Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Call for Submissions: The Abuse After the Abuse: How Men use Money to Destroy Women



The Girl God is accepting submissions for our upcoming book about the widespread financial abuse of women: The Abuse After the Abuse:  How Men use Money to Destroy Women.

Financial abuse goes hand-in-hand with 98% of domestic violence cases, as well as many marriages and divorces throughout the world - and yet it is rarely talked about.

We want to hear from women about their experiences with this kind of abuse by intimate male partners, past and present. Personal essays (up to 750 words), poetry and (black and white) art are welcome.

Selected contributors will receive a copy of the book when it is published.

Scheduled publication: Late 2017

Please send your submissions to trista@girlgod.org by May 31, 2017.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Feral Mothering by Lesley 'Orion' Johnson

Art by Arna Baartz


She comes to an abyss,
Across it she saw a warm dwelling & realized how tired she'd grown.
How much she'd forgiven.
A ways down the cliff edge she saw what looked like a bridge
It's faint and dark where it crossed, she could barely make it out
But she imagined
It connecting
To shelter.
She stepped into what seemed only shadow but she just believed so much 
Seemed simple, 
innocent love to home,
Slipping.
She tracked back.
She found her footing again
& felt foolish
Thinking it so easy to cross the abyss
Almost like a trick someone else left
She walked further
Thinking their must be a way.
Another bridge seemingly built by a legacy
Grand
Stately,
It seemed a formality of performance was demanded to cross,
A secret courtesy expected
A lock,
A gate.
On the other side of the bridge she saw flashes of light like cameras flashing. 
A gust of thick wind pushed her to the gates & in her ears she heard,
'You're perfect.' 'You're just what we need.' 'I want to be you!!
A frothing pulled that she struggled to hold her ground within
Sliding across & down to the limb, the trunk, reaching to hold on,
Crawling she pulled from the force of the locked door.
Shuddered from the pull of it.
Vomited from being seen as things she never knew herself to be.
Shaking she followed the tree line along the cliff,
Passing what appeared more innocent shadow bridges
She continued,
Less interested in falling
It becomes colder & her toes begin to numb,
Then there 
Almost blue 
A frozen bridge
Like a tidal wave of power
Still in time 
solid
Muscles tight & tense joints 
Her foot taps to test the ice
& eases up the ample arch
As she skates the bridge narrows & constricts until she's walking across a fine line
Black below
& white dividing it
Where has she gotten herself
She falls back hardly able to breath
Gasping as lightly as she can
Tears burn her eyes & she scoots gently back 
Slowly
Unsure she wants to try again
Wishing she never had
She makes it back to the edge
Before the abyss
She collapses to her side
& curls into a ball
Staring 
Across a schism
So dark
& hidden
She can't see the hut 
In the darkness
She forgets why it was ever 
So alluring.
She's tired now
Right here.
Just stay.
Feral.

An excerpt from Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy - out now!

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Daughter by Marianne Evans-Lombe

Art by Lucy Pierce


Two things
I held you
I cried
I held you
You cried
All I could do
was paint you
Those strokes
became you
That color
becomes you
My regret
is not
you

-Marianne Evans-Lombe, an excerpt from Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ripping out the Rotten Roots of Patriarchy by Irene Sanchez  

Fury by Bettina Dupont


I WALK INTO HIS OFFICE TO PLEAD. The prosecutor tells me when I am about to get up to leave that if he lets him off and doesn’t do anything he is putting a target on my back. I want to tell him, Mr. Prosecutor, I am a woman and I was born with a target on my back.

I think back to how it wasn’t all about my son’s father, my son’s father who was the reason I was in this office pleading with the prosecutor, not saying he didn’t do it. Did he assault me? Yes. I was there because he was the only support I had for my son. To think my son could grow up without his dad and that my whole life could collapse, but the thing is I was also barely holding it together. I was a single mom running from courthouses for a separate stalking case, this assault case, to daycare, to work, to do my research on my dissertation to finish my Ph.D. and back to daycare wondering how would I survive. How am I still here?

