Newt In A Tea Cup











As I finished work at about 2 o’clock today I decided to hang around town a bit, get a few chores done and finish penning a letter to a friend who is working across the country and without e-mail whilst sitting in a coffee shop. There was a fun fair on and I decided to go on a ride because I was stressed and, face it, I’m ultimately a child when it comes to stuff like that.

I go on the Helter Skelter- It’s a bunch of cars that spin around on the spot as they go around the ride and up and down on the wooden slats which undulate.

I’m wearing a long heavy skirt and as I walk up to the ride and sit in I jokingly turn to the guy putting me in and say “I’m not going to flash everyone, am I?” He replies cheekily “I wouldn’t mind.” I laugh- I kind of did feed him that one and I’m used to that kind of flirting. He didn’t go beyond the line I set in my question so I didn’t mind.

And then he starts bouncing, lightly jumping, on the wooden slat. This makes the car I’m in bounce. Thus making me bounce. Thus making- you guessed it, my boobs bounce. Noticeably. He looks down a me and, from his face, the intuition that women develop about this stuff and just the fact I’m not stupid , I know that’s exactly why he was doing it. To watch my boobs bounce whilst there’s nothing I can do because I’m sitting beneath him, strapped into a ride. He keeps on doing this and positions himself behind me. The ride starts slowly at first and he notices me looking quizzically at him – that quizzical, frozen smile look – and he says;

“They bounce quite nicely, don’t they?”

So not funny and so not talking about the plank of wood. So he sticks by me, as the staff is doing- given an extra spin to the car when they slow down and an extra bounce every so often.

I’m feeling seriously nauseous and not from spinning, I’m trapped and my breasts (which have/are growing due to some freaky late puberty thing so having them remarked upon is strange in itself) are starting to hurt. I feel so angry that somehow he’s taken my body and cut it apart like I’m a piece of tissue in a lab and he’s prodding me for a reaction I can’t control and yet can’t stop producing. He turned my breasts and my body into his objects completely disconnected from me. I felt powerless and that in itself is a violation.

And yeah, that’s a risk you get from Living Whilst Female and I’ve had stuff like that before and it’ll happen again. But it still ruined the Fair for me and it still made me, if only for a second, hate my body and the fact I have breasts. And that is wrong.

Fuck him.



{July 25, 2007}   Religious Crossroads

At the moment my thoughts, whilst never far from feminism, has been more focussed on more ecumenical matters. I’ve been plodding my way through “A New Kind of Christian” by McLaren and it’s helped enormously though I know little about said author (enlighten me, anyone?) and haven’t quite finished the series.

I’ve struggled for a long time with believing in a God whose followers don’t seem to believe in me. This is a particular struggle that I feel many fellow feminists don’t understand and don’t really help with.

After all, if it’s misogynistic chuck it out and do something else, right? It’s not that easy and nothing ever is. We’d have nothing left at all if we applied that across the board!

Pick any two Christian- any at all – and put them in a room together. They will always find something to disagree on; why else are there so many denominations, styles of worship or traditions? And within those there are even more conflicts. The fact is that church is interesting in the way it unites people who wouldn’t normally have anything to do with each other under the belief of a God.

That’s the problem though; God most certainly isn’t his people and often the bundle that comes with the religious motivation has little to nothing to do with the Holy One. Spirituality is something that quickly gets stale as it is something individual, mutable and metaphysical therefore any attempt to quantify or regulate is, dare I say, counter-productive and inherently destructive to spiritualities true nature.

My problem (one of them) is that the church inherently seems to accept a gender reductive stance.

Whilst I find this incredibly damaging, it doesn’t mean I disagree on matters such as Jesus’ role etc.. etc… I can be a Christian and still call out patriarchal bullshit in other words.

I find it galling because one of the first things claimed is that we are made in God’s image ; why should the capability of God’s image be reduced to a who’s who of genitalia? Isn’t that somewhat blasphemous in a twisted way?

Why was Junia erased and why do Christian Brothers seek to actively reduce the service and impact of women’s work for God?

Why does, in return, our image of God look nothing like me? Are men somehow considered more in God’s image than women? That’s the only explanation for the fact that I can read page after page of my Bible and not find anything that seems to refer to me, not christian-whom-we-assume-to-be-male-unless-specified-and-then-some.
If the word of God is supposed to speak to me in my everyday live how can you expect me to read page after page of “brothers” this and “let he” that? It jarrs and disconnects me.

More than that I think we need to be actively redefining and shifting the boundaries of the implications of faith in a changing world. I’ve read a couple of feminist biblical scholars and what they said was completely revolutionary; and lest we forget so was Jesus at the time. How then, has he become a by-word for tradition or conservationist attitudes?

When Eve is introduced to Adam, God introduces her as a “helper”. This has directly been used to subjugate and introduce a legitimised subordinate female position through the authority of religious language. But, going back to the original language, that term for helper has been used only a handful of times in the entire collection of books; each time (apart from that one) it is used to describes God’s position is relation to us.

