What is feminism?

Social media is fantastic in many ways. It’s also a great vehicle for bullying and attacking folk who truly did nothing wrong.

Okay, for those who don’t live in the Scottish Twitter bubble, let me fill you in. Last week a YES group held a meeting. On a cold night, midweek in late November, you would think turnout would be low, but I understand there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. I watched the video of the speakers and was very impressed with their different styles, but yet their shared passion. It was great to see the independence movement still had so much energy.

Now I understand it was an all male panel. Or as I was to later discover, a manel. Yes, that’s apparently what they’re now called. I myself questioned why this was, beforehand and I was told, that several women (17 to be exact) were asked but none were available. Okay, I thought. That seems fair enough. I truly thought that was the end of it.

But then the day after the event, I noticed women from all political backgrounds becoming really irrate about the fact that a YES group had the audacity to exclude women from the panel. Their anger was generally focused on one individual who spoke publicly for the first time and was genuinely chuffed with his accomplishment.

At first I ignored it. I mean, Twitter is full of spats, most of them resolved within a day. But then I noticed it wasn’t dying down, and more and more people seemed to be piling on. I dipped my foot back into the debate, and found the level of vitriol a bit shocking.

Before I am accused of being some sort of male apologist, let me say nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to believe we live in a very unequal society. Women are not even paid the same in many professions. But I don’t think singling out one independence event, which did publicly attempt to find female speakers, is in any way beneficial to further the cause for feminists.

I mean what is feminism anyway? We have female politicians like Ruth Davidson and Theresa May who belong to a party which has instigated a policy where women are penalised for having a third child unless that child was a result of a rape. How feminist is that as a policy? Does it make it somehow more acceptable because the leader of the party who implemented this cruel law has a vagina?

Then there’s an area where I have personal experience with. Being a single parent. Single mother to be exact. My ex husband resides outside of the UK, living and traveling all over the world. He sends money for our son, when and if it’s convenient for him. I have relentlessly attempted to pursue him for regular support, but the system largely just shrugs and says, ‘Well we can’t do much, if he’s outside of the UK.’ ‘Yeah, but he is back here periodically. Can’t you do anything then?’ ‘Well, do you have an address for him?’ ‘No.’ ‘Sorry, we can’t help you.’ So I go back to wondering how I am going to pay my rent and keep the heat on next month. This has been my life for the last few years now.

And not once, have I had a barrage of women come to my defence. Sure, I’ve had words of support and encouragement. Calling my ex ugly names, etc. But damn it, I wish just one person had said, you know what this system is really crap. We should collectively fight for single mothers being screwed over by their children’s dead beat fathers. Let’s all attack the system which continues to allow this.

No. It’s easier to attack a group of men who did nothing more than take time out to speak for Scottish independence.

I realise that this piece may anger people who I hold in high esteem. But I am tired of these battles in the name of feminism, which seem largely to not actually address the areas in which women truly are treated unfairly.

Walk a mile in my shoes, ladies. Let’s fight the real battles for feminism.

 

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Depression, you ugly beast

I suffer from depression. I have on and off for many years. That’s not to say I live in a perpetual state of doom and gloom, because I have had many years where I feel fine, great even. But now isn’t one of them.

This blog isn’t about why the black dog or ugly beast as I find a more appropriate term has entered my life and shows no signs of leaving. Anyone who reads my blog or knows me, probably understands the many triggers for my darkness at this time. No this is my attempt to explain depression to those who may have never experienced it before. I thought writing while I felt really low might help others understand that it’s a true illness just like any physical ailment. But unlike an acute physical affliction, depression can be hidden and often misunderstood. So here’s my experience.

I’m presently sitting in a rather dark room. Yes, there’s a light next to me which I can just easily lean over and switch on, but the greyness of the room feels more appropriate to my mood. Sometimes (and I know those who have never suffered from depression may not understand), but going through the process is therapeutic. I can’t tell you the enormous energy it takes to pretend you feel fine to the outside world. I’m alone right now, so I don’t have to feign normality to anyone just now.

