Part of the problem.

My breasts are on the internet again. The article a friend linked me to claimed that ‘these powerful images reminded the world that women could change history’. The picture in question had been drawn by María María Acha-Kutscher, a Peruvian artist who has been drawing images of women on demonstrations and, well, there I was. Orange hair, resting bitch face, ‘fuck’ scrawled on my bare chest in lipstick (the full slogan was ‘fuck the police’, naturally). Slutwalk 2012 seems like SO long ago and so much has changed since then – but did we really change history?

Let me take you back: 2012 was one year after 50 Shades had been released. Survivors were questioning how fit for purpose the Met’s Sapphire Unit and the IPCC were after several stories of falsified evidence and failure to record sexual assault reports properly. Blurred Lines had not yet been released. Operation Yewtree would not start until October.

Two weeks or so before I had been a part of the Slutwalk press stunt outside of Downing Street. About thirty women or so – working class women, women of colour, sex workers, students, disabled women, trans women, queer women, migrant women, mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers – met at a social centre, daubed ourselves in lipstick and pulled off our tops as we pulled on our wigs and masks. We shouted, we cried, we shared experiences, we listened. We were photographed. Well, I was photographed. And this was the beginning of the problem with Slutwalk and how it was presented in the media.

That demonstration was what I wish that all demonstrations could be – loads of women coming together and swearing at David Cameron. But the only close-up photos that made it into the newspapers were of myself and the only other young, white, cis woman there. The eighty year old standing next to me was cropped out of frame. The older women of colour and the sex workers who were the driving force behind the demo were totally ignored other than group shots where their faces were covered. Those who had come from DPAC were not, as far as I’m aware, photographed at all. Instead of ‘survivor’ I was reported ‘VICTIM’. In my bra and mask, the normal signifiers which hint that I’m working class were ambiguous. The articles were run and people dismissed Slutwalk as being a posh white girls press stunt. So when the main demonstration rolled around the demographic became majorly skewed towards white, cis women and those dismissals of the initial event were compounded. The women of colour who organised the event were written out of the story. The white supremacy of feminism reigns once more. It’s a pattern that repeats itself again and again.

This picture of me is a part of that. I love that someone drew a picture of me because that’s flattering and humbling and cool but I should not have been chosen as a symbol of that protest. As the photo that Acha-Kutscher based her illustration on was being taken, I was waiting for my phenomenal friend and sister to take the stage and talk about her experiences of reporting rape to the police and how fucking awful they had treated her. All I did that day was jump on the train, whip my top off and have my photo taken because I’m pretty by conventional, ablest, racist beauty standards. There are so many incredible activists who are being monumentally shafted by the mainstream media because they are not cis, white women.

No, I really don’t think that Slutwalk changed anything at all.

So here I am, three years on, sticking my nose out into the Spring air after a long period of hibernation from feminist politics. I’m told that I should ‘lose control’ every ten minutes by 50 Shades of Grey adverts. Sexual offence reports are up by 20%. More white women who look a bit like me but do not talk like me are spouting infuriating shit in the name of all women. Sex workers are being forced out of Soho. Women around the world continue to be raped, murdered and sold.

What can we do? Browsing Tumblr and sharing Jennifer Lawrence GIFs isn’t enough. Marching on Reclaim the Night surrounded by the Met police who are partly responsible for the dismal rape prosecution rates isn’t enough. Reading Julie fucking Bindel on the Guardian website is outright damaging.

There needs to be an escalation. They say that well behaved women rarely make history. Let’s take them up on that invitation.


No excuses for rape apology

**TRIGGER WARNING** For rape, abuse and rape apology, for brief mentions of eating disorders and suicide, but mostly for our worst enemies masquerading as our lovers, colleagues and friends.

We have watched, fought and cried over the awful ignorance surrounding rape that’s being touted in the media in the last month or so. There is no denying that rape is very much in the public mind at the moment, but while politicians play top trumps with the worst definitions they can think of and push women’s rights and body autonomy further towards the 19th century, the perpetrators of this despicable crime are still very much being glossed over, remaining comfortable while idiots like George Galloway defend them in the public forum. Last night, after being sexually harassed at a train station for twenty terrifying minutes, I came home to see a facebook event to a feminist men’s discussion group. Now, debates over the usefulness of a regular male space to discuss patriarchy aside, in the list of people who had signed up for updates I clocked at least one man who has made women feel unsafe and abused. I know this because it was someone who I was intimate with for a long time, and other people know this because I am not the first person who he has dismantled with his lying, abuse of consent, gaslighting and, ultimately, abuse of privilege. Yet, in the group he remains, protected by a history of showing up to feminist discussions, dating awesome feminist activists and an ability to quote Bell Hooks. I’m sure he’s not the only one either.

It’s an old activist joke that when you start seeing injustice in one place then, like The Matrix, you see it everywhere; my experience with abuse has felt like that. For two years, to my detriment, I made apologies for the behaviour of the person I called ‘love’ and, even in the face of my beloved sisters who he had previously hurt, I poured my compassion and mental health into the relationship. It’s only now, after comparing notes and identifying patterns with other victims and after exploring my sexuality, consent and emotion with friends and lovers that I realise just how bad it was and how much danger I had been putting myself in. And now I fear going back to the feminist spaces in my town, for fear of being faced with my abuser, for fear of having to explain myself, for fear of being shouted down again and overlooked and shamed for having opinions that didn’t align with his. I don’t want to turn up to Reclaim the Night and know that the man who made me so unsafe, the man who inspired a suicide attempt and eating disorders will be there.

When people are far more likely to be abused and raped by people that they know, we must turn our attention to those among us who claim to be allies but who are actually the enemy. This is imperative. There are too many consciousness raising circles that promise to call out ‘bad behaviour when we see it’ and yet still invite and welcome known abusers into the fold when they should be our safe spaces. Julian Assange has shown us that many so-called feminists are prepared to brush off allegations and the personal stories of women in order to protect their constructed reality. I’ve had people tell me that my ex has just got ‘women issues’, as though an entire gender is just a substance to be mistreated and abused and that’s just his Achilles Heel, hey, we all have a weakness. Even he charted it all down to just being a ‘bad boyfriend’, something that couldn’t be helped but didn’t make him a bad person because, after all, he did try but I guess it’s just in his nature not to respect consent or value my worth, like someone who can’t dance, it’s just not his fault. When we make excuses for the people in privileged social circles then abusers become abstract working class men, men of colour, slavering beasts in darkened alleyways but the truth is simple: Patriarchy slithers into even the tightest and most right-on activist groups and we must be fierce in our defence of those spaces. I have heard excuses too many times; I have heard so many people in the aftermath of my break up telling me how uncomfortable they felt in the presence of the man who mentally pulled me apart and yet they said nothing at the time and they are still saying nothing.

So let me say something. To the abusers, rapists and apologists: stay the fuck at home when feminist events and marches come up in your facebook calander. It is not our job to accommodate you. It is not our job to give you a second/third/fourth chance. You are everything we despise. I refuse to tip toe around you after you obliterated my self worth. You made me feel so isolated and so fragile, hiding my true allies away and making every one of us feel worthless, but we found each other now. We are stronger than you: We don’t need you, we don’t want you here. Rapists go home.