Category Archives: i write letters

Dear Amanda Marcotte

Content note: This post discusses rape

Dear Amanda Marcotte,

I read your piece in Slate justifying a decision to incarcerate a survivor of rape to force her testimony with a kind of slack-jawed disgust, slowly morphing to a deep and visceral sense of terror.

I was horrified to read what happened to the woman who, having survived something so vile, was arrested and incarcerated until the trial. My heart shuddered at the thought that could happen. And the bile rose up in my throat as you said, over and over again, that this was all right. You say that in domestic violence cases, a lot of survivors recant their testimony because of the abuser, and go on to speculate that perhaps this is what happened with this woman. You say that there’s nothing that can be done to heal this in time for lawyers to get what they want, as though that’s the important thing here. You pretty much out-and-out blame women who do not comply with the justice system for any future violence that may be perpetrated.

Your article is sickening and frightening to me, a rape survivor who never reported what happened to me to the legal system. I’ve had to deal with many shades of bullshit from rape culture in my time, but you’ve given me something new to feel horror over. It had never occurred to me that some people might decide to blame me for any other things that might be perpetrated by that man. It had never occurred to me that the state could lock me up if they wanted to for not wanting anything to do with them, and self-professed feminists would cheer them on. I know that men who rape often don’t stop at one. And yet, what happened to me was deeply personal and I chose to deal with it in the way that made me feel safest. I feel like, for the most part, what I needed to happen, happened: all I wanted was him out of my life and to not have to talk about it in great detail to anyone.

As a feminist, I believe that the needs of the survivor are the only thing that matters in any instance of sexual violence. The way of starting to heal a deeply personal violation is also deeply personal, and deeply individual. For some survivors, this might be the route through the legal system. For others, it might be making sure everyone knows the name and face of the perpetrator as a warning. For others, perhaps recognition of what happened and reconciliation with the perpetrator is possible. For others, maybe setting the perpetrator on fire. It’s individual, it’s unique, and all of these are valid if that’s what the survivor wants.

Under rape culture, the wants and needs of survivors are ignored twice. First, in the initial violation, and second, in the response. We have our autonomy completely stripped of us by a state which supports and enforces rape culture, by peers who support and enforce rape culture, and, apparently, by people who consider themselves prominent feminist commentators who are also doing their best to sweep the wants and needs of survivors under the carpet when they get a little inconvenient.

So fuck your “greater good” guilt trip. Any greater good which involves kidnapping and incarcerating women is not worth it at all. Fuck your decision to ignore the wants and needs of survivors; you are just as bad as the rest of the rape culture which spawned your ideology. Fuck your supporting a move which will only put survivors off speaking out about what happened.

There is only one thing that matters, Amanda Marcotte, and that is what survivors want. Our role, as feminists dismantling rape culture, is to support each individual survivor unconditionally, in whatever course of action she chooses. Any other course is just rape culture, rebranded.


Rescue me! An open letter to carceral feminism

Dear carceral feminists–or, whatever you want to call yourselves,

You all say that you are against exploitation of women, so I am dearly hoping that you can help me with the predicament I’m in–and, to be honest, I’ve been in for much of my adult life. See, I’m fucked. Completely and utterly fucked.

In front of me, I have my latest payslip. I work four days a week–eight hour days (with an unpaid hour-long lunchbreak)–at London living wage. The mathematically-minded of you may have noticed that living wage is calculated based on full-time employment, and therefore a 28-hour week on living wage is kind of unlivable. For the last year or so, I’ve just about made ends meet, because untaxed it averages out as just under a grand a month which can cover my bills and rent and food and travel. Not this month. This month, you see, I have hit the point where the government decide you have earned enough to start nicking a cut of your money, and therefore, with NI and income tax, I’ll be taking home less than £700 to cover my bills and rent and food.

The sharp-eyed among you might have spotted that the second time I listed my expenses, I didn’t list “travel”. This is because this problem has conveniently gone away–in the most inconvenient way possible. See, tomorrow is the last day I’ll have this job before my contract expires and, being unable to afford to keep me on in this horrid economic climate, I will be boarding the merry-go-round of unemployment once again.

