Feminist Witch Hunts, when witches hunt each other

The silencing of women comes in many forms, but perhaps the most difficult to explain is when that silencing comes from other feminists. Other feminists you respect and share many of the same views with.

We need robust debate in feminism, we need rage, but when we turn on each other to the degree of personally tearing each other apart, then we need to get some perspective. We’re all still women; we ALL still suffer enough at the hands of patriarchy without torturing each other. And having a different view on a variety of subjects does not turn us into each others enemy. What’s so wrong with constructive criticism, debate and disagreement?

Wasn’t debate once called ‘healthy’ ?

It seems however that response to disagreement now commonly leads to various forms of bullying and abuse. Being online can empower women to say the things many of us feel unable to say in the outside world. But obviously this has a potentially huge downside too.

It’s very easy to spit venom into the face of a computer and not the actual face of a fellow human being, the fellow women we claim to want to support and protect. We often have zero idea about the impact of our words or the circumstances surrounding the women receiving these. I think few of us, in reality could deal with the actual consequences first hand because that would make us into actual not virtual bullies. And obviously being online pleasantly removes us from ever having to deal with that potentially unsettling and uncomfortable scenario.

So we can act responsibility here…or not, its a choice we make.

My own experience recently was it being heavily implied that I wasn’t a feminist and I was complicit in male violence. This was for the ‘crime’ of bringing up the (obviously untouchable) subject of privilege/difference between women and how that can skew interpretation in communication. In my view its an important subject to talk about because ideas of good/ bad communication can vary. Someone telling you to ‘play nicely’ by their own  cultural/class standards can be oppressive, blah, blah….We don’t need to be told to be ‘nice’, we need to be more fucking understanding of each other and more fucking self aware (and I include myself here too)….

The kind of personally abusive/point scoring response I got is fairly typical online and I’m not saying I’m a special case- quite the opposite. That a stranger feels empowered enough to so negatively sum up and dismiss another woman’s life/politics is pretty common stuff. We’re supposed to dust ourselves down, take it and move on aren’t we? And we all just clap like seals at the circus or give the thumbs up/thumbs down like some sick bloodthirsty audience participation sport..

Yet we all hate online abuse …?

The reality is its actually ‘political’ (e.g. friends get passes of course, passive aggressive doesn’t count)  – it very much depends who is saying it. It’s tribal, because it depends which group has most support/power but most of all……………… its bollocks.

Aren’t we just mimicking the abuse, hierarchies, domination and power dynamics of men here? Isn’t it time to start dealing with our own online behaviour with some fucking honestly?Because if we don’t, we’re doing the patriarchs dirty work for them…we’re killing feminism and hurting women in the process….

A stranger online says I am not a feminist. ….. I was at Greenham, I supported my het sisters on abortion rights over years, I’ve spent years organising feminist empowerment workshops for young women/girls, I supported my fellow lesbians against Clause 28, I’ve helped organise many local feminist events, arts weekends, reclaim the night marches etc, I’ve spent the last 7 years supporting the women imprisoned in Yarlswood and local female asylum seekers and now help run a multicuural women’s group. I’ve been briefly imprisoned, thrown down stone steps, attacked, etc, etc etc for my nearly 40 years of supporting women…yet a stranger online says I am not a feminist….

We’re witches hunting each other on an absolutely ludicrous and pointlessly destructive basis…. when what we really need is to Get. Fucking. Real.

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Why be liberated when you can be ‘normal’?? A lesbian proposing NO to gay Marriage…..

I’m writing this in the light of the recent celebrations over the Irish ‘yes’ vote for same-sex marriage.

….And by writing this I’m not judging or condemning anyone’s personal choices in terms of gay marriage. I have fellow gay friends who have recently married, something incredibly important to them and I utterly respect that.

I’m also aware of the obvious benefits of expanding the human rights of gay people in a homophobic society, of highlighting inequality and oppressive ideals.

However, focusing on ‘marriage’ as a form of equality for gay people, in my opinion, is misleading.

As a feminist, marriage is not something I endorse in heterosexual terms. It’s a patriarchal institution with an obvious connection to gendered oppression. It still reeks of crimes against women, of females being passed as if goods between men, of women being robbed of their rights and property, of women forced into undervalued and oppressive roles laced with impossible expectations, of female economic dependence, of state endorsed violation of female bodies, of legal violence and sexual violence etc……
In the light of this, viewing this as a positive institution I’d like to share in is bloody difficult!

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Obviously same-sex marriage would preclude these specific gendered oppressive circumstances. However it also creates a similar premise for a lack of autonomy for the individual, for abuse to occur (e.g. economic control of one partner by another), for roles and expectations etc, for isolation. It supports the idea of the ideal lifestyle in terms of a conveniently conservative model for living, …..the nuclear family…. family values…

….all wrapped up with state incentives…

and maybe we should ask ourselves why?

