I Belong Here by Anita Sethi

I Belong Here by Anita Sethi.  

 Anita Sethi’s book is an exploration of belonging in the country, in the land and in the self.  Following a race hate crime, where, among other things I won’t repeat, she was told to ‘go back to where you’re from’, she decides to walk the North, parts of the Pennine Way up to Hadrian’s Wall to walk herself into belonging.  

“It is walking that is giving me perspective; walking through this landscape frees my mind to reflect on my place in the world and on how deep systemic unbelonging is.”

Belonging in the country 

A friend of mine once described her heritage as ‘entirely a product of empire’ and so is the writer of this book.  She was born in Manchester to parents of Asian origin, neither of whom was born in Asia.  Her parents were both descendants of the generations of people from the Indian subcontinent who were forcibly moved to places in Africa and the Caribbean to serve the British empire as indentured labour.  She is a product of British history.

The white man who told her to go back to where she came from is also a product of British history.  His white supremacist mindset both underlies, and continues to be the consequence of, the actions of generations of British people across the globe.  Does he belong?  Who gets to decide?  What are the rules which stipulate who can stay and who cannot?  

“Protected characteristics should be taught at the earliest age, young people learning that it is not only wrong but illegal to abuse someone’s identity, the core of who they are. […] people should not have to wear signs saying that aspects of them are protected.  Respect of others should be ingrained as basic civility.”

As a white liberal I would rather spend time with the brown-skinned woman who treats people with respect than the white-skinned man who commits hate crime.  However, they represent facets of the same history and as another facet of that same history, it feels important that I have empathy for both. 

Belonging in the land

“As I walk I let my journey so far flow through my mind, and my body seems to merge with the body of the landscape.”

As the writer walks the hills and valleys of the Pennines, she becomes aware of herself simply as a human being, a part of nature’s biodiversity.  On the land as in society, there are those who are dominant and those who are persecuted.  Species have migrated, some for short periods, others for long enough to be considered ‘indigenous’.  She explores natural features whose timeline is so enormous it makes the fluctuations of animal populations miniscule by comparison.  

“Thinking about such deep time all around draws me out of my loneliness, as I feel how fleeting a human life is, how miraculous that mine has for these moments crossed paths with such astonishing lifeforms, which provide a kind of companionship.”

This gives her a sense of peace and acknowledgement.  It also gives her a sense of kinship with persecuted animals, threatened by the actions of those who have given themselves the right to determine who belongs.  

“Considering human and biodiversity throughout my journey is showing how people and place as inextricably connected, how we must care both for the earth and for each other.”

Belonging in the self

“Imposter syndrome is imposed from without, in multiple macro and microaggressions of prejudice.”

What can we learn about this experience of belonging?  What is it that makes up this sense of belonging?  Is it having roots by virtue of history?  Is it finding kinship, being among your own kind?  The word ‘safety’ comes up frequently.  What makes up the safety?  Is it safety from harm, from an enemy?  Safety within and only within….?   I would guess that the man who shouted was at some level feeling unsafe within himself and within his own community and he thought if we could evict all brown-skinned people then we could go back to some halcyon time when he believed that he would feel safe.

How do we choose to feel safe in a world of uncertainty and forced migration and climate chaos?  Wherever possible we must not make belonging contingent on external factors.  Belonging is something that you can choose for yourself.   It is a state of mind.  

“Forgiveness is not to condone the fault in behaviour.  Forgiveness is to see the ignorance at its root, to not let the feelings of hurt and anger corrode us, to be able to walk on and move forward.  There is strength in forgiveness, a deepening of empathy, extending empathy even to so-called ‘enemies’ or those who have hurt us.”

Anita Sethi has chosen to write herself into belonging.  It is when she is writing her story that she constructs for herself a safe place to belong.  

“To anyone who feels like they don’t belong, I say: build a sense of belonging in your own mind, body, and in nature, a sense of belonging that no one can take from you.  Learn to inhabit yourself.”

Allyship: from performance to coalition

I realised after writing this initial post that it did not include enough LGBT+ voices – only one out of three quoted.  I have read a lot of literature concerning race and concerning the position of women, but I realised on writing this that I have not read enough LGBT+ voices.  I have started to rectify that and I could just edit the original post to include more.  However, for allyship to work, we have to be willing to share our mistakes so for full transparency I am leaving the original post as is and am including further quotes.  

