Roller Derby and the Case of the Shameless Request For Money


This post does exactly what it says on the tin. I’m gonna be talking about roller derby. And I’m gonna ask you for some of that sweet sweet cash.

What we’re doing

My derby team, the East Coast Cyclones, are doing something seriously awesome this month. We’re hosting our very first national derby tournament- which also just so happens to be the first of its kind in the country. The Queen Bee Tournament is Ireland’s first competition for establishing teams and B-teams.

I know. Kind of a big deal.

Why would you do that?

Why would we put ourselves through organising a tournament? Why an establishing/B-teams tournament?

You see, derby has kind-of exploded in Ireland in the last couple of years. While there are a few teams that have been around since as far back as 2008 (I’m lookin’ at you, Cork Firebirds and Dublin Roller Derby), most of us popped up in the past two years or so. Loads of us have just started playing actual games in the past year. And while we love watching the established A teams kick ass on the track (and oh gawd do they kick ass), we want in on the action too. The derby action.

So we’re hosting a tournament for the rest of us.

But, like, aren’t you guys like.. less good? Why would I support less-good?

It’s true. There are skaters in this country (especially on those A teams) who could destroy the likes of myself in a matter of nanoseconds. At least, there are right now. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t put on a good show and fight some hardass derby. We’ve all been training our butts off and, let me tell you, the standard of derby in the newer teams in Ireland has gone through the roof in the last few months. It’s going to be a hell of a show.

Also? There’s nothing like watching a tournament with teams that are pretty darn well matched to each other. The Queen Bee is up for grabs and I have no idea where it’s gonna go.

How awesome is that, like?

You mentioned a small matter of cash? Money, dollars, euros, pounds? That kind of thing?

Doing this kind of thing is expensive. Pricey. Not cheap. And a small-town derby team like the Cyclones? We’re not exactly rolling in cash. We’ve got halls to rent, tape to buy, mile-high stacks of sandwiches to make, and a million other tiny things that add up to a hefty chuck of currency to make this happen.

So we’re gonna do what we always do. We’re gonna skate.

Tomorrow evening, we’re taking to the Bray Promenade for a 10-mile sponsored skate to help fund the tournament. We’re gonna skate our bums off! And in return, all we’d like are your sweet, delicious donations.

Do us a favour? Click on the picture below and throw a coupla quid our way, won’t ya? And if you haven’t the cash (I know the feeling!), give us a share and get your loaded friends to support us. G’wan. Do it for the derby.

queenbee

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Bandaids and Bulletholes: on privileging theory over practicality


I just got into a leeeeeeetle disagreement over on the Facebooks over this:

My views on this are that Clare Cullen is a massive ledgeface* who you should all go subscribe to immediately because she is saying words that basically mirror rants I have inside my head every single time anyone runs for election, ever. We don’t elect people to be Official Fixers Of The World and Havers Of Opinions. We elect people to particular jobs with specific responsibilities and powers. It’s insulting to the electorate (you know, the people who you’re asking to employ you) if the material you’re using to persuade people to vote for you is either vague to the point of meaninglessness or refers to things that are drastically outside the remit of the job you’re actually applying for.

Anyway, one of the people she targets is the Socialist Party** candidate, Paul Murphy, who’s looking to get reelected to the European Parliament. Grand so. She’s got criticisms that I see as legit- overly negative campaigning with a lack of actual alternatives put forward. Anyway, since I’m a leftie myself and since Ireland is a tiny country where everyone knows everyone, it was inevitable that a bit of a palaver would ensue. Which is fine. It’s  just that.. there’s something that happened there that I disagree with hard enough to write a blog post about it, and that was this comment by CH- someone who, by the way, I respect a shedload and who gave me the okay to :

Paul is running on a platform of party ideals/alternatives (anti-capitalist) to domestic policy and EU. It is merely to have a voice to raise issues that are railroaded in the EU and their wider agenda of Austerity… maybe you missed the part about wanting a socialist alternative not band aids for bullets wounds of capitalism. It not about legislative change which is a narrow outlook of oppositions role anyway.

Okay. You see, this? This is something I have a huge issue with. Not necessarily when it comes to policy or perspective- I agree with a bunch of Murphy’s views. But with CH’s defence of his actions. Let me explain why.

The Role of a Legislator Is To Legislate

The first thing that I want to take issue with is this:

It not about legislative change which is a narrow outlook of oppositions role anyway.

