Home and Asylum 

Home is very important to me. This might seem strange at first if you know how I have moved about the country I was born in and at one point dotted myself around the globe. I would still, despite all this movement, call myself a homebody. It is always my favourite place to be, I can turn myself into something of a hermit quite happily in an environment built for comfort. I have been hygge-ing long before it became the trend to hit these shores. 

At this current moment in my life I have Home and I have Home Home. Home is where I live, my flat in Bath which I retreat to after work each day. Home Home is my family home back in South Shields, where I was raised and all of my happiest memories live. I am very lucky in that my parents have never moved while I’ve been alive, so Home Home has always been the one building. I’m fully aware I’m meant to be a grown woman now but I do know that when they do move I will still have something of a freak out as I would have if they’d moved when I was 6 years old. 

Now apart from affording me the usual safety and security that a roof over your head offers, Home (from now on read this as Home and Home Home! You keeping up?!) is extra important to me. Bipolar disorder and PTSD, two conditions I suffer from, both can be made significantly more manageable by feeling secure and having a safe space. Whenever my illness rears its ugly head my first thought is always to get Home, shut the door and get to safety, it minimises bad thoughts and is a place that helps me heal. 

Another argument could be made for me being such a homebody, I’m a cancerian, apparently they are home makers. You can take or leave that one. 

I’ve been thinking about Home a lot recently, because I am feeling a tad rocky and unstable. A recent trip Home Home was much needed. I visited dear friends who are in the middle of buying and making their own homes, both physically and also with perfect bundles of baby joy. I could have stayed Home Home for a lot longer. On the day I had to leave I felt home sick before I had even left the house. I was just feeling so comforted and happy there. My mind was at ease. If you have a bipolar mind you will understand these moments are the greatest of relief. 

In the last week, back in Bath, my sister has moved into her new family home. I loved her last flat, which she rented, but it’s strange, I walked into this house and I just felt it, it’s a Home. Yes boxes were everywhere and not all the lights work, but I can see her beautiful future ahead in the place that will become the back drop to my nephews stories.

It made me realise that as much as I love my flat, I do not have that feeling. I don’t know why this is, I think it could be a combination of several reasons. I am in a shared building which always leaves me slightly on edge, days when I struggle with feeling low or anxious the idea of having to be confronted by somebody in my space is alarming. Also when you rent it is rare that you can ever get the place how you actually want it, there are always things you can’t do, a stupid light fitting that you hate will always remind you that decisions are out of your hands in the place you reside. I think the main reason I don’t feel totally at home and secure is an experience I had in the last flat I lived in. I knew it upset me at the time but I don’t think I ever appreciated how much it effected me. I was happy in my flat in Bristol, I’d made myself feel quite secure there and was secretly quite proud at how I was doing living in my first place completely on my own. I walked out of work one day and had an answer machine message from my estate agents, letting me know some people were popping round the next day to look at the flat – as they wanted to buy it and move in quickly. Now I know with renting this can happen at any point, but I didn’t even know the flat was for sale and it just felt like the ground disappeared below me. I think no matter what I am now always waiting for that to happen again. It is horribly unnerving. 

I think Home is so important to me as it can also mean asylum. It frustrates me that we think of asylum as such a negative word, horror of horrors somebody going into an asylum, when actually it is a resting place, somewhere for a person to be cared for and where peace and healing comes first. All of our asylums are now shut, and I can’t deny that there was bad practice in many but sometimes the answer is reform – not to abandon an idea entirely. Now those who are struggling are told to get fit for work, every day what can you do to progress, quick quick quick get life back to normal, and by normal we mean get back in that capitalist circle, earn and spend, earn and spend. To be valued in this day and age we have to quite literally have value, economically. Our value as a person and the quality of our lives seems to be secondary, at the very least. Sometimes with these illnesses we do just need rest, a place to hide and our home to go to, I don’t want my health to be measured in pounds, I just cry out for asylum. 

My situation is unlikely to change. I am part of the rental generation, like many I am priced out of buying a home and I’m also likely to stay in low paid jobs because of my health problems. Something of a catch 22. But. Wherever I lay my hat I’ll keep calling my Home and I will do my all to make it my space, my asylum and my Home. Just get me a throw blanket and a hundred or so tea lights from ikea. 

When a good event goes…WILD! 

Sitting down to write this blog I began with some confusion as to where to physically put it. As a lot of you know, I write about all things books and literature over on www.dogeared-reads.com, and at first this post would appear to have a place over there, inspired as it is by an event I attended at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. On second thoughts I realised it could not find its home there as the topics I need to cover are wide ranging, venturing far away from bookish discussions and are likely to lead me to getting quite heated, and dare I say it, beginning to rant. If you read the sporadic posts that happen over on here you will know ranting has found a place among these pages.

 

On Sunday I went to an event at the festival, which I attend each year, called ‘Is The Selfie Really Selfish’. To make this blog as clear as possible I am going to copy the exact event details advertised, word for word, and the description provided of the chair person Emma Gannon. This means you will then be presented with every bit of information a purchaser of this event would have been provided with before getting a ticket and then attending. So the event itself:

 

From Frida Kahlo to #blacklivesmatter, we look beyond Kim Kardashian and the infamous duck pouts of social media to examine the long history of self-portraiture and discuss the power and capacity for change that documenting one’s image can hold. Art historian and author of Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self Portraits, Frances Borzello discusses the many incarnations of the ‘selfie’, from Renaissance portraits to the digital age, with blogger and Healthy.Happy. Hot. founder Michelle Thomas and Festival Guest Curator Emma Gannon.

 

and the info on Emma Gannon:

 

Emma Gannon is part of ‘generation slashie’ – an author, speaker, digital consultant, podcaster and founder of award-winning blog girllostinthecity.com. She’s the former social media editor of GLAMOUR and has been published everywhere from The Guardian to Teen Vogue to MTV. This year she released her debut book CTRL ALT DELETE: How I Grew Up Online, published by Ebury. “I’m over the moon to be a Guest Curator for Cheltenham this year. Every panel and workshop is very close to my heart, discussing the impact that our increasing dependency on the Internet might be having on our careers, creativity, connections and overall well-being.”

 

On a crisp, Autumn day the Cheltenham audience took their places in a smart tent named ‘The Inkpot’, sat our bums down on the padded chairs and readied ourselves for the hour of discussion. I think it is fair to also talk about who made up that audience. I would say the majority were women, white and in age range of 40 – 75, although there were some that fell out of this range with younger audience members being in their teens and myself ticking the early thirties box. Getting to/living in Cheltenham and being at a literature festival you can usually expect some pretty high levels of privilege going on.

