#womenwrites

“reflections on writing ‘self’…while free-falling through words and memories” by @MaraiLarasi

Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future by Naomi Alderman

Thousands of domestic violence victims withdraw support for charges against abusers after Government cuts by Harriet Agerholm

No country for women, on death row for self-defence in the UAE via @WritersofColour

The Radical Feminist Aesthetic Of “The Handmaid’s Tale” via @annehelen

If ‘inclusivity’ is a priority, let men make their washrooms ‘gender-neutral’  via @FeministCurrent

Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History via @lithub

What’s the point of a literature festival? | Bare Lit 2017  via @WritersofColour

The Thing about Toilets at Not the News in Brief

Transforming a victim blaming culture

evb-logo-1Media discussions of male violence against women focus on the actions of the victim rather than the perpetrator. How can we challenge this narrative using survivor’s testimony without putting them at risk of online harassment?

 

“If I was Ched Evans i would find that whore and actually rape her this time!!”

This is one of the many abusive and threatening messages directed at the victim in the rape trials (and appeals) of footballer Ched Evans’ over the past 4 years. She has experienced an incessant barrage of abuse and threats of physical and sexual violence via Twitter, alongside a deliberate smear campaign including repeated breaches of her anonymity. She has also received a tremendous amount of support from women across the UK. Her experiences demonstrate both the importance of centering the voices of survivors, who are frequently disbelieved, but also the limitations, particularly with the development of social media platforms predicated on notions of ‘free speech,’ that allow survivors of rape to be labeled ‘a fucking cunt’ or ‘lying psycho bitch’.   Social media platforms have, to date, been unwilling to have honest discussions of the reality, representation, and ubiquity of male violence against women and girls, despite a recent EU report that suggests 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-74 have experienced sexual or physical violence. …

Read the full post at Open Democracy.

Feminism for Girls – I need your help with answers for my daughter!

Last week, my daughter asked if I had any books on feminism that she could read. The only one I could think of was Peggy Ornstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter as she’s not quite old enough for Kat Banyard’s The Equality Illusion. Her response: we need to write one. So, we are.

Below is the post she wrote for her blog Generation Why. She’s looking for a range of answers to the three questions below to include in the book. The book is aimed at girls 8-13ish.

All answers and comments greatly appreciated!

 

This morning I asked my Mum if she had any books I could read on feminism. I found out that there weren’t very many books about feminism for girls my age. The only book that Mum had for me to read was Cinderella Ate My Daughter.unknown

We decided we would write a book on feminism for people my age. These are things we want to include what is feminism, misrepresentation of women, history of feminism and what women think feminism is.

 

These are the three questions I would like women to answer so that I can include them in the book:

  1. What is feminism to you?
  2. Why are you a feminist?
  3. Who inspired you to become a feminist?

unknown

 

You can post your answers to the questions in the comments below or you can email them to louisepennington@hotmail.co.uk

You can also send us any ideas you would like us to include in the book.

#WomenWrites: Essential Writing from March

https://storify.com/LeStewpot/womenwrites-for-march

#fabulousfeminism : feminist responses to F4J

https://storify.com/LeStewpot/fabulousfeminism

Feminism in London, No-Platforming and the process of feminism

I have been watching the fallout around Feminism in London with a sinking heart.

Like many, I was surprised to see Jane Fae’s name on the FiL program as they are very clear on prostitution and pornography constituting violence against women and are vehemently pro-Nordic model. I am aware that they have refused to offer a platform during their conferences to feminists who are pro-sex work on panels talking specifically about prostitution. I assumed that their rules either applied only to panels specifically on prostitution and pornography or that they weren’t aware of Fae’s writing on the subject. Both were equally valid since it not every single feminist in the UK has a full working knowledge of the full employment history and writings of every single person who self-defines as feminist.

