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My collaboration with Spanish digital newspaper El Común

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I have been asked by many “How was FiLiA?”

Women on my social media want a report of what happened.

I did some short videos every morning on my way to the conference but I guess I didn’t say much apart from how excited I was everyday.

I haven’t managed to publish a single note about it and it’s Friday already!

I was just telling a dear friend how I can’t get out of FiLiA universe, planet, bubble you name it…

There is the aftermath of FiLiA yes, because there is the experience of FiLiA and its uniqueness at a physical and emotional level. Because think about it…when and where else do women experience being amongst women exclusively and in such numbers? And with that very particular focus and sisterhood?

Because to me as important as the speakers, the theory and the many workshops and discussions are also the hugs, the kisses, the constant smiles when crossing at corridors, the many tears and the shared effort in making it happen.

And as important as all of that is, for me it is also a sorority exercise to actually reconcile with those women who I might not share views or I even have an antipathy for, because we have FiLiA in common and that to me is more than enough.

The aftermath of FiLiA means going back to the discomfort in which we live on a daily basis as the oppressed sex, and we can only percibe that because of its alternative experienced through just three days.

And this might feel like a frustrating painful paradox but it is not.

During the conference I was interviewed for a documentary about Spanish Radical Feminists and they asked me: “how did radical feminism changed your life”, this was my answer:

“Because if there is something worse than being oppressed it is not even knowing that you are oppressed.”

FiLiA is my three days of awareness over a lifetime of blindness.

For those asking me to tell them about the details, is not about that, it’s about being there and part of it.

So…just come for 2025, meanwhile as Kiri Tunks said: Be More FiLiA!

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Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Yes I’m playing with words, Prima Facie means “on first impressions”, specifically in legal terms it refers to what appears to be the truth.

I went with a friend to watch the filming of the show which is doing its “encore” in cinemas after it was filmed in the Harold Pinter theatre in London. I have to say that as much as it was a very good way of being able to watch it, I immediately wished I was down in London, as I think the presence of Jodie Comer in a closer and more intimate way must be an amazing experience.

But life happens, and I’m in Glasgow now, no longer living in London so I’m going to

a fancy cinema instead, my favourite so far in this city, but where the cool feature of having sofas and being able to order drinks and food on a Friday night completely breaks the atmospheric preliminaries of the play we are about to see. So much so that the advert of the project “schools consent” parallel to the play, is almost not heard, drowned by audience chatter, as the lights in the room haven’t gone out yet.

Emily Maitlis then presents a short interview with Suzie Miller, writer of the play, Jodie Comer actress, Kate Parker founder of school consent, and DSI Claire Kellan from the Metropolitan Police….They all chat as women about the play and on the topic of women being abused. My mind is making the maths, why are they talking about “they”, if it is 1 in 3 women one of them must have been affected. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I’m expecting all women to open up and wave the survivor experience at every opportunity given.

But there is something detached in the way we talk about our suffering, particularly in our activism, my mind wonders now…Do we need to? Do we need to detach in order to fight for ourselves?

The interview is short and sweet? while I wish I had heard more from the protagonist Jodie Comer about her way of preparing for the role or even her reason for accepting it. But I have now discovered the full version here.

Finally the play starts, and what follows is a non stop deliverance of a solo piece that keeps me asking: "How on Earth can she breath? Is she breathing?". The control of Comer over her voice and body is simply out of this world.

I have never seeing anything like it.

I’m thinking of the many times actors get recognition for their amazing transformations in movies, De Niro in Raging Bull and Christian Bale on The Machinist come to mind, but Comer seems to be mutating purely by accent, voice, and physical demeanours in a pretty basic nude stage that she also changes herself.

She grabs the audience from minute one and pins us to our seats till the very end.

She is simply astounding, an incredible actress, as I’ve thought when I first saw her in Killing Eve, too good in fact, for a survivor of rape like me, seating there naively thinking that I will be ok, that it is now over 20 years since it happened to me, that I understand the warning that tells us at the beginning of the play that this is about rape. But I’m not ok. I cover my ears and close my eyes, because her interpretation is too good, the writing is too good, the description too realistic, the references to not being able to breath and the mouth covered unfortunately too triggering for me, I’m crying and trying to get away from the flashbacks. The scene concludes, my friend holds my hand, “I’m ok” I mutter.

