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Time to try and get back to blogging with a bit more seriousness. My return is inspired by the amazing work being done by Everyday Sexism on their website, Twitter account, and Facebook page.

They are doing something I tried to do a few years ago, but never really managed to progress it much. What I find interesting is that I wrote a blog post about this back then, and it has mysteriously been deleted. My Tumblr post about the same thing is still available though.

Facebook have a truly appalling attitude toward hate speech. They have said, in effect, that anything is acceptable so long as you ad “LOL JK” after it. Everything that is except pictures of breast-feeding mothers.

For years we have tried to get some of these horrendous sites taken down, without success. Facebook just are not interested. And the reason they aren’t interested is that they have no need to be interested. Facebook users are not important to them (given it is a free service) other than as a pool of customers for their advertisers.

When you use Facebook, an algorithm looks at what Facebook knows about you and presents advertisement – sponsored ads – on whatever page you are on. So if you visit one of these pages, and Facebook determines that you would love Dove products, a Dove ad will appear on a page encouraging rape. What Facebook DOES care about, and cares very much, is their income.

So, part of the solution is to target the advertisers, and convince them to withdraw their funds from Facebook. And for any reasonable company, this is very simple indeed. Who would want the branding of their product decided by another organisation. One that has proven time and again to have no social responsibility.

When some of these advertisers have been approached, their response has been “But we have no control over where our ads appear”. Beyond issues of fighting a culture of abuse, this is a very disturbing attitude. “We have no control over the placement of our branding and we are using this as a defence“. What company would go to a publisher – who publishes some nice books but also produces incredibly vile hate-filled or pornographic magazines – and says “place our ads wherever you like”?

So, why would we enlist such people in helping fight these Facebook horrors? The answer is a fundamental tenet of activism. Like it or not, the world runs on money. That’s where de facto power lies. So if you want to effect change, follow the money. Follow the trail of money to its source. So if Facebook won’t listen to users, they will damned well listen to the people who give them money.

Back in 2011 when I was actively doing this, I had one amazing response. I went to the website of the company whose sponsored ad appeared. Found an email address for the CEO and marketing GM. I emailed them a screencap of their product against images of rape. I received a very quick response saying they were immediately pulling all their Facebook advertising and reconsidering their social media marketing strategy.

This is what can happen. My approach at that time was one of concern for the company and product. Of course I wanted to effect change, but I was also concerned that a product and/or company I enjoy was being associated with such horrors. I could only do so much at that time, and did not have any real reach. But EverydaySexism are doing wonders. And I could not be happier about their success.

It takes a lot of spoons to do it. You have to deal with some pretty horrendous pages, some utterly vile views, and so much hatred. But if you can, it is a rewarding task.

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This needs no additional words, with the possible exception of an extreme trigger warning for rape, apologism, and a generally utterly fucked up attitude. Tweets from apologists are included in this article. Please take care with reading it.

Huge credit to the Bipolar Feminist for writing it.

The Bipolar Feminist

TRIGGER WARNING: this contains discussion of rape, rape culture and rape apologism

The rape of a 16 year old girl in Steubenville, in the USA, has been a widely publicized case. However, it captured the attention of the world not because of the undoubtedly horrific crime that was committed but because of the town’s initial response to it.

I won’t recount the details of the rape here. The facts of the case are widely know. If you would like to make yourself more familiar with the case this article from TIME magazine is a good place to start Steubenville Rape Case

What this blog post is concerned with is the response to the rape when news of it initially broke and then the response to the conviction of Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays of delinquent rape. What this case shows is how entrenched victim blaming and rape apologism is in…

View original post 1,069 more words

So often we are made to feel guilty or ashamed for grieving, or for feeling bad or depressed. We are expected to just smile and get on with things. After all, nobody likes a grumpy bum, do they?

We are expected to deal with our problems on other people’s timeframes. Put our sense of loss aside because other people have needs of us, or don’t want to be brought down. We’re expected to toughen up.

We are left feeling ashamed for not being happy. We feel guilty for being such a burden on everyone. And of course that just feeds into the vicious cycle.

Well, I call bullshit on all that.

