Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The History Of Hobbling Women.

Along with two of my dearest feminist friends, Camilla Mills and Sue Veneer I visited this exhibition in Bowes Museum last week titled "Shoes - Pleasure and Pain". It is a touring exhibition from the V&A Museum. It will be going around the world subsequently and the message it gives to women and men is damaging and unacceptable.

The curator is Helen Persson. We are surprised by this because we all assumed it would be a man. A man who found the pain of women amusing. A misogynist. As we know ....some women internalise men's misogyny. Helen.... step forward for your cookie.

The presentation of the opening to the museum itself gives it context.... that context is a sex show. This is how men are enticed to view women who are sexually exploited is it not?

Because it looks very much like this and that is not a random choice by the curator....

And that normalises the exploitation of women and the acceptability of shoes as a uniform worn for that exploitation. The entrance is reminiscent of a portico to a venue where women may have been trafficked. The title of the exhibition suggests that there will be some sort of analysis of the painful aspect of all this. The blood red that bathes the exhibition would tend to suggest that there will be a balance. There isn't.

The exhibition celebrates and admires footwear which has inflicted upon women pain, degradation, suffering and control. It celebrates whilst offering virtually no criticism. This should be a history of the horrors that have existed throughout time to disfigure the feet of women. An effort to destabilise them, to sexualise them and to stereotype them. This should be a comment on binding women for male pleasure. This should be a comment on the need to disempower them by literally "wrong-footing" them. It isn't. There is absolutely zero of critical value in the presentation of these oppressive symbols.

The shoes themselves as historical artefacts are not the problem. The imposed narrative is. Let's have a look....

"Stripper Heels"....

"Strippers" are sexually exploited women and the shoes they wear as uniform are a symbol of that oppression. The V and A... a well-respected museum will surely offer a balanced view of that?
It seems that the V&A think that being an exploited woman is something we should emulate. We should mimic a woman who is being paid for by men. It can't be a bad idea. Helen Mirren does it? The term "stripper" itself trivialises the process of exploitation. It makes it "entertainment" and not objectification and degradation. 

Surely there can be a critique of the historical element of oppressing women via shoes? Something that makes the systematic oppression of women, including that embedded in the clothing they have been forced to wear, obvious. Surely...?

"The Naughty Nineties"

 Not a word of criticism from the V&A. The shoes are "naughty" as are the times. But in a sexually provocative way. Words like "fetish" and "pornographic" go unchallenged. The word "naughty" implies exciting deviance. It does not discuss the accompanying oppression and manipulation. The word "eroticise" is used about the heel. This is something a woman must balance on, often painfully, in order to sexually please a man's desire to see her leg displayed at its most aesthetically pleasing. To him.

Tight Laced

This is often used to suggest sexual repression. It is frequently presented as an unattractive characteristic in women who should of course make themselves sexually available to men.

 Again there is a lack of any challenge to the obvious message of the binding of women. Women are bound in order to tantalise males. The description of the way the shoes mimic corsets is fine with the V&A. Big tick. The fact that corsets disfigured women. Made them faint. Stopped their periods and changed their spines. All totally ok. Doing that to feet? Its just a massive turn on. Look at the words and how positive they are.... "excites" "desire" "promise" "daring" "flashed" "tantalisingly". Not one word about the constraint. The pain. The restriction of women's freedom. Not a word of it. Which brings us on to one of the cruellest types of footwear.....

Fashionable Binding....

One of the cruellest and most barbaric practices to be inflicted on women in history was the binding of the feet of Chinese girls. It was a breathtakingly brutal practice. The feet of young girls were tightly and very painfully bound to stop them growing. This led to disability. They were hobbled. Unable to walk without pain. This was seen as "beauty". By whom? For whom did young girls need to remain young girls in order to be beautiful? For men. This is how a damaged foot would actually look. The bottom of the foot shows toes. Not blisters. The 2 images below i have selected. They were not included in the exhibition. They were conspicuously absent.

These images make me sob. The V&A chose to present it thus......

Note the choice of vocabulary that is prominent and the absence of words of cruelty and oppression. Words like "wishes", "aspiration", "desirable" are not balanced with any criticism of this appalling practice. This was sickening to observe and the V&A should be thoroughly ashamed of the neglect of criticism which acknowledges the suffering of Chinese women.

