An open letter to the Belfast abortion snitches

Content warning: this post discusses abortion and police, and mentions domestic violence and suicide.

Dear snitches,

I read your piece of remarkable self-justification for the unforgivable in the Belfast Telegraph and I am shaking with fury. Your housemate was just 19 years old, so young and in a difficult situation. She was forced to buy pills from the internet to induce an abortion, because she couldn’t afford to hop on a boat or plane across to the rest of the country, where she could have accessed the medical care she needed. Because of your actions, she is a convicted criminal who could be sent to prison on a whim of any old judge with an axe to grind.

You know this, of course, and you chose to do this to punish her, because you are horrible people.

There, I said it.

Sorry, there’s nothing about this situation that doesn’t make you horrible people. In trying to explain why you did it, you’ve just made it even more obvious that you are horrible people, outright admitting that you did it because she didn’t show adequate remorse, and you have feelings about abortion which basically translate to you don’t think access medical care is something which should always be available to someone with a uterus.

You go on in sensationalist detail about how very traumatic you found your housemate’s abortion. Maybe that’s true. Abortion is not always a tidy business. However, I suspect your account is at least part fictitious: your description of the foetus does not match with what the physical evidence found was a 10-12 week foetus. Unless you have frankly microscopic eyesight you’re not going to be seeing it in the detail you describe. And furthermore, in another statement, one of you said that it was about four inches long: more than twice the length of a foetus at that point of gestation.

I’m not saying you’re lying maliciously (although you’re such horrible people, maybe you are). Human memory is a funny thing. It can be very easily modified without you ever knowing it’s happened. If you’re the sort of person who hates other people having control over their own uteruses, you’re probably quite a fan of anti-choice propaganda, where they like to show pictures of foetuses far later in gestation. Those little pieces of misdirection probably wormed their way into your subconscious and you thought that was what you’d seen on the night your housemate was driven to take drastic action and end her own pregnancy due to archaic laws in your part of the country. And I don’t know, maybe your boyfriend is a small-dicked liar which is why you said four inches when in reality it should be no more than two.

Anyway, because of the excesses in your descriptions of what you saw, I don’t believe a word you say about what happened that night.

Maybe you really were traumatised. It can be traumatic when someone you’re close to has a health emergency. I have epilepsy and I am achingly aware of how much worse my seizures are for other people who witness them than they are for me, because at least I have the luxury of being unconscious at the time. Thing is, your situation is different. You have absolutely no empathy for your housemate. None whatsoever. You didn’t help her in her time of need, because you felt she was to blame for what was happening. However traumatised you are about what you think you saw, it would have been much more traumatic for her: desperate and unable to seek medical help for something which needs to be done under medical supervision. If you’re traumatised by what you think you saw, imagine how much more traumatic it must be when that is happening to your own body. Oh wait, you can’t. Because you have no empathy. Because you’re horrible people.

What you did next is beyond cruel. You called the police on your housemate, because you didn’t like something you saw in the bin. Once, a (thankfully former) housemate of mine put some gone-off taramasalata in the bin. When I took the bag out, it split and pungent off-pink fish goo went all over my bare feet. It was gross and upsetting, and I cursed her name and that of all of her ancestors. I was absolutely furious. I didn’t call the fucking cops over it though.

No matter how pissed off you are at something someone else has done, no matter how much you disagree with it, you do not call the police on people. (There may be exceptions to this rule, e.g. in a domestic violence situation or if someone is about to kill themselves. Many people find police intervention even in these situations to be somewhere between useless to actively harmful, and a lot of the time an ambulance is a better bet)

Calling the police shows exactly what you are: horrible people with a desire to punish.

Your housemate made a terrible mistake. Not in self-inducing her abortion, but in trusting you enough to tell you what she was doing. Perhaps she was reaching out, and she didn’t want to suffer alone. Perhaps you had a good relationship before it. I don’t know why she would have trusted you enough to let you know, but I know if she hadn’t, she would not be considered a convicted criminal. Her options were essentially to go through the whole thing alone, or to trust others enough to talk to them. You betrayed her trust, her confidence. You threw it back in her face.

