Kitty Nolan: Writer & campaigner to end violence against women and girls, with a focus on respectful debate, and seeking partnership with men. I have a particular interest in how religious institutions perpetuate the domination of women in their traditions, and argue for equality for all.
I started this blog around 18 months ago when I self published my book WITNESS. For those who follow me here and on Twitter & Facebook you will know WITNESS relates Sarah’s account of being violently abused at the hands of her husband Jamie. I particularly wanted to focus on how being a woman of faith the teachings of Sarah’s faith traditions added another layer to keeping her stuck in Jamie’s abusive cycle. I believe this is an area that needs further exploration. Like any book, in order to make it’s way in the world, WITNESS needed marketing, this required me to be available to do events promoting my book, unfortunately at the same time as the book was published my I encountered some health problems which have continued up until now, so with that in mind I’ve taken the decision to step back from all efforts at promoting WITNESS, and focus on my health. I intend to close down this blog and my Twitter & Facebook accounts at the end of July 2018.
I still have 30 e-book copies WITNESS available and want to offer them free of charge to anyone who is interested in receiving an e-book copy. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of July and I will email an e-book voucher code to you.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my blog and on Twitter & Facebook.
It’s been a momentous week for women campaigners with the indictment of Harvey Weinstein and the success of Repeal the 8th, which, once the legislation is completed, will make abortion legal in Ireland. I’ve had a little to do with both issues.
In reaction to the revelations about Weinstein, #MeToo began to trend on Twitter as a way of exposing the number of sexual assaults women across the world have experienced, and I used the hashtag to add my name to the list in solidarity with other sisters across the world. According to Wikipedia the phrase “Me too” was tweeted by Alison Milano around noon on October 15, 2017, and had been used more than 200,000 times by the end of the day, and tweeted more than 500,000 times by October 16 . On Facebook the hashtag was used by more than by 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. Sending out a tweet with this hashtag was a very small act which had a big effect in terms of raising awareness. This awareness raising began discussions in governments, in Hollywood, the music industry, universities, shop floors, and coffee shops, and made men who had behaved badly speak out in apology, and encouraged some people to report abuse resulting in prosecutions.
The campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which would result in legal abortion was a different kind of campaign, still one begun by women, and with women at the heart of it, but also one where folk knocked on doors and engaged their neighbourhood in a conversation on this very polarised and sensitive subject. Those of us supporting ‘Repeal the 8th who did not live in Ireland posted information on social media explaining our position, but our experience of engagement, however helpful to the cause, was not the same as the door knockers because it lacked in-person conversations where we could be challenged, and challenged to hold your ground respectfully. The ‘Yes’ campaigners I engage with indicate that in the face of aggression this is what the majority managed to do, and, for me, apart from the success of the campaign, this capacity of respectful engagement is a significant achievement.
Social media is a powerful tool, and like all power tools can be dangerous in unskilled hands. Feeling entitled to be insulting and demeaning on social media doesn’t often translate into feeling entitled to do so face to face. The most benign outcome of an insulting face to face encounter on a doorstep is the closing of a door, the more hostile outcome would be getting screamed at and punched; neither would be helpful in changing minds; indeed the more likely outcome would be an entrenched position. We all know this, and yet when I’ve the strength to engage on social media, and Twitter in particular, my feed is awash with deliberate insults and name calling – not blunt truths, simply meanspirited remarks.
Over the past two years of Repeal the 8th I’ve just got on with doing my little bit quietly. My nearest and dearest, and anyone engaging with me on the topic of abortion knows where I stand, but last Saturday while watching the coverage of the referendum from Dublin Castle, and posting my support for Repeal the 8th I became aware of becoming anxious.
I am 59 years old, and was raised Catholic, and absorbed Catholic Church teaching on contraception and abortion as I was growing up. I remember the discussions in the house of Humanae Vitae , Pope Paul IV encyclical outlining church teaching on contraception and abortion; this at a time when I was aware experts were concerned about the population explosion and the earth’s ability to sustain us. I was 12 years old, contraception and abortion weren’t on my horizon as a personal concern, but I do recall feeling relieved to learn the Church would allow an abortion where the life of the mother was in immediate danger, and feeling this was the least they could do. At 12 I knew in myself there was something damaging in this teaching, but I kept my views to myself. Life experience gave meaning to that intuition, but 47 years later I sat in front of a screen feeling anxious because I was afraid of the reactions of family and friends who hadn’t discussed this with me, and didn’t know my views. On a daily basis I read replies on Twitter to people I follow being trolled and threatened by those who disagree with them – this explained my anxiety. The disconnect between speech and body is what makes people entitled to do this, but surely if we wouldn’t say it face to face, we can’t be saying it in a tweet. Those of us who campaign are (mostly) adults, and we have a responsibility to commit ourselves to respectful discourse – social media is a public forum; young folk are listening, and following our example. If we wouldn’t say it in the town square, why are we saying it on social media?