+As we move into Pride month and social media is awash with images of rainbows, it is a good time to ask what genuine allyship actually is.  Is it enough to stick a rainbow filter on top of your normal profile picture and have done with it?  Clearly no.  So what does genuine allyship actually require of you?

Performative allyship

In Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, one of the signs to her that an act of allyship is optical or performative is if “The act of allyship creates the look of diversity and inclusion but does not come with any change at a deeper level though policy change, commitment to antiracism education, transfer of benefits or privilege, etc.  The act of allyship is symbolic but not substantive.”  At the moment, when I look inside myself, I cannot genuinely claim that I am doing enough to effect change at a deeper level for the LGBT+ community, to justify any rainbows on my social media this month.

A few years ago I took part in the Pride March in Bournemouth with other members of my Quaker meeting.  Of the 6 of us marching, all were women, 2 were lesbians and the rest straight.  I found the experience really moving and as the atmosphere of celebration grew, I started to feel on a deeper level why such marches are so important, how far we have come and how far we still have to go.  However, I do remember feeling some discomfort that people would think that I was gay.  I feel quite embarrassed now to admit that, and I think it is really important to tell the truth about those feelings.

After the march I attended a friend’s baby naming ceremony with a good friend of mine, let’s call her K.  K and I sat at a table with a lesbian couple we had just met, and we were discussing whether or not the couple were planning to have children and the difficulty of making space in your life for small children.  I said that I don’t have any and K’s son is in his 20s so we don’t have to worry about that.  I was instantly aware that it sounded as if K and I were a couple.  In this context, it didn’t bother me at all that this new couple might think that K and I were lesbians.  So what is the difference?

As a female truck driver, the assumption among some people (although this number is thankfully shrinking rapidly) is often that I must be gay and I have found myself subtly mentioning former boyfriends just to clear things up.  Added to that, I occasionally fancy women, not as often or as deeply as I fancy men, but sometimes, as many women who identify as straight do.  Coupled with the assumptions about female truck drivers, in insecure moments I wonder whether I have got myself wrong, whether I am kidding myself that I am straight, and whether I might be happier with women.  Marching among the LGBT+ community through the streets of my home town brought these insecurities to the surface again.

That is the point: when you publicly stand up for others, it throws up your own insecurities.

Staying within your own demographic and not standing up for those of a different one, is a place of safety.  You don’t have to be confronted with your own insecurities, or your own prejudices.  Sitting with the lesbian couple at the party, I had no insecurity in that situation because I know that K and I are not in a relationship and don’t want to be.  Allyship for me is being open to noticing those uncomfortable, squirmy feelings and finding a way to process them and learn from them.  

Moving from allyship to coalition

“What are the words you do not yet have?  What do you need to say?  What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them still in silence?”  Audre Lorde, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.

As Matthew Todd says in his book Straight Jacket, “Lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people are brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins – and nothing anyone does can change that.  And that means this isn’t just our fight.”

Emma Dabiri’s book What White People Can Do Next is subtitled “From allyship to coalition”, so what does coalition look like in the area of sexual identity?  Gay people and straight people working together to dismantle systems of oppression.  It comes with the recognition not just that straight people have privilege that gay people don’t always have, but also with the recognition that that is also damaging to straight people.  It is a recognition that these rules, these structures stop all of us from living in our fullness.  The rule which states that gay is ‘other’ stops me from being at peace with fancying whomever I fancy.  “Recognizing that this shit is killing you too” (Emma Dabiri quoting Fred Moten) – that is essentially what coalition is.  Coalition is working together towards a world where ‘gay’ is no longer an insult and the notion of ‘coming out’ is obsolete because the acceptance of the multiplicity of sexuality would be the norm. 

In the meantime we can continue to listen to the voices of the marginalised and show up, even if it hurts.

BBC6Music has had some amazing programmes on for their Loud and Proud season.


Check out my latest course and see where your blindspots are:

Empathy in a time of conflict

Empathising with the other is the first step to nonviolence

Empathy in a time of conflict

As I sit here, along with the rest of the world waiting for Putin’s 40 mile long convoy to reach Kyiv, I feel exhausted with the sense of powerlessness.  The easiest first response is to want to fight fire with fire, to respond in kind.  However, I am a trainer in nonviolent communication, I am a Quaker, I am frequently surrounded by others who work for peace, surely we can do better than that?  

