General Election 2017: Politics is for the young

Last month, Theresa May called for a snap general election, to be held on the 8th of June 2017.

Since the EU referendum, I’ve seen more and more young people taking an interest in politics. How refreshing to see the younger generations (myself included) getting involved and hashing out the pros and cons – and attempting to separate fact from fiction – on social media.

Votes for women

Every time there’s an election, I bang on about how women fought, suffered, and died for our right to vote. But it’s still incredibly important that we remember what they went through, just so we could have our voices heard. Do you know how these women were treated? We’ve all heard snippets of history, but the full story is much more horrific. Named the Cat and Mouse Act, the government treated them like playthings, and treated them horrendously.

Another thing that is less known is that there were two groups – Suffragists and Suffragettes. Put simply, the Suffragists (led by Millicent Fawcett) wanted to campaign for the vote peacefully, while the Suffragettes (led by Emmeline Pankhurst) were open to more militant ways. Both groups were made up of middle class women, and the movement also campaigned for other rights, such as “the right to divorce a husband, the right to education, and the right to have a job such as a doctor” – all things we take for granted now, although true equality has not yet been achieved. In 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst formed a third group for working class women, rejecting the violence of the Suffragettes, and, in 1918, female householders over the age of 30 got the vote – but women over 21 got the vote in 1928.

We have had less than 100 years of women voting, and already, so many (too many) women have forgotten the fight, the struggle, for them to have a vote they do not use.

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In England, we have had two female prime ministers. Although I wouldn’t call Thatcher or May feminist heroines, they are still women among a sea of men. Politics is still a male-dominated area, driven by white, rich men, with old families and plenty of influence. But more women are getting involved – the Women’s Equality Party is one fine example. Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party is a strong, admirable woman. The Green Party has more female politicians. If women are not in power, the women of the country will not benefit. Representation is vital to securing the rights of women, the rights of our daughters and granddaughters.

How to vote

First of all, you have to make sure you’re registered to vote. It only takes a few minutes, and you have until the 22nd of May to register for the general election in June. Once you’re registered, you should receive a confirmation letter, and you will probably receive a polling card in the post, but you don’t need these to vote. You simply have to turn up.

At the polling station

Your local polling station will probably be in a community centre or church in your area – there are always polling stations dotted around, to make it easier for people to vote. Once there, a table of people will ask for your address and name, and they’ll cross you off the list. You’ll be handed a slip of paper, and be directed to one of the booths. You put a cross next to the person/party you wish to vote for, fold the slip, and pop it in a box kept close by. And that’s it!

But who do I vote for?

It’s difficult to know who you should vote for, particularly at a time where the country is so divided. You can join this discussion group on Facebook, where like-minded people gather to discuss the best tactics in order to reach the desired outcome – no more Tories.

The easiest way to decide on a party is to think about what’s important to you. This quiz and others like it can help, but I’d also recommend getting your value straight in your head before attempting to choose a party. Here’s what I care about, in a nutshell:

  • Women’s rights and equality, including, but not limited to, access to abortion, free contraception, justice for victims of rape and sexual assault… simply, equality in all things
  • Free, decent healthcare for all
  • Free education for all
  • Marriage and civil partnership equality – for opposite sex couples as well as same sex
  • National living wage for all
  • Decent, honest sex education
  • Closing the pay gap and destroying the glass ceiling
  • Benefits for those in need
  • Affordable housing
  • Controls to be put on landlords and big corporations
  • Right to free speech and media
  • Lower the unemployment rate
  • Remaining in the EU, or having another referendum, if possible, or at least striking a good deal for all involved

I suppose you could say I’m fairly liberal. My values align very well with the Women’s Equality Party, of which I’m a member, and the Green Party, for whom I voted in the last general election.

Tactical voting

This year, I’ll be voting tactically. As I mentioned before, I’m of the “anyone but the Tories” mindset, and Labour is the only party that currently has a chance of pushing them out. (Our “first past the post” electoral system is warped and unfair, but that’s a discussion for another day.) If you’re simply worried about the impact of the Tories on your future, your country, voting Labour is a good way to go.

And remember – we vote for the party, not the person, so if you’re not a fan of Corbyn (and I have to admit, I’m not his biggest fan), but you like Labour’s policies, and would prefer them to the Tories, vote for them. Prime ministers are bound to their cabinet and the rest of Parliament, they are not (contrary to popular belief) mere tyrants, one person ruling over the nation. Our government is made up of a mixture of people and departments, it’s complex, and, for the most part, works. Put your faith in the system, if you can, and use your vote to help make a difference.

