Trans Women Are Real Women. Deny This If You Must, But Not In My Name. By Kelly Grehan

I’ve always been drawn to the statement by American mythologist Joseph Campbell that “the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

Being yourself strikes me as the true route to happiness and something that we should all want for each other and to try to help others to achieve.

But others clearly disagree.  

In recent months there have been increasing reports that ‘radical feminists’ oppose trans women using women’s spaces, standing on all women shortlists and joining women’s groups.

As a feminist, this situation has left me fuming.  For me, being a feminist is about allowing all people to be who they want to be, to show kindness to all and to oppose all oppression.

I just cannot understand the motivation of those trying to stop trans women (and men) from being who they want to be.

One argument I have heard is that, having been raised as male , trans women have benefitted from male privilege and therefore cannot understand the experiences of cis women.  I find this a bizarre argument. I would guess being stuck in a body you despise all day every day pretty much cancels out any advantage you might have accessed as a male.

From what I have seen trans women suffer the absolute opposite of privilege at every stage of their life.

It is not on the same scale of course, but I have been shocked at the online abuse I have received every time I have tweeted support of trans rights.  Of course, as unpleasant as this was, I simply turned the device off and walked away.

I cannot imagine what it is like to face this abuse every day and have no means of escape.

Abuse against the trans community remains rife.

Two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.

A study by equality campaigning charity Stonewall, last year revealed that amongst school pupils who identified as trans 9% had received death threats at school while 84% say they have self-harmed and 45% have tried to take their own lives.

Then there is the argument about who should use what toilet.

Frankly I envy people who have so little to worry about that this consumes their time.  I put this question to them, are they equally concerned that male and female disabled people are expected to share the same toilets?

It’s sad to say, but history tells us we should not be surprised by transphobia.  

People have always been afraid of things outside their own experience and rather than seeking further understanding the default position of many people seems to be to try to drive people of difference away.

We have seen this time and time again, whether the differences concern race, sexuality or even differences in choices like music or dress.

Despite great efforts to see it maligned, feminism is just as needed now as in the past – there are battles still to fight –  America have a misogynist president; we have yet to achieve equal pay; despite the ‘me too’ movement women continue to suffer sexual harassment; legislation concerning pregnancy, maternity and childcare continue to be inadequate.

So why would any feminist concern themselves with trying to exclude an already marginalised group?  It makes no sense to me.

And you know what defines everyone in the trans community?

They have had the courage, against all social convention, knowing the abuse and exclusion that is likely to follow, to stand up and be who they really are.

I’d say that’s the definition of courage. Such people are an asset, not a threat to the ideals of feminsim.

Feminism is not about telling other people who they are or who they can be.

At its core it is about aiding people to be themselves.

Experiencing feelings of transphobia?

Want to exclude others?

Then there is nothing I can do to stop you.

But please do not do it in the name of feminism!

Can We Talk About Periods? By Sarah Crook and Kelly Grehan

Recently we came across the picture above and loved it.  We talked about copying the wording and using it for an art exhibition on women we are involved with. We decided it was not suitable for a family audience, which got us thinking about why periods are such a taboo subject?

Why aren’t they freely discussed?

We remember our own mothers being shocked when sanitary towel adverts were first allowed on TV in the early 1990s.

In fact in 1993 an advert featuring Claire Raynor for Vespre Sanitary towels was banned following 700 complaints that concerned matters such offence being taken ‘about the format in which lots of women talk freely and easily in their own words about the product.’

Comments included things like ‘I didn’t know where to look when it came on and my husband was sitting beside me.’

The complaints led to sanitary adverts being banned between 4pm and 9pm.

More recently the advert above was banned on the New York subway because of the language used.

The first-time menstrual blood was depicted as red in an advert (as opposed to as blue) was in October 2017!

Why does the mention of periods remain a taboo?

Why does a perfectly natural process, one which without which we wouldn’t exist, still cause embarrassment and shame?

