I May Destroy You

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I May Destroy You

A staggering 6 weeks ago, when lock down restrictions were beginning to ease, our TV screens and minds were illuminated by: ‘I May Destroy you’. I, myself, who fared badly from the pandemic, was starting to recover from a long tail case of Covid-19. This drama series was the primary broadcast I was desperate to watch. Its impact is set to last far beyond the 6 hours of air time which the BBC allotted. 

The main narrative centres around the rape of the Arabella; the feisty, strong-willed, leading lady. Michaela Coel who wrote starred and co-produced the series plays Arabella. The realistic screenplay leads us through flashbacks of her being raped. In reporting the matter to the Police they were able to establish that she had been subject to date-rape drugging. Perhaps not so realistic: the Police are shown to be professional, compassionate and supportive. Inevitably the case had to be shelved until a DNA match presents itself to the investigation. However, what is ground-breaking is we see Arabella: a hard-partying recreational drug user, convincingly being able to differentiate clearly between being secretly drugged, then subject to intercourse and simply, narcotic indulgence followed by consensual sex. At no point is the viewer directed to blame Arabella due to volatile lifestyle choices or to consider her to be unreliable as a consequence.

Arabella’ response to the violation could be considered from varied viewpoints. Promiscuity as a result of a sex attack liberated sex-positive behaviour or further examples of not fully consensual sex as a result of drug and alcohol usage. This leaves her vulnerable to a further sexual assault, interestingly in the form of stealthing: removal of a condom without the consent of the sexual partner. I and many viewers, male and female, were unaware that this was a criminal matter, the show was surprisingly informative.

We are offered some reasoning as to why Arabella’ sexual conduct presents us with a large variety of partners, many of whom are little more than acquaintances. The series takes us back to her infancy, parents who reside separately, but are still in a relationship. A father who indulges in a ‘Fancy Woman’ and to a degree, neglects his parental duties.

Breathtaking to see greater diversity on our screens, the main characters all being from ethnic minorities (Within the UK, not Globally). I found Arabella immediately appealing, the funky jacket and the wilds of pink hair. Terry, the loyal friend that every girl need to have, both are: fun, alluring, party goers. In opposition to this, the only more than minor white female: Theo, is overweight, unattractive and morally warped. A wondrous mid-series episode takes us back to secondary school, only done successfully in Romy and Michele’s High School Union during the late nineties. The retro-fun element of camera phones being new, hilarious in comparison to the multi-faceted smartphones of today. We see the only significant white, female character, falsely accuse a black man of rape. Equally to this, it becomes clear that Arabella’ rapist was white, herself being of colour. Is this a lesson for white supremacy, are matters being transformed in terms of traditional villain, victim roles in terms of race?

As a white female, I found some of the script a little isolating, the dialogue of:

‘I don’t like white people.’

stated by Terry. The scene in which Arabella takes extreme offence from being referred to as being from an ‘Afro-Caribbean background’ as opposed to simply of ‘African background’. This combined with making the medical professional linger while they shoot a podcast. This did not appear to be an act of standing up to racism, more the conduct of adolescents that belonged in a classroom seated next to Catherine Tate’s Vicky Pollard.

The range of taboo subjects brought to the drama was radical, in the extreme. The casual use of sanitary towels, menstruation no longer to be hidden and ignored. However, I found the scene in which she brings home a Man which she has just met in a night club off-putting. They endeavour to have intercourse while she is on her period. This combined with them both playing with her heavy, ‘Squishy’ discharge bordering on vulgar.

We are introduced to group sex on several occasions and internet dating, which pre-Millennial’s didn’t indulge. Significantly, the concept of social media addiction is raised, something we are all beginning to ponder over as a result of lock down and periods of isolation. Primarily, we are embraced by the subject of male rape, a major taboo, the public only being widely aware that this happened since the turn of the Millennium. Although the male rape scene was convincing, I was deterred by the response of the character. Devastation, regret and self-blame were not conveyed convincingly.

Although there were some downsides, this is a monumental step forward in challenging the many failings within our society; primarily rape culture. The ambiguity of the concluding episode adds to the mental turmoil over violation and redemption. The series instigated discussions and debate, a drama which will get us talking about rape.

Set to take the short trip over the pond, let’s hope Arabella & Co, can do the same for the Americans!

Watch the Series

Stealthing

Missed: Mrs America?

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Wednesday night saw the TV series Mrs America hit our screen in the UK. The series dramatises, more than documents the path of second-wave feminism in the United States.

