Being A Union Member Saved My LIfe

I’ve been out enjoying the freedom that can only come with the successful end to a seven year Hell.  I’ve wanted to post about that because it actually IS bloody amazing.  I had no idea just how much this pain weighed me down until I was able to end it.  Sometimes this new feeling is so amazing that I almost cry.  Tears of relief and pride.  Life still does its thing, throws some curveballs and takes you on a merry dance, but I’ve been able to deal with that stuff in a completely new way lately.  Oh, this is why I haven’t written since I won, because I don’t even want to cry about being happy…ah well.  The memories come up like an approaching tidal wave.  Hello, old friend.  Now do fuck off. 

In Australia at the moment, we have a neo-liberal government of nightmares.  One of their many plans of social attack is decrying workers unions.  They have latched onto the corrupt actions of a few high profile union bosses in order to generalise horrifically about the nature of unions.  This suits their economic and policy agendas as they strive to divide and conquer. Who benefits from an individualised workforce without a collective voice?  Only the rich boss.  Who suffers, directly and potentially in the future?  My friends, we ALL do.  Unions represent workers in a variety of ways.  It may be popular to bandy about terms like ‘slush fund’ and ‘fraud’ (though less so when it is a Government minister who lines his pockets, hmmm?) but again that is paying attention simply to the loudest voices.  What do unions do that we don’t hear about in the news?  That a destructive Prime Minster doesn’t want you to think about? (Don’t worry – I can criticise him because I’m UNEMPLOYED)  What a Labor leader is devaluing when he questions union membership like today?

I could dig up some gutsy, coal-face worker stories to demonstrate the struggle of the lowly worker to fight slave conditions and dangerous practice.  I could remind you of the lives lost in protest, in desperate battles to be treated as human beings by tyrants and corporations simply for needing to earn money to feed yourself.  Perhaps a look at conditions in the sweat shops in Bangladesh that we shake our heads at from our relatively safe haven?  Or ask a tradie apprentice if it’s ever mattered to his/her workplace safety that a union member had a voice?  I can only tell you what union membership did for me.

I’m here because I was a member of the Education Union.  

It is as simple as that.

I wish we lived in a world where simply “knowing the truth” meant anything to anyone.  I knew the truth of what happened to me at work and I repeated that phrase as a mantra for many a year.  Because it was *all* I had.  That and an ache in my soul that led me to believe not being alive was the only way out of this.  The kindest thing to do for myself when every other option was cut off.  Knowing the truth is pretty much bollocks.  You have to have a voice to tell it.  An employee union is that voice.  

I assumed that my voice was enough.  I assumed that brazen criminal actions were enough to get some assistance.  So I forgive you if you also think that ‘right wins in the end’ and that ‘strong people can stand up for themselves to negotiate’.  But you’re wrong.  And not because there are not brave people standing alone.  Because powerful people with vested interests do not allow individuals to negotiate or influence a goddamn thing.  If you think Gina makes time to discuss workplace safety when Tom has a concern from inside the shitty mine, you are kidding yourself.  If you think a principal gives a young female teacher as valid a voice as the middle aged ass he went to school with and who is his deputy, you are kidding yourself.  If you think that a small building site manager is as interested in Sean the apprentice’s physical and emotional safety at the hands of his peers as he is in getting the project finished and making his cash…you get the picture.

A union is a collective which needs members to have any influence on workplace or social policy debate.  Though every worker benefits after we strike and go without pay to seek wage parity (and are very quiet on those days about unionism) they usually mock and repeat tired stereotypes that indicate at the very least that the Underbelly franchise has permeated deeply into their psyches.  

The day to day work of a union?  It’s a bit more boring than that.

I telephoned my union when I had another day off work, at home, wanting to die to escape my workplace/abusers.  I loved my job.  But my colleagues were killing me.  Read back for the details of sexual violence and stalking.  I’m leaving them for today.  But the only place that could help me have a louder voice (and I’m pretty loud on my own)?  The union.

