Beyond the Veil-From HiJab Hunez to Haram Hussies (Thoughts on the latest controversy over the Burka).


“Say it loud,
I’m Muslim and I’m proud,
I’m beautiful in hijab and I’m beautiful without,
I may be straight, I may be gay,
I’m Muslim and I’m proud either way!”
©Somoye Zadeh

Let me state first of all that the Burka and the Hijab, etc. are not in and of themselves either liberationary nor are they progressive. BUT Muslims do not wear them, in a cultural and societal vacuum, and although it can be worn as a sign of religious piety, it can also be worn as a rejection of what is seen as certain western hypocrisies.

As Mihret Woldesemait, from DUKE UNIVERSITY Durham, North Carolina, in ‘Unfolding the Modern Hijab: From the Colonial Veil to Pious Fashion’ on April 15, 2013, notes in her abstract “However, in the 1970s, a new veiling movement emerged that appropriated the veil as a sign of an authentic identity and an instrument to accommodate a changing modern world. This neo-veiling movement, furthermore, standardized a set of Islamic norms and practices that would use the veil as the embodiment of inner piety and ethical states”

In one sense we have been here before, concerning the anti-Muslim prejudice around the burka. Last time around in 2016 it was concerning the Burkini and Muslim women being fined on French beaches for wearing one. Although the ban was welcomed, by the FN (of course), and certain ‘liberal’ feminists and centre right etc. it was also enforced by a number of communist mayors in the south of France.

However that ban was taking place in a political context (as indeed is the current row), see;…/nice-france-burkini-ban-respo…, and…/those-who-rage-against-the-b…/, and…/french-police-make-woman-remo… also;…/burkini-ban-protesters-hold-… 

Back in 2016, the specific context was the appealing treatment and the subsequent vilification of refugees and migrants in Calais. Yet as Al Jazeera made clear; “The number of refugees who arrived on Europe’s shores plunged by nearly two-thirds last year, but the number of those who died on the often perilous journey in the Mediterranean Sea rose sharply, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the EU border agency Frontex has said.

About 364,000 people seeking work or refugee protection crossed the sea between January and December, compared to more than one million in 2015, Frontex said in a statement on Friday”…/number-refugees-reaching-europe…

This did not stop the usual rent a-reactionaries here and in Europe back in 2016, deciding that throwing refugees and migrants under a bus was a public duty. The nasty over spill over, came the right-wing tabloids and broadsheets, plus sections of social media who whipped up imaginary fears of a migrant invasion;,…/us-europe-migrants-germany-bus-id…and also;…/david-camerons-bunch-of-migra…

“Say it loud
Pride is what it’s all about
It’s my right to be devout
Without a fight I won’t go out
So hear me cry, hear me shout
I may be lapsed but without doubt
I’m Muslim and I’m proud”
©Somoye Zadeh

But to move it onto 2018, it as quite clear to many that BoJo, far from being a jaw jutting, truth to power, iconoclast, was taking the opportunity and using his privilege to punch down in his comments about what Muslim women look like when wearing the Burka. This while claiming he was writing from a ‘liberal’ position of live and let live.

We have to see the current discussion as being rooted in terms of colonialism and the anti-colonialist struggles that resulted especially over the next 60-70 years. Part of the discourse of colonialism was to posit itself as the “Enlightenment” against the savage oriental, ‘other’. The banning of the veil (akin to the banning of the kilt and tartan in both Scotland and Ireland) was not liberation, but rather a social and cultural form of domination. It was based upon a presumption of the superiority of western civilisation and western values. In turn, it made the point that those who opposed it, had to be backward savages.

“This woman, who sees without being seen, frustrates the coloniser as she opposes the colonisers’ standards of liberation, she asserts an identity, and even power, of her own, thus refusing to acknowledge the validity of, and inherent power in, her coloniser’s unveiling, subjugation and rape of her own culture” (Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism).

Yes the veil, Hijab, Naqab, burka, etc. are pieces of cloth but they are also much more than just pieces of cloth, if one see’s what I mean, in that they occupy as much of a social space as a religious one, and in case anyone has forgotten, then let me remind them, that we live in an imperialist country. This in turn means that the critiques of the veil, Hijab, Burka, etc. from the right and certain liberals is taking place in a current context of Islamophobia that pretends its progressive. See…/2016-09-02-veil-worn-muslim-women

Those defending Boris Johnson (BoJo) point to, as one of them put it to me online “submission to a hard-core religious conservative dress and politics that challenges the liberal society we all live in”. And yet, Argentina has bowed (yet again) recently to the dictates of Pope inspired authoritarianism by rejecting abortion. Denmark, along with Belgium and France has brought in authoritarian anti-Muslim laws that claim they are to do with liberating Muslim women.

I also find it odd, that those defending BoJo, who like to talk about the primacy of belief without interference, seem to think that Muslims can afford to be made an exception. That’s even before we get onto the assumption that wearing the veil if a Muslim woman, makes one defacto a “hard core religious, conservative”, though being the latter has never bothered right wingers before if they are Christian.

These are the facts,
I won’t stand for your racist attacks,
I won’t be banned or sent back,
Whether beige, brown or black,
I’ll say it loud, I’m Muslim and damn I’m proud!
” ©Somoye Zadeh

The imposition of disrobing, (see the French in Algeria during the colonial period) were not about “liberation”, rather it was a top down attempt to build up a modern society, in both countries it was an attempt to attract a new native client base to French nationalism. The resistance to a ban on the face veil took many forms, and Fritz Fanon, (see above) exhibited but one of them in his writings. It also mirrors that of the developments and strands that can take place within anti-colonialism.

In the case of the FNLA in Algeria, they were in favour of a modern society including the panoply of women’s rights. Yet at the same time they saw the French as just changing the parameters of objectification; Arab women were/are still subject to the exoticisation of orientalism and this is still a very valid point for today.

It is at this point that I’d like to develop the point about how the veil and putting it on/taking it off has become the symbol of imposition of modernity and resisting colonialism. 3540820-portrait-of-two-muslim-womenOn January 24th 2017, Katarzyna Falecka, in ‘The Conversation’ noted in ‘From colonial Algeria to modern day Europe, the Muslim veil remains an ideological battleground’, Fantasies of unveiling’ that Throughout the 19th century, the Muslim veil functioned as an object of fascination for European travellers to the Middle East, despite the fact that Christians and Druzes –a religious sect with origins in 11th-century Egypt – would also veil. European photographers in the region produced eroticised representations of women lifting their veils and exposing their naked bodies. Reproduced as postcards, these images circulated across the Mediterranean, constructing the image of a Muslim woman whose erotic powers could be unleashed once the veil was lifted.

 But in the 1950s, the veil played an important role during the Algerian war of independence against French colonial rule. Frantz Fanon, a Martinique-born psychiatrist and anti-colonial intellectual, described the French colonial doctrine in Algeria as follows: If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight. 

Fanon was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front who considered women’s ill treatment by the French army to embody the whole country’s situation. For him, it was impossible for the colonial power to conquer Algeria without winning over its women to European “norms”.

