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.



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.



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.