Be young and shut up

A blog about student activism.

These groups have oppressed me directly and I’m not interested in hearing why you think they’re okay or good

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1. people who think the mentally ill need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps  or deny self-definition

2. people who write about their middle class problems like basically everyone in a broadsheet weekend magazine

3. misogynists.

4.  sexists.

5. rapists and sexually violent arseholes and their supporters

6. people who hate the unemployed

7. people who think the disabled are lazy

8. POWERFUL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE

9. the rich in general

10. rich baby boomers in particular

11. people who police gender

12. homophobes

13. people who think everyone should live in a cottage and have three children regardless of personal preference

14. people who think women who aren’t maternal have something wrong with them.

15. people who say ‘you’ll want children one day’

16. people who involve themselves in others’ sex lives

17. anti-sex people in general

18. body police and fat police

19. cops

 

People who haven’t oppressed me directly and therefore I have to read/listen more.

1. racists

2. imperialist pigdogs

3. xenophobes

4. powerful military people

5. transphobes and their supporters

6. genital police

7. people who hate the physically disabled

8. white supremacists

9. people who hate people with mental disabilities that I don’t have (ie not anxiety or depression)

probably many more.

 

The politics is personal. As much as theory is important and necessary it isn’t about sitting in a room having a circle jerk.

Social scientific evidence is generally large collections of anecdotal evidence. The personal is valuable.

 

So if you’re a liberal or liberal socialist obsessed with being ‘nice’ and ‘non-violent’ consider that people suffer these things daily and they’re both allowed to and should resist.

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Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

September 8, 2012 at 11:17 am

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Some points of clarification about criticisms of the left and my own conduct

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Apologies for the self-centredness of some of the below.

So about four or five months ago someone I have a lot of political and personal differences with said that I ‘silence other women’ by talking about sexual violence, which is triggering.

If/when I have described acts without the consent of people around me to go into details then I really apologise, I know I have once or twice and I immediately apologised. I apologise for that again, and if there are any other instances then I unreservedly apologise for them too.

I don’t apologise for talking about sexual violence or for using my own experiences to inform my life, because we have to talk about it, and because it changed my understanding of the world.

I’m also not sorry for talking about my mental health problems, which I never use for ‘political capital’, as I’ve been accused of, as far as I’m aware, except to draw attention to accessibility issues and to explain why I sometimes have to leave the room due to an episode or anxiety attack.

I’m not making up the violence I was subjected to, but also know that as a woman my experiences are far from abnormal. (Which is abhorrent in itself.) I’m not making up my mental health problems or ‘going out to get attention’.

Around the same time some people were offended by comments I made about various organisations, which I’m not sorry for at all. Even if other women disagree with those comments those are my opinions and we are allowed to disagree.

I apologise again about some of the phrasing I used in the past that was insensitive, and that was borne out of white privilege. Although I still think the points I was trying to get across pretty much still stand.

After a long time thinking about the ways in which I and others politically disagree with people I’m of the opinion that there are a few main problems on ‘the left’:

– The attitude of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, or people feeling the necessity to support the lesser of two evils, which is why Galloway justified supporting Saddam Hussein and why he still supports Bashar al-Assad.
(By the way, watch videos of him debating Syrians on TV, in which he talks down to them, puts on a weird voice and generally is a douchebag.)

– Endemic misogyny, which results in rape apologism, trying to muddy the waters of cases like Assange’s when those waters are actually very clear. Also results in survivors not being believed, which allows sexual violence to continue without question in leftwing circles. Also just loads of creepiness-bordering-on-sexual-harassment, which I for one have experienced recently, and that needs to be called out.

– Rating certain causes over others, such as saying that because Galloway is anti-imperialist we have to support him despite him being anti-choice, a massive homophobe and someone who cosies up to corrupt leaders for cash and favours. (Embarrassing that loads of the left only renounced him a couple of weeks ago.)

– Conspiracy theory bullshit mixed up with anti-Semitism. Undoubtedly a lot of society is very Islamophobic and there is a lot of disgusting hatred of Muslims about but this doesn’t mean that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist or that it’s okay.

– Cultural relativism. This mixes in with a lot of the above. As one of my friends said, it’s racist to hold your own society up to certain standards without holding them up in others. Further, cultural differences are borne out of socialisation not out of any inherent difference between the people living in different areas, countries or societies. But it’s still racist to act or speak in a way that places queer rights in Britain or the West higher than queer rights in the global South.

Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

September 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Sexual violence is all the worse for its banality and normalcy

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Writing from the perspective of a young, queer, cisgendered white woman. And also an individual whose experiences aren’t as bad as many people’s – shockingly.

*Massive trigger warning* – contains descriptions of incidents of sexual violence

I’ve been sexually harassed and assaulted more times than I can count. It goes into the hundreds.

It started when I was eleven. I talk more about my experiences here.

It comes in the form of street harassment (from ‘nice jugs can I have a go’ to ‘I’m gonna have to fuck you whether or not you want it’); having my boobs and arse grabbed;  being forced or heavily pressured to give oral sex (once I was choked by someone forcing me to ‘deep throat’ despite my protestations); being raped in a really banal fashion (I said ‘I don’t really want this’ but didn’t protest further and it was over pretty quickly); being intruded upon vaginally because I had said no and they were ‘trying to turn me on’.

More often than not I didn’t resist, even though it would have been my right to, because I didn’t want to make the situation worse in my own mind or piss them off. In some cases I stayed in touch with them for a while. The ones who I deemed hadn’t done anything ‘that bad’ (in retrospect I think they had) I even might have had sex with consensually afterwards (not in touch with any of them anymore though).

Usually these kind of actions are mentally and vocally excused by the person doing it to me because I’d previously consented to sex, or because I’m a ‘slut’, or whatever. They think that it’s cool because, in general, I like sex, so it must not be that big a deal to me.

I saw some disturbing comments on Twitter yesterday saying that it was ‘impossible to understand’ why rapists rape and the fact they ‘don’t understand’ that other people should have autonomy over their own bodies. There was a desperate attempt to explain away their behaviour by mis-using medical terms like ‘autist’ (that was fucking offensive in particular), psychopath, sociopath.

This is bollocks. People who perpetrate sexual violence are usually normal, sometimes even otherwise nice, people. They function in society. They have interests, families, partners, jobs, dispense advice and can be caring and romantic. They can be good friends.

Trying to label them ‘abnormal’ weirdos or whatever might make certain people feel better, but it doesn’t actually deal with the problem, which is the normalcy and banality of the daily intrusion of the bodies of women and trans* people (women, men and non-binary) in particular. The daily intrusion on victims of all genders.

When I think about it I find it hard to believe that these things happened to me, but they did, and for some people the situation is even worse. Our abusers are at large, walking around in free society, able to repeat the abuse on others, because of the lack of justice.

So if you think the Julian Assange stuff isn’t ‘about rape’ and the Swedish authorities should go to him, fuck you: Why should any abuser get special treatment?! If you think opposing rape apologism makes me a ‘US imperialist’ or ‘on the side of capitalists and liberals’, fuck you. When I was choking on someone’s cock it wasn’t about US imperialism, it wasn’t about capitalism or liberalism, it was about rape culture, misogyny, the disrespect of women’s bodily autonomy, slut-shaming, and patriarchy. (Although sexual violence is often used in colonialisation, imperialism and war, sickeningly.)

I wasn’t thinking about all the noble things George Galloway’s done, I was crying and praying it would end. And, after it did, I got up and made my abuser a cup of tea. And went back to my daily life without a peep to anyone about it.

And then it continues. When I was in London recently a man following me wouldn’t take no for an answer. He wouldn’t accept a phone number without ringing mine to check it worked. Since I didn’t want to be raped in a side street I gave him my real number he rang it and was satisfied. I immediately walked away, ending up getting lost just so I could get shot of him. I got to my mate’s house and there were five missed calls and three messages from this creepy fuck. These awful people make you feel rude for not wanting to fuck them.

Those kind of occurrences happen to me all the time and I refuse to stop walking around on my own just because I’m a woman.

So if you think it’s impossible that someone who’s done useful things could be a rapist, fuck you. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

Fuck you, Noam Chomsky. Fuck you, George Galloway. Fuck you, Jemima Khan. Fuck you, Naomi Wolf. Fuck you, endless other people jumping to Assface’s defence. Fuck you fuck you fuck you.

Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

August 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

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Body hair pride

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I’ve never been a feminist who was particularly interested in discussion about body image. I found it all kind of obvious – how could anyone not agree that women’s bodies are so much more heavily policed than men’s? There are an awful lot of articles about women’s perceptions of our bodies as well as numerous TV programmes and references in other areas of popular culture. Frankly, I thought it’d been somehow ‘done’.