Your vote counts – I promise

Another blogger shared a post about her experience with politics, and how she came a bit late to the party. Take a look at this:

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If every single person who did not vote, chose to vote for one party or another, their votes would make a difference. It’s easy to get disheartened, but it’s our duty and our right to have a say in the running of our country, and voting is one of the best ways to have your voice heard. Mobilise those around you, if you can, to take the time to vote on June the 8th. I can’t predict the outcome, but the more people who vote, the more voices there are to take into account. And, for that, I have hope.

Women’s Equality Party to contest seats in London, Manchester and Cardiff

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The Women’s Equality Party announced yesterday that four more candidates who will contest seats in the snap General Election on 8 June.

In London, Nimco Ali will stand in Hornsey and Wood Green and Harini Iyengar will stand in Vauxhall. Sharon Lovell will contest the Wales seat of Cardiff South and Penarth, while Sally Carr MBE will stand in the constituency of Manchester Withington.

“These brilliant women represent the diverse, creative voices of the Women’s Equality Party and I am delighted to announce their candidacy,” said Party Leader Sophie Walker. “This election they will speed change, by campaigning for equality, justice and tolerance across the UK as part of the national conversation about the general election.”

Nimco Ali is a British Somali feminist and social activist. She is co-founder and director of Daughters of Eve, a survivor-led organisation which has helped to transform the approach to ending female genital mutilation (FGM).

Harini Iyengar is ranked as a leading barrister in Employment, Equality and Education, gave expert legal evidence to the House of Commons Inquiry into high heels and workplace dress codes, and has been described by the Times as “a leading campaigner for diversity in the legal profession.”

Sally Carr is former Principal Programme Manager for Young People’s Health at Manchester PCT, Deputy Head of Service at Halton Youth Service and Operational Director at The Proud Trust. In 2012 she was awarded an MBE for her services to young people, recognising in particular her work with LGBT+ youth.

Sharon Lovell, the first woman in her family to go to university and gain a degree, is a Director for Nyas, a UK charity providing information, advice, advocacy and legal representation to children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Walker said that each candidate would be fighting to win in their respective constituency, but would also be pressuring their rivals to take on their policies. “The new parties understand that the electorate are tired of combative, tribal politics. Along with the Green Party, who have endorsed my campaign in Shipley, and the Liberal Democrats who are forging strategic alliances in key seats across the UK, WE are part of a new political landscape that will deliver a shot in the arm to our country by working collaboratively and sharing ideas.”

She added: “We know we are outsiders, but in spite of the huge disadvantages of our first-past-the-post system, and the vast expense of campaigning, the Women’s Equality Party is set to make its mark on this election.”

The Women’s Equality Party will announce further candidates next week.

Editor’s notes

The Women’s Equality Party have announced the following candidates:

Sophie Walker, Shipley

Sophie Walker is the leader of the Women’s Equality Party. She worked as an international news agency journalist for nearly twenty years and is an ambassador for the National Autistic Society, campaigning for better support and understanding of autism, particularly in women and girls. Sophie was elected leader of the Women’s Equality Party in July 2015, and in January 2016 was selected to represent the party in the London Mayoral election. She garnered one in twenty of the votes cast for Mayor in London on 5 May.

Nimco Ali, Hornsey and Wood Green

Nimco is a British Somali feminist and social activist. She is co-founder and director of Daughters of Eve, a survivor-led organisation which has helped to transform the approach to ending female genital mutilation (FGM). Nimco formerly worked on ‘The Girl Generation: Together to End FGM’ campaign, which celebrates the Africa-led movement to end FGM in one generation. Currently she is an ambassador for #MAKERSUK. MAKERS is AOL’s women’s leadership platform that highlights the stories of ground-breaking women today to create the leaders of tomorrow. In 2014, she was awarded Red Magazine’s Woman of the Year award, and also placed at No 6 on the Woman’s Hour Power List. Most recently she was named by The Sunday Times as one of Debrett’s 500 most influential people in Britain, and as one of the Evening Standard’s 1000 most powerful. Nimco is a trustee for Women for Refugee Women and the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize and is a founding member and Steering Committee member of the Women’s Equality Party.