We didn’t get any fancy boozy lunches.  I paid for my own coffee at a local place when they met with me.  They heard my tearful story.  They took notes, consulted relevant law, researched other similar issues.  I researched the process myself but I couldn’t guide myself through it in the midst of being victimised.  I needed a calm voice to repeat and remind me of the process ahead.  I needed to be able to cry and swear.  They could remember the protocols.  I had shit on my mind.

They reviewed my stream of consciousness notes and helped formulate official documents.  They found me counselling and Victims of Crime help.  

They always called me back.

At one point, as the managers made things even harder, the union reps asked me why I wouldn’t just give up.  I thought, well, we’re ALL beaten now.  I’ve come this far.  We have done it together.  I got angry and suggested that they were letting me flail alone, too.  What does an individual have to fight the system if their collective says it’s too hard?  Just an echo.  Of their own tears.

So they stuck with me.

The Education union were a literal and metaphorical support for me at the Worst Time In My Life.  They didn’t help me because I had something to offer them.  I’m pretty sure I was hard work, to be honest.  The case was.  The union helped me because they know that one voice can be ignored.  One person can be squashed.  Damn, they almost got me to the point of thinking that the union voice was not enough, either. But I pushed them and they pushed me.  We stayed.  Kept fighting.

We fucking did it.  We bloody got there.  We pushed so hard and so long that those bastards know that not everyone can be squashed.  Not everyone will be sent away.  Not everyone can be ground down.  

So maybe they watch themselves a bit more, huh?  Maybe they remember this, the fear of being exposed publicly, if someone else ever comes to them for help.  Maybe they just remember that one little voice has a group to call on.

That’s powerful.  That’s important.  That’s Absolutely Compulsory for any chance of a just and fair society.

And then the union collected my legal fees and paid them.  Because they believe a single worker should not be $50, 000 out of pocket when they’ve been the victim of obscene behaviour in the workplace and subsequently lost their ability to earn a wage at all.  Because they believe a worker’s voice matters.  Because they heard me.  

That is what unions do.  That is why they matter.  That is why they need members.  My $5 a week saved my life and my home.  My mental health.  And maybe a little something for the next person who feels that one voice is not enough.

I feel this ability is under threat when the discourse is politically motivated to undermine the union movement.

The union movement is the heart of Labor and rights of the common man and woman to be safe when they toil for a living.

Please don’t let Labor forget, or the government we have to bury, this very important part of our democracy.  Unions are us.  We are voices that deserve to be heard.  I will always fight for the right for one person’s voice to be made louder with the help of a union network.  Always. I hope other people realise this too, before they find themselves needing help.  What if it is taken away?

 

Fresh Misogyny, Served Daily!

The news headlines offer us a fresh batch of misogyny and double standards daily.  It has become an exercise in stealth just to scan social networking sites because as people share articles, you cannot help but be exposed to what is on offer.  It is rage-inducing, to say the least.

Whether you’ve read The Misogyny Factor or not, you will have surely noticed its presence in the media and how stories are reported. Journalists and bloggers-who-wish-they-were-journalists seem impervious to the carefully crafted guidelines for reporting that have been thoughtfully produced by advocacy groups and the like.  The link between how news is presented to the public and how they absorb and assimilate that information cannot be ignored.  Thoughts, emotions and responses to information help to form opinion on issues and therefore public response.  Take a look at some headlines on offer today and it is no question at all that the misogyny factor reigns supreme.

The following links are using donotlink.com so that you can click without giving the bastards more site traffic, unless indicated.

Intoxicated Sexual Assault Victims Are Just As Guilty As Their Attackers

On ‘feeling sick’ about calling Woody Allen an abuser

Gang rape of young girl ‘unprovoked’ and ‘out of character for this area’ 

The sentencing of Lisa Harnum’s murderer, her boyfriend, and the horror behaviour of his supporters  (direct link to Guardian article)

‘Drug Addled Prostitute’ convicted of killing potential ‘client’ 

‘Rescue Yourselves’ from sexual assault, says Emily Yoffe 

On ‘hashtag injustice’ for Woody Allen (no, seriously…)

screaming

Rather than pour bleach in your eyes after those pearlers, try the following remedy:

Take one post that names the problem – Abusive Men and their Supports (direct link because it’s GOOD) from 2013 and follow it with a chaser of widdle baby animals (direct link).