If you are feeling depressed, if you are grieving for someone who has died, for a lost relationship, for anything, you have a right to deal with it on your own terms, in your own time.

My young French friend, my cyberkid, feels terrible that all the darkness she has been carrying has followed her on holiday. And this is a classic example of how it works. People expect her to just deal with it because so many people “have it worse”.

If you’re struggling, nobody has the right to expect you to recover in any way other than your choosing. Nobody gets to tell you that you are “taking too long”.

And certainly NOBODY has the right to make you feel that you are bad just because you are feeling bad. When we wander through the darkness, “bad” thoughts will come to us. For the most part these are normal manifestations of our turmoil. They are not to be feared. Ok maybe they are to be watched in case they develop into something more serious, but for the most part, we need to just let it flow.

We need to be supportive of our friends in need – including those we have not met. This means giving them space to deal with their shit on their terms. Of course we need to keep an eye on them in case they start engaging in harmful behaviour, but the most important thing is that we tell them we are there for them.

Just remember, it is your grief, your struggle. And it is up to you as to how long you need to recover from it.

In my previous post I talked about a young French woman who I am helping through some tough times. Here is her story, in her words.

To everyone who is reading this little article. Forgive me for my English, I am French. You have already heard about me, I am Cece (Cecile). Let me tell you the whole story that is bringing me down since now two years.

I became friend with a girl, like really friend, who has learnt that her father was very sick and I’ve been there for her along the way to his death. I was kind of in love with her and I didn’t see how she was treated me. I was doing everything for her, just like a best friend would do, but it seems like I was her but I wasn’t hers.  She was yelling at me for no reasons and I thought it was because of her father’s illness. Maybe I was wrong or right, I don’t know. It’s confused in my mind at this moment, all these awful memories… We had kind of a final exam and she told me that she had a boyfriend who was a drug addict and that is why she has not succeeded her exams and because that she has lost her father in April. I agree it is hard to lose your dad but… lying about your boyfriend and attacking your best friend? She told me he was at the funeral but I was looking at her straight in the eyes and I’m sure he wasn’t there. I’ve never seen any pictures of him, he was supposed to be at her home but I’ve never seen him. She told me she has been pregnant twice, that she was his fiancée, but I’ve the feeling that… Nothing was true and I had enough of all of this.

That day of October 2012, I talked to her. Well, I talked to “her boyfriend” by messages on her phone number but I’m sure I was actually talking to her because I’m convinced he doesn’t exist. I said that she was awful with me and I’ve never had thanks for what I’ve done for her. She offended me of every bird’s name… She’s putting everyone on my back. No one is talking to me now at school… I’m falling every single day into the darkness.

Since four months I am falling and I’m still waiting someone to hold me through this. She’s bullying me, hurting me very hard and I told a teacher but no one believes me. I am feeling really bad, I am thinking of taking my life, I’ve been cutting myself a lot but I don’t feel pain from that. The only friends I have are on internet and I’m hurting them with my stupid behavior. I can’t help it. My nightmares are awful and I don’t want to talk to my parents about that, they have too much trouble. I’m afraid of seeing a therapist, because I think that I want to go through this on my own, kind of a fight with the monsters which are inside me.

A nice guy just asked me if I was okay, I told him yes. I lied, as usual. See why I am falling? I need someone to look at me in the eyes and take me into his/her arms and tell me I’m lying.

I just don’t know where am I now. I try to move on but I’m asking myself so many questions. What have I done? Was it my fault? Am I really guilty? Am I a good person? Should I have stayed? I’m in pain because I’m lost. I don’t know what I am doing here. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t born and then, I found out why I’m living, to help people who are going through tough days such as mine. I’m here because there are people who love me even if I don’t see them, even if I don’t feel their love because I’m hurt. I’m still on earth because I would cause the same pain to others. And I don’t want this to happen. I’m hurting people but they’re happy that I’m still here.

I don’t feel strong but there’s a quote from I don’t know who that is making me think the opposite:

“The people who are strong are the ones who wake up with a smile and fall asleep in tears.”