Harini Iyengar, Vauxhall

Harini Iyengar grew up in Manchester, where her immigrant parents were both NHS doctors.  She went to Manchester High School for Girls, where all the Pankhurst daughters were educated, as was WEP co-founder Catherine Mayer. She studied at Oxford University before moving to London, where she was called to the Bar in 1999.  She is ranked as a leading barrister in Employment, Equality and Education, gave expert legal evidence to the House of Commons Inquiry into high heels and workplace dress codes, and has been described by the Times as “a leading campaigner for diversity in the legal profession”.  She works full-time and raises three children as their lone parent.  Harini stood for the Women’s Equality Party in the Greater London Assembly elections in May 2016, and at their first party conference in November 2016 she was elected to Policy Committee as Spokesperson on Equal Representation.

Sally Carr MBE, Manchester Withington

Sally completed her certificate in Youth and Community work at Manchester Polytechnic in 1989 and returned to MMU in 2000 to do her BA Hons in Youth and Community work.

She has worked in various roles including Principal Programme Manager for Young People’s Health at Manchester PCT, Deputy Head of Service at Halton Youth Service and Operational Director at The Proud Trust. In 2012 she was awarded an MBE for her services to young people, recognising in particular her work with LGBT+ youth.

Sharon Lovell, Cardiff South and Penarth

Sharon was born in Wales and raised, along with her two siblings, by her working mum. She was the first woman in her family to go to university and gain a degree. She is passionate about empowering women to have opportunities and access to help shape the future of Wales. Having lived and worked in Wales all her life, she is now Director for Nyas, a UK charity providing information, advice, advocacy and legal representation to children, young people and vulnerable adults. Sharon, who lives in Newport, stood for the Women’s Equality Party in the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2016.

The Women’s Equality Party was established two years ago to highlight and dismantle obstacles to gender equality in the UK: a political and economic architecture rigged against women and diversity, an education system riven with unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, a media that reinforces these stereotypes, a society that assigns little value to caregiving and therefore assumes it to be women’s business, that underpays women and invests less in women’s health and permits endemic harassment and violence against women.

In May 2016 the party won 350,000 votes in elections across Scotland, Wales and London.

The Party is currently contesting the Liverpool Metro Mayor election and local elections in Sheffield, Tunbridge Wells, South Wales and Worcester.

The Party currently has 65,000 members and registered supporters. It aims to put equality for women at the top of the national political agenda by being an electoral force that also works with other political parties; in addition to party membership it also offers joint memberships to members of other political parties.

Press enquiries to Catherine Riley, Head of Communications (catherine.riley@womensequality.org.uk/ +447764 752 731).

Press at Women’s Equality Party

http://www.womensequality.org.uk/

Green Party votes to endorse Women’s Equality Party in Shipley

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The Bradford Green Party yesterday voted by 80 percent in favour to endorse Sophie Walker’s candidacy in Shipley, calling for a progressive alliance to oust Conservative MP Philip Davies. The local Liberal Democrat party is currently in discussion about whether to also step aside and Labour is yet to select a candidate.

“I am delighted that the local Green Party has taken the brave decision to put people before party politics and I am deeply honoured that they have chosen to go the extra step with an endorsement of my candidacy,” said Walker. “Together we will be campaigning on a progressive ticket to get the best deal for people in Shipley – investing in care, protecting our NHS, growing our local economy and protecting our greenbelt. We will deliver a fairer future for all.”

“The local Green Party has stepped up, just as the Liberal Democrats have done in Brighton, because they know how much is at stake. Philip Davies has brought shame on Shipley, while his government is destroying public services, privatising the NHS and attacking hard working families. Parties working in progressive alliance offer the best chance we have of making this election count,” she added.

Matt Edwards, Campaign Coordinator for the Green Party in Bradford District, explained: “We have been convinced that Sophie is a candidate that the other progressive parties in Shipley should unite behind. People have been crying out for a new kind of politics where the left-leaning parties work together to achieve their common goals, rather than attack each other over their differences.”

The announcement follows remarkable events in Brighton last night where Liberal Democrats stood aside in Brighton Pavilion and the Greens stood aside in Brighton Kemptown.