After introductions were made the event began with Frances Bozello running the audience through a ten minute slide show of female self-portraiture through the ages. It was fascinating to hear her speak on how, over time, the way women would present themselves on the canvas had changed, gradually moving away from the rules imposed on them by society, always looking pretty and demure, to eventually showing themselves in their painting overalls looking confidently into the viewers eye. It definitely made me want to have a read of her book and I plan to look this up soon. Frances herself admitted that she had only tried using Facebook once around 10 years ago and had that social media presence for precisely one day as her daughter deleted her account! She also confessed to never having taken a selfie and was intrigued to hear all about how this has become such a hot topic in regards to young women’s lives online, she often deferred to comment during the hour as she said she was enjoying learning so much from the other two panellists and wanted this to continue.

We then moved on to the more digital age of women representing themselves (I would just like to add here that men using this medium was talked about but as a whole the discussion did focus on the female angle, this felt natural to me as the panel were referencing a lot of their own experiences online). Michelle talked about her time online, if you do not know her story she received a huge amount of attention after she talked online about a horrendous date with a man from tinder. You can read her wonderfully written account here but to sum up briefly, they went on the date and he said she was perfect/wife material and he could be with her forever…if she was thinner. I KNOW. Pick your jaws off the floor and take a moment or two to compose yourself from the rage now simmering within. On ‘Sails Her Ship’ I am more than happy to say – PRICK. We moved on to talk about how young women now leave their house ‘selfie ready’, with so much make up on they can actually look slightly odd face to face but on camera this comes across as being perfectly sculpted, you too can appear highlighted and defined just like a Kardashian. Michelle spoke to how she liked to use her social media/Instagram account to not only show herself in times when she is dressed up and with her make up on, but also more authentic pictures of her in her pjs and the like with a fresh face (or a hung over face! I know there are plenty of those over on mine!)

The chat carried on to how there is this wave of women out there now encouraging young girls to be themselves, to not feel this pressure to be ‘perfect’ or ‘selfie perfect’ everyday of their lives, women like Caitlin Moran, Nimco Ali, Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe – the list goes on. Now I was totally engaged for this first half hour, this is an area I am really interested in and have read a lot about so I like to think I am well versed, but I still found this debate lively, entertaining and thought provoking, it was ticking all the boxes for me…apparently, not for all. A couple of rows directly behind me a voice pitched up ‘no no no, excuse me, I just have to say something, I just have to, this is making me so angry’. Now obviously the panellists heard this and I think Emma handled this interruption perfectly. I would likely have mumbled, panicked, turned a shade of red and tried to carry on somehow (PLEASE nobody come to an event I am talking at and test me on this!) but with total calm she said that actually it was time to go to questions anyway so if the house lights could be raised the lady could have a microphone and speak out. Now when handed the microphone she said that she couldn’t actually speak then as she was so angry she would say something inappropriate (I may be totally wrong here but the thought that entered my head was – your intention is totally to speak here you just want to make some dramatic kind of introduction to yourself, your very ‘informed’ self as I was about to find). Encouraged by the panel to still speak as they wanted to hear what the woman had to say no matter what she then carried on. I would like to relay what she said succinctly but I don’t think I can, I can get the main feel of it across to you but to be honest it was a heated moment, I was in the very front row so a matter of feet away from the panel and the comments made felt very aggressive to me and I just found myself somehow wanting to shield them as I hate seeing people spoken to in a manner like that in any situation. I am all for debate and challenging conversation, but my goodness I am just as much of a cheer leader for being polite and considerate to others.

The reasons for her unhappiness were that the conversation was ‘unsophisticated’ (other than the first ten minutes), that the concept of authenticity in selfies had not been explained (‘I mean – you haven’t even explained what you mean by this supposed authenticity’), that women had been described as narcissistic, and that it had been said that the women mentioned above reaching out on social networks, providing alternative viewpoints to young girls, were where feminism had begun, that Generation X (of which I am a member) had invented it. I also think she had taken serious umbrage at another point. Michelle has made a tongue in cheek remark about how people often view our generation as lazy, on social media all the time taking pictures of ourselves – possibly not understanding the communities we are building there and the positives that are happening, and anyway, our generation weren’t the ones to cause two recessions and make it so nobody could ever buy a home again. This had made me really laugh, no matter what your view point on politics or economics it is a fact that our generation are the first to experience a decline, and a serious one, in living standards and economic status due to what has happened with the generation that has gone before us. Me thinks this lady did not like this moment!

 

Michelle really seemed to bear the brunt of this and calmly gave her response once the woman had finished. She discussed what she meant by authenticity (which, I am sorry, I think was blindingly bloody obvious already from the discussion and was just a case of somebody wanting to quibble over semantics), that she did not think women were narcissistic but that society/the patriarchy sometimes viewed us as that way (and this is true, she never once said we are narcissistic, if she had I would have noticed and been annoyed!) and she also tried to explain to this woman that in no way was she saying that feminism had just been invented. To be honest I don’t think her answers were really falling on ears that wanted to listen, I think the woman had decided to be annoyed and now that was her stance she would not back down on it. Michelle then said as for sophistication, well, sorry, but she guessed she just wasn’t sophisticated.

 

The event carried on with questions from different members of the audience, some great thoughts and points made throughout, especially one by a 12 year old who talked about how selfies were a way of seeing her and her friends ‘out there’, when they are not represented in the more traditional forms of media. When the event ended I had to dash to the panel just to say how much I had enjoyed their discussion, it felt really important to me that they heard voices who had gained a lot from it and found it a really great event.

 

I have been thinking a lot about the event ever since and it has had me thinking (bit of a Carrie Bradshaw moment there) over several points. I know, long blog post already right, but here we go.

 

What does ‘sophisticated’ even mean?! What makes a ‘sophisticated’ event?! Serving wine and canapes while we discuss 18th century art? A debate where panellists sit with cards and work from bullet points? More of a lecture? I honestly have no idea. Surely every single person out there could have a different take on this, and more importantly, who says an event has to be sophisticated? This may be what that women had wanted but what about everybody else? The event was exactly what I was looking for, relaxed, informative and lively. When you attend an event like this you read the description of the event, decide if you are interested and choose to go along on the information provided. There is no way you can dictate how it then moves on from that point. You don’t go to the theatre to see a take on Macbeth and shout out half way through because it is not the take on Macbeth you wanted to see. In this occasion we went to see a panel talk about a topic and they did so. A significant amount of time was always going to be given over for a question and answer session so at that point, if something you hoped to be discussed had not yet been covered, surely you then raise your hand and ask a question about it, you then get to talk through your points and then respectfully let others do the same with theirs – which most importantly – ARE ALLOWED TO BE DIFFERENT FROM YOURS.

 

There did seem to be something of a generational divide in the audience when it came to this conversation to be honest, with those who are Generation X and younger seeming to really appreciate the social media slant of the talk (which was always going to come, the title had ‘selfies’ in it). Now in no way do I want to suggest this was the case with every older member of the audience, my mum is a user of social media and I know would thoroughly have enjoyed the talk, but I do think this may have come into play in this particular circumstance. It felt like our generations relationship with the internet and the selfie was not being taken seriously and was ‘not sophisticated’, where as a discussion over art was just that. Can I also just add – I adore my art, I loved those first ten minutes equally.