I think back to before these most recent years to before I had my son. I think about my ex-husband, my high school sweetheart who cheated on me. I think where did I learn my first lessons on misogyny and patriarchy? We learn them young. We learn that it is normal. We learn this is how you get and keep a man. We learn obedience. We learn obedience willingly or have it unwillingly forced upon us through abuse. I was told at a young age, I wanted to do what I wanted to do as if it were a bad thing and that I didn’t know when to be quiet. I learned at a young age, we don’t even own the right to our bodies, to say no and feel safe. They had taken innocence from us at a young age. We learn patriarchy through speaking and by speaking we also learn that there is a consequence to speaking up or speaking out. For many of us this happens in the home and if this oppression happens there first, this is also our first battleground and where we must fight against it in order to win. We are at war. Our homes are the battlegrounds and too many of us have been causalities.

I remember back to when I got divorced to that high school sweetheart, how I was asked by family if he had hit me, as if that would be the only acceptable excuse for getting divorced, but the thing is he didn’t and I wanted to pursue my goals. Then there came a time when men did hit me and I stayed. I stayed for fear. For threats my son would be taken from me and I kept rising and fighting every single day for him and myself.

I think back to those days and wondered how I even survived. I returned to my hometown with new battles that were really old ones. My son watching me now, reminding me how he remembers when he sees men treat me poorly or when I see women also reinforcing patriarchal behaviors. I realize I will have to fight patriarchy the rest of my life. I am raising a son who I want to know this is not the way it should be. I am a single mother on welfare. We came back to no stable housing and very little financial and emotional support. It is a vulnerable position to be in, but that doesn’t mean I accept, submit, and stay silent. I think to myself what kind of system allows this to continue happening. It is not only patriarchy; it is a system that dehumanizes women and particularly women of color and our labor. It is a system that tells us we are not enough, that we are wrong, that we need to be silent when what we really need to do is speak, write, yell, dance and sing. Patriarchy kills, but as a single mother I have learned silence has killed far too many of us already. My son is watching and I have had enough. Ya Basta. 

- Irene Sanchez, an excerpt from Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Save the Children by Shamecca Long


"By Any Means...Homage to Harriet Tubman" by Alyscia Cunningham



I am not afraid of these conversations.
As a matter of fact,
I'm armed.
Weaving a weaponry of
Knowledge.
Self-defense.
Voice detonating hiding places.
You will not find solace
In silenced homes.
Broken heart.
Single parent shame.
There's a name for women like me.
Women who've swallowed
Their tongues
To allow their mothers to live.
Women whose bodies
Become wasteland.
Punching bag.
Toys.
For the men who never become men.
I am waiting for you.
I have a daughter.
I am waiting for you.
I have a daughter.
It is waiting for you.
Near my daughter.
Nestled where you slip into dreams.
Prepared to split your body open
Should your mind
Desire the innocence
I have been robbed of.

-Shamecca Long, an excerpt from Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy

Friday, December 30, 2016

For My Daughter Who Now Walks Before Me by Louise M. Hewett

Painting by Arna Baartz




IT IS LATE. I have just finished writing for the evening although my mind is still restless and full of questions. I am always full of questions and feelings, and dreams.

‘In the night I dreamed. It was my wedding day and I wore a white gown, but as I walked into the ceremonial field the light changed and a threshold darkness seemed to collect at the edges of vision. It reminded me of the sky in a dream I’d had some months ago, a dream of the Antlered One that had come to tell me that my life was about to change. Yes, and many things had changed since that dream had shaken through my soul. Where was the Antlered One, now, where was the One, in me? For if I understood anything about wedding symbolism it was that there was union, that the parts knew and understood themselves to be as one. In that dream the Antlered One had transformed into a shape for such union, and the deep sense of being totally known, totally naked, and totally supported had carried me through and into a new life, a new being.’