I was unemployed about a year ago, just before I got this low-paid and precarious job. Do you know how much being unemployed sucks? Have any of you ever been on the dole? Because let me tell you this: the less-than-700-quid a month I have is significantly better than the 70 quid a week you have to jump through hoops for. And I’m one of the lucky ones, because at least I’m old enough to claim the stuff that might just cover my expenses if I’m incredibly creative and don’t mind not eating much more than baked beans out of a bowl. That way, I should be able to afford the bus to the JobCentre.

Did you know, in my line of work, the number of applicants could be up to triple figures? I’m considering putting a gender-neutral name on my CV so I can at least increase the chances of getting a job interview. I already use a more traditionally-British sounding surname because research shows that that improves your chances. Perhaps I just need to work on making myself prettier: apparently that helps, too. I have my own style, but I’m desperate. If it helps, I’ll gladly fluff myself into patriarchal ideals of beauty. I have to eat, and apparently this is what the industry wants from me.

I suppose I could go back to what I was doing before I got into campaigns work, but I am loath to do that. The work was poorly paid and truly exploitative; they played upon gaslighting us into thinking we wanted to be there. Sometimes, the work would take such strain on my body and my mind that I would have seizures.  I got given a pittance, but I had to pay to be there! Imagine that, paying a fee to work! The whole ideal had been sold to me on a lie, and I was trapped in their by the continued lie, and it took every ounce of my effort to exit.

And now I am an exited academic. I warn people like me, fresh-eyed and eager, bouncing with the romantic myths about that line of work. I tell them the truth, that nobody could be happy doing that (if they say they are, it’s probably false consciousness stemming from brainwashing into liking a line of work valued by patriarchy). It’s exploitation, pure and simple.

So what can I do?

Sometimes I consider journalism. I can write quickly, and I can write well, and I have a good follow-base already. As I understand it, I am above and beyond the level of qualification for a comment journalist. The thing is, I really don’t want to do that. I don’t want to sell the most intimate part of me to the highest bidder. My mind is the essence of me, far beyond my body, and it is not for sale. I don’t want my thoughts and feelings to be transmuted into my bread and butter, forced to write and think and compromise myself lest I starve. Sure, some defenders of the industry might say people can consent to doing that, but I’m not so sure myself. How can anyone consent to selling a soul?

Like I said, I’m pretty good at campaigning. I can turn this stuff around quickly and I’m bloody good at it. Fuck it, if any of you want to hire me, I’ll strategise your campaigns until they’re something even I’d participate in. But, unfortunately, even that wouldn’t help at the moment. Because that’s the thing, carceral feminism. You’re blinkered at the moment, not opening up your campaigns to the linked struggles. Sex work isn’t exploiting women, work is. The worker-employer relationship is always exploitative. And it goes double for women, and then piles on the second any of us face intersecting oppressions. Ultimately, I’m better off than many: I have no kids, I have white skin, and I can hide my disability until the ink is dry on a contract.

I think, carceral feminism, that all of these women can be saved. We want to be saved. We need support from you, with all of your resources, to focus on all work, to support all struggles, and to strive towards the complete destruction of capitalism. Let us be. Let us grow. Let us not have to break ourselves over and over.

I am asking to be rescued, and I hear you like rescuing women. So please, please rescue me.


Dear BT

Dear BT,

As you may know, I’m kind of against internet filtering anyway. Like many others, I share concerns about blocking important resources about sexuality and sex, and think it’s vital that children are able to access information about what options are available to them, and what is and isn’t OK. It’s vital that this information is available.

We’ve all heard horror stories about sex education sites being inadvertently blocked as porn, due to false positives on filtering. This is, of course, terrible. What’s worse, though, is that you’ve actively set up Sex Education as a category in your parental controls. That’s pretty iffy in and of itself, and gets much grosser when we look at exactly what you’ve explicitly decided to give parents the option to block:

Sex Education will block sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

I’ve got some news for you, BT. This is really, really important information that young people need to access. This is information that keeps them safe from abuse–information about what is and isn’t OK. Respect for a partner is something vital that young people need to know about.

