Tag Archives: social media

Election 2015: Play Nice – “Pile On!” is for the Playground

On the eve of election day, I took to Twitter to push my views in other people’s faces. After all, that’s what Twitter’s for, right?

This election will be a first for me – I will not be voting Lib Dem. I still believe in their ideology, but unfortunately Clegg chucked it under a bus, so as a proud employee of the NHS I will be voting Labour tomorrow and hoping against hope for a new government on Friday morning #VoteNHS.

I despise the Tories (I am Scottish, so it was bred-in), however way above them in the scumbag stakes, and way below in my estimation, comes Farage’s UKiP.

No amount of slippery rhetoric can get around the fact that, with the BNP effectively neutered, their cohorts have gone in two distinct directions: UKiP and the EDL. Or both. This does not forgive or forget the numerous faux pas of other parties’ candidates, however the Daily Mirror’s video of a UKiP candidate threatening to shoot a Tory candidate purely on the basis of racism makes all others pale by comparison. If you haven’t had the displeasure, the link to Robert Blay’s outrageous outpouring is here.

So, I duly added my cyber voice to the @hopenothate Thunderclap using the hashtag #NotVotingUKiP. Unsurprisingly, the kippers are out in force trying to tear down those using the hashtag, alongside a fair number of professional and wannabe Trolls who just can’t face not being the most hated show in town. What was surprising was the poor quality of the Trolling – I am either not interesting enough or do not rise to the bait properly anymore (as I write about Gender Equality this is not my first rodeo).

Luvvie

Fairly lackluster.

Meanwhile in a different Twittersphere, and unknown to me, a young feminista was being “piled on” in an attempt to shut her up after someone sympathetic shared a post where @staywithgrace gave her personal reasons for not voting for UKiP. The main issue I have with Twitter is how easily someone can summon their friends/minions/cohorts to an argument to back them up and attempt to silence the person at the other side of the argument, not with facts and figures or considered opinions, but with weight of numbers. That is, of course, a classic bullying tactic. And ironically one that UKiP will probably be most proud of. When the barrage finally made Grace say she was not going to engage further her new ‘friend’ cyber cheered to all his Twitter inclusions by calling her a victim.

Goodbye Victim

 

But don’t worry – the boy can multitask:

Harrass

While the first (and arguably worst) onslaught was cut off, like the mythical hydra three more heads rose in its place. Being that the initial post came from *shock horror * a woman – and self confessed feminist – the assault inevitably turned sexual in nature. No better way to shut a woman up than by trying to slut-shame her into the bargain, right? Our friend @hattondog appears to have removed the initial tweet to all his cronies saying Grace was sending him “filthy” private messages, but the response remains:

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Others suggested she “make them a sandwich” andbemoaned the “terrible” treatment of convicted rapist Chad Evans.

I had already sent Grace a couple of supportive Tweets, but this last one got my goat and I entered the fray! I was riled, so I was almost disappointed when the best @hattondog could muster was the following:

Bedtime

The fight continues on Grace’s page just now – a person I have never met but feel hugely connected to as I have experienced some fairly hardcore Trolling myself on the #HeforShe facebook page. One guy sent my literally hundreds of messages, cramming my inbox with his woman-hating, “feminists are Nazis and here is the proof” propaganda. Like somehow I was going to decide not to be a woman anymore and just shut up.

It started because he ‘liked’ The Launch of  the Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents… nights, ostensibly because we promote gender equality through male and female creatives working in collaboration. He messaged saying how great we were, unlike ‘evil feminists’, and I corrected him explaining I am a feminist but that does not mean man hating – taking me back to an old post I wrote called The F Word. The result was a deluge of material, too much to read, digest and respond to. Which of course is the point. You can’t respond, or can’t fully appraise yourself of everything you have had thrown at you quickly enough to reply citing all the ways in which they are wrong. So they chalk it up as a victory – as Grace found out today. I tried ignoring it, assuming my guy would get bored and move on, but oh no, he continued to inundate me.

Realising the thing he desperately wanted was my engagement I continued to ignore him (through very gritted teeth) as he likened me to Nazis and genocidal dictators. While that likely frustrated him it equally frustrated me as I was effectively STILL BEING SILENCED! Finally I composed a well thought through, even-handed response to him explaining I do not have enough hours in the day to wade through his screeds of ‘evidence’, and that perhaps we had best agree to disagree. The response I received was surprising. Not vitriol, not a redoubling of his efforts to bury me and my account under a weight of cyber info. Shockingly it was a very emotional outpouring, accusing me of failing to listen to him, of not valuing him. I could paste what was written here, but despite his behaviour what he told me was very personal and revealing and I wouldn’t feel right about doing so. Up until that point I had assumed I was dealing with a professional Troll, someone who is not particularly invested in the fight but enjoys the reaction they get. In reality this was a fairly damaged human being – one I entirely disagreed with, but who seemingly felt entirely voiceless and had a pathalogical need to be heard by women who, given the forum he chose, were inevitably going to disagree with him.

