YES Matters

This is in memory of Sasha Marsden who was murdered three years ago today. This is the speech that her sister Gemma Aitchison made at the Feminism in London 2015 conference. It was one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard from a very brave women who went on to set up YES Matters to campaign for education around consent and to tackle sexual objectification.

In memory of Sasha and with love to Gemma.

Lisa-Marie x

Feminism in London Speech
Gemma Aitchison
2015 25th October

It is not the voices of our enemies is the title I decided to give this short presentation. I have heard many voices of enemies since I started YES Matters. Most of the voices come in the form of a rape threats, belittling my appearance or asking why I hate men.....in fact I now have a NotAllMen BINGO board in my kitchen. 9 times out of 10 these are uninformed voices, very subjective and blind to privilege voices. They are at times graphic, threatening and unashamedly nasty. I often wonder if they are trying to prove my point or they are just too stupid to realize that’s what they’re doing.

It was because of a voice of an enemy I started YES Matters in 2013. As he stood on trial for the rape and murder of my little sister, David Minto referred to her as an “it” in the courtroom. The entire time for me had been difficult and the pain is still unrelenting, however in that moment, hearing him call her that, I was struck by something. I have male friends whom I have heard refer to women like that. Outside the pub on a summer’s afternoon “check that out” “look at them” etc. Why was that? Why do they have this attitude in common? The sexual objectification of women and girls was the beginning of my learning. Its connection to consent, violence, silencing, the pay gap and unequal parenting, street harassment, representation, victim blaming and the sex industry. An object is there to serve the subject. It is made to the subject’s specifications to gratify their need. An object does not warrant respect, consideration or a valid voice. Objects are replaceable, they are disposable without justification.

On my journey I have armed myself with knowledge, learning and development being very important when you have a message people don’t want to hear.

I’ve worked with some wonderful people in many different organizations and campaigns who are passionate about social justice and feminism, and it’s a pleasure to be around them. I’ve also spoken to people who agree with everything feminism is about but wouldn’t consider calling themselves the F word and that is what I want to address with you today.
I am a single mother from Bolton, nothing special about me, nothing grand…I’m from the north for god’s sake. There is nothing I can do that anyone in the room can’t do too accept do it alone. Our voices won’t be heard and the tide will not change if it’s easy to ignore us. Now I am stubborn and I will keep organizing marches and telling prime ministers that they’re not very smooth, on my own until my last breath but I will get nowhere if no one stands with me. And most importantly of all what does doing nothing do? If you walk down the left side of the street and on the right a man is hurting a woman….by walking by you aren’t “not involved”, you don’t get a cookie for not hurting a woman, you are helping one side and it’s not the victim. Silence creates enabling, condoning, normalizing.

I’m not saying it’s easy and I know that for women we are socially ingrained to not make a fuss. I’m not asking you to join me every time I’m outside parliament with a mega phone. I’m asking you to say when it’s not okay. Don’t laugh along with a rape joke, don’t join in victim blaming, talk to the men and boys in your life about how you feel. No one is more qualified on your valid experiences than you, remember that! While I admit that I can never save the one girl that I want to, I really believe we can change the world if we stand together to say we are somebodies not some body’s and I deserve better.

There will be voices trying to silence, and belittle along the way, but it is not the voices of our enemies, but the silence of our friends that prevents us from drowning them out and being heard. So I ask you, however you do it, use your valid, important, amazing voice and shout with me. Maybe we can change the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I’ve been Gemma Aitchison for YES Matters, thank you very much for your time