The initial episode centres around Phyllis Schlafly, played by the Hollywood great: Cate Blanchette. Schlafly, a staunch anti-feminist who lead the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Many hold Schlafly accountable for the bill never being passed and eventually abandoned in the early eighties.

Schlafly, the women who Betty Friedan, mother of seventies women’s movement, insisted should be burned at the stake. The Republican who led a league of housewives, home-makers and churchgoers against the progressive feminists of the day.

Growing up during the great depression, Schlafly had a modest upbringing, her father of long term unemployment. Motherly support of her education steered her towards a scholarship place at the now named Maryland University. In tangent to her studies she worked as a model, but she also ‘Test fired machine guns’ for the largest munitions factory in the US, World War Two raging across the Globe. Eventually studying post-grad at Harvard, then becoming a researcher for the Republican Party.

Marrying a wealthy lawyer, fifteen years her senior, resulting in six children. Author of many publications the most notable: ‘A choice, not an ego,’ selling over 3.5 million copies, highlighting matters in opposition to National defence strategies.

After another unsuccessful run for Congress in the early seventies, she turned her attention to women’s politics and battled successfully against the ERA. The main policies were in favour of women remaining exempt from the Draft, Vietnam was at war and American troops were being sent East. Other motions looked to protect social security benefits for dependent wives. Although her eldest son was openly gay she stood by conservative policies against single-sex marriage and anti-immigration.

The dramatisation brings the seventies to our post lock-down TV screens. Brown patterned floral prints, chunky jewelry, twin sets and hand knitting. Hairnets and curlers creating the bouffant of the day. Although an anti-feminist, Cate Blanchette portrays a strong, capable woman, more than a little opposed to being assigned the role of note-taking. We see a true beauty parading the national stars and stripes in the form of a bikini.

In opposition, we encounter bad sex aesthetics not spoken about during the decade. When exhausted she submits to undesired intercourse with her demanding husband. Lying back motionless as he ploughs internally with no regard for her pleasure, indulging in merely his gratification.

What next for the series?

Although slaughtered by Gloria Steinem in person, her character was introduced and takes the limelight in the next episode.

A drama to be indulged, not a doco to be scrutinized!

Watch on BBC iPlayer

A Void

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A Void

In this, I have agreed to what was termed ‘A life modelling process’ for an artist seeking volunteers for a project he is working on. I stand before him in my dressing gown, nude underneath and wondering what he wants me to do, he tells me:

‘Don’t worry, I have done this lots of times before.’

From this, I am somewhat reassured, but still, air a little caution.

‘I just need you to lie down so I can paint you with latex.’

In this he shows me the latex, it’s white and when he paints a little of my arm it feels cold but pleasant on my form. I agree to the process and he helps me untie my dressing gown belt, although naked I feel comfortable in front of him, he has put me at ease.

I lie down under his direction and move into the position he needs me to be in. He starts painting around my neck area, slowly but surely working his way down. He is careful but professional as he covers my breasts, making sure he only touches my nipples with the horse hair bristles of the paint brush.

Working his way further down my body he comes to the groin area. I become nervous again, worrying about what he is about to do.

‘Relax, I have done this many times before.’

I let my muscles fall low, then with warm air, he blows gently inside myself. From this, like magic, I open right up like a great white shark about to launch an attack.

‘That’s right, good, you’re doing well.’

He directs, then he moves onto his back and slides his head and upper body inside my womb. From this, he begins to paint, carefully and professionally, coating the walls of my womb and ovaries in latex. When he has finished he edges out carefully and puts each hand delicately on the inside of my legs. Then without touching me with his lips he sucks air from the inside of myself. I return to my normal size, at ease with everything going on, amazed at what has been performed by this genius.

From this, he works down my legs in a similar motion. He then turns me over to work on my back and lower body. So relaxed with the brush motion I am almost asleep when he finishes:

‘We just need to wait for it to dry.’

He whispers, in this, he picks up an old fashioned guitar and begins to sing folk songs.

He wakes me up to tell me that it’s time to peel the latex off. I stand up for him and he begins stretching off the suited coating, carefully going over my breasts. After my ribs he stops and places a hand on each side of myself, then he kisses my forehead, gently and childlike in motion. As I smile he gets back to action, working the form off down to my lower body.

After a gentle shake, my womb falls out. Before me, I see its squashed in structure, perfect on the inner coating, but de-revelled on the outer. My ovaries flop out almost deformed and entwined, messy and forlorn. Ahead of me, I see the babies, I will never give birth to and the children I will never raise. The bedtime stories I will never read, the play parks I will never go to, the football matches I will never go to and the school plays I will never attend. In this he finishes the removal process, then he shakes out the body-like creation. He clips it onto a line, in this, it stands tall and strong, an independent being, strong, singular, but of great value.

