Dedications, Adrienne Rich

Posted in Uncategorized, womans words on February 12, 2008 by nectarine

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a gray day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plain’s enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the Intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

– Adrienne Rich

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Prostitution debate called for in the assembly

Posted in welsh news with tags on February 6, 2008 by nectarine

from here

Tragic reality of prostitution’
A debate on prostitution has been called in the Welsh assembly by Cynon Valley AM Christine Chapman.She explains why she supports calls for a law change to make it illegal to pay for sex and help prevent the “oldest exploitation in the world”.Generic young prostitute
The sex trade is accused of fuelling international human trafficking

Debates around prostitution rely on the cliché of it being “the oldest profession in the world” or that “it has always been with us and always will be”.

However, statements like this seek only to stifle the debate and provide excuses.

My fundamental argument is one of principle. Do we think that it is right in an age when we have made some progress with equality for women that women continue to be degraded and exploited though prostitution?

I do think that public opinion towards prostitution is changing and we should therefore grasp the opportunity to have a debate.

Most women I have talked to find it abhorrent; it is discordant with how they view themselves in the world.

The view of the glamorous, self-serving high-class call girl is without doubt a smokescreen.

Most prostitutes’ lives are much more tragic in reality than those portrayed by, say, Belle de Jour or “Madame Sin” Cynthia Payne. In fact the realities for women as prostitutes are stark.

For example, over the last 10 years, about 60 prostitutes have been murdered in England and Wales, with just 16 arrests.

Prostitutes are also 60 times more likely to be murdered than other women and more than 90% of prostitutes who work the street are hooked on hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

I fully acknowledge that there is an argument that it would be better to legalise brothels in order to make it safer for women, but I’m not sure that that is the answer.

When Germany legalised brothels, for example, job centres were expected to treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse!

Women were told, “if you don’t take a job as a prostitute we can stop your benefits”, which I find totally unacceptable.

Prostitution is not a devolved matter: nevertheless, the Welsh Assembly Government has a responsibility to ensure that there are adequate support services.

If women are exploited in society then we are all affected.

I would ask that the Welsh Assembly Government works with their Westminster colleagues such as Harriet Harman and Vernon Coaker as they seek to change the law.

This is also about raising awareness particularly within an educational context. I am aware of a very helpful pack on prostitution and sexual exploitation produced by the Women’s Library in East London which I would commend to the Assembly Government for use in sixth forms and colleges.

It’s vital that young people are fully cognisant of the dangers of exploitation in any form.

We are dealing with the oldest exploitation in the world.

It’s time we did something about it”

Braver than us, braver than this

Posted in Activism, International feminisms on February 4, 2008 by nectarine

I just finished reading “My Forbidden Face” which is a young woman’s account of her experience of the Taliban seizing power in Kabul. (you can read the first two chapters here
and here) and the thing that struck me was how brave she was.

Part of the account was of how she and some friends set up a secret school in their homes as normal schools were forbidden and girls were forbidden schooling and boys only got Taliban sanctioned religious education

This was when she was eighteen and she had so much to lose, her bodily integrity, her life, her families lives and she knew this:

One of our former teachers was recently caught in the act by the Taliban-right in the middle of teaching a class. First they beat the children, then they hit her. They threw her down the stairs of her building so violently that she broke a leg. Then they dragged her by the hair and jailed her. And after that, they forced her to sign a declaration promising that she wouldn’t start again, that she respected the law of the Taliban. They threatened to stone her entire family in public if she didn’t acknowledge the error of her ways (page 106)

But she went ahead and did it anyway because it needed doing.

It just makes me think. Really what am I doing? Although feminism is locked into my life it is not my life, I am not running risks for it and maybe I should be. Could I be that brave? Could I have that much courage? That much determination? No probably not but I can still be braver than this, braver than I am now, more committed and more principled than I am now.

Where my passions are

Posted in Activism with tags , on January 31, 2008 by nectarine

There are so many things I want, as a woman, as a feminist but i am only one person with only one life and if I think about all the things that need changing I tend to freeze up and do nothing. So this year this is my list of things to concentrate on.

I want the continued provision of abortion and birth control for any woman all the time.
so I will Make myself aware of reproductive justice issues (this blog looks fab for such things!) and take necessary action (writing/campaigning/protesting etc)

I want an end to prostitution and trafficking and more support for women who have or are experiencing this to get out of these situations.
So I will join and give my time and support to the Feminist Coalition against prostitution and possibly try to set up a sister group in Wales

I want an end to rape and more support for rape victims
So I will work with anti/ending rape campaigns, and work with campaigns which are trying to get more rape support/rape crisis centers open.

I want an overhaul of women’s treatment by the mental health system. I hate that women are often effectively punished for the damage that patriarchy has done to them by being pejoratively labeled and then often retraumatised by the mental health system.
So I will run a MTG discussion group on women and mental health, organize the creation of a Zine which contains women’s experience of mental health issues, Start working for mind Cymru

I want to connect and encourage feminisms in Wales (London is not, in fact, the center of the universe) Including minority women, working class women, and women’s groups that are not traditionally seen as “feminist” but that still support women.
So I will Build a database of contact information for womens groups in wales so they can be contacted when events/discussion/activism is going to take place.

I want passionately, passionately, for younger feminists to understand, respect and honor what our foremothers have done for us and how hard they fought to get women to the point they are to day
So I will attempt to build cross generational connections, and talk about the importance of cross generational connections to younger feminists, I will support older feminists in getting their voices heard rather than dismissed by younger feminists

I also want to teach myself more about racism about the experiences of women of colour and eventually do activism around asylum seekers.

Also something I’ve really noticed is there seems to be a real lack of both theory and support for feminist women bringing up children. I’m not a mother and I will probably never be a mother but I think supporting mothers is really important for feminism and maybe we need to be thinking about family structure and childcare issues and the media portrayal of mothers more than we do. And what mothers and children’s rights are and what they want and need.

And there will be issues that come up in the year that are other than I have written down here that it will be really important to react to and reflect on.

And of course these aren’t the only things that matter there are many, many things that matter, but I cant do all of them and you can’t do all of them, and its important that collectively we are doing all of them because they are all interlinked and they all have to be unlinked at the same time, at the same pace or the balance will just shift and not change.

So tell me: What are your feminist passions and priorities for the year ahead?

Collateral damage: thoughts on being a survivor of prostitution

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 29, 2008 by nectarine

Don’t talk about it like you know what it is, don’t talk about it like I’m not in the same damn room and for fucks sake don’t call it work, its not work its slavery and don’t think because I’m a middle class university educated women that I haven’t done it, that it hasn’t happened to me.

You say this is contested territory while looking sideways at the big words, as if its a game, a discussion to be had, well my body is, always will be, contested territory because of what they did to it, because they bought it, sold it, used it, discarded it.

Don’t argue that there is no difference between this and other forms of capitalism, i would much rather do a sixteen hour shift in a freezer getting soaked through when sorting watercress than be fucked for money, I know this, unless you’ve been where I’m standing you don’t, so stop talking stupid crap, really.

Saying this OUT LOUD, in a public space, scares me, makes my heart hammer in my chest and the words, whatwilltheythinkofme? whatwilltheythinkofme? slide through my mind in shame.

But I can’t be the only one and I was brave enough, strong enough but most of all LUCKY enough that I made it out alive, and if anything I say makes a difference to JUST ONE other woman, the shame will have been worth it.