Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dear Twitter....

Let's have a talk.....

Things haven't been going well on here have they?.. don't interrupt just hear me out and then you can speak.

There have been some things said which in cold light of day we all regret If we try and unpick who said what to who (whom ?) it will take ages.

But rather than playing the big Twitter blame game and isolate and attempt to "destroy" more targets let's just try and remember one thing,

Life is shitty and it's short. More for some than others but no amount of wealth or fame can immunise anyone to that fact.

Some people are on Twitter for work some to play and some to do both. But most people are here to find a distraction from all that

The thing is it's not working and instead of finding yet another "culprit" we have to look at our own choices and seriously rethink them.

All of us need to do that not just those deemed untouchable on here for whatever reason some people have determined.

So before you pass on that next bit of gossip, which is bound not to be true, before you send that hate filled tweet before you rally a mob


Just consider what it feels like to be the target. Imagine that the person you are sending it to is a person just like you.

We all have the same needs and wants. We all have sorrows and woes. We all love and we all lose and we all fall. Every single one of us

No matter how much pain or anger or frustration or resentment you feel it will pass. Causing pain to anyone (because of your own pain) is no justification to do harm.

So that's all really. We all know that Twitter is just a popularity contest. There is a reason why there is a follower count.

Imagine for a moment that there is a unkind tweet counter instead. Think how many unkind things you've said and decide not to do it again.

Just an idea, just a thought, but I'll stop talking now.

 If I have hurt anyone I'm truly sorry and I definitely won't do it again.

Love Nik x

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Same "old" joke.

'Old ladies' are a staple of comedy from mother in law gags to Catherine Tate’s sweary nan they are an intrinsic part of the comedy tool bag.

There is a vein of humour to be mined and there is as ever the no rules theory but what passes for humour is very much in the eye of the beholder and when it crosses a line, then that is at least open to challenge.

That’s why reading the Tweets of 50shadesofGran made me wince then fume and then cry because as their bio proudly states they offer

“Retirement home erotica for the “specialist enthusiast”. 

I see.

Oddly I'd seen their account through Ricky Gervais's Twitter timeline. His show "Derek" takes place in a retirement home. Although he doesn't appear to have retweeted them it's about as far removed from his Kindness is Magic idea as it's possible to get. In his show the elderly are dignified and their stories are told with gentleness and fondness.

I like the concept of kindness is magic. Having cared for my mum during her decline into Alzheimer's I've fumed at the increasing coldness towards the elderly in the UK.Often referred to as "bed blockers" by our government and neglected and ignored by too many, I like to think that kindness really is something that can be propagated.

That's why I find 50shadesofGran so disappointing because it's everything that kindness isn't. It's just a good long laugh at one joke.

50shadesofGran is not without it's other celebrity supporters.  It’s mainly innuendo with the occasional  photo of a toothless  elderly man and the tagline “fit as Fuck” thrown in for added "laughs". The joke supposedly is “he’s old, he’s toothless, he’s unattractive” so let's laugh a bit more and add “fit as fuck” because he obviously isn’t by that Twitter feeds reckoning.

The thing is, what ultimately is the point, other than to mock and make repeatedly the tired old joke that old people interested in sex is ridiculous.

Worse and somewhat darker is that it seemingly fits with the worst aspects of sexual abuse of elderly people which is something people just don’t want to think about much less recognize.

One of their fan Rt’s makes a joke about an old woman’s breasts hitting the floor. “Hilarious”? truly? Who doesn’t find the idea of old breasts "hilarious"? Probably quite a lot of old women, but who cares about them, because this is about humour which is a law unto itself.

Everyday sexism still applies to elderly women in fact it’s more important because sexual abuse of elderly women often receives no sentence, especially in the case of dementia because of lack of 'credibility' of the witness due to their mental incapacity through illness.

But that’s too serious of me. Let’s keep it light and funny because humanizing  the target of these jokes is picking apart the joke and the joke is allegedly funny not to be stamped on by "PC gone mad" people like me.

The thing is it all contributes to a culture where dehumanizing is on the rise. Whether on the grounds of disability, or sexuality, race or ethnicity, ageism, although popular, is just as worrying. (You can't laugh at anyone these days eh?) 

I challenged the account and naturally had my objections discounted. Nobody likes to have their jokes challenged whether about rape or racism or sexism or homophobia but its important to me. Jokes like this all come from the same fertile breeding ground essentially. Point, laugh move on.

Because if your humour  it’s predicated on the ‘hilarious’ notion of elderly people being a justifiable target then it negates the notions of them having  rights equal to the rest of us.

The innuendo aspect was also troubling in the aspect of elderly people because its 'hilarity of mistake', isn’t that funny when framed within sexual abuse. It's for the very reason of confusion that many women with dementia become targets to sexual predators. It is exactly the same thing as child abuse and I would challenge a “parody” of that too.

The claim leveled at my challenge was that I simply didn’t get the joke. I got the joke it just isn’t very funny to me.  It’s a simplistic notion which will be laughed at loudest by those who devalue and  dehumanize people, any people and when we allow this for some, but not others we enable a pattern of discrimination which ends with abuse.

The particularly worrying aspect was the mentioning of Dr’s. That’s often how sexual predators get the trust of elderly women. They pretend they are Dr's. Vulnerability on the grounds of dementia is heartbreaking.

Parody should always be about taking down the powerful not ridiculing the vulnerable.

Shouldn't we punch up with comedy not down? Against oppressor or rapists or those in power decimating the lives and life chances of others?  There are people more than happy to actually punch  elderly men and women every day for real.

Not everyone who reads the timeline will agree, many people will find it funny. Which is as it should be this isn't a call for a ban. It's just a call for a pause to reflect on why mocking humour is so necessary to so many.

Some people find laughing at the target of rape jokes and paedophilia funny too. Others like racist, or misogynistic jokes others laugh a lot at homophobic and transgender jokes.

I don’t understand any humour which targets people for things they can’t help.

Being old is one of them.  If the best you can offer is tired,  “toothless blo-job gags” please don’t expect anyone to think you truly care about the declining fate of the elderly in this country.  Please be funny we need as much humour as possible but deeming challenge as humourlessness is predictable and boring.

Interestingly the owner of the page was pretty offended by my swearing which is ironic. Whilst robustly defending both their own right to anonymity and their assertion that I'm the one with the problem.

Laughing at people is the fastest way to demonstrate contempt. There is much written too about rape culture and I feel that humour like this, must recognise it’s part.

When were all busy laughing loudly at “old People having sex” then we really aren’t noticing how far we’re staring to slide in terms of acceptance in my opinion. Jokes are one way to distance ourselves from the harsh realities of life and consciously or unconsciously on the part of the timeline writer jokes like those form part of a bully’s toolkit.

Let’s not give them any more ammunition. Yeah ,yeah it’s just a joke, I know that, as I say who doesn’t like a laugh eh? Not a call for a ban, just a request as ever to consider that in the “it’s only a joke love” world of ours, it’s more often than not those with all life’s advantages framing the rules.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Abortion on the grounds of disability is a matter of choice.

This morning on Sunday Morning live they asked the question “Should abortion on the grounds of disability be banned?”

My answer to this is no. Jonathan Bartley and other campaigners who are also parents of disabled children spoke strongly in favour of the human rights of disabled people and the debate covered the topic well, except for one salient fact which I think was missed.

Why should the perceived rights of the unborn outweigh the human rights of the living?

The issue of living disabled people was completely conflated with the rights of an unborn fetus with a disability. To the extent that beautiful photos of one campaigner's daughter with downs syndrome, were placed on screen. She is a living child, no one with any decency would not want her to be here.

I felt that this use of photo’s played emotionally into the hands of the religious right who are making far too many trips into the business of personal choice as it is.

I tweeted about it. “A uterus carries a foetus, a pram carries a baby” 

Language such as “baby” and “child” are key ones in the anti-choice tool box and are deliberately emotive because it makes a claim that  termination is killing a child, not ceasing the activity of rapidly dividing cells.
It is making a decision not to become a parent and whatever grounds this heartbreaking decision is made upon,  it is one entirely and solely for those directly affected.

The aspect of disability and abortion is taboo because it challenges notions of acceptance and disenfranchisement of disabled people. It suggests they are less than and deserving of eradication. This isn’t the case. 

Deciding not to parent a child if you feel you can't cope, because they have a disability is a responsible thing to do. 

Not because there 'shouldn’t be disabled people', but because if you don’t think you can meet the challenges of parenting a child with a disability before they are born, you will be broken by the challenges when they arrive.

A child must be loved and must be wanted. A disabled child needs a thousand times that level of commitment. I know this because of my daughters.

I love my children to distraction but the truth of parenting a child with highly complex needs is a very harsh reality indeed. Not all disabled children are non violent and I’ve had several bones broken as a carer. The costs are huge and the sacrifices are endless. Everyone knows the challenges carers face and everyone knows we are supposed to remain stoic and silent and keep on saving money for the country. There is little support and less understanding and if you want to know how much carers get in terms of government support it’s about £40 a week.

I calculated that the costs of me caring for both of my girls was approximately £180,000 per year.

I think on average I slept for about 4 hours a night until last September when my daughter had to go into a residential school after refusing school, respite or even to leave the house. Her behaviours of distress were intense.

You do it for love and you keep doing it when all hope and mental strength is gone. You fall into a spiral of belief that no one will help you and no one does. Over stretched social services departments are under resourced and over worked and then the hatred when you leave the house is unrelenting.

Some campaigners and activists are suggesting that termination on the grounds of disability is in fact Eugenics.

It isn’t. Enforced abortion would be Eugenics but there are many like me who would fight any suggestion of that tooth and nail.

Abortion in this regard I feel is simply about recognising and evaluating your own choices as a living person, appreciating your limits and deciding, responsibly that you will not be able to manage the inherent challenges.

Ultimately the rights and freedoms of women are being eroded on the issue of abortion. If you decide to terminate, on the grounds of disability or not, that’s choice. If you try and enforce that decision upon others, through legislation, that’s scary.

I love my children and my calling for a protection of choice for women in no way impacts on my love for them. I campaign on disability issues and hate crime against disabled people. I choose to campaign for the living, not for the unborn and that encompasses living women trying to make difficult and heartbreaking choices.

Making a responsible choice does not encroach upon disabled people or disability rights in anyway and forcing women to carry to term an unwanted child will cause deep distress for the woman and result in placing that child in the care system notoriously lacking in adoption rates of disabled children as it is.

The parents may decide they feel duty bound to care for their child. They may feel a overwhelming sense of responsibility and love but even if this is the happy outcome it must be recognised that the divorce rate for parents of children with a disability is higher than the national average.

The woman contemplating an abortion may not be in a relationship. This enforced pregnancy on the grounds of disability will mean that she must care for the child entirely alone. Extended family and friends peter away to virtually nothing in many cases.  This additional isolation is devastating.

I felt it and I’m married.

There are already too many stories of women so broken by raising a disabled child in a society, which does not meet the needs of disabled people and carers, that they take the harrowing decision to kill their child and kill themselves.

These are not scare tactics like the myth propagated by anti-choicers like a “fetal scream” these are the realities of life.

The fact is these are all factors to weigh up when making an informed decision and an informed choice. No woman must lose that right to choose and no amount of choice of when to become a parent impacts on the human rights of disabled people. 

We must fight the horror of Eugenics ; this isn’t that.

It’s detailing that the human rights of living people shouldn’t be eroded by perceived rights of those yet to be born. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Equality and other things

Me as a baby at Chester Zoo. I can't even sit in a pram properly

Equality is an interesting thing when you break it down. Fighting for equal approaches is fraught and lonely and takes a lot of energy.

If I had any advice for people starting out it would be this. If you want an easy life don’t do it the way I did.

I’m saying this because I’m reflecting a lot abut my time as an online campaigner for many reasons. A revelation at home and a 'foolish' attempt at trying for a job. What was I thinking? I’m a woman and I’m old and I’ve been a housewife and carer for twenty years. Not great CV building but as I love the people in my life it was a worthwhile trade off to me. Not to the three people on my interview panel though. Project management doesn’t mean being a carer. They should try it, then we’ll talk.

So I guess I was thinking many things but the point of this blog is in respect to the difficulties I have experienced which can best be summed up not as ‘what’ but as ‘how’ was I thinking?

I suppose I was thinking like a man.

Let me explain.

Men in my experience don’t face the same checks and balances as women do. They don’t have to be anything other than as they are. Society is framed around notions of masculinity as positive and feminine as negative. Just look at the Virginia Wade airbrushing currently and you learn a great deal.

I’ve been attacked and verbally abused but the sad fact is all women are. The misogyny rife on social media doesn’t need my detailing of it here. If you’re a woman of any profile even one as tiny as mine, you’ll know.

The point is I believe myself to be equal to everyone. That’s the problem because this makes me a “total bitch”. The strength of believing myself to be equal to everyone means that I also believe everyone is equal to me and the Queen and A list Hollywood superstars, and homeless people.

However to many this isn’t the case.

I’m not clear I’m ‘outspoken’, I not balanced I’m ‘manipulative’, I’m not detailing the facts of our lives I’m ‘going for the sympathy vote’.

It’s not just sexism, I am a nightmare because I like fairness. I really am a nightmare about fairness. Because It's not very common.

I was raised by my Mum to believe myself equal and so I’ve always behaved that way. I was told by a teenage boyfriend to stop “trying to be funny it’s embarrassing” again not something you’ll hear many men accused of, but quite telling in it’s inherent sexism and confidence of delivery.

I think I’m funny but there I go again. I think therefore I am you might say.

This belief in myself is "very challenging", I’m told. It’s certainly led to rape threats. Which is after all the last bastion of articulate debate. Even saying the words "very challenging"  will raise the heckles of people reading this because we are pre-programmed to believe a woman who describes herself in anything straying from heavy doses of self deprecation, must be slapped down. Why is that I wonder. British thing? Cultural? Societal? I dunno.

The thing is, I know of no other way to be. Many men in my experience would never even begin to contemplate a different way to be, because they simply don’t have to. The wheels don’t tend to fall off their wagon if they are.

Their boundaries are not mine and they are not most women’s.  Men may have other societal pressures but they don’t include a responsibility to have a child, to be beautiful, to be thin and not to age. The pressures may be beginning to filter through to men but they are utterly entrenched in a womans psyche from birth.

Good men, great men don’t bother with this view of women but good and great men tend not to pre-dominate on social media sadly. They are in the minority and “loudmouthed” women like me are made aware of them everyday.

If you met me you’d know that I’m quieter than the person you see on Twitter. I’m as angry about some things, but I tend to listen in person more than I speak. Unless I’m nervous.  

I'm very keen on loyalty.There isn’t much of that in the popularity contest of life, but it’s so incredibly powerful and life affirming. It’s the rock of all things because it’s about making a connection and knowing it will endure. To stand beside someone else, to let them know you are beside them, is a real gift.

Twitter isn’t about listening as much as it’s about speaking and for this reason it’s been vital in highlighting issues which are otherwise ignored. The down side of the written word is that it’s flat, wide open to misinterpretation and nuance-free.

There is also a high expectation. Certain issues are still taboo as many people, seeing the career potential are learning to “play the game” . I’m filter-less unfortunately for me.  I think it’s great because I like honest people, but even as I write this I realise that describing myself as honest will draw howls of derision. But that’s democracy for you.

I also change my mind when the facts change. 

Identify what you want and what you can stand. Being yourself on social media marks you out. It was always worth it to me, because at 47 I’m too old to try to change but it’s truly not for everyone.

I’m just a 'girl' standing in front of a 'boy' suggesting equality, which seems quite reasonable to me.

If you think you can stand it then definitely do it. I don’t regret anything except wearing pointed shoes when I was a teenager. 

“They” will bully you, they will it’s a fact but fuck it. It will bring you low and make you depressed it certainly did me, but I fought back with exercise and taking breaks. Exercise is as beneficial as taking a low dose anti-depressent, that's why it worked for me.  

If the bullying gets to you, it's probably best not to mention it like I did though. People don’t like that.

If you do, know this, there will be people great people, kind people, who will come to your defence. They are fucking amazing.

Once you realise that social media is just a big popularity contest and that 'stepping out of line' gets you ignored and whispered about, then there is a way to overcome it. 

The trick is just not to mind. Truly. If you just pretend it isn’t happening then it really isn’t happening.  You’ll be loathed for a while, then loved for a while then loathed again for a while, then ignored. 

But you’ll get stuff done and that is what really matters.

Finally because it’s important I need to say how much I love and value the great men I know. On social media and in life. I need to say this because in saying all of the above I’m being all ‘man-hatey’. It’s not a comment on men as much as it is a comment on patriarchy, but people find discernment tricky at times, so it’s useful to clarify. There are a lot of sexist women out there. A lot.

But men who choose not to be a dick when the environment makes it so easy, almost obligatory to be a dick, are fucking amazing.  Love them.

Anyway I think I’ve rambled now. To sum up don’t be like me if you want an easy life, or realise that life isn’t easy anyway and just do your thing.

Also eat chocolate. It really helps :0) xxxx

Saturday, 6 July 2013

What Katie did.

So you’ve all seen it, or at last check more than 7 million of us had seen it. The moment when Katie Hopkins decried the first names of children as it places them in a bracket, which determines, in her opinion, badly parented children. That is a generous summary of her words.

If you haven’t seen it it’s here 

Katie has a chequered career in terms of what is referred to as “outspoken opinions” This label is applied more usually to women than to men.

Brendan O’Neill favours it and it is most rewarding when applied to the dual functions of PR and career goals. This is an anecdotal reference. There is no science applied here, it just always seems to me rather like the adult equivalent of a toddler in meltdown, learning that if he or she screams long enough and loud enough this will reap rewards.

Negative attention when you receive no attention, will suffice.

It’s not necessary for me to highlight all of the many flaws in Katie Hopkins theory of status and names, behaviour and class. These thoughts are being sensibly broached and discarded widely across social media and actual media spectrum. 

They just make no sense. Comments on Twitter range from outraged to amused but in terms of the facts of the matter, writers such as Caitlin Moran and Ricky Gervais (both tweeting their thoughts) prove that irrespective of a million "Hopkin's theories of nonsense", background is no barrier to attainment, talent and wealth.

Rather more, we need to look to ourselves and the many thousands who are following Hopkins in, I suppose, a rubbernecking mentality of what will she say next?

In Katie's case it was to make personal comments about Caitlin Moran, which is as predictable as it is dull. Go big or go home Katie and if you can’t match, or best her wit, personal attack really is no substitute.

Katie’s comments may be shocking to many but for me as the parent of children with autism they really aren’t at all new.  Inclusion brings many good things but if you think having a name is a problem to some, then try having a condition which is actually different. Man you quickly learn then what it means to be singled out and bullied.

As a parent with children who have autism, I’m most of all saddened by Katie's comments because not only do they indicate the type of commenting her children must hear on a daily basis but that ultimately her children will have to pay the price for their mother's verbal ambition.

Because if anyone thinks they will not be bullied because of this, they’re wrong. Nothing impacts on education more than being bullied; nothing marks you out for bullying more than being "different" and nothing marks you out as different, more than having a parent who everyone hates.

Is being "Hatey Katie" really so lucrative?