As a feminist I don’t want equality for women, I want liberation. There’s no such thing as equality under patriarchy and while women have grudgingly been allowed certain human rights over the past century, our overall oppression still remains. The same can be said about the gay and lesbian community. In the 1970’s we wanted gay LIBERATION, not tokenism, and certainly not offers of pseudo ‘equality’ by hetero blueprint……..

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I find the push for gay marriage under the banner of ‘choice’ uncomfortable. …As for women and any oppressed groups especially, ‘choice’ can be an extremely loaded term. Do we really have freedom here? Or are we being sold this as ‘our choice’ – something which is in reality extremely limiting……?

Why be liberated when you can be ‘normal’??

Are we being guided away from exploring alternative and potentially more freeing ways of living and conducting our relationships? This could be particularly helpful for women as lesbian mothers e.g. exploring a more collective /communal approach to childcare for example….

And for all of us in terms of not viewing our relationships as often unrealistically lifelong monogamous commitments……  Or viewing long term relationships as necessitating neat models of cohabitation….. etc etc etc.

Again, if same-sex marriage is what individuals want, then of course I’ll respect our differing approaches and opinions. As a lesbian I wanted a YES vote in Ireland…..for any society to want to improve the rights of gay people is important.

However, I do think we should at least be questioning what’s on offer here.

When right-wing men like David Cameron are on your side its time to start asking yourself………….. WHY?

some interesting reading:

http://www.thenation.com/article/205049/theres-reason-gay-marriage-winning-while-abortion-rights-are-losing

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/11/gay-marriage-equality-tolerance-discrimination?CMP=share_btn_tw

http://feministcurrent.com/12006/why-im-not-celebrating-irelands-legalization-of-gay-marriage-as-a-win-for-equality/

Posted in culture, feminism, gay, lesbian | Tagged , | 4 Comments

No God, No Boss, No Husband

– No God, No Boss, No Husband:
The world’s first explicitly anarchist-feminist group was created as part of the thriving nineteenth-century Anarchist movement in Argentina. It produced the first anarcha-feminist newspaper, La Voz de la Mujer. Sadly, the history of anarchist-feminism in Argentina has rarely been acknowledged, at best mentioned in passing, at worse ignored or forgotten.
La Voz de la Mujer was published in Buenos Aires only nine times, beginning on January 8, 1896 and ending almost exactly one year later on New Year’s Day. Its donors included “Women Avengers Group,” “One Who Wants to Fill a Cannon with the Heads of the Bourgeois,” “Long Live Dynamite,” “Long Live Free Love,” “A Feminist,” “A Female Serpent to Devour the Bourgeois,” “Full of Beer,” “A Man Friendly to Women.”

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Most of it was written in Spanish, with only occasional items in Italian. This is not surprising, as it was primarily from Spain that anarchist feminism came to Argentina. Even the feminist material in the Italian press was written largely by Spanish authors. Another version of the paper and bearing its name was published in the provincial town of Rosario (its editor, Virginia Bolten was the only woman known to have been deported in 1902 under the Residence Law, which gave the government the power to expel immigrants active in political organizations). Another La Voz de la Mujer was published in Montevideo, where Bolten was exiled to.
La Voz de la Mujer described itself as “dedicated to the advancement of Communist Anarchism.” Its central theme was that of the multiple nature of women’s oppression. An editorial asserted, “We believe that in present-day society nothing and nobody has a more wretched situation than unfortunate women.” Women, they said, were doubly oppressed – by bourgeois society and by men. Its feminism can be seen from its attack on marriage and upon male power over women. Its contributors, like anarchist feminists elsewhere, developed a concept of oppression that focused on gender oppression. Marriage was a bourgeois institution which restricted women’s freedom, including their sexual freedom. Marriages entered into without love, fidelity maintained through fear rather than desire, oppression of women by men they hated – all were seen as symptomatic of the coercion implied by the marriage contract. It was this alienation of the individual’s will that the anarchist feminists deplored and sought to remedy, initially through free love and then, and more thoroughly, through social revolution.
La Voz de la Mujer was a paper written by women for women, it was an independent expression of an explicitly feminist current within South America’s labour movement and was one of the first recorded instances of the fusion of feminist ideas with a revolutionary and working-class orientation. As with Emma Goldman, Louise Michel and Voltairine de Cleyre, it differed from the mainstream feminism by being a working class movement which placed the struggle against patriarchy as part of a wider struggle against economic and social classes and hierarchies. It was not centred on educated middle-class women, whose feminism was dismissed as a “bourgeois” or “reformist.”Anarchist feminism emerged in Buenos Aires in the 1890s, where the growth of the economy increased the demand for labour which was satisfied through immigration on a vast scale. The largest ethnic group were the Italians, followed by the Spaniards and French. It was among these immigrant communities that the group producing La Voz de la Mujer arose and was active. As with elsewhere in the Americas, Anarchism was originally imported by immigrants from the European countries in which there was a strong Anarchist movement – Italy, Spain, and France. Anarchist groups and publications first emerged in the 1860s and the 1870s and, due to the social conditions in Argentina, found fertile soil. Like the immigrant communities they were part of, the anarchists formed an integral part of the working class movement in Argentina and shaping its ideas and struggles. The anarchists helped form some of the first unions, organising strikes and demonstrations. In the 1880s and 1890s there were sometimes as many as 20 Anarchist papers being published at any one time, in French, Spanish, and Italian.