This feeling of being voiceless, of being silenced, is therefore one that is strangely shared on both sides of the argument, and perhaps this is the appeal of political parties like UKiP. There are large numbers in their ranks who are bigots and sexists, but it would be a mistake to assume all fall neatly under that banner – though it may be more comforting to make that assumption. The fact is that people feel so removed from the political process, and so powerless, that fringe parties are picking up votes from unexpected places. The political power of fear should not be underestimated, and all three of the big parties have lost so much respect and broken so many promises in the past that the electorate are looking for alternatives. The Greens will likely (and hopefully) pick up seats tomorrow, with the Lib Dems expected to take heavy losses. With the Tories balancing uncomfortably between their natural base and some more forward-thinking policies (supporting marriage equality for example) some of their voter base are looking for alternatives, and some have allowed the blinkers to go on so that they can ignore the fact that UKiP is a party that includes a huge racist/xenophobic/sexist element.

After a long period of financial and political uncertainty – the recession, the coalition, austerity – I suspect that what everybody really wants is some stability. What I want is a government that values the NHS, immigration and equality, and one that recognises taxing the middle to fund the rich is a recipe for disaster.

At work today, I asked my colleagues what would happen if all the “immigrants” decided to take the day off work tomorrow. My hospital would certainly grind to a halt – we would not even be able to muster the bare minimum of staffing required to run our wards, full as they are of inpatients who were largely born in this country and are primarily cared for by people originally born overseas. If we included two generations as the Nazis did, or three as the BNP did, the place would be empty and I would also be at home. Even if there were people ‘eligible’ to come to work, there would be no public transport to bring them. This idea that ‘our’ country is overcrowded with benefit-hungry foreigners is an absolute nonsense: the vast majority of immigrants work, pay their taxes, and contribute to the welfare state that the Tories have yet to successfully destroy. Recent economic studies have dispelled the myth over and over, showing that immigrants contribute far more to the country financially that they take out of it. It is all scaremongering – look over there, it’s his fault you don’t have a job! Those than can work should, those that can’t through no fault of their own should be looked after, because that is what a civilised society does:

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”

So, for the first time in my adult life, I am voting for Labour tomorrow. I hope, whoever you vote for, you are voting for Hope not Hate and #NotVotingUKIP.


Stalking – how far is too far?

As most people who know me personally can attest, I appear to be somewhat of a magnet for stalkers. In my relatively short life I have had a range of unwanted attention: this does not make me unusual, most of my female friends (and a large percentage of the men) have experienced someone who is persistent beyond the point of flattery. The question is, where is that line? When does ‘pursuing’ someone you like and are perhaps romantically interested in cross the proverbial line, and who decides where that line is?

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It is a difficult question. If someone were to physically assault you, or to openly advance on you in a way you found threatening, that would seem clear cut (and awful). However it is in the realm of persistent but non-physical harassment that it all gets a bit murky.

If someone repeatedly asks you out, even when you continually say no, is that harassment? It is unwanted attention, and it can be uncomfortable, but does it cross the line? If someone emails you a few times, repeatedly asks friends and colleagues about you, is that stalking?

For me, the key word has been ‘repeatedly’. It is this persistence, this inability to hear the word “no” and accept it that makes these unwanted advances in to something more oppressive.

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In my time I have had the phone stalker (repeated unwanted calls) who used to trouble my poor mother in the days before mobile phones, and who sometimes turned up outside my school. I was sixteen and had met him in a nightclub but then decided he wasn’t for me and started dating someone else. Luckily that was short lived, and young as I was it didn’t really strike me as more than a guy who really fancied me trying his luck. However, when I banged into him years later he approached me again to apologise and tell me he had been in a bad place back then. I was somewhat impressed by the apology, but less so with the fact he then asked if he could maybe have my number…

When I was eighteen I worked in a pub and was advanced on by a guy 20 years older than me who also worked there weekly playing guitar. It turned rather nasty and he tried to smash the windows of the pub after he was rebuffed. Unbeknownst to me he had already managed to get my (landline – still no mobiles!) number from a friend under false pretenses, so after that called me at the home I shared with my then boyfriend. Going to work was frightening in case he turned up, I stopped answering the phone at home, and left working the pub soon after.

