We Need To Be Better Than This: Roller Derby, Inclusiveness and Audism

Roller derby prides itself on its inclusiveness. We’re open to all body types, all orientations, and increasingly to all genders. We even have places for people who can’t stand the idea of putting on a pair of skates (NSOs rock my world).

When I joined derby I was struck by two things (three, if you count being literally struck on my target zones). One was the way that derby changed how I looked at my own body. My body was no longer something that was supposed to look a certain way that would always be found wanting. It became something that I could train to do more stuff, and instead of being always failing to reach a mark it was always learning and able to do more. That change was a revelation.

The other revelation- one I didn’t expect- was about my queerness. As a bi person, in public spaces my acceptance has always felt conditional. In gay spaces, I’d better be relatively quiet about my different-gendered attractions. In the rest of the world, the usual negotiations every queer person makes between outness and safety. That sense of always having to be careful of what I say, of feeling like the only spaces where I’m not an outsider are the ones I create myself, was something so ordinary as to be entirely unremarkable. Continue reading “We Need To Be Better Than This: Roller Derby, Inclusiveness and Audism”

We Need To Be Better Than This: Roller Derby, Inclusiveness and Audism

Gender Recognition, Feminism, Intolerance, and Food Poverty. Linkspam!

A few things I think everyone should be reading today:

Why society still needs feminism

Just in case you were wondering:

Because to men, a key is a device to open something. For women, it’s a weapon we hold between our fingers when we’re walking alone at night.

..Because a girl was roofied last semester at a local campus bar, and I heard someone say they think she should have been more careful. Being drugged is her fault, not the fault of the person who put drugs in her drink?

..Because out of 7 billion people on the planet, more than 1 billion women will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes. Women and girls have their clitorises cut out, acid thrown on them and broken bottles shoved up them as an act of war. Every second of every day. Every corner of the Earth.

And also, yeah, nobody burns their bras. Not on purpose, anyhow.

Poor little rich girl… Without the rich bit.

If you’re not reading Jack Monroe, you should be. I came for the cheap&tasty recipes, and stayed for the social commentary. And the recipes.

There’s a queer sort of juxtaposition that comes with Being Ms Jack Monroe at the moment.

I spent this afternoon emailing Councillors and other people regarding the recent decision to suspend my Housing Benefit claim based on the (incorrect) assumption that I am sitting on a £25k cheque from my publisher (I’m not) and am sitting on a pile of cheques from newspaper interview and TV appearances (I’m not).

But I was doing that, on the 1414 train from Southend Central to Fenchurch Street, as I’d just been invited to a fundraising dinner by a friend with a spare ticket, via the Soho Food Feast in Soho Square.

But it’s a queer kind of juxtaposition, when you have a beautiful dress to wear to dinner tonight, but on quick inspection of the shoe collection, decide that the soft chiffon dipped hem just won’t go with the shoes you were issued in the Fire Service, your brogues, or your one pair of trainers, so you hang it back in the wardrobe and decide you can’t justify buying a pair of shoes. Not even in the sale at Primark.

Transgender people seek State recognition to escape gender ‘limbo’

Orla Tinsley (who is excellent, by the way, and you should go follow her on Twitter immediately) has managed to do the impossible: write an article about trans* issues in a major national publication that isn’t going to get you a line, never mind a full house, on a trans* discussion bingo card.

Nineteen-year-old student Tyron (he wants to be identified only by his first name) says it is easier to be young and transgender today but the lack of legislation does enable discrimination. “It’s easier than it was and it’s becoming a more known term,” says theNUI Maynooth student, who is currently looking for a job to pay his way through college.

“In interviews I only bring up my gender identity if they want to contact a previous employer,” he says. “Of the last three job interviews, only one was willing to hire a transgender person. The other two said it was not suitable for their working environment.”

It is also extremely important that you click that link in order to admire the extremely stylish tie which Ben borrowed off me for the photo. Yeah, I know, it’s a serious topic. But that’s my tie in the Irish Times!

Is intolerance prevalent in Ireland?