What of the men who design the shoes?

Sexy Soles....

Emma Thomson notoriously and visually criticised Christian Louboutin at the Golden Globe awards by showing the soles of his shoes, which are "humorously" blood red by taking them off, holding them up to the audience and saying "See this? It's my blood." before throwing them over her shoulder. Louboutin is the king of high heels. Here is a shot of some of his shoes. You know the things we wear to keep our feet protected from the elements.

Or is it so that we can be "supremely sexy" while we navigate the "dramatic pitch" (have our arches painfully angled) over a "superfine stiletto heel" (balance our wide heels on a needle) ? The blood red soles are a "joke". An in joke by a man who hates women. There is nothing funny about convincing women to spend hundreds of pounds in order to please men while in extreme pain. Look at this sketch from the exhibition. He obviously enjoys the thought of a pool of a woman's blood beneath his shoes.

The V&A however are comfortable celebrating his continued abuse of women both physically and financially. Likewise the way they present shoes from cinematic history.....

For the V&A to accompany the description of shoes which disable women and force them to crawl with the adjective "erotic" is offensive to women everywhere. The use of "impossibly" is not offered with any trace of irony. It is impossible to wear the shoes so a woman is forced to crawl at which point a man can see her vulnerable. He can see her sole/soul. She is powerless, weak and open to sexual assault. The accompanying pornographic image is freely on display for children at eye-level.

Further on the subject of pornography and shoes, and much of this exhibition focuses on how lovely it is for women to be sexually available and shaped for the pleasure of men right down to their toes, the V&A calls it "naughty". It likes the word "naughty". There is nothing "naughty" or "mischievous" about pornography. It is degrading, dehumanising and is currently ruining the potential sex lives of boys and girls up and down the land. Ask them. The V&A however think it is "chic". Possibly in a trendy, cute way. A woman being repeatedly anally raped on camera isn't cute.

Inspired by the footwear of a "certain clientele". Prostitutues then? That would be women whose bodies are bought by men. Slaves some might say.

Dangerous Heels...

Then comes a nice little venture into victim-blaming. "Women eh? You sell em ridiculous and dangerous shoes and they wear em and then their feet hurt and they can't walk properly. Silly women." Might I also take the time to remind the V&A that women who have been conditioned into wearing high heels are also unable to run away from predatory men. Missing a bus is really the least of our worries. We need to fight off misogynist shoe designers first.

Cinderella Shoes....

The V&A is very proud of having on display the glass slipper from the latest Cinderella film. As a piece of cinema history this is indeed interesting.

but let's look at the accompanying message.

So the message is very much that there is "no margin for error" if you want to be the perfect woman and find the "prince" who will free you. You need to be able to wear a shoe which is made of the hardest of materials and is unforgiving and painful. This is the perfection women should aspire to. 

This gets worse. This is a museum where young girls were happily wandering and this is the message the V&A were happy with. 

There is no criticism of this narrative offered. True love awaits a perfect girl. Shoes can "transform" her from her imperfect self so that she can be married and become the possession of a rich man. Is this really something we want to "teach" our girls? The final line of this is editorial. It is not tongue in cheek or dripping with sarcasm. It is offered as fact!

The Men..... 

So what was there available for comment on men's footwear?

Here's some trainers. They are comfy. They come in different colours. Crack on. 

The V&A should be ashamed of the curation of this exhibition. 

[The Bowes Museum itself is very beautiful and I recommend anyone to visit it. It displayed a fine collection of paintings by Josephine Bowes. Unfortunately the Bowes website describes her as a "talented amateur" despite some extremely skilful and striking landscapes and works of cliffs and the sea which were stunningly moving. She wasn't a man though. Just a woman with a box of felt tips or something. ]

Doffing my cap to a "talented amateur" with a few felt tips. #JosephineBowes  

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Apply the law.

Bear with me on this. I'll get onto Trump and his vile incitement.

