So you may or may not know that I’m currently working on a time travel trilogy (that’s a lot of t’s), The Extractor Series. I’m 34,000 words into the first one, tentatively titled, The Jewish Doctor, and I’ve had to research Nazi Germany. Research is something I love. I have a passion for knowledge and learning, and there are few places I’m happier than when I’m studying.
But this particular research is proving to be tough. Did you know there was a concentration camp called Ravensbrück specifically for women? At first, it wasn’t even for Jewish women – it was for asocials and political opponents, the women who had risen and thrived in the Weimar Republic, who had cut their hair and joined political parties. Over 132,000 women and children passed through its gates during the Second World War — 90,000 of which were exterminated. Exterminated — like vermin or pests.
If you did know about this women’s camp, did you also know that there were over forty female guards ‘looking after’ these prisoners? The phrase ‘looking after’ isn’t just a stretch, it’s tying a 6″ cherry Twizzler at the Brooklyn Bridge and expecting it to extend all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of these women managed to out-perform even the most dutiful male SS officer. The guard who made a lampshade from the skins of prisoners. The guard who made prisoners shovel a tunnel underneath a soil pile until it caved in and buried them alive. The guard who liked to have sex with a prisoner before sending them to the crematory. The guard who picked the women with the biggest breasts and flogged them until they were cut and infected. And yes, these guards were all women. Not acting under the orders of an SS officer, but taking it upon themselves to ‘enjoy’ the finer points of ‘malicious pleasure’.
But against all this cruelty and inhumanity stood the unbreakable human spirit. One prisoner was asked how she managed to survive, how she kept going despite the appalling environment, the experimentation, and constant torture. Her response? “Because I believed in victory”. An absolute refusal to surrender. The strength and resilience of our species is immeasurable, and never fails to move me. I work with women who’ve had their minds and bodies abused, and they not only survive, they thrive. They salvage their lives and they begin again. They dare not only to see a future beyond their past, but to embrace it. Their courage astounds me.
And this got me thinking. We’re constantly bombarded with media messages and social norms, that women are the weaker sex, and that we should look a certain way to be accepted. To not be stared at. Don’t think me transphobic — I’m far from that: one of my ex’s is a trans guy, and I work with trans kids. But as ‘butch flight’ becomes commonplace, and we find ourselves in an era where to transgender is a solid option to living a ‘masculine’ life in a female body, I worry about feminism. I worry about the lack of faith in our power as a woman. I don’t need a dick to be the loudest voice in a room full of men. I became a Chief Executive fifteen years younger than the average Chief Exec in the UK, and I did it as a woman. Not just a woman, but a card-carrying lady lover at that.
Equally though, it’s wrong to say we’re better than a man, because the fact is, that regardless of gender, we are all, as humans, capable of extreme brutality and remarkable generosity.
Weak. Fragile. Sensitive. Over-emotional.
Strong. Thoughtful. Person-centred.
Fuck gender. Screw social norms. To hell with those shit signs on toilet doors, because who the fuck do they represent anyway?
My ethos? Be the best human being you can be.