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La Voz de la Mujer appeared after half a century of continuous Anarchist activity. It was part of the communist-anarchist tradition and was dedicated to the overthrow of the existing society and the creation of a new, just, and egalitarian social order organized on the principle of “from each according to ability, to each according to need.” As was the case elsewhere, a distinctive feminist current developed with the main impulse for anarchist feminism coming from Spanish activists (however, Italian exiles like Errico Malatesta and Pietro Gori gave support to feminist ideas in their journals and articles). Equal pay for women was raised as a demand and supported by a significant number of labour unions in the Argentine Workers’ Federation in 1901.
La Voz de la Mujer militant anti-reformist stance aroused response among women workers in the cities of Buenos Aires, La Plata, and Rosario, as it lasted a year and printed between 1,000 and 2,000 copies of each issue, a respectable number for an Anarchist paper of its time. Its editors were drawn from the large Spanish and Italian communities and identified themselves with the women of the working class. Its distinctiveness as an Anarchist paper lay in its recognition of the specificity of women’s oppression.
It called upon women to mobilise against their subordination both as women and as workers. Its first editorial was a passionate rejection of women’s lot:“fed up as we are with so many tears and so much misery; fed up with the never ending drudgery of children (dear though they are); fed up with asking and begging; of being a plaything for our infamous exploiters or vile husbands, we have decided to raise our voices in the concert of society and demand, yes, demand our bit of pleasure in the banquet of life. ”Its appearance received a mixed response from the rest of the Anarchist movement, ranging from silence and hostility to praise. One paper gave it a particularly warm welcome, stating that “a group of militant women have unfurled the red flag of anarchy and intend to publish a magazine for propaganda among those who are their comrades both in work and in misery. We greet the valiant initiators of this project, and at the same time we call on all our comrades to support them.” This was unsurprising, as a substantial section of the Anarchist press was sympathetic to feminist issues at this time. The mid-1890s in Argentina saw increasing coverage of issues relating to women’s equality and in particular to marriage, the family, prostitution, and the domination of women by men. Some papers even published special series of pamphlets devoted to “the woman question.” La Questione Sociale, the Italian-language paper founded by Malatesta when he came to Argentina in 1883, published a series of pamphlets “especially dedicated to an analysis of women’s issues.” Thejournal Germinal, which first appeared in 1897, was particularly concerned with the “woman question” and carried several articles under the general heading of “Feminism,” and it defended “the extremely revolutionary and just character of feminism” against the charge that it was merely a creation of “elegant little ladies.” Much if not all of the feminist material in the Anarchist press appears to have been written by women.

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Yet this apparent sympathy for feminism in principle within the Anarchist ranks was matched by substantial opposition in practice. The first issue of La Voz de la Mujer seems to have aroused considerable hostility, because in the following issue the editors attacked the antifeminist attitudes prevalent among men in the movement in no uncertain terms. As they put it:
“When we women, unworthy and ignorant as we are, took the initiative and published La Voz de la Mujer, we should have known, Oh modem rogues, how you would respond with your old mechanistic philosophy to our initiative. You should have realized that we stupid women have initiative and that is the product of thought. You know – we also think . . . The first number of La Voz de la Mujer appeared and of course, all hell broke loose: ‘Emancipate women? For what?’ ‘Emancipate women? Not on your nelly!’ . . . ‘Let our emancipation come first, and then, when we men are emancipated and free, we shall see about yours.’” The editors concluded that women can hardly rely upon men to take the initiative in demanding equality for women, given this kind of hostile attitude. The same issue contains an article entitled “To the Corrupters of the Ideal” in which men are warned, “You had better understand once and for all that our mission is not reducible to raising your children and washing your clothes and that we also have a right to emancipate ourselves and to be free from all kinds of tutelage, whether economic or marital.” The editorial in the third issue emphasised that they were attacking not male Anarchist comrades in general but only those “false Anarchists” who failed to defend “one of Anarchism’s most beautiful ideals – the emancipation of women.” The editors’ outrage was justified given that Anarchism advocated freedom and equality for all humankind, not just men. As women were oppressed by patriarchy they, as an oppressed group, could rightly demand support from fellow Anarchists in their struggle for emancipation. However, for many male anarchists such issues could be ignored until “after the revolution” a position the editors of La Voz de la Mujer rightly rejected as self-serving. Unsurprisingly, Anarchism, more than other schools of socialism with their emphasis on economic exploitation, was able to accommodate the struggle against patriarchy. However, this theoretical support for feminism was more often than not associated with sexism in practice.
It is not difficult to see why feminists were attracted to Anarchism and why they were so rightly opposed to male anarchist hypocrisy. Its key ideas stress the….
struggle against authority, including the power exercised over women in marriage and the family. All anarchists should be seeking freedom within relationships. The Anarchist emphasis on oppression and on power relations opened up a space within which women could be seen simultaneously as the victims of class society and as the victims of male authority. As La Voz de la Mujer expressed it in its fourth issue: “We hate authority because we aspire to be human beings and not machines directed by the will of ‘another,’ be this authority, religion, or any other name.” Its aim is best summed up when one of its supporters signed herself “No God, No Boss, No Husband.”