This week "it seems" that a man has encouraged other men to kill me. As far as those who love me can see, there's no ambiguity. Legal colleagues have checked the law and think it could confidently be applied in court to the statements he has published. The focus of the relevant CPS legislation is the crime of "encouraging or assisting a crime". It is a piece of legislation in the Serious Crime Act 2007. It replaced the now obsolete one of incitement. It is different. It is an inchoate offence. This means a crime has been committed whether or not the crime it is "encouraging or assisting" actually takes place. If it can be determined that the intent of the perpetrator is that it should, then they have committed that crime. 

Mostly I ignore this man. I have tried every tactic possible over the years. Ignoring is a good one and means I get on with my life doing the things I love with the people I adore. Unfortunately, sometimes, feminists who care about me have to show me his stuff as they are worried about me and about how real the threat of him is. 

I pushed him recently I think. Just one mistaken tweet. That's all it took. I used mention of the old pre-2007 law. It was a slip. A slip he didn't miss and within minutes was all over his blog and multiple twitter accounts leaping up and down about it. Here is the tweet.

I won't show you his tweets or direct you to his blog as that would promote his attacks on me and give him credence. It is also essential that I am not seen to engage with him. He is a worryingly obsessed man and I ignore him most of the time as any attention makes him worse. This will make him worse. How much worse? Who knows. I can either write or not write. It is irrelevant. He is still watching me constantly and I know it. He will still be back on Twitter directing people to the piece where this encouragement is. I have never made any threat against him. I have at worst laughed at him or hoped he will be caught and jailed. He isn't just any old troll. It is a whole other level to that. You have to have been a target to understand. 

For example.... here is one of the comments below the blog piece. It is most likely the obsessed man himself as he probably has multiple accounts which talk to himself. 

Regarding the threat to my safety? It is real. A man who stalks your every word and move for more than 2 years? A man who harasses anyone who you come into contact with? A man who posts about ejaculating on your body? This is impacting on your safety. This is a man who could kill you. This is a man who knows no boundaries. This is a man who is a danger to himself and to society generally. He is certainly a danger to me. If he manages to convince someone else to come and kill me, or if he is actually so dangerously obsessed he may do it himself, is irrelevant. I am facing that threat. 

How do I deal? I work. I write. I get out on my bike. I have dinner with friends. I chat, laugh and drink a glass of wine in the sun with my best friend. I curl up listening to Radio 4 and eating chocolate with my lover. What else can I do? I like to think that getting on with my life is the biggest revenge for the hell he tries to inflict on my life. 

Donald Trump is a much "bigger" version of "my" man, though I consider them both small and low. 

Donald Trump has encouraged a whole section of the gun-owning American public to consider taking a gun as a way to stop Hilary Clinton. 

Here is what he said - bear in mind that the second amendment is the right to bear arms.....

Hilary  wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the second amendment. If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
There is no ambiguity there. Trump has very clearly said that a way to stop Clinton from preventing Americans bearing arms is to use the right to bear arms against her. If someone did this that would involve shooting her. Possibly until she was dead. 
The defence he advocates will be free speech and the ambiguity of the threat. 

The American test of Free Speech v Incitement is the 'Brandenburg Test'. This is from a test case in Ohio where a member of the Ku Klux Clan was charged with inciting violence. The decision to convict him was overturned and left the precedent in US law as this....

"The Court held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is directed to inciting, and is likely to incite, imminent lawless action."

The key feature of this is the degree to which it is believed the provocation might be acted upon and whether that is "imminent".

I think it is. I think that some Americans feel so strongly about the second amendment that it is something they will kill and die for. We see this every time a Black life is taken by police officers. We see it in the comments online. We see the racial hatred. We see the political hatred. We see the systemic hatred and how that spills over when people have guns. 

Here in Britain we see how strongly people feel when a crucial political issue is debated. Brexit brought out strong enough hatred that a man killed the MP Jo Cox. He brutally murdered her in the streets because of her political views which clashed with his own. 

4 American presidents have been assassinated. Hilary Clinton is not yet President but Donald Trump knows very well that with a historical track record like the American one shows.... the potential for someone to assassinate her is real and imminent if the provocation is there. If that provocation comes from the Republican Presidential Candidate ... then the risk is significant and undoubtedly imminent and I would like to see that tested by the Supreme Court. 

