller Johnston

Keeva Lilith Carroll

Martine Jackson

Heather McPolin

Ruby Moss

Stacy Wrenn

Tara Ní Dhuinn

Emma Hendrick

Jacqueline Johnston

Sarah Walsh

Breanainn Quinn

Ilaina Khairulzaman

Ina Doyle

Michelle Brown

Alex Ronan

Marianne Farrelly

Joanne McDonald

Georgina O’Halloran

Audrey Fergus

Sarah Shiel

Martina Ferrari

Emma Wallace

Elaine Crory

Becky Indigo Farrell

Cliona Kelly

Goretti Horgan

Bec Fahy

Elaine Mernagh

Melíosa Bracken

Francisca Ribeiro

Kate o keeffe

Joanne Dennehy

Aoife McLean

Mags Glennon

Syd Delz

Carly Bailey

Mairead Enright

Jess Lynch

SaoirseJohnston

Judy Walsh

Aislinn Wallace

Erika Csibi

Stacey Grant-Canham

Laura Ryan

Louisa Moss

Kellie Sweeney

Kerry Guinan

Aisling Corbett

Jane Robb

Sian Cowman

Ingrid Seim

Polly Molotov

Ciara Crawford

Karen Carson

Gillian Brien

Karen Carson

orlagh nic suibhne

Catherine Clarke

Liz Kelly

Irene Doval Marcos

Maryanne Daly

Rose Mullen

Tracy Wall

Maggie Bent

Louise Delz

Bronwen Lang

Rosa Thompson

Edel Quirke

Milena Barnes

Corinne O’Neill

Grainne Griffin

Joanna Schaffalitzky

Aimee Doyle

Cate Dillon

Jennifer Larke

Kalianne Farren

Maebh Murphy

H Oakes

Emma Beuster

Ciara Beuster

Kate Ware

Natalia  R Fedz

Felicity Rawson

Layla Wade

Jene Hinds

Laura J Acha

Niamh P. Keoghan

Lisa Whelan

فرح مخترعيزاده

Cora Quigley

Kellie O’Dowd

Amy walsh

Yasmin O’Connor

Aoife Crowe

Laura McVeigh

Joanna McMinn

Suzanne Dunne

Anne Ralph

Bernie Hughes

Ashley Keenan

Lisa dunne

April Keane

Ann Gerety Smyth

Karen Till

Divya Ravikumar

Jacinta Fay

Caoimhe Doyle

Emma Walsh-Hackett

Tricia Nugent

Natasha Lambert

Anna Higgins

Sorcha Szczerbiak

Alice Chau

Vicky Conway

K McKinney

Sinéad Williams

Ramona Parkes

Charlotte Fassbender

Lorna O’Hara

Niamh Casey

Layla Wade

Rebek’ah McKinney-Perry

Kitty Colbert

Alexandra Day

Síona Cahill

Gen Smith

Heike Stone

Aisling Ní Fhrighil

Aoife hammond

Karen Hammond

Eimear Nic Roibeaird

Mary McDermott

Ellen Murphy

Sarah Elaine McHugh

Niamh Murtagh

Rebecca murphy

Joni Kelly

Bríd Collins

Annie Hoey

Kate Butler

Marie Sherlock

Katie Noone

Ber Grogan

Aisling Cusack

Emma Challacombe

Kerry O’Donnell

Meaghan Carmody

Janet O’Sullivan

Patricia Magee

Gillian Kearns

Éinne Ó Cathasaigh

Claire Brennan

Muireann O’Sullivan

dervla o’malley

Freyja Bourke

Sarah Cassidy

Soma Gregory

Lucy Michael

Deirbhile Brennan

Margo Harkin

Caroline McCormack

Deirdre O’Shea

Liadh Ni Faogain

Yasmary Perdomo Rodriguez

Hayley Fox-Roberts

Pamela Rochford

Clare mccann

Barbara Western

Rebekka K. Steg

Evelyn Campbell

Mariel Whelan

Nicola grant

Dairíona Ní Mhuirí

Taryn de Vere

Yurika Higashikawa

Sallyann Green-Millar

Deb Crawley

Bernadette Hughes

Vikkie Patterson

Trish Hegarty

Katie Harrington

Helen O’Sullivan

Leona Mc Mahon

Rosanna O Keeffe

Angela Coraccio

Helen Stonehouse

Emma Allen

Karen Dempsey

Carola Speth

Aisling Mathews

Catherine Stocker

Jennifer Schweppe

Debbie Hutchinson

Anna McMahon

Rebecca Heslin

Sinéad Ring

Tríona Reid

Loretta J frehill

Aine O’Gorman

Kate Dineen

Amy Kelly

Sharon Pickering

Kelley O’Hanlon

Deidre colgan

Geraldine Moorkens Byrne

Grace Harrison

Phyllis Verschoyle

Emma Dowling

Roisin Blade
Keeva Farrelly
Eve Campbell
Aoife Dermody
Kylie Jarrett
Emily Duffy
Emma Campbell
Helen Crickard
Sevinç Karaca
Leanne Doyle
Jane Ruffino
Wim Hendrix
Emer McHugh
Emilia Burgio
Rachelle Howell
Emma O’Brien
Paula Dennan
Aisling Walsh
Melanie Drumm
Michelle Woods
Lynsey Farrell
Sorcha Fox
Tara Folds
Shauna Stanley
Leah Doherty
Julie Daly
Sarah Holland
Vicky Langan
Katherine O’Keefe
Alber Saborío
Fiadh Punch
Mary Landis
Conorayne
Cathie Shiels
Sonia Balagopalan
Anne Kane, Associate Professor of Sociology
Zoë Lawlor
Natalia Kunachowicz
Lennita Oliveira Ruggi
Bernadette Jennings
Irma Bochorishvili
Oana Marian
Yasmary Perdomo Rodriguez
Anne Marie Kelly
Olga Murphy
Jade Lydon
Aideen Farrell
Eve Cobain
Renata Kempf
Elaine waldock
Kelly Doolin
Avril Corroon
Ashling Cronin
Carol Ballantine
begoña landa
Anastasia Ryan
V’cenza Cirefice
Julie Maher
Tara Flynn
Claire Brophy
Aoife O’Neill
Sharon Boggans Stich
Bernadette A D’Arcy
Gemma Kearney
Eimear Tester
Karin O’Sullivan
Amy Aylmer
Megan Whittington
Sophie Dalton
Jamie Canavan
Eimear O’Neill
Ruth Patten
Livia Hekanaho
Aoife Stephens
Becky Leacy
Caoimhe Ní Néill
Jessica Reid
Lisa Carey
Danielle Lavigne
Eimear Hawthorne
Aisling Murphy
Sandra Fay
Darwesh Obeid
Phyllis Murphy
Jo Parsons
Linda Hayden
Denise C
Kristine Wahl
Kate O’Hara
Aoife Mallon
Rebecca Gorman
Raven Neill
Becci Jeffers
Lisa Breslin
Shivani Jain
Natalie Conroy
Jane Clare
Mo Ludwig
Mary McGill
Jemma McCallum
Dionne Roberts
Dr Sindy Joyce
Naomi English
Charlene Delaney
Caroline Ryan
Elaine Hanson
Joan O’Connell
Suzan Günbay
Sonja Rohan
Kim O’Driscoll
Amy Ní Mhurchú
Lorna Johnson
Stefania Oggioni
Melanie Drumm
Jamie Drumm
Amelia Feery
Hollie Feery
Clare Bell
Ash Hayes
Alacoque
Joan Humphreys
Niamh Webbley-O’Gorman
Katie O’Hara
Mary Connell
Eadaoin de Faoite
Roseanne Doran
Lora O’Brien
Jean Alfred
Vanessa Moore
Grainne
Zoë Lawlor
Vicki Loughran
Aoife Butler
Eanna Finnen
Tara Robinson
Mary Palmer
Ciara hendrick
Marese Hegarty
Siobhán Cawley
Rohan Swamy
Sandra Ní Dhubhthaigh
Zoë Lawlor
Jenny Oreilly
Sian Ní Mhuirí
Aoife FitzGibbon O’Riordan
Gabriela Burnett
Aoife Dermody
Duana mcardle
Dorcy Mac An Fháilí
Sharon Nolan
Nafisah Azeem
Keeva Farrelly
Isabel Rubio
Fiona Lynam
Julie Gleeson
Áine White
Amelia Feery
Hollie Feery
Paula Flanagan
Martha Dalton
Aoileann Conway
Joanna Thompson
Ciara May Boud-Keegan
Nikki O’Malley
Doris Murphy
Vicky Donnelly
Niamh McCrea
Ciara Browne
Amel Yacef
Eugenia Siapera
Ailis Ni Chofaigh
Mo Mansfield
Aedín O’Cuill
Kate Kenny
Aoife Kirk
Stephanie Fleming
Joanne Neary
Emma Brännlund
Sinead Corcoran
Joanne Byrne
Miriam Needham
Lola Gonzalez
Anna Carnegie
Maria Johanna Heschl
Alexandra Soares
Stacey Scriver
Debbie O Rourke
Shauna Markey
Beth Hayden
Jenny Carla Moran
Liath James