Alison Little

A Void is a flash Fiction works from Alison Little. This piece was first performed in the Hornby Rooms, Central Library, Liverpool for International Women’s Day in 2018. The subsequent year it read for an event marking the same celebrations held during the 209 Women exhibition marking the centenary of women being able to vote in the UK (Although restricted to those over 30 and with property).

The illustration was also created by Alison Little using a bamboo dip stick pen and Indian ink. It feature a close up of a womb and creates an impression of scarring. She is looking to make a sculptural piece from latex later in 2020 to represent the works.

More about 209 Women exhibition, Open Eye Gallery

Quotes from Catherine MacKinnon

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Catherine MacKinnon, a mother of second-wave feminism, led the US movement alongside greats such as Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem. Primarily, a legal scholar, lecturing at institutions such as Harvard. Specialising in sexual harassment, pornography and prostitution. We take a look at some quotes from her acclaimed 1980’s publication, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on life and law.

”One of the advantages of male supremacy, along with money and speech and education and respectability, is sexual access to women, of which pornography is one form.”

”Marriage is women’s destiny, she defends and seeks to extend. Now, three out of five marriages end in divorce after about five years, leaving the woman with approximately one child, approximately no income, and a standard of living drastically below that of her former husband.”

”A recent study shows that the only difference between hookers and other women with similar class backgrounds is that prostitutes earn twice as much.”

”We resent being blamed for what men do to us, being told we provoked it when we are raped or sexually harassed, living in constant fear.”

”Men see rape ass intercourse: feminists say much intercourse is rape.”

”Sex blindness”

”The rule said that if Native American women married outside the tribe, the children of that union were not full tribe members: if Native American men married out, there were no such consequences.”

”Neo-Victorian prudery’

”What is not considered to be a hierarchy is women and men – men on top and women on the bottom.”

”Reproductive freedom”

”The problem is, the State has never in fact protected women’s dignity or bodily integrity.’

”Most rapes are intra-racial and committed by men the women know.”

”The purported plot of Deep Throat (Linda Lovelace) is premised upon rearranging the woman by putting a clitoris in her throat, so she gets sexual pleasure out of giving oral sex to men.”

”A critique of pornography is to feminism what defence  is to male supremacy.”


”This is what it means when feminists say that maleness is a form of power and femaleness is a form of powerlessness.”

”Women’s desire to be fucked by men is equal to men’s desire to fuck women.”

 

Quite simply, a great feminist icon here to inspire and move humanity forward.

 

 

Catherine MacKinnon

Feminist Unmodified

Gloria Steinem

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The iconic feminist, the writer, the political activist and the author of her later biography, ‘My Life on the Road’.

As a girl, she traveled across the US between Ohio and Florida for most of her informative years. The trailor upbringing came to an end when her parents divorced, she went to live and care for her depression troubled mother, now attending school regularly from
the first time at the age of eleven.

After college she was awarded a fellowship and spent two years in India. During her travels she opted for a termination of pregnancy in London ten years before they were legal.

From this she became a journalism, a groundbreaking article being ‘A Bunny’s Tale’, where she went undercover as a playboy bunny to get the dirt on Hugh Hefner and the Playboy empire. Co-founding New York Magazine and Ms Magazine, which she later became an editor for several decades later. From the late sixties she rubbed shoulders with greats like Betty Friedan as they marched for the liberation of women.

Now, at the age of eighty-five, she is technically in retirement. However, social activism work is not something you retire from, she is still penning the writings which inspire women Globally.

Her latest biography, ‘My Life on the Road’ contains so many awe-inspiring quotes, we give only a few to lay a foundation for Steinemism and the future:

Dick and Jane limitations that school put on girls.’

From her travels in India:

High caste women were sexually restricted and women at the bottom were sexually exploited.’

‘Most of us, I love graduations. They are individual and communal, an end and a beginning, more permanent than weddings, more inclusive than religions, and possibly the most moving ceremonies on earth.’

‘Needing approval is a female cultural disease, and often a sign of doing the wrong thing.’

‘I was angry about the human talent that was lost just because it was born into a female body, and the mediocrity that was awarded because it was born into a male one.’

‘A journey -whether it’s to the corner grocery or through life-is supposed to have a beginning, middle and end, right? Well the road is not like that at all. It’s the very illogical and the juxtaposed differences of the road-combined with our search for meaning-that make travel so addictive.

