This is my poster for the very last issue of Shape and Situate: Posters of Inspirational Women in Europe, the fantastic zine curated by Melanie Maddison for many years. I'm going to miss this zine. Ever since I started contributing, I've read books about radical history and thought about women in my community a little bit differently - basically with 'maybe that would make a good S&S poster' permanently in the back of my mind. So I thought I should end it all with a bang.
As a result of personal experiences, I've been thinking a lot about abusive men on the left for a while now, specifically how piss poorly the left deals with these men. At the same time, there has been an increasing backlash against marginalised people speaking out and challenging historical and current abuses of power.
Caroline Leneghan's situation isn't unusual in the sense that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. But her abuser is a high-profile leader in one of the most powerful trade unions in the UK - a bastion of militant and radical workplace activism. Apparently what unites small, horizontally organised groups of activists and big, hierarchical trade unions who ascribe to very different ideologies is their shared failure to listen to, believe or support those who experience abuse in their ranks*.
But this is nothing new and everyone who speaks out knows very well that it could happen to them if they do. Choosing to do it anyway is my personal definition of inspirational and why I've profiled Caroline for my last poster. It is also a gigantic middle finger aimed at not only abusers but at those so-called lefties who cover up abuse, make excuses for abusers or stay silent by claiming it's 'none of their business'.
Read Caroline's story in her own words (content warning: images of the effects of physical abuse) and get yourself a copy of the last ever Shape and Situate.