Solidarity is for life, not just for International Women’s Day

Two years ago today, I started blogging. I like to think I’ve come a long way and expanded my thinking since then–if I wasn’t growing, I’d merely be stagnant, after all.

The reason I started blogging, on International Women’s Day of all days, was because this was a day where the voices of women are actually listened to by those who claim to be on our side. It’s “our” day, is International Women’s Day. The mainstream media trots out a few white women to make some pithy statements, the news will report on some events, and maybe, just maybe, the police will try not to club in a few heads at any mass gatherings.

For that one day of the year, women’s voices at least appear to matter, and there is at least a pretence that they are listened to. A veneer of solidarity is painted over the fact that actually, society at large, still doesn’t really give a fuck.

Women’s issues are still someone else’s issues as far as those who set the agenda are concerned. Even within the examination of women’s issues, there is still precious little examination of how this intersects with other oppressions–this can be seen all too often among a certain sort of feminist outright rejecting intersectional thinking.

All oppression is not the same. All women’s oppression is not the same. When we ask for equality, it is simply not enough. What use is equality when the playing field is so grossly uneven that gender is but one set of bumps in the turf?

We don’t need equality; we need solidarity. Solidarity with all of these struggles for recognition, for rights, for freedom. And it’s not enough to make the right noises one day a year: it needs to be a perpetual attack on the whole broken system until we can all live in dignity.

One day a year won’t unfuck this mess.

Poly means many: I am a work in progress

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com

I didn’t spring fully-formed into how I am today. Anybody who says they have is either a liar, or, less probably, a deeply stagnant individual.

Once upon a time, I was a complete and utter mess. I was having a lot of incredibly bad sex, much of it that I didn’t really want. It was all with men, and all profoundly and disappointingly heteronormative. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I couldn’t conceptualise anything else.

So I quit sex, and I quit relationships. For a good few months, I was completely and utterly celibate. I barely even wanked for all that time. I focused on friendships, on the depth and joy that these relationships can bring–“just friends” is such a misnomer. And I spent a fair amount of time working out what it was that I wanted. Sex ceased to be a central issue to me, and I had all the intimacy I wanted.

It was quite by accident that I came to realise polyamory was the thing that was right for me. I’d been reading Yes Means Yes–which had gone some way to explaining why my sex life had been so dire previously–when the title of a book cited caught my eye. It was, of course, the book on poly: The Ethical Slut. I devoured that book. It opened me up to things that had been dimly playing at the back of my mind since I was young. It felt right.

My journey didn’t end there. Once I plunged into polyamory, I kept on learning and growing. Through experience, I learned what sort of things worked for me, and what didn’t. I discovered I’m highly averse to hierarchical relationships, and that even worse than that is where hierarchies are denied but still present. I learned how to sort out my scatty timekeeping, a skill which was highly beneficial all across my life. I learned that for me, poly is probably an orientation, and it often doesn’t work out if I enter relationships with people who see poly as a largely political choice. I learned how to communicate, better and better. I learned that I have a knack for turning a gathering of beautiful people into an orgy, and I relish in applying this skill.

The learning curve was riddled with heartbreak and regret along the way, but when it comes to matters of the heart, when isn’t it? And what is regret if not an opportunity to learn what it is that you really, really want?

And I’m still not there yet. I’ve still not written a manual of What’s Right For Stavvers, and, to be honest, I doubt I’ll ever be able to do that. With each new partner, I discover new things which are right–and new things which are wrong. With each change to my life, my relationships flex and shift. I am a work in progress. And I always will be. I’ll never have a complete handle because everything changes, and that’s a good thing.

What’s right for me isn’t what’s right for anyone else in the world. We’re all unique in that way. We are all works in progress, testing the waters and seeking the things that make us happy. I’ve found a lot of mine–but I look forward to being surprised again and again.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Hello everyone. This week I haven’t read much due to hectic IRL business, but I did read some things that I found interesting, and maybe you will, too. As always, drop me some links if you think I’ll find it interesting.

Review: Surprises at Theatre Royal, Bath (Mediocre Dave)- Dave went to see a play. He was thoroughly unimpressed at its backwards gender politics in a hilarious fashion.

Kirk Sneade’s candidacy for UCLU Women’s Officer (Major Tom)- Tom explains rampant misogyny in a student election. Trigger warnings.

Men are no victims in this rape apologism debate (Tintinnytins)- A male ally explains some shit that really shouldn’t need explaining, but unfortunately does. Very eloquently.

Yes means Yes, or why safe words might perpetuate rape culture (itsjustahobby)- An interesting take on BDSM safe words, and how they buy into a “no means no” model of consent, with a few examples of what else could be done.

Let’s make all crimes against sex workers hate crimes (Diary of a VirginWhore)- Account of an initiative in Merseyside where crimes against sex workers are treated as a hate crime, and there is some collaboration with the police, leading to far higher conviction rate for rape of sex workers. While I’m not sure about working with the police, it seems like this has gone some way to improving safety.

And finally, listen to the sounds of police scanner radio, with gloomy electronica as a backing track. A delicious aura of the Bad Future.

“The fatal decision to abide by the law”: Squatting criminalisation kills

Daniel Gauntlett needed a roof over his head to survive the freezing winter temperatures. But because of recent parliamentary machinations, it was illegal for Daniel Gauntlett to seek shelter inside an empty bungalow. The police were called when he tried to enter. So he froze to death on the veranda of the building which could have protected him.

In a local news report on the story, one particularly poignant line stands out, highlighting how this man’s death should have never happened:

And so Mr Gauntlett, had taken the fatal decision to abide by the law.

This is the corner into which the law–Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill–has pushed people. So many must now make a decision like Gauntlett’s: to freeze to death a law-abiding citizen, or to survive and swell the prison population of people punished for desiring a roof over their heads.

I wonder if this very human matter was given a second of thought by the politicians who passed this law, or whether their thoughts only went to the owners of property they wanted to leave empty and didn’t want it to become a home because it was theirs–the perceived real victims. Through lies and distortions, they shoved this legislation through. If you want to learn the truth about squatting, have a read through Squash Campaign’s resources.

And share this story–and these resources–with those that you know. The politicians decided to force vulnerable people to choose between death and prison, because an empty building staying empty means a world more to them.

Sign Squash’s petition, a government e-petition which could lead to a debate if it is signed enough. While I don’t feel petitions to be a particularly effective form of campaigning, I feel it’s only right for them to have to discuss the blood on their hands already, and how it will only get worse if they insist on pursuing this.

Nobody should have to make these fatal decisions like Daniel Gauntlett was forced to.Yet this is a natural consequence of a law criminalising people turning an empty space into a home.