TRIGGER WARNING HAPPY Trigger Warning: This blog contains no trigger warnings

The ‘Trigger Warning’ is having a moment. Much like after the bankers f***ed up the economy and ‘austerity’ went from being a word mostly found in Dickensian era literature to common usage overnight. In fact, it’s only very recently that ‘austerity’ has fallen out of favour as the blanket explanation for all the profit focused policies that have post dated it.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think ‘Trigger Warning’ is even a decade old. It is certainly very new to find it everywhere, all the time. Perhaps, it’s just the circles I frequent. The feminist ones, especially. They are just wall to ceiling ‘Trigger Warning’. Many make you agree to adding a ‘Trigger Warning’ to everything you post. Think about that, for a moment. Feminists sites that ask you to designate your feminist content potentially harmful to other feminists.

Perhaps I sound flippant? Like, I have missed the point. Trigger warnings are there to protect people, who may be experiencing P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from being triggered by other people’s stories or even opinions. So far, so sensitive. But, ultimately, not sensitive enough, because here’s the type of content that might make a traumatised individual feel unsafe. F***ing anything!

Such is the nature of unresolved trauma that a smell, a sound, a taste, or a picture may resonate with some part of our deep sub conscious – where all the bad s*** lurks – and make us feel vulnerable, alone, sad. Such is the real dark stuff that happens to people in a patriarchy, that many spent their entire life’s a bit or a lot broken. Trigger Warnings won’t resolve their conflict. Truth and affirmative action is much more plausible.

When did feminists become so f***ing sensitive to the needs of everyone, all the time, whilst so simultaneously desensitised to the needs of women? Seriously, what is that about?

It’s all part of a wider conspiracy to make feminism so dull that only suburban house-wife’s and aspirational career types need apply. All the thinkers, all the truth seekers, all the herstorians – nope, it’s not a typo – will be either dead, or living in some underground compound in UTAH waiting for a post apocalyptic future with a less bleak outlook.

Can we stop censoring women? Can we stop patronising women? Can we recognise that talking about trauma is not inherently traumatic? It is not even as traumatic as not talking about it. Can we stop boring each other’s pants off with long, convoluted explanations of what feminism is? Can we narrow down the definition of feminism to more realistic aims? Can we make sure the draft includes stuff about women and their oppression under a patriarchy?

So, in summary, feminism is not an ideological version of a health spa. If you want to feel good about yourself, you need to see a life coach, or an emotional freedom therapist, or even a good old fashioned shrink. If you want to fight for the rights of women you need to find yourself some like minded women who call themselves feminists, but are also interested in such matters. And that, in this current climate of schizophrenic women;s rights, is a pretty hard find.

My debut novel Nailing Jess is available now from amazon and all good bookstores.

 

Everyday Feminism – I’ll take mine to go…

So, now that I’ve launched my book, I need to get back to blogging regularly. Blogging’s hard. You have to think up stuff to write about and then write about it. You have to have an opinion and be sure where you stand on something and the older I get, the less certain I become about where I stand on anything. Take feminism, for example. I used to be so sure of what feminism was. Then I discovered twitter. Some time later, I came to realise that my own understanding of what feminism was, which had come largely from the academic writings of the second wave feminists, was no longer relevant. Feminism had morphed into something entirely different. It had been re branded so that it might appeal to a broader section of society. And in theory, that’s a good thing, surely?

Everybody knows you’ve got to de-radicalise to maintain viewing figures. Remember New Labour? But, at what point, do you lose all credibility? At what point are you looking from the misogynist to the feminist, and then from the feminist to the misogynist and scratching your head? ‘Course it could be simply that the movement has evolved too fast for me, and I’m stuck in the rigid thinking of a by-gone era when feminism was all about fighting for women’s rights. Most especially, their right to control of their womb. Their right to live free from male perpetrated sexual and physical violence. Their right to protect their children from male perpetrated sexual and physical violence. Their right to an education. Their right to be self defined autonomous individuals, with control of their own destinies. Their right to live free of oppression and fear. It was a very rights based time.

And these sisters got shit done! Between all the toking and the dancing around naked and hairy in the gardens, coz body hair is a very political thing, they achieved practical, massive stuff. They got us divorce and abortion and contraception and women’s refuges. They got us better pay and working conditions and opportunities. They radically changed our lives. Then, as far as I can tell, they packed up and moved back to suburbia, in time for rush hour at the fertility clinic. There endeth the second wave. Now, we’re in the third wave, I think, it’s hard to keep up. Some even talk of a fourth, so it could be like a tsunami soon. Only, that’s not the feeling I get. This third wave seems very sketchy to me. I’m not even convinced it’s a wave, more of a series of ripples. Okay, enough with the ocean metaphor! But you get my point. Feminism is having a moment.