In 1958, during the Algerian war of independence, mass “unveiling” ceremonies were staged across Algeria. The wives of French military officers unveiled some Algerian women to show that they were now siding with their French “sisters”. These spectacles formed part of an emancipation campaign aimed at demonstrating how Muslim women had been won over to European values and away from the independence struggle. They were also staged at a moment of political turmoil in mainland France, which was struggling politically and financially to maintain its colony in North Africa”

Maria Boariu in 5.1 of, ‘The Veil as Metaphor of French Colonized Algeria’ states in the section, V.1. THE VEIL FOR THE COLONIZERS’ 

“Barrier to Visual Control: Before discussing the colonizer’s attitude towards the veiled woman, a brief overview of the modern discourse on transparency is needed. The 18th century brought the ideal of a perfect transparent world. Rousseau’s ideal was a transparent society. In 1787, Jeremy Bentham elaborated the plan of the Panopticon. It was an architectural figure that consisted in a tower central to an annular building divided into cells.

The occupants of the cells were isolated from one another by walls and subject to scrutiny by an observer in the tower who remains unseen. The Panopticon thus allowed seeing without being seen. For Foucault, such asymmetry of seeing-without-being-seen is the very essence of power because ultimately the power to dominate rests on the differential possession of knowledge20.

The metaphor of the one that is seen without being able to see the observer turned to be the most dramatic frustration the French colonists experienced in Algeria. Veiled woman could see the foreign colonizer, but the colonizer could not see her. The veil became a barrier to the visual control of the Western eye.

Anger, frustrated desire and fantasy gave a distinctive character to French colonization in Algeria. The veil was seen as the concrete manifestation of resistance by the colonized to an imposed reciprocity: veiled women were able to see without being seen. Colonist desire was thus articulated as the desire to unveil Algeria, for women’s insistence on wearing the veil meant the colony’s resistance to the French authority.

French Men’s Attitude towards Veiled Women

‘If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the woman; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight.’ Frantz Fanon. A Dying Colonialism.p.23 Why did “la mission civilisatrice” have women as the first “target”? Since veiled women served as metaphors for Oriental culture, the political strategy did not have exclusively a military character.

According to F. Fanon, the French colonizers perceived Algerian women as embodying the true and authentic self of Algerian culture. Since they represented the essence of the culture that was colonized, having access to them and their bodies symbolized the means for a successful penetration to the heart of the colonized culture. As a consequence, a metaphorical link between “Woman” and “Colony” was established21. In this context, the veiled woman (the other sex) and the colony (the other culture) were related. Colonies themselves were idealized as female.”

Are Right Wingers Really Feminists: When on 19th June 2017 a van was driven into pedestrians in Finsbury Park, London, by Darren Osborne, injuring at least eight people and killing one, he didn’t do it as homage to women’s liberation.

On July 4th 2018 in Belgium, the two men who targeted a 19-year-old woman, inflicting injuries upon her with a sharp object and calling her a “filthy Arab.” weren’t getting their inner Greer on;

On 31st of July 2017 in the UK, the man who punched a Muslim nurse wearing a hijab and tried to tie it around her neck on her way to meet patient, wasn’t doing it out of sisterly solidarity with Muslim women’s oppression

The examples given, as they relate to the UK do predate the current outrage over Boris’s anti-Muslim comments. But since he made those comments,  Boris Johnson, has been encouraged to get his inner Enoch on by his fellow conservatives, and opinion polls. There have also been a number of recent attacks (August 2018) on Muslim women. What they have shared with BoJo is their distaste of Muslim women, while at the same time complaining about how Islam is oppressing them.

Yet we know, at the same time that the right-wing establishment and commentariate, are the same people who wailed “PC gawn mad”, when the Presidents club scandal broke and also, The fact that it was a ‘charity’ event was meant to offset the fact that working class women were being groped and sexually harassed, etc.

They were also outraged over the fact that the ‘Grid Girls’, female models who parade on the starting grid and stand with the drivers’ name boards before every grand prix were axed from Formula One. So, In the UK context we have British sections of the establishment in politics and the fourth estate, pretending that punching down on the marginalised, in this case Muslim women, is somehow them being ‘feminists’ and standing up for women’s rights.

These political acts are coming from the same people, who brought us; “Hostile Environment”, Prevent programme, “Go Home” vans, description of migrants and refugees as a “swarm”, Windrush, Grenfell, “If you want a nigger for your neighbour”, “rivers of blood” and constant Daily Mail/Express/Evening Standard headlines warning about ‘The Muzzie in our Midst’.

Being anti-Muslim (while pretending that your anti-Islam) is low hanging fruit for the right and far right and so, no wonder they are so eager to pluck it. Oh and for those still trying to a square BoJo into a round hole of women’s rights, he’s quoted in the Guardian as saying “It was as though the whole county of Hampshire was lying back and opening her well-bred legs, to be ravished by the Italian stallion.”

*©Poem by Somaye Zadeh and © to same on her website;



London Calling

An excellent blog piece by my comrade Harry P


Image by Dr. Dunno

Allow me to pre-empt some wearyingly predictable liberal condemnation heading your way.

When the riots start be careful not to get trampled underfoot as liberals and reactionaries alike bolt for the moral high-ground. Watch out for the pious; the sanctimonious; the mealy-mouthed; the people who always see unruly protest as something worse than the injustice, the oppression, the social cleansing that triggered it.

Remind them that the freedom to voice their bourgeois indignation, along with the freedom to vote, to control their own fertility, to protest, to join a trade union, to have Saturday and Sunday off work, to even get paid for work and a great deal more, were only won by centuries of often violent struggle. They give us nothing but that which we take.

Riots are the final resort of the marginalised and disenfranchised. There can be no condemnation by anyone aspiring to…

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More than a Thousand Activists rally in Paris for La France Insoumise as it launches its own Struggle against Macron’s Labour Reforms. — Tendance Coatesy

Please note, this is not an endorsement of Tendance Coatesy, much less his politics

Over a Thousand Rally in Paris for La France insoumise against Macron’s labour reforms. Plus d’un millier de militants ont répondu à l’appel de La France insoumise, pour exprimer leur rejet du projet de réforme du Code du travail. Jean-Luc Mélenchon a défendu une opposition frontale au texte et annoncé le lancement d’une campagne pendant l’été. […]

via More than a Thousand Activists rally in Paris for La France Insoumise as it launches its own Struggle against Macron’s Labour Reforms. — Tendance Coatesy

Pink Washing and Islamophobia

Concerning Islamophobia and pink washing, it is not just how ever, the usual suspects that one might expect on the neo-conservative right. There are also those who are (nominally at least) from the centre and ‘far’ left who seem determined to book a ticket on the carnival ride of reaction. Maajid Nawaz, Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell are in a loose alliance with those such as Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Brendan O’Neil, Hardeep Singh and Anne-Marie Waters.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) attended the London Pride march that took place in London in early July 2017. They carried several controversial placards that had the slogans; “Allah is Gay”, “Fuck Islam” and “Islamophobia is an Oxymoron”. *Update 18th July 2017, it seems that the placards saying “Fuck Islam”, have been removed from the CEMB website 


LGBTQ has become a cipher for other issues and politics, and it has also become the new social and cultural frontline concerning Muslims here in the UK. Maajid Nawaz, Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell, as well as Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Brendan O’Neil, and Anne-Marie Waters would no doubt regard themselves as honourable people, fighting for ‘liberal’ and ‘enlightenment’ values. Indeed, such is their ‘honour’, that I am reminded of the barbs thrown by Marc Antony at the false pieties of Julius Caesar’s assassins

(From Julius Caesar, spoken by Marc Antony)

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?

 Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And, sure, he is an honourable man”.

