The burden 

A short, unfinished piece started by me remembering my father saying “you’re not my son, so don’t act like one”.

Our sons, our brothers

Placed on a pedal stool before they could sit

Already perfect and complete.

Not allowed to falter

And failures considered growth.

Safe to go, wear, love as they see fit.

The world opened to them,

Open for the taking –  they can take it.

So they take and they take.

Our fathers and uncles,

Telling us all of their burden.

The men who upped.

Yet how they forget

The backs that cracked

And the bellies that split in two

To give them the world.

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One a day 

[comments from my colleagues at work]

Monday: “Russia did well in Syria. Yes I agree there is more collateral damage than they let on but the benefits outweigh that.”

Tuesday: “I feel sorry for pedophiles. Watching child porn is the same as watching murder videos online. Would you get arrested for the second? And anyway, watching porn is a victimless crime. It’s their sexual orientation and it’s unfair that we see them as monsters without giving them a chance.” 

Wednesday: “I don’t think the governement have gone far enough with it all [PREVENT]. If it saves even one person’s life then it’s just unfortunate other people are wrongly accused along the way.” 

Thursday: “Rihanna is damaged goods. Well didn’t she get beaten up by Chris Brown. That makes her damaged.” 

Friday: alhamdulillah I can spend the day recovering at home.  

International women’s day 

I remember the strong women who have made me the strong woman I am today. I celebrate my existence and my survival. Against the odds – I was not killed for being a daughter. My mind was not killed for wanting to learn. My dreams were not killed for wanting to soar.

My mothers and my sisters. My foremothers. It is the blood they shed and the rivers they cried that means I was not killed.

I love them and cherish them. And I love and cherish every women who is here and not here so that I can be here.

But they are not all here. I remember the one in eight women in the UK who loose their lives in the hands of violent men. I remember the women who are told what they can and can not do. I remember the women who are told our pain is not important enough and our struggles petty. I remember even women who tell us our pain is not important enough to and our struggles are petty.

I remember the patriarchy. And today I vow to keep trying to dismantle it. For my sisters. For my daughters. And for my brothers. And for my sons.

What

massacre

happens to my son

between

him

living within my skin

drinking my cells

my water

my organs

and

his soft psyche turning cruel.

Does he not remember

he

is half woman.

– Nayyirah Waheed

there have been so many times
i have seen a man wanting to weep

but

instead

beat his heart until it was unconscious

– Nayyirah Waheed

Happy international women’s day. I apologise for being a few minutes late. And I apologise for ignoring my blog recently. So many things to say. So little time. So little energy. I have been very sick but have recovered and hope to be back blogging soon 🙂

Self-care: my weapon and shield 

Self-care is an act of political warfare. Learn to share only when you have the strength to do so. Say no when you do not. Say nothing when even this is not possible.
Our pain matters. Our words are worth something. Our experience is real. 

We are not exotic. We are not submissive or unduly angry. We are not different to the others.

There is a difference between offensive and oppressive. And we know when we are being oppressed. By their words, by their actions, by their systems. We can recognise the dull pain it causes deep in our stomach.

And so we do not have to explain it. Not why we do what we do. Not why we want what we want. And certainly not when we hurt the way we do.

Expecting marginalised peoples to disregard their own emotions to calmly educate you is the epitome of entitlement

Being a strong women

I think my mum is depressed. She asked me “why don’t I feel happiness inside?” And with those words I felt a little piece of me shatter as I realised she was the strong brown women. The unbreakable, not allowed to tremor.

I assume it began with the trauma of coming to a foreign land in the hope of a better life for her unborn children. Leaving her parents, siblings and the world she knows behind. Coming to this cold place where they never accept her, shout abuse and all she can do is smile back.

My dad beat her, emotionally tortured her and abused her children. This was not a secret – everyone knew. She had to bring us up on her own because dad was never around. He was earning the money but he’d keep her on a budget. She never treated herself. But the expectation is you stick with your husband for the sake of the children. And you pray for him. And you pray for yourself. And you keep going.

When mum had the strength to leave him, the whole community turned their backs on her. She heard people she did not even know talk about her. She worries about no one marrying her daughters because of it. She worries about her son growing up to be a d*ck and people blaming her for it. Her worries never stopped when the man left.

Our mums – black and brown women – expected to carry our burdens on their shoulders. They are the mythological superwoman: infallible, resilient, machines. Protect their men even when they betray them. Protect their children, their parents, their siblings. Our families include all our cousins – even 5 times removed.

But who looks out for them? Who asks them if they’re coping? If their shoulders need a break? You’re so strong, so brave they say. Keep smiling through the tears they advice. Poor mental health is not seen as an option. You keep praying. And you keep going.

Now prayer is a powerful thing. It has got me through the worst of times and I thank it for my best of times. But that does not mean poor mental health does not require treatment. You would not cut your finger off but just pray for it to fix itself.

But even my mum – the strongest women I know – refuses to get help. Perhaps because she doesn’t know what help could even be. She doesn’t want to take psychotics. And why does she need to speak to anyone when she can speak to God? It’s as if seeking help is admitting defeat and breaking the oath we are born into. The oath to care about everyone else’s needs and to carry all their pain.