To whoever is in my situation, don’t give up. As Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester from Glee) said:

“Life gets better”

Don’t ever give up because you will please the ones who are bullying you. Keep living is proving them that they’re not strong enough to bring you down to death. Keep smiling through the days and don’t forget that one day you will be greater than ever, greater than them because in life, I’ve noticed it, the ones who are at the top of the world or famous, have been bullied but they kept fighting for a better life.

Nowadays, there is a famous actor, you might know him for his roles as Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr kept fighting against his addictions to drugs. He wanted to taste the metal of the gun but he went through it. You know what he is saying after being ten years all clean?

“Listen, smile, agree and then do whatever the fuck you are gonna do anyway”

It doesn’t matter how you look what you feel, you have to keep in your mind that you are loved, some people care for you. I do. We all do. Yes, I am hurt, I want to leave this world but it doesn’t mean I don’t have those things in my mind. I am strong even if I don’t feel like I am. It’s something you don’t feel, but something people see in you and tell you.

I think I’m done here. If you need to talk, feel free to contact me on Twitter: @dreamsbydays

Musics:

Don’t Give Up The Fight – Revive
Gotta Be Somebody – Nickelback
If Today Was Your Last Day – Nickelback
Lost! – Coldplay
Fix You – Coldplay

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ii8_coldplay-fix-you_music

La nuit obscure de l’âme

Most of you know that I am somewhat prolific on Twitter. For some time now, I have followed an American girl who runs an account called @AgainstSuicide. I have found the work of this young teen just so inspiring. in less than 18 months she acquired more than 100,000 followers. An amazing testament to her, and an appalling indictment on the state of society and its treatment of young people.

One tweet in particular popped up and drew my attention. It was from a 17 year old French girl. And my heart just broke for her because I could read in every single word she wrote the terrible feelings I had when I was at school.

I always struggle with this. A 46 year old engaging with teenagers over the internet. It smacks of grooming and just all-round creepiness and horror. But I try to be careful. I am always very up front about my age and intentions, which are simply to provide support when all else seems to have failed them. A friendly ear, a shoulder to cry on. Unconditional, unjudging, just someone to unload on.

This youngster, who I will call Cece (Hi Cece) had a huge falling out with her best friend and was being the subject of some real nastiness in terms of stories being spread about her, vicious put-downs, and she felt she just could not carry on.

One of the things I try to do with all my friends, everyone I encounter who is suffering, is to constantly repeat how, regardless of what else may happen in their lives, I care. Genuinely and completely. Even if I am a complete stranger, I still care. And reiterate how they are valued, they are valuable, and however weak they may think they are, there is an incredible strength just below the surface.

For people in Cece’s position, I often talk about my school experiences, being ostracised, bullied, hated, and trying to find my way through. I might be “old”, but I really, really have been there. I wasn’t sure how to approach this, but my first breakthrough came when I described exactly what it is like to lose a friend in that way.

It feels like your whole soul has been ripped out and there’s just this deep, dark hole left, full of pain. It becomes all-encompassing

This kid doesn’t want to trouble her parents either, because they have enough troubles of their own. That they won’t want to be troubled by her (supposedly unimportant) worries. I need to explain to her that, when their child is in pain, parents want to know, need to know. That her worries ARE important.

She often talks about how she’s fat, ugly, a tomboy. How no boy could ever like her. I started pointing her in the direction of many of my followers who are active in the fat acceptance movements.

I’ve tried to tell her my current philosophy. That bad things happen around us. They happen to us. And maybe we even do some bad things. But WE are awesome. When anyone asks how I am, I always respond “I am fucking awesome” and go on to say, if there are things that are not so great in my life at that time, maybe say “Work is kinda crap, but me, I am awesome”. And I think this is important. Distinguishing between our selves and events that affect us.

It really does break my heart because I know the pain. I spent so much of my youth (and a reasonable chunk of my adulthood) believing I was ugly, useless and unloveable. There were people who tried to “cheer me up” and tell me I wasn’t any of these things, but I never really believed them, not really. For a while I fooled myself that I believed them, but I didn’t. For the reward I get in sharing and using my experiences with others, I honestly would have gone through it a thousand times over. If I knew this would be the return, it would be worth it.