I’m not involved in the conference so I have no idea who and what were involved in the conversations surrounding Fae’s continuing participation once a number of exited women raised concerns. The public statement is that Fae chose to withdraw and I have no problem accepting this version of events repeated in numerous places by the organisers. In many ways, this was the only acceptable solution once women who were speaking on their experiences in prostitution spoke out.

Fae wasn’t no-platformed for being transgender. FiL is a trans-inclusive conference. It is asinine to suggest that they would remove a speaker for being transgender when the conference is trans-inclusive. It makes everyone look ridiculous to push a narrative which is clearly false. Without a doubt, a number of radical feminists raised questions about a transwoman speaking at a feminist event – as is their right. It is also the right of the conference organisers to ignore questions raised about a transgender speaker at a trans-inclusive conference.

Personally, I don’t believe that no-platforming is the correct term to use in this particular situation. FiL may be the largest feminist conference in the UK but it is an entirely different situation to the NUS. Julie Bindel was no-platformed by the NUS for being ‘vile’ – not for violating a specific policy but for the judgment ‘vile’ (the fact that Bindel has apologised repeatedly for the article written over 10 years ago is a tiny fact the NUS prefers to ignore). The NUS decision has an impact on all student organisations that receive funds from the NUS across the UK. One conference who have a specific policy on prostitution and pornography choosing not to have speakers who do not support their policies is not the same as a campaign to have someone publicly banned from speaking or writing at student unions, ALL feminist and academic conferences as well as rendering a woman unemployable as has happened to Bindel. There are other feminist conferences in the UK which are not trans-inclusive and ones which see sex work as empowering. Every feminist in the UK is free to create their own conferences -funding is a major impediment but many feminists have overcome this by holding them in women’s houses. You may not be able to get 1500 women into your house but it’s unlikely that any one woman will find 1500 women who agree with them on absolutely everything.0

I also understand why Julie Bindel and Caroline Criado-Perez have chosen not to speak at FiL following Fae’s withdrawal from the conference as both signed the public letter about the no-platforming of feminists written by Bea Campbell. I also signed the letter and disagree that withdrawal was the way forward – feminism being a political movement and not a dictatorship means women get to have different views on how to achieve the goal of liberation of women and fight the no-platforming of non-media friendly feminists.

I wrote parts of the above several days ago but chose not to publish it as I did not want to get embroiled in feminist disagreements amongst women I love and respect. I  was tempted to delete this post even 30 minutes ago but far too many women have been hurt in the past few days that it feels cowardly to stay silent.

Feminism isn’t circle time at kindergarten. We aren’t required to sit in a circle quietly whilst sharing cookies and listening to stories. It’s a political movement that involves anger, trauma, distress, conflicts but also love and support. We need to stop replicating patriarchal language patters and public shaming techniques. We need to lose the perforative aspects of feminism and concentrate on the politics.

 

Whilst the fall-out was happening in numerous online feminist communities, a woman I respect and admire reshared an article called ‘We need to talk about the process’ on Trouble & Strife. I love this quote from the the Black feminist Combahee River Collective in 1977 included in the article. I haven’t had a chance to read the full statement from the Combahee River Collective but it’s on my list for tomorrow:

In the practice of our politics we do not believe that the end always justifies the means. Many reactionary and destructive acts have been done in the name of achieving ‘correct’ political goals. As feminists we do not want to mess over people in the name of politics. We believe in collective process and a non-hierarchal distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society. We are committed to a continual examination of our politics as they develop through criticism, and self-criticism as an essential aspect of our politics.

Recently, I have seen too many reactionary and destructive acts done in the name of real feminism. And, I’ve seen far too many women get hurt in the process.

Sharing information from private groups or posting FB/ twitter conversations for the express purpose of humiliating other women isn’t a feminist act. We need to be able to challenge each other, disagree and be downright horrified by the comments, statements and beliefs of other feminists. Sisterhood doesn’t involve ignoring inappropriate or destructive behaviour and it shouldn’t involve publicly trashing other women.