There are many ways to do opposition. Shedloads of ’em. Despite what you hear, working through parliaments (as well as stuff like voting etc) is just one way of many to create change. In fact, I’d go further than that. The vast majority of the time here in Ireland, any legislative change that is enacted on social issues happens after shifts in public opinion. If you want to create change without engaging directly with the legislate process? Do that! Do grassroots work. Educate and communicate your views. Work at the local level to create models of how you’d like things to be done, and put in the everyday work of keeping those things going. Protest and demonstrate. Campaign, or provide support to campaigns. Write a book or a blog, submit articles for people to read, start a vlog if you like.

There’s many, many ways- most of which I’m sure I haven’t mentioned- that you can help to bring about the change you’d like to see which don’t involve legislation. Legislation is one tiny piece of a huge jigsaw.

But if you’re going to apply for a job as a legislator? I expect you to be interested in legislating. Period. End of sentence.

I expect you to take that job with the intent of working your butt off for your entire term at legislating.  And I expect you to show me that you can get legislation passed. I expect you to be willing to grit your teeth, hold your nose and work on the compromise legislation that isn’t exactly what any of us want because the alternative is so much worse. If you’re not wiling to do that, then you have no business looking for that job. There are many other spaces where your voice would be better used.

Hell to the Yes, I Want That Bandaid.

Let’s go to the next part.

maybe you missed the part about wanting a socialist alternative not band aids for bullet wounds of capitalism

To describe short-term legislative change as “band aids for bullet wounds of capitalism” is to use some pretty strong words and make some extremely strong assumptions. I’m going to take three premises out of this, and address them in order:

  1. That the harm caused by capitalism can be likened to a bullet wound- that is, is not just extremely serious but requires urgent action.
  2. That the small changes possible through immediate legislative change can be likened to a band-aid: something that will cover the wound, staunch the bleeding, but won’t do anything about the bullet lodged within you.
  3. That tackling immediate needs and creating long-term substantial change are mutually exclusive.

My answer to the first? Yep, there sure are some extremely harmful things going on which need to be addressed urgently. I wouldn’t personally use the single term ‘capitalism’ to describe the forces causing these- I think it’s a whole lot more complicated than that and there’s a lot of forces involved, and I also prefer to think of capitalisms as opposed to one unitary thing. But I have a feeling that that kind of pedantry isn’t terribly useful right here. Let’s agree that there’s some seriously harmful stuff happening and we need to do something about it, sharpish.

It’s when we get to the second part that we’re going to start to disagree. You describe the kind of legislative change possible from the EP as bandaids. I’d use a different metaphor: they’re more like first aid. Sure, they’re not the well-equipped intensive care unit of culture-wide change creating a society where each of us is able to live without fear of destitution and has real opportunity to thrive. But first aid will keep you alive. First aid is the thing that’ll keep you breathing until the ambulance gets here.

Theory can never, ever trump practicality

That third premise is one I have even more difficulty accepting than the other two. If that’s the case, then you need to take a long, hard look at where your theory is coming from, because I have no interest in theory that puts itself before people’s real and immediate needs.

A real alternative to the way we’re doing things now is all well and good, but some of us- a lot of us- don’t have the luxury of theory. Because of piss-poor, inadequate legislation here in Ireland, people now have a higher chance of surviving pregnancies that threaten their lives than they did a couple of years ago. Piss-poor, inadequate legislation means that as long as I don’t work in a school or a hospital I probably won’t get fired for not following Catholic dogma, the way I could back in the ’90s. It’s ludicrous that pregnant people have to travel overseas for abortion services if their lives aren’t in danger, and it’s a disgrace that the RCC can hide behind ‘ethos’ to force people into closets. But it’s better than nothing, and I’m glad we don’t have to live without it. 

In short? If you’re not going to actually attain that socialist alternative next week then fuck yes I would like some bandaids please. And if you can’t hold your nose and enact piss-poor legislation that is all you can get but better than nothing? Then there are far better places to take your activism than Parliament.

 

*Translation for non-Irish people: most excellent person who does things I approve of greatly.

** Surprise for you USian people- ‘Socialist’ isn’t actually a dirty word ’round this neck of the woods. Woop!

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Things Anti Choicers Say: “Every Pro-Choicer Has Already Been Born”


I was planning to write about roller derby today. I’m afraid, though, that you’re going to have to wait a little longer for rhapsodising about the joys of knockin’ people over on eight wheels. I’m letting you know this because just as soon as we sort out reproductive rights for all and dismantle the kyriarchy, everyone will get to blog all day long about their favourite things. I’ll turn this into a food and derby blog, write reviews of my favourite books, and yarnbomb my balcony. I’m not sure what you lot will do, but it’ll be great.

