My memoir, Lovesick, came out in 2011 to popular acclaim. I decided to re-release the book and give it a new lease of life after a friend and high school teacher told me he thought it should be much more widely read.
A wild adventure through Thatcher’s Britain, set against a backdrop of the British Indie Music Scene. Naïve, defiant and incisively witty, Isobel Blackthorn fashions her own path through the counter-culture, poverty and politics of the eighties. By turn absurdly funny, sexually charged and heartrendingly sad, Lovesick is an unforgettable, tragi-comic tale of a young woman’s search for her identity.
Pretty girl, nice smile is all Isobel can say about herself. That, and she’s working class. What matters to her is she’s different. After devouring Camus’ The Outsider she realises for reasons strange to her, she is strange to the world. And she’s searching for love. It’s a disastrous mix. Her unquenchable need for romance leads her to Lanzarote, Canary Islands, were she takes unconventionality to extremes. She’d determined to be truly herself, face her fears and go with the flow. But her obsession with the charismatic Miguel, her thirst for danger and an acquired taste for cocaine launch her into the island’s criminal underworld.
“Seen through the eyes of a woman of heart and mind, this is a story that takes the reader on a tempestuous journey through the music and politics, the frenzies and phobias of Thatcher’s England in the 1980s. The passions of the era are enacted in Isobel Blackthorn’s headlong pursuit of love and sexual fulfilment, leading her eventually to the fabled beauty of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, a type of anti-England. The hedonism Isobel ‘adopts’ on Lanzarote as a corrective to the bleak outcomes of her political commitment and her quest for love take in, unavailingly, free-wheeling experiments with a smorgasbord of drugs. What shines through in these pages is Isobel Blackthorn’s determination, despite setbacks and episodes of despair, to engage with life truthfully. ” Robert Hillman, The Honey Thief
Here’s a trailer created by the late songsmith and troubadour Alex Legg (1952-2014)
Available in e-book format from Amazon and Smashwords
Second wave feminism has its symbolic roots in the women’s peace camps at Greenham Common in the 1980s.
Women gave up their ordinary lives to camp out in appalling conditions to protest against nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. What took place in the camps were not only protests such as Embrace the Base depicted above. Through their very existence, the source of inspiration for women around the world, came the reinvigoration of a feminist discourse concerning the manner in which patriarchy condones and reveres violence, particularly violence against women. Greenham common peace camps were a symbol of women’s empowerment. Women’s refuges, which have their genesis in the 1970s (the first women’s refuge was opened in 1971 in Chiswick, UK), along with rape crisis centres took on fresh significance as the front line of the women’s movement, supporting women fleeing violence. Women”s refuges have been a front line service ever since. And now, in the new age of neoliberalism women’s refuges are being shut down.
The title of Wendy Bacon’s article in New Matilda ‘ – The Gutting and Gagging of Feminist Women’s Refuges in NSW – gets straight to the heart of the matter. ”More than 25 feminist women’s refuges in NSW have lost their government funding,” she says, ”with their buildings being handed over to religious or other charities. Many shelters will no longer focus on providing specialist services for domestic violence victims. And the attack on services for Aboriginal communities has been especially savage.’
Outsourcing to the lowest bidder is a rationale that is as much ideological as it is economic. Services run for decades by dedicated women fully conversant with the feminist discourse on domestic violence, with a deep understanding of and empathy for victims, will now be provided by charities such as Mission Australia or The Samaritans, charities whose business model is little different from that of a corporation such as Serco or Transfield dedicated to securing government tenders in the service sector.
Having spent time in three women’s refuges so far, and through the services and resources they provide or are linked to, received ongoing support, I can say that the closure of women’s refuges is a much bigger loss than simply losing safe havens. Along with the bricks and mortar, what is being closed down or re-packaged under the auspices of corporate-style ngos is feminist discourse itself and the insights this discourse provides. We are witnessing the decimation of the very language of domestic violence, language critical of abuse from physical to verbal and emotional, an understanding of the damage that is done to women and children, the bringing to light of the injustices of domestic violence. We are also seeing the demise or sidelining of the support and campaigning of feminists behind the scenes on behalf of victims – from court support, transport, help with re-housing, counselling to financial assistance. The closure of women’s refuges is the gagging of feminism itself.
Why is this happening? I contend because feminism is dangerous. Feminism threatens to undermine corporate-led neoliberal ideology. Feminism must be hollowed out and re-packaged corporate-style, as is happening with the Beyonce-led Gucci funded campaign Chime for Change, launched in 2013 at a TEDx Women luncheon in California.
I visited the Greenham peace camps many times. I joined in the protests. I was young then and had yet to comprehend the devastating personal consequences of domestic violence. Now I do know. Which is why I can’t sit back and say nothing while the heart of the women’s movement is being slaughtered and Gucci places itself at the helm.