I’m not ok, the protagonist Tessa, is not ok, I am now almost grateful not to be in that theatre, the experience is already strong enough, as if I have synced with her, Tessa, in a parallel universe.

I recognise perfectly well the transformation from the girl who was going places to the girl who got lost, side tracked surviving. I recognise her post raped body language too well, Comer now becomes a mirror, in which I recognise myself and who knows how many others, over apologetic, frightened, shaken, hyper vigilant women.

How many others? Comer replies with a reality that we know and say time and time and again, as if no one really listens. I call it the silent scandal, one in three, look to your left look to your right, here I am the statistic, I feel her eyes staring at me, and how many more in this cinema? I ask in my head. How many in that theatre?

The play finishes as a rollercoaster ride finishes, I sense the shock in the cinema, the discomfort. I want to do a standing ovation but it is not a theatre, it feels weird, nobody follows me, I don’t care, she deserves it I clap till I can. That woman deserves all the awards and I’m grateful for the play and anything that might come from it, but reality hits me immediately when in a yet again, predominantly female audience a guy behind me laughs and comments some nonsense about it, for him it is just another play.

The privilege of detachment, I call it, to him is just a play. I imagine how that feels. To some of us that is our life, still our life…Something very weird to watch your trauma as entertainment, something that I am never too sure about. And I wonder how many times we have to get naked in articles, plays and books as survivors in order to get heard. I get angry: Why are we still having to get naked down to our very souls to be heard.

My friend thinks it is positive and this will hopefully change things. But I am angry and fed up. I normally feel this way after feeling triggered, and suddenly I remember the last time I felt like this was in that same cinema watching The Last Duel also with another amazing performance from Jodie Comer, and I can’t help to think, isn’t she fed up too? Is she like me feeling that no matter how fed up we are we have no other option but to keep fighting and keep speaking about it?

We leave the screen and next to the toilets all we see is the old posters from Sean Connery, as Bond, well it is Scotland and this is a cinema, but I can’t help to explain to my friend how he was happy to promote slapping women in an interview .

I want to burn the posters, I explain to my friend that it is also a common feeling after an episode of revisiting the trauma. I jokingly say to her I want to go out and burn everything, is a normal reaction. Yes, that is a normal reaction, that thought lingers.

We walk back trying to get home and reflecting on what we have seen and I find myself been all jumpy with the shouting of drunk men passing us on Buchanan Street.

I apologise to my friend, as I always do. I have been apologising like Tessa in the play, ever since I got raped, I apologise for having to carry around the memory of what others did to me, for having to live with what for others was just another shag, for having to explain what it means to be drugged and raped, apologising for not having enough recollection of the details, for not being paying attention, for mixing with the wrong crowd, wearing the wrong thing, not keeping an eye on my drink, not screaming enough, not being sure enough…Permanently apologising to a society that it is still judging us for being raped so that men can get away with being rapists. Because while we repeat “1 in 3” we haven’t even started wondering how many of our friends have raped someone?

Society only makes women the protagonist when men need to be hidden, and the invisible men in the play are the real protagonists in life. And as much as this play is brilliant and couldn’t be better acted.

I already know the story, the women in the audience know the story.

I want the world to know about your everyday friend who raped, I want to know about how they carry on with their lives, how can you be a criminal groomed, protected and integrated in society.

But I guess I also know that story, I’m a woman, now a mother, in patriarchy and that is not a play.

My friend and I took a cab home, I shared my location with my husband, and I kissed my friend goodbye while I said: “let me know when you get home”.

I didn’t go to sleep until she texted. And that is our truth. That is our life.

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To all my women friends past, present and future. And to all the women feeling lonely.

As a birth educator I could tell you that it is because we produce oxytocin when we get together. Oxytocin is the hormone I used to refer to in my classes as the “hippy hormone”, you know? Peace and love. Yes, the one you feel when you hug someone for at least 7 seconds and the one we produce when we listen to a story that has a beginning, a sort of climax and a resolution. The one in orgasms.

We all produce oxytocin, but we women seem to produce it just by being with each other.

But as a 47 year old woman and mother I can tell you reasons that go beyond the physical.

