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Bigotry and representation

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the following are notes I made before, and shortly after 2 panels I spoke on at WorldCon Dublin.  The sessions were titled: Bigotry is not allegorical, and Building inclusivity in Genre.  The examples I have are all onscreen depictions, and mostly in the Science fiction, Fantasy, and Horror genres, but some are not in those categories.

Race done badly

Game of Thrones (white saviour, black savages, black slaves)

Scott Pilgrim film (Knives character – anime stereotype, Scotts comments about dating diff race)

Avatar (white saviour)

Loqueesha (black stereotypes of loud dark black women, white men are victims etc)

Sherlock, especially Season 1, episode 2 (violent Arab, demure East Asian )

Dr Who (Every flipping thing about Martha Jones – see my post http://www.scififantasynetwork.com/why-i-stopped-watching-doctor-who-by/)

Race done well

Star Trek: Uhura (Original Series), Geordie La Forge (Next Generation), Sisko, Dr Bashir (Deep Space 9), Chakotay (Voyager), Michael Burnham, Philippa Georgiou (Discovery)

Fatness done badly

Thor in Avengers Endgame

Shallow Hal

Insatiable

Fatness done well

Steven Universe

Sexual orientation & Gender identity done badly

Sherlock (BBC) for Queerbaiting

IT Crowd (transphobia)

Sexual orientation & Gender identity done well

Lucifer (Bisexuality)

Torchwood (Omnisexual)

Caprica (Polyamory)

Lost Girl (Pansexual)

Mental Disability done badly

Split

Psycho

Night hunter 

Mental Disabilities done well

Star Trek Discovery – Ash Tyler PTSD

Star Trek First Contact – Captain Picard PTSD

The Punisher – Main and secondary characters – PTSD (including Combat PTSD)

Iron Man 3 – Tony Stark PTSD

 

For a much more detailed look at bigotry and marginalisation, see N.K Jemsin’s site: http://nkjemisin.com/2011/06/go-hollywood/

What saddened me was all the examples of mental disability done badly were for the same condition: Dissociative Identity Disorder (old name: multiple personality disorder). Alongside this, all the examples for this post are things that I identify with.  When marginalised identities are demonised; shown as dangerous, perverted etc, the viewer gets the message that this is “Just how things are.”  We should be able to separate fiction from reality, but when we see these examples time and again, many people outside of these groups tend to believe them.  Most, if not all representations of mental illness in fiction, non-fiction, news media etc paint us as dangerous to ourselves and others, when in fact the reverse is often true: we are more likely to be victims of crime than be perpetrators (this is especially the case when mass shooters who are white, are instantly branded with mental illness, as a way to shrink the issue down to individuals, instead of a toxic society that encourages white men to be or condone violence to others.

 

Heartbroken

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When I think about the majority of my romantic relationships with white people, they always betray me with racism.  Racism is the lover that is comfortable; always welcoming to them. This lover never asks questions or nags. Racism makes them feel good.

My ex partners didn’t have to throw slurs or bricks at me.  They only had to say nothing, do nothing when I was  bullied and discriminated against. They only had to create reasons why I couldn’t  meet their family and friends. They only had to learn how to recite, “I’m not racist. I’m with you!”

But I have learned that nobody can fuck their way out of racism. Nobody has the right to insist their partner explain in detail why this racist world chips away at them until only dust remains.

My heart passed them by on a puff of wind. They didn’t notice.

Mental health services are shit

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TW: Suicide, Suicidal ideation

If you’ve had to use mental health services in the UK, you’ll probably know this already.  I have several mental health diagnoses: depression has given me a whole heap of trouble, despite the fact it’s one of the minor mental health ailments I live with.

In January 2018 my doctor sent me to Casualty after I told her I was suicidal. I was referred to the Home Treatment team, and that was where the nightmare really began.  Over the course of a week, I was seen by 5 different people, most of whom hadn’t read any of my notes, so I had to start from the beginning with them.  Each one said they would return, or that I’d see a maximum of 2 people from the team.  That didn’t happen obviously.  What really made this all even more horrible was when I was seen by a black woman who ended up being very biphobic and queerphobic, and could hardly look at me after I spoke to her about how biphobia affected my life in a negative way.  To get this behaviour from a professional in my own home felt truly awful.