 

In no way did Michelle suggest that feminism had just recently been invented with this new wave of social media. She did, however, talk about how this was a new type of feminism. How young women could be reached out to so easily now and these women were doing so through twitter/Instagram and are beginning to make huge changes. There was no denial of feminist teachings in the past but there is also no denying that these were not as accessible to vast swathes of girls at this time. A huge majority of girls have a smart phone now, not so many would have got themselves down to the library to dig out the latest Simone De Beauvoir.

 

As I say, a lot of the hecklers concerns/shouts seemed to me to come about from simply not listening thoroughly to the points made and a refusal to accept that a discussion about social media could be sophisticated or important enough to be discussed at a Cheltenham Literature event. Sadly Emma also received a hate email from another audience member after the event. I think this is wholly a sorry state of affairs where two people with feelings of great entitlement decided they should get an event/conversation exactly as they wanted it and were not prepared to open up to anything other than a narrow view point they had walked in with. And no matter what – be nice guys, it is not hard, people are doing their best, in their job and talking with only good intentions, there are so many other places your rage could be better directed.

 

As is clear, I like to direct my rage straight onto the page, so there it is, my summing up of *the* event of the weekend, like no other I have ever attended at the mild mannered, very proper literature festival. Time to go watch some tv, eat toast in my trackie b’s, all in a very sophisticated manner.

P.s. Some added extras, there is LOADS of extra content available to you from this post. Head over to Michelle’s website by clicking here and find her on twitter @onepoundstories and Instagram  msmthomas.

Emma can be found on Twitter @emmagannon you can also find her amazing podcasts on iTunes (one of which is another event I attended at the festival with her interviewing Laura Bates – AH-MAY-ZING), she also has a corker of an email newsletter (feels like a mini free magazine to me!) to sign up to.

Keep an eye over on http://www.dogeared-reads.com where I will be chatting about her new book in the coming week, and also have a gander at lots of other booky goodness happening over there. You can follow us on @dogeared_reads

One last declaration, Emma and Michelle had nothing to do with this post, aren’t people I know well who knew I’d support them, I just wanted to say it how I found it. The Woman had nothing to do with this post either – and again I just said (typed?!) it as I found it.

For better understanding – *deep breath* 

Today I would like to talk about mental health, managing life, money, stress and friendship. I will probably throw a few other topics in there for good measure and a lot of what I am going to chat about is quite personal, so read on if you want or STOP, TURN AROUND, RUN AWAY – you have now been warned, don’t blame me! (Secondary warning – LONG BLOG POST!) 
Although I do not frequent this blog as regularly now you will know if you have read previous posts that I have some problems with my mental health and some events in my past that result in a whole host of difficulties. In case you haven’t read these and don’t want to skip back (who can blame you, there is probably some cracking Autumnal TV viewing about to start!) I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and then more recently, a year or so ago, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The events that led to the PTSD without a shadow of a  doubt made my already present bipolar disorder a lot more pronounced. Now I’m not sure if this post will have a huge amount of structure or shape to it, and some might wonder whether it even has a point, but as I always stress, I think if you can talk about these experiences it is helpful, it can be a reassurance to anybody who has found themself feeling a similar way and it helps explain a complex issue on a more personal level for those who have not suffered from these problems themselves. More understanding is always good. 

Primarily, the reason I wanted to post in here came about because of the events of the last year or so. Just over a year ago I had a breakdown and was diagnosed with PTSD. The ‘T’ of the PTSD occurred around ten years ago and was an event that left me with a whole host of complex feelings. I’ve never directly said what happened on here and I probably won’t now but I don’t think it takes much reading between the lines to understand – for some reason typing those actual words makes me very uncomfortable. 

I never know if I handled what happened to me ‘well’. In some ways I think I did everything wrong, I didn’t tell anybody what had happened, I swung from extremes of behaviour from never leaving the house to being out and determined to be seen as the life and soul of the party – I wanted to make a point of being in control and choosing what happened to me. The very sad thing is that to act out being that person I had to get very, very drunk which meant I actually had little control and went through life piling more problems on top of the damage that had already been done. The total other view is that I did handle it well, that despite what was done to me and what I went through – I survived, I made it, no matter which path I took to get there. 

I didn’t talk about what had happened because I wanted to protect people I love from the pain of it all, I was ashamed, I felt guilty and as time progressed from the moment it happened I questioned more and more whether I had any right to be upset, if I hadn’t asked for it or got what I deserved. It took just over ten years before I opened up to those who love me most and what happened next for me was hugely unexpected. I spoke to my family on a Sunday and then half way through the next day, during my lunch hour at work, I just…stopped. I fell, I crashed and I broke. The memories that I’d always tried to push away came flooding back and it was like those events that had happened so long ago had happened just minutes before. It was possibly the reaction people would expect you to have at the time but I now know this often isn’t the case. I sat in a chair in a public space as this crash happened and I was terrified, in that moment I very deeply did not want to be alive and I was stuck, alone and meant to be moving back to work in a matter of minutes. Now because of my bipolar I have suffered from serious suicidal thoughts in the past  (before the wonders of my current medication regime came in!) and I’ve had many a talk about what to do in a crisis situation. Thank god some kind of auto pilot clicked in here and I phoned my Drs and somehow managed to mumble out that something had happened, I was frozen and I didn’t think I could be alive anymore. It was arranged for me to come straight in and the result was then me being out of work, and out of life, for a long time. 

This experience taught me a lot, especially about friendship and those who actually value you. My family were my never ending support and the people who kept me wanting to inhabit this life, they will always be the ones I cling on for. Otherwise life got very lonely very, very quickly. In such truly horrendous times I went back and forth to hospitals, to grey bleak buildings in the middle of no where to be questioned about the most painful moments in my life. Everything in my body told me to end it, the suffering was too much and I didn’t feel like I had the strength to survive it. Now save from 3 truly great friends, 1 who I’ve known my whole life time and 2 who I’m so incredibly lucky to have met later on in life, I heard from…no one. It was the loneliest time, a treasured friendship became paper thin when my apparent ‘disappearance’ became classed as a decision made (never has the term ‘it’s not all about you’ been more appropriate). Those who know me know I am not quiet with friends, the total opposite in fact – I am annoyingly chatty on text and on Twitter, and I am not one to disappear on those I love. I don’t expect those around me to be the same but I also didn’t expect the complete radio silence that ensued. A lot of the people are back now that I am ‘better’, some seem to be gone for good. It makes me sad everyday. I often see the mental health campaigns urging people to see this is another health problem in the same way physical health is, I can’t help thinking, if I’d been bedridden, in and out of hospital all those months with cancer, I think you would have received phone calls, visits, a card – hell, maybe even some flowers or a grape or two. Instead my isolation became complete and the thought of ever being around people again became a terrifying prospect. 