You know that in your part of the country, abortion is illegal and those who need it can face imprisonment. You know that your part of the country has laws which contravene basic human rights–and indeed, basic human decency. You know that Northern Ireland abortion laws are not designed to help, but rather to punish. Rather than feeling disgusted by that, you decided to take advantage of that fact and use this state of affairs to get revenge on a young woman who who made a dire decision.

There are no other words for it. You’re horrible people.

Seeing the anger within and outside your part of the country at what you set in motion gives me hope that perhaps soon these laws will not exist. And perhaps, up and down Northern Ireland, people realise just how important it is to not betray their friends. If someone has an abortion, they’ll show basic solidarity and keep their fucking gobs shut, no matter how much they disagree with a pal’s decision. Maybe they’ll go beyond that and offer help, support and empathy until your horrific abortion laws disintegrate. I hope you are the only people who are as nasty as to dob someone in to the police over something that in no way concerns them.

I wrote a much longer letter to you than I thought I would, but I am furious. I am angry at you, I am angry at your part of the country’s laws and I am absolutely livid that you would choose to throw someone at the mercy of those laws.

You, dear Belfast abortion snitches, are horrible people.

Fuck you,

stavvers

P.S. Anyone reading this may want to donate to Abortion Support Network’s Cover Her Costs campaign, giving people who need abortions in Northern Ireland the financial means to travel to where it’s legal for their care.

__

Note, added approximately an hour after publication: A friend has pointed out that a lack of empathy doesn’t always equal horrible person. I’d just like to echo and elevate this point, and apologise to neurodiverse people for the implication in my phrasing. What I used “empathy” to mean here was “compassion” or “kindness” or “caring about another human being’s welfare”–“empathy” is a loaded term and not necessarily the appropriate one. However, these Belfast abortion snitches are horrible people.


Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: trans women are not shutting down discussion of vagina

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny and genitals

Today, I would like to talk about a particular transmisogynyistic trope which shows up with alarming frequency: apparently, trans women are trying to prevent cis women from talking about our genitalia.

As a cis woman, I’d like to take a moment to say it’s complete and patent bollocks. I have no idea of the origin of this meme, but it seems to be spouted mostly by transmisogynists–for example, non-Lambda-Award-nominee Alice Dreger perpetuated the trope while saying how one could be an ally to cis women (!).

Apparently, cis women are unable to talk about vulvas, vaginas, periods and so forth without being shut down by trans women. Except, er, no.

I initiated a project of writing to an anti-abortion MP with gory details about reproductive systems. If it were true that trans women were silencing fanny-talk, presumably they’d’ve sided with Nadine Dorries and declared the whole thing evil. Actually, trans women participated. And boys with wombs. And basically, women with all genital configurations and men with uteruses all kind of have a vested interest in reproductive health because the struggles of reproductive justice, bodily autonomy and transgender struggles are intrinsically related.

I have a tattoo, at the top of my spine, of an anatomically-correct, roughly life-sized clitoris. To me, it signifies two things. The first is that that’s a really sweet spot on me. The second is that medical science really fucking sucks, in that they didn’t discover that the clit was bloody enormous and pretty much anatomically indistinguishable from the penis under the skin–that they wanted to believe there was some sort of big difference between whether your genitals were an inny or an outy, beyond whether they were an inny or an outy. There’s a bonus third thing: it looks fucking cool, it’s a really nice shape.

Guess what? No trans woman has ever tried to flay that tattoo off my skin.

I livetweeted a fanny injury on twitter, and not a single trans woman told me to stfu. Instead, I got nothing but sympathy because ultimately any woman who’s had SRS, or is considering it, will have nothing but sympathy for a sore pussy.