A few weeks ago my mother very kindly offered to pay for me to go on holiday with her to Spain. I gladly agreed and bought a bikini a couple of days ago. In preparation for the holiday, today I went and had a bikini wax.

It was one of the most painful experiences of my entire life. I’ve had four rounds of root canal surgery on my front teeth, I’ve had tattoos, piercings, I’ve had my lip sewn up right in front of me under local anaesthetic, and I once burnt the entire palm of my hand and all of my fingers on a really hot stove. I can honestly say that I found the bikini wax more distressing than most of these.

I take a lot of care over my appearance (or should that be I spend hours trying to achieve some sort of bullshit aim) – plucking and darkening my eyebrows, dying my hair, getting regular haircuts, shaving some of my body hair, and the most time-consuming of all: layering on loads of makeup in order to detract from the acne I still suffer from at the age of twenty three. (Before any smart arse says anything, I’ve tried absolutely everything and the reason I have acne is hormonal and something I can do very little about. I would not suffer with acne for ten years without trying everything.)

I usually fool myself into thinking that these things are a ‘choice’. Some of them are, for sure, but some of them aren’t.

I have absolutely no idea how women get their whole cunt area and bumhole waxed (a ‘Hollywood’) or even worse getting everything waxed – whole leg, armpits, bumhole and cunt area.

Even more baffling is why having experienced what I did today, you would go back and get it done again?!*

I came back from my appointment raging at why that is seen as a normal thing to do. I had a bit of a rant at my parents (who I’m currently staying with) who said I should try hair removal cream (it really, really stinks and should not be used near anyone’s private parts, ever) or just shave (I’m sick of spending ten minutes shaving most days when I could be doing more interesting things).  They then kept repeating a ‘story’ about one of their French friends who doesn’t remove her pubic hair and still wears a bikini. Apparently my dad had to ‘avert his eyes’ and they both found it ‘embarassing’. So women should remove our pubic hair in order to make other people feel comfortable? Er, just, NO.

It’s really, really hard to actually just stop caring what people think – and sadly I don’t know if I can just stop and grow my body hair out – but it’s actually just disgusting that getting rid of nearly all your body hair is ‘normal’ and not doing it is ‘weird’ or ‘masculine’.

If it were seen as something extra special to do in order to ring the changes and to make oral sex a bit different, I wouldn’t really care. But it’s not. It’s like ‘normal’ to have an almost hair-free minge and plenty of ex-boyfriend wankers have actually commented on the fact that I leave most of my bush alone.

The response should always be, go and wax your ball sack and then I might consider it. Or even better, ‘You’re dumped’.

Basically, anything that is compulsory for women but not for men is a load of shite and needs to be smashed.

And people feeling like they have a right to comment on anyone else’s bodies? I can’t even put into words how fucking wrong that is. Mind your own business ya dickheads. Worry about the fact that you have scummy views rather than worrying about what other people choose to do with their furry bits.

Just – RAGE.

 

*My friend Darcy has rightly said that the pain is different for everyone and that my bafflement might be misplaced. I don’t mean to be judgemental here. I just won’ t be going back myself.

Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

July 5, 2012 at 7:08 pm

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Ten lies lefties tell ourselves

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1. Teh revolushun is just around the corner!! 

This is because we’re fed up and want to get rid of bastards/capitalism/oppression. I engage in this all the time. The world is too far from how we want it to be for it to even be comprehensible sometimes. It’s fine as long as we don’t give up on organising or campaigning because we’re disillusioned. We should work towards a better future, and towards liberation, even if it isn’t gonna happen anytime soon.

2. That we’re right because we’re oppressed.

Oppression and discrimination in all forms should be smashed but re-organising society requires ideas. Too many times I’ve seen comrades’ opinions dismissed because they’re a ‘white man’. That might be true but not all oppressions are obvious and also even privileged people sometimes have good ideas (e.g. Marx, everyone’s favourite middle class white man). Further some people who are unpleasant in their personal lives can have good ideas, and some people can have a good idea one day and a crap one the next. The reason we talk about privilege is not because people with privilege are shit and should all go to hell but because sometimes ideas – and especially behaviour – can stem from privilege, and where that is the case those ideas and that behaviour should be called out and challenged.

