Category Archives: Feminism/Gender

Moving to and from “Spain”

I haven’t lived in the UK in almost 8 years. I left in 2011, scared that the economic crisis left me minimal job options. I watched the people on my course moan about going home to parents, or listened to their plans to study a masters, do law conversion, or a teaching post grad, and I knew that I wasn’t ready to get another loan, a “real” bank loan, to stumble into a profession that I hadn’t a clue whether I’d like or not. My degree had been more of a way to get a loan to move cities, rather than about studying; in the end, against my parents’ wishes, I had chosen my favourite subject, and studied English Literature. It was an expensive way to heal, to escape my own destructive patterns and being mired in the world of drugs, but I think it was all I could handle mentally at the time and something more practical, more maths based, might have frustrated me too much and caused me to quit mid year again, as I did with the Engineering course.

Time flies. I worked in one school for two years. It took me a long time to realise that the teachers were fascist. I should have twigged when one of my pupils had a family member who was a judge and had been targeted by ETA. I joked that the school had been built on an indian burial ground; I see now I was right in a way. The unresolved conflicts of the violence of the civil war and the retribution doled out by the victors flows beneath the modern façade throughout “Spain”.

My third year, I was going to go freelance, but my mother became seriously ill so I took a job where I could take time off and get paid if I needed to. By the time she was stabilised, I had saved money and went travelling (something she always told me was a waste of time and never to do), helping a friend with a documentary project, seeing the world, and feeling the freedom and loneliness of the open road. Although I went to so-called “dangerous” countries, people were kind and helpful, and apart from my camera breaking or its own accord, getting lost in a dodgy part of town, and unwanted advances from men who “just wanted to share their bed with me”, none of the things they tell you to be afraid of as a lone female traveller came to pass. Thank god.

I moved to Bilbao, and my world was soon on fire, and not in a good way. My mother’s cancer came back and I spent months living two weeks with my partner in Bilbao, two weeks “taking care” of her. I put that in quotes as “taking care” of a woman as independent, strong, and proud as my mother was kind of like trying to take care of a wolf, lion, or other large animal that doesn’t need or want your help at all. I cooked her eggs, as they were the only things she could eat. I watched TV with her. I chatted to her.

Her death is an event that destroyed my life as I knew it, and that marks a before and an after. We had a very, very difficult relationship. When she became seriously ill I had been in therapy for 5 years, when she was dying, 6 years. I’m very grateful for the work that I did that meant that I could forgive her and spend time with her before she died, and show her completely unconditional love, despite a violent argument we had.

I thought that, once she was dead, I would be free, but I felt like I had been literally shot in the head. I had lost everything. My mother, who although for many years had been my nemesis, was someone who had been a constant every year of my life. My home, that I had always run from. My country, the place where I had grown up. My family (as people go absolutely chicken oriental after a death and have stupid arguments that seem very important at the time. This is called “secondary losses” in grief books).

I did a masters, all in Spanish, in Feminism and Gender. It was amazing, and it was terrible. It was like putting your whole life experience into a framework, both historical, sociological, legal, political, with a bunch of dates and stats. I learnt that violence against women goes on a scale, and the more points you have (being poor, black, lesbian, trans…) then the more of a target you are by violent bullies.

It opened my eyes to a million things, and once I had taken a bite of that apple, I couldn’t go back to the garden. It was too much for my then boyfriend. We broke up. I moved out.

I wrote my dissertation. I defended it. And all the while, the people from my uni course who weren’t from the Basque Country left, one by one, even those whose parents were paying for their rent, their uni fees, their food, AND BASQUE CLASS ON TOP (I have a big chip on my shoulder about this. Can you tell? :P). They went home to work as journalists, or social workers; they went back to their parental home to regroup and look for other opportunities in a place where they had the language, the contacts, and certificates.

It took me around 6 months of therapy to realise that, although I love the Basque Country, I had grown all I could grow there. I had done my best to put down roots, but they had encountered rocks, and could only be shallow. The Basque language must be protected, but seeing as I’d worked my arse off to learn Spanish for 8 years and still had to think quite a lot about it before I opened my big gob, I thought that my chances of being able to invest thousands of hours in a language, day after day of being the “lemon” at the party who no one wants to speak to, and not becoming even more insane than I already am, were quite low. Having a foreign accent and making small errors in Spanish makes me basically kind of linguistically disabled in Spanish, and Spain isn’t an economy like the UK that relies on the brain drain of other countries to feed it with bargain skilled labour. Also the güiri stereotype was really getting me down, as my butt had been fondled non-consensually by one to many an old sleaze bag.

It was time to sell, give away, throw away, and generally let go of all my possessions, in order to take the leap of faith back to the UK.

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Hannah Gadsby

Original article here.

 

We only have an existing narrative framework for a stranger doing violence to you.”

 

The idea of “stranger danger” persists in the collective psyche, but we now know that sexual offences against children are the crimes least likely to involve strangers. Most children will be abused by opportunists in adult relationships: the married relatives, the family friends, the pillars of the community, the good blokes. “A lot of people who have experienced trauma at the hands of people they’ve trusted take responsibility, and that is what’s toxic,” Gadsby says.

“Shame has its place,” she says. “Shame is what you do to a kid to stop them running on the road. And then you take the shame away and immediately they’re back in the fold. You should never soak anybody in shame. It’s the prolonged existence of shame that then flips out into destructive rage. We can’t exist in that. It’s like treacle.”