from http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/no-god-no-boss-no-husband

anna3

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Why ‘Pornography is [ NOT ] good for you’ Peter Tatchell

In recent days the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has stated that ‘pornography is good for you’. Once again we see a lefty male make anti-feminist/anti women pronouncements without seemingly any understanding of the harm of this ….but yes, with all the authority his privileged educated white male status affords him.

Where to even start………?

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Pornography as ‘educational’  … Yes, the fantasies, narratives and troupes embedded in heterosexual pornography largely teach boys, girls, men and women:

the priority of the male perspective.

that dominators are men and that the dominated are women (and/or children).

that female sexual agency is irrelevant, ignored, eradicated.

that men never ever fail to get what they want.

that bodies should look a certain way.

that male sexuality is based on cruelty, coercion and degradation and female sexuality is a response to this. e.g. enjoyment of cruelty, coercion and degradation.

that women and girls are viewed as worthless ‘whores’, ‘sluts’ ‘bitches’, ‘fuck toys’ ‘fuck holes’, ‘dirty’, ‘filthy’…….

etc etc etc….

Peter talks about condemning violence towards women in pornography- yet this is the reality of even the ‘mainstream’ het porn many are watching on a daily basis and from a very, very young age. Criticism of such has nothing to do with prudery, as Tatchell also (predictably!) suggested, but is to highlight the misogynistic violence and hatred both often either suggested or openly presented in much of its content. Normalising of these negative and brutal ideas and imagery can only cause harm in the minds of men and boys and do much, much worse to women and girls.

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It is true, and very much to the point, that women are objects, commodities, some deemed more expensive than others ’. From Woman Hating

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Pornography isn’t just a fantasy either. What is depicted on screen is happening to real women. That’s why we must listen to the voices of exited women. We must acknowledge that exploitation, trafficking, coercion, racism, homophobia, violence including sexual violence etc are very much part of an ‘industry’ which thrives on the values of domination and misogyny.

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It is a fundamental human right to be free of sexual exploitation in all its forms. Women and girls have the right to sexual integrity and autonomy’. CATW

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While personally being very wary of attaching the word ‘feminist’ to ‘pornography’ especially in an on-going patriarchal culture, Tatchell talks about ‘feminist porn’ as ethical (- holding up one article he has presumably just found on the net!). Does he use feminist porn? Do many other men?? Yet this is the one example we are given as ‘good pornography’…..
When Tatchell talks of ‘non-abusive porn’ what does he mean? How can common depictions of fantasies/reality involving the often violent subordination of women be described as ‘non-abusive’? How many men and boys, for example, prioritise ‘ethicalness’ when searching for porn anyway?

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Pornography is the epitome of male entitlement.

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Tatchell talks about ‘consensual pornography’. Issues of consent are very complex, involving anything from economic to societal, patriarchal and gendered factors and pressures. Consent and choice are not necessarily aligned. Also how does a viewer discern consensual and non-consensual pornography anyway? Any porn site may involve those who are non-consensual, trafficked, drugged, raped, beaten or underage. Does the viewer even care?

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Tatchell also highlights amateur porn as somehow ‘better’ than pornography produced through more corporate means. Amateur porn, which largely follows the misogynistic narratives, values and standards created by corporate porn anyway, has even less ‘regulation’ than that which is produced by the so called ‘sex industry’. How is that positive?
Tatchell sees porn use as beneficial. He highlights people with disabilities as needing a sexual outlet as one example of where porn can do good. Firstly he is speaking ‘on behalf’ of a group of very diverse people. Many people with disabilities, as many other people, live fulfilled lives without the use of porn. Secondly, no one has an automatic right to be involved in the exploitation of others for their own sexual gratification. (When I suggested to Tatchell that people with disabilities who were isolated should have a right to a social life, not porn, he answered by saying that society is ‘screwed up’ so this wouldn’t happen….. What, therefore is the point of trying to improve society and any human rights, including gay rights? Is any social problem really ‘solved’ with another?).

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The arguments Tatchell uses to endorse such a statement are repetitions of many men who wish to justify their own porn use – clearly viewing the world as if it is exists to cater for their own privileged requirements and indulgences…..under the usual ‘progressive’ banner.

What may be perceived as ‘good for you’ Peter, or for any white privileged ‘progressive’ male, is not so good for those who are coerced into sexual activity they don’t want through the narratives of porn, those who have their bodies held up to ‘porn standards’, and all those who may be exploited, trafficked, raped and subjugated as a result of pornography.

note…..

Striving for social justice and defending pornography are two things which are inherently contradictory’. Maggie Hayes.

