Category Archives: Liberation

A quick note on NUS conference and self-care

selfcare

If you’re at NUS conference over the next few days, or know anyone who is there, please remember this: conference is really intense: it drains you emotionally and physically, you’re bombarded by campaign supporters, political parties, factions, fringe meetings from the moment you arrive. Conference floor is exhausting, as well as exhilarating. Debates, whilst largely stimulating and insightful, can often descend into petty name-calling and be (sometimes intentionally) racist, homo/bi/transphobic, classist, sexist and ableist. People underestimate the impact those kind of things have on others, and whilst folks are always eager to hop up to the megaphone and call others out on their bullshit, the damage has been done – to both conference hacks and conference newbies.

I’m only saying this to make a point: when you’re at conference, practise self-care.

My experiences at NUS conferences were some of the best moments of my time as a student officer, but they wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t practiced self care, which is a difficult thing to do. If you need to take ten minutes off conference floor, if you say that you need to go home rather than attending an election party then DO IT and do not feel guilty! It is far more important for you to look after your own health and mental well-being for a few minutes, rather than sacrificing them for the whole of conference. Respect everyone’s access needs, support each other, stay hydrated, eat, SLEEP (I’m looking at you Vicki Baars and Colum McGuire!), take time out if you need. Your impact on conference will be all the better for it.

Finally, it’s often really easy to direct your anger at the people at the podium, or on the stage, or behind the scenes at NUS, or at each other. Just remember that there is a difference between holding someone to account and holding someone hostage for something that they did or didn’t do. I have disagreed with a lot of people at conference – but treating them like crap isn’t a productive way to unite a movement and I really hope folks at conference remember that every delegate – whether an NUS officer, sabb or student – is human. If you criticise someone, be productive about it. Ask yourself, “How can we move forward from this? How can I challenge this appropriately in a way that will make a difference? How can I support this movement?”. I’ve been guilty in the past of getting sucked into rhetoric about factions (I think everyone remotely involved in NUS has!) but it’s more valuable, in some cases, to build bridges where there is common ground to be shared. No one agrees on everything, but sometimes you will agree on something, and that’s valuable. Don’t forget that.

Although I’m no longer in the student movement (I’m still a student, but a full-time teacher!) I am invested in the power that conference has, because I’ve seen how activists change and shape each other over the course of a few days. That’s pretty powerful. Take care of each other and that power will be used to shape the future of education.

(cross-posted on my facebook account)

Another splendid lesson in “how to do liberation wrong”, courtesy of Julie Bindel

I was extremely dismayed, but not surprised, to read yet another bigoted and vitriolic article from Julie Bindel. Apparently dismissing and demeaning trans* folks is not enough for her, she feels the need to belittle and devalue the experiences – indeed the very existences – of bisexual women.

Bindel claims that lesbian politics and feminism are one and the same – and whilst lesbians are present throughout feminist history, and vice versa, it is both inaccurate and insulting to exclude bisexual and heterosexual women, as well as women who do not define their sexuality and/or gender from the feminist movement.

I think it’s completely accurate to blame the patriarchy for the fact that bisexuality, particularly in women, is seen as a phase, or a tantalising experiment to please a male partner. What Bindel does, however, is blame bisexual people – and those who engage in “bisexual behaviour” for the existence of this perception. Perhaps she needs to dust off her “Feminism 101” manual: women who consent to have sex with another consenting adult, of any gender or sexuality have every right to do so, and no one should tell them otherwise.

Bindel writes, “Lesbians having heterosexual sex are seen as transgressive, when in fact they are simply reverting to a traditional way of being a woman. For a straight woman, having a girlfriend on the side is almost like having the latest Prada handbag”. These statements (which are, incidentally, not backed up by anything remotely resembling fact) are incredibly reductive. A traditional way of being a woman? If Bindel is referring to the existence of women prior to the advent of sexual liberation, I think she’s missing the point. Before women had any grasp on what sexual liberation could or should look like, they had very little choice as to how, when and why they had sex of any kind. Now, if a lesbian chooses to have heterosexual sex, that’s her own damn business as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Bindel, in her typically transphobic style, reduces sexual acts to gendered performance, completely discounting trans* bodies and behaviours.

As for this idea that straight women reduce their girlfriends to trendy accessories, generalising isn’t going to help anyone here – Bindel not only discounts the sexual autonomy and choices of “straight” women, she completely denies their right to shift their sexuality and behaviour and instead lumps all straight women together as lying, shallow hussies. It’s exceptionally lazy journalism as well as being wildly unfair.

It is a real shame that Bindel is such a relentless bigot – not only because she has a significant platform in the feminist and LGBT media, but because in this article specifically (I’m not going to tackle her entire journalistic canon) she almost manages to make some sensible points. For instance, when she writes, “I personally feel that straight women are missing out on the best sex on the planet, but that is their choice”, I almost want to applaud. “Yes Julie!” I want to cry out. Yes, because she is stating her personal opinion without denying women the right to choose what kind of sex they want to have.