I wrote this for the novel I’m currently working on, but I dreamed it a few nights ago, finding answers to my questions in those strange fields of vision. This morning I wake thinking of my day. What new life? What new being? Art History & Theory homework awaits, which interests me but is the new necessity I must do in order to be paid an income. I remind myself how fortunate I am to be studying Art History, to have bed, house, food, car, shoes. I am a single mother. Two of my four children are young, nine and twelve, and one is on the Autism Spectrum. There are issues. The three of us are all seeing a psychologist and I am, at the moment, just able to financially prioritise this for two of us. My autistic son’s support is currently from the government.

I get up, I begin. Everything is slow. I am slow, worn out, struggling with depression, and frustrated with myself. I shower, I prepare my medication to prevent further stroke. The necessity of slow action makes me think of my grandmother, who was very slow, and very sensitive, like me. I think of her outwardly simple life, her long passionless marriage, of our conversations about her life and the dream I have of writing a book about my female ancestors. I remember that my grandmother had a nervous breakdown at the age of 21. I remember that my great grandmother was a single mother with nine children, and in a far worse economic situation than I.

I am a single mother and I am very fortunate. I am educated and educate myself. I have time to think and reflect. To write stories. I am paid a basic income dependent on the fact that I fulfill requirements, although none of these requirements involve caring for my children. I must either look for and find a job, or study at least 15 hours a week. I am studying for a Bachelor of Visual Art, and must fulfill 18 hours a week. It is overwhelming for me. I must visit the employment agency. I am on the wrong stream. I have fatigue. Paper work must be provided on the correct days or there are consequences. On my low income I must provide housing and pay for everything required to function in the society in which I live, for my children to attend school and also function in society. I also receive regular financial support from the father of my children, so I am very fortunate indeed.

I do not need to prostitute myself. I am so very fortunate. But I wrestle with anxiety. I believe that no-one cares.

Having gratitude does not negate experience, nor does it negate consciousness. Social justice, the core patterning that makes a human society functional and purposeful to the benefit of all in that society, is the action of living well. When I know that I may lose everything on any given day, I find myself agitated. I think of refugees, of children caught in other people’s wars, and my heart aches for them. So much distress. I am told by well-meaning people not to think about the things over which I have no control, but I know that there, but for the grace of Goddess, go I. I am told to trust the future, to trust that everything will be okay, but all my actions and energies are directed at ensuring the future can be trusted to exist, for myself and for my children. I ask, what do I trust? My honesty? My integrity? My compassion? Will that put food in my children’s mouths?

I am a single mother because I choose to be. I have chosen twice now, because I was no longer prepared to experience emotional abuse, or endure a practical relationship. The wife as prostitute. The silencing. The stealing of my self-worth. I was the stay-at-home parent in both my relationships at the time when they ended. My last job was in the UK when I was 25 years old, and since I’ve just turned 50, this means that I have not engaged in paid employment for 25 years. I am a writer, I practise art and very occasionally make a little money from those things. I am very fortunate and have gratitude for the abundance of my life, for the fact that I am a single mother.

The first time that I became a single mother was after the birth of my daughter. I remained so for six years. The second time I became a single mother was when my daughter became sexually active, over four years ago. I read that in Victorian England a man could easily purchase a 13 year old girl’s virginity for £5.00. That prostitution was a way for women to earn 'good money.' That prostitutes were divided into three categories, the poor, the independent and the high class. That they were all commodities to be purchased and sold, discarded at whim.

I wonder about this as I cook my breakfast. My heart rate goes up. I do not know how this world can be this world in which I live. Because I am very fortunate. How can people use each other so?

I made a fundamental choice on both occasions of becoming a single mother, and that was to ally myself with my daughter against my partner. In a patriarchy this constitutes a betrayal. So be it. Of course my other children were included in that decision. They, as I perceive, are an extension of me, of mother. We all come from mother. But it was the growth of my female child into the world that taught me most about my own experience. Of course.

Today the sunlight stings. The world in still radiance probes relentlessly into dark rooms bolted against knowledge and my body, weighed down with the mechanisms of life, feels bound. My heart, so loud against my pillow, could be a line of youths pounding a hard road to war. It is the time signature of my mortality. What strength have I left to hold to the cliff face, when below the ocean is a maw and I have no wings? That still radiance in those glossy leaves, the little swallow on the post, my hair tangled on a pillow in a cold bed (where my dreams, nonetheless, are warm) are like paintings, the still life to give glimpse of the particular. I close my eyes against the sun and see the brilliant shape of my blindness. It is a key and the dark rooms are broken open, that still radiance explodes and floods like the ocean, in, irrevocably in, and that oceanic gush carries me into the world below the world.
I want to write that a beautiful flower grows there, but I can’t quite, not just yet.