Caroline Lucas said: “I’m delighted to endorse Sophie in Shipley. Under the Conservative government – the one Mr Davies has supported – we have seen the biggest rise in inequality since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Sophie and I are both committed to tackling that – from reversing the cuts that have left women behind and ending the gender pay gap, to increasing women’s representation in parliament and in business. Sophie has pledged to stand on an agenda that many Green Party members and supporters will agree with and I  look forward to her playing an active role in my campaigns to undo the privatisation of our NHS and for a fairer voter system.”

“The creativity we are seeing in politics across the UK is truly exciting,” said Walker. “I urge the local Labour Party and Liberal Democrats in Shipley to join us in doing things differently. Everyone I have met on the campaign trail in Shipley is calling for a unity candidate to oust Philip Davies. This is a real chance to prevent Philip Davies, and his Regressive Alliance with UKIP, being returned to Parliament.”

In the 2015 General Election the combined vote share of the Green Party, Lib Dems and Labour in Shipley was 40 per cent and the Green Party almost doubled its vote share. The Labour Party hasn’t won the seat in sixteen years and polled 31 per cent in the last election.

Editor’s notes

The Women’s Equality Party was established two years ago to highlight and dismantle obstacles to gender equality in the UK: a political and economic architecture rigged against women and diversity, an education system riven with unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, a media that reinforces these stereotypes, a society that assigns little value to caregiving and therefore assumes it to be women’s business, that underpays women and invests less in women’s health and permits endemic harassment and violence against women.

In May 2016 the party won 350,000 votes in elections across Scotland, Wales and London. It is currently contesting the Liverpool Metro Mayor election and local elections in Sheffield, Tunbridge Wells, South Wales and Worcester.

The Party currently has 65,000 members and registered supporters. It aims to put equality for women at the top of the national political agenda by being an electoral force that also works with other political parties; in addition to party membership it also offers joint memberships to members of other political parties.

Press enquiries to Catherine Riley, Head of Communications (catherine.riley@womensequality.org.uk/ +447764 752 731).

Press at Women’s Equality Party

http://www.womensequality.org.uk/

Theresa May calls snap general election for June 8th 2017

This morning, Prime Minister Theresa May stood outside of 10 Downing Street and announced that a general election will be held on 8th June 2017. This comes in the wake of Article 50 being triggered, and after she had assured everyone that she categorically would not call for a snap general election.

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not”, she declared. Labour, Lib Dems, SNP… everyone seems to be against the Tories within government. But why are we repeating the (incorrect) rhetoric that “the country decided!”? Half of the voters actually wanted to remain in the EU – myself included. Many of those who voted to leave have expressed dismay at the lies they were told by the Leave campaign, and the fallout since the referendum has been far from positive. Many people who voted for Brexit will be the hardest hit when we do leave.

The Tories have always been the party for the rich. They are continuously cutting benefits, favouring corporations, and, quite frankly, fucking loads of people over. I for one will be doing my utmost to remove them from power. But our other political parties are far from perfect. Labour is in disarray – can they lead us back from the brink? Can smaller parties, like the Green or the Women’s Equality Party, get enough votes to make a difference? I’m not convinced, but right now, I’m in the “anyone is better than the Tories” camp.

The country is divided. Nothing is certain. But what is certain is that you have the chance to make a difference, again. We have the chance to right the wrong that was Brexit. I believe that voting should be mandatory, that everyone should make the effort to contribute to the future of their country. Women fought and suffered and died for our right to vote, and we should honour them by using it. Ensure you’re registered to vote, and get down the polling station on June 8th. I’m not in the business of telling people how to vote – you’ve got your own life, your own circumstances, which will affect your decision – but I am in the business of strongly encouraging people to use their vote. And if we can get the Tories out, I believe it will be for the better.

You can read May’s full speech here.

13 Reasons Why teaches us that we must confront rape culture

Last week, I binge-watched the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which is based on the book by Jay Asher. Like many people, it affected me, touched me, and forced me to relive my own experiences.

Trigger Warning
This blog post will discuss sexual assault, rape, and suicide, as well as the far-reaching consequences of rape culture and patriarchy. There will also be spoilers for 13 Reasons Why. Please proceed with caution, and only read this post if you feel able to do so.

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Readers of this blog may remember my articles about how I was raped as a teenager, and the book I’m currently working on, called Some Girls Do, which is largely based around that experience. 13 Reasons Why explores the effects of rape culture on both young men and women, and depicts the sad ending of Hannah Baker’s young life.

