“Normalise destroying the binary. Queerness and gender fluidity are crucial to ending gendered violence”

In a powerful op-ed, CLT DRP vocalist Ann Dorrett explores the generational grief, trauma and horrific events that inspired their latest single Aftermath.

“Normalise destroying the binary. Queerness and gender fluidity are crucial to ending gendered violence”
Ann Dorrett of CLT DRP
Trigger warning:
Sexual assault

When someone asks you to touch on the most painful topics in life, it's hard to know where to start. Part of me sees this article as emotional labour. I wasn't sure if I wanted to explain more, especially after creating an entire zine on the subject matter. My opinions also change daily, as do my emotional attachment to circumstances. The lyrics I wrote only a few years ago feel foreign to my current thoughts. Those lyrics are a version of me I don't necessarily still connect with. But then I also thought, 'This is why you wrote Aftermath in the first place – the foundation is still there, and it still feels heavy.'

In our press release, I spoke about generational grief and how I picked up on the ways that different generations of women were dealing with the topic of sexual assault. I touched on how I learned to show empathy to others, even if I didn't understand or agree with how they processed their trauma or spoke about it. Who was I to comment on someone else's grieving process? Especially that of someone who has had to jump through hoops I've never even encountered. Here, I will speak more about how Aftermath came to be, my feelings at the time of writing the song and where I am now with active feminism...

Most people reading this will remember the name Sarah Everard, as it was plastered everywhere on social media after her murder in March 2021. During lockdown, my friends and I were drinking excessively. Like everyone else, we felt cooped up, frustrated and saddened by the world, its state, and our lost time. Looking back, I realised I'd never properly learned how to distract myself from my struggles. I took my anger out not just on myself but on others as well. I bit the head off every guy I spoke to and poured vodka in my morning coffee for weeks to relieve myself of my thoughts. I protested, made statement banners, but nothing seemed to ease the grief I was feeling.

I attended one of the vigils held for Sarah Everard with a friend in Brighton. As heartbreaking as it was, I have never felt more connected to my community than I did that day. Whenever someone bent down to lay flowers on a sign or picture, I lost it. It was a visceral and physical pain, like a light had flickered in the corner of my eye taking me back to every time someone sent me a 'Did you get home okay?' text. Everyone at the vigil stood two or more metres apart, masked up and silent. We stared at each other from across the park. We were paying our respects not only to each other but to everyone's version of Sarah because we all knew at least one.

I realise the pandemic and all that is COVID are not fond memories, but we can't just bury them. When time stood still, it created important realisations for many people. For me, it was undealt-with triggers and identity issues, and Aftermath developed because of all the discussions surrounding those weeks of grief. The trauma of it triggered victims, started heated arguments with friends and flatmates, and a shared pain that had nowhere to go once we brought it up. That's when I noticed how many women were holding resentment toward one another. How much progress hadn't actually happened between our generations?

Intersectionality within feminism can be hard to navigate with all the different micro-aggressions we face, but the bottom line is that the worst-case scenario is still happening every day.

According to figures in The Independent, in the year following Sarah's murder, at least 125 women were killed by a man, or a man was the main suspect. We're still being abused, raped and murdered. It doesn't seem to matter how hard we fight for gender equality, it appears that the gender divide and its traditional roots are preventing us from breaking free from its related violence. For example, we've got every discourse in the media telling us violence against women is a women's issue, but it's a gender issue and we've been going in circles trying to fix it.

Sometimes I wonder if we're protecting a toxic version of femininity or holding on to something outdated. It's time to normalise destroying the binary. Queerness and gender fluidity are crucial to ending gendered violence. Breaking down the binary helps to erase shame, toxic masculinity, and patriarchal values, all of which abuse stems from. That's why my feminism journey has shifted so massively towards exploring queerness and gender fluidity. It's just food for thought, but maybe it should be yours too?

Read this: “I instantly felt a connection”: The rise of Brighton’s queer punk scene

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