Barbara Deming talked of the two hands of nonviolence:

“With one hand we say to one who is angry, or to an oppressor, or to an unjust system, “Stop what you are doing. I refuse to honor the role you are choosing to play.  I refuse to obey you.  I refuse to cooperate with your demands.  I refuse to build the walls and the bombs.  I refuse to pay for the guns.  With this hand I will even interfere with the wrong you are doing.  I want to disrupt the easy pattern of your life.” 

But then the advocate of nonviolence raises the other hand.  It is raised out-stretched – maybe with love and sympathy, maybe not – but always outstretched… With this hand we say, “I won’t let go of you or cast you out of the human race.  I have faith that you can make a better choice than you are making now, and I’ll be here when you are ready.  Like it or not, we are part of one another.”

from Barbara Deming, Revolution and Equilibrium


How does one extend that hand of nonviolence when confronted with images of aggression?  

Empathy is the practice of taking time to understand someone else’s experience on their own terms.  It is not about intellectually understanding, or analysing, or excusing.  It is about emotionally discerning what is going on for them.  If the other person is right in front of you, you can make guesses to check out with them whether you have discerned correctly.  If not, you have to do it from afar, but even the process of opening your heart to try, you create a connection between you where love and peace can flow.

“Peace requires something far more difficult than revenge or merely turning the other cheek; it requires empathizing with the fears and unmet needs that provide the impetus for people to attack each other.” 

Marshall Rosenberg

Empathy starts with the self

When I hear that there is a convoy 40 miles long of Russian tanks heading for Kyiv, I feel rage, grief, heartbroken, exhausted with the sense of powerlessness.  I am longing for a world where that doesn’t happen, longing for a world of peace, understanding, curiosity and mutuality in dealing with the other.  Not a world of strong divisions and us and them and forming yourself into silos.  These are the feelings I feel and the needs they are pointing to.

There is an element in my pain at hearing about the war that is personal to me.  I have studied both Slavic languages and International Relations so there is a story there that I should be doing more, I should have had a different life where I was more active in these parts of the world. There is a shame, a disappointment with myself, that I have not put my skills and gifts to better use.  That shame is pointing to a need for contribution and deep connection, to truly get involved in something that matters.  

Why empathise with the self first?  

If you don’t empathise with yourself first, it is easy to get lost in the trigger.  You get lost in the images of devastation and suffering, lost in blaming your feelings on Putin.  My need is for peace, mutuality and curiosity about the other.  Is not up to Vladimir Putin to provide that for me.  Once I have spotted that, I can take a moment to celebrate the things I already do in my life which work towards a world of peace and mutuality.  My work as an NVC trainer, the practice I take part in as a Quaker.  None of that stopped Putin invading Ukraine, but it does work towards a world of peace and mutuality and curiosity about the other.  As I remember that I can feel my heart start to open.

The other reason to empathise with the self first is about creating capacity to hear the other.  While I was still unconsciously distracted by my story of personal shame, I did not have space to see him on his own terms.  Once I had identified that need, I decided to do more research about Putin in order to understand him better.  Research and understanding is something that I can contribute.  By understanding where he is coming from, it meets my own need for contribution and creates the space within me to break down my enemy image of him.  

Caveats I need to say before I move on:  
  1. Firstly, I fully recognise that others might be drawn more to empathising with the Ukrainian people, with the refugees, with the men who are having to stay and fight when they are not fighters, when they don’t want to.  Nearly all my male friends are between the ages of 18 and 60, they don’t want to fight any more than I do.  I fully recognise that they need empathy too.  I also feel drawn to empathise with the Russian people and soldiers, many of whom would not have chosen this either.
  2. Secondly, to empathise is not to excuse.  The willingness to open yourself to why someone has chosen the strategy that they have, and to see the humanity beneath that choice, does not mean that you let go of your belief that the path they have chosen will cause suffering.

Empathising with Putin

I heard someone on the radio this morning claiming that Putin was entirely in his own world.  We hear people saying that he is mad, but that is a cop out.  It’s a refusal to understand, it is a denial of the responsibility to try and understand.  It’s a trump card, I don’t have to listen to you because you are mad, wrong, evil, because you are not human.  But he is human, just as Hitler was human, just as all dictators are, human beings with needs and feelings.  

Veterans for Peace (who are well worth following on social media for the excellent content they share) shared a post from someone about the NATO expansion encircling Russia since 1997. 