Aileen Donegan- another person with an excellent blog and twitter to follow- in TheJournal. Bet you guess the answer before you click. This, by the way, is a brilliant example of why we need to Shut Up And Listen when we’re privileged. Because otherwise we just don’t see whats going on.

As recently as April I asked a friend ‘Is racism big in Ireland?’ We were attending the same training course on hate speech. I guess my innocent question caught him off guard: ’Yes Aileen, racism is a hugeproblem in Ireland,’ he said with a tone of awe and surprise that offended me. Though Ireland, my home, has never seemed intolerant to me, the last week in news has given me some much-needed insight into Irish attitudes.

…The ECRI quote a disturbing statistic from the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study, which states that 7.6 per cent of Traveller families have no access to running water. Resistance from local residents, and the “lack of political will” of local authorities are cited as reasons why Traveller accommodation is difficult to attain in Irish society. This is hardly surprising. Remember when local residents set fire to a house that Travellers were set to live in?

(By the way? Don’t Read The Comments.)

Disabled man refused entry to nightclub after Scottish Charity Awards

Didja hear the one about the guy who had the police called on him for the crime of trying to get into a nightclub while disabled?

Actor Robert Softley Gale, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, attempted to enter the Polo Lounge in Glasgow with his husband Nathan Gale after attending the Scottish Charity Awards with the Equality Network.

They claim that the bouncers informed them that they could not enter because the nightclub didn’t have disabled facilities.

Despite the couple explaining that they wanted to enter the popular gay nightclub anyway, they say staff continued to refuse to allow them to enter.

“The manager came and said that they didn’t have disabled facilities so they weren’t letting us in,” Nathan told TFN. “We said, you can’t not let us in just because we’re disabled, that’s a violation of the Equality Act, but he still wouldn’t let us in.”

Charming. Oh, and Robert Softley Gale is yet another person to follow on Twitter. You guys, it’s all about the Twitter today. And speaking of disability and ableism, have something from Captain Awkward:

#487: I use a wheelchair, and people are condescending as fuck.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m woman in my late 30s who uses a power wheelchair due to a medical condition that causes severe physical fatigue.

Often, strangers – retail staff, waitstaff, members of the general public – assume that because I use a power wheelchair, I have an intellectual disability. I don’t. I have a university degree and I read widely.

How should I respond to people:

– talking loudly to me;
– talking to me in a sing-song voice;
– being condescending/patronizing;
– calling me love/sweetie;
– telling me that I remind them of their 12 year old daughter with Down syndrome;
– praising me for putting rubbish in a rubbish bin as though I’ve won a gold medal at the Olympics;
– telling me that you eat cupcakes?


Smart Crip Girl

You know that you want to hear what the Captain has to say.

A Racist B&B?

Speaking of intolerance, Tara Flynn’s husband got an unpleasant reminder that Ireland isn’t above blatant racism lately. Here’s what happened then:

On a recent trip home, I got a reminder that Ireland Of The Welcomes can be conditional.  By now very familiar with Kinsale, my husband offered to take the dog out for his last walk of the night. I sat chatting with my mum. 20 minutes later, my husband returned. He looked angry. “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been called those names in a while.” A group of young people standing outside a bar in the centre of town had shouted racist epithets at him. Some of those epithets have made it into my clip but we’ve decided to cover them with sound effects. They’re just too vile. They are shocking in the abstract and absolutely horrifying when applied to someone I love. In my hometown. In 2013.

My husband is a tolerant person. He just stared the namecallers down and they – like most cowards – shut up when faced with this silent challenge. He tried to laugh it off in the re-telling, saying it wasn’t his first time and that he’d heard worse. But that’s not the point.  I was mortified. Stunned. Fuming.

So I wrote a sketch about it.


One more thing

That’s all the links I’ve got for ya, but one more little thinglet before I go. Nominations have just opened for 2013’s Irish Blog Awards! Now, I’m not saying that you should immediately go and nominate me- I’m far too Irish for that sort of carry-on. Although I’ll admit that I do like getting the chance to dress up fancy and eat free canapes and photobomb legit fancy people. But shure have a think about who your favourite Irish bloggers are- I’m lookin’ at you, Geoff’s Shorts– and give a nomination to the people who deserve a bit of recognition. Remember: attention is to bloggers what money is to everyone else.

