Women’s Lives. Men’s Careers.

What will it take for men’s intellectual acumen, or sporting skill, or career to be put to one side in order for fair retribution to be made when it comes to the complete destruction of women’s lives?

No one argues that the trauma will stop her career in its tracks. No one argues that she will wake up at night in a cold sweat, feeling his ghostly dream state hands around her neck for the 3rd consecutive time that week, even a year after the fact. No one argues that she was an excellent student, she was on track for a PhD and now all that is lost because she can’t muster up the courage to speak in a seminar, or focus on her essays. No one argues that her confidence will be shattered, that she will look around at other women and feel inferior. No one argues that she will continue to hear his words in her head –

“You think you’re so fucking clever, don’t you?”

“You’d be nothing without me”

“I’m going to kill you.”

No one argues that her potential won’t be fulfilled because she is dead.

Instead there’s a fixation on men’s intellect, their sporting acumen (Brock Turner – “the All American Swimmer”) , their roles in society, or the arts, or any industry that exists. To stunt men’s potential, however tentative that potential may be, is criminal. To not rehabilitate the criminal, who shows no remorse, is criminal. Any bad treatment of the rapist/abuser/assaulter is more criminal than the criminal act itself.

The caveat also being that he was only accused. Women make these things up, they exaggerate, you can’t rape someone you’re in a relationship with, she was as bad as him, she just wants money, she just wants to ruin his career, there wasn’t enough evidence.

And of course, any woman would put themselves on the stand against a man, knowing her sexual history will be pulled apart just for some cash, for revenge, for attention. Any one night stands? Unprotected sex? How many boyfriends have you had? You’ve had a traumatic past haven’t you, tell us more about that? What were you wearing that night? A thong? What did you expect?

No one willingly wants to do that.*

Domestic abuse and sexual violence is everywhere. In our homes, on TV, on signage on our A roads. As if to convince us that society’s priorities have changed. That we want to save women’s lives, improve their quality of life, help them escape their abusers, and stop men from being abusers in the first place. The overarching threat being that you will be found out, you will be caught, you will be punished.

But you all laugh, knowing that it’s just a marketing campaign, a storyline on a soap, a leaflet left somewhere to negate the need to actually do something real about it. To tell men that whoever the fuck you are, you can’t do this. Instead, rapists get big transfer deals which are only cancelled when sponsorship is pulled rather than based on morality, on doing the right thing for women.

Some would look at the Mason Greenwood case and think how far we have come. Manchester United have denounced him, Nike have dropped him. What did it take for those actions to be taken? His partner had to lay bare her trauma on social media. A police officer can witness the bruises, the hand prints around your throat, and it still will not be enough. Because, without visual, audio, literal evidence of abuse a woman will not be believed.

*I’m not saying there aren’t women who have made up claims. I’m arguing that a focus is put on a minority of cases which casts a shadow of doubt over every case, and therefore effectively distances the public from understanding the emotional, mental and physical turmoil caused by pursuing the perpetrator of sexual violence in our judicial system.

To all the albums I have loved before pt.2

I’ve been thinking about albums since my last post. Taylor Swift’s encompass a certain energy, they occupy a certain frame of reference for me. But there are others which sit in my psyche, which need unravelling, acknowledging and understanding: the albums which have a doubleness in their memories, the ones that I use to my advantage when I need a push, the ones I didn’t realise I’d avoided for years, and some which I’ve actively refrained from listening to.

I remember seeing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and instantly playing the soundtrack afterwards in the car ride home. Now I listen to it though, and yes I see the film at a superficial level, the absurdity of the battle of the baguettes (if you don’t get the reference watch it again!) – I also remember that car ride home. The way that the album played as I desperately tried to prolong the silence between us. As I tried to drown out the unhappiness with humour, with noise. As I tried to halt the unsettling feeling of danger, as I tried to grasp onto that little bit of happiness, and forget what would happen once the car pulled up on the drive, or if not then, when I went through the front door. It was futile. Once the car ride was over that little snippet of happiness would be gone, and there’d be something I’d not done, or something that would cause annoyance, and I would be screamed at. So I tried desperately to bask in that little slither of sunshine before the darkness crept in. Now sometimes when I listen to the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Soundtrack I remember that feeling of being suspended in superficial joy above pitiful sadness.