This is male violence. This is a man inciting others to murder a woman. The words "incitement", "encouragement" "suggestion" "implication" are synonymous in the case of this law. This is a man who would like his opponent dead. Not least because she is a woman. 

Someone get him before a judge and let the Brandenburg v Ohio judgement be replaced by a judgement against Trump.

This man must be stopped by law not the second amendment. And soon. 

JH x

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Bloodline.

(Written about a day at the beach with my daughter when she finally came to understand the fight and the love.)

Her first bikini,
Don't look style.
Stood out a mile.

In the sea we smiled
And swam
And chattered the easy layers
Of growing up and apart
We faced together.

Blue green glimmers
Of her future
Lapped at her hair
I held her
I must let her go

She stayed briefly beside
the waves
I sighed
Sat with my sister
Her beautiful,
Clumsy, quiet, youth.

Soon, splashing to shore
She brought her gold
Back to my spot
The shine to my side
My sparkling jewel girl.

Blood came then.

It was not slow or shy,
It rushed down her legs
Launched by the sea
A river roar.

Women saw.

Stranger women circled
around and beside us,
Tried to hide us.
Offered up towels
As shrouds of kindness

I gently rocked her
Stroked her cheek and hair
Told her of proud red
and why women had said
They care.

We rocked her
mopped her
Staunched the flow
Patched her up
And caught her.

Women are swift
And deftly handle
Other women's distress
Like darning a damaged
Cloth of fine wool

She, held head high,
Firm of heart,
It was another part
Of the war
She never saw start.

She is a warrior my girl,
She comes from the brave
Uncowed, unbowed, firm
She will go on to save

This is what women know
There is a flow
From woman to woman
A gift of shared blood
Of shared battle
Shared flood.

No man came near
Men have fear
Of uniting women
Who link with centuries
Of other women
Bleeding their love
On each other.

We can touch
At times like these
We can put our fingers
On blood not lips
And dip our sleeves
In the work of sisters
From before
It's in our core
To tame our blood.

This, my sisters
Is shared girlhood.

Jean Hatchet

Friday, 29 July 2016

Dear girls. Your perfect hair is the perfect distraction.

Have you heard of baking your face? How about contouring? How about shaving your entire face?

To young girls... very young in some cases.... these are now just a thing you do. If you want to look "perfect" that is. Or even just acceptable. Even just "normal".

I was speaking to the 14 year old daughter of my friend yesterday. She was interested in what I was saying about male violence. Suddenly though, her face contorted and she leaned across the table in a concerned fashion with her voice lowered to impart a bit of advice.

She whispered to me, "The left side of your hair is hanging in curtains!"

What this meant was that I had tucked my hair behind my ear as I spoke and it wasn't falling quite perfectly.

I launched into a discussion of airbrushing, photoshopping, the media's unrealistic presentation of a woman's body and fragmentation of the female body and male gaze theory etc etc. My friend's daughter could hear not one word. She could only focus on my hair. She was unable to see or hear me. I pointed out that men murder women with perfect hair. Men rape women with imperfect, unruly hair like mine. Men rape women who have or have not tucked their hair behind their ear. Men murder women they love who have all kinds of hair. They do it at a rate of more than 2 a week. We should stop that. Not the hair.  

We have all been horrified at the increased sexualisation of the bodies of young girls. We have long seen the advent of plastic surgery and injectables as a norm that even poor women should aim for. Ageing is not allowed. That is nothing new. Aiming for impossible beauty ideals established by the media is nothing new. Women cutting themselves up to please men. This is old hat and 'The Beauty Myth' lies yellowing on feminist shelves all over the globe. 

But this accelerated and extreme type of pressure on young girls is new. I've heard it creeping in. Another young girl told me of a girl at her school who shaves her face every morning so that she can get her foundation to look perfectly smooth. Another of "baking" where girls apply a full face of make up then put lots of white powder over the top, which they then allow to "set" into any cracks or pits in their skin. They then brush this off and have a sort of cement effect under the eyes and the natural creases around mouths and cheeks etc. Contouring allows you to use a variety of beiges to make your face have contours it normally does not and can make you look entirely different. Let's not doubt there is also embedded racism in this too. Look at this. This is how you turn a beautiful woman into a doll. This is what our children are learning is normal. This is the new assault on our girls....