3. That we’re better than other people.

We’re not. If you stop seeing yourself as an ‘activist’ who’s going around saving the world and start talking to non-lefties the state of things right now becomes a lot clearer. Most people don’t have the tools with which to dismantle the master’s house, to use a feminist expression. I hope this doesn’t come over as patronising to working class people (I’m poor but culturally middle class). Basically, I’m very lucky, I’ve had four years at a Russell Group university and have had the time and space to think about things. Some of the things we talk about are totally alien. Being leftwing doesn’t make you nicer or better. Your ideas are better but you’re not a better person. Of course, capitalist bastards are capitalist bastards and know exactly what they’re doing and that’s why they’re winning. If we organise, extend class struggle and spread egalitarian ideas that are dangerous to the ruling class we will destabilise them and ultimately defeat them.

4. That mistakes are unforgivable.

It totally depends on what they are, but if someone uses ablist or sexist language without realising, for example, but realises what they did wrong and apologises and doesn’t do it again, that is that. Sometimes these things can be very hurtful, and we have the right to be angry, but we also have to understand that not everyone has read loads of queer literature or whatever.

5. That people aren’t allowed to change their minds.

I used to be comparatively rightwing. I’m now a communist. This is a good thing. We should make this happen to everyone else who can be brought round. Give them the time and space to become convinced, rather than saying, ‘If you disagree with anything you can fuck off’. Likewise if you were once socialist and became an anarchist or vice versa, whatever, dude. If anyone judges you for it remember, they weren’t born a communist. Without wanting to sound like a hippy, we’re all on our own path as well as a shared one. We’re gonna need a lot more people on our side in order to defeat capitalism.

6. That if only everyone was like ME, we would smash capitalism tomorrow and live in a utopia.

Er, no. Because difference is okay, you’re not perfect, and it’s not all about YOU.

7. That people should come to ME about this because I am the EXPERT on X THING!

People sometimes treat me this way about feminism and it makes me uncomfortable. I am not a feminist oracle and get things wrong. I don’t care if you’ve been doing activism for x number of years that probably means you’re a bit out of touch, even though your experience is obviously useful. If you feel the need to have ownership of something, take a step back because you’re probably alienating people who want to be involved but are thinking ‘I don’t know as much as them! I’m going to look like an idiot!’ It’s okay for people to be ignorant and to ask questions, it’s not okay to talk down to people or make them feel stupid. Also, if you recognise these thought patterns or behaviour in yourself, sort out your ego.

8. That intimidating behaviour is alright.

It’s not.Sometimes it’s justifiable, for example shouting at scumbags on a demo, but it’s not acceptable in organising or meetings. Being intimidating isn’t the same as being radical. It’s about behaviour, rather than ideas. Some of the sweetest men I know believe in violent revolution, some of the most arrogant and aggressive men I know don’t (or I don’t know/care what they believe because they’re too busy shouting). Further, it’s not about class or about having a straightforward, no-nonsense personality. It’s about not invading people’s personal spaces, not talking over people and not being threatening. If comrades in Scotland sorted out what they meant by positive use of the word ‘radge’ that would be good. Because sometimes things that are described as ‘radge’ are abhorrent, sometimes they’re incredibly useful and admirable.

9. That if someone’s sexist/somethingelse-ist they are irredeemable scum.

This is sometimes but not always the case. For example, people I met in my first year at uni four years ago often acted and spoke in very sexist ways. In those short four years the folk I’m talking about have become decent pro-feminists and feminists. Obviously oppressive attitudes are irredeemable and disgusting, but sometimes the people who have them aren’t, and often they change their minds, thank God. And that is a very good thing.

10. That people can easily be separated into two categories: good people/heroes and scumbags.

Meh, some people are scumbags, but most of the time it’s a lot more complex. This kind of thinking is often applied to the most complex and important issues. Praise people when they do something or say something good; tell them what the fuck is up when they’re being oppressive scum. Also scumbags can occasionally say vaguely useful things.

Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

June 21, 2012 at 11:22 pm

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The student far left in Scotland and England still needs to change

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I had a huge number of responses to a piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Here I hope to address some of what I got right and stand by, some of what I misjudged and got wrong, and iron out some confusion. The TL; DR version is I basically stick by what I said but some of it was incredibly clumsy.

The entire reason I wrote the blog was to try to start a dialogue about things that I don’t ever see people discussing properly. It wasn’t to start a flame war, it wasn’t to defend everything Alliance for Workers’ Liberty do or say, even though (shock) I get on with a lot of AWL members. I was kind of confused that people saw it as a defence of the AWL as I actually said several times that I’m not a member and often disagree with them.