You are my cyberdad. I really think it

Possibly because they were really only said on occasions. What I needed was someone to stand by me, regardless of what else happened. Regardless of how I was feeling. Someone who was just always there. This, THIS is what drives me. The unwavering knowledge that others need this too.

As I have said previously, being there for people isn’t very difficult. It is rather like being on-call. For the most part, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to think about it. But for the people you are supporting, they KNOW you are there. They feel your presence with them, always. And if and when you are needed, you give as much time as you are able. You do make it clear that you also have other commitments, your own life, but whatever time you do have to spare is theirs.

It is kinda funny, Cece said a few time that I should just forget about her, and I have my life and don’t need to worry about a silly little 17 year old girl on the other side of the world. OK, I was embelleshing a little there. But the thing is, yeah, I don’t need to. I WANT to. That makes all the difference. I choose to be there to support people. I think I always will. Some “supporters” might say “Oh well, you’re ok, call me if you need me”. The more astute of us know to see through this.

I really hope Cece finds her way through this. She really is an incredible, beautiful young woman (I’ve never seen her, but do not need to in order to know she is beautiful). She, like us all, has enormous reserves of strength. Whether we realise it or not, whether we feel it or not, we have that strength. We just need someone to show us.

All of this is a continuation of my journey to change the world. One person at a time. Many of you are my dear friends because of this. Because of reaching out in a time of need. And I cherish each and every one of you. People might think that this is a very giving attitude, but it’s not. Because what I get back in return pays for it a million times over.

And for every person I have helped through tough times, I won’t deny it. It has been a bit of a strain for me. But I’ve got he energy for it. And because of doing so, I know there are others out there to lend me their strength.

Wel, I think that is about it for now.  Massive thanks to my nzsecretsanta for the notebook to record blog post subjects in. I really appreciate it. And I hope to be writing much more once again.

The language of esteem

We all do it, don’t we? Put ourselves down in one way or another. Usually we don’t mean it, not really. Or do we?

We say things like “Silly me!” or “It’s only me”. We tell ourselves we don’t really mean it, and that we really do value ourselves. But words are powerful. So much more powerful that we often realise.

When people ask me “How are you?” I have a very nasty habit of telling them. As far as I am concerned, if you don’t really want to know, don’t ask. And it works – the people who really do want to know how I am continue to ask it, those who only use it as a pleasantry tend not to ask it again. But I used to say that things were tough or that I was worried about this and that. Lately, I have taken a different approach. I reply with something along the lines of “I am fucking awesome, that’s how I am. My work/health/family/mental state might be kinda shit, but I am awesome. Thank you so much for asking.”

And I like this idea. The idea of differentiating between how I am and what is happening in my life. Events in my life have an influence on me, but they do not affect who I am, at the very core of me.

But our everyday language is full of self-deprecation. We are sorry a lot. Sorry for being honest, sorry for being who we are, sorry for helping others even. And especially among friends. I know that I have always tried to be very careful with what I say and do because I might not be seen as being good enough.

Well, 2013 is a marker for that ending. I know what and who I am, and I believe my dear friends, you my dear readers, know this too. I believe that, for me, it is time to cast aside my doubts, my fears, and act from my heart. I’ve learned the key lessons. And now it is time to forget them because they have become part of who I am.

And I want this to encourage others. We have to stop fearing ourselves, we have to start talking about ourselves as being the amazing, incredible, loving people we are. It is never “just” us. We are never “silly” or “stupid”. As I quoted in my post on The English Teacher:

Remember when you said you couldn’t do that speech? Well – you did. Let that be a lesson for all you do. Don’t defeat yourself first – there will be plenty of others who will try to do that for you.
I hope you’ve learnt something; I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

There are countless links I could offer you on the language of positivism. But I don’t think that will be of any additional use here. I have said many, many times, the power of words is incredible. Just a few words, or even one, can tear down walls, destroy people, or shine a light on a world of goodness, lift someone in need (often ourselves) up upon a pedestal.

I just want to end this first post of 2013 with a big thank you to my NZ Secret Santa for the lovely gift of a notebook to record my thoughts for blog posts. It will be much used, and I am honoured by your kindness.