The book, written by Jay Asher, was published about a decade ago. It had found its way on to my to-read list a while ago, but I’d never gotten around to reading it. Then, the show flashed up on Netflix. At first, I found myself amused by how a teenager in 2017 would struggle with playing a cassette, and how, when Cat said, “I’ve known you this entire century!”, it took a second for me to realise she was being literal. It made me feel old. But 13 Reasons Why soon got much, much darker.

For those who don’t know, 13 Reasons Why centres on the story of Hannah Baker, a young woman who killed herself, and left tapes behind to be shared with everyone who had a hand in her suicide. From her best friend, to the boy she liked, to the boy who liked her but was too shy to say – 13 Reasons Why is a rabbit hole of rape culture, depression, and the darkness women and girls face every day. I want to discuss this aspect of the show, and how we can learn from it.

In episode 9, “Tape 5, Side A”, we discover another reason why Justin Foley is on Hannah’s tapes. Earlier on, they’d gone on a date and kissed, but Justin had taken a picture of Hannah going down a slide, with her skirt up and underwear exposed. That photo was then passed around the school, along with rumours about what else went on that night. This slut-shaming set the stage for the rest of Hannah’s experience, and may have informed some of her later decisions, but I’ll come back to that.

Justin Foley was on tape 5 because he left his drunk girlfriend in her bedroom, and let Bryce go in and rape her. Justin is guilty by cowardice. He was too scared to stop Bryce from doing what he did, even though he knew what Bryce was going to do. Jessica was unconscious, and therefore unable to consent, and unable to fight for herself. Hannah, hiding in the bedroom, was speechless with fear. If only someone had stopped Bryce that night. But I can understand why neither Justin nor Hannah did – if for very different reasons.

You see, rape culture doesn’t only affect women, who are directly abused and oppressed by it, but it also affects men. Men who grow up to believe they are number 1 – athletic, smart, good-looking – these guys are given every possible opportunity in life. Justin is your typical sporty guy, with a shitty home life and a rich friend who has helped him out along the way. These guys are told that they are the best, the alphas, the ones who will go the furthest in life. Everyone else is just there to be walked on, or used, or to bolster their self-esteem. Women are nothing but objects to be used and discarded at will. Athletes regularly get away with sexual assault, because a conviction would ruin their chances, their reputations. Remember the Stanford rapist? If there are little to no consequences for their actions, how can we ever expect boys to grow up decent? That’s not to say that the individuals are absolved of blame – everyone has the ability to be better than their circumstances and their learned behaviour. But society certainly doesn’t make it clear that rape, in all the forms it takes, is wrong. It doesn’t make it clear that women are people, equal to men, and have bodily autonomy. This is a huge wrong that must be righted, but it doesn’t start with these individuals. It has to start higher up, deeper, in policy and law and societal norms.

Hannah, of course, didn’t do anything because it could have happened to her (and, in fact, it does). She was petrified, frozen, and we can only imagine how horrific it is to listen to your friend – or anyone – be raped. If we didn’t live in such a patriarchal society, women would feel more confident about speaking out – confident that they will be listened to, believed, helped. But we are not.

Jessica, aware that something isn’t quite right, doesn’t know exactly what happened to her, until Justin finally confesses. It’s easier to call Hannah a liar, than it is to admit to the truth – that your friendship group is heavily steeped in rape culture, and that you, by protecting Bryce, are shielding a rapist. Marcus Cole, honour student, highly regarded, attempted to use Hannah just like Justin did. Late for their date, he arrives cocksure and flirty, and she decides to give him another chance – until he tries to put his hand up her skirt in the middle of a diner, with his friends watching and egging him on. When she shrieks, she’s the crazy bitch who led him on, who he thought was easy.

This is bullshit, you may be thinking, rolling your eyes. This doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t. Oh, but it does. It happens far more frequently than anyone would care to admit. And it happens because we do not talk about it, we do not address it. Instead, we blame what the girl was wearing, reducing her to a piece of meat, and the boy to some creature that only acts on its desires, unthinking, inhuman. But this is not the truth. These boys are fully aware of themselves, and what they’re doing, even if they’re not completely aware of the consequences of their actions. I expect more of boys – I do not believe that all boys and men are animals, unable to control themselves when they see a flash of thigh or a shapely shoulder. In 13 Reasons Why,  Hannah is harassed or abused by at least six boys she thought she knew. One took pictures of her in her bedroom. One lied about a sexual encounter. One raped her. But this is normal. We’re used to it. And how utterly sad is that?