Gender Recognition, Feminism, Intolerance, and Food Poverty. Linkspam!

#NeverAlone: bigotry and solidarity.

This was originally a comment by Arman Maroufkhani over at my post When I Can’t Argue Inequality: Homophobia and Vulnerability on Monday. Reposted with his permission, because it’s the kind of thing that I think we should really, really do. 


Racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes and all kinds of other hateful and bigoted people can often make you feel small and alone on the internet. Those of us who believe in equality and solidarity often scroll through comment sections, conclude that everyone on there seems to live in some paralell racist, sexist, homophobic universe and get too angry/sad/overwhelmed to post a response. So their bullshit goes unchecked. It’s left to stand. They and many of the readers are left with the impression that the bigots represent the majority of people, BUT THEY DON’T.

To combat the hate on many Swedish news sites and forums activist Kawa Zolfagary started a hashtag, #AldrigEnsam. It means “never alone”. You use it when you’re trying to discuss something in a rational way on the internet and people respond with hatred and bigotry, or when you are challenging bigots and feel like they are drowning out your message and give the impression of representing the majority. You share a link on Twitter, Facebook, your blog or anywhere else to where you need help together with the hashtag so other people can come help you.

Let’s start an English language hashtag of our own and use it on Twitter or Facebook when we’re fighting the online hate and need help. Share a link on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else to where you need help together with the hashtag #NeverAlone.

Please share!

#NeverAlone: bigotry and solidarity.

A Lunatic State

33/365 -- More Lunacy
33/365 — More Lunacy (Photo credit: jsrcyclist)

My name is Aoife, and I discovered this morning that I am a lunatic. I have to say that I found it kind-of hilarious. You see, not only am I a lunatic, but this morning I’m a lunatic off my meds. Left ’em at home yesterday when I was packing to stay elsewhere last night, and it’ll be another hour or two before I get back to them. It’s very annoying, to put it mildly. For me, missing a dose of my meds is a bit like combining the feeling of having had too much and too little caffeine. I’m agitated, my head feels weird, and I have the concentration span of a distracted gnat. And like the addict I am, I’m craving the thing that’ll bring me back to normality.

It’s in that state- agitated, irritated, jonesing for a fix of SSRI- that I read this, and find out that, according to Irish law, I am a lunatic. You couldn’t make it up. Check it out:

On International Day for People with Disabilities (today, Monday 3rd December), Irish law still calls people with disabilities Lunatics – despite repeated promises of change.

People with intellectual disabilities, those with mental health problems and older people with dementia, are all termed ‘Lunatics’ under Irish law.

I think about the meaning of lunacy and how little it applies either to myself or to most of the legal lunatics I know. Here’s the definition of ‘lunacy’ according to Merriam Webster:

a : insanity
b : intermittent insanity once believed to be related to phases of the moon
: wild foolishness : extravagant folly
: a foolish act

Since my diagnosis- in my case depression and anxiety, the dullest and most common of mental illnesses- I have worked my ass off to be aware of and own my mental state. CBT ain’t for everyone, but it’s changed my life. I know my brain. I know what it’s doing. I know when I have to step in and take steps to change that. As a person with a mental illness I am far more aware of my emotional state than most mentally healthy people I know. Even this morning. Especially this morning. Everything gets put into perspective when I can feel my brain teetering off balance. I turn on the backup systems I’ve worked my ass off to create, and I compensate the hell out of it.

Most of the people I know with mental illnesses do something similar. We’re masters of grappling with the kind of mental and emotional states that used to paralyse us. While sometimes things are too much to deal with, we have a hell of a lot of coping mechanisms. We work out ways to live happy and fulfilled lives when our brains are fighting against us. Lunatics? Are you nuts? Most crazy people are as sane as anyone. Probably more so.