Lather, rinse and repeat.

This is how it feels

thelionthatroared:

On surviving childhood sexual abuse and #IBelieveDylan Farrow (Trigger Warning)

Originally posted on The Referral:

TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

This is how it feels when your word means nothing at all.

~ This Is How It Feels, Inspiral Carpets

Writers write because they must. The never-ending whirring of words in the head; a need, an addiction to fill pages with shades of grey. I have previously written about my childhood sexual abuse, and in the last few weeks, destroyed all of it. I know that the act of writing about my childhood was distressing to many people. I’m not sorry I did it. I found my drug of choice. My own voice. I’ll leave this post here for a week, and then destroy it, because while what happened is part of me, it is not the whole. I am at a place where I can say to myself, ‘hey, this stuff happened to you, but it is not the sum of you…

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Some Thoughts On Servility

This could also have been called ‘How gender roles conspire to keep women quiet’ or ‘Rambling thoughts of a woman tired of being told to be nice or be quiet’.

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Bitch.  Harpy.  Fishwife.  Nag.  Feisty.  Firey.  Troublemaker.  The gendered language we use when describing women who use their voice.  Clutch your pearls, you may.  Women refusing to shut up, who are angry or demanding attention – despite how worthy the cause – are still something to be avoided, by and large.  On twitter last week there was a hashtag #thatgirl about the sexism faced by women in tech.  As in, “Oh, you’re that girl”.  The one that calls out bad behaviour or simply shares ideas.  Dangerous, right?

I’ve always been that girl.  I aspire to be that woman and then some.  I am also quite shy and prefer to socialise in small numbers.  I am full of nerves and addicted to anxiety.  But I can think of so many examples of people who have judged my communication with them, professional or personal, based on the common stereotypes women are pitted against.  I can’t think of a time where this commentary was issued as complimentary.  I have on occasion been told that I am strong and determined, passionate and even “a breath of fresh air” because I was honest (like this was abnormal).  On many more occasions I have been told that I am intimidating (my favourite, as it happens), abrasive, rude, dismissive, cold and Not A Team Player.  Unprofessional.  Guess where I was told these things most frequently?

Many of us would be able to give anecdotes of times where what we considered an obligatory friendly smile has somehow been scrambled in translation to mean Come At Me Bad Boy to some random dude on the street.  On the train.  At your workplace.  If you make no particular effort, you are a Bitch.  If you endeavour to appear polite and civil, as the Femininity Code requires of women, you are Inviting Advances.  New guy at your workplace tells a joke in the staff room.  You laugh…more like a sympathy giggle.  Because you’re trained to be polite.  Don’t want him to feel awkward!  Then one day you find yourself making a formal complaint including serious sexual assaults and your manager says, “Well, you did laugh at his jokes”.  It can happen.  Trust me.

If a man, (say the man they hired to work in a position senior to mine at this school who would soon became a criminal and sexual offender), came to a team meeting with ideas and eager to contribute – he is a Team Player, Leadership Material.  We can excuse his boorish, innuendo-laden diatribe because, you know, men are like that and besides, he Gets Things Done. Lighten up!  Ignore it! Be Professional! Just shut up and take it.

An aspect of my experience I have found interesting on a sociological level is the differing expectations and boundaries of communication.  How we were ‘allowed’ to use our voices (me, not much.  And when I did, I was mistaken or unprofessional).  The workspace and its containment (me, no doors can be shut, no privacy, no personal boundaries. You must be accessible and visible at all times).  Even our physical selves (me, not allowed to laugh and fake friendliness but also not allowed to distance myself or appear like I’m Not A Team Player even after they did what they did).  I carried a lot of gender stereotypes with me in terms of ‘good behaviour’ and tried to politely keep everyone happy all of the time.  Until I couldn’t anymore.  I had to put a stop to it.  And when I stopped killing myself trying to play the servile young woman, the knives were sharpened and all heading directly for me.  It was fascinating.  Morbidly, desperately fascinating.