So what are his feelings when he sees that?  I guess he is frightened and longing for safety and security.  NATO expansion is a sign of ‘The West’ having ‘won’ the Cold War (all these terms are heavily laden with ‘us and them’ significance).  NATO is gradually being understood as everybody but Russia and China.  Does he feel as if he has been backed into a corner?  Does he feel isolated and afraid?  He could easily perceive that ‘the West’ is rubbing his nose in it.  We won the cold war, yah boo sucks.  Much of the rhetoric in politics and on the news recreate this narrative.  It is an act of violence too, to actively humiliate someone.  Is he also longing for respect and mutuality?  Does he perceive that he has run out of options to be seen in any other way?

He will be 70 this year.  I have heard talk of Parkinson’s, I have heard talk of cancer.  He is coming to the end of his healthy life and maybe his tenure.  Maybe he is looking back with disappointment or sadness, frustration and anger, frustration that ‘the West’ doesn’t see the world as he does.  Maybe he is longing for a shared reality of how great Russia is.  Maybe he wants to be seen for his contribution in returning Russia to its imperial glory, to leave a legacy that corresponds with his vision of himself and Russia.  Maybe he is longing for the sense of justice that that would bring.

I can empathise with his needs for respect and mutuality, for safety and shared reality.  I fundamentally disagree with his strategy for meeting them and I feel deep grief that this is the path he has chosen.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri – Review

Don't touch my hair - book cover

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri is a powerful combination of memoir, history and political polemic. 

Woven into the braids of African hair is the story of pre-colonial Africa and through Emma’s personal experience and research in this book, we get to read the narratives of black people from that time to this.  It is also a cry from the heart for a world which honours humanity, in all its colours and textures.

“As a practice, hairstyling has much to offer and opens up excitingly decolonized possibilities for better understanding the African past in order to shape a better collective future.”

Significance of metaphor

Three themes stand out for me.  First is the importance of recognising the significance of metaphor.   The first chapter, entitled ‘It’s only hair’, makes it clear that there is no ‘only’ about it.  

“From my earliest memories, my hair was presented as a problem that needed to be managed. The deeply entrenched idea of ‘managing’ black women’s hair operates as a powerful metaphor for societal control over our bodies at both micro and macro levels.”  

Within attitudes to black people’s natural hair, both from white and black people, is the history of colonialism with all the assumptions of black inferiority.  African hair, just as the Africans themselves, is seen as unruly and wild, in need of taming to make it more palatable to the white man.  And I do mean man as there is something deeply patriarchal in this notion of applying the civilising hand of reason and order to the wild nature of both blackness and woman. 

For Dabiri, hair is a living language.  “Our unique hair texture allows us to be the living embodiments of a complex visual language, the scope of its concerns social, technological, philosophical and spiritual – a visual language that was designed to be transmitted by our features.”  By dismissing the metaphor, by saying ‘it’s only hair’, then once again we silence that language.  


Believing people on their terms

The second theme is the importance of believing people’s stories on their own terms, whatever the story.  I started to get interested in race and challenging my own white privilege, after I was called out by a friend of mine.  She is Jamaican and tried to tell me about an experience which she experienced as racism.  I dismissed her reading of the situation saying it was just personal and had nothing to do with race.  She called me out on that, and eventually I listened and started to educate myself.  When I read Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I am no longer talking to white people about race, I realised I had done precisely the thing that had stopped Eddo-Lodge from talking to white people about race, the penny finally dropped and my journey with challenging whiteness began. 

It is not up to us to determine where significance lies for somebody else.  During the recent row in cricket about the allegations of racism made by Azeem Rafiq, current and former England Captains, Joe Root and Michael Vaughan, came out to say that they are not racist and that they have never seen any racism*, whereas a chorus of Asian players said something else.  Maybe, just maybe, white people don’t see racism in the same way that people of colour do.  It is not up to white people to determine what is and isn’t racism.   It is never up to someone else to decide how you see something.  

At the same time as reading this book I was reading Natasha Lunn’s Conversations on Love.  In her conversation with writer Roxane Gay she learns that vital to maintaining a love relationship is “accepting and believing your partner’s feelings when they are different from your own, rather than trying to talk them out of them.” Listening to what someone is saying from their point of view, listening with empathy, is an act of love.  It is not just important for me as a white person to listen to the stories of black people because they are black and if I am to be a good anti-racist then that is what I am supposed to do.  I am listening because that is what love requires of me.  