On July 12th 2017, Maz Saleem wrote an article for Counterfire and also on her Facebook page. Both have generated threads of up to 100 comments, and in the article itself, ‘Islamophobic Placards Have No Place at Pride’.

Maz Saleem said, “Maryam Namazie and activists from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) were seen waving placards with “Allah is gay”, “Fuck Islamic Homophobia”, “East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT” and other Islamophobic slogans written on them during the Pride march in London.

These placards are something the EDL or a Nazi would carry. Pride is supposed to represent people, as they are, faith or no faith, so how were they even allowed on the parade? This goes against everything Pride stands for and it is absolutely appalling to see that that Maryam Namazie’s group got away with it.

Queer muslim

Namazie and the Council of Ex- Muslims clearly want to cause conflict between Muslims and the gay community, and they don’t care who they hurt or offend in the process”.

There has been a common, and often publically asserted statement by secularists on the right, centre left and elements of the ‘far’ left, that to be a Muslim is to automatically be against LGBTQ. Also, that pointing out the usage of Islamophobic comments, slogans and narratives, according to them means that one is siding against “free speech” and in favour of the Islamists.

Strange Meeting: Maryam, and her supporters, in their responses back to Maz, made the point that they were highlighting homophobia in Islamic countries and that many of the members of the ex-Muslims are LGBTQ. Whist that might be true, it is also not the main issue, because the right, has members who’re also LGBTQ and who also do this false conflation.

From the CEMB website, 8th July 2017, Daniel Fitzgerald, CEMB Pride organiser, made the claim that, “CEMB is challenging a narrative. Never before in the history of Pride London since its start in 1972 has a group consisting of those from a Muslim background, including refugees, come together to protest crimes committed to LGBT people in the name of Islam and topless too! These are VERY brave people who speak from direct experience. All states that have the death penalty for gays are Islamic, yet this alarming fact is ignored time and time again. No more excuses.”

Douglas Murray, a gay neo conservative is in no doubt that gays are making a rod for their own backs if they do not denounce Islam and Muslims. It also has to be said, that Douglas Murray, has enjoyed the freedoms won by LGBTQ activists and the left, whilst at the same time decrying them for fighting for them. He said ‘Most Western Gays Remain in Denial about Islam’ June 14, 2016.

“For historic reasons principally the political Right’s opposition to gay rights—most gay spokespeople continue to think that the political right is the sole locale from which anti-gay sentiment can come.

For many years Pat Robertson was their worst nightmare. But Pat Robertson just wanted to stop gays from marrying. He didn’t call for people to throw us off high buildings. RELATED: Killing Homosexuals Is Not ISIS Law, It Is Muslim Law”.


Douglas Murray writes with such bad faith, as remind one of a comment by the Cardinal de Richelieu, “Si vous me donnez six lignes écrites par la main des hommes les plus honnêtes, je trouverai quelque chose qui les pendra”

Writing online for ‘Yes Magazine’, on June 26th 2016, ‘Stop Asking Me to Denounce Islam to Prove I Care About LGBT Rights-Surely, I am not less queer just because I am Muslim’, Aaminah Khan had this to say. “In this and other instances, LGBT Muslims are seen as impostors and our Muslim families and communities as threats. After events like the recent tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida, this problem becomes more pronounced”.

And that “Many came from fellow LGBT people, who asked me how I justified homophobic laws in Muslim countries (I don’t) and demanded that I “disavow” Islam as proof that I really did care about LGBT rights (I won’t, but I do).”

Many LGBTQ people, who’re not particularly political, do join in with Islamophobia, as Aaminah Khan found. But I submit that this has to do with a genuine fear of intolerance and bigotry that many have faced and that many Islamic conservatives display. It is clear, though that of those on the political right do not care especially about the dilemmas and concerns of LGBTQ people. But they get a sudden rush of ‘Pink’ activism if they can use it to bash Muslims.

On March 1st 2016, The UK newspaper, the Independent noted ‘Founder of Europe’s first LGBT-friendly mosque says being gay and Muslim is ‘like deciding which arm to cut off’’. “Being gay and Muslim is like “trying to decide whether to cut off one arm, or the other”, says the founder of Europe’s first inclusive mosque. Dr and Imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed told the Evening Standard that being gay “is not sin” but that the rejection of LGBT Muslims is “modern and new in Islam”.

Imam Zahed said: “It has to do with colonisation, complexes and the fact that Arab Muslim societies are in turmoil and are looking for very macho identities to push forward. Dominic Arnall, who works for LGBT rights charity Stonewall, believes events such as last month’s LGBT History Month celebrating religion means the future looks bright for gay people of faith.

“There are a number of excellent groups springing up, based here in London, all of which are specifically seeking to support LGBT people of faith.”


Tim Stanley, a member of the conservative commentariate, remarked upon this, when writing about the Orlando shooting in 2016, but it applies, just as much to those who think they can counter pose being LGBTQ with being Muslim in 2017. ‘Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. But so do western conservatives’ 13th June 2016.

“When we ask Muslims to interrogate attitudes towards sexuality in their community, we do so assuming that our own culture is 100 per cent gay friendly. It is not. Polls suggest that around a third of Americans still believe that homosexuality should be discouraged. Homosexual acts have only been legal in the West since the 1960s. Gay marriage has only been on the agenda for a decade and is still bitterly resented by social conservatives”.

Conclusion: Centre left liberals and sections of the ‘far’ left seem to have made political alliances with sections of the neo conservative right, when it comes to LGBTQ and Muslims. They are very fond of quoting social survey attitudes conducted within the Muslim community that has highlighted their attitudes to certain issues.

James Kirkup, though in the Daily Telegraph points out, in his article from February 13th 2015, when quoting the British Social Attitudes (BSA), “much of the difference on socio-moral opinions was due to socio-economic disadvantage and high religiosity, both factors which predict social conservatism among all Britons and not just Muslims”. In other words, “Muslims’ moral and social attitudes, the old-fashioned and illiberal attitudes that worry so many people aren’t so very different from those of other poor and badly-educated non-Muslims”.

Also the viability and methodology of the C4 / Juniper Survey of Muslims 2015, has been called strongly into question. Louise Ridley Assistant news editor at The Huffington Post UK, noted ‘Channel 4 British Muslims Poll Called ‘Skewed’ For Targeting ‘Conservative’ Areas With 20% Muslims’ on April 11th 2016, that “Surveying areas with a high Muslim population would give different answers”.

One would hope that Maryam, Peter, etc. would note that in both in the UK and also the USA, conservatives have been strident in their opposition to pro LGBTQ legislation. At the same time, we also see (and it also happens in Liberal circles in and outside of the LGBTQ community), the tokenization of oppression.

As Sarah Harvard wryly notes on pink washing, in Bitchmedia, March 17th 2016 ‘Stuck in the Media Spotlight, LGBT Muslims often feel Exploited’. “Activists point out how common it is for lobbying organizations and policymakers to use pink washing to frame interventions into majority Muslim countries as humanitarian efforts rather than imperialist ventures.


We’ve seen this with the Human Rights Campaign, who has been outed as the largest LGBTQ donor to drone manufacturers ( using gay rights abroad as justification for their support of the killings of many innocent civilians”

As stated there is a critique to be made of religious conservatism and that also of course includes that of Islam. But there are ways and means of carrying out that critique that does not repeat the orientalist, ‘othering’ of Muslims as being a bunch of over sexed, head chopping, clit cutting, religious fanatics tropes.

