We will not succeed by silencing dissent.

I have been contemplating whether or not to publish this post since the incident described below happened. I have erred on the side of not publishing hoping that things will change but they haven’t. If anything, things are getting worse.

I was reminded of the incident in an email conversation with Jane Fae where I mentioned how distressing I found the situation and then said: We will not succeed by silencing dissent. Jane quoted me in a blog she wrote for the F-Word UK which is what led me to decide to publish this piece. The below post has actually nothing to do with our email conversation or her F-Word blog but it has been preying on my mind and I need to make me feelings clear on this issue. 

I also think it’s important to write about this following my Twitter #FeministLoveIn post yesterday. I firmly believe we need to celebrate online feminism and the incredibly inspiring women who fight the fight against misogyny online. I don’t agree with every opinion held by the women I mentioned but that is the point. We can be feminists and focus on different issues without trashing one another’s activism. We can disagree without resorting to personal insults and attacks. Feminism isn’t one movement. And no one has the right to decide whether or not another person can label themselves a feminist. Discussion is an essential part of feminist activism. Silencing those we disagree with us is just the Patriarchy using women to police women. 

As feminists, we need to acknowledge our differences and celebrate our activism. We will not succeed by silencing dissent.

I have redacted all names from the post below and I will delete any comments which name the women involved.

Several months ago, a teenage feminist tweeted out a question from a webchat. She did not use quotation marks but that is hardly relevant. A teenage girl just tweeted out a question about feminism and language. This teenage girl, who is little more than a child herself, was attacked for asking a question that was deemed unacceptable by adult feminists. 

A teenage girl was verbally abused and harassed into apologising for asking a question by a group of adult women who call themselves feminists. 

When did feminism get to the point that asking questions was considered anti-feminist?

When did feminism get to the point that a child cannot ask a question?

When did feminism get to the point that a child asking a question was considered worthy of verbal abuse?

Verbal abuse is just that: abuse.

It is bullying.

It is completely unacceptable behaviour, especially when the victim is a child.

Feminism will not succeed by silencing dissent.

And, feminism certainly won’t succeed when adult women think they have the right to verbally abuse a child for committing the crime of asking a question.

My feminism does not punish children for asking questions. It does not punish other women for asking questions. I’m struggling to understand how any woman who treats a child in such an abusive can label themselves a feminist. It is certainly not part of any feminist movement I want to be part of. Basic kindness and respect should be the basis of feminist interactions with other feminists. Trashing a campaign for the sake of it (as seen in the aftermath of the #Banknotes win for The Women’s Room UK) aren’t feminism.

My feminism is about supporting women and liberating women from male violence. Harassing and verbally abusing those we disagree with isn’t feminism. It is women replicating the abuse perpetuated by the Patriarchy. Whilst I will continue to celebrate the activism and wins of women whose goals I am not support, I will not be silent when feminists use abusive behaviour to silence other women.

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