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Back to the story. After all that had happened, Hannah ends up at a party, with all of her peers – and Bryce. Don’t forget, she’d watched Bryce rape Jessica with her own eyes. Why did she stay? Why didn’t she run? My theory is this: society loves to shame and blame women for their own sexual assaults. Comments about their clothes, their behaviour, how drunk they were, always come pouring out when a woman comes forward. I think a part of Hannah didn’t – couldn’t – truly believe what she’d witnessed. When the group of “Reasons” (Alex, Zach, Marcus, et al.) are discussing about their next move, Zach tells Alex to stop calling Bryce a rapist. Stop using that word! he says. What other word would you use? comes the response. Indeed. But we always hesitate to call a rapist a rapist, don’t we? We call them the accused, alleged, athletes. We rarely name the problem, so how can we expect young women to be able to?

I also believe that Hannah was too far down the rabbit hole to crawl back out. By the time she arrived at Bryce’s party, her head was an absolute mess. Was she fully capable of separating reality from fantasy? Was she able to firmly state that she had seen Bryce rape Jessica? I don’t think I would have been able to speak out about it when I was Hannah’s age. With everyone around you walking on eggshells, not daring to name the problem, to declare what had actually happened, it’s reasonable to suggest that a part of Hannah was doubting what she had seen. After all, a part of me doubted that what had happened to me was actually rape. It wasn’t the rape I’d heard of before – it didn’t happen like rape is “supposed to”. So was it rape?

I know now that yes, it was. I also know that what happened to Jessica was rape, and that what happened to Hannah was rape. Bryce didn’t seem to know – or perhaps he did know, and just didn’t care. When Bryce is raping Hannah, she doesn’t say no, she doesn’t fight back, she just lays there, and you eventually see her eyes glaze over. Hannah is gone way before she slits her wrists in the bathtub. Bryce broke her spirit, she says on the final tape, and every woman who has been through something similar felt her heart break as Hannah spoke those words.

A final word on Clay. The fact that Hannah’s story was told through the eyes of Clay is one of the few things that irritated me. In the penultimate episode, Clay goes to see Bryce, accuses him of rape, and gets beaten up. Of course, the audience is supposed to feel sorry for Clay – he did, after all, do what Hannah had told him to do, and left her crying in the bedroom after their make-out session had scared her. He hadn’t told her how he felt, and so he felt responsible for her death. Seriously, this male perspective is unnecessary and unwanted in a story like this. Let the women tell their own stories, without a male spin on it, or how it affected the men in her life. I’d rather it were told from a brother’s perspective, or even her dad, rather than a friend she wanted to date and made out with once. It almost cheapened Hannah’s experiences, and although Clay as a character (and the actor, of course) is brilliant, I did not care to hear Hannah’s story from him. I wanted to hear it from her, her truth, as she knew it.

My comments on Clay may well be unpopular. He’s the star of the show, after all, the good guy. He who didn’t hurt Hannah, and extracted a confession out of Bryce. But what some viewers might not understand is that it was easier (not easy, but easier) for Clay to confront Bryce than it would have been for another girl. A girl would have been scared that Bryce would rape her, too, and while her mission would have been a noble one, she might have refrained from confronting Bryce for that reason. Clay, rightfully outraged and disgusted at Bryce, and willing to take a beating to do the right thing, simply cannot understand that perspective, and I feel that some viewers may not have thought about it that way either, so I wanted to bring it up as an observation.

In the end, Hannah commits suicide. That scene is graphic and raw, but so, so necessary. As are the graphic depictions of rape. This stuff happens. Parents – this stuff is happening to your kids, whether they’re the victim or the perpetrator. I know that’s hard to hear, but it’s the truth. Schools – this stuff is happening within your halls, your classrooms. Stop denying it, and start fighting it. I suggest that all schools agree to show this TV series to their pupils, or at least recommend that they watch it at home, so they might begin to understand the way things are, and that things cannot continue as they are. Because there will be another Jessica, another Bryce, another Hannah. There will be. There already is. And that just isn’t good enough.

Have you watched 13 Reasons Why yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or, as always, you can email me privately on thebandwagonreviews@gmail.com.