The claim has been made by, The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), and groups similar to them that accusing them of “Islamophobia”, is a means of shutting down debate and free speech.

This is ironic when you consider that they are happy to use the term “Islamist” and Islamofascists” against the left. Anti-Muslim sentiment, chiding the Muslim community for not signing up to every PC list imaginable can be seen from the most degenerate tabloid to the snottiest of broadsheets.

Muslims are not stupid, and they can smell a bottle of political snake oil from a mile off. Especially if it is coming from publications, individuals and organisations that have spent most of they’re existence, sneering at the very idea of LGBTQ.

Samar Kaukab, was writing concerning FGM and how right-wing forces try to co-opt this issue, but applies just as well to LGBTQ, on April 14th 2017, “To not be like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, we must center what needs to be centered; namely, Muslim women and girls. We must actually care for them.

When we reduce the sexual violence that occurs in particular Muslim communities to sectarian divides and perpetuate dangerous myths and tropes about already persecuted minority Muslim communities, we do not care for Muslim women and girls. Muslim women — particularly Muslim women with complex identities who come from already marginalized communities — do not deserve simplistic analyses that flatten their lives, their stories, and their own advocacy”.


The Muslim community, in the UK, is not a monolith, nor is it stuck in the dark ages, and if they are fed up with hearing how backward they are from the right, then why should they listen to anyone on purporting to be on the left, coming out with the same sentiments?

One cannot but help but wonder however, if they truly realise the role that they are playing. Do Maryam, Bindel, Tatchell realise, or indeed care, that repeating the tropes, by eroticising oppression, they merely reinforce the social conservatism they fight against.

There were groups on the Pride march, who were Muslim LGBTQ, groups that are just as committed to freedom and equality. Groups who nonetheless do not share the sentiments, let alone the politics of Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, or the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), etc. so does this then make them ex-LGBTQ in the yes of the above or ex-Muslims in the eyes of the conservative Imams?

The Grenfell Fire -Or How the Body Burns

The Grenfell Fire -Or How the Body Burns

Trigger Warning-some might find the images distressful, and my apologies if this is so

A Language Lit by Fire

170614064500-41-london-fire-exlarge-169Did you know that fire has several different voices and that it speaks with its own language? That it can whisper low and soft, all full of warmth and innocence, when tamed in the grate of a cottage fire grate…That it hisses with a vengeful glee when allowed to breath and that it can cackle with malevolence when given more to eat? No wonder it was a source of worship for the ancestors, and why the Gods punished Prometheus for stealing it from them

The Grenfell towers was a tower of babel, a monument to a multiculturalism that came about through few options, poverty, of making friendships, relationships, education, raising families. The towers stand as shells of dreams, amidst the city of the human deluge, and now exist as if in a time capsule.

Yet all the data in the world cannot recapture the life, the loves, the hopes, the disappointments, the thousand and one days and nights that went on behind closed doors. The angry gestures, the romantic words, the erotic fumbling’s after a Friday/Saturday night…the halo of light around the fried chicken shop, that said tonight was over

Bonfire of austerity-Spent and burnt out


Exactly How Does the Human Body Burn?


The sages would have us know that “the thin outer layers of skin fry and begin to peel off as the flames dance across their surface. Then, after around 5 minutes, the thicker dermal layer of skin shrinks and begins to split, allowing the underlying yellow fat to leak out”.

Have you seen what flames can do to meat, bone, clothes, and hair?

The researchers say, like the scalds of old with hoarded knowledge, “that the average body can, a little like a tree branch and up burn to around seven hours?” For men and women the average body consists of between 55-65% of water and that the average body fat will be between 24-31%

In a time when capitalism has lifted all those leaky poverty stricken boats, don’t believe that a tower block full of “all of human life is here” can’t take less than 15 minutes to catch fire and over 60 hours to burn out.

Were visitors from another world to visit today, they might assume it was a temple, a relic left over from a past conflict, where “life was brutal and short”. The Guardian tells us “Men in Blackpool can currently expect to live to just 75.2 years, the lowest life expectancy in the country.”

If the ancient Greeks had seen the Grenfell tower, would they think it one of the Palaces of Hades, seeing as it is slap next to the opulent palaces of the super rich. The outside cladding is as black as his heart and the natures of the wealthy; he would have appreciated their cold-blooded arrogance, because you are all equal when you are dead.

What does a bowl of smoke taste like, what it is to burn? What’s the smell of burning human flesh?

Slate magazine noted in 2007, “ Police in Houston reported, “The remains of a woman who had been strangled by her ex-boyfriend may have been burned over a barbecue on his balcony* Neighbour’s said they noticed an awful, acrid odour coming from the grills for two days. You’ll know it when you smell it. Burning muscle tissue gives off an aroma similar to beef in a frying pan, and body fat smells like a side of fatty pork on the grill. But you probably won’t mistake the scent of human remains for a cookout.


That’s because a whole body includes all sorts of parts that we’d rarely use for a regular barbecue. For example, cattle are bled after slaughter, and the beef and pork we eat contain few blood vessels. When a whole human body burns, all the iron-rich blood still inside can give the smell a coppery, metallic component.

Full bodies also include internal organs, which rarely burn completely because of their high fluid content; they smell like burnt liver. Fire fighters say that cerebrospinal fluid burns up in a musky, sweet perfume.

Burning skin has a charcoal like smell, while setting hair on fire produces a sulphurous odour. This is because the keratin in our hair contains large amounts of cysteine, a sulphur-containing amino acid. * (Hooves and nails also contain keratin.”

The residents of Grenfell tower were located in Kensington & Chelsea, one of the wealthiest of boroughs in London that also has one of the highest concentrations of deprivation.

Nonetheless in June, as part of a long hot summer, they hardly expected their bodies and souls would be fuel for the ‘bonfire of the red tape and regulations’ vanities. Is it still ‘corporate murder’, if you’ve been to all the right schools, clubs and sit on the right charity boards? And smoke? Don’t you know it is bad for you? That “smoke gets in your eyes”, and mouth, lungs, ears, hair, especially when your trying to escape with your kids from a burning building…”burning down the house…

To the Soul?

For the ancient Athenians, it was customary to place the ashes of the deceased beloved one in an urn. They had a horror of an unmarked death, with none of the proper rites and rituals being observed. Hence the humbling of King Priam, during the Trojan War, where he begs Achilles, the noble psychotic for the return of his son Hectors, body.

For the multitude within those walls, the ghosts that have no fingers to tear through the veil that keeps them from the world there will be no preparation of the the body, that gets washed and anointed. No payment for the ferryman of the dead to convey the soul from the world of the living to the world of the dead.

As far as the state was concerned, many of those who died in a blaze of fear, agony, curdled and crisped, were already ghosts, not meant to be here, until caught.

The modern age, the lack of status for those consumed, means that those who have the task of finding them, have to go as Yevgeny Yevtushenko, said in his poem ‘Loss’, “like an old blind woman madly stretching her hand in fog, searching with hopeless incantation for her lost milk cow”

Tower block fire in London

And “Fires were started” or Götterdämmerung

What it is to burn? What it is, to find a home, transformed into a portal to hell? What it is to feel the body being consumed by the devil, to have his hands so tight round your throat that you cannot scream for pities sake or your own? There are 200 pain receptors for every centimetre of the body. What it is to smell your bowels opening, hear the shriek of the flames as they claim you as one of their own?

In Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelung” Brünnhilde issues orders for a huge funeral pyre to be assembled by the river. Lighting the pyre with a firebrand, she sends Wotan’s ravens home. The fire flares up, and the hall of the Gibichungs catches fire and collapses, a red glow is seen in the sky. Flames flare up in the Hall of the Gods, hiding it and them from sight completely. And the gods are consumed in the flames.

I hope the residents of Grenfell would have understood Yevgeny Yevtushenko, when he wrote, “Is it true that we no longer exist? Or are we not yet born? We are birthing now, but it’s painful to be born again”.



The Clear and Present Danger of Trump

There is a danger that parts of the left are equating Trumps critique of both the EU and NATO means that he’s some what of an allie.

This is a big mistake and only shows that they have mistaken this for inter-imperialist rivalry.
MHI is an organisation that has quite rightly called this ultra left accelerationism out at the left forum. Here’s a link that I’m posting for others to watch and make up their mind

“It’s In the Blood”-Is Gender A Given-My DDA Contribution

Below is my contribution, as part of a panel discussion on Gender Identity that took place on March 18th 2017 in North London.

“First of all, I would like to thank the organisers of DDA, for giving me the opportunity to take part in this fascinating debate. I only hope that I can play my part and do the subject matter at hand, some sort of honour and duty.

I have been asked to speak for the proposition, that gender is a given, and I hope to do so by looking at it, through the prism of socialisation, gender, feminist and queer theory. I am by no means an expert in this though, so if I have made any assumptions, that are incorrect, then I will not take it a wry to be corrected.

When we come into this world, we are unformed and malleable, as to whom we are. In that sense, we are subject to not just our parents’ thoughts and wishes, but also to what societies, expectations of us.

Let me add, that I regard gender as being chosen, only, in the sense that when we are born, the gender standard is not only that of a binary, but is also one that assumes that tradition is immutable. But tradition is only tradition because ideas are not challenged and put under scrutiny. In and of itself, the duality of genders in Western society is not a negative thing.

But the insistence that this is all that is and can be, leads to social conservatism. We are only at the very start of understanding both trans and non-binary trans issues, in wider societies.

We can see this, no more starkly than in the debate around trans people. This is not something that the black community can look on with cool disinterest. There is still a deep misunderstanding; much less acceptance of homosexuality in our community, and that is long before we get onto the issue of our trans sisters and brothers.

I want to stress, that what I call ‘gender rigidity’, is something that cuts across communities, and politics. There are many feminist groups and activists who are hostile to trans people. They are commonly called TERFS (TERF is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist). According to Rationalwiki, “Trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERF; also Trans women exclusionary feminism or TWEF [note 1]) is a subgroup of radical feminism characterized by transphobia, especially transmisogyny, [note 2] and hostility to the third wave of feminism. They believe that the only real women™ are those born with a vagina and XX chromosomes [note 3] They wish to completely enforce the classic gender binary, supporting gender essentialism”.

It seems that trans exclusionary feminists, share the view, that when it comes to humanity, god/the goddess/mother nature, made man and women, who should only be man and woman, in that they can never feel to be anything other than that. This is a stance, that any a religious fundamentalist would nod in agreement with.

I must say, that I find, such a stance bewildering, when you consider that religious and social conservatives are not the natural allies of progressives. But, even if one can leave such considerations aside, it was not so long ago, that both secular and religious authorities would quote both scripture and science as “proof’, that black people were not human. This has also of course applied to what society saw as a woman’s worth.

The question of gender, as a given, is viewed by many trans people with understandable suspicion. The nearest example contemporary example that one can find to it, is the (thankfully) discredited “gay conversion therapy”.From the 60’s onwards, there were, throughout Western Europe at least, attempts to “cure” people of being gay or lesbian. As Stonewall, a LGBTQ charity that in its own words, “Was founded in 1989 by a small group of people who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act” notes

“Conversion therapy (or ‘cure’ therapy or reparative therapy) refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to reduce or stop same-sex attraction or to suppress a person’s gender identity. It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. These therapies are both unethical and harmful. In the UK, all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies, as well as the NHS, have concluded that conversion therapy is dangerous and have condemned it by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF). We are working to make sure that this covers gender identity too”.

In the cases that I have listed, such as the historical legacy of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, the key part is that of being “real”. There is a song, by a British band from the 70’s, called ‘The Who’, and one of their tracks is called “Who are you?” That question, concerning gender identity is asked in a number of ways, whether with genuine enquiry or interrogative disdain.

For trans people, if we stick within the current parameters of what gender being a given, is, the fear (which also applies to gay people) then, is that they are malfunctioning, that they need fixing, that they are not human, that they are not “real’. But for many trans people, the only thing that is ‘broken’ is the fact that they feel trapped in the wrong gender identity.

As it relates to trans issues, in the here and now, then, I think we should consider why it is, that so many people are biological determinists. By that I mean, that in the case of being a trans woman, those opposed, link being “real”, to a woman’s bodily functions, such as having periods, giving birth. Many biological determinists think that this is a trump card they have pulled out of the pack.

That is to ignore the fact however that trans woman can have periods, of a sort. Alaina Kailyn on OCTOBER 6, 2016 wrote an article called, ‘Trans Girl Periods. Yes, that’s right. No, I’m being Serious. Just read the damn article’ on the blog, ‘On Wednesdays we Wear Capes’. She said “I don’t have a uterus so I don’t bleed, but I take hormones and have a hormonal cycle. At the end of the cycle it gives me the usual PMS symptoms including abdominal cramps, bloating, headache, moodiness, and occasionally breast soreness and increased discharge.

These symptoms are what I term my Period. It’s not a “Menstrual Period” because I have no uterine lining to shed, so it’s just a period of symptoms. The cramping is caused by the abdominal wall and intestinal muscles seizing, which means I also get period shits when they get bad. Hooray!” and also that

“Well, since I inject hormones instead of creating all of them naturally, tracking my period is a way to make sure my hormone levels are cycling at about the same rate. That way I can adjust dosages on the fly if things get out of whack. It’s also nice to know what’s going on with my body, it is nicer living in those rhythms and knowing when things will probably start”.

Concerning giving birth, as a sign of being a real woman, one of the problems with that, is the assertion that a woman’s status, is uniquely tied up with her fertility and genitalia. One, could, if one wished, point to women, that have children by surrogacy. In those cases, does that make females, who cannot or whom do not want to bare children, less of a “woman”?

To take this a stage further, for trans people that are female to male, does it make them less of a man? I can use the example of the 17th and 8th century operatic Castrati here, who though being born male, through being gelded, was not regarded as operating in the same sphere as men. In ‘WHY CASTRATI MADE BETTER LOVERS’, Tony Perrottet, said in the online mag ‘The Smart Set’, that “ For Europe’s high society women, the obvious benefit of built-in contraception made castrati ideal targets for discreet affairs.

Soon popular songs and pamphlets began suggesting that castration actually enhanced a man’s sexual performance, as the lack of sensation ensured extra endurance; stories spread of the castrati as considerate lovers, whose attention was entirely focused on the woman.

As one groupie eagerly put it, the best of the singers enjoyed “a spirit in no wise dulled, and a growth of hair that differs not from other men.” When the most handsome castrato of all, Farinelli, visited London in 1734, a poem written by an anonymous female admirer derided local men as “Bragging Boasters” whose enthusiasm “expires too fast, While F—–lli stands it to the last.””