Groups and Organisations:

Need Abortion Ireland

Strike 4 Repeal

MERJ – Migrants and Ethnic-minorities for Reproductive Justice

Parents for Choice

Kildare Feminist Network

Fingal Feminist Network

Dundalk for Change

Queer Action Ireland

Reclaim the Agenda

Alliance for Choice Belfast
London Irish Feminist Collective
Dublin south west housing action

ARC Offaly
Galway Feminist Collective

Queer Diaspora Ireland

Feminist/Queer Discussion Group – NUI Galway

 

To add your name please go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSejUIr6m4tmm50_Vt8BpkohTKPsQR4A8DBetI3FeGL6s63YtA/viewform

Turkey’s attack on the Kurds is a feminist issue.

Just a quick one because I’m super busy today, but this is important. The attack by Turkey on the Kurdish region of northeastern Syria (Rojava) is not just an unjustified act of war, a humanitarian crisis, another blow to a people who have suffered more than enough already. It is all that, but it’s also something that should greatly concern everyone who cares about women’s rights. Because the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria – the autonomous entity serving as the de facto government of the region – has in place what is by far the most progressive administration in its neighbourhood, where women’s rights are concerned. In fact there are a lot of things about it that western governments could learn from; but certainly it’s well beyond any of the alternative regimes available to the women there.

And make no mistake about it; if this attack continues many of the women of Rojava are going to find themselves living under another form of rule. Turkey’s aim is not, as it claims, merely to create a “safe zone” to protect itself from Kurdish attacks; it is to completely repopulate the parts of Syria closest to its borders – replacing Syrian Kurds with Syrian Arabs. This is precisely what has happened in Afrin, which Turkey attacked a year and a half ago (to a deafening silence from most of the west), with the consequence of forcing the veil on women who wouldn’t have worn it voluntarily and annihilating the rights that women in the DFNS enjoy (such as freedom from forced marriage and protection against domestic abuse).

At the same time, the Syrian Democratic Forces which (currently) control the region are being forced to reduce their capacity to guard the prison camps in which ISIS fighters and loyalists are held. Needless to say, they will also be more poorly equipped to respond in the event of an ISIS resurgence along the Iraqi border. I really don’t think I need to say how utterly catastrophic this would be for women in the affected areas.

The final option would be for the DFNS to collapse and go back under Bashir Assad’s fold. From a feminist perspective this might be the least worst option, but don’t be under any illusions; despite the officially secular stance of Assad’s Syria, only this year have women been given some of the rights that Rojava guarantees – and unlike in Rojava, there is no ideological commitment to women’s rights. It is simply a pragmatic measure adopted in the interest of preserving a battered regime. And we all know how readily that can swing back the other way.

In simplest terms, the demise of Rojava would mean the end of an era of a form of government which is inseparable from the goal of women’s liberation. There is literally no alternative that isn’t worse for the women of Rojava – in some cases a lot lot worse. And while it would obviously be a disaster for them, the fallout from it would hurt the cause of all of us.

There are a number of demonstrations taking place tomorrow – in Ireland (Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, Galway) and elsewhere – to protest the Turkish attack. Please attend if you can. If you can’t, please share. This matters. It really does.

https://womendefendrojava.net/

Let’s talk about sex

Let’s talk about sex

Guest Post by Emma C, Belfast Feminist Network

If this was a fluffy opinion piece for a Sunday supplement, I might make some sideways jokes about 5 minutes of pleasure, or someone’s turn to go ‘downstairs’ as a way of making light about this intimate, messy, universal experience. It’s everywhere, in ads, all of our films, television, books, plays, music. We let our culture mull it over but with little nuance. Yet we never really seem to be able to actually talk about it. For real.

We are in the midst of a wave of reignited feminism and its predicted backlash. We see every day in articles from across the world, the endless tales of rape, violence, maternal deaths, lack of access to safe abortions, persecution of sex workers and LGBTQ+ people. I’m utterly convinced that our inability to properly address sex; what it is, what it’s for, how it feels, when it works, when it doesn’t, what its value is, has kept us behind this hurdle of inequality.

Locally, we have been dealing with our very own Northern Ireland flavoured version of this worldwide phenomenon. A recent rape trial, abuse scandals, the lack of respect for LGBT people sex workers and women, all becomes fomented in policy and has maintained barriers to healthcare, equality and respect.

metoo

Real-talking about sex has to begin. Real sex, not biology-book sex, not biblical sex, not porn sex, but real actual sex that happens between real actual humans. Most of us have an innate drive to seek sexual pleasure and some of us are more successful in that search than others. Sex is one the issues at the crux of gender and sexuality.

Imagine you are a 12-year-old girl walking home from school in your uniform, you have just begun to develop breasts. Your hormones are beginning to go haywire, meaning your emotions are everywhere and the world seems bigger and more confusing, even though adults are beginning to make more sense. Now imagine that as you are walking home, car horns beep at you regularly, when you turn to look to see who they are honking at and realise that it’s you, you see men the same age as your father and you blush a deep red as you’re not quite sure how to react. Then imagine that with every passing few months there are more comments in the street, from young men hanging around in groups, from waiters, from family friends, even from school teachers, about your slowly changing appearance.

This is the beginning of the onslaught. This unwelcome and unwarranted attention is never spoken about to the young people that experience it. This is when men, and the women, trans people and gay men that they objectify begin to learn about consent. We are being taught from a young age that it is okay to be publicly sexualised, by men; older men, younger men, men in positions of power, strangers and there is really nothing we can do about it.