Oh, and then there’s the whole bread thing. You know what I mean. If the TRANS WOMEN ARE SHUTTING DOWN FANNY TALK thing were true, one would expect that trans women would’ve been leading the charge in the bizarre anti-stavvers-bread fandom which seems to have sprung up. Except they… didn’t. There might have been an eyeroll or two, but to be quite honest, I’m pretty inured to eyerolls (especially regarding that) and it was nothing–nothing–compared to the outright hate and disgust which poured mostly from cis men, with a supporting wave of cis women.

I actually got a lot of support from trans women, and the demographic of people who have actually eaten the goddamn bread has included trans women and transfeminine people represented at way above population level (around 40% of people who have eaten it).

One can also add that if there is this huge conspiracy against cis women being able to talk about their minges, I should’ve had a lot of support from the cisterhood, and yet bizarrely there were precisely no lucrative New Statesman opportunities for me to talk about how silenced I’d been. To be honest, I expect that the cis media feminists were wholly grossed out, and not expressing how squicked they were was about as supportive as they’d get. They should probably get over their internalised misogyny there 😇

So, basically, I’ve blathered on about my cunt and never once been silenced by trans women. There’s a chance, maybe, that it’s because I’ve surrounded myself with trans women who are sycophants, although I doubt that it’s possible that literally every trans woman I have ever spoken to has received some memo to allow stavvers. Instead, I suggest that what’s going on here is that there is no grand pussy-censorship conspiracy. It’s just that those who perpetuate the meme are intellectually dishonest transmisogynists.

Actually, scratch that. They’re plain old misogynists, viewing women as just vaginas.

I talk about my cunt in purely personal terms because ultimately it’s purely personal to me. It might resonate with other women: some things do, some things don’t. That was probably the most important thing the Dear Nadine Dorries project taught me: that no two experiences are alike, that we’re diverse as people. Talking about a vaginal experience as though it would apply to everyone is an absolute nonsense. If you do that, I’ll fucking shout you down, too.

There’s no trans conspiracy to shut down general fanny talk, just acting as though owning a vagina is a universal experience of womanhood. Just acting as though having periods is a universal experience of womanhood. Just acting as though getting pregnant is a universal experience of womanhood.

Is it uncomfortable talking about your genitalia as your own genitalia, rather than a generalisable thing that all women share? Absofuckinglutely.  But it’s also the only honest way to do it. It’s so much easier if you pretend it’s a general thing that all women share that your cunt kind of smells like feet around your period, or that your pubes can grow to easily over two inches long is a universal female experience, or that one of your flaps is a different colour to the other and about three times bigger is totally something all women have: hell, it was easier typing these sentences with “your” rather than “my”. However, none of this is universal, generalisable or in any way pertinent to all, most, or even some women.

Talking about vaginas has its place, but let’s not pretend that experiences are generalisable across women or that the fanny itself if a thing which all women share.

So please, please, fellow cis women, let’s shout down the trans-women-are-shutting-down-pussy-talk meme wherever we see it. It does nobody any favours.


Things I read recently that I found interesting

Happy azymite Easter! Here’s some things I read recently that I found interesting.

I Was Played by a Male Feminist (Rachel Fisher)- Personal story of an all-too-common phenomenon. This is why we don’t trust “male feminists”.

When you want to be into BDSM but it’s too soon because you’re black (Luna Mallbroux)- On wanting pain and domination when there’s horrible generational trauma–and people who still keep it alive.

Dear Able-Bodied Partner (Carrie)- How to be a good partner to disabled people.

When Abortion Restrictions Increase, Women Start Googling How to Do It at Home (Christina Cautericci)- A look at the numbers which suggest that abortion restrictions do nothing to restrict abortion.

Facebook is a growing and unstoppable digital graveyard (Brandon Ambrosino)- This is a very interesting piece, exploring what happens after you die on social media.

My Auntie Buffalo Bill: The Unavoidable Transmisogyny of Silence of the Lambs (Jos Truitt)- Laying out the elephant in the room with SotL: massive transmisogyny.