The main point here is that in conventional terms, castrati were not ‘real’ men, in that they were socially and biologically, non-conforming. Society was, nonetheless, able to adapt to this new phenomenon in general, the male gender was chosen for them, but they did not fulfill the role that the gender, was expected to.

To return back to Alaina briefly, concerning gender being a given she says; “Even though science now tells us that most people actually exist somewhere between what could be termed “pure male” or “pure female” as en utero hormonal fluctuations affect most fetuses, most people are comfortable identifying on one side of the spectrum or the other. This is why it’s important to me to say assigned at birth, it is an acknowledgement that gender is not clear.

That is why I do not say that I was male or born male. You could argue that I was born Trans, but definitely not male. This is the reality I knew when I was four years old. I was born female. I had a penis, (never wanted it but it was there.)
These are not contradictory statements. Trans women are not men who decided to become women; we are women who were forced to live as men until we could find a way to express the truth of whom we are.”

What I have tried to get across is that the conventional choices concerning gender tend to be made, in that they conform to our parent’s wishes. It is taken as read, that the binary norm is going to be prevalent. Robin McKie writing in the Guardian, on August 15th 2010 noted that, “The belief has become widespread, particularly in the wake of the publication of international bestsellers such as John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus that stress the innate differences between the minds of men and women.

But now a growing number of scientists are challenging the pseudo-science of “neurosexism”, as they call it, and are raising concerns about its implications. These researchers argue that by telling parents that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills and girls have little prospect of developing mathematical prowess, serious and unjustified obstacles are being placed in the paths of children’s education.

In fact, there are no major neurological differences between the sexes, says Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, which will be published by Icon next month. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, added Fine, a researcher at Melbourne University, but the wiring is soft, not hard. “It is flexible, malleable and changeable,” she said.

In short, our intellects are not prisoners of our genders or our genes and those who claim otherwise are merely coating old-fashioned stereotypes with a veneer of scientific credibility. It is a case backed by Lise Eliot, an associate professor based at the Chicago Medical School. “All the mounting evidence indicates these ideas about hard-wired differences between male and female brains are wrong,” she told the Observer.””

Isabella Crespi, from the Department of Sociology, Catholic University of Milan, Italy wrote a paper for the Marie Curie organisation, titled ‘SOCIALIZATION AND GENDER ROLES WITHIN THE FAMILY: A STUDY ON ADOLESCENTS AND THEIR PARENTS IN GREAT BRITAIN

In the abstract, for it, she notes that “The way we are, behave and think is the final product of socialization. Since the moment we are born, we are being moulded into the being society wants us to be. Through socialization we also learn what is appropriate and improper for both genders.

The vast literature on this topic has pointed out a consolidation of the debate. It allows us to identify important problematic bonds relative to the achievement of their gender identity throughout their adolescence and to build reciprocity and complementarities between the sexes and the valorisation of fundamental contexts such as family.

Socialization is a relational process between adolescents and parents and its objective is to build identity [in this case gender identity]. If the topic of gender is extremely important for the overview of sociological studies, it is even more important if it is seen from an intergenerational point of view speaking about gender socialization”.

Isabella tells us, in ‘1 1 SOCIETY AND GENDER ROLES’ that “According to psychologists such as Sandra Bem [9], one cognitive process that seems nearly inevitable in humans is to divide people into groups. We can partition these groups on the basis of race, age, religion, and so forth.

However, most of the times we split humanity on the basis of gender. The first thing we instantly determine, when meeting someone new, is their gender. This process of categorizing others in terms of gender is both habitual and automatic. It’s nearly impossible to suppress the tendency to split the world in half, using gender as the great divider.

When we divide the world into two groups, males and females, we tend to consider all males similar, all females similar, and the two categories of “males” and “females” very different from each other. In real life, the characteristics of women and men tend to overlap. Unfortunately, however, gender polarization often creates an artificial gap between women and men and gender roles that are very difficult to change in time”.

Concerning the gender stereotypes for males and females, Isabella Crespi points out that “Stereotypes are representative of a society’s collective knowledge of customs, myths, ideas, religions, and sciences [30]. It is within this knowledge that an individual develops a stereotype or a belief about a certain group. Social psychologists feel that the stereotype is one part of an individual ’ s social knowledge”.

Also, that “The culture of an individual influences stereotypes through information that is received from indirect sources such as parents, peers, teachers, political and religious leaders, and the mass media”.

Concerning both gender and socialisation, we can do worse than look at Marx, for his views on this subject.

In the 2014 volume 66, issue 2 of the June issue of the Monthly Review, Heather Brown, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Westfield State University, states “Marx was making a dialectical argument directly related to his overall theory of society. In order for society to advance beyond its capitalist form, new social relations would have to be formed that did not rely solely upon a crude, alienated formulation of value.

Human beings would have to become able to see each other as valuable in themselves, rather than as only worth what one individual can provide to another. Women would be especially significant in this regard, since they have tended to be a marginalized group within most, if not all, societies. Thus, men and women would have to reach a point of development where an individual is valued for who they are, rather than any abstract category of man, woman, etc. Moreover, Marx appears to point in the direction of gender as a dynamic rather than static category.

Certainly, Marx never directly made this claim: however, in the 1844 Manuscripts and in The German Ideology, he provided a strong critique of, and alternative to, traditional dualistic views of the nature/society dualism. Instead of nature and society existing as two distinct entities that interact with each other without fundamentally changing the essence of itself or the other, Marx argues that the two are dialectically related. As human beings interact with nature through labor, both the individual and nature is changed.

This occurs because human beings exist as part of nature, and the labor process provides the means for such a temporary unity. Since both nature and society are not static entities, Marx argued that there can be no trans historical notion of what is “natural.” Instead, a concept of “natural” can only be relevant for specific historical circumstances”.

The main point to be making here, is that gender and the roles within it, have been influx throughout human history, and never more so, than during the establishment of capitalism. Still, looking at this from a socialist/left wing point of view, I read, an article by Laura Miles, in the ISJ (International Socialism Journal) from 9th January 2014. She said, “Socialists, of course, defend the right of trans people to live freely in their chosen gender but there are serious problems inherent in such an essentialist approach to gender identity.

An alternative view starts by recognising that our biological, chromosomal sex can be thought of as analogous to other physical characteristics that we inherit—skin colour, eye colour, and so on. Most people’s gender identity (their deeply rooted sense of being male or female) will be in accordance with this. However, for trans people there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. For everyone, though, trans and gender-straight (or cisgendered people), our gender is socially constructed in a dialectical relationship with our material circumstances and is to some extent fluid.

People’s self-identification and self-description (including trans people’s) can change and develop over time. There is, a certain fluidity because our identities are structured within given material, historical and cultural frameworks such as the class relations dominant within a given mode of production like capitalism.

It is the material circumstances in which we are required to live under the capitalist system which distort and limit everyone’s gender role and gender identity by seeking to constrain us within a binary gender straitjacket in a system dominated by the ideology of the nuclear family. As a result we are all alienated, to a greater or lesser extent, from each other, from ourselves and from our true humanity.

Trans people are highly motivated to resist that gender straitjacket, which suggests that, while gender identity may not be fixed and unchanging, it is deeply rooted in us; otherwise trans people could presumably be socialised out of our gender variant behaviour and identity. Everyone, after all, is showered in cot-loads of gender conformative reinforcement from the moment of birth. Conversely, this also suggests that in a saner and freer world many different gender expressions and arrangements for living together could be possible outside the nuclear family structure and the gender binary”.