The all-accommodating woman should seek to appease everyone, keep the peace and at all times promote inclusivity and union.  *cue flowers and soothing music*  Men may start wars and discriminate.  Women are to embrace all.  Women shouldn’t leave anyone out.  Women shouldn’t Say No.  I find this notion particularly insulting when juxtaposed with another who will not be constrained by these petty concerns (my ‘mentor’ teacher who was in fact hostile and concealing crimes), the Principal agreed she was not going to change and asked that I be The Bigger Person and do it anyway.  She might learn from your example, he said.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAno.  I’ve seen it recently in twitter discussions on feminism.  There are all kinds of silencing and other bullshit going on there.  There will always be ‘robust discussion’ and dissent in any large cohort – and we are talking about a group encompassing more than half of the population – but amongst the expected variety of values and political persuasions I find one comeback the most offensive.

You can’t say that. 

Feminism is INCLUSIVE, not exclusive. (So women…you can’t tell anyone that they are not included…?)

The insinuation being that you cannot seek to focus discussion on issues which inherently involve only women, amongst yourselves.  You cannot do this because men and trans women ‘feel left out’.  You shouldn’t talk about menstruation because it excludes people from the conversation for whom menstruation does not occur.  This was actually A Thing.  This is as ridiculous as decrying testicular cancer awareness because women aren’t included.  Except that wouldn’t happen, would it?  Firstly, we’d all be awarding extra points to men for talking about their health concerns at all when we all know men struggle with feelings and addressing personal health concerns.  Secondly, women wouldn’t demand to be included in a conversation about testicles.  And men would not be shamed by forces so ingrained in us all that so many women don’t even question it – you must not say no.  You have to make sure everyone feels included and everyone is happy.  Don’t rock the boat.  Just let it go.  Stop what you were doing.  No.  Because we only expect this of women.  Of ourselves.

If you don’t hang out on the Internet too much, you may not have been privy to the…discussion…about vaginas recently.  Well, not about vaginas which could have been useful, but whether women are Allowed to Use The Term Vagina At All.  That’s right.  A feminist tv star was organising ‘Night of A Thousand Vaginas’, a comedy event to raise money for reproductive rights of women in America.  And rather than lament the fact that women have to hold fundraisers to access reproductive health options in a free country in 2014, some people decided that the real tragedy was the word ‘vagina’.

Talking about women with vaginas is, apparently, cissexist/heteronormative/cisnormative/shaming/exclusionary/ essentialist and some other bulldust.  I didn’t see anybody say directly to these people: Stop It. This is not about you.  With a few exceptions (they know who they are) most people either AGREED that talking about vaginas was unfair to People Without Vaginas…and they presumably meant it.  A few women subtweeted (tweeted their thoughts without directing it at anyone in particular) on the sly, avoiding ‘rocking the boat’ or causing ‘further offence’.

This is what I heard:  YOU can’t mention vaginas in case someone doesn’t like it.

This is what I said next:  VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA PICTURE OF VAGINA VAGINA (you get the point)

Then someone directly accused me of ‘taunting’ people by saying ‘vagina’.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Then I started to burn inside.

You know what counts as using the word vagina to ‘taunt’, to hurt and shame?  When the defence barrister in your cross examination in Court says it.  Asks you about “the lips of your vagina”.  Repeats it in different tones of voice, louder, trying to make the description of your most intimate parts being touched against your will sound like a joke.

THAT is the wrong way to say vagina.

So I will say the word and reference my own vagina any fucking time I feel comfortable to do so.  I will encourage other women and girls to look after and protect their vaginas, and break the taboos around discussion of parts most would prefer we saved for porn movies and ‘lad mags’ any fucking time I feel comfortable to do so.

Up against every stereotype and socially constructed pressure on female behaviour conformity I will make my own decisions, thanks, about my body parts, my biology, my safety and my value.  I will decide the boundaries I choose to construct around important dialogue I need to have and I will decide whom it is with.

Probably the most ‘dangerous’ of these ideas is that I will say NO when I want to, when I need to and when I have to.  I am not here to create world peace.  I am not here to make every single living thing feel At One in my presence.  I am not here to make everybody else happyI don’t have to fulfil other peoples’ ideals of ‘inclusive enough to be feminist’.  I cannot understand why anyone who thought feminist values were important would feel compelled to tell me or any other woman how I’m Doing Feminism Wrong.  Or that my vagina, under any circumstances, is not my own to discuss or otherwise.