Let me just say, I am not suicidal. So please don’t worry about that. In fact even at my darkest times I have never planned my ultimate exit. I understand enough about depression and suicide to reach out for help long before I ever get to that stage. But that doesn’t mean my illness doesn’t have a major impact on my life. Today for example, I don’t even have the interest or energy to fix myself something to eat. It’s nearly 3:00pm here and I haven’t eaten today. I faintly feel a pang in my stomach but my silly mind won’t allow me to get off the sofa.

And before anyone wonders, yes I am taking anti-depressants. Escitalopram, to be exact. Does it help? I suppose it keeps the anxiety at bay, but to be honest I have been on it for so long, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be doing any longer. No doubt if I discussed it with my GP and told her I was still sad, she’d probably just up my dosage. We live in a medicate the problem culture. That’s the reality.

Yes, I have been to therapy. More years than I care to admit. My first shrink visit was when I was 19. I’m now 49, so I can safely say in my situation, discussing my problems isn’t necessarily a magic cure. Sure it helps, and I have had some fantastic therapists over the years. But it’s more like the pills, it keeps the ugly beast down but never fully eradicates it.

I guess my point of writing this (as if I am supposed to have one), is that some of us in society get depressed. Not just the random, I feel a bit blue today. But  an illness that permeates every aspect of our lives. I want those around us to try to understand that it’s a genuine illness and not something we can just decide to snap out of. Yes, there are pills we can take, experts to talk to, groups we can join. But please try to understand, it doesn’t always help. Sometimes it consumes us, no matter how much we know there are people who love us and would do anything for us.

This is just my personal experience of depression. I understand everyone who has this disease is impacted differently.  I just want those who may find it baffling that we aren’t really different. We just experience the world differently.

For me, my son is my light. He keeps me going, even when I don’t have the energy to get out of bed. He makes me laugh. I love him with all my heart. And he’s the reason I still battle the ugly beast with all the tools I have.

So please don’t worry about me, just try to understand me. Me and the millions of others who suffer as well. If we can all recognise the ugly beast, perhaps one day the beast will become extinct.

 

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It’s a Family Affair

I’m mad, I’m also sad, and utterly baffled. You see I was brought up in a very loving household. Yes, my own parents divorced when I was just 4 (my younger sister 2), but despite that everyone around us adored me. My Mom, Dad, Stepdad (and a few years later Stepmom). I felt loved.

So imagine 42 years later finding yourself in a situation of  separation and divorce where your own child is involved. I thought I knew what would happen. My ex and I would part, yes it would be sad and perhaps not entirely pleasant between us, but my son would be okay. No one would treat him differently. He was just a child, and it wasn’t his fault his parents no longer loved each other. But boy was I wrong.

it didn’t happen straight away. At first I think both families (mine & my ex’s) were a bit in shock. Truth be told we hid our problems pretty well. At least I always thought we did. But then I gradually noticed a shift in attitude towards me. I tried to ignore it, but it was there. It first started at a close family funeral. My son and I sat with my ex’s family at the event after the wake (he wasn’t there, even though it was his own brother’s wife who had sadly passed). They shifted uncomfortably as they tried to make small talk with me. I noticed the sideway glances. Finally, a distant cousin (who I only met once before) offered to buy me a drink. I was relieved. At least someone was acknowledging me.

Fast forward a few more months, and a family wedding was being planned. I just assumed my son and I would be invited, afterall we were family. These people had spent a week with us in Seattle, when we lived in the USA. Again my ex, wasn’t there as he was away working, but I entertained them on his behalf and gladly welcomed them into our home. So when I discovered I would not be invited to the wedding because it would be too uncomfortable for everyone, I was more than a bit upset. And yes I cried. But okay, I understand my ex was the main family member here, and if he was going to attend his niece’s wedding, I could understand why they didn’t want any potential conflict. It was their day, not mine. No prizes for guessing if my ex even bothered to attend the wedding. Yep, a no show.