The Pace of Queer Time (Lila)- This is a very sweet article talking about time when queers do not have a defined chronology.

Black Lives Matter and the ‘Irish slave’ myth (Norma Costello)- It’s become popular to call Irish people the “first slaves”, and this is nonsense. Here’s why.

Our Black Transgender Marriage Is Not Revolutionary (Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley and Matthew Richardson)- Why sometimes just being isn’t enough.

Spycops inquiry: ‘If it’s in secret, it’s dead in the water’ (Kate Thomas)- Why the inquiry into undercover police tricking women into relationships must be completely open.

I was 14 when Tara died on Buffy (Open Letters to Jason)- Heartbreaking letter on the continuing trope of killing off lesbians, and how that crushes young queer women.

And finally, there’s something about this picture and this tiny amount of explanation that is just hypnotic.

 


Why I’m not cheering for scrapping the “tampon tax”

Content warning: this post discusses Tories and menstruation

It looks like the “tampon tax”–the VAT paid on sanitary products–is going away at last. Hypothetically, this should be something to celebrate, but in my role as miserable killjoy bitch, I’m not cheering. I’m not cheering, because I have some concerns, and they’re pretty fucking big ones.

In Wednesday’s budget announcement, the sadly-not-on-fire George Osborne made a very crude attempt to appeal to women by saying that revenue raised from the tampon tax would go to women’s organisations (despite menstruation not just being “a women’s issue”!)

Less than 36 hours later, suddenly we’re hearing that the tampon tax is being scrapped. So, does this mean that there’ll less money for women’s organisations and services than initially budgeted-for? If the removal of the tampon tax comes in with immediate effect, that’s exactly what it would mean. If it’s going to be a while before it comes it, that’s little better: it just means there’ll be a funding black hole for where there was once a kitty for women’s organisations and services, there no longer is one. In other words, it’s not a problem right now, but it will be in the near future.

Either way, rather than something to cheer about, this is simply something that this Tory government are doing very well: moving money away from the public purse and putting it into private hands. Last night, I made a prediction, and I want to go on record with this prediction and spread it far and wide as possible, so I can at least feel a burn of smugness about being proved right while the world fucking burns.

I seriously doubt that the reduction in VAT will pass on to people who need to purchase sanitary products. Sellers know that people are used to paying a certain amount for tampons, etc. They make the occasional special offers, and so forth, and maybe they’ll even temporarily reduce the price when the tampon tax is scrapped, but within a few months, we’ll all be paying the same we always paid for sanitary products, except now that additional 5% is lining private pockets.

So ultimately, there is nothing to cheer about with the abolition of the tampon tax. It’s a PR exercise, nothing more, nothing less. We’re meant to be happy for David Cameron for Being On The Side Of Women while simultaneously Getting A Better Deal For Britain In Europe, but fuck him with a large pike. His government is killing women, and nominally knocking 5% off of a product that is already a massive rip-off does nothing to alleviate that


Things I read recently that I found interestng

It’s that time again–yes, it’s a little late, but I was in Cornwall and they didn’t have much internet there.

The Right to Remain Toolkit– A useful resource for migrants and asylum seekers, giving advice about rights and guiding through the processes. Share it widely.

What This Leaked Training Manual Tells Us About the Government’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy (Wail Qasim)- Analysis of a leaked Prevent handbook.

Closing the Loop (Aria Dean)- Critiquing the very basic politics of visibility, selfies and whiteness.

What do sex workers want? (Toni Mac) – This TED Talk is a must-watch, exploring options for sex workers.

We speak but you don’t listen: migrant sex worker organising at the border (Ava Caradonna & X:Talk Project)- Migrant sex workers explain what’s needed beyond decriminalisation.

We support Jeremy Corbyn on decriminalisation (English Collective of Prostitutes)- On how austerity, too, needs to be reversed.