Public shaming is as damaging to the feminist movement when it is done by radical feminists as when it is done by liberal feminists. No side of feminism has a monopoly on good practice. I know I have fucked up numerous times failing to recognise my own privilege. I also know I’ve stayed quiet too long when I’ve seen women lashing out in anger or trauma but who cross the line into personal attacks. And. I’ve stayed too quiet when those who get pleasure out of causing pain attack a new person. I would like to say it’s because I’ve chosen not to give a bigger platform to someone behaving abusively but mostly it’s been because I’ve been afraid of becoming the target of abuse – even though silence never actually protects you.

Online spaces do so much to share feminist views – ones that are regularly no-platformed and ignored by the mainstream media. These spaces are vital to the health and future of our movement, but so are the individual members and we need to start cutting each other some slack.

The process of liberation matters as much as the end goal. We will not achieve full liberation of women if we continue to treat each other as objects of ridicule or pretend that racism and classism can be viewed as distinct entities from misogyny. Women are harmed as a class but BME women and working class women cannot separate the misogyny they experience from the racism and classism they experience. Ageism and lesbophobia can’t be separated either.

I’ll be at Feminism in London this year because it was the place that I met many incredible radical feminists for the first time. Some I had ‘met’ previously on Mumsnet and others on the day. Being with 1500 women is a powerful experience even if you don’t agree with many of them on issues fundamental to your politics.

None of us are perfect and we all start somewhere. For some women that somewhere is Feminism in London. Being with other women on their journey through feminism is a beautiful thing – painful, frustrating, enraging, but also beautiful.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that other women are hurting too.

 

 

Real feminist sisterhood

It’s very rare that I share positive stories of women here. I spend so much time writing about male violence and celebrity culture that I forget to share the good stuff.

This is the good stuff: an anonymous donor gave a disabled, single mother 10 000 pounds so she can complete her master’s degree.

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The donor is anonymous so we can’t guess as to their biological sex. What we can say is that due to women sharing Diane’s GoFundMe (and whatever spiteful asshole reported it), a brilliant feminist is now going to be able to complete her Master’s degree in criminology to embark on a career helping young people who have been criminalized following substance abuse. This is real sisterhood.

The erasure of lesbians from HIV activism in the 1980s

GayStarNews has just published an article on the consequences of HIV/AIDS to whole families/ communities in the 1980s. This is the most important part of the article which is a direct response to the erasure of lesbian women from HIV/AIDS activism, as well as the unrecognised (and unpaid) they did caring for gay men:

Another Redditor paid tribute to the role of lesbians, calling them ‘every bit as heroic as soldiers on the front lines of any war’.

‘These women walked directly into the fire and through it, and they did not have to. And that they did it even as some of the gay men they took care of treated them with bitchiness, scorn, and contempt.

‘It was, at the time, not at all unusual for gay men to snicker as the bull dyke walked into the bar with her overalls and flannels and fades. Much of the time, it was casual ribbing which they took in stride. But it could also be laced with acid, especially when lesbians began gravitating toward a bar that had until then catered largely to men.

‘When the AIDS crisis struck, it would be many of these same women who would go straight from their jobs during the day to acting as caregivers at night. Because most of them lacked medical degrees, they were generally relegated to the most unpleasant tasks: wiping up puke and shit, cleaning up houses and apartments neglected for weeks and months. But not being directly responsible for medical care also made them the most convenient targets for the devastating anger and rage these men felt – many who’d been abandoned by their own family and friends.

‘These women walked directly into the fire. They came to the aid of gay men even when it was unclear how easily the virus could be transmitted. Transmission via needlestick was still a concern, so they often wore two or three layers of latex gloves to protect themselves, but more than once I saw them, in their haste and frustration, dispense with the gloves so that they could check for fevers, or hold a hand that hung listlessly from the edge of a bed whose sheets they had just laundered.