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(Artwork by Barbara Kruger)

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Owen Jones, Privilege, Revisionism and Contemporary Bandwagons.

This week, online, has all been about a letter against no-platforming and in support of free speech. Though the letter did not state any particular viewpoint other than this, of those who signed (men, women, transwomen), many were then subjected to a barrage of harassment, abuse and even death threats. Some who signed stated they had been reduced to tears and their thoughts turned to permanently keeping quiet…..

So welcome to the reality of speaking out. This sort of wrath and punishment is all too familiar to gender critical feminists. In fact silencing has been a weapon used against all women including feminists for centuries – but now silencing is becoming real. It can touch anyone……

But rather than oppose such tactics,  the reaction of many has been (worryingly) to appease…. As a result of that letter and subsequent backlash, suddenly a number of high profile, mainly media-savvy men, for example, have been rushing to pledge various forms of ‘support’….. not for ‘that letter’ and free speech – no. Because speech has always been free for privileged white men……. (Unless it challenges that position of course…)…..

…..instead we get articles like this one from journalist Owen Jones – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/18/stonewall-trans-issues-neglected-progressives

‘Support’, it seems, means bowing down to both often bullying and irrational positions. No mention that discussion is not allowed on where this leaves women and their safe spaces, and the toxic existence of violence associated with male socialisation. No discussion is allowed when reality and history are twisted to suit, while adding to the erasure of women and the erasure of lesbians, (but hey, when did the L actually have a true voice in the LGBT movement anyway?).

Owen Jones from, his position of privilege, nevertheless goes on to highlight ‘one of history’s little tragic ironies’ suggesting lesbians like me should be grateful for……erm – the Stonewall Riots as a……. ‘Trans riot’??…. (e.g. Revisionist history to suit a contemporary TA agenda….)

One of the central participants in the riots was actually Stormé DeLarverie – largely ignored for this fact by LGBT history because she was a woman, a lesbian and a WOC. A tiny part in the history of the silencing of women……. While being central in the ‘civil rights disobedience’ (her own words) of Stonewall, Stormé was also part of the gay scene of NY, at the time working as a drag king performer.

(Before she is also rewritten into ‘trans history’……she was a woman and a lesbian, later working to support women who had been abused in DV.  She died last year….There is a contemporary trend to re-asses and appropriate much of lesbian history as ‘trans’. For example, many lesbians from history who wore perceived ‘masculine clothes’ are now being interpreted under the trans banner. This disregards the fact that these people themselves clearly identified as lesbians, and as women. The reason for any women to ‘cross dress’ historically are complex and varied but incorporate reasons from lesbian ‘codes’/identity, to performance, to emancipation and sheer bloody practicality. To understand this you need to look deeper than mere surface appearance. You need to understand female and lesbian oppression – a point both missing from much of TA and from general debate due to…….. well…….silencing).

The Stonewall riots have been well documented as involving ‘drag queens’. This was part of the scene that Stormé also occupied. Drag Queens by definition are also performers – as was Stormé, who mostly identify in everyday life as men, often gay men. In recent times many have included performers such as Thomas Neuwirth as ‘trans’, a man who has clearly stated he is both a gay man and drag act – adopting the stage name ‘Conchita Wurst’.

Here we have Stormé talking about her life- note the male performers, the former drag queens, talking as men about their performance…… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_6W6hEzzFM

It is not only this re-writing of history, but a re-writing of reality, which seems to underpin much of TA. And like the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ we are not only expected to be silent on these matters, but also endorse much of the charade – or ………. as well as threats, blocking debate, silencing….. have journalists like Owen Jones telling  me as a feminist and a lesbian I’m neglecting ‘the cause of trans people’.

In a week where I’ve personally been trying to support a woman who has suffered extreme violence/control from not only her husband and father, but also from the state due to the fact that she was born female…..and in a week where I’ve been asked to attend the inquest of a woman (a lesbian) who committed suicide after a campaign of harassment from a man….. 

….Owen Jones….please fuck off.

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Why I don’t agree with the article – ‘Becoming a Woman: Trans Women and Male Violence’.

First of all I want to make it clear that this is not a personal attack on Caroline Criado-Perez. I just don’t agree with many aspects of her article:

‘Becoming a Woman: Trans Women and Male Violence’. https://weekwoman.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/becoming-a-woman-trans-male-violence/

Though our views may vary, I understand that feminism encompasses differing views and strategies. I do however believe in healthy debate within feminism on subjects and a right to differ. I do understand her views were based on personal experience and respect that. However, as an influential writer, I also find they somewhat endorse an existing dangerous and damaging precedent.

As I’ve said before where ever you stand on ‘the trans issue’ within feminism, you cannot deny difference. Women and transwomen ARE different, whether in terms of socialisation, health, biology, social/political history and so on. The experience of being a woman is not something transwomen will ever know, nor vice versa. It is biologically impossible for someone born male to ‘become a woman’ no matter what is done to a body or outward appearance. Unless of course if you believe, in what my view is, very worrying ideas about ‘innate gender’ and ‘female brains’ etc that is …..