Everybody’s feminist right now. It’s not just Emma Watson. Teresa May is a feminist, she literally bought the t-shirt and that Canadian prime minister bloke, and of course Obama and also Ryan Gosling, though that could be an irony thing. There’s even talk that Kim Kardashian is a feminist. They are f**king everywhere! So, here’s the thing? How is it that the patriarchy can withstand the force of their numbers? ‘Coz latest update on the patriarchy is, it’s still standing strong, holding its own, making gains in many areas. Globally and locally it continues to win a war many feminists on the ground will tell you no longer exists. So, what’s up with that?

If I was a conspiracy theorist, which I’m not, I’d say that patriarchal thinking had infiltrated the feminist movement to such an effective degree as to render it neutral. The movement is now so lacking in threat that it is allowed to grow, wild and without nurture, in the corners of the most feeble brains.

Feminism is an ever evolving concept, we are told. There is no need to know its history before you sign up. Only, there is, and it’s there in those very words. His Story. And he owned the words. And as long as he didn’t educate her, she might always believe he was smarter than her. ‘Course these days she’s educated, in some countries, and in many she can get her hands on the internet. And how must he play her now?

It calls to mind a recent article published in the Gaurdian about a feminist that attacked a life size statue of Trump during its unveiling ceremony in Madrid.  She was one of that femen crowd, so she was topless. Femen, you may remember, was the topless women’s rights movement, set up by a bloke. And yes, origins matter, as anyone who is familiar with the tale of Adam and Eve, can validate. What I want to know is why?

I know that makes me a philistine, ‘coz art, especially performance protest art speaks for itself. And also, to be fair to her, she was very clear. She wrapped her fist around Trumps plastic, clothed crotch and painted ‘grab patriarchy by the balls’ on her naked back. I still want to know why? To what effect? For what purpose has she stripped and risked arrest? Greater purpose that is, than five minutes of twitter notoriety and a story to bore her dinner guests with in a decades time. And, when you break it down, what was her real, exposed body, groping a plasic effigy actually saying? Her slogan echos very hallow against the stark portrayal of her powerlessness. And, I don’t think that was the look she was going for.

I’d like to compare the lone wolf femen agitator for social change with the more logical, considered and ultimately liberating Irish feminists, who in 1971, took a train from Belfast, carrying contraceptives where they were restricted but legal, to Dublin where they continued to be completely illegal for another eight years. In fact, it wasn’t until 1993 that condoms became freely available. Picture that, folks! A world without johnies! This huge publicity stunt co-existed with the underground provision of contraception, thus the grassroots and the political, working together, created meaningful social change. And he quaked in his boots, ‘coz she created laws to stop him kicking her.

And that takes us the full circle back to what is feminism for? Take this Everyday Feminism, and after a quick scan of their vision, I’d rather leave it. Wtf are they selling? Seriously, it reads like a cross between a brahma kumaris leaflet and an early draft of some HR speech on political correctness for octogenarians still in the workplace. See, I like my feminism a bit more feminist, you know? I mean, its all well and good to save the dolphins and recognize the rights of indigenous people to self identify, but what are you doing about the rapists and perverts and the paedos? What’s your plan to keep the refuges open? When they close, more women have to remain living with violent men, and it’s really hard to find your zen when you’re not sure if you or your kids will make it though the night without a beating. How’s the fight for reproductive control going? ‘Coz if we lose that, on top of the refuges, and the legal aid, well then it’s going to take a lot more than a spot of yoga to redress the balance, don’t you think?

So, to summarise, yoga is great if you want to detox and re energise, but has proved singularly ineffective when used as a weapon of war, as the exiled Tibetan monks would surely testify. Feminism is a movement to agitate for the rights of women. When working properly it can change laws, create new laws, allow women autonomy over their own bodies, generate finances and power, facilitate education, free women’s minds and empower them to self realize beyond the confines of their patriarchal jailers. When defunct, it can’t do much, except spit out mindless art or intellectually warped philosophy and distract. And oh, how he laughs, but these oh so clever people, they don’t get the joke….

My debut novel Nailing Jess, published by Cranachan, is available for download for 99p on Amazon for the month of July.

Patriarchal Rumours

I’ve decided to splash out on some professional photos to aid with my metamorphosis from unknown writer to global brand.  I got them done yesterday, it only took about half an hour. That was the camera stuff, obviously. The pre shoot hair and make up took an awful lot longer. It’s not, I must say because I’m in particularly bad nick for my age. In fact given that I’ve never been a mistress of what theses days we call ‘clean living’, I reckon time’s been quite kind to me. It’s just I do look my age and that in our youth and image obsessed times is utterly unforgivable because I’m a woman. If I was a man, it would be absolutely fine because everybody knows men age.

Given that I’ve written a book where feminism is a major theme, then my look becomes even more important. Yes, I do hear the irony but with the rise of ironic sexism, feminism needs to catch up. Of course eventually we will reach a point where everything is ironic and the word irony shall cease to have meaning but people say we’re not there yet.