Many of us will have seen the declarations from various pious lampposts around this wee country that, “ THE WAGES OF SIN ARE DEATH”, yet we know from our national stance on abortion, access to contraception, and sex work that actually if the so-called sin is a sexual one between a ‘straight’ man and another person, it’s the other person who has to bear the brunt of that particular exchange.

Consensual sex is categorically not a sin. Well, except if you are a woman (and trans person and gay man and sex worker). Then of course it is a sin. You are a slut, unlike the man, who will probably be a legend (to himself), we all know this, we understand this paradox and yet we all maintain it, despite the harm it causes. Street harassment is the thin end of the wedge of our rape culture. RAPE CULTURE, a description that so many baulk at, yet we live in a society where somehow a woman should automatically be embarrassed about having a threesome and a man can be glorified amongst his mates. According to solicitors, the shame of a threesome could lead a young woman to take a lengthy and unnecessary court case against someone to save face… whereas leaving someone crying hysterically and bleeding internally after a sexual encounter is perfectly acceptable. A top tip for any man planning a threesome: if someone starts bleeding, best to call it a day, at the very least you aren’t doing it right and at the worst you might be raping someone.
We know that what a person wears, drinks, eats, how they get home, and what previous sexual history they have should have absolutely zero to do with whether or not they get raped, yet on and on we see victim blaming from legal experts, from prurient press, from anyone quick to judge with access to a social media account.

Expecting everyone who is not a straight cis man to pay for the sin of sex is why abortion is such a controversial topic as well. It’s got little to do with little cute babies and everything to do with women and pregnant people facing the consequences. “She should have kept her legs shut” “She should have to take responsibility for her mistake” “She should have thought about that before whoring around” – all things that are frequently said in some shape or form – it’s abortion’s own form of blaming, with a human to look after for the rest of your life as punishment. This is despite the overwhelming majority of single parents being women, it’s despite the overwhelming majority of contraception and birth control being aimed at women and it’s despite the fact that sexual assault and rape are so common that they are endemic, and yet we don’t even get off the hook for that one, as apparently our bodies don’t even deserve freedom from someone else’s crime (if they are a man).

Whenever the onslaught of sexualisation begins, it teaches us – women, queer and trans folk, that our boundaries are unimportant. It undermines our trust as to everyone’s intentions, and most importantly it undermines our ability to trust our own instinct. Setting boundaries is an important life skill, yet attempts to develop this skill are thwarted from the start if we can’t even tell strangers on the street not to comment on the shape of our ‘tits’ when we are still children.

Forgotten in all of this is that sex is supposed to be pleasurable, people shouldn’t get internal lacerations from consensual sex, unless it’s something they have specifically requested. Our concept of virginity is outdated as well, why is the only important thing when a penis enters a vagina? There are so many more ways of having sex, and not just for queer people. Sex is better when it is about reciprocal pleasure, you need to be able to say to the person that you’re having sex with, ‘yes that’s working or no that’s not working, can you do it more like this?’ However we are having sex in a society that doesn’t allow space for conversations about that.

We can be on the BBC talking about murderers, about complicated political ideas, about tragedies faced by families dealing with a variety of crises, but we are unable to talk about sex openly. We can’t address it, we are too scundered, even though that embarrassment creates a void that leads to our young people being educated by the internet; by the most popular types of porn which debase women, people of colour and trans people.

Popular porn is what we are offering to our culture instead of real conversations about pleasure. Young people are divided by gender for sex education, which is largely provided for by religious organisations. It’s no coincidence that the same organisations that are against contraception and abortions, are against LGBT people and sex before marriage.

If we let these people misinform our children, our offspring will look somewhere else instead, for something that more closely reflects the real lives they live than the prim fantasies that abstinence-only, anti LGBT sex education provides.

Not only have we no adequate ways to punish and re-educate young men with monstrous ideas about what women are (less than human receptacles for sperm and babies) but we are enabling them from children to become this way.

If we want our future to be safer and happier for the next generations, then we have to make actual changes to our sex education. We have to stigmatise talking about women and others as less than human and not stigmatise women having sex. We have to teach people that there is no pleasure without consent and that consent is the lowest bar. We have to be prepared to call out ‘banter’ if it demeans anyone because of the type of sex they have. We have to stand up to the tiny minority of bigoted bullies that get their voices amplified too often.

Everyone knows someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, everyone knows someone who has had an abortion or crisis pregnancy, we just need to learn to put on our grown-up pants and talk about these things properly and with respect before any more generations are harmed by our wilful negligence.

– Emma C

Belfast Feminist Network

 

gorw

How can we ask women to report rape after Belfast?

How can we ask women to report rape after Belfast?

Rape is not an ordinary crime. Few people will contemplate whether or not to report being mugged because the police might not believe them. No one sees their car window smashed and thinks “I’m not sure if reporting this is wise. I was drinking last night so the police might think I said it was ok and I consented to them smashing it..”

 

The worst outcome for a rape complainant is that she is not believed. During the Belfast trial, a narrative was created that a the victim had participated in a drunken threesome and then cried rape afterwards because she was worried that “it would be talked about on social media.” The idea that any woman would subject themselves to what is entailed in making a rape complaint, simply because she regretted how she had sex or who it was with, would be laughable if it weren’t so disturbing.

 

When a woman makes a complaint to police she will usually spend hours or a day (or more than a day) literally recounting her story over and over again; following this she may be brought to a sexual assault treatment unit where trained healthcare professionals will collect forensic evidence and do a head to toe exam collecting samples from under her nails and her hair and her mouth. They will examine her genitals and take photographs. She will likely have to tell her story again to the healthcare practitioners so they know which photos to take. She will not be allowed tea or coffee in case it interferes with evidence in her mouth. Depending on where she lives, she might have to travel for 3-4 hours to get to this unit because her local hospital won’t have one. If there’s a risk of head injuries, she’ll be sent to the Beaumont first, but that has implications for evidence collection of course. If the police believe her, they may send her story to the DPP. They also might not believe her. They also might prosecute her for false reporting. They might laugh at her and snigger it was her own fault.

 

Rape myths are very common, and police and gardai are as susceptible to them as any other person you meet in the street. Of course, they are not meant to be, but we know they are. They make rape jokes too. It isn’t that long since the gardai were making rape jokes on tape in relation to Shell to Sea protestors. That wasn’t solely about animosity towards protesters, it was because they found rape funny and unless they’ve retired since 2011, they’re still employed by An Garda Siochana. The transcript of that exchange could be a twitter exchange.  