Actually being a woman is a particular experience and as women we have a basic right to own this.

Even using this article’s title therefore, in my opinion, really undermines the reality of womanhood. It projects the oppressive notion that womanhood is something which may be synthetically imposed and dismisses it as an actual valid experience. Yes, women are different too and it is important to define ourselves by these hugely impacting differences. But all women share basic aspects of being female and all women as a class are still universally oppressed by the misogyny embedded in patriarchy.

When those born male transition, they do not experience womanhood as a result, but that of being a transwoman. This may provoke abuse and violence, but as transwomen have said themselves, this is not (straightforward) misogyny but often linked to oppression such as homophobia (- and there is obviously a complex debate about how this manifests). Transwomen therefore simply can not  ‘reveal …. what it means to become a woman’’. They can only ever reveal the experience of transwomen.

To state otherwise is to add to a world already intent on erasing the reality of actual womanhood.

For me and many others, it is a basic imperative of our feminism to acknowledge the people who actually and truly can relate this reality. From the complexities of female socialisation, to living within patriarchal societies, to particular oppression, health issues, education etc etc etc…….we learn from ourselves and other women. We learn from the women who came before us. We learn from women from many cultures.

We learn from women.

No one born male can do that for us and this is particularly important in a world where ideals of ‘womanhood’ are continually, oppressively, destructively ascribed to us – by men.

I personally abhor all forms of male violence and have stood up against it in many forms, for many years, for many different people. There’s certainly nothing wrong with empathy. However it’s also imperative to view the bigger picture in feminism and the impact of our individual voices for women as a class.

In a world in which those socialised in male gender roles are themselves responsible for most of the violence towards everyone, this is not an issue of personal compassion. It is about basic survival for women and protecting a recognised, valued state of actual womanhood.

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Set Her Free – End Detention For Women Refugees Now

Set Her Free – End Detention For Women Refugees Now

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Please sign the petition from Meltem Avcil (an ex child detainee of Yarl’s Wood), calling to end detention of women seeking asylum in the UK:
https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-…

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When women attack feminists – self-hate in a woman hating culture

As feminists, when we stand together to challenge the misogyny embedded in our culture we have learned to expect to face the patriarchs, the MRAs and the violence and ignorance of men. However sometimes we find ourselves confronted on such issues by other women who will side with the sexism of men. Women who will vehemently uphold, for example,  rape myths, to the detriment of every female victim of rape and actually – all women.

In a culture of misogyny in which they too are intrinsically and literally greatly harmed, this can be shocking to us all.

So why?

Women of course can and do internalise the misogyny inherent in the world.

Firstly, females are socialised from birth to act in accordance with their subjugation according to the hierarchy of gender. ‘Femininity’,  so the dictionary tells us,  is simply ‘the quality of being female; womanliness’, yet gender roles still teach us that ‘good little girls’ = quiet, polite, obedient and dutiful care givers.

In opposition boys can be and will be…..well ‘boys’ – a back slapping, lauded term often applied to loud, anti-social, violent displays of masculinity.

Such socialisation, in turn, enables an incredibly easy route to social and cultural subjugation of women, including potential and actual female victim-hood at the whims of individual men and men as a class. Our own everyday experience as women tells us we are lesser than men.
Secondly, we are also surrounded by a culture which not only bombards us with the ideals of a gendered hierarchy but also enacts such oppression. From the law to the media and advertising, the narrative and reality of misogyny is constant…..

…..and so misogyny is normalised.

And as ‘good, little girls’ it is not our place to upset the status quo…. we must in fact …..comply.

In turn, women’s self-hate is perpetuated in a woman hating culture.

Misogyny plays a central role in patriarchy. It enables the violence of men to woman. It is the basis of the idea of the superiority of one sex over another.

Misogyny is especially powerful at teaching women to hate their own femaleness and to support the much more applauded values of masculinity.
bell hooks describes internalized sexism as “the enemy within” and explains that women have been socialised by the patriarchy to “judge [themselves and each] other without compassion and punish one another harshly.”

The more women internalise misogynistic imagery and viewpoints, the more we are embedded in patriarchal structures, the harder it is to challenge male privilege and patriarchy as a destructive system. Misogyny also teaches women to appease men as an act of survival.

If we don’t comply and are not obeying the rules of the ‘good girl’ however, as feminists we are often faced with anything from non-acceptance, to harassment and male violence.

We are often labelled as trouble makers (even ‘mobs’!).  So why do such judgments sometimes come from other women, women our campaigns are designed to support and protect?

This is a complex issue and depends very much on the circumstances.

However, for women seeking status, working in male dominated industries for example, putting other women down can be an act of self-enhancement, within the limited confines of female ‘control’. To actually achieve a form of ‘acceptance’ in a patriarchal world, it may be perceived as ‘a wise move’ to comply with the ideals of those who wield the power. This may be pivotal in terms of many forms of social acceptance and career ‘success’- from promotion to economic gain for women.