As a writer I spend a lot of my time in comfortable clothes, face bare, hair in scunchy, chipped nails pressing keys on a computer and I have to say, it’s a good look. Without getting too biblical it’s how God intended me to be, and given we have so little common ground, I want to give him this one. It’s not even that I’m a natural slob, it’s just that life is short and netflix is vast and there feels like so many more meaningful ways to spend my time than in front of a mirror painting out hard earned living. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m low maintenance, itself a sexist phrase but only when not used in an ironic context.

I worry that my attitude to my image will prove a barrier to global domination, but I can’t see me changing much at this stage in life. See, I know they say women can have it all only I’ve never been convinced. I’m not even sure who they are and where they came by their definition of ‘it all’.  It obviously wasn’t in a dictionary. Because of the elusive nature of ‘it all’ and in the interests of only producing, quality, researched blog material I typed ‘what does the ‘it all’ in the phrase ‘women can have it all’ mean?’into google and I have to say I didn’t find a lot of consensus. The general theme for ‘it all’ seems to be striking some kind of harmonious balance between professional and family life, and I feel compelled to point out that as a definition of ‘it all’, it falls far short of even a very broad one.  There are many more things in life that belong under the umbrella term of ‘it all’. What about stella artois? What about scented candles? What about pirated copies of the award winning ABC network show ‘How to get away with murder?’ What about the search for existentialist truth and the core connectivity of all living things and all inanimate matter?

The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get at the phrase ‘women can have it all’. Bet I know where it comes from to, it’ll be one of those patriarchal rumours. Think about it – The sum of a woman’s desires reduced to working,nurturing and fucking, it’s got to be the patriarchy. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘patriarchal rumour’ – It’s a rumour, spread by the patriarchy, that is completely at odds with all scientific data and known information about the same subject. Other well worn examples include ‘Hell hath no fury greater than a woman scorned’ or ‘The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.’ Even the scantest amount of thought employed very quickly reaches the conclusion that the above statements like the aforementioned ‘have it all’ theory have no basis in fact whatsoever. Put simply, they are all utter bollox. I must say I’ve had it up to here with misinformation spawned by the patriarchy passing as truth. In fact, I think I’m going to drop them a line and tell them just that. If anyone is inspired by my bold move and wishes to follow suit then I shall provide an address for the patriarchy at the end of the post.

Dear Patriarchy,

Re: ‘Women can have it all’ rumour.

I don’t believe you and furthermore I, and I’m willing to wager, many women don’t want ‘it all’. In fact, were there to exist greater awareness that the sum of ‘it all’ equates to not very much at all, then I’m willing to further wager, even more women wouldn’t want it. Can you please desist from clogging up consciousness with ill conceived  gender generalizations and perhaps instead spend your time redressing the gender imbalance within the hierarchical structure of the workplace and the institutionalized misogyny in the legal system that leaves us struggling to get our hands on close to half of it. In layman’s terms – Stop stealing all the good stuff and most of the all right stuff and leaving us with all the shit stuff, when you leave us anything at all, and then maybe you wouldn’t have to make it up to us with empty promises and past their sell by date roses from a twenty four hour Tesco garage.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter.

Sincerely,

Triona Scully

Address for the patriarchy : The Patriarchy, F***ing Everywhere.

My debut novel Nailing Jess is released by Cranachan Publishing on June 26th.

Marketing to marijuana smokers.

I spent yesterday at the magic meadows festival and had the chance to hand out some flyers advertising my debut novel Nailing Jess, being released by Cranachan publishing on June 26th. It was fun but ultimately fraught, as I spent much of my time trying to size up who among the festival crowd was most likely to smoke marijuana. For two reasons.

Firstly, I like to tell tokers about my book, coz my main protagonist D.I. Jane Wayne is partial to a joint or seven. Secondly, I wanted to make sure as few of them as possible take home my flyers. It is a sad truth that no matter how much enthusiasm a smoker may appear to have about your artistic idea your flyer will be taken home and placed by a window sill or on the kitchen table, where at some future point it will be torn into strips and used as roachs for cannabis spliffs. Of course, this is the long term fate of all Edinburgh flyers that don’t wind up in re-cycling bins, but if you are actively handing your publicity material to known or suspected weed smokers, then it is likely you will accelerate this process considerably.

It’s not an easy task to weed out the smokers in any crowd of people. In fact, it’s almost impossible. The young and those with a point to prove may blow it in your face, but in general most people who partake of illegal substances don’t advertise it. They don’t want to get in trouble.

It’s bewildering why dope remains illegal in a time when you can inject your own ass into your face. A 2011 call for a review of the U.K. drugs legislation by The Global Commission on Drugs Policy was rejected by the then prime minister, David Cameron. “We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs (sic) are illegal because they are harmful — they destroy lives and cause untold misery to families and communities.” It’s an interesting viewpoint, but doesn’t actually answer the question – Why is marijuana illegal?  Especially when you couple it with the knowledge that alcohol is legal in the U.K.