In my particular case I grew up in the company of only girls in a catholic nun school in Spain (there weren’t that many alternatives back then), at home my family wasn’t religious so I became quite a strong atheist at an early age, I also didn’t see any positives of being amongst just girls when the world was educating me to want to be admired and pursued by the men I should be decorating myself for. Being an atheist and with no boys or men my life had no purpose in that place. So I was glad when I left to go to high school, where I embraced the idea of being admired as an object, I became a dancer in discos, a waitress in the most popular trendy venues and followed (partially as a result of personal trauma), any guy who will merely acknowledge me, I was finally a desirable object.

The little decisions I made were based on the so-called romantic songs, stories and movies consumed from an early age. Never thought for a second about what I wanted, the train of thought was more along the lines of “who I wanted to want me”

I came to London following a guy, but he abused me and I left him. The tragedy was that I didn’t leave him for the abuse, I left because he had been with other women. Then came a period of being pretty lost in which I learned the hard way that I was indeed an object and that hurting me was something acceptable to men. I was raped by my flat mates.

What I realise now is that I had no women friends through all those years, and I never even thought about it. I was alone because I was a victim, I was a victim because I was alone. For a woman, alone in patriarchy means without a man, have you ever noticed that guys will tell us that: “where are you two going on your own?” When you are with your friend on a night out.

But the unspoken reality is that we women are dangerously alone when we are separated from women, from our networks, our comadres, and I didn’t know how dangerously alone I was then.

Obviously in the preprogramming that happens in the captivity of patriarchy, I had learned through plenty of propaganda that women can’t truly be friends, we are always in competition for the male, who rules, decides and chooses.

And the only women friends I ever had from school I then took for granted and parked them somewhere with the memories from my childhood days. I was in London, I was cool, independent and free or so I thought.

Many highs and lows later I’m still struggling trying to come down from the full speed rollercoaster traumatic journey that I have learned to dress up as life.

I could tell you many stories that might resemble an ordinary existence, I met my husband 25 years ago, had 3 children, we relocated to Scotland during lockdown…But the reality is that now that I have moved to Glasgow in both society’s and personal difficult times, I feel extremely lonely, I realise that I miss my women, my friends in London, with who I will go to the local pub every now and again and talk about everything. I still miss my friends from school who were kind and wise enough to know that eventually I will one day come back with my ego packed away and feeling extremely lucky to have them in my life when I run out of laughter, something that, as I get older, seems to happen more and more often.

When I laugh with them I feel as if I’m eight again. And we laugh so much my head hurts.

It is only with age that I have come to realise that the most democratic space I know is the group of the four middle aged women we have created in over forty years of friendship. We couldn’t be more different or love each other any more.

It was women I needed when I became pregnant twenty years ago. I wanted the women from my genealogical tree to come back from the dead and tell me how I was supposed to birth.

And I needed women, and didn’t even know it, when I suffered from postnatal depression twice. Later on, professionally I discovered that there are statistics about how women who live in strong communities don’t suffer from postnatal depression.

It was probably while becoming an activist and campaigning online that without thinking I started creating communities of women, with some of them I have campaigned in various cases and now we are around forty thousand of us in all my social media accounts.

And again, when I taught pregnancy classes, I created networks of women. Occasionally I might meet one of them in the street and they invariably tell me: “you know? we still meet up, I saw them last week, I wouldn’t have done it without them”.

I started my job as a birth educator feeling offended that with all my knowledge people will see me as a woman leading some baby group, I ended up thinking that all that mattered to me after eight sessions was that the group bonded so the women had a non judgemental network to support themselves.

People see me as strong and confident. They think I speak of what I know and have in abundance. But I promote what I need. I speak of what I lack.

I have been seeking my own kind for so long without realising the obvious thing that was staring at me in the face, we women are never truly alone we are told that we are.

I love a viral picture that said “women let’s support each other as we do in the toilets of a disco” We should!

Recently I decided to try something different to cheer me up, and I went to a cardio dance type of class, when I lived in London I used to go to one where a young attractive guy with a body sculpted by dancing, moved in a way most of us mere mortals will never do while he jumped amongst the women in a sexual way triggering all sorts of reactions that now I realised were learned behaviours we use as a defence mechanism in the assumed hierarchy in which we exist.