But the question is when women attack and judge other women, who are challenging misogyny, rape culture and male violence etc…

who actually gains from this?

Partly from my zine ‘Women-Hating Culture’

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What’s wrong with men like Ally Fogg?

Ally Fogg is a journalist who often writes articles in the Guardian and Independent. His profile highlights his interests in ‘social issues, environmentalism, politics, music, arts and culture’. He writes about poverty and men in floral shirts. He may be described as a ‘lefty’ politically.

So far so good…..?

He also has a preoccupation with appearing to want to demonize and discredit both feminists and feminism. Mr Fogg seems to spend an awful lot of his time trawling through feminist blogs and twitter timelines for quotes and articles he can brandish under the banner of ‘man hate’.

So here we are…… back to that old chestnut… pesky ‘man haters’.

So what’s wrong with that?

He’s being an ‘equalist’, simply pointing out the injustices men face in an unjust world – apparently overrun with a focus on women. How unfair. How unequal. How dare feminists willfully spend their time challenging the oppression of females to the apparent detriment of males? How absolutely awful, how lacking in ‘concern’ and ‘decency’.

Well, perhaps we can start by defining what feminism is.

Firstly, there’s a clue in the name. It’s a movement primarily concerned with the rights of women while challenging the cultural, social, historical, structural, systematic oppression of females as a class – globally.

So why should feminists make an apology for this?

Do gay activists primarily promoting the idea of gay rights need to apologise for highlighting violence again the gay community? Are they berated for ‘a lack of concern’ for heterosexuals, who may also be the victims of violence, even from gay people?

As a white person, I could spend some time trawling through the blogs and tweets of black rights activists….. and I’m sure I’d find some pretty anti-white sentiments posted. I could be an ‘equalist’. I could take this personally, be defensive, sad, angry….I could tweet this as ‘white hate’.

So why don’t I? Not because I claim to fully understand the effects of racism …..but because I do at least try to understand I’d be viewing the world as if privilege and power didn’t exist and basing my views totally through my experience as a white person and white perspective. I’d be dismissing and ignoring a whole context of racism and racist cultural, social, historical, structural, systematic oppression.

So why are feminists particularly, and not others activists, so often the target of this sort of demonizing by ‘lefty’ men like Alley Fogg?

So why not, for example, target the many trans activists/allies who regularly post extreme abuse on blogs and twitter, such as threatening to burn, rape, stab, torture, murder women they disagree with….? Could it be that violence towards women is more acceptable than an unwillingness for women to accept their subordination?

Could it be that female oppression isn’t really ‘a thing’ or certainly not a priority?

Could it be that most other activism involves males/those socialised as male, and therefore is more deserving of empathy and understanding – even if threatening and/or abusive?

Could it be that feminists are daring not to fulfill male expectations?

Could it be the assumption that women who don’t show absolute compassion for all are not actually fulfilling their ‘caring, self-disregarding’ gender roles?

Could it be that the focus is somehow not in the place it has ‘rightfully’ always been and always should be…..?

Or could it be that it’s always simply easier to attack feminists for problems largely caused by men………..??

So what of the issues men like Ally Fog raise? Fogg himself has, for example, used one blog post about one apparent male victim of female sexual violence, to highlight the utter condemnation of all radical feminists. (Whatever opinion has been posted, the phrase ‘Not all men’ certainly comes to mind here……)

As a feminist, do I personally mind the highlighting of male victims of sexual violence ?

– No.

But what I do mind is a common lack of context within the promotion of this issue.

That this isn’t usually viewed within the wider context of male violence, as the vast majority of male victims are the result of violence from other males (-as are female victims).The fact that when women do commit acts of extreme violence and sexual violence this is often given disproportionate coverage. The fact that this is usually highlighted by men who do little themselves to challenge such issues or indeed who get their own hands dirty in actual prevention, campaigns, support etc. The fact that most particular problems for men have their roots in patriarchy, an oppressive system men themselves as a class both endorse and encourage because of the privileges it affords them.

Should male victims be my priority or that of feminism?

-No. And without apology.

Feminism has to deal with these facts : The fact that male violence, such as homicide in domestic violence, hugely disproportionally results in a female victim at the hands of a male perpetrator………..the fact that nearly ALL women will have suffered from some form of male sexual harassment-sexual violence etc in their lifetime…………….. etc etc etc etc etc etc

Considering the oppression women face, the focus for feminists is already overwhelming.

Part of being ‘a decent human being’ means at least trying to understand that oppressed people have a right to anger and a particular focus of their own. Oppressed people who have themselves suffered greatly at the hands of their oppressors have a right to be angry at their oppressors . ….And people with power and privilege should at least try to understand that arrogantly assuming they know better is simply ……wrong.

In this light,  the demonizing of feminists says much more about the oppressive arrogance and ignorance of those doing the demonizing.

Finally….

Ally Fogg. Please stop dressing up your ant-feminist agenda in the guise of ‘concern’ and ‘human decency’….

…..we see you.