Concerning gender, as it relates to the trans issue, it also brings in the issue of what is “real”, of what is “authentic”. In March 2017, Jenni Murray, the editor of Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’, wrote in the Times newspaper that trans women, are not “real”. This was in relation to, as she saw it, the fact that trans women had not lived their lives, as a woman, with the experiences, that this was meant to entail.

I found this very curious, as it is actually replicating the patriarchal notion of what was considered to be “real” to be a woman. So, back in the 18th-20th century, a “real” woman would have a husband, be running a home, have children, so what does this then make women, to day, who have neither?

On March 13th 2017, Sam Hope, writing in “The Queerness”, about the support given to Jenni Murray’s comment by Chimanda Ngozi Adichi, said, “Things are getting worse for trans people lately. Trump has rolled back trans protections and over here in the UK, people with power and influence seem to be lining up to denounce us. Dame Jenni Murray was no particular surprise given the trans-sceptical nature of many Women’s Hour slots and the BBC’s overall stance towards us. But my hero Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s latest offering is a knife in my heart. From such a wonderful writer and thinker, whose TED talk, The danger of a single story has been a huge influence on my ability to think in pluralistic, intersectional terms, the dull mediocrity of her latest “big” statement, is depressing and laughable.

It approximates to “well, trans women aren’t really like other women, are they?” It seems to say a lot, while saying nothing at all. It also points to how boring and obvious you can be when you hold the privileged position in a debate. Such a contrast to the wonderful eloquence Adichie must reach for when speaking of the condition of African women.

Because it sounds plausible, and nobody has to think too hard, people will nod as if this is her usual level of wisdom. Those of us without such a reach of course have to be much more clever to get people listening and nodding. Trans women are just not the same, claims Adichie, but this applies to many women – white western women do not experience FGM, some women are infertile, not all women have relationships with men, not all women have XX chromosomes.

People try many tricks to “other” trans women, but “woman” is a social construct – there is no such thing as a “real” woman, there is only a word used to describe a social grouping whose edges are ragged and complex”

I think that the above, by Sam Hope, is very important, because it tries to open up the parameters of what a woman is, beyond that of only being biological. For many who call themselves feminists, their opposition to trans women hinges around a number of related issues. One is the perception of “male privilege”. So, lets look at the “male privilege” argument; Kai Cheng Thom is a Chinese trans woman writer, who wrote an article for ‘Every Day Feminism’ on October 4th 2015, titled ‘Still Think Trans Women Have Male Privilege? These 7 Points Prove They Don’t’, said

“The debate is fierce, bitter, and as old second wave feminism: Do trans women experience male privilege? Meaning, do trans women receive, at the expense of cis women, much-needed resources from both within and outside of feminist movements? This argument forms the basis of the exclusion of trans women not only from feminist activism, but also from female-only spaces in general, such as bathrooms and domestic violence shelters.

The idea is that trans women, with our “masculine” bodies and having been “raised as male,” receive all kinds of privilege that cis women don’t, such as relative safety from sexual harassment, social preference in school and the job market, and so on. As a result of this perspective, trans women are often excluded from women-only spaces on the basis that we might be violent, or make cis women uncomfortable, or that we are already served by male institutions. Some well-known feminist writers even go so far as to say that trans women also exhibit male entitlement by stealing the spotlight from and “redefining” cis women’s struggles.

This kind of reasoning is famously associated with the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) movement. However, it also pervades many mainstream women’s organizations and institutions”. Furthermore, I find that on point two, Kai Cheng Thom makes, a very compelling case, where she says ‘2. Trans Women Are Not ‘Socialized as Men’. “The idea of trans women being socialized as male, is the biggest argument, that TERFs bring out when trying to justify the exclusion of trans women from feminism, and is also the most compelling.

After all, it’s true that trans women are perceived as male at birth, and we are treated as such. However, most trans feminine children experience being treated as male extremely differently from cisgender boys. Cis boys generally do not question or feel discomfort with the way that society treats them. They are able to accept and enjoy their privilege, usually without even noticing it.

Being called boys for them is not accompanied by fear and self-doubt or the feeling, there is something deeply fundamentally wrong with them. Young trans girls, on the other hand, tend to experience being treated as male as disorienting and terrifying, because it teaches us that our identities are revolting to society.

Male socialization, for us, is actually a coded message: You’re not who you think you are. If you try to be anything other than what we say, you’ll be punished. Let me make an analogy: Imagine that you are born with dark hair, but everyone you know–from your parents to your teacher to your friends – tells you that you are blond, starting from the moment of your birth.

If this analogy reminds you of gas lighting (an abuse tactic that works by denying the victim’s perceptions of reality), then you are right on track. Trans women are, from childhood, subjected to a form of emotional abuse that is carried out by an entire society – which might explain why we are vastly more likely to struggle with PTSD, anxiety, and depression”.

In so far, as it relates to PoC, then the gender issue can and does have societal ramifications. For example domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), the practices of those, within our various communities have been (and still to a certain extent are), viewed as either assertions of control over what is seen as the ‘real’ family, and the ‘real’ woman.

Concerning FGM, Alice Walker, the American novelist and feminist, wrote a book called ‘Possessing the Secret of Joy’. The main female character Tashi undergoes the ritual of FGM, not long before she has a child in an attempt to remain connected to her African roots. To remain, if you like, “real” and the novel explores what it means to have one’s gender culturally defined and emphasises that, according to Walker, “Torture is not culture.”

Many trans women from Africa would be/are adamant that they are as authentic as women as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi. On BBC Trending, March 16th 2017, Megha Mohan wrote in ‘Why transgender Africans turned against a famous feminist’, that “The interview has sparked a passionate online debate around the world. But specifically among Africans, one of Adichie’s most vocal critics is London-based, Nigerian transgender model Miss Sahhara, who runs an online support community for transgender women called

“Ahhhhh, I am fuming, these TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) feminists always think they are above all women who don’t fit into their narrative of what a woman should be.” “What happened to being inclusive and tolerant of all women, no matter their life histories?” “I get a lot of online messages from Nigerian trans girls who are there now and they find it so difficult. A nightmare,” “there’s no male privilege for trans women in Africa.””

Finally on privilege, writing for Buzzfeed on March 16th 2017, Morgan M Page, said in an article, ‘Trans Women Shouldn’t Have To Constantly Defend Their Own Womanhood’ that “After Adichie’s comments stirred angry debates online, she released a statement in which she positioned herself as supportive of LGBTQ rights, but reiterated many of the same ideas. She wrote that while she opposes violence against trans women, she still thinks that considering trans women’s experiences as part of women’s experiences more broadly “feels disingenuous” to her.

The spectre of male privilege has long since been a way to deny trans women’s womanhood and basic humanity. Invoking male privilege is often meant to imply that trans women don’t know what it is like to live as “real” women—that we have not suffered the way other women have suffered, that we have not been disenfranchised by patriarchy because of our genders, and that our early experiences allow us access to forms of social power which influence how we move through the world even after we transition.

This argument, beyond hinging all of womanhood on a relatively singular experience of suffering, has often been used to flatten the vast array of different life experiences among trans women and other transfeminine-spectrum people. At worst, it contributes to a culture of violence, harassment, exclusion, and erasure that presents a real threat to the lives and physical safety of the most marginalized among us”.