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 08.17.47

^ Garda Rape Tape Exchange

Of course false report convictions are rare much the same way that false reports of rape are rare, but the fear of not being believed and the consequences that follow are a shadow over every victim’s decision on whether or not to report. They are rare, because women do not put themselves through the trauma of reporting because of what it entails, and the glaringly obvious fact that largely, she will not be believed.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 01.07.49

In the best case scenario, if the victim is believed by the Gardaí she must tell her story over and over and over and over again; then if she is believed by the DPP and then after having repeated her story over and over again, a case will be taken. Following this she will listen while her credibility is systematically picked apart by the defence counsel. She will see her knickers passed around the court. Her own credibility will be on trial. They will discuss what she likes and what sex acts she would engage in. The papers will discuss the colour of her labia in print. People on the internet will speculate on where she was in her menstrual cycle and whether the vaginal lacerations she has were from rape or not. Her text messages to friends about being raped will become a matter of public record. A newspaper will write a story in which they wonder whether the blood was from internal bleeding from vaginal injuries or from her period as the defence counsel suggested. In some cases fear of retaliation from the perpetrators will be a worry, whether that retaliation manifests as a physical threat or a threat to make life difficult, or the retaliation might manifest as the forces of privilege in society standing together to paint you as a liar. Anonymous or not, she will be stigmatised and the minutiae of every move she makes will be under scrutiny. Some of the jury will believe that if a woman was drinking, she was asking for it, and other myths, like the style of clothes being an invitation to have grope. Men who barely know the alphabet, let alone the intricacies of criminal law will call for her to be put on trial. They will call for her to be named and shamed. They say this because a lot of society thinks that if you cannot secure a conviction in a rape trial, the victim complainant has been proven to be a liar. Rape trials always mean the victim is on trial as much as the defendants. In the Belfast case, people know who the complainant is, there is no need to name her. Men will share that information. The Belfast verdict in many quarters has been seen as a victory for men. Women will simply return to secret Facebook groups and chats and informal conversations in which the words, “be careful of him” are uttered.

 

The scale of rape and sexual assault is a global health issue. If one in four people were getting mugged, we would likely examine the root cause and the members of the Oireachtas and other parliaments would probably convene a joint special committee. The media has a key role in this. They, whether they like it or not, shape the public discourse on rape and sexual assault issues. When they produce salacious gossipy reports on the case or the colour of a rape victim’s genitalia in their paper, it matters. It matters because those words are taken and repeated on twitter, with a multitude of shitty opinions attached.

 

cheer

Most rape victims do not report to the police. Convictions do not simply require 12 members of a jury to believe you. They require the police who are questioning your demeanor, level of intoxication and consistency of details, to believe you. Your credibility must be sturdy. Impeccable in fact. It helps if you are not a poor or marginalised woman. During the Belfast trial Stuart Olding’s barrister commented, “Why did she not say no? Why did she open her mouth? Why didn’t she scream? A lot of middle class girls were downstairs, they were not going to tolerate a rape or anything like that. Why didn’t she scream the house down.” The implication being that us working class women would hear it and just go back to adjusting the hun buns and acrylic nails and drinking cans I suppose. The clear message to rape victims in this, and every other trial is “Do not report, it isn’t worth it.”

Screenshot 2018-03-28 22.30.09

Reporting to the police means you must be able to withstand victim blaming and questioning and trolling statements and people attempting to hunt your family down on twitter. You must be able to handle that, if you defy traditional gender roles or consume alcohol prior to your attack you are more likely to be attributed a higher rate of blame for your own rape than others. You must be able to overcome whatever obstacles are put in place by privately educated rugby playing people and people who are members of professional associations who have connections and know journalists and other important people.

29666251_10157340304289408_1948999152_n

When you make a report you must be able to deal with the fact that if you were passed out on the ground unconscious and the gardai happen upon you with a strange man kissing your neck and touching you, they may initially think that it isn’t that serious until they find CCTV footage. If you were a teenager working in a low paid carer job providing care for an elderly client, their adult son might sexually assault you. If your rapist was actually convicted, he might initially walk out of the court with a suspended sentence after drugging and raping you in your sleep. If you are 6 years old and your Uncle convinces you to go to your house for biscuits and he subsequently rapes you, he might also get a suspended sentence. If you are a group of five women abused by the same person, he might get a suspended sentence too. Your rapist might even get a partially suspended sentence for sexually assaulting two women having previously finished three jail terms for rape offences. Your uncle who abused you when he was still a priest might get a suspended sentence too. If your rapist dies, the Council might try and pass a motion of condolence for him.

If the text messages from your attackers reference your crying, and imply the group nature of your attack, as if they had great craic during a drinking game, you will still not be believed. This is what society needs us to know.

 

Screenshot 2018-03-28 22.31.26When your attackers are on trial, it will be you who is made to feel like a criminal. These “talented, promising sportsmen” who all had a different version of events, who deleted text messages and met up when they usually didn’t (but *not* to get their stories straight, remember?) were always going to be found ‘not guilty.’ It didn’t matter that there was a witness testimony confirming the witness’s description. It didn’t matter the taxi driver was concerned and said she was crying. What mattered was that they were privileged men, whose victim was always going to be torn asunder on the stand. Privilege begets privilege. Don’t you always bawl your eyes out and bleed through your jeans in a taxi home after a fun night?

The question that many feminists are asking now is why would any woman who witnessed this trial report a rape? If a friend discloses rape, how do you say to her in good conscience “would you consider reporting?”

 

They don’t want us to. The system is not designed for the victim. It serves an entirely different process. The victim was painted by the barristers involved as a wanton slut who was up for anything. Paddy Jackson, one of the defendants was painted as a poor little boy whose favourite hobbies included “drawing super heroes,” whose only mistake was wanting to have fun.  

The complainant in this case did everything that victims are supposed to do, she kept her clothes, she went and made a statement. Experts confirmed vaginal injuries. She told her friends what had happened. The defence still made out that she simply regretted a consensual experience and was afraid she would be labeled a slut. They labeled her a slut anyway not to mention, does any woman in 2018 under the age of 40 really give a fuck about someone having a threesome?

I know an awful lot of victims of rape. So do you. But I have never known anyone that has seen their rapist prosecuted. There are people who are friends of friends but it is truly remarkable that given the scale of it, convictions are rare.

Screenshot 2018-03-28 22.35.19

We all know, as women, we are routinely not believed, but for whatever it’s worth, I believe her.

 

@stephie08

 

#ibelieveher

An open letter to the organisers of the “We Need to Talk Tour” from a group of feminists in Ireland

We write as cisgender feminists in Ireland to the organisers of the ‘We Need To Talk’ speaking tour who plan to hold an event in Ireland in February.

 

The main purpose of the ‘We Need To Talk’ tour is to promote opposition to the proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act in the UK. The reformed act would allow people to self-declare their gender  (currently in the UK people are forced to go through the indignity of medical diagnosis in order to have their gender recognised). This proposed legal reform is a necessary and urgent step toward undoing the stigma, discrimination and violence that trans people in the UK currently endure. The organisers of ‘We Need to Talk’ are making a stop here in Ireland, under the guise of talking about abortion. However, their motives remain clear to us, and we write this letter to show that their exclusionary, discriminatory attitudes to trans people – in particular trans women – are not welcome here in Ireland. We will not sit in silence while the organisers of this meeting peddle ideas and opinions that are actively harmful to the well-being and safety of our comrades.

 

Trans women and men in Ireland have the legal right to self-declare their gender. Trans people and particularly trans women are an inextricable part of our feminist community. The needs of trans people are part of our campaigns. There is no difference between ‘feminists’ spreading transphobic and transmisogynist ideas or spreading racism or homophobia. We want no part of it, and we don’t want it here. So yes, we do need to talk.

We can see from your social media posts about your tour and its contents, that your opposition to the GRA is based on the idea that feminist organising and women’s rights will somehow be harmed through trans inclusivity and organising with our trans sisters. We know this is not true. We, the signatories of this letter, organise hand in hand with our trans sisters. Together, cis and trans, we are Irish feminism. Trans women are our sisters; their struggles are ours, our struggles theirs. They were our sisters before any state-issued certification said so and will always be no matter what any legislation says, either now or in the future.