‘My Life on the Road’ is available from Amazon

More about Gloria Steinem

 

 

Riendeer versus Diesel

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The last call of the evening on my busiest evening of the year Christmas Eve, I overheard a comment about how reindeer must be soo much cheaper than diesel. Reindeer cheaper than diesel? You have to feed them and they eat loads. Harnesses have to be bought and you have to pay extra for the re-enforced ones when you have some many of the damn four-legged things. There’s re-hoofing which is bearly affordable then there are the exploitative vet’s bills. You need to provide stalls for them to sleep, a constant supply of hay is required, making sure it doesn’t get wet and there is enough to last over the winter. That’s in addition to the four-acre field which I am still paying off the mortgage on for them to graze and get exercise in the form of running around and playing silly animal chase games. Then you add in the time it takes to find them when they go missing, that Rudolf is a pain, always breaking out I think he’s getting his leg over with some girl reindeer probably thinning her antlers over on the other side of town.

Reindeer cheaper than diesel, as if!

End of the year, a year spent making toys with only the help of a number of miniature Elves. Exclusive, handmade, limited edition creations which utilise traditional manufacturing techniques. Then despite the fact I’ve travelled all around the World, over only one night, the kids aren’t interested in the toys. They want the latest Wii, hoverboard skateboards and pixel purses. It’s the North Pole, how are we supposed to churn out the latest digital technology creations on mass?

Then there the issue of everyone thinking I want to drink milk like I’m some kind of baby. I managed two brandy’s over Paris, one malt whiskey in Glasgow, then things seemed to be looking up on my first call in New York. I thought I’d been left some fancy cocktail, a long island iced tea or something, then when I went to drink it the mother snatched it from me. ‘That’s mine’ was followed by her slapping my hand like I was some kind of Street beggar.

It got worse in the Bronx, one woman was actually unconscious, the apartment stunk of the crack she had been smoking from the glass pipe which had been smashed on the floor. On waking she got me confused with some kind of oversized bat despite the fact I was dressed head to toe in Red. So not only do I have to pay taxes to support her crack habit, I am expected to provide the funds for her child as the father wasn’t there, I also am required to personally deliver presents for her offspring.

Then when I eventually get back there’s unharnessing the reindeer, feeding them, brushing them down and sorting out the stalls for them to sleep and making sure there’s something footed up again Rudolfs so he doesn’t get out. And what does my wife do while I do all this, she cooks dinner with the food I have afforded. I only got away from her whining about being menopausal a few years ago, before that she was always moaning about being pre-menstrual. Once, in the Seventies she even wanted me to pop to the shops and get some sanitary towels when I was still wearing my best Christmas Eve Santa Suit.

Next year I am cancelling Christmas, I am making no toys, there will be no more employment for blasted Elves, the Reindeer are going, the field will be sold and I am getting the latest diesel sleigh. No more milk, no more ungrateful kids and no more being expected to provide for Crack whores offspring.

Next Christmas is officially cancelled!

Jane

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Jane, the sculptural form was exhibited for IN:VISIBLE women, full-day conference held at Liverpool Central Library on Friday the 27th October. Simply Jane was the accompanying fictional works read at the event, both were created by Alison Little in autumn 2017.

The following piece was commissioned by the Liverpool Irish Festival, from artist Alison Little, as a contribution to its work about In:Visible Women. It is a fictional piece of writing, created to help readers consider the effects of sexual violence towards women. Although it will echo some experiences, it is not ‘the definitive story’, nor is it specific to a real individual. We raise this not to diminish its value, but to assure readers that no survivor’s story is being misused. This piece is also supported by an artwork, which will be on show during the In:Visible Women day (Central Library, Fri 27 Oct 2017, £5).

Due to the sensitive content relayed in the following piece, relating to sexual violence and rape culture, we advise reading on with caution.

Simply Jane

Jane awakens. Her eyes bolt open, so much so it feels as though her upper lashes are laid flat against her eyebrows. The eyes almost detach from their position as the globes project up towards the ceiling, her pupil’s forefront in their position. Wide awake in panic again from the last eight weeks and four-days since it happened.

Although a chilly night, as they often are in County Cork, she was sweating intensely. Her groin was wet and the undersides of her flowering breasts were drowned in perspiration. She feels down between her legs, wishfully hoping that the damp may be ‘Me Auntie Bid’ finally arriving, six weeks and approximately three days late. She could only feel perspiration, no thicker substance, her optimism fades away as she faces the reality of being with child.