In response to Sacha and other people who have asked, I don’t take the AWL line on Palestine because I don’t believe in the ‘self-determination of Israeli Jews’ simply because I don’t believe any political entity should have anything remotely to do with religion. I know most of them are atheists too, some really staunchly, as I am, but I can’t get behind that as a thing. There are probably some other differences too, like the stuff about Israel having a right to defend itself I find a bit dodgy. However, for everything they do wrong at least AWL are willing to talk and discuss things, sometimes that discussion might be a bit off-key but at least it actually happens.

What I wrote about Israel-Palestine seems to have caused a lot of controversy. I dealt with it too hastily because it wasn’t meant to be the main point of my post: most of the post was meant to be about encouraging discussion, nuance and complexity. I don’t feel like I have a right to tell anyone else what they should think about this issue, I am white and English and while I am inevitably going to have an opinion I don’t think anyone should value it particularly highly. I don’t value my opinion that highly it’s just what I think.

However the fact that me expressing my opinion, albeit clumsily, has caused such huge internet comment threads and flame wars I think is the exact reason the blog needed to be written: because any dissent on certain topics results in social exclusion and being treated as if you are no longer a human being. I am not just an ‘activist’ I’m also a 23 year old woman who has lots of ‘non-activist’ friends (whatever that means) and I don’t treat them so harshly when they have different opinions from me. There seems to be something that happens that once someone becomes even a little bit involved in a group we stop recognising that everyone is to a large extent socialised and start thinking that because they come to demos or conferences that they need to agree with everything. This is incredibly alienating especially for people who are still developing their views! After all the blog was written about ‘the student left’ and a lot of what happens as a student and as a young person is that you develop what you think.

My eventual aim is anarchist communism: leaderless, stateless, full communisation and sharing of resources: simply as Marx said, ‘from each according to their abilirt to each according to their need’. I reject nationalism as a thing. However I know that this isn’t going to happen tomorrow, sadly, so I believe in building for revolution, if you will, and even in gaining concessions that make people’s lives more comfortable in the short to medium term. Now, if you look at the resources and power of Israel I don’t think it’s realistic to expect it to go away. I also, as I know pretty much everyone will agree with, don’t agree with chucking people out especially since some Israelis were born and brought up there and that is their home, in the same way that to me people who have migrated to Britain or whose families have migrated to Britain are British without question, if they want to be. Israel might be a young state and nationalism and patriotism might be kind of bullshit in general but that doesn’t change that it’s a real thing and people have homes. Right to return is obviously important but whether through a one or two state solution (eventually I would like a no state solution :P ) we have to address the existence of Israel and Israelis as a thing.

I pointed out withdrawal from the occupied territories as ‘immediate’ not because people who’ve been forced out of their homes decades ago don’t have immediate concerns but because the program of extending the borders is ongoing and needs to be stopped right now. The use of the word immediate was wrong; I guess what I meant was that it is something that can be stopped in the short-term through activism and international pressure.

Two respected comrades said to me that the Palestinian struggle was the ‘apex’ or the ‘epicentre’ of the struggle against imperialism. I reject this as a principle because I think all struggles against imperialism are important. As someone who was born in sub-Saharan Africa I take a keen interest (which some of you may be surprised by) in the politics of West, Central and East Africa in particular. I was born in Yaounde, Cameroon, and spent a year when I was nineteen (gap yaaaah) working for an aid agency raising money in Peterborough and talking about floods, drought and urban poverty in Kenya. There have been some horrific wars in the 90s, 00s and right up to the present day in sub-Saharan Africa where both sides have been supplied guns and lied to by the West in a neoimperialist fashion. I don’t think that if we achieve Palestinian liberation we will also then achieve anti-imperial liberation in sub-Saharan Africa elsewhere, and that’s surely what is meant by an ‘apex’ or an ‘epicenter’. Why should I be asked to prioritise one cause over another when both are important?

Student Broad Left, as expected, didn’t properly address my assertions but instead called me racist, Islamophobic and a number of other things. What I was pointing out was people’s hypocrisy in terms of never picking fights with SBL, who have extremely dodgy politics and tactics, but calling out other groups (yes, including AWL). I believe in calling people out on their bullshit wherever I see it. I believe in being consistent in my politics – not rejecting complexity and nuance to win arguments. Anyone who defended George Galloway – LOL is all I have to say really. It doesn’t take much detective work to find out how crap he is and that he’s not even a socialist. I don’t consider SBL socialists.