 

In the south of Ireland*, trans women have been able to declare themselves women and have the state change their documentation to reflect that declaration since 2015. The sky has not fallen. Cis women have not lost anything whatsoever from this. If anything, all of Irish feminism has gained: our struggle for bodily autonomy gains in strength and momentum through this victory for our trans sisters. There are few things as feminists in Ireland we can say we have been pleased to see passed by the state. This, although flawed in its lack of recognition of trans children and non-binary people, is one.

So tell us: what is it that you know of Irish feminism that you feel entitled and authorised to come here and lecture us on? Dublin has not been part of the UK since 1921, yet you originally described ‘We Need To Talk’ as a UK tour while still including Dublin on your list of venues. This gives us some idea of how little you know about Irish realities, north or south.

 

We do not need you here. We have not had your support in our fight for #repealthe8th, our fight against the historical and ongoing impact of the Magdalene Laundries, our fight for taking back control of our hospitals from religious orders, our fight for justice for women and babies tortured and entombed in Mother and Baby homes.

 

Do you know, for example, that in the north of Ireland, legally part of the UK, women still cannot access safe and legal abortion? Have you campaigned on this in any way? If you have, why don’t we know about it? Did you strike in solidarity with us on March 8th last year? Did you even know we were striking and for what? Do you have any kind of concept of what a feminism in a country shaped by struggle against Empire looks like? Did you take even a second to consider that, in assuming you have the right to come here in any kind of position of feminist authority, you’re behaving with the arrogance of just that imperialism? We have had enough of colonialism in Ireland without needing more of it from you

 

We neither want nor need your lecture tour. You’re not welcome here.

Read the rest of this entry

When the Women’s Podcast Was All About Men

The Irish Times Women’s Podcast today aired a show entitled #coponcomrades: Men and Feminism. For some reason none of the initiators or signiatories of the #coponcomrades letter were invited to speak. Instead three male writers for the Irish Times were on the panel, Frankie Gaffney, Mark Paul and Patrick Freye, only one of whom describes themselves as a feminist.

As someone who signed the #coponcomrades letter I listened with interest to the podcast. In some respects it was very illuminating. Like I was unaware when I signed #coponcomrades that I should’ve indicated my economic status when signing, which by the way is working class. (I can provide all the poverty porn details for anyone who needs it if required).

Listening to the podcast I discovered that I had apparently been duped by some bourgeois academic women who lured stupid old working class wimminz like me into signing the letter. Apparently my voice and those of the many, many other working class women who signed was purely “tokenistic”. Thank god I listened or I never would’ve known that no matter what I do or say or put my name to — my opinions can easily be dismissed as tokenism, by virtue of my working class status. But then, how could I have know this before, without an academic woman to tell me what to do or a Not-Feminist (but in no way mansplaining) man to explain it to me?

So, please bare with stupid working class me while I talk you through the podcast.

It started on a dodgy note, with host Kathy Sheridan saying that the podcast was to be about “The challenges for men that want to stand with women and the views that men hold that they don’t think they can express without being shouted down.”

I wonder what kind of views men might have that they might feel afraid to express without being “shouted down”? And who are these shouty women that are silencing the voices of men who HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT FEMINISM?

So, let’s delve in (this is HEAVILY abridged),

Gaffney: “The Irony is that the people who use “mansplain” are the most patronising people I’ve ever encountered.”

I have to put my hand up here folks, as I’m one of those patronising women who uses the term “mansplain” when I’m trying to express my dislike of men who assume I’m an idiot. Luckily I have men like Gaffney to tell me that my use of the word is wrong.

Gaffney continues: “This is not America. There is something perverse in the narrative… Girls from Dalkey lecturing me about my privilege…This is not normal. This is not right…We can’t just import American ideas wholesale into Ireland and expect them to work.”

I assume it was intersectionality that Gaffney was taking issue with here, a systematic way of looking at the intersecting oppressions that any individual may have. (The expression was coined by American Kimberle Crenshaw and aims to make feminism more inclusive). These are the kind of ideas I personally would like to see more of in Ireland. (Here’s hoping those hated women from Dalkey were intersectional feminists!)

Gaffney: Speaking about #coponcomrades, “The most striking thing in the reaction since, when I talk about using straight white male using that as an insult, middle class Irish girls, fellas as well, talking about white cisgendered male, why are you excluding…if you’re talking about misogyny why are you bringing race in and throwing these things in together when class is one of the biggest predictors of life outcome in this country?…It was like apartheid going in in the demographics in Trinity….(conversation moves on)… the gender balance was 60–70% female.”

*EDITED to add that I have been told (by Gaffney) since I initially posted this that the apartheid comment was in relation to class, not gender  (Gaffney said,”the class ratio in Trinity TSM maybe 2%”)*

Apartheid – yeah… I’m just gonna leave that one for all you smarter and middle class people to dissect.

But Gaffney wasn’t the only enlightening male voice on the panel, Mark Paul had a lot to say about feminism too,

Paul: “You can get too wrapped up in putting people in boxes. I’m more interested in what people do than what they are…. Trudeau bought in a cabinet was completely gender balanced and that is obviously a very laudible thing to do… has it performed any better than any of the governments that went before, I dunno….”

Kathy Sheridan tried to interject here but Paul spoke over her,

“…Tredeau’s pretty clever embrace of feminism”

Freyne: “Varakar doesn’t care about class or gender. He is entirely economic focused.”

Paul: “The Taoiseach isn’t a superman.”

Apparently only a superman cares about class and gender. I didn’t know that it requires super powers to care about class or gender, but I guess that makes sense, him being a man and me being, well just a silly and gullible woman. 

Gaffney:“People have attributed views to men that I don’t hold. Like I believe in gender quotas”

Paul :“I’m against anything that puts a restriction on someone’s vote.”

Gaffney :“Parliament should reflect demographically.”

Paul (speaking over Gaffney): “But mostly it should reflect the votes of the people.”

Gaffney: “I’ve been getting smeared, coponcomrades connected me with alt right language, and I didn’t…. on the one hand you have a prohibition on offensive speech… on the other hand an opening up and normalisation of anti male, anti white, anti straight rhetoric. Identity politics is very bad when it stigmatises and attacks based on a demographic.”

Sheridan: “About the #coponcomrades, the response to the letter felt like a silencing to us — these people represent a lot of threads in society, have you any reservations at all about that piece now?”

Gaffney: “None.”

Paul: “I defy you to look at the reaction to Frankie’s piece and say that the reaction he received was not a personal attack on him.”

Gaffney: “I don’t mention any person’s name in my piece…People object to any objection going in the opposite direction…The article wasn’t about feminism it was about a certain style of identity politics and some terminology used by feminism.”

Freyne: “…I think you’re punching down in this instance…”

Gaffney: “ Listen, academics using their departmental accounts to tweet about me, I’m not punching down, upper middle class women having a go at me giving out about me and using departmental accounts.”

Sheridan: “ The people who signed this letter aren’t all middle class Frankie.”

Gaffney: “The people who drafted the letter and the people that organised the campaign are. 500 people didn’t write the letter. It was initiated by one small group and they tokenistically they got working class women on board… I have empathy for everybody that’s the difference between me and those that single out and generalise.”