The experience of being a single mother for the second time around reached an all-time low during the debilitating process of separating from a ten year relationship. This was also a process of learning to believe what the law said was my right to receive a proportion of the assets, including superannuation, of the economic aspect of the partnership of which I had been a part. I remember weeping when the lawyer told me that in such legal matters, full time motherhood was considered equal to full time paid employment. I felt relief amidst my distress. How fortunate I was, me, a single mother in patriarchy, acknowledged in this way. And yet the damage had been done. I was confused, afraid and ashamed.

As a single mother in patriarchy I have learned that I must not trust, I must consider my future. And as a single mother in patriarchy, I must live with the experience of being an inconvenience. An irritation.

In this way I learned the complications of patriarchal relationships, of ownership and entitlement. I learned about certain ideas of power. Food, shelter, money and sex. The mother impulse to give, share and provide, to teach, did not extend beyond the circle of my arms. How is mother to care for her children, engage in meaningful social activities as a mature adult, and even improve her circumstances when she is unsupported? She may even be seen as a threat to other women, because patriarchy’s favourite means of oppression is to divide and conquer, through violence and misogyny, usually both. Internalise misogyny in women, make them hate themselves and each other. It makes female relationships difficult, it makes male-female relations difficult, but in a patriarchy there will always be prostitutes to fill the void, prostitutes who are often single mothers, too. In a patriarchy, a single mother must at least be useful beyond what she does to ensure that her children grow as whole and functional members of society, which in a patriarchy means that she must ensure that her children are sufficiently anaesthetised to be able to conform and take their place in the appropriate hierarchies, that they are not whole, not functional.

My thoughts sound wretched and bitter to myself. I am a loving person. I am creative, a wild fire and a sweet bloom. I am rage and grief. I am replete with compassion. I look on social media and read a brief account of a glossy erotic bondage performance that has evolved from an ancient Samurai practise of humiliating captives. People applaud it for being so elegant, so tidy, so beautiful. I have a panic attack. It reminds me again that I live in a world where violence is being systematically eroticised. Where what is normalised is made moral, and that false morality has nothing to do with kindness or compassion or service to others, but is abstraction. Convenience. And abstraction dulls perception. I live in a patriarchal world which is a pornographic world. I am a single mother in a pornographic, patriarchal world. I refuse to be a prostitute or a wife, because that is what I choose, and I have gratitude for the capacity to make that choice. I am so very fortunate, unlike many who must choose only to survive. There but for the grace of Goddess, go I. For the veils between are thin, and no-one wishes to care for my children without expecting something in return.

The day unfolds. I read. I compose my Art History essay about the concept of beauty and how it has changed, or has not changed. I will not feel guilty for having intelligence. I will not be ashamed of my vision for a better world. I will not be reduced to passive gratitude. My gratitude will be a wild fire. I will do what I am able, and grieve, and grow as I must. For my great grandmother who could not choose, and for my daughter who now walks before me, I will choose.

‘You are weary,’ she said, as she gazed at me,
‘and the journey for you not done.
You must go on still, and weep your tears,
’til the thread of your life is spun.’

She held my thread by the light of the dawn
and it gleamed so fair and thin;
and the sea came in to wash the hem
of the gown that I travelled in.’


All poetry and prose by Louise M. Hewett - an excerpt from Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Marital Status by Susannah Gregan


i am married
to the Government
He is the breadwinner
i missed out on
in my virginal years.
He is a polygamist
we are His whores
and His bastards.
nonetheless
we are grateful
for His kindness
as we mostly do not
have ancestral lands
to return to
where
weather permitting
toil persisting
sustenance awaits


- Susannah Gregan, an excerpt from Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy