Some doomful predictions for 2018

2017 has been a hell of a year, hasn’t it? A year of doom, gloom and misery. And, sadly, emerging from this shit, I can’t see much good coming of the year that will follow it.

Now, I hate being right. I don’t want any of these predictions to happen. Unfortunately, I fear that they will.

The Tories will escalate vicious cuts

The government is in a bit of an awkward position at present. They know that, we know that, and if an election is called, they are more stuffed than a Christmas turkey. The party hates Theresa May, and thus, she must do all she can to appeal to them. The Tory right has little manoeuvring space, because they got everything they wanted with Brexit, but that’s always just been a wedge issue. So, what do they need to be appeased, to maintain a minority government? And what do the DUP want for propping up a minority government? Why, death and poverty, of course! As a cynical gesture of pandering, I suspect that the ideology-driven Tory “austerity” agenda is going to get even worse. And your fave “liberal” Tories like dear old Soubz are just going to vote it right through, because they’re fucking Tories.

Let’s face it, there’s not going to be a snap election next year. Tories are primarily creatures of self-preservation, and they always have been.

TERF and Nazi collaboration

I’ve included TERFs and Nazis under the same heading because tactically, they are identical, and I strongly suspect there’s more overlap between the groups than either would care to admit. These groups thrive on pretending they’re under attack, and now they’re facing small consequences like not being invited to so many lucrative speaking gigs, or people being a little bit rude to them on Twitter. Like petulant children, they lash out.

They are inherently unreasonable, and utterly dangerous. They will play the victim harder than ever while punching down. TERFs and Nazis alike will escalate their “free speech is under attack” lines, with their more respectable faces photographed wearing duck tape on their gobs. Jo Johnson is already making noises about forcing universities to platform the far right. Changes to a law about gender recognition that would bring Britain into line with countries like Ireland and Malta are already being kicked into the long grass. There’s a lot of sympathisers in politics, and many more in the media. They’re probably going to side with these hateful bigots.

Trump will be deposed or die

Why have I listed this as a bad thing? Surely it’s good that Badwig von Orange will no longer be president?

Only if you’ve failed to notice who’s waiting in the wings behind him. Get your red gown and wings, because under Mike Pence things will likely get a lot worse. He’s quietly, competently evil, and under him, the USA will move further in the direction of The Handmaid’s Tale. There’ll be less fightback to this than is needed, because everyone will be talking (or debunking) conspiracy theories surrounding Trump no longer being president. Meanwhile, access to reproductive healthcare will be quietly stripped away, LGBT rights and access to healthcare will be rolled back, and it’ll all be done with silent, ruthless efficiency.

Trump’s on some thin ice, and I can see an impeachment happening when his position finally becomes too corrupt and untenable. I can also see him dying, because that much cocaine and anger isn’t good for anyone’s heart.

The robot uprising won’t happen, they’ll just be spying on us

I, for one, would welcome our new robot overlords. Unfortunately, they’re not coming to save us. Instead, something more frightening lurks. Already, people are gladly welcoming devices that are always listening into their handbags and homes. Concurrently, many governments are looking at ways of increasing surveillance–take, for example, Amber Rudd’s crusade to end encryption. It’s not a far leap to be worried that these little doohickeys that make life marginally easier will be used against us.

There is an unprecedented amount of personal data already being processed, which could be accessible to those who would use this data to sell us shit we don’t need or to incarcerate us.

A little bit of advice: don’t pay with your face, and be careful.

Nothing will change

This is, perhaps, the scariest thing of all: that literally nothing will change. That the positive developments over the last year–such as abusers facing accountability–have no impact whatsoever.

It’s possible. We’re up against a lot, and systems are slow to change and highly resistant.

Can anything get better?

Possibly. I’ve written some more hopeful predictions to accompany this over on Patreon. I suspect these will happen alongside the gloomy forecast I’ve presented here, but I think they might happen. And if they do, at least the “nothing will change” prediction is moot.