I was also encouraged to attend a support group at a day centre.  Again I was met with bigoted and racist views from a Clinical Psychologist who ran the group.  I finally wrote a complaint letter in February.  I met with 2 of the senior staff (one glared at me the whole time).  They said they would review how things were done, but nobody apologised.  In fact it was December 2018 before I got an apology from the head psychiatrist.  She told me she would get an Occupational Therapist and a Psychologist to contact me after the Christmas period.  I heard nothing until 4 months later, I phoned the mental health centre to discharge myself.  I had barely ended the call when I got an incoming call from the Occupational Therapist apologising for the long wait.  “Maybe you’ll think about staying with us,” she said.  “I’ve been thinking about this for 4 months, and the answer is no,” I replied.

I love the NHS, but when it comes to mental health, things are chronically bad.  There is no consistency of service, no awareness of multiple marginalisation, no LGBT+ training.  The only thing in abundance is the volume of lies I’ve been told.  There are no other services for suicidal adults in my part of London.  I can’t get seen by another borough on the NHS.  I have precisely zero options when it comes to this.  Being suicidal is bad, but the way I’ve been treated has magnified that into being intolerable.  These people are supposed to help, but they’ve made things far worse for me, and what tops it off is that the next time I’m suicidal, I’m supposed to go to Casualty where the only thing they can do is refer me to the same people who treated me like shit.cropped-tumblr_os67y3q7tk1qd3j1wo2_1280

White revenge TW: Rape, Racism

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You may or may not have heard about what the actor Liam Neeson has been up to lately.  A friend of Liam’s (a white woman) was raped by a black man.  When Liam found out, he admits he went out looking for a black man to kill. Link to Guardian article.

What Liam did was want to take revenge when the survivor of a terrible experience didn’t ask him to.  He took away her agency, using his anger to have revenge on all black men.  This is something I’ve seen an awful lot.  A white woman or girl is hurt by black men, and all black people, involved or not, must pay for that.  This is in stark reality to the higher numbers of women, femmes and girls of colour who are raped, abused and treated violently by white men.  Who goes after their rapists?  Who cares what happens to them?

Nobody does.

Sadly not even men of colour seem to care about the fate of black women and girls.  If you have a look at images for any Black Lives Matter protest when a Black man is brutalised, there will be massive crowds.  Now look at a protest when a black woman is brutalised.  It will be a hell of a lot smaller, if it happens at all (especially if that woman was a sex worker, trans, disabled, fat etc)

In the UK, the tale of white girls who were sexually abused by Muslim men in Rochdale is a terrible example.  Instead on focusing time and resources helping the girls to heal, the far-right and many other white men have used this to demonise Muslims everywhere.  It’s almost as if they don’t actually give a shit about the survivors of abuse.  If they did, they would take action on the high numbers of children sexually abused by men of all ethnicities (with white men topping that list of abusers).  They would make it feel safer for all victims and survivors to speak up.  But once again, white men have used their idea of white female fragility to fuel their need for violence against men of colour who hurt “one of their own”.

As a survivor of 2 decades of incest and sexual abuse, I know that my abusers were black men, black women, and white men.  I know nobody’s going to try to get revenge for me and what started when I was only three years old.  The thing is, I don’t want revenge.  Apart from the fact that it’s almost impossible – the major abuser (my dad) is long dead, and I never learned the names of the men in vehicles who my dad led me to in a car park on the outskirts of Epping Forest.  What I want is for there to be better support for people of all genders who survived incest, sexual abuse and rape.  I want white men in particular to donate to charities who help the most vulnerable survivors who are People of Colour, disabled, old, and hurting so much.

Keep your revenge.  It doesn’t do me any good – it just satisfies a lust for control that you crave.  I was never yours to start with anyway.

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Text reads:

WEIRDO ZINE FEST

A self-publishing fair for radical/marginalised makers.

FREE ENTRY

Saturday 9th February 2019.  12-5pm

Room 700, Leeds Central Library.

Image of person with back to us, wearing a jacket that says, “Femmes against Facism” on the back.

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TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of Sexual Assault and Abuse.  Transphobia, Victim blaming.

These are all my own experiences as a Survivor of physical & sexual abuse.