Does ‘discomfort’ come from ancient beliefs that menstruation is dirty?

This belief continued in numerous cultures and religions and was one reason why women were deemed unfit to hold positions such as priests.

The Old Testament makes numerous references to bleeding women being unclean (see here http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/unclean.asp)

Given that they are experienced by half the population, women are likely to bleed for between 2,250 to 3,000-plus days across their lifetimes and a quarter of women of reproductive age are menstruating at any one time – So why are periods still such a taboo?

From the time we start menstruating; girls are taught that periods are something to keep a secret and that sanitary towels are to be kept hidden.

Research has found that women go to lengths to hide their period — from concealing tampons and pads at the bottom of their shopping basket, to putting a used pad in their handbag when there is no bin in a bathroom.

We recall trying to work out the least conspicuous way to go to the toilet at work with a tampon, is it to take our whole bag, hide it up our sleeve or squeeze it tightly in our fist and hope no one sees?

Some women experience their first period as young as 8 years old now. Feelings of shame or embarrassment at a completely natural process are reinforced before they even hit being a teenager.

If it’s not openly discussed and spoken about honestly by all in society then how are we supposed to allay their fears and feelings of shame?

Only when periods are openly and honestly discussed in the media, at home and at schools can we set about change.

Education for all that enables women to feel empowered and comfortable by the natural processes of their bodies is needed.

We have both started using moon cups and it is astonishing how many women view them as a “bit disgusting!”

Of course, this stigma continues into other female associated words, with most women terrified to use the word vagina, often using euphemisms like ‘mini’ or ‘nunny.’

Very rarely do we hear the word vagina used in conversation or the media.

We would guess this avoidance to talk about our own bodies leads to the gynecological cancers being often undiagnosed until it is too late.  

Women suffering in silence or too scared to speak to doctors with health issues related to vaginas. We don’t tend to have nicknames for other parts of the body like arms and legs!

We believe stigma around menstruation is a form of misogyny. Negative taboos condition us to understand menstrual function as something to be hidden, something shameful.

This leads on to the issue of period poverty.

Anyone who has seen the film I, Daniel Blake will recall the harrowing scenes where Katie, played by Hayley Squires is driven to shoplifting sanitary towels, having been sanctioned by the benefit office and having found there were no sanitary products at the food bank.

Hayley Sims, ‘I Daniel Blake’

A recent survey of 14 to 21-year olds by Plan International found that 15% of girls have struggled to afford sanitary care at some point, with one in ten girls admitting to borrowing or improvising with sanitary products.

Shockingly, 7% of girls described using socks, newspaper or fabric to get through their period, in place of tampons or pads.

Plan International’s findings highlight that there are a significant number of girls in the UK whose daily lives are impacted by period poverty, both physically and emotionally, as taboo’s around menstruation are impacting girls’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Scotland has taken a step forward to becoming the first country to outlaw period poverty as Labour plans to formally introduce the legislation at the Scottish Parliament.

Monica Lennon’s member’s Bill has won the backing of each of the five parties at Holyrood, giving her the right to press forward.

Her proposed Sanitary Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill would create a statutory duty for free provision of sanitary products.

We recently started running a Red Box Project in Dartford (https://www.facebook.com/RedBoxProjectDartford/).

This is a project where women set up drop off points for sanitary products and then give them to schools to give to girls in need.

All the effects of poverty are cruel, of course, but there is something particularly desperate about a girl trying to learn whilst worrying about bleeding through her school uniform, feeling unclean all day and the dreadful impact this has on a girl’s self-esteem.

The fact that periods are treated by taboo by many will reinforce those feelings for that girl.

The response we have had from the community has been fantastic, although we have received criticism, including one woman calling us ‘pseudo feminists’ trying to solve ‘a non-existent problem’ and ‘favouring women over men.’

Of course, this just spurred us on, but it showed the disdain some people hold those unable to afford sanitary products in.

We believe girls, dealing with the misery that puberty almost inevitably brings, as well as all the stresses of school, friendships and modern adolescents, should be spared the embarrassment of period poverty.

We hope our Red Box Project makes some difference.

The ‘Me Too’ Movement – Some Men Claim ‘Sexual Ambiguity’ As An Excuse But I Beg To Differ By Eddie Luigi

By Eddie Luigi

This is not a blog on the male perspective of the current media storm concerning sexual harassment of women. I am a male and this is my perspective. I do not claim to be speaking for all males.

I have never assaulted a woman and all of my sexual adventures have been consensual on both sides.

Now I don’t fully understand how women  work, and I may have been guilty of misreading a situation. That said, there was never a point of no return. If the woman said no at any time in the proceedings, then no it was. I would shuffle of with my bruised ego, muttering a few choice epithets under my breath.

I may be old school ( I am 68) but I was bought up to treat women as I would want other men to treat my mother, sister, aunts or daughter. 

I am the first to admit I am not God’s gift to women nor am I a Hollywood matinee idol. 

I have always been amazed, pleasantly surprised and grateful that a woman would find me attractive enough to want to indulge.

I don’t think that because one woman would be attracted to me then all women would. 

I have never wanted to treat women as ‘hunting trophies’ and mark my progress with notches on the bed.

I do not hold with the view that if a woman gets drunk then she is begging ‘for it’. 

By that token if a man gets drunk he is begging to be buggered? Surely not?

Unfortunately these do tend to be the opinions held by some, but not all, blokes.

I have been accused of inappropriate behaviour with regards to some women. It concerns my old school upbringing, where I was taught that if a lady offered you her hand you did not shake it, with a vicelike grip until one of you blinked. 

You took her proffered hand by the finger tips and gently kissed the back of her hand. It was a mark of respect and also stopped the passing of sexually related messages with the fingers, thumb or pressure.

Therein may lie a difficulty. What to one woman is a compliment and considered to be gentlemanly gallantry, another woman will consider unwonted and unwarranted behaviour.

But some of the stories I have heard emerge  are beyond any of this that I describe. And I cannot understand how a man can claim sexual ambiguity or misreading a situation so badly that he sexually assaults or raoes someone!

I would like to see more women stand up to sexual harassment. 

One of the ways might be to boycott the perpetrator in a work environment. 

Make it clear that you will have nothing to do with the pervert, and won’t even give them the time of day. 

If they ask a question, reply through a third party, making sure the third party knows why you are behaving that way. 

It worked for the Irish against Captain Boycott (which is where the phrase originated. You learn something new everyday.

I also believe that capitulation in the face of an overwhelming superior force, should not be considered as consent.

I am who I am because I have been who I have been.

Now I did not spring from my mother’s womb into the fully formed ‘all round good guy’ that I appear to be today. Before I reached the age of 30, I was anything but.

Before I was 15 I was what would now be called a troublemaker, but was then called a gutter snipe. 

I stole, was guilty of breaking and entering, shooting at the Queens birds, shoplifting, bullying and various other crimes that eventually led to my being sent to an approved school and being given the option of Borstal or a boarding school specialising in training young thugs for a life in either the Royal Navy or the Merchant Navy.
Between the ages of 15 and 30 I was a serving member of the Royal Navy. I was what would now be called ‘one of our brave boys’, but was then referred to as a ‘piss artist’. 

While in the Royal Navy I used swear words as punctuation, I told inappropriate and politically incorrect jokes. I thought the truth was so precious that I wasn’t going to squander it by using it.


When I reached the age of 30, I thought ‘enough, time to grow up. 

When I was a child I did childish things, but now I’m a man I should behave as a man.
So I gave up lying, cheating, taking drugs and wounding people with words.

Which brings me to Jared O’Mara. 

I can’t condone what he did or said, but I can’t condemn him either. When I was in the Royal Navy if you made a mistake you were punished for it according to the severity of the action and once your punishment was finished that was the end of the matter.
I would look on Jared O’Mara as a bit of a prat for not choosing his audience. No doubt if Jared O’Mara had been a member of the Bullingdon club, his actions would have been laughed off by the Tories as youthful high spirits and he would have been helped up the greasy pole to high office.

And before the Tories and mainstream media try to gain political capital, with their screeching rants about this being a ‘Labour Party problem’ as we’ve heard the Right Wing press claim, they should look to the racist, misogynistic, elitist, aristocratic snob, who was not only their Prime Minister, but has been consistently voted the greatest Briton of all time. Winston Churchill, oh and of course the 36 Tory MPs caught up in the sexual harassment scandal.

Isn’t it about time men stop hiding behind pathetic excuses for their behaviour and started taking responsibility for their actions? It really is time for a change!
 
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Misogyny and Victim Blaming By Kelly Grehan

I’m going to start with a question: why is the starting point for hearing about crimes in which victims are typically women to ask what she did wrong?

Disagree?

How many times upon hearing about a rape do people respond with questions like:

Well why did she get in his car?

Why did she drink so much?

Why was she dressed like that?

Why did she lead him on?

Why did she not run/scream/fight back?

How many people on hearing about domestic violence respond by saying:

Why did she not leave?

Why was she was always winding him up?

Why was she smiling if she was scared?

Why did she have a baby with him?

 I could go on.

There are numerous high profile cases I could use to illustrate this- Adam Johnson, Johnny Depp Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby, Rolf Harris. Men for whom, as soon as their crimes became known excuses and victim blaming began.

Of course people can cite ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as a reason, but my experience is that there is an approach taken by a large group of people upon hearing about these offences which differs from that they would take if hearing about a car theft, robbery or fraud.  

So why is this? Is it because of the misogyny which continues to plague our society? Or is it because by distancing themselves from certain behaviours people feel they can protect themselves from being a victim of such a crime?

Or is it because there is a collective failure in our community to want to accept the scale of violence against women in our society because to do so would mean admitting an unpalatable truth and would surely mean we need to address it?

Statistics show that the number of offences against women, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assaults, rose by almost 10% to 117,568 in 2015-16.

Although men do suffer violence from women research shows that domestic violence is a deeply gendered issue for example Metropolitan Police statistics show that male violence against women made up 85% of reported domestic violence incidents and that 5% of domestic violence incidents were perpetrated by women in heterosexual relationships.

Staggeringly four times as many women as men are killed by a current or former partner.

Two women a week are killed as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales.

With regards to sexual violence approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour.

These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts.

So 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Roughly 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.

3% of reported rapes are believed to be false.  

What we also know is that women who experience domestic, emotional and sexual violence experience guilt, denial, post traumatic stress and depression so a victim blaming culture is very damaging and can actually contribute towards reasons why women do not report or escape the situation.

I showed this blog to a friend who was a victim of long term emotional and domestic violence. This was her response:

Funny that thing about why didn’t she scream, why didn’t she fight back – I’d always thought I would fight back but logistically your size makes a big difference, fear is the biggest factor because I was too busy thinking how can I survive this and not make it worse than trying to fight. Self preservation kicks in and you try and survive. Who’s going to believe you when it’s your boyfriend and happened in your house/bedroom? You’ve got to live with him so you make it as easy as possible – enough people have said you should get out and should finish it. Now you’re embarrassed and hurt. It’s your kids birthday the next day or you’remeeting friends you can’t let down again. No one gets it so you just continue. Besides you have more placating to do and stories to cover so this doesn’t happen again.”

What I really want to do is to ask people to think about their reaction upon hearing of abuse against women and what the effects might be of that reaction.  