The masculinist culture of aggression is a real thing that is happening in Scotland and England. People have been four inches away from me shouting in my face because I didn’t want to have some argument, right there, right then. I have felt physically intimidated by people, mainly men but a few women, and scared to face them. This isn’t the same as robust debate. It’s feeling too scared to go to meetings. That is the level it’s reached. People think I’m pretty strong and sometimes I struggle to move my arse to something because I just can’t cope with it.

What I did wrong was to conflate this with a lack of nuance in international politics. There is a link there, in terms of straight men often not really understanding the importance of feminism and queer politics, but it was wrong to conflate them and I’m sorry about that.

I don’t think it’s acceptable to offer ‘critical support’ or support of any kind to Hamas. I think it’s hypocritical. I don’t believe in cultural relativism of any kind. I obviously believe as someone about to graduate in Sociology that people are socialised into behaviours and attitudes and that cultures differ widely, for better or worse. I don’t hold up Scottish or English culture as bastions of anti-homophobia or anti-secism because they’re not; and also because they have other myriad problems including racism, imperialist attitudes et cetera. Having said that, as someone I follow on Twitter recently said, third wordlists having inconsistencies in their politics according to cultural relativism is patronising and kinda racist. Homophobia is never okay no matter who’s doing it. There might be good reasons but there are no good excuses. Hamas is a misogynistic homophobic organisation and I think you can support Palestinian liberation without supporting them. I’ve heard people joke about the Muslim Brotherhood as well but having read responses like this I know they must be jokes. I still think that’s not okay, but whatever. I also don’t see what electoral success has to do with anything really and don’t accept ‘populist’ arguments – does that mean we should support David Cameron?

What I wrote about International Socialist Group (Scotland) was basically a huge mess or rage and emotions, but I largely stand by it. I think that ISG get off the hook because people think ‘ah they’re not as bad a Socialist Workers’ Party so that’s good’ or ‘they work with us so that’s nice’. I don’t accept this. They are good at getting shit done and that’s to be applauded but I don’t think any organisation should be beyond criticism. What happened at the first Scottish Students Against Cuts conference was appalling and one of the worst meetings I have ever been to. There is a serious amount of revisionism going on by some folk who seem to be forgetting how grim that was. I left that meeting thinking I never wanted to be involved ever again.

What I said about arrests and ‘being radge’ on demos was insensitive but I had a point. I’m sorry if I made anyone feel like I blame you for being arrested, of course I don’t and it sucks so much, I’ve had close friends arrested for sod all and the police are dreadful. However there was a point in there and Mhairi explained it better than me but basically I just want us to be a bit sensible and not compete for activist points.

What I wrote about being an independent activist was not meant to denigrate activists who are in groups or parties but was a polemic in defence of my own choice not to be in a group. People attack me all the time for it and I don’t think it’s valid to do that. I said in the post that there isn’t a group that I identify with enough to join, and that remains the case. The stuff about papers and dues was flippant and kind of silly.

After this I wrote a polemic in favour of open and honest debate and against crap tactics that push a group’s agenda ahead of the will of whoever is at that meeting or conference. I’m a fan of anarchist organising and democracy and that is just my opinion. I also think everyone should be free to criticise each other in a sensitive manner (something I sometimes fail at!).

Now, people have valid reasons for not wanting to work with others, but I do stand by what I said about an ‘us and them’ culture. People are put into categories of ‘decent’ and ‘dodgy’ and often no one tells us dodgy folk why we’re dodgy, there’s just an unspoken mistrust. It might just be that our views are too anarchist or that we don’t think x about y. I don’t have a problem with working with AWL on domestic issues and I don’t really see the big deal. If it were a Palestinian person having a problem with them then I would understand but it’s often white middle class folk saying that what I say is ‘minimising’ or ‘triggering’ – erm what? Unless you’ve been through a trauma that relates to those issues that’s not relevant or sensible language to use. Someone you disagree with turning up is not the same as say, a sex offender showing up or someone who directly threatens one or more people.