During this time I was passed through different offices and departments of our mental health care system (OH how that deserves its own blog post). I had the Dr looking after me in a practical way, by which I mean keeping me physically alive, where as to sort out all these pesky problems I had I was advised the best route was to get myself on the waiting list for a specialist counsellor (a charitable organisation with NO government support, because the Tories went and cut pretty much the entire funding budget for ANY organisation that in any way offers help to victims of rape or sexual abuse, way to be great human beings guys – guess if I had some profit to offer you then you might be more interested). The waiting list was long, but I was lucky, a space became available and I was considered a priority case, I get so upset when I think of girls and women out there who are desperate for help but have to wait 9 months to a year, often 9 months to a year too late. 

Now my counsellor and the help I was given was truly amazing but my god it was hard, harder then I ever could have imagined. I could see how much this would help me, how it would potentially change my life, if I could carry this on. I had a problem though, each session was so difficult it was triggering panic attacks, depression kept setting in and simply getting out of bed the day afterwards felt like facing a wall I could not get over. I was having to take time off work each week as I simply could not function. In the end this came to a make or break point, the counselling had to go. I can’t even begin to express how desperately I would like to have carried on receiving that help but also I need to live, I need a job. I guess part of the reason I wanted to write this post is because I wanted to pose a question, a question for which I have no answer to, what do you do when you want to get better but you can’t afford to? When getting better is a luxury and what you need to get better from is something that was forced upon you? I can’t think about this too often as it makes me too sad.

So what do I do with myself now? I live my life in a weird disjointed way. When I am out around people I feel like I have ‘performance Danielle’ on like a suit of armour. I am loud (annoyingly so), I talk too much, I try to make jokes out of everything including, especially,  myself. I can keep this up when I’m out but it leaves me drained and exhausted constantly. Gradually this gets worse until I’m forced to take time off work as I’m unwell, which then makes me stressed and worried as I know how much time I have to take off is a major problem, both in terms of trying to keep my job and financially, the stress then makes me more unwell and the cycle keeps on spinning.

Little day to day things are effected to. You know each morning when you get up, get ready and leave the house? I HATE that time, every single day I struggle to open that door and step outside, I am so very scared.  I used to try and walk to work but the walk would leave me so nervous, I hate the noise and the people rushing up behind me, that it was causing more panic attacks and making leaving the house harder. I now get the bus and still turn up each day self consciously sweating as I find the journey so difficult. I’m embarrassed about myself every single day. A colleague asked me the other day why I don’t just walk, that it isn’t far. I couldn’t answer. When I was in counselling they helped me address some of these problems, as they pointed out one of the reasons for my low self esteem was because I viewed myself as lazy, because I wasn’t managing all of these normal things. My counsellor stressed over and over to me that just existing and doing what I am with PTSD means my body is having to work infinitely harder than somebody who doesn’t have the disorder that it’s no wonder I struggle and I should not be ashamed. Part of my brain understands this but it is a whole different thing accepting this and it becoming something I believe and apply to myself.

I could type on and on about the myriad of ways these problems effect me on a daily basis but it really might seem endless and like I am being incredibly self indulgent, which I most likely am already, so I will leave it there. I will keep on trying each day, finding it hard each day but also trying to look for the happy moments, for the silver linings. I still don’t know if this post had a huge point other than to say – if you know somebody who is struggling, reach out, just be there and when they ‘re-enter’ the world please go gentle, we are really really trying.

Although it is hard for me to talk about these things if you do know somebody who you think might benefit knowing there are others out there struggling but making it through, or somebody who could gain more understanding from reading about a personal experience, do feel free to share.

If you are feeling charitable and want to help an amazing place doing great work just head over to the SARSAS website here

Thanks guys, and thank you to my darling family who I love more than words can express. 

The Patriarchy and its Tool for Silence

I lay awake in bed last night, it was around 1.30 a.m, thinking about today being International Women’s Day, thinking how about much injustice will be suffered by those who dare to be born as a woman. My train of thought took me to the station of Silence. What I think to be one of there most powerful tools wielded against women is the power imposed by the patriarchy to silence us, to push our voices and experiences down until they control our narrative. As time ticked by and sleep clearly wasn’t appearing on the horizon, I continued along this path as I began to imagine ‘The Patriarchy’ as a global brand (you just know they wouldn’t pay their taxes) and Silence being one of their products to be pushed on us, just as it is now, on the TV, in our magazines, you name it and you will most likely find it hiding there behind a flashy logo, making you think you actually want it. So this means The Patriarchy would have an advertising team right? I am imagining this to be quite Mad Man-esque. They would need to come up with the image, so that the moment you see it you think ‘Ah look, it’s Silence by the Patriarchy’. Well tell Mr Draper to pour himself that extra large whisky,  the hunt is over and I have the answer, the logo has to be a dummy, or a pacifier if you prefer.

Look at a dummy and you immediately know it’s job, to silence the mouth it has been placed in. When our voices are taken away from us we lose our power, our status and this can then lead on to losing our visibility. When you hear people talking about representation in the government and how ‘as long as it is the right people in the job, it doesn’t matter what sex they are’ you can guarantee that the person speaking is somebody who has never had their options taken away from them by people who have no understanding, no experience of their particular problem. When the topic of abortion comes up in parliament I am not satisfied with laws being made over what could happen to MY body by a group of people who will never have any experience of this. When funding is being taken away from rape crisis centres and shelters for women to escape to when male violence crashes in to their life, I want to know there are voices involved in these decisions who know what it is to live a life where the default setting is frightened when walking along streets alone at night, and who can represent this fear.

Silence us and you also will get rid of our right to say ‘No’, and at the moment it seems like a lot of people out there would have no problem with this. The tens of thousands of supporters of ‘Roosh V’, or Daryush Valizadeh as is his actual name, have gathered at locations across America and the UK to bring attention to a change of law they are calling for – make rape legal when on private property. Valizadeh is of the belief that if a woman has walked onto a private property with him, well, consent has already been given. Currently in the UK press we are reading daily of the rape of a young woman by a football player, yet from what I am reading it seems to suggest we really need to worry about him. I have read columns asking us to think about how this poor guy had so much money and time on his hands, and this has been the case since he was a teenager, how on Earth was he meant to know that the grooming and then rape of an under aged women might, heaven forbid, stop him playing any more football. Can’t we just think of what HE is going through? The pages and pages of comments under these articles hurling abuse at this young girl and what she has *done* to him make me sick to read. So here we can see again, this handy dummy would solve these problems beautifully, if women can’t speak up then these men can carry on doing as they please without causing any upset to our 90 minutes of sporting entertainment at the weekend.

