Saturday 18 October 2014

Saturday Interview: Stroppybird

Stroppybird - not her real name - is a socialist feminist activist and Facebook obsessive currently living in London. Stropps wrote things for five years over at the eponymous Stroppyblog. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Why did you start blogging?

I got into blogs when my partner started one. I read and commented on lots and then thought, why not, ill give it a go.

What was your best blogging experience?

The blog was a mix of politics and humour and one of my favorite posts was the Leftie Sex Survey. Quite an eye opener into the world of the left!

Have you any blogging advice for new starters?

Be aware there is a time commitment if you want to get views and comments. It's best to try to blog once a day. Comment on other blogs with a link to your own and respond to comments left on your own blog.

And why did Stroppyblog fall into disuse? Will you be coming back?

It started to become hard work. I didn’t have the time or headspace to blog everyday and trying to run a group blog was also a headache, trying to get posts from people who were busy.

I also found that although got views, I didn’t really get that many comments.

I'd take time on a post and get a few comments. I'd do a one liner on Facebook and get a heated debate. So Facebook won out. The blog became hard work for little return.

Do you find social media useful for activist-y things?

Yep, it’s a good way to getting info out on demos, groups and communicating across areas and countries. But, there can be a bit of preaching to the converted and I’m as guilty as anyone. I'll share a link and it will get liked. But what difference does that make. I didn’t change any ones mind.

Who are your biggest intellectual influences?

I think it’s been more about intellectual debates than individual influences. So in the 80s when I first got involved in politics I was very involved in what was then the lesbian and gay movement, but did include trans and bi people. Also how this interacted with socialist and feminist politics. I tended to gravitate to socialist feminist politics and with LG activists that accepted I was bi and didn’t see me as a cop out.

Other debates that occupied me were around revolution or reform.

I became involved in politics at 16 as a result of my experiences, my background. I was the first in my family to stay on in education after 16, let alone get a degree. So at 18 my experiences came together with ideas and debate.

What are you reading at the moment?

I tend to have a few books on the go. I am reading Espadair Street by Ian Banks. I am also dipping into The German Trauma: Experiences and Reflections 1938-1999 by Gitta Sereny. I admire her writing and humanity; sad she is no longer with us. I read her two books on Mary Bell, highly recommended.

What was the last film you saw?

Bit late to it, but watched Scandal on DVD. The whole Profumo affair is a fascinating period. It lead me to reading Stephen Ward Was Innocent, OK by Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. Recommended to see how the establishment stuck together and that the law was abused to get a conviction. I am planning to read An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo by Richard Davenport-Hines, to read more about the times. The film really only skirted around the issues of the time. Nothing said about how young the women were, the racism and the demonisation of the lifestyle.

Do you have a favorite novel?

Well novels, The Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. I have read them a number of times. Very sad and anoraky, but before I visited San Francisco where they were set, I read them again and noted down the landmarks and then visited them.

Can you name an idea or an issue on which you've changed your mind?

I think possibly sex work. I don’t think I listened enough to those involved in it. I feel strongly that it’s about supporting those who want to exit to do so, to address what is keeping them there if they want to leave. To focus on criminalizing the men only puts women in particular at more risk. I'd highly recommend people to read what Ruth Jacobs writes on the subject. I am proud to call her a friend and hugely admire her bravery in the campaigning she does, sadly sometimes in the face of attacks by women. She is a true survivor who campaigns often to the detriment of her own health. She is an ex sex worker and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying, ex junkie and survivor of abusive men.

How many political organisations have you been a member of?

Surprising only the Labour Party and LRC. Oh and various campaign groups. Being lectured by middle class lefties on the working class, coming from the working class, that never encouraged me to join any of the far left parties or groups.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to disseminate?

To wider society? Socialist feminist ones.

To the left, well they could do with some basic 101 on feminism.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to combat?

The usual. Sexism, racism, homophobia, capitalism etc

Linked to that what I’m finding the most worrying set of ideas is how certain groups are being scapegoated and demonised. The old divide and rule. Basically The Daily Mail worldview; attacking Easter Europeans, Muslims, those on benefits, the disabled, the homeless and anyone they consider does not fit in and can distract from the real causes of poverty, war, not enough homes or public services.

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major influence on how you think about the world?

The major influence for me was not what I read, but what I had lived and those around me experienced growing up as a child. That formed my political core when I was 16.

Experiences such as being mocked for being poor by other kids, being homeless as a family, having a father who was mentally ill and that services let down, leading to him taking his own life, having a best friend at school who was bullied for being gay. Books just reinforced that. I think this is why I didn’t take kindly to some on the far left, from middle class backgrounds, lecturing me about the working class. For them it was out of a book.