Bisexuality and mental health: the double edged sword of stigma (Stephanie Farnsworth)- Exploring the intersections and some horrible attitudes which are still prevalent among the public and health providers alike.

Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals (New Scientist)- I relate to this finding, so goddamn hard.

Dear Nicky Morgan: yes/no testing? The answer’s no (Michael Rosen)- Yet another absurd Tory idea for education, gloriously destroyed here.

Bathrooms and locker rooms: the transgender witch hunt (Zinnia Jones)- This is a great look at what could be done to make public toilets safer for everyone.

My secret debate with Sam Harris: A revealing 4-hour dialogue on Islam, racism & free-speech hypocrisy (Omer Aziz)- What really happens when white atheist bros want to “debate” you? They still come off badly and censor it, as it happens.

Cis Fragility (Morgan Potts)- On how cis people assert their cisness, every day.

Peter Tatchell: For the record (Fran Cowling)- For some reason, the media haven’t been interested in Fran’s side of the story, so sharing the fuck out of it.

Yes, Even Dommes Experience Misogyny (Lauren Parker)- Outlining the types of misogyny faced by dominant women.

Twitter’s New Timeline Isn’t About Usability, It’s About Tracking Your Behavior (Vijuth Assar)- If the fact it’s annoying isn’t enough to get you to turn it off, maybe this will.

What Headbutting a Homophobe on a Night Bus Taught Me About Political Violence (James Butler)- Reflections on political violence in this deeply personal piece.

“Magic in North America”: The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home (Adrienne K.)- Examining JK Rowling’s recent Harry Potter story and how it appropriates Indigenous cultures.

And finally, let’s see Blue Monday played on faddy 1930s instruments. I’m a particular fan of the musical saw.


Obligatory International Women’s Day post: let the bridges you burn light the way

Today is International Women’s Day, once again. It’s also the fifth birthday of this blog, and I like to think I’ve improved my opinions a lot over the last five years. Honestly, I’m not even linking to that first post, and I’ll instead link to the disclaimer which applies to any old content on this blog.

Five years ago, I was confident there was something winnable, that we were on the cusp of a great tipping point and that if we women all banded together, and surely that’d be easy.

I was naive, and in my defence, it was 2011, when revolution was in the air.

I had yet to see how broken everything is.

I’ve burned a lot of bridges since then.

Everything is broken. Literally fucking everything. There are no causes for optimism. It’s nice to believe there can be, because that way if feels a lot more like there’s something to be won. It’s nice to celebrate small victories, but when these small victories are defeats for the vast majority of women, there’s nothing to cheer about.

 

When I logged into Facebook this morning, it gave me a chirpy message wishing for equality for all. I wish I could have told it to go fuck itself with a wonky church spire, because equality is a crock of pigshit in this broken world. Equality is desirable in an unequal system. Equality is palatable for those in power, because it doesn’t actually make anything any different. If half of the positions on parliaments, boards, armed forces and on and on were occupied by women, that wouldn’t help because these structures are themselves oppressive. Women shouldn’t be fighting to be the oppressor, these systems should be razed to the ground.

As a cis white woman, I now understand myself to be part of the problem. I try not to be part of the problem, and that’s burned a fair few bridges–and I know I still am part of the problem. All I can do is be willing to be held accountable for when my being part of the problem becomes me being a big problem.

I think what I’m trying to say, clumsily and inarticulately, is I’ve realised there are no solutions to the fucking massive structural problems. I have a better understanding of what’s wrong now, but not what to do to put it right. I know what’s broken and I know how it’s broken, but I have no idea to put it right. There’s harm reduction measures put forward by marginalised groups that I support wholeheartedly, but ultimately everything is fucked.

And maybe that’s OK. Maybe a negative feminism is part of what we need. People like to be given a solution and to feel that something is winnable, and don’t like to hear the cold hard truths. I say “no” a lot, and so do many other women. “No” is treated as a dirty word, but is it really? Is it only a dirty word to keep this whole system in place?