One guy and about 20 women and yet, it was a male dominated space, and after every single class I felt miserable because I was never good enough. And I complained a million times about the reaggeton misogynistic lyrics that were in Spanish and I had to endure. I was no longer the old attractive object but I was in a space that wanted me to be that, I was transitioning to the other stereotype “the grumpy old woman”.

So while feeling insecure I went to a new class in suburban Glasgow and they were all women, mostly my age or older and it was such a lovely space, bodies like mine, women like me, a teacher who didn’t put up a show. And every penny goes to support cancer patients. And it was so nice I just giggled throughout purely by the safety and comfort of being with other middle aged women doing what we could and want.

I felt immediately better about my mood. Which reminded me of something that happened with my school friends, last time we saw each other in Spain, we talked about various ailments, some of us awaiting medical appointments. Few weeks later we checked on each other and we were fine. One of us said: “I think we needed that gathering and laughter more than we knew”(picture of the event here).

Women scientists, we need more research about the impact of women's networks on women's health please! And on women's pleasure since we are at it, I learned from my friend Elaine Miller last night in her stand up show that the knowledge of the clitoris having 8,000 nerve endings hasn't even been researched on women! It was something a psychiatrist found out after directing the clitoris of sheep!!

And now that I am mostly amongst women, that I actively seek women’s company and spaces, I’ve joined FiLiA a feminist organisation that is totally female. I could tell you that I joined them because I want Women’s liberation, because I’m a feminist, because I admire their work. I could tell you that I joined them because I was tired or impatient, or both, of fighting patriarchy on my own.

But I was reminded the other day of why I joined FiLiA, my sisters there don’t know this but recently I hit a personal low when I punched myself in the face. I had to come to terms with the fact that I self harmed.

I have been really struggling lately due to trauma and personal circumstances, I’m in therapy but also very tired of being a survivor.

That awful day last week, I was crying my eyes out so much that I didn’t even know why I was crying. I cried in an office to someone, I cried to the administrator at my GP surgery, I cried to someone in Marks & Spencer and to a volunteer in a helpline for people who are struggling with anxiety. And then at 4 o’clock in the afternoon I wiped my tears and got ready for a meeting with a small team part of FiLiA with whom I’m working on a specific project.

I felt responsible, I didn’t want to cancel (that week I have already done that). The video conference opened up on my screen and the audio wasn’t working but I could see the three women laughing, I wasn’t. I started crying and apologising. They made me feel ok about crying and said that they will listen to whatever I needed to share. And they did what the brilliant women in my life have always done, they just acknowledged me and my pain, they gave me ideas, they made me laugh, they shared what is equal to us, our struggle and joy.

And eventually we all laughed. I dried my tears and we naturally and without a fuss moved on to our work topics and I was fine. They took me out of my despair and I can’t tell you exactly how they did that, but I guess being there and showing me the mirror of sorority that we all hold for each other, so I could remember who I am.

For example, thanks to Lisa-Marie (co-founder and CEO) I have been reminded that I don’t need to say “sorry” so much. And despite my theoretical knowledge of horizontal and collective feminist organisations, in FiLiA, I quickly realised I still had some learning to do, when I was looking everywhere for one source of power who told me what needed to be done.

And also when I was feeling bad for trying to do too much and not hearing the line they all say in FiLiA: “if you can’t do it just bounce it back!” I didn’t bounce anything back. I realise now I didn't know how.

I had been everywhere on my own, trying to prove something. I wanted to do it, I wanted to impress, to be able and available, like I have learned, to be liked…

Being part of a collective of women has taught me invaluable lessons about myself.

I’m now letting another guard down yet again, learning to be vulnerable and be seen for who I am in the safety of those who are like me. The paradox is “me” doesn’t matter in the “we” that makes each of us matter.

Each of the women in FiLiA are simply amazingly inspiring. It is like a league of supersheroes, only better because they are real. I am so proud and so excited to know that I will be finally meeting them at the conference! While I confess that despite the incredible array of topics that I consider unmissable, it is the women only party that I’m most looking forward to.

I understand now that when I was a child we were in an all female space because of men. Now I’m in an all female space because of women.

And that is why I joined FiLiA because I don’t want to ever forget again who I am.

I am a woman and I’m powerful because of me and because of them.

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