What is a ‘real’ woman, what is a ‘real’ man, what is it to be feminine/masculine, in many ways, are asking the question, what is it to be human. Are we just the sum total of our genitals and whether mum dressed us up in blue/pink? Why must it be, that we continue to think only within the narrow parameters of gender being immutable and bound by biology? If we no longer believe that woman was made from Adam’s rib, if we believe in an open society, in which the freedom to be, is such bountiful coin, that it should make us wastrels and spendthrifts, then let us have the discussion that takes us beyond the sum of our fears.

As Afro-Caribbean’s we have so often confounded the worst expectations of wider society. Therefore I do not think that it is beyond us, to rethink the binary concept of gender is no longer. Otherwise, then if there truly be gods and deities, they would think it only fitting, that we are as Shakespeare wrote in King Lear, “Flies to wanton boys are we to the’ gods, they kill us for their sport””.











The Resistance to Trump


Placard from the Women’s March in London on January 21st 2017

There is a line from a Public Enemy song that starts out, “Brothers & sisters…I don’t know what this world is coming to”. So, now it is official, Donald Trump, the billionaire is now the 45th President of the United States of America. Few can say with any dignity, that they ‘knew’, this would happen. Trump, is not the ‘ordinary’, run of the mill reactionary, as we’d expect from the Republicans in particular and the right in general. His campaign and his inauguration speech had strong touches of the ‘nation needs a strong man’ type that we’ve heard before around the world, in the 30’s and 40’s, in the 60’s and 70’s.

Let us be clear, Trump is a bully, a thug, an exploiter of the workers. He is a sexist and misogynist, a racist, both a homophobe and transphobe. What’s more he’s got several like-minded people in his cabinet. He’s mentioned about the register of Muslims, wants to deport more “illegals” than Obama, and Trump, still plans on building that wall on the Mexican border. He’s abolished the endowment for the arts, dismantled the office for climate change, and wants to attack abortion rights

Saying all of this is by no means to let either Obama or Hillary off the hook, far from it. But they are at least prepared to still do ‘normal’ politics, and while they do, this still provides for those of us on the left, a political space to organise openly. In the case of Trump, for the first time in living memory the GOP controls both the house and the senate. There is a strong chance that the Supreme Court will be balanced towards the conservatives. The qualitative difference is also that malign, right-wing forces outside the right-wing of the GOP are gathering, who feel that they have political legitimacy now that “daddy” is now in charge.

Regarding the resistance to Trump, I have no doubt that various liberals in and out of the Democratic Party will try to use that as an opportunity to rehabilitate the Killeray. No doubt this figures in the thinking of the organisers of the Women’s March in America. That must be resisted as much as possible. In part, it was her role as being the Corporate Candidate that led to her loosing. It was her open contempt for w/c people, her espousal of muscular intervention in the M/E. She and her outriders cannot be allowed to dictate the parameters of what for the resistance will take. Her m/c faux feminism of privilege, has failed w/c women on so many levels. So Trump being bad does not automatically make her ‘good’.

The real resistance will come from below and will come from the workers themselves. Not being directed like a stage army. It will come from the Muslim woman doctor who’s also involved in a housing group. It will come from the fireman, who helps out at a soup kitchen. It will come from women’s groups that give out information about DV, abortions and contraception. It will come from the trade unionist, that steps forward to stop his Hispanic comrade from being deported

The resistance will be from the trans lawyer, who builds up a case to stop big business from poisoning the local water. The resistance will be from the lesbian mum bringing up a son, the gay dad bringing up a daughter. The resistance will come from different quarters, like a thousand flowers blooming. There will no doubt be much-needed analysis of the demo, the people on it, who organised it and where we go from there. Primo Levi in the ‘Drowned and the Saved’ warns and reminds us that the unimaginable can happen again. That a would-be tyrant is waiting in the wings, with “beautiful words” on his lips. Little did he know, that such a person would end up, sitting with all the misplaced, imperial, hauteur of a Nero, in the White House

The Political Demographics of Demonstrating


 A protestor holds up a banner reading ‘I’m too young to be this angry’, as thousands protest against Government’s austerity policies in 2012

First of all, this is meant for the most part to be an observation, as opposed to a died-in the wool political article.

I have been a political activist for most of my adult life, though I came to it rather than being born into a political family. So, I have been part of and (I hope) shaped at least in a small way, some of the political debates and discussions from the past.

I mention this to point out that I have been on more than my fair share of demonstrations, meetings, occupations, picket lines, etc. Over the last two-three years however, I would say from 2012 or 2013, something different has been taking place on these demos. I must say at this point, that I can only speak for the UK, as that is where I am based, so I’d be interested in the experiences of other comrades in other parts of the world.

The demonstrations that I have been on, before then tended to be of a muchness in that we marched from A-B This was a common complaint on sections of the left, including the more *ahem, wilder section of anarchists who just want to smash shit up. While I can understand the frustration, it also misses the point. Which is to make a visible protest not to warm our-selves, at the glow of seeing Starbucks go up in flames.

These demonstrations tended to be organised in conjunction with various sections of the trade union bureaucracy, and various other groups linked to it, such as the; People’s Assembly, StW (Stop the War), Hope not Hate, UAF, (United Against Fascism), etc. It should be noted that although a trade union can give support to/organise a demo/meeting that is not a guarantee of mass attendance. Yet, on a consistent basis, I have seen people attending these demos in the tens of thousands, and at times, the hundreds of thousands.

But the point I am getting to (my apologies if this has been a tad long winded), is that unlike in the past, it could be said there has been a mass attendance of what might be termed “ordinary people” at these demonstrations. I would venture to say that there has been, within a relatively short space of time, a dramatic change in the attendance and political demographic.  Let me explain, on the demonstrations, rallies, etc. that I have been on, what might be called ‘the usual suspects’ are there in the form of left-wing newspaper sellers and bookstalls.

Nothing wrong with that by the way, but added to them and outnumbering them by a thousand to one (if not more) are the masses of young to middle aged people that are either newly active or have been called back to activism over a particular set of issues. Whether it is over refugees or against Trident, etc.

I would say, that they are left-leaning; many are in or were the Labour Party, involved at some level in the trade union movement, in the public or charitable sector, or in education, students, committed to a (somewhat reformist) radical politics. I have also noticed that on these demonstrations, they have become more of a family friendly event. In many ways, this is a reflection of the fluidity of the social relations in various forms of social democracy.

So, as part of a demonstration, there will be various autonomous groups with a sound system, the Hare Krishna’s, will be giving out free vegetarian food, mum, dad and the kids will also be in attendance, along with various buggies and push chairs. Also, for reasons I have never understood, demonstrators seem compelled to take their bikes along, and the stewarding is not as rigorous as it was in the past.

So, is this all a major problem for those of us on the left? I do think it is for these reasons. Whatever its faults in the past, the standard demonstration was working to a basic understanding of challenging major aspects of capitalism, it was a physical manifestation that Labour and trade union leaders viewed with a certain wariness.

What has replaced this has been political atomisation, rejection of political structure. This is combined with a more hazy understanding of the relationship between the citizen and state. There is a tacit looking towards solutions that will come through the election(s) of an electoral saviour. I’m not arguing for the clock to be turned back by the way.

But it is a worrying trend that the changing nature and demographic of demonstrations has come alongside a certain passivity. It seems that activists are expected to tailor their message to avoid putting off a new audience, that rather than raise the political threshold, the expectation is that we lower our horizons.

Anti-cuts-protesters-marc-007Anti-cuts protesters march in London on 26 March 2011