Freyne (to Gaffney): “No body is stopping you talking.”

Paul (speaking about #coponcomrades signators): “There is a complete and utter intellectual insecurity in people who can’t tolerate another person’s opinions. Feminism to me that exemplifies the worst of it is like a big tent right, and everybody is inside the tent and in order to get into the tent you have to bend your knees to the rules of the tent but they’re absolutely useless at talking to anybody outside the tent. Why such a backlash against Frankie’s article? Why such a ferocious response to his article?”

Say wha? But if everybody is inside the tent Paul who is left to try and get in the tent? (Also, I hope I’m in the #FeminismTent)

Sheridan reads from the #coponcomrades letter, then says: “You’re putting all these people into one little basket, like your accusing them of doing to you.”

Gaffney: “What I meant by that was it was initiated by a group of middle class people.”

This is how I found out that some of my friends have been lying to me about their working class backgrounds! (But then I am just a silly working class woman.)

Sheridan again reads from the letter: “They feel betrayed by what you wrote Frankie.”

Gaffney: “That’s not my problem. That’s their own projection.”

Freyne (speaking about Gaffney’s article): “There’s a much better way to engage with these things…”

Gaffeny: “You’re tone policing.”

Freyne (laughing): “I don’t have a problem with tone policing.”

Gaffney: “I’m glad you say that. I have a problem with the hypocrisy involved of the people who would decry tone policing when it goes one direction or who would decry gender generalisation… I see these words abused more than they’re used toxic masculinity , fragile masculinity, mansplaining, all of this kind of stuff…”

Men bonding over not having a problem with tone policing…#sweet

Paul (on toxic masculinity): “When you portray it as the only form of masculinity that is out there….”

Freyne: “Nobody is portraying it as the only form of masculinity, I’ve never seen anyone describe it as the only form of masculinity, maybe you have but it’s not common. People are taking descriptions of structures as a personal attack and it’s not-”

Gaffney: “People are taking descriptions of language as a personal attack.”

Freyne: “It’s one thing for you to come out and point out that there are levels of lack of privilege in your life that aren’t being addressed by these people…”

Paul: “Feminism is no longer the underdog when it comes to public debate. We are here in the Irish Times Womens’s podcast, there are more feminists in the….Feminism is not the underdog. For anyone to say that feminism is the oppressed viewpoint.. there are more feminists per square foot in this building than in any other building in Dublin… It’s not an oppressed viewpoint. ..Any movement with power is deserving of criticism. of scorn, analysis. Why when anyone criticises or analyses it are they piled on?”

Gaffney: “What I was talking about in the article was when feminism talks about me, I’m entitled, when someone talks about my demographic, I’m gonna talk about it. It’s a movement that objects to gender generalising and gender stereotyping and invents new forms of it and pushing the boundaries of discourse by making terms like straight white male a part of it…”

Paul: “Straight white male is very often deployed as an insult.”

Sheridan: “I don’t think it’s used as an insult, it’s used as a label for someone who already has intrinsic power.”

Paul: “Ah, come on.”

Gaffney: “It’s a derogatory phrase.”

Freyne: “They are genuine signifiers of power in western society, with class.”

Gaffney: “I don’t believe for a second that single white men are the most oppressed in society…(discussion moves on to the alt right, Trump and how feminism has been accused of playing a part in his rise to power)…The rise of the alt right have been fuelled by that kind of style of identity politics rather than trying to liberate their own group.”

Paul: “Feminism as a movement should try talking to men.”

So THAT’s what we’ve been doing wrong! We weren’t talking to the right people about the structural and societal inequalities women have been facing for thousands of years! Silly us! We should’ve been talking to MEN! Duh! Like, why didn’t we think of that? I mean I said, “Please don’t rape me” To the guy who raped me but I guess I must’ve been saying it wrong, cause it obviously wasn’t the way he was culturally conditioned to feel entitled to use my body. I said “Please stop abusing me” to the man I was in a relationship with who abused me but now I know it wasn’t becuase he grew up in a society that doesn’t even bother to collect statistics on domestic abuse victims, such is the disregard for women’s lives. It was just me, silly feminist, always talking to the wrong people. Thank God we have Mark Paul to tell us that all we need to do to achieve gender equality is TALK TO MEN. #HighFiveMark

(Still Mark espousing about feminism): “Feminism in not very good at talking to people who don’t bend the knee to it’s ideas. Feminism doesn’t engage with the world very well, it’s not a great communicator, it’s intellectually incestuous I think… I don’t identify as a feminist.”

*insert a bajillion laughing emoticons*

Freyne: “I think it’s threatening to people the idea that they don’t own all their success. People take these analyses as personal attack.”

Gaffney: “I don’t do that though. I don’t expect Richard Boyd Barrett or Paul Murphy to bend down to me and apologise for being born middle class… I hate this check your privilege stuff. People should identify oppression and fight oppression… Making young men, young people, think about their skin colour rather than their economic position in society is a dangerous game to play — that has contributed to the…(Gaffney was talked over at this point).

Sheridan: Reads from the #coponcomrades letter. “Have you had any rape threats Frankie since your piece?”

Gaffney: “I’ve had threats of violence. But not rape threats no…I believe in solidarity and shared humanity.”

Sheridan: “And they’re accusing you of the exact opposite…I’m talking about gender based violence, where women can’t walk home alone at night.”

Sheridan: “My little brother is much more at risk of violence.”

Freyne: “You have to acknowledge that there are different problems, related to identity.”

Gaffney: “I know women have needed and still need to organise away from men for their rights. Equality, is the word I believe in, I want to fight together.”

Freyne: “We have to look at all the different problems in society. Working class women have very different issues to working class men.”

Paul: “The backlash against Frankie wasn’t because he wasn’t listening to anybody else it was because people were trying to silence what he was saying.”

Gaffney (speaking about the response to his article): “…This constant demand that I should listen to the women. The amount of left wing people and the amount of feminists that agreed with me, I could’ve got 500 people to sign something no problem…(conversation moves on)…If I’d been a woman saying these things I wouldn’t have got half the attacks I did. .. I don’t put out tweets like typical bourgeois wankers. The working class women I know see me as representing the working class just as well as they could. They don’t see me as representing a working class man.”

I only speak for myself but I see Gaffney as representing working class men, he does not speak for me. There were over 100 women from all walks of life and classes who worked on the many, many drafts that created the #coponcomrades letter and hundreds more who felt so strongly about the contents that they signed it. Many of these women were frightened about signing it and I’m aware of a couple of women who agreed with the message but felt afraid to sign. I don’t doubt that some working class women see Gaffney as speaking for them, but he does not speak for all of us. 

Sheridan: “Should men be listening to women more?”

Gaffney: “Men talk a lot more than women and certainly women should be heard.”

Wouldn’t that be great?

#coponcomrades

Feminist Ire Podcast – A Conversation on Consent: It’s ok to say no.

Feminist Ire Podcast – A Conversation on Consent: It’s ok to say no.

For the first Feminist Ire podcast, myself, Sinéad Redmond, Sue Jordan, Yaz O’Connor, Lisa Keogh Finnegan, Helen Guinane sat down and talked about the issues of consent issues in sex, tea, alcohol and everyday life in general – and how it’s ok to say no.