As I said, I hate being right. I hope none of this comes to pass. I just fear that it will.

_

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patronsupport me on Liberapay, or leave a tip

 

Congratulations to the anti-trans bigots who got reproductive healthcare defunded

_

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patronsupport me on Liberapay, or leave a tip

The Abortion Act is 50 today. Where next?

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act (1967) receiving royal assent and passing into law.

We have a tendency of treating this law as having legalised abortion completely, resting complacently on our safe and legal access to abortion, but this is not the case.

Abortion is still a criminal offence. Not just in Northern Ireland, but in the rest of the UK. All the abortion act does is decriminalise abortion under a few very specific circumstances.

The specific circumstances, in practice, are box-checking exercises. Two doctors must agree that the pregnancy is less than 24 weeks, and that continuing the pregnancy would cause greater harm to physical or mental health than terminating it. In practice, therefore, there’s usually few hurdles as pretty much any doctor will agree that not being pregnant is a bit better for your physical health than being pregnant, and that not having a pregnancy you don’t want is a bit better for your mental health than having a pregnancy you don’t want.

Nonetheless, there is this spectre of illegality of abortion, with the same criminal sanctions, from a law that is over 150 years old, that apply in Northern Ireland also applying in the rest of the UK outside of these very specific circumstances.

Fifty years on, surely it’s time for change. We need Northern Ireland to have the same access to ending pregnancies that exist in the rest of the country.  And for all of us, all of the criminal sanctions need to go–just as penalties for gay sex were repealed, surely those for abortion need to disappear.

What we need is precisely what the womb-botherers accuse us of wanting: abortion on demand. I’ve written about this before: it’s not a bad idea–it’s a good one. Abortion available, without reason, at any point a person wishes to end a pregnancy. No criminal sanctions for anyone ending a pregnancy. No requirement of two doctors–indeed, in many instances, a nurse would be suitable.

Instead of laws restricting, let us have laws that protect abortion: laws ensuring the safety of the procedure, and laws ensuring that anybody who wants an abortion is able to access one.

Another thing we need, fifty years on, is to think more about the way that we talk about pregnancy and abortion. You probably didn’t even notice that I never said “pregnant woman” throughout. This is because it’s not just more precise to point out that not everybody who gets knocked up is a woman, but also because it really is very easy to not use gendered language. Legal protections are for anyone who wants an embryo or foetus out of their uterus. Let’s move towards inclusive language when talking about pregnancy and abortion, because abortion and trans rights are allied struggles: both for bodily autonomy and liberation from a biological essentialist views that a woman is defined by reproductive role alone.

In its time, the Abortion Act was radical legislation and has no doubt improved lives–and more than likely saved a few. But the world is moving on, and it’s time to move with it. We must never be afraid to demand more, because we all deserve more.

__

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip

We need to act now for abortion rights before the DUP tear them away

As you may have heard, one of the first things on the agenda of the unholy Tory-DUP alliance, may well be an attack on abortion rights. This is chilling news: even if it is a reduction of time limit, this opens the door to further chipping away abortion rights.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is still illegal. Women are convicted for self-administering medical abortions–which they have to do because they have no legal access to services. They must travel to England at a cost of thousands of pounds for an abortion–and they do. Homes are raided by police in case women have abortion pills, with raids even occurring on International Women’s Day!

This is what the DUP want for everyone with a uterus in the rest of the UK, and they are now in a position to try to make this happen.

And so, we need to get mobilising now to ensure that our abortion rights are not in any way reduced. In fact, as an additional finger to the DUP, we could use the opportunity of a vote on abortion rights to further strengthen what exists in the country as a whole.

There’s two particular legal quirks which make abortion rights in Northern Ireland almost non-existent, and also very fragile in the rest of the UK. In the whole of the UK, abortion is illegal under the Offences Against the Person Act (1861). Yes, I did mean to type “the whole of the UK”. Abortion is technically illegal on every part of this rainy fascism archipelago, under a law that is over a century and a half old. In England, Scotland and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) sets out specific circumstances under which abortions will not be prosecuted. This means that as long as an abortion is playing by the rules from the 1967 Act, it’s still a criminal offence, but not going to mean you or your doctor will be prosecuted for it.