In the meantime, though, we have to keep doing this. Sorry ’bout that. Might as well get to it, though, eh? In the wake of my post the other day on antichoice responses to BPAS in the Irish Times, I’ve had a few conversations here and on Twitter. This morning I woke up to this in my inbox:

There are a lot of flippant responses I could give. Let’s take a look at the premises behind this one, though, and see what comes out of it.

1. That we would be horrified at having been aborted ourselves

Continued over at the Tea Cosy’s new home. See you there!

Calling Social Welfare


I have a form to fill out.

If you haven’t ever been unemployed or otherwise receiving social welfare payments, you may not know this: there are a LOT of forms. Forms within forms. Forms about things you never knew you could fill out forms for.

This morning, I have a fairly straightforward form to fill out. It requires another couple of documents. As they do. One of these documents is a very simple letter from my social welfare office confirming some basic details. Normally I’d pop down the the office on my bike to sort this out, but this morning it was pouring rain. Lashing, you might say. The kind of day where you check the weather forecast and the first thing you see is NATIONAL WARNING and GALE WARNING in capital letters on the top of your weather site. Where you pop out the door to check your post and you’re soaked in the few seconds it takes to get the metre or so from your front door to the mailbox.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s a day for staying indoors. Especially if, like me, you don’t have a car, and are not actually an amphibian or a duck cunningly masquerading as a human.

A badly-drawn picture of a duck wearing glasses, a hat and a tie.

This Is Not A Selfie

So I find my social welfare office’s contact info. There’s a postal address, a phone number, and a fax machine. In the absence of an email address- always preferable to navigating automated phone systems, don’t you agree?- or a time machine to a land where people still have fax machines, I decided to give them a call.

Almost an hour and twenty or so attempts later, I’ve given up for the moment. The phone rings out every time. Every so often, I’ll get an engaged tone or an automated message saying that the call hasn’t gone through. Most of the time, though, it’s just an ring tone for several minutes until it rings out to nothing. No voicemail. No way to know if I’ve gotten through to their real number, even, or if I’m accidentally calling a phone box somewhere up a mountain or under the sea.

This is the second time this has happened recently. The last time I gave up after two hours.

This is an annoyance. It’s a bit of a pain, but these things happen, right? We all know that public services are massively understaffed and overworked these days. I won’t deny that I’m frustrated at my wasted time this morning, but I’ll live, and I’ll get my forms all sorted out in the next few days. It’s not the end of the world.

For me.

I’m an abled person without caring commitments or dependants who lives within reasonable walking distance of the office, and I can also more or less write my own schedule. Most of the work I do is fairly flexible.

What if I was working an internship where I wasn’t able to write my schedule? Or if it wasn’t in the area? What if I had mobility impairments or was too ill to go for a half-hour walk each way? If I had people to care for who I couldn’t leave alone? If those people had illnesses or mobility impairments that meant that they couldn’t go the half-hour walk with me to the office? What if, instead of this form being something I would like to sort out soon, it was something I needed urgently?

The services that social welfare provides aren’t luxuries. I know a lot of people who rely on social welfare. Some of us are out of work in an economy that simply doesn’t have work for us (no, there wasn’t a sudden increase in lazyass scrounging layabouts back in late 2008). Some of us are on those back-to-work schemes that seem to be steadily replacing paid employment here. Some are unable to work due to illness or disability. Some are carers who work their butts off and live on a pittance. Most of us contribute to our communities in the ways that we can. And we need our social welfare payments and entitlements. To eat. To pay our rent. To go to the doctor when we’re ill. And yes, occasionally to replace the old pair of shoes. Shit happens. Sometimes you gotta fix your bike or get a winter coat.

I understand that social welfare offices are understaffed. I understand that people working in those offices have a tough, thankless job. I get that a lot of them are great people who do the best they can for their clients- I’ve met a lot of those people, and always made sure they knew I appreciated their help. I’ve also heard a hell of a lot of stories about people who had awful, abusive experiences trying to get the social welfare they needed to survive. It’s a mixed bag.

But if you’re going to provide services for a diverse group of people for whom those services are an absolute necessity? You need to make those services accessible. Not having a staffed phone line? Or a voicemail? Or a simple email address? It’s just another indication of how the most vulnerable in our society- people a hell of a lot more vulnerable than the likes of me- are considered worthless. Just a drain.