Eilís Ní Fhlannagáin performs her spoken word piece “Ruth.” (This starts at 90:00 if you want to skip straight to that). 

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues regarding consent or rape or sexual assault you can contact Dublin Rape Crisis Phone Line on: 1800 77 8888

If you need information on accessing information on abortion services you can contact the Abortion Support Network.

Massive, massive thanks to Oireachtas Retort for editing assistance. We are grateful!

If you would like to share any views with us on this, please email feministire@gmail.com or get in touch with us on twitter @feministire

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 3.35.53 PM_0.png

On International Women’s Day

Posted on

This is all.

Happy International Women’s Day. My feminism is intersectional. Solidarity with women of colour, queer & trans* women, and sex workers.

— + Yvonne Aburrow (@vogelbeere) March 8, 2013

Silent Protest to Counter Anti-Choice Demo TOMORROW

Posted on

Signal boosting from Unlike Youth Defence, I trust women to decide their lives for themselves:

On Saturday January 19th, a group called ‘vigil for life’ are demonstrating at Merrion Square at 16.30. We’re asking that a number of our followers join us in a counter-demonstration close by.

These people (whether they realise it or not) are protesting against the introduction of legislation that would save the lives of women living in Ireland.

They’re protesting against legislation that the majority have voted for in a referendum.

They’re protesting against a supreme court decision.

They’re protesting directly against what the ECHR says Ireland needs to do to protect the human rights of pregnant women.

We intend to protest silently, without the use of chants or shouting, with signs and pictures of women who have been denied their right to life and health because of this country’s antiquated abortion laws. We have lives too, and its time our government stepped up to protect us.

Please join us in our silent counter-protest. Please bring a sign if you can (it’s as simple as asking a local shop for one of their cardboard stock boxes and using paints or markers) to help get our message across without the need to attempt to shout the other side down.

We will be meeting at Merrion Square South between 4.30 and 4.45. We ask that people coming from town to meet walk across Baggot St, up Lower Fitzwilliam Street and over Merrion Square South (see map below). We ask that people not walk via Merrion Street Upper and past the government buildings, as adversarial confrontation with the Vigil For Life is not our aim in this and they will likely be gathered there. At least one of our members will be waiting at the meeting place early with a large pro-choice sign, so look out for her!

*Image taken from flyposters in Smithfield, December 2012 which were created to highlight the restrictive abortion laws which force women in Ireland to travel abroad while suffering in silence for fear of stigmatisation

Julie Burchill and trans women

Posted on

Originally posted at Consider The Tea Cosy

I was going to write something fairly light-hearted today and pop it in the queue for next week. Maybe get working on one of the stack of comics I have notes sketched out for. Maybe talk about how I just started roller derby, or share a few badly-lit phone pics from Glasgow. Waffle on about love and creativity and how I can’t seem to think up a halfway decent derby name. Maybe finally share my to-die-for vegan chili recipe.

You’re all going to have to wait for the chili, though, because Julie Burchill is at it again with one of the most sickeningly vile transphobic screeds I have ever heard. I’m not exaggerating, by the way. I’m a reasonably-thick-skinned cis person. Trans hate speech isn’t directed at me. It took me several tries to get through this article. Trigger warning, therefore, for the rest of this for violently transphobic language as well as racism. Let’s see what Burchill has to say. I’m not going to link to the article, by the way, as I have no desire to give her more traffic. If you want to look it up, it’s in Comment Is Free in the Guardian, and the title is Transsexuals Should Cut It Out. Classy, Julie. Classy. Here we go:

The brilliant writer Suzanne Moore and I go back a long way. I first met her when she was a young single mother living in a council flat; she took me out to interview me about my novel Ambition (republished by Corvus Books this spring, since you ask) for dear dead City Limits magazine. “I’ve got an entertaining budget of £12.50!” she said proudly. “Sod that, we’re having lobster and champagne at Frederick’s and I’m paying,” I told her. Half a bottle of Bolly later, she looked at me with faraway eyes: “Ooo, I could get to like this…” And so she did.

I have observed her rise to the forefront of this country’s great polemicists with a whole lot of pride – and just a tiny bit of envy. I am godmother to her three brilliant, beautiful daughters. Though we differ on certain issues we will have each other’s backs until the sacred cows come home.

So Julie has a friend called Suzanne, and Suzanne used to be broke but now they’re both relatively loaded. That’s nice. It sure is lovely when people get recognition for doing the things they love, isn’t it? Let’s see what’s next..

With this in mind, I was incredulous to read that my friend was being monstered on Twitter, to the extent that she had quit it, for supposedly picking on a minority – transsexuals. Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey had it of Geoffrey Howe, I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks’ clothing.

Oh. I see what you were doing there, Julie. Dicks in chicks clothing. Because DID YOU KNOW that trans* women are born with differently shaped genitalia than cis women? Did you know that? And the shape of a person’s genitals is super relevant to everything else about them. I know it’s the first thing I want to know when I meet a new person.

Also, Suzanne’s style and substance are important. Trans women don’t have either, you see. It’s not like they’re real people or anything- just caricatures. Also, as feminists we’re very interested in people’s style. Women’s style is the first thing we should be interested about them! I mean, apart from the shape of their genitals. Naturally.

To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.

Wait, what? Minstrels? Minstrels? Right, regular readers of the Tea Cosy will have been around for the last time we had that discussion. I’m just going to make something clear here. Burchill is saying that trans women can be compared to cis women in the same way that minstrels in blackface can be compared to Usain Bolt.

To that, I’ve got nothing. I can’t say something witty and biting about why this is messed-up, because she has gone so far over the line of unacceptability. Let’s move on.

Here’s what happened. In a book of essays called Red: The Waterstones Anthology, Suzanne contributed a piece about women’s anger. She wrote that, among other things, women were angry about “not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual”. Rather than join her in decrying the idea that every broad should aim to look like an oven-ready porn star, the very vociferous transsexual lobby and their grim groupies picked on the messenger instead.

Huh. I’m a grim groupie! As, it seems, is everyone that agrees that trans and cis people are equal and deserving of the same dignity. Sounds like a pretty damn good bandwagon to be on, if you ask me.

Here, Burchill misses the point, as usual, by a mile. We’re not picking on the messenger. We’re decrying the idea that being Brazilian and trans* gives a woman the body of an “oven-ready porn star”. Whatever, by the way, an oven-ready porn star is. I’m not sure why Burchill is talking about putting women in ovens, but maybe there’s a turn of phrase I’m not familiar with here. Either that, or just terrible writing. And bigotry.

I must say that my only experience of the trans lobby thus far was hearing about the vile way they have persecuted another of my friends, the veteran women’s rights and anti-domestic violence activist Julie Bindel – picketing events where she is speaking about such minor issues as the rape of children and the trafficking of women just because she refuses to accept that their relationship with their phantom limb is the most pressing problem that women – real and imagined – are facing right now.

And now Burchill confesses her absolute ignorance of trans activism or trans people. Normally, by the way, when you know that you’re absolutely ignorant of a subject it’s considered polite to learn about it before pontificating in a national paper. Julie’s distillation of trans issues to people’s “relationship with their phantom limb” is a bit of a giveaway of how she knows absolutely nothing about real trans people’s actual lives and concerns. Also, her obsession with other people’s genitals continues to be troubling.