In Northern Ireland, the Abortion Act (1967) does not apply, most abortions are still a criminal offence which you and your doctor can still be prosecuted for, and could be imprisoned for. The Northern Ireland situation is particularly horrific. Labour’s manifesto promised to make the Abortion Act apply in the country. This is a good place to start, but the criminal situation of abortion in the whole of the UK is in itself dangerous, particularly if there are anti-abortion womb-botherers pulling the strings of government.

So, if the DUP want a vote on abortion rights, there’s no time like the present to begin organising for fairer, safer abortion rights for anyone with a uterus in the whole of the UK. It’s time to talk about two key issues, make these problems visible. It’s also a good time to our MPs to table these as amendments if this vote does indeed come to pass:

I’ve written to my MP, telling him to protect existing abortion rights, extend them to Northern Ireland, and remove any threat of criminalisation. Please write to your MP, using this as a template. You can get your MP’s contact details here. Remember to include your full name and address in your correspondence.

Subject: Protect abortion rights in the UK

Dear [their name]

As you may be aware, part of the deal between the DUP and the Conservatives could include a vote on the abortion time limit. Should such a vote occur, I strongly urge you to vote against it. I believe that a vote to reduce the time limit on abortions would open the door to further restrictions on abortion rights. Furthermore, less than 2% of abortions carried out occur after 20 weeks of gestation, and many of those that do occur because some abnormalities can only be detected at 20 weeks. It is therefore vital that access to this medical procedure is still available for anyone who needs it.

Should a vote on abortion rights occur, I further urge you to table certain amendments addressing key abortion rights issues.

  1. Applying the Abortion Act (1967) to Northern Ireland, in order to give those living in NI access to the same abortion rights as in the rest of the UK, rather than being forced to travel to England at great expense, or having to take criminal action. This discrepancy is unfair, and has been addressed in the 2017 Labour manifesto an inequality to be righted.
  2. Decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK. The Abortion Act (1967) does not legalise abortion, merely set out circumstances where abortions will not be prosecuted.

Please use your position to protect the limited abortion rights that we have, and extend them to further protect constituents like me, at risk of falling pregnant and wishing to end the pregnancy.

Free free to personalise, with why the issue matters to you, personally, as their constituent. If your MP writes back to you telling you that actually they don’t mind these inequalities, then here’s a few template letters for your reply.

We also need to support activists in Ireland and Northern Ireland alike, like the Repeal the 8th campaign, Alliance for Choice,  Belfast Feminist Network, as well as support groups such as Abortion Support Network, who provide support for travelling to England for abortions–if you’re in NI or Ireland and need an abortion, they can help you.

I wasn’t expecting to have to fight this battle again, so quickly. But I’m ready, and I stand with Northern Ireland and Ireland, and I resist any attack on our uteruses.

__

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip

Tim Farron’s homophobic and anti-choice voting history, in easily-shareable format

Some of my followers asked for this, finding it difficult to share twitter threads or my wider post on why you shouldn’t be fooled into voting Lib Dem.

Now, Tim Farron has done a sterling job of masking his tendencies in his voting record, and votes against the interests of LGBT people, or anyone with a uterus, in a rather sneaky fashion. It doesn’t show up on those basic “this MP is in favour of equality” aggregators, because he covers it up by making himself scarce during key votes, or by voting on amendments. It took a bit of digging to pull the receipts here, and there may be some things I’ve missed. If you think I have, please leave a comment!

During the marriage equality programme back in 2013, Tim Farron voted for several homophobic amendments.

That last one, incidentally, is not dissimilar to a vote back in 2008, where Tim Farron voted to protect homophobic hate as “freedom of speech“. The list of things Tim wanted protected looked incredibly similar to the list of tactics religious homophobes like to use.

Now, let’s have a look at where Tim makes himself scarce. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act brought reproductive and fertility rights to people in same-sex relationships. Tim Farron mostly stayed well away from this, although we know he wasn’t on holiday or in a coma throughout the process, because he voted against laying out a timetable for the bill.

Tim Farron’s general policy towards abortion has been to make himself scarce and abstain or not turn up at all. That’s probably wise, because when he does vote, he votes for reducing the time limit.

So. Be very critical when you see journalists claiming his voting record is fine. They clearly haven’t bothered researching the topic adequately. Tim Farron did a reasonably good job in covering his tracks; to the extent that a follower of mine notes searches for “Farron” and “amendment” has hidden results under the right to be forgotten. Nonetheless, it’s there. And now you have the receipts.

Edit 22/4/17: Beth Granter has assembled a list, containing, more thoroughly, further evidence of anti-abortion and homophobic voting, including pre-abortion “counselling”, and yet more protections for homophobes. Oh, and documents his conspicuous absences on a lot of votes on women’s issues.

__

Enjoyed what you read? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip.

Advance knowledge is power: A trip to the dentist

This is the first post in a short series on engagement and trigger warnings/content notes.
Part 2: The banality of trigger warnings
Part 3: Exposing the true nature of exposure therapy
Part 4: A strange hill to die on

Content note: this post talks about dentists and dental procedures in detail, as well as PTSD and rape.

“It’s going to have to come out,” the dentist said, and my brain squawked fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

One of my wisdom teeth had done what wisdom teeth tend to do, and grown in at a decidedly funny angle, meaning that whenever I chewed, talked or smiled, it would scrape against the inside of my mouth, causing regular mouth ulcers. I’d sucked it up and dealt with the pain, because, to be quite blunt, I was quite terrified of having to have the thing taken out. I’d heard horror stories about wisdom tooth extractions, and had hoped against hope that maybe my own gob would behave itself.

The dentist couldn’t just yank it there and then, because he didn’t have his instruments of torture to hand, so I had a week to prepare myself.

I read everything I could on wisdom tooth extraction in that week. I learned about exactly what the procedure would entail, what each step would feel like. I swotted up on aftercare, and what I might end up doing wrong and how to do it right. I looked at pictures of all the tools that would be used and where exactly they would be rammed into my poor fucked-up mouth, because I knew there was no way I’d be able to ask the questions I had during the procedure itself.

When the day came, I was prepared, and I went through with something I’d thought I might not be able to. I wasn’t even particularly scared. It all went exactly to the script. Afterwards, it healed perfectly, because I knew what I needed to do–and more importantly, why.

It’s not an experience I’d care to repeat, and I hope anything else that decides to grow in my mouth has the decency to point in the right direction. But it wasn’t traumatic.

*

When I was old enough to have my adult teeth, but still young enough to think strange things, I had my first scale and polish at the dentist. I’d had no idea he was going to do that to me, and I assumed it was some sort of punishment for me not flossing diligently enough.

The scale and polish was a huge factor in me going to the dentist as infrequently as possible, just about often enough to maintain my NHS patient status.

A few years ago, my old dentist–the uncommunicative grump who pulled my wonky wisdom tooth–retired and I got a new one. He was about my age, so must have been quite recently-qualified, with his patient sensitivity training still fresh in his mind. Every single thing he did throughout the dental checkup, he told me in advance what he was going to do, and how it might feel. He told me that if I wanted him to stop, I should raise my hand.

Just the knowledge that I could ask him to stop if it hurt, and knowing what he was going to do and when, was enough. I’m a little less dentist-avoidant now. It’s not exactly something I relish, but it’s not traumatic.

*

I’ve spent 500 words talking about dentists because people find the principles of giving a warning in advance far easier to agree with when one talks about matters of the body–even the body as it interacts with the mind. There’s no objections when you talk about getting a week to prepare yourself before you have a tooth pulled. So why are there objections over giving people who have survived trauma a little bit of a heads-up so they can better ready themselves?

Ultimately, that is all the trigger warning/content note is. It’s a flag which says, be prepared. There’s an asteroid field ahead, captain, engage coping mechanisms!

For me, when I see a trigger warning, sometimes it’s not particularly relevant to me, so I ignore it. Sometimes it is relevant to me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll disengage completely: I’ll make sure I’m in a place to engage. For me, this involves making sure I’m not caffeinated, because a kick of anxiety in combination with caffeine easily translates into a full-blown panic response. If I’ve had a coffee, I might wait an hour before engaging.

That’s the thing with trigger warnings: most survivors don’t simply avoid–they have the advance knowledge to do what they have to do. One survivor might open up a tab with a game they find distracting to play after they’ve read a blog post with a trigger warning. Another survivor might make sure she watches a television show in the strong, comforting arms of her girlfriend after hearing it contains a rape scene. One survivor might start practicing the resilience building affirmations he learned in therapy on a daily basis once again before throwing himself into the rape scene in the set text. Another survivor might steel zerself by taking a beta blocker before ze goes to a class that ze has been warned will be discussing rape.

Each survivor has a unique set of coping mechanisms, but each can only do these things with a bit of advance knowledge. It’s more than a simple choice of engaging or disengaging: it empowers people to choose how they engage.

The debate on trigger warnings has been absent of decent evidence: this is because there’s little to show they’re either helpful or harmful–instead, what we mostly have is anecdotes. Therefore, the question becomes mostly a political one.

Over the next few days, I’ll be looking a little bit more at both the politics and the extant evidence with trigger warnings, particularly looking at the conflation of random exposure with controlled exposure. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at if it’s really so simple, why does everyone lose their shit?

Part 2: The banality of trigger warnings

__

This series was made possible by my patrons on Patreon, who give me the motivation to keep on writing. If you found this series helpful, please consider becoming a patron.

An open letter to the Belfast abortion snitches

Content warning: this post discusses abortion and police, and mentions domestic violence and suicide.

Dear snitches,

I read your piece of remarkable self-justification for the unforgivable in the Belfast Telegraph and I am shaking with fury. Your housemate was just 19 years old, so young and in a difficult situation. She was forced to buy pills from the internet to induce an abortion, because she couldn’t afford to hop on a boat or plane across to the rest of the country, where she could have accessed the medical care she needed. Because of your actions, she is a convicted criminal who could be sent to prison on a whim of any old judge with an axe to grind.

You know this, of course, and you chose to do this to punish her, because you are horrible people.

There, I said it.

Sorry, there’s nothing about this situation that doesn’t make you horrible people. In trying to explain why you did it, you’ve just made it even more obvious that you are horrible people, outright admitting that you did it because she didn’t show adequate remorse, and you have feelings about abortion which basically translate to you don’t think access medical care is something which should always be available to someone with a uterus.

You go on in sensationalist detail about how very traumatic you found your housemate’s abortion. Maybe that’s true. Abortion is not always a tidy business. However, I suspect your account is at least part fictitious: your description of the foetus does not match with what the physical evidence found was a 10-12 week foetus. Unless you have frankly microscopic eyesight you’re not going to be seeing it in the detail you describe. And furthermore, in another statement, one of you said that it was about four inches long: more than twice the length of a foetus at that point of gestation.

I’m not saying you’re lying maliciously (although you’re such horrible people, maybe you are). Human memory is a funny thing. It can be very easily modified without you ever knowing it’s happened. If you’re the sort of person who hates other people having control over their own uteruses, you’re probably quite a fan of anti-choice propaganda, where they like to show pictures of foetuses far later in gestation. Those little pieces of misdirection probably wormed their way into your subconscious and you thought that was what you’d seen on the night your housemate was driven to take drastic action and end her own pregnancy due to archaic laws in your part of the country. And I don’t know, maybe your boyfriend is a small-dicked liar which is why you said four inches when in reality it should be no more than two.

Anyway, because of the excesses in your descriptions of what you saw, I don’t believe a word you say about what happened that night.

Maybe you really were traumatised. It can be traumatic when someone you’re close to has a health emergency. I have epilepsy and I am achingly aware of how much worse my seizures are for other people who witness them than they are for me, because at least I have the luxury of being unconscious at the time. Thing is, your situation is different. You have absolutely no empathy for your housemate. None whatsoever. You didn’t help her in her time of need, because you felt she was to blame for what was happening. However traumatised you are about what you think you saw, it would have been much more traumatic for her: desperate and unable to seek medical help for something which needs to be done under medical supervision. If you’re traumatised by what you think you saw, imagine how much more traumatic it must be when that is happening to your own body. Oh wait, you can’t. Because you have no empathy. Because you’re horrible people.

What you did next is beyond cruel. You called the police on your housemate, because you didn’t like something you saw in the bin. Once, a (thankfully former) housemate of mine put some gone-off taramasalata in the bin. When I took the bag out, it split and pungent off-pink fish goo went all over my bare feet. It was gross and upsetting, and I cursed her name and that of all of her ancestors. I was absolutely furious. I didn’t call the fucking cops over it though.

No matter how pissed off you are at something someone else has done, no matter how much you disagree with it, you do not call the police on people. (There may be exceptions to this rule, e.g. in a domestic violence situation or if someone is about to kill themselves. Many people find police intervention even in these situations to be somewhere between useless to actively harmful, and a lot of the time an ambulance is a better bet)

Calling the police shows exactly what you are: horrible people with a desire to punish.

Your housemate made a terrible mistake. Not in self-inducing her abortion, but in trusting you enough to tell you what she was doing. Perhaps she was reaching out, and she didn’t want to suffer alone. Perhaps you had a good relationship before it. I don’t know why she would have trusted you enough to let you know, but I know if she hadn’t, she would not be considered a convicted criminal. Her options were essentially to go through the whole thing alone, or to trust others enough to talk to them. You betrayed her trust, her confidence. You threw it back in her face.

You know that in your part of the country, abortion is illegal and those who need it can face imprisonment. You know that your part of the country has laws which contravene basic human rights–and indeed, basic human decency. You know that Northern Ireland abortion laws are not designed to help, but rather to punish. Rather than feeling disgusted by that, you decided to take advantage of that fact and use this state of affairs to get revenge on a young woman who who made a dire decision.

There are no other words for it. You’re horrible people.

Seeing the anger within and outside your part of the country at what you set in motion gives me hope that perhaps soon these laws will not exist. And perhaps, up and down Northern Ireland, people realise just how important it is to not betray their friends. If someone has an abortion, they’ll show basic solidarity and keep their fucking gobs shut, no matter how much they disagree with a pal’s decision. Maybe they’ll go beyond that and offer help, support and empathy until your horrific abortion laws disintegrate. I hope you are the only people who are as nasty as to dob someone in to the police over something that in no way concerns them.

I wrote a much longer letter to you than I thought I would, but I am furious. I am angry at you, I am angry at your part of the country’s laws and I am absolutely livid that you would choose to throw someone at the mercy of those laws.

You, dear Belfast abortion snitches, are horrible people.

Fuck you,

stavvers

P.S. Anyone reading this may want to donate to Abortion Support Network’s Cover Her Costs campaign, giving people who need abortions in Northern Ireland the financial means to travel to where it’s legal for their care.

__

Note, added approximately an hour after publication: A friend has pointed out that a lack of empathy doesn’t always equal horrible person. I’d just like to echo and elevate this point, and apologise to neurodiverse people for the implication in my phrasing. What I used “empathy” to mean here was “compassion” or “kindness” or “caring about another human being’s welfare”–“empathy” is a loaded term and not necessarily the appropriate one. However, these Belfast abortion snitches are horrible people.