Let’s not forget the other word for dummy, a pacifier. I think this aptly fits in with what The Patriarchy would like to get across to us as well. Oh you women with your EMOTIONS, your shrieking, crying and moaning ways, there there dear, just sssssh now with your Patriarchy Pacifier and pop the kettle on will you? The only way to get ahead is male, ‘grow some balls’ and ‘man up’, men don’t cry as men are strong, women cry so we must be weak right? This is what patriarchal logic tells us, so once again we come full circle, shut the women up, they’re not helping by not doing things the male way.

One other thing that will please The Patriarchy about this Dummy logo is that it not only sums up quickly and succinctly how we need to be silenced, it reminds the World that we need to be infantilised as well. Treat women as grown adults, hell no. Look younger, inject poison into your face, rip all your body hair out in painful *beauty treatment*, dress up as a ‘naughty school girl’ – that’s what you need to do to get by. I would go on waxing lyrical about this but it has been done so beautifully already for me by the wonderful Holly McNish, in this piece which you can read in her phenomenal book ‘Cherry Pie’, or which you can watch her read to you  in this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaL2tN-M6s4

The dummy logo may not exist, but on this International Women’s Day when I not only celebrate the women I love and the things we have achieved, but also think about how far we have to go, it doesn’t feel too far from reality either. So today my message is really to say to you, and myself, whenever you feel yourself being silenced, having your experience shut down and ignored because you’re a woman, spit out that dummy and bear your teeth.

 

 

 

Do You Remember the First Time?

When writing a blog that you set free into the public domain you tend to have that moment of ‘can I write this knowing that my parents will read it?’ and the title of today’s post will probably clue you in that I most definitely have that thought drifting around now. I am nothing if not an open book however, I tend not to get embarrassed and there is very little I won’t chat about (as followers of my twitter account will know from the night I recounted the ‘NME wee’ story, or even ‘the night of the vomit pit’) so once I have an issue buzzing around my head it usually isn’t long until I am opening up the laptop to tap some thoughts out about it. I have become acquainted with a woman over the last year and I know as little about her personal life now as I did in the first ten minutes of meeting her. When chatting about her one evening somebody said ‘I really like her as she isn’t an emotional slut’. And there it was – I then knew exactly what I was, and you know what, I feel NO shame, I love my emotional sluttery, it may make people cringe with horror and want to distance themselves from me, but for others it makes them laugh and hopefully sometimes feel a little less alone about something that have been too nervous to talk about.

So, when the topic of the ‘First Time’ popped into my head (It really feels like it needs those capitals doesn’t it? Being such a Moment) I just thought, ok, away we go! Jarvis Cocker clearly has a stake in this, evident in the title, as I was listening to him being the usual wonderful wordsmith he is about defining moments in our lives today (link here in case somehow this tune has passed you by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPGepgWupTw ). Jarvis did not provide all the inspiration, last week I went to see the rather marvellous ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’ and became swept away in the story of Minnie, a girl who has just lost her virginity, as she shares her thoughts and feelings by way of an audio diary. (Don’t say I don’t give you anything, here, have a link to the trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSnjJrbu1tY).

There has been A LOT of press surrounding this movie and to be honest I ignored most of it, I watched the trailer, liked the look of it and just wanted to go in and see it without any prejudgement or angry voices ringing in my ears. Here is the very basic gist of the hoopla. Those who have been given the power of certifying motion pictures decided to award the ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’ an 18 certificate, mainly because the film shows a young woman having sex and dealing with her sexuality. The panel who decided that this piece really wasn’t suitable for those under 18 were all male, you know, those who know just what it is to be a teenage girl experiencing changes in her body and male attention for the first time. Now let’s take a moment to remember that the first American Pie movie was given a 15 certificate. This is a movie where all of the leads playing teenagers are significantly older than the ages they are acting, so the representation of their bodies is inaccurate. Also, this is a movie where a boy has SEX WITH A PIE. And (spoilers for Diary of a Teenage Girl here so stop reading if you so wish) there is even a comparable relationship between the two movies, in both a teenager has sexual intercourse with a significantly older adult, Stifflers mom and then Minnie with her mums boyfriend. So how has there ended up being this difference in classification? We are in a position where a guy losing his virginity is just good fun for all, we slap him on the back in congratulations and let the teenagers in to have a giggle at an inaccurate representation of relationships on the big screen. When it comes to an accurate, moving, warm and funny showing of a young woman in this position, heaven forbid we let the viewers it would directly speak to see that, a woman’s sexuality is too dangerous to be out in the world! God knows what it would do to the impressionable minds!

As I say, the Diary of a Teenage Girl is a stunningly told story. When it finished my friend and I felt like clapping as the credits rolled and our eyes filled with tears. The young actress playing Minnie, Bel Powley, is an outstanding talent who steals every scene she is in. I wish I could have seen this movie when I was 15, hell, when I was 12, it would have reassured me about so many things. The relationships involved are complicated and frightening, but then so is life, and it is how Minnie navigates these moments and shows how vulnerable yet tough a young girl can be that makes it so touching. I can’t encourage you all to go and take a cinema trip for this movie enough.

So with first times being there on our big screen and being sung about from our ipods, I find it amazing how little they are talked about when it comes to young women. I don’t know if this is a personal thing but they seem to be shrouded in secrecy, something you might giggle about with your friends or anonynmously write in to a magazine about, but not actually something that is discussed in a calm and open fashion at times when it is probably needed most. As Jarvis says when remembering the first time ‘I can’t remember a worse time’, a lot of people out there do not have great experiences, and I worry that with the overwhelming pressure on young women and men due to the overbearing presence of pornography these first times will become more fraught and frightening. When so many young people feel the need to ‘get rid’ of their virginity as quickly as possible it is worrying to think that they can then end up in situations they never wanted to be in with effects that can last a life time. I have written about this before and will no doubt write about it again, but I firmly believe that talking in the home, in school, through responsible and accessible literature and movies like Diary of a Teenage Girl, we will open up a space where girls and boys can feel safe to talk about how they really feel and what they really want, and we can then move on to help them develop the confidence to achieve this in their relationships.

I have to say I was very lucky, when it came to my first time I was in a relationship with my first love. My goodness, yes there was a LOT of drama in our teenage courting and it wasn’t always plain sailing, but when the time came, I felt safe, ready and loved, and I will always be thankful for that.

If you had a great or a terrible first time though, talk about it with whoever (or wherever, anonymous blog posts can be great!) you feel comfortable, it is a part of your life and no panel of men can shut our stories down, we own them and can put them out there for all the girls in the future, for reassurance that we are out there and we understand. I will carry on being an emotion slut and oversharing so that if someone out there finds it too hard to talk about their story, they might find solace in mine.

A Letter to my Nanna

Dear Nanna,

It seems odd writing to you on here, a letter you’ll never read, a letter that even if read to you would not make much sense as words are slowly losing their meaning and shape. You wouldn’t understand exactly who it was from, the youngest of one branch of your family tree, a tree filled with off shoots all bursting forth with love for you. It’s ok though, when you see me I know you can’t place me now, what matters is that you know it is love coming to visit you, when you hug me tight I know your body remembers that bond. So Nanna, I’m putting this letter out into the ether hoping that the words we say about the great loves in our lives permeate through our everyday knowing, pushing distance and illness aside and filling their space with warm memories.