Sometimes the memories can be rewritten, or there can be a few that co-exist and depending on when you relisten a certain memory comes to the forefront. I sat one day exceptionally hungover eating pizza and chicken wings in my pants with my best friend and a colleague who was a sort of friend but had stayed awkwardly long once everyone else had left. So we ate pizza and watched Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Sometimes when I’m feeling happy I see that memory too, and I laugh at the image of myself, and the absurdity of the set up. Or I remember the times that my best friend and I would shout “ALEXA PLAY WHEN I KISSED THE TEACHER” in one of the lockdowns last year followed by “ALEXA FULL VOLUME” when we were finding things particularly difficult and just needed to smile.

When I go to the gym and I need motivation I listen to Tame Impala’s Currents. It transports me to a time when I would walk my dog as fast as I could around the woods near my old home. I would look at my Apple Watch with expectation waiting for the pace per mile figures to decrease, and the calories burned to go up. As the sun shone and Spring broke into Summer I would use my feet as a means to reclaim my identity. Walking and thinking, and listening. Taking control over my body as the weight of someone incredibly unhappy, incredibly lost, dropped off, as I walked faster and longer and felt stronger. As I walked and wrote snippets of poems, or a novel on the notes app, or replied excitedly to the man from Keith on my phone. As the feeling of my feet treading on grass, through mud, and soggy puddles made me feel like home. On the occasions – rare occasions – that I felt compelled to run it would be those opening bars of Let It Happen that would set my pace and The Less I Know the Better the one that would urge me on when I thought I’d fail and remind me of the sparkling friendships I had made as the world sunk into lockdown, and I broke free.

My boyfriend and I have talked about long lists of bands we’ve seen, and the big ones we’ve not made it to yet. For me, Coldplay is the biggest. A band I’ve loved since adolescence. When I scrolled on social media a few months ago and came across the announcement of their 2022 Tour I was ecstatic. I hastily screenshot the announcement and sent it to my boyfriend. That was it, we were going. I scoured the internet for presale codes and more information. I sat that Wednesday morning as the album presale opened hitting refresh on my browser window(s) waiting for the tickets to appear. Then there they were – YOU’RE GOING TO SEE COLDPLAY the confirmation said. Ritualistically I started to listen to their back catalogue like revision. These were the albums I would listen to over and over again in those few years between being a teenager and an adult. Albums I would list in my top 10 favourites of all time. Albums that, now I hear them in my 27-borderline-28-year-old ears, I realise it’s been over 5 years since I’ve heard them in their entirety outside of the occasional track appearing on a playlist on shuffle. I started with A Rush of Blood to the Head and as Politik started to play over my headphones I was unconscious of why it had been so long and then as it hit the chorus – open up your eyesand I remember.

I’m 16 and we’re driving to school, my brother and sister’s first, and then mine. I was sitting in the front seat of our, probably not road worthy, white rover 414. The interior was out of the early 90s, sometimes it would unreliably stall or shake or stop altogether, my Dad would look at me and laugh while Life in Technicolour ii played in one of my ears. He’d laugh even when the car rattled to a stall and the petrol gage sat at zero. As we pushed it together as far as we could and then began the half an hour walk to the nearest petrol station. I didn’t mind telling my teachers I was late, it was all an adventure. These car rides now, as Coldplay played along to my Dad’s voice as he shared snippets of his life before I was born, told me anecdotes of being a troublesome teenager, and pointed out the fish and chip shop he used to go to after school, are sacred. And until I started revisiting the albums of my youth, they had been unconsciously filed away in amongst a myriad of grief which focused more on remembering the big moments, and not the 20 minutes I spent every weekday alone with my Dad.

There are some albums that I more actively avoid. Albums from my early teenage years, My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade and Paramore’s Riot that bring me back to times of angst and misconstrued anger which fell upon two people that aren’t here anymore. I’ve listened to The Black Parade recently and I hear it now with a new perspective, that of loss and longing and a feeling of stupidity of wasting precious years being a fucking moody teenager and sitting with two earphones crammed in and ignoring everything else. It also brings back something more, an era of what seemed like insignificant moments which passed me by at the time, but now I can go back to that place as I sit with my headphones on, My Chemical Romance blaring, I lift up the thick black fringe which hung across my face like a curtain, blocking out the sunlight of the world and see and relive them all; the smiles, and jokes and trips out and all the things that were unsaid but were there in the gestures, and I hold onto them.

