When is a word ‘just’ a word? (Never).

Words have meanings. This seems obvious, and indeed when you find yourself forced to fish it out of your bag and plonk it on the table during an argument people stare at you like you’re mad, because of course, duh.

And yet.

And yet, people will (and do) argue that words do not, in fact have meanings. That they are ‘just words’, existing in the contextless vacuum of the intentions of their user. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words are meaningless and empty. They have no weight, people argue passionately, unless you choose to give it to them.

And so (quite in spite of your own judgement) you’re forced to drag it out again, that old byline that has been worn thin by overuse. Words have meanings.

Aha! They smile, they’ve got you where they want you. With a flourish and a bow they reveal it; the dictionary. An entire book dedicated to the listing of words and their definitions, and the meaning that you’re using is not in there. They sit back, waiting for you to deflate, and lick their lips.

Those of you long used to reflexively reaching for your dictionaries, I’ve got an uncomfortable truth to tell you: a definition is not the same as the meaning of a word. Continue reading


Do the riots surprise you?

We in Britain live in a country where the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest.

We live in a country where brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures are being put in place by our government- cuts and measures that hit the poorest, most vulnerable sections of society hardest.

We live in a country where there have been 333 deaths in police custody since 1998- and not a single conviction of any police officer has been had for any of them.

We live in a country where social mobility is worse than any other developed country.

Look at the context of the country we live in, at the way our entitled treat the dispossessed, the culture of institutionalised and government-supported classism, racism, heterosexism, cissexism, sexism and ableism.

If you’re surprised that in the last year we’ve erupted- the student protests, the university occupations, the strikes, the marches, the unrest on the streets- then you haven’t been paying attention.

Pay attention, beyond the burning cars and the sensationalist headlines of the riots, to the rot that surrounds them and lays dry kindling for each spark to set aflame.

Crossposted from my tumblr.

A note: when I first wrote this, a great many people misunderstood me. I do not at all condone the actions of the rioters. Understanding the context is not the same as justifying the actions taken. I am not a person who believes that violence, vandalism and looting are acceptable ways of expressing anger. I do however think, though horrific, these actions are understandable.

Bigotry comes with many faces, and not all of them are unrepentant asshole

Guest post up on Orange The Brave!

There’s this idea people have of what a bigot is.

Bigots; they’re the people who spit out slurs to the exclusion of any other language to describe oppressed groups of people; they’re the violent ones who well, maybe not all of them will kick your head in… but they will certainly cheer on those who would. They’re the people who mutter darkly about ‘all sorts’ being let into the country these days, and their position on immigration runs to ‘no-one with skin darker than a Milkybar or people who worship god(s) other than the big man spoken of in the New Testament’. They’re nationalists; they might not be Nazi supporters but they think Hitler had some good ideas about segregation. They’re the cross-burners, the Westboro Baptist Church, the English Defence League.

Or, less extremely, they’re your Granddad; a product of an older time, when the n-word was just how you described black people and whilst they might not hate LGBQ and trans folks, they still don’t really hold with that sort of thing, feel that marriage equality is not really appropriate and that adoption should be out of the question for queer couples because well, it’s just not right you know, children need a father and a mother.

People don’t think of themselves.


UK Health and Social Care bill amendments: Nadine Dorries and Frank Field, fearlessly fighting for our right to be lied to, patronised and mislead

So, on the 16th April I sent an email to my MP- Norman Lamb- about the amendments to the Health and Social care bill that Nadine Dorries and Frank Field have tabled that propose that people seeking abortion should receive ‘counselling’ about the ‘real risks’ involved in abortion.

Sadly for Dorries and Field, those ‘risks’ they keep talking about? Those ones that she claims the evil obstetricians and evil gynaecologists’ don’t tell you about because they are a part of the ‘abortion industry’? Yeah, they don’t actually exist.

In the UK informed consent from the patient is required before any medical procedure, including abortion, can be carried out. Practitioners are required to discuss all potential risks and complications, both physical and psychological, with the patient. Abortion in the UK is already thoroughly and stringently regulated; it’s the only medical procedure in the UK that requires two doctors to give the ok before it can occur.

When carried out clinically and legally abortion is, for many women, safer than actually having the baby at full term. In the UK the risks of haemorrhaging during an abortion is about 0.01%  and damage to the cervix and womb occurs in less than 1% and 0.04% of abortions respectively. Less than 0.01% of medical abortions carried out between 12 and 24 weeks causes damage to the womb. These risks are, evidently, incredibly low. Abortion is one of the safest procedures a person can have. And yet, despite Dorries’s claims, these tiny risks are still made plain to the patient, because that’s what informed consent is. Giving all relevant information to a person so they can make their decision with the possession of the all facts at their disposal.

Worse still for Dorries’ and Field’s case is the evidence that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists cites in its new draft guidelines that “The great majority of women who have abortions do not experience adverse psychological [consequences].”

A systematic review of the evidence from 21 studies of abortion and adverse mental health outcomes did not support higher rates of a range of mental health outcomes in those who undergo abortion compared with their respective comparison groups, either women who delivered or women who had never been pregnant.

Although the evidence in this area is conflicting, there are significant design flaws in many of the studies, and those studies that do support a relationship between abortion and adverse mental health outcomes tend to be weaker methodologically. The evidence review by Major et al. (2009) which updates the report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, 2008 confirms that the most rigorous studies support the view that any observed associations between abortion and mental health problems do not appear to be related to abortion itself but to pre-existing conditions and co-occurring risk factors.

Although abortion can be associated with a range of feelings, long term feelings of sadness, guilt and regret appear to linger in only a minority of women.

Dorries and Field are trying to use the same tactics employed (sadly successfully) in the US to strangle abortion access for pregnant people. Anti-choicers know that by couching their hardline anti-choice views in moderate language they become far more reasonable sounding, especially when the change they’re gunning for is seen as not all that big. Want to ban later term abortions (several procedures including the safest and most commonly used abortion technique in the second trimester)? Rename it ‘partial birth abortion‘ to give the misleading impression it will only ban access to abortions of viable foetuses, and watch the ban get passed!

Their aim is to eventually get abortion banned altogether. Both Dorries and Field have already tried to restrict access to abortion, but much more blatantly, in 2008 where Dorries tried to lower the time limit from 24 down to 22 weeks and Field tried to bring in a third doctor for pregnancy that has exceeded 24 weeks.

They failed then, but the worrying thing is that only 27 out of 162 Tory MPs and just over half of the Lib Dems voted against those amendments. The make up of Parliament has shifted significantly since then and now; a victory is not by any means certain.

I urge anyone from the UK to contact your MP and highlight these proposals and how not okay they are.

Here is a website that lets you quickly and easily email your MP. They do not allow form letters (they cross-check each one and delete any that seem to be the same) so I’m afraid you’re going to have to write your own.

We need to let the MPs of our country know that we will not let them erode our rights away.