I maintained a fairly consistent relationship with my son’s grandad. My son is one of only two grandsons, which Grandad Murray has, and as the other lives in Canada, I knew it was important this old man still have regular contact with my son.

At first, we visited regularly. But then one time, Ethan’s grandad let slip (some whisky may have been involved) that he didn’t want to be involved with my issues with A. It was only after leaving his home that day, that it struck me, that I made him uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to, but I suppose my mere existence was a reminder of the failed marriage. Needless to say, after that time our visits with Grandad Murray became less frequent. Until about a year ago, my son finally said he no longer wanted to go to Grandad’s house in Glasgow. Why not?, I asked. Because it makes me feel bad. My son is nothing, if not perceptive.

Now we are officially persona(s) non grata with my ex’s family. They’ve all blocked me on all social media, email, phone numbers, etc. It wasn’t exactly like I was harassing them, but hey if it makes them feel better, what can I do.

42 years ago, my family split apart. I was a little girl, and it wasn’t my fault. But no one shunned me, or neglected me. My Mom and Dad still loved me and wanted me in their lives. I grew up knowing I was loved by everyone on both sides of my family, no matter the situation with my parents. My own son hasn’t had quite the same narrative. My ex’s family divorced him as well as me. I don’t pretend to fully understand why, and I can only hope my son has had enough love from me and my own family who love him unconditionally and don’t blame him for his father’s behaviour.

You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your family.

 

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Survival Tactic

I probably shouldn’t be writing this in my present distraught state. But sometimes extreme emotions form the ideas and I have to let them form words on a page.

We need to talk about Scottish independence. Yes, again. It feels far more urgent, then it did in 2014. Ok for some of us, we did foresee the pending calamity which overtook all rational thought in UK politics. However I fully understand not everyone shared that view in 2014.

Now 3 years later, the state of the UK is completely different. It’s not really a matter of should we have another Scottish independence referendum, but more aptly if we don’t, we will face ruin. You may think I’m being overly hyperbolic here, overreacting even. But panic is sometimes a good state to find ones self. It can spur on action, and boy do we need to take some aggressive steps right now.

Let’s move on from the infighting, because the cliff we are being pulled towards is very steep and very high. Once we go over, that’s it, we are done. And the thing about economic suicide is it really does not discriminate. Okay, if you have a bit more money you may be a bit more insulted, but you’re still going to break a hell of a lot of bones on that fall. Personally I don’t believe any of us are completely safe from Brexit.

The Scottish unionists have all but ignored Brexit. Why? Because every day, another story (or 10) is written about the devastation to our economy. And this is where I genuinely question the extreme unionists’ concern for Scotland. In 2014, these people couldn’t pen enough columns on how Scotland would sink without the “broad shoulders” of the UK. We would become a nation akin to Haiti, but with far less sun. And truth be told, the economic argument for the first independence referendum was our downfall. The YES side could never 100% guarantee that life would be better post independence. Change is always a risk. Too many people were afraid.

However we live in a completely different world to 2014. Scottish independence is no longer a risk to Scotland as much as it’s the lifeboat we require to keep us from drowning.

The economic argument for independence is nothing like what it was 3 years ago. We don’t want to keep the GBP (have you looked at it’s value recently). Suddenly joining the Euro seems far less daunting. Nevermind, all the companies which will flee an independent Scotland. Look at how many are leaving Brexit Britain for safer EU countries. There are no broad shoulders to support us any longer. In fact, Brexit appears as if it will pit the various parts of the UK against one another. Fighting for the crumbs we require for our basic survival. I don’t know about you, but my money is on London being the winner in that battle. Scotland might come someplace after Sheffield, but perhaps a tad before Swansea.

