Source: Call Me Woman
This is not a post about who gets to use female toilets. If you want a gender debate move on to the next cunt, I’m not buying today. This is a post about female space, or lack thereof. It is about public bathrooms and male architects. It is about this ridiculousness everytime we need to piss in public. Share your own foolish lack of design in the comment section. Female space as an afterthought in public space tells us something. Are you listening?
This is as wide as we can get
“A public library is the most democratic thing in the world. What can be found there has undone dictators and tyrants: demagogues can persecute writers and tell them what to write as much as they like, but they cannot vanish what has been written in the past, though they try often enough…People who love literature have at least part of their minds immune from indoctrination. If you read, you can learn to think for yourself”
– Doris Lessing
I’m passionate about libraries because they’re weaved into the fabric of my life. My early childhood memories include going to public libraries, with my mother and siblings to borrow books we couldn’t afford to buy. Reading kept the kids quiet and libraries were free. It was a win win scenario for a single mother with three of us to feed, clothe, house and entertain. If we hadn’t access to libraries we wouldn’t have known much further than ourselves, the small estate we lived on, the families whose kids we “played out” with and our own home. Because of libraries other lives were known, countries and cultures completely alien to us, actual aliens, monsters, heroes, whole universes of magic and adventure. Access to books gave us access to other worlds.
Libraries to teenage me were a place to keep up, to get my head down and do more. Constantly learning, working to understand who I was, to find people who led lives like mine and left something of themselves to teach me. They were where I first discovered dystopian fiction and critiques of systems of power.
Now as a mother myself with a daughter who loves libraries they’ve always been safety for us. A place we could go just the two of us. Quiet and safe, full of books that we can share, and free. 4 million children in the UK do not own any books. I’m lucky enough to be able to provide books for my daughter, I’m working class and a single mother and I do what I can. But I can’t provide her new books every day, every week or even every month. Libraries can. And they’re even more important to those children who don’t have any books at all.
Finding formal women only space has brought further understanding of the power of libraries to me. Meeting women away from men has allowed me to value women more, to seek out women’s work and to recognise how absent women are from mainstream culture. Because of the dedication of women I, and so many other woman, have access to women’s libraries. My local women’s library has given me a knowledge of my history as a woman, of shared struggle and ongoing growth. A history I would struggle to find picking through a general library dominated by works written by men. Starting to learn more of our liberation movement, and also stories of just being a woman in all the ways we are women, has given me the tools to organise as a feminist. Knowledge of our past gives direction for our future and libraries provide that.
Those attacking libraries understand their power, and so should we. I am a working class woman and so proud of the history behind me. Working class solidarity and struggle, sisterhood. Constant work, together, to move forward. 2017 has already seen attacks on the Working Class Movement Library in Salford and now on the Vancouver Women’s Library. Online organising across both sides of the Atlantic have united those who wish to deny people access to tools which educate, empower and radicalise. It’s important to ask why they target these democratic spaces for free education. Read the books detractors don’t want us accessing, see the evidence of past successful working class organising, seek out women’s voices when you’re being told you shouldn’t. Support libraries.
“Libraries are places where exciting, radical and sometimes dangerous ideas are born. There is nothing staid about a library or a librarian. We need them now more than ever”
– Professor Mary Beard
Like most members of the Woke Community, I am aware of the impending talk being given by mass murder advocate and arch TERF, Julie Bindel, at a venue named the Working Class Movement Library, in a place in England called Salford. Now until recently I had never heard of the Working Class Movement Library, or Salford for that matter, and I still have only a vague idea of what this Library’s purpose is. I know libraries are for storing books that you can’t buy and have to give back and that they tell you off for using highlighter pens (even when they’re pink), but that is not the issue here.
Now that I know Julie Bindel is going to be speaking at this library on the 4th of February as part of TQBGL History Month, the very existence of this building is causing me fear, pain and…
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What do you stand for? Who do you stand with?
I could never stand with someone who makes false claims of being in an abusive relationship (with a woman they’ve never met) as a protest tactic.
I am a woman who has survived intimate partner violence and then blamed myself for being so thick to allow it to happen.
I remember feeling powerless as my mum continued to stay with a man who beat her violently every time he drank. Swearing that could never happen to me. It didn’t happen in the same way. I found the strength to end my own abusive relationship after being raped “only” once and weeks of minimising it then having to call for help because I was scared for my safety. But it might have happened that way and it wouldn’t have been because I was thick or allowed it. As an adult survivor who has tried to learn about societies attitudes to intimate partner violence and especially the gendered reality of it I now accept we leave when we can. My mother left when she could. Just like I did.