We all bring our personal stories, histories, some personal, some systemic, to any situation.  To truly hear, to truly see the other, we have to listen to their story on their terms and listen for the significance that any situation has for them.  


Reclaiming your time as a radical act

The third element is about reclaiming your natural hair as a radical act of reclaiming your connection with your wild nature and with the earth.  

“But the terms ‘neat’ and ‘professional’ are both highly constructed, and to deem black people’s hair as it grows naturally from our heads neither neat not professional is incredibly revealing.”

Patriarchal capitalism requires that we are divorced from the earth and from our own wild animal natures.  To reconnect with the natural world and our own place in it, allows us to be in the flow of life.  The disconnection wrought by industrial capitalism has allowed the desecration of the earth.  To reclaim our connection with our own wild natures is to move towards a world where we can heal the earth or at least stop destroying it.  

I feel the same way about reclaiming our menstrual cycles.  I know so many women whose cycles have been closed down by hormonal contraception and replacement therapies and I wonder what we lose by doing that, being able to act like quasi men.  We lose the ability to listen to our bodies’ own rhythms and language.  We lose connection with the cyclical nature of energy generally, corresponding to the cyclical nature of the moon and the tide and the seasons and of time.

“On a practical and basic level, reclaiming my time is rejecting a lifestyle that prevents us from doing our damn hair. Reclaiming my time is taking the time to practise self-care, time too often denied in a brutal world designed to grind us down.”

Reclaiming the time to have your hair done is about reclaiming that depth of connection with another human, with the group, with your sisters, and with your own bodies.  Animals groom each other all the time, it is part of interdependence, of bonding, belonging, community.  Red tents were about hanging out with your sisters, reclaiming sorority, honouring and celebrating where you are in your cycle, not closing it off even to yourself, so that you can be a good functioning capitalist worker, forever available.  Reclaiming that time is a radical act.

“Many women insist that their decision to go natural is not explicitly political. The fact that they even have to state this, however, shows how far from the norm black hair is still considered to be.”

There is tremendous richness in this book.  I look forward to reading her next one What White People Can Do Next.  


*they have since backtracked and are cooperating with the investigation into the allegations.  I am hoping it will be a good opportunity for soul-searching, not just in Yorkshire cricket but in society generally.  As a sport which spread round the world at the time of empire, and is still primarily played by former British colonies, cricket can be seen as a microcosm of colonialism generally.

The Value of Integration

The value of integration

I saw this sign in a warehouse directing people to ‘Inward Tipping’ and it got me thinking.  I have spent many years firstly training for, building up to, and then waiting for my assessment as a certified trainer in NVC.  Now that the event has taken place and I have been recommended, I find myself feeling a little lost.  I have so many plans to put in place, so many exciting projects to bring to the world, but nothing is flowing right now and I am contemplating instead the value of taking time to integrate.

The sign in the warehouse was in the area where work arrives on a lorry and is organised before being despatched back out again on different lorries.  This work is normally referred to as inbound or arrivals.  I have never seen it referred to as ‘Inward Tipping’ before.  Lorries come in, they are tipped, that is why it is referred to as tipping, but given that is also my surname, I was struck by the sign.

Going inward

At first I saw it as a description, I am introverted, I could relate to being an ‘inward Tipping’.  I am not generally shy, I just need a huge amount of solitude to balance out even a small amount of time spent in company.  That is why driving trucks at night has suited me for so long. I am being paid to think, to reconnect with myself and all that is.  As I set off on a journey of 2 hours or more, I find myself breathing a sigh of relief and can feel my head taking time to put itself back together after the busyness of outward life.  I read the sign initially as a celebration of that process.   A few days later, I was sitting in Quaker meeting.  I had done a night shift the night before and had not slept so found myself reading Advices and Queries to stay awake.  No. 3 includes the following lines: 

Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. 

Twice in one paragraph it uses the word ‘inward’.  At that moment I experienced the sign, not as a description of how I am generally, but as an instruction of where I need to go now.

It is not enough to simply spend time alone, if all that time is spent beating yourself up about all the things that you are not doing.  You are not getting the value of going inward, if what you are thinking about is all the things that you need to do outward.  