‘They provided aid, comfort, and medical care to men withering away in hospices, men who’d already lost their lovers and friends to the disease and spent their last months in agony. They’d been abandoned by their own families, and were it not for lesbians – many if not most of them volunteers – they would have suffered alone. And when there was nothing more medicine could do for them and their lungs began to fill with fluid, it was often these same women who’d be left to administer enough morphine to release them, given to them by the doctor who had left the room and would return 15 minutes later to sign the certificate (a common practice at the time).

‘I knew a woman around that time who’d had at one point been making bank in construction. But at the outset of the AIDS crisis she had abandoned her career to pursue nursing instead, and was close to her degree when we were hanging out. She was a big, hearty drinker, and fortunately so was I. We’d been utterly thrashed at a bar once when someone whispered a fairly benign but nonetheless unwelcoming comment about her. Middle fingers were exchanged, and afterwards, furious and indignant, I asked her, Why do you do it? Why did you abandon a career to take care of these assholes who still won’t pay you any respect?

‘She cut me a surprisingly severe look, held it and said, “Honey, because no one else is going to do it.” I remember feeling ashamed after that, because my fury and indignation weren’t going to clean blood and puke off the floor; it wasn’t going to do the shit that needed to get done.

‘HIV killed my friends, took my lover from me, and tore up my life. During that time, I did what I could. But nothing I did then or have ever been called to do in my life puts me anywhere near the example set by the lesbians I knew in the 80s and 90s. I’ve felt obligated to remember what they did, and to make sure other people remember it too.’

Replicating damaging patriarchal language

If I were to discuss the following, you would assume I was talking about children:

  • If you are friends with her, we can’t be friends
  • I won’t talk to you if you talk to her

Instead, I have seen both of the above stated by feminists of all stripes. I’ve seen monitoring of people’s Facebook friends and monitoring conversations on twitter all used as evidence to discredit other feminists. Failure to conform to rigid rules immediately class a woman as a “bad feminist” who is then shunned, mocked and denigrated.

These are the techniques used:

  • Name calling or insults
  • mocking
  • belittlement
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Ignoring or excluding
  • Isolating
  • Humiliating

There is this assumption that is okay to engage in the above if your cause is ‘right’ or ‘good’. The ‘bad’ feminist must then be reminded daily of their failures and how much they disappoint other women – including ones they have never met for the simple crime of not being unnecessarily rude to someone they disagree with politically.

The resemblance to emotionally abusive behaviour perpetrated by men is so obvious and one that we’re not allowed to talk about. Because it’s apparently worse to point out when someone is mocking and isolating women than it is to engage in such abusive behaviour. Instead, we see insinuations of stupidity and removal of women from Facebook groups for asking questions or having the wrong friend.

I do hold feminists to a higher standard because we should know – whether we are radical, liberal, socialist, materialist or whatever – the statistical likelihood that the woman we are speaking to has experienced male violence and that they are living with trauma. Replicating male patterns of speech and emotionally abusive and bullying behaviour isolates vulnerable women and actively harms others.

We do need to recognise that some of the women who use these patterns are doing so because of the way they have internalised their trauma. We need to be able to challenge these women in a way that will not further traumatise them without allowing this behaviour to continue.

But, we also need to stop accepting this type of bullying as ‘normal’ debate tactics.  Posting private messages on Facebook isn’t appropriate behaviour. It is a silencing tactic: disagree with me and I will publicly shame you. Name calling, mocking and belittlement are extremely damaging to women’s mental health – many of us suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD but that isn’t an excuse to behave abusively to other women.

Isolating women from support networks and their friends is classic behaviour for a perpetrator of domestic violence and yet I see it all the time in online feminist groups: political disagreements used to defend the isolation of women.

We cannot liberate women from male violence if we use the same tactics to attack each other.