Much love to all. And if you are in a dark place, if you find your world is full of negativity and doubt, please know that I am here for you. Someone to listen to your troubles, to yell at if you need it, or a shoulder to cry on, and arms to hold you should you be a hugs kinda person.

Thank you to everyone who has ever supported me, and I apologise for my absence. I shall return in strength this year.

With great thanks to my secret Santa, who sent me a really cool notebook for me to record blog post ideas for nudging me to finish this post, I do want to dedicate it to one of my dear online friends who recently had to jump through hoops and suffer excessive trauma to procure an abortion.

Hopefully I make a little sense. It’s been a while.

Those who know me will know that I am passionately pro-choice. The idea that a woman can be forced to carry a baby to term against her will is simply abhorrent to me. The idea that a person can be prevented from making their own reproductive and sexual health choices is utterly appalling.

But despite this I sometimes have some mis-givings about certain aspects of abortion.

Before reading further, please know that these are just my thoughts on the matter – I make no judgments, I do not pretend to know anything about what it is like to face such decisions, they are just a viewpoint at this moment in time. And that, in my opinion, there are certain absolutes where abortion must be available to women:

where the pregnancy is due to rape
where continuing the pregnancy is a risk to the mother’s mental or physical health
where the consequences faced by the baby in being born make it kinder to terminate.

When I try and think about this, I think of the two extremes: contraception (including Emergency Contraception Pill and the prevention of a fertilised egg from implanting) , and the idea of aborting a full-term foetus. I cannot believe that any rational person could disagree with the former, or agree with the latter. So, there must be a point at which everything changes. Where is it? What are the reasons for and against abortion?

At the centre of the abortion debate seems to be whether or not the foetus (or even potential foetus) is a “person”. One side might argue that a fertilised (or even unfertilised) egg is a “person” while another side might say that this thing does not become a person until it is born. But there is one element of the “not a person” argument for abortion that troubles me.

It wasn’t so long ago that certain groups of people were not considered “persons”. Women, people of colour, have all at some point been considered “not people” and therefore are not protected by any law. By claiming that “an unborn child” is not a person, you are applying some very scary principles. And yes, I know the difference between the two scenarios is that the “unborn child” is, well, unborn, but the idea remains the same.

I mean, if we have a pregnant woman who wishes to keep the child, and someone else deliberately causes harm to the foetus, do we say that they have done nothing wrong because, well, the thing they harmed is not a person?

Please let me make this clear, I do not question a woman’s right to choose. Just that I personally have difficulty with the “not a person” argument.

Part of the problem we face, as a society, with regard to abortion is an archaic attitude toward death. We still seem to prefer to force a person to live a life of agony, misery and horror rather than allowing them to die. True, nobody knows what happens after we die, and euthanasia is a risk: is dying really better than living? Sometimes, yes.

So, many people see the termination of a pregnancy as something morally outrageous when in reality it can be a kindness.

There are those who argue that allowing abortion will simply lead to eugenics – aborting “undesirable” traits. But that is presuming that someone else knows better than the woman who otherwise would have to carry the child and bear the medical risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

Others in the anti-abortion lobby argue that allowing abortion will lead to a lack of care of children as women line up to repeatedly dispose of their unwanted cargo. Now, I know I am a man and will never know what it is like, but I can guess that the people who say this have never had to go through an abortion themselves, and probably are so lacking in empathy that they choose not to understand what a woman goes through in having an abortion.

I do know it is a terrible, traumatic experience. Generally it is not something they want to do, but need to. In a much earlier post on this subject, I found a brilliant quote.

No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.
~Frederica Mathewes-Green

As for “personhood”, where do you begin with this? If life and “personhood” begins at conception, what does this mean for our concept of age? If a person has been alive for 18 years, how old are they? Eighteen or 17 years and 3 months? What impact does this have on driving rules, age of consent, voting, drinking, etc. Does a living person who has not yet been born require a passport? If not why not? It raises so many questions in my mind.

It strikes me that the people who blather on about “personhood” – not only do they not give a shit about the personhood of the mother, they have no clue what it means to confer personhood on a bunch of cells.

It is a hideously complex issue.

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