Holidays are rarely good for me.  Where other folk spend time with their families, I am left with solely bad memories of the people I grew up with.  Long before the rise of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, there has been a strong belief that women cannot be sexually abusive to others.  Women are seen as carers, nurturers, Victims, not perpetrators – if they are “bad” then it’s only ever as emotionally or financially abusive, never physically or sexually abusive.  People who readily believe me when I speak of the men in my old family, and how they hurt me, rarely believe me when I say similar things about my sister and her female friend or my mum.  Once I ran away from my old family, I’ve been pretty open about my experiences, but this refusal to even acknowledge women can be abusive, is incredibly painful and stops me sometimes from seeking help or sharing my experiences.  Acknowledging women can be sexually abusive isn’t a way to put women down or pass the blame: it’s a way of  believing survivors and what they say when they talk about painful things.

Something I read on Twitter recently made me despair: “Women can’t rape, because women don’t have dicks!”***  And other tweets along the lines of trans women are really men, hell bent on sexually abusing women and girls.  The fact that these kind of statements often come from other women, is the icing on the cake of wretchedness.

1: Men don’t have to pretend to be anything or anyone else in order to sexually abuse others; they will just do it if they want to.

2: Perpetrators of sexual abuse don’t need to have a dick, when they have fingers, bottles, handles of hairbrushes or anything else insertable.

3: Trans women are women. Some are abusive, and some are not, just like any type of human.

Transphobia only adds to the silencing and dismissal of survivors of sexual abuse, but this problem was there long before the addition of trans folk to the argument.  I’ve been called a liar for saying anyone in my family could be abusive, because “That doesn’t happen to black kids**”.  There is such a desperate push to mantain the narrative of abusers solely being men, that it railroads over the experiences that take such bravery to talk about in the first place.  I wish my mum and my sisters had not sexually assaulted*** me, but they did.  i wish I wasn’t forced to run away from my old family and everyone I knew, but I did.  and 26 years later, I wish I didn’t have to deal with people who deny and dismiss the things that almost cost me my life.  But I still have to.

** I gave this horrible quote as the title to my first zine, on surviving child abuse. https://writteninshadows.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/surviving-csa-zine.pdf 

*** In the UK, non-consensual sex between women is defined as sexual assault, not rape.  Other countries have different definitions, so please don’t generalise or use this as a way to derail survivors.  Whatever it is called, it’s still a terrible thing.  

A link to a few UK specific resources for survivors of all genders https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/rsa/rape-and-sexual-assault/support-for-victims-of-rape-and-sexual-assault/

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“Would you date a bisexual?”

Among the many insensitive questions I’d like to see disappear in 2019, this is in my top 10.  Firstly, it sets up the answer to be either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and when it comes to dating and romance, things are rarely this simple.  It also assumes that the person answering the question isn’t bisexual/pansexual themselves.  The way some of these questions are phrased are also leading: “Would you date a man who had sex with a man?”  The person asking this question is often looking for shock value; a reinforcement of their own ideas.  I’ve seen many youtube vids where this question is aimed at people assumed to be intolerant or bigoted.  Type the words, “Black bisexuality” into the search box of youtube, and you will find zillions of reactionary, depressing vids of black people, whether they are gay, lesbian or straight.  Tempers quickly flare at just the thought of dating a bi/pan person – how dare the interviewer even ask them such a thing?  Stereotypes abound, voices are raised, faces become twisted.  Bisexuals cheat; they spread sexually transmitted diseases, they can’t be faithful and will always want to be with another gender.  The potential for emotional and physical violence is evident in the disgust of many responses.  As a black bisexual person watching these videos, it makes me despair – having been out and open as bi for 25 years, these are the same responses I heard right at the very start.  So little has changed for bisexuals of colour.

Bisexuality and Pansexuality is about attraction to more than one gender: you can be bi/pan and a virgin/celibate/aromantic.  But to bigots, bisexuality is about having unsafe sex with as many people as possible, so that means they don’t deserve respect at even the most basic level.  The chances of the people answering this question, having dated/slept with/fallen in love with/been attracted to a bisexual person who was closeted, is pretty high, but their knee-jerk “NO!” ignores all that.  It lets the world know the responders aren’t that kind of person – sullied by any theoretical closeness to bi/pan people.

Would you date someone you were attracted to?  Would you be with someone you love, but many straight and gay/lesbian folks hate?  Would you accept that people who cheat or exhibit unsafe behaviour, come from all sexual orientations?  If the answer to the above three questions is YES, then I want to say THANK YOU for being an okay human being.