You know, I normally wouldn’t publish anything I wrote today. I’d was planning on writing like I was Spider Jerusalem, popping it all into a drafts folder and editing the hell out of it later. I’m not going to do that. This lunatic wants to prove herself, so this is coming to you unedited. It’s not surprising, really, that I feel the need to show that even in a state like this I’m not insane. I’m writing this on the Dart into town. Somehow I manage to sit here and type while attracting precisely zero attention from my fellow passengers. Not bad, for a crazy person. It is, by the way, a gorgeous afternoon with crisp, bright winter sunlight streaming through the windows and on to Dublin Bay. The sea is a choppy blueish black and the sky a light pastel, like watered-down watercolours.

I wonder what we mean by ‘crazy’, or by mental illness. There is an idea of mental illness as some kind of discrete thing. Here is a person with depression. Here is someone with bipolar. As if ‘depression’ or ‘bipolar’ or ‘anxiety’ were specific things that happen t oa person. But when we are diagnosed our doctors don’t look for specific changes in our brain chemistry or structure. Diagnoses come from conversations. Is this an experience we have? Is that a way that we feel? Does this happen? And every single one of us experiences these things differently. Ten people with the very same diagnosis will give you ten completely different stories. For some it is very much a matter of brain chemistry. For others it is a response to experience that becomes unbearable. There are reasons why members of oppressed groups tend to suffer more from mental illness than their privileged counterparts, and why rates of these illnesses vary between cultures, and it is not because we as individuals are fundamentally broken. We live in damaged societies. Our illnesses often don’t arrive out of nowhere. Sometimes lunacy is the only sane response to a world that demands we reject so much of our basic humanity. Sometimes it’s the only sane response to a world that values competition over compassion, economics over health, morality over empathy.

My name is Aoife. I’m a lunatic off my meds, sitting on a Dart on a beautiful sunny winter’s day.

A Lunatic State

Top surgery, abortion, and circumcision. (Not at the same time)

As I have a ton of real world things to take care of today, have a couple of links:

First, the bad news

It turns out that anti-choice woman-shaming ableist asshats in cassocks are still, well, anti-choice woman-shaming ableist asshats. And where there’s anti-choice ableist women shaming asshats, there’s a blogger giving out about them. In this case me, over at Gaelick! Eh, btw, TW for all the above if you click.

As a pro-choicer, I want a world where nobody is forced or pressured to give birth, every child gets to be raised by parents who love and cherish them dearly, and where nobody feels like their sovereign decisions over their own bodies are something to be ashamed of or punished for.

I’m not the only one outraged. Here’s ickletayto, with far more eloquence than I was able to muster:

It galls me that the religion responsible for perpetrating unspeakable crimes on the children of this nation still sees fit to lecture us on our morality. 

They have no grounds to speak.

Right so. Well. that was unpleasant, wasn’t it?

Something a little more lovely

My friend Nik is raising money for his top surgery fund! His campaign’s been going really well so far, but still has a good way to go. This kind of thing is expensive! Check out his adorkable campaign page, donate if you can, share it either way. And take a look at his delightfully nerdy campaign vid:

And finally..

A long long time ago, I wrote a post on Men’s Rights, Child Mutilation and the Evil Feminist Agenda. Time passed, and I forgot all about it until the other day a couple of comments showed up in my mod feed. While trollish comments normally get trashed to spare my gentle readers, this one challenged me to ‘show some scientific fortitude’ and publish ’em. So I did. Since I have important appointments to watch movies and drink coffee with sexyass queermos today, though, I’m gonna hand dealing with ’em over to You Lot. TW for misogyny, asshattery and and impressive inability to use capital letters. Otherwise, have at it!

Top surgery, abortion, and circumcision. (Not at the same time)

Learning to stop worrying and love my bum. Also, privilege. Damnit.

Don’t you hate it when everything you do seems mired in some kind of foggy maze of constantly messing up somehow? I know I do. You know where it really gets me? Body image.

Yes, body image. That one. What I would call an Achilles’ heel, if it weren’t that Achilles seemed to have a pretty darn good image of himself and didn’t spend much time worrying over whether anyone was noticing the dry skin on his heel, and whether his heel was too knobbly or not knobbly enough.