It’s a shame that the elation I feel when I read that sentence is so utterly crushed by her crass assumption that bisexual women who sleep with men are halting feminist progress and undermining sexual politics. I’ll say it again: sexual politics connotes the choice about who we sleep with – who, when and why. It is not in any way undermined by the genitalia or gender identity of the person (or people) who are lucky enough to have their world rocked by an awesome person (or people). However, because Bindel seems completely unable to grasp this, I would suggest that for the foreseeable future, you take the advice of my friend Lauren: “If lesbian women have an ounce of sexual politics, they will stop sleeping with Julie Bindel”. Couldn’t agree more.

At the beginning of her “article” Bindel asks, “what makes some of us uncomfortable with bisexual women?” I can answer that for you Julie: bigotry. Some people (including me) are bisexual. Get over it.

In between the lines, women are writing the revolution

Intelligent feminists are totally hot

Actually, I don’t think you can be a feminist without being intelligent (takes own tiny metaphorical trumpet out of equally metaphorical dungarees, because I’ve always wanted a pair, and blows it). But seriously, that would explain why the Daily Fail female readership aren’t feminists. That is SOLID LOGICAL REASONING.

The point is, feminist academics are the dream, and I am happy to once again be making an English essay about queer feminism, masculinity and other interesting shit that literature makes shiny.

“As a woman, I am a consumer of masculinities, but I am more so than men are; and, like men, I as a woman am also a producer of masculinities and a performer of them” – Eve K. Sedgwick, from ‘Gosh, Boy George, you must be awfully secure in your masculinity!’ (best. title. ever)

“The suppression of the homosexual component of human sexuality, and by corollary, the oppression of homosexuals, is…a product of the same system whose rules and relations oppress women” – Gayle Rubin (PREACH, GURRRL)

#fuckthepatriarchy

Closets are for fabulous shoes, not people.

Kudos to my very talented friend Cal for designing this gorgeous image. Happy LGBT History Month, celebrate and honour well 🙂

Not in our generation

I think when a lot of folks think about the Holocaust, they envision concentration camps and Anne Frank’s attic and yellow stars. The most horrific genocide of the first half of the 20th century, packaged into text books and documentaries. Yes, I’m cynical about remembrance. So sue me. On Remembrance Day in November during the two minute silence, I’m constantly frustrated. I wonder why we are staying silent when we should be shouting and crying. Of course I understand the importance of respect. But all too often people walk away after candlelit vigils and silences and forget, too easily, why we were there in the first place.

Here’s the thing about the Holocaust: it’s not over. It was never a contained event. It’s an ideology that permeates the minds of far-right and fascist groups and political organisations in a manner as slow and deadly as gas. It’s happening now, in the form of rampant Islamaphobia, ethnic cleansing, corrective rape, gay bashing, cartoon strips, what our newspapers don’t or won’t report. The English Defence League, the devastation in Darfur. The Holocaust isn’t over.

I wanted to write this so I won’t forget, so that I won’t make the mistake of so many and push the Holocaust into an abstracted form of history, something past, something irrelevant, something solved. It’s days like today which puts fire into the stomachs of liberation campaigners, because our unity fights against the division which genocide seeks to effect. Our differences as queers, women, ethnic folk, religious folk, people with disabilities and people of political minds are glorious and messy and make the world better. Our differences don’t divide, they unite. We work against the holocaust of the everyday. We say, this will not happen again.

Today I will not just be thinking of the millions of Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust of 1939-1945. I’ll be thinking also of the millions of gay people forced to wear the pink triangle, the Poles, and everyone else who died under Hitler’s regime. I’ll be thinking of the millions of displaced and traumatised people in Cambodia, Iraq, the Sudan, Darfur. I’ll be thinking of how to best remember these people, and how best to honour them. I think the best way is to ensure that we’ll never again have to remember or honour these kind of victims. Not in our generation. Or the next, or ever.

This video says it, really. I was proud to be part of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or1VTqVrrXY

We’re in a war, and our bodies are the front line.

Hell yes I do. And I hit like one, and I kiss like one, and I love you like one.

It’s important to remember, how we fight, when shit like this is happening: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2011/jan/25/domestic-violence-charities-face-100-cuts?CMP=twt_gu

If these cuts are the tip of the iceberg, then what’s happening to women all over the world is the fucking titanic.

But we’ve got this image, and we’ve got Ani DiFranco, who I had the privilege of seeing live last night.What a woman she is. An incredible feminist who plays guitar and owns a tank top that says ‘Cunt’ on it. Basically she’s my heroine. And you can bet your bottom dollar that she fights like a girl, and you can bet she’ll win. We’ve all got to fight like girls. Roll with the punches, dodge the bullets. Survival’s a bitch, but living’s worth it. If only the goddamn government would realise that.