Still anxious, twisted in her bodily position, she begins to think about it again; what happened on that ill-fated night eight weeks and four days ago. She was at a sixteenth birthday party, not far away, just the next village. It was her best friend’s shindig, they had all brought what beer, cider and wine they could get hold their hands and one of the travellers had jigged in with a bottle of Poitín.

In her innocence Jane had got tipsy on the drink, then tipsier, finally slipping into inebriation. One of the older fellas had been dancing with her. She didn’t really know who he was, he must have been from a village in the opposite direction. As she became a little stilted in her motion, he placed his hands on her hips, then guided her towards the open front door. As the cold air had hit her she began to sober up. On his suggestion they went to sit in the barn.

As they sat on some crates he began to tell her she was a ‘Wee Doll’ and how the blue of her dressed matched her eyes. After brushing his wet lips quickly across hers he produced an unopened half bottle of Jameson’s. He opened the lid and took a quick swig before passing it over to Jane:

‘Come on have some’, enticing her into becoming drunk again.

The next thing Jane can remember is that he is on top of her, back flat against the concrete as he fumbles around her dress as he tries to remove her knickers. Jane tries to squirm and say no but he pushes himself into her, she can’t move as he protrudes into her virginal body.

After he had finished, he moved to one side and appeared to fall into a drunken slumber. Jane manages to stand slowly, edging out the barn, away from the light and noise from the party, down long country lanes, bushes each side, moon half visible, night owls coo-ing in the distance, to her village, her front door, her room, bed, her fear.

She lies in that bed tonight, thoughts rushing through her mind about her one sexual encounter. The one she had not wanted and the one which had left her bearing child. She tosses over in bed again, her mind engulfed with thoughts about how to end this ordeal.

Abortion pills? She could order online, but are they safe? What if she gets caught having them delivered? It was such as small village, the Post Man knew everybody and the Post Mistress was always chin-wagging and may even open the package.

Her parents finding out seemed bad enough, but she could even be locked up by the Garda. She could travel to England or the Netherlands; a cheap flight from Ryanair could get her to Amsterdam. Can she get enough money for the operation?

She had no-one to talk to. Her friend who had sprung the party had found her knickers and the barn and all the girls at school seemed to know that something had happened, she felt like they were calling her a ‘Floosie’.

She wanted a ‘babby’ one day. It was his baby she didn’t want. Every day she lived in fear of seeing him again, smelling him again. Even the remnants of her Dad’s malt from his glass brought on the urge to vomit now. The vision of him and the memory of her inability to move as he forced into her innocent body… She thinks of how this baby would remind her of him. It could grow up to look like him, possibly even act like him.

She turns in bed again. She had no choice. She couldn’t have this baby, but how and when could she terminate the pregnancy? An owl, outstretched, screeches in the distance. She envisages the black eternity of the sky under its expanse the owl looking down on her as a minuscule speck; alone amidst the wrongs of the World which make up human existence.

If you have been affected by the contents of this piece, please consider consulting one of the services below:

Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (RASA) – this is a Mersey based support service, rather than a national service. Please see below for more on wider support services rasamerseyside.org +44(0) 151 666 1392; helpline@rasamerseyside.org If using email, please be mindful of the security of your account and other people’s access to it.

NHS – Sexual assault and violence services are available in most UK cities. To help to locate a service near you, the NHS have a service locator, which you can access using this webpage (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017): http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexualhealth/Pages/Sexualassault.aspx

Abortion Support Network – if you – or a friend – requires access to abortion support services from Ireland, Northern Island or the Isle of Mann, the Abortion Support Network may be able to assist – asn.org.uk To call from Northern Ireland +44(0)7897 611 593; from Ireland +44(0)15267370 (calls only, no texts) and/or from the Isle of Man +44(0)7897 611593 or email info@asn.org.uk If using email, please be mindful of the security of your account and other people’s access to it.

Victim Support can offer assistance with how to handle reporting a crime as well as helping you through the legal procedures of pursuing a charge. For more details of how to use these particular services, use this link https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017).

If you are supporting someone you know to have survived a violent, sexual encounter, there are some interesting and useful points in this online article, from The Everyday Feminist (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017): https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/01/how-to-help-sexually-assaulted-friend/

This is not an exhaustive list of services available or resources you can access, but we hope it may serve as a start point, where needed, for anyone experiencing, supporting or hoping to assist survivors with their ongoing needs, health and wellbeing.

Liverpool Irish Festival

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