Similarly, Suzanne’s original piece was about the real horror of the bigger picture – how the savagery of a few old Etonians is having real, ruinous effects on the lives of the weakest members of our society, many of whom happen to be women. The reaction of the trans lobby reminded me very much of those wretched inner-city kids who shoot another inner-city kid dead in a fast-food shop for not showing them enough “respect”. Ignore the real enemy – they’re strong and will need real effort and organisation to fight. How much easier to lash out at those who are conveniently close to hand!

This is interesting. Not because it is accurate, but because it is an argument that I hear a lot in activist circles. There are those who argue that worrying about issues of gender, disability, race, orientation or other ways in which people are marginalised distracts from the real issue of whatever it is we’re protesting today. Pointing out misogyny in atheist communities? Distracting From The Real Issues. Mentioning that LGBT activism can be overly-white and ignore POC? Distracting From The Real Issues. And so on and so forth.

This is exactly what Burchill is doing. Sexism and classism, to Burchill, are Real Issues that we need to focus on. It doesn’t occur to her that poor people and women can be trans as well as cis. It doesn’t occur to her that the problem is not that trans activists are offended, but that they were used in the first place in a stereotyped, marginalising way to make someone else’s argument. You don’t fight racism or classism or ableism with misogyny, and if you do then you’d better expect some pissed off women. Similarly, you don’t fight classism or misogyny with racist transphobia, and if you do? You’re going to expect some pissed off trans people and POC.

But they’d rather argue over semantics. To be fair, after having one’s nuts taken off (see what I did there?) by endless decades in academia, it’s all most of them are fit to do. Educated beyond all common sense and honesty, it was a hoot to see the screaming mimis accuse Suze of white feminist privilege; it may have been this that made her finally respond in the subsequent salty language she employed to answer her Twitter critics: “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.”

With “having their nuts taken off” and “cut their dicks off”, Burchill continues her obsession with trans women’s genitalia. I’d be willing to bet that I spend less time thinking about other people’s genitalia while I am having sex with them than Burchill does every time she hears the term “trans woman”. Which is interesting, because a woman being trans tells you absolutely nothing about the current shape of her genitals. Which are irrelevant to everyone but her (and her partner(s)) anyway. It is a tad creepy.

Oh, also, trans women are “screaming mimis”. Again, I’m not quite sure what a ‘mimi’ is and a quick google came up with enough different options that I’ll officially designate this Bad Communication. Burchill’s tone, however, does remind me of people who accuse women of being “hysterical” and “shrill” when we raise our voices. Coincidence? I think not.

She, the other JB and I are part of the minority of women of working-class origin to make it in what used to be called Fleet Street and I think this partly contributes to the stand-off with the trannies. (I know that’s a wrong word, but having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as ‘Cis’ – sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff – they’re lucky I’m not calling them shemales. Or shims.) We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.

Remember the first paragraph? We’re back to the fact that Burchill has some friends. Which is, as I said before, nice. It’s good to have friends. I have friends myself, you know. I hope you do too. I am not sure how this is relevant.

Also, it’s Time For Slurs! Hey, how many transphobic slurs can one person use in a single paragraph? We have t*y, s*e, s*m, and “bed-wetters in bad wigs”. Maybe Burchill has a better grasp of biology than I do, but as far as I’m aware gender identity and continence are unrelated. Also, I’m absolutely certain that since trans and cis people are all, in fact, mammalian, we have the same ability to grow hair. Again, alopecia is distinct from gender identity.

Of course, this isn’t about alopecia. This is about Burchill’s inability to understand that being trans is not the same as dressing in drag. That we’re talking about life, not performance art. Not, by the way, that many drag artists don’t identify on the trans* spectrum themselves! But Burchill claims to be talking about transexual women here. So she should really stick to the topic.

As for ‘cis’? Oh, Julie. Julie, Julie, Julie. Have you heard of Google? It’s very useful for looking up words you’re not quite sure of the definition of. I just popped “cisgender etymology” into Google and within seconds came up with this:

“Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning “to/this the near side,” which is antonymous with the Latin-derived prefix trans-. This usage can be seen in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry, or in the ancient Roman term Cisalpine Gaul (i.e., “Gaul on this side of the Alps”). In the case of gender, however, cis- refers to the alignment of gender identity with assigned gender”

See? It’s from Latin. Just like ‘trans’. If you want to blame someone for how the syllable sounds, you’re stuck with the ancient Romans. Who, by the way, would be a far better target for Julie’s bile since they’re all long dead and can’t be harmed by it.

It’s been noted before that cyberspace, though supposedly all new and shiny, is plagued by the age-old boredom of men telling women not to talk and threatening them with all kinds of nastiness if they persist in saying what they feel.

Pot. Kettle. Also, where are the men here? I didn’t see any conversations about men. I saw a conversation about trans women by a cis woman. But Burchill makes no effort to hide the fact that she doesn’t see trans women as women. Which is what blinds her to the fact that she is, in fact, telling trans women not to talk and threatening them with all kinds of nastiness if they persist in saying what they feel.

The trans lobby is now saying that it wasn’t so much the initial piece as Suzanne’s refusal to apologise when told to that “made” them drive her from Twitter. Presumably she is meant to do this in the name of solidarity and the “struggle”, though I find it very hard to imagine this mob struggling with anything apart from the English language and the concept of free speech.

I find it ironic that someone would accuse a group of struggling with the English language while butchering it herself. Burchill is also suffering from a lack of focus here. Are trans women overprivileged upper-class white PhDs with nothing better to do than undermine feminism? Or are they illiterates? C’mon, Julie. If you’re going to stereotype a massively diverse group of people you should at the very least pick a side.

Oh, and since Suzanne Moore’s original comment referred specifically to “Brazilian transsexuals”, it’s quite telling that Burchill criticises the people who responded for not having quite her command of English. Context, Julie. It’s important.

To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don’t know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.

Here we go back to Burchill’s questionable notions of biology. We saw above that she sees trans women as being unable to grow hair like the rest of us mammals. Now she refers to them as somehow apart from those of us who were “natural-born”. As far as I had been aware, trans people were born the same way as everyone else. Y’know. Pregnancy, labour, possible C-section. Someone cursing at someone else for knocking them up in the first place. Maybe an epidural, maybe not. In Burchill’s world, however, trans women are born.. unnaturally?

It would be funny, in a way. It would be, if it were not for the chilling fact that seeing others as unnatural is a profoundly dehumanising thing.

Also, I have no idea what she’s on about with the chutzpah thing. Non sequitors ahoy!

Okay, we’ve just got one paragraph left. Let’s get this over with:

Shims, shemales, whatever you’re calling yourselves these days – don’t threaten or bully us lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we’ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.

I’m sorry, but I’m left lost for words.

Except for this: Julie Burchill, I am angry. I am angry both that you attack trans women in such a vile manner, and that you claim to speak for all cis women when you do so. How dare you? How dare you? You do not speak for me. I do and I always will stand beside my trans sisters who I have far more in common with than bigots like you. With whom, despite your protestations, I do share an experience of womanhood. There is nothing unnatural about being trans. There is, Ms Burchill, something unnatural about bigotry.

And you, Julie Burchill? If you think that this is acceptable? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

If you’re even half angry about this as I am, please sign this petition demanding an apology from the Guardian for publishing this vile excuse for an article. Official complaints about the article can also be made here.

Originally posted at Consider The Tea Cosy