And of no less importance is the loss of millions of qualified citizens who will leave Brexit Britain. That is already happening. Of course when you have a government telling EU citizens, they’re no longer welcome here, it’s not surprising they would leave. Is that really the type of country we see for Scotland. An insular, xenophobic land, where only “natives” are valued.

It’s not as if I don’t care about the plight of the rest of the UK. But they have their own elected governments to pressure. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have a pro-European government, or opposition for that matter. But we can’t continue to suffer in hope that one day our much larger neighbor will finally elect a sensible government.

So I implore the Scottish government to do what is best for Scotland. Scottish independence referendum #2 is more vital than ever. Freedom. It’s really a matter of survival this time.

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Post Election Analysis

I know, I know, not another blog on what the hell happened on Thursday, and how did pretty much every “expert” get it so spectacularly wrong.

I’m no professional pundit, but I do follow politics to an almost obsessive level. So I am lending my voice on what happened here in Scotland. (I can’t really speak for England’s voting habits, because I don’t fully understand the demographic there).

1) Scottish voter fatigue. Yes it’s frustrating and it may seem a lame excuse, because how difficult is it to go vote? But we did just have a big local election last month, and people switched off. I feel that Theresa May was counting on this, because lower voter turnout does tend to favour the Tories. (Older Tory voters are far more likely to get out and vote than the young).

2) EU citizens and 16/17 year olds could not vote in a general election. These two voting blocks tend to largely support the SNP. Not having their votes was always going to suppress the numbers the SNP needed in this election.

3) Independence. We pro-Yessers can ignore this issue all we want but it was a key factor in this election. I don’t pretend to understand why there are still so many Scots who desperately cling to the Westminster apron strings, but they do. We can’t ignore the fact that the majority of Scottish voters are still too sceptical of an independent Scotland. They voted unionist parties in this election.

4) Jeremy Corbyn. He ran a damn good campaign. Okay so he basically offered a platform of issues we already enjoy in Scotland (ie, free University tuition, and prescription fees), but he captured the imagination of millions who were just fed up with Theresa May and the Tories. I can’t help but think if this election had been even a week later, he might have just won. Of course the great irony is that most of Scottish Labour don’t support Corbyn or his policies, but they managed to win more seats than they expected, just by riding on his coat tails.

5) Tory heartlands in Scotland reverted to type. The places where the Tories did the best (and took seats from the SNP) were all fairly conservative parts of the country, which historically have voted Tory in the past. These people decided they were tired of the SNP and wanted to strengthen Theresa May’s hand in Westminster. I don’t pretend to understand why anyone would vote Tory, but then that’s because I’m a socially progressive voter.

6) Tactical voting. I don’t care how much Labour and the Liberal Democrats scream, they would never support voting Tory, they in fact did just that. All the unionists parties made this election, an anyone but the SNP vote. I’m still amazed how Scottish Labour never really fought the Tories, only the SNP. Perhaps if they had taken the fight to the actual Conservative party, Corbyn would be in Number 10 today.

These are just my views on what transpired on Thursday. I’m sure many of you will disagree with me. Or even have your own ideas of what the hell happened on 8 June, 2017.

Let me know what you think. We sure are in a real mess this time.

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Abuse, more than meets the eye

Psychological abuse is invisible, but the scars go deep and the pain permeates your soul. You feel scared, vulnerable and wonder if you are not slowly going mad.

I’m a victim of psychological abuse and while I have shared this information with some of my closest friends and family members, I’ve never written about it till now. But I can’t be silent any longer or pretend it’s not happening, because it is and I refuse to let it destroy me.

I don’t pretend to understand why someone wants to psychologically destroy another human, but I do know it’s much more an issue they have, than anything the victim has done.

I often wonder how I allowed myself to let this happen to me. I always considered myself a strong, independent woman who knew her mind, spoke her feelings with conviction and never let anyone manipulate me. But I suppose it was over many years and was so subtle that I was totally consumed by it without even being fully aware.