About the only way what you’re doing is OK is if you’re using your filters as a red flag list for spotting potentially abusive families. Are you trying to find out what sort of parent would block their children from knowing about respect, so you can help get their kids out of that situation?

Nope?

I thought not.

Basically, BT, I didn’t think much of you to begin with, and I certainly don’t think much of you now. Your priorities in what information you want to help block are really, really fucking skewed.

No love,

Stavvers

P.S. Terms like “gay and lesbian lifestyle” are homophobic dogwhistles, you pile of skidmarked Y-fronts.

Edit 22/12/13: I note you’ve now reworded, BT. But are you still blocking all of this vital information? If so, all of this still stands.


Dear David Blunkett

Dear David Blunkett,

I was surprised and disturbed by your somewhat revisionist historical analysis. In case you’ve forgotten the speech you gave, these is the alarming sentiments you articulated:

“The Lib Dems in Glasgow debated this and decided they were against automatic protection unless people chose to over-ride it, in terms of pornography on the internet and the protection of children. I think they were wrong.

“I think we have a job in this country, in a civilised, free, open democracy, to protect ourselves from the most bestial activities and from dangers that would undermine a civilised nation.

“In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin came as near as dammit to Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a disintegration of what you might call any kind of social order.

“People fed on that – they fed people’s fears of it. They encouraged their paranoia. They developed hate about people who had differences, who were minorities.

“There always has had to be some balance, in terms of the freedom of what we want to do, for ourselves and the mutual respect and the duty we owe to each other in a collective society. I think getting it right is the strength of a democracy.”

See, the thing is, David, I’m not convinced that Weimar was the worst era in modern German history. It was a pretty decent time to be queer, really; we were accepted. It also wasn’t too bad to be a woman: our sexual agency was accepted and abortion was actually legalised in some cases, almost a century ago! The music was cool: they embraced music like jazz. It was progressive, in short, and marginalised people were treated more like humans than the little bit of history that came later.

That little bit of history that came later, David, was Nazi Germany, the spectre you raise as a consequence of not treating marginalised people like shit. Those who were accepted in the Sodom and Gomorrah times suffered heavily under Nazi Germany. The queers were forced to wear pink triangles and herded into camps, murdered in droves by the state. The women were treated as breeding machines, nothing more than a means of reproduction. The rich art and culture made by people who were not white, once embraced, was now illegal, degenerate. It was a period of history which sucked absolutely enormously for basically everyone who was not a straight, cis, able-bodied white man.

For some reason, you think this was the responsibility of exactly the people who suffered the most. You know who else thought that? Hitler.

I am writing to you, David, to express concern because I am fairly sure that you have ripped a hole in the space-time continuum by twisting Godwin’s Law so much. I presume you’re decrying Nazism and saying it’s bad, while simultaneously using some rhetoric with a distinctly fascist flavour. Of course I’ll help out if some of the Sleeping Ones awaken and pass through the portal you have opened, but I’m a little annoyed that I have to, to be perfectly honest.

On the other hand, David, I’m grateful. What could I possibly be grateful for, when you are essentially blaming millions for their own genocide?

I am grateful, David, that you have laid bare the inherent authoritarianism in the moralistic attitude towards banning porn. I am relieved to see that you have managed to point out that ultimately this isn’t about porn itself, but it is far wider, and far more chilling. It is rooted in a hatred of all that is not straight, a rejection of sexual freedom for women. It reflects a disgust at the queer. You have demonstrated this with your words far more clearly than all of the commentary that comes from the marginalised.

So fuck you, and all who share your views. You frighten and sicken me, as do all who agree with you.

No love,

Stavvers

EDIT 02/10/13: I made Blunkett feel sad.


A love letter to Twitter

I’m here today, talking to you all because of Twitter. Twitter gave me my voice. It empowered me to say the things that had been brewing in my mind. As I talked to people, strangers became friends. My opinions grew and changed as I spoke to people I would have never met in the meatspace, never found any way of connecting. I conversed, and I grew and I learned.

My voice felt stronger than ever, and just over two years ago, friends on Twitter persuaded me to start a blog. And so I turned the conversations I had had into a longer form. I got ever more feedback, especially from Twitter. And my opinions continue to grow, and I continue to learn.