How different would the church be if we applied this meaning and implication?

I don’t mean placing women on a virginal pedestal with “whores” wallowing around the bottom of it. I mean seeing women as fully capable, functional and self-sufficient to stand by themselves in all of their glory.

And the whole rib thing- culmination or left-over? Actually it makes more sense that the rib is symbolic- neither above Adam (from his head or similar) nor below (his feet) but from the same source and therefore not an “other” but a completely equal counterpart with the same faculties.

How different would the church be if it applied this?

I seriously think that the church is a crossroad of the type that separated the Jews from the early Christians. The rights and wrongs of sex before marriage (what is marriage anyway?), homosexuality or abortion are complete and utter red herrings which belie a bigger issue of conflict over personal autonomy, dogmatism and viewing all people as inherently equal (yes, even women and non-whites too!).

The real issue is how we relate, and permit people to relate with God; how we love our neighbours who are poor, disadvantaged, socially outcast; how much we want to be good.

There is a inclination to want to be “right” about everything, especially religious things. I’ve seen some Christian take a “You’ll burn in hell and then I can say I told you so and so there!” approach; what we need to focus on is not our theology but our attitudes. We can’t always be right and we can’t always be good but a heart that is searching and genuine will eventually find the answer even if it takes forever.

The church and it’s members needs to shift it’s focus on becoming the kind of community you would want to spend eternity with.

This may mean a complete split where a whole new path emerges. Maybe “Christianity” needs to become something different. Think of early Christians who slowly learnt to do without circumcision, kosher food or Passover ceremonies. It would have been frightening and they would have felt perched on the edge of deadly blasphemy. Maybe we need not be afraid of that perch but embrace it; I reiterate that I don’t think God expects us to get it right but I do think she expects us to search for her.

Feminists and women-positive people need to be involved in this. Women have been busy behind the scenes of religion, working around imposed restrictions to do good and fulfil their callings. Now we need to step forward and deconstruct then reconstruct what God means to us from within the narrative frameworks of our lives, on top of in our relations to men and their power.

This, except for a precious few women, has been sorely lacking.

You can’t expect a devout woman to abandon her faith – it’s like asking someone to stop believing in gravity; to them it is something fundamental, obvious and essential to life. What you can do is examine the theory, research it and rewrite the wrong bits or misinterpreted bits whilst telling off the scientists (or priests) who wrote it up in an exclusive, incomprehensible way.

We need discourse that isn’t belittling of faith or dismissive of change.

Someone once told me that Jesus came to earth as a man because if he’d been a woman his sacrifice would have been void; he’d have had nothing to give up. Maybe it’s time Christian men started acting like him and giving up their privilege too.

How different would the church be if it applied this?

I’ve got more questions and less answers. But I’m feeling hope because, at least, I’m knocking on the door.



{July 12, 2007}   Random Facts Meme

I’ve been tagged!

We have to post these rules before we give you the facts. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I seriously obsess over fandoms (anime/manga/books/films whatever) for ages before moving onto a new one. At the moment it’s Fullmetal Alchemist

2. I’ve been meaning to write about my trip to Rwanda when I was sixteen. We had the scariest street harassment incident in the universe- one night after we visited the local high school practically every boy in the school (as in over 200) followed us home. It was pitch black, with absolutely no lighting or electricity anywhere and the boys in the team had to make a kind of human shield around us girls to stop them from grabbing at us etc… We’d made the mistake of having our names on our team shirts and some of them had seen them earlier so we also had to fend of some guy trying to give us letters and various gifts. I could have been married off there!

3. I am terrified of phones. I can’t stand calling up people I don’t know- in fact I go to ridiculous lengths to avoid it. The kicker? I used to work in a call centre where I’d cold-call for surveys. And I was good at it- at my best I’d get 6 people an hour (when I left most people were on 1) and timed myself down to four minutes total for selling it and completing the questions. It’d be in the top 5 of the whole branch of the company. That’s not to say I wouldn’t get people propositioning me over the phone nearly every week.

4. My favourite food has to be Japanese at the moment; sushi, sashimi, nigiri, katsu, tempura, yakisoba, whatever, I’ll eat it!

5. At the moment I have no idea what the hell my sexuality is. I either haven’t met the right person and am just commitment phobic or I’m actually asexual; which makes a tad more sense to me as I have never felt any kind of sexual attraction for anyone I’ve ever met. As in, I appreciate hotness but I’m too lazy/apathetic to get near said hotness.

6. I have naturally snobbish tendencies… After years of trying to get rid of my Canadian accent I ended up going posh r.p., I have expensive taste in food (I swear I can taste additives and chemicals) and would have incredibly posh clothes if only I could afford it. Thank god I’m cheap.

7. I used to wear shoes that made my feet bleed on a daily basis. I’ve still got the marks of the blisters. The worst was one time when it bleed through my socks and nearly stained the shoe.