The Oxford dictionary definition of drug is as follows: Drug – Noun – ‘A medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.’ Re-read this definition, if you will, and recognise that this statement applies to most of what we eat or drink.

But, there will no serious talk of criminalising pie eating any time soon. Or introducing some kind of fine system for caffeine abuse, modeled perhaps on parking tickets, with the requirement that all coffee users be subject to random piss tests.

And as for prohibiting the sale of alcohol…

I’ve never got my head round the hypocrisy of a society that pretends alcohol is safer than weed. It’s such a mind numbingly ill informed opinion, and is completely unsupported by any evidence based or anecdotal data.  Think about it, how often is exclusive marijuana use a mitigating factor in a crime?  How many football hooligans tear up the centre of foreign cities, after having a few tokes at the back of the stands? How many rounds of a bong, before a group of stoners turn native and kick f*** out of each other?

The phenomena of drexting is a wonderful example of the universally held truth – that people do really stupid things when they consume alcohol to excess. Drexting, as defined by techopedia – ‘Texting friends, family, coworkers and significant others while intoxicated.’ I would add texting exs, people you hate, and people you cyber stalk to the endless list of individuals that may find themselves a victim of a drexter’s ill advised 4 a.m. rant.  The word stexting does not exist in Techopedia. That’s because stoned people don’t lose inhibition and reason to the the point where contacting someone that they haven’t seen since 2006 seems like a good idea.

All this talk of the idiocy of our drug laws has distracted me from the purpose of this piece. How to minimise the number of Nailing Jess postcards that will wind up in badly rolled 4 a.m. joints. The absolute truth is I can’t. And, thinking it over, I’m not sure it matters. Yeah, sure, they’re postcards of my book and I think they’re a work of art, a collectors item even. But many smokers turn joint rolling into an art form, so it’s actually a form of up-cycling. All I ask is that you put Nailing Jess to the back of the pile and smoke all the Vote Tory stuff first.

Still crazy after all these years…

I was somewhat of a neurotic kid, and I went on to be come an even more neurotic teenager. For most of my twenties the neurosis was clinical, tapering off to a more manageable ‘we’re all a bit crazy’ in my early thirties. Then something spectacular happened, I had a baby and it knocked the neurosis clean out of me.

I know many women go the other way, and I guess I got lucky. There’s something about the constant immediacy of a helpless living creature that focuses the mind entirely, and the urge to obsess about an incident in a bar in the early nineties dissipates completely. Like all the best metamorphosis, I can barely remember how I used to be, and I often think I make up stories about my misspent youth, just to sound interesting.

More recently, I’m starting to suspect that all my tall tales weren’t actually that tall at all. As crazy creeps into my bedroom at 4 a.m., and shakes me awake with another barrage of unhelpful what if scenarios, I long for a howling baby who shuts up when you feed it. Crazy, on the other hand, is a lot harder to put to sleep. If I engage, then the possibilities are infinite. What if no-one reads the book?  quickly becomes What if they do and they hate it? which begets the question Why would they hate it? which invites the answer They won’t hate it, if they do, it’s because they don’t get it  which poses the query Why won’t they get it? What’s not to get? which prompts the response They won’t get me! They won’t get me!, and suddenly it’s 1993 again, and there’s this incident in a bar…

Only, it’s not the nineties. I’m painfully aware of this, as I sip chamomile tea instead of sinking back Stella – the young lad gets very judgey if I’m drunk before breakfast. It’s all the exposure, see? It’s driving me a bit nuts. I know that’s ironic, ‘coz that’s what creatives types crave – attention, an audience.

Pondering this paradox takes another half hour, and the ship sails on getting more sleep tonight. That starts me worrying about my future lack of energy. How will it affect my performance and drive, in the days ahead, when I need to be on top of my game? Wtf did I become a race horse? It’s very confusing, all this sub-dividing of self into other parts. One part creative- one part seller – one part promoter – one part cheerleader. Just to be clear, I never signed signed off on the cheerleader part. That’s the self that hasn’t already been subdivided by Motherhood. One part carer – one part teacher – one part nurse – one part cleaner – one part cook – one part play mate – one part playstation repairer- one part social representative for your child in the outside world. So, keep your hair washed, and your nails clipped, or he might not get an invite to you know who’s party.

Now, I know other women do all this s*** and never complain, except to each other, where they are always sure to find a captive audience of empaths. Even then, there’s always a caveat about how much they love whoever they’re wishing harm on. Normally, those they’re compelled to care for. Why would you want to kill strangers unless your a psychopath? Which, statistically, most women aren’t.

Except in Nailing Jess, my debut novel, out on June 26th. Withering, the novel’s setting, is overrun with female psychopaths, which is one reason why you should read it. Another is that it’s very funny.

 

The Hard Sell

ARC – Advanced Readers Copies of my debut novel ‘Nailing Jess’ arrived about two weeks ago. Most of time since, has been divided between staring at them, a stupid post sex grin on my face, and stroking the cover, running my fingernails across the title and my name. The other thing I’ve been doing is handpicking influential people I want to read one and approaching them personally, asking them to do so.