No More Page 3?

As this question arises, so too, do the primitive screams of a number of disappointed men deprived of their daily carnal pleasure. Because, obviously, it is very difficult to find a picture of the upper ventral region of a human woman, in order to delve into the lecherous enjoyment of the breast, areola and nipple which vitally acts as the home for the mammary gland which secretes milk for the sustenance of children, anywhere other than a daily newspaper- right?

For my despairing male counterparts (not all, obviously, have this stone-age attitude) there are many books that can be found where the breast of a woman can be oggled at daily. It just entails a library card and a familiarity with the science section of your local library. Just a pre-warning for the deprived carnal beast, the breast of the female may even be shown alongside that of a male with a clear anatomical description so that you can really understand the inner workings of a woman’s degraded ‘tits’. Maybe then you’ll realise that they are merely a larger (due to the production of oestrogen in women), mammary gland wielding, version of yours. Then maybe they don’t seem so sexy, so lustful, or erection provoking.

A woman’s breasts are certainly something to be honoured, in a way that only science does, and not debased and objectified by the eyes of the leering man on the tube, on a lunch break at work, or quite simply having a wank in his room. This is no infringement on freedom, there is no all imposing ban on such images, no law against it. There are just simply places and times when such a thing is much more lewd and derogatory, and hence, a daily paper is not the place for a pair of overly sexualised breasts as the whole concept itself should be nullified.

All I see in this primitive cry of men is fear- fear that one day the white male may not hold predominance over all. This is one step towards removing the male species from the epicentre of society; your pathetically construed arguments against something such as the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign just reiterates why this is essential.

And no, I’m not ugly, flat chested, overweight, or in any other way jealous of these women- before you ask.

The Dawkins Delusion

Extract from Chapter 9 of The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins

Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.

I strongly dislike Richard Dawkins. Not because of his close-,minded atheism but because of his assertion that teaching children about hell and damnation has the same impact on their lives as sexual abuse.

First of all, the man is a fool, devoting his life to ridiculing people’s beliefs, ridiculing something that he doesn’t even believe in; logically he is ridiculing non-existence, and therefore nothing. Dawkins cites his own experience of ‘sexual abuse’ as a ‘mild feeling-up’, lucky for him that he can describe his experience so lightly. But what Dawkins disregards with his naive comment is that such abuse is subjectively experienced, and many are not as fortunate as him. Dawkins agrees that sexual abuse is ‘horrible’, but this term seems rather feeble in describing the horrendous physical and emotional abuse entailed by sexual abuse and that ever pressing question: ‘why did it happen to me?’.

What ever ‘abuse’ Dawkins thinks that bringing up children catholic inflicts, at the end of the day, there’s always someone there to reassure them that it’s not real, it’s fictional. There’s a whole scientific movement against it: it’s called evolution. Surely the scale of this opposition is enough to convince one who has suffered ‘the long-term physical damage’ of Catholicism that what they fear, such as the depictions of death and purgatory, are fictional?

Unfortunately there is not a worldwide movement pleading the case that sexual abuse is fictional and that it can’t hurt you any more. Sexual abuse is in no way comparable to the telling of a scary story. It will always be real.

 

Jim’ll Fix It

Doesn’t this sound profusely grotesque now?

Ignorance is bliss, or so they say, but not at the sacrifice of 200 victims of Jimmy Savile and the BBC’s ‘paedophile ring’. Six decades worth of ignorance has come to the forefront of society in just over 3 weeks.  How can something so prolific, so blood-curdlingly disturbing, be kept for so long?

For those who have watched the Panorama special on Jimmy Savile, Karen Ward’s case will be familiar. Ward, interviewed by Newsnight last year, described the sexual abuse that she endured at the hands of Savile, as well as witnessing renowned paedophile, Gary Glitter, partaking in similar acts with other girls. Ward, a student at Duncroft Approved School for Girls encountered Savile at her school, whereby she states that he took girls out of the school and abused them in his car. Ward herself was abused by Savile, he offered her the opportunity to be on his TV show in return for oral sex and molested her. In the BBC itself Ward visited Savile’s dressing room, teeming with teenage girls, and witnessed Gary Glitter having sex with one of them.

