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.