As it turned out I was fortunate with my posts; those who disagreed with me simply didn’t respond, those who did agree with me engaged.
Returning to the women’s campaigns that I began with: I think there will be much to learn from Repeal the 8th, and I’m looking forward to hearing their stories of engagement. Campaigning isn’t just about posters and ralleys; it’s engaging with your friends and family and their friends and family, confidently and respectfully understanding the facts of your position, and listening to the concerns of others.
I believe a woman’s place is in the revolution, and the predisposition for us women to talk, I wonder if this is how the revolution for equality and human rights put into action will be won – by women at kitchen tables, at the school gates and at the neighbourhood barbecues.
I haven’t posted anything since before Christmas 2017 partly because I’ve been really ill, and partly because I’ve been finding interactions on social media quite draining. While the posts I follow here on WordPress are all respectful and considered, I can’t say the same for Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and Facebook operate more like conversations, whereas WordPress tends toward articles. I’ve weeded out those I followed where responses were disrespectful, and where the bulk of comments didn’t move the issue under discussion any further forward, and I’m hoping that helps me.
While the main topic of my posts will be around the issue of gender based violence, my interest is broader than women and girls. Abuse exists at all levels of our society, and includes domestic violence – men toward women and women toward men; rape; child abuse – physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and economic. Abuse seen in this way shows that while or society has developed gender based violence as part of our hierarchy, all aspects of society are affected. In short, patriarchy is detrimental to women and children, and boy children become men. This has crystalised for me recently when reading tweets that condem all men for the actions of some. I can’t see a way forward for us when we make blanket declarations like this and don’t discuss the particular. Many abused women have male children, who have been abused by their fathers, making the effect of gender based violence something that affect women, girls and boys who then become men. Violence and agression are increasingly on the ascendant, in our speech, in our actions, in our desire to get the upper hand, and while this continues solutions will be hard to find.
You will have noticed I’ve changed the name of my blog; I prefer conversations to simply stating opinions; it helps me consider as many perspectives as possible. I can’t find answers to this question of violence on my own, but together we might move closer to a solution, or just a contribution to the solution. ‘Kitty Nolan in Conversation’ is an invitation, welcoming thoughtful and considered exchanges. To help us frame our exchanges I want to suggest we use Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.
4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.
I will continue to share excerpts from my book WITNESS, which gives an account of Sarah’s experience of domestic abuse. I am particularly interested in the added layer of religious tradition which Sarah experienced making it difficult for her to leave her abusive husband. I am planning a series of blogs trying to look below the surface of these issues, so watch this space.
Recently, my colleague (I’ll call him Ben) participated in his grandson’s bris—the circumcision ritual within Jewish tradition. The circumcision was performed by a mohel–someone who is trained on removing the foreskin of an eight-day-old, male child.
Neither Ben nor his wife is Jewish. Their son converted to Judaism when he married a Jewish woman whose family celebrates the birth ritual with a host of traditions. One of those traditions dictates that the immediate family members, upon news of the baby’s imminent birth, gather together in, or around the vicinity of, the new family’s home in order to welcome the child into the world.
So Ben rushed to his son and daughter-in-law’s home a couple of states away shortly after the baby boy’s birth, staying until after the circumcision ceremony where Ben had the official role of conferring on the newborn his Jewish name.
Wonderful piece on death and life and the value of the crone!
My father is dying, and I am haggard with grief and exhaustion. Over a month of frantically arranging child care, driving to the ICU in the middle of the night, fighting to protect my Dad from neglect and malpractice, chasing case managers, begging doctors, negotiating with nurses, sensitive, depleting, agonizing family debates about hospice and DNR, and hour after hour sitting and holding my Dad’s hand, singing, comforting, soothing, reassuring. Washing his face. Massaging salve into his feet and legs. Continually checking to see if he is too cold, too warm, in pain, breathing ok. Weeping as I drive home through snow and rain and dark, watching car accidents happen just one lane over, trying to soothe my frazzled and anxious little children, support my husband in his degree program, and not lose my own career entirely.
So when my daughter asked me, “Mummy, why does Grampy have to die?”…