Then there was the stalker-ex. A break up was followed by 3 months of silence followed by 3 months of persistent calls, emails, and the odd threat to turn up at my house. This was irritating rather than frightening, but I still dreaded opening my inbox in case I had another email from him as I couldn’t help but read them. After a distressing one where he said he had made an attempt on his life I deleted and blocked his email and thankfully have heard nothing since.

stalker

Finally, there has been the stalker-colleague. For the last 3 years I have been subjected to persistent and extremely unwanted attention from a man I work with in the form of emails, face-to-face contact, unwanted gifts and cards, and on one occasion him turning up at a theatre I was working at. I had a fantastically supportive boss throughout which enabled me to deal with it in the way I chose, which rightly or wrongly was informally. I truly felt, knowing this individual, that the obsession would abate if someone in authority set him straight, and after intervention by my manager and his things improved. Although I had nightmares about him, and dreaded going in to work for a time, I felt empowered by the fact I was dealing with the situation on my terms. Things improved significantly over the last year, however recently he has made another attempt to make contact with me entirely outside of the shared work environment and I have now had to deal with it another, more official way.

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Things that made these incidents more or less tolerable were, without doubt, being believed and supported. My pub manager did not want to bar the man who posed me such a threat (until he tried to damage property), and ultimately I left that place of work. My recent troubles were made manageable by my understanding boss – but more difficult by colleagues who did not see the seriousness of the situation and often found it rather funny. Cries of “hey, here comes your boyfriend!” as the man who was harassing me approached my work station did nothing to diminish the problem, but did a lot to reduce my feeling that I was right to be distressed. I’m sad to say it was generally a male/female divide: the guys told me not to worry, this guy wouldn’t hurt me; the girls recounted their own experiences of stalking and/or harassment.

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It wasn’t until November 2012 that the law was changed in England and Wales to make stalking a specific offence for the first time. Scotland was a little ahead of the game, criminalising Stalking in April 2010. Baffling, but bear in mind spousal rape didn’t officially become a crime until 1991 (1982 in Scotland)…

That aside, better late than never, and I can say from first hand experience the Police do take stalking seriously, and more importantly now have the legal infrastructure behind them to do something about it. Please don’t feel you won’t be believed – you will be. Report it. If not to the Police, confide in someone you trust, and keep a diary of events, however innocuous they may seem. Once I put 3 years worth of ‘little things’ and ‘minor incidents’ on paper it not only filled three full A4 pages (small font!) but it became clear to me that this was not just an irritation, not just something bothersome that felt a bit uncomfortable: I was being stalked. I had always assumed, and still feel, I was not in physical danger so never felt it was appropriate to report it as I felt I was perhaps being a little dramatic – a classic ‘hysterical woman’. This could not be further from the truth – what I have tolerated is more than anyone should ever have to endure from someone that supposedly ‘loves’ or ‘cares’ for you, and ultimately we never know what someone else is capable of, particularly if they are already deluded as to their relationship with you.

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Of course, in the grand scheme of things I feel lucky – this has encroached on my life and thoughts for the last 3 years, however I have never felt that I am at risk of physical violence and thankfully this man has never had my home address or phone number. My heart goes out to women and men who have been stalked in a far more aggressive manner than I have, because if what happened to me felt that overwhelming at times I hate to imagine if it were also literally following you home.

Websites such as 192.com make it easier and easier for stalkers to find your personal information. It is just one of many websites that provide personal information, usually for a fee. They get their information from the Electoral Roll, Telephone Directories and Companies House and offer it for sale unless you opt out of their service (one you never asked for and likely don’t know you are on). Fortunately for me I realised this a few years ago and had my details removed – something I am hugely grateful for as otherwise I might well have had first-hand experience of the home stalker. I would personally recommend to everyone that they request their details be removed from the site, and also that you remember to check the ‘opt out’ box on your Electoral Roll Form as otherwise they have the right to sell your information to websites and companies such as 192.com.

192.com Opt Out Form

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Another concern is social media: Facebook has improved but you still have to be careful about your privacy settings and letting ‘friends of friends’ have access to your page. Twitter is more difficult as it is essentially public domain so you have no control over who sees your posts. If in doubt, go for the highest privacy setting or disable your account and report it if you feel you are being targeted through the site. People joke about ‘Facebook stalking’ someone, but the reality for a lot of people who have experienced it is far from humorous.

Ultimately, you decide how far is too far. Any behaviour that makes you fearful or anxious, that encroaches on your life or makes you uncomfortable should be challenged – not necessarily directly as that can potentially escalate the situation, but perhaps through a trusted third party, manager, or the police. If someone knows where you live, please please call the police, even if you know the person and think they pose you no threat. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work and at home, and that includes you. You did not cause or encourage this behaviour, so don’t let self-blaming put your safety at risk.

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I have included several links to UK websites on this post (click on the images), but if you are from another country the same services are hopefully available. The 24th April 2014 is National Stalking Awareness Day in the UK, and if you or someone you know is being subjected to this treatment please do contact one of the helplines or charities to get some support and advice.

Obviously, if my stalker is reading this: you know who you are. Stop. Imagine someone was doing this to your mother. Stop.

National Stalking Helpline