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


A few things I think everyone should be reading today:

Why society still needs feminism

Just in case you were wondering:

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

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

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

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

Poor little rich girl… Without the rich bit.

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

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

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

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

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

Transgender people seek State recognition to escape gender ‘limbo’

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

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

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

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

Is intolerance prevalent in Ireland?

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

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

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

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

Disabled man refused entry to nightclub after Scottish Charity Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Captain Awkward:

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

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

How should I respond to people:

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

Signed,

Smart Crip Girl

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

A Racist B&B?

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

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

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

So I wrote a sketch about it.

 

One more thing

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

Absolut’s new Pride video.


Where do I start? How about here: it is a very pretty video. The people in it were great. Sweet stories, real people. Lots of familiar faces- people who I know and admire from the LGBTQI community here in Dublin. It’s wonderfully human and engaging.

It’s just what’s missing that bothers me.

While the people and couples in it are lovely, the first thing I noticed was that it was all gay, gay, gay. No trans or bi representation, definitely no mention of the existence of any other diversity in the LGBTQI community. No POC, no people with disabilities, no people with non-Irish accents. No people with working-class or regional accents. In a video about Pride in our capital city- a place where so many people move to to find acceptance and community. And the only mention of an older person? Was someone talking about how he once saw an old lady waving a Pride flag from the sidelines, with the assumption that she must have been straight.

That’s not our community. I think.. there’s such a wonderful opportunity here to showcase that LGBTQI people are everyone. That we’re not just young urban white gays! To actually show more of a cross-section of Ireland and make it obvious that we’re so much more than that. There are far more interesting stories to be told. There are faces that should be shown and voices that should be heard. Those faces and those voices- from the working-class queers, queers with disabilities, queer POC and immigrants, from the bisexuals and asexuals and intersex people and trans people, from the kids of same-sex couples- are the stories you don’t get to hear. I want to hear those stories. I want those faces to be as visible, because I want those people to feel the same kind of belonging that we give to young, urban, middle-class, abled white gay people.

I like the video. It’s well-done. But in terms of representing what Pride is supposed to be about? It’s disappointing.

Abortion. On demand.


“Abortion on demand”

We hear that phrase a lot. It comes from anti-choicers. Scaring the middle-ground with talk of floodgates opening and irresponsible women demanding- always demanding- abortions whenever they feel like it. In Ireland, even a hint of legislation that just might save the lives of pregnant people needing abortions is met with this. If we don’t allow women to die for want of lifesaving terminations, we are opening the doors to abortion on demand. If we acknowledge that mental illness, despair and suicidality are threats as real as septicaemia, it’s the floodgates we’re opening.

To abortion on demand. Abortion on demand. But what exactly is abortion on demand?

Oh, those hysterical women

You don’t hear stories of women requesting abortions. Anti-choicers don’t talk about women who consider the alternatives available to them and come to the conclusion that abortion is the best decision to make. They don’t mention women talking it over with their loved ones and partners, weighing up their options, figuring it out. And there’s nothing about the people who find themselves pregnant and know, straight away, that there is no way that they can or would ever want to carry to term. Or those who are simply unable to survive pregnancy. Or who would survive it, but at a cost to their health that they would never be willing to pay.

You don’t hear that. You hear “opening the floodgates to abortion on demand“.

‘Abortion on demand’ isn’t just a phrase used to evoke images of women marching into hospitals and commanding hapless doctors to terminate their pregnancies or else. It also evokes fear of the women who aren’t in hospitals, who aren’t pregnant, but who demand to own their own bodies if they are. ‘Abortion on demand’ is about the idea that women might just want to take our own lives into our own hands. That we refuse to be deemed incompetent. That we don’t need panels of psychiatrists, doctors and legislators telling us what’s best for us. That we can do that ourselves.

Yes. On demand.

I’ve never heard of a human right being granted on request. Have you? A group who, having been denied equality, set things right by asking their oppressors politely if they wouldn’t mind treating them with equal rights and dignity, please?

Our rights are not granted from above. We take our rights when we demand them and refuse to take no for an answer. We get them from years of showing up, not shutting up, getting in the way, arguing and always, always demanding what is rightfully ours.

Let me be clear. A person who is pregnant has the right to an abortion in only one circumstance: when they ask for one. And if that request is not acceded to? Damn right we’ll demand it.