Integration as active process

So how does one go about integrating?  For me it is about noticing which elements of life are coming to mind, and then fully experiencing everything that thought is trying to tell you.  Now, when I think about the assessment event and certification, I fully take time to celebrate all the work that has gone into it, the wonderful connections I have made and the beautiful sense of achievement of having chosen a path, worked for it and arrived at this stage with it.  When I think about the courses I am designing for women in male-dominated industry, I am not planning the specifics for now, I am encouraging myself to fully connect with the living energy of what I want to contribute – the experience of wholeness, of walking towards a new way of being with joy, of changing the world for the better through compassion, connection and choice.  Lesson plans, marketing strategies and sign up forms can wait.  For now, I am just hanging out in the beauty and joy of life so that when the time comes, I can move forward from a place of groundedness.

Free online mini-course “Banter or bullying: where do you draw your line?”

My new course is ready to go!  Banter or bullying: Where do you draw your line?

The topic of banter came up a lot in my interviews with young women – those little comments which could be a bit fun and flirty, but just don’t sound right at work, or they come from the wrong person or in the wrong context.  They might be ok in the pub but in a business meeting where you are the only woman, they undermine your authority and your confidence.

This course Banter or Bullying: Where do you draw your line?  is designed to help you trust your judgement in the moment that something didn’t sound right.  It also helps you feel grounded enough so that you can choose how to respond.

Using the skills of Nonviolent Communication, you will learn how to check in with yourself in any situation, to know exactly what it is you are longing for.  You will learn how to support yourself so that you don’t get that sense of panic and overwhelm when you hear something undermining.

Why improving diversity is a nonviolent act.

We think of diversity and inclusion as policies which organisations adopt to improve their demographic balance.  There are programmes to support and empower women, people of colour and people from the LGBTQI community and these are all to be welcomed.  For me, diversity goes way beyond a process for creating opportunities for marginalised groups.  For me, accepting and encouraging diversity is a nonviolent act.

Quakers are “called to live ‘in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars’.”  We are asked to “Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war.” (Advices and Queries, no. 31).  The unconscious bias and privilege that we carry with us every day are part of that way of life which may contain the seeds of war.  Challenging them are acts of nonviolence.

Nonviolence in action

Nonviolence is not just the absence of physical violence, it is the presence of something different, something that Martin Luther King called justiceMarshall Rosenberg chose Nonviolent Communication as the name of his ground-breaking process to draw a link with Gandhi’s practice of nonviolent resistance to oppression.  Underlying any violence, physical, verbal, emotional, is some kind of separation between you and me, between us and them.  When the group called ‘us’ looks different to the group called ‘them’, it makes it a lot easier to put that wall up and a lot harder to break it down.

Recognition of the shared humanity of ‘us’ and ‘them’ is the foundation of diversity and inclusion work.  When we are each part of a greater whole called ‘us’ the divisions slip away.

The importance of history

To try and create a nonviolent and inclusive world from now will be an empty task without recognition of the violence of history.  The historic freedom to build that wall between us and them has always been indicative of, and constructive of, power relations.  The capacity to define who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’, is the power to judge ‘them’ as lesser.  The one who tells the story of who is in and who is out has the power to exclude and banish from view those they do not consider to belong.  It is the power to dominate and it is profoundly violent.  

Wherever we choose to be now, we are not coming from the same place.  Women have only a few generations in the workplace behind them.  People from underprivileged backgrounds in the UK have only had access to the benefits of higher education and health care since the 2nd world war and the massive rise in tuition fees over the last decade has reversed that opportunity.  People from formerly colonised parts of the world or whose personal histories contain stories of forced migration, carry with them that experience of powerlessness.   The recent series It’s a Sin on UK television has vividly depicted just how recent it was that coming out at work would be tantamount to career suicide.  

Colonialism, sexism, homophobia, and policies which restrict access to good quality education and health care are all in themselves violent acts. Approaches to diversity which do not recognise the burden of history are merely surface dressing. 

Yes, diversity is a cornerstone of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and that is a good thing.  And it is so much more than shifting the demographic of your workforce.  It is an opportunity to shine a light on histories of domination and move towards a more peaceful and equitable future.

Image by Joshua J Cotten on Unsplash

Call out for interviewees!

Are you female, under 35 and working in a male-dominated field?

If so, I would love to hear from you.

I am developing some online personal development courses for young women in male-dominated industries and I would love to interview a few people to make sure that the courses are going to be as useful for women as they can be.  The courses will address confidence issues, working in or leading teams of men, building your network etc and I would love to know what would support you.

All I ask is half an hour of your time to have a chat about what you love about your job and what would make it more wonderful.

If you would like to be involved, email me at jenny@jennytipping.co.uk.

