October 2016 archive

Dear Opinion…

Having just joined in a #soulfulPR webinar about writing opinion pieces, I thought I’d republish this piece from my Bristol Woman column. Seeing as I’ve been learning about how to be like Marmite and all…

Dear Opinion,

Recently many things have happened in the world, which make me doubt you contain any good at all. And that’s a great shame because your power has the ability to resolve conflicts and create a united world. If only people knew how to handle you.

You work best on the ignorant, on those that feel they are entitled to you because of your content, and that it can be adapted to prove the point they so strongly feel needs to be heard. Do you feel empowered by this? Or when someone turns you in to a belief so strong that it makes them end friendships, disown family members, or even kill? 

You make people vulnerable because they often believe you without having all of the facts. And then, when people link you with politics or religion without evidence or having done any real, solid research, you become even more dangerous. But then you enjoy that. Gain strength by feeding people and making them seek out others who think the same, until they form an army of poorly informed, angry and disillusioned people. 

These are people who accept the dark side of you because they have mothers, fathers or friends who think in the same way. Or worse…because they are so disillusioned and feeling misplaced that they feel comforted by holding onto you tight. They are enlightened; they have found people who think the same way. They are then led to believe that you are he only way forward, the truth, their destiny. Judgments are made. Groups of people are tarred with the same brush. They then feel they are entitled to you and must voice damaging words in order to reach out to other broken souls. 

If only you came with a manual or instruction booklet. Then people would know how to use you correctly. They’d find the evidence and facts needed in order to form you properly. Some people believe everything they read or hear and then try and convince others to think the same.

You could hold so much power and have the ability to change the world for the better, if only people invested in you more and took you seriously.
No one is entitled to you. But then, that’s just my opinion, right?

From Me.

Fear

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.

The first time I became aware of what it meant to be female I was eleven and in a swimming pool in Exeter. A group of older boys kept leering at me and making lewd comments and it took me a while to realise it was because of how I looked. That they were viewing me sexually. I remember clearly the utter feeling of fear I felt at that moment. And how I wanted the water to swallow my swimsuit clad, pre-pubescent body up.

And now I have a teenage daughter myself.

We talk, often, about consent. About being objectified and sexualised at such a young age. She naively believes, as many ‘invincible’ teens do, that if someone tried to attack her all she would have to do is kick them in the balls and scream. Even though I have told her again and again about how men are, more often than not, physically stronger, and how if someone wanted to rape her she could fight and fight, but ultimately they’d probably succeed.

The thought terrifies me. She knows to go around in packs. She knows to be home before it’s dark unless she is being picked up and to always, always let me now where she is and who she is with. But none of that matters of someone out there decides her body is theirs for the taking.

And then what? As the Ched Evans case horrifically highlights, even if justice is done, and then undone, her life is ruined forever. Her previous sexual choices may be thrown in her face as evidence. She might receive tweets saying she ‘deserves to be killed and abused’ for daring to speak up and speak out.

We teach girls all the time about how to stay safe. About how their actions may cause reactions. What they wear. What they drink. Where they go. Who they fuck.

But shouldn’t we be focussing on the men more? Yes, you heard that right. Who is leading by example and teaching men to respect women? To not be rapists? That no, or silence, means no?

The response on Twitter to the Ched Evans case highlighted the unbelievably vile opinions men have of women and of a young female who didn’t even shout rape, but merely said she couldn’t remember. Men who may have wives and daughters of their own. Or, God forbid, sons. The tweets were repulsive and frightening and made me feel like that eleven year old girl in the swimming pool all over again.

Yesterday’s ruling and response highlighted that nothing changes. Women are still frightened. And men, although not all, are very much still to be feared.

 

Politics and Parenting

Politics: the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

I clearly remember the first time I voted. My dad drove me to the local town hall, informed me that I would be given a piece of paper and a pencil, and then told me exactly where I should mark my cross.

And I dutifully did as I was told. Because I knew nothing at all about politics. I knew who the Prime Minister was and I’d cheered/got angry based on the results of various general elections over the previous years as a teenager, but my responses were all based on the opinions of my parents. They didn’t shout about it, they didn’t beat me into submission and make me vote the same way they did it just happened, exactly as it happens now. Children are not educated about any aspect of politics, or how our country is run until it is too late and they are eighteen and in the voting booth following in the footsteps of their parents.

But is this right? Is teaching your children about politics a form of extremism? Indoctrination?

Or responsible?

Politics around the world has over time become more and more messed up and dangerous – Brexit and Donald Trump are two very real and present examples – but if children were educated about politics then maybe, just maybe, when they were eighteen and given the power to vote for the first time they’d be able to make a more informed, independent decision, knowing the full impact of their actions. If they learnt the basics, without bias, of what each political party stood for, about the past governments and which policies have worked or been an unmitigating disaster, of learning about the country outside of their own immediate experiences, then would they not be in a better position to use their vote wisely? To be fully informed?

Yes, I know that many parents might unwittingly, or I don’t doubt on purpose, pass their own ideals down to their children and OF COURSE this is something that should never be encouraged. But I still don’t think that should mean we can’t educate children about politics at all for fear of this. Children should be free to know all the facts, form their own opinions, and draw their own conclusions. Otherwise isn’t their vote a wasted one anyway?

The current system doesn’t work. It’s not indoctrination, its ignorance. The future Prime Minister may very well be the little girl who was recently on the ITV news giving a passionate speech to Theresa May. Damn right she should know who the Prime Minister is. Hell yes she is right to be concerned about homeless people. She didn’t smack of a child fed some bullshit by her parents to me, she was simply a young girl who doesn’t understand why Theresa May can’t go around giving hot chocolate to homeless people with floppy ears. This child is clearly inquisitive and caring and wants to make a change. And I say that should be encouraged.

What do you think?