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

 

Feminism is about liberating women; not who your friends are

On Friday morning, between getting myself ready for work and my child ready for school, I was tweeted an article on the BBC about a report from the Home Affairs Select Committee which recommended anonymity for rapists. I was horrified. Anonymity for rape suspects is incredibly dangerous for all sorts of reasons – starting with the fact that rapists have a huge rate of recidivism and a very low rate of conviction. Because of misogyny. Rapists commit rape knowing that the general public, the media and the police will label their victims a liar or insist she was partly responsible for the rape for the crime of being born a girl.

I was so angry, I started a petition. Whilst I was writing it, I saw a tweet with a press release from the End Violence Against Women coalition so I added their quotes into the text of the petition.

I started the petition because I was angry. I assumed other women would be angry too. I was a bit surprised at the low numbers of people signing the petition, but I hoped it would be a slow-burner with the lack of signatures due to starting the petition during a solar eclipse.

I was really shocked and hurt to discover on Saturday morning that the reason the petition wasn’t being shared publicly was because a high profile media feminist refused to sign and share it because she doesn’t like me. It’s a petition asking the Home Affairs Select Committee review their recommendation on anonymity for suspects in rape cases – a recommendation made with no research-based evidence, just vague worries about the reputation of rapists. It never occurred to me that there would be anything so controversial about this petition that people wouldn’t share it because they don’t like me.

Yet, this is what happened. The petition wasn’t shared by a high-profile feminist because she doesn’t like me. When questioned, the answer changed to “because it’s not well-written”. I wrote the petition in 15 minutes as that’s all the time I had on Friday to do so. I’m a single disabled mother – my time is limited due to caring responsibilities and my disability. I wanted to get it out as soon as possible to challenge the inevitable media coverage of men feeling sad for being accused of rape – as though the real problem in rape was the rapist’s feelings rather than the fact that a woman was raped.

Now, I’m hearing others say the same thing: they can’t sign because the petition “wasn’t written well” – an answer that smacks of classism and disablism. Under this argument, only women who have Russell group university education will be allowed to engage in public activism. After all, a rogue comma could destroy the feminist movement completely since bad grammar is a bigger sin that anonymity for rape victims.

As a disabled woman who has written at length on my experiences dealing with the brain fog associated with fibromyalgia, I find this idea that women refuse to sign my petition as its “poorly written” humiliating. I know that my illness has affected my writing and my ability to talk coherently (especially when tired as I start to lose words or use the wrong ones). I’ve been really open about how hard it is as someone who loves writing to be unable to put my thoughts out coherently: that what ends up on the paper isn’t what was in my head because of the way the fibromyalgia has effected the ability of my brain to communicate clearly. It’s also effected my ability to speak since I lose words and have huge pauses in between words (that I don’t realise is happening). I also find it difficult to process what is being said to me when tired: I know people are talking but I can’t hear the actual words and, even when I can hear some of the words, my brain can’t actually process the message. When it’s this bad, the only thing I can do is nap. This isn’t exactly conducive to mothering or being a writer.

Hence, the humiliation and hurt at being told that my petition isn’t shareable because it isn’t well-written. Because I have a disability that is slowly destroying my life. I know that it isn’t being shared because this particular woman doesn’t like me – not because of the writing style. But, it doesn’t make it less humiliating when people are being told it’s because it’s ‘poorly-written’.

Feminism is a political movement to liberate women. It isn’t about who your friends are or who is a good writer. It’s about changing the world to make it safer for women. That’s why I started my petition to the Home Affairs Select Committee. And, that’s why I hope everyone will sign it.

Julie Bindel: “The deradicalisation of the lesbian liberation movement and unholy alliance with gay men”

This is a very interesting speech given by activist Julie Bindel at FemiFest 2014 about the women’s liberation movement, lesbian liberation movement and the failure of  the mainstream gay rights movement to support lesbian women.