I reiterate, these are seemingly bizarre expectations (AKA judgements) which would not be demanded of a man.  The spoons it takes to pounce on women talking about their lived experiences which are not even in dispute as fact…instead of addressing actual instances of discrimination or threat which are mostly propagated by traditional masculine social standards and behaviour.  Might there be a reason that women with a voice (which, historically speaking, they’ve only just found) are targeted in this way?  Discussing vaginas is a threat to no one…ever.  But whether we name it or not, everybody knows women are raised as softer targets, primed to be shamed, blamed and Be Nice.

All I hear is:  Don’t make trouble.  Don’t rock the boat.  Don’t start anything.  Don’t be a bitch.  Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.  Don’t make anything awkward.  Just smile.  Just shut up.

Servility.  Sycophantcy.  Fawning.  Ignoring my own reality and truth. That can all fuck right off.

BONUS ROUND

As if to round off my gender stereotype rant with a nice sexist full stop, here is a little etymological factoid for you:

“First attested in 1537. From Latin sȳcophanta (“informer, trickster”), from Ancient Greek συκοφάντης (sukophantēs), itself from σῦκον (sukon, “fig”) + φαίνω (phainō, “I show, demonstrate”). The gesture of “showing the fig” was a vulgar one, which was made by sticking the thumb between two fingers, a display which vaguely resembles a fig, which is itself symbolic of a σῦκον (sukon), which also meant vulva. The story behind this etymology is that politicians in ancient Greece steered clear of displaying that vulgar gesture, but urged their followers sub rosa to taunt their opponents by using it”  from here.

 

 

 

 

Dexter Has Sensory Processing Disorder

thelionthatroared:

On the love of a mother for her child, especially when a diagnosis is made. Similar to when I wrote about my worries regarding my son.

Originally posted on tattoomummy:

So Dex has SPD.
If you’re wondering what that is here is the long version : Sensory Processing Disorder explained
But basically what it means is that his brain doesn’t process the input in the “normal” way so appropriate reactions don’t always occur.
He has very poor body awareness.
He has very low self esteem.
He has some serious anxiety.

My beautiful, little four year old.

In a way it’s a relief because I knew something was going on.
And then it’s heartbreaking, thinking of all the things he will go through that he doesn’t understand.
Like when he comes home from daycare and tells me that he just wanted to love his friend today but his friend wanted to love someone else and didn’t play with him.
Or when someone picks on him for eating his favourite food. It is so much more than kids being kids.

I know

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Familiar Feeling

thelionthatroared:

Sharing this because I understand the feelings, because I am so happy for Portia – that she doesn’t need to ‘go there’ as often – I think blogs on these topics indeed move in ebbs and flows (I have done the same) and because the links at the end are a pretty neat summary of the women of twitter that make the place a community for me (more so in my ‘other’ twitter handle). Thanks, Portia! All of the love to you! xx

Originally posted on Portia Smart:

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I haven’t written a blog post for a while and I was wondering why – it’s not like the patriarchy has been dismantled and women are now liberated. Sadly every day is filled with male violence against women. Every. Day.

My lack of posts has timed with the rise and roar of many more women’s voices and campaigns. And that is exactly as it should be.

For 10 months I have written 20 posts on violence against women and children and all of the threads that bind this issue. The majority of posts have explored or have been inspired by my own experiences. I have been supported, encouraged and embraced by so many women to have my voice heard. People have been kind enough to share their own experiences with me because of something I have written – I am consistently humbled and overwhelmed by this. I am honoured to…

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The Power of Harassment

There is untold power and relief to be found in sharing your story.  There are some popular sites like Everyday Victim Blaming and Hollaback! which invite readers to share and support each other.  Reading another’s words which describe YOUR feelings about being harassed, assaulted or violated in any way can have an enormous impact on your sense of self – and create connections which help to strengthen us all.  The Power of Harassment is a site with a difference.  Make the time to go and have a look.