Who are your political heroes?

Noooo, heroes are the weakness of the left. Well I could name the usual leftie and feminist heroes, but I'd rather focus on people who are not the ‘big names.’

Before I do, the biggest hero and political influence for me was my mother. Never read Marx, but in her heart and mind was a socialist, a feminist and did all she could to improve things for people as a local councilor. She could never be bought of with positions of power.

Other people I admire and respect:

All the women of the SSP, especially Rosie Kane, Catriona Grant, Carolyn Leckie and Frances Curran.

The Focus E15 Mothers. Just hope the left don’t fuck up a brilliant campaign by working class women.

Kate Belgrave, for her work speaking to and telling the stories of those on the sharp end of this government. She reported on the Focus E15 campaign before it took the interest of Russell Brand.

All the LGBT people living in countries where it’s illegal to be themselves, campaigning bravely and risking their lives.

Ruth Jacobs, mentioned earlier.

Janine Booth. The first woman to complete a term on the RMT Executive and survive what was at times a macho place to be. Also all her work in the RMT and the TU movement on women, LGBT and Autism. Oh and a poet and author, where does she find the time.

And Southall Black Sisters

How about political villains?

Oh dear.

Well sadly quite a few are of the supposed left: Sheridan. Comrade Delta. The SWP. Galloway. Assange. And those who play down abusive men in our movement in the name of the ‘cause.’

Right-wingers, well the usual: Thatcher, Cameron, Clegg, Farage, Putin, both GWBs and many more.

What do you think is the most pressing political task of the day?

To have an effective reality based left that can work together to bring about socialism. Lets just say I’m not holding my breath.

If you could affect a major policy change, what would it be?

I have no idea where to start.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?


What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

Question everything.

What is your favorite song?

This is pretty impossible for me. Two songs, but not my favorite, that have a meaning.

I consider Psycho Killer by Talking Heads to be ‘our song’ as the first night I went back to Dave’s flat (who am I kidding, the first night I met Dave!), he played it. Hmm, in a flat with a strange man playing Psycho Killer.

Over the Rainbow. I want that sung by a drag queen at my funeral. Love it.

Do you have a favourite video game?

Last time I was into games was when I had a Game Boy. I know if I got into them again I'd get addicted, so don’t start.

What do you consider the most important personal quality?

In me? That I try my best to do something on an individual level whether that’s in my work, or standing up and saying something when I see someone being racist, or cruel to an animal or I am asked to buy a copy of Socialist Worker

In others, well I suppose principles and honesty.

What personal fault do you most dislike?

In terms of me its self-doubt.

In others its cruelty.

What, if anything, do you worry about?


And any pet peeves?

Where do I start!

Slippers. Hipsters. Hipsters in slippers.
Ponytails on men, especially balding men.
Stoke Newington Church Street
Inappropriate and over use of the words so, like, literally and really.
Hipsters with beards and slippers
Hipsters on unicycles
Hipster pop ups.

What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?

Be less obnoxious and stop pushing people away. Don’t trust that person who went on to be abusive.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Reading, arguing with my partner via Facebook, Facebook, music, gigs, politics, films and catching up with friends

What is your most treasured possession?

Old photos

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Jim Denham

What talent would you most like to have?

Hmmm. I’d love to be able to write fiction. Or be a lead singer in a mega successful yet still critically acclaimed band and have loads of groupies.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true - apart from getting loads of money - what would you wish for?

To be able to travel in time and space. A bit like the transporter in Star Trek, but added to that travelling across time. To see the future, but mainly to go back and be with people who are no longer alive and who I miss.

Speaking of cash, how, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money?

Hmm, how enormous. Well I’d do ‘good’ things and also be indulgent. I'd buy a big warehouse flat and fill it with books, CDs and buy Dave even more guitars. I'd travel. Id helps out friends. I'd set up an animal charity and helps out other ones such as around poverty, homelessness and campaigns. Yes I know the issues with charity, but in the here and now I'd rather do something for those suffering.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be?

Well I’m not a dinner party person; find that all a bit odd. I never feel at ease. Id rather have a big party, but if I have to limit to three, lets see. Well I likes to have a laugh, so I'd invites Rosie Kane. I love Marilyn Monroe and would like to see what she was really like and also sit and just look at her beauty and lust. I'd like Maya Angelou, an interesting life and person. I think all three would get on.

I would need Dave to cook, else they would get burnt halloumi and pittas.

Will Labour win next year?

No idea. It could be another coalition.

Which way forward for the left?


Until the left seriously address how they treat women and take sexism seriously in the here and now and while the SWP fucks up everything it touches, there won't be a way forward. The right, in the form of UKIP, will fill the gaps of dissatisfaction.