How do we save them? Vloggers and You Tubers and online magazines and print media and an endless stream of instagram posts by celebrities are brainwashing our girls into a prison within their own bodies. They cannot walk freely without the thought that a camera is snapping them. They are always a magazine front cover. They are always still in their heads. They must not move or the "perfection" is out of control. I weep with frustration at the fact that a young girl cannot see patriarchy, cannot hear her sisters telling her a thing, because she is thinking of how to erase her nose with brown powder. 

It seems to me that the more feminist work has been done on this, the more efforts have been stepped up to freeze our beautiful warrior girls in their tracks. This is a new war and men are shooting our girls with new guns. This is my message to 14 year old girls everywhere. 

"My darlings. You are beautiful. Your hair is long and smooth or short and curly or short and smooth or you are bald. Your eyes are shining in a way mine have forgotten. Your lips are plump as peaches, your skin is soft and magical like finely shifting sand. Your cheekbones hang like Italian alps above a face that swirls with a lake of promise. 

But inside your head is a brain that can be president of the United States of America or Prime Minister of the UK. Inside your fingers are beautiful paintings and novels. Our future buildings and roads and bridges are in your hands. You have the potential to change the world for women forever. You can heal others. You can stop wars. You can save children from poverty. You can stop men murdering women. You can stop men raping women. Inside you is our future world. Be a warrior my girl. Stand up. Move forward. Start running from this trap. Don't stop until you are free."

JH x

Monday, 20 June 2016

Ched Evans Must Have A Fair Trial.

Ched Evans is awaiting trial for rape.

It is important that nothing prejudices that trial. This will include comment on social media.

At the time of the last feminist action on this issue Evans was, according to the UK criminal justice system, a convicted criminal. The main focus of that action was not on the individual, Evans, but on the inappropriate employment of any footballer who had been convicted of the heinous crime of rape. That was heavily discussed at the time. It does not need to be revisited here as the circumstances around Evans have changed.

That conviction was quashed and Evans is now awaiting retrial for rape. It is very important that the trial proceeds in a fair manner and any allowable new evidence is presented and treated accordingly by defence lawyers for the CPS. I hope that it will be robustly challenged and I am sure that it will be.

The key contentious issue remains in that the relevant governing bodies in football, the FA and the PFA, are unwilling to issue employment guidelines for footballers who commit acts of sexual violence. It should be clearly established by those governing bodies that any player accused of an act of such a serious nature should be suspended pending trial. This would be usual in many other employment contracts and in most other employment areas. Football is not unique.

Chesterfield FC need guidelines from those governing bodies. Their moral compass and pursuit of goals and profit, clearly does not allow them to make a sensible judgement on this and their current action in pursuing a contract of employment, with a player accused of a serious sexual offence, is morally repugnant. I hope that the majority of decent fans of the club will communicate their dissatisfaction with that appointment.

I call upon the FA and PFA to act swiftly to rectify their inaction on this matter, as it is clear that this is an issue which continues to be problematic. The Adam Johnson case was similarly murky regarding his continued employment and Sunderland had very unclear guidelines and subsequently made poor decisions. It is obvious from the current comment on social media that the views of many young men are being formed by this particular employment contract, provided to Ched Evans by Chesterfield FC, and those views are deeply unpleasant, at best, regarding women and girls.

I call upon the FA and PFA to work quickly to establish employment guidelines for their teams of employers, so that this kind of situation does not arise again. I would hope that pressure from the governing bodies would enable Chesterfield FC and other clubs to realise that a trial for rape is a grave matter. Their endorsement of the accused will have a profound effect on the views of our young men and women. If they are in any doubt about that I would refer them to the following.....

Or pay attention to the hashtag here......

There are worse examples. They will keep rolling in. Views will continue to be formed on this until the body that should take charge stops avoiding the issue and does their job. 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Jo Cox MP was a woman. A brave woman.

Jo Cox was shot and stabbed yesterday. In the street. She screamed as she was murdered and fell between parked cars and lay dying on the floor between them.

It seems that a man deliberately went to where he knew she would be and drew a gun and kept firing it until he had put 3 bullets into her. He then stabbed her. He then kicked her. Neighbours had seen him calmly walk past half an hour earlier carrying a bag. He remained calm as he walked away slightly after shooting her and attempted to reload his gun. He was determined enough to stab a 77 year old man who tried to stop him. He was determined to kill her.

This is brutal and extreme violence. By a man. Against a woman. 

It is not wrong to say these things. It is impossible to react in any way other than with shock and sadness and confusion and anger when a woman's life is stolen from her and her children and her loved ones. 

I am deeply sorry for the family and friends of Jo Cox. I don't know how they will survive and endure this horrific time but I hope that they draw strength from the work that she achieved and the woman she was in their lives. They were lucky to have had her with them, for however brief a time. 

Yesterday it also became clear that a woman and her daughter were murdered in Liverpool. By the woman's ex-partner who also killed her pet dog. This was clear to feminists as soon as the deaths were reported. It is always clear. We wait with sad knowledge for the words "blow to the head", "blunt force trauma", "thought to be known to the woman". 

If women voice our knowledge of these things before the police confirm it then we are "pushing an agenda". We "don't know that!" 

Well. We do. We do. We know why the women are killed and we simply wait in sadness for details of the man to be revealed. The man that is frequently removed from the headline. The man who hated women. 

Women are frequently told to shut up. Shut up about male violence against women. 

Yesterday whilst sad and reeling and shocked I posted tweets with the hashtag #MaleViolence. I said that a man had shot a woman. The woman was Jo Cox. The man was Thomas Mair. 

I was told- by a man -"How dare you? HOW DARE YOU?" for stating that this was male violence. I was told by other men that I was vile for "political point scoring". I was accused of "victim-claiming". I was told that Jo Cox's death had NOTHING to do with the fact that she was a woman. I was asked if I would prefer it if a woman had killed her. I was told that feminists had no right to talk about #MaleViolence at a time like this. A time when a man had murdered a woman. 

 I was told that I am scum for mentioning the fact that Jo Cox was a woman. 

A man shot a woman in the street. A woman is dead and a man killed her. 

I was told that it was because of her politics. Left wing politics. Undoubtedly that is so. 

A man shot a woman in the street. A woman is dead and a man killed her. 

I was told that it was because she was a human. Not a woman.

A man shot a woman in the street. A woman is dead and a man killed her. 

I was told that it was because Jo Cox spoke out about the Remain campaign. Probably that is partly so.

A man shot a woman in the street. A woman is dead and a man killed her. 

I was told that it is because the man was mentally ill. 

A man shot a woman in the street. A woman is dead and a man killed her. 

I was told that it is disrespectful to talk of feminism at a time like this. 

A man shot a woman in the street. A woman is dead and a man killed her. 

It is not with any disrespect to Jo Cox that I write. Women throughout this nation and across the globe are a target of men who hate them every day. Jo Cox knew this and backed campaigns to end male violence against women and girls. She stood up to racism. She stood up to misogyny. She fought for her country to be free of bigotry. She was brave and she was principled. She sometimes questioned her own politics. She very recently questioned the strategy of her own Party leader and was heavily criticised for it. I said at the time that she was brave and right to do so. Men told her to shut up. They were fairly vile about it. She stood by her statements. She was courageous. 

Jo Cox was killed because a man wanted to kill her. He wanted to stop her speaking out. He wanted to stop her standing up for her beliefs. He wanted her to shut up. It really doesn't matter that he did the gardening for his mother. It doesn't matter that his ex girlfriend left him for a friend. It doesn't matter that he was "quiet".

He quietly plotted to kill a tiny, brave, principled woman.  He quietly walked to where she was with a gun he had somehow obtained or fashioned and he quietly murdered her. He was determined. She was his target. He achieved his aim. 

A man shot a woman in the street. A woman is dead and a man killed her and feminists will never accept that this is anything other than male violence because once you have seen this, you cannot "unsee" it. No matter how many men tell you it isn't so. 

So I will be angry and sad and confused today. I will keep drawing back a sob at the thought of Jo Cox's poor poor children and heartbroken husband. I will mourn the loss of a great politician along with the rest of the nation. 

But I will not pretend that Jo Cox wasn't a woman. 


Monday, 16 May 2016

A Click Might Be The Kick A Woman Needs.

There is a term for the kind of activism that takes place online. Clicktivism. This tends to include petitions, blogs and Twitter accounts. It is a very dismissive and damaging term. It silences the weakest of voices. It undermines some real and sometimes hidden effort and it crushes the spirit left in those with very little spirit. It sometimes does much worse than that.

Critics suggest it lacks real engagement. Or a lack of effort.  Or that it is something pointless and “not real”.

The suggestion of this criticism of “clicktivism” is that only “boots on streets – voices raised to power” type of activism matters. Activism where a person is seen. Where a person leaves the house and joins others and a group protest occurs. Or someone appears and speaks out. In public. Or on live media. Or recorded media. Where their face can be seen.

I am a great admirer of Sisters Uncut. They are young mainly it seems. They enjoy using the direct action of disruption, civil disobedience and vocal protest that the Suffragettes used. It's great. Marvellous. Inspiring. I applaud them with hands and feet!

These days I am privileged to attend marches. I attend conferences. I have spoken on radio shows when asked. I have done T.V interviews if asked. Women aren’t asked often and if they are, and they do, they can be criticised for "hunting the limelight".  If I’m asked then I try to participate if it isn't too dangerous or I ask another woman if she will. If I don’t feel as well-qualified as another woman I ask her to take my place. I have a genuine fear of taking the space that a more knowledgeable woman should occupy. Many feminists despite accusations to the contrary aren't hungry for "limelight" especially when you consider the automatic abuse from men that comes with it. It is a given response to think, "Dare I do this? What will come from it? Who will come for me?" I wasn't always able to do any of this. I wasn't allowed. 

I was asked to speak at a conference last summer and was unable to because a man threatened to publish pictures of me that would then put me in danger. He was also threatening to turn up and confront me. I doubted he would, but he was alerting others who might have. This is the man who has been stalking me for a very long time and determined to get others to hurt me. He is desperate to get evidence of who I am and pictures of my family. Someone took pictures of another woman and thought it was me and gave them to him (thank you to that "person") and he published them on his blog. I was miles away in Cornwall, thank goodness, and the other woman was easily identifiable and obviously not me and so the aim of hurting me was pointless. That time. So just being visible can be very dangerous for activist women. 

I have been responsible for starting petitions. I have been heavily criticised for it. I have also been targeted for abuse because of them. Lots of people signed some of those petitions and it is those people I am writing about. Who are they and why do they do it?

"Clicking a petition is easy. It means nothing. It is lazy and it is pointless."

Well. Before we dismiss those clickers let's look at who they might be.

Maybe the woman clicking is in a violent relationship. Perhaps she has a metaphorical (or literal) foot on her throat most of the day and perhaps has had it there for too much of her life. Maybe, when she manages to log onto a laptop it is at great risk to her personal safety. Maybe she does that with extreme anxiety about being "caught" by her abuser. Maybe she engages in a protest about enforced high heels, or rapists, or child abusers, or being excluded from bank notes. Maybe she objects to domestic violence being trivialised by the press. Maybe she clicks and thinks something like this.....

"Fuck you man. Fuck you and the shit you put me through. Fuck you and the way you have treated me today. Fuck you and the way you make me live like some sort of servile shadow, sliding through my own life towards death. Fuck you for stealing from me. Fuck you for smashing my life to bits and making me watch. Fuck you!"

Maybe after she's clicked she feels part of something. She feels real. She feels like she has made a difference for someone and that one day that someone might help her. Maybe she hopes that things might change. Maybe she hopes that one day someone might break down her door and help her out of the hell she has been left in. Maybe she hopes that one day someone might notice her dying.

Maybe she has a Twitter account. Maybe she uses it secretly. Maybe she links with other women. Maybe she pretends she isn't in a terrible situation. Maybe this helps her cope. Maybe she grows a little in confidence through that contact. Maybe she learns. Maybe she learns a lot. Maybe she grows a little stronger. Maybe she leans on those women and they support her. Maybe she finds a way to get more help. Maybe she finally gets free.

Maybe the click was the kick that saved a woman. Just one woman. Isn't that enough?

I thank the women who gave me the right and the desire to kick. I owe you my life.

Love to the sisters,

JH x