The most controversial thing I said I think was about ‘the fetishisation of the underdog’. What I’m talking about here, which I didn’t explain very well, is white English and Scottish people chanting ‘intifada’, ‘we are all Palestinians’ or ‘we are all Egyptians’ as if we can ever understand what that oppression feels like. I could stretch to chanting ‘intifada’ but not ‘we are all Palestinians’ or ‘we are all x oppressed group or person’ because I won’t ever understand. I’m not really sure what purpose this serves to be honest and I think it’s alienating and bad propaganda. There are other specific chants I’ve heard that I seriously disagree with. I also find it weird when white people greet me in Arabic, I know maybe three words of Arabic and I’m sympathetic to what they say but c’mon dude, I’m white and you’re being presumptuous. Anyway, George Galloway is the worst offender in terms of thinking he’s an Arab when he’s a white bloke who, to be honest, can massively fuck off.  Him chanting ‘we are all Hizbollah’ was repulsive. I apologise that I didn’t properly explain what I meant. I appreciate what was said about me trying to sort people into ‘good Muslims’ and ‘bad Muslims’, it wasn’t my intention and I phrased what I was trying to say incredibly poorly.

No one commented on what I wrote about not ‘treating each other as a rent-a-crowd’, which is a shame because that’s one of the most important things I said. Thinking people aren’t ‘good activists’ (whatever that is, lol) because they didn’t show up to something is pathetic. Some of us have chronic illnesses and personal problems that we don’t feel comfortable talking to you about. Also, we don’t have to explain ourselves. Why don’t you go up to everyone in the street and ask them why they didn’t attend? For fuck’s sake.

Regarding what was said on my Facebook about Students for Justice in Palestine Edinburgh having lots of women, well, good for you. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a macho culture at times, which needs to be addressed, as it does across the left.

To anyone who was incredibly mean to me, like Fiona Edwards, you really upset me. Luckily I’m now dealing with it and it’s not going to put me off saying what I think. And there is a hell of a lot of obnoxiousness around.

What I want to see is a lively movement with big ideas – that doesn’t stifle complexity, nuance or debate because they’re confusing or because they threaten ‘unity’. That would be a false unity anyway. Rigorous but respectful argument is a good thing and is what will help us build a better future. I appeal to political consistency but also to recognition of the lack of homogeneity in any group, political or otherwise, the world over.

Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

May 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Ten pieces of advice for women activists

with 10 comments

Guest post by Laura McKeon, a student soon to graduate from Glasgow University and a non-aligned revolutionary socialist. 

It is hard to believe how much has happened in the last couple of years. The crisis, the cuts and the wave of student protests have brought thousands of new people to our cause. There has been a massive resurgence in youth activity; groups forming, coming together, falling apart. A variety of tactics and a rich diversity of ideologies and priorities have converged uneasily to combat austerity. For many, this sea-change is a long-awaited opportunity to put forward their vision for an alternative. For the younger generation, it is their first contact with resistance. The emergent radical communities have provided fertile ground for new ideas and new hope. In such a vast and multifaceted movement, the experience of each individual is different. Some women joined the Occupy movement and found themselves surrounded by new comrades and new ideas, while others encountered cruelty and sexual assaults. Some long-standing activists have found themselves embraced by wider networks while others have found themselves embroiled in bitter feuds with old friends.

Happiness is the struggle. And the struggle brings us together. Collaboration in a democratic and vibrant environment builds confidence and enables you to take initiative. The more we work together, the more we break down social barriers and develop a consciousness beyond the confines of our own lives. We feel ourselves becoming part of something bigger, we reclaim value for ourselves and our endeavours.

Being inclusive

…Of everyone. A third of people suffer from depression or other mental illnesses. Many initiatives, like the Black Triangle campaign, have emerged which seek to give a voice to those who might not otherwise engage. Occupy London took on the responsibility of ensuring wheelchair access to the camp. Safer Spaces policies are now circulated and discussed widely.

Male activists hold a position of privilege over their female comrades and have dominated the discussion of women’s issues. Many women’s groups have now emerged in which people are discussing these issues. These groups will in turn develop structures of their own, but they represent an important, and hitherto missing, element of the discussion.

The ‘burn-out’ rate

A well-known phenomenon in lefty circles, it is taken to mean a process of becoming less involved or not involved at all – experienced by many activists who find that the responsibilities of their political work have taken their toll. I think it is mistakenly spoken about in reference to feeling overworked but I think it is far more likely that people lose interest when they feel they are no longer effective within the group, that they have lost their voice. Many have given up the struggle because of frustration at their efforts, and some become bitter about their experiences.

Here is my advice to the young woman getting involved in (revolutionary party) politics for the first time:

1: Don’t sleep with that gorgeous revolutionary (unless you’re sure you can trust them).