So far, so textbook. I’m lucky, I’m on the ground in one of the cultural capitals of the world -Edinburgh. My home for many years, the birth place of my son and the first city that ever showed me kindness. The six degrees of separation rule halves in a city like this and you are never more than an overprised latte away from somebody who knows somebody whose floor Russell Brand crashed on in the early nineties.

I’m also lucky in that I’m an extrovert. I love having conversations with people, especially strangers. When somebody interrupts my reading on a train, to drunkenly tell me why their ex is such a prick, my eyes light up.

With this in mind, I have managed to orchestrate a few meetings with individuals I really want to have a copy of my book, and persuade them to take one.  Persuade is perhaps the wrong verb. In actuality, once you stand square in front of someone, a copy of your debut novel thrust into their space, they have to be harder than Ray Winstone to hand it back to you. The real challenge is getting them to read it.

So far, still text book. Last week, I had the pleasure of handing a lovely lady – hello lovely lady! – who works at the Edinburgh International Book Festival a copy of my book. At a guess, this woman gets handed a half dozen free debuts every week.  The front cover of my debut saysNailing Jess‘ – “The most shocking book you’ll read this year”

‘You must be happy your publishers wrote that,’ the lovely lady observed. Now, you might think I seized this opportunity to give it the hard sell by saying something like ‘Actually, I’m a bit concerned they’re understating it. I wanted them to go with ‘Nailing Jess’ – ”The most shocking book you will ever read” or ‘Nailing Jess’ – “A book so shocking you may never read again”

You might think I would use such a sentence as a chance to dazzle her with my profound intellect and innate authors ability to articulate. Don’t forgot she’s a literary type. I could have replied ‘What they are referring to is the subversive nature of the book’s core premise.  Namely, that the innate maleness – in origins, in concept, in design and delivery of the patriarchal structure mean that any apparent gains of any ideology opposed to it, are in fact an illusion.’ The trouble with this strategy is with every big word you use, you increase the chances of losing your train of thought and inadvertently sounding silly.

To avoid this, you might have think I could have led with with a more conversational approach. Referring to the fact that my book is set in a matriarchy I could have said. ‘It’s only shocking, coz it’s happening to blokes. Everything that happens in my book – well not quite everything – happens in the real world, every day, somewhere to some woman. And we are not shocked by that at all.’

Alas, retrospect and it’s all knowing analysis, have in no place in actual real time. ‘Nailing Jess’ – ‘The most shocking book you’ll read this year’  ‘You must be happy your publishers wrote that,’ says she. I find myself blushing, and mumbling ‘Well, they have to say something don’t they?’

So lovely lady, if you’re reading this, they didn’t have to say that, they choose to market my book with this line because they believe it.

Nailing Jess – Reading is Believing

Nailing Jess published by Cranachan out June 26th 2017.

Subjectivity and family law

‘It is not uncommon in contested family proceedings that one side, and occasionally both sides, are of the opinion that the judge’s decision was wrong.’  So says Judge Jeremy Lea, the bloke at the centre of the Samantha Baldwin family law case.  And just like that he invites the public to swallow whole the court line on Samantha Baldwin.

Many will, because it sounds quite compelling. Twelve day fact finding trial. Fourteen witnesses. Two thousand pages of documents. Competent council for all parties. What’s not to like? Other than the outcome.

With a wave of his gavel, Judge Lea stamps all over the public perception of Samantha Baldwin by releasing a limited amount of information into the public domain. Enough to make you shake your head in disbelief. Not enough to allow you make an informed opinion, but that’s his job.

So what did Judge Lea actually say today? In short – He doesn’t believe Samantha Baldwin and by inference, the children she is speaking for. In what appears to be a particularly gruesome move, he also chooses to believe that the indisputable drug traces found in the boys’ system were put there by Samantha Baldwin herself. So there you have it folks! Samantha Baldwin’s bat shit crazy! That’s why the state had to steal her kids.

For a minute there, it seemed to be suggested that the Family courts were regularly transferring custody from caring, protective mothers to paedo dads. But that is not the case here. It reminded a lot of people of the Rebecca Minnock case. Same idea. Pockets of the public thought that was about a paedo dad and a loving mum, until the judge put them right. She wasn’t crazy though, more ‘manipulative and attention seeking’. It even reminded some people of the Victoria Haigh case. Another mother claiming her daughter had been sexually abused by her father. Not a runaway mother, Victoria Haigh was just a very defiant one. She was named and shamed and her ex given custody and exonerated. What all these women have in common is how little information was ever released into the public domain about their stories, and how censored and edited the released data was.

Thus a carefully cultivated, if tired image emerges. Crazy lady with massive chip on her shoulder accuses doting dad of unspeakable acts. That is the family court default position every time news gets out that all is not well behind those gilded, closed doors.

What anyone who has ever seriously supported Samantha Baldwin needs to remember is nothing has changed. The woman who ran to protect her children because she was desperate and left without choice has not changed, nor have her motives for running. All that has happened is the man who forced her to run has released a public statement saying, that after listening to twelve days of testimony and submissions, in his subjective opinion, also known as a family court judgement, he doesn’t believe her.

We need to keep talking about Sam.

Anyone who knows me, or who has ever met me, or who has had the misfortune to share my space at a bar counter ten minutes past last orders, knows I’m obsessed with family law. There’s a reason for this. I have a family. What I struggle to understand is why everyone who has a family isn’t obsessed with family law, especially mothers.

Family law affects mothers deeply. It is one of the few bastions of power the patriarchy have not relented at all. Law in general is still a man’s game, as is evidenced by the lack of successful prosecutions of crimes that women are disproportionately victims of, and the continued framing of women as unreliable in the narrative about these crimes.

According to The Rape Crisis centre only 15% of victims of sexual violence report it to the police. This suggests the vast majority of rape victims, a group that is overwhelmingly female, do not trust the criminal justice system. If we do not trust a system that is open and accountable, at least in theory, to deliver justice for our women then how in hell can we trust our family law system, which is closed and lacking in anything but the most cosmetic form of accountability, to deliver justice for our children? We can’t! We can’t! We can’t!

Forgive the dramatic repetition, if we were in the pub now you’d be backing away! It’s just so obvious to me, that as a society, we need to be having this conversation. We had a chat, for about five minutes last week, when absconded mother Samantha Baldwin hit the headlines. ‘Why has she run?’ normal people asked, by normal I mean – not by nature family court obsessives. ‘Because family law courts are dark places run and staffed by deviant, dangerous people,’ the obsessives replied. ‘You would run too if it happened to you.’

There’s a great deal of confusion around family law, as befits any system that’s run in secret. In fact, unless you work in it or live in it, which is what it feels like if you’re involved in a family law dispute, you will most probably have no understanding of it at all.  And that’s the way the establishment would like to keep it.

It’s for the good of the children, we are told, but that makes no sense. The children, like all other sections of society, would benefit more from an open and accountable system. In its absence, how can we protect them? Seriously, if we don’t know what’s going on in these courts, and if when we find out, we are not allowed to print it, then how can we insure the safety and well-being of the children whose lives are determined by it?

The children have a right to privacy, it is argued, and they do. When children are either victims or perpetrators in criminal law, we can report on them and protect their identity simultaneously. It gets slightly more complicated when we have to protect the identity of the adults involved as well, which is the only fool proof way to protect the children on the ground. But it’s not an insurmountable challenge. It’s certainly not a valid reason for keeping the courts closed.

Samantha Baldwin’s five minutes of reluctant fame is over and I mean that in its most literal sense.  It is now illegal for Samantha Baldwin to talk about why she did what she did. It is illegal for anyone to talk about why Samantha Baldwin did what she did. Mumsnet, who have removed their thread on Sam due to reporting restrictions, are a very pertinent example of how effective the state’s censorship of Sam has been. In a nutshell, Samantha Baldwin has lost her children and her right to free speech in one fell swoop. She has been forever silenced.

To be clear, this isn’t the draft notes for the plot of a play set in some repressive foreign regime. This is Britain in 2017. This is how a democracy treats some of its most vulnerable citizens, namely children when they disclose abuse, and mothers when they believe their young. Where’s the public outcry? It’s hard to be outraged when your access to information has been cut off, it’s like what am I outraged about again? ‘I can’t tell you,’ a family court obsessive might say, but that itself should be a source of outrage. Censorship is outrageous, especially when it’s sold as a benevolent child protection measure.

Now I know, as you sit in your safe suburban semi, with a good man and an even better postcode, you truly believe it couldn’t happen to you. But here’s the thing, just like no kid ever dreams of one day being a junkie, no mother ever imagines standing before a family court judge pleading to be allowed to continue to raise her children.

In an extract from what is described as a summary of the courts principal findings in the Samantha Baldwin case Judge Lea says the following, with regard to the allegations that Sam raised, namely that her children’s father, and multiple other persons drugged and abused her children.  ‘I also found that the mother genuinely believed that he had done so, but that her belief was irrational and that the evidence of abuse was unreliable.’  What’s really important about this statement is how it exemplifies the damned if you do, damned if you don’t approach to allegations of child abuse in family law. Sam believed that her children were being abused. Therefore she was morally, and more importantly, legally obliged to protect them. To not do so puts her at real risk of losing her children to social services if anyone else discloses the same concerns.

But she drugged her own kids! ‘I also made a finding that in order to try to prove her case against the father the mother had caused the boys to ingest substances that would give rise to a positive testing for benzodiazepine products and zolpidem.’  Drugging children, as we all know, is a criminal act and there is no clear reason why such an issue would be dealt with in a family court. The statement also implies that it was Sam who introduced the drug evidence, which again feeds into the damned whichever way it plays analogy.  The suggestion, alas now ‘fact’ that Sam drugged her own children in order to prove they had been drugged is akin to the rapist explaining the victim’s bruises with the well worn and often accepted defense that ‘she liked it rough’.

In the middle of delivering my judgement on that morning, the mother abruptly left court. It is now apparent that she picked up her sons from an unknown location and disappeared with them. This put her in breach of the Court order. The police are investigating how she did this and I make no further comment save that it is my assessment that was plainly pre-planned and carefully executed.

Unlike much of Judge Lea’s statement, which is not open to any level of scrutiny and relies on a few self chosen extracts delivered sparingly and without context, this opinion can at least be independently questioned. Sam and her boys were found fifteen, count ’em, fifteen miles from her home in Newark. By any measure of what good planning might be, trapping herself at the epicenter of the search base isn’t it. Either she was very stupid or very desperate, but she most certainly was not very well organised. Unlike the tracking team that were looking for her. You’d be forgiven for thinking she was the most dangerous person in Britain so extensive and rigorous was the search, so limitless the resources spent locating an unarmed mother with no previous history of violence.

It begs the question, if the original police force investigating the original allegations raised by Sam, details of which are now subject to a gagging order, had been even half as thorough, had used even quarter of the manpower, or even a tenth of the resources to fully and completely investigate Sam’s claims, might this story have had an entirely different outcome?

Savile should have fixed it but he didn’t.

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’ A bloke called Edmund Burke said that. Of course, it would have to be a bloke ‘coz he did that men meaning people thing. But that was probably because of the times. In those days men were people. Women were less than that. Tied to domesticity. Excluded from playing any shape or form of meaningful role in society. Unable to vote. Uneducated. Lacking any autonomy over her identity, her body or her destiny, women were most definitely not whole people. Part mirror, part vessel. To reflect his greatness. To satiate his desires. To carry on his blood line.

Fast forward a few centuries and it’s quite a different picture! Women are whole people now. We’re everywhere. Running economies. Throwing general elections. Throwing referendums. We’re in boardrooms and law chambers and university facultys. We have most definitely arrived. This is optimum time in pockets of the West to be a woman. Or so it would appear.

It’s actually a bit more complex. It’s probably not a bad time to be a certain type of woman, I’m just not certain which type. Not poor. It’s absolutely a bad time for women to be poor as is evidenced by the #sexforrent. Some argue that swapping a few sexual favours for a pad in the city is an entirely valid arrangement. I’m sure even they wouldn’t disagree that it’s not as valid as a lease, a third party deposit holder, and a yearly safety inspection.

It’s also not a great time to be a woman fleeing domestic abuse given that they are closing women’s refuges and reducing their access to related support services.

It’s a pretty crap time to be a woman who ages because they are clamping down hard on that. Fighting the signs of aging is not only a legitimate pastime of the aging woman, it’s her moral imperative. Her face a battleground. Her hard earned living a mortal enemy.

It’s absolutely the worst time ever to be a mother. Whilst we wage futile war on our waist-lines and our tits, there is an actual ongoing all out assault on motherhood, and we are indifferent, if not complicit. Whether the British Medical Association is trying to take the woman out of motherhood, or the Women’s Equality Party is trying to sell equal parenting as a feminist objective, or the men in capes are banging on about the golden uterus. For the record, mine is not golden but it is functional making it one hundred percent more effective than the male uterus which does not exist.

No-where is the war on mothers more obvious than in our family courts. No-where is the war on mothers less obvious than in our family courts. It’s that behind closed door thing. We can only imagine what actually happens. For some reason, most people imagine things are ticking over just fine. The absence of free flowing information, combined with the presence of one authoritative narrative seems to be enough to allay most fears. North Korea, anyone?

Samantha Baldwin, and yes I am still banging on about her, is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with our family law system. The single narrative that now exists about her case comes from the mouth of one man. Not just any man, an important one. A wig wearing high flyer who could site powerful and influential people as referees. Someone who we should trust, solely because of his standing in society.

Then, it starts to sound a bit more like the seventies. Do you remember that time? And anyone who has had access to British media at any point in the last five years will “It appears to me that the culture of the times both within and without the BBC was such that incidents of this kind were not treated seriously.” explained establishment figure Dame Janet Smith. She was referring to the B.B.C’s willful complicity in sex crimes including sex crimes against children over the course of four decades, but especially the seventies. They were real bad. We should all feel real good that it’s not like that now.

Before we reach our hands the whole way round and pat ourselves firmly on the back for our speedy evolution, we should take a moment to reflect. The so called seventies culture existed straight through till 2012, when the Saville story broke. Right up to that point, the establishment, across multiple including very high levels, had protected a paedo.

The Rotterham child abuse scandal didn’t reach public consciousness till a year later. That’s four years ago. As in not very long at all.