If you would like to hear more about the courses and groups I have coming up, please sign up to my newsletter

I look forward to hearing from you!


What is Nonviolent Communication?

What is Nonviolent Communication? 

NVC was developed by Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist, in the 1960s. On a purely practical level it is a series of steps to follow, to increase your understanding of why you are feeling and acting the way you are and to then understand the same in others. 

“With Nonviolent Communication (NVC) we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our own compassion. This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute, every day.” (From website of Center for Nonviolent Communication)

On a consciousness level it is about a commitment to deep connection with the self and with others and through that radically altering the way that humans relate to each other.  At its core it focusses on fundamental human needs and the understanding that in any situation all anyone is trying to do is meet their needs.  Once you become aware of what the need is that you or someone else is trying to meet, it is a lot easier to empathise and start to understand someone’s behaviour.  

Between those two poles of the practical and the conscious, there is where we all place ourselves as practitioners and trainers of Nonviolent Communication.  For me, rather than just telling somebody the importance of empathy in leadership, I like to give a very clear process for what that means and how it might happen.  It is a tool for self-connection so that in any situation you can understand your own motivations better and through that you can create the capacity within you to understand other people’s motivations better.  

What does NVC mean to me?

Where my interest lies, especially in the work I do in male-dominated industries, is in finding ways for people to communicate so that diversity and creating a more diverse team, is a lot less scary and just flows easily.  It is also about bringing our awareness to what is a choice and how much of the way things are – our typical habits and ways of relating to each other – are part of a pattern that can easily be changed, while still staying authentic.  For me it is about changing the small picture while always keeping an eye on the big picture.

How did I get into NVC?

I first heard about NVC while at a festival down in Dorset.  I didn’t go to the workshop but was intrigued by the name.  Then in 2014 I left a relationship and I knew that communication had been a serious issue for us.  I bought Marshall’s book and read it, ticking off all the things that he and I had done that contributed to the relationship not working!  From then I was hooked.  I went to my first course in 2015, started on the path to certification as a trainer in 2017 and would hopefully have certified in 2020 had COVID not got in the way.

Now it is the process I turn to make sense of myself, to understand why something has bothered me, to delve deeper into the core beliefs which underlie the surface behaviour and to empathise better with others.  I love the simplicity of the model combined with the depth that it makes possible.  We are all a work in progress, but I am very grateful to have found the process that works for me.

Image by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

What is Patriarchy?

Patriarchy is a term which pits women against men and women who are willing to call themselves feminists against those who are not.  In fact, the word itself is often the reason for that unwillingness as so many women, like me, know so many lovely men. So let me make this really clear: patriarchy is not about men.  Well, it is not just about men.  So what is patriarchy?

There is so much I could write about patriarchy and over the course of these blog posts I probably will. 

To me, patriarchy is  a system of domination characterised by violence in word and deed, and by the separation of humans from each other, from the natural world, and from their own feelings and needs.

It is a system where judgement and blame are the norm and compassion and connection are discouraged.  It is a system where most suffer financially and everyone suffers personally.

A brief history of patriarchy

Patriarchy means ‘rule by the father’.  It is a system which grew up where the father was the head of the household, all property and power were held in his hands and he passed it all on to his children.  I highlight the word ‘his’ because once the paternity of a man’s children became paramount, women had to be controlled to guarantee that no other man should have access to her.  It was at this point that domination and control became embedded in the system.  This is not the universal or natural order of things, it is historically contingent.  Basically, it just grew up in some places and it spread.  (See Miki Kashtan Why Patriarchy is not about Men)

What patriarchy does not mean 

Patriarchy does not mean that all men have life easier than all women.  It does not mean that there are no other issues of suffering or inequality in the world.  It certainly does not mean that men do not suffer at the hands of patriarchy, quite the opposite.

“I do not want to smash the patriarchy.  I want to be the open, clear and gentle space where it can put down all its weapons and weep its generations of grief.”  Shanti Zimmerman.

I love this quote from Shanti Zimmerman.  Smashing anything brings with it the energy of violence.  To dismantle a violent system by using violence is counter-productive.  Violence does violence to those who perpetrate it just as much as it does to the victims of it (I will write about the work I have done with people who have committed violence elsewhere and working with military veterans is an area of work I would love to stretch into).  To dismantle a system of domination we have to use the tools of nonviolence: compassion, connection, understanding and before all that, grief.