The burden of talking about complex issues usually comes down to the most marginalised people. On the rare occasions that a white, heterosexual man steps up – Louis CK pointing out, for example, that “there is no greater threat to women than men” – they are hailed as heroes.

“A joke is a wank, but a story is intimacy,” she says.

It wasn’t until she was in her late 20s, around 2006, that she tried her hand at comedy, and she credits the newfound creativity with saving her life. “Comedy is great in that it’s accessible to someone like me, from a low socioeconomic background, struggling in life. The gatekeepers are a lot stronger in other art forms.”

“He’s obviously an unwell kid and there’s a lot of that in comedy,” says Gadsby. “It’s often young men trialling their philosophies on life, and we’ve got a generation of young men who believe that they are victimised, because they’ve been promised the world. That’s a poisoned chalice, because now there’s a gap between what the cultural narrative is and what their experience is. Looking back, I think it’s done me more good than harm to be promised absolutely nothing. I was always told I didn’t matter to the world, but the world still matters to me. That’s why I haven’t responded to the more brutal aspects of my life with violence or bitterness.”

 

Bridie O’Donnell

Original article can be found here.

“Cycling is inherently expensive because it involves equipment and, generally, the better the equipment and the more expensive it is, the better you’re likely to perform,” O’Donnell explains to Guardian Australia.

“When I was racing the national team still existed and many women were given the opportunity to win a scholarship, as I was. But [realistically] it ends up being coffee money. You don’t have any expenses if you live in the national team house, [but] unless you’re like me and you can borrow, self-fund, quit your job and have either a supportive partner or no partner, it’s pretty hard to do.

“The added humiliation is, you see your male peers with all these pathways – and some aren’t making money and are being exploited [too]. But they can see Cadel Evans and Chris Froome in the distance and think ‘I could be that’.”

O’Donnell explains that cycling is effectively an individual sport that is raced as a team, with riders only able to enter races when they are aligned with a professional team. For women in particular – where resources are scant and places limited – O’Donnell says this can create an environment with “a whole lot of ordinary or unsafe standards”.

“It becomes an aspirational environment where the power imbalance is extremely apparent,” she says. “For every 200 women there are three or four great teams and women are just clamouring [for their spot]. That means the environment becomes ripe for exploitation. If you’re being poorly treated, you don’t have an alternative.”

As examples, O’Donnell recalls witnessing other riders subjected to abuse at the hands of their coaches and superiors, something she also endured during her time as a triathlete. In a chapter entitled #UsToo, O’Donnell describes a former triathlon coach as “violent, aggressive, manic, paranoid and suspicious” – and recalls being humiliated in front of other squad members about her weight, times and inferiority to other women in her squad.

“Mine certainly wasn’t a unique situation,” she says. “We have these vulnerable young women, or ambitious hard-working women, who have in many ways probably isolated themselves because they’re very talented, they’re exceptional, and someone has come along and said: ‘I see you. I see what you’re doing here, you’re amazing. We’re in this together and we’re going together to the Olympics or the world championships’. No girl is going to say: ‘I feel the power dynamic here is a little inappropriate, I’m not going to accept money, support, coaching and love from you’.”

During her time in the role she has already racked up a formidable list of achievements with a tenacity that mirrors her elite sporting career. These include securing a $1.5m investment from government in a “female friendly facilities” infrastructure grant, introducing a minimum 40% quota of women on state sporting organisation boards to take effect in the next 15 months and overseeing a professional development program for CEOs of eight sporting organisations – to support them in achieving gender equity. She is also passionate about welcoming women back into sport post-retirement, something she has thought about deeply after her pro-cycling career.

Why do men sexually assault women? Don Greif

Original full article here.

All sexual offenders suffer from a severely compromised capacity to empathize with their victims.


In order to develop empathy and substantially mitigate their risk of reoffending, sexual offenders must know how and why they became sexually violent. But first they must acknowledge and take responsibility for their assaultive behavior.

Men who commit sexual assaults need to know what happened in their lives and minds that impaired their ability to empathize with the people they abused. Many perpetrators must understand how they were psychologically damaged, stunted and/or traumatized in their early lives – and how they learned to degrade and dehumanize women, men or children.


The wish to feel powerful is a prime motive for many sexually abusive men. Some very successful men believe they are entitled to have what they want. When they face limits or rejection they may feel impotent and become indignant in response – and then coerce sex to restore a feeling of power.


Trauma and its aftermath is frequently a critical influence in the early lives of men who perpetrate sexual offenses. In the men I evaluate, I almost always discover a devastating childhood history – rampant with sexual abuse, physical violence and emotional neglect – that laid the groundwork for their sexual aggression.

As boys, their displays of emotional vulnerability were ridiculed and sometimes met with physical abuse. Moreover, the betrayal, shame, despair, dread and fury they felt in response to maltreatment were rarely recognized by anyone, including their parents or caretakers. They suffered alone and had to rely on scant resources to manage overwhelming feelings. When their parents or caretakers were the perpetrators, it compounded their anguish.

Childhood experience, however – no matter how awful – never excuses a man’s sexually aggressive behavior nor does it sufficiently explain it. Most men with childhood trauma do not abuse others. Some remain relatively unscathed by their dark pasts. Many become depressed, addicted to substances or scared of intimacy; others sabotage themselves in work or relationships.