* A huge thank you to Cath Andrews who talked through this post with me and raised the issue of ‘failure’

Purity Politics and Trashing Women

The brand new A Room of Our Own website is up! And, it’s only taken 14 hours for the trashing to start on Facebook. I was actually surprised; normally it only takes about 2 hours before the “OMG you’ve let trannies in” brigade to start. The “OMG you’ve let TERFS and SWERFS in” hasn’t started, but I haven’t checked my twitter feed this morning. I prefer to leave twitter until after I’ve had caffeine. Plus, I’ve got most of them blocked on twitter – my Facebook wall is open so anyone can post on it, which has its own positives and negatives.

There comes a point when the:

A Room of Our Own is a network open to all feminists and womanists. If I wanted it to reflect my personal politics, I would have reblogged posts I agree with on my blog.

statement becomes tedious with repetition. Reblogging would have been cheaper, less time consuming, and result in less abuse and threats of physical violence. Of course, this is never good enough for some people. Building a platform to share the writing of women who self-identify as feminist and womanist was always going to involve complaints. I knew in advance that it would result in being crapped on. I’ve watched enough feminist social media campaigns get trashed to think it wouldn’t happen to me.

Sometimes I just ignore it, but I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of feminist purity politics. For the record,

I am gender critical.

I believe the sex industry constitutes state-sanctioned violence against women.

I think ‘mother privilege’ is a deeply stupid concept lacking any analysis of women as a class and it completely erases the multiple oppressions faced by many women, including racism, lesbophobia, classism (in materialist sense) and disablism.

White woman who say that misogyny is tolerated when racism isn’t are perpetuating white supremacy. Being a feminist doesn’t magically cure you of socialisation within a white supremacist, capitalist-patriarchy.  It’s not only possible to be a feminist AND racist, it’s pretty much a given (and, no, I don’t exclude myself from this).

Womanism is the logical consequence of a mainstream feminism which erases the voices of othered women.

Men can’t be feminists.

Feminism is about the liberation of women

If you’ve read my blog, you’re probably familiar with my stance on these issues. Hell, the latter half of the above shouldn’t even need to be said.

What I rarely write about is my loathing of feminist purity politics. No woman is born a perfect feminist and I have no time for anyone who thinks they were born perfect.

I would have ignored the most recent criticism of me as a shit feminist for promoting the writing of feminists/womanists that other feminists hate had it not been for the spate of unnecessary twaddle on Facebook recently.  My FB wall is full of posts by women saying “X said this about me” and “Y said that about D” and “you won’t believe what T said about B in group G”.

Frankly, I experienced less ridiculousness in high school – despite being the bullied nerd girl with no real friends for most of it. We absolutely need to be having critical conversations about theory and practise but it doesn’t need sub-tweeting or cryptic posts on FB.

Purity politics only reinforces patriarchal silencing of women. A feminism that involves women too afraid to speak out for fear of being trashed for not being “good enough” isn’t a feminism I want to be part of. No woman is owed an answer to a question they ask other feminists. No woman should be shamed for making compromises in their feminism in order to survive in a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.

If you don’t like the way one woman is engaged in feminist activism, then do it yourself. Complaining that other women are doing it “wrong” is intellectually lazy.

I have lots of friends on FB who cover the whole gamut of feminism. I’ve never felt the urge to post on someone’s wall “YOU’RE WRONG” despite disagreeing with them completely. Because it’s bloody rude. It’s quite possible to have critical discussions about feminist theory without subtweeting and cryptic FB posts. It’s possible to have these discussions without resorting to personal insults and snide remarks. It’s possible to hold disagreements without dragging other people into it. Screen-capping posts from one FB group to another is inherently anti-feminist and violates all the rules about safe spaces.

All women are living with the trauma of male supremacy and we will all replicate the same heteronormative, white supremacist patriarchal structures because socialisation is incredibly powerful. A little bit of recognition and some basic kindness to other women wouldn’t go amiss.

I know this post will loose me friends, but I wouldn’t tolerate this behaviour from my children. I’m certainly not going to accept it from adults.

 

SHINY NEW A ROOM OF OUR OWN HERE