Savile’s exploits however were not merely confined to young females, he also used his status to molest young boys. An interviewee described how he, at the age of 9, was included on one of Savile’s shows with his fellow boy scouts whereby Savile presented the scouts with a shared badge for their efforts. However, after the show, Savile approached the 9 year old boy and asked him if he would like a badge of his own. Savile took the young boy into a small dressing room and began touching him, with the boys own hands forced onto Savile’s groin.

As seen in the media, the BBC is not the only institution coming under fire for permitting Savile to navigate so easily around young people. The NHS is also under fire. Broadmoor Hospital, a high security psychiatric hospital, also gave Savile access to the young and vulnerable. One female patient described how Savile put his hands between her legs, without looking at her or acknowledging her, as if this was an expected and usual occurrence.

From looking at these three cases alone out of a possible 200 arising throughout six decades of abuse; it is evident that Savile was a manipulative, repugnant and malicious paedophile. The way in which he navigated the BBC studios, Duncroft school and Broadmoor Hospital exemplifies the fact that not only do he victimise the young, but also the vulnerable- being those described as ’emotionally disturbed’ and mentally unstable. What is even more copiously infuriating is the way in which Savile portrayed his own antics to his colleague’s and other celebrities including the ‘Have I Got News For You’ panellists.

In the video above Savile replies to Ian Hislop’s question “What did you do in the caravan?” with “Anyone I can lay my hands on”. In hindsight this reply is incredibly poignant, Savile’s dismissive and instinctive reply seems obvious looking back. The roars of laughter from the audience are an echoing emblem of the ignorance in which we were once bathed in regarding Savile’s paedophilic nature, which shows a striking contrast with the most recent series of ‘Have I Got News For You’ where Savile’s picture incited unease amongst the audience. This purely highlights what a revelation this has been to the public, but in some respects how ignorant people were beforehand, and how easily victims of Savile had previously been dismissed because of Saville’s ‘celebrity status’.

What we need to prevent is the glorification of celebrities, or anyone, to god-like proportions, whereby the testimony of other’s is disregarded. Although this has been revealed now, the damages to these victims lives is unrepairable, not only have they been abused and manipulated by Savile, but they have also been failed by society and made to feel that no one would believe their word against Savile’s. It is evident that many victims attempted to report Savile but no further action was taken.  Society should support and encourage victims of any form of abuse to speak out, if not for their own well-being but to prevent the further harm of others, and in Savile’s case to gain justice before it is too late. Coinciding this, authoritative institutions should also act effectively in response to any such claim in this case the BBC, the NHS and the Crown Prosecution Service.

We need to fix this.

Apparently the Drugs Do Work

This retaliation to my previous post ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ has stuck at the forefront of my mind for weeks now. So many questions with no answers: what do you mean they work? how do they work? what are they working for? what is their purpose?

It’s incredulous when people casually mention drugs, in such an off hand manner: ‘Oh hey, I take drugs’ they might as well be saying. What’s even worse is that this type of conversation doesn’t shock the majority of people any more. In a group of 8 people who hadn’t previously met beforehand (it was at a group interview) when one mentioned getting high and how he was looking forward to getting high again all but two of us joined in this conversation. Urging him onwards he also divulged an occasion when he went to work “off his head on ‘e'” only two of us were shocked by this. How do I know that? We were the only ones not to divulge any of our own experiences with drugs (I’ve never had any). That’s 75% of the group openly admitting to taking drugs, why is this so common and so acceptable?

It appears that acceptability is derived from numbers. Drug use has a domino effect, someone you know suddenly starts taking them, all of a sudden people even closer to you are falling under the pressure or sense of experimentation, one waver and you’re taken under by the drugs- some stand resolutely against this force, but the numbers are dwindling after every conquest. It’s not all down to pressure, there are many reasons why people start taking drugs and continue to: the most irritating of all is the ‘you’re-just-a-posh-cunt-and-think-you’re-cool’ situation. By doing drugs you’re basically saying that being yourself isn’t good enough, your life isn’t good enough, you use drugs as a means of escape: but no one wants to admit that. People look down upon self harming because it’s viewed as depressive, whereas drug abuse is associated with ‘having a good time’ and partying, I know that people would be more shocked if I self harmed than if I started popping pills: but they’re both as equally destructive.

The point of this is not to make people listen, I already know they aren’t. Apparently ‘the drugs do work’, or so I’ve been told.