Julie Bindel may not be your cup of tea, you may think she chats shit. Whatever. She isn’t raping you, screaming in your face, throwing things at you, sabotaging your friendships and family relationships, chipping away at your sense of self till you feel what’s happening is normal and you probably could do more to prevent it. You’re not in an abusive relationship with her. And your hyperbole is distasteful, hurtful and dangerous.
If you can stand alongside individuals who use such odious techniques to express their dissent at Julie Bindel being allowed to speak you cannot stand alongside me.
If you stand with those who seek to silence Julie ask yourself do you stand by such tactics? If you stand with neither these people nor Julie know that silence is an action. Fence sitters only end up with a splintered arse.
I stand with Julie not because I agree with her on everything (like she won’t agree with me on everything obviously) but because we must stand up. She has stood up to this bullshit for 14 years, now her critics feel confident in labelling her as an abuser and belittling the experiences of those of us who know what an abusive relationship is. This is where silence has enabled them to progress. It’s long time she stopped standing alone.
“We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”
Ursula K Guin said that during her acceptance speech at the national book award. She was really addressing her fellow writers and creatives, in a call to arms if you will, against the profiteering nature of the book trade which is at odds with the creative and challenging nature of her work. However her words apply to us all.
Last night I saw a film about the sex industry, honest without being preachy, respectful without being normalising. Though it was called “Normal” those who told their stories had abnormal lives because of the very nature of the industry they have found themselves in. The sex industry (and those within it) exists on the margins. There is a normal inside but that is a different normal to the normal outside. This film allowed the audience to hear from those who find themselves making money in the sex industry both as pimps/agents/workers and as prostituted people/prostitutes/workers. It did present pimps as workers, though the researcher and director of the film (Nicola Mai) acknowledged he did not consider these people to be “sex workers”. He also went on to say the usual, that prostitution has always existed in every society and while ever it does continue to exist it must be made safe. Every person should be safe. This isn’t up for debate in any industry.
Prostitution has existed in every capitalist society. In order to thrive it needs poverty, inequality and people without power and influence. There needs to be those who will provide a service/those who can be bought and sold. And there needs to be people with power and influence who will choose to purchase sex. Wealth (and lack thereof) is influential. If you can buy sex, you can buy anything. Wealth is power. Greater inequality between people – gender inequality and socioeconomic inequality – is I believe both a cause and a consequence of the sex industry. Transferring money in inconsequential amounts from wealthy individual men to individual women and men who are not wealthy does nothing to raise living standards and life chances for the class of people for whom entering the sex industry is a viable option. It may support some individuals to get out (not of the industry but of poverty) but how many and for how long, who knows? Just like in other exploitative industries I don’t see the working class being paid enough to both survive and thrive, to live and to save, to work then retire, to support themselves and a family who then have more options available. Globalisation will always bring a worker who can be exploited and paid less, there is always a way to keep the money made to a minimum and to suppress incomes and increase living costs.
The cognitive dissonance required to believe decriminalisation is the answer (to the question of how to bring about safety for, and to respect the humanity of, those is the sex industry) is quite astounding. On the one hand you must be pessimistic enough to believe the sex industry, and capitalism, is inevitable. This is a belief that there is no other way for the working class to exist than as a human commodity. On the other hand you must be optimistic enough to believe that decriminalisation is different to legalisation. Optimistic enough to know that legalising brothels leads to mega brothels but still believe decriminalising the entire industry will only lead to small, safe workers co-operatives and safe conditions for independents, that it will not lead to mega brothels. This must be the kind of optimism that looks to other industries in a hyper capitalist society with growing inequality, say for example coffee service, and sees not a small army of chain stores dominating the market in every major city in the western world but thousands of empowered workers who choose this industry which has independent stores for those who want to run their own business and a secure career within chain stores for those who do not.
Insisting on on a difference between legalisation and decriminalisation as a way to address concerns about the sex industry and its future is wilful ignorance. If sex work is work and the sex industry is just like any other industry, find a decriminalised industry without it’s equivalent of a German mega brothel. When you can find those it will be safe to say decriminalisation is different to legalisation. Until then all I see is a future of primarily working class women staffing all you can fuck buffets of sexual exploitation and being told this is the safest, cleanest and most empowering way to escape poverty.