I hear from people who are silenced. I hear from voices I never would have heard had I not joined Twitter. Before Twitter, people who were not like me seemed alien to me. Now they are not, and I am learning to ally with causes I had never given a moment’s thought to.

Twitter challenges the way things used to be on a vast scale. I’m just a woman with a blog and a Twitter, but I can share my thoughts and experiences with so many people. I can listen to people from all walks of life and educate myself. These are voices that once would have only been heard had a journalist taken an interest, and everyone had to hope for a sympathetic portrayal that only sometimes came. Those days are fading, the age of the gatekeeper dies, but it does not go gently.

I will not be silenced. So many people have tried. I get a lot of harassment. Misogynists and bigots who want to attack me for allying with people they despise want me to be silent. It would be easier for them if I shut up. And now, I am being told I ought to boycott Twitter and if I don’t I am in favour of abuse.

But what other medium is there to so swiftly challenge hate? There is none, and that’s what frightens the spiteful, the vicious and the vile. They want us silent so we can never be in a position to challenge them. And yet we do. We challenge them, and they will try ever-harder to shut us down, but they won’t win if we won’t be silent.

So no. I will not be voluntarily moving away from my precarious platform. I will not shut up, not now, not ever. I will not willingly concede to what those who would have me silent want.

I have a voice, and I am going to use it. And I have Twitter to thank for that.


Dear Aiden Russell

Dear Aiden Russell,

You’re a bellend. A big, throbbing, cheesy bellend. You are a suppurating boil on the arse of humanity, a yellow stain on a white vest on a hot day, an eggy guff on a morning commute.

Also, you are a massive bigot. Yes, I said it. I can almost taste your tears from here, and it’s enough to make me want to gag, tasting as they do of wet dogs and anchovy-brine. You don’t like being called a bigot, do you Aiden? I’ve seen your picture of you whinging about being silenced. It must be hard for you, being dealt the cruel hand of being a massive fucking bigot and also not even having a semblance of a clue.

You see, Aiden, you are a bigot. It’s not silencing you to say that. You are free to go about your day, being a bigot. You can go about ineffectually seeking to deny dignity to queer folk all you like, desperately promoting some sort of right to refuse service to us as you and the handful of other bigots try to unionise to an almost-complete public indifference. You can run your sockpuppet account expressing your pride to be heterosexual: goodness knows, you have nothing else to be proud of. And you can try to blame the fact you’re a bigot on Muslims, because you’re probably a racist, too. Bigotry overlaps, you see, Aiden.

You’re more than welcome to do this, Aiden, because of free speech.

But guess what? We’re more than welcome to call you out on it, because of free speech. And you’re homophobic, Aiden. You’re very, very homophobic. You want to deny rights to people because of their sexual orientation. And you’re allowed to think that, but it makes you an enormous, pulsating ballbag.

And as time passes by, your views are becoming outmoded. More and more people are wising up to the fact that you and your ever-decreasing ilk are chatting shit. Hell, even a lot of bigots have evolved beyond your point, moving instead to more insipid ways of oppressing queer folk. You’d be almost quaint, Aiden, if you weren’t such a rampaging nipple.

For someone who has been silenced, Aiden, you are remarkably loud, and this is because you know you haven’t been. You are just, like others of your kind, terrified of accountability and so therefore casting yourself as a victim.

You wouldn’t know hate if it booted you in the head, straight man.

I do not doubt that you will consider the fact people think you’re a gnawing cockcanoe to be more evidence of silencing, but this betrays just how little you understand what free speech is. It isn’t just for you, you see, Aiden. It’s for us. And it’s what lets us speak out against you. Do you hate free speech, Aiden?

Yours, with contempt,

Stavvers


In which I apply for a job at the Daily Mail

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to apply for the position of MailOnline Showbusiness Journalist. I feel that I am more than qualified for the role.