What the Saville and Rotterham and every other type of vaguely related inquiry have in common is that no-body believed the victims. They were liars. All of them. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Until we realised they weren’t. Turns out we were just really crap at believing them, recording their crimes, investigating their crimes, prosecuting their crimes and offering them any chance of meaningful justice, often within the lifetime of their perpetrators.

So we don’t know the ins and outs of the Samantha Baldwin story. But we do know from the state approved narrative that she made a number of very serious allegations against a number of men. I want to know how that initial investigation proceeded. Was it with the speed and precision of an episode of ‘Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit?’ Were there mobile phones and laptops seized at the earliest possible moment? Given that there were allegations against multiple perpetrators in a potentially small geographical area, what special measures were taken to prevent potential suspects disclosing information to each other? How were the children treated? What level of expert training and support was offered to such young potential victims of such a potentially huge and heinous crime?

Now, I know all these things cost money, but what price the protection of our young? Also, we’ve got money. If there’s one thing the hunt for Samantha Baldwin taught us it’s that. If we are happy, as a society, to throw maximum power and resources at anyone who dares violate the orders of a civil court then we should be equally as happy, dare I say happier, to throw everything we got at anyone who is suspected of being involved in a paedophile ring?

When people say they want justice for Samantha Baldwin, what they mean is they want mothers to be able to safely report sexual abuse without fear of losing their children. Which is what most of us assume happens anyway.

Woman as witness

‘The idea that somehow I would invent it – why would I?’ asked Harriet Harman, when she was accused of lying about an encounter with a sexual predator whilst at university.

There are several answers to that question. Harriet may have made it up to sell more copies of her autobiography, because a career spanning over three decades as a serving M.P. would be of little interest, were it not for a sex scandal.  Harriet may have made it up to further her feminist agenda, not in an immediate policy on the table sort of way,  but in a more vague spitting on the good name of the male dominated culture way. Harriet may have made it up because she knew she could, the tutor in question is dead, and therefore not in a position to defend himself. Harriet may have made it up, ‘coz she f***ing hates men. Any of one of these motives impacts on Harriet’s credibility, and who could blame a cynical public for calling her out as a liar? Also his ex wife, though not actually present during the alleged encounter, says she’s sure he wouldn’t have done that.

So, to summarise, if you are going to accuse a man of sexually deviant behavior, you must not do so in an auto biographical form, you must not so if you are a feminist, you must not do so if he is no longer breathing and you must not do so if he has a living relative or ex relative who can testify to his soundness of character.

This kind of reminds me of when Amber Heard accused Johnny Depp of assaulting her.

There were compelling reasons to disbelieve her too. The most obvious being that he was Johnny Depp and Johnny Depp is not the type of guy that goes round hitting women. There was the issue of alimony, though Heard has since pledged to donate the seven figure sum to charity  (if he ever actually pays her), that shouldn’t detract from the fact that alimony was on the table and therefore goes to credibility. Heard had previously been in a relationship with a woman, I’m not entirely sure how this impacted on her integrity, but it appeared to. Heard was arrested, though never prosecuted, for domestic abuse and there you have it boom! Loads of reasons to call her a liar. Also, Johnny’s ex, the lovely Vanessa Paradis, hand wrote a note calling the suggestion that Johnny was violent ‘outrageous’.

To review if you are going to accuse a man of domestic violence it must not be Johnny Depp. You should not also be seeking alimony from him. You should not now be, or ever have been bi-sexual. You should not ever have been suspected of committing domestic abuse and you should be confident that none of your ex’s lovers like him even a little, or that they have any strong ties, like for example children, with him.

It’s a very similar story to when Woody Allen’s biological daughter Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter accusing him of child abuse, and accusing Hollywood the machine of being complicit in maintaining the hero status of a pervert.

To give this story context, it wasn’t the first time that Allen had been accused of this crime. Dylan’s mother, Mia Farrow, had made the same allegation over twenty years previous during what is described as ‘a bitter custody battle’, like there’s any other kind. So on these grounds alone we can dismiss the validity of Dylan Farrow’s accusations. We don’t have to call her an outright liar, ‘coz that seems somehow crass after an allegation of pedophilia, we can see simply note that she’s delusional, a victim of a fury so great that hell cannot contain it.

To put it succinctly, if you are going to accuse your father of child abuse, you must first make sure he is not involved in any form of legal battle with your Mother. It’s a bit of a catch 22 really ‘coz one imagines allegations of child abuse have prompted the break up of many a marriage.

So, to conclude, accusing men of stuff is a dangerous business, though not as dangerous admittedly, as the stuff they are being accused of. In order to maximise the chances of being believed, women should carefully vet all aspects of their lifes, all the time, on the statistically probable chance, that at some point they will fall prey to a dangerous or deviant man. It’s a tough call, to ask an entire sex to maintain a permanent state of self policing, and downright implausible two hours past happy on a Friday night, but what’s the alternative? That we start to believe them?