If you have been affected by any of these issues :

24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247

The National Rape Crisis Helpline 0808 802 9999
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What Happened When I Reported Rape in a Relationship By The Masked Avenger

Author Anonymous

When you make the first call, you are honestly at a point where you have nothing left to give.

For me there was no fear left when I reported my ex, I was nearly killed at his hands over an 18 month period so many times that I felt like it didn’t matter if he did kill me because he had tried to so many times that if he had as a result of me reporting him then at least I had tried to be free. 

For many out there in a relationship with an abuser the grooming lasts a long time , you can be belittled and made to believe it’s not rape. I did not consider I was being raped until the night I was attacked and fled to a friends house and then only when the police said they had charged him with rape did it even enter my mind. He made me believe I was frigid, a tease, or that I wanted it or even that I was in a relationship with him so I was obliged to have sex with him even if I was asleep or saying no. 

He was bailed but they managed to get him remanded.  It was so surreal,  I was now fitting in the box of a victim and I didn’t want to be that. I was emotionless, I could not cry for the want of trying. I could not face being undressed, I suffered vivid nightmares and flash backs … Years on they have settled but it still haunts me. 

The police I must praise for their hard work and support was brilliant although I know for some victims this is not the case.

I did have a victim support worker early on but for some reason they stopped contacting me and I wasn’t in a good place to reach out for support. 

Victim blaming is rife with rape. 

Even when it’s not rape in a relationship it goes on: 

Were you drunk ?

Were you dressed provocatively? 

Were you walking home alone in the dark? 

For rape in a relationship the questions are more direct: 

WHY DIDNT YOU LEAVE?

WHY DIDNT YOU RUN? 

WHY DIDNT YOU TELL SOMEONE? 

WHY DIDNT YOU FIGHT BACK? 

It should not be this way. To be brave enough to report rape is not easy and leaving an abuser is the riskiest time for the victim. I have only used the word victim because that is what you are classed as by the police. A victim of rape.
The jury sided with him despite a lot of evidence as defence was attacking me. The case lasted over two weeks . I didn’t go to the verdict because I was so exhausted . For the rest of the hearing I stayed at a friends house.

After the verdict the DC in charge of the case called me and told me he was acquitted. I crumbled to the floor. It was over, I gave everything I had to give and I had no fight in me. I wasn’t eating or sleeping or looking after myself days and the nights all merged into one. 
There was zero after care or support from any services. This is completely lacking, it was like all of a sudden it had ended and there was nothing more to do. Life for everyone moved on but really my life stopped that last day I spent in the court room wondering over and over again what I could have said or done differently.

I do not take on victim shaming. I have grown strong, through sheer grit and determination. I refuse to be a victim, but I’m not a survivor either. What happened to me happens to so many. The ‘rapes reported’ statistics have increased dramatically with the high profile celebrity cases of rape and grooming.

Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. So is it any wonder that people don’t report rape seeing that statistic its so disgraceful. 

A jury has to be 99.9% sure of guilt or they have to aquit.

How many rapists are walking the streets?  It’s not the fault of the police.  The ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ ruling to sentencing means a jury has to be pretty certain it happened or they have to let them go. 

In 2015-16, police recorded 23,851 reports of adults being raped – nearly all of them women – compared with 10,160 in 2011-12. However rape convictions are still far lower then you would expect in recent years as low as just u dear 6% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction. 

There is nobody to blame but the ‘justice system’ and the rapists. 
We need to stand up to make a change for the people who come forward saying they have been raped. Better support and after care, not necessarily from the police,  but support services are crucial. Just having someone to talk to and be open with about how you are feeling about court and after the trial has finished, no matter the outcome could help people greatly in moving forwards. 

If you or someone you know has been raped and not reported it please seek the support to do so, although my trial ended with an acquittal I do not regret it

Slowly I am moving forward and I hope one day to be a part of the end to victim shaming for all.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by rape please and would like to find your nearest rape crisis centre please visit: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php
* Statistics provided by the Office of National Statistics