I know, who am I to tell you who to have sex with? What bothers me is not the incestuous nature of these groups, or the promiscuity. It is the tendency of people’s personal lives to spill over into the political sphere. Self-respect is vital: you have the right to be upset if you think you have been treated badly. His/her ideas about sexual liberation may sound appealing but won’t necessarily be reflected in their treatment of you.  There is always a chance that you could acquire a reputation, or that it will affect your relationship with the group. Unfortunately I believe that this is still the case for women more so than men, although I have seen it happen to both. Personal relationships are more likely to interfere if meetings are often held in informal locations, like a member’s flat.

2: You determine whether someone’s behaviour towards you is inappropriate.

It doesn’t matter how much you idolise someone, and it is difficult not to idolise someone who appears at all times more intelligent than you. If they behave inappropriately towards you, you do not need to take it, regardless of their relationship to you or to the group. Be mindful of inappropriate behaviour towards others, they may be afraid to speak out. Everyone is equally deserving of respect, and everyone is equally responsible for seeing that respect is maintained.

3: Be critical (at the opportune moment).

Some of the most successful women manage to be outspoken while pandering to the egos of their male colleagues. Maybe you’re the self-critical type, and that is not a flaw. Applying a critical attitude to your work and to the group’s will enable it to develop. But pick your moments. However much we enjoy arguing, we have a basic social instinct to respond well to people who agree with us. If you apply too critical an attitude to every project, you will appear unenthusiastic and eventually be excluded.

4: Share your experiences with other women

Women tend to speak quite candidly among themselves about the problems they face but if you do so too often in mixed company, you may become pin-holed as a feminist and thus listened to less. Remember that everyone is moulded by social forces and a different audience requires a different style of persuasion. You may find this is too bitter a pill to swallow. The relationship of the Patriarchy to Capitalism is the subject of an unresolved debate on the left, which has been heavily weighted against patriarchy theory. You are entitled to disagree but it may make you less popular.

5: You are not an idiot.

This isn’t advice exactly but I feel it’s important to remember. You took the step to join a revolutionary party; you are not an idiot. Don’t worry if you haven’t read all the books everyone else seems to have read, and don’t feel that you have to be interested in all the same books as them. Your interests may be different from theirs, but given that everything we do is infused with politics, there is no reason to think yours are less valid.

6: It is a social club.

Don’t listen to people who tell you about the need for professionalism and revolutionary discipline within the group. They are usually the ones whose social circles are made up entirely of other socialists. If you want to be included in the discussions, the surest way is to socialise with the rest of the group. It doesn’t mean you have to get along with everyone but activist communities are both political and social arenas. Having a good relationship with the people you work with is key to being kept up to speed with what’s going on. It’s also no fun attending meetings with a bunch of strangers.

7. Speak up.

Radical politics is a theatre and confidence is key. Not everyone is a charismatic orator but you shouldn’t let that stop you from making your contribution. Don’t be dismayed if people are unresponsive to the things you say: they may just not have been listening. Just think of other ways to express yourself. If it isn’t working, speak louder. And gesticulate wildly!

8: Do your own research.

Don’t let anyone tell you what to think. People will try to tell you what books to read, what websites to visit and how to use social media. Make up your own mind. Don’t worry if your research leads you to disagree with other members of the group: whether you’re right or wrong, open discussions can only move the group forward.

9: Know your rights.

You may find yourself regularly in confrontational situations with the police. Make sure that you know the risks before you take part in actions or demonstrations. Set your own boundaries for what you are prepared to do or not to do. In the heat of the moment, people can do strange things. You will find yourself cast in the role of masked warrior, and at other times, damsel in distress. But don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Look out for others, and don’t put them in danger. If you decide that it is worthwhile to put yourself in danger of arrest, be prepared for what happens next. The police will always harass protesters and we shouldn’t fear them but knowing what to expect will make it less frightening when they come knocking on your door. Remember that the police are bullies and they will treat you worse if you are female, non-white, disabled…

10: Take it easy.

Unless you have an obsessive character or fantastic organisational skills, you cannot sustain the level of manic enthusiasm necessary for whole-scale involvement. Identify what you want to achieve in the group and the key skills you want to develop. If you feel that your involvement has started to make your life harder, don’t be afraid to take time out. You may find people listen to you less when you return but it’s the price you pay for looking after yourself first.

Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

May 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized