Here’s why I’m not about to argue with you on Twitter!

Hello! Did I just send you this link? Are you trying to have an argument  a “discussion of our opinions” on Twitter?

Then this post is for you, my friends!

I don’t have arguments “discussions of opinions” on Twitter. This is why:

  • You can’t make a point in 140 characters. So I’m not about to try.
  • You probably have an inaccurate view of the world, such as “all poor people are scroungers” or “disabled people should just try harder” or “men have it hard too!” or similar.
  • I do not have the time or energy to explain any of the following to you over Twitter:
    • Feminist theory
    • The social housing allocation system
    • The welfare benefit system
    • Various models of disability.
  • It is not my job to educate you on any of the above. If you want to know about it you can go out and find out about it, just like I had to.* In fact, there’s some info about that stuff here on this very blog!
  • In order to explain why your view is incorrect would require way more than 140 characters and requires you do stuff like read things. Which you either a) can’t be bothered to do or b) think you’re correct about anyway.
  • You feel your opinion overrides my real life experience and knowledge. It doesn’t, it never will. I know you find that hard to accept, but you’ll get there.
  • But, I’m 99.9% sure that you have no interest in doing any of the above because all you want to do is tell me how poor people are scroungers/women are all man-hating feminazis/welfare benefits are ruining this country or similar. In which case I’ll probably just laugh at you for a while until I get bored and go off to find something more entertaining to do.

*this does not include any of the following sources: The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Express, http://www.poorpeoplearescroungers.com, your mate who knows this bloke whose next-door neighbour got a house for free and she gets £30,000 a year and doesn’t work, Katie Hopkins, Jeremy Kyle


Adventures in PIP: the DWP is exhausting.

On September 21st 2015 I had a letter telling me my Personal Independence Payments had been stopped after my re-assessment. On 12th October, I put in a written request for mandatory reconsideration of my claim.

I called the DWP last week, a month after I’d sent the letter. They found it on their system, and the person I spoke to on the phone told me they’d basically forgotten about it. It had been scanned and entered, and then left.

Today I called again. The decision still hasn’t been made. This time I was told it could take up to nine weeks for a decision. Which is halfway through December. Just shy of three months after my PIP was stopped.

In this time, surprisingly, I have not magically become better. I have not adapted to life without PIP because, funnily enough, I kinda need it. My extra financial requirements have not disappeared. But now I don’t have the cash to meet them.

My PIP paid for my weekly gentle yoga classes that helped me move and got me out of the house. It paid for a bus, it paid for me to park the car. It paid for me to use the local Shopmobility services when I went out. As a result of me losing my PIP our ESA payments also went down. This means I now cannot afford the yoga class, or transport, or much of anything really for the moment. Losing my PIP – albeit only temporarily, I hope – has meant I’ve lost a lot of my independence. I cannot afford to get out the house. I cannot afford to go to places and meet people. This is how people become isolated – it takes sick and disabled people more energy than most to get out the house in the first place. If they’re constantly worrying about if they can afford to, that’s not going to help.

I’ll be alright – I know how to fight this and if it goes further and I have to appeal, well, I can do that. But it’s not fun, and it’s not easy, and I’m ill and I’m tired. How am I going to make myself “work ready” if I have to spend all my very limited energy fighting for the basic stuff I need to be able to live my life? Removing essential money from sick and disabled people doesn’t make them more likely to succeed, it won’t make them more motivated to go out and work. In fact, it is doing just the opposite. We’re all very tired of fighting.


Boiling point: when marching isn’t enough.

We like a good protest. Y’know, as long as it doesn’t get too rowdy. In the last five years I myself have been on two national protests, March for the Alternative and A Future That Works. We stood with thousands of people, waved our signs, shouted some stuff, went to Hyde Park where people said stuff on a stage, we all cheered, we all got on our buses and trains and went home.

The general public like an organised protest. They like it when people march and say “we’re cross!”. They’re not so fond of it when it gets “out of hand”. Case in point: the student protest from a few years ago. The London riots. Maybe it’s because we’re British. We don’t like to make a fuss. We’re good at asking nicely, we don’t like conflict and we tut at people who are too emotive in expressing their anger. We’re less “¡Viva la Revolución!” and more “Down with this sort of thing”.

I find it very difficult to know where to draw the line. The one thing I can categorically say is that while these marches have demonstrated the force of feeling behind the country’s situation, no-one with any clout is taking a blind bit of notice. We are given our allotted space and allotted time to shout and then it’s done. This method is not working.We can gather in London and hear people speak until we’re all collectively blue in the face. Nothing is changing. In fact, it’s getting worse. Which means people are getting angrier, and organised marches are not going to cut it any more.

The news media love a good protest, and they love it when it all kicks off as they have the chance to play the same 5 second loop of someone with a scarf over their face throwing something at a police officer, while talking to experts about how it’s always a few bad ones that ruin it for everyone else and isn’t it a shame. How everyone was having a lovely time until these angry people spoiled it.

Thing is, protests aren’t meant to be a nice day out. A lot of the time they *are*, but they’re meant to convey a nation’s feelings about something they feel is an injustice. They are meant to put pressure on people with power until things change. This isn’t happening. And the worrying thing is, when people feel they aren’t being listened to, they get angrier, and more frustrated. And then when the news media tell them their anger is bad, that they were wrong, then they get even angrier.

I wonder where the boiling point will be. I wonder what happens when you have an angry populace who now figure they’ve got nothing left to lose. Whatever happens, it ain’t gonna be pretty.


Where do we go from here?

The dust is beginning to settle, and everyone’s looking around slightly shell-shocked and wondering where to go and what to do next.

First, take a breath. Also I recommend a cup of coffee. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have five years to try and get things changed, we can’t all exhaust ourselves in the first two months.

Second, take a look at the #wecantmarch hashtag on Twitter. Sick and disabled people (as well as anyone who, for whatever reason, is unable to physically march) are creating an online space of protest to match the physical movement of people. Feet on the streets is brilliant and a very effective way of showing the strength of anger but not everyone can do it. So what can we do? Here are some ideas.

  • Read. Educate yourself. Learn about poverty, inequality, austerity and injustice. Learn why this is bad, so you can give educated and informed answers to people, as well as yourself. There are so many books out now around these subjects – you may not agree with all of them, but knowing why you disagree with something is just as important. Visit your local library, if you live in Bristol I heartily recommend Books for Amnesty on Gloucester Road as they have an extensive amount of books on these issues for a few quid each. If reading is a problem, have a look through Audible and see what audiobooks you can find. You can also get audiobooks from your library, either in physical form or electronic. Read.
  • Find your interest. We cannot all be experts on everything. The state of the country is complex and brings into play a lot of different issues. While you can be reasonably informed about most of them, you cannot know everything about all of them. Find the issues that you feel most strongly about, or maybe one that you already know about as you’ve worked in the field or studied it before. For me, it’s youth work. I’ve worked as a youth worker for ten years and I’m doing my MA in it – I like to think I know what I’m talking about. Know what your speciality is, and don’t be afraid to link people to other websites of people who have specialities different from your own.
  • Pick your battles. The internet is a busy place. People argue everywhere. You do not have to argue with all of them. We have a limited amount of energy. There will be people who will not listen to your point of view, and to spend time trying to convince them is a waste of your energy. It’s ok to say “I am not getting into this right now, bye.” Also, as a rule, Facebook and Twitter are terrible places for arguments on the internet (with exceptions, of course).
  • Write. This one usually happens on its own after you’ve been doing the above for a while. Writing is a good thing. Sharing information you know, giving a space to put forward a clear argument (rather than trying to do it in 140 characters) and a place to write down the frustrations you feel. It also means you have a space you can point people to when you get into aforementioned Twitter arguments.
  • Do something else. This is important. Campaigning and protesting is essential, especially now, but you have a life and health to think of and they should always come first. Take some time out. Spend an evening watching a film, go for a coffee with a friend, binge-watch some Netflix. Give your brain and soul a break every now and again. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Keep informed, keep active, but most importantly keep safe. Be angry, but look after each other. Be motivated but don’t exhaust yourself. Keep fighting.


Be angry.

It’s a sad, but I suppose not wholly unexpected, morning. At this point it’s almost certain that the Conservative Party will be governing the country for another five years. We all know what this means for the poor, the sick and disabled and the vulnerable. We know what this means for the NHS, education and welfare. The poor will get poorer, people will die, foodbanks will get busier and the rich will get richer.

So, this is when we really start the fight. We’ve campaigned and marched and shouted for five years and no-one listened. We need to make a louder noise. We need to get in the way. We need to make it very clear that we will not put up with this for the next five years.

Your MP is your elected representative in government. Make sure they know what you think. Government doing something you don’t like? Tell them how you think they need to vote. Even if your MP is the Toriest of Tories, tell them. Go and see them, write to them, make a noise. And tell everyone else you know to do the same.

Protest. Shout. Make your voice heard. Refuse to be silent. The media will put the disenfranchised against the poor, the sick against the homeless. They will tell people that you are scum, that you are not worth it, that you need to be quiet, that you deserve it. Do not listen to them. Be loud, be cross and be angry.

If we have to do another five years of this, we will fight. Don’t take it lying down.


This is what a feminist looks like: rich, skinny and white.

I have a great passion that feminism should be for all women. I’ve even written about it before. Feminism must be intersectional.

Last week, ELLE, Whistles and the Fawcett Society bought out a new t-shirt bearing the often-used Fawcett Society t-shirt slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. The t-shirt sells on both the Whistles website and the ELLEUK website for £45. It’s a charity t-shirt, which means all of that £45 goes the the Fawcett Society. Funnily enough, selling a designer t-shirt on a high-end clothing website brings with it a few issues! Whoulda thunk it.

The first issue I’m just going to gloss over slightly because it really needs its own entry to cover all the problems but to be honest you’ll probably be able to work them out yourself anyway: They got Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to wear it. When I think of feminism, I do not think of, well, men for a start, but especially two of the most powerful white men in the UK who make a habit of being a destructive force to women.

The second issue is also handily mentioned in that BBC article (also handy because the only other one was a Daily Mail article and I don’t really want to link to the Daily Mail). There’s speculation at the moment that the t-shirts were made in a sweat shop in Mauritius by workers paid only 62p an hour. This is currently only speculation and the Fawcett Society put a response up on their website a couple of days ago.:

“We met with Whistles over the summer to discuss the t-shirt design and production and, upon querying, were assured that the garments would be produced ethically here in the UK. We also agreed that 100% of the profits would be donated directly to the Fawcett Society.

“Upon receiving samples of the range at our offices in early October we noted that the t-shirts had in fact been produced in Mauritius, upon which we queried (over email) the ethical credentials of the Mauritian factory, and the fabric used.

“We were assured by Whistles (over email) that the Mauritian factory:

is a fully audited, socially and ethical compliant factory…”

Now that worries me already – FS were told it was an ethical UK company when it suddenly appeared that it wasn’t. Regardless of the pay issue, this is a t-shirt being made by factory workers in an African country for well-off people in the west. This does not sounds like good, intersectional feminism to me so far. Having a poor woman make a t-shirt for you that she is unable to afford to buy herself, does not look like equality.

My final two points are more personal points. I am currently living on benefits, due to being chronically ill. I receive Personal Independence Payments and my husband and I get a joint ESA claim. This is enough for us to pay our bills, buy our food, keep our cats in cat litter and treats and maybe get the odd cheap DVD or book. This doesn’t leave very much room for me to buy a £45 t-shirt, even if all the proceeds go to a feminist charity. This feminism is clearly not for me – I cannot afford it. And if I can’t afford it, those who are even less well off than I am will certainly not be able to afford it. This is not a feminism for the low-paid, unemployed, sick women.

And finally, this t-shirt is sold up to a size L. According to Whistles website, a size L is size 14/16. The average size of women in the UK is a size 16. I myself am a size 20. There is no way this shirt would ever fit me. The feminism I believe in says that it doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, you still have rights. Apparently, I am too fat for this feminism.

So what does a feminist look like? It looks like a skinny, middle-class western woman. Who can afford to buy a £45 t-shirt.

 

 


It’ll get worse before it gets better.

There’s an election next year. Scary thought, especially given the political climate. UKIP, with it’s one-MP-that-was-a-Tory have every party wanting to pander to them.

It’ll get better, but I think it’ll get worse first. Here’s my back-of-a-fag-packet thinking about this.

Election happens next year. UKIP get some seats, the media will go MAD about it and it’ll be all over the papers for weeks. Someone will win, possibly the Tories (to be honest they’re the “most likely” to win out of the other three just because the Lib Dems really don’t have a hope any more and Labour are just being rubbish). UKIP will get LOADS of screen time during the run-up to the election because one of them will say we should bring back slavery and another one will say that women shouldn’t work and another one will do a Nazi salute or something but for UKIP, even bad publicity is publicity and the media will go on about it for days.

Meanwhile. Whichever party wins will basically end up bringing in the same policies. The dividing line between the three main parties is now so tiny it’s barely visible and we’ve almost got to the point where if you’re poor or unemployed or disabled or a mixture of all three then you’re going to be screwed, which ever party gets in. And because the media will have been shouting “UKIP!” for weeks, each party will feel they have to pander to them. It’ll get worse before it gets better.

However. At some point after the next election, people will realise it has gone too far. People who support UKIP don’t see the truth behind the propaganda they spew. Sadly, I think they’re going to have to come and show how awful they actually are before some people will see them for the nasty, misogynistic, racist party they are. And then people will realise, and they’ll get cross, and UKIP will eventually disappear like all the BNP/EDL groups that have come before them.

However. We should not accept that this is what will happen. We need to fight against it. It’ll be a hard fight, especially because it will consist of the people with least power fighting the people with the most power. Be political. Talk about political issues. Challenge people. It will be exhausting, but we just cannot lie down and be trampled on.

But I’m interested to hear what people think. Do you think it will happen this way? Am I being pessimistic? What are the chances of the country being a better place for the poor and disabled? Please leave your comments below.