You and Granda were, and still are, such a huge part of our stories. When I think of growing up your presence is tangled in amongst all the tales. The treat of sleeping at your house each weekend, washing my dolls clothes in a bowl in the garden, standing on a chair by you in the kitchen as you taught me how to make your perfect scones (which I still can’t achieve). You coming to tuck me in to sleep each night, always bringing up a cup of water, cling film over the top with a straw pierced through! These memories of tiny details stick strong, but I’m scared, when I’m with you now we can’t really speak, it’s became too hard. What if I can’t remember the real you, the Nanna before this stage, what if those conversations slip away from me? I wish we’d had more time, I was too young to know, to self absorbed to treasure those moments, ask you more questions, learn everything I could from you and lock it all away within me for safe keeping. There is so much I want to ask you now.

It’s frightening and painful to watch you go through this, to watch loved members of my family care for you while struggling under the weight of this enormity. We watch you disappear while at the same time you are standing right before us.

But please Nanna, I don’t want you to think this is all bad, to ever think or utter that word burden. You could never be that and I can’t speak for others but I feel honoured that I get to be around such a wonderful woman as you no matter what battle you face. There are times when we all smile, when you dance, your wicked grin as you indulge that sweet tooth! We have to all laugh together in some of the most poignant moments, I think the strength and survival of this can be heard right then.

I would never wish this illness on anybody, it is cruel and frightening, but I need you to know that through it all, love is winning. Life throws these daggers at us and some wound deeply. We can’t escape what is coming our way but we can find solace in the triumph of love. I see family pulling together, relationships with relatives becoming closer than they’ve ever been as we make our way through this.

Last time I was with you we sat side by side, you held my hand and reached across and stroked my cheek. I could feel your love when you looked at me and you knew I loved you back. That’s all that matters to me, that you can feel our love.

When I have a minchellas ice cream or I step off an escalator using my left foot you’re on my mind – it may seem we’re losing you now but you’re there in each and every one of us, you always will be.

It will never take the love xx

I really really really really really really *don’t* like you

I have got to the age of 31 and have successfully surrounded myself with people who I love, admire and, most importantly, like. There is a spanner in the works however. I have also got to this age and found that I really don’t like myself.

Now I am getting the disclaimer out of the way first, as I am sure somebody will call me out. Yes – I know this will read as terribly self-indulgent, and no, I am not fishing for compliments or people telling me I am incorrect in my views (oh and if I am doing a disclaimer I better throw it in for good measure ‘NOT ALL MEN’).

I have been aware of these feelings for a while and lately they have been on my mind a lot. If they are on my mind then I know damn well others out there are having the same problems. If you have read previous posts you will know how important it is to me that women and young girls feel safe and confident in their place in the world; If I am constantly telling others how they should love and accept themselves for who they are then I really need to address the fact that I fail miserably in this myself. With so many battles out there for us to face then having a battle within ourselves is not going to help. Today I am not going to talk about how we have ended up having this inner battle (a heady combo of the patriarchy crushing us down to take up as little space as possible while presenting us with unachievable demands for how to live the every minutiae of our existence) no, today I am just going to talk about how it feels to me personally and where I can go from here. Put your own breathing apparatus on before attempting to help others with theirs right?!

So where did it all begin, this terrible attitude towards myself? I can confidently say it was when I left junior school and moved on up to the seniors. We know from the amazing This Girl Can campaign that as girls hit puberty their confidence drops dramatically when it comes to involvement in sport. Well I would say mine nosedived off a cliff in every aspect of my life. I went to a school where girls had to wear skirts, tights allowed in winter, and this was the first thing to get to me. So many of the girls in my year were confident beauties who went around boasting of their conquests (teasing me in geography class for not knowing what a ‘BJ’ was) while rolling their skirts up to reveal long, coltish limbs that all the boys commented on. And goodness, did the boys comment. You quickly had to get used to having every bit of your body dissected, scored and scrutinised. In one of my classes I was sitting on a stool at a work bench when I heard a boy to the side of me laugh and say ‘look, Dan has lumpy legs’. In horror I realised that my thighs were showing dimples from the way I was sitting. I perched uncomfortably for the rest of the year, never letting my legs rest fully. Still to this day I am hugely wary of wearing anything that is above the knee, I can probably count on one hand how many times I have worn shorts or a skirt since then. One comment, I know, you would think I could get over it, but this and all the other remarks on my body over time have worn me down to the point that when I look in the mirror I just hear every negative echoing back at me.

I’ve developed defence mechanisms to cope of course, never taking cardigans or jackets off no matter how hot I am, always standing with my back against a wall so I can check who is there and if they are laughing at me. My main technique is pretty simple though, I just make the joke about myself first. I will quickly laugh about how I am the Michelin man and classic ‘who ate all the pies?!’ line, so everyone around knows I am in on it too, I don’t want them thinking how sad it is that I don’t know how awful I look. Plus it hurts less if I say it about myself, right?

I have been challenged in a counselling session to come up with something I liked about myself. I can work my way from the hair on top of my head to my toe nails and list fault with every last bit of me. When asked to come up with a positive I felt utterly stumped, I couldn’t even think of something to lie about because it would probably be so laughable. So I have known for some time that when it comes to my body, well, the ‘inside me’ just doesn’t love the ‘outside me’. But…here is the thing. Over the last few weeks I’ve been realised something else is going on. I don’t really like the ‘inside me’ either. My personality has so many obvious flaws that when I take the time to consider what I am like to talk to I shudder with the embarrassment. When in conversation with other people I have a constant monologue in my head telling me how stupid I am, why can’t I be more intelligent? Or funny? Or just a tiny bit interesting? When looking at those around me I wish I had just some kind of talent, I have friends who thrive at work, always look well-dressed or just have that *thing*. I really want a thing. What highlights my inaneness most is that I am fully aware that if I slipped away (other than with my close family) it would have no real effect on any of my ‘people’, I am nobody’s number one. I have a couple of really close friends who I would do anything for, but as much as I know they love and care about me, I know I am not ‘their person’ (Grey’s Anatomy fans will understand this completely!) Maybe in the end I just want to be wanted? The problem is I have seen the posters, you have to love yourself before anybody else can love you and all that. At the moment my brain is basically an emotionally abusive partner who puts me down in any way it can, it has just taken me a really long time to realise this, there is no love to be found.

It dawned on me that something had to change after a meeting with a counsellor at SARSAS, an amazing charity I am currently involved with. At some point during our one on one chat I got to the point where I explained ‘I feel bad when I go outside for the people that have to look at or talk to me, so I would rather stay inside’. My counsellor did an actual double take and then made me repeat what I had said 4 times. At home I kept on replaying her expression at this statement, the shock at what I had said and also just how sad she looked because of it. It made me question my behaviour and start to see that this is a real problem.