“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.”
― Dworkin

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Women-Only Space…..Fundamental to Feminism and All Women.

There have been many recent attacks on women-only space and there is a real threat to its very existence.

The right to women-only space is however fundamental to feminism and to all women.

Why…..?

Women-only space has been utilised historically as a direct response to and consequence of the cultural, political and economic exclusion of women within wider society and culture.
It was also a space where women could meet and define themselves, to bond together, to feel safe, to gain strength and build confidence and in turn could become more political – from which subsequent action our generation is hugely benefiting in terms of our present gained freedoms.

There are many historical examples of women-only spaces which have had an extremely powerful effect on building autonomy for women as a class and changing the cultural view of women as individuals…..

The struggle against sexism, sexual oppression and sexual violence however, is  still ongoing…..

The allocation of space is not ‘gender neutral’ as it is. Throughout history spaces have been culturally, religiously, racially and politically marked. Even though women won access to a limited amount of space in the 20th century, both symbolically and structurally, space continues to be largely defined as male (and likewise…as heterosexual, able-bodied, white …..).

Women have been traditionally allotted to “private” spaces characterised by child rearing and family care. Men’s spaces are public spaces where social and political decisions are made. Women’s assignment to the home had and still has both economic and social implications.

The first and most basic woman-only space is her body. Historically, women’s bodies have belonged to a man or men (e.g. daughters to fathers, wives to husbands, and within the history of WOC the ownership of female bodies has a particular and horrific meaning to acknowledge). Issues surrounding women’s bodies, health and well being have also been controlled by the male controlled state.

Such oppression has allowed many gendered abuses to persist – rape within marriage was only criminalised in the UK in the 1990’s for example.

”….When those who control access have made you totally accessible, your first acts of control must be denying access” Marilyn Frye

A cultural landscape of sexual violence, structural oppression (etc) still denies women’s access to equitable, safe space.

Despite being representative of over fifty percent of the global population, within mixed-sex groups, women’s issues are often considered a specialist, secondary, or minority concern, which are almost always forced to compete for consideration.

Women–only space challenges the damage of such culturally deep rooted and institutionalised misogyny, allowing women the autonomy they have been systematically denied.

Consciously organized space is a tool to confront and dismantle culturally accepted misogynist norms…. not an end in itself nor are women-only spaces the solution to all women’s oppression. However, as one tool of affirmative action, women-only spaces are an indispensable means of empowering women.

However, women-only spaces are often criticised as examples of reverse discrimination. This, for example, closely resembles the reaction against the civil rights movement, as it too selectively used the tactic of white exclusion at times. This criticism ignores or denies the reality of existing relationships of power. Understanding the need for women-only space means educating ourselves about the nature of sexual oppression and gendered privilege.

Women-only space has always been and continues to be an important vehicle for the politicisation and radicalisation of women, enabling our voices, skills and talents in a world where, through sexist socialisation coupled with gendered oppression, women still face many difficulties being heard, valued or recognised in mixed space.

Women-only space is not about men or those socialized as male, which in itself is perceived as a subversive act. If men are not included and prioritised, both sexes are made to feel uncomfortable and wrong, which is part of how sexism works.

Women-only space is not intended for anyone socialised as male and for good reasons. For example, there is an absolute and clear connection between male socialization and violence towards women. Therefore any space that includes those socailaised as male cannot be regarded as providing safe space for women. Anyone promoting the idea of this form of inclusion is doing so at the expense of the many, many women who (perfectly rationally) fear and/or have been the victim of male violence. In women-only space their rights should be prioritised. In a wider culture which often treats female victims of male violence so poorly, this is fundamental.

“The issue is not between ‘old’ and ‘new’ feminism..The issue is between feminism…and that which is not feminism” Elizabeth Abbot (1927)

On this and many other grounds……

women-only space should make no apology for existing for women.

Opposition to women-only space is nothing new for feminists, emerging in different guises over the ages. In recent times the inclusion of transwomen has become a major issue.

No matter where you stand on ‘the trans issue’, the experience of being a transwoman is very different from that of women born women (…..biology, socialisation, health, social and political history etc, etc)

This simply cannot be ignored or denied…..

…..and for this reason many women both support and acknowledge the idea of transwomen-only space. Many also recognise transwomen face particular and (importantly) different forms of oppression.

This needs to be reciprocated…….

Of course there are differences between women (born women), such as ethnicity, class and sexuality and the need for women to define themselves on these terms is both necessary and logical. Oppression of women (born women) as a class, however, is universal. Female gender socialisation, for example, is fundamental to what shapes female identity and the oppression women face. This is just one of many experiences unique to all women (born women) .

In an ideal world there would be no barriers between people, no oppression would exist – and therefore no need for the strength and autonomy defined space helps to create.

Until then, women-only space remains vital for feminism and all women.

“It is nothing extraordinary for a master to bar his slaves from the manor………..but it is a revolutionary act for slaves to bar their master from their hut.”
Marilyn Frye (Johnson URL)
Party from http://www.kicks4women.com/formeism.shtml

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