My reasons for writing about this now, are that events with my tormentor have kind of reached critical mass. I can’t really go into too much detail, for reasons I will hopefully be able to share one day. But it has been bad, very bad.

However that is what these abusers want, to isolate their victim. Make them feel alone. Questioning their sanity. I can’t allow that to happen. For my sake, but also for the sake of my 16 year old son, who has also suffered abuse by this man as well. For him it’s been more abandonment and complete emotional detachment. E. doesn’t vocalise his feelings, but I see firsthand the damage this has done to him. I hear the stories from his teachers, that he is becoming ever more withdrawn.

I finally went today to the Scottish Women’s Aid (it’s a drop in support centre for women who have experienced abuse, physical and psychological, from someone in their life). I was really nervous, but they put me right at ease. It actually felt empowering to share my story with someone else who has had a similar experience. I suddenly felt much less isolated and scared.

And so I say screw it. I’m tired of pretending that everything is fine. Perhaps I’m not British enough to just keep my stiff lip up, but hey that’s me. So at nearly 9pm on Monday, the 3rd of April I decided it was time to write down my feelings.

I’m Melissa and I am now becoming a survivor of psychological abuse.

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Trumpeters and the UK

 

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I woke up very early Wednesday morning to a country I didn’t recognise, my country, the USA. I sat in stunned silence and watched the final states turn red, and I felt physically ill. I wasn’t quite sure if I was still asleep. Sadly, I wasn’t.

I spent most of the day glued to the internet, while CNN played in the background on my television, which was on all day. I was trying to understand, to make sense of it. But I still just felt shock.

However, this piece isn’t so much about what happened in my native land as it is about what I subsequently witnessed happening here in Scotland, as a result of the Trump victory.

Politicians, journalists, and the anonymous, cowardly keyboard warriors had taken to social media en masse to proclaim how much those Trumpeters were like our cybernats (of which I had been labelled a few years ago). At first I ignored it, as I was far too wrapped up in what was unfolding in the USA. But by this morning, I realised it become almost normalised by those who feel they represent the status qou. I was livid.

First of all, I have yet to see any proof that open minded folk who worked tirelessly for an independent Scotland were in any way similar to a person who voted for Trump. Did we have endorsements from the KKK? No, in fact the sister organisation to the KKK here in Scotland, is the Orange Order. Any guesses of which side of the Scottish independence referendum they were on. Bingo, they were staunch NO supporters.

Second, let’s seriously look at the party which most YES folk support. The SNP. Who’s leader is Nicola Sturgeon. Is this woman, who embraces diversity and inclusion, in any way like Donald Trump? No. If you can remotely even entertain that idea, sorry but you’re either delusional or just not very bright.

The leader who most embodies the views of Trump, is the ex-UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. In fact he went over to the USA and campaigned for Trump. I think they have a “special relationship”. But again, remind me which side of the independence referendum, he was on. That’s correct, another staunch unionist. Who felt we were better together.

Then there’s the UK Tory party. Their current leader recently made a speech at the last Tory conference, in which she proclaimed. “If you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” In fact Nigel Farage, praised her speech as one he could have given. (Yes, that Nigel Farage).

Again which side of the independence debate were the Tories on? You got it, the unionists side. They were all working diligently for Better Together.

And finally, I come to the UK Labour party. A party which is actually in a bit of a mess at the moment and most people have no idea what they even stand for. But during the last General Election they did produce a campaign mug. It was red, and emblazoned with the words, Controls on Immigration. Vote Labour. I can’t help but think Donald Trump would be proud to drink his coffee out of one of those mugs.

Oh and Labour, they too stood proudly on the side of the Union. In fact they campaigned side by side with the Tories. The very party which took us out of the EU and has made us a much more insular place.

So for anyone who deals in reality instead of fantasy, the facts speak for themselves. The pro-union, Better Together, NO supporters have far more in common with Donald Tump and his supporters.

Ergo, Trumpeters equal UK unionists.

 

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