And then there’s me, another brown women. Baring the weight of my mother’s pain, my sisters’ pains, my brothers’ pain. Now financially supporting my family because the tax man has decided my mum is not a single parent and so does not deserve benefits (they believe my dad still lives with us and won’t believe otherwise). Worrying about the my brother’s grades. Worrying about him being accused of being a terrorist because he is a brown boy with a beard. Worrying about my sisters getting their hearts broken. Worrying about my families, my friends, my world. Another strong girl doomed to be a strong women.

What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person – John Green, Paper Towns

No justice, no peace

A popular mantra repeated again and again by those facing injustice.

After the state kills yet another person with no one held to blame. No justice. When whole communities are obliterated for the hunt of one man. No justice. When people running away from said bombs are denied safety. No justice. When yet another loved one is brutalised but it takes more than 5 years of fighting for an inquest to take place and an eternity to find out what actually happened. No justice. When women and children seeking asylum because they are escaping trauma are locked up as criminals. No justice. When a woman finds the courage to stand up in court and name her abuser but is not believed. No justice. When our academics and mentors are fired for speaking out and demanding change so we don’t become another statistic: 80% unable to complete PHDs, 20% less likely to get a 1st or 2:1 (needed for most graduate schemes) – in both cases coming in with the same grades as our white-counterparts. No justice. When politicians you vote in on a mandate are able to break promises. No justice. When fascists can march in our streets, threaten our lives, because it is their right but we are arrested and spied on for even believing in the same rights. No justice.

No justice. No justice. No justice.

No peace. No peace. No peace.

And this is seen as a demand – a threat. No, it is simply a matter of fact.

How can there be any peace without justice? Would you feel peace if you were wronged? Would you feel peace if your family, your friend, your people were wronged? Their rights denied? Their lives seen as collateral? So why do they expect anything else?

For there to be peace there needs to be the acceptance of this statement. There needs to be accountability. Accountability of the state when it kills another person, when they go to war despite strong opposition from the people and guidance against it. Accountability of the media for spreading hate and lies which lead to women getting bottled in the street, granddads getting murdered on their walks home, women getting pushed onto moving trains.

There needs to be naming, shaming and learning. And then, and only then, will there be peace.

This eye for an eye merry-go-round that the imperialistic states are implementing is not going to get us anywhere. We all prayed for Paris. Who is praying for Syria?

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom – Malcolm X

Be successful – but not too successful: every women’s challenge 

On my way to the train station, I was chatting to my taxi driver – as you do. He was lovely, telling me about his family and such – as they do. The conversation was going great until he said “Women are not made to be earning too much money. They can’t handle it. When they become too successful they change.”

Now my company have been drilling professionalism into me over the last two weeks. So surprisingly my first reaction was not to go off on one. Instead I forced a chuckle and said “let’s agree to disagree” and gently got him to understand that it most probably the man who is seeing things that are not there, feeling insecure and how this is all part of patriarchal society which forces men to believe that a women’s success is a sign of their own weakness.
This whole topic came up because we were talking about how the more and more successful a women gets, the harder it is to find a viable partner. Men feel very threatened by successful women. At 23, with a Masters from a globally leading university, and on a very cosy salary (thanks to my employment in a corporate company – leading in it’s field, alhamdulliah), I know I’m very much more successful than many men my age – or even a few years older than me.

And that’s terrifying.

Just because I am smart and determined, I’ve already knocked out a whole section of men who won’t even consider me. The already small pool of men already shrinking. And to be honest, I know that’s a blessing because who wants to be with someone who’s manhood is that fickle.

But it’s still terrifying. I am very comfortable being independent and even though I’d like a partner, marriage is something I aspire to because I know if I don’t then my mum and siblings will face a load of crap. And so I worry about growing old and being single.

I wonder how I would grow my daughter up. At what age would you remind your daughter that setting her up not to fail may be the very thing that makes her fail? Fail in finding a partner that is – which apparently is the only sign of success. Because you could have stopped studying after GCSEs and got married and never worked a day of your life (and good for you if that’s what makes you happy) – and in many people’s eyes you’ll be more successful than I am. You’re a mother, a wife – a proper women. And then you get the super women, those who have studied – even become a doctor perhaps – but have now given that up to look after their husband and children (and again, good for you if that makes you happy). She maintains the house and her husband, and that makes her a success. Look at what she sacrificed to be a proper women! 

We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Let’s get talking: Sexual Harrassment

Trigger warning: sexual harassment and rape

My sister messaged me yesterday. She’s currently away visiting some family for the holidays. She messaged me to ask “did mama [what we call mum’s brothers] touch you when you visited?” And I immediately knew what she was referring to. Yes, yes he did. He would rub my back, touching my bra strap and once “accidentally” groped my breast. I thanked my lucky stars that my sister felt comfortable enough to ask me. When this happened to me, I did not feel like anyone would believe me so kept it to myself. I encouraged her to tell my mum and she did. And now she’s safe.

I couldn’t help but cry. Cry in relief that she had someone she could come to. Cry in anger that I didn’t have anyone – not just in this case but for the duration of eleven years I endured sexual assault from someone else because I didn’t have anyone I could turn to.  Continue reading