I can’t say I have got anywhere with it yet, but I think that recognising that I have this problem and being determined to move on is a start. I don’t know exactly how I am going to turn this round, but I want to be able to look in the mirror and think ‘you know what, she’s ok’ and I believe slowly but surely I will get there.

Have you had self-esteem problems? Have you or do you want to tackle them? And if so, how?  Talk and be nice in the box below!

How Do We Make a Change?

‘A person commits rape if they intentionally penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with their penis without consent’.

 

There we go, the definition of rape, it took me a matter of seconds to get that from the internet. We can safely assume that Justice Patrick McCarthy knows that one – it’s his job to know this stuff. And yes, Magnus Meyer Hustveit, he is most certainly a man who knows what rape is. Hustveit has admitted to being guilty of this crime in an email to his victim. He stated that he raped his sleeping girlfriend up to ten times during their relationship.

We put our faith in a system that we hope can at least allow the victim to feel like some kind of justice has been done, and yet in this circumstance the criminal justice system has completely failed.

Hustveit has now walked away from court with an entire seven year suspended sentence. His work place are more than happy for him to return and even gave a character reference noting what a great guy he is. The Judge also believed that the suspended sentence should be given noting “In truth this case comes here today out of his own mouth”. The rapist believed that he was committing a victimless crime as his girlfriend was in a deep sleep due to medication at the time, and that she was also uncomfortable with him watching pornography, so his actions seemed a fair response.

When I read about this I wanted to take to the streets to march. A rapist is basically being applauded, it just reads to me as “Oh well, you know, this poor lad, she didn’t let him watch porn! And he is punctual at work, a team player – and I mean, she was asleep right?? And he ADMITTED IT!! Why are we even wasting the courts time?! He’s not a jot of bother!” Depressingly, this take on it can be found in the comments section lurking below reports on this case. Sympathy for rapists rears its ugly head again with people questioning ‘yeah – but can she reeeally have been asleep through this?’.

We know that most instances of rape never make it to court and for those that do, well, the prosecution rate is extremely low. The police and some amazing charities have campaigned to get women to reach out after this horrific crime, assuring them that they will be heard and helped. How can we ever expect to move forward in bringing more of these attacks to light when the result of this case is the message we are sending out there? Admit to being a rapist and it will all be ok??

Recently the brutal attack on Majella Lynch appeared in the news when she tragically died following an infection due to a sexual assault. Majella was found to have a shampoo bottle inside her abdominal cavity, the result of an attack by David McBride. He was known to view extremely violent pornography.

I think that generally we assume that as the years go by things will get better. This is a common argument regarding female representation for instance, when discussing female only shortlists we often hear a resounding no to them, the point given that surely as time passes the ratio will even itself out, (The fact that at the current rate we’re looking at around 60 plus years for equal representation is quickly swept under the carpet) and I think this has been the feeling out there regarding rape and male violence towards women, we think it will just magically work itself out of our society. It pains me to say that I don’t think this is the case, I think it could be getting worse. Again I will repeat the statistics that 1 in every 4 women will suffer from domestic violence and 1 in every 6 from sexual assault and rape. How will we change these figures? It is not going to happen organically and with results like that of Hustveit sending out the signal that these really are crimes you can get away with, where is the deterrent?

Caroline Lucas wrote an article in the last couple of days about the importance of sex education in our schools. With children and young teens able to access pornography on their phones at a click of a button, impressionable brains are learning that in sexual relations a man is always firmly in charge of a woman, there is no regard for female pleasure, they are never shown as equal partners – a woman must always succumb to a man. Lucas made an argument for discussion over real relationships, somebody taking time to explain that these images on screen do not/should not represent real life and that pressure should never be applied to replicate that. The Telegraph then decided to run this article with a headline saying sex education needed sorting fast due to ‘Slutty, Slaggy Schoolgirls’. Lucas has quickly came out to stress that these words are not her own, her article placed importance on teaching both boys and girls about relationships. You would have hoped we had moved on from the tired old nonsense of girls being slags and a problem that needs to be dealt with whereas the boys, well, they’re just lads having a laugh right, we can let them get on with it.

Change needs to start happening, and it needs go from the education of our children right the way through to the Judges in the law courts. People, women, need to start shouting loudly about this. Already shouting? Then shout louder, shout more! Do you have any ideas on what else we can be doing? I don’t have the answers to this huge problem but I don’t want to sit here watching more rapists walking free and more women dying.

So you have something to say about our bodies eh?!

ANGER. Frothy, boiling anger running through my veins has prompted me to write this post. I mean, I’ve (we’ve, all of us) know that the world out there has A LOT to say about our female bodies, how much space we take up, if we’re smooth where they’ve decided we should be, if our manes are glossy, abundant and feminine so we are ready for show. This is every day kind of business. BUT. Today two events have tipped me over the edge and brought me to dragging out the ol’keyboard to share this rant with you (you lucky devil).

The first event was actually last night but it didn’t really sink in until today, by way of the second event. Yesterday evening I was happily walking with my friend through Bristol, I was having a good day and actually feeling a tad more confident than I have of late being out and about around people – anxiety and lows have had me out of the running for a while. Two men were walking towards us, I could see one already looking at me while a self-satisfied grin appeared on his face. ‘Well, you’re a BIG OLD FAT GIRL, aren’t you?’ he declared with absolute delight. His friend looked proud as punch as they walked on by and went on with their day. I wish I had reacted, especially if it could have been  with one of the many now rehearsed amazing come backs I have played over in my head, but I just stopped in my tracks pretty dumbfounded and actually squeaked to my friend ‘did you hear what he said?!’. Some days this would have crippled me instantly, and don’t get me wrong, ask me in ten years and I will still remember this moment because my brain kindly likes to keep these things stored right at the front of the filing cabinet for constant re-examination.

Yesterday the comment kind of washed over me, I wasn’t surprised in any way that a stranger had felt he could comment about me, I mean it has been happening since I was 12 when I walked back to my house from a friends, that walk takes me past a warehouse & some of the guys there shouted out comments about my sexy school skirt. I. WAS. TWELVE. Only last year I had a guy tell me I made his balls dry and shrivel up as I went on my merry way to see Katniss kick some Capital ass (I have a feeling she would have responded in a much more exciting way than I did).

So for the last 24 hours or so I have been obsessing over the ‘why’ do people do this, just what do they gain from it? The anger hadn’t really arrived, I think I was mentally pushing this one back to stop it from hurting too much.

Then today, well, today I went on Twitter (oh twitter, my love, my portable hell on my phone) and saw the now infamous comment to J K Rowling about Serena Williams and how her body is basically that of a man. That was it, you know when a kettle starts the rumblings, water turning over and over, faster and faster until, SHRIEK, steam is pouring out and it is trembling violently where it once stood calm? That was me with my rage, from 0 to 60 in around 10 seconds.