Funding anti-choice organisations with the tampon tax is violence against women

When I read the news that a percentage of the tampon tax has been going to anti-choice organisations, I thought it was a joke. It was April 1st, after all. But, sadly, it’s true. The British government is using money from the tampon tax to fund anti-choice organisations, and dressing it up as supporting women.

Let me be clear: anti-choice is never about supporting women.

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For those of you who don’t know, sanitary products are subject to a 5% VAT in England, which is lower than the standard VAT of 20%, but is still inappropriate, since, y’know, periods aren’t a choice and all that. Despite attempts to get rid of this tax, the Tories declared that £15m a year would go towards women’s charities. Domestic violence isn’t a women’s issue – though women are the vast majority of victims, The implications of this aside, it has now come out that a large portion (around £250,000) of this tax has been given to Life, an anti-abortion organisation.

Life is, quite simply, anti-choice. Funding anti-choice organisations with money that women have no choice but to pay is despicable. This is female erasure. Through the tampon tax, the government is taxing women’s bodies for simply being. Women’s reproductive rights are under threat across the globe- need I remind you of all the instances where women’s rights have been attacked by (male) politicians? I’m sure readers of this blog will be well-versed in such matters, disgusting as they are.

As Suzanne Moore wrote in The Guardian:

Abortions, like periods, are not shameful, but a fact of many women’s lives. If we are to have a tampon tax at all, the money generated should at least go to those who regard women as autonomous adults who make our own decisions. To hand it over to those who do not respect our choices and actively want to limit them is deeply shameful.

Periods are not a choice. Some women don’t have them (myself included), but the majority of women do, and with the girls who are skipping school because they cannot afford sanitary products, we must be doing more to support women and girls. Again, funding anti-choice organisations is not supporting women. Funding organisations that want to take our choice and bodily autonomy away is not feminism, it’s not equality, and it is, quite frankly, not fair or appropriate. The answer is simple: stop shaming and policing our bodies, give us what we need, and stop trying to take our choices away from us. The decision to exercise such control of women’s bodies – and not providing them with what they need – is an act of violence against women. And I for one am sick of seeing it.

The Bandwagon: Silenced

Last year, I had a falling out with some family members, over what was really a misunderstanding. But, old feelings came to the top, and it boiled over. A few sharp words were exchanged, then we were all blocked. I wrote a blog post about it, and that was that.

Or so I thought.

Today, someone from their side messaged me. I’ve read your blog post, they said, almost four months after it had been published. They proceeded to tell me how I was wrong, how nasty I was, twisted, bitter, because I responded to a family member bringing up the abuse I suffered as a child, and insinuating that I’d made it all up. How I put a negative slant on everything. How it was my fault that we were abused. That my blog is bullshit, and so is my feminism.

I was told not to “air my dirty laundry” in public. I was told not to write about this attack. I was told that legal advice would be sought if I mentioned this in a public forum. I was being threatened, bullied, into keeping my mouth shut. I was being silenced.

I have removed the initial blog post, despite knowing that nobody was named in it, knowing it was vague enough that nobody who was not personally aware of the situation could have guessed who it was about. I was contacted, completely out of the blue, and attacked. It’s been hinted at that my blog is being watched. So watch this.

People need to know that they are not alone. I write about these things because we need to read about them, we need to know that it happens to others, that we are supported. I often receive messages from people, thanking me for being honest, for telling my story. I write about what has happened to me. I do not write about the people who did these things to me. I write because it is cathartic, healing. I do not write for revenge. If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. If someone recognises themselves in a vague description, then they are welcome to bring it up with me. If I overstep a line, I expect to be informed, and will remedy it immediately. But I do not expect to be attacked by multiple people – some I do not even know – and I do not expect to be shut down for speaking out. Women are silenced far too often. We cannot, and should not, stand for it. We are allowed to tell our stories. We are allowed to speak out. We should not have to suffer in silence. This attack is just another example of a man attempting to silence a woman, thinking that he has the right to attack someone he doesn’t know, and it will not work.

I want to make it clear: I will never be silent. I will never publicly “out” anyone, but my blog is my platform to tell my story. You cannot threaten or bully me into silence. I have not, will not, defame anyone, I will not besmirch anyone’s good name. I will tell the truth, my truth, and I will not be silenced. 

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