Working out a way to feel happy in your (okay, my) own skin is notoriously difficult. We’re all supposed to want to lose 10 (or 100) pounds, to be darker or lighter, to detest every stray hair or uneven skin tone or boniness or squishiness or muscliness or… I could go on. But I won’t be the first, and you’ve all heard it too many times before.

I’ve tried a lot of different strategies to be okay in my skin, with varying success. Once, I even tried dieting and exercise. At once. That was not a good, er, fortnight*.

So instead, I work on accepting myself as I am and working on showing myself the same kindness that I would others. I look at my body not as something to be perfected, but a canvas on which my experiences are written- from the squishiness of my thesisbum, to the stories that come with scars. To the way that my eyes wrinkle when I smile in exactly the same way as my relatives do. These things are who I am. They are where I come from.

But the thing that’s done the most for me in terms of feeling good about my body? Was a complete paradigm shift. I started to Exercise More (and also eat more. Because nothing makes a girl hungry like actually working up an appetite). Gradually, my body stopped being a thing which was there to (fail to) look a certain way. It became a thing that did things. A thing that would run this far- just a little further than before. A thing that could pick up a thing just a little bit heavier than the thing it could pick up before. Get a little further up a wall. A few weeks ago I walked a couple of hundred kilometers, and my body became a thing that hurt like hell and kept going.

And I stopped caring too much what it looked like. And then I started really appreciating what it- what I- looked like. I used to hate showing my legs- all knobbly knees and too-pale skin. But I’m not going to be ashamed of legs that walked me for miles and miles and miles. Legs that held up me, my backpack, and litres upon litres of water. Legs that dragged us uphill and hurt like hell and kept on walking. Those aren’t just plain good legs. Those are bloody brilliant legs. Hell yeah, I’ll wear skirts and shorts. Who cares about pale skin, knobbly knees and more bruises than you can shake a stick at? These legs rock.

And feeling that- feeling that sense of power and purpose in my body- I get angry. As women, we’re told too often that our bodies are there to be pretty. To look a certain way. There’s barely any mention of how wonderful it is to have a body that does things. In fact, there’s a whole lot of shame even there. How many people do you know with not-socially-considered-ideal bodies who don’t feel even a little self-conscious at a gym? Or going for a run, or a swim? How many people don’t do those things, and therefore lose out on the joy of having bodies that slowly but surely can do more and more things, because of the censure- internal and external- for simply being open about the shapes of our bodies? For being seen to be ourselves in public? For daring to not be ashamed?

Of course, here’s where you get to privilege. Not just the kind where it’s safe- physically, at least- to be embodied in public. Or the kind where you’ve managed to scrape together the gutsiness to brush off whatever’s going to come your way. The more basic kind. If the only way I’ve been able to be happy with my body is by making it stronger, isn’t that a wee bit ableist? Isn’t the very idea that bodies need to be somehow redeemed- either through excessive prettiness or physical ability- ableist as all hell?

Having a body that’ll run, climb, swim, row and pick up heavy things is one hell of a (temporary!) privilege. Having a body that’s gender/size-normative enough to pass without comment in a swimsuit (god I love swimming) is one hell of a privilege. Then again, existing as a (queerish, femme-but-not-the-right-kind-of-femme) woman trying to navigate my way into being happy with the body I walk around in sure as hell ain’t a privilege.

And this is the thing. Here’s the thing where we inevitably fuck up, because there’s too many cards stacked against us from too many damn directions.

Bodies shouldn’t need to be redeemed. Bodies don’t need to be redeemed. They’re fine just the way they are. But all of us walking and rolling our way around in them are living in a society that demands we redeem our bodies. That we make up for taking up space by being pretty, by being capable, or by being decently ashamed of our very shape and our very skin. Ideally, all of the above.

And we deal with that any way we can.


*The large quantities of cake and cheese afterward, on the other hand, made a very good evening.

Learning to stop worrying and love my bum. Also, privilege. Damnit.