I am able to bring myself to look at long-lensed photographs of children and adults alike, enjoying their everyday lives unaware of the invasion of privacy being bestowed upon them without actually feeling physically sick when I look at them. I have a strong awareness of body image issues affecting women in this day and age, which will come in handy when the line of duty requires me to draw attention to any part of their body about which they and other women may feel uncomfortable, with sneering derision.

I have a deep understanding of society’s weird attitudes about sex: ascribing desire and constant conscious performance to women even before they hit puberty, while all the while attaching shame to any display of genuine sexual agency. I also have access to a thesaurus, thus giving me the capacity to vary my language and not just repeatedly use the word “flaunt”, over and over until even MailOnline readers expire of boredom. I feel that this skillset will help me deeply when commenting on photographs of six year olds revealing, exposing and parading themselves (see how easy that was?).

My background in medical psychology has taught me the symptoms of pregnancy. I’m afraid to say they do not include smiling, having a new boyfriend or wearing a slightly baggy top, but I am also willing to pretend that they do.

I have a vivid imagination, my creativity is second to none, and I am more than able to generate my own showbusiness stories from the ether. In my spare time, I like writing fictional short stories.

And finally, I have never experienced any insomnia, so you can rest easy knowing that I will be able to perform the duties required of me while still being able to sleep at night.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Stavvers

P.S. You are scum and I sincerely hope you are all miserable.


Fuck off, Ray Winstone

Hi there, Ray Winstone. I note you’re feeling rather sad, having witnessed what you no doubt consider to be a horrific sexual assault. The violent predator, Mr High Taxes, viciously violated Britain in an aggressive rape lasting for…

I’m sorry, I can’t even continue trying to sarcastically repeat what you said because FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCK OFF YOU VILE SHITTING DICKBURGER FUCK OFF AND BURN.

Rape is rape. Taxes are taxes.

Sure, it might make you a bit annoyed that you have to pay a bit of money to the state. I’m not exactly happy about it either. At least you got a hefty tax cut in the last budget–at least, I assume you did, despite one of your more recent film credits only taking the princely sum of £747.

Sorry, I digress.

Paying tax is somewhat trivial in comparison to rape. It really, really is. I’ve experienced both, and I should know. Fuck it, even if you haven’t experienced it, you should fucking well know this.

Every time another smug prick with a tedious opinion compares whatever their whiny cause is to rape, it trivialises rape, makes society take it less seriously. It is turning to countless survivors and shouting in their faces “Well, you think you’ve got problems? I have to pay some of my loads of fucking money, just like everyone else does. Also, there’s a windfarm near my house, and windfarms are also worse than that.” It is saying that violence doesn’t matter, that what really matters is making things comfier for those who are already comfortable.

It betrays a staggering ignorance at best, and, at worst, a willful lack of empathy so severe that you deserve to be swallowed by a horse’s anus.

But I’m feeling merciful today, Ray. I’ll tell you what, you go and fuck off and educate yourself. You go and fucking apologise for your shitty comments and genuinely learn why your comparison was a nonsense. You sort your fucking life out.

And then, come the revolution, maybe we’ll be merciful. Maybe we won’t inflict the worst punishment imaginable on you. Maybe we won’t raise your taxes.


In which I provide better advice than Mariella Frostrup

Today in the Guardian/Observer, some terrible advice. A woman who had survived a torrent of emotional and sexual abuse from a partner finally managed to leave, but her friends have behaved absolutely appallingly by blaming her for the abuse, telling her to get over it, and rallying around the abusive ex partner, with one of them even having sex with him. The woman feels angry about this and asks how she can get through this continuing ordeal and whether she must lose her friends.

Enter Mariella Frostrup, who is famous for something, but I can’t remember what. Mariella Frostrup advises this woman to stop “sounding petulant” because that won’t get her any support, saying she “cannot take sides” and that the sense of outrage may be due to the break-up. She advises the survivor to be “dignified”  and be “independent” following this “unhealthy liaison”. All in all, fairly awful advice, completely trivialising the woman’s experience and legitimising the position of the friends and abusive ex-partner.