8. I have a thing for music from musicals (hello wicked!) and from the rat pack and jazz age. Pure class.



{July 8, 2007}   Cost of Justice

A while back I blogged about two year old Casey Leigh Mullen who was raped and murdered by her uncle 21-year old Michael Mullen. A few days ago I got a bunch of hits looking specifically for the little girl. It turns out her uncle has just been convicted to at least 35 years in jail. Nothing seems quite enough when considering what he did but this is technically a life sentence; it seems to be all we can hope for in this world at least and it means that he’s away from the public for a long, long time. And isn’t it weird to think that a rapist was convicted? Seems rather out of the ordinary until you consider he also murdered.

But there is more. It seems that this isn’t the first time he’s done something like this.

A man jailed for life for the rape and murder of his two-year-old niece was charged with raping a 12-year-old girl four years ago, it has emerged.

reads the strapline of the BBC News article

This raises several questions. The articles continues saying that the attack occured on the school playing field- no question about age there. No, the defence that got Michael Mullen off in 2003 was that the twelve year old girl had consented. Now, if the court system actually took rape cases seriously this would have been laughed out of court. The age of consent exists for a reason. Under 16 means unable to give consent and twelve is definitely under – unless my math teacher was a pathological liar which wouldn’t surprise me. I always mistrusted those people…

Anyway his defence was illegal.

The fact the courts are willing to capitulate to an illegal defence is worrying to say the least.

Yes, the age of consent is not without problems but twelve is clearly not able to fully understand and consent. This is a law for their own protection. We can argue about a fifteen and sixteen year old who are in a relationship but seventeen (which was Mullens age at the time) and twelve is not acceptable no matter the particulars. That is why the law is there in the first place.

Furthermore

“The CPS keeps cases under constant review, and immediately before the trial, new evidence came to light which seriously undermined the prosecution case against the defendant.

“The new evidence highlighted inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence such as to remove a realistic prospect of obtaining a conviction for the original offence.

“The CPS consulted with the police and prosecuting counsel and discussed the new evidence with the complainant, following which the decision was taken to offer no evidence, a decision fully endorsed by the trial judge.”

This is all pretty vague and convoluted but, from my understanding from what I heard on the news, it appears there were inconsistencies in the girls account and they decided to drop the case. My honest response is “duh!”

Putting a twelve year old at the centre of a police investigation is hella scary for them. Place them on the stand and make them go to a court of law- that’s the stuff of nightmares! Especially if you are standing against someone who is older and has proven himself vicious and evil to you. Now, add the fact that this is a twelve year old who has just gone through the trauma of rape, and is being asked to describe and relive it- in excruciating detail – to a room full of adults intent on proving her a whore and who arguing that the event which ruined her life was her own fault. I wouldn’t want to go through that! This is ultimately traumatic for the most mature adults- but a twelve year old?

No pressure there then.

That and unless sex ed has changed dramatically since I went through the system she probably doesn’t even have the lexis to describe everything. And if she does? Case dismissed; the girl is a hussy.

Furthermore reactions to rape itself are complex- the court desperately needs to implement specialists who explain this. Inconsistencies in recalling rape is expected when you consider it. We understand that if someone is in a car crash certain sequences of events or details may be sketchy; even if they are unharmed.

But this still leaves us with the question of what course of action to take with young girls who are raped.

Taking them in front of a court, especially the way things are now, is not likely to get a result and will only further traumatise them. Maybe the right call was made for this girl when the case was dropped. You can’t expect her to push against an entire culture and system when she has more than anyone should ever have on her shoulders. It could possibly be the nail in her coffin and I understand that this is considered in the lead up to going on with the case or not.

Except that this leaves men like Michael Mullens to do it again and again until they finally do something so damaging and inexcusable (even to a twisted corrupt system) that there is a corpse left as hard evidence to condemn them; pain that can be dissected, scream frozen on blue lips- only that counts.

But how many more? This is not an acceptable cost that we, as a society, can bear. This is a cancerous tumour that wraps itself into the very heart of our communities. We can’t keep paying with our children, with all of our girls and women. It’s hard to enjoy justice when you know it comes in through the back-door of a wake, wearing black and the best it does is lay flowers at the grave. I’m glad it’s there… I just wish we weren’t there in the first place.

And then my visceral response is at what point does the innocent, blameless abused two year old transform into the scheming, untrustworthy whore? So far it seems to be at ten. Why is it so hard for us to believe when a girl says something is wrong? Why are we rebuffed so much? Why is the onus on us above and beyond those who destroy us? Why does it take a death before we are taken seriously?

I just don’t know…

Interestingly

Mullen, who pleaded guilty yesterday at Leeds Crown Court, had a picture on his mobile phone of Casey, naked from the waist down. He had also stored sadistic images of other children on his computer.

The judge said: “Police investigations have shown that you had used your computer to download indecent images of children and images of sexual abuse of children. It’s clear that these offences were aggravated by strong paedophilic urges.”

No, I am not blaming this on the porn. It seems he had these vile “urges” before he sought out the porn and consequently was attracted to it. However it certainly didn’t help.



et cetera