I have no answers, and I’ve decided that’s all right. Maybe I’ll feel differently in five years, dropping the shards of a teacup and have them reassemble into the complete object. Maybe solutions and opportunities will present themselves.

In the meantime, I look to the bridges I’ve burned, and feel that they are narrowing a path, and I hope this path leads somewhere useful.


Kiddle: a search engine which endangers children

Content note: this post discusses child abuse, homophobia and transphobia

A new search engine for kids has been launched, and my goodness, it’s terrifying. 

Kiddle is supposed to help kids navigate the internet safely, using a combination of human editors and Google’s Safe Search. However, it’s also been criticised for blocking searches relating to LGBT issues.

Last night, when I had a bit of a fiddle with it, it seemed to have a bit of a double standard regarding what it just wouldn’t provide results for, and what it decided was Bad:

Before you ask, it wasn’t down to what’s known as The Scunthorpe Problem, a product of automatic filtering which causes innocent words to be blocked.

However, more has changed since last night. While last night, a search using Kiddle for “transgender” returned some results, today it’s been deemed A Bad Word, with the judgmental robot wagging his metallic finger.

Blocking searches pertaining to LGBT issues is dangerous. It keeps young people from accessing resources to help them better understand themselves. Telling them words they’ve heard that they feel might apply to them are bad is more dangerous still: it feeds guilt and shame.

Kiddle’s solution to some (but not all) LGBT-related searches is woefully inadequate and, again, could turn out to be dangerous. Instead of just not returning any results, it now tells children to ask their parents.

Untitled
Eagle-eyed readers may spot an issue here: a young person is using the internet to seek answers, they’re probably not in a position to ask their parents the questions they have. Asking could, in fact, put children at risk of violence–physical violence, emotional violence, conversion therapy.

It’s not just LGBT-related searches that are blocked, though. Dr Jill McDevitt tried some common queries that children and young people may have, and found that information about puberty, is-my-body-normal type questions, searches related to menstruation, and searches about abuse were also blocked, sometimes with the Bad Words robot appearing.

The Bad Words robot appears on a search where anything judgmental definitely shouldn’t appear.

When dealing with child abuse, a sensitive approach is necessary. Children are likely to feel shame and guilt, and being told off for using bad words is hardly going to alleviate this.

It gets worse. Say an abused child was looking for contact details of someone who could help. Too bad.

Apparently other helplines and services are similarly blocked, the stern robot repeating over and over that these are bad words that should not be used.

This site is an abusive, controlling parent’s dream, barring their child from access to any possible sources of help. If, by accident, something useful does slip through the net, parents can request blocking a search. I assume that this is what happened within the last 24 hours to the search term “transgender”, which returned results last night, but is A Bad Word today.

So who actually owns Kiddle? In truth, we don’t know. All we know is that it isn’t Google–which is hardly helpful information considering more than 7 billion people on this planet aren’t Google. It’s all very fishy. There’s no transparency on who owns the site, or who’s involved in editing it. Do they know that they are enabling child abuse? Would they be mortified if they did know, or is it their goal all along? For all we know, Kiddle could be run by a paedophile ring hoping to keep kids blissfully ignorant that what’s happening to them is not OK.

In theory, a child-friendly search engine using safe searches and human moderation is a good one, but it cannot and must not block things which parents find unsavoury. Instead, if a child searches for information about sexuality, they should be able to access it. If they want to know about what’s all right and what isn’t, they should damn well be able to access it. Keeping children ignorant only opens them up to abuse. Question why parents (or perhaps just the owners of Kiddle) don’t want children to access information about being queer, or resources for child abuse.

The view of parents as an all-powerful authority over their children, able to control what they see and do not see is a dangerous one in and of itself, but sadly all too prevalent. The only source of hope we can perhaps draw with this Kiddle incident is maybe they won’t be supervising their children online so much, so young people can go about being more digitally-savvy than their parents and find the information they need online themselves.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,334 other followers