I have no idea if the woman presenting the problem actually exists in the world, or is a conceit for Mariella Frostrup to frame a column around. I hope it’s the latter, yet, just in case it is the former, here’s what I would have said were this someone contacting me:

Dear writer,

Let me start by saying that I believe you. Now, I’m not qualified to give any advice, and neither is Mariella Frostrup, but I’ve had a remarkably similar experience which I got through. It sounds like this is totally shit for you, and you might find it helpful to talk to someone with greater qualifications and experience in helping you through it than me; this is a good place to get started. Remember, there’s no shame in seeking help, and after what you’ve been through there is a great deal of things that you will need to unlearn and unpack in order to heal.

None of this was your fault. I don’t doubt that your ex-partner told you it was, and I don’t doubt that he’s frantically applying his spin on your friends. Your friends’ attitudes are not informed by anything you have done: it’s not the way you’ve acted that has led them to blame you and rally around your ex. Unfortunately, we live in a society where there are a lot of unhelpful myths about abuse, violence against women and rape. What you experienced does not fall into the generally-accepted belief about what domestic abuse looks like: he didn’t hit you, so people find it harder to identify it as abuse. Frankly, I applaud you for being able to see through the veil of lies that he created and see what he was doing for what it was. It’s a pity your friends don’t understand this.

When someone has the misfortune of being abused by someone well-liked, unfortunately society has a hard time accepting this, too. We’re taught that abusers are evil monsters that we can spot immediately, but that simply isn’t the case. This powerful combination of circumstances: your ex’s spin, and how it maps on to widely-held beliefs has created exactly what they’re doing to you.

This is not to excuse their behaviour. I think you’ve been far, far too kind to them if anything. You continue to consider them your friends, despite their complicity in your continuing abuse. Ultimately, that’s what they’re doing, and no wonder you’re angry. It’s frustrating not to be believed. It’s frustrating to see people who you thought you could rely on taking sides with your abuser. It’s frustrating to be blamed. And it’s utterly infuriating to have been abused in the first place. It’s completely legitimate to be angry about this, and it is one of many perfectly normal reactions to having been through something so agonisingly awful.

There’s very little that can be done from your position to turn your friends around into the social support network you need in order to heal. What you need is people who will believe you, and people who are OK with you expressing your feelings. You need people who get it. This is why I started by advising you to talk to a professional who will get it: I was lucky enough to have some friends who understand. It doesn’t sound like this is the case for you. You can also meet new potential friends who are more likely to have a better understanding of your situation: feminists are often far better on this than non-feminists, for example. Are there any feminist groups in your area that you could join?

Whatever you choose to do, remember that none of this is your fault. I cannot stress this enough. They’re in the wrong, not you. Do whatever you feel you need to in order to heal.

In solidarity,

Stavvers


Dear FHM

Dear FHM,

I get it. I really get it. You’re useless fart-huffing dicknozzles. I know this. You really don’t need to prove this by normalising violence against women.

In your “What Not To Wear” feature, you decided to be very funny by advising your readership not to wear women’s socks. Might I just point out that you’re really missing out here, as women’s socks tend to be a little softer than men’s socks, and if you buy the over-the-knee ones, your legs will be toasty all winter?

A9RT7PYCYAAeQOi

Sorry, I wandered off the point, there. Where was I? Oh yes, you are shitmunching chancres.

See, at the end of the little slot, you advise your readers not to wear their “girlfriend/mother/victim’s socks”. You might think this is a light-hearted little joke, a friendly bit of fun. Banter, if you will.

If that’s the case, you’re wrong in the way only the true arsenugget can be wrong. Have you thought at all about what a “victim” is, other than the butt of your edgy humour? Did you know that one in twenty of your readers might have raped–maybe more than once–and shared a wry smile upon reading your little joke, while resolving not to steal the socks off of anyone he rapes in the future? Or that one in five of your readers are likely to think it’s all right to hit a woman, and you’ve just made that a little bit more acceptable?

Or maybe you think your little joke is much funnier because all this happens. Perhaps you’re trying to market yourselves to that all-important “perpetrator” demographic by laughing with them?

If so, please catch on fire. I am asking you as politely as possible. Please catch on fire.

Furiously,

Stavvers (no hugs, kisses, and I’m not letting you near my socks)

__

Picture courtesy of @Seja75

 


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