This guy thinks that Serena has the body of a man, and this is what allows her to win titles. Women, we are being told again, are only allowed a certain type of body, the *right* kind of body, as deemed by this wonderful gentleman in this instance. If your body doesn’t fit into this one kind of mould then you are obviously a man, or a lesbian, or somebody who shouldn’t be out on the streets because you don’t belong here.

Serena is a women, and athlete, it doesn’t need saying but here we go, her body is FEMALE, it isn’t ‘like a man’s’, she isn’t a masculine woman playing out there against all the feminine women. That is her body, she has trained and worked her magnificent ass off to make it the tennis machine that it is – just because it doesn’t fit in with your standard of what a female body is does not make it male or anything else- IT JUST MAKES YOU STUPID.

There is so much more to talk about on this topic and I will probably come back to it again as I feel like this is just stating the blummin’ obvious and not going into any depth but the rage had to come out, so there we go!

Have you have any experiences where somebody has spoken to you about your body when uninvited too? Would you like to share your amazing retort you came back with at the time, or if you are like me, the several witty, razor sharp responses you came up with later when it was way too late? Share away dear reader, rant with me!

My Angry Brain (in a rambling post)

I tend to go through fits and starts with my relationship with the world at large – often this has a huge correlation to how much media I am allowing access to my brain at any given time. Obviously when I am suffering from problems with my bipolar then there is a whole different spectrum of how I view the goings on around me, but for this piece I am writing please take it as given it is all coming from when I am ‘sound of mind’ (now that is a phrase we could debate over for some time right?!)

There are moments, although they tend to be brief and are certainly becoming few and far between, where I almost hit Pollyanna mode in my being. The world is beautiful, everything glistens, STOP – look at that bird tweeting and that puppy frolicking. I see the good in everything and I have hope for humanity, remembering there is more good people out there than bad. I remember after the Boston bombing being so upset by the devastation and somebody saying to me that when such an event happens, yes, you will look on the one or two people who have carried out such an atrocity, but you need to focus on all of the other people who are running into danger to help others, all the good souls raising their hands to help. So the Pollyanna times are excellent times, happy Dan floating about in her bubble, then I’ll go ahead and do something stupid like turning on Question Time…

Question Time, well, that tends to bring about a mood all of its own making, I don’t know of many things that make me feel the way Question Time can. It is like a cocktail of emotions, rage, laughter, despair, frustration, endless question over Dimbleby’s inability to rain some voices in and of course – each week – who will be sitting in the c*nts chair this time? (WHAT?? It’s Nigel Farage again you say? Never! That would be cynical tactics for viewing figures and they wouldn’t do that) It seems sad that one program can have such an immediate effect on my feelings on the world at large but there we go, it can do. I have now taken to avoiding it most weeks, why self-harm?

There has been a lot of research carried out regarding how desensitised we have now become as an audience to world news/violence/shocking events. In the past the banner appearing on your TV screen with ‘BREAKING NEWS – school shooting’ would have stopped all in their tracks, although we still pause to read the headline and think how awful the situation is, it is often followed along with the thought of ‘oh, another one’. I would like a button to control some of my own emotions, I am one of those annoying people who seem to *feel* everything, I can’t cut off very well. Your friends sisters aunty has just recently lost her dog? My gut will wrench with sadness and I will go to bed that night upset and worried about how she is feeling. Due to this I sometimes avoid the news, it’s a lot to go through and there seems to be periods when it is like a relentless storm, one awful story raining down on us after the other. I will then go to the other end of the scale from my Pollyanna mode, I see no hope for the world, I don’t know why people bother trying as everything is clearly going to the dogs. I see apathy everywhere when I want to see people up in arms fighting against – well, what do I even pick at the moment, the government has provided a long, long list of topics for us all to be mad about.

This is how I started turning apathetic myself, it was a slippery slope, until recently a new feeling has been rising within me. ANGER. Real, burning anger. The kind that will have me awake until 3 a.m. having imaginary arguments in my head with people I have never even met. Anger that has had me getting kicked out of a taxi because I couldn’t let an ignorant comment lie. Anger that will have me lecturing friends about the inequalities I see around me.

I had a conversation today with a friend that has led me to writing this. Luckily no lecture was given, I was not climbing onto my high horse, it was a discussion over mutually held beliefs. There are many things making me angry at the moment, I won’t go into them all, hey, we can save that for another entertaining read right? But here is what is making me boil over at the moment, here is what is making me want to stop strangers in the street and ask ‘have you been thinking about this?’

Violence towards women. HAVE you thought about it lately? You know what, a lot of you may well have done because there is a huge, huge chance a reader will have suffered from it. You might not have thought about it but you might have took preventative measures because of it, how many women leave their friends of an evening with a parting ‘text me when you get home please’ and then make the journey with their keys clutched between their fists just in case they need the self-defence. How many times have we watched a report on the news about another woman being attacked, and while the attacker remains at large women are advised to remain in doors on an evening for their safety. HEY – how about asking men to remain in doors for once and work harder on making the outside world a safe place for both of the sexes?

At least two women a week are killed by a partner or former partner, this amounts to a third of all female homicides in a year. One in every 4 women will suffer from domestic abuse, one in every 6 women will be raped. When you truly think about these figures they are beyond shocking, every person in this country will have come into contact, work with, have a friend or family member who has been abused or raped. You will often hear people complain that these women didn’t ask for help, that they stayed with these people – well yes, that is all part of the abuse, that doesn’t mean we stop trying to do anything about this. And yes, there will be the argument out there of ‘not all men..’ to dismiss this, but my god, it is a LOT of men going out there and committing these crimes. Sometimes given in response is the point ‘these things happen to men too’, yes, they do, that doesn’t make the above ok. The men who this happens to should be given help and be supported also, but there is no denying that this is, by a large margin, an act of male violence against women. Just look at the recent statistics given on female genital mutilation, over the last couple of months it has become practice to record cases of FGM in hospitals. Every month for the last three months over 500 young women have suffered from this barbaric tradition.

This violence is out there and happening every single day, and it makes me boil when I hear people say how we are there now with equality, how women have took it too far and we have it peachy. REALLY?? Because to me, when half the population have a one in six chance of being sexually assaulted by a member of the other half, it is not equality as I know it. When one in four women will go home, the place we are meant to feel safe, and be beaten and psychologically abused, when each week two of those women will be killed, tell me then how we have no further to go with women’s rights.

Something has gone horribly wrong out there, and I don’t claim to be an expert by any long shot of the imagination, I don’t have the answers, I just think that surely instead of just trying to mend the broken bones, catch the abuser and stop the torment, we need to look at the root of the problem. We need to educate, we need to find out how to stop this being